Category: salty

Fajita Marinade

I recently faced a total food fail while attempting Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese. I figured it’d be the perfect healthier mac ‘n cheese. Truth? It was downright terrible. My roux never thickened, I burned my hands pulling out the ‘noodles,’ the whole thing came out a liquidy wet blob lacking flavor. Not to mention that I wasted $14 on cheeses! I tried reinventing the leftovers by making little cheesy noodle ‘pancakes’ in the skillet. Nope. I don’t know what went wrong in those 2 hours but I know it did not go right.

Given that disappointment, my level of cooking effort is greatly diminished of late. Sometimes I just need a break from planning meals.

Aligned with that mindset, here’s an easy marinade that worked really well for chicken fajitas, and I imagine would be great for steak, pork or tempah too. I put 2 chicken breasts in a gallon ziplock and added these ingredients, smooshing them around to blend and then allowing the chicken to marinate for 1 hour in the fridge:

  • 1/4 cup worchestire
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
  • 2 TBS cumin
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

We sliced the raw chicken and added it with the ziplock sauce to a cast iron skillet. When the chicken was cooked, we removed it and added diced onions, bell peppers, jalapeno and more chopped cilantro for a quick stir-fry. Because the marinade boiled while the chicken cooked and then boiled again with the veggies, I wasn’t worried about raw chicken bacteria.

Better-for-you Butter Chicken

According to my fiance, this should be called “Righteous butter chicken.”

I love butter chicken and order it every chance I have. Officially known as ‘murgh makhani’ and described as ‘Indian chicken in tomato cream sauce,’ I’m rarely disappointed. This is baby Indian food — almost zero heat, sweet and hard to resist seconds, or thirds.

However, generally I place it in the category of ‘foods best made by others’ since the amount of cream sends my stomach racing into hiding. To avoid lactose overload, I gave this version from Natural Noshing a try. It’s light on dairy but still full on flavor, and can easily be made lactose free. Overall assessment: it’s good. It’s not EPIC or a copycat recipe but it’s solid.

Next time I’ll use vegetable or peanut oil, though. I apparently don’t like the scent of heated coconut oil; it reminds me of being stuck in a car on a hot day with a box of melting crayons and a coloring book. Also, lemon juice is an absolute must for finishing the dish. I’ve made the changes that I will make next time to the recipe below.

TIP: This will take you about 2 hours, start to finish.

Ingredients for the Chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups yogurt (can use dairy-free options)
2 TBS ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp tandoori masala powder
2 tsp kasuri methi or 1 tsp ground dried fenugreek seeds
4 TBS canola oil, coconut oil or other neutral oil

Directions For the Chicken:
1. In a small bowl mix together cumin, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, tandoori masala and fenugreek/kasuri methi. Rub on both sides of the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.
2. Line a pan with parchment or foil. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil and ginger garlic paste. Dip each chicken breast into the yogurt mixture. Coat well. Lay on prepared pan.
3. Heat oven to broil and cook 10-18 minutes or until cooked through (depending on thickness of chicken), flipping them over halfway through. For 4 meaty breasts, I cooked 15-20 minutes on each side. When cooked through, let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Optional: slice chicken into 1 inch cubes.

Ingredients for the Butter Sauce:
4 TBS coconut oil, canola oil or other neutral oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 TBS ginger-garlic paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (use canned or marinara to save time)
2 TBS flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp garam masala
3 TBS kasuri methi or 1 tsp dried ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 TBS sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 cup coconut milk OR greek yogurt OR  sour cream
4 TBS butter, ghee, or margarine
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions For the Butter Sauce:
1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan. Cook onions until soft and translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, flour, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, kasuri methi, salt and sugar. Cook on medium heat until thick. Optional: Puree sauce in a blender and return to the pan. Personally I find blending hot liquids in batches a messy business.
3. Add dairy (yogurt/coconut milk/sour cream) and butter. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more coconut milk.
4. If you opted to cut up the chicken, add it to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. I sliced up the chicken and poured sauce over it instead.

Serve hot with lentils, rice and buttery garlic naan. Sigh contentedly and enter righteous butter chicken food coma.


Coconut Curry Salmon

After rocking out a bear-sized portion of epic BBQ at the famous Salt Lick BBQ, I wanted some fish this week as a counterbalance. Who would have guessed that Kraft would have a great recipe for coconut curry salmon? Of course, my revisions excluded the one Kraft ingredient, but I give them kudos for inspiration. This took maybe 25 minutes to prepare, resulting in full flavors that belied the quickness of the dish. We gave it 2 thumbs up and decided it’s a keeper recipe!

1 can (13.5 oz.) regular or lite coconut milk
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tsp curry powder, divided – I used yellow but red or green would work too
4 salmon fillets (1 lb.), with skins
Juice from 2 limes
2 tsp oil
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, cut lengthwise in half, then sliced crosswise
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra lime for garnish

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. If you’re making rice, start that now. TIP: For extra oomph, add a touch of coconut milk,  salt and some sugar to the rice before it cooks. 

2. Blend the coconut milk, cumin, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp curry powder with immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.

3. Place the fish, skin-sides down, on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Mix lime juice and 1 tsp curry powder; brush onto fish. BAKE 8 to 10 min. or until fish flakes easily with fork.

4. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes and onions; cook 5 minutes. Stir in coconut milk mixture, then taste and season per preferences. We added more heat and curry powder and lime juice at this stage. Cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro.

Serve the salmon with sauce and jasmine rice. Sprinkle with cilantro and an additional squeeze of lime juice. TIP:

My Crack Snack

It’s true that I wax poetic about sublime hummus and frosty pumpkin beer, savory thai  and luscious dark chocolate (72% cacao!). But the one food that I absolutely cannot stop eating once start, the snack attack that leaves me apologizing for eating the whole bag, the crunch that I no longer purchase is…

Soy Sauce Rice Crackers

These are my crack. I say ‘I’ll nosh on a few,’ and then shove handfuls in my mouth. ‘I’ll just put them in the cabinet,’ I convince myself, and then pop 15 more. ‘I really should leave some for the bf,’ I resolve, and then realize that the bag is nearly empty. ‘It would be rude to leave crumbs, so I’ll just finish ’em off for everyone’s good’ I justify. Salty, crunchy, slightly sweet with that umami taste that does.not.stop.

Though I would never try and seduce someone to have a self-discipline fail (Ha! Like every happy hour),  brands that I can vouch for include:







Perhaps I just need  to embrace my love of salty foods with a purchase that speaks to the heart of the matter.

Red Lobster Cheesy Biscuits

Recently given a  choice between dining at a hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant, a Mom ‘n Pop Indian food spot and a local Irish pub, I chose Red Lobster. It’s inexplicable. Folks, I haven’t been to Red Lobster in…[counts on both hands]…6 years? Yet all I wanted in that moment were baskets of cheddar bay biscuits.

After appropriately stuffing my face with four course for $14.99 including unlimited biscuits, I was quite happy –  and also curious. How hard is it to make their famous biscuits? A Google search reveals a host of copycat recipes but I wanted one with instant gratification. Enter this super easy recipe from Love Bakes Good Cakes.

raw biscuits
Faux cheese, plus biscuit dough topped with margarine.

Drawback: that whole lactose intolerance thing means I don’t keep dairy milk or shredded cheddar cheese around. Turns out, it doesn’t matter! The almond milk and veggie shreds incorporated perfectly, along a few tweaks for personal preference.  I just ate 3 of these babies, 2 with ham and mustard and honey, and one straight up. Ho boy, this is going in the stack of new favorites:

2 cups Bisquick mix
⅔ cup milk – I used almond
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded – I used Go Veggie! Parmesan, Mozzarella and Romano blend
1 TB butter, melted
2 TBS margarine, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
⅛ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. parsley flakes
⅛ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. garlic powder – I used onion powder

finished cheese biscuits
Picture 2: Ta da! Finished, delicious cheesy biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the Bisquick, milk and cheese until a soft dough forms. Drop by 9 spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Top each biscuit with a spread of margarine (see picture 1).
3. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on the tops and sides. Remove from oven. top each biscuit with another sliver of margarine. (I’m not going for health here, people, and these biscuits need salty tops).
4. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, 1 TBS margarine, olive oil, Old Bay, salt, garlic or onion powder and parsley. Brush the butter mixture over the warm biscuits.
5. Eat! Repeat.

Next time I’ll probably use faux cheddar cheese to obtain that classic orange color, and garlic powder in the butter topping blend. But I am very pleased overall. To boot, the entire process took 15 minutes!

I wonder how many I can eat before the bf notices?

5 Minute ‘Pickles’

I sometimes whine about cooking when it’s hot, and I’m clearly not alone. In fact, Cooking Light  ran a piece in their July issue about 5-minute sides along with all sorts of shortcuts to avoid the kitchen. It’s not just me!

I made their recipe for Greek Salad Cucumbers for an impromptu picnic dinner. It’s less like a salad or a side and more like super-fast pickles. And they are awesome: crunchy, salty and satisfying on a sticky evening. Plus they’re apparently quite healthy.

  • 1 English cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise and then crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and swirl around to coat the cucumbers. I misread “red wine vinegar” as “rice vinegar,” only to realize 1/4 tsp of the way through that I was out of rice vinegar. I switched to white vinegar before realizing it actually listed red wine vinegar. And I failed to measure anything. Ya know what? It didn’t matter one bit; they were still delish.

Taste and adjust to preference. The leftover liquid made a nice cracker dip too.

The Lazy Man’s Eggs: Frittata

I admit it; I can’t make an omelet. But I love dressed up, flavorful, fluffy eggs full of color and vegetables. Enter the frittata. A frittata is an egg-based dish similar to an omelet or crustless quiche, with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta.

It looks complicated and impressive on the table, but is really super easy to prepare. I started with a basic recipe then played around a bit using what I had on hand. You can double it easily enough, depending on your crowd and skillet size. Check it:

frit 2 Ingredients
5 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites (just 5 eggs is fine, too — the whites make it a bit puffier)
2-3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
3-4 oz. baby spinach
1/2 tomato, sliced/diced
4-5 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 onion or 1 clove garlic
1-2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Crack eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk to blend.
2. Heat oils in an oven-safe skillet. TIP: I used a cast iron skillet, so if you have a nonstick skillet you might use less oil.  When oil is hot, add mushrooms and onion/garlic, sauteing until slightly tender. Add spinach and stir to wilt.
3. Pour in eggs, top with tomatoes and goat cheese. Allow to sit on the stove cooking for about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

I made another frittata the next day, using Parmesan and orange bell pepper. Delish! This is a good recipe to keep on hand for weekends and company. Oh, and don’t forget to pair it with a Bloody Mary.

7-Minute Loaded Vegan Sweet Potato

I really should have taken a picture of this beauty, but I was freaking hungry and needed to eat. That packet of miso soup at 4pm was not cuttin’ it. Hence, this magical creation – ready in 7 minutes flat. Warm, filling, flavorful and crazy healthy. Did I mention fast?


1 medium sweet potato
1/2 can can red kidney beans, drained
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 cup salsa of choice – I went for medium chunky (horrible name)
1 tsp good quality olive oil – the light flavored, green-grass scented stuff
salt to taste

1. Rinse sweet potato and wrap in plastic wrap. Poke a few holes through the wrap into the potato. Place wrapped potato in a bowl in the microwave. My wimpy microwave leftover from grad school took 5.5 minutes to cook. Yours will likely take 4-6 minutes depending on wattage.

TIP: Sure, you can bake the potatoes in the oven. That’ll take one hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Just making a point about efficiency here.

2. While potato is cooking, open and drain the kidney beans. Slice the avocado. Once the potato is cooked until it’s easy to pierce with a fork, pull it out of the microwave with oven mitts. Seriously, y’all, I’ve screamed profane things in the office kitchen while burning off my fingerprints attempting to pull bowls out of the microwave by hand.

3. Slice potato in half in the bowl. Fill with 1/2 can of kidney beans and 1/2 cup of salsa. Zap in the microwave 1 additional minute. Remove carefully and top with sliced avocado, drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste.

Ta da! Your entire meal can be made and consumed in less time than it takes to watch an episode of The Daily Show. Ooh, this recipe for stuffed sweet potatoes with greens and beans looks promising too.  Or this one, kale and quinoa stuffed sweet potatoes. I’ve found my inner yam monster! Plus, tomorrow I’m taking the leftover beans, avocado and salsa to work for stuffing in a pita pocket.

I ate this with a glass of red wine from the Cote du Rhone that was on sale at the store. I didn’t like it enough to list the wine here, but I’m sure a little sweeter wine could go nicely. A drier Riesling perhaps, or a Zinfandel?