Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asian Grilled Eggplant

Going along with my grilled sweet potatoes on Memorial Day, my husband and I also grilled an eggplant. We had purchased an eggplant the weekend before, and didn't use it last week, so we knew we had to use it before it went bad.

My husband will eat eggplant almost any way, I am a little more picky about how it is prepared. Normally I don't like grilled eggplant in something like balsamic vinegar, but I searched around for a recipe I might enjoy.

So I found one for Asian Grilled Eggplant on GroupRecipes.com. The original poster suggested adding crushed red pepper flakes for more of a kick, but I left those out this time. I am sure my husband would have enjoyed that. (To be honest, I just noticed that as I went back to check the recipe - didn't see that tip the first time!)

The recipe claims it takes 10 minutes to make, but from start to finish - just a little longer. Probably a half hour total with slicing the eggplant, letting it rest with the salt and preparing the ingredients. Maybe 35 with putting it on the grill - I sliced it rather thin so it cooked up quickly!!

We'll be making this again as well. Happy grilling!


2 medium eggplants
Kosher salt

* 1/4 cup soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon sesame oil
* 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
* 3 cloves minced garlic

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.


Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat.

Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

Pour marinade over eggplant and let stand for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

Remove from marinade and place eggplant on grill, cook until eggplant is cooked through and lightly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Remove from grill.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Grilled Sweet Potatoes!

It's grillin' time!! Summer is (almost) here, but grilling season was kicked off this past holiday weekend. We finally dug our grill out from last July, surprisingly, since my husband is our main griller and he had major shoulder surgery last July, and couldn't grill for the rest of the summer. Luckily it still worked after a harsh, snowy winter (it better, since we bought it last year!), and we planned a little Memorial Day feast for the two of us.

One of the things we grilled up were some sweet potatoes, which are quickly growing on me the more I eat them. I used the seasoning inspiration from Mr. Bobby Flay's recipe here, but I did the base preparation a different way. I also used a mixture of honey mustard and yellow mustard since we were out of the honey Dijon I usually keep in the house. Next time I might just use the yellow mustard, or make sure I have a Dijon because the honey mustard paired with the maple syrup did get a little sweet if you ate too many potatoes. I also added a dash of cinnamon to the base mixture, but literally just a pinch.

The result? DELICIOUS!! They were nice and tender with an amazing taste. My husband and I both really enjoyed them, and he is already asking me to make these again.

This recipe was very easy, but took about 40 minutes total time from start to finish. We used a grill pan instead of placing the sweet potato circles directly on the grill.

These are definitely here to stay in our family!


2-3 sweet potatoes, either cut into wedges or into circles 3/4" thick (I cut mine into circles)
canola or olive oil for brushing
kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 to 3 tablespoons of mustard (Dijon recommended in original recipe, I used 1 tbl honey mustard, 1 tbl yellow mustard)
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of poultry rub


Cut sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch slices (or length-wise wedges).

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add potatoes. Boil until potatoes are just starting to soften.

Cool and peal.

Brush the potato wedges with oil and season with rub, pinch of cinnamon salt and pepper.

Grill, turning once, until nicely marked.

Whisk the syrup with the mustard.

Brush the potatoes with the glaze and turn a few times to caramelize. <-- My husband and I used this marinating tool we got from Pampered Chef for my bridal shower and it worked so well!! Probably one of the best grilling tools we own.

Serve warm and enjoy - this is a fantastic grill recipe.

Happy unofficial summer, everyone!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Specialty Supermarkets (and a quick recipe for Artichoke & Onion "pizza")

I am sure everyone has some sort of specialty supermarket around them, especially if they live in a bigger metropolitan area. Of course, there are the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's of the nation, which everyone seems to love. (Myself included). Those stores provide a lot of organic, healthy foods at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, we don't really have Whole Foods near us, but we frequent Trader Joe's as much as we can. While there is one located a mere 4 miles from my house, I continuously beg them to add a store in my town as we have so many available retail locations and it would be successful here. So far, no luck.

But what we did get last week is an Italian Marketplace that currently only has 5 stores around Long Island. It's called Uncle Giuseppe's Marketplace, and it is amazing! It's part regular supermarket and part stepping into a market in Italy. There is a sizable cheese section, homemade pasta section and "deli" area with lots of delicious Italian creations. There is also an incredible bakery, complete with a homemade gelato section!! You can get homemade soups and sauces and much, much more.

I'd known about this place from some family friends, and we visited the original store once when we passed by it. We ended up buying ground chicken that had been mixed with spinach and feta and some other odds 'n ends that trip, but nothing major. When we heard this marketplace was going into an empty Rite Aid store that is walking distance from my house, we got excited. We thought it was opening Memorial Day weekend, but to my surprise, they had a soft opening last weekend and when I drove by and saw people going in, I knew we would be popping in there as well. And, we did.

First we were greeted with a sample of their homemade ravioli or sausage and peppers as they were trying to entice us to buy these products. Honestly, the ravioli was some of the most delicious ravioli I had tasted in a long, long time. My husband originally declined a free sample, but I made him go get one so I could have another. Mmm! We also got a taste of the gelato. We both tried the peach, and it was delicious. It was seriously like eating a fresh, frozen peach.

I typically hate peach flavored products like yogurt or ice cream because I often feel it tastes fake, but this was GOOD. (So good, that we decided to go back later in the afternoon to get a snack of gelato!)

I also got a taste of one of their pound cakes from the bakery - it was great! The day before, at a craft show, I had tried pound cake someone was selling and I thought it was dry and awful and didn't know why someone thought it was so great that they could sell it at high prices. But this cake was perfect - it wasn't dry, and it had great flavor. They also had samples of bread out and that too, was amazing. Two things we didn't love that they were giving out were their zeppole's (honestly, had better at fairs), and their homemade fresh donuts. Oh my god - the donuts had SO much sugar on them.

The last thing we sampled in the store was an apple fritter cake - DELICIOUS!! You have to understand, I dislike 99% of apple things. I am not an apple person - in fact - the only apples I eat are the Granny Smiths. But this cake... woah. I actually snuck about 4 pieces to try - I think we'll be buying this cake when we have our parents over for dinner!

So, after pigging out around the store, we wandered to find a few items to purchase. We weren't doing a great deal of shopping there - especially regular items because this store doesn't double coupons or take manufacturer's coupons that are printed from the Internet. So it's not worth us doing regular shopping there unless we have a good coupon from a newspaper and the item is on sale.

We purchased a spaghetti muffin from the huge "deli" section. We were intrigued immediately - sitting there on a plate was a huge muffin shaped blob of spaghetti. We inquired about it - it had meatballs and cheese and some herbs inside, as well as sauce. We were game - we got one to split. I am sure we can find a way to make this ourselves but honestly, it was so different we couldn't help but buy one to try. We also bought a square roll to make some sort of vegetable bread (see our creation below!) or something to go along with our halves of the spaghetti muffin.

There were so many delicious looking foods in the deli that two days ago we went back and purchased a spinach and carrot "cake" to split one night for dinner, another spaghetti muffin to share and some teriyaki chicken dumplings. We have yet to try these products, but they are coming up this week for us! Yum!

So, if you live in NY, and close by the Long Island area, I definitely recommend stopping by this store. Otherwise, for all of you in other parts of the country, I hope you also have some awesome specialty supermarkets that you can find some delicious creations in!

Now, I just have to figure out how to make my own spaghetti muffins...

Also, this is what we made with our roll when we bought the first spaghetti muffin. We made an artichoke and onion "pizza" type creation. I used the Light Garlic & Herb cheese spread from Laughing Cow as a base and we chopped up some artichoke hearts and onion. We sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning over the top and I broiled them for a few minutes. (Obviously, a few minutes too long as some of the edges are burnt...I always forget how fast things broil up!!)

It was a very tasty little vegetable pizza roll thing, however. Try it!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Delicious Italian Food in Boynton Beach, FL

So, while my cupcake search in Boynton Beach, FL was somewhat disappointing, those living near the area or visiting should definitely check out the following restaurant - Mamma Mia.

The original location has been around since 1983, but another one popped up about 3 minutes down the road from my in-law's house in 2009. My mother-in-law recommended that we try it, and we needed a place to eat the last night we were in town, so off we went.

We opted to share a dish since we were leaving early the next morning and would have no need for leftovers, and my in-laws wouldn't be back for a while so they didn't want food in the fridge or freezer. The restaurant charges $8.95 for sharing - basically it is for a second soup and salad - since most of the main entrees come with soup, salad and garlic knots.

We still had more than enough food with sharing the main dish. The soup choices for the entrees are Minestrone or Pasta Fagioli. My husband opted for Pasta Fagioli and I chose Minestrone, even though neither choice is one I am overly fond of. The soup wasn't bad though!

Next, we both opted for a Caesar salad, and it was delicious - not overly Caesared. I hate when the dressing is SO heavy.

We chose the Italian Feast as our main dish (website description: A taste of baked ziti, lasagna, one meatball, one sausage and stuffed shells baked with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese). We asked for 2 meatballs instead of 1 meatball and 1 sausage because we generally aren't fond of sausage. Only the chicken kind from Trader Joe's! Haha. They had no problem giving us the 2 meatballs.

We each received one meatball, 2 stuffed shells, and a generous portion of lasagna and baked ziti. We probably each ate a little over half of our plates (combined with the soup and salad, we were stuffed), and unfortunately couldn't take it with it, though we definitely would have, if we needed lunch the next day.

The stuffed shells were my favorite, while my husband really loved the lasagna.

The location is nice and the staff was incredibly friendly and efficient. We enjoyed it a lot, and will probably go back next time we are in town, unless we find some other places to explore.

So if you are in the area - definitely try it out. It's worth it!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cupcake Search in Boynton Beach, FL

Yeah...I have been MIA for a bit. Life has been weird, cooking not a priority at the moment. I need to get back into it though, or my husband and I will go broke from take-out. Or gain immense amounts of weight. So keep staying tuned. In the meantime, the next few series of posts will be reviews.

Recently, my husband and I ventured back down to the Boynton Beach area of Florida, like we do approximately every 6 months since we have a "vacation house" down there (courtesy of my in-laws second home) and since many members of my family live about 25 minutes from there and it makes my grandmother happy when I go visit. Since my husband and I have been on a cupcake search here where we live, we decided to check out the area in Florida.

We knew there was a store in a shopping center near the house called Sweet Surrender. We saw it last November, but didn't go in. This time, we did. The selection was nothing to get excited over - they had about 10 flavors out, but they were all basic, like, just a chocolate or vanilla cake with a different frosting on top. They weren't stuffed, they didn't have other decorations, they were average size and they were just...there. So, we got one to try. We bought the Chocolate Chip cupcake (Website description: OUR GOLDEN YELLOW CAKE IS LACED WITH PREMIUM CHOCOLATE BITS AND SPRINKLED WITH CONFECTIONARY SUGAR.)

The incredibly cheerful clerk (it was a little creepy how much she smiled), boxed our little cupcake up in a cute little plastic box, which allowed the tip of the icing to stick out just slightly. She asked if the box needed a bow...we declined. No need. I have to admit the presentation was cute. But home the cupcake went, and into the fridge until we were ready to eat it.

A few hours later, we stopped in another shopping center near the house and went into another cupcake place that was simply called Cupcakes of Boynton.

They had 2 small cases full of cupcakes, including one that was made into a Panda Bear and was incredibly cute. The flavors were more creative than Sweet Surrender. They were also standard cupcake size, unless, of course, they were built up into an animal or something. We chose the Strawberry Shortcake cupcake (Website description: Butter vanilla cake filled with strawberry preserves and vanilla whipped cream, topped with a fresh strawberry.)

The cupcake was packaged up in a clear plastic bowl type thing. Almost like what a sundae from McDonald's would come in. Again, that cupcake went home until we were ready to cut and share them.

The opportunity came 2 days later - on our last night in Boynton. After an incredibly delicious Italian dinner, we went home and cut the cupcakes in half. Here is what we found...

The Sweet Surrender was definitely nothing special, and kind of dry. And I don't think it had anything to do with being in the fridge for 2 days because the other cupcake was still nice and moist. The cupcake had cost us $2.75 (a little steep for a not-that-special, average size cupcake). It wasn't that chocolate-y, and there was too much icing. We will not be going back there, unless, they come up with some new stuffed cupcakes.

The Cupcakes of Boynton cupcake was pretty good. It was still moist, and our main complaint was that there needed to be more strawberry preserves in the middle - there was a tiny little drop, and it needed more! That cupcake cost us about $2.50, so we felt we got a better deal for the price and taste.

However, neither cupcake compared to our favorite cupcake places in NY and NJ. Keep trying, Boynton!!

Friday, May 13, 2011


On a short hiatus. Sorry for the inconvenience. Back soon with some new yummy food.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spaghetti Tacos!

Spaghetti Tacos. Hmm. Did I ever think I would ever be trying something like this? No. Not really. But here it is.

Spaghetti Tacos were made popular by a show on Nickelodeon called iCarly. I am (only slightly) embarrassed to say that I have, on occasion, watched this Tween show, and have discussed said show with my cousin-in-law who is 9 1/2 years younger than me and graduating from Syracuse University this year in the film arts or whatever, and is going to LA to work on children-based TV shows. It actually is a really cute show, and I enjoy folding laundry to it. Do I have kids to pawn this off on as to why I was watching it? No. I just like cheesy tween/teen shows. Haha.

So anyway, the main character, Carly, loves spaghetti tacos. It wasn't until I saw this article recently that I knew I had to make these and try them out. They are becoming a THING. Kids everywhere are asking for them. I am pretty sure spaghetti tacos popped up on one of the recipe websites I frequently visit, which also made me want to make these, but I can't remember which one and it wasn't coming up on my google search. Oh well!

Most of the recipes are pretty simple, like this one. I decided to make mine a little different. All I can say is, they were a little messy to eat, but they were SO delicious. Seriously. This is definitely becoming a staple in my family!!

I actually made mini meatballs instead of just browning some ground beef. And they were some spicy meatballs too, to try and keep with a "Mexican" theme. I also sauteed some peppers for something extra to stuff in the shells. I used Ronzoni Healthy Harvest spaghetti and Francisco Rinaldi tomato, garlic and onion sauce. Ortega Whole Grain Shells were the taco shells we picked up. I shredded some Parmesan cheese and we were ready to stuff!

I experimented stuffing in several ways. First we tried putting the spaghetti in, followed by the peppers, meatballs, Parmesan cheese and sauce. I also tried meatballs first, then peppers, spaghetti, sauce and Parmesan cheese. I think I liked that way the best. Lastly, we talked about doing it the same as the first way, except putting the sauce on the spaghetti before the meatballs and peppers.

This was a surprisingly tasty and fun meal for tonight. It was pretty easy to make too. I made the meatballs last night - they took me about 20 minutes or so. Today when I got home from work, I quickly sauteed the peppers, shredded the cheese and boiled the pasta.

Try this out - it's not as crazy as it seems!! See below for the meatball recipe I used!

Spicy Mini Meatballs (makes about 18)


1/2 lb 93% ground beef
garlic powder
black pepper
Italian seasoning
crushed red pepper flakes
panko bread crumbs
1/4 of a medium onion - chopped fine


In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients into the beef well. All ingredients are "too taste," though I'd say about 1/3 cup of bread crumbs.

The bread crumbs are used to hold the meatballs together.

Form your mixture into small balls, like the size of small walnuts, or slightly bigger than those gumballs you can buy in the supermarkets!

Bake meatballs at 375 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes, then simmer in sauce of choice for about 10.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry with Whole Grain Rice!

So two weeks ago I received a coupon in the mail for a FREE (!!!) pouch of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice. I really love free products! (I digress). Anyway, with this coupon came a recipe for a beef & broccoli stir fry.

It used sirloin steak and scallions, but i just substituted ground beef and regular onions because, well, I had that in the house. (I could have bought the other ingredients when I went to get the rice but I didn't read the recipe all the way through! Ha! It still worked.)

Anyway, this recipe is QUICK. You can definitely make this after work for a nice, hearty and healthy dinner.

I'm going to post the original recipe with my substitutions in parentheses. This should honestly take no more than 15 minutes to make total. This recipe serves 4.


1 pouch Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (I used the Whole Grain Medley. I guess you can use any rice but the beauty of this is how fast it cooks.)
2 cups broccoli florets, blanched (I actually did not blanch them, just left them as is)
1/2 pound beef sirloin steak, thinly sliced (I used 93% ground beef in thick chunks)
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp minced garlic (or 2 cloves of garlic)
4 scallions, thinly sliced (I chopped up half of a small onion)
1/2 cup water


In a large skillet, pour a dab of your favorite cooking oil and saute the beef until browned.

Add the garlic, scallions, broccoli and soy sauce - saute for 1 minute.

Squeeze the pouch to break apart the rice, then open the package and add the rice and 1/2 cup water to the skillet.

Cook until rice is hot and combined with the other ingredients.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Broccoli, Beef & Mashed Potato Dish!

Last week I had asked my husband one day what he wanted for dinner. We had a variety of foods in the house to work with - I had some steak, ground beef, ground chicken and regular chicken. He picked beef, and wouldn't you know that the daily e-mail of the day topic from Cooking.com was beef!

This dish caught my eye right away, but we didn't have any hash browns in the house. I decided to make a version of the dish anyway, but using mashed potatoes.

I used instant mashed potatoes because I had some in the house, but my lovely cousin-in-law who follows my blog told me she had a really good mashed potato recipe that she made that she had to e-mail me. (Melissa, I am still waiting!)

This dish took some time to compile, not too much time, but to me, it is not something I could throw together quickly after work for dinner. I also feel that it tasted better as leftovers rather than fresh. The night we ate it, I was like, eh, it's okay. My husband really enjoyed it - I think I am just not a mashed potatoes over beef kind of person because I don't LOVE Shepherd's Pie either. But then when we ate our leftovers, somehow the potatoes tasted much better with the beef. Weird!!

Despite it taking a little bit of time, it was really easy to make. I substituted dried mustard in the original recipe for turmeric, because we don't own turmeric. It worked just fine. I also didn't roast the broccoli, and steamed it instead. (I tend to burn vegetables every time I try to roast them, so steaming was by far the better way to go.) Since I steamed and didn't roast, I could eliminate one of the tablespoons of oil. I also used olive oil instead of canola oil. Also, since I didn't use hash browns, I had no need for the egg.

The recipe I am going to post is for 8 servings, but I halved it to make just 4.



1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets (about 6 cups)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (we use 93%)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 cups low-fat milk (we use skim)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, preferably orange
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (we used dried mustard)
4 cups frozen hash-brown or precooked shredded potatoes *(we used a pouch of instant garlic mashed potatoes))
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon paprika


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss broccoli with 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast, stirring once halfway though, until just soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes. *** (Again, I did not roast the broccoli, I used my handy dandy microwaveable vegetable steamer and steamed it!)

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add beef and onion and cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until the beef is browned and the onion is softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in Worcestershire, garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Whisk milk and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (but watch that the milk doesn't bubble over!), whisking often, until bubbling and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Remove from the heat and stir in Cheddar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and turmeric (dried mustard) until the cheese is melted.

Spread the beef mixture in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish. Top with the broccoli and pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top.

Combine potatoes, egg, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the casserole. Coat the top with cooking spray. ***(Since I used instant mashed potatoes, all I did was add some pepper into them. I did not mix them with an egg or more salt, or put cooking spray over the top of them.)

Bake the casserole until it is bubbling and the potatoes are beginning to brown, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika. ***(I actually sprinkled the paprika on top of the mashed potatoes BEFORE I baked the dish. I thought it tasted great!)

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.