Tuesday, January 6th

Easy Greek

Easy Greek meal

Greek food is all about good ingredients and flavors that work well together. One of my favorite dinners involves more shopping than cooking, as I grab fresh produce, good olives, and the very best feta I can find. (I prefer French sheep’s milk feta for its smooth creaminess and mild flavor.)

I pile those onto a platter with hummus, FAGE yogurt, a simple salad with red wine vinaigrette, and toasted blanched almonds.

Thomas Keller's Roasted Chicken

This arrangement works well with any protein. A lean steak, grilled halibut, shrimp, spiced meatballs…they’d all be delicious. But the easiest (and most wallet friendly) might be a roasted chicken. I like Thomas Keller’s famous recipe that just calls for salt, pepper, drying, and trussing. If you haven’t tried roasting a chicken this way, you simply must.

Easy Greek cooking

I like to serve with fresh pita from the bakery and butter lettuce to make yummy roll ups. Skip the pita if you’re off carbs. Mr. Betty and I like to cozy up and share a plate, so this type of dinner where we graze is perfect for us. But you can serve on separate dishes if you’re fancy like the pope.

Easy Greek cooking

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have long been celebrated, so in addition to the simple preparation, eating this way may lower your risk of cardiovascular conditions and certain cancers. Plus, it’s just damn delicious.

What’s an easy, throw-together meal that you like to make?

Monday, December 1st

Texas Rio Star Grapefruit

Disclosure: I was gifted a box of Rio Star grapefruits and some tools and recipe cards from TexaSweet. Opinions, photos, and grapefruit love are my own!

Grapefruit Guacamole

I did a grapefruit post last year and jumped at the chance to do another one this year. I’ve always liked juicy red grapefruit, but since moving to Austin and having access to the Rio Stars—which are ten times redder than Ruby Reds—I just can’t get enough. Mr. Betty and I buy giant bags while they are in season and enjoy them for breakfast for weeks on end.

But last year’s grapefruit extravaganza had me expanding my repertoire and I started including the fruit in dinner salads, with shrimp, quinoa, and more. It’s in that spirit that I made a refreshing grapefruit guacamole to snack on before Thanksgiving dinner. Grapefruit is a natural fit for the creamy treat, with the bursts of acidity playing nicely just like lime does. Plus, you can’t beat that color combination.

Mash together:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 3 TB finely minced red onion
  • 3 TB chopped cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Top with fresh Ruby Red segments

Grapefruit Breakfast

For those who prefer to keep grapefruit to their mornings, try pairing it with a toasted bagel. Mix the zest of one grapefruit into plain, light cream cheese before slathering onto your favorite bagel. Top with additional segments. Enjoy with a cappuccino on a sunny porch while catching up on Serial.

Grapefruit Breakfast

Need some grapefruit tools?

Set of 2 Grapefruit Spoons and 1 Grapefruit Knife, Stainless Steel, Serrated Edges

Thursday, August 28th

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Signs of autumn have crept in with back-to-school sales and pumpkin spice lattes, but I’m still fully entrenched in summer. Because it’s hot out there, people. It’s not fall until I put on long sleeves.

Cherry Almond Tea Cake

We’ve had a nice long cherry season and I’ve been taking advantage of it all summer long. I can’t remember a year where Mr. Betty and I ate more cherries. Most days I enjoyed a bowl of fresh cherries as my afternoon snack, but I also froze them for smoothies and baked them into a delicious tea cake, pictured above.

Part of my cherry inspiration came from Stephanie McClenny of Confituras, and a cooking demo she did at Whole Foods where she demonstrated several ways to use cherries. In that class I got to pickle cherries, make syrup and cocktail cherries, as well as learn some flavor profiles that are complimentary to cherries. Stephanie talked about how cherry pits have an aroma similar to almonds and ever since then I was dying to make a cake.

Stephanie McClenny of Confituras

Pickled Ranier Cherries

My Cherry Almond Tea Cake is adapted from an Epicurious recipe. We enjoyed it for dessert with steaming mugs of tea or frothy cappuccinos. It was rich and moist and satisfied our sweet cravings without being too sweet.

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved

Sift the first four ingredients together and set aside. Combine butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then mix in eggs one at a time along with the extracts. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients, reserving 2 TB, into the wet. Mix in sour cream and zest. Dust cherries with reserved dry ingredients before gently folding them into the batter, which will be very thick.

Pour batter into greased and floured springform pan (9 or 10 inches) and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Garnish with a light dusting of powdered sugar and more cherries if you like.

Cherry Almond Tea Cake

Wednesday, May 28th

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

Austin-based Cookwell & Company makes a line of high-quality dressings, sauces, marinades, soups, and tons of other stuff. Their products are made from their all-natural ingredients and they are famous for their diverse selection of flavors and unique combinations. When they sent me some products to try, I used a couple to create this delicious chicken sandwich.

Cookwell and Company Honey Lime Vinaigrette


  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • ½ cup Honey Lime Vinaigrette
  • Ciabatta Loaf
  • 6 Slices Bacon, cooked until crispy
  • ½ Avocado, cut into thin slices
  • 3 TB Sweet Heat Grilled Pineapple and Candied Jalapeño Sauce

Marinate chicken breasts in vinaigrette for at least two hours in the refrigerator. Brown in pan and finish off in the oven until chicken is cooked through. Shred and set aside.

Cookwell and Company Sweet Heat Grilled Pineapple and Candied Jalapeño Sauce

Slice entire loaf of ciabatta in half and spread sweet heat sauce evenly on one half. Layer sandwich with shredded chicken, crispy bacon, and sliced avocado. Slice into four equal pieces and serve.

This sandwich is really simple to make and very flavorful. The cilantro and lime in the dressing give the chicken a zesty brightness. The sweet and spicy sauce are enhanced by the salty bacon and creamy avocado. This flavor profile would work with any protein or even your favorite sautéed veggies.

Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich

What’s your favorite sandwich to make? Have you tried any Cookwell & Company products?

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!