Five-Spice Eggplant

Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals is like the Game Genie of cooking and I love it for that reason.

However, it also appears to be a cookbook backed by the spice company McCormick, which I have mixed feelings about. I don’t have anything against McCormick, but it just feels like the Sandra’s publishers were like, “Ok this eggplant recipe is great and all, but we need you to mention McCormick somewhere and it can’t be just pepper and salt.”

So, they came up with McCormick five-spice powder.

I feel that they should just be honest about it and name this McCormick Sponsored Eggplant, but I digress….

What you’ll need

  • 4 small Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder (McCormick of course)
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons of dark sesame oil

The first step is to pre-heat your oven to….

Is it gonna be 350 or…..

It’s gonna be 400!

So, do that, then line a baking pan with some foil.

While your oven is heating up, in a medium bowl, toss every ingredient together. Then lay the slices on your baking pan and roast for 10-15 minutes. Once that timer goes off, you’re good to go.

Simple and easy, like always.

I admittedly could have done without the 5-spices. Maybe that’s why I feel the way I do about this McCormick sponsorship, but this was still a tasty recipe. The star of the show was the sesame oil. Other than that, this is your standard eggplant side dish and should not disappoint anyone who isn’t too picky.


5-Spice Eggplant


Sandra Lee’s Semi Pad Thai

This recipe from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals is actually called Spicy Peanut Noodles, but it’s basically a variation on Pad Thai.

As usual, Sandra’s recipes are a breeze to make. I failed miserably at trying to make a custard pudding recently and writing about this recipe renews my self-confidence in the world of cooking.

My custard still tasted ok, but it would have been delicious if the consistency was right.

Sandra, thankfully, gives you little room to fail. She gently holds your hand through every recipe in this book. I haven’t failed a recipe of hers yet.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed though. You never know.

What you’ll need

  • 8 ounces of soba noodles
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Thai seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of peanuts, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced diagonally

The first step is to boil the soba noodles. This isn’t hard. Just boil some water and cook the noodles for 4-5 minutes. Drain the water when it’s ready, cool the noodles, and set aside.

The next step is to prepare your peanut butter sauce by whisking the peanut butter with the chicken broth, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, Thai seasoning, and the red pepper flakes.

When everything is whisked together, just pour on top of the noodles, sprinkle some peanuts and scallions and you’re good to go!

This was so much easier to make than my custard pudding dish, let me tell you! I feel slightly redeemed. Don’t feel sorry for me though. I’m not down for the count. I’m gonna get right back up and knock that pudding senseless.

When I do, you’ll all hear about it.

For now though, look at this deliciousness.


Peanut Butter and Noodles


Somen Noodles and Sugar Snap Peas

Sandra Lee does it again with her so not meh noodles. This chicken teriyaki goodness with a side of snap peas is getting  a favorite recipe mark for sure. A previous owner agrees with me. I know this because they wrote good on the recipe.

As I’ve mentioned before, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Meals is a cookbook sent from heaven, wrapped neatly with a bow and hand delivered for those of you who struggle in the culinary arts.

In other words, she makes recipes that are idiot-proof as well as scrumptious.

This is mostly due to the fact that she finds shortcuts. I’m ok with this, because in this day in age people are either too busy and let’s get real with ourselves, lazy, to make food completely from scratch.

I’m pleased to have another successful recipe, but I’m also sad. I have no more puns or rambling stories to add and that does make me sad. So, let’s get to it then.

For the Chicken Noodles

  • 6 ounces of somen noodles
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken tenders, but into bite sized pieces
  • 6 ounces of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of carrot slices
  • 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 cup of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon of bottled crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of bottled minced ginger

The first step in making the noodles is to prepare for the ceremony known as The Boiling of the Noodles. Tradition states that you place the noodles in water that has been blessed with salt for three minutes. Drain the noodles afterwards and then set aside

While this ceremony is taking place, you may heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and stir for about 7 minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked, add the spinach, carrots, sauce, chicken broth, garlic, and ginger. Stir this mixture until well combined and then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the noodles right before you are ready to serve. When you do, toss and cook until the they are hot.

For the Sugar Snap Peas with Red Pepper

  • 14 ounces of sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 cup of roasted red bell pepper cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon of dark sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds

Get a microwave safe bowl, unless you want to add melted chemicals to your meal. I’m not going to judge. It’s your body, your choice.

Anyway, get a bowl and add all the ingredients except the sesame seeds. Mix them all up and then heat for 6-7 minutes. Stir halfway through to ensure the mixing has been properly done. If you are a classy classical person like myself and don’t own a microwave I suggest you heat your oven to 350 and cook for 10-15 minutes.

When this mixture has been properly heated you may add the sesame seeds. I added black ones because they were left over from a previous recipe.

They taste the same to me, so I believe it doesn’t matter what color you get.

As I said before, this meal was a success. It was easy to make and satisfying.

I love you Sandra Lee. Why are you so perfect? You’re probably a real blonde too.

Nevermind, I hate you.

Just kidding. I hate myself.

Just kidding. I’m trying to be funny and this is the only way I know how.

….now I’ve confused myself.


Somen noodles of goodness


Snap peas!



Minestrone Soup

My next recipe is a minestrone soup from Sandra Lee’s Semi Homemade Meals.

This is a great cookbook for the lazy novice cook. In other words, it’s perfect for me.

Ok, so I know I’m being a dick to myself. I’m not that bad of a cook. I’m definitely impatient which can come across as lazy at times. I think we all can agree on that, based on my past entries and all.

The  only downside to Sandra is that she breaks things down so easily that some of her breakdowns don’t exist anymore. What I mean by that is that certain brands and compilations of vegetables are un-obtainable in present day.

I got this cookbook when I was in High School and that was more then ten years ago.


How I feel about that fact

I think change is ultimately a good thing, but why can’t I find a frozen vegetable medley of sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower? That seems like a standard vegetable mix in the Americas.

Anyhoo, I ended up getting some Asian stir fry mix. Not so American but  it had all of the above plus water chestnuts. I like water chestnuts, but not so much in soup. It’s kinda abrasive. That’s the best way I can put it.

The other ingredients you’ll need are 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 of a chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of port wine, 1 32oz container of reduced sodium chicken broth, 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, 7 ounces of frozen mixed vegetables, 1/2 cup of rd kidney beans, and one teaspoon of Italian seasoning.

The first step to making this soup is to heat your olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it’s heated you cook the onion for about a minute and then the garlic for 30 seconds. Next, add the port wine and bring that to a boil. When it has boiled, reduce the heat and let it simmer for another minute.

Once the minute is up, you add the chicken broth, tomatoes, vegetables, beans, and seasoning. I have to make a note here, that you can use a whole can of beans. A half cup is not that much and I don’t see the point in not using the whole can. Sorry Sandra, you’ve been good to me, but I disagree with you on this.

Whatever you decide to do, you will bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

After all of that, your soup will be ready with the exception of one little tid bit. That tid bit is to add some shredded parm on top. Unless you have some kind of dairy allergy, do not forget this!!! It is the best part of this soup, trust me!

In the end I was a little disappointed in this soup, but the cheese saved it by being the heavenly angel of food passion and desire that it is. It melts in your mouth and gets all gooey. I love cheese so much. Screw being an eccentric cat lady. I’ll be an eccentric cheese lady.

The rest of the soup was just meh. I think using Sandra’s shortcuts via the vegetables was what kept it from being good. I had to force myself to eat the frozen veggies, but when ever I got a taste of onion I was in euphoria.

Halfway through eating this soup I started to fantasize about French Onion Soup. It’s so simple and yet delicious as all heaven.

So sorry, Sandra. This soup is on my no list for making again. I’ll stick to my Italian cookbooks for minestrone.


‘Meh’nestrone Soup




Sausage and Mushroom Pasta

This recipe is from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals. I used to make this pasta back in college all the time. It was one of my favorites. As far as my tastes go, I can’t go wrong with linguine, sausage, and mushrooms.

This cookbook is perfect for beginner cooks too. They should re-name it, Cooking for Dummies. I’ve managed to not screw up any recipe from here yet. We all know I’m a bit of a cooking dummy, so that’s saying something.

What you’ll need to make this, is one box of linguine, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 links of spicy Italian sausage, 2 garlic cloves, 2 sliced portobello mushrooms, 1 10 ounce can of diced Italian tomatoes,  and one 7 ounce container of pesto with basil.

The first step, as with most pasta dishes, is to boil a large pot of water to cook your pasta with.

This is an easy step and admittedly my pasta has been sticking to my pot lately. This wasn’t a problem for me in the past, so I was irritated by this new problem of mine. I mentioned this to my mother and asked if I should put oil or butter next time, but she said that wasn’t necessary. She thinks I’m not putting enough water in my pot. That is a possibility I’m wanting to test out for next time.

Anyway, while your pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the sausage and garlic. Cook this and stir for 5 minutes, eventually breaking up the sausage as it cooks along. I was having a hard time breaking up my sausage and I recommend purchasing and using cooking scissors to make this step easier.

After the sausage is cooked, add the mushrooms for another 5 minutes of cooking. Then add your drained tomatoes and the pesto. Bring that to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

That’s all there is to it! You don’t even have to add any additional spices. It’s so easy and not too expensive either.

It’s surprising how well tomatoes pair with pesto too. It’s not something I would normally put together, but it adds a slightly juicy texture to the sauce and compliments the mushrooms and sausage as well.

So go ahead and try this one out! It’s scrumptious and delicious, but not malicious.


Seafood Salad

Like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, I am a bum; but hey, at least we’ve got hobbies. I’ve got acting and cooking. He’s got bowling and wacky tabaccy. To each his own.

I was slacking with my hobbies last week though! In fairness to myself, I was busy not being a bum for once. Although truthfully I still felt like a bum, because mostly all I did was sit in a room reading all day. I got paid though. That was nice.

Anyway, my next recipe is Shrimp and Scallop Salad with Mandarin-Poppy Seed Dressing from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Meals. It’s another easy recipe and what you’ll need are 4 ounces of bay scallops, 1 can (15 oz) mandarin oranges, 8 oz of baby shrimp, 4 cups of arugula, and 1/4 cup of poppy seed dressing.

Like most salads, this recipe is extremely easy where most of the work is in the preparation. This salad is surprisingly low maintenance even in that area though. The most labor intensive part of the recipe is cooking your scallops in simmered water for 4 minutes. Then, if you want, which I did, you can cut them. After that, all you do is mix all the other ingredients together and toss.

The only note even when doing that is to be sure to reserve 2 tablespoons worth of the juice in the canned oranges to also toss with your salad.

Other than that, this is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made so far. As for my taste review, however, it was ok. I don’t think that’s the recipe’s fault though. I’m not a huge fan of seafood salads in general.  I prefer my seafood to be grilled or fried and not in a salad. The only exception for me is sushi. I’m not sure exactly why this is though. There’s something about compacting raw seafood in a roll of rice that is just so damn delicious. I can’t explain it.

Fruit with fruit of the sea salad.

Fruit with fruit of the sea salad.

Pasta Caprese

This cookbook comes from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Meals. I really love this cookbook and it’s the one cookbook I actually used frequently before I started this hobby of mine.

The recipe I made this time around is called Spinach Pasta Caprese, but I had to make it with regular pasta. For some reason the major pasta brands decided to do away with spinach pasta. I couldn’t find it anywhere at Von’s. They had some vegetable spaghetti, but no spinach. So I just bought regular fettucini. The recipe specifically called for spinach fettucini. I thought about getting the vegetable spaghetti, but I feel the texture and size of the pasta matters more in a dish than whether it’s whole grain, regular, or vegetable. I’ve had spinach pasta before and didn’t really notice a drastic change in taste, so I felt getting the right pasta shape was more important.

This dish is so simple to make. It doesn’t take much effort at all. Boiling pasta is the easiest thing in the world and the sauce is easy as pie too. Easy as pie is not a statement that makes sense to me though. Unless they mean it goes down easy. That makes sense, but making pies isn’t that easy.

Anyway, for the sauce, the first step is to saute some garlic for a bit. Once it’s nice and cooked you add a can of diced tomatoes and let that boil. Once it’s boiled, you remove it from the heat and add it to your cooked pasta. Then you just add some fresh torn mozzarella bits, some basil, and a bit of olive oil. Stir that around and you’ve got a pretty decent pasta dish.

Taste wise, this dish is very simple. There’s not a whole lot to it, but if you love mozzarella and basil, you’ll probably be ok with that. I personally love caprese salads, so I liked this dish. I’d say it’s a great alternative for when you’re too hungry for just a caprese salad.


It’s hard to see, but there are tomatoes, cheese, and basil in there.