Category Archives: Salads

Shakespeare in the Park

Every Summer and Fall, one of my favorite outdoor events to attend in Dallas is Shakespeare in the Park. They feature different plays every year and this Summer they are holding Cymbeline and The Comedy of Errors.  It’s a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, what can be better on a warm Summer’s night than a picnic with a side of Shakespeare?

“As the area’s veteran producers of Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare Dallas has invited audiences to enjoy accessible productions in an open-air amphitheatre since 1971, reaching over 50,000 people every summer and fall.” — Shakespeare Dallas

As celebration for this Summer’s Shakespeare in the Park, I have come up with a simple and healthy Picnic menu!  Though you can bring anything you like on your own picnic, I’ve included some easy recipes and suggestions to help you plan a picnic fit for kings 🙂 Below is some additional information on Shakespeare Dallas and short synopsis of the performances playing this summer.

By William Shakespeare
Directed by SD Artistic Associate Rene Moreno

Previews: June 16-17
Opening: June 18
Continuing June 29 through July 24
on Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays
With additional performances on June 19 & 20

Performances begin at 8:15 p.m. at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre

“Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”

Shakespeare weaves a tale of the beautiful princess Imogen and her new husband, Posthumous, parted by circumstances invoked by her wicked stepmother and her distant father, the King Cymbeline of Britain. Posthumous’ impoverished state makes him undesirable to King Cymbeline as a match to his prized daughter. Under the influence of his wife, King Cymbeline banishes Posthumous and confines Imogen to the castle. While exiled in Rome, Posthumous meets the foul Iachimo who finagles him into a wager on Imogen’s chastity. Iachimo goes to Britain and through trickery gains access to Imogen’s bedchamber. He manages to slide off a bracelet Posthumous gave Imogen to use as proof. Posthumous believes Iachimo’s treachery, and enraged, sends his faithful servant Pisanio to murder Imogen in retribution — although when he learns falsely of her death, he is devastated and repents his action. Imogen, meanwhile, has escaped to Wales in man’s clothing, unknowingly meets up with her long-lost brothers and is eventually reunited with her husband and the truth is revealed amidst the victory of Britain against Rome.

Fri. & Sat.: $10 adults/$7 seniors and students.
Tues. – Thurs. & Sun.: $10 donation requested.
Children 12 and under are free.

Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre
1500 Tenison Parkway
Dallas, Texas 75223

The Comedy of Errors
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matthew Tomlanovich

Previews: June 24-25
Opening: June 26
Continuing June 30-July 23 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
With an additional performance on June 27.
*Please note there are no performances on June 22 or June 23.

Performances begin at 8:15 p.m. at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre

“Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?”

Take one pair of estranged twins (both called Antipholous) and one pair of twin servants (both called Dromio), keep them in ignorance of each other and throw them into a city with a reputation for sorcery and you have the chief ingredients for theatrical chaos. Fast-paced, hilarious and seemingly irreverent, the young William Shakespeare explores themes in this comedy that recur again and again in his later work: mistaken identity, coincidence and the importance of family.

Fri. & Sat.: $10 adults/$7 seniors and students.
Tues. – Thurs. & Sun.: $10 donation requested.
Children 12 and under are free.

Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre
1500 Tenison Parkway
Dallas, Texas 75223

Season Sponsors
570 KLIF, 1310 The Ticket, Brierley+Partners , City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, e-Rewards Market Research, Fossil, Star Newspapers, TACA, Target, Texas Commission on the Arts, The Dallas Morning News, The Hall Agency

Shakespeare Dallas
3630 Harry Hines Blvd. Dallas, TX 75219
(214) 559-2778


The Perfect Summer Picnic Menu

Assorted Cheeses and Fruit Platter

Smoked Gouda, Bleu Cheese, Colby Jack, Fresh Strawberries, Green Grapes, Apricots with Rosemary Triscuits

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

with broccoli, tomatoes, corn, avocado, red onion, and black beans

Finger Sandwich Platter

cucumber tea sandwiches with cream cheese and sprouts & vegetable sandwiches with hummus and olive oil

Summer Fruit Salad

cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries, green grapes soaked in honey and vanilla

Ingredients for Assorted Cheese and Fruit Plate : (serves 4-6)

  • 8 oz Smoked Gouda
  • 8 oz Bleu Cheese
  • 8 oz Mozzarella
  • 8 oz Colby Jack
  • 1 box Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits
  • 8 oz Fresh Strawberries, cleaned and hulled
  • 8 oz Green Grapes, cleaned
  • 8 oz Apricots

Bring a cheese knife and board along with you on the picnic, if you do not have these items a simple butter knife and paper plate will suffice.  Arrange the cheese crackers and fruits to your liking and serve with a nice Riesling or light red like a Pinot or Syrah.

Also feel free to experiment with fruits and cheeses.  You can use other fruits such as apples, figs, raspberries or peaches.  Or perhaps try interesting cheeses like a sharp Gruyere, a creamy Brie or maybe a nice mild Cheddar.  You can find a helpful wine and cheese pairing guide at Gourmet Sleuth here.

Ingredients for Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 lb of Fusili or Penne Pasta, cooked
  • 1 cup of broccoli florettes, blanched
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh yellow/white corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • 1/4 cup of green bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/4 cup of red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and small diced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt.  Pour in the dry pasta and cook for 4-6 minutes or otherwise stated on the package.  Once pasta is “al dente” or semi-firm, strain pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients listed above and toss with cooked pasta.  If more salt/seasoning is needed, simply add additional flavor according to your taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ingredients for Finger Sandwich Platter: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 french baguette, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup spring mix
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

To assemble cucumber sandwiches, take your baguette rounds and slather each side generously with cream cheese.  Add sliced cucumber and sprouts and hold together with toothpicks.  Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and refrigerate til ready to serve.

To assemble veggie sandwiches, take your baguette rounds and slather each side generously with hummus.  Place the field greens, tomatoes, avocado and onion in between and hold together with toothpicks.  Refrigerate and drizzle with olive oil when ready to serve.

You can make all different types of sandwiches — ham and cheese, turkey and swiss, blts — feel free to be creative!  You can also assemble the sandwiches at the picnic, just bring your pre-sliced ingredients and allow your guests to make their own.

Ingredients for Summer Fruit Salad (serves 4-6):

  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1/2 honey dew
  • 1/4 watermelon
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 2 cups grapes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 fresh vanilla bean

Using a melon baller, remove the seeds from the cantaloupe and honeydew.  Carve as many melon balls you can get from the cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.  Set aside.  Reserve the remainder of the melon scraps for a refreshing juice.

Place balls in a large bowl and add the berries and grapes.  Whisk the honey with the vanilla extract/bean and pour over the fruit mixture.  Allow the fruit salad to “marinate” for at least an hour before serving.

Now remember when I told you to set the melon caracasses behind?  Well you can use the leftover melons to make a refreshing drink for the picnic! Now take the melon scraps you set aside and scrape off as much of the flesh as you can.  Transfer the juices and melon flesh into a large bowl or jar and mix with a cup of simple syrup, blend throughly with a hand held blender.

Ingredients for Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

If you want to make other drinks you can try this refreshing Mango Lemonade and Watermelon Lemonade or perhaps some of my Limeades !  Simply serve over ice and you are ready to go 🙂

I hope everyone who lives in Dallas takes the time to take part of Shakespeare in the Park.  It truly is a wonderful experience!  Not only do you get a picnic under the stars (boys, girls like these things) but you get to watch talented actors and actresses from Shakespeare Dallas put on an amazing performance.  Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and remember — no picnic is complete without a picnic basket :)!  (I got mine from Target for $15)

Pan Seared Mahi-Mahi with Cucumber Slaw

Life has been hectic over in the Well’s household, our house is getting close to completion — we are aiming to move in at the end of July.  The boys (Collin, Carter and Poppa Wells) have been doing most of the grunt work, putting up sheet rock, dry wall, replacing broken studs while the girls (Me, Momma Wells and Aunt Lori) have been the painters and patchers.  I’ve earned a nickname of “Little Picasso” however I am convinced after this house, I won’t be painting for a very very LONG time.

The changes throughout the home have been amazing.  I will share with you a few “before” photos and once the house is completed I will share the “after”.  This entire experience has been extremely tiring, but very rewarding.  Every day I walk into the house I am constantly seeing the improvements being made, and to know that this house was literally built with our very own hands makes it all the more gratfying.

We’ve torn down walls, scrubbed asbestos off the floors, replaced windows and doors.  We’ve put up dry wall, painted the rooms and closet doors, took down panneling.  We’ve taken nails out of studs, scraped off all the termite damage and patched holes in the wall.  And to be honest, none of this would’ve been possible without the help of  my second family 🙂 they truly are great.

The end is near.  I can almost taste the sweet sweet victory.  I am looking forward to moving in, cooking in my new kitchen and photographing in my very own photography studio/office.  Til then, excuse the lack of posts and replies to all the wonderful comments you all have left me.  I thoroughly appreciate all of y’alls kind words and support!

Since hosting a Raw Food Event for FoodBuzz, I have been incorporating more raw ingredients into my daily diet.  I pan seared some mahi-mahi and made a nice crunchy and bright cucumber slaw (which was raw) to go with it.  I served it alongside a bed of fresh herb salad (raw) and finished it off with a nice generous squeeze of fresh lemon. It was easy to make with minimal cooking time — which I also found as a plus side to eating raw, because minimal cooking=minimal cleaning :)!

Ingredients for Pan Seared Mahi Mahi: (serves 2)

  • 2 6-ounce mahi-mahi fillets (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400F.

Take mahi fillets and pat dry with a paper towel.  Mix all of the seasonings in a bowl and rub on both sides of fish fillets.  Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, when the butter is bubbling place the fillets in the pan.  Cook three minutes on each side or until the sides of the fillets are browned and seared.  Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until fish is flaky and tender (you can test this by inserting a fork into the thickest part of the fillet).

Ingredients for Cucumber Slaw:

  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup cucumbers, peeled and small diced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Adjust the flavors according to your liking (i.e. add more honey if you’d like it sweeter or vinegar for more tartness)  Allow to marinate for about 10-20 minutes.  Serve on top of mahi-mahi fillets.

Ingredients for Herb Salad:
  • 2 cups herb salad mix
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed olive oil
  • salt pepper to taste

Plate salad and tomatoes alongside of mahi filets and drizzle with olive oil.  Taste with salt and pepper. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over greens and fish if preferred.

FoodBuzz 24,24,24,: Awesome Rawsome – A 5 course Raw Food Dinner

As celebration of FoodBuzz’s new Healthbuzz section, I wanted to discover the mysteries of the Raw Food diet.  This month, FoodBuzz selected my proposal for 24,24,24  I decided to invite a group of my friends and together we explored the beauties of eating raw through a 5 course meal. Does that sound Awesome Rawsome?  I think so.

This was probably one of the most challenging menus for me to think of — I mean eating RAW? I am use to the heat of the kitchen, the sounds of oil sizzling in a pan but no, not this time.  One of the main rules of eating raw is nothing is cooked above 118F, any temperature above that will begin breaking down the natural enzymes in fruits and vegetables. Now many of you are thinking — So what? but because of the degradation of these enzymes, it forces our bodies to generate the enzymes necessary to digest cooked food. Our bodies are unable to produce enzymes in perfect combinations to metabolize our foods as completely as the food enzymes created by nature do. As a result, starches, proteins and partially digested fats can cause blockage to your body’s intestinal tract and arteries leading to health challenges such as high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.

I used Raw, a cookbook written by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein, as guidance through my exploration of raw foods.  They included this example about Eskimos and their raw diet:

The Eskimos are a remarkable example of the transformative power of enzymes.  The word Eskimo means one who eats raw. While living for centuries on a diet that consisted primarily of raw whale or seal blubber, Eskimos developed no arteriosclerosis and experienced almost no incidence of heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure.  Established nutritional doctrine would predict a high rate of these ailments given the diet, but even blubber will digest itself completely if it is not cooked since its enzymes are intact.  Once you heat even the finest olive oil above 118F, you will not be able to digest it completely.  More important, many authorities believe that eating cooked foods depletes our finite enzyme reserve.  Proof of this effect is that an eighty-five-year-old has only one-thirtieth the enzyme activity level of an eighteen-year-old.  In other words, your enzyme reserve is slowly exhausted over a lifetime of eating cooked foods.”

I found this compelling, I never thought about the importance of eating foods raw.  I mean in my mind, raw food meant leafy salads and those party veggie trays, — food isn’t meant to be eaten raw, right?  I guess that’s why I had so much fun with this proposal I had to think of a 5 course menu consisting of all raw foods, made in different ways and in clever combinations to make my guests say — Wait, this is RAW? I could eat this!

To do this, the most important thing would be to pick good quality produce and discovering the beauty of fruits and vegetables in their natural state and using them in way that would enhance their flavors. An interesting fact I also learned when reading Raw, was our bodies’ struggle with digesting unsprouted nuts and seeds — nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting into a plant or tree; however, if they have been sprouted (soaked in water), these enzyme inhibitors will degrade and then our bodies are able to digest them naturally.

Maybe it may not be practical to say– I will eat raw for the rest of my life! In the society we live in today many of us are not able to do that.  However, I’m going to make a personal commitment to improve the quality of foods I place into my body.  Maybe as a start, I’ll start eating raw a couple nights a week, or making my meals half cooked and half raw either way, incorporating raw foods into my daily diet would never be detrimental to my health and would only improve it.  Our health is one of the few things we are able to control in our lives through daily practices of healthy eating habits and exercise; our bodies will take care of us if we take care of it.

In all of the food we eat, (fruits, vegetables, meats), there are natural food enzymes that are present in their raw state.  These enzymes are a perfect combination and fit to help our bodies digest it completely.  Enzymes act as catalysts for every metabolic reaction in our bodies: cell division, energy production, brain activity, which are essential to our mental and physical well-being.

“Nature in her never-ending perfection sees that all food, whether flesh, fruit, or vegetable, decomposes and returns to the earth from which it came.“ Roxanne Klein

Menu for Awesome Rawsome


Gazpacho Granita

relish of cucumber, red and yellow bell pepper and red onion


cream of corn soup with tomato basil lemon oil


heirloom tomatoes with arugula served with lemon tahini


jicama ravioli with avocado crema and southwestern corn slaw


watermelon medallions served with a tropical salsa in a chilled mango soup

Ingredients for Gazpacho Granita: (serves 4 to 6)


  • 2 pounds ripe sweet tomatoes, peeled
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • ¾ tsp salt


  • ¼ cup cold pressed olive oil
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper


  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • ½ red onion, finely diced

To make granita: Quarter tomatoes and puree in a food processor with sugar and garlic. Strain puree through a sieve to discard seeds. Stir in basil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Let mixture chill in refrigerator at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Pour the granita mixture into a wide and shallow container, such as a stainless steel baking dish (the shallower the container, the quicker the granite will freeze). Cover with a lid, foil, or plastic wrap. Freeze the mixture 1 to 2 hours, until it is solid around the edges.  Take the container out of the freezer and scrape the ice with a fork, mixing it from the edges into the center.

Repeat this scraping and mixing process every 30 minutes or so (at least three times) until the entire mixture has turned into small, sequined ice flakes.  When ready to serve, scrape with a fork to loosen the granita and spoon into serving dishes.

To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients until blended.  To assemble salad, in a large bowl combine all ingredients; add dressing and toss to coat.  Spoon granita on center of serving dishes.  Arrange salad evenly around each.

Ingredients for Cream of Corn Soup: (Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 4 cups sweet corn kernels
  • 2 cup filtered water
  • ½ avocado
  • Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place ingredients in a large bowl and using a blender or hand held blender, puree until it is a smooth consistency.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove skin of kernels and taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish for Corn Soup:

  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels
  • ¼ cup julienned jicama
  • ¼ cup microgreens
  • 4 tsp tomato basil lemon oil

Ingredients for Tomato Basil Lemon Oil:

  • ½ pound ripe tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups cold pressed olive oil
  • ¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp lemon zest

Slice the tomatoes in half crosswise (through the equator) and gently squeeze out the seeds; discard them.  Working in a large bowl, rub the cut sides of the tomatoes across the large holes of a metal grater so that the flesh is coarsely grated but the skin remains intact in your hand.  Discard the skin.

Combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a large bowl.  Place at room temperature for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, before using.  Strain and spoon the oil off any juices into clean, dry jar.  The oil will keep in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month  Bring to room temperature about ½ hour before serving.

To assemble soup, pour corn soup into bowls and garnish with jicama and corn mixture.  Drizzle with tomato lemon basil oil and top with microgreens.

Ingredients for Heirloom Tomatoes with Lemon Tahini: (Makes 4-6 servings)

  • ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 8 medium heirloom tomatoes, washed and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 3 cups Arugula
  • 1lemon,, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Freshly ground pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, place tahini, half the lemon zest, and lemon juice; pulse to combine. With the motor running, add 7 to 8 tbsp cold water and continue to process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add salt to taste, and refrigerate until cold.

Bring tahini to room temperature.Place arugula on a large platter and arrange tomatoes on top in a tight overlapping pattern; drizzle half the tahini over the tomatoes.  Scatter remaining lemon zest on top.  Tuck lemon slices around and between tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Serve remaining tahini on the side.

Ingredients for Jicama Ravioli: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 ½ medium-sized jicama, washed and peeled
  • 3 cups raw walnuts, sprouted
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Finely chop the walnuts and mix with chile, cumin powder and salt pepper to taste. Set aside. Take peeled jicama and cut into paper thin slices using either a sharp knife or mandoline.  Place in a large bowl of water with some fresh lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Ingredients for Corn Salsa:

  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • ¼ cup jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced
  • 1 tsp cilantro, minced
  • Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and taste with salt and pepper.

Ingredients for Avocado Crema:

  • 1 ½ avocado, pitted
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ tsp garlic, minced
  • Celtic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Puree and strain ingredients into a large bowl, adjusting the consistency according to your preference–  if it’s too thin add more avocado, if it’s too thick add more water.  Adjust the flavors to your taste.

Take jicama slices and using a round cookie cutter, cut into desired sizes.  Lay one jicama round and spoon walnut mixture in the middle and top with another jicama slice.  Make 3-4 per plate and top with Corn Salsa and Avocado Crema.  Serve immediately.

Ingredients for Watermelon Medallions in a Chilled Mango Soup: (serves 4-6)

  • 4-6 Watermelon pieces cut into 4″ rounds 2″thick

Slice watermelon into 2″-thick slices and using a 4″ round cookie cutter, cut out 4-6 rounds.  It would be preferable to use seedless watermelon so it is easier to eat for your guests.

Ingredients for Chilled Mango Soup:

  • 3 Champagne Mangoes
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp agave
  • ½ vanilla bean

Peel and slice the mangoes, discarding the pit, and place in a large bowl with water and agave.  Using a blender or hand held blender, puree ingredients until nice and smooth.  Scrape vanilla beans from the pod and allow soup to chill for at least an hour.  To make mango stars, pour some of the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for 1-2 hours.

Ingredients for Tropical Fruit Salsa:

  • ½ pineapple, small-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 mango, small-diced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ½ vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, crushed
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and allow fruit to macerate/marinate overnight. You may add a little agave or honey if the fruit is not sweet enough.

To assemble the dessert: place watermelon rounds in bowls and spoon chilled mango, filling bowls ¾ of the way.  Top with tropical fruit salsa and garnish with mint and frozen mango ice cube.

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Fried Egg and Shaved Parmesan

It was really nice seeing my parents this weekend in Houston, I had felt a little homesick since finding out that my mother has decided to retire and will move back to China in the next couple of years.  Though it is hard to imagine life without my mother right next to me, we all have to grow up sometime…right? I had quite the adverse reaction when I first heard the news, which she conveniently told me during my lunch break at work of all places (that’s how my mom rolls, abruptly).

With tears (and snot, lots of it) streaming down my face, my bosses  thought something horrible had happened.  Which at the time, it really did feel terrible.  I seldom cry in front of anyone, but because the news was completely unforeseen, I felt as if someone punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me.  I know it sounds cliche, but my mother is one of my very best friends.  I love her to pieces, even when she has her what I’d like to call her “crazy asian mom moments”,  it is so hard to imagine life without her being right beside me.  She has always been my rock and the older I become, the more I come to understand (and appreciate) the difficulties of being a good mother.

But I understand this is something she has to do and I completely respect her decision.  Sooner or later this was going to happen and maybe this reality check was exactly what I needed to push me to work harder than ever before.  I appreciate both of my parents for moving to the United States to provide me with a better future and can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the numerous sacrifices they must have made to ensure that their child will have a better life and future than they did.

Though I have picked a career route that my parents may not deem to be “practical” the more I come to think about it, the happier I am with my decision. I couldn’t possibly imagine myself doing anything else.  Food has always been my passion, for many reasons which I will save for another time.  I had a friend ask me this weekend “So what is the purpose of your blog?  What do you think will come from it?”  The reason why I spend so much time on each post is because I know my efforts will be appreciated, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.  My purpose is to solely provide a place for everyone to enjoy, whether you use my recipes is not my main concern, but the fact that this place provides you a momentary (and hopefully visually appealing) break from this busy hectic schedule we call life.

I’ve always appreciated the importance of art and music for this very reason — it is able to provide us with a form of escape even on our crappiest days.  Whether its blasting your favorite love song that tugs at your heart strings or looking at an awe inspiring painting that brings you to a different world, ultimately it provides us with happiness that otherwise would be lost.  So to my dear readers, I thank you guys for reading/looking at my blog, you all are the inspiration for why I started to write this blog and you guys continue to be my drive to keep this bad boy going.  I think happiness is best enjoyed when it is shared, don’t you? 🙂

I would also like to thank Eggland’s Best for providing the eggs for this dish.  When I went home this weekend, I found out my mother uses your eggs as well!  Anyways, even before I volunteered to be a tastemaker for their product, I have always bought their eggs.  Their eggs are not only lower in cholesterol than your average egg but somehow they magically pack all of these healthy vitamins along with it too!  Because they feed their hens with all natural and all vegetarian feed and they never use antibiotics or hormones, this ensures that the quality of the egg is always fantastic.  So thank you Eggland’s Best for providing me with a carton of your awesome and delicious eggs!

For this salad, I decided to roast some vegetables and topped it off with a fried egg and freshly shaved Parmasean.  I always fry my egg over easy, but it is important that you always use fresh eggs if you are going to cook them this way.  I really love the way the runny yolk pairs with the cheese and field greens and nothing beats the flavor of a roasted red bell pepper.

To roast a red bell pepper it is quite easy.    You can either broil all four sides in your oven or blacken them on a skillet as I have shown above.  Once you’ve browned all four sides, place it in a bowl and cover with saran wrap.  This will help you remove the outer skin of the pepper easiest.  Once the pepper cools, simply peel off the outer skin and discard the stem and seeds.

Ingredients for Roasted Vegetable Salad with Fried Egg and Shaved Parmesan:

(serves 2)

  • 1 Portobello Mushroom, stem removed
  • 1/2 lb Asparagus, ends trimmed off (about 1″)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, roasted (see instructions above) and cut into strips
  • 1 Tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Mixed Field Greens
  • 1 cup Arugula
  • 1/2 cup Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence, or Basil (dried)
  • 1 teaspoon oil or cooking spray
  • 2 Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved for garnish
  • salt pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large baking sheet coat the asparagus with the 2 tablespoons of oil along with the garlic and dried herbs.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

Heat an iron skillet on medium high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Sear the portobello mushroom, about 3 min on each side and place in the oven with the asparagus until tender.

Meanwhile, mix your greens in a large bowl with salt and pepper and place the tomato slices on each plate.  Heat a medium saucepan on medium heat with 1 teaspoon of oil or cooking spray.  Cooking one egg at a time, crack an egg onto the pan once heated.  Cook until the whites are almost solidified, about 3-4 minutes, and carefully flip the egg over using either a spatula or the magic flick of the wrist (I do not recommend using magic if you have no tried it before) and finish cooking on the other side, about 1 minute.  Repeat with other egg.

Take your roasted vegetables from the oven and cut the asparagus 3 ways and thinly slice the portobellos and bell pepper.  Place vegetables over the greens and top with the fried egg.  Garnish with the shaved Parmesan, placing as much as you prefer.  Serve immediately.

Price of Items:

  • 1 Portobello Mushroom – $1.50
  • 1/2 lb Asparagus – $ 1.50
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper – $1.00
  • 1 Tomato – $0.33
  • 3 cup Mixed Greens – $1.10
  • 2 Eggs – $0.67
  • Parmesan cheese – $0.50

Cost Per Serving: $3.30

Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese served with a Strawberry Cucumber Salsa

It is crazy how fast time is flying by this year, in a blink of an eye February is already half way gone.  In a month I will be flying to Shanghai with Collin, where he will meet my grandmother for the very first time.

My mother has been sending her photos of us which my grandmother keeps next to her chair so she is able to look through them everyday.  As much as I’d like to see my grandmother every year, it has been over 5 years since I’ve last seen her.  Since living in America I have only visited twice and seen her a total of three times.

She is the only grandparent I have left, being 92 this will probably be one of the last times I see her.  It makes me sad that I was never able to spend as much time with my grandparents as I would’ve liked.  Though I know all of them loved me dearly, a big part of me feels guilty because I was never able to return the favor.  I try to send cards, art projects and pictures whenever possible but a lot of times I feel it’s just not enough.

I attribute my constant happy attitude to the overwhelming amount of love that I received when I lived in China.  My parents would tell me all my grandparents would almost argue over who would hold me next, and being the youngest one of the family it was natural for everyone to spoil fat little round me.  Yet I don’t remember any of it.

Now that I’m older, and with only one grandparent remaining, I’ve come to realize that this trip will probably be the most important one of my life.  I left when I was a 2 year old baby and this time I am coming back as a young adult.  I have so many questions that I want to ask my grandmother, about our family history, about the life lessons she’s learned, and perhaps any embarrassing stories about my mother that I later can pull out and chuckle at her about. 🙂

But most importantly I want to give my grandmother a good impression, to show her that I am confident in myself and my abilities as well as introducing her to the love of my life.  She has adored Collin since the first day she laid eyes on his picture, telling my mom that “He is a Hollywood movie star.”  I’ve been racking my brain as to what I should buy her from here that she could enjoy in China, but nothing seems good enough.  What could a 92 year old woman need?

So with one month remaining before the big trip, I am beginning to freak out a little bit.  It starts with the little things, like not being 100 lbs like all the other girls in Shanghai to bigger things like What can I do to express all of my gratitude and love to my grandmother?  Especially with my mother not coming with us, I even question the level of my Chinese.  What if my Chinese is so shoddy that they can’t understand me?

I push these pestering questions to the back of my head and try not to worry about things that I am unable to control or simply just too minuscule to matter.  I should just concentrate on the present.

And presently I am enjoying eating healthy this year.  My meat consumption has been cut down tremendously, however because I have a pretty active workout regimen at times I feel myself getting tired.  Do any vegetarians out there have any tips as to what good foods will provide energy and give me the protein my body needs after an intense workout?

I found this salad to be pretty satisfying, I love the combination of sweet and savory so this was the perfect combination for me.  I found these beautiful Medjool dates at a local Mediterranean market and found an interesting recipe the other week in Nancy Oakes’ Boulevard cookbook.  Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese, the title itself made my mouth water.

I made the dates by her recipe and made the salsa and salad on my own.  If you’re interested in obtaining the original recipe just shoot me an e-mail and I can send it to you.  I thought the strawberries meshed well with the dates while the cucumbers and pecans added a nice crunch.  I brightened the salsa with some fresh lemon juice that paired well with the goat cheese.  Though a peculiar combination, the flavors were quite delightful 🙂

For my greens I chose Mesclun, Spinach and Arugula, all are pretty mild in flavor except for Arugula, which packs a peppery earthy kick that I really enjoy.

To toast the pecans, preheat the oven to 350F.  Put the pecans in a small baking pan and toast for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place in a bowl, set aside.

Ingredients for Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese:

(serves 2)

  • 8 Medjool Dates
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese
  • 1 cup Mesclun
  • 1 cup Arugula
  • 1 cup Spinach

From Boulevard:

For the Dates – Make a lengthwise slit in each date and pull out the pit.  Roughly divide the goat  cheese into 12 pieces, stuff into the dates, and press them closed.  Place, seam side down, on a small sheet pan or baking pan.  Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before serving, heat the dates in a 350F oven for 1 to 2 minutes, or until warm.  (I placed mine in for 7 minutes until the goat cheese was browned)

Ingredients for Strawberry Cucumber Salsa:

  • 4 strawberries, husked and small diced
  • 1/8 cup celery, small diced
  • 1/8 cup cucumber, small diced
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and taste with salt.  Set aside until ready to serve.

To serve the salad, toss the mixed greens in a little lemon juice if desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in a mound on a plate and place the salsa ontop.  Place 4 warm dates on each plate and serve immediately.

Starting from this post, I will be listing the price per serving of each meal I make.  This wonderful idea actually came from my friend Karen, who is a tax analyst by the way (this made me chuckle) and I thought it was a great way to not only show people how inexpensive it can be eat well but it can finally convince all my friends that cooking at home is SO MUCH CHEAPER than eating out all the time (and much more cleaner might I add)!

Price of items:

  • 4 strawberries – $1.00
  • 1/4 cup pecans – $0.75
  • 1 celery stalk – $0.15
  • 1/4 cucumber – $0.25
  • 8 medjool dates – $1.50
  • 2 ounces goat cheese – $2.00
  • 3 cups Mixed Greens – $1.10

Cost per Serving: $3.38

WOW!!! In the words of Borat “VERRRY NIIICE, I LIIIKE” Thank you Karen for the fabulous idea.  I think this way I am actually able to show readers and friends how inexpensive it is to cook at home as well as eating healthy. My biggest tip would be to look through your local grocery ads to see what produce is on sale and in season, that way you get optimal quality ingredients at a good price.

I will be heading off to Houston this weekend to visit my parents as well as to pick up our visas for China (yipee!!).  Hope everyone has a great week and I’ll be back on Monday hopefully with fun food adventures in Houston.