Category Archives: Lunch & Dinner

Watercress Pesto Pasta

 Europe trip recap! If you haven’t caught up on my three-week sojourn in the other hemisphere, so far I’ve talked about British bakeries, spending my birthday abroad, real-life Harry Potter encounters, some personal details from my trip in the UK, the beautiful city of Edinburgh, and lots of food (and Guinness!) in Ireland. And of course, the adventures continue below!

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Italy was a world in and of itself. I had visited Rome and Venice once in seventh grade, but this trip–taken nearly 14 years later–was something special. After a one-day layover from Ireland to England, I hopped on a plane that would take me to the final part of my Europe trip in the south of Italy. Bari, where the airport is located, is about an hour north of Putignano, a quiet town with a population of about 28,000 and home to Italy’s oldest annual Carnival. My friend Alessio picked me up from the airport and we took a tour of Bari (complete, of course, with my first taste of authentic Italian gelato) before heading south to the large countryside home where we would be staying for the week.

As a girl who can barely afford 500 square feet of living space in cramped Los Angeles, the idea of living in a second home in the country three months out of the year was completely unfathomable to me. When we rumbled up the narrow dirt lane that led to Alessio’s house that evening and his family came out onto the beautiful stone-laid patio to greet us, however, I could feel blissful imagination meld into a reality more romantic than anything that I could have dreamed up on my own. The country home was a converted ranch with a rustic outdoor seating area, several well-tended gardens bordering the patio, and rolling fields of grass that stretched to the outer edges of the property. … Read more


Filed under Lunch & Dinner

Game Day Recipes: Easy Picante Cream Cheese Dip + Rollups

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeGameTimeSaucy #CollectiveBias

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Ha–I did it! After five years of avoiding the Rose Bowl like the plague, I finally hitched up my shorts two weeks ago and attended my first-ever grad school football game. Since our team was playing my alma mater’s rival, I was doubly invested and ready to shout as loudly as I could about “taking off that red shirt,” if ya know what I mean. Plus who doesn’t love a socially acceptable excuse to be obnoxious and rambunctious and generally just a tad madwomanish?

As it turns out, the weather on game day was insanely sweltering and, as our seats in the student section were full-blast under the sun, a few of us ended up spending the entire first quarter wandering around outside and looking for food instead of actually watching the game. This meant that we missed the only touchdown of the entire game, scored by yours truly–er, well, until the other team scored not one, but TWO touchdowns in the final 2 minutes of the game. Derp. My friend was majorly upset (it was her first-ever football game), and my dad texted me right after the game because he simply could not stop cracking up at our misery. “Heart broken loss,” his message read. Annnnd to me this is why food > football forever, hands down.

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Picante Cream Cheese Dip gif

Speaking of food and football games, though, there is one reason why I still love the sport even though my team is a heartbreaking hot mess on the field this season sometimes disappoints me. In my book, you can never go wrong on any occasion where all sorrows can be drowned in food, food, food. To celebrate the start of a new season, I popped down to Walmart the following weekend for a few game day edibles and ended up snagging a bag of chips, some corn tortillas, a few blocks of cream cheese, and a bottle of mild Pace® Picante for that extra flavor kick.… Read more


Filed under Appetizers, Dips/Spreads, Lunch & Dinner

Quinoa Salad

Guess who’s back, back again? I’ll give you a hint: it’s this girl, and she’s back all the way from beeeeautiful Europe!

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Okay, that was more of an answer than a hint–BUT only because I’m seriously excited to share all of my adventures with you. As I mentioned in my penultimate post, travel planning for this three-week trip had basically swallowed up my life (and the better part of my sanity) in the months leading up to August, so getting in the groove of blogging again is a super squeal-worthy enterprise. In fact, I got so ahead of myself that the first thing I did after hopping off my 12-hour flight was barrel into the grocery store to pick up a few A LOT of fresh ingredients and start cooking.

There’s really nothing like a month away from home to make you fall madly in love with your kitchen again!

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But more on Europe later, because first I want to tell you all about this quinoa salad. Does it look innocuous and unassuming to you? HA!

Sorry. Sorry.

But also not sorry, because it’s seriously great stuff. The tangy flavors of lemon and rice vinegar in the dressing blend perfectly with the subtly earthy taste of cumin, the nuttiness of sliced almonds, the freshness of chopped tomatoes, and the sweetness of raisins. After three weeks of basically eating my heart out in delicious, occasionally coma-inducing bliss through England, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy, I simply couldn’t wait to create a homemade dish full of greens and vegan-friendly produce. Luckily, I kept a running memo pad throughout my travels of dishes that I wanted to try making (you’ll see them over the next few weeks!), and quinoa salad was at the top of my list. Can you guess where I was inspired?… Read more


Filed under Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Salads, Vegetarian

Zucchini Tomato Marinara Pasta with #OXO

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If you were standing in my apartment earlier this morning, that would have been the inarticulate sound from the kitchen.

Now before you panic (oh my god, there’s a MANDOLIN SLICER in her photos!!!), I can assure you that it wasn’t a scream of pain.

No, my friends–that was a shriek of pure joy issuing in glass-shattering pitch as I played with my newest kitchen toy. And I am so so so excited to share it with all of you today–can you tell?

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OXO recently sent me another lovely bundle for my pasta-making lazy days: this Adjustable Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer, a Grape & Tomato Cutter, and a beautifully sturdy Rice & Grains Washing Colander with a draining spout near the top edge for easy pouring. Now as a gal who doesn’t often indulge in acquiring “kitchen gadgets” (okay, maybe the bread maker I got for Christmas is an exception. And the confectioner’s sugar dusting wand. And the Mickey Mouse ice cream scoop….oh fine, I love kitchen gadgets), the arrival of these wonderful toys via mail could only mean one thing: pasta play day!

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By noontime, thinly sliced zucchini was sizzling on the stovetop and my pasta was happily draining al dente in its colander. With all of the craziness happening around here lately, it was a relief to just spend an hour in the kitchen cooking, slicing, photographing, and–best of all–eating a truly homecooked meal.

Even I was surprised at how fresh this whole meal tasted–with whole wheat pasta, lightly cooked zucchini, quartered cherry tomatoes, a dollop of marinara sauce, and a sprinkling of assorted cheeses, this pasta is giving me the physical, emotional, and mental fuel to get through the rest of this crazy day (I’m currently preparing a guest lecture for Tuesday’s English survey course and am slightly freaking out, but don’t mind me).… Read more


Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Tofu Pineapple Veggie Rice Bowl with Tangy Asian Peanut Sauce

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ChineseNYeats #CollectiveBias

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It feels like it’s been forever. It really has been forever, hasn’t it? HI!

Things have been flat-out crazy around here lately, hence the radio silence recently. I drafted up a Life Plan-of-Attack a few weeks ago that basically boiled my hours down to a fine dust: 63 hours of research, 20 hours of miscellaneous writing work, 15 hours of blogging, 15 hours for teaching prep, and 15 hours for swimming. That left 40 hours in the week for sleeping, and next to the word “social” on my whiteboard are two giant symbols:


Thankfully, it turns out that the weeks of sleepless fervor were well worth it, because now that we’re entering February (WHAT), the dissertation writing momentum is finally, finally starting to pick up. I’ve waded through what must be a quarter of the school library’s tomes on evolutionary theory and child development, not to mention haunted the local Starbucks in more stuporific dazes than I care to mention. Meanwhile, I’m slowly reintroducing parts of my social life back into its place, and guess what? Now that I’ve done some preemptive cramming, I actually get to spend this coming weekend rocking out with my fambam for Chinese New Year’s!

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CNY is kiiiiinda a crazy weeklong affair for my family. While we’re pretty Americanized in a lot of ways (helloooo, English major and not yet disowned! hooray!) this is one holiday on which our household definitely does NOT skimp.

The end of every year always starts with a head-to-toe house cleaning, followed by the plastering of new fortune papers and placing of tangerines all around the house. This year will be the year of the monkey, so we’ll spend the next lunar year in the company of the troop of cartoonized red-cheeked primates that will deck our walls.… Read more


Filed under Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Parmesan Cheddar Broccoli and LEAN CUISINE® Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BalancedNewYear #CollectiveBias

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Being back in the pool this year feels SO wonderful. While I’m not a huge proponent of New Year’s resolutions in general, I did make it a goal to kick off 2016 by swimming 6 times a week.

Swim club has been great about keeping me right on track: this weekend, a few of us hit up the pool for some workouts and reminded me how fun it is to be back in a swim community again. After just a few weeks, it feels good to know that when my arms pull through the water, my body is actually inclined to move forward at a relatively fast pace again. I’ve even been motivated enough to squeeze in a few (just a few!) double days of morning and evening practices, which I honestly haven’t done since dinosaurs roamed this earth. Good lord, it’s like I’m actually making progress!

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With this zealous swim calendar and an even crazier work schedule, though, I’ve found the hard way that it takes a world-class juggling act to maintain any sort of balance in my life. After a week of solid swim practices and absolutely nothing in my fridge when I came home wet and hungry, I decided to swing by Walmart one weekend and scour the aisles for something satisfying, but balanced enough that I could eat right after workout.

I was on my way out of the store after picking up some broccoli and shredded cheese when I finally found the golden ticket: LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Collection Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. I probably can make this sound any cheesier if I wanted to, but it really was love at first sight, because if there’s one way to my heart of comfort food hearts, it’s mac & cheese.… Read more


Filed under Healthy, Lunch & Dinner

Cheesy Garlic Cauliflower Breadsticks

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EatLightEatRight #CollectiveBias

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I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling just a wee bit nostalgic now that the holiday season is over. Classes started again this week, which means that I’m back to being a responsible (er, “responsible” adult on a teaching schedule and that my three-day stretches of wearing only PJs are over. Research, teach, work, blog, repeat…

And then, of course, there’s the food, best enjoyed with the fam. Who wouldn’t miss the food?

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Comfort food with family and a healthy start to the new year might sound like an oxymoronic combination, but thankfully I’ve done my fair share of digging and discovered some neat ways to reconcile the two. You might have heard of the power of cauliflower–have you ever tried using it as a carb sub? If not, you’re TOTALLY in for a treat!

To be honest, I didn’t believe the hype until I tried it myself a few months ago. I made a version of these cheesy garlic cauliflower breadsticks and instantly fell in love with the major gooey oozing shredded cheese that I’d smothered all over the light, delightfully gluten-free cauliflower crust. But how does it work, precisely? So glad you asked…

In full-blown vegetable mode, cauliflower seems like a formidable substance to handle. Luckily, all you need to do here is give it a few good chops, throw everything in your food processor to create cauliflower “rice,” and then microwave the whole shebang! From there on out, I’m happy to report that it gets even easier…

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Microwave! Oh boy oh boy. After microwaving your cauliflower rice for 8-10 minutes, you’re ready to mix in some eggs, cheese, minced garlic, garlic salt, pepper, and dried basil. Then it’s off to the oven!… Read more


Filed under Appetizers, Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Easy Squash Casserole

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NaturallyCheesy #CollectiveBias

Need more cheese in your life already? Visit Kraft for more delightfully cheesy recipes!

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Tortilla Chip: I can’t believe how mean you were today on the playground. You know how sensitive I am about my toasty crisp edges!

Cheese: Aww, c’mon–it was just a joke!

Tortilla Chip: I don’t want to taco ’bout it.

Cheese: But we’re friends–

Tortilla Chip: I am nacho friend!!!

(ba bum chiii)

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Have you ever been asked to tell a joke during an interview? After going to piano lessons unprepared and being eaten alive by a pit full of beetles, one of my greatest fears is having someone pop the “tell us a joke” question on me in a professional setting. Not only are the majority of jokes I know utterly unsuited for PC retelling–the ones that aren’t morally, religiously, or politically offensive are so, so cheesy.

Especially when they’re about tacos.

Eh? Eh?

No? Okay….

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Last week, I tried telling a joke about a chihuahua and was completely shut down by my friend, who just looked at me and asked blankly, “Was that the punch line?” Ouch. Guess it was a yappy joke anyway.

Thankfully, I redeemed myself shortly thereafter by telling a joke about a bear raiding a restaurant in Yosemite (in fact, the joke was stolen from a Yosemite park ranger), but after that I decided to stick to the kind of cheesy that I know I can do without shattering my dignity too badly. Enter cheesy easy squash casserole!

Now that the holiday season is officially here–yes, “Last Christmas” is currently playing on repeat on my computer, even though it’s not yet Thanksgiving–my oven is back on in full swing and the order of the day is casseroles.… Read more


Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Vegetarian Tomato Bisque + Veggie Corn Dogs

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FallWithATwist #CollectiveBias

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Confession time: so by the time I finally got around to photographing these veggie corn dogs and writing this post last week, there was only one left. ONE. Apparently I had eaten all the others without realizing it (okay, I definitely realized where this was going and liked them too much to care), so that’s why there is a single veggie corn dog in these photos…

Growing up, I loved corn dogs. They hold a special place in my heart because whenever my mom and I went clothes shopping at the mall, we would always stop by the food court stands and buy two corn dogs, plus a big cup of freshly squeezed lemonade to share. Since transitioning to a 95% vegetarian lifestyle a few years ago, I began searching for alternative options that would fit the bill, but nothing seemed to stick (ha ha, get it?). Believe it or not, it’s hard to find a veggie corn dog that can stand on its own two feet! Er, wooden popsicle stick.

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I don’t care whether you’re vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian or an avid meat-eater–whatever you are, these veggie corn dogs are it. One of my favorite things about being a food blogger is getting asked to try new foods and rambling on about my favorite ones endlessly. The corn breading and veggie hot dog in the center are so on point!

Ramble ramble ramble.


I personally can’t tell the difference between these and the original–if anything, these taste ten times better because they’re so light and don’t weigh me down after I devour one! Or two. Or four. Possibly right before swim practice.

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In other news, haaaave you met this tomato bisque?… Read more


Filed under Appetizers, Healthy, Lunch & Dinner

Honey Walnut Tofu with Long Grain and Wild Rice

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #justaddrice #CollectiveBias

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Growing up, rice was a staple at home. If it was mealtime and there wasn’t rice on the table, either you had read the clock wrong and it wasn’t dinnertime, or you were eating out. Or the house was on fire but even then, there was probably rice…

I think I can count on both hands the number of times our family partook in a dinner without rice–because yes, even when it was lasagna night, the rice cooker would still be steaming happily away. You know, heaven forbid the pasta got burnt and became inedible or something.

Maybe we just really liked rice.

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So you can imagine the shock I felt when I learned in college that some of my friends didn’t eat rice at all. When my floormates and I had a potluck during my second year, I remember looking around the table for something that wasn’t bread, pasta, or some other form of insanely cheesy carbs.

Most importantly, where was the rice??

Okay, and also where were the chopsticks, because lezbehonest “not impaling your food before eating it” > “poking holes all over your food with a fork,” any day. Even if you have to bring your bowl up to your face when using chopsticks just to shovel the rice into your mouth. (But that’s half the fun!)

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Fortunately, once those godforsaken college years passed and I graduated to a real kitchen of my own, a nightly order of rice was back on the menu–and this time I was determined to play experimenter. As a kid, I had poo-poo’ed anything other than steamed white rice, mainly since my mom went through a phase of mixing brown rice with jasmine rice in the effort to make our meals “healthier.” It tasted terrible, with the brown rice still uncooked and the jasmine rice a big pile of mush.… Read more


Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Rice, Vegetarian