Friday, March 11, 2016

Our Cuban Food Adventure...

Last weekend, I was able to extend a work trip into a few days of fun in Miami with my friend Katherine. A big highlight of the trip was experiencing Cuban cuisine on Calle Ocho at the iconic Versailles restaurant. Upon arrival, we knew it was going to be good because there was a line wrapping around the entire side of the building and most of the people looked to be local.

During our wait, I decided to do a quick google search to learn a little more about Cuban food, its origin, and the best dishes to order. I learned that Cuban cuisine is actually a blend of Native American, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influence in spice and flavor.

A typical meal consists of rice and beans, cooked either together or apart. If the rice is cooked together with the beans it is called either Congri or Moros. Another common side dish is Platanos Maduros which are just plantains pan fried in oil until golden brown – aye caramba they were good!

Meat is usually paired with the rice and beans and served in a light sauce. The most popular sauce is called Mojo which is made from oil, garlic, onion, oregano, and bitter orange or lime juice. Another prevalent meat dish is called Ropa Vieja which is a beef dish simmered in a tomato-based sauce until the meat falls apart. If you know Spanish you know that Ropa Vieja actually translates as “old clothes”. Pretty clever, huh?

After the long awaited entry, we sat down at our table, opened our menus, and upon viewing the prices our jaws dropped to the floor. Everything was so cheap! Well either that or we were getting used to the South Beach price tag. It didn’t take us long to decide we were going to order a few different dishes and share so we could try as much as possible.

The first dish we shared was an appetizer platter which included an assortment of croquettes and empanadas. We had ham, chicken, and yuca croquettes served with a cilantro sauce. My favorite was the yuca which is a common starchy root vegetable in Cuba that is a deep purple color. We also tried stuffed green plantains with shrimp creole, pineapple, and cilantro. We could have left after the appetizers and would have been completely satisfied. They were delicious!

But it wouldn’t be a successful first Cuban food experience without getting a little bit of the meat sweats! For my main dish I went with the trusty Cuban mojo beef. Katherine went with a sampler platter which included Picadillo, roasted pork, and a Cuban tamale. Picadillo is another traditional Latin dish that is made of ground beef, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions stewed together with cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. I’ve actually made Picadillo before but Versailles Picadillo put my attempt to shame!

And if all that wasn’t enough food we decided it would be frowned upon if we didn’t try traditional Cuban flan and café Cubano. We also couldn’t resist stopping at the Versailles bakery next door to pick up some sweet treats for later. Overall, Versailles treated us very well. It goes without saying that Versaille is a must if you find yourself in beautiful Miami. I already know what I am going to order on my next visit!

Another area we loved was the neighborhood called the WynWood Art District.  It is located in a struggling neighborhood in an attempt to revitalize the area. If you visit, you will find yourself surrounded by a lively bar and restaurant scene that showcases some pretty talented graffiti artists. In the very center of the district you can visit the WynWood Walls for a pretty spectacular outdoor venue of art. The bars also had a pretty great selection of local craft beers. It is a great area to check-out for a few drinks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

This week I have been trying to work out twice a day and eat healthy to prepare for a planned girls trip to Miami Beach! While I was meal planning, I asked my boyfriend for suggestions and he offered the idea of ahi tuna steak. At first, I almost didn’t even consider it because I had no idea how to prepare it.

After trying this recipe, I now know it is as easy as pressing on sesame seeds on the fish and cooking it for 2 minutes per side. I won’t lie every time I see ahi tuna sitting there all pink and beautiful in the seafood counter behind the glass I am always tempted to buy it. I think now this is going to be a more frequent occurrence for me!

Ahi tuna steak could honestly be topped on pretty much any assortment of salad ingredients or pair with any side of veggies. I even think the fish mixed with the right salsa would make for an awesome taco! I can’t stress how easy the preparation is. Just think of how much money you could save by making this at home rather than ordering something similar at an Asian fusion or sushi restaurant.

What is better than feeling like you’re a professional sushi chef?


3 cups mixed salad greens
1 red pepper, chopped
½ cup cooked edamame
¼ cup carrots, julienned
1 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
¼ cup wonton strips

1 pound ahi tuna
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 teaspoons wasabi paste
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger, grated

Spicy Mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice

Assemble vinaigrette, spicy mayo, and salad then set aside. Press sesame seeds into the tuna on all sides. Heat EVOO in a pan over medium-high heat and sear tuna in pan for 2 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board to slice. Top salad with tuna and drizzle your desired amount of vinaigrette and spicy mayo.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup cashews
½ cup green onions

Chop chicken into 1 inch pieces. Put chicken in Ziploc bag, add cornstarch, and shake until chicken is completely coated with cornstarch. In a skillet, heat canola and cook chicken for about 2 minutes per side until browned. Transfer chicken to crockpot. Mix the remaining ingredients (except cashews and green onions) and pour over chicken in crockpot. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. Stir in cashews and green onions right before serving.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowl

Recently, it seems meatless “bowls” are the new food fad! Every restaurant I have visited in the past couple months seems to offer some sort of veggie bowl variety. So, of course, I wanted to give it a try! I absolutely love roasted sweet potatoes so I knew I wanted to add them to my bowl. Adding cumin and chili powder definitely boosted the sweet potato flavor – I don’t think I will make them any other way from now on! Although it was a close race with the spiced sweet potatoes, my favorite part of this dish was actually the cilantro cream. I don’t know about you but sometimes my taste buds need a little relief from the heat. Hope you guys enjoy and share with me your own “bowl” test run! I always love hearing a creative take on an existing recipe.  


Roasted Sweet Potato:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon EVOO

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt



1 cup quinoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of half a lime


Cilantro Cream:

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup cilantro

1/4 teaspoon honey

Juice of half a lime

Pinch of salt, garlic powder, and chili powder

Other Ingredients:

1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

Cilantro for garnishing

Lime for garnishing




Peel and dice sweet potatoes and mix with EVOO and spices. Roast in a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes, stirring half way through with a spatula. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to the packaged instructions. Don’t forget to rinse before you boil! Remove from heat and stir in spices and lime juice.

In a food processor add cilantro cream ingredients. Blend well.

Assemble in bowl in this order: quinoa, black beans, sweet potatoes, cilantro cream, cilantro, lime slices. Feel free to add salsa, corn, jalapeños, etc.

Dig in and ponder why you aren’t a vegetarian!

Coconut Curry Mussels

Not much beats a date night in accompanied with a big pot of steaming mussels and good conversation. I am a seafood fanatic and I constantly crave mussels. Stephen is a devoted bread lover and welcomes any opportunity to consume an entire loaf. I will admit, I do love dipping fresh baguette in any type of broth. For our most recent date night I wanted to get away from the typical buttery garlic shallot broth. I had coconut milk and red curry paste sitting in my kitchen cupboard just waiting to be used, so I gave it a try. I am glad I did because let me tell you... coconut milk and red curry paste are a winning combination! The week after I made this recipe, I used the same broth to make a veggie shrimp soup. Mmmm!


2.5 pounds fresh mussels

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 sweet onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 (14-oz) can of coconut milk

¼ cup chicken stock

2 green onions

Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, clean, and remove beards from mussels and place in a large bowl of ice cold water.

In a large stockpot, heat butter and EVOO. Stir in onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until slightly softened. Stir in curry paste and continue to stir. Add coconut milk and chicken broth.

Bring mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium low. Add mussels and cook for about 5 minutes. Garnish with green onion and serve with a few slices of French baguette.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Spanish Beef and Avocado Rice Bowls

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice
3/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
16 oz sirloin steak
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 avocado
salt and pepper to taste  

Place fresh sirloin steak in freezer for 45 minutes. Remove and slice thinly.

Cook brown rice according to package directions.

Combine roasted red peppers, olives, capers, and vinegar.

Heat EVOO in a skillet, add cumin, and cook sirloin steak as desired.

Divide rice evenly and top evening with lettuce, meat, avocado and red pepper-caper-olive mix. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Jack Stack BBQ Beans

Since living in Kansas City, I have been pretty spoiled with barbecue. Every time I have visitors I have to show off at least one famous barbecue restaurant. Although many would probably argue, I think Jack Stack is the best. I say this solely due to their beans. No other barbecue restaurant in KC even compares. A side dish of their beans could be a meal in itself with how generous they are with their tender large hunks of brisket. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! Trust me, ordering their original BBQ sauce off their website will be well worth it for a big pan of these beans. They are soooooooooo good!



32 oz pork n beans

1 cup chopped brisket

1 cup Jack Stack BBQ sauce

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ cup ketchup

½ cup water

1 teaspoon liquid smoke



Boil in saucepan. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve. Try not to lick your bowl.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pear, Pomegranate, Spinach Salad

I know I have said this before, but I can't stress enough how much better homemade dressing is. Tonight I topped this festive pear, pomegranate, and spinach salad with an apple cider vinegar, honey, dijon mustard concoction and it was delightful! It's not too late to add this salad to your holiday menu!

P.S. you can find my OXO Salad Dressing Shaker for under $10 at Target, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, or Kohl's. It is the perfect holiday gift idea if your new years resolution involves adding more greenery to your diet.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wok Wednesday

Happy Wok Wednesday! To celebrate the occasion, I am sharing this amazing teriyake sauce recipe. Pre-make in large batches on prep day for an easy and delicious mid-week lunch or dinner. It pairs well with any combination of protein and veggies. I know this sauce requires lot of ingredients to make but I guarantee it will give PF Changs a run for it's money! 


1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons corn starch pre-mixed with 2 teaspoons water


Heat in pan until it comes to a boil. Set aside to thicken. Use as marinate and sauce.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Raspberry Kicker: 2 shots raspberry vodka, 4 shots cran-raspberry juice, a splash of Chambord, and fresh raspberries

Delicata Squash with Caramelized Shallots and Sherry
1 large Delicata squash
2 tablespoons EVOO
¼ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel the squash, leaving some skin on the crevices. Trim the ends, slice in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and slice the halves crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices. In a skillet, heat a tablespoon EVOO and cook squash until brown then transfer to a baking dish. In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon on EVOO and caramelize shallots. Remove from heat transfer shallots to baking dish and add sherry and sage. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Before serving, salt and pepper to taste.

Cranberry Honey Turkey Glaze: 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, ½ cup honey, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

*My Thanksgiving recipes are from the magazine The Best of Fine Cooking Cook Fresh, Fall 2014 (Yes, I have been waiting a whole year for this!)

Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnut Butter

For the butter:

1/3 cup hazelnuts

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest

1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

½ teaspoons honey


For the brussel sprouts:

¼ cup EVOO

6 cups brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Make the butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Roast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 5 to 6 minutes. When cooled, rub nuts with a clean kitchen towel to remove skins then finely chop. In a small pan, add butter, lemon zest, thyme, and honey and heat. When liquefied add hazelnuts. Set aside.


Cook the brussel sprouts

In a 12 inch skillet, heat ¼ cup EVOO. Add brussel sprouts to skillet face down so you can get a good browning on them. After about 15 to 20 minutes add broth and immediately cover the pan to steam the brussel spots for 3 to 5 minutes. Add butter mixture to skillet, toss well, and season with salt. For a little extra light and citrusy flavor, add a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Red Potato, Cabbage, Bacon and Gruyere Gratin favorite Irish staples all in one dish! Perfect pairing with roasted chicken, sausages, turkey, or pork! Even better reheated. Serves 8.

For the topping:

4 strips, thick cut bacon, diced and fried to crisp

1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs made from ciabatta bread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


For the gratin:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 cups savory cabbage, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

¾ cup chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream

4 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup gruyere cheese, grated


Prepare the gratin

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Over medium low heat melt butter in pan which bacon was cooked. Add cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and cook until cabbage is wilted and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and stir and cook until fragrant. Add chicken broth and heavy cream and stir. When the heavy cream is evenly distributed remove from heat.

Assemble the gratin

In a large bowl mix the potatoes, cabbage mixture, and gruyere cheese. Add to a non-stick baking dish. Cover with breadcrumb topping and bake until top is well browned and potatoes are just tender enough to poke through with a fork, about 1 hour. Let cool for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cumin and Coriander Pork Ramen

Say goodbye to your college day’s stigma of ramen noodles. I like to refer to this version as “fancy” ramen. Since moving to Kansas City, I have discovered that ramen can be highly addictive and it can add some nutritional value rather than just insane amounts of salt intake. Imagine that?

After countless nights out spending $15+ for a bowl of ramen, I decided to give it a shot myself. When it comes to a good bowl of noodles, the most important component is the broth and meat flavoring. My goal for my first take at my own ramen dish was to attempt making this dish myself without immediately turning to an online recipe.

I spent some time trying to think of what kind of meat I wanted to make and remembered how easy and cheap it was to slow cook pork shoulder. I added equal parts cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper to season. I knew these four spices would add just enough brine to my broth. After a quick brown, I transferred the pork to my Le Creuset which contained a chopped yellow onion, chicken broth, orange and lime juice, sherry vinegar, and bay leaves. The meat was very fragrant and falling off the bone after about 3 hours on 350 degrees F.

Shitake mushrooms, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and egg were my healthy additives for the dish. All I did to prepare the veggies was to steam them for a few minutes. To make a perfectly poached egg for ramen, the key is to only fill up the pan with about an inch and a half of water and boil with white wine vinegar. Rather than cracking the egg into the pan try slowing pouring the egg into the pan from a small bowl to keep the egg yolk from dispersing. You only need to cook the egg for 4 minutes before its ready to be mixed into your noodles. And don’t forget to garnish your bowl with cilantro.

I am telling you, do not attempt to make ramen unless you want to get addicted. I can’t stop thinking about it! It is so good!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

BBQ Chicken Naan Pizza

Nothing beats homemade pizza crust. Okay, except maybe laziness does. Next best thing? Naan. This leavened oven baked flatbread is so versatile and perfect for a personalized pizza slice. When baked in the oven it will give you that desired exterior crunch while keeping the inside dough nice and soft.

Today I wanted to share my rendering of the very popular BBQ chicken pizza. I’ll admit I am usually not a huge advocate for pizza with anything other than a marinara sauce base but I changed my mind after I subbed in my favorite spicy BBQ sauce by Jack Stack. So if you were a BBQ chicken pizza skeptic like me, grab your favorite BBQ sauce and see if your favored sauce makes a difference.

I topped my slice with shredded chicken which I slow cooked the night before in my crock pot. You could also opt to use rotisserie chicken to save some time and energy. For the cheese, I chose shredded mozzarella but I think adding a bit of Gouda to the mix would have be awesome!

Next, I threw on some red onion, corn, pineapple, and zucchini spirals. To add some additional spice I sprinkled some red pepper flakes on top. If I were to add anything else to this creation it would have been cilantro just for a little bit more zest!  So go ahead, empty out those extra veggies in your fridge and give naan pizza a try.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Orzo Stuffed Peppers

Vegetarian stuffed peppers are the perfect pair with grilled chicken, steak, or white fish.


Skip the extra boring side of rice and add some grain to your peppers instead. I added an addition of orzo which is simply just rice shaped pasta.


This recipe will fill your body with high levels of Vitamin K and Vitamin C from the red pepper and kale. Did you know red pepper has twice the Vitamin C content of green peppers?


It’s true! So next time you find yourself thinking about making stuffed peppers remember the brighter the better!  


Oh, and don’t forget a dollop of Daisy! Sour cream or the healthier option of Greek yogurt are always a good topping for stuffed peppers especially if you mix with your favorite spice! (Try basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, or dill too)



½ cup whole grain orzo

2 large red bell peppers

1 zucchini

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3-4 kale leaves, stems removed, chopped

⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese

1 small lemon, juice and zest

⅓ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream


Fresh chopped fresh mint

Red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Cook orzo in salted boiling water until al dente.

-Meanwhile, roast your bell peppers. Slice in half, drizzle with EVOO, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side up and roast for 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

-In a large glass bowl combine 1 tablespoon of EVOO, garlic, kale, chickpeas, and zucchini. When your orzo is done cooking go ahead and drain the water and add it (warm) to the bowl and toss. Stir in the feta, lemon juice, lemon zest, mint, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

-Fill the red pepper halves with orzo salad and serve with herbed yogurt sauce. Mix Greek yogurt or sour cream, mint, lemon juice, salt, and drizzle with EVOO.