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You know those weeks when you feel like you really don’t have much to say? That would be me last week. The previous weekend was a whirlwind with my family for my little sisters’ 21st birthday! We had SO much fun, but I ended up playing a ton of catch-up. Sometimes I wonder how a tiny studio apartment can get so messy?!

That said, I have a ton of exciting things coming up that I can’t wait to share! But for now, here is one recipe I’m obsessed with!

Simple Homemade Hummus

What You Need:

1 can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano

What You Do:
Combine everything in a food processor and mix until it’s all blended

Taste it and add more lemon juice, pepper and salt according to how you want it to taste. If it’s not smooth and you have the right amount of lemon juice, then add oil and continue mixing until it is smooth.

Messiness – So simple to make and clean up! Everything goes right into the processor so you don’t need extra bowls!

Simplicity - Super simple. I actually made this recipe up myself after perusing a few others. They seemed to need a lot of ingredients, some which were expensive, so I made up my own. You can add and take out indgredients depending on how you want your hummus to taste too. Also, if you want to keep it really super simple, requiring no effort, get pre-peeled garlic.

Budget – I found all the things I needed for this at the dollar store, and had most of it in my kitchen already. Also, even if you have to buy everything, it’s cheaper and will make more than if you bought hummus at the store.

Delicious Factor – SO so yummy! I make about a batch a week and have to struggle to not eat it all up at once!

Hallelujah! I’ve found THE most delicious, simple recipe that I literally make it at work for my lunch. Sure, my lunch bag is filled to the brim, but I assure you it’s beyond worth it. This no-cook recipe just came to me one night, when I was having the worst sort of Mexican food craving. But with Summer around the corner, I would not let myself give into bean burritos.

You probably have all or most of these things in your house too! Since I’m just rambling about my infatuation with this recipe, I’ll get to it…

No-Cook Southwest Veggie Salad

What You Need:
1 can of corn (rinsed)
1 avocado (largely diced)
3 tomatoes (chopped)
2 TBSP packed cilantro (basically a handful)
1 scallion (diced, optional)
2 limes
1 can black beans (rinsed, optional)

What You Do:
Mix corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallion and beans into a large bowl

Squeeze the juice of one lime over it all and toss. Taste it to see if you like it with more lime juice, then cut and squeeze the lime over it all.

Top with avocados and enjoy!

Messiness – Not messy at all! This is all pretty self-contained and very simple to prepare. You know I love anything that is a “no-cook” recipe too.

Simplicity – This is really simple. Again, the key word is “no-cook.” From start to finish, it shouldn’t take you much longer than 10 minutes. And it’s all really self-contained, so there’s virtually no clean-up.

Budget – Super cheap! You can get every ingredient for $1 or less. The tomatoes may be a bit more, but there’s a TON of produce in season right now.

Delicious Factor - So, so yummy! It’s one of those things that tastes really healthy, is healthy but is filling and delicious. Easily a 5/5 and I promise you’ll start making it about once a week.

TIP: To make it even healthier, leave the black beans out (unless you need them for protein like us vegetarians). Also, keep in mind that this will make several servings, so don’t eat the whole thing at once if you’re dieting (*points at self*).

Okay, so I know late night snacking is bad for you, but when it’s late on a Sunday, you have to be up in a matter of hours, but you’re still working on a deadline, you must eat!

I went to the fridge for something, anything and spotted premade pie crust hanging out in the back, so I thought, “Now is as good a time as any to try making some poptarts!”

It’s super easy and takes 30 from start to finish at the most (probably less). You’ll love them!


(Photo taken with instagram)

What You Need:
Premade pie crust (or make your own)
You favorite jelly/jam
Frosting (optional)
Sprinkles (not optional because sprinkles are amazing)

What You Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Cut the pie crust into your desired poptart shapes. I was working with a round pie crust so mine were a mixture of squares and triangles

Put a bit of jelly on one side (for filling) and then put a matching piece on top

Use fork tines, or your fingers, and press the two pieces together

Use the fork to poke a couple holes in the top

Bake for about nine minutes, until they golden brown

Frost and sprinkle the sprinkles!

Messiness - It’s as messy as you make it. If you want to get crazy with your poptart shapes, then you may be in trouble. I have a 1ft x 1ft cutting board so I stayed pretty tame with mine.

Simplicity - So easy that I made them on a whim for the first time. And as you know by now, me and baking are NOT best friends, but this recipe was definitely a confidence builder in our relationship.

Budget - Super cheap! You can get each ingredient for about $1. I made them without frosting (since it was a late night snack and all) so it came out to about 6 bite sized poptarts for $2 (I keep sprinkles on hand at all times).

Delicious Factor - Remember me saying my mom forbade us to cook as kids? Well, let’s just say I consumed my body weight in poptarts as a child so I’m a connoisseur of sorts. These tasted even better! Remember how awful the non-frosted ones tasted? Well these had no frosting and were even more delicious than store-bought frosted tarts. I promise you’ll love them! Best part is, you get to pick your favorite filling! Any jam you can find will do. An easy 5/5.

Sorry for falling off the face of the planet again. I recently had some exciting writing career moves and am busier than ever! However, I must say, I haven’t been eating much else than that pesto I posted. Fun tip: spread it on a pita pizza (recipe here) before the sauce. It’s amazing!!

So, to catch you up a bit, here’s my life over the last week via Instagram:


(Bruce Springsteen concert with the fam for my bday… I have a piece on this coming soon)


(Me and mama. I’m wearing her shirt from the original Born in the USA tour… three years before I was born #Vintage)


(Well that’s a fine how do ya’ do!)


(Pro Tip: Pre-game in the car using a Starbucks cup)


(Beautiful flower on an ugly sidewalk, but it’s so pretty you’d never know)


(Fresh pesto [I wasn't lying above re: pestobsession] on fancy pasta from mama)


(Random street art)


(Amateur zombie fortress?)


(Coldplay concert at the Hollywood Bowl… two firsts for me)


(We all had these awesome bracelets that would glow with the music)


(Pre-Coldplay in the Hollywood hills)


(Lakers paint job)


(Finally… Barnabas Collins from the original Dark Shadows which I’m in love with. Feel free to meme the shit out of this picture… Lord knows I have)

So, that’s it for me. I have an amazing recipe I’ll be sharing soon. It’s my springtime addiction! I’m constantly struck every day by how blessed I am to live where I do and have such wonderful people around me (like all of you).

For Easter my mom gave me a new food processor! I’ve been wanting one for the longest, but just hadn’t gotten around to getting one. Thanks mom! So what better time to try it out than a midday brunch with some of my best friends. It’s nice to get out and away from my piles of work every now and then.

I really love pesto, and when I found this recipe with the sundried tomatoes I knew it was going to be a winner.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Pesto
(recipe from Williams Sonoma)

(photo from instagram)

What You Need:

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic (or more to taste)
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, preferably packed in oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

What You Do:

Saute the pine nuts and garlic for a few minutes

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until they’re all chopped and mixed

Serve!

Messiness – So clean! You’re jsut tossing it all in the food processor and voila!

Simplicity – I was running late, as usual, for this lunch and was nervous because one of my friends had to leave for work. Luckily it took 15 minutes from beginning to being served. First time ever making it and it only took that long.

Budget – This is absolutely delicious, but not super cheap. For these ingredients it was a little over $20, but it bought enough to make two different batches. So I guess when you break it down, one batch makes five servings. So each one is about $2. It’s a lot to spend all at once on ingredients, but when broken down, you’ll feel much better about it, and besides, it’s amazing!

Delicious Factor – This was the perfect Saturday midday dish served with mimosas. The flavor is light but unmistakable, and the sundried tomatoes add a special taste to the pesto. It’s so good in fact, I made more the very next day.

There are a few recipes out there that I’ve come to view as challenges. Every time I make them, they come out of the oven taunting me. “Haha! I’m still jiggling but my edges are browned!” or “You thought you had me this time, but I’ve collapsed in the middle!” The latter was my battle with this recipe. I originally found it in Self Magazine and was so excited to try a healthy muffin recipe that I could take to work with me in the morning. But it was a horrible disaster. It said I could substitute blackberry jam for lemon curd, which I did, but when I used the toothpick to check for doneness, the muffins collapsed in on themselves. They were delicious, but there’s just something about things tasting better when they look good.

Once these were eaten, I decided to try again. After mixing the batter, I realized I was out of cupcake tins and had to make it as a cake. This was my first step in defeating the blackberry lemon poppy seed recipe. I mixed and cooked as directed, but cooked in a small rectangular pan. I nailed the cake on the second try. “Victory is mine!” I happily yelled. And yes, I really am that bad at baking that I get this excited when I finally do it the right way.

Since then, I’ve been able to make it correctly a few times, enough to where I feel confident adding it to my recipe book. So, without further adieu…

What You Need:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats (I couldn’t find any rolled oats that weren’t outrageously priced and regular oatmeal oats looked the same so I used those)
1 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP Poppy seeds
1 TBSP lemon zest (finely grated)
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
3/4 non fat milk
1/4 cup oil (canola, vegetable, whatever you have on hand)
1/3 cup blackberry jam (you can use raspberry if you prefer, and maybe others too,I just haven’t tried them yet)

What You Do:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Lightly grease the pan with butter or cooking spray

In a bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, lemon zest and salt

In a different bowl, mix the egg, milk and oil

Mix the two bowls together until they batter is moistened

Pour the batter into the cake pan

Lightly spread the blackberry jam over the top. It doesn’t need to be smooth over it, just on the top. It will spread out on it’s own.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, using a toothpick to test if it’s done

Let cool and sprinkle powdered sugar on the top and serve!

Messiness – Baking is the messiest thing next to finger painting, I’m discovering very quickly. I feel like with every recipe and attempt though, I’m getting better. On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this a 7, mostly due to the fact that every time I try to “sprinkle powdered sugar” I end up looking like a two year old who devoured a powdered donut.

Simplicity – Well, after I got it, I got it! Here’s some tips to getting it right the first time: make sure the oven is all the way preheated. Don’t open it until the 15 minutes is up, or it’s likely to collapse. If it does start to collapse, stop poking and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes. If you’re feeling brave, give the muffin portions a whirl!

Budget – Pretty cheap, especially because if you need to buy the ingredients, they’ll last you a long time. In my case this was great because I needed multiple attempts.

Delicious Factor – This is so great as a breakfast cake for yourself or if you’re having guests over/staying the night. You can bake it ahead and it’s still great! the zest provides just enough lemon taste, so even if you’re not the biggest lemon fan, you’ll still love how the flavors complement each other.

You know those ingredients that you buy for one recipe, but rarely ever use it again? And then it sits on your shelf forever, and you wonder if you’ll ever get rid of it. Well, rice vinegar is that ingredient for me. And Arborio rice since I realized that I don’t actually like risotto, but bought a ton of it for some reason. So, I looked at my shelf and came up with this gem of a recipe. I was pleasantly surprised when it even smelled good, not like normal broccoli usually smells. There’s also a ton of variations to it as well (suggested below).

What You Need:
1 Cup Arborio rice
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup vegetable broth
2 Cups broccoli
1-2 TBSP crushed, dried red peppers
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1 TBSP Sesame seeds
1/2 Cup Mozzarella cheese (grated)
Soy sauce (optional)

What You Do:

Bring the water and broth to a boil, adding the red peppers

Then add the rice and broccoli

Boil until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add more if needed to achieve your favorite rice tenderness.

Add the rice vinegar, sesame seeds and cheese, and mix them together

Serve with soy sauce if you like

Messiness – All you need is one pot, rather than cooking the broccoli and rice in separate pots. Also, you can get the cheese pre-grated making clean-up even easier.

Simplicity – This is super simple, but you can do a lot to “make it your own.” It’s one of the few recipes that I thought up without using another recipe as a basis, so I made it a couple ways. The first is that if you aren’t a big fan of salt, boil about 1/2 TBSP in the water rather than using soy sauce. It will add just enough to taste and complement the rice vinegar. If you like rice vinegar, you can add more or less. It just adds a subtle sweetness that the rice will absorb. Also, the cheese is optional, but let’s be honest, cheese makes everything better. With regard to the rice, you can use any kind of rice that you like. I just find Arborio to be a nice mix between pasta and regular rice.

Budget – Since I was trying to use up things on my shelves, this didn’t cost me anything. Something I’ve learned that saves money and helps me eat healthier, especially when I’m starving and don’t want to go to the store, is to keep broccoli on-hand. If you’re trying to lose weight, I highly recommend trying this tactic.

Delicious Factor – So good! The rice vinegar and soy sauce create perfect compliments to each other. I think you’ll really like it :)

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom was never a fan of cooking, or of us cooking, when we were growing up. So our menu never really changed, and it certainly didn’t include things that mom didn’t like, like yucky brussel sprouts! Well, having become a vegetarian, I’m trying to branch out into the world of “Foods I Hate But Don’t Know Why.” I started with onions and quickly learned that I in fact do not like them, so I had been dead on for years with that one. But now that it’s spring, there are brussel sprouts EVERYWHERE! I called my mom.

“Mom, why don’t we like brussel sprouts again?”

“Because they’re gross.”

“But why? What do they taste like? I read they’re like little cabbages.”

“I don’t remember but I remember I don’t like them.”

I had this same conversation, nearly word for word with my vegetarian best friend, but since I could get no real answer about why I’m on the “Brussel Sprouts Suck Bandwagon” I decided to try them.

I found a recipe that was accompanied by, wait for it, GARLIC AIOLI! First I thought, wait a minute, you mean garlic ailoi is something I can make? Then I thought, even if they suck, dipping them in aioli makes everything better! So I went for it. The result was AMAZING!

ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS (Original recipe from Savoring Life with Anna Costa)

What You Need:
2 packages of brussel sprouts, or around 20 (cut in wedges)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Place the wedges on a baking sheet and drizzle the oil over them

Bake for 15-20, until they are browned

Cool and serve

GARLIC AILOI

What You Need:
6 TBSP Mayonnaise
2 medium garlic cloves (pressed)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh parsley (chopped fine)

What You Do:

Mix and serve

Messiness – I found that wedging the brussel spouts was tricky, and some parts of it leaf off, but by no means was it messy. In fact, it’s one of the least messy recipes on here. Just some cutting, baking and mixing

Simplicity – It is so simple! Again, the cutting is the hardest part, so if you can cut a sprout, you can make these. To make both the sprouts and the aioli, you need 10-15 minutes of prep time and 15 of cook time. I really like this as a simple, healthy (use fat free mayo if you like) snack or quick appetizer for unexpected guests.

Budget – For me, all I had to buy was the brussel sprouts, which are in season and about $1/bag. Even if you have to buy all the ingredients, it should come out to under $10. If you don’t want to use olive oil because it can get pricey, Canola will work as well.

Delicious Factor – Well mom, you were wrong. Brussel sprouts are DELICIOUS! I would never go so far as to say maybe I cooked them better than Grandma, who’s 100% Irish, but I suggest you let me make these for you.

If you’re looking for a yummy, simple veggie dish, or a way to get your kids to get their greens, this is it. Trick them and tell them they’re baby cabbages and it’s dressing they can dip them in.

Been sort of off the grid for a week or so, mostly due to very long work days and even longer nights trying to complete a million projects (okay, maybe it’s more like 20, not a million). That being said, I realized how much I really love blogging and the whole blogosphere. I get so many amazing recipes and posts in my inbox every day from all of you lovely people. Anyways, I guess a good place to start is that I downloaded Instagram (way behind, I know). If you have it, my user name is nataliesaar (clever, right?). So, here’s life lately through my Instagram…


(sisters and I on a shopping trip)


(Just another LA street)


(Dodgers opening day game. The team was in San Diego, so they screened it at the stadium fo’free!)


(Hommemade frosting for mama’s Birthday Blondies. Recipe HERE)


(Our boss’s adorable dog who she lets us doggy sit. Today was a particularly cold day, hence the cozy hoodie)


(Babushka dolls I found at my parents’ house. As a kid I collected these and still think they’re so cute!)


(Creepy note I found inside the babushka. Apparently my sisters’ friends left these around the house while housesitting for us. I was thouroughly creeped out until I found that out though)


(Picture I took on my hike/workout today. The white thing in the shade is the Hollywood sign. I really never get used to the fact that I live here. Seeing the Hollywood sign every day is pretty surreal for a girl from rural suburbia)

Whenever I think of succotash, I think of Daffy Duck from Loony Tunes (sufferin’ succotash!), but there’s nothing funny about this recipe. This is something my friend introduced me to about a year ago. It’s my go-to, no cook meal, especially when I’m feeling like my diet is out of whack. It’s super healthy, filled with vitamin C (tomatoes) and protein (edamames). Best of all, it’s fast and only five ingredients. Also, it tastes fresh, even though you’re using frozen. Did I mention succotash is cheap? I mean really, really cheap.

What You Need:

2 bags frozen corn
2 bags frozen shelled edamames
6 tomatoes (diced)
1 yellow onion (diced)
Balsamic vinegar

What You Do:

Thaw the frozen corn and edamames. You can do this by leaving them out or boiling them then draining out all the water.

Combine the corn, edamames, onion and tomatoes in a large bowl

Add the balsamic vinegar. The amount is completely up to you. I typically use about 1/2 cup for this recipe. Toss is all together and serve.

Messiness – This recipe is anything but messy, especially if you have the time to let the ingredients thaw out on their own.

Simplicity – Three steps, and half the ingredients are prepared for you. Can’t beat that.

Budget – SO cheap! In fact, you can half this recipe and it will be even cheaper, but still make enough to feed about four people. I really like how long this dish lasts for too. I usually take it to work for lunch the next day and can nibble on it for the next two.

Delicious Factor – Really, really good! It tastes fresh and healthy. But it;s not like a lot of healthy foods that taste good, but leave you hungry. This will fill you up because of all the fiber and protein in it.

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