On the Menu for the Week {Getting Back Into the Routine}

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4

Eggs over medium with sour cream & green tomatillo salsa at Flying Biscuit

Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Jambalaya Mix with bell pepper, onions, and sausage

Buffalo chicken crack dip {corn} quesadillas

Ginger & cumin marinated tomatoes

Cool as a cucumber salad

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Spinach and garlic butter steak pinwheels


Mexican Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes

Remember when I made Mexican chocolate bark back in the day? I got the idea to recreate a Mexican chocolate {basically cayenne + cinnamon} recipe as cheesecake. A quick Google search gave me a few recipe options but I liked this one best.

I eliminated the crust and used a cupcake tin, so I ended up with gluten-free cheesecake bites! But what I’m most proud of is figuring out that you can replace whipping cream with an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt to make the recipe healthier. That means Chobani will be getting even more business from me 🙂


Make 12 cupcake-sized cheesecakes.

  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz ( 1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a cupcake tin.

In saucepan, boil 2 cups of water over medium. Place a heatproof bowl on top and drop in chocolate chips. Melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add in Greek yogurt.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and vanilla with mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Stir in chocolate mixture.

Pour into cupcake tin, leaving room at the top for cheesecake to rise slightly. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and a dash or two of cayenne pepper over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 until the edges are set but the center still jiggles slightly. Turn oven off; open oven door 4 inches. Leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes. After removing cake from oven, run a metal spatula around the edge of pan. Cool on rack for 30 minutes. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

I’m obsessed! They’re incredibly rich, so I usually eat just half of one at a time.

I’m also loving the interesting combination of chocolate and spiciness- I keep seeing it everywhere. The other day, I read that some celebrity spreads sriracha on her chocolate bars! And Locopops sells Mexican chocolate popsicles and Videri Chocolate Factory sells a chocolate bar with pink peppercorns in it.

Any other Mexican chocolate recipes that you love? What other flavor combinations are you a fan of?

We all know I love salted caramel!

Mexican Casserole Variations

When I saw Fannetastic Food’s super easy and adaptable Mexican Chicken Lasagna, I decided to make it as a part of the four course Mexican-inspired meal I was planning to whip up.

I decided to make two different versions of the casserole- one vegetarian and one with chicken. Both had plenty of beans though!

On the big one:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded chicken
  • Chopped red onion
  • Black olives
  • Yellow and green sauteed peppers
  • Salsa
  • Canned green chiles (on half)
  • Chopped jalapenos (on other half)
  • Cheddar cheese

On the smaller one:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped red onion
  • Refried beans
  • Black olives
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Salsa
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Corn (cut off the cob)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Enchilada sauce

I lined both pans with corn tortillas (6 in total)

Next up: refried beans for the smaller one; kidney and black beans for the bigger one

Corn and zucchini for the small one; sauteed yellow and green peppers for the large one

Ready for the oven!

Cover the casseroles with tin foil and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes {until the cheese is melted}. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better!

A sample of both versions served with spiced tomato & chickpea soup and watermelon & feta salad


If I had my choice, I would have used flour tortillas, but the corn tortillas ended up tasting great anyway- and they’re gluten-free.

Pepper jack cheese would be good in addition to or in place of cheddar cheese.

I made the big one with sour cream and the smaller one with plain Greek yogurt- in the future, I would just use Greek yogurt because it’s healthier and you can’t taste a difference!

The chopped jalapenos were a bit intense {even for me!} so I would stick to sauteed jalapenos or the canned green chiles next time.

kim chi cabbage soup

After my trip to the farmers’ market, I found myself with a head of cabbage to use up. I made homemade kim chi with half of it and decided to make an easy kim chi soup with the other half!

In a soup pot, saute chopped onion, garlic, and shaved ginger in olive oil over medium. Add dried red chili peppers and cayenne to taste. Add a cup or two of vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add chopped cabbage and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until cabbage is soft {about 15 minutes}. Garnish with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil. 

Granted, this is a bastardized version of any authentic soup but it’s healthy, easy, and pretty filling! You could add chopped green onions, fish sauce, sriracha, and even meat if desired.

P.S. My friend Shelly is Korean so I’m going to make her teach me how to make authentic kim chi!

a fun-packed week & weekend

This is a pre-scheduled post. I am writing it while sipping coffee in my comfy bed. By the time you see it, I will be out and about- buying new jeans, grocery shopping, watching football 🙂

  • Met a new friend for coffee at Starbucks {still on a quest to become the Foursquare Mayor while limiting the amount I spend on coffee. Tough choices}. We pondered what you call “extracurriculars” after you graduate…
  • Went to The Pit for the first time with Sara. I enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away. Definitely fun in terms of atmosphere though! After dinner I got to see Sara’s sick loft apartment.
  • Took a long walk with Maddie and a friend. I always feel productive combining socializing with exercise…even better when I’m getting my dog exercise too!
  • Made Mussel, Clam, & Shrimp Soup in Spicy Broth
  • Enjoyed a fun lunch at Gravy with all of the members of The Raleigh Forum. We’re a very male-dominated group, so I’m on a mission to bring in some estrogen 🙂
  • Hosted an open coworking day at The Forum- we saw tons of new faces! Things went smoothly except for the fire alarm going off mid-day. Whoops!
  • Got back into the gym with a long yoga class. My back has been hurting so I was itching for  a deep stretch. Yoga was just the cure I needed!
  • Set date for a LivingSocial employee get together
  • Chose the winner of the Night in Raleighwood giveaway
  • Birthday dinner for my sister’s roommate, Sarah, at Humble Pie. I ordered the butternut squash conchiglioni- amazing! It was like manicotti, stuffed with ricotta in a sauce with charred tomatoes, capers, and pesto. I told everyone at the table a really gross story and Sarah thanked me after for helping to bring everyone together. Haha!
  • Went to the Rembrandt Exhibit at the NC Museum of Art. Admittedly, I’m not much of an art appreciator. Maybe I should have taken a class in college….but I did really enjoy the exhibits (particularly the photography section) in the other wing. I’m about enjoying art, not taking it too seriously
  • Doing some serious training and exercise with Miss Maddie
  • Game night (charades!) with a few friends. Such a fun way to spend a freezing, rainy Saturday night

another gluten-free week

This week was a delectable assortment of gluten-free meals. Yet another week of taking a proactive approach to my health!

Proving that gluten-free eating can be full of flavor 🙂

I think one of my biggest challenges eating limited gluten will be modifying ethnic foods, because gluten is often such an intrinsic part of the recipes. For example, we are taking a coworking field trip to Mantra, Raleigh’s new Indian restaurant, on Tuesday. How am I supposed to have Indian food without naan?! Something to ponder…

the butternut squash is back

photo credit: thatisyummy.wordpress.com

Or, as they would say on Friends, squatter nut bash.

The delicious recipes I’ve tried:

And the ones I can’t wait to try:

And especially:

recipe: spinach fontina chicken sausage with sun-dried tomato rice


photo credit: katheats.com

As part of my limited gluten challenge, I whipped up a simple, balanced dinner that made use of my leftover brown rice from a Chinese restaurant.

  • Drizzle olive oil in a skillet over medium
  • Toss in pearl onions {I bought a bag of Trader Joe’s peeled and frozen ones}
  • Throw in chopped chicken sausages {I used Trader Joe’s Spinach, Fontina, & Garlic Chicken Sausages}
  • Add in chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Saute until chicken sausage is cooked through and onions are slightly caramelized
  • Combine with prepared brown rice and a tablespoon of Alouette Garlic & Herb Spreadable Cheese. Enjoy!

cristina discovers sunflower chokes

I mentioned the other day that I picked up something called sunflower chokes at Harris Teeter. What on earth, you may ask? Speaking of earth, these are also called earth apples, Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes, sunroot, and topinambour (imagine ordering a topinambour in a restaurant!). And, yes, they are part of the sunflower family (I know I was wondering that).

The taste been described as a cross between a potato and an artichoke, which I think is definitely accurate. Sarah of Cucina  Bella says she and her husband agreed that the taste “bears a stunning likeness to Terra chips.” I’ve never had Terra chips but I can wager a bet that roasted sunchokes are a healthier alternative!

Sarah also inspired me with her super-simple roasted sunflower choke recipe.

1 lb sunchokes
A drizzle of olive oil
A dash of sea salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the sunchokes under cold water, scrubbing lightly to remove any dirt. Cut into quarters and place onto the baking sheet. Drizzle the sunchokes with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. Cook for 35-45 minutes, flipping once or twice.

So delicious, especially when dipped in ketchup. I would absolutely eat these again!