Scallops, Lemon Pepper Pappardelle and Sundried Tomatoes

Let’s make it a date night. I mean it. I have to admit, I absolutely love dressing up and dining al fresco, especially during cool summer nights (but who doesn’t!?). However, there are times when a lovely home-cooked dinner and a movie will suffice. I love those kind of nights too, don’t you? Especially when the beau washes dishes? Absolutely.

At Trader Joe’s the other day, I came across their flavor infused pasta and I thought, hmmm!! Date night material? Possibly! I decided on the lemon pepper and found to my delight, a delicious recipe on the back of the package. Ohhh it was bound to be good, just from the looks of it. Olive oil, a bit of lemon and some parsley? Yes, please!

This has easily become one of my favorite summer dishes. It is light and refreshing as it is rich with flavor. Oh and the possibilities are endless! If you don’t like scallops, you can easily substitute it with prawns, chicken, or leave it vegetarian as it is. Slurp.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 package of Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta

olive oil

non-stick cooking spray

1/2 lb scallops

1/3 cup sundried tomatoes

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and pepper

1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

Step 1: Cook pasta to al dente then drain and set aside. Season the water with a bit of salt while the pasta cooks. Mix and spray the cooked pasta with a bit of non-stick cooking spray after draining out the water. This will keep them from sticking to each other, which they love to do!

Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan with enough olive oil to cover the surface.  In the meantime, give the scallops a nice wash, pat them dry then season with salt and pepper.

Step 3: When the pan is hot, add about a 1/2 tbsp of butter then add the scallops. Sear on one side for about a minute then flip the scallops on the other side then sear for an additional minute or two. They shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to fully cook. Next, take the scallops out and place them on a separate plate.

Step 4: Add the cooked pappardelle pasta to the same pan the scallops were cooked in. Add the lemon juice, and the sundried tomatoes. Mix until evenly combined. Taste. Add a bit of salt and pepper if needed. Add the scallops. Mix. Taste. Sprinkle in the parsley. Mix. Good enough for your taste? Then it’s done!

I’m dying to try this version with prawns too. And chicken. And possibly just portobello mushrooms. Or all three. OH and can you imagine adding just a sprinkle of fried bacon bits? Oof. Needless to say, many nights of dining-in to come – and I’m perfectly ok with that. Enjoy!



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Avocado & Shrimp Summer Salad

Oh summer, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways…

The advent of summer brings many wonderful things, some of which entail the likes of outdoor festivals, sundresses, warmth, and my absolute favorite, farmer markets. Philadelphia is chock full of local finds and depending on which part of the city you wander off into, you’re bound to find something fresh and homegrown. It tickles my fancy.

It’s not easy being a locavore on a student budget, which is why I look forward to summer markets. Most fruits and veggies are in season and their abundance keeps costs low, allowing me the luxury of making fresh favorites like this.

I love this salad. It’s delightfully fresh and light yet filling. Oh and did I mention it’s super easy to make?

Here’s what you’ll need:

butter lettuce

grape tomatoes

croutons, whichever you prefer (i love cheese garlic)


sliced almonds

1/2 avocado

3-5 pieces shrimp, cooked

1 lemon

extra virgin olive oil

sesame oil

salt and pepper

Step 1. Wash and chop the butter lettuce. Butter lettuce. Doesn’t that just sound so decadent? It’s one of my absolute favorites, aside from mixed greens. The leaves are creamy and soft (buttery, if you will) yet they don’t wilt as easily when tossed with dressing. Packaged butter lettuce is just as fine! It usually comes mixed with radiccio, which adds a nice crunch.

Step 2. Wash and slice the grape tomatoes. I could eat these suckers all day long. Yum. Have leftovers? They’d be good in shrimp scampi too, ooh.

Step 3. Assemble croutons, craisins and almonds. Contrary to the picture, I don’t measure these out (I don’t own small bowls, so here’s me getting creative, haha). I love craisins, so I tend to put more of those in the mix. These are plain almonds, but roasted and salted almonds are crazy delicious too.

Step 4. Score and scoop out 1/2 an avocado. To be honest, this salad recipe idea started with my ongoing love affair with this buttery fruit. Avocados are the best during warmer months and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to use it in almost anything I make. Fresh guacamole or just drizzled with a bit of honey, I like trying new ways to enjoy this summer star.

Step 5. De-vein and cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes in boiling water. Allow to cool then chop into bite sized pieces. Then eat a few pieces. Then decide you should have cooked more shrimp. Always the case for me, anyway.

Step 6. In a large bowl, mix all salad components together. Add more toppings if you desire. Then eat one more piece of shrimp and promise you won’t eat more till the very. end. Break that promise.

Step 7. Make the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, add the juice of 1 lemon, sans seeds. Measure this, then add exactly the same amount of extra virgin olive oil. It’s a one to one ratio if you will. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper then whisk, whisk, whisk.

Step 8. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking. Finally, add 1-3 drops of sesame oil. I mean it. 1-3 drops only, maybe even less. You want that subtle savory flavor but a drizzle of this will overwhelm your dressing. If it’s your first time making this dressing, add the sesame oil a drop and a taste at a time. You’ll be surprised how much a little goeth a long way.

Step 9. Drizzle the dressing all over the salad then mix, mix, mix. Ahh, summer in my mouth at its finest.

For lunch or for a light dinner, this salad is a favorite, time and again. Make it for your friends, bring it to a picnic, or enjoy it for yourself. Until next time foodies!


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Deep Fried Oreos

Deep fried what?! Uh-huh. A decadent cookie-doughnut so sinfully easy to make it requires hardly any effort at all.  That could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it, yes?

Treats like this take me back to state fairs I frequented each summer with friends and family alike. My sister and I shared a humongous turkey leg, maybe a corndog, and possibly a funnel cake depending on which rides we had yet to try.

I have to admit, I’m not much of a sweet tooth myself but I can’t resist to share this with you since I know many adventurous foodies alike would probably be willing to try these at least once…or twice…or three times. They’re just addicting like that.

You’ll need:

Vegetable Oil

Funnel Cake Batter

A bag of regular Oreo cookies (Double stuffed, if you dare)

Step 1: In a deep pot, heat enough oil to fully submerge an Oreo cookie.

Step 2: While waiting for the oil to heat, make the funnel cake batter according to the directions on the box. or pail.

Step 3: Before coating the cookies, make sure the oil is has reached the right temperature. I usually do a quick test by dropping dollop of batter into the oil. If it browns too quickly, it’s too hot and if it sinks to the bottom with no bubbles, the oil is not quite ready.

You’ll know the oil is ready when you see bubbles and the test batter floats to the top after a few seconds, showing a golden brown color. Fish it out quick! It’ll continue to cook for a few more minutes out of the pot.

Step 4: Dunk the Oreo into the batter and give it a good coating.

Step 5: Immediately after the dunking, gently drop the cookie into the oil. Be careful of oil spatters! I would only do 3-4 cookies at a time since they do cook fast. The batter usually takes only 3 minutes to fry.

Step 6: When the batter looks golden brown, use a slotted spoon to scoop it out and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

Wait until cool enough to dig in your chompers! Got a big glass of milk? Oh, it’s over! Forget about it. Yum.

Glaze it with a simple sugar glaze coating for an extra decadent treat..oh my my my. Many thanks to F. for this recipe and for subsequent enthusiastic ideas on other goodies to deep fry. I keep them close to my heart.

Happy cooking, y’all!


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Mussels in White Wine

As a young girl, I spent much of my childhood by the shore. There were many warm days spent on the sand and summer nights on the pier, a place of wonder and adventures. It was where my sister and I eagerly hoisted up our nets to see if the chicken we had laced up lured in a few crabs. They’re quick on their feet, those little critters. In between catching fish on the pier, dad showed us how to catch those critters before our hard work scampered back into the water. We learned quick.

It was a place where I gingerly avoided certain spots of squeaky, creaky boards, a place my sister and I would dare each other to run through. A place where the smell of salty air was refreshing, even though it turned my curls this way and that. The best part of course, was taking home our catch and savoring the freshness and magic of it all. I had no part in the magic. That was all dad’s doing in the kitchen.

This is one of my favorite seafood recipes because it looks incredibly fancy yet super easy to make. I got these fresh cultured mussels at the nearby Whole Foods at $8.00 for 2 pounds. Holy moly, that’s like at least 20 mussels. Definitely enough for date night at home. Cleaning and prepping mussels is the most important thing. You want to make sure these guys are squeaky clean, so here’s the how-to.

Step 1.Put the mussels in a large bowl with 2 quarts of water and 1/3 cup flour. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. What’s up with the flour you ask? I’ve read that it helps to dislodge any sand that may be trapped inside and the mussels eat up the flour, making them more succulent and juicy.

Step 2. Throw away any mussels that float to the top. After 30 minutes, drain and rinse thoroughly. Remove the “beard” from the outer edges if present. Take a brush to scrub the outer shells under running water if they are really dirty. Throw away any mussels whose shells aren’t tightly shut. Place in a separate bowl and set aside.

*I usually cook the pasta while the mussels soak. Follow instructions on the box, then set aside.

For the rest of the dish, you’ll need:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons good olive oil

3 large shallots

5-6 cloves garlic

½ cup Trader Giotto’s Bruchetta (so much better than canned tomatoes)

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 cup good white wine

salt & pepper

*1 box of whole wheat fettuccine (optional)

*a loaf of crusty bread (also optional)

*recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Mussels in White Wine, Barefoot in Paris via FoodNetwork.

Step 1. Chop the shallots, garlic, thyme and parsley. Uncork your wine, measure out a cup, then pour yourself a glass. Drink.

Step 2. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat on medium. When oil is hot, add the butter. Let it melt then add the shallots. Gotta give the shallots a head start then add the garlic about 1 minute in. Sautee the garlic 2-3 minutes but don’t burn.

Step 3. Add the bruchetta, wine, saffron, parsley, thyme, salt (just a touch) and pepper. Then feel your mouth start to water. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Step 4. When boiling, add the mussels, stir well, bring the heat down to medium, then cover the pan. Allow to cook for 10 minutes, until mussels open (Yea, that’s it !). Throw away any mussels that are not open. Stir them in the sauce one more time, and taste the sauce. Add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat, transfer to a large bowl and enjoy!

If you’re using pasta, you’ve got one more step to go:

Step 5. Turn the heat to low and slowly add the cooked fettuccine into the sauce and combine until evenly mixed. Bravo! Turn off the heat and serve. Enjoy with the rest of the bottle of white wine…if you haven’t finished it already *burp*

Why the Bruchetta? Traditionally, this recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but I find that using the bruchetta makes it a bit more special. I just love the richness of the sauce you can’t get from canned tomatoes. I use Trader Joe’s bruchetta called “Trader Giotto’s”. YUM on a piece of toasted french bread and especially in this sauce.

Oh my my my.. If someone made this for me on the first date…

Excellent for crusty bread.

Say no more, be still my heart.


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Brunch at Bourbon Blue

Two of my dear friends came up to visit Philadelphia this past weekend for a mini getaway. They recently got engaged (congrats!) and I hadn’t seen them since their engagement so it was a perfect opportunity to catch up and celebrate the beginnings of their new life together.

The weather predicted rain, but we were determined to make the most of the day. We tackled a ton of things on the to-do list which left us not only feeling super accomplished, but also quite exhausted. The next day, the onslaught of rain came and we decided to take this day a bit slower, to meander through parts of the city we hadn’t seen, to eat a decadent breakfast, get food coma, and die from the deliciousness of it. That was the plan.

I had heard of Bourbon Blue from a classmate of mine who recommended it while we were having lunch. She introduced me to this wonderful little strip of local eateries and shops in Manayunk, which reminds me so dearly of my beloved Carytown in Richmond, Virginia. It was a joyous find. And I made a mental note.

So a few weeks later, here we were, all three of us ready to start our laze-fest. The brunch pretty much did us in. I ordered the crabcake eggs benedict which really combines my top three faves when it comes to breakfast: eggs, eggs, and oh, eggs. Benedict-style is my most favorite fancy shmancy indulgence when it comes to eggs. The yolk itself is sinfully creamy enough  on its own but that Hollandaise sauce just takes you all the way.

I chose the crab cake instead of the (ham?) I think it was? It doesn’t matter. The crab cake was exactly that. Lumps of real crab meat and none of that super bready filling that you can’t even tell if there was crab in there in the first place. The caramelized onions and roasted potatoes mopped up all that extra sauce/yolk/heavenly mixture left on the plate. I did just say mop up the sauce because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing too. Um yeah, I tore it up.

A., ever the sweet tooth that she is, chose the French Toast, which, really, made you roll your eyes to the back of your head upon first bite. I usually gravitate to the more savory side of flavors- even when it comes to breakfast but this right here, I could totally do without a second thought. Pillow-y, syrupy-warm, bread. I can’t think of any other words to describe it. The fresh fruit balanced out the richness of the toast and the baked apples? Forget about it. She tore it up too. In a lady-like manner, of course.

B. chose the Ham Skillet, a heaping layer upon layer of breakfast staples. They combine roasted potatoes, chopped ham, and sharp cheddar cheese in that steaming hot skillet and serve it with, as you see, 3 eggs on top. Where do you even begin? Yum. I had to sneak in a bite of my own before it was all gone. I guess it was just.that.good. And I agree. The melted cheese just melds everything together in this crazy gooey bite and before you know it, you’ve reached the bottom and don’t know how you got there.

If you’re in the Manayunk area, I’d check this place out for brunch. I hear the lines get crazy out the door on Sundays but we went early on a Saturday and it was so much more low key. Other than a few couples sitting next to us and a huge baby shower, we had the place to ourselves. Our server was really nice and attentive and they have a gorgeous deck which opens up in the summer.

It was a struggle, getting up from our seats, but a struggle well worth it. The rain had let up a bit so we headed down to Kelly Drive by the Schuylkill River to walk it off and take in the last bits of the city before their trip back home. Not so bad for a rainy day, after all.


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I put pea shoots in my cous cous, cous I felt like it.

First, I have to say, the baby pea shoots absolutely make the dish. I love the crunch and freshness it adds to the savory flavors from the chicken broth and sauteed onions. I love spring, and I loove spring veggies even more. Today was a gorgeous, sunny, 65 degrees Sunday. Siiiigh. I could live in this kind of weather forever. And cook this kind of food forever.

The thing I love about this cous cous is the texture. I can’t even describe how happy it makes my mouth feel. It’s firm but not chewy and I love how it’s slightly bigger than your typical cous cous. Anyhow, It’s super easy to make so here’s what you’ll need:

1 box Trader Joe’s Israeli Cous Cous

1 1/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 large onion or 1/2 medium sized onion

red bell pepper

orange bell pepper

baby pea shoots

salt & pepper


I bought a few of the baby bell peppers from Trader Joe’s as well…heck, everything in this recipe is from there. I made a list. I went to town. It happens. I prefer red and orange bell pepper over green because I feel they’re a bit sweeter and milder than the green kinds. I used about 1/2 – 1 cup diced.

Step 1. In a sautee pan, heat some veggie oil on medium then get to dicing the onion and bell peppers.

Step 2. When oil is heated, sautee the onions until caramel, wilted and see-through. I always love this part.

Step 3. Keeping the heat on medium, add the cous cous and fry it with the onions for about 2-3 minutes then add the chicken stock. Crank the heat to high until it starts boiling then lower the heat back down to low. Put a lid on it and wait about 15-20 minutes until the cous cous has softened and absorbed all the flavored goodness.

Step 4. During the last 5 minutes of cous cous cooking time, add the diced peppers directly on top of the cous cous. DO NOT mix. The steam will cook these babies up fine. Replace the lid back on the pan until the 15-20 minutes cook time for the cous cous is up.

Step 5. Then, keeping the heat on low, mix the cous cous and taste. Add salt if needed. Add a bit of pepper.

Step 6. Turn off the heat and add the baby pea shoots. Here’s a pic of the kind I got. Deeelicious. I love putting these on top of my soups, in between sandwiches.. fried rice..

Step 7. Serve! Yes. It’s that simple. I had this for dinner tonight with salmon but it would taste just as heavenly with grilled chicken, a side salad, or heck, all by itself. Enjoy!

And for those who are wondering which cous cous I used:

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Creamy Mashed Potatoes

So what do you do when you have leftovers? Are you the kind who gets creative with it? Make-an-omelet out of it kind of person? Or do you let it mold in your fridge and pretend like you’ve forgotten it was there – so you don’t feel so bad when you throw it out? I’ve been guilty of both. A shame really, the latter.

Let me just say, it has been such a change cooking for an audience of one. Well, mostly one, nowadays. I do have  family (literally next door, and we have dinner often) with whom I can pop on over and share my over abundance of food with but ohh how I miss the cooking my roommates and I used to do together.

Plus, one of us always managed to clean off the leftovers – mostly the boys, naturally.

After making the beef stew, I had a few potatoes, cream, and veggies left in the fridge so I decided to throw this together to pair with the stew. It was divine. So divine I had to give most of it away before I turned into a potato myself. Sharing is caring, after all. Here’s the how to:

You’ll need:

6 large red potatoes
2/3 cup light cream
1/2 stick butter
3 tbsp cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 stalk green onion, washed well; chop and discard roots

Step 1: Fill a deep pot of water and get it boiling. In the meantime, scrub the red potatoes clean, quarter them and set aside. Chop the green onion into small rings and set aside. When the water is boiling, drop the potatoes right in and cook them until a fork easily goes through with no resistance. Drain the water when the potatoes are done and get to mashing.

Step 2: Mash the potatoes with a masher, or if you’re a poor college student like me, a fork. I like my potatoes with a bit of a texture so I leave in a few chunks. While the potatoes are still piping hot, add the cream cheese, butter, cream, salt, and pepper. Mix, mix, mix & taste, taste, taste. Then feel real good that you did your workout that morning. Add the green onion last and fold them in. Serve!

If you’re a bit daring, add a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream right on top. You’d be well on your way to decadent heaven.

Or you can have it plain and simple just like this.

It’s the little things in life that make the world go round, after all.

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