Tag Archives: beans

Pacific Foods: Man-Friendly Casserole

Interrupting my Thanksgiving long weekend recapping to bring you this sponsored post for Pacific Foods. You can read the full-version over on their blog!

I recently started doing some cooking on my own, but with other peoples’ recipes. So imagine my excitement when I created my OWN recipe! Casseroles are a great “first recipe creation” because they seriously are just a bunch of ingredients mixed together in a pan and then heated in the oven. Have pan and oven, will casserole!

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Right before the star ingredient – the beans – was added!

I dub this the Man-Friendly Casserole because I made it with my main man – my dad – in mind. My mom was still down in Florida at our condo but he came home to go back to work. So on a Sunday afternoon, I put together this casserole for the two of us to share the next night. It was super easy to throw in the oven and heat up after we both got home from long days at work and the gym. The size was perfect for two. Also the only green in it came from peas, which bros just adore because you can’t taste them.

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La Boca Middletown’s New Menu

My giveaway for a free 30-minute massage by Kellie of Brilliant Options Wellness (Plantsville, CT) ends tonight at 11:59PM EST! Get those entries in!

Patrick of La Boca Mexican Restaurant & Cantina – located on Main Street in Downtown Middletown, CT – contacted me recently to find out if I’d be interested in coming in for dinner so that I could check out the new dinner menu, which was recently updated to include more unique dishes with a “Mexican fusion” vibe. I’ve actually been wanting to try La Boca for awhile – my interest in Middletown’s restaurant scene never dies – so I accepted Patrick’s invite and brought the perfect company…my parents and sister!

So happy my sister is home from college!

So happy my sister is home from college!

I’ve been to both “fancy” and “chill” Mexican restaurants, and I honestly prefer the latter because I feel like a laid-back vibe just fits best with the cuisine. Thankfully La Boca is a really chill place – anyone would feel welcome!

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Marvelous Dinners at Home (MIMM)

Today I’m partaking in the beautiful mama-to-be Katie‘s Marvelous In My Monday linkup, and sharing more daily-life stuff!

I had a couple of great dinners out this weekend (which you may have seen on Instagram) with friends and family, but on most weeknights you will find me at home enjoying my mother’s wonderful cooking and my father’s excellent grilling skills. Here’s a look at five of my favorite types of meals to have for dinner at home in front of the DVR, cozy on the couch! NOTE: Wine is included with all, even if not pictured ;-)

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WIAW: Florida Vaca Eats!

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a copy of the Tone It Up Beach Babe DVD! Check out my thoughts on the post and enter if you are interested!

It’s time to do another not-daily-eats take on Jen‘s What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). I’ve already done that, and if I shared typical workday eats each WIAW, this blog would be Snoozeville, Population: ALL OF YOU.

After all, you’d much rather read/see a recap of the food & drink I enjoyed during my Christmas vacation to Florida, right? I thought so. I already shared my raw/vegan lunch experience at Christopher’s Kitchen with Brittany, and my apricot beer and TooJay’s takeout on Christmas Day, so start there if you haven’t seen those posts!

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Blogger Recipe Pairing

Tina of Carrots N Cake (a healthy living blog I’ve been reading for several years, since I first discovered them) posted a recipe at the end of last month in a post titled The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Obviously I was immediately intrigued. You would be too, right? Well, I’m pleased to report that Tina is a truthful blogger.

The recipe was for sweet potato quesadillas. YUP. If the post’s title had grabbed me before, I had now been…snatched?…by the recipe’s title. Tina’s version used black beans, sweet potato, and a whole wheat tortilla – all of which my mom used when she made these for her and I two Sundays ago. But Tina also used Babybel cheese and chopped kale, which my mom and I replaced with goat cheese and edamame for extra protein! Mashing the sweet potato was easy thanks to Ore Ida’s frozen sweet potato steak fries. The edamame was also a frozen variety that we simply heated up in the microwave. For the tortilla, we used Flat Out Healthy Grain Harvest Wheat wraps.

How amazing does that look? I have to tell you that it tasted even better. My mom and I did a lot of moaning and groaning – foodgasm-ing, if you will. We paired our quesadillas with Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot-Cabernet blend. I really loved it – and it’s such a cheap wine! Definitely recommended if you’re on a wine budget.

The beginnings of a great side.

Because that one quesadilla each is NOT enough food for us, my mom also whipped up a second blog-based recipe: Jenny’s refried black beans from Tofu SwagMy mom was doubtful that she’d pull this one off, but it came out AMAZING. The only change my madre made was adding the onions in the beginning (see photo above).

Fabulous AND healthy. This entire meal was protein-packed AND vegetarian! I may eat meat but there’s no denying that it’s totally possible to get enough protein from plants. The refried beans were drool-worthy and we can’t wait to whip them up again.

Thanks for sharing the recipes, Tina and Jenny! Thanks to you two, my mom and I dined like queens on a Sunday evening.

I also just have to say that I had the most kickass workout yesterday. I went to my favorite class at my gym, a Step class with awesome choreography broken up by HIIT drills. The combos were filled with kicks, knees, and “basketball shooters” (for da glutes). I worked most of the moves to perfection and even had the energy after class to rock a 4 minute #plankaday!

#PROOF

Also, check out what I hung up in my work cubicle today…a recap of my Color Me Rad experience is coming to the Fitfluential blog soon! I’ll let you all know when it’s up!

Have you ever tried making your own refried beans?

What’s the best recipe you’ve ever gotten off of a blog?

What’s the most innovative way you’ve ever used sweet potato?

Lisa’s Five Bean Salad

Believe it or not, I don’t cook. That’s right – I mooch. I live at home and eat my mom’s cooking. I make a salad every day for lunch, but I don’t consider this cooking. I go out and pay restaurants to feed me. I have not cooked or baked anything since the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap in December.

Talk about working backwards…this is me on Easter Sunday with the finished product!

But this year Easter was being celebrated at my house, and I felt like contributing. I felt domestic. And thanks to Lisa, I felt inspired when I was reading her blog one day and saw that she had posted a recipe for a Five Bean Salad.

Missing from this photo are olive oil and frozen shelled edamame.

I followed Lisa’s recipe, but used goat cheese instead of feta. I love feta cheese, but goat is my favorite!

I started by rinsing and draining the chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans in a colander.

The above green beans came in their own steam-able bag, so I microwaved them and set them out on a plate to cool off a bit. Per Lisa’s instructions, I cut the ones that were going into the salad in half and also cut the “string” ends off.

I smugly put the rest of the green beans in a container to use throughout the week. In fact, I added them to both yesterday and today’s lunch salads, and last night’s dinner too! Helps to be prepped when eating healthy.

I added the green beans to the other three beans in a mixing bowl, and threw in minced onions, salt, pepper, and lime juice as well.

Then it occured to me that I’d forgotten to prepare and include the frozen shelled edamame. D’oh! It was super easy to defrost in the microwave. I’ve never bought edamame before, I just eat it when I’m dining out at Asian restaurants or at my local Whole Foods salad bar. I think I’ll have to reconsider.

MORE smug leftovers that I’ve been nommin’ on already!

I added the edamame and then the GOAT CHEESE. Of course I saved the best for last!

An unexpected perk that came from using goat instead of feta – goat cheese has a creamier consistency and totally coated all the beans (yes, all five types ;-)). Win!

This forgetful cook was then reminded by her mother that she’d forgotten the olive oil. First the edamame, now this! Can’t forget that EVOO. I added 1.5 tablespoons.

TA-DA! Was there ever an easier side dish for a non-cooking moocher like me to make?! I don’t think so!

I let it veg (ha – punny) overnight in the fridge. I also didn’t try it before I served it. Yes, I like to live on the edge! Or…that thought didn’t even occur to me. I am NOT used to cooking, I told you!

The results though? Everyone LOVED the dish. There was barely any left but I’m honestly glad there was some because I was able to finish it off at dinner last night :) mixed with extra green beans, edamame, black beans, marinara sauce, and turkey meatballs! It was what I like to call a hodge-podge of leftovers.

Thank you so much to Lisa for providing such an easy, healthy, tasty recipe for me to make and share with family and friends!

How often do you cook? Are you a “fraud” aka a food blogger that doesn’t cook, like me?

What are your favorite healthy dishes to bring to parties?

Feelin Blah and ION (Not At All Related)

Happy Hump Day, or as I’ll call it this week, Happy Thursday, because I don’t have work this Friday! Does anyone else have the day off?

Yesterday I was feeling blah. I was supposed to head out to eat with Rachel for one of our foodie dates, but ended up kinda crawling into an anti-social shell from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. Ever have days like that? I didn’t sleep well the night before, had a group project presentation in which I helped team-teach our two-hour class, and had to stay after class to get feedback. It was just a LONG day (first world problems). I wanted nothing more when I left campus than to go home and watch last week’s “Smash” with my mom (so glad we’ve found a show we can enjoy together). So that’s what I did, while enjoying a delicious dinner of Moe’s black beans, leftover roasted Brussels sprouts, and Newman’s Own frozen veggie pizza, baked to crispy perfection in the oven on a pizza stone.

Recycled photo, yes I’m wearing PJ’s.

I was super bummed yesterday to discover that when I went to do my usual Tuesday morning Yoga Works Body Slim video on Hulu, it and all other Yoga Works videos were GONE! I am so bummed. I loved that video and I ended up with a lame substitute from Exercise TV. This only contributed to my crappy mood. I have P90X Yoga to do tomorrow as I usually do on Thursday mornings before work, but I don’t want to give up on Yoga Works just yet. Does anyone know where I can access Yoga Works videos for free? I couldn’t find them on their website and a YouTube search did not prove to be fruitful.

I did want to take a moment to do a quick review of It’s Only Natural, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that I’ve been to a couple of times, including with Heather of For the Love of Kale when she came to visit. She even did a write-up of her opinion and our experience.

Located in Middletown, Connecticut’s newly-developed downtown area, It’s Only Natural (ION) has a cozy, chill vibe and quaint decor. It’s a place where no matter who you are, or what your eating philosophy may be, you are bound to feel comfortable and welcome.

The tabletops even double as chalkboards! Each table is well-equipped with plenty of multi-colored chalk. So much cooler than the whole draw-on-a-paper-tablecloth concept (sorry, Macaroni Grill).

The menu has something everyone would love, even the most avid meat-eaters. Unique craft beers are also offered, in addition to a pretty good wine selection. During one of my visits I had a Tempranillo that was yummy.

I’m a chronic decision-avoider. Decisions stress me out, even ones from menus. This is why I love sampler platters. Thank goodness for the ION Tribute, a sampling of the cajun tempeh, cajun crab cakes, and potato spinach pierogis. The waiter even put up with my annoying side-subbing habits.

I went for sauteed greens and pinto beans. This meal was beyond amazing. The vegan “sour cream” and “tartar sauce” were both fabulous. I’ve had bad experiences with too-salty tempeh before, but my tempeh-aversions are now completely gone thanks to ION. I can’t say enough good things about this dish. I think the tempeh crab cakes were my favorite part though I honestly was all over the pinto beans.

I really think a visit to ION is incomplete without ordering these fresh-cut sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup. Honestly, the best ketchup I’ve ever had and also quite possibly the best sweet tater fries too. The ketchup has tomato chunks in it, that’s how fresh it is.

I went sweet potato crazy when I went to ION with Heather, finishing her sweet potato fries for her ;-) (least I can do) and ordering the sweet potato enchiladas with vegan “cheese”, pinto beans, and veggies for myself. Had to get the beans again! Just as amazing as the first time and the enchiladas and vegan “cheese” were more than I could ever ask for in a unique meal. Not to mention the veggies were seasoned to perfection and not super oily like so many restaurants prepare them.

This dessert was sent out to our table during my first visit, courtesy of  The Sexy Carrot, the voice behind ION’s social media. All I can say is THANK YOU! ION desserts are no joke. This vegan coconut cupcake blew me away. The icing especially was a winner. I’m an icing freak. I could’ve eaten a tub of it.

My companions also ordered a slice of the vegan coconut cake, which was essentially the cupcake in cake form, except it came on a plate garnished with some kind of tasty apple butter. 

Can you spy The Sexy Carrot?

I can’t wait to go back to ION again and again. I’m not lying when I say I want to try everything on the menu.

Have you ever been to a vegan or vegetarian-only restaurant? Is there anything like that offered close to your home?

Do you ever get in those blah moods that bring you down all day? How do you snap out of it?

Sweat and Food

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the Hartford Courant 2012 Websters for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you to those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

I’m glad that so many of you seemed to enjoy yesterday’s post about my appreciation for the friendships my blog has brought me! Sounds like a lot of you can relate – and that’s a great thing!

My makeshift home yoga "area"…computer booting up to play P90X Yoga this morn! My #PROOF.

I feel like it’s been forever since I just wrote about what was on my mind (instead of recapping the latest and greatest restaurants and events). I love doing that, but I also find it really therapeutic and cleansing, cheesy as that sounds, to just write whatever is on my mind! And based off of comments and feedback from my readers, it seems those posts are often enjoyed MORE than the ones where I share my delectable eats. Perhaps I’m giving you guys too much food porn? Do I need to take it away for awhile? ;-) OBVIOUSLY I’m kidding.

Typical healthy eats food porn…some may drool, some may wrinkle their noses.

I had a great workout yesterday. I have to share it with you guys! I did an hour-long spin class that totally kicked my butt and had me pouring sweat. I just LOVE how sweating makes me feel. It’s more refreshing than jumping into a pool on a hot day. Downside of sweating, just like getting out of a pool sometimes – I was FREEZING after that spin class. Complete icicle. Even 20 minutes of arm-breaking (don’t worry, not literally) weights after the class couldn’t warm me up. Once I got home I realized why – my sports bra, AKA undergarment completely 100% in contact with my skin, was totally drenched through. I don’t remember the last time it was like that after a workout. I TOLD you I sweated like a mad woman!

I came home and after a refreshing, HOT shower, I went upstairs to see what was for dinner. I was craving CARBS like a mad lady. No surprise after 1.5 hours at the gym! Thank goodness, my mom had heated up the last of our free Dr. Oetker’s Organic Veggie Frozen Pizzas that I received through a BzzAgent campaign, thanks to a coupon. She added garlic and leftover steamed broccoli to the pie, and heated it in the oven on a pizza stone. Perfection! After a few more minutes under the broiler, and with a pile of black beans for protein, this really hit the spot.

I also had half of a turkey burger, and later sampled some of my new Love Grown Foods granola (review/giveaway to come once I’ve tried every flavor!) with 0% plain Greek yogurt. I had it while reading the first 18 pages of my latest library find, “The Summer Without Men” by Siri (lol) Hustvedt. I already LOVE this book and am already gonna say that I recommend it to all of you , even though I’m 18 pages in.

I will leave you with this hilarious gem…someone playing a prank on my cubicle neighbor at work!

Do you ever get really cold after a workout, because of how much you sweat?

What did you have for dinner last night?

Have you ever read the book above, or any of Siri’s other books?

Zafra Rum Bar – New Haven, CT

Remember nominations for Hartford Courant’s CT blog awards, the Websters, close this Wednesday 3/21!

Until I have time to blog about my visit with the amazing Heather of For the Love of Kale, check out her two posts on our endeavors :) Today I bring you a fantastic restaurant review!

I have written about Zafra before, because I visited and discovered the restaurant while on a Taste of New Haven tour of the Canal Quarter area of New Haven, CT. This place is the first rum bar in Connecticut and also the largest rum bar in the United States, with choice of over 125 different rums!

Cocktails on the left, rums on the right, and the rum menu has a back too!

During my inaugural visit I was blown away by the hospitality of the staff, especially Ed Zynko, the bar manager. Last Saturday I took another trip to Zafra, and was treated just as well, if not better. Ed even reserved spots at the bar for my friends and I to ensure that he would be taking care of us and showing us a good time.

We certainly felt special!

I ordered us a round of Ed’s famous mojitos immediately – one cannot visit Zafra without trying a 10 Cane Mojito, honestly the best I have ever had.

Ain’t it pretty?

My companions for the evening were Joe and his brother, Chris, who I recently discovered is a fellow food, drink, and restaurant fanatic!

Joe and his mojito.

Me and Chris!

We perused the appetizers and decided to order a couple to share – the Cuban Dumplings and the Coconut Ceviche for 2.

When the menu said “beautifully arranged”, it was NOT kidding!

The Cuban Dumplings – inside of a coconut!

The dumplings were so yummy, especially with the inclusion of PICKLES, and the dipping sauce was tasty too. What a pretty arrangement!! These went VERY quickly between the three of us.

AAHHH! Look at that!

Yes, THAT is the Coconut Ceviche for 2. Oh goodness! You can’t tell from the photo, but it was even lit up from inside with a red light! The orange sauce on the wooden spoon was a chipotle sauce that was to DIE for, we had to ask for some more because Joe demolished it (he’s a condiment king). The seafood was amazing, just look at those HUGE shrimp, and the avocado paired with them was a nice touch. On the lower right you’ll see tostones, or green plantains, tucked into the white napkin. They were absolutely wonderful dipped in the chipotle sauce. I could have eaten a million more!

Chris was a big fan.

Time for another round of drinks – I learned about Ed’s famous and award-winning Caribbean Dream, made with egg whites, on the Taste of New Haven visit. It’s been called “vacation in a glass”, and though it is too sweet for my martini-loving taste buds, I knew Joe would be ALL about it.

He gets to work – this drink takes awhile to make.

Ed crafts a masterpiece.

The finished product, and a happy customer.

Just like I thought – Joe LOVED it! I did steal a sip or two ;-) and so did Chris, but his next drink was of the more dangerous variety.

Delicious, but indeed dangerous, the Jamaican Motherfucker (yup, that’s the name) has a bite to it that indicates that it’s one powerful beverage. Ed declared it to be the strongest drink on the menu. I helped Chris finish some of this. After all, didn’t want to leave him to handle it alone, right? :-D

Ed and his partner in crime working on drinks.

Doesn’t that sugar-rimmed martini look mighty tasty?

Ed prepares a Captain Jack Sparrow – notice the concentration.

Captain Jack (Pyrat Rum XO Reserve, pineapple, passion fruit, and lime juices, and blue curacao) is ready to be consumed, and Ed makes like a blur to go make the next drink.

Joe headed out for the evening, and Chris and I decided to order two entrees to share so that we could try as many things as possible. We did a bit of surf and a bit of turf. First up, the Lechon Asado: slow-roasted pork (marinated 24 hours), sauteed onions, white rice, black beans, a broiled yucca.

The pork was beyond excellent, Chris and I could not stop raving about it. The 24-hour marinading DEFINITELY makes a difference. I also adored the yucca. It was my first time having it! The black beans were very good (I’m a fanatic when it comes to those). I left the rice alone because I’m just not a rice person – so boring compared to the many other interesting, flavorful eats!

As for the surf, we went with Jumbo Diver Scallops: pan-seared scallops, black beans, and maduros (sweet plantains).

Again, I left the rice alone and the beans were yummy. The scallops were cooked very well, but I got a few crunchy bites – Chris guessed it was leftover sand? I’ve heard that it’s very difficult to get scallops completely cleaned of it. Not sure, but they were still nice and juicy and seasoned very well! I was all OVER the sweet plantains, I just love them.

If you’re a vegetarian and wish to visit Zafra, you’re in luck – there are plenty of options on the menu that you can still enjoy! Just check out the Latin Caprese below, made with fresh mozz, roasted red peppers, tomato, cilantro oil, and balsamic vinegar:

Zafra regular Colin, owner of Taste of New Haven, was kind enough to let me snap this photo of his meal.

Ed insisted that Chris and I try one of his favorite drinks to make, an espresso martini, AKA a java chip frap with alcohol! Well, we had to have dessert in some form, right?

He started by lining a martini glass with chocolate syrup – I already liked where this was going.

I could hardly wait to take the first sip!

Chris and I LOVED this. Four thumbs up total! Unfortunately we could not finish it because a) we were full and b) we both had to drive over 45 minutes to get to our respective homes.

We had an amazing time at Zafra and I couldn’t be happier about my new-found love for New Haven and its restaurant scene. Just goes to show you that you need to experience something before you can judge it – no longer do I think of this city as “shoot-em-up New Haven”. No, now I see it for the diverse, exciting hotspot that it is, with tons to offer in terms of food, drinks, sights, and history!

Thank you Ed, and all of Zafra’s staff, for a fun and delicious night!

Have you ever been to a rum bar or tried Cuban food and/or drinks?

Have you ever realized that you were judging something without experiencing it first? Once you experienced it, what was your take? Did your opinion change?

Chili’s Gets a Menu Upgrade

Chili’s is one of my favorite chains, because they really do have more options than you may think. When one is feeling indulgent, there are plenty of delicious fried bites. My go-to move back in the day was to order the appetizer trio and pick the most heavy options…spinach and artichoke dip, BBQ wings, and fried eggrolls. Nowadays I try to stick to meals that’ll leave me feeling good, and Chili’s has those choices too! I always used to order the shrimp tacos with grilled shrimp instead of fried, but now they’ve taken a page out of my book (or some marketing/product development employee’s book…) and officially added those grilled shrimp tacos, along with other fresh Tex-Mex fare, to their menu!

Check out that avocado – the actual meals did indeed contain those generous amounts of it!

I hit up our closest Chili’s location with my parents on a Saturday night. It was pretty crazy as usual, but we found a booth in the bar and sat down right away. My mom brought a coupon from the Facebook page for free chips and salsa – nice!

I love the chips at Chili’s, but do wish they offered a chunkier variety of salsa. Runny salsa no es bueno.

Grilled shrimp tacos, black beans, and corn on the cob.

My meal was so good and I finished every last bite. I poured some of the beans into each taco, and as I was eating them, let any “fillings” that came out drip back into the bowl of leftover beans. Then, when it was time to finish them off, I had a cup of beans with pico and other goodies in there! The unbuttered corn on the cob was so, so good. My mom and I asked the waitress if it was roasted, but she said no, it’s just cooked on the stove top. Baffling! Why does it taste so much better than corn from home?!

Grilled veggie tacos.

My mom and I traded our last tacos to each other so that she could try the shrimp and I could try a grilled veggie taco, which is one of the new menu items that I’ve never ordered before. SO GOOD! I was impressed with the variety and amount of veggies in each taco. Quite satisfying!

My dad's chicken club tacos with rice and beans.

My dad went the more traditional route and stuck to the Chili’s standard rice and beans as the accompaniments to his chicken club tacos. He said the chicken was cooked very well, and he’s a big bacon lover, so it was a nice combo of indulgent and healthy!

We had a wonderful meal and I give Chili’s props for adding healthier options to their menu that don’t sacrifice taste at all.

Have you tried any of the new Chili’s menu items? What’s your favorite taco?