Tag Archives: spicy

Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

How do you know that your sandwich totally rocks?  Why, of course, by sitting down at the lunch table at work, pulling out a sandwich that is technically a left over from dinner the night before, and coworkers’ jaws dropping with jealousy.  Fortunately, I work with a healthy bunch who all love a good meal.  Lunch discussions are more about current events, political ideology, local foods, and our profession in general, than anything found in People magazine or at TMZ.  Personally, this suits me well.

Back to the sandwich.  This little ditty is a breeze to make.  Simply combine the marinade ingredients and sliced veggies in a zip-lock bag and leave it on the counter.  Take a break from that amazing challenging task (tee-hee) while the marinade does its magic.  Finally, do a quick cook in the pan, assemble, and devour.  This is not the “oh my goodness, this IS spicy” kind of spicy like the grilled vegetable sandwich recipe, but rather the sweet on the front of the tongue followed by a delightful slow burn in the back of the mouth kind of spicy.

Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

makes 4 sandwiches


  • 1/4 tsp each: salt, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice powder, ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
  • 8  slices  French bread
  • Mozzarella or Jack cheese slices
  • basil leaves


  • Combine spices, vinegar and oil in a large zip-top plastic bag and mix together. Add zucchini, onion, bell pepper,seal and shake well to coat. Let stand 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
  • Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Coat with cooking spray.  Dump the contents of the bag into the pan and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Divide sauteed vegetables among 4 french bread slices.  Top each with a slice of cheese.  Broil until cheese softens, about 1 minute.  Add remaining bread slices to the baking sheet and broil for 1 more minute or until the cheese melts and the bread browns, then lightly spread with mayonnaise.  Top cheese with basil leaves and toasted bread.


  • Feel free to be pretty flexible with the veggies in here.  Any kind of squash or some eggplant would be perfect.
  • I totally like to snack on left overs.  These veggies are best in sandwiches and just don’t work well with casual “let me nibble on a few bites of zucchini” snacking style.
  • There are just enough juices to soak into the bread, providing some extra love.
  • If you clicked over to the grilled vegetable sandwich, you’ll notice how much the palm trees in the back yard have grown over the years.  There are 3 palms, with one of the three being a trio itself.  When we bought them about 5 years ago, they all fit in the back of our SUV.  Believe it or not!

Fiery Fish Fry for ‘Fraidycats

pan fried codOk all you fish ‘fraidy cats, this one is for you. The fish is not too fishy, has no bones to remove and no skin nor scales to deal with, and is firm enough so that it doesn’t flake apart when you cook it. So there, all of your excuses are now gone!

Oh, but you are trying to lose a few pounds and don’t want to fry your food? Actually, this is pan fried with very little oil. And for one more “actually” the recipe idea actually came from a healthy cooking magazine.

Oh, but you are not into spicy foods? The fiery part of this dish is a dip, so it is optional. And back to the person who is trying to lose a few pounds, it is so spicy that you’ll just use the itsy bitsy-est of bits so the calories are not of worry.

And now, on to the cooking!



  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, mince


  • 1 cup fat-free or 1% milk
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) cod fillets
  • 4 lemon wedges


To prepare aioli, combine cilantro, mayonnaise, serrano, and minced garlic, stirring well.

To prepare fish, combine milk and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. Combine panko, salt, and black pepper in a dinner plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip fish in milk mixture, and dredge in cornflake mixture. Add fish to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Serve fish with aioli and lemon wedges.


  • I started with a cod fillet of about 1 pound and cut it into about 6 pieces. The fillet was thick enough to be able to cook the fish on 4 sides, creating just that much more crunch. Crunch is good!
  • The original recipe called for fat free mayo, but personally, I’ve never been able to make the switch. The fat free stuff is just too loaded with sweetners for my taste.
  • Any firm white fish would work well here. I went for the cod because it was fresh and affordable. Tilapia should also work well, but would take a bit more care while flipping in the pan.

Overnight Chile Verde

chile verde

Oh, the back story! If you’re just looking for a too easy to be true recipe, skip on down the post a bit, but if you want a laugh stay here for the details.

Let’s just start by saying this should be categorized under “Should have seen this coming a mile away”. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Teen age son comes home from school needing Dad’s famous chili recipe for Spanish class. That’s an easy one! Dad’s recipe means wait until Dad comes home and ask him. I’m done!
  • Sure, I know that Dad’s chili recipe is a tightly held secret and no written account of this divine dish exists, but again, not my issue.
  • Next day, son still needs recipe.
  • Late-ish that night, son hands me my totally unorganized recipe binder asking for another recipe, Chile Verde. Good alternate choice! A great dish.
  • Son types up said recipe in Spanish and prints it for class. (Printer actually has toner for the first time ever in the history of computers when an assignment was started the night before it was due. Yahoo!)
  • Ok, you can already see this coming a mile down the tracks, but I’m just relieved that none of this has landed on my plate so to speak. We’re talking week day survival skills here!
  • Skip ahead a few days. Son texts me to say that he needs to bring the Chile Verde to school the next day to share in class. Are you kidding me? A long cooked dish with a small army of ingredients and I’ve got less than 24 hours notice?! And, of course since the gods and goddesses are all against me at this point, I’m at work for a late meeting until 8 that night to find out how awful the upcoming budget cuts will be on everyone. Sucks to be me.
  • In a moment of desperate inspiration, I realize that while there is no way dear Son will be bringing in Chile Verde from that recipe, there just may be a slow cooker recipe out there. Hit up All Recipes (with a great slow cooker recipe selection to be sure), choose the Chile Verde recipe with the fewest ingredients and best ratings.
  • Stop by the store on the way home to pick up the very few needed ingredients, prepare and toss in the slow cooker and go to bed.
  • In the morning, Voila! delicious food for the wonderful Son to take to school the next day.
  • Next day, Grateful Son comes home and (without any prompting whatsoever) tells me that my Chile Verde was a hit. Yes!

Honestly, this is so good that I’ll likely toss the previous, more authentic, recipe and just stick with this. Its that good!

Slow Cooker Chile Verde


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed
  • 5 (7 ounce) cans green salsa (Hernandez is a good choice)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until fragrant. Add the cubed pork, and cook until browned on the outside. Transfer the pork, onions, and garlic to a slow cooker, and stir in the green salsa, jalapeño peppers, and tomatoes.
  2. Cover, and cook on low over night.


  • I doubled the recipe and ended up using 3 cans of Hernandez green salsa and one bottle of store brand green salsa.
  • The original directions were to cover, and cook on High for 3 hours. Reduce the setting to Low, and cook for 4 to 5 more hours.
  • This has a bit more kick than you may expect from the ingredient list.
  • Do be sure to trim all fat off the pork. Anything missed with feel pretty gross in your mouth when eating the meal.
  • Serve in a bowl with a dollop (love that word!) of sour cream or over rice to soak up all the delicious broth.

Spicy Bean Salad

spicy bean saladKaleidoscope dinner time again. Hmmmm, cooking dinner for a large family, not much time of my own for anything fancy, need to find something that can last in their fridge or freezer just in case of a family emergency. Enchiladas! One pan of cheese and one of chicken will give them some alternatives. Check. Rice. Check. Beans? This is where the plan fell apart. Personally, I’m soooooo tired of re-fried beans. If it was just for myself, I’d do a little black bean and tart queso fresco number. Perhaps my favorite “hearty” summer chip dip? It was time to try something new.

After perusing my favorite online haunts, I narrowed in on one that sounded like a winner both for taste and time. The original came from Karen Castle at www.allrecipes.com and is titled Mexican Bean Salad. Naturally, I altered it based on what was readily available (avocados on sale … yes!) and just my own personal preferences. But believe you me, that dressing is a total winner! It can best be described as a collision between a 3 bean salad dressing and your favorite Mexican spices that make you want to jump up and dance. Oh yeah, like that.

Without further adieu, here we go …


  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pimento pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 avocados, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder


  1. In a large bowl, combine beans, bell peppers, and red onion.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and black pepper. Season to taste with hot sauce and chili powder.
  3. Pour olive oil dressing over vegetables; mix well. Gently fold in avocado. Chill thoroughly, and serve cold.


  • Do give this dish some time to chill. Chill is better than no chill. And, the density of the dish (geek alert!) means that the salad likes to retain its heat.
  • Make enough for left overs. A healthy snack like this is perfect to stash in the fridge for snacking families.
  • Those pimento peppers? Those are part of the local angle  cuz I had just picked some up from the vegetable stand and love them, but are not worth a trip to a specialty store just for this dish.
  • Did you catch that? Yes, vegetable stand in December. That’s why we pay the big prices to live in California!

Szechwan Carrot Soup

carrot-soupCarrots. Such a quiet, unassuming pedestrian root vegetable. For years I avoided these dependable roots that seemingly were just filler in other pedestrian dishes. Need a sturdy veg for a stir fry or curry? Add some carrots. Need some color in a quick salad? Add some carrots. But, if we wait for inspiration, and honor the carrot ITSELF, we find beauty.

When I first found this recipe, I just had to make it. A quick glance at the directions led me to my favorite puree technique; cook up a few key ingredients in 2 o 3 layers, toss in a blender, and reheat. These make quick soups because the ingredients just need to be cut into chunks, making the whole process quicker and not requiring much attention. More importantly, anything with sesame oil, peanut butter, and red pepper flakes either had to be “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.” This one is either, based on your own preferences. I’ve shared this at a few events, and no one thinks it is just “OK.”

If you’re game, give it a go and let me know if you think it is “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.”


  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • a 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream


1. In a large heavy saucepan cook onion, celery, and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrots, ginger root, red pepper flakes, and broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients and in a blender purée mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids).

3. Return soup to pan and heat over low heat until hot, being careful not to let boil.

4. Serve soup drizzled decoratively with sour cream mixture.carrots


* If you are of the “double the garlic and peppers” persuasion, as I am, resist your first time through this one. That little bit of red pepper truly does add quite a bit of pop to the soup.

* To speed this up a bit, chop the first batch of veggies, and while they cook, chop the second batch. Since you don’t need to worry about any type of presentation here, those perfectly cut vegetables are just not needed. Enjoy the break!

* When blending hot soups, do work in batches, don’t fill the blender more than about 1/4 to 1/3 full. I’ve found that removing the center from the blender lid, and gently holding a wadded up paper towel over the hole lets the steam escape as needed while also keeping the soup from flying all over your kitchen cabinets. Yes, this is experience speaking here. 😉

* The squiggly decoration is easily made by using a squeeze bottle.