Category: Healthy Eating

Leftovers Frittata

It’s almost the end of our 31 Days in the Kitchen, and I’m having a hard time narrowing down post topics: there is so much more I wanted to squeeze into this month!  I still haven’t touched on cocktails, I’ve barely grazed my favorite desserts with a (completely unplanned) emergency pie, and I wanted to talk about pantry basics and keeping a well stocked kitchen and make you a Holiday 2014 Gift List for the foodies in your life.  We may be running out of out of days in October, but I don’t think we’ve reached the end of talking about cooking and eating here at Pink-Briefcase.

Today, let’s talk about my favorite way to rejuvenate leftovers: the frittata.

A frittata is like a quiche without a crust.  You cook it in a skillet instead of a pie plate, and you begin cooking on the stove top and transfer into the oven to finish.  The edges and the entire bottom of the frittata get brown and crispy.  (I think that real Italians flip their frittatas so that both the top and the bottom get brown and crispy, but I do not have those skills and I am comfortable with that.)

My favorite frittatas are made from leftover roasted veggies.  So, if you want a slammin’ frittata for Sunday brunch, roast some veggies for dinner one night this week and save back some extras.

Roasted Vegetables

Chop red onion, red bell pepper, sweet potato, carrots, and any other veggies you particularly like into chunks.

Place veggies in a bowl, drizzle with oil, and salt, pepper, maybe some red pepper flakes, and roast at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender.

If you don’t have leftover roasted vegetables, how about leftover asparagus?  broccoli?  potatoes?  steak and peppers?  (yum) Just see what is in your fridge and get creative.

Leftovers Frittata


In this frittata I added chopped baby spinach in with my goat cheese. It’s good to hide vegetables whenever you can.

Here’s what you need:

5-6 eggs

Splash of milk

Goat cheese (or cheese of choice — but goat cheese is the best cheese)

Leftovers (or other fillings of choice)

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 425 and grab a nonstick skillet that can go into the oven (most can).

Chop your veggies into smaller bits.

Heat a little oil in your skillet and warm it over medium heat.

Throw in your leftover veggies to warm, approximately 1-2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, break your eggs, pour in your milk, and stir together.  You can use a whisk if you want to but I use a fork.

Shake in the same amount of salt and pepper you would use for 6 scrambled eggs.  I shake twice per egg and count in my head — so 10-12 shakes for a 6-egg frittata.  (Is this a completely obsessive thing to share, or is this accurate blogging?  You can decide.)

Pour the eggs over the veggies and let it cook for a few minutes on the stove top.  After 2-3 minutes, you’ll begin to see the edges forming a shape.  At this point, sprinkle on your goat cheese.

Pop your frittata skillet into the oven and bake until firm and golden, about 12 minutes.  I usually set the timer for 12 minutes and sometimes let it go up to 15.  If your skillet is larger, your frittata will cook faster so be aware and watch your time the first time.

Want to make a frittata but not out of leftovers?  Here’s a few other frittata recipes you can try:

Are you a frittata lover?  Any favorite flavor combinations?

This post is number 30 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.


Minor Kitchen Woes: Living with and Loving Those on Restricted Diets

Not to be dramatic, but life in this kitchen has been a little rough the last few days. I am fine and everything is fine but I’ve had to eat a restricted diet since a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday afternoon while I’m having some routine tests done. And with my love of cooking and my plans for blogging from my kitchen every day this month, eating a banana and an egg for breakfast (I’m not actually sure that egg is allowed) and eating plain rice, baked chicken, and steamed veggies for lunch and dinner for three days straight is starting to break my foodie heart.

Meal of Champions.  Sometimes I even change out the broccoli for green beans.

Meal of Champions. Sometimes I even change out the broccoli for green beans.

I’ve always known that it was hard for gluten-free or dairy-free or nut-free families to adjust, but this week I have developed mad respect for the people in my life who have to abstain from fun things like cupcakes and cookies and ice cream and – oh my – cheese. And while my restricted diet should only be a temporary thing, it’s actually really hard to be out running errands and not be able to purchase a snack. And I’m, like, 28 and ¾ years old, not 7. I can’t imagine being a mom constantly telling a 7-year-old why everyone gets a snickers bar EXCEPT FOR YOU.

Our weekends usually include trying a fun new restaurant or grabbing tacos at a new-to-us taco place (we really love tacos), so this first weekend where new or exotic food can’t be one of our activities is a pretty big shock. We went to the movies last night, but ate our own meals individually first.

I think it must get easier with time. (Any restricted dieters out there who can confirm?) I’m trying to think ahead to handle my restricted diet while I’m on work travel next week, which will be challenging but is really just a minor inconvenience in the scope of real problems.

I still have lots of fun kitchen –themed content coming your way, so do not despair! This is just a tiny, hopefully temporary change-up.


If you or someone you love lives life with a restricted diet, would you post any good resources or tips for coping that keep life fun? I’m suddenly remembering a lot of tips I’ve read on gluten-free or vegan-friendly food blogs and even some lifestyle-blogs, which I’ll add on below as I find them. I’m sure there are a lot of us who would appreciate them.

  • Jamie Oliver has a “Special Diets” recipe library with a library of recipes for Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Vegetarian dishes.
  • Tips for Gluten-Free Birthday Parties from Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery.
  • I also enjoyed this essay from a Kitchn Contributor about her transition into a restricted diet.
  • Oh, and PINTEREST is a huge resource here.  I found this blog and tons of awesome resources there.  (Frankly I’m not sure why I didn’t just start on Pinterest…)


This post is number 25 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.

Sweet potatoes: the best kind of comfort carb


Sweet potatoes are better for you than white potatoes but still taste delicious. We eat them two or three times a week.  Here are my three favorite ways to cook them:

  1. Baked sweet potatoes.

Preheat your oven to 450. Scrub and dry your sweet potatoes. Using a fork, poke holes all around your sweet potatoes. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place your hole-y sweet potatoes on the foil. Place the sheet pan in the oven for 30 minutes, then flip the potatoes over and cook for 30 more minutes. Let cool.

  1. Roasted sweet potatoes.

Preheat your oven to 375. Scrub and dry your sweet potatoes. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Chop your sweet potatoes into bite-sized sections and throw into a bowl. Drizzle with oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and chili powder. Stir them up until they are evenly coated. (If you’ve used enough spices they will be lightly speckled but mostly orange.) Pour onto the sheet pan, and bake for 12 minutes. Give them a stir and bake for 12 more minutes. At this point, start fork-testing the potatoes. When they are fork tender and delicious, they are done. Let cool.

  1. Mashed sweet potatoes.

Preheat your oven to 375. Scrub and dry your sweet potatoes. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Chop your sweet potatoes into bite-sized sections and throw into a bowl. Drizzle with oil, salt, pepper. Stir them up until they are evenly coated. Pour onto the sheet pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes stirring every now and then. When the potatoes are very fork tender, pull them out of the oven and throw them into your mixer’s mixing bowl. Flip on the mixer and mash them up with milk, butter, brown sugar, chili powder, and cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

What is your favorite way to cook sweet potatoes?  Do you eat them all the time like we do? 

This post is number 16 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.

Spinach with Cherries and Walnuts

I love sautéed spinach and I like it way more than my husband does, so I always make it when I am having dinner at home alone.

The thing about spinach is that it is super healthy for you and also that raw spinach salads can get old REALLY fast. I personally hate cold meals. I know other people are really into eating salad all the time but I am not. I like my food to be warm, and cooked spinach has a fantastic flavor.

If you don’t know, let me tell you that spinach cooks down really fast – you’ll use almost an entire bag of salad-ready baby spinach for two servings of sautéed spinach. If you’re planning to make this for a crowd be sure to stock up.

Sautéed Spinach with Cherries Walnuts

sauteed spinach close-up

Here’s what you need:

A bag of baby spinach.

Dried cherries.


Olive oil, salt and pepper.

A skillet and a lid.

Here’s what you do:

Grab your skillet and put in a little oil to cover the bottom. Turn the stove to medium heat and let the oil heat up for a minute.

Put your walnuts in the bottom first because you want them to get a little toasty without taking the time to actually toast nuts. Because who has time for that. [Side note: if you’d like to be really classy you can toast your nuts separately.]

After two minutes put two huge fistfuls of spinach into the skillet per person. Give them a quick stir in the oil with tongs, and let the spinach start to wilt down. Add a little salt and pepper. I put the lid on here for a few minutes to help the spinach cook down faster.

Keep stirring and cooking until the spinach is fully wilted (shriveled up and small). You want to stir the whole time to make sure that your walnuts aren’t staying just on the bottom.

Turn off the heat and stir in dried cherries. Taste test to see if you need extra salt or pepper and then serve up!

This post is number 15 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.

Mustard-Glazed Salmon

When I was a kid I didn’t eat a lot of fish. I enjoyed steamed shrimp, but in the south we mostly ate fried catfish or fried shrimp or fried something-something and I never really loved it. Other than French fries (which are GREAT!!) I try to avoid fried foods in my usual diet, but I’ve been adding fish into our weeknight meal rotations a few times each month.

While fish can be a little pricier than chicken breasts, and it can smell up your house if you don’t take out the trash right away (pro tip), it is really delicious, apparently good for you, and so fast to cook. A thin piece of tilapia (we like to purchase the frozen bags to save money) can fully bake in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper in only eleven minutes. A squeeze of a lemon and you are done.

Every now and then, the salmon is on sale and we splurge. Salmon is a beautiful orange color and it tastes great. It’s good for you too. To make it extra special, I make a mustard glaze that turns golden and a little crispyin the oven.

Mustard-Glazed Salmon Recipe


Here’s what you need:

Salmon: about 6 ounces per person. You’ll leave the skins on and you’ll cook it with the skin-side down.

Mustard: the delicious brown kind. We use fancy-pants grey poupon.

[Low sodium] soy sauce.


Olive oil and salt and pepper. I wasn’t kidding about that yesterday. But you can use spray instead of oil today if you have that handy.

Sheet pan and foil.

Here’s what you do:

Grab your sheet pan and line it with foil because cleaning up after cooking fish is the worst.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly brush the pan with oil or just spray it with cooking spray.

Set your fish pieces right down on top of the oily pan with a little space between them.

Salt your fish. Just sprinkle a little over the top. Add a little pepper too.

Now for the flavor. In a small bowl, mix together equal-ish parts mustard, soy sauce, and honey. I try to keep a little extra mustard and a little less honey and soy, but make it the way you like it: stir it up, stick your finger in and see if it tastes good. You’ll need to make more or less depending on how much salmon you are cooking. For one 6-ounce fillet, I used about 1 tsp. each of mustard and honey and a little less of soy.

glaze ingredients

Spoon the mixture over the top of your salmon and stick it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes. It should look kind of white on the sides when it is done and it shouldn’t feel squishy if you lightly press on the top with the back of a fork.

This post is number 14 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.

Breakfast Options for a Full House

Tomorrow morning my husband and his brothers are running the Chicago marathon. The guys and my in-laws have been hanging with us all week, in-and-out of the house according to their own schedules since Tuesday afternoon. We’ll be going out a lot to enjoy our city, which means a lot of food and drink that does not come from my kitchen.

Since the only thing I can really control about my diet this week without giving up an awesome time is breakfast, I spent a little extra time making sure I had everything I needed for a quick and nutritious start to the day. I purchased a large container of plain greek yogurt, a few packages of heat-and-serve turkey sausages, a loaf of grainy bread, and threw together a batch of granola.

Store-bought granola is “healthy” food, but has a ton of calories and sometimes preservatives.  Also, it’s wicked expensive. A 12 oz bag of Bare Naked granola – which has a great ingredient list for us normal shoppers – will run you more than $5.00. So, I like to make my own. It’s quick, easy, and you can increase the ratio of oats to nuts a little so the calories are a little lower and the cost is a little more economical.

My Homemade Granola Recipe

Granola big pan

See that orange mat underneath my granola? That’s the sil-pat I told you about on Wednesday.

There are a million and one recipes for homemade granola on the internet, and there’s no reason that mine is any better than anyone else’s. The following recipe is what I actually did this week, which had one huge flaw I’ll describe below, and was based off this recipe from Alton Brown.

Here’s what you need:

3 cups oatmeal

2 cups nuts of your choice (I like walnuts, almonds, and pecans)

¾ cup coconut

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

¾ tsp salt – you might add a little extra or use a little less to taste

½ to ¾ cup dried fruit of your choice (we like raisins, cranberries, pineapple, apricots, etc. BUT I don’t like them in big chunks, so I cut them up small.

Extra maple syrup and olive oil at the end

Here’s what you do:

Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a huge bowl stir together oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Stir together the oil and vanilla, pour over dry ingredients and stir until coated.

Pour the mixture onto a jelly-roll pan (I use two so I can stir without spilling) and pop into the oven. Every fifteen minutes for one hour and fifteen minutes, pull the mixture out of the oven and give it a stir.

When you’ve done the cycle five times, pull the granola out, carefully slide it into another huge bowl (maybe two bowls if you need to), and pour in the dried fruit.

Granola Compare

Comparison shot: on the left, light granola; on the right, roasty-toasty granola.


AND HERE’s where it got weird: for my taste, the granola looked a little dry and too light. It tasted great, but the ¼ cup of maple syrup I cut out of Alton’s original recipe to save calories had also cut down on the granola’s stick-togethery-ness. And so I did a fix. Kitchen fixes are things you do in the moment where there is a 50% chance you will ruin everything and a 50% chance it will be awesome. This week, it was awesome.

Turn the oven up to 375. On top of the bowl of granola and dried fruit, drizzle about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and about 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup, Stir together and pour it back on your pans.

Bake for 8 minutes, stirring at the four minute mark. (I actually went 10 minutes, stirring at the five minute mark, but watch this carefully. There is a thin line between roasty-toasty and burned up nasty.)

When ready, pull out of the oven, stir it up one last time, and let it cool. Store in plastic freezer baggies or a cute glass mason jar.

Do you have a favorite granola recipe? Do you like your granola lightly browned or dark and toasty?

Chicken Soup Sick Day

Well, I’m home sick with a crazy cough, and I have two things on my mind:  (1) OH MY GOSH I have so much to do at work this week, why couldn’t I be sick last week!?! and (2) soup.

I make a pot of soup nearly every single Sunday, which I package up into individual containers to take to work for a quick, healthy [and cheap] lunch.  There’s not a firm recipe, but after making soup regularly for so many weeks I think that I could probably make a pot of soup blindfolded, or handcuffed, or with some clever speed-bump that my sicky-brain cannot think of at this very moment.  I’ve been eating soup non-stop since Thursday and I’m pretty sure it is slowly working it’s healing magic.

Here are a few core principles that I make soup by:

1.  I use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or ground turkey.  I don’t have time for dealing with a whole chicken or the patience for cleaning and discarding the carcass.  For the chicken breast, I’ll roast in the oven at 375* with olive oil and salt & pepper or I will just boil it in the broth, pull it out when cooked to chop it up, and throw it back in the pot.  It really makes no difference.  For the ground turkey, I cook it in olive oil in the bottom of my soup pan, but I try to use as little oil as possible so the soup doesn’t get oily.

2.  Don’t make things harder than they have to be.  Sure, you can make homemade broth.  But really, this soup is for you to eat.  Wouldn’t you rather paint your nails or take a nap or get a massage — aren’t there actually about ten billion things you’d rather be doing than making homemade stock to eat for lunch in your cubicle?  Just saying.  I use two to three of the large boxes of low-sodium chicken stock.

3.  Use the vegetables that you like.  My typical vegetables are carrots, onions, celery, zucchini.  Sometimes I add kale, but I don’t like the thick stems so I really have to be in the mood to clean and peel off those stems for kale to make it into my pot.  You’re going to want to saute the onions, carrots, and celery for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  The rest you can throw in to the pot after the chicken is done so long as you give it sufficient time to cook before turning off the heat.

4.  Mix things up a little.  At this point, I have two basic options that I follow, but I tweak them or mix them up depending on what’s in the fridge and how I feel while cooking. You can really add anything to your soup, so just follow your heart there.

(a) italian-style chicken soup:  No zucchini or kale; once the chicken is cooked and the carrots, onions, and celery are sautéed and added to the broth, bring up to a boil and add in orzo pasta.  Cook the pasta in the boiling soup until it is about done (read the instructions on the box), then turn down the heat and add three big squirts of lemon juice and a light handful of parmesan cheese.  Shake in poultry seasoning and parsley, add salt and pepper and you are done.  I learned this lemon-juice trick from Giada and it is delicious.  Note: if I want regular chicken soup, I just skip the lemon juice and cheese and leave out the pasta.  Otherwise, it’s the same.

(b) tomato-based with veggies:  Go ahead and use the zucchini and even the kale here.  Add in a can of whole tomatoes in with the broth.  Take a pair of clean kitchen scissors or a knife and chop up the whole tomatoes so they are not quite so huge.  Then add in spices like you are making chili:  chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, etc.  Shake in a bit of poultry seasoning if it needs it, add salt and pepper, and you are done.  I often add a can of kidney beans to this soup too.  (If you want to try this but are unsure about the spicing, google Martha Stewart’s minestrone recipe and start with that, until you feel comfortable going more free-form.)

There you have it.  If you already know how to roast chicken, chop and saute vegetables, and boil pasta, you are on your way to making a delicious pot of soup without a recipe on this cold winter day.  If you haven’t yet mastered these skills, you’re going to want to find an actual recipe to follow more carefully.  I’m a little too foggy to write that for you today, but if that’s where you are, start here and let us know how it turns out.