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Posts tagged Drea

Kitchen Tips


As promised!   And I will have more in the future!

You walk into your kitchen in the hopes of cooking something to satisfy your raging appetite only to find you are not in possession of the proper equipment.  It’s at this point where you slam the cabinet doors shut and whip out those take-out menus with reckless abandon.  Yet again, you are forced to choose between the fatty, sodium-laden Chinese and the greasy pizza. An hour later you hate yourself.  Sound familiar?  While in moderation, these foods aren’t so bad, but when you make them a regular part of your diet, well, you know the rest….Preparing home cooked meals should be a healthy, positive experience. You have total control over your portion sizes and the quality of ingredients going into each meal plus you will save a lot of money by cutting back on that take-out.  It brings families closer together, gives you a chance to be creative, and it’s a way for you single guys and gals to impress your dates.  Ever hear the saying “the way to a man’s (or woman’s) heart is through their stomach”?  There is actually truth to that!  Now here are some tips to get you started….


 I Build Your Pantry:

Always try to keep the basics on hand.  Stock up on your big shopping day so you won’t be running to the store every night after work for them. These items have a pretty good shelf life (in cabinet or fridge) and allow you create some quick “go-to” meals when you are tired, sick, or just thinking last-minute. 

Examples of basic items

Canned beans, fish, tomatoes
Canned veggies such as olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers
Olive oil (regular and extra virgin)
Vinegar (red wine/balsamic/cider)
REAL grated parm and/or pecorino romano cheeses (the one in the green can is a NO-NO!)
Brown rice
Whole wheat couscous
Boxes of all natural stocks (chicken/beef/veggie, etc)

Spices (in addition to salt and pepper)

Red pepper flakes
Chili powder
An all-purpose grill seasoning
Goya Adobo (great on meats and in soups)

Again, these are just examples.  You can stock your pantry with items that you like.  And this way when a recipe you want to make requires fresh ingredients, you only have to stop at the store to pick up those few items- the rest will be waiting for you at home!


II Meats Aplenty:

When the grocery store offers specials on your favorite meats, plan on buying a few packages.  When you get home, divide them up in smaller portions and freeze.  I tend to do this with the big packages of the boneless chicken thighs.  Like all less expensive cuts of meat, they always seem to be on sale so I buy two, divide them up into 4 counts, and freeze.  I’ve also done this with pork chops and sausage.  If the more expensive meats (think sirloin tips, pork loin, beef tenderloin, and boneless chicken breasts) are available this way, take advantage of them as well!


III Own the Proper Tools

None of the above would be possible without the proper tools.  Here is a list of basic equipment everyone should have in their kitchens.


9 or 10-inch skillet or sauté pan
4 or 5-quart pot
Baking or roasting pan

You can also add an extra sauté pan, a 1 or 2-quart saucepan and even a larger 8 or 10-quart stockpot.

Choose stainless steel or thick aluminum as they conduct heat more evenly.  Teflon/non-stick cookware is usually necessary only for sautéing.

At least one good high-quality sharp knife.  My favorite brand is J.A. Henckels. 

Cutting Boards

One good wooden or bamboo board (never put these in dishwasher and always dry thoroughly to avoid warping)
Plastic/acrylic boards in assorted colors. Use each color for a specific food type so as to reduce the threat of cross contamination. (For example: Green-fruits/veggies, Red-meats)

Vegetable peeler
Slotted spoon
Soup ladle
Assorted wooden spoons
Can opener 


One 2-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup
A set of measuring spoons


Misc Tips:

 * Never burn your garlic.  If you do, it will become bitter, ruin your meal, and you’ll have to start over.  When cooking garlic alone, keep on low heat.  When combined with other ingredients, add it toward the end of the cooking process (if possible).

 * To extend the shelf life of nuts/seeds like pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, and sesame seeds, store in the freezer.  The natural oils in these products will turn rancid over time if kept in room-temperature storage.

 * Because brown rice can be a bit bland, try toasting it in a little butter for a few minutes on low heat, then add your liquid.

 * Boneless, skinless chicken tenders are cheaper than the breasts and are also much easier and quicker to chop into bit-sized pieces.  If you prefer darker meat, use the boneless thighs as mentioned above.  Can’t decide?  Use both!

 *Try to use fresh herbs whenever possible- especially basil, rosemary, thyme, flat leaf (Italian)parsley, sage, and mint.  It makes such a difference in flavor.   Storing them is easy.  When you get home from the store, wash and dry thoroughly then wrap in damp paper towels and place in ziploc bags.  They will stay fresh for several days.  You can also freeze herbs, whole or chopped without blanching. 

Stay Tuned!


In a bit I am going to be posting some tips/tricks/suggestions to make your lives a little easier in the kitchen.  From quick sauces to common pantry items to simple tools… with these little helpers, I am hoping all of you out there who feel they are “culinary challenged” will feel somewhat confident about getting in that kitchen and cooking!

Shrimp Scampi Florentine


Shrimp Scampi Florentine



1 lb fettucini
1 lb medium shrimp
1 bag of fresh spinach (regular or baby)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
 Extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino romano cheese (optional)
Crushed red pepper (optional)



In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  Cook fettucini as directed on box.  In the meantime, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium low.  Add garlic and saute for about 2-3 minutes- DO NOT BURN.  Turn heat up to medium and add the wine and lemon juice.  Once the liquid is reduced a little bit (about 3 minutes), then add the shrimp, salt and pepper.  The shrimp cook fast, about 2-3 minutes or until pink.  Reduce heat to medium low then add the spinach.  Mix until spinach starts to cook down.  Add fettucini to the skillet and toss.  Top with grated pecorino romano cheese and crushed red pepper.

Chicken, Broccoli and Feta Pasta


Chicken, Broccoli and Feta Pasta


1 lb spaghetti
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 head of broccoli, coursely chopped and steamed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup feta cheese
½ cup white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook spaghetti as directed on box.  In the meantime, heat about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, then add chicken.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, and garlic.  Reduce heat to medium low, add the white wine and let cook for another 5 minutes.   Drain spaghetti thoroughly and toss with the broccoli/chicken mixture.  Add feta cheese and crushed red pepper and serve.

Balsamic Glazed Pine Nuts Chicken


Balsamic Glazed Pine Nuts Chicken


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup pine nuts
4 fresh basil leaves, coursely chopped
½ cup balsamic Cream (or 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, reduced to half**)
Extra virgin olive oil

 This is the balsamic cream I used- it can be found in the Italian section of your ethnic food aisle.  If you can’t find it, use the balsamic vinegar as directed below:

 ** Pour the cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan.  Simmer on medium low (stirring frequently) until slightly thickened and reduced to about half.



In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Salt and pepper each chicken breast then add to pan.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side. 

Add pine nuts and let toast for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic, then top each breast with the balsamic cream.  Let cook another 5 minutes on medium low, until chicken is cooked through (all pink is gone and juices run clear).  Top with the fresh basil and serve.

I served this with a simple tomato salad (tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper) and my mom’s orzo pasta salad (orzo pasta, feta, grilled veggies, fresh mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper)

Yummy Coconut Cupcakes


Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes

 1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup shredded coconut
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup cold milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla and coconut extracts.

In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture; stir in milk.  Fold in coconut.

Pour about two tablespoons of the batter in a lined cupcake baking pan.  Bake 18-24 minutes.  Allow to completely cool before frosting.

 Coconut Buttercream Frosting

1 box confectioners sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp coconut extract
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (1 cup for frosting, ½ cup to toast)
2 tablespoons milk

Combine butter and sugar.  Then add coconut extract and milk.  Mix until creamy.  Fold in coconut flakes.  Toast the remaining ½ cup of coconut flakes over low heat until slightly browned.  Frost cupcakes then top each one with a few sprinkles of the toasted coconut flakes.

“Churkey” Pesto Sausage with Butternut Sundried Tomato Couscous and Garlic Haricot Verts


Churkey” Pesto Sausage w/Butternut Sundried Tomato Couscous and Garlic Haricot Verts

Haricot Verts are french green beans- because, well, they’re cultivated in France.  Trader Joe’s sells them frozen but if you cannot find them just use regular green beans. 
Now, I can’t take credit for the sausage as it’s already prepared by the wonderful Trader Joe’s grocery store.  However, I thought I’d personalize the dish with a catchy little name.  Catchy, goofy, dorky, whatever you feel appropriate, just know that this is a dish you’ll be quite fond of!

“Churkey” Pesto Sausage:

 1 package of the (Trader Joe’s) Sweet Basil Pesto Smoked Chicken & Turkey Sausage

 Butterfly each one and pan fry (or grill) for about 3-4 min per side.  These are fully cooked so they just need to be warmed through and browned.  Set aside.

 Butternut Sundried Tomato Couscous:

 ½ cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Whole wheat couscous (for 2-3 ppl I use 1 cup water and 1 cup couscous)
Sundried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced in thin strips (I get mine at Trader Joe’s- they’re already julienned)

 In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil, butter, salt/pepper over medium low.  Once butter is melted and combined with the olive oil, add the pine nuts and let toast until light brown.  Don’t leave unattended as these nuts will brown pretty quickly and you don’t want to burn them.  Once they are browned, add the water and bring to a boil.  Then add the couscous, turn off the heat and cover.  Just before you are ready to serve dinner, fluff it with a fork then top each serving with about a tablespoon of the sundried tomatoes.

Garlic Haricot Verts:

 1 package of Haricot Verts (or regular green beans), frozen or fresh.  Keep in mind fresh will take a bit longer to cook. 
3 cloves of garlic, minced (use less if you don’t like it too strong)
1 tablespoon of olive oil

 In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (if you pan fried the sausage, you can use that same pan, just add only a teaspoon more olive oil).  Add beans and sauté for about 5-7 minutes.  Then add the garlic, salt/pepper and sauté for another 2 minutes.  Depending on how you like your beans- continue cooking for another few minutes if you prefer them softer.

Spicy Shrimp Salad


Spicy Shrimp Salad

I literally just made this up as I went along.  It was almost 9pm and I wanted something light for dinner after karate class- this fit the bill perfectly!


1 lb cooked peeled/deveined shrimp
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp hot chili sauce
1 chopped scallion
Black pepper

In a bowl, combine olive oil, hot chili sauce, and black pepper.  Then grate the garlic into the mixture.  Add the shrimp and toss.  Top with scallions and chill for about 10 minutes then eat.

You can add other veggies to this if you would like.  Bell peppers, olives, hearts of palm, – anything really.

Fried Rice Noodles


Fried Rice Noodles

Another recipe from The Filipino Cookbook.  The last picture was taken from the book as again, it was a lot better than my plated version!

Fried Rice Noodles
Bihon Guisado


8oz rice vermicelli (bihon or “rice thread noodles” found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
3 cups water
1 lb boneless chicken breast, sliced into strips
½ tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, thinly sliced
¼ lb fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 carrot, peeled and cut thinly
¼ cup snow peas, trimmed
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage (I used Napa)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 limes, quartered

Soak the rice vermicelli in warm water for 5 minutes, drain and cut into desired length.  Set aside. 

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the chicken and salt and cook over high heat for 5 minutes or until cooked.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set the broth aside (do not discard).  Tear the meat off the bones using two forks- one to hold bone in place and one to tear the meat off.  Set the meat aside.  Discard bones.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and saute the garlic until lightly browned.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the shrimp, carrot, snow peas, and saute for 5 minutes, increase the heat to medium high, add cabbage, soy sauce, chicken, and pepper and saute for 5 minutes.  Add ½ cup of the reserved chicken broth, the drained rice vermicelli and the shrimp and tir fry for 3-5 minutes.  Add more of the reserved broth if the vermicelli is too dry, stirring frequently.  Serve hot with the limes.

Cuban Rice with Ground Beef


Cuban Rice with Ground Beef

The second dish I tried from The Filipino Cookbook.  This was one of my favorites! Instead of making the plain steamed rice, fried plantains, and fried eggs (sunny side up) as the original recipe calls for, I opted to use Goya Yellow Rice/Beans instead. I also added some hot chili paste as you know I love everything with a kick… 🙂

None of the photos I took came out properly so I didn’t include them- I again, just used the picture from the book.

Cuban Rice with Ground Beef
Arroz a la Cubana


4 tablespoons oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, minced
1 lb lean ground beef (or pork)
1 potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup fresh or frozen green peas
3 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (optional)
1 box Goya Yellow Rice/Beans (cook per package instructions)


Heat skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the garlic, and saute until lightly browned.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the ground beef and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until no longer pink, stirring frequently.  Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.

To the same skillet over medium heat, add another 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the potato and saute for 10 minutes.  When cooked, add the meat mixture, green peas, raisins, soy sauce, salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.  Serve on top of the rice.

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