Mixed greens, strawberry & goat cheese salad

This is hands down one of the best salads I’ve tasted. Sweet and refreshing, just in time for Spring!




  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh mixed greens, washed and torn into pieces
  • 1 can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, cold



  1. For the dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Make sure not to let the dressing boil.
  2. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, whisk in the oil, onion, poppy seeds, dry mustard and paprika until thoroughly combined. Set dressing aside.
  3. In a salad bowl, combine the mixed greens, hearts of palm, strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese. When ready to serve, add some of the dressing, and toss gently. Serve the remaining dressing alongside the salad so diners may add more, if desired.


Source: inspriration from Paula Deen (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/spinach-strawberry-and-hearts-of-palm-salad-recipe/index.html)

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Spice Roasted Sweet Potatoes

When I saw this recipe I thought could something so good be so easy??  The answer to that was an astounding YES!  I would have never thought to use faijita seasoning on sweet potatoes but trust me it works.  No it doesn’t taste like tacos, lol…but combined with the olive oil it does give the sweet potatoes a spicy crust that is delicious.  This would serve as the perfect side to a pork loin, roasted chicken or anything really.  I actually ate the whole bowl right after I took this picture!  This is a quick and easy dish to make especially if you’re cooking for a large dinner party.  Enjoy!


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil to coat
  • 2 tablespoons of faijita seasoning mix
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Peel the potatoes and dice them into half-inch cubes.
    3. Pour enough olive oil over the potatoes so that each cube is coated.
    4. Sprinkle seasoning over the potatoes and toss to coat each cube.
    5. Bake in a single layer until potatoes are fork-tender with a light caramelized crust on the outside, about 35-40 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    6. Serve immediately.


Source: Adapted from The Bitten Word (http://thebittenword.typepad.com/thebittenword/2009/01/fajita-sweet-potatoes.html)

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Mixed Fruit with Honey

I can’t believe how hot it’s been here in Chicago!  Right now as I type it’s 93 degrees and rising…something is not right with the world.  But I plan to make the best of the heat and am going to go swimming (I’ve been watching a lot of Olympic swim races and it has awakened my desire to do a cannon ball).  In addition to training for the next Olympics I’m making this yummy fruit salad.  Sometimes all you want is something light, sweet and fresh and this definitely delivers.  It’s easy and doesn’t require you to heat up your kitchen by turning on your oven.

A great tip I learned for peeling kiwi is to cut it in half, using a spoon scoop the kiwi out by sliding the spoon in a circular motion along the edges.  You can make a big bowl of this and serve it at a party, use it as yogurt topping or just eat it throughout the week.



12 strawberries

2 bananas

1 cup blackberries

3 kiwi

1 tbsp honey


Rinse fruit and slice into bite size pieces in medium bowl.  Add honey and toss to coat evenly.  Serve and enjoy!


*An NCJ Original*

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Grilled BBQ Turkey Burger

I’m the type of girl that will go to a burger restaurant and order a turkey burger just because I love them so much!  Don’t get me wrong, I eat meat but there’s something about a nice juicy turkey burger that just doesn’t compare.  Unfortunately most places will serve you a dry flat patty that they probably ordered in bulk and this can be so disappointing.  So I decided to make my own recipe that gives you a thick juicy burger that just happens to be turkey.

I like putting barbecue sauce in meat because it adds moisture while at the same time giving a smoky flavor.  Just choose your favorite sauce and make sure to save some to serve on the side.  Another key to keeping the meat moist is the addition of the onion and bell peppers.  I used to add them to the meat raw but by sautéing them first it takes away some of that raw texture while adding even more flavor.


Yield: Makes about 6 patties


1 pound ground turkey

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp barbecue sauce

1 1/2 tbsp bread crumbs

Salt & Pepper to taste

6 slices pepper jack cheese

lettuce & sliced  tomatoes (optional



In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Form into burger patties about 3/4 inch thick and place on pre heated grill.  Burgers can also be sautéed in a pan over medium heat.  Cook to desired temperature and melt cheese on burger for about 1 minute.  Garnish with lettuce and tomatoes.

*An NCJ Original*


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Grilled Jerk Shrimp Orzo Salad

Eating healthy has always been a battle for me, especially when trying to lose weight.  Now that the weather is getting warmer I’m extremely motivated to eat a more balanced diet but it’s always easier when you find something you like.  For example, I love love love hummus and carrots as a snack, almonds are a new favorite and strawberries and pears satisfy my sweet tooth.  Now I get to add this meal to the “health foods I love” list.  It’s definitely got a kick but the coolness of the vegetables and dressing help give it balance.  This would definitely impress your guests and would be perfect to serve at a cook out.


Yield: 2 servings


For the salad: 

  • 1 large ear sweet corn in husk
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 6 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons Caribbean jerk seasoning
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch strips

For dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (juice of 1/2 lime)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper



Carefully peel back corn husk to within 1 in. of bottom; remove silk.  Brush corn with oil, rewrap corn in husk and secure with kitchen string.  Grill corn, covered, over medium heat for 30-35 minutes or until tender, turning often.  Meanwhile, rub shrimp with jerk seasoning and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

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Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside .  Grill asparagus, red peppers and shrimp, covered, over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender and shrimp turn pink, turning once.

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Cut corn from cob, cut asparagus into 1-in. pieces and chop red peppers and add all veggies to bowl.  Add the shrimp, orzo and pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients.  Pour over salad; toss to coat. 


Source: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Grilled-Jerk-Shrimp-Orzo-Salad?refurl=&_mid=2271465&_rid=2271465.1311011178.206380


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Steamed Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage and Fennel

At culinary school there is a huge kitchen that we all work in and last semester there were three classes…Culinary I, Culinary III and Baking & Pastry I.  Our first few weeks of class were nerve racking for myself and my fellow CI students.  The kitchen was so large and intimidating with its industrial sized stove, ovens and utensils everywhere.  I had never been in a walk in before and I couldn’t have told you where anything was!  Basically I was a little lost but tried to keep my cool and not show any signs of weakness.  The kitchen is not for wimps people!  Looking at the C3 students, who had obviously been there a while and felt at ease even on the first week, was a little intimidating.  Some already had that “chef’s ego” and couldn’t bother to help the little people, but there were a few who showed me the ropes and eventually shared some of their delicious recipes with me.

Because we were in separate classes we were always preparing different recipes, so on this particular day while I was learning knife skills C3 was learning how to cook shellfish.  I wasn’t really that interested at first because they were making clams and besides clam chowder I really hadn’t had them too often.  As I was chopping away at my pound of carrots this sweet spicy smell hit me and I turned to see what they were cooking.  Whatever it was I was determined to taste it.  So after they presented their dish to the head chef I asked to try it and when I did it was one of those moments where you close your eyes and ask where have you been all my life!  I’ve tasted some good food but this went way beyond that so this is my attempt at recreating that experience.  The best part is using a crostini to soak up the juices at the end.


Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2×1/3-inch strips
  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds, bulb cored, sliced; fronds chopped (for garnish)
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, sausages coarsely crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in mortar with pestle (or chopped finely)
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 4 dozens Manila clams (about 2 1/3 pounds), scrubbed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano


Heat oil in large deep skillet over high heat. Add bell pepper, sliced fennel, Italian sausage, and fennel seeds, and sauté until sausage is brown and vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add clam juice, and bring to boil. Add clams and oregano; reduce heat to medium-high, cover, and cook just until clams open, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with pepper. Divide among 4 bowls, discarding any unopened clams. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds and serve with toasted bread.



Source: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Steamed-Clams-with-Spicy-Italian-Sausage-and-Fennel-240132#ixzz1wvtjrE1j


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Chicken Saute

I am currently in the process of creating my portfolio for culinary school and came upon this recipe in my textbook.  To be honest it sounded like something I’ve tasted a thousand times at most Italian restaurants but I decided to forge ahead so I could have something to add.  However, after I tasted the first bite I almost did a double take!  This is like nothing I’ve ever tasted and I like to think I have a pretty eclectic palate, lol.  It is deliciously savory and the basil is key to this recipe.  This would go well with rice or potatoes.  Enjoy!



  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • Natures seasoning to taste
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (reserve the juice)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Split the chicken breasts in half if the thickest part is more than an inch thick.
  2. Season the chicken with Nature’s Seasoning, dredge in flour.
  3. Saute the breasts in 2 tablespoons of butter, browning them and cooking till almost done.  Place chicken in to hold in the oven.  Make sure not to over cook the chicken, it will finish in the oven.
  4. Add the onions, garlic and 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pan the chicken was cooked in. Saute until the onions are translucent.  Add the diced tomato and caramelize, about 5 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and lemon juice.
  6. Add the chicken stock and the reserved tomato juice.  Saute to combine the flavors, reduce the sauce about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the basil to the sauce and return the chicken breasts to the pan for reheating.  Add salt & pepper to taste.


*Nutritional values per 5oz serving: Calories 230, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 3.5g, Cholesterol 90mg, Sodium 560mg, Carbohydrates 9g, Protein 30g.


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