Wednesday, February 19th

Binging on Grapefruit

Recently TexaSweet invited me to attend a grapefruit workshop at the Central Market cooking school. We sliced, peeled, squeezed, ate and drank tons of gorgeous Rio Stars. After sampling several recipes, they set me loose in Central Market with a gift card and I put my new skills (and some fun ingredients!) to work my kitchen.

To get my creativity flowing, I started with a little grapefruit juice and Cava for a fizzy, sophisticated take on a mimosa, the Riomosa. I could drink these forever.

Grapefruit Glazed Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

I loved all the recipes I made, but my very favorite was the Grilled Shrimp with Grapefruit Glaze. The zesty marinade turned into a beautiful glaze that caramelized the quick-cooking shrimp. It was remarkably easy and will be my go-to shrimp recipe from now on.

Pictured with the shrimp is the Quinoa Salad that offered heat, sweetness, and colorful crunch. The fresh and light vegetables were bolstered by the ancient grain, making this hearty salad a meal all on its own.

Giada's Citrus Salad

I wanted to share another grapefruit salad that I’ve been making for a few years. Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe comes together quickly and tastes incredibly fresh. The crunch of the fennel and toasted walnuts play nicely with the grapefruit and orange segments. A light basil dressing is the perfect finish.

Grapefruit Ice Cream and Citrus Bake

For dessert, fresh grapefruit, oranges and pineapple are broiled with butter and brown sugar to create a decadently sweet base for a scoop of light grapefruit frozen yogurt. To make the yogurt, freeze the segments of four Rio Stars for 30 minutes on a sheet pan. Then combine with two lemon yogurts and process in blender until smooth and creamy. Sweeten as desired with honey, sugar, or 0-calorie sweetener. (I used two packets of stevia.) Freeze for several hours or overnight.

Candied Grapefruit Peel

One last grapefruit experiment used some of the grapefruit peel, of which I had a lot! Even the slightest bit of white pith can overwhelm the candy with bitterness, so the most important thing is to make sure to use clean pieces of just the zest. Shaving the zest off with a sharp vegetable peeler made this pretty easy.

Drop the zest in boiling water for 30 seconds to thoroughly clean it and prepare it to cook in the syrup. Drain the water and cover zest with two parts water to one part sugar, depending on how much candy you want to make. Simmer on low until mixture cooks down to a thick, sticky syrup. Then roll individual strips in sugar and let dry for an hour. These grown up candies pair well with a shot of espresso after dinner.

What are some of your favorite ways to use grapefruit?

Friday, November 1st

Shrimp Rolls

A quick and easy dinner trick is to take what you have and roll it in some lettuce. Take your protein, some veggies and something acidic (or creamy, if you prefer) and just roll it on up. If you have a little extra time, pickle some of your veggies.

Red onion, carrots, and radishes

Pickling carrots, radishes, and red onions

On this occasion, we pickled red onions, carrots, and radishes. They came out okay, but they weren’t anything special. So instead of sharing my recipe, I’m referring you to Mary Makes Dinner because she is a pickling queen.

I bundled my pickles, boiled shrimp and rolled it in some butter lettuce with red bell pepper and fresh cilantro. Top with sriracha for a kick!

Shrimp, red peppers, pickles, butter lettuce, sriracha

Shrimp roll with sriracha

What do you like to roll up?

Friday, October 18th

Happy Pumpkin Tortellini

It’s that time of year. Pumpkin-lovers go crazy drinking lattes, carving jack-o-lanterns, and looking for ways to incorporate more pumpkin into our meals. I was given some Happy Hemp seeds to try out and I wanted to pair them with pumpkin!

Pumpkin tortellini

Happy Hemp seeds are available toasted and raw. The raw is reminiscent of sesame seeds. Tiny, light, and with a mild flavor. The toasted variety puffs up to a bigger size, has a substantial crunch and a nutty flavor. I truly love both. For this recipe I used raw seeds, but feel free to use toasted if you prefer. Or both!

Happy Hemp seeds

You can also use canned pumpkin, although I used fresh.

  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 T grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 package cheese tortellini
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 TB hemp seeds
  • Basil, for garnish

Prepare tortellini according to package instructions while you make your sauce. Heat up the pumpkin in a pot, stirring until smooth. Use a few spoonfuls of your pasta water to thin it out if you need to.

Add salt, chili flakes, cheese, spices, and syrup, stirring frequently. Heat up the half and half before incorporating into the pumpkin. Once again, stir until smooth.

Drain pasta and top with sauce, hemp seeds, basil, and toasted walnuts. Grate a little more cheese on top if you like. The layers of flavor in the sauce are accentuated by the sweet basil and crunchy nuts and seeds.

Happy Pumpkin Tortellini

How are you eating pumpkin? Leave a comment and link to your favorite recipe!

Disclaimer: The seeds were free but the love is real. They also sent me this gorgeous hemp bag and I use it for everything!

Happy Hemp bag

Friday, September 20th

Watermelon Jicama Salad

Watermelon Jicama Salad

The combinations are endless, yet I find myself gravitating towards the same salad over and over. Maybe it’s just poor planning or a desire to get out of the grocery store as quickly as possible, but I grab my usual ingredients and toss it together with my normal dressing. I love my go-to salad, but I think it’s time I faced it: I’m in a salad rut.

Enter the watermelon, my guest-starring ingredient. Despite the fact that pumpkin spiced lattes are back, I’m still entrenched in summer. It’s cooling down to the low 90s in Austin, so I guess we can start pulling out our sweaters soon, but still…watermelon. She’s the queen of summer. The slices at camp, the seed-spitting contests, jumping in the ocean to wash the pink juice off your body. Who doesn’t have great watermelon memories?

I carried a watermelon.

I carried a watermelon.

I’m not giving up watermelon yet, people. And you shouldn’t either.

Try this simple crunchy, refreshing salad. The fresh mint and salty feta give it an exotic feel and you can serve it alone or with grilled fish, a hummus platter, or a cool sparkling sangria. Simply toss together:

  • Sliced watermelon
  • Sliced jicama
  • Mint leaves
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Crumbled feta
  • A drizzle of really good balsamic vinegar and olive oil. 

Watermelon Jicama Salad

Goodbye, salad rut. What salad ingredients are you loving these days?

Thursday, July 25th

Fabio Viviani and Me

A few months ago I was a lucky enough to be included in a tiny group of bloggers who got to spend an hour with Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani. We were riveted as he told stories and answered our questions about Top Chef, his favorite recipes, and his mother in Italy. He was just as charismatic and funny in person as he is on TV.  Fabio Viviani at Book People in Austin, Texas

Fabio Viviani and Book People in Austin, Texas

A few weeks later I was contacted by Fabio’s people and asked to contribute to his online magazine in the garlic-themed issue. I created a savory fresh juice (with just a hint of garlic) that is perfect to sip on a hot summer day. Go check out my recipe on Fabio’s site!

Tomatoes, cucumber, lemon, garlic, jalapeno, celery

Glass of juice by a pool and waterfall

Thursday, June 27th

Cashew Cheese

I’m no pro, but I dabble in the vegan arts from time to time. I love recipes that don’t depend on any animal products to taste amazing. Like this Cashew Cheese.

Vegan Cashew Cheese

Its flavor is reminiscent of parmesan, aged and nutty. Obviously nutty. And it’s so easy!

Start with a cup and a half of cashews and soak them for three to five hours, until soft. (You can do this with any kind of nut you want, by the way. If you use harder nuts, like Brazil or almonds, just add a few more hours of soaking time.)

Vegan soaking cashews

Drain well and mix well in the food processor with little salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of miso paste. Mix until smooth.

White Miso Paste

Put in a glass container and cover with cheese cloth or a nut milk bag. Place in a warm spot for six hours and let ferment. It was about 90° on the day I made this, so I sat it outside on the porch where I could keep an eye on it.

Vegan Nut Cheese

The cheese will discolor slightly on top. You can scoop off and throw away or just mix it in.

Vegan nut cheese

Refrigerate and enjoy on salads, sandwiches, whatever you want.

Vegan Cashew Cheese

This has all the richness and salty flavor of cheese, with none of that pesky dairy. This ordinary salad was exquisite with a simple addition of some homemade cheese. I highly recommend trying this!

Monday, May 6th

How the Betty’s Eat

Everyone has a few go-to, no brainer meals that they default to on those busy days. For us, fish is the default. It’s quick, easy, healthy, and I always keep a few pieces in the freezer. My default veggies are either asparagus or Brussels sprouts. When I make sprouts I put an Asian spin on the dish. It’s one of our favorite things to eat, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Start with a pound of sprouts. Cut off the bottom core and remove the outer leaves. They’ll look like this:

Brussels Sprouts

Cut in half and mix with 1 TB olive oil.

Brussels Sprouts

Season however you like. I use a little salt, pepper, and plenty of red pepper flakes. Then put in a 400 degree oven on a baking sheet and stir every ten minutes. They will crisp up nice and brown.

Roasting Brussels Sprouts

The sprouts will take about 30 minutes to cook. At the 20 minute mark, lower the oven to 350° and bake your fish accordingly. Obviously you want to give more time to thicker cuts than thin fillets. I often use salmon or trout, but occasionally I’ll roast shrimp, tilapia or something else. Whatever’s on sale. I season the fish with a spice blend and a dusting of cayenne pepper and sesame seeds.

We’ll eat the fish right on top of the sprouts in a bowl with chopsticks. Want some carbs? Make a spicy packet of ramen and drain most of the water so it’s not a soup. I use kimchi ramen from the Asian market and it is HOT! Top with Sriracha for a fiery dinner.

Fish, Sprouts and Ramen

Fish, Sprouts and Ramen

What’s your favorite go-to meal?

Thursday, April 11th

Paradise Smoothie

As a regular maker of smoothies, I’m always looking for new ideas and recipes. One of my go-to sites is Let’s Talk Fitness by local blogger Allen Stern. His devotion to fitness and a healthy diet led to a 125 pound weight loss. I, along with countless others, found great inspiration through Allen’s journey, which he generously shared with his friends, both online and in real life. The news of his passing last week shocked and saddened the Austin blogging, tech, and foodie communities.

I’m dedicating my favorite smoothie recipe to Allen. There’s no kale or spinach. No green powder, protein powder, or flax. Just pure enjoyment and things that taste good. The happiest smoothie I make. Let’s drink it in good health.

Start with a Thai young coconut.

Young Coconut

If you aren’t familiar with these, go buy one. It’ll change your life. They are far easier to work with than a traditional coconut. The soft meat scoops out easily and they are brimming with sweet, delicious coconut water. They are available at most health food stores as well as Asian groceries. Keep wrapped in plastic and store in fridge until ready to use.

Turn coconut on its side and cut off the top pointy part. Use a sharp knife to cut along a curve. There’s a round, brown coconut inside and you want to expose the top.

Young Coconut

Once you have the round top exposed, using a hacking motion to drive the side of the knife into the coconut. You’ll need to use a bit of force. Be very careful! Better to take a few whacks than cut off your hand, okay?

Young Coconut

Once you’re in, turn coconut upright so you don’t lose any water. Work the knife around in a circle and the top will pop right off. This is remarkably easy and can be done in under a minute. But if it’s your first time, be careful and watch your knife.

Young Coconut

Reserve the water and take a spoon and scoop out the coconut. It’s a very thin layer, so use the whole thing and put it all in the blender. Mix with

  • Two frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup mango (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple (frozen or fresh)
  • Reserved coconut water

Blend until smooth. Serves two. Enjoy!

Tropical Smoothie

Thursday, February 7th

Vegan Mac and Cheese, if you please

Okay, not really cheese.  Just a creamy dream that makes you wonder why you ever needed cheese in the first place.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan cookbook author, Dreena Burton, graciously let me reprint her recipe here. This was just too good not to share. You’ll need:

  • 10 oz pasta ( I used elbow)
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup raw Brazil nuts
  • 3 TB lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp mustard powder
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup water*
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 TB olive oil

Dreena offers nut-free options, so check out her site for alternatives. The ingredients I’ve listed are the ones that I used.

While you are cooking pasta according to instructions, preheat oven to 375°. Pasta should be al dente. Do not rinse once it’s finished. Combine nuts, milk, water, juice and seasonings in blender. Puree until smooth. Note: *I do not have a Vitamix or other crazy powerful blender. So I soaked the cashews and Brazil nuts in water for three hours beforehand and drained them. If you choose to do this, adjust water to half a cup as the nuts will absorb a fair amount. If you aren’t accustomed to using almond milk, make sure to buy unsweetened and unflavored. I know many, many people who accidentally bought vanilla almond milk because the packaging is virtually identical. Hey, Blue Diamond, use a different color. Stop ruining lives. 

I used the juice of a Meyer lemon, from my gorgeous supply from Girl Gone Grits’ plentiful bounty, now legendary among Austin foodies. Thank you, Kristina!

Soaking nuts

Lemon and Almond Milk

When blended, combine the sauce with pasta in a 8 x 12 lightly oiled baking dish. It will be runny and saucy, but don’t fret. The starchy pasta will thicken and absorb the sauce. Mix the breadcrumbs and olive oil and sprinkle over the pasta. I use a light touch with the breadcrumbs, but if you are into it, use more!

Cover with foil and bake for 15-18 minutes. Then remove foil and bake another five minutes or so to brown the breadcrumbs.

Mac and Cheese

If you wait a few minutes, you’ll be able to cut a better slice. But it’s hard not to just scoop it out and taste it right away. Both are okay! I am so impressed with how great this recipe is. Easy, too. I’ve made it a few times and it’s perfect each time. Dreena is a master of vegan recipes. Check out her lastest book, Let Them Eat Vegan and definitely make this.

Mac and Cheese

Wednesday, December 5th

Carrot Casserole

This casserole has been a staple at my family’s Thanksgiving forever. My mom passed the duty of making it to me years ago, before I really even knew how to cook. This is so easy, you really don’t have to know how to cook. It’s delicious, simple, and travels well. Plus, you should eat more carrots. Make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 lbs carrots, peels and chopped
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1 sleeve of saltines

Really, you don’t even need to measure the ingredients. Adjust for whatever casserole dish you are using.

Dice onion and saute in butter until soft.

Diced onion

Peel and chop carrots, then cook in boiling water until cooked through. Drain carrots, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.

Chopped carrots

Shred your cheddar and open your crackers. Now your prep is done.

Cheese and crackers

In a large bowl, mix carrrots, onions, and saltines. Slightly crumble the saltines along the way. Mash carrots a little bit. Stir in the cheese, reserving a little to sprinkle on top. Place in casserole dish and cover. Heat through about 20 minutes before serving.

Carrot casserole

That’s it! Easy, easy, easy.