Frittata Test Kitchen Spotlight: Chuao Chocolate Bars

I’m sharing some sweet surprises today with a Frittata Test Kitchen spotlight on Chuao chocolate bars. WARNING: Reading this post could result in addiction. I’m on a mission to do a thorough assessment of what I like to call “fancy chocolate bars”. It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it. Fancy chocolate bars are not the chocolate bars you find in the checkout line. These are not the chocolate bars that you give out for Halloween. The fancy chocolate bars I’m referring to are works of art, and usually cost as much.

Fancy Chocolate Bar Fetish

chuao chocolate bars
Display of Chuao chocolate bars at their Carlsbad joy factory

Chuao. Pronounced “Chew-Wow.”

Chuao is a village in Venezuela known for cacao (chocolate) plantations. The magician behind this brand is from Venezuela, so that’s where Chuao chocolate bars sources chocolate from. It’s totally luck that the pronunciation makes sense for a food product.

Click the photo to learn more about Chuao Chocolatier

Free Chocolate Bar Advertising

Second, let me assure everyone that I am not being paid for my endorsement of Chuao chocolate bars (yet). If I spotlight a product, it’s because I’m genuinely obsessed with it.

Chuao Oh My S'mores chocolate bar
Oh My S’mores Chuao chocolate bar

The Inaugural Chocolate Bar

Chuao’s “Oh My S’mores” chocolate bar was the first one to catch my eye. I love s’mores. Without a doubt, anyone who knows me knows that. I get tagged on Facebook pretty much anytime s’mores are mentioned.

Indoor S’mores

The picture below was taken from my kitchen when I finally bought myself a proper “indoor s’mores” torch about 2 years ago. Unfortunately, it never actually worked. The torch did not make the trip to California. But as you can see, that night I was making s’mores with the traditional Hershey’s chocolate bar.

Not only did I make normal s’mores, I had also been turned on to s’mores made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. My head exploded on that idea because I could not believe I was in my 40’s and just seeing THAT for the first time. I’ve had a life-long obsession with Reese’s cups and it seemed so obvious to use them in s’mores.

Indoor S’mores

Banana S’mores

Chuao Chocolate Bar Sweet Surprise

I was sitting on my couch after dinner getting ready to watch a true crime documentary, and what goes better with true crime than fancy chocolate bars?

I purchased this Chuao chocolate bar and was just waiting for the right moment. It was not the first fancy chocolate bar to cross the threshold. Like I said, I’m doing a full survey. But many of the chocolate bars I’ve sampled were just ok and didn’t earn a second purchase.

As soon as I opened the package I thought there had been some mistake. For a millisecond I thought I had gotten a defect. I was NOT expecting actual mini-marshmallows to tumble out (a couple got pulled off as I was disrobing the chocolate bar). For some unexplained reason, this little unexpected surprise made giggle.

Chuao Oh My S'mores chocolate bar
Chuao Oh My S’mores chocolate bar

I took a little nibble. Just a small piece of the top corner. I felt like Charlie before he found his Golden Ticket. He’d always try to take just a small nibble of his Wonka Bar so he could save some to share with Grandpa Joe.

Back to the Chocolate Bar

Back to the chocolate bar. It’s like a micro layer of graham cracker inside an equally thin layer of perfect dark chocolate. A touch of sea salt, I think. I took a second bite.

The balance was perfection. So much so that I lost track of what was happening on my show and had to rewind twice because with every bite I became more and more enamored with my Oh My S’mores chocolate bar.

One Is The Loneliest Number..When It Comes to Chocolate Bars

I woke up thinking about my Chuao Oh My S’mores chocolate bar the next morning. I went to work and coveted the moment when I’d be back in the fancy chocolate bar aisle adding them by the handful to my basket.

Chuao chocolate bars
Chuao chocolate bars

I decided to try a second flavor of Chuao chocolate bar. They make some pretty interesting “luxe” bars, including some that I’m skeptical about. Stay with me because you’re going to find out what those are. But one bite at a time.

Sweet Chocolate Bar Anticipation

I decided to open this chocolate bar a little more carefully. Now I’m really like Charlie as he’s peeling back the corner of that Wonka bar just praying for that glint of gold.

If you haven’t seen this in a while, take the 2 minutes. It’s SO worth it.

I have easily seen that movie 10,000 times. No lie. I sang a spontaneous live version of Veruka Salt’s “I Want the World” to spice up a work meeting a few years ago. I have video proof.

Side thought: As I watch this video today it occurs to me that young Charlie looks a lot like a young Jon Bon Jovi. Does anyone else see that? I digress…

After overcoming the surprise of actual marshmallows on my other chocolate bar, I was NOT surprised to find actual pretzels on the Pretzel Toffee Twirl Chuao chocolate bar.

Chuao Pretzel Toffee Twirl

Indeed, all key elements were in perfect balance with just the right amount of salt.

Getting Chocolate Bar Exotic

Next day after work I’m back in the fancy chocolate bar aisle. I’m feeling bolder about my selection this time. Let’s get a little wild.

Chuao Totally Tangy Mango chocolate bar
Chuao Totally Tangy Mango

After I finished it, I realized that I kept reaching over to the coffee table for another bite and only found an empty wrapper. I’m also feeling a little like an addict that didn’t get their fix today because the Chuao Totally Tangy Mango chocolate bar was sold out when I went to buy more.

Going Straight to the Chuao Chocolate Bar Source

Time out. I just noticed on the website that Chuao Chocolatier’s factory and store is in Carlsbad, California. That’s like ten minutes from my house.

And I totally bet they have my Totally Tangy Mango chocolate bars there. 💖

Chuao chocolatier
The Joy Factory

Yes. Yes they do.

The display at Chuao chocolate shop

And a few other fancy chocolate bars too.

The Chocolate Bar Joy Factory

It was a pretty simple shop but they have a plate glass window that looks into the actual chocolate factory. That’s bold. I’ve always been a fan of the restaurants where you can see into the kitchen, not only so I can watch the food preparation as I anticipate my meal but also because it means they are pretty confident about their cleanliness.

I can hear “I’ve got a Golden Ticket” in my head as I walk around. It was at that time that I spotted the Joy Dance Floor. They have a dance floor because when you try Chuao chocolate bars for the first time, you just might need one.

joy factory at Chuao chocolatier
The Joy Factory at Chuao Chocolatier

Just when I thought my chocolate bar research was nearly done. 🤩

Here’s the final ranking of Chuao chocolate bars from most to least addictive:

  • Oh My S’moreswinner winner marshmallows for dinner
  • Totally Tangy Mango a VERY close second
  • Pretzel Toffee Twirl
  • Potato Chip – Yes, they put potato chips inside a chocolate bar. It worked for me.
  • Ravishing Rocky RoadReally good but not as good as Oh My S’mores
  • Honeycomb – crunchy honeycomb yumminess
  • Firecracker – a must do for pop rocks fans
  • Baconluxious with plant-based bacon – Bacon should be it’s own food group. It makes most things better, except maybe chocolate. I had to eat this one in small doses and pair it with a Manhattan.
  • Carrot Cake – I strenuously object to white chocolate. I tried this because they gave me a free sample. It wasn’t horrible, and it did taste just like carrot cake (which I don’t really like either).

A Bag S’more of Surprises

I was also introduced to this bag of happiness at the Joy Factory. I now have the bag in my fridge but it’s going fast.

Bag o s’mores chocolate bar pieces rom Chuao chocolates

I did not try this one because I’m not on the PS (Pumpkin Spice) flavor train. If you are you might want to try this:

pumpkin spice s'mores chocolate bar
Chuao Pumpkin Spice S’more chocolate bar

I hope you enjoyed this round up and that you can appreciate how difficult it was for me to do the work 😜

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Sweet Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers and Brussels Sprouts

I’m excited to share this simply sweet Italian sausage pasta recipe. In the Frittata kitchen, it is not uncommon for a new Frittata recipe to be the result of some ad-libbing. I hate to waste food, so I try very hard to buy groceries for specific meals vs. just buying an ingredient and hoping it will go with something I already have on hand. But it happens. Just like it does in your fridge.

Frequently, I find items in my crisper drawer that I bought with good intentions, but have forgotten about. Sweet Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers and Shaved Brussel Sprouts was born last night when I found some farmer’s market Brussels sprouts staring at me from the bottom of the crisper drawer.

Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage

When I make Italian sausage and pepper pasta, I use Johnsonville Italian Sausages. I’ve tried dozens of other options including the Italian sausages that get made fresh in the meat department at the store. But I’ve yet to find an Italian sausage that I like as much as Johnsonville.

Depending on my mood, I use either their Sweet Italian sausage or Hot Italian Sausage, usually sweet. You can’t buy these at Whole Foods, but most other grocery stores carry them. To see where you can buy Johnsonville’s Italian sausages, click on either image below to jump to their site. I don’t get paid to promote Johnsonville.

sweet Italian sausage pasta
Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage
hot Italian sausage pasta
Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage

Seal Your Sweet Italian Sausage Deal

Get a pot of water on to boil for the pasta while you are prepping the rest of the ingredients. Once your veggies are prepped, heat a cast-iron grill over med-high heat. Wait for it to get hot, then put the sweet Italian sausages in and sear for about 3 minutes until they are charred on the outside. Turn the heat to med-low and cover with either a lid or tinfoil to let them cook through. Give them a poke with your finger. Italian sausages feel mostly firm and bounce back from the touch when they are fully cooked.

Remove the Italian sausages from the pan and set them aside, but cover them with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat up to medium. Add a little olive oil, let it get hot, and add sliced onions and bell pepper of your choice. I like to use a mixture of red and orange bell peppers, but today I only had orange. Season well with salt and pepper.

sweet Italian sausages with onions and peppers
Sweet Italian Sausage and Peppers

Don’t mess with it for a few minutes. If you let the hot pan do its job, those onions will caramelize. Keep them covered with the foil so they stay warm.

Shred the Heads

I used my sharpened chef’s knife to shave some Brussels sprouts. You don’t need a food processor. Trim off their nubs and then slice them as thin as possible. Voila! You now have shredded Brussels sprouts. Alternatively, you can find pre-shaved packaged Brussels sprouts at the grocery, but they fly off the shelves. Make your own if you can’t find pre-packaged.

It was my first run at this addition to my sweet Italian sausage pasta, so I only shaved 3 large sprouts. I added them to the pan and seasoned them lightly with salt and pepper. They wilt and start to char after about 2 minutes. If you want to, put the Italian sausages back in the grill pan for a minute to reheat.

Italian Sausage Pasta Finishing Touches

sweet Italian sausages with onions, peppers and Brussels sprouts
Sweet Italian Sausage and Peppers with Shaved Brussel Sprouts

Do not use cheap olive oil. Do not skip the basil.

For me, it’s all about the olive oil. When you use quality olive oil to finish an entrée, you don’t need anything else.

Assess Your Oil

Here’s the finished Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shredded Brussels Sprouts on the first attempt. I had crumbled some goat cheese on top at the last minute but it isn’t necessary.

sweet Italian sausage pasta with peppers and Brussels sprouts
Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shredded Brussel Sprouts

I liked the addition of the shredded Brussesl sprouts but decided I hadn’t used enough.

I made the sweet Italian sausage pasta recipe again the next night and used more Brussels sprouts. A lot more. It was still good, but I think I overdid it and I lost some of the essence of the onions and pepper.

On a third try, I settled on 8 shredded sprouts (about 1 cup).

sweet Italian sausage pasta with peppers and Brussels sprouts
Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shaved Brussel Sprous

I chose to use rotini for this dish because it is what I had in the pantry. If you don’t have rotini, I’d suggest using farfalle, or bow-tie pasta, for Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shaved Brussel Sprouts.

sausage pasta

Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shaved Brussel Sprouts

Elevate a basic sausage and pepper pasta recipe to a new level with the addition of shaved Brussel sprouts. Fresh basil and good olive oil are key to finishing this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: basil, Italian sausage, pasta
Servings: 2
Calories: 1296kcal

Equipment

  • Cast-iron grill pan

Ingredients

  • 8 oz rotini or farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium bell peppers, ideally one red and one orange, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 8 Brussel sprouts, shaved (about 1 cup)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh Basil, sliced

Instructions

  • Put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. Prep your veggies.
  • Heat a cast-iron grill pan over med-high heat. Once hot, add the sausages. Sear for about 3 minutes until charred on all sides. Reduce heat to med-low and cover pan with either a lid or foil. Cook for about 6 minutes. Poke the sausages with your finger. If they feel mostly firm and bounce back easily, they are cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan and set aside but keep covered with foil so they stay warm.
  • Increase the grill pan heat to medium. Wait 1 minute then add 2 tbsp olive oil. Let it heat for 1 minute, then add onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Don't move the onions and peppers around too often. Let the pan do its job and let the onions caramelize. Add the Brussel sprouts for the last 2 minutes. Season lightly again with salt and pepper. Remove grill pan from heat.
  • Once pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot. Slice your sausages into bite sized pieces and add to the pasta. Add onion/pepper mix. Toss well. Drizzle in 3-4 tbsps good quality finishing olive oil and a handful of freshly sliced basil. Toss again. Dividie between 2 bowls and serve.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 1296kcal | Carbohydrates: 112g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 80g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 47g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 863mg | Potassium: 1283mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 4353IU | Vitamin C: 227mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Accept The Journey

Hello friends! I’ve been eager for the day to come when I’d be writing a post about the great new job that I’ve accepted. Something that is the true manifestation of what my spirit has been chasing. Food writer? Professional travel blogger? International Bird Guide? This is not that post. This post is about the journey to get there. I’m writing this partly to remind myself that the journey is as important as the destination. Probably more important. I’m confident that my door will open when it’s time. But I decided to share my experience because I’m betting that someone else who reads this is also in need of a reminder to accept the journey.

The Resume

When you decide to make a 180-degree turn in your professional path, you have to get creative with building a resume. I started by sitting down and making a list of all the different skills that I had based on my experience. It’s a big list, thank goodness! I did some reading online about how to write a resume for a career change. “The Experts”pretty much universally recommended that you start with a list of transferrable skills you have instead of the actual jobs.

The Mission

The next question was what to write in my mission statement. What is my mission? It seemed somewhat vague to put, “Pretty much open to doing anything different that I’ve done in the past but ideally something that involves food, travel, or birds”. It seemed a bit pretentious to use, “To become the next Food Network star”. And it seemed downright desperate to put, “Anything that will pay the rent bill in California.”

The reality is that I ended up writing several different resumes which took a ton of time. I bet I’ve got 20 different versions and I update at least one almost every day. I have resumes that are focused on my passion for the food industry, the travel industry, and a couple of different versions that I use to apply for jobs that involve writing or product marketing. I have some healthcare resumes that focus on transitioning from the sickness industry to the wellness industry. There is no truer statement than, “it’s a full-time job to find a job”.

Accept the journey. This is part of it. As I edit, I’m reminding myself that I am a talented and experienced professional and that something will pan out.

Not only are there resumes to revamp constantly, but I also believe that every job application should have a customized introduction letter. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I tend to spend a lot of time on these. An article on a job search site the other day told me that not only are cover letters a waste of time because they are not being read, they might actually hurt your chances. The article also suggested that Mission Statements are a sign of being old-fashioned and are a no-no.

The Digital Age

The truth is, we are in the digital age. Incoming job applications are scanned by software to identify pre-set criteria of either keywords, years of experience or who knows what. It’s a bit discouraging, but it’s reality. Accept the journey. I haven’t decided yet whether that means I should be spending even more time perfecting my resume or whether I should just have one generic one and hope for the best.

I did decide to bag the Mission Statement and replace it with more of a summary. Call me old-fashioned, but I haven’t given up on intro letters yet. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Accept the journey but trust what feels right.

It’s All In Who You Know

As a former sales professional, no one understands this concept better. The best way to get a new job is to network into it. I’ve got a pretty robust network of connections on LinkedIn, but apparently, the worlds of healthcare sales have zero intersection with the professional world of food or travel. Probably doesn’t help that I moved across the country from the majority of my network (smile).

If fact, one of the only successes I’ve had in terms of pursuing a job I thought I wanted DID happen because I was able to use my network. It wasn’t as straightforward as getting a colleague to introduce me, but I’m going to tell you the story because it shows that even the smallest point of commonality can matter.

I decided I was interested in a job as a Customer Service Team Leader for a certain electric car manufacturer. It’s not food, but that IS technically related to travel. I went to their page on LinkedIn and started combing through employees to see if I had any 2nd level connections. Found one, but when I reached out to my person they said, “sorry, I accept LinkedIn invites from pretty much anyone and I don’t know that person.”

I resisted the urge to point out that the entire point of LinkedIn is to build an actual network of people you know, not people you don’t know. What good is having a connection that you can’t actually use? But that’s not uncommon so if you are one of those people, I’m not judging.

Persistence and Determination

I didn’t give up. I decided to specifically look at the recruiters for this company and I dug into their profiles looking for any kind of commonality in their backgrounds.

Found one. A recruiter that went to Tulane for his undergraduate degree. It was a long shot, but worth a try. I’m not a Tulane alum, but I worked for the medical center. I sent him a message via LinkedIn introducing myself, used the Tulane connection, and guess what? The next morning I got a reply from him. He helped me to get my application in front of the right hiring manager and I got the interview.

I was looking for an image of a “high-five” in my Google photos and found this. LOL.

The Power of Choice

I applied for about 30 positions of varying scopes during my first month of the job search. So far, I’ve received 2 rejection letters. I never heard anything from the other 28.

While it seems like every industry is struggling to find adequate staff based on what you read in the news and experience day to day, it certainly doesn’t feel that way from a job seeker’s perspective. I can’t help but be a little nervous. I have to pay the bills like anyone else.

But I made a commitment to myself that I was not going to take a job that required so much of my time and energy that there wouldn’t be anything left for the pursuit of joy. I went through 2 interviews for the car company and then pulled myself out of the running because that is exactly what they expected. I know it was the right decision. It was a tough part of accepting the journey. But if it feels wrong, it is.

Trusting Your Gut

I’m keeping busy at Whole Foods. They’ve been great about giving me nearly full-time hours and in turn, they get the best online shopper the world has ever seen. I still love it. I walk an average of 6 miles per shift. If you have extra time on your hands and want to get paid to exercise while also getting a discount at Whole Foods, you should apply.

I’m enjoying 2 hard-earned days off this week. And I’m not touching my resumes. I”m not looking at LinkedIn job postings. I’m spending time on what I love. I’m writing this blog post. Working on my book. And I’m in the kitchen. I actually ordered groceries online from my own Whole Foods store last night and had them delivered just to see how it worked on the customer side. The internet is truly miraculous. And this downtime is also an important part of the journey.

When You Least Expect It

Guess what I got in my email this morning.

A company contacted me about my application to be their freelance food blogger. They said they were impressed by my background, shared the compensation number, and asked if I was still interested.

My interview is Tuesday.

They may hire me, they may not. I’m doing my homework and it feels like a potentially good match. It isn’t a full-time job, but it’s a step in the direction of my dreams.

No matter what happens, I will continue to accept the journey.

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Carne Asada and Grilled Corn Panzanella

It’s a very rare day on Frittata because I’m sharing a recipe that includes beef. Let me be clear – I am not a vegetarian or vegan. I cook and eat a mostly plant-based diet by choice, but I do eat fish and meat. Meat is not frequently found in my fridge or on my stove, and beef is on the bottom of that list even when it is. That should tell you there must be something special about this recipe. The secret to Carne Asada and Corn Panzanella was the pre-made carne asada that I got after a shift at Whole Foods. Otherwise, this recipe would never have happened. But, if you can’t find pre-prepared carne asada, it’s easy to make at home.

What the H— is Panzanella?

Glad you asked! If you are new to Frittata, you may have missed my previous post introducing Panzanella as catch-all term for salads that include big chunks of crusty bread. My Simple Summer Panzanella recipe is an easy 15-minute weeknight dinner featuring store-bought rotisserie chicken, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, and basil.

Simple Summer Panzanella

The actual definition of Panzanella takes into consideration that the crusty bread chunks must also soak up a vinegar-based dressing. Like salads but hate creamy dressings? Panzanella is perfect for you.

Carne Asada – Spanish for Delicious

By now pretty much everyone has heard of carne asada which is Spanish for “grilled meat”. That’s kind of cheapening the concept though.

The meat is usually prepared with flank steak but could be made with skirt steak. It’s marinated in a mixture that includes either orange or lime juice (or both), soy sauce, garlic, and herbs. If you want to try making your own, here’s a link to a marinade recipe by Rick Bayless. The guy is a master when it comes to Mexican cuisine. I feel confident this will be a winner and will get you the perfect carne asada for your Panzanella.

Or, you can see if this is available in your local Whole Foods and your life just got easier. Frontera is Rick’s product line so it should be a great option.

Frontera Carne Asada marinade

As I mentioned above, my Whole Foods makes their own carne asada so all I had to do was buy it and reheat it for the Panzanella salad.

Corn on the Grill

For this recipe, I used 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob. I was planning to heat up the grill pan to get the carne asada hot, so I decided to grill the corn as well.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Get the pan nice and hot, give it a quick spray of cooking oil, and lay your cobs down. Roll them 1/4 turn every minute or so until you have seared spots throughout. Use tongs to remove them from the pan.

The next part requires a little skill but this is the best way to get the corn kernels off the cob and into your dish without them going all over the floor.

Holding the hot corn upright with tongs in one hand, use a sharp knife to slice down from the top of the cob to cut the kernels off. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, if you get too close to the cob it gets much harder so just do your best to cut the kernels only. They slide right off.

Reheat the Meat

At this point, turn off the heat on your grill pan. Then lay your pre-prepared carne asada in the hot pan. You don’t want to lose that gorgeous pink color on the inside or your meat will be dry and tough. The goal is just to get it warm and juicy again. The pan is still hot enough to cook the meat for about 2 minutes per side to accomplish that. Once hot, remove the meat from the pan, cut it into strips, and then into bite-sized pieces.

Finishing Touches

The finishing touches for this Panzanella are crumbled Cotija cheese and pepitas. Cotija is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese that is similar to feta so you can substitute crumbled feta if you can’t find Cotija. Pepitas are a lesser-known snacking nut more commonly known as raw pumpkin seeds. They are not quite the same as the seeds you scooped from your Halloween pumpkin and roasted. They are green in color and nuttier. These days they are very easy to find, they are healthy and they are awesome on pretty much any salad. Here’s my favorite brand:

Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds

Simple Steps

To build your Carne Asada and Grilled Corn Panzanella, you will also need to toast your bread, make the dressing and chop your other veggies. It might seem like a lot of steps, but a little organized prep is all you need and the entire meal comes together in about 15 minutes.

Carne Asada and Grilled Corn Panzanella

A panzanella featuring carne asada and grilled corn in a lime vinaigrette finished with Cotija cheese and sprouted pepitas. If you can find pre-prepared carne asada, this meal comes together in 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 11 minutes
Course: Main Course, Salad
Keyword: corn, panzanella, pepitas
Calories: 2014kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 slices thick sourdough bread, ideally a little stale, cut into big chunks
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 med cucumber, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 handful baby arugula, lightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 5 leaves basil, sliced
  • 2 ears corn on the cob, husked
  • 2 servings carne asada *see notes
  • 1 tbsp Cotija cheese
  • 2 tbsp sprouted pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°. If you plan to use convection, skip this step . Place your bread chunks on a baking sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray but enough to coat and season with salt and pepper. Once the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with the bread in the oven and toast for 7-9 minutes until turning golden but a tiny bit soft in the centers. It's better to overdo this step than to not toast long enough. If using convection, don't preheat the oven. Just turn it on to 325° when you put the baking sheet in.
  • While the oven is preheating, place a cast-iron grill pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Leave it to preheat while you prepare the vinaigrette. In a large serving bowl whisk together the vinegar, juice of 1 lime and 2 tbsp of olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Chop the tomato and cucumber and add to the serving bowl. Chop the arugula and herbs and set aside.
  • Your grill pan is now nice and hot. Spray your corn cobs with cooking spray and place in the hot pan. Turn each cob 1/4 turn every minute or so until you have nice searing around the entire cob. Using tongs in one hand, remove from pan and hold upright in your serving dish. Use a sharp knife in your other hand to cut the kernels off the cob and let them fall into the serving dish.
  • Turn off the heat for the grill pan. Place your pre-prepared carne asada in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side while the pan is still nice and hot. This will reheat the meat just enough to make it juice but without losing that beautiful medium-rare color. Remove from the pan, cut into strips and then into bite-sized chunks. Add to the serving bowl.
  • Remove bread from the oven and add to the serving bowl. Using a large fork and spoon, toss well to ensure everything gets coated with the dressing. Add the arugula and fresh herbs and toss lightly again to combine. Split between 2 serving bowls. Sprinkle each serving with half of the Cotija cheese and half of the pepitas. Serve immediately.

Notes

Carne asada is Spanish for grilled meat. It is usually made with either flank steak or skirt steak that has been marinated in garlic, lime or orange juice, soy sauce, and other herbs. It is commonly available in the pre-pared sections of grocery stores, but if you want to try making your own I’d recommend this recipe from Rick Bayless, an expert in Mexican cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 2cups | Calories: 2014kcal | Carbohydrates: 118g | Protein: 178g | Fat: 98g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g | Monounsaturated Fat: 48g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 444mg | Sodium: 1461mg | Potassium: 3404mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 2473IU | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 294mg | Iron: 21mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Are you a fan of Panzanella recipes but don’t like beef? Here’s a link to my recipe for vegetarian Halloumi Panzanella as an alternative.

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Frittata Test Kitchen – Majestic Sprouted Hummus

Now that Frittata is back in the kitchen AND working at Whole Foods, I’ve decided to start a post series where I showcase the insane variety of interesting food products that I discover during my day job and test out at night. Welcome to Frittata Test Kitchen! First featured product – Majestic Sprouted Hummus.

On average, I’d say that most of the grocery orders I “pick” on a daily basis at Whole Foods are around 50-60 items. That means over the course of an 8-hour shift, I get to search out hundreds of different products. I’m having a blast discovering new things to try.

Whole Foods Del Mar

Three Times Is A Charm

My new rule is this: If I’ve picked it 3 or more times, buy it and try it. Let’s get started!

Majestic Sprouted Hummus

Whole Foods has a wide selection of hummus products. I have traditionally been a fan of a common brand of hummus available in most grocery stores, but there has been more than one time this brand got pulled off the shelves for quality issues.

majestic sprouted hummus
Majestic Hummus – click to visit their site

As I shared previously, Whole Foods does not sell products with certain ingredients or lack of quality standards. That’s the great thing about shopping there, you don’t have to think much about what you’re buying. If it’s on the shelf, it’s high quality.

Whole Foods does not sell my go-to brand, so I’m assuming there is good reason for it. Had to make a switch.

Follow the Leader

Majestic Sprouted Hummus was the first item that fit the “3 times is a charm” rule, so I bought it.

OMG. This is hands-down the best hummus I’ve ever had. There is something about the texture – it’s creamy but not pureed like other popular brands I’ve tried. It feels almost whipped. And the flavor was perfect. Not too garlicky, just enough. (I ended up reading further about this product on their website to see how it’s described and was thrilled to see that it IS whipped and that the secret ingredient is a touch of cumin).

Click the image above to visit their site and see if it’s available near you.

majestic sprouted hummus

Ideas For Using Majestic Sprouted Hummus

Other than the obvious which is to use hummus as a dip for veggies or crackers, my go-to use is on pesto, hummus, and cheese sandwiches. I’ve traditionally used roasted red pepper hummus for this sandwich.

Pesto, Hummus, and cheese Sandwich (this is an old photo using a different brand of roasted red pepper hummus)

I was so in love with Majestic Sprouted Hummus that I made this sandwich for lunch, and then decided to find a way to have it for dinner too. I surveyed what was in the fridge and came up with this Roasted Veggies and Fennel Slaw with Hummus recipe which just became my new addiction. The recipe is at the bottom of this post or you can click the image below to jump to it now.

roasted veggies and hummus
Roasted Veggies with Fennel Slaw and Hummus

It may sound fancy, but this was a super-easy vegetarian weeknight meal. I roasted cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and lemon slices and put those on top of a big dollop of hummus. Topped it with lemony fennel slaw and some hemp seeds for crunch, and a huge handful of fresh herbs for freshness.

Don’t be put off by the addition of roasted lemon slices. I started putting seared lemons on pretty much everything once I discovered the concept. It gives a savory meal such a burst of unexpected flavor. Just make sure you try to cut the lemon as thin as possible.

Herbalicious

Do you have an herb garden at home? Do you love it but find that you never seem to use anywhere near all of the herbs you are growing? This recipe is your answer.

I’ve made this recipe several times now with various combinations of parsley, dill, cilantro, tarragon, and mint. It doesn’t really matter which you choose, just be bold and put a healthy handful on top. Trust me. Plus your herb plants will flourish if you snip from them regularly.

Salmon Loves Hummus

I seared a piece of salmon and put that on the side when I made this again last night, and it was much better than using leftover rotisserie chicken (which I did on a previous trial). Salmon loves hummus.

Hummus – The New Mayonnaise

I was dreaming up other ways to get more Majestic Hummus in my life and decided to try making chicken salad with it. I know there are a lot of people out there who loath mayonnaise so you never get to enjoy the comfort of a chicken or tuna salad sandwich.

In the past, I’ve tried subbing in plain yogurt for mayonnaise in my sandwich salads, but it isn’t quite the same. I usually end up going half-half mayo and yogurt to get a creamy enough result. Until now…

Hummus Chicken Salad

I decided to try using my Majestic Hummus instead of mayonnaise. It worked better than I expected. Read on for the recipe.

Taking Shortcuts

I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time resisting fresh rotisserie chicken when I see it (more like when I smell it) in the store. Problem is, that’s a lot of chicken for one person. My strategy is to bring it home and completely break it down while it’s still warm. I usually eat the legs/thighs right away and then save the breast for making chicken salad.

Here’s the other problem – rotisserie breast is ALWAYS overcooked by the time the dark meat is safe to serve. So the chicken salad requires a lot of mayonnaise to be edible. Today I tried using this:

Whole Foods Organic Grilled Chicken Breast Strips

I worked a shift yesterday and for some reason, this was a popular item (it was probably on sale and I wasn’t paying attention). I bought some after work. It comes in bite-sized pieces, most likely so it can easily be used as a salad topper. I found it to be very moist.

It took about 2 minutes to shred the whole package with a fork which netted me 2 cups of chicken. I mixed up 1/2 cup of Majestic Hummus and 1/2 a single-serving container of plain yogurt (that’s about a 1/4 cup of yogurt -I’m still testing yogurt brands and haven’t landed on a winner yet but stay tuned). Add chicken and mix. Season with salt and pepper and put it in the fridge to set.

Hummus Chicken Salad

I’m not sure the yogurt was even necessary. I found myself wishing the hummus flavor was more pronounced so next time I’m sticking to 100% hummus.

I fell in love with pita bread sandwiches sometime in the 80s when they got popular. It seems like they’ve been replaced with wraps and flatbread, but to me there’s nothing like a pita pocket for a salad sandwich. I threw in sliced cucumber and a huge handful of alfalfa sprouts plus a slice of heirloom tomato.

I used vegan pita bread only because that was the only pita I could find. It was really good and I would definitely buy it again. I bought the “mini” size but they were as big as a typical sandwich pita (bigger than I needed).

Turlock Vegan Pita Bread minis

Secret Sauce

Another idea for ways to use your favorite hummus is as a pasta sauce. When I first came across this idea, I was like, “now why didn’t I think of that!”. I played around with this recipe a few nights in a row and decided the best version was the simplest. Roasted Lemon and Broccolini Hummus Pasta was delicious both hot and cold so make a big portion and save the leftovers for lunch the next day! Full recipe below.

I recommend using your favorite flavored hummus vs. original which might be too bland as a pasta sauce.

hummus pasta

Roasted Lemon and Broccolini Hummus Pasta

After falling in love with Majestic Hummus, I created this pasta recipe using their cilantro jalapeno hummus as the sauce. It's just as delicious cold as it is hot so make a double batch and take it for lunch the next day!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Lunch, Main Course
Keyword: broccolini, hummus, pasta
Servings: 2
Calories: 933kcal

Equipment

  • Food processor, small

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches broccolini, cut into bite-sized pieces, stalk discarded
  • 8 slices lemon, super-thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz rotini pasta
  • 1/2 container flavored hummus such as cilantro jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or plant-based milk
  • 1 tbsp goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp hemp hearts, optional

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°. In a small baking dish, toss the broccolini and lemon slices iwth some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Once oven comes to temp, roast for about 18 minutes until tender but not soggy. Remove from oven.
  • While broccolini and lemons roast,, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and seaon well with salt. Boil pasta to desired doneness based on package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
    roasted lemon and broccolini
  • While water is boiling, combine 1/2 a package of your favorite flavored hummus in a small food processor with 1/4 cup heavy cream or plant-based milk and 1 tbsp of goat cheese. Process briefly to combine. Toss with hot pasta in the serving bowl, then add broccolini, lemon and red pepper. Toss again. Divide between 2 dinner bowls and sprinkle each with 1 tbsp of hemp hearts if using.
    hummus sauce

Notes

I served this with a slice of toasted sourdough.

Nutrition

Serving: 2cups | Calories: 933kcal | Carbohydrates: 112g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 405mg | Potassium: 530mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 4777IU | Vitamin C: 219mg | Calcium: 226mg | Iron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Bonus: Beans Two Ways

Here’s a bonus idea for you – use your hummus as the condiment of choice for a plant-based burger!

This came about because I had been thinking about another popular product – Alexia Yukon Gold french fries. I decided since I was getting off late that a “burger and fries” was what my spirit wanted for dinner.

Alexia organic Yukon Gold potato fries – click to buy or find where they are sold near you

I grabbed a package of fries, a pack of brioche hamburger buns and Majestic’s Cilantro Jalapeno hummus. I had a package of bean-based plant burgers in the freezer at home. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was the perfect combo because I couldn’t wait to get it in my mouth and totally forgot to take a picture.

Majestic Hummus Cilantro Jalapeno

Not a fan of the plant burger? Fine. Why not try hummus instead of ketchup and mustard on your next REAL burger?

Stay tuned for more Frittata Test Kitchen coming soon. Check out the full recipe for Roasted Veggies with Fennel Slaw and Hummus below. You can now share Frittata on Pinterest as well as Facebook and Twitter, share buttons below! Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any posts and remember that comments and requests are always welcome!

Here’s the recipe for Roasted Veggies with Fennel Slaw and Hummus:

roasted veggies and hummus

Roasted Veggies and Fennel Slaw with Hummus

Sounds fancy but it was super easy. Keep it vegetarian or add some shredded rotisserie chicken on the side for extra protein. I can't wait to make this with salmon!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: vegetarian
Keyword: brussel sprouts, cauliflower, fennel, hummus
Servings: 2
Calories: 589kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pkg brussel sprouts, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1 handful fresh herbs, chopped (parsely, dill, thyme, rosemary, cilantro – whatever you have)
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts or other nuts

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Add 1 tbsp of the olive oil to a large mixing bowl. Toss the cauliflower around to coat, season with salt and pepper. Dump the cauliflower onto one side of a large non-stick baking sheet or roasting pan. Add the 2nd tbsp of olive oil to the mixing bowl. Toss the brussel sprouts to coat, season with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes. Toss again and dump onto the other side of the baking sheet/roasting pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and starting to brown. Don't put that oily bowl in the sink yet…
  • Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of half of the large lemon into a small dish. Add the thinly sliced fennel bulb and toss. Season lightly with salt and pepper. If you have the fennel fronds, chop a few pieces of that and add for color. Set aside while veggies are roasting. Cut about 8 super super thin slices from the other half of the lemon being sure to discard seeds, the cut the slices in half so you have about 16 moons. Toss those into the bowl with the oi and stir around to coat. Set aside.
  • When the veggies are just a few minutes from being done, add the lemon slices to the roasting pan.
  • Once veggies are done, it's time to plate. Spread 1/2 cup of hummus on each plate. Add the roasted veggies and lemon slices, top with the marinated fennel slaw including the lemon juice. Top with a large handful of freshly chopped herbs – I've used various combinations of parsley, dill, cilantro, tarragon and mint and all were delicious. Add hemp hearts or nuts if using. Serve! Note: Need more protein? Add a piece of seared salmon or some rotisserie chicken.
    majestic sprouted hummus

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 589kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Sodium: 578mg | Potassium: 1459mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1942IU | Vitamin C: 214mg | Calcium: 199mg | Iron: 10mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Avocado and Arugula Salad with Hemp Hearts

One of my go-to weeknight salads is a simple Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad. Here’s a slight twist on that using two of my other favorite salad ingredients: arugula and hemp hearts. Avocado and Arugula Salad with Hemp Hearts brings a little crunch and a little extra protein to your meal.

Hemp Demystified

Remember when hemp was just for rope or clothes or for smoking (LOL)! When did it get into your food?

Hemp plants are cannabis plants. Cannabis sativa. Same species as the plant that grows marijuana. Cultivation of hemp plants has been around a long time. They are used for both their fiber and their seeds. Hemp hearts are the nutty little treasures found inside hemp seeds.

Click image to learn more about hemp from Britannica

Hemp History

There is actually a fascinating history behind this plant. It goes back to 8000 B.C. You can read about it on Manitoba Harvest’s website. They are a producer of hemp products including packaged organic or conventional hemp hearts.

Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts
Manitoba Harvest organic hemp hearts

Feel free to read about the history, or just enjoy hemp hearts knowing they are from one of the most sustainable plants on the planet and that they are good for you.

Getting to the Heart of Hemp

I find hemp hearts to be very versatile because they are not too crunchy and don’t have a strong flavor like pepitas, walnuts or sunflowers seeds. They add just the right amount of texture.

As always, invest in high-quality extra virgin olive oil for use on any salad. You’ll never miss traditional salad dressings once you make the leap.

avocado salad

Avocado and Arugula Salad with Hemp Hearts

Add a little extra crunch and extra protein to your salad with hemp hearts.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Salad
Keyword: arugula, avocado, goat cheese, hemp hearts, olive oil
Servings: 2
Calories: 498kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 avocado, cut in half and pitted
  • 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp hemp hearts

Instructions

  • Chop your arugula and split between 2 small salad bowls. Scoop out a half avocado and place half in each small bowl. Top each with half of the crumbled goat cheese and half of the hemp hearts. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5avocado | Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 62mg | Potassium: 528mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 684IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 90mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Looking for more simple weeknight salads? Check out Frittata’s Salad Recipe Collection.

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Summer Recipes – Second Batch

Hopefully you found some inspiration in last week’s post, Summer Recipes – First Batch. Here’s round 2 of fast, cool and easy summer meal ideas!

Summer Recipe Nostalgia

I grew up in New England. Summer vacations were spent on the coast of Maine. One of my nostalgic food memories from those summer vacations is the taste of a fresh tuna salad sandwich.

Fresh“, as in not made from canned tuna. Tuna salad sandwiches are a staple on any menu in Maine (at least on the kids menu) and were either served on a fat kaiser roll or sometimes in the beloved New England-style lightly toasted split-top hot dog bun.

Dunkin’ Donuts tuna salad croissant

Dunkin Donuts also had a tuna salad on a croissant that I still dream about. There is just something so satisfying about perfectly cool tuna salad with crunchy celery and some lettuce on a fluffy, buttery croissant in the summer.

Yes, opening a can is easy. But I’m telling you that steaming a piece of sashimi grade fresh tuna is actually just as easy. If you can boil water you can make a real tuna salad. Eat it on your preferred bread product, or on a salad, or on half of an avocado. Click the image to jump to my recipe.

tuna salad
Real Tuna Salad

Summer Eggstravanga

A close second to tuna salad sandwiches in the summer is the egg salad sandwich. People have strong opinions on what should and should not be in egg salad. I say as long as you use farm fresh eggs, do what you want. My version is a little snobby. Check out Dijon & Dill Egg Salad for this cool summer recipe.

Dijon and Dill Egg Salad

Go To BATs

BAT stands for “bacon-avocado-tomato”. A more indulgent version of the BLT. Making bacon for breakfast on Sunday? Make extra. Undercook it just a tad, refrigerate. Nuke it for 30 seconds to reheat and crisp. Bacon and avocado plus vine-ripened garden tomato = heaven.

BAT on marbled rye

No tomato? Oh well. Bacon and Avocado with a touch of mayo is just as satisfying.

Bacon and avocado on pumpernickel

Avocado.

The percentage of days when I DON’T eat avocado in some form is about 5%. In the summer, it’s pretty much everyday, twice a day. When you slice one open and discover you have that absolutely pristinely perfect fruit, celebrate it by putting it front and center in an avocado and goat cheese salad. Get out your best extra virgin olive oil and some farm fresh crumbled goat cheese. I also love to sprinkle some hemp hearts on top for a little extra pizazz.

Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

A Lotta Burrata

In my last post on summer recipes I introduced some of you to halloumi for the first time. If that blew you away, wait til you meet burrata. You’ve likely had fresh mozzarella at some point. It’s good, but sometimes I find it a little soapy especially from pre-packaged store brands.

Burrata is fresh mozz’s sultry, sexy big sister. This Grilled Mango and Avocado Salad with Burrata is my current weeknight dinner obsession. It literally takes 10 minutes, tops, and is impressive enough for guests should they stop by around dinner time.

Grilled Mango and Avocado Salad with Burrata

Bread, Oil & Vinegar

Another go-to weeknight meal in my kitchen is panzanella. For panzanella, you take bite sized cubes of stale bread, toast them and then toss them together with whatever else needs using up from your refrigerator. The dressing is just oil & vinegar, but if you have some fresh basil it elevates the salad to a whole different level of freshness.

I’m a sucker for those gorgeous loaves of artisanal bread in the bakery. But they have no preservatives, so they are usually stale by day 3. Panzanella is a great way to use up that gorgeous bread when it’s past the sandwich stage. Cut up some rotisserie chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. Toss with the toasted bread, oil & vinegar. Fresh torn basil. Done

panzanella
Simple Panzanella

Go Bananas – Indoor ‘Smores

Made this one up last night. I feel like someone must have tried this before, but I honestly can’t remember ever seeing the idea. Banana ‘Smores.

Broil marshmallows for ‘smores
Banana, chocolate bar, graham cracker

I thread my marshmallows on a kebab skewer and slowly rotate them above a very low gas stove flame. That takes some skill or you’ll have a flaming marshmallow bomb in a matter of seconds.

The safer way to do indoor ‘smores is to broil the marshmallows. Put the oven rack on the second level from the top and broil on high for 4 minutes, turn and broil 2 more minutes. I chopped it into pieces and threw over ice cream.

Indoor Banana ‘Smores

Beet The Heat

How ’bout a little something boozy to finish off my summer recipe series! I’m not much of a mixologist so I’m always looking for easy cocktail recipes that don’t require too many steps. Beet Gin ‘n Tonics fit the bill.

Beet Gin ‘n Tonics

I buy pre-roasted beets in the produce section of the grocery and throw them in a large mason jar. Fill jar with Bombay Sapphire Gin, throw in a sprig of fresh dill and allow to steep overnight (24 hours ideally).

Put one shot of gin in a glass with 1/2 cup of ice cold tonic and a good squeeze of lime juice. Rub the lime around the rim of the cup too, it provides a nice fragrance. People who normally don’t like gin will love this version. Great summer cocktail. The gin keeps in the fridge for weeks.

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Summer Recipes – First Batch

Can you believe it’s already the 4th of July? Time sure flies when you’re living your best life! I sat down to write a summer recipe post and realized I already had 2 from last year. So while I work on some new summer recipes for you, here’s what I served up last year.

Summer Recipes – Breakfast

Let’s start with a hearty and healthy summer breakfast. Check out Jenny’s Homemade Vanilla Ginger Coconut Granola. I know you don’t want to turn on your oven but this is worth it and it makes enough granola for a couple weeks worth of bake-free breakfasts. I eat granola like breakfast cereal (with milk) or on top of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of fresh raw honey. Whichever way you eat your granola, throw some fresh summer blueberries on top!

homemade granola
Homemade Vanilla Ginger Coconut Granola

Summer Recipes – Breakfast/Lunch

It’s hurricane season in Louisiana. This is the time of year southerners need to get a little aggressive in clearing out the freezer in case a storm hits and you have days of power outages. During my recent inventory, I found a bag of blueberries I froze last summer and a frozen banana. I have not made my Salted Blueberry Tahini Smoothie in a while. Decided to whip up a batch.

This recipe ROCKS because it does not have to be an exact science. It called for 2 bananas, I only had one. I had 3 dates that had been in the crisper for a while so threw all of those in. Don’t dirty a measuring cup for the tahini, just eyeball it. Grabbed a decent sized chunk of ginger, threw that in (I buy big pieces of fresh ginger, cut them into chunks and keep them in a bag in the freezer and no, I don’t bother peeling them). Just be careful with the kosher salt…a little goes a long way.

The color is absolutely gorgeous, and it makes enough for today’s smoothie plus fills up a large mason jar that you can use for breakfast or lunch the rest of the week.

Jenny’s Salted Blueberry Tahini Smoothie

Feeling Foodie?

Another go-to breakfast or lunch meal for me is a recipe from my Something Borrowed page. I discovered Eat With Clarity’s Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowl about 2 years ago and it changed my life. It’s pesto quinoa, a soft boiled egg, sauteed spicy kale and an avocado. I crumble a little goat cheese on top and drizzle with good olive oil to finish.

Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowl from Eat With Clarity

If you have the pesto and quinoa already in the fridge, then this is a 6.5 minute recipe once you boil water for the soft boiled egg.

I make big batches of quinoa (2 cups) and refrigerate to use throughout the week. Just nuke the quinoa for 1 minute and stir in the pesto. If you are making your quinoa specifically for this recipe, you can boil the egg and saute the kale while the quinoa simmers. Still only takes about 10 minutes.

You can certainly use store bought pesto, but it’s basil season and it takes 5 minutes to make your own. Click here for my Basil Cashew Pesto recipe.

Basil Cashew Pesto
Make your own pesto!

Summer Recipes – Sandwiches

Now that you have your own spectacularly fresh basil and cashew pesto, you can make my favorite simple sandwich. Pesto, hummus and cheese sandwiches are way more satisfying and filling than they look. Everyone has hummus on hand, any flavor will work. Use a thick slice of a nice sharp white cheddar.

Pesto, hummus and cheese sandwich

Summer Recipes – Salads

Sick of the same boring salads? Check out my Salad Recipe Collection for some fresh ideas (click and scroll down). Kale and Avocado Salad with Coconut Granola lets you use your delicious new homemade granola in a different way.

Kale and Avocado Salad with Coconut Granola

My absolute favorite summer salad is Seared Halloumi Salad with Cumin-Lime Chickpeas, Mint and Pistachios. I’m seriously eating this twice a week right now. Gotta turn the grill pan on for 5 minutes to sear the halloumi, but otherwise if you prep your cumin-lime chickpeas in advance, this is a cool salad that comes together in 5 minutes. Never heard of halloumi? OMG. Check out Cheese. It’s What’s For Dinner.

Seared Halloumi Salad with Cumin-Lime Chickpeas, Mint and Pistachios

Summer Recipes – Supper

If you were willing to turn on the stove to sear halloumi for the last recipe, then maybe you’ll be willing to spend about 3 minutes more to sear bacon wrapped tuna? Soy-Ginger Black Eyed Peas with Bacon Wrapped Tuna is another cool marinated bean based salad that makes for a delicious and light supper. Goes great with a rose’!

Soy-Ginger Black Eyed Peas with Bacon Wrapped Tuna

Summer On A Roll

On hot summer weeknights I am often tempted to just Waitr in some sushi. But let’s face it. Some of your favorite rolls just don’t travel well. Anything with tempura shrimp is out, anything with crab salad has mayo – same risk.

Check out my On A Roll sushi series featuring (almost) entirely vegetarian sushi rolls. Again, you gotta boil water for rice. But the rest is just prep. Make a few rolls on the weekend, and you’ll be able to take the leftovers for lunch on Monday.

On A Roll homemade vegetarian sushi

Never tried to make sushi at home? Click the image above to see my post on how easy it is.

If you try any of the recipes above, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you don’t already Follow Frittata, subscribe below so you don’t miss any new recipes, including Episode 2 of Summer Recipes coming next week.

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Becoming Whole

The last few months of freedom have been amazing and I’m grateful for every minute. That said, after being on the road so long I was kind of ready to get back to a more grounded life. I got settled in the condo, unpacked, decorated and checked out all the local farmer’s markets. But this is still the real world and I’ve got to get back to work like everybody else. Honestly, I’m ready and I can’t wait. There are so many possibilities. There is one job I’ve had my eye on for a long time. One that I knew would be the first step in becoming whole again. Today, I started a job at Whole Foods.

First Day at Whole Foods

Not Surprised

Anyone who knows me will probably not be surprised that this is what I chose. I LOVE food, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE grocery shopping. So I applied for a job as an online shopper. I was afraid they wouldn’t take me seriously because my resume doesn’t exactly line me up for this, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Fix Your Face

I went straight to the store after I submitted my application. I walked up to customer service and asked to speak to the person who oversees the in-store shoppers.

The customer service girl played nice and said she’d call him. I stood to the side. She called.

Customer service girl – “He’s at lunch.”

Me – “No problem. I’ve got some shopping to do. I’ll just hang out ’til he gets done.”

Customer service girl – (fix your face). It’s like I was speaking Greek. Apparently prospective applicants don’t come in-person very often.

If You’re Not Nervous, You Don’t Want It

I did a little shopping. And then I went to check out. Stopped by the customer service desk again.

She remembered me. She was non-committal on getting the manager to come out and meet me.

No problem. If I don’t get him today, I’ll be back tomorrow. LOL. She has no idea who she’s dealing with.

And then, he came out.

I had this crazy moment of nerves where I forgot my name and then realized I was also wearing no makeup and had my hair in pigtails (still hanging on to my road trip look).

If you’re not nervous, you don’t really want it.

Acceptance

We talked. He was super nice. Turns out they have plenty of openings. Turns out there are a lot of people that don’t like to do their own grocery shopping.

“Our online shopper team is about 70 people. We have flexible shifts anytime from 4am to 1030pm.”

You’ve got to be (expletive) kidding me.

Grocery shopping is one of my favorite sports. Especially at Whole Foods. There are always new things to check out, surprises in the pre-prepared food bar. The pandemic stole the beauty of cheese samples, but that’s ok. Just make friends with the cheese monger. Those guy have beards and they know their curd.

Cheese at Whole Foods

The idea of not wanting to go pick out your own food is foreign to me.

“So you’re saying you’ll pay me to do something I love?”

They hired me.

Wait, What?

What I did NOT know until I did my onboarding is that employees get 20% off groceries.

What??

I nearly cried. Then I had a minute where I was totally pissed off that I didn’t know that about ten years ago because I’d have gotten a part time job at Whole Foods then. And saved a BOATLOAD of money since.

All Good Things Are From The 80’s

Whole Foods started in Austin, Texas in 1980. Long before Elon decided Austin was cool. There were 4 humans that decided natural foods were ready for the supermarket format.

Click the image to read the story of how Whole Foods got started

Couple of high-school drop outs partnered with another couple to get it started. Click the image above for the story – it’s awesome. They got booted out of their apartment and had to use a dishwasher to shower.

Floodwaters

Less than a year after the store opened, the worst flood in over 70 years hits Austin.

My onboarding videos spent a good amount of time on this event. For those of you who went through Katrina and Ida with me, I think it will resonate. They lost everything and expected to go bankrupt.

But the community came out. The employees came out. The vendors came out. And they all worked for free to pitch in, clean up and get the place back open.

Geauxing to NOLA

I totally would have thought that Whole Foods got going in states like California where people were more willing to pay a premium for organic or natural foods.

Did you know that after Austin, Whole Foods expanded to Dallas and Houston but that the first store outside of Texas was New Orleans? LOL. Who-Dats, who’d have thunk it!

Whole & Proud

I learned a lot on my first day. I had to get a California Food Handler’s Card which indicates that you’ve been through the state’s food safety training. It was a 2 hour online course and it was very informative. I passed the test with 97% (I missed 1 question but only because it was worded weird and I didn’t understand what they were asking).

California Food Handler Card

Whole Standards

Did you know that Whole Foods doesn’t allow food with over 275 different non-essential or low-quality ingredients in their stores?

In other words, if you care about what ingredients go into your food, you don’t have to bother reading labels. Whole Foods just screens those products out. Just shop.

And they support local farm. And local product lines.

Can’t Kelp It

While I was shopping to kill time, I came across this precious young girl that was setting up a product demo in the refrigerated foods section.

Y’all, I love sales. She looked TERRIFIED. I had to help her out. I made eye contact.

“Do you want to try some Maine kelp salad?”

She was PURPLE.

LOL. It’s her lucky day.

What are the chances that any other customer in the store at that moment understands what it’s like to be new at sales, loves Maine AND is willing to eat kelp?

Atlantic Sea Farms Kelp Salad

She had a nice little display showing Maine fisherman harvesting kelp. She gave me a sample and it literally tasted like someone had picked it out of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a flood of nostalgia for me.

Of course I bought some.

It’s interesting. If you love fermented stuff like kimchi or kombucha, you need to give this a try. I’ve got to imagine if they stock in in Del Mar, California that it’s also available in Whole Food’s stores closer to New England. Plop some tuna poke on top. Not sure it’s gonna go global, but it’s worth a try.

In fact, if you try it, I’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the person who sends me the best way to use this product. I totally want this product to succeed, but it needs a little imagination. Tell me in the comments or email me at followfrittata@gmail.com.

The Search Isn’t Over

I absolutely love this job. I can’t wait to go to work.

But sadly, it isn’t going to pay the bills here in California. It will barely pay my car payment actually.

I’m still on the search for something full time. I’m applying for all kinds of crazy things. I love interviewing almost as much as I love grocery shopping, so those stories are coming soon!

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From Sea to Shining Sea

Last November, I sold most of what I owned and packed what was left of my most prized possessions into a POD. I drove away from the past 2 decades that I’d spent in Louisiana and hit the road. I headed east with a plan to eventually settle in my beloved Florida. But the universe had a different plan. I was called to go West. So I set out from Florida and drove across the country, from sea to shining sea.

My destination was Del Mar, California, but I didn’t take the short route. I drove down through the Florida Everglades and up the eastern seaboard to our nation’s capital. Drove west through the Alleghany Mountains to the Great Lakes, then south to Ozarks. North by northwest through the Golden Belt. Further west and then south through the sacred heartlands of Native American tribes.

I arrived safely just 100 yards from the great blue Pacific ocean on June 3, 2022.

Selfie after crossing the border into California.

Driving Emotions

My final drive from Sedona, Arizona to Del Mar, California was about a 7 hour journey and I’m not ashamed to say I shed tears of pride and joy a good part of the way. This was an experience that I will never forget, and as I stated on the travel page of Frittata, “much of who we are depends on where we have been”.

The picture above was a selfie I took when I crossed the border into California.

5024 Miles Driven

About halfway through the drive, I found myself having breakfast with a good friend in Wichita, Kansas. “You need to draw a map when you’re done to see how many miles you’ve gone, ” she said.

Here’s your map Nikky!

Frittata Cross Country Drive 2022

Racing Trains

I have an increased respect for those whose job it is to move stuff around our great land.

There was more than one time on this journey where I found myself racing freight trains as I cruised along long stretches of empty road.

Next time you grab a piece of toilet paper, or order something on Amazon, take a moment to be thankful for both the long-haul truckers and the train engineers who are moving your stuff and making it possible. Someone spends a lot of long and lonely hours on the road. Never take it for granted.

Long Haul drivers

The Fence

My route from Sedona took me down and along our border with Mexico. For miles and miles I just thought about what it would be like to be desperate enough to try to cross on foot. I saw the fence. It seemed so ridiculous when you consider the terrain.

Imperial Desert Sand Dunes

I crossed through the Imperial Valley and the Sonoran Desert. Blinding sand dunes for miles and miles, then endless mountains and valleys of volcanic rock. Virtually impassable by foot. At one point there was a sign on the highway that said, “turn of A/C to prevent engine overheating”. There were water stations every few miles for people to use if they overheated. A bit sobering even after all the long and desolate drives I’d conquered.

Familiar Faces

Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous when I arrived at my new condo. I rented it sight unseen. But when I walked inside, I knew I was home.

Reunited

After 7 months of living with other peoples’ stuff and in other peoples’ spaces, I could not wait to see my own stuff again.

I had the time of my life reuniting with my favorite things. When I packed this POD, I had no intention of letting it sit in storage that long nor did I pack it as if I was moving across the country.

But not one single thing was damaged. Not even a layer of dust. It was like I’d just packed it all yesterday.

Just Enough Stuff

I did NOT find the killer air mattress that I could have sworn I’d packed for this moment when I opened that POD. Thank God for the super thick foam mattress topper that I did keep because that is going to be my bed for a while.

Super excited to get my girls out of storage. These ladies are suited up and thrilled that their new home includes a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Check out this super cool retro microwave! I found in on Amazon and all the reviews said it was a fire hazard. So I didn’t buy it. But I needed a microwave, and when I went to Lowe’s to buy some other stuff, guess what I found?

Only one left. The exact color I wanted. Fingers crossed!

Galanz retro micro – so far, so good

Matchy Matchy

Needed a coffee maker. I’ve become a fan of Keurig over the course of my travels.

It matches the microwave 🙂

People, tell me this – is there ANYTHING better than a perfect cup of coffee, just the way you like it, that you can make yourself in less than 2 minutes without getting out of your pjs???

Electrifying Coincidence?

If there is one thing not to love about California, it would be the gas prices. Not even gonna tell you what $7/gallon costs to fill a Range Rover. Small heart attack.

Elon Musk is killing it here. No joke, I would bet 1 in 3 cars is a Tesla. Not hard to understand why. Even with the steep price tag it pays for itself in gas savings pretty quick.

As it turns out, I put a deposit on this baby about a year ago. Rivian is a new electric car manufacturer.

Rivian R1S

Click the image above to check them out. They partnered with Ford originally but I think that fell through. I read that Amazon is buying 100,000 vans from them over the next few years.

Fingers cross that I get on the 2022 delivery list! It’s supposed to put Range Rover out of business. Fingers crossed that I also find a job that will help me buy it 🙂

Out To Pasture

On the short list of things to do during my first few days was to check out the local farmer’s market. This, too, has been a surprising disappointment.

For all of my friends in Louisiana who are farmer’s, know this – the Covington Farmer’s Market is a gem. I have yet to find it’s equal on my travels. As with most “farmer’s markets”, what I have found so far in California is a lot of soap makers and gluten-free bread bakers but very very few farmers.

Shockingly I have only found ONE vendor that raises bees and sells local honey. I’ve got a friend at Wild Woods Apiary that needs to set up an outpost. There’s money to be made and plants to pollinate.

Definitely no Mauthe’s hand-stirred chocolate milk. No thick cut bacon.

I also was sort of hopeful that, being so close to Mexico, avocados would be like 50 cents. Nope. Just as expensive as there are everywhere else.

The Good News

While there are some sacrifices to West Coast living, there are plenty of highlights.

Retail, people. Food.

Need furniture?

West Elm? Crate & Barrel? Ikea? Joybird? They’re all here folks. Drive up and walk right in.

Need poke? Ok. There’s one on every corner. How about some chana masala and saag? No problem.

Need ramen? It’s right next door.

Fresh veggie juices? Vegan burgers? Ceviche?

There are 5 organic mega-supermarkets in less than 5 minutes from my condo. I’m considering a part-time job as a shopper for Whole Food’s online service. Met with the manager today. They employ 70 people just for that store.

Home Cooking

I’ll be taking advantage of all the food options soon enough. But after this long on the road, my soul is thrilled to be back in my own kitchen.

It’s Ok To Look Back

When I look back at the past 2 and a half years since our world changed in a way no one could have ever expected, I feel mixed emotions. There were hard times, but there was also much to be proud of.

Dream Big.

A move like this requires one to take a pretty big leap of faith. If I can do it, so can you.

COVID-19 was a huge wake-up call in so many of our lives.

Slow down. Smell the roses. Watch the birds. Taste the food. Dream big. Believe.

January 2020, Carefree Arizona with my bestie before we had ever heard of COVID-19

If you’ve felt the pull to make a change, stop waiting. The best way to measure whether you are fulfilling your intended destiny is to check in with how you feel. Your emotions won’t lie. If your job or something else in your life makes you tired, sucks the life out of you more than it energizes you, make a change. Start today.

Hopeful Horizons

For those of you who have been keeping up with my adventures, I sincerely thank you. I genuinely felt your presence and support along this journey. It made the trip all the more worthwhile.

Tomorrow I start looking for work. I am hopeful and excited about what lies just beyond the horizons that I can see today. I have no doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be right now, and that this is not the end of the adventures I’ll be sharing with you.

From Sea: Inlet Beach, Florida
To Shining Sea: Pacific Ocean, Del Mar, California

From Sea To Shining Sea

America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

By Katherine Lee Bates; (1859-1929) Inspired by a trip to Pikes Peak in 1893, Katherine Lee Bates
wrote the poem America the Beautiful. Her poem first appeared in print on July 4, 1895 in The
Congregationalist, a weekly journal. Ms. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913.

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