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