Summer Salad Series: A Simple, Satisfying Side Salad

The Summer Salad Series didn’t turn out to be the best-series-ever, I admit it. But today I had a very random salad that I threw together with what I happened to have in the house, and it turned out great! Sometimes the best things come from throwing together whatever ya got!

Being the eve of Labor Day Weekend, I figured this would be a perfect time to post one last salad of summer, and also offer a great option for a side salad for this weekend’s festivities!

eat something new

What you’ll need:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mild Banana Peppers
  • Cucumbers – skin left on for extra crunch!
  • Reduced Fat (or Fat Free) Feta Crumbles
  • Italian dressing (I used Olive Garden’s I had left over from a salad I got to-go)

What you’ll do:

I think it is pretty self explanatory, but just for good measure: Wash and cut lettuce. Top with desired amount of the rest of the incredients, toss with dressing of your choice and enjoy! As always, this recipe is super easy to adapt to your tastes, preferences and allergies. I do recommend a lighter dressing because of the bold flavors from the feta and the banana pepeprs – you don’t want to cover them up! Light italian, light balsamic, or a little oil and vinegar would probably be best.

The verdict: It is so simple, but completely satisfying! I thought I would be left wanting more, so I packed a few light post-salad snacks, but I honestly don’t even need them! The little bit of fat from the cheese, the zing and heat from the banana peppers, the filling lettuce and super crunch from the cucumbers is a great combination. This is sure to make an appearance at least once a week!

Want to make it a meal? Throw in some grilled chicken, chick peas or tofu and you are good to go!

I also think that this salad would make a phenomenal side to go with burgers, chicken, barbeque or anyhting else, really.

How do you feel about banana peppers?
They are my latest obsession and I can’t get enough of them!

Do you have a salad you make for parties? Please share!

What’s your favorite must have ingredient for salad?

Have a Happy Labor Day!

Kopparberg Pear Cider

Koppaberg Pear Cider

It was dark in there and I was sitting front row, so...

This weekend I saw The Bither Brothers Band play at The Bitter End in NYC….PAUSE –  I can’t even get through the description of this lovely night without a grimace on my face as I remember the taste of this god awful cider.

I know I sound like a hater, but if you’ve followed this blog at all you may have been skeptical of my honesty up until now. I know what I like (and let’s face it, there isn’t much that I don’t like) so I know what to order and how to order it; what to cook and how to cook it (most of the time).

Because of my keen sense of awareness of my taste, I rarely blunder in ordering, leaving all of the blundering up to the establishments – which just hasn’t happened to me all that often.

So, I’m not a hater, I’m just being honest. And no, “god awful” is not too strong of a phrase. None of my friends who tried Kopparberg Cider were able to swallow it with a straight face (TWSS).

Back to the story: we’re having a grand ol’ time at The Bitter End listening to The Bither Brothers  (Lady Gaga played here back in the day) and I’ve already enjoyed a few libations. BUT now I am looking to try something new; you’re surprised, I know.

I mosey on over to the bar, take a look at the scribbled list (just how I like it) and I see “Kapp???? Pear Cider.” I couldn’t quite make out the name, but I love me some cider! And pear – even over apple – happens to be my favorite.

the bither brothers band


The Bither Brothers Band











I am immediately mentally (and possibly emotionally) taken back to my alma mater to a local bar and restaurant, HomeGrown where I would frequently order – and even recommend – the oh-so-delicious Ace Pear Cider . My mouth starts to water  (then and now as I write this) and I’m pumped for my cider.

I am given my receipt, the bottle and… a glass of ice?! I was so befuddled that I’m sure I hesitated, but I chalked it up to the bartender’s ignorance of cider. It’s not all that common so I wasn’t holding it against her.

Leaving it up the “expert” I poured some cider over the ice and took a nice, long sip. BLECH! What the F**** is this?!

It is super duper, crazy-over-the-top sweet, syrupy, watery (I know, that sounds contradictory – think watered down syrup) barely carbonated and bland all at the same time.

I said to myself, “okay, maybe it’s this weird glass-of-ice-thing,” and took another big swig right from the bottle: EQUALLY BLECH.

It didn’t taste terrrrrrible in that it wasn’t expired, it didn’t smell bad, it wasn’t thick or even flavorful at all. For that reason, and the fact that it set me back almost eight big ones, I finished it. But not without a grimace on my face.

It wasn’t good. To confirm my thoughts I passed that puppy around the table..

You know, the oh-so-strangely-common “This is gross! Wanna taste it?!” thing…

(Why do we ask that? And why do so many people say “yes”?)

I got the same review from every. single. person. A grimace.

I do not recommend, under any circumstances, that you try this cider. Not if you are a fan of cider. Not if you aren’t a fan of cider. Not if you are the cider expert of the world and… okay, maybe then. Otherwise: STAY AWAY.

I know that this seems like a very strong opinion. And you’re right. And although I’m sure someone somewhere likes this – they do continue to sell it and they do carry it is bars (apparently) – so maybe there is some kind of “acquired taste.” However, for those of you who like Strongbow, Ace or even Woodchuck’s – you’re not going to like this. It tastes absolutely nothing like it’s highly superior counterparts.

Have you ever tried hard cider? What’s your favorite brand?

Apple or Pear?

Ever have an equally surprisingly displeasing experience after ordering a drink? I’d love to hear about it!

Sorry, Kopparberg. I SEO’d the shit out you and your god awful cider. Hopefully for you your SEO is strong and Google won’t index this blog on your first page… Oh look, it’s actually on page one. Whoops.

Jazz! Apples

jazz applesThe power is still out due to Hurricane Irene and therefore this week’s grocery trip was short and sweet.. literally. I was only in the store for about 25 minutes (I check lots of labels and compare prices so this is short for me!) and I bought apples and new snack bars for work. I needed items that don’t need to be refrigerated, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice nutrition, either.

I have been in the market for new snack bars that are low in fat, calories AND sugar – a combination, come to find out, that is hard to come by. More on my thoughts on sugar and snack bars in a later post. This post is about Jazz Apples!

As I walked through the produce section, admiring all of the need-to-be-refrigerated fruits and veggies, I thought to myself: Apples and Pears! Both are great snacks for me at work and don’t have to be refrigerated. AND I could keep them in the office. Looking around for my normal favorite, Fuji or gala apples, I was surprised that I didn’t see any. I settled on some other variety, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign that said Jazz! Confused at first and then intrigued, I put my apples back and made my way over to the Jazz! apples. They looked like both fuji and gala in that they were yellow and red in color. They were larger, though, and had a more of a “tall and skinny” look than the normal “short and fat” apple shape. Only 10 cents more per pound, I figured what the heck? Eat something new, right?

I snacked on one at work yesterday (and today) and they are delicious! Crisp, dense, NOT gritty at all – my number one attribute I look for in a good apple (the only macintosh I like is my computer) – and just the right amount of sweetness. Jazz apples have a distinct taste that is hard to explain, but nothing crazy or strange, just delicious!

This is what Wikipedia had to say about Jazz apples:

“Jazz is a relatively new apple variety from New Zealand. It is the result of a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn made by Plant & Food Research in 1985.[1] It is also known as Scifresh. It was launched in April 2004.

The apple is sweet, crunchy and juicy. It has a firm, dense flesh and a complex flavor with the acid of Braeburn and the sweetness of Royal Gala giving it broad appeal.

The speculation about why the apple variety is named Jazz, is most likely the exciting color combinations that can be compared to the music style jazz which is often an advanced harmony with discoloration of a piecework.

Jazz apples are being grown under license in New Zealand, UK, Washington state in the US, Australia, France, Chile, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.” (

After doing a simple Google search I noticed that Jazz apples even have their own website:

Here are a few images they featured that I thought were worth sharing:

They also boast many health benefits including:

  • Lots of fiber
  • Cancer fighting abilities
  • Help facilitate easier breathing

Anyone ever hear of the 3-A-Day Apple Diet? Jazz Apples link to the 3-Apple-A-Day Plan, claiming that on average, those who participate lose 20 lbs. in 12 weeks. Let me know if you’ve ever hear of or tried this. Very interesting!

Do you have a go-to apple variety?

What do you look for in a good apple?

What’s your favorite way to eat an apple? (plain, peanut butter, pie?)

Any out-of-the-ordinary fruits you think I should try?

Drink Something New: Harney & Son’s Green Tea with Coconut, Ginger and Vanilla

Today was the first day back to work since Hurricane Irene and we still don’t have power at home. Being that I have a few side projects (including this blog) that I usually work on at night, I had to go somewhere after work to get some things done. Where else but Starbucks where the caffeine and power are a plenty.

After setting up shop in at the Starbucks in my hometown Barnes and Noble, I headed over to the counter to ask for a platic spoon so I could eat my YoCrunch Greek (post coming soon!). As I sat down and started to “borrow” their electricity and their plastic spoon, I started to feel guilty. I also started to feel thirsty, so I decided to buy a hot tea. At the counter they had some point-of-sale items nicely displayed and, as a marketers dream (really ironic, I know) I fed right in to it.. kind of.

Sitting there was a bright green, beautiful tin of Harney & Son’s tea sachets. This is my favorite brand of tea – so much so that I’ve ordered some offline. If you know me, you know this is mildly out-of-character and shows just how much I love their tea. The Earl Grey Supreme with Lemongrass and Bergamot is my absolute favorite. But I digress.. Tonight they had Green Tea with Coconut, Ginger and Vanilla (and, come to find out, lemongrass). I just could not resist.

I thought it was a long shot, asking if they sold this in single cups, hoping I didn’t have to buy the whole tin that boasted a $10.95 price tag to satisfy my intrigue. I was in luck! I ordered a venti and brought it back to my work station to cool off.

I’m not a huge fan of green tea. Tea in Chinese or Japanese restaurants, quite frankly, I think is gross. I get it. I appreciate it. But I don’t like it. With the other flavors mixed in – all of which rank amongst my favorites – I figured I would like it.. and I was [mostly] wrong.

I take my tea plain. I hesitate to say black because unlike coffee, even black tea isn’t all that dark. I love my Earl Grey Supreme or Tazo Awake with nothing but, on occasion, a little light agave nectar. Sometimes I’ll add a splenda if I’m in the mood or if the tea stinks, but usually plain is just how I like it.

This tea is okay, but it tasted a little “earthy” and needed that extra bit of sweetness. I add a few drops of honey, which did the trick, and it wasn’t too bad. But then by sip three I started to think It tasted like spinach.

My tea tastes like spinach. Never a good thing.

I would recommend trying it if it sounds like something you would like and if you like green tea. But, unlike many other things I suggest, I don’t suggest you try it if it doesn’t sound like something you’d like. I will not be ordering this one offline.

Side note: These sachets come out to less than 40 cents each, which is less than K-cups. I was surprised and thought I would share! If you’re a tea lover and don’t mind spending 40 cents per cup, or currently buy the tea in K-cup form, I would head over to! The elegant tin is decieving, it’s really not that expensive.

Harney & Son’s Earl Grey Supreme, however, I would strongly recommend! Many restaurants bring a wooden box filled with Harney & Son’s Tea, so next time you’re out to eat and  in the mood for a little post-dinner tea, ask if they have Harney & Son’s and try the Early Grey Supreme.

Omega Diner Reuben Sandwich

omega diner and cafe

I could do without the fries, to be honest🙂

The history of the Reuben sandwich isn’t known for sure, but there’s a few stories that seem to host the most klout. If you’re interested, you can read about them here.

Several variations of the Reuben exist, but the traditional Reuben is either cornedbeef or pastrami on grilled rye bread with sauerkraut and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing. I prefer mine with corned beef and thousand island dressing.

What’s the difference between Russian and Thousand Island?

Thousand island dressing is lighter in color and chunky, containing finely chopped ingredients such as pickles, onions, bell peppers and/or green olives, among other things. Russian dressing is a darker, brighter orange color and does not contain any chunks. I prefer the former.

A Reuben sandwich is one of my favorite not-so-healthy foods. If you follow along here you know I prefer gourmet, healthy wraps to greasy sandwiches, but sometimes a Reuben just hits the spot. The good news here is that it is pretty filling, so I normally don’t eat more than half, saving the other half for later or sharing it with my date.

A few weeks ago I had been craving a Reuben, so before leaving for vacation we headed over to my favorite NJ diner: The Omega Diner and Cafe in North Brunswick, NJ. I didn’t even have to look at the menu, knowing that I wanted the Reuben sandwich. I did look, though, because you have to be careful! Like I said above, I enjoy mine with corned beef and thousand island, so it’s important to make sure that this is how they serve or that these are at least options. I’m not a fan of the pastrami and Russian dressing version.

If you’re scared of corned beef, don’t be! It is salty, tender and juicy. Especially on this sandwich with the cheese, sauerkraut and dressing it all comes together in your mouth as a perfect flavor combination.

It is traditionally served as a hot, grilled, open-faced sandwich with cole slaw, a pickle and fries. Let me tell you, Omega hit it out of the park. It was a great sandwich; the meat was tender and juicy, not too much cheese, the rye was perfectly grilled and the thousand island came on the side, just how I like it. It was absolutely delicious! Seriously as honestly.

So much so that a few weeks later we went back and I got it again!

What’s your favorite not-so-healthy indulgence?

Do you like Reuben sandwiches? How do you like yours?

Pickle Omelete

So today I put pickles in my “omelet”.

pickle omelete

talk about eating something new!

Yes, I know that I have some explaining to do.First of all, I am calling it an “omelet” in quotation marks because it isn’t a traditional omelet, but it does wind up being a single, cooked entity made mostly of egg but mixed with other ingredients.Secondly: no, you are not reading that incorrectly, I did indeed include pickles. The idea came about from reading a series of Facebook status updates from a high school acquaintance. It came up on my news feed that he had eaten pickles in his eggs that morning and I was immediately intrigued, knowing that I had to try it.. and soon! I love eggs and I love pickles, so why not mix them?

For me a good, hearty meal tends to be on the saltier/more savory, “umami” side of the sweet and salty continuum. This includes breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good side of berries, but as far as the core of the meal I usually prefer salty and savory over sweet. However, do like to add ingredients that are inherently salty rather than adding lots of table salt. So when I thought about pickles in eggs, I was immediately attracted to the salty quality that they would bring to the eggs and knew I had to try it.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • 1 small pickle or 1 slice of sandwich pickles
  • cooking spray
  • optional: additional condiments, cheese, bread, tortilla, etc. I used a bit of cheese and a small flour tortilla.

What You’ll do:

one egg pan

For size comparison

I sprayed my one-egg pan, (remember when I used to blog about my favorite kitchen gadgets?! I miss that! so here it goes..) one of my favorite funky kitchen gadgets. It is exactly what it’s name implies: a pan made especially for cooking a single egg. Two eggs will fit though, if you’d prefer.

I cracked a whole egg (serious time crunch thismorning!) and let it start to cook while I prepped the pickle (TWSS). In our fridge we had a jar of the thinly sliced “sandwich pickles” so I took one slice and cut it in to five smaller pieces.

I thought it would be best to let the egg begin to solidify before adding the pickles, so that’s what I did. Turns out I was wrong because when I went to flip the egg the pickles slid off and wound up on the bottom of the pan rather than as a part of the “Egg patty” I was creating. It turns out that it worked just fine, but next time I will add the pickles right after I crack the egg (and break the yolk of course!).

After flipping the egg I sprinkled less than a teaspoon of part skim cheese on a small flour tortilla. When the egg was done I used my spatula to cut the “omelet” in half and put it on the flour tortilla. I added a second helping of about the same amount of cheese.

I tossed it – well, gently placed it – in to a tupperware container and packed it to go. (I told ya, time crunch!).

Once I got to work my mouth had been salivating; I couldn’t wait to try it!

And the verdict?

Delicious! But not overly exciting. The pickle didn’t taste as strong as I thought it would, but the flavor was definitely present and it definitely gave it the added salty quality I was looking for.

Will I try it again?

Absolutely. Maybe even tomorrow.

What would I do do differently?

Add a few more pieces of pickle – and add them to the egg sooner. Other than that I’d say it was a success!

If you don’t like pickles or eggs, this isn’t for you. If you do like both of these ingredients but are skeptical of combining them.. don’t be! Trust me, this is a risk worth taking.

Like I always say, what’s the worst case scenario? You don’t like it and you spit it out. No regrets, just lessons learned. No worries!

Have you ever tried this?

Thoughts on pickles in eggs?

Have another favorite seemingly strange flavor combination for me to try?

What’s your favorite ingredient to add to eggs?

Brennan’s Lobster Salad

lobster salad
Brennan’s Lobster Salad Sandwich

Whenever I visit two of my best friends in their hometown we head to the beach, but not before stopping at Brennan’s Delicatessen in Rumson, NJ. Famous for their extensive selection of gourmet wraps, not to mention homemade salads, sides and sandwiches, they are the must-try lunch spot if you’re in Central Jersey.

Having been there a few times and having loved their food, I said YES! when I was asked if I wanted to try the one in Oakhurst. It did not disappoint.

It sported the same big board of numbered sandwich options, the same glass counter filled with delicious and obviously homemade salads and sides, and the same cozy beach-town atmosphere.

First I ordered a roasted vegetable wrap, but quickly asked if it would be too much of a pain to change my order. They were offering a Lobster Salad Sandwich special that I simply could not pass up! I didn’t order it at first because “Lobster salad” makes me think of Lobster Rolls which, believe it or not, are not my favorite.

Last summer I tried a lobster roll and a lobster ale at The Lobster Roll on Long Island, supposedly the original and creator of the sandwich. It was a cute, fun place and the lobster ale was great. The roll, however, not my thing. Not bad, just not my preference.

This is why I was nervous to order it at Brennan’s… until I saw the big bowl of it on the counter. I saw that there were HUGE, and I mean HUGE chunks of lobster with shopped veggies and a light layer of dressing. I am always afraid that chicken, tuna or lobster salad will have too much filling or mayonnaise, thus hiding the supposed feature ingredient. Not the case here.

lobster rollBrennan’s lobster salad was chunky with gigantic pieces of lobster that were complimented with a little bit of mayo, and some fresh, crunchy raw veggies – mostly carrots, red onion and celery. It was served on soft, multigrain bread that stood up to the salad, even over night in the fridge! Yes, that means I could only eat half per sitting. It was a delicious and big sandwich, enough for lunch on both Thursday and Friday.

The only thing I have to say, and only because this blog is honest, is that I did not care for the chips. They make homemade potato chips, which I usually love, but this time they were a disappointment. They were soggy and some tasted like BBQ chips – something else I am not a fan of.

BUT the lobster salad sandwich was so good I was willing to over-look the chips and still give Brennan’s my utmost approval.

Not a seafood lover? Not in to Lobster salad? Try any one of their other gourmet sandwiches or wraps – you will not be sorry!