Sep 112013

White Bean, Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili

Throwing out food in the fridge because I never cooked it is a huge pet peeve of mine. There have been a few battles in the house recently because someone cough Adam cough, will insist that I buy something and then never use it. A few weeks ago, I think a lesson was learned though when uncooked and past it's date chicken was thrown out in our garbage bin by this same person and after being in the garage for a few hours of 100+ heat, smelled as bad as you can image it would. This of course was 5 days before garbage pick up and even after the bin was put outside it took days for the house to stop smelling and even our yard stank. No bueno.

So with that disaster still fresh in our minds, yesterday I suggested Adam cook the ground turkey in the fridge as it only had a few days left. He though about it, but became overwhelmed about to do with it, so it was up to me.  I went into the kitchen with the intension to just cook it up in a pan with some whole peeled tomatoes and white beans, when I thought I remembered seeing something like that in the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook, It's All Good.

Let me state at this point that I LOVE this cookbook, its the first cookbook I've seen that is similar to how I normally eat. I have made maybe 20 recipes from it and they have all been fantastic. If you are drawn to super healthy, yet flavorful food, I cannot recommend this book enough. So anyway, I flip through it and BAM! there it is, exactly what I wanted, basically everything I was going to use with the addition of sweet potatoes. The only difference in what I did was substitute cannellini beans for black beans as I had my mind set on them and it was the night before shopping day and I was out of black beans. I also made short grain brown rice to go under the chili as if I don't eat enough carbs I get all whiney. It was good, that I actually went back and snuck spoonfuls throughout the evening AND today there is no stinky poultry in our garbage.

    Turkey and Black Bean Chili With Sweet Potatoes

Makes 6 1/2 cups (4 servings)


  • 14 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika (pimento dulce), or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 28 ounces canned, no-salt-added whole peeled tomatoes, plus their juices
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 14 ounces cooked or canned no-salt-added black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Chopped fresh scallions, white and light-green parts, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Toss the sweet potato chunks with 2 tablespoons of the oil until well coated, then spread on the baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a good pinch of the sea salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or until softened, stirring a few times. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder and a big pinch of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened.

Add the turkey; cook, stirring a few times, until the meat is cooked through and its moisture has evaporated, which should take about 20 minutes. The turkey should be well incorporated into the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes and a big pinch of salt; increase the heat to high and add the water.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the beans and the cooled sweet potatoes; taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cook for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Divide among individual bowls; top with the cilantro and scallions. Serve hot.

Recipe from "It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great," by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

Sep 042013
The usual salad that I would make for dinner

An example of a salad that I would make for dinner

I have always been a "throw everything that looks good into a bowl" kinda gal (see the salad above for proof), but since I began watching Chopped, I've taken it to a new level. Actually, I believe half the blame can be put on not having a microwave. But it's more fun to say it's all because of Chopped. Now before it goes in the bowl, everything goes in one big pan. The only way I even know that I've taken it to a new level is the look that Adam has been giving me when I make and eat things. I think they are fabulous, but then again, I eat salads like the one above regularly. I like the everything but the kitchen sink approach to salads...and apparently all my other meals as well. I think I would have throughly enjoyed the casserole era. Unless there was warm, soggy bread stuffing, yuck. If I could plan more then 10 minutes ahead with cooking, I would utilize my slow cooker more...but alas, I can't seem to think far enough into the future about what to eat to do that.

rotini surprise

My most recent creation was the perfect example of my new found ability to see beyond what foods normally play well together...and it was delicious! While the whole wheat rotini was boiling, I heated evoo in a pan and sprinkled in some salt and garlic powder (I know, ick, but I was too lazy to cut up actual garlic).  I added rinsed garbanzo beans and rolled them all around in the oil/garlic goodness. Then I emptied a can of white albacore tuna in water (not drained) and stirred the mess around. Once the pasta was drained, I threw some into the pan, added a large handful of baby spinach and tossed in the pan until the spinach was wilted. Once all on the plate, I added crumbled feta and hot sauce. Voila!

I do believe Adam actually gagged at this one and opted to instead enjoy a salami sandwich, but more due to the tuna aspect than any thing else. I throw tuna in all sorts of things though, so I just ignored him and smiled that it made so I would have leftovers too.


Aug 232013

Leftover rice, beans and sausage with sauteed spinach added the next day

After tossing out both restaurant to go boxes and the remains of last weeks dinners that Adam insisted he wanted to eat, more times then not, I have drawn the conclusion that as far as leftovers go, I am the only one who loves them in our house. As I work from home, I eat three meals and two snacks a day here and most of the time, the quicker and easier they are, the better. This means a lot of cut up fruit, salads, sandwiches and many meals of leftovers. I think it's largely due to my living alone for so long and an inability to cook for one. I became used to making enough for a few meals when I did actually cook and eating them for the next few days.

This last move though had a twist thrown in. When we moved in together last year, we moved into a house with no storage other than the closets in the bedroom. There also was a microwave built into the kitchen. This meant that the microwave coming from my house had no where to go. We had a friend who going through a divorce and dealing with leaving his home with just the personal items (as happens often when there are kids), so it made sense to just hand over the microwave and be done with it. Well that was great and all until we moved last month into a house without a microwave...or a place to put it that would not take up precious counter space. I explained this dilemma to Adam. He said he had never once used the microwave, did we actually need one? I gasped at the thought as I didn't think I could possibly survive without it, but after giving the counter top vs microwave debate another thought, I decided to give it a try. After all, if I felt the overwhelming need to have one, I could just zip on over to bed bath and beyond and have one in 15 minutes. I have to admit that not only do I not miss it, but it has brought my love of leftovers to a new height. As I need to heat everything up on the stove now, I end up transforming things into new creations, really its been a win win!

We're not really a meat and potatoes, three squares house to begin with, instead I am a fan of putting a big pile of what sounds good at the moment (sometimes this does, but most of the time does not include meat) all in one bowl and calling it dinner...and Adam is beginning to agree with me on this concept as it usually tastes so good! Usually we have leftover rice, cooked veggies, chicken or sausage in the fridge. So perhaps I am already the perfect candidate for leftover love, but I have to say that when I posted the above photo to instagram the other day while Adam was at work, he got mad at me that I made it without him. To me, this proves that if done right, everyone can love leftovers! It also helps to keep a stocked pantry and to always have rice, beans, oil, salt, pepper, spinach, veggies, cheese and hot sauce on hand as with these items, you make anything taste good and fill you up!

Are you a lover or a hater of leftovers?



Jun 262013

water melon salad

I tend to latch onto food that I really like and eat it over and over again until I can't the sight if it. Some of these  meals happen for only a brief time and never return, some are in constant rotation for basically my entire life (apples and peanut butter before bed, I'm looking at you) and some are seasonal. My very favorite seasonal meal is this watermelon salad. Its basically like eating candy and cheese. But much more amazing then that sounds. It's thirst quenching, filling and so very easy to whip together. Although I should warn you that it 's highly addictive...but its basically fruit and tiny bit of dairy, so go at it. I eat is basically every day right now and may have eaten it twice one day last week. Consider your self warned.


  • 1/2 personal watermelon (or whatever they call the little ball melons at your store). If I get the tiny melons from the Farmers Market, I use two as I loose so much of it trying to get the seeds out.
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint leaves ripped up into little pieces
  • tbsp or so of goat cheese or feta cheese
  • tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • healthy pinch of coarse sea salt


The measurements on this are mere guidelines, its the one dish where I never measure anything, but I figured if I wrote everything as "to taste" like my nana always did,  you would get mad at me like I would at her as how the heck do you know what that means???

Cut the melon off the rind and into cubes, de-seed if necessary. Toss together with the rest of the ingredients and like magic, you have the most incredible meal ever.

This amount feeds me as a meal in itself or 2-3 if on the side of something like a sandwhich. No judgement if you feel your melon is small enough to double the recipe and eat the whole thing at once...I've totally done it.

Jun 182013


Yesterday I was trying to hard boil eggs for lunch. I say trying as it was an epic fail. Usually they turn out perfectly as I have this blog post printed out and follow it to a T. The last two times though, not so much. The weird running egg phenomena was realized yesterday, thanks to instagram and explained by a friend who is a chef. The culprit is too fresh or too young eggs resulting in a thin membrane around the yolks.  Farmers markets are apparently the bane of the hard boiled eggs existence. Any way, I got over the kitchen fail and went on with my day. Until dinner when the quinoa (also cooked with a no fail technique) was still had water in the pot at the end. WTF. Two fails in one day. For a brief second I wanted to burst into tears and yell "I'm never cooking again!!" but I quickly got over myself. I instead laughed and thought of my studio where I fail at things so often I don't want to admit. However, I tend to have less confidence in the kitchen than the studio today I think it's salad for lunch.

Jun 042013

wheat grass

I attempted to juice wheat grass last week. Meh. It tasted fine and all but my goodness do you need to stand there feeding grass into the juicer for-ever to get just a teensy amount of juice. I don't have the patience for it. Are you a wheat grass fan?

May 292013
The spot we first met, 18 months later minutes before we got married.

The spot we first met, 18 months later and minutes before we got married.

Recently, I have been eating out less and less. Mainly due to most of the "great" local restaurants not taking reservations and having a 2 hour wait. It's beyond annoying to wait that long on a Tuesday for dinner. We however, still find ourselves dining out about once a week and tend to gravitate towards those places with the most sentimental value. Do you do that with restaurants? You know how when you hear a certain song, it takes you back to a specific time or feeling or person? Well, I do that with restaurants too. There's the place we first met...which became the place we "wedding bombed". We showed up for dinner and quietly were pronounced at our table of 5 between the entree and dessert. There's the place we had our first date...which became the place Adam proposed. The place that catered my fashion week event last year and the place I would get coffee and breakfast tacos when I used to set up Manic Trout on South Congress. New places are added to the list all the time...the place I hired my current assistant has only held that title for a few months now. Some I never even eat at the place we got married. I'm not in love with the food, but every time we drive by it, I announce why it's special to me. I actually recite wistfully what sentimental power is held by a restaurant every time I eat there, see it or think of it. Some people like to think back only on all of the delicious food they enjoyed in a place, but I find myself remembering just as fondly, all of the wonderful people, conversations and mile stones that happened while we were there more than the food.

May 082013

baked by melissa

When Adam and I were walking through a deserted 11:30pm airport Sunday night after our 40 hour trip to NYC this past weekend, I looked at him and said "you know, I was never one of those people who wanted to travel for work or spend all of my free time traveling". I wanted to be a designer, dammit. All of this traveling is becoming a pain in the ass and messing up my schedule in doing what I did dream of doing. 5 trips in as many months has left me never wanting to leave the house again. It also has made me ponder how hard it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle when traveling. Forget that once I return, I have missed that weeks farmers market and skipped the day I grocery shop, and have so much to catch up on with Manic Trout, that I have no time to exercise all week. The real problem is what to do while actually gone?

If you fly Jet Blue, the terminals and flights offer at least a bit of health options (there has been much time in airports as Austin airport is not big enough to justify direct flights) but on most of the other airlines, you're SOL. Once you arrive at your destination, the real fun in hotels, eating only at restaurants and being a guest. I prefer to not make a big deal out of my food allergies, I find it annoying when people are picky as guests. I normally just work around it, and its pretty easy to avoid aged cheese, red wine and good chocolate but being lactose intolerant, always avoiding dairy is not so easy. However, with the last one, its an intolerance, I'll I just suck it up and go with the flow. Except people keep making creamed soups as the main course...what is that all about anyway?

Once we bump allergies and intolerances out of the way...then there is dealing with the preferred way to eat. As I discussed last week, I tend to gravitate to super heathy eating habits, avoid GMO's, buy organic and avoid refined flour and dairy. Traveling makes me understand that there are small pockets of the country where lots of people eat like this, I have been lucky enough to have lived the last decade in these places  because wow, its hard to eat this way in a lot of the US! Again though, as not one to ruffle feathers when I'm a guest, I just go with the flow and work around it...which means I usually feel sick to my stomach or hungry most of the time which results in my fall back crisis as much sugar as I can get my hands on. This last trip resulted in my eating a large amount of the most delicious and tiniest cupcakes I have ever laid eyes on.

There are times when I can get to a store and stock up on apples, almonds and other snacks so at least I'm not starving to death, but other than that do you have any suggestions of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle when traveling?

oh and ps, I have not taken one photo of food on any of the 5 trips...except those cupcakes ;)

Apr 302013


Until I was six I was not allowed to eat sugar in any form. My birthday cakes were little health bombs disguised as confections and I had never laid eyes on a piece of candy. This all ended when I was given a marshmallow on a play date and came home in tears that I was denied the wonderment that is sugar all of my life. As you can imagine, a child who does not eat sugar is raised in a super healthy manner which besides the sadness of the no sugar thing, it made my body crave that lifestyle.


Besides allowing myself sugar now (although the older I get, the more I try and restrict that...until I fall off the wagon and eat a pound of sour gummy worms in one sitting), I still gravitate to an almost vegetarian diet and enjoy this way of eating the most. Although sometimes a wrench gets thrown in the works and I get all out of whack, like when Adam and I moved in together. He shunned most of what I ate and with both of us being busy, we compromised by eating out a lot. Adam was eating every single meal out and even though I was at least eating two meals a day at home, we ate dinner out or had take out about every night.


Last month I hired a new studio manager at Manic Trout and found myself not having to work as crazy hours. I also found myself not fitting perfectly into some of my favorite clothes (partly as we are coming out of winter, but mostly the eating out is to blame). At this same time, I read about a cookbook that inspired me to get back in the kitchen. I made a few dinners and Adam asked why on earth was I not cooking more. Really because when I cook dinner, from start to finish it takes about three hours and I don't always have the time, but I have been able to do so more often this last month so we'll see.

farmers market

I have also been enjoying cooking as a way to let off steam at the end of the day. Its much more satisfy to roast a chicken than it is to make a sandwich for dinner. It makes the little amount of time we spend together that much more special to sit down at a dinner I made for us. We both grew up in families where dinner together was a non negotiable ritual and I think that when you choose to not have kids, that ritual sometimes gets left behind without realizing it. We also started visiting the local farmers market together on a regular basis a few weeks ago as a sort of day date. In a way, we are just changing date nights from happening at restaurants to our own house. Instead of spending the time getting dressed up, I've been spend it cooking, ha!

chili beans and greens

This past week I bought another book...I think the key to cooking is to be inspired a bit and at the moment the books are doing it for me. Last night I made a meal I read about in the new book that I assumed Adam would run away from as there was an abundance of kale. Turns out, he liked it so much that he is still talking about it today. The down side is that he also declared that I was a culinary genius and that I have officially claimed the title as official house chef. I didn't real feel that was an honor...more that I have been relegated to do alot of work, ha! In reality though, I love leftovers and some of the week, like tonight, I have to work late and Adam will be home after dinner, so I really only am cooking 3 or 4 nights a week and creating enough food to fill the fridge. It also means I can be ultra lazy at lunchtime and just grab something already made and heat it up.