Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Peppers with a Goat Cheese Sauce

For those of us trying to live a low-carb or healthy lifestyle, is there a better edible vessel for food than a Bell Pepper?  It is hard to think of one that is as tasty and has all the health benefits, like antioxidants and fiber and they are packed with vitamins such as A and C.  Fun fact, a green Bell Pepper has just not ripened into a red, yellow or orange one!  That explains why the green ones are not as sweet, but they have almost the same amount of vitamins.  In this super easy and delicious recipe, I personally prefer to use red, orange and yellow peppers, but use whatever you like!  This dish fills the Bell Pepper with delicious Italian chicken sausage, fresh spinach and goat cheese, which melts into this fantastic tangy and creamy sauce.  It honestly could not be easier, with just four major ingredients and very little prep work.  The end result is a gorgeous and healthy meal that is impressive enough to serve guests.  It is a great dish for a dinner party because you can prepare the whole thing ahead of time, and finish it in the oven when you are ready.  Every time I make this for my family and friends, I am always asked for the recipe.  This works as a terrific light meal on it's own and can also be served with a side salad, quinoa or rice.  You guys really need to make this!

This is what you need:

3 Bell Peppers of any color 
1 bag or 4 cups of raw Spinach or 1 box of defrosted and drained frozen spinach
1-1 1/2 lbs of Sweet Italian Sausage - chicken, turkey or pork would all work
5 oz of Goat Cheese (you can substitute cream cheese here if you don't like goat cheese)
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 tbsp of Parmesan Cheese (optional)

This what you do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and remove the casings from the sausage.  Crumble the sausage in a pan with 1 tbsp of Olive Oil and the garlic and cook over medium heat until no longer pink.  While this is cooking, slice the peppers in half and remove the stems.  Add them to a glass baking dish and drizzle Olive Oil and Salt and Pepper over each Bell Pepper.  Once the sausage is cooked through, add the spinach and cook for a couple minutes.  Then crumble the goat cheese and cook until it melts into a sauce.  Fill the Bell Peppers with the mixture and top with a little Parmesan Cheese.  Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 3 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Kids Ages 8 and Under

Today I am jumping from one passion of mine (cooking) to another; kids!  While I am no expert in what makes a good toy or one that will end up under the bed, lost and forgotten, I do have a 4 1/2 and 2 year old who have more toys than I am comfortable admitting.  The reason for this has nothing to do with their father or I, but it has everything to do with our incredible and giant extended family.  My children have been blessed with four sets of grandparents, nineteen aunts and uncles and more cousins than I can count.  We truly have a "Modern Family" and there is nothing but love between us all and I would not have it any other way.  We strive to make sure our kids know that toys and material possessions are not what the holidays or life in general is all about, but it is hard not to get joy from watching your kids open presents.  With that said, my older daughter and I have gone through all their toys to come up with a list of the favorites that have been used the most for playtime both independently (yay!) and with a playmate.  Any toys that have been outgrown were donated to a local secondhand store in an effort to teach our kids that it is important to give back and help others.  This list includes mostly unisex toys of all sizes and prices and everything comes highly recommended from my kids and myself!  Happy shopping!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Turkey and Veggie Chili

Is there a more suitable dish for a cold night than chili?  I am not sure there is.  Chili is such a hearty and warm dish that is also completely versatile.  There are so many variations and different ingredients that can be used.  It is honestly one of my favorite things to make because it is so easy, can feed an army, is a one pot (or crock pot) meal and you can make it hours before you need it and it only gets better the longer it simmers.  My Turkey and Veggie Chili is one of my oldest recipes that I first started making when I was trying to get my husband to be more open to ground turkey instead of ground beef.  Needless to say, it worked!  Not only does this chili use turkey to lower the fat content, it also is packed with veggies to provide extra nutrients and flavor.  The beans add a ton of protein and fiber making this a healthy and delicious chili.  I make this all the time when we have friends over or for Football Sunday because it is so easy and I can still enjoy my guests without having to be in the kitchen all night.  All you need is a quick pan of corn bread and you have a fantastic full meal done.  People always have seconds and want the recipe, and if there are any leftovers, they make for a delicious lunch the next day!

This is what you need:

1-1 1/2 lbs Ground Turkey (or ground beef)
3 cans of Beans - I use Kidney, Pinto and Black beans because I like the different colors and sizes
2 cans of Diced Tomatoes
1 can of Low Sodium Beef or Chicken Broth
3 Carrots -chopped
1 small Onion - chopped
1 Red Pepper - chopped
4 cloves of Garlic - diced
1 Jalapeno - diced (optional)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 packets of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix
1 tbsp Cumin
1/2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:
Sour Cream

This is what you do:
Cook the turkey in a dutch oven, or another heavy bottom pot with the 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add the carrots, red pepper, jalapeno and onions when the turkey is cooked through.  After a few minutes add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.  Empty the chili packets and add the cumin in the pan and cook for a minute or two, then add the two cans of diced tomatoes and 1 can of broth.  Scrape the bottom of the pot with a rood spoon to get all the flavorings off and into the mixture.  Bring to a low boil.  Next, drain and rinse the beans and then place them in the pot.  Mix and lower the heat to low.  Cook for at least an hour and up to 4 hours (the longer the better), stirring every 20-30 minutes with the lid on but cracked.  Once you are ready to eat, taste and add salt and pepper if you like.  Serve and add the toppings of your choice.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 to 4 hours
Serves: 6-10

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Prosciutto Egg Cups

I know what you are thinking; "another prosciutto recipe?!"  And, yes, I know I have several recipes where prosciutto plays a large part.  But it is just so delicious, lower in fat than bacon and it can be used in so many different ways.  This recipe turns it into the most delicious vessel ever used to cook and eat an egg.  It also might be the easiest breakfast or brunch you can make for a crowd or just for yourself.  It involves taking a slice of prosciutto and fitting it into a muffin tin then dropping an egg in the prosciutto cup.  You can add any kind cheese you want and top with pepper and chives and bake for about 15 minutes.  The result is a crispy, salty prosciutto cup with a yummy, gooey egg yolk, (like an egg cooked "over medium"). You could also add some leftover cooked veggies to the cup or  avocado or roasted red peppers.  Basically you can do anything you want and it will turn out fantastic, because, prosciutto.  The best thing about this recipe is it so easy yet beautiful and it really takes no more effort to make for a group of people than it takes to make for one person.  It is perfect for a weekday breakfast, a weekend brunch you are hosting or to make for your family over the holidays. 

This is what you need:

1 Slice of Prosciutto per Egg
1 Egg per Slice of Prosciutto
1/2 tbsp or 1/2 oz of any Cheese (goat or Parmesan is my favorite but cheese is optional)
Cooking Spray
Black Pepper
Chives (optional)

This is what you do:
Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line each muffin tin with a slice of prosciutto and add a little cheese of your choice to bottom, if desired.  Crack an egg in each cup and top with some pepper and chives.  Cook for 13-15 minutes to get a soft, gooey yolk. 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 13-15 minutes
1-2 Eggs per Serving

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lazy Cake Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who can resist a warm, gooey homemade chocolate chip cookie?  I certainly cannot, so when one of my friends brought these delicious ones over to my house, I knew the recipe would be in my life forever.  These Lazy Cake Chocolate Chip Cookies are so incredibly easy and one of the best cookies I have ever had.  This is perfect if you need a quick dessert to bring to a potluck, holiday party or for a bake sale.  They are fantastic served alone or while still warm with vanilla ice cream and can last for days in a sealed container.  Every time I make them they get gobbled up and people always want the recipe. I know these cookies will become a go-to recipe for you just like it has for me!

This is what you need:

1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
1 stick of Melted Butter
2 Eggs
1 tsp of Vanilla
2 cups of Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

This is what you do:
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in a greased glass 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from dish.  Serve as is or with ice cream for the best cookie sundae ever.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Makes 24 Cookie Squares

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Top 10 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Kitchen

Um, how is it December 1st already?  I really can't believe how fast this year has flown by.  It has been a year of ups and downs for me personally, but that is for another blog post.  This one is all about one of the best parts of the holidays - giving something special to someone special.  I get so much joy out of giving gifts to people I care about.   I haven't started my holiday shopping yet (yikes), but I did go through my own kitchen to list my favorite tools I use regularly to hopefully give you some ideas for people on your gift list.  Some are basic, some are a little off the wall, some would be a perfect stocking stuffer, some are great mid price items and others could work as a big ticket item. Each item is something I love and use all the time, so I can personally give my own stamp of approval!  Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

If you haven't heard, Thanksgiving is next week.  So much food, so many different varieties of dishes and no two Thanksgiving menus are ever truly identical.  However, besides the turkey, there is one dish that will be at nearly every house.  It is the magical mashed potato.  Most families have their tried and true recipe and they are the delicious bed for the other treats you will eat on Thanksgiving.  But what about the leftovers?  Sure, they are great on their own, but my recipe for Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes is the way to use the leftovers up.  The mashed potato cake has a crispy, crunchy surface with a smooth and creamy middle.  The best textures with the perfect flavors and it could not be simpler to make.   They will make a fantastic side to breakfast any morning of the long weekend or can be a fantastic snack on their own.  These crispy pillows are so tasty, it might be a good idea to set some of mashed potatoes aside to make sure you have leftovers!

This is what you need:

2 cups Mashed Potatoes (makes about 4 cakes)
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs- beaten
1 cup Flour
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Optional Garnish
Sour Cream
Green Onion
Hot Sauce

This is what you do:
Form your potatoes in little cakes, kind of like burgers,  I used about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes per cake.  Set your coating assembly up, flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in one bowl, eggs in the next bowl and the panko bread crumbs in the last.  Dip each cake first in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat until bubbling.  Set the cakes down gently and let cook for about 6 minutes, until the bottom is crispy.  Carefully turn over and cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Remove and top with your garnished of choice.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes total
Serves: 4

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Wrapped Asparagus

I first had these little bundles of joy at a book club my friend Lindsay hosted.  I immediately became focused on eating as many as I could and because of this, I cannot recall anything about the book we discussed.  My only clear memory of that night are these amazing Prosciutto and Goat Cheese wrapped Asparagus, and I have been obsessed ever since.  They are unbelievably delicious with the crispy and salty prosciutto and the creamy and tangy goat cheese.  The asparagus cooks up a little sweet and adds a fresh bite to the the whole package.  When I saw asparagus at Trader Joe's in November, I knew I had to make this recipe and share it with you!  These are a perfect appetizer for any dinner and would be fantastic to serve at a holiday or Super Bowl party.  They seriously could not be easier to put together and cook up fast.  Some advice, these will be eaten up very quickly so I recommend snagging a couple of them for yourself before you put them out for your guests.  They will be gone before you know it and you need to get in on the action.

Here is what you need:

1 lb Asparagus, trimmed
4 -6 oz of Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
2 oz of Goat Cheese (if you are not a Goat cheese fan, cream cheese would be fantastic also)
1/8 tsp of Pepper
Cooking Spray

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim the asparagus.  Take 3-4 asparagus stalks and lay them on a slice of prosciutto.  Add about a 1/2 tbsp of goat cheese on top of the asparagus and wrap them up.  Repeat until finished.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place the bundles on the sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove and serve!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mushrooms Seared with Garlic and Herbs

The mushroom is basically the work horse of vegetables.  It can literally be prepared anyway from raw to roasted and there are countless varieties to choose from.  Mushrooms can be added to nearly any dish or take center stage as a main course.  They work great as a meat replacement for vegetarians yet are a wonderful accoutrement to steak or on a burger.  Mushrooms are a fantastic source of Vitamin D and B which is great for skin, hair and nails and helps to metabolize fats.  My Mushrooms Seared with Garlic and Herbs can be made with any variety you like and could not be easier to prepare.  The taste is rich and garlicky and the fresh herbs really enhance and brighten the flavor.  They work beautifully as a side dish to any meat from steak to chicken and can also be a great alternative to meat in tacos, pasta or over potatoes or rice.   My husband and I make these every time we have steak or burgers.  These mushrooms would make a fantastic, affordable addition to your holiday menu for any vegetarian friends and your meat eating friends will be fighting for them too.

Here is what you need:

1 lb Mushrooms - sliced  (These are Baby Portabellas, but Button or Crimini work great too)
2-3 cloves of Garlic - minced
1 tbsp fresh Rosemary - chopped or 1 tsp dried  (Thyme would work here too)
2 tbsp fresh Flat Leaf Parsley - chopped
1 tbsp Butter or Ghee
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper

This is what you do:
Slice your mushrooms to about 1/2 inch thick.  Heat your butter and oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan.  Add the chopped rosemary and let cook for a minute, add the garlic and let cook for a minute or 2.  Add the mushrooms and toss to make sure they all get coated in the oil and butter.  Let the mushrooms sear over the heat for about 5 minutes, not moving them.  Stir and let sear for a few more minutes.  After about 10 minutes, add the Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper and lower the heat.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Add the flat leaf parsley and remove from pan.  Serve them up!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: About 4 for a side dish portion

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

It has been said that baking is an exact science.  Measurements need to perfect, dry ingredients and wet ingredients need to be kept separate until the right time and one false move and the dish can be ruined.  This is why so many of us reach for the boxed cake mixes to make our cakes and cupcakes, it takes the guess work and the risk out of baking.  I certainly did until I found this recipe.  It is the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe, rich and moist, yet light and fluffy.  It is not too sweet and incredibly easy to make.  It takes maybe 10 minutes longer in prep work but cooks faster than a boxed mix recipe.  The Buttercream frosting is incredible.  It is rich and creamy and adds the perfect sweetness to the chocolate cupcake.  I never knew how easy buttercream was to make until I tried.  The name gives away 2/3 of the ingredients and it takes about 5 minutes to prepare.  I have made these cupcakes for every birthday and holiday over the past year and they are always a major hit.  Give these a try next time you feel the need for some cupcakes.

This is what you need for the cupcakes:

Dry Ingredients
1 cup of All Purpose Flour
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp finely ground Coffee

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
1/2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup boiling Water

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, add the cupcake liners to your muffin tin and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Mix the dry ingredients together and then add all the wet ingredients except the boiling water.  Once completely mixed, add the boiling water and mix on high for one minute.  Fill your cups about 3/4 of the way full and cook for 12-15 minutes.  Use the toothpick method to make sure the cupcakes are done.  If it comes out clean, they are ready.  Let cool for 10 minutes in muffin tin then remove to plate or wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Makes 12-15 cupcakes

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pineapple Champagne Cocktail

Oh, how I love champagne and the many delicious ways to enjoy it.  Champagne is such a celebratory drink and practically the only alcohol acceptable before noon.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy it is my Pineapple Champagne Cocktail.  Because champagne can be a little pricey and the bottle seems to go very fast, I came up with a way to stretch the adding pineapple juice and vodka!  The pineapple adds a little sweetness to compensate for the bitterness of the vodka and the sparkling, dry champagne adds the bubbles and the crispness.  It is a great drink to serve in the beginning of a party before your guests switch to wine or beer.  I serve it at almost all my parties and it is always a big hit.  Not too strong, not too sweet, just the perfect balance.  The best part?  It is only 3 ingredients and can be self served.  Just mix it all up in a pitcher and set on your table for guests to help themselves.  The holidays are fast approaching, which means family gatherings, which means drinks are mandatory.  Make this cocktail, you and your guests won't regret it!

What you need:
1 bottle of Champagne
2 cups of Pineapple Juice
1 cup of Vodka

Mix and serve over ice or in champagne flute.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Strawberry and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Living in San Diego, it can feel like summer goes on forever.  I'm not complaining because that would be obnoxious when most of the country is experiencing a season called Fall, however I would love to be wearing boots and sweaters right about now (don't hate me).  My point is, I can get strawberries year round and since I love them so much, this makes me very happy and always looking to add them into my food in interesting ways.  Now, if strawberries are hard to come by in your area this time of year, you can always use fresh figs or pears and it would be an incredible  seasonal salad.  This might be the easiest, most flavorful salad you will ever make.  The strawberries are sweet and delicious, the goat cheese is creamy and tangy, the arugula is peppery and delicate and the candied pecans add the perfect crunch.  I use a balsamic vinaigrette to contrast the sweet strawberries and tie all the flavors together.  Balsamic and sweet fruits pair extremely well together.  The effort required for this salad entails dumping your bag of arugula in a salad bowl, slicing the strawberries and crumbling the goat cheese and adding the pecans.  Toss with dressing and serve.  This simple salad is beautiful to look at, has many layers of flavor and is completely adjustable to your tastes.  It is perfect to serve for the holidays and is an amazing side to steak or chicken.  Make this salad and enjoy your crisp, fall weather!

This is what you need:

1 bag or 4 cups of Arugula or Spinach would be wonderful too
2 cups Strawberries - sliced
3-4 tbsp of Goat Cheese - crumbled.  Feta is a delicious substitute
2-3 tbsp Candied Pecans or walnuts
Balsamic Vinaigrette of your choice or a Champagne Vinaigrette works great too
Fresh Cracked Pepper

This is what you do:
Add ingredients to a bowl, toss and serve!
Serves 6-8
Total Time: 5 minutes

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 Tips for the Beginner Home Cook

In no way am I a chef or master cook.  I am a proud Home Cook through and through.  I love creating recipes and feeding my friends and family.  Of course, not everything I have done or will do has been easy or came out perfectly the first or even the tenth time.  My cooking ups and downs has led me to seven solid rules I use in my kitchen everyday.  These are tips that make the food taste better and the cooking process easier.  And if that isn't the goal for Cook Like it's Easy, than I don't know what is!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pancetta and Goat Cheese Frittata with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Eggs are a big part of my diet.  I happen to love them and since I try to stick to a low-carb lifestyle, they are not just a breakfast food for me.  They are packed with protein and healthy fat and can be prepared in so many ways.  One of my favorite ways is the Frittata.  It sounds fancy and looks pretty yet rustic, but in reality, it's just a flat omelet that is super easy to prepare and really hard to mess up.  All you need is an oven safe pan to start the cooking process on the stove top and transfer the whole pan to the oven to finish. You can put anything you like in a frittata, but this one has some of my favorite ingredients in it.  Pancetta is an Italian bacon that is salt cured but not smoked, like American variety is.  It has a delicate flavor and is absolutely fantastic paired with tangy and creamy goat cheese.  The caramelized onions add a wonderful sweetness and the spinach adds to our health and gives off a beautiful color.  Don't be intimidated to try this out.  The ingredients are magic together and are all cooked in the same pan, which means less to clean!  That makes me so happy and means it is a great breakfast or brunch dish to serve to a crowd or make for yourself and have yummy leftovers. 

Here is what you need:

8 large Eggs
4 oz of Pancetta - cubed or sliced
3 tbsp of Goat Cheese - crumbled
2 small or 1 large Onion - sliced
2 cups fresh Spinach Leaves or 1 box frozen - defrosted and drained
2 tbsp of Butter
1/4 tsp of Salt
1/4 tsp of Pepper

Here is what you do:
Add butter to pan and cook pancetta for about 5-7 minutes over medium heat, until crispy.  Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Preheat oven to broil.  Lower the heat on the pan to low and add onions, 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper to the pan and cook for about 20 minutes,until caramelized.  Add spinach to pan and wilt.  Whisk eggs and 1/8 tsp salt and pepper each in a separate bowl.  Add egg mixture to pan and cook over low eat until the the eggs are about half way set, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the goat cheese and transfer the whole pan to oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove when cooked through and enjoy!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms

'Tis the season of the squash!  They are healthy, yummy and everywhere right now.  While the pumpkin may currently be the top dog, my personal favorite is the Spaghetti Squash.  I'll eat a big bowl of veggie noodles any day, any way.  Since my Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Chicken and Red Peppers recipe has been so popular, I wanted to post another one of my recipes utilizing this awesome squash.  While I love them both, this one might be my favorite.  I use sun-dried tomatoes that have been jarred in olive oil.  They have a wonderful, earthy flavor and I use the actual oil from the jar to cook the chicken breast, which gives even more flavor to the dish.  Spinach and mushrooms add more yummy flavor and vitamins like D and C.  The Italian parsley brightens the whole dish up and the Parmesan packs the perfect salty finish.  This is an easy, healthy dish with rich, comforting flavors that is as gorgeous to look at as it is to eat.

Here is what you need:

1 Spaghetti Squash - roasted
2 Chicken Breasts - cubed and sautéed (chicken thighs would be great too or none for a vegetarian meal)
1-2 cups Mushrooms - sliced and
2 cups or half a bag of Spinach leaves (or 1 box frozen spinach, drained of water)
1/2 cup of julienned Sun-dried Tomatoes packed in olive oil
1 small Onion - chopped
3 cloves of Garlic - minced
1/3 cup of Italian Parsley - chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp of oil from the jar of Sun-dried Tomatoes
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Optional Garnish
Parmesan cheese

This is what you do:
Roast spaghetti squash for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Sauté the cubed chicken breast in the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes until fully cooked.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Add 1 tbsp of regular olive oil to the pan and saute the mushrooms, spinach, onion and garlic.  When spaghetti squash is ready, fork out the noodles and add to the pan of veggies.  Add the chicken and mix all together and cook for a few minutes.  Add the parsley and Parmesan and serve!
Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Friday, October 24, 2014

THE Turkey Burger

My husband is a huge sports fan.  He will watch a random girls high-school softball team play if it is the only sports being televised.  He knows as soon as I am not paying attention to the TV and turns it to ESPN.  Because of this, (before we had kids) we went to a lot of sporting events.  My favorite part of this was the tailgating.  Eating, drinking and hanging out with friends is always fun, especially when in a parking lot surrounded by thousands of people you don't know doing the same thing.  All these sporting events led us to try out new food to tailgate with.  Our turkey burger was always the biggest hit with us and our friends.  People walking by our spot would comment on how good it smelled when they were being grilled. Ground turkey is a great substitute for beef when you are trying to cut back on fat, but because it has less fat, it can be a little dry and flavorless.  That led us to add our own flavors like garlic and onions, fresh herbs and plenty of seasonings.  The end result is the juiciest, most flavorful turkey burger ever.  I cannot order a turkey burger from a restaurant because it will not be nearly as good as the one I can make at home.  I love to make these burgers when I am eating paleo for the day.  I skip the cheese and bun and load it up with avocado, bacon and caramelized onions.  These turkey burgers are super easy to make and taste fantastic.  Even if you or your family is a beef burger purist, these burgers have so much unique flavor, they are sure to be a hit!

Here is what you need:

1-1.25 pounds of Ground Turkey
1/4 cup of onion - chopped and sautéed
2 gloves of garlic - minced and sautéed
1/3 cup fresh Italian Parsley - chopped
2 tbsp of Olive Oil - divided
1/2 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tbsp of Steak Seasoning ( I use McCormicks Steak Seasoning)
1 tsp of salt- divided
1/4 tsp of pepper

What you will do:
Mix all the ingrediants together and form into 4 patties.  Grill or pan fry 8-10 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  Top with whatever toppings you like and serve.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prosciutto Pizza with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

I have a love-love relationship with pizza.  The dough, the cheese, the different toppings and how no two pizzas are ever really the same.  I adore restaurant pizza, but what I love the most is making pizza at home.  It is so fun to be able to create your own and use whatever toppings you like and it is super kid friendly.  Sadly, pizza does not go hand in hand with the low-carb lifestyle my husband and I try to stick to, but we do splurge a couple times a month with it.  Our favorite pizza recipe is this one.  It seems a little fancy and goes amazingly well with red or white wine, but it really could not be simpler to put together.  I use store bought pizza dough and let my ingredients themselves work as the sauce.  Prosciutto is a thinly sliced, cured Italian ham that has a mild, salty taste and when cooked, it turns super crispy and delicious with way less fat than pepperoni.  I use a mix Fontina cheese for its earthy, nutty taste and Mozzarella cheese for its mild, gooey texture.  The caramelized shallots add a little sweetness, while the peppery arugula ties all the flavors together and wilts down perfectly on the hot pizza.  This pizza is gorgeous to look at and has so many incredible flavors that play perfectly off of each other.  It is fabulous as a main course and you can also slice it in smaller pieces for an impressive appetizer. 

Here is what you need:

1 pre-packaged bag of pizza dough or 1 pre-made pizza crust (I use the wheat dough from Trader Joe's but almost all grocery stores have pizza dough in their refridgerated sections and some pizza places will sell theirs)
1/2-1 cup of flour
4 shallots (1 onion would work great too)
4-5 slices of Procsiutto
1 1/2 cups of cheese ( I use Fontina and Mozzeralla but use what you like or have on hand)
1-2 handfuls of arugula
3-4 tbsp of Olive Oil - divided
1 tsp of salt - divided
1 tsp of pepper - divided

This is what you do:
Prepare the dough as the package states and caramelize your shallots.  Transfer the dough to a pizza stone or baking sheet and add all your toppings except the arugula.  Bake pizza per package directions.  Once it is ready add your arugula and drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the whole thing.

Serves 2-6 for main course or 8-10 for appetizer

Friday, October 17, 2014

All Natural Strawberry Jalapeño Margaritas

Let's just say this recipe was a bit more difficult that I thought it would be.  Respect to all the mixologists out there!  I started on this craft cocktail adventure because I had the most perfect Strawberry Jalapeño Margarita at a restaurant called Seersucker in Del Mar, CA.  It is a to die for blend of sweet strawberry and agave, spicy jalapeno and sour lime with tequila and orange liqueur served over ice.  I figured this would be fairly simple for me to recreate- it's six ingredients!  Well, finding the correct balance of strawberry and jalapeños is not as easy as one would think.  For obvious reasons, not all fresh strawberries and jalapeños are created equally.  Some strawberries are not super sweet and some jalapenos are basically green fire or not spicy at all.  So, in order to account for this I tried different methods of flavoring the tequila.  I muddled, I puréed and I infused the strawberries and jalapeños with the tequila to see which method would taste the best and in the name of my blog, which way was the easiest!  After many, many margarita samples, I concluded that  infusing the strawberries and jalapeños works the best and is the most simple to do.  The margarita is a pretty close knock off to the one from Seersucker that is refreshingly not too sweet with a kick of spice.  It is all natural, nothing artificial and can be made with organic ingredients.  You need to try this!

Here is what you need:

1 750ml bottle of Tequila Silver (1 cup per shaker)
4 Shots of Orange Liqueur such as Cointreau (1 shot per shaker)
1 lb of Fresh Strawberries - sliced
2 Jalapeños - chunked
3-4 Limes (The juice of one lime per shaker)
3-4 tbsp of Agave Sweetener (1 tbsp per shaker)
Martini Shaker
A lot of Ice

For the sake of making this recipe as easy as possible, I made it based off of one 750ml bottle of Tequila.  This makes ten to twelve 8oz drinks total, about 3 drinks per shaker.  It can also be stored in a refrigerator for a couple of days if you don't finish.

What you will do:
Infuse, which means to steep the strawberries and jalapeños in the tequila so it will take on the sweet and spicy flavors for 3-4 hours.  When ready, drain the tequila and combine the rest of the ingredients in a shaker, shake and then serve.  
Makes 10-12 drinks
Prep takes 3-4 hours

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach and Two Kinds of Cheese

This was one of the first recipes I came up with when my husband and I decided to eat a low-carb diet.  The skinless, boneless chicken breast is a staple in a lot of kitchens.  It is easy to prepare, low in fat and high in protein.  It can also be a little lacking in flavor, easily over-cooked and can end up tough and dry.   For these, reasons I created my stuffing to be super flavorful with a base of sauteed onions, garlic and spinach.  To this, I add Feta cheese for a salty, tangy kick and Ricotta cheese for its creamy texture.  Both Feta and Ricotta cheeses are lower in fat than a lot of other cheeses and spinach is a great source of vitamins K, A, C and high in Iron and Potassium.  I then bake the chicken in a glass baking pan to keep the natural juices of the chicken from cooking off so it remains juicy and delicious.  This is a super easy, healthy and tasty way to elevate the chicken breast.  It also looks gorgeous enough to serve to company but it is easy enough to prepare for a weeknight meal for one.

Here is what you need:

3-4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts - butterflied (tutorial below)
2 cups raw Spinach Leaves or 1 box of frozen Spinach - drained
1 small Onion - chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
1/3 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/3 cup Feta Cheese
1/2 tsp of Salt - divided
1/2 tsp of pepper - divided
2 tbsp of Olive Oil - divided

Here is what you will do:
Butterfly the chicken breasts and prepare the stuffing.  Season chicken and cook in a glass baking pan at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees.
Serves 3-4

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Roasted Garlic Salsa

This recipe really is my husbands' baby.  He has made it many times and it is always incredible.  The idea was actually born out of necessity.  Each spring we plant fresh vegetables in our garden and this year, for reasons unknown, my husband planted 8 jalapeno plants.  A few months later, we literally had a bush of jalapenos and needed to make something with them quickly before they went bad.  Our family absolutely loves Mexican food and chips and salsa might be the thing we crave the most when we are having a cheat day.  Homemade salsa seemed like a given, and roasting the jalapenos actually makes them a little less spicy, so it was a good way to use them up.  The end result was a super simple, spicy, garlicky salsa that was fantastic on just about anything.  Even though our jalapeno plants are done for the season, we still make this all the time.  It is cheaper to make your own and a wonderful homemade gift to bring as a hostess gift to a friend or neighbor. 

Here is what you need:

1 1/2- 2 lbs of Roma Tomatoes
2 small or 1 large Onion
10 cloves of Garlic
2-4 Jalapenos (roast all of them but only add one at a time to the blender until desired spice level)
1 bunch of Cilantro
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/2-1 tsp of Salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 Limes juiced

Here is what you do:
Slice and season veggies, broil for 15-20 minutes and let cool for about 30 minutes.  Then you will dump the veggies and juices from the pan to a blender and add the cilantro and lime juice and check the seasoning.  Cool and then eat!
Makes about 2 pints

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Healthy Homemade Sloppy Joes

You know what I love about this recipe?  Besides being delicious and an old school classic, it is the perfect meal to drop off for a friend or family member who just had a baby or is ill or maybe just needs a little extra help.  It is an inexpensive meal that will easily feed six to eight people and is super easy to make.  All that needs to be done is to make the filling and pick up a bag of hamburger buns, a package of sliced cheese and you can drop the whole meal off to someone in need or enjoy yourself.  My Sloppy Joes are a perfect comfort food with a healthy yet rich meat and tomato filling and yummy, gooey mozzarella on a toasted bun.  I have been making this meal a lot lately for my own family member who is ill and it is always a hit because they are easy to reheat and can be made one at a time or all at once.  Give this a try next time you are craving some comfort food nostalgia or want to do something nice for someone you love.

Here is what you need:

1 lb of Ground Beef (ground turkey would work too)
1 jar or large can of Marinara Sauce (24-28 oz)
1 small Onion chopped
3 cloves of Garlic minced
1/3 cup of Red Wine (optional)
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/2 tsp of Salt
1/2 tsp of Pepper
1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup of Italian Parsley chopped
1/4 cup of Basil chopped
1 package of Hamburger Buns (or sandwich thins)
1 Package of Mozzarella Cheese Slices

You will cook the beef then add the other ingredients in a large heavy bottom pot such as a Dutch Oven for at least an hour.  Toast your buns, add the sliced cheese and enjoy.
Serves 6-8

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Top 10 Trader Joe's Must Haves

I have a healthy obsession with Trader Joe's.  I do about 90% of my food shopping there and can be found at the local store at least twice a week.  I love the smaller, neighborhood vibe and the atmosphere seems more personal than the big supermarkets.  It can make for a quicker shopping experience because there isn't as many choices of the same food item and it encourages shoppers to try new things.  There is a variety of ethnic type foods that are packaged to inspire you to try them. There is a certain level of trust Trader Joe's has managed to build with their shoppers.  If it's from Trader Joe's, you know it is going to be good.  Since I am there so much, I have had ample opportunities to try many, many things.  While it is hard to say what my favorite items are, I do have a list of things that can almost always be found in my kitchen.  These are my ten "go-to" items that I stock up on for day to day eating or easy entertaining. 

The Usual Suspects:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Chicken Sausage and Red Peppers

I am not going to lie, Spaghetti Squash does not actually taste like spaghetti.  It does look like spaghetti though, which is a great way to trick the mind.  We eat with our eyes first, so seeing a big bowl of squash noodles is a fantastic way to get our comfort food fix without having to feel guilty about it.  Spaghetti squash has a slightly sweet taste and is full of Fiber, Potassium and Vitamins C and B6.  Since the squash itself is a bit sweet, I like to pair it with something spicy, like the spicy chicken sausage in this recipe.  I use the Red Bell Pepper for its crunch and color as well as the nutritional benefits.  Red bell peppers are a fantastic way to get more Fiber, Vitamins C and B6 along with E and K.  The onions and garlic balance the dish and add to the Italian Pasta fix we all need.  This dish is super easy and versatile, so use whatever sausage and peppers you prefer!

Here is what you need:

1 medium size Spaghetti Squash
1  package of Sausage of your choice (or 4-5 links)
2 sliced Red Bell Peppers
1 sliced Onion
3 cloves of garlic minced
3 tbsp of Olive Oil - Divided
1-1 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt - Divided
1-1 1/2 tsp of Pepper - Divided

Optional Topping
Parmesan Cheese
5-10 sliced Basil Leaves

This is what you do:
You will roast the spaghetti squash at 350 degrees for about an hour.  While this is happening, slice your sausage and veggies and pan fry.  When squash is ready, remove strands and to pan of sausage and peppers.  Heat it through and Mangia!
Serves 4-6

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa

It is officially the Fall season, which is my favorite time of year.  I love the weather and all the holidays that seem to come faster each year.  Holidays mean getting together with your family and friends and that usually revolves around sharing a yummy meal.  Big family meals usually include a couple of different side dishes.  My Roasted Vegetable Quinoa is a perfect dish to include on your menu if you are hosting, or to bring to an event you are invited to.  It is easy to prepare and perfect to make ahead to eat at room temperature or heat up when you are ready.  It also makes for delicious leftovers.  The roasted vegetables make the dish hearty and healthy.  The quinoa gives it some extra protein that will keep you satiated a bit longer, which is important during this season of indulgence!

Here is what you need:

2 cups of Cooked Quinoa (I love using the Frozen Quinoa from Trader Joes, but use any you have on hand and prepare as stated on the box)
1 cup Sliced Mushrooms (any variety, I used Button Mushrooms)
1 sliced Zucchini
1/2 cup Diced Onion (about 1 small onion) 
4 Minced Garlic Cloves
1 cup Roughly Chopped Spinach Leaves
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (optional)
2 tbsp Olive Oil - Divided
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt -Divided
1  tsp Pepper - Divided
1/8 tsp of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
2 tbsp chopped Italian Parsley

This is what to do:

Mix the sliced mushrooms and zucchini with 1 tbsp of oil, 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/2  tsp of Pepper.  This will be roasted at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Saute the onions, garlic and chopped spinach with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper and 1/8 tsp of  red pepper flakes for about 5-10 minutes until onions and are translucent and spinach is wilted.

Spray your 9x11 baking dish with cooking spray and add all your veggies and quinoa.  Next mix in your Parmesan and parsley.

You can stop at this point and eat as is or set aside for later.  It is great room temperature or you can bake it all together at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes to get it hot with a nice crisp top.
Serves 4-8

Monday, September 29, 2014

Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

Growing up, the green bean was a dinner staple for our family.  Even as a kid, I always enjoyed them for their slightly sweet taste and crisp texture.  As an adult, I appreciate the high levels of vitamins C and K and beta-carotene.  I have prepared green beans many ways, but my absolute favorite is to take fresh Haricots Verts and roast them.  Haricots Verts are French green beans that are more slender in appearance and tender in texture than the American variety.  If you do not have Haricots Verts, you can definitely use the American variety and this recipe will be just as tasty.  My roasted Parmesan green beans are deliciously crispy and a little salty which makes them a fantastic substitute for french fries or a beautiful side dish for any dinner that is incredibly easy to prepare.

Here is what you need:

1 lb of fresh green beans (French or American style)
2 tbsp of Parmesan Cheese
1 1/2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1 tsp of Pepper
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
Cooking Spray to coat the baking sheet

You will roast the green beans at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes.  4-6 Servings 

Chia Seed Pudding

You may have heard about the health benefits of Chia Seeds: high in fiber and protein, a good source of Omega-3 and other antioxidants that can also work as an appetite suppressant.  I heard of the benefits myself and bought a bag of them from Trader Joe's.  They remained in my pantry for awhile, forgotten and abandoned until I started trying more Paleo recipes.  I rediscovered my chia seeds and found a can of coconut milk and the rest is chia history.  This is a paleo friendly recipe that is incredibly versatile and can work as a breakfast or dessert.  The texture is a bit like tapioca and tastes sweet.   You can add any fresh or dried fruit you like and whatever nuts you have on hand.  It does work best if the chia seeds soak for at least 8 hours so they fully expand. A little planning is needed to make this but the prep work is so easy it is basically effortless. 

Here is what you need:

1 Can of Light Coconut Milk  (Full Fat for extra creamy and thick pudding)
1/4 cup of Chia Seeds
1-2 tbsp of honey
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/8 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

Optional Toppings:
Fresh Fruit
Dried Fruit
Dark Chocolate pieces

What you will do:
Mix all ingredients together in a mason jar or Tupperware.  Store in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight to let the chia seeds fully expand.  If you remember, give it another mix around a couple hours in.  When ready to eat, add your desired toppings and enjoy.
2-3 Servings

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Homemade" Baked Pita Chips

When I entertain my friends and family, I love to put out several appetizers for them to snack on. Quite often, I do it tapas style, and serve only appetizers.  This is fun for guests as it allows many different types of food for all kinds of appetites and diets.  However it can be a lot of work for the host to make many dishes, so when I can make something that is tastier, healthier, cheaper and requires almost no extra effort, you better believe that is going on the menu almost every time.  My baked pita chips are a fantastic way to jazz up your veggie tray or cheese plate.  They pair wonderfully with any dip you may serve, such as hummus or spinach dip.  Next time you think to pick up a bag of chips from the store, try this recipe out instead.  Your guests will be impressed and you might never buy store bought ones again!

Here is what you need:

1 package of Pita Bread or Flat Bread
1-2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/4 tsp of Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp of Cracked Pepper
1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
1/8 tsp of Italian Seasoning

You will bake your chips at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Korean Lettuce Tacos

OK, full disclosure.  This is not a recipe, this is a cast of cook and serve ingredients coming together to make a sensational lettuce taco that is ready to eat in about 20 minutes.  I love Asian flavors and Korean food is no exception.  From the sweet and savory marinades to the spicy, cool crunch of kimchi, I can't get enough.  When I saw that Trader Joes not only carried the fantastic Bool Kogi Marinated Short Ribs, but also the new Korean Kalbi Chicken Sausages, I knew something had to be created from these two incredible ready to cook items.  The result is a deliciously easy and healthy, gluten free meal that will no doubt become a go to weeknight meal or an easy dish to entertain with.

Here is what you need:

1 1/2 lbs of Bool Kogi (does not need to be from Trader Joes)
and/ or
1 pack of Spicy Korean Chicken Sausage
Prepare the meat according to package or about 3-4 minutes per side for the beef and about 12 minutes for the sausage.

1 head of Romain Lettuce washed with the ends trimmed
1 jar of Kimchi ( a fermented cabbage that is crisp and tangy with a hint of spice.  Kind of like a Korean condiment.  It is delicious and you can find it at an Asian Specialty Store).

2 cups cooked Quinoa ( I use Trader Joes microwaveable frozen quinoa when pressed for time)
1/2-1 tbsp Chili Garlic Sauce or Siracha
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 Lime, juice of half for the quinoa and slice the other half for garnish
2 tbsp Cilantro chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Serves 6-8 

Creamy Deviled Eggs

Let's be honest, the Deviled Egg isn't an advanced culinary experience. However, it is a tried and true appetizer that deserves a little respect and with a few additions, it can be elevated to a real treat that is satisfying and low-carb!  My deviled eggs are requested by all my friends and family and seriously get snatched up with a quickness.  The secret is my special ingredient which makes my filling extra creamy and smooth.  People will ask you, "What is in this egg?"  "How is it so creamy and delicious?"  And you can smile and shrug or you can fill them in, the choice to reveal the recipe is yours!  Of course, the optional garnish of bacon is a massive hit for most of us, but that addition is entirely up to you.  Your eggs will be fantastic with or without it. 

Here is what you need:

1 Dozen Eggs
1/4 cup of Whipped Cream Cheese
1/3 cup of Mayo
3 tbsp of Yellow Mustard
1/8 tsp of Kosher Salt plus a pinch or 2
1/4 tsp of Cracked Pepper plus a pinch or 2
1 Large Freezer Ziplock bag

Optional Garnish:
2-3 slices of cooked, crumbled Bacon
Chives chopped in inch long strips
1/8 tsp of Paprika

Friday, September 12, 2014

Classic Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

When I was a little girl, my mom had a boyfriend from Italy.  They met while they were vacationing separately in Mexico and spent quite a bit of time together in Italy.  While the relationship did not last, a couple recipes he gave her have stood the test of time.  One of them being this delectable appetizer that consists of only 6 ingredients and really could not be easier.  We use Roma tomatoes for their sweet, acidic bite and fresh basil leaves that add a peppery aroma and taste.  Alas, the star of this show is the garlic that is used in two forms and elevates the dish to next level status.  Just be sure your date or guest are eating this one too, which should not be a problem!

Here is what you need:

1 French or Sourdough Baguette
2-2 1/2 lbs of Roma Tomatoes
3 Tbsp of good Extra Virgin Oil
15-20 Fresh Basil leaves
1/2 tsp of Pepper
1/2 -1 tsp of Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Power
3-4 Cloves of Peeled Garlic

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Asian Sticky Chicken Wings

This recipe was simply born from my love of all things chicken wing.  These blend sweet and spicy Asian flavors to make a Gluten Free sticky sauce.  The method of cooking could not be easier and the marinade is simple and adaptable to different tastes.  Not a fan of a spicy things?  Adjust the amount of chili sauce the recipe calls for.   These wings are a real crowd pleaser that do not require a dipping sauce.  Does not get much easier than that!

Here is what you need:

4-5 lbs of Chicken Wings
1 1/4 cups of Low Sodium Tamari
1/3 cup of Sake or Mirin Sweet Rice Cooking Wine
1/2 cup of Honey
3 Tbsp of Chili Garlic Sauce or Siracha
4 Cloves of minced Garlic
1 Tbsp of Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp of Cornstarch
1 Lime--zested
Cooking Spray for the baking dishes

Garnish (optional)
Lime Juice from your zested lime.

You will bake all of this at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, turning once at 25 minutes.