Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Guacamole! August 31, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 10:30 pm
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Well, our Kalamazoo celebration weekend went well.  Very well!  The weather didn’t really cooperate very much with us, but we made due and still had a good time.  I have such great friends!

I made this to take with me to Jen’s along with the salsa.  I love guacamole so much!  This is a super easy (and super cheap!) recipe that’s really customizable.  You can add more or less of whatever you want…and even my measurements are really only approximations.  I usually just start adding things and I eventually stop when it tastes right to me.  So feel free to change up amounts or completely substitute/leave out ingredients as you see fit.

Make sure to buy very ripe avocados for this.  You should look for fruit with very dark, black skin that gives quite a bit when squeezed.  Unripe avocados don’t have quite as much flavor and are almost impossible to smash without breaking kitchen utensils.  Which we definitely don’t want.



3 large, very ripe avocados

1 plum tomato, roughly chopped

1/2 large or 1 small white onion, roughly chopped

1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1) With a large knife, halve each avocado by cutting all the way around the pit and twisting to separate the sides.  Using a large spoon, remove the pit and discard.  Spoon out the flesh of the avocado and place in a large bowl.

2) Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the avocado to form a relatively smooth consistency.  (I prefer the avocado to be smooth, but if you want chunks, leave chunks!)

3) Stir in about 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice and the onion, jalapeno and tomato that you previously chopped.

4) Place the minced garlic on a cutting board.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. kosher salt.  Using the flat side of your knife, press down on the garlic and drag across the cutting board, crushing it under the knife.  Repeat until a paste forms, then stir that paste into the mixture.

5) Gently mix in the cilantro.  Taste, and add salt, pepper and more lime juice, if needed.

6) To store, cover first with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap right onto the top of the guacamole.  Even though we added quite a bit of lime juice, the parts that are exposed to air will turn brown, but the plastic wrap will help.  Then either cover with foil or an air-tight top.


Roasted Tomato Salsa August 27, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 7:37 pm
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I’m back!  Did you miss me?

I can’t believe the summer is already almost over – it flew by so quickly!  As I’m sure you’ve noticed by the lack of posts these past few months, I took a little summer hiatus from blogging, and cooking in general.  I moved in with my little sister for the summer and didn’t want to lug my tons of cooking equipment with me for just a three month stay and little sister doesn’t do much cooking at all aside from making a bowl of cereal every now and again.  To be honest though, other than the bowl of spaghetti every now and then, I think I only actually cooked twice this summer.  Twice! I know, I can’t believe it either.

The good news is that I’m back and all moved into my house in Big Rapids and school starts on Monday, so I’ll be doing much more cooking (and blog updating!) now.  This weekend my group of pharmacy school friends are going on a little getaway to celebrate the last weekend before classes start.  My friend Jen (who made an appearance in the last blog post) has a gorgeous house right on a lake in Kalamazoo, so we’re all traveling down there and staying for the weekend.  It’s going to be so much fun – I can’t wait!

Jen asked everyone to either donate money so she could go grocery shopping, or bring some food to share, so I naturally volunteered to bring some food.  It felt so good to get back to cooking again!

This is one of the snacks I volunteered to bring.  I saw this recipe ages ago on 101Cookbooks and I’m so glad I finally got around to making it!  I’ve never made a salsa that involved cooking the ingredients, but it turned out really well.  Roasting the tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a little hint of smokiness that goes really well with the chipotle chiles.  The flavor is definitely different than that of a fresh salsa, but I think this makes for a nice change every once in a while.

Chipotle chiles (which are smoked jalapenos) can be found in most major supermarkets, usually in the ethnic foods aisle.  They come in a small can, usually labeled “chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.”  The original recipe calls for a dried guajillo pepper as well, but I couldn’t find any at my grocery store, so I just left it out.


Roasted Tomato Salsa

Adapted from: 101 Cookbooks

2 lbs. roma tomatoes

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 chipotle chiles (canned, in adobo sauce)

1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2)  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place, cut side down in a single layer, on a large cookie sheet.  (I like to lightly cover my cookie sheet in cooking spray, just in a case.)  Cut the onion into large wedges and place on the cookie sheet with the tomatoes.  Place the garlic cloves on the cookie sheet, too.

3) Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, onions and garlic and sprinkle with salt.

4) Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the tomatoes have started to sink in the middle and the onions are lightly browned on the edges.  Set aside and let cool.

5) Once everything has cooled a bit, puree 3 tomato halves, the garlic cloves and chipotles in a food processor until smooth.  Roughly chop the rest of the tomatoes and onion and stir into the pureed mixture.  Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Chicken Marsala June 2, 2009

Filed under: chicken,main dish — pharmfresh @ 8:30 pm
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This is the last of the recipes from the cooking extravaganza that my friend Jen and I had a few weeks ago.  I’ve always wanted to try chicken marsala, so I was really excited when I saw that this was on the menu.   I love cooking with boneless skinless chicken breasts because they’re so easy to cook with and I always have them on hand.  However, sometimes it’s hard to find new and exciting ways to cook them and I get bored really easily with the same old chicken dishes.


Jen was in charge of pounding the chicken breasts.

I really liked that this recipe was super simple.  You could definitely pull off this dish from start to finish in 30 minutes, easy, which makes it perfect for a weekday meal.  And even though you use very few ingredients, you still get a really nice, rich flavor in the end.

There are a few different ways to pound out the chicken breasts for this recipe, but my favorite is to use plastic wrap.  Place a piece of plastic wrap (about a foot long) on the counter, and then place one chicken breast in the middle.  Cover the piece of chicken with another piece of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or a heavy-bottomed cup, whack the chicken until it’s about 1/2 inch thick.  This way it keeps the counter and your hands relatively clean, and it makes for a really easy clean up — just fold the plastic wrap over so the part the chicken touched is on the inside, and throw away!


Chicken Marsala

Adapted from:

Makes: 4 servings (1 chicken breasts each)

1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2 inch thickness

8 tbsp. olive oil, divided

8 tbsp. butter, divided

1 c. sliced mushrooms

1 c. Marsala wine

1/2 c. cooking sherry

1) In a shallow bowl or plate mix together the flour, salt, pepper and oregano.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making sure it’s well coated.  Shake slightly to remove some of the excess flour.

2) In a large skillet, heat 4 tbsp. butter and 4 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, place two of the chicken breasts in the pan and cook until lightly browned.  Turn the chicken over and add the mushrooms.

3) Pour in the wine and cooking sherry.  Cover the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.  Repeat with the remaining two chicken breasts.


Jen and her husband Frankie with their respective bowls of chicken (Jen likes mushrooms, Frankie doesn’t)

Aren’t they adorable?


Baked Ziti June 1, 2009

Filed under: main dish,pasta,turkey — pharmfresh @ 3:58 pm
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Happy first day of June! I’m so glad it’s finally getting warm here. I love summer!

This baked ziti was the second thing that Jen and I cooked during our cooking extravaganza. I love baked pasta dishes, because they’re always so easy to make and they freeze and reheat really well. This one was a little bit different than the baked ziti I always make, because it calls for adding some fresh basil (always a good thing!) and ricotta cheese. I will definitely be making it sometime soon!


That’s me!  Mixing spaghetti sauce into the cooked ground turkey.


Mmmm, look at that fresh basil and garlic!

(And wine and Wheat Thins…hey, we can’t have hungry cooks!)


Jen and I with the finished product!

This recipe is really easy to customize to fit your own tastes.  You can use ground beef or turkey and you can add more or less cheese and fresh herbs.  Instead of using plain tomato sauce, we used spaghetti sauce, which will bump up the flavor quite a bit.  My favorite is Prego Fresh Mushroom, but you can use whatever kind you like.  Instead of using shredded mozzarella cheese, Jen ended up buying a few balls of fresh mozzarella.  We cut it up into chunks and mixed about half into the pasta mixture and then sprinkled the rest on top right before baking.  I actually liked this better, because then there’s little pockets of cheese inside the pasta, along with the nice little blobs of it on top.


Baked Ziti

Makes: One 13×9 inch pan (about 8 servings)

Adapted from:

1/2 lb. ziti pasta

4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. ground turkey

2 c. tomato sauce (or spaghetti sauce)

1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped

1 c. ricotta cheese

2/3 c. grated mozzarella cheese

1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until just shy of being done (you want them to be still slightly chewy in the middle), about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add the onion and saute until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for one minute more.

3) Add the ground turkey to the skillet with the onion and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until turkey is completely cooked through.  Drain off any excess fat.

4) Add the tomato sauce to the skillet and mix until combined.  Heat over low heat until bubbly, about 5 minutes.

5) In a large bowl, mix together the turkey mixture, pasta, basil and ricotta cheese.  Spoon mixture into a greased 13×9 inch pan.

6) Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese evenly over the pasta mixture.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned and the mixture is heated through.


I’m Back! Plus Crock Pot Turkey Chili May 31, 2009

Filed under: main dish,turkey — pharmfresh @ 10:50 pm
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Hello again!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I bet you almost forgot about me, didn’t you?

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted.  I feel terrible!  In my defense, I haven’t actually cooked almost anything this past month.  It’s not like I’ve been cooking these fabulous things and just not sharing.

This past month has been, well, stressful.  I managed to get sick, break up with my boyfriend, take all of my finals, and decide to move to a city I’ve never lived in before all in the space of about a week.  Not my best week, obviously.  Needless to say, I was a bit stressed.  I didn’t really eat anything that entire week.  Like literally, there were a few days when I would be getting ready for bed and realize “oh, I didn’t eat dinner.  Wait, or lunch.  Uh-oh, or breakfast!”  And even when I did eat, it was either pre-made TV dinners or cereal.  I couldn’t really bring myself to cook anything.  I feel like I lost my cooking mojo for a bit, but luckily I’m starting to recover.

I moved to Kalamazoo for the summer to live with my little sister.  It was an incredibly last-minute decision, but so far I’m really happy with it.  We get along surprisingly well when my parents aren’t around, haha.  My friend Jen also lives in Kalamazoo, and she had me over for a little cooking extravaganza.  She usually tries to cook a ton of food in advance  and then freezes it, so her and her husband don’t have to cook a lot during the week, and so her husband eats something other than beef jerkey and crackers when she’s off in Big Rapids during the week taking classes.

I had so much fun cooking with Jen!  Her house (and especially her kitchen) is absolutely gorgeous, and I was so excited to finally get to see it!  It was nice to get back in the kitchen and actually cook.  We made three entrees, all of which I’ll be posting, the first of which being turkey chili in the crock pot.  I’m ashamed to admit that I walked out of her house without actually having tasted anything, but from what I’ve heard from Jen and Frankie, everything was delicious.  I can tell you that at the very least, everything smelled amazing as it was cooking!

IMG_4058 Everyone, meet Jen!  She’s very enthusiastically browning the ground turkey for the chili.  Also, isn’t the backsplash in her kitchen really pretty?

This is a really great recipe for chili that I will definitely be making sometime in the near future.  I love that it uses the crock pot, because it frees up so much time that you would normally be spending standing by the stove, stirring the chili on the stovetop.  With this recipe, you chuck everything in the crock pot, turn it on, and then let it be.  It’s awesome.

With chili, I’ve found that it’s really important to taste often as you’re adding spices.  Everyone likes their chili a certain way, and you’ll never know if it tastes right to you if you don’t, well, taste it!  We started by adding about half of the spices that the recipe calls for, and then tasting and adding more as we saw fit.  If I remember correctly, we increased the amount of cumin and cayenne pepper to about 1 teaspoon each to fit Jen’s tastes. Also, this makes a TON of chili.  It completely filled up Jen’s extra large crock pot, so if you only have a normal sized crock pot (and unfortunately I don’t know the volumes of each, but you can see the size of Jen’s from the picture below) I would recommend halving the recipe, or making it in batches.


Crock Pot Turkey Chili

Adapted from:

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil

1 lb. ground turkey

1 onion, coarsely chopped

2 c. water

1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp. garlic, minced

2 tbsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less, depending on your tastes)

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the ground turkey and cook until it’s no longer pink.  Place the turkey in the crock pot.

2) Add all other ingredients into the crock pot and mix well.  If desired, start by adding only half of all the spices, and then adjust to reach the flavor that you like.

3) Turn the crock pot on high and cook for 2-3 hours.


Crispy Onion Chicken April 17, 2009

Filed under: chicken,main dish — pharmfresh @ 11:55 am
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I am so glad that it’s Friday.  Three weeks and counting until I’m done with my first year of pharmacy school.  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all of the things I need to do before the end of the semester.  So, if my posts are a little sparse for the next three weeks or so, you know why!

I made this chicken last night and was really surprised at how good it was.  I’ve had this recipe forever, but never got around to making it…I always found something that seemed more interesting.   This has very few ingredients, but those few ingredients really pack a punch.  The flavor is fabulous.  It’s salty and crunchy and a little bit tangy.   Even better, this uses mostly basic ingredients so you’re likely to already have everything in the house to make it.  It comes together really quickly, and would be perfect for dinner on a weeknight.

Like usual, I’ve written the recipe for 1 serving, but this can be easily increased to however many servings you want.


Crispy Onion Chicken

Makes: 1 serving

1 tbsp. butter, melted

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 c. french fried onions, crushed

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1) In a medium sized bowl, combine the melted butter, Worcestershire, garlic powder, pepper and Dijon mustard.

2) Place the french fried onions in a shallow dish or a plate.

3) Dredge the chicken breast in the butter mixture, covering well.  Then dip the chicken breast into the onions, making sure it’s well-covered.

4) Place the chicken breast on a greased baking sheet.  Top with remaining sauce and onions.

5) Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and onions are crisp and browned.


Buttermilk Lemon Bars April 6, 2009

Filed under: cookies/bars,dessert,fruit — pharmfresh @ 7:22 pm
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I love summer.  For someone who has been in school for 17 out of 22 years of her life, summer means freedom.  Waking up late, playing outside, swimming.  This year, summer means the chance to read a real book (not a textbook!), no studying for 3 solid months, and finally, finally, a break.

We only have 4 more weeks of school.  I’m finding it very hard to study when it’s sunny outside.  All I want to do is go outside and play.

These lemon bars, to me, are the epitome of summer.  There’s something about lemons that just brings to mind sunshine and warmth.  And since it’s currently April and STILL SNOWING….well, I needed something summery.


I’m not usually a huge fan of lemon bars.  I’ve only had them a few times before, and they’ve always either seemed overwhelmingly sweet or way too tart.  The buttermilk in these bars seems to balance both quite well.  It mellows out the sharp tartness of the lemons and adds a creaminess that balances the sweetness.   They’re still quite tart, but it’s not the kind biting acidity that lemon flavored foods can sometimes have.

I would recommend making sure that the bars are very cold before trying to cut them.  The filling is very smooth and custardy, which makes them pretty messy to cut unless they’ve had time to solidify in the fridge or freezer.  Since lemon is the main (and really only) flavor in this dessert, I strongly recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice.  I’ve found that bottled lemon juice tends to have much more of that acidic bite, and usually has a very unappetizing aftertaste.  The recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of juice, which is very easy to squeeze by hand, and it really makes all the difference.


Buttermilk Lemon Bars

Adapted from: Baking Bites

Makes: about 16 (2 inch x 2 inch) bars


1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. lemon zest

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature


4 eggs

1 1/3 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 4 large lemons)

1 tbsp. lemon zest

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8×8 (0r 9×9) inch square pan.

2) In a medium bowl, combine all the crust ingredients except the butter.  Mix well.

3) Using two knives, a pastry blender or (my favorite) your hands, mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the greased pan.

4)  Bake for 16-19 minutes until just lightly browned.

5) While the crust is baking, whisk together all of the filling ingredients in another bowl.

6) Pour the filling mixture onto the crust while it is still hot and bake for another 20 minutes.  The filling should not jiggle when gently shaken.

7) Cool completely, then cut into bars.  Dust with powdered sugar to serve.