Tomato, Cucumber, Feta, Basil and Oregano Salad - aka The "I love summer" Salad

For the dressing:

  • about 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or sherry to give it a little kick!
  • a couple of leaves of fresh oregano (from the herb garden!)
  • a couple of leaves of fresh basil (from the herb garden!)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • a couple of plum, grape or roma tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 cucumber (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 bell pepper (coarsely chopped), yellow adds a nice color without too much intense flavor
  • some pitted black greek olives (preferably brine-cured) (coarsely chopped)
  • sprinkle (or more!) crumbled feta cheese

It should turn out looking something like one of these:  (YUM!)

My version of the salad: (YUM!)

10 Things to Love (most of which are free, or close to it!)

1.  Being near water: We will be spending Summer 2011 in these two places! (Thanks to our hard-working parents.)

2.  Blog surfing: Here are a couple of new favorites

3.  BBQ season on the deck: No explanation needed.  Its just freaking delish.

4.  Reading a good / thought provoking book: Just finished "The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud - 4 stars!

5.  Flowers/Gardens/Growing things: Currently watching my basil take over brings a little smile to my face.

6.  J.Crew + Sales: it is truly the best of both worlds, crazy sales (+ an awesome 15% off for teachers in stores) and great fashion!

7.  Spanish Fútbol: Real Madrid is my team of choice and has been now since studying / falling in love with Spain in college.  Google their team if you need further evidence, ladies!

8.  Cooking / Experimenting in the Kitchen: Being curious and adventurous doesn't always have to be so difficult, just whip up something new for dinner :)

9.  "Projects" - My grandmother taught me this skill as a little girl.  The ability to invent a little project (craft, baking, etc.) and go through with it.  When my brother was born, I spent countless days "preparing" for his return from the hospital cutting paper and making collages, coloring pictures and "nesting".  The fun hasn't stopped since!

10.  Fresh veggies - (bonus points if I grew them myself or at least got to pick them out at a farmers' market, double bonus points if they are grilled in my backyard and I grew them!)

Baltimore Farmer's Market -

See Fruit Stand Obsession -



Gazpacho Night...

In Madrid over the past couple of summers when I was studying for my M.A., my "señora" (aka Spanish mommy) would whip up gazpacho, keep it in the fridge and serve it cool with sliced cheese, crusty bread and fresh fruit.  In an effort to cure my Spain sickness (similar to homesickness), I prepared it tonight and cannot wait to enjoy a cool soup on a humid warm evening in Maryland. My version of the recipe: (its very fool proof and forgiving, so adapt as needed) (Note: Place all ingredients in the blender / food processsor)

3-4 baby seedless cucumbers (or regular cucumbers with the big seeds removed)

1 small-medium chopped onion

two medium ripe tomatoes (seeded)

splash of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 cloves of chopped garlic (less if you aren't a "garlic person")

splash of olive oil (more if you are obsessed like me)

optional: 1 green pepper (I don't looooove green peppers, so I omit them)

salt and pepper to taste

Blend.  Chill in fridge as long as possible.  Serve with crusty bread chunks (or crackers or with fresh parsley to garnish or a dollop of greek yogurt for a creamy finish!)




"Spain Night" at our Casa

Friday night was the first annual "Spain Night" at our Casa.  It might become a tradition of sorts! What better way to celebrate the Copa del Rey (big soccer match, Real Madrid (my fave) vs. Evil Terrible Barcelona) than with some authentic "Fútbol Food"?


On the menu:

Tortilla Espanola "Salad": A little idea I whipped up out of necessity / boredom.  Make a mini Tortilla (scrambled eggs with sauteed onions / potatoes optional) in a small microwave-safe dish and serve immediately over Arugula / Lettuce blend (wilted greens taste awesome!).  Top with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bocadillos Espanoles: Manchego and Iberico Cheeses with Jamon Serrano (ok, safeway didn't have it, so I bought Proscuitto, same thing, right?!) on crusty french bread drizzled with olive oil and crushed red tomatoes.


Alcohol free Sangria with apples, peaches and strawberries



"Summer Salad"

A summer salad in my house is anything that tastes fresh, delicious and is eaten on the back deck.   So, needless to say, the options are quite limitless! Tonight I am trying out an Arugula Israeli Cous Cous Salad:

  • Israeli Cous Cous prepared beforehand and refrigerated
  • Grilled Peppers marinated in balsamic vinegar
  • Honey Dijon and Balsamic Dressing with a splash of olive oil (eyeball it!)
  • Lightly grilled roma (or whatever you have) tomatoes (coated in olive oil and salt and pepper)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste / add a "titch" of adobo if you need a little extra pizzaz.

Will let you know how it turns out.

I think it will make a good little side dish for the HUGE juicy burgers topped with all of the goodness on the grill!!!

Photos to come :)


(Microwaved!) Poached Egg Sandwich

YUM! Poach an egg, place onto a 100 calorie sandwich thin (toasted, of course!), add a little "schmear" of your choosing, lettuce, tomatoes and even a slice of bacon or two and you have a GREAT little sandwich!

Thanks to this Month's Bon Apetit magazine, I now know how to poach an egg in the microwave! (Awesome!)

Microwave Poached Eggs: (thanks Bon Apetit!)

Pour 1/2 cup water into each of two 8-oz. microwave-safe coffee cups. Crack 1 egg into each cup, making sure it's completely submerged. Cover each with a saucer. Microwave 1 egg on high until white is set but yolk is runny, about 1 minute (cooking time will vary depending on microwave).

Read More

Brown Baggin' it!

Next week, I am going to be doing a little research on delicious new ways (move over PB and J!) to bring a well-balanced and yummy lunch to work. With a little help from Apartment Therapy's site "The Kitchn" (, packing a lunch will be a little treat next week - check out their 10 best lunches at

Here are some photos as a sneak preview!

What's for Dinner?

Some nights it is impossible to think of a good, healthy dinner for two that doesn't involve a trip to the store for extra ingredients.  So, tonight's menu will be a combination of "clean out the fridge night" and "look what's been hiding in the pantry night"....delish!

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Peppers and Roma Tomatoes (adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

* with a side of sauteed chicken breasts seasoned with Adobo (my secret magic ingredient) and olive oil!


  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium cucumber—peeled, halved, seeded and finely diced


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the quinoa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the water and a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread on a baking sheet to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, roast the red and yellow peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover and let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed them and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
  3. In a medium skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a plate to cool.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the vinegar. Add the quinoa, peppers, pine nuts, cucumber, tomato, basil and/0r mint and toss well, breaking up any lumps of quinoa.
  5. Season the salad with salt and pepper and serve.


"What the Fruitcake?" blog

Foodies rejoice!  This blog that I just discovered is super delicious looking and proves to be a terrible way for me to spend the morning - salivating (like my beagle at 5pm) over my laptop. Here is what I am making for dinner one night this weekend - if it is nice out, this would be a great meal to enjoy on the deck.

Pomegranate, Feta and Beetroot Salad - yummmmm!

Moussaka - double yummmmmm!

What's for dinner? Israeli Couscous

Israeli Fruited Couscous (adapted from Food, trader joe's boxed Israeli Couscous and ideas in my brain):

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  dried currants or raisins (or craisins!)
  • 1/2  cup  diced dried apricots (or other dried fruits)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt to taste
  • 3  (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 2 1/2  cups  uncooked Israeli couscous
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro or fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in raisins, apricots, (or other dried fruit) salt, water and cinnamon sticks; bring to a boil. Add couscous, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Let couscous mixture stand 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks. Stir in cilantro or basil.


Baking in Honor of "Mimi Pie"

Yesterday, my grandmother (called "Mimi Pie" by my grandfather) passed away after a short and tough battle with leukemia at the age of 84.  While the sadness that my family is experiencing is terrible, many beautiful things come from such a challenge. One such result from missing my grandma is a desire to put together memories in order to remember her in every way possible.

Thus, today is baking day!  I am whipping up two of her best recipes and our family favorites.  It's high time I learn, so I can pass them on to the little ones some day!

#1 - Amish Sugar Cakes (adapted from several family sources and developed to perfection over the years!)

5 cups flour (measure 5 unsifted cups and then sift)

2 cups granulated sugar

1 scant tbs. baking soda

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening (butter is fine)

1 cup "thick milk" (buttermilk)

2 eggs

Combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt; work in the shortening as for pie dough.  Then make a hollow in the center and put in the sugar, the milk which has the baking soda mixed in, and the eggs slightly beaten.

Mix together thoroughly, but do not beat.  (Mix only until dry ingredients are absorbed; dough will be sticky moist.)

Add more flour if needed.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Sprinkle surface with flour and work dough into small balls, then place each one onto a greased and lightly floured cookie sheet and "smush" with your hand to create a little pancake shape.  Sprinkle sugar over the surface of each cookie / "cake".

Place 6-8 total on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-9 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove from pan within 2 minutes and place into a bag once completely cooled.

#2 - "Bunny Breads" (can also be easily changed into "Reindeer Breads", depending on the season!)

1 package dry yeast (+ 1/4 cup warm water to activate)

1 cup milk - scalded and then cooled to luke warm

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

4 1/2 - 5 cups sifted flour

2 eggs

2 tsp grated lemon peel

1 cup golden raisins

baking cherries for Rudolf's noses or Bunny tails

1.  Soften active dry yeast in warm water.  Combine milk, sugar, salt and butter and cool until luke warm.  Stir in 2 cups of flour, add eggs and mix well.  Stir in softened yeast.  Add lemon peel, raisins, and remaining flour, to make a soft ball of dough.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

2.  Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.

3.  Place in lightly greased bowl and allow to rise in warm, draft free place for 1.5 hours until doubled.

4.  Punch down and allow to rise again for about 1 hour until doubled again.

5.  Divide into small balls and roll into 14" strips - then form into bunny shape (infiniti shape with ears...)

6.  Add a small lump of dough to create "tail" of bunny.

7.  Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Glaze: (add after bunnies are cooled)

Mix together 2 cups of sifted 10x sugar, 1/4 cups hot water, 1 tsp butter - brush onto dough once cooled after baking.


Stay tuned for photos of the bunnies in a couple of hours! <3 M




Yum - Food Art!

On Etsy, I found a great Parisian artist who watercolors fruit and other delicacies (delicious looking desserts, soups, etc.).  The images are a combination of a traditional "still life" painting with a modern spin of mixed media. She is a great inspiration for a new way to look at the kitchen and how to incorporate my love of cooking and baking in some new paintings!  Stay tuned!

Read more about her on Etsy at -

Her artist website is -

Some of my favorite images of her work include the following:


Oh - and a great idea - her work framed nicely would make a great Mother's Day Gift - great kitchen art!



Grapefruit Upside Down Cake

Today's snow day brought some lovely house guests and an inventive new (almost, Martha Stewart has already tried it, surprise surprise!) Recipe for Grapefruit Upside Down Cake. The bright pink / orange color the grapefruit makes this cake quite bright and sunny on a snowy day and the juice from the fruit makes the cake itself super fluffy and light!


1 box of Duncan Hines Pineapple Upside Down Mix (basically just yellow cake mix)

Sprinkles of ginger, ground cinnamon, dark brown sugar and nutmeg

Ingredients on the Cake Mix Box

(Mix with hand mixer until combined)

Spray Pam in bottom of  11"x14" pan.

Sprinkle bottom of metal non-stick pan with grapefruit pieces (with pith and seeds removed) and then sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes (depending on oven temperatures).


Thanks Martha for the inspiration -

Kale Chip Adventure...

I have been hearing about Kale chips literally everywhere recently - on menus, from friends, in Bon Apetit, from my mom (an amazing cook!) and from random people in the grocery store.  So, its time to take on Kale and make it my new culinary amigo. A little background on my "fear" of Kale: Two summers ago, Kale was the least favorite (and often most abundant) member of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets and me and the hubby had NO IDEA what to do with the poor tough little leaf.  To be honest, as a child I thought that Kale was poisonous and that it grew in gardens as decoration...another one of my invented versions of reality as a little niña.

Crispy Kale Chips Recipe: (see their website for other beautiful photos of the process)

(adapted from smitten kitchen @

1 bunch of kale

approx. 1 tablespoon olive oil - just eyeball it!

Sea salt, to taste (meaning, lots of it sprinkled everywhere!)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale in the salad spinner, then remove the stems and trim the tough center ribs.

Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt.

Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Enjoy Kale Chip Salty wonderful-ness!

NOTE: Really good with honey drizzled on top!

Keen-WHAT? (Quinoa)

So, I am trying out something new in the kitchen, Quinoa.  It has been all over the place recently (magazines, NYtimes, cooking shows, on menus at "normal" restaurants), yet we have not really had a chance to get to know one another.  It's about time!

Breakfast Quinoa:

Cook Quinoa according to package instructions and then sprinkle with your favorite toppings.

Some ideas: craisins, raisins, dried fruit, toasted almonds or other nuts, honey, greek yogurt, cinnamon sugar

(note: just ate this sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, it was delish...and delightfully less slimy than oatmeal)

Dinner Quinoa:

Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad (courtesy of the NY times)

Dinner at our house tonight:

Thai vegetables (Yellow Curry sauce from Trader Joe's combined and slow cooked with zucchini, red potatoes, carrots, garbanzo beans and onions) guessed it!...QUINOA!

If you have more ideas or great recipes involving this South American Super Grain, let me know by leaving a comment on this page.

Thanks and Happy Tuesday,


additional reading - Quinoa craze:

What’s for dinner?

This winter, there has been a home-made pizza revolution in our house.  It's the best meal to make with a friend or loved one because of the multi-tasking involved and it can be super healthy with good ingredients and whole grains, veggies and good toppings. Read about homemade sauce on the blog from two weeks ago.

AND - Pizza is a super forgiving "Wednesday Night" meal.

Take tonight for example....some mozzarella, tomato sauce (pre-made), breakfast sausage in the freezer just dying to become a future-topping, and (carmelized) onions.

Confession:  The best part of the pizza making is watching my hubby throwing the dough like a "champ" as flour flies everywhere! :)

The finished product - UNREAL(ly) Yummy!

And for a side salad...Spinach with mango salsa (thank you Costco) and chopped baby tomatoes.  The secret Ingredient...Zucchini Crisps (Fried zucchini sliced VERY thinly and topped with sprinkled parmesean.....mmmmmm)