Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

There’s just something about summertime, right? Something wonderful and warm that you can feel in your bones and on your sun-kissed cheeks. Something lazy and free, something that you soak up as the sun begins to set at night. Summertime buzzes. It’s alive and it’s happy, and I welcome it’s arrival every year with an impatient excitement.

To me, one of the best things about summertime is the food. Of course. The grill marks on a sizzling piece of chicken or the juicy vibrancy of a ripe watermelon. It’s a time to pack away the hearty stews of winter and move on to foods that are bright and fresh.

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Mere’s Whole30 Shrimp Zucchini Pasta.

I met Meredith when I was in 7th grade. I was the new kid in town, experiencing public school for the first time. Fast forward 13 years (through high school, college, the beginning of adulthood, and all of the wild adventures in between), and here we are. She’s the kind of friend that I see only a few times a year, but it’s so easy to pick up right where we left off. She’s a fiercely talented woman, and she’s loyal to her core. She’s a bright ray of sunshine on any gloomy day, and I’m so thankful to know her. (Fun fact: She once took to her own blog to celebrate 30 of her friends in 30 days. I was fortunate enough to be one of them, and I reread the words she wrote every time I need a reminder of who it is that I am and want to be.)

PicMonkey Collage

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following Meredith’s Whole30 journey on Instagram. The Whole30 program is essentially a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system by removing sugar, alcohol, grains, most legumes, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites from your diet for 30 days. From the research I’ve done this morning, the concept seems like less of a fad diet and more about healthy living (and eating). So yesterday evening when I saw Mere’s photo of her Whole30 dinner, I asked if she’d write about it. Thankfully – because she totally rocks – she agreed.

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Follow her food-filled Whole30 journey on Instagram @MeredithJanel or #MeresWhole365!


Hey y’all! Meredith here. I’m just a good-time-seeking, adventure-loving foodie, who began this “eat good and good-for-me food” thing a few months ago. That also means I haven’t had wine in over two months, so please forgive me if I seem crankier or more cynical than usual. Wine is my love language, after all.

I live in a small town north of Pittsburgh, and my job doesn’t create much room for consistency. In fact, it creates the opposite of consistency. That’s where Whole30 came in! My first year in role was one of the most chaotic years of my life. I had like 3 friends in town (and one of them was french fries), and trying to get a grasp on paying every institution in the country back for my Bachelors/Masters programs created a less than ideal situation for self care. I finally decided that in a job that I have so little control over, what I cook and what I eat could totally be in my control. It’s changed my life… and not in the same way yoga pants did.

Something important to know about me: Making food for my friends and family is one of my top five favorite things (right under drinking wine, and right above avoiding anything that requires hand-eye coordination). So as I began this take-control-of-my-health thing, taste was a must. A non-negotiable. I’m convinced the best way to get people to eat healthy is to have them try good, fresh, unprocessed foods, and the rest will fall into place.

That’s how this recipe came into play. It’s Shrimp Zucchini Pasta. Due to my unnatural love for Italian food (as I am German and Irish), creating something that even looked like pasta is a gigantic win for me!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 10-12 shrimp
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 tsp (4 cloves) chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • Optional: Artichoke hearts and mushrooms

Here’s what to do:

  • Get yourself a Zoodle or Veggetti. (I happen to have one of each, because my dear friends celebrate me by buying kitchen gadgets.)
  • Cook the shrimp over medium heat and set aside.
  • Use your Zoodle to create thin pasta strands from your zucchini.
  • Heat your EVOO in a large skillet. Add zucchini noodles, garlic, basil, and any optional, flavorful, Whole30-approved additions you’d like.
  • Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add your shrimp back in. Toss well.
  • Let everything blend real nice.
  • That’s it! ENJOY!

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Seriously, it only takes about 20 minutes. The longest part of your dinner making will be telling your neighbors they can’t join you once they catch a whiff of its gloriousness (1. Because you wanted to binge watch Breaking Bad tonight; 2. Because you’re gonna eat it all).

With love and olive oil,
Mere J

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Grill Master Edition.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Grill Master Edition.

I live with four men, and a woman who knows a lot more about stereotypically male things than I ever will. That means I am the only one in the house that doesn’t know how to operate a grill. That also means, however, that I have an incredibly deep appreciation for grilled cuisine.

Recently,  I have been dining in much more than usual, in an attempt to prepare for some potential upcoming life changes. (More to come on that later, I’m sure.) This new method of dining has been directly proportional to the increased amount of time I’ve spend browsing the Food & Drink page of Pinterest.

One warm, bright day last week, I had a craving for something new. I directed my friends to my Pinterest board of pre-selected mouth-watering recipes, and we chose the Buttermilk Rosemary Ranch Chicken Skewers. A wordy name for a primitive dish. On the way home from work, I picked up the necessary ingredients and our cooking adventure began. I crafted the marinade, and he, as Grill Master, handled the meat.

A short time later, we were relishing the savory flavor of the chicken, with a simple side of buttery noodles lightly seasoned with garlic.

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Ingredients: chicken breast, buttermilk, extra virgin olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, ranch dressing mix, pepper, salt and rosemary.

Directions: Dice the chicken into cubes. Combine the remaining ingredients. Thread chicken onto skewers, and soak in marinade for 30 minutes. Remove from marinade, and pass off skewers to someone who knows how to grill. Then, enjoy. And thank me later.

Chickpea Salad.

Chickpea Salad.

Chickpea Salad.

Let me say, this “no carb” thing is tough. Embarrassingly, I found myself drooling at the thought of a grilled cheese sandwich yesterday. But, I have really been trying to stick with it.

Yesterday was a very atypical September day, and it was sweltering. I wanted something light and fresh to eat for dinner, so this is what I came up with.

Ingredients: Chickpeas / Shredded Chicken / Cucumbers / Peppers / Grape Tomatoes / Red Onions / Corn / Olives / Cilantro Lime Dressing / Parsley

Directions: If using canned chickpeas or corn, rinse and drain. / Shred chicken. / Dice cucumbers, peppers, grape tomatoes and red onions. / Mix chickpeas, chicken and vegetables together. / Add dressing. / Top with parsley. / Enjoy!

This recipe is incredibly simple, light and refreshing! Feel free to mix and match ingredients. Use any fresh vegetables from your garden, or switch out the dressing for an entirely different taste.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Last weekend, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, which is something I haven’t done quite as often as I used to. It was a welcome return. My roommate John had mentioned that he had some zucchini that he wanted to use, and my mind immediately darted to last summer’s 4th of July party, when we both had loved the chocolate zucchini bread that we found on the picnic table.

So, we decided to bake chocolate zucchini bread. With this recipe and John’s baking skills, a delectable treat was born. (Disclaimer: I actually spent most of the time on the couch watching Julie & Julia, day-dreaming about French cuisine.)

Ingredients: Flour / Cinnamon / Salt / Baking Soda / Unsweetened Cocoa Powder / Canola Oil / Sugar / Brown Sugar / Eggs / Vanilla / Sour Cream / Grated Zucchini / Chocolate Chips / Orange Zest

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚. / Mix 2T brown sugar, 2T sugar, and .5t cinnamon, and set aside for topping. / Whisk dry ingredients together. / Beat sugar, oil and eggs together in a separate bowl. / Add vanilla and sour cream. / Fold in zucchini. / Add dry ingredients. / Pour into bread pan. / Top with mixture. / Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Try to enjoy it as much as we did!

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Take advantage of the last days of summer, and enjoy this perfect picnic snack!

5 Layer Greek Dip

Ingredients: Hummus / Red Bell Pepper / Cucumber / Kalamata Olives / Feta Cheese / Fresh Dill

Directions: Spread hummus in the bottom of a serving dish / Top with chopped cucumbers, peppers, and olives / Top with feta cheese and fresh dill / Serve with warm pita and enjoy!

A Savory Love Affair.

A Savory Love Affair.At  the beginning of this month, I decided that I would only eat carbs on Sundays. (Disclaimer: By “carbs,” I mean bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. You know, the obvious ones. I’m not that crazy.) That being said, when Sunday rolls around, I want something carb-loaded and delicious.

I scoured the internet for an Italian recipe because, well, why not? Thanks to Martha Stewart and Trader Joe’s, I ate this to-die-for meal last weekend.

Ingredients: Parmesan Gnocchi / Olive Oil / Yellow Onion / Italian Sausage / Garlic / Spinach / Salt & Pepper.

Directions: Cook gnocchi according to package directions. / Heat oil and cook onion in separate skillet. / Add crumbled sausage, and cook until brown. / Add garlic, spinach, salt & pepper. / Cook and stir until spinach wilts. / Add gnocchi. / Plate and enjoy!