Sweet and Spicy broccoli for snack or light lunch!

I tried out this combination last night for dinner and was surprised how good the cooked broccoli could taste with a sweet and spicy blend. I cooked the broccoli in the microwave then added Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Penzeys Aleppo Pepper (Turkey), red Hawaiian sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper. I tossed with a fork and it was done!

Sweet and Spicy Broccoli

Prep Time: 1 min
Cook time: 5 min
Special Equipment: Pampered Chef veggie steamer for microwave OR bowl w/ Cling Wrap

10 oz. broccoli, e.g., Bird’s Eye box of broccoli
1/2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Sprinkle to taste of Penzeys Aleppo Pepper (Turkey)
Pinch of red Hawaiian Sea Salt to taste
2-3 grinds of black pepper

1. Cook broccoli according to package instructions, about 5 minutes.
2. When cooked, drain off the water.
3. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the broccoli.
4. Toss, serve, and enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Fries

Have you ever just had a feeling that you should try something new in the kitchen? That the flavor combination or cooking method will just work out for you even though you haven’t done any research? That’s how I felt last week when I made what I’m calling “Roasted Eggplant Fries.”

At girls’ night last week, Rafah had purchased a couple of eggplants that she didn’t plan to use for our dinner of Stuffed Grape Leaves. I had an idea. What about cutting up the eggplant into steak fries, lightly coating with olive oil and a bit of kosher salt, and roasting in the oven for about 30 minutes? I tried it and it worked. Not only did it work, but Katie and I nearly polished off the two eggplants by the time Rafah and Erika even got to try the fries. At Rafah’s suggestion, we dipped the roasted eggplant strips in my homemade hummus. Oh my goodness! Talk about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts!

I love these eggplant fries so much that I have made them two more times this past week–once for a dinner party and once for a girls’ hangout night. Still a hit! So I have to tell you all how to make them. Trust me–this one’s easy.

Roasted Eggplant Fries

Special Equipment: Oven, baking sheet or roasting pan (nonstick is preferable), knife, cutting board

Prep Time: 10 min; Cooking Time: 15-30 min
Preheat Oven to 425º

4 eggplants
4 tsp. olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Hummus, to serve (optional)

1. Rinse and dry whole eggplants.

2. Cut eggplants into about 3/4 inch strips. If eggplant is longer than 5 inches or so, cut the eggplant strips in half.

3. Apply 1 tsp. olive oil to the baking sheet, spreading with your hands to coat. Sprinkle kosher salt on the baking sheet to taste.

4. With the oil still on your hands, rub the eggplant pieces. Pour another 1/2 to 1 tsp. olive oil to your palms and rub your palms lightly to coat. Rub a set of eggplant pieces lightly to transfer olive oil to each piece while minimizing oil use. Place the lightly oiled eggplant pieces on the baking sheet, skin side up where applicable. Repeat until all pieces are lightly coated.

5. Sprinkle the eggplant pieces with kosher salt to taste. Drizzle another tsp. of olive oil over the eggplant pieces if desired.

6. Roast at 425º for about 15-25 minutes until the bottoms are nicely browned. Flip the pieces over and roast another 5 minutes or until eggplant in nicely browned but not burnt. (The eggplant fries will not be crisp.) UPDATE: I found the roasting time varies greatly depending on the packing of the eggplant fries, the thickness of the fries, and the oven in use. Also, while flipping gives the best results for appearance and texture, I have neglected to flip my eggplant fries several times and they still taste great. 🙂

7. While still warm, serve with hummus. Serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer.

Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt

Fresh from the toaster oven

Note: I originally wrote this post last Thursday but was unable to post due to Internet connectivity issues over the weekend.


I’m a little sad tonight. The reason why seems pretty pathetic but it feels like I’m telling a good friend and companion that I can’t spend much time with her anymore. And who is this good friend, you ask? My friend is exotic yet approachable, well-rounded yet has a gorgeous body. My friend has layers to her personality: sweet and charming, spicy and loud, mellow and smooth. My friend can be anything I want her to be. She’s from all over the world yet she still comes to see me at my home and sit at my dinner table with me.

My friend is extra virgin olive oil—from Spain, Italy, California, Greece—I adore it and use it nearly every time I cook. Olive oil adorns my green beans, carrots, salads, bread (when I have it), hummus, and on and on as you can imagine. So what’s the problem then? Well, I’m finally realizing that my quantities of olive oil are outrageously large compared to what I need for healthy living. So I need to reduce my dousing of olive oil to a sprinkle of olive oil, that is, cut my copious ¼ cup, give or take, of olive oil for sautéing to 1 tsp. or maybe 1 Tbsp. if I’m feeling generous.

But I know that olive oil is good for me. It has heart-healthy fats and promotes good cholesterol. The downside though is that is still has 120 calories in 1 Tbsp. So if I use my nominal ¼ cup quantity and my food absorbs all the olive oil, I’m looking at an extra 480 calories per food. Hmm… Does using a ¼ cup olive oil instead of, say, 1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. make the taste so much better that it’s worth the extra 360 to 440 calories per dish?

So I’ve been trying out this smaller quantity of olive oil this week and had good results. In fact, I just made a snack of roasted almonds for tomorrow’s train ride using 1 tsp. olive oil for two servings. Normally I would just pour the olive oil on haphazardly with no regard for quantity. The 1 tsp. of olive oil coated the nuts beautifully—I just had to massage the olive oil onto the nuts with my hands instead of tossing the nuts and oil with a wooden spoon. Now I’d really like to use the same mindfulness toward my olive oil use as I do in a yoga class. Measuring spoons here I come—I mean 1 tsp. measuring spoon here I come!

Here’s how to make roasted almonds yourself.

Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt

Time: 5-10 minutes
Special equipment: Toaster oven, baking pan for toaster oven (e.g., Pampered Chef Mini Bar Pan)

2 oz. raw almonds
1 tsp. olive oil
Pinch sea salt or kosher salt

1. Place almonds on baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, coat the almonds with olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt or kosher salt.

2. Place baking pan in toaster oven and turn the toast function to high. Toast until almonds turn just a bit browner but not black. If not done at the end of one toast cycle, stir the almonds and repeat until almonds are at desired roasting level.

3. Serve. Makes 2 servings.