Lime Marinated Grilled Shrimp Salad

Now that winter is over and it’s officially spring (for the most part) it’s time to get “beach body ready”!  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight it’s always a good idea to eat a healthy balanced diet and this recipe is perfect.  When I made this dish I wanted something quick and easy to make with as few ingredients as possible and this is what I came up with 🙂



1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
mixed greens
vinaigrette dressing


In a medium bowl combine shrimp, olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, cumin, oregano, garlic power, salt and pepper.  Toss shrimp so that each piece is evenly covered in marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat grill or grill pan over medium high heat.  Place shrimp on grill and cook about 4 minutes on each side.  Allow shrimp to cool slightly and serve on top of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette dressing.


*An NCJ Original*


Print this Recipe

Roasted Turkey Sandwich with Onion Jam and Brie

By show of hands, who here loves onions?  Ok I won’t be able to see you but you know who you are!  I have a love/love relationship with onions that goes way back.  In my humble opion they are the best condiment and can be eaten with almost anything.  Since we’re sharing, here’s a quick run down of few of my favorite onion dishes: onion rings, french onion soup, caramelized onions, raw onions, white onions, yellow onions, red onions…you get the picture!

I know that the title of this post begins with “turkey sandwich” but the real star of this post is the onion jam.  So when my fellow classmate from culinary school made some I thought, “Why haven’t I thought of this before?!”.  We tasted it with toasted baguets and if it tasted that good on plain bread I knew it would be awesome on a sandwich, burger…just about anything!

After a few days of eating the traditional Thanksgiving turkey I came up with this yummy sandwich that I hope you all enjoy!



For onion jam:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup dry red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

For sandwich

Toasted baguette

Brie cheese

1 tbsp mayo

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Sliced or deli turkey meat


1. In a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil, Vidalia  onion and red onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and  translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the marjoram, rosemary, thyme, salt and black pepper and cook for  2 minutes. Add the honey, red wine, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar and  stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the  mixture is thickened and the liquid is almost evaporated, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Transfer the onion jam to a bowl and cool completely. Serve at room  temperature, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5  days.

 4. Cut baguette lengthwise and lightly toast cut side up.   Layer sandwich in this order: bread, Dijon mustard, onion jam, turkey meat, brie cheese, lettuce (if desired), mayo and bread.

Turkey sandwich an NCJ Original

Onion Jam Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

Print this Recipe

Baked Mac n Cheese

Every family has their holiday traditions and my family is no different.  My mom makes the dressing, turkey and cakes while my Dad makes the greens, sweet potatoes, mac n cheese and sweet potato pie.  The peach cobbler has become my specialty but this year I decided to help my parents make Thanksgiving dinner with the hopes that when I have my own family someday I won’t burn the house down!


I know the turkey is the star of Thanksgiving but in my family baked mac n cheese is just as important.  My Dad tried many recipes and methods before making the perfect version and even though this is not his recipe it’s pretty darn good.  Don’t tell them I said this, but my sisters are mac n cheese snobs and they ate the whole pan, lol.  So I would call that a major success.

This year I’ll be peeking over my Dad’s shoulder to see what he puts in his mac n cheese so hopefully I’ll be making an update to this post in the near future 😉  In the meantime enjoy!

♥ Nina



2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add onion and saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk, salt, mustard and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture boils and thickens.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.  Do not over cook or macaroni will be mushy.

Add the cheddar and American cheeses; stir until cheese melts. Combine macaroni, 1 cup of mild cheddar and cheese sauce in a 2 quart baking dish; mix well.  Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with remaining cheddar and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.   If you like a brown crust on your macaroni, broil on low heat for 3-5 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.


*An NCJ Original*


Print this Recipe

Grilled Cheese with Sautéed Onions and Bacon

I’ve heard from several people that Americans really love our cheese.  If you think about it we put cheese on almost everything from tacos, pasta, pizza, broccoli…I could go on but you get it, right? My mom even puts cheese on her pound cake but that’s a whole other story!  So I could resist posting one of my favorite but simple recipes, perfect when you’re hungry but don’t want to make a lot of fuss.


I love grilled cheese and think it can be made into almost any type of sandwich.  I’ve even talked myself into thinking it’s healthy.  Hey if I use whole wheat bread, low fat cheese and margarine then I feel justified.  Don’t judge me, lol.  I even ordered it when I went on a date recently…a girl’s gotta eat!

What’s your version of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich?  Please share in the comments below 🙂


4 slices thick cut bacon

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

6 slices Colby Cheese

4 slices bread

2 tbsp butter, room temperature


Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and cook bacon until crisp but not burnt.  Place bacon on paper towels to drain and set aside.  Pour out the bacon fat from the saucepan but leave a bout a tablespoon.  Add onions to bacon fat and cook over low heat until onions are translucent with a brown color, set aside.

Butter each slice of bread on one side.  Build the sandwich by using one slice of bread, cheese, onions, bacon, cheese and bread on top.  Cook sandwiches until each side is crisp with a golden brown color.

*An NCJ Original*

Print this Recipe

Spinach, Mushroom & Shrimp Quesadilla



1/2 pound of shrimp peeled & deveined

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (10 ounce) package chopped spinach

2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese

5 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Rinse shrimp in cool water and place in bowl, season with salt & peper. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white.  Add shrimp and cook till pink (about 4 minutes on each side).
  3. Warm 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Drain and pat dry.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on one side of each tortilla. Place tortillas cheese side up on baking sheets, and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  5. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 8 minutes. Mix in spinach and shrimp and continue cooking 2 minutes. Place an equal amount of the mixture on the cheese side of each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half over the filling.
  6. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place quesadillas in the skillet one at a time, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges to serve.

*An NCJ Original*

Print this Recipe

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*

Print this Recipe

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

2 cups ice

1/2 ripe mango

1 banana, peeled

1 cup cranberry juice, chilled

6 strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 packet of artificial sweetener


In the container of a blender, combine the ice, fruit, juice and sweetener; process until smooth. Garnish each serving with a fresh strawberry.

*An NCJ Original*


Print this Recipe

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*


Print this Recipe

Roasted Asparagus

After my weekend of poor eating my body has been craving something healthy!  So I made my favorite veggie, asparagus.  Of all the fancy ways to make asparagus edible I like the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method.  I hate mushy vegetables which you can get by over boiling them.  However, I have a simple way to make them without over or under cooking them.

Even my dog Tabu liked it!  I’ll take that as a seal of approval.



1 bushel of asparagus

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

Sea Salt to taste

Crushed black pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Rinse asparagus under cool water and dry with a paper towel.  Cut off the ends of asparagus, about an inch.  Place asparagus on the cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with garlic powder, salt & pepper.

Roll asparagus in oil and seasonings to ensure even coverage.  Roast uncovered for 13-18 minutes depending on how tender you prefer them to be.  Flip asparagus about halfway through cooking time.  Serve immediately while still warm.



*An NCJ Original*


Print this Recipe

White Pizza with portabella mushrooms, red pepper, goat cheese & garlic

One of the best things I love about living in Chicago is the summertime.  People always ask me how do I live with the cold and snow in the winter but any Chicagoan will tell you the summer makes it all worth while!  Last weekend I went to the Division Street festival which was basically an excuse to hang out in the sun and have a few drinks without fearing the open container law.  I had a great time looking at the art and enjoying the music but an unexpected surprise was a pizza that I had at one of the local eateries.  Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the place but I loved the pizza so much that I had to go home and make my own version, plus/minus a few things.  I may have to go on a stroll up Division so I can find this place again…who’s coming with me?!



  • 10 inch pizza dough (frozen or premade)
  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 2-4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 portabella mushroom, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped



Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Unthaw dough according to package directions or if using premade crust like I did, remove dough from packaging.  Layer 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over dough leaving about ½ inch around the outside to form the crust.  Layer pizza with red peppers, mushrooms, garlic and goat cheese.  Cover with the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella cheese.  Place in oven directly on cooking racks and cook for 20 – 30 mins or until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned and crust is crisp.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.


*An NCJ Original*


Print this Recipe