Tina Made Blackberry Vinaigrette

I f-ing love salad. Not because it’s healthy or good for me or because I’m supposed to, but I genuinely think it’s delicious. EXCEPT when the dressing sucks. So maybe I don’t really love salad, I love salad dressing. Shrug.

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I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting proportions right when I’m making dressing. It’s always too oily or too tangy or too something. I keep adding the “missing” ingredient until I end up with 2 cups of mediocrity. -_- So. Here’s a foolproof vinaigrette dressing recipe (that I should follow more often). I used blackberry balsamic from Beyond the Olive, which pretty much guaranteed it would be delicious.


  • 1/4 cup blackberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove chopped garlic

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Enjoy, herbivores.

Tina Made Avocado Toast

THIS. This is my absolute favorite snack in the entire world. Like ever, in life. Probably because like this recipe, it has perfect trifecta of ingredients (avocado, cilantro, lime).

Please try it. Unless you’re one of those unfortunate people who don’t like cilantro… then… I’ve got nothing.


  • one slice of toasted sourdough bread
  • a few sprigs of cilantro
  • half a lime
  • half an avocado
  • salt & pepper

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Toast bread. Smash half an avocado onto your bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper on avocado. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.  Squeeze lime juice (maybe half a lime, maybe more/less). DEVOUR.

Tina Made Cilantro-Lime Bean Salad

I’m not even kidding right now, I’ve made this salad 4x in the last 2 weeks (just barely adapted below). It contains the best ingredient duo ever… lime + cilantro (pho, anyone?). Actually, it’s a trifecta of goodness, because it also contains avocados (tacos, anyone?). What is it about the combination of these three green ingredients that is so delicious? That was a rhetorical question. Make it now.

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  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T extra virgin olive
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1- 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, diced

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Cut your grape tomatoes in half, dice your avocado and red onion, and chop your cilantro.

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Rinse and drain your chick peas and black beans. Mix the minced garlic, lime juice, oil, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt in a bowl.

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Mix beans with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and avocado. When you’re ready to eat, dress with the vinaigrette. Serves 4-5.

Tina Made Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Why are mashed potatoes considered a holiday dish? They are delicious year round. Just like cranberry jelly in a can, which I really should eat more than once a year. But anyway. Yes, I did make garlic mashed potatoes over the holidays, and have been craving them since. I used this recipe, relying mostly on the accompanying video of Alton Brown himself. I compiled the written instructions with the video instructions, which were a bit different (or maybe just more specific).

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(Sorry for the crappy picture– sometimes, eating is a much bigger priority than stopping to take nice pictures)


  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 16 fluid oz. (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-6 oz. Parmesan, freshly grated

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Crush garlic cloves. Put in a small pot, and poach them in 16 oz. of half and half. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and put a lid on it. Wash, peel, and dice your potatoes.

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Soak your potatoes in water for 30 minutes. Then drain the water, put the potatoes in a pot submerged in water (with about 1.5 inches to spare). Add the 2 T of kosher salt, and put them at high heat. As soon as they come to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. While your potatoes are cooking, grate the parmesan cheese.

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The potatoes are cooked when they are crushable with a fork. Drain your potatoes. Mash them with a potato ricer (or use whatever tools you have). Pour in the garlic-cream. Add grated cheese (I ended up using about 4 of the 6 oz., but that’s just personal preference). Mix, and give it 5 min before you eat.

Urgh. So hungry now. Serves 10-ish, no gravy needed!

Tina Made Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Another dish I made for Thanksgiving! And then again the next day for a holiday potluck. Kinda sick of these little suckers now but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough. I made 50 dates for the potluck (for ~10 people), so the recipe below will be for that many– but obviously, cut down (or increase) if you need to. It’s super easy (only 4 ingredients!) but is a bit tedious to assemble. Promise it will be worth it though. 😉 Original recipe and directions here; directions modified below.

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  • 50 pitted dates (I used Deglet Noor because they were smallest– original recipe recommends Medjool)
  • 50 almonds, unsalted
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • half block of cream cheese
  • 50 toothpicks, soaked in water for 10 minutes

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Throw a bunch of toothpicks in a bowl of water and let them soak (take them out after 10 minutes and pat dry). Meanwhile, cut a slit into each of the dates. Cut small rectangular pieces of cream cheese (~3/4″ long, 1/2″ wide, 1/4″ thick) and use a knife to place them into each date. Pop an almond into each one. The cream cheese should “seal” the date back together so it doesn’t fall apart!   

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Cut pieces of bacon large enough to wrap around the dates, and secure with a toothpick. Soaking the toothpicks is not an absolutely necessary step, but prevents it from burning before going into the oven.

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Arrange dates in a shallow baking pan lined with foil. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip each date over, and bake for another 8 minutes. Flip dates again, and broil for 2 minutes. Flip dates for the last time, and broil for another 2 minutes. The bacon should be cooked after 16 minutes (or even less) but the broiling will crisp it up!

Bon appetit!

Cranberry Couscous

My friend passed on a delicious cranberry couscous recipe to me a few years back (via allrecipes.com), and I’ve made it here and there, usually for potlucks (with a few modifications). However, when I clicked back on the recipe link recently, the original recipe had completely changed! Not sure when that happened, but I really like the first version, so here it is with the modifications (you can compare it to the recipe that’s currently up, linked above– there are pretty significant differences). I made it for Thanksgiving last week but I feel like the cranberries make it also appropriate for a Christmas meal, don’t you? 🙂 Recipe below is technically for 6, but I’d say that as a side, it can serve 8-10.

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  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • juice from 1/4 orange

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All the ingredients– note that I only used 1/4 the orange, 1/4 of the onion, and 1 large persian cucumber and carrot each.

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In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes. Seed and chop cucumbers, carrots,  and onions.

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In a bowl, combine the couscous, cranberries, carrots, cucumber and red onion. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, pepper, and juice of orange.

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Pour dressing over couscous mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Toast sliced almonds by stirring on pan at medium-high heat. Turn heat to low as soon as almonds begin to brown. Tip: It will take awhile for the almonds to start browning, but once they do, they will burn fast, so watch carefully!

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Just before serving, mix in almonds. This dish explodes with so many different flavors/textures… sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, chewy, etc. Party in your mouth!

I’d recommend you make this dish at least half a day before serving, to allow the couscous to soak in the flavors of the dressing. If you’re in a time crunch, let it sit for at least a couple hours in the fridge.


Tina Made Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know. LA was 90 degrees yesterday. Let’s disregard that, because I’ve got the perfect fall recipe for you, folks. This is the first and only chicken tortilla soup recipe I’ve tried (adapted from here), but I kinda love it so I’m sticking with it.

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Ingredients (recipe serves 6):

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts*
  • ~45 oz. low-sodium chicken broth (roughly 3 cans)
  • 1.5 cups chunky salsa
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic + 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon olive oil
  • tortilla chips
  • Optional (to garnish): shredded cheese, cilantro, avocado, green onions, sour cream

*LAZY PEOPLE– Substitute chicken breasts for one of those rotisserie chickens you can buy at the market… you know, like Ralph’s or something. Cuts down on cooking time + dishes to wash.

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Pictured above– soup ingredients + optional garnish ingredients

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Boil chicken in water with one clove of garlic. If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, skip this step, obvi. Chop onion. I mentioned this last time, but how to properly/easily chop an onion here. Remove chicken from heat and let cool.

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While chicken is cooling, saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned. Heat chicken broth on med-high heat in large pot. Shred chicken– careful, it’ll probably still be hot! If you’re using a rotisserie chicken, just shred that. Boom.

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Add shredded chicken, salsa, onion, corn, black beans (rinsed), lemon juice, cumin, garlic, chili powder to pot. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least an hour.

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To serve– Break up tortilla chips and put in bottom of bowl. Pour soup over chips and sprinkle cheese on top (optional). Garnish with additional toppings of choice (e.g. cilantro, avocado, green onions, sour cream). I chose avocados and cilantro.

Note: If the soup tastes watery or bland, just wait! It will taste exponentially better as time passes (err…until it spoils, of course). I would highly suggest that you make it in the morning to eat for dinner, or make it at night, then eat it the next day.

Tina Made Beef Donburi

[Note: This is a scheduled post while I’m away in Korea!]

You guys. I have a recipe for beef donburi (rice bowl) that’s BETTER than the beef bowl at Yoshinoya. I know, I know. IMPOSSIBLE, you say. Dear reader, today I am going to blow your mind.

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Okay seriously though, I only eat it like once a year, but the beef bowl at Yoshinoya is one of my guilty pleasures. Admitting I go there at all ranks up there with the fact that I’ve watched every single episode of The Bachelor/Bachelorette in the last 7 (to 10) seasons, including… wait for it… Bachelor Pad. Also the fact that I like to dip my flaming hot cheetos in cream cheese. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

The recipe is from Just One Cookbook (tagline: “Quick and Easy Japanese Recipes”) and this dish was the first I’ve cooked from this site. I actually rarely cook any Asian dishes (in my mind they are all difficult) so this was my tentative foray into A Whole New World.

I stuck pretty close to the original recipe but made a couple modifications, noted below. I’m positive your dish will turn out yummy using either the original version or mine– but as always, tons of pictures below for you step-by-steppers.


  • 3/4 lb. (1 pkg) thinly sliced beef for Shabu Shabu (bought from Asian market)
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 shiitake mushroom heads (increased x6 from original recipe)
  • 2 small yellow potatoes, peeled (or 1 small russet potato)
  • cooking oil
  • 1 T sugar (halved from original recipe)
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 3-4 servings of Japanese rice
  • red pickled ginger (optional, added from original recipe, bought from Asian market))
  • 3 T soy sauce*
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced*

*Substitute the soy sauce and garlic with this recipe for shiso garlic soy sauce, which is what the original recipe used

Seasoning Ingredients:

  • 1 T mirin (substituted for sake in original recipe)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Cook rice. Wash potatoes and mushrooms. Peel skin of potatoes and break off stems of mushrooms and discard. Slice onions, potatoes, and mushrooms into strips. BTW, if you’ve never learned how to properly/easily chop an onion, you need to read this right now– this is the best way.

UNPICTURED STEP (out of sequence, but do NOW): The original recipe uses shiso garlic soy sauce (recipe linked above) to add to this dish towards the end. Because I couldn’t find shiso leaves at the Asian market I went to (and also because you’re supposed to let it sit for at least 24 hours), I ended up combining just the soy sauce (3 T) with 2 cloves of minced garlic in a tupperware container, and shaking it vigorously. Do this step now, and set aside for later.

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In a MEDIUM sized bowl, make your seasoning by mixing together the sea salt, mirin/sake, pepper, and garlic powder. Cut meat into strips, or do what I did and just shred it with your hands (the shabu shabu meat is super thinly sliced). Add meat to the bowl of seasoning, and mix well with your hand(s).

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Add corn starch to the meat and continue to mix with your hands (do what Just One Cookbook did and sprinkle it, instead of dumping it like me -_-). Set aside. Heat cooking oil to medium high heat in a large non-stick pan/wok. Sauté potatoes and onions until they are soft.

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Add the meat and shiitake mushrooms and continue to saute until meat is cooked. Add sugar and (shiso) garlic soy sauce. BTW, though the first picture way above shows only 6 shiitake mushrooms (already tripled from the original recipe), as I was cooking this I added… more. And by more I mean I doubled them to 12. I love them, okay?! Geez.

I don’t know why I’m so sensitive about these shiitake mushrooms right now. Maybe because they remind me of the time in college my ear got severely infected after I pierced my cartilage. When I asked my roomie Sarah to take a look at it, she examined it and thoughtfully said, “It looks like a shiitake mushroom.” She’s also the one who told me about Just One Cookbook, so all is forgiven Sarah. All is forgiven.

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Scoop white rice into a bowl, and top with your beef + veggie mix. As an option, garnish with red pickled ginger. ENJOY.

PS-  My ear has since returned to normal appearance (sans cartilage earring). Thanks for caring.

Tina Made Baked White Fish with Veggies

I love white fish. I also love fast recipes. And delicious food. So when one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, recently posted a fish recipe described as a “super quick and delicious meal,” I jumped on it.

Their tutorial (linked above) was pretty self-explanatory, but I documented the steps anyway, with just a few changes (addition/omission of a couple ingredients). Also, I added an ingredients list (with exact amounts, because remember… I’m neurotic/a step-by-step cook… and maybe you are too).

This meal is perfect to make even if you’re only cooking for one! Which is usually annoying, but it totally works for this dish because it’s so simple. I’ve already made it twice!

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  • 1 white fish fillet (I used tilapia once and swai once– both good)
  • 1/2 bundle of asparagus (about half pound)
  • 1 zucchini (added to original recipe)
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter (halved from original recipe)
  • salt & pepper
  • rectangular piece of parchment paper (1.5 feet is plenty)
  • omitted from original recipe: fresh dill

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Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice zucchini into rounds and chop off ends of asparagus.

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Slice ~3/4 of lemon into thin slices. Fold parchment paper in half, and lay out zucchini and asparagus on one side of  parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Lay lemon slices on top. Squeeze juice of remaining 1/4 lemon onto veggies.

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Using a knife, chop up garlic cloves and mash together with butter. Season fish fillet with salt and pepper, then lay on top of lemon slices. Spread butter-garlic mash over top of the fish.

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Fold the second half of the parchment paper over the fish & veggies, and fold closed (a bit trickier than it looks..!). Bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Everything will steam inside the parchment.

Voila! All done. I cannot emphasize how fast and easy this is. It’s literally ~10 minutes to prep, and while it cooks for ~10 minutes in the oven, you can clean up your kitchen, so when you’re finished eating, there will be minimal dishes to do. EXCITING.


Tina Made a Harvest Grains Salad

I rarely cook dishes without a recipe. Allrecipes.com is my best friend in the kitchen. SO when I do cook on the fly (and the dish turns out edible… or even delicious), I feel really proud of myself. Like really. It’s a rare occasion to be celebrated.


My sister recently gave me a bag of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend (contains Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa) and told me that it tastes good as a cold salad mixed with veggies and Greek dressing. Okay, fine, that’s pretty much a recipe. So sue me.

Anyway, if you’re neurotic like me (or you’re just a bad cook who needs maximum direction), then here’s exactly what I did–



  • 1/2 package of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend (1 1/4 c. uncooked)
  • 1.5 Persian cucumbers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • ~20 grape tomatoes, quartered (or equivalent amount of regular tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1/2 can olives (~2 oz.)


  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil (evoo)
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

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Cook 1/2 package of grains per package instructions. You can cook the grains in either water or chicken broth; I used mostly (low-sodium) chicken broth with a splash of water. You also need a tablespoon of butter!

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Set aside your cooked grain medley to cool. Meanwhile, chop your olives…

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Seed and chop your cucumbers… Chop your red onion (just 1/4)…

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Quarter your tomatoes… then put all 4 ingredients aside (in the fridge, if you prefer).

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Combine evoo, lemon juice (I cheated… use fresh lemon juice if possible!!), minced garlic, salt, and pepper and mix vigorously. Proportions can be fiddled with per taste preference (I tend to like things extra citrusy). Note: In the picture on the left, there are two cloves of garlic. I highly advise you use just one. I LOVE garlic but two was a little too much, even for me.


Once your grains have sufficiently cooled, mix in the olives, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes and refrigerate for a bit. If you’re going to serve immediately, slowly mix in the dressing, being careful not to over-dress (add & taste, add & taste). If not, then I’d recommend dressing right before serving to prevent over-saturation.

Yum! Super easy, healthy, and fresh. Perfect for a summer side dish. Serves 5.

PS- There are obviously different ingredients I could have added (e.g. fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, carrots, etc.) with different dressings, but I’m very satisfied with how this combination tasted. 🙂