Everything Bagel Breakfast Bake

I don’t post many breakfast recipes. Probably because I’m not much of a morning person, and the idea of cooking the second I get up doesn’t usually strike my fancy. A typical morning meal for me is a smoothie bowl or something quick out of the toaster.

Weekend mornings are actually when my husband gets to take over the kitchen. He loves making breakfast, especially banana pancakes. But, as you know by now, he is currently deployed, so I’m on my own if I want to treat myself.

The other night I was thinking about how every Christmas morning, my mom makes a french toast casserole. It’s insanely delicious and easy, because you make it the night before, and then just pop it in the oven when you wake up. I love a meal that you can prep ahead of time, so I wanted to come up with something similar.

Sweet or savory is always the first choice you make when deciding what to eat for breakfast. I actually spent the last two days in Denver for a wedding and encountered spectacular examples of both options.


Delicious fried chicken & biscuit sandwich with honey & stone-ground mustard from the Denver Biscuit Company (left), french toast & pancake sampler from Snooze in Union Station (right)

I usually lean towards sweet when I cook breakfast but I want to change it up, so that’s where I started. A savory dish that I could make the night before.

I opened my pantry and right in front of my face was a bag of everything bagels, one of my go-to quickie breakfasts. After a little more rummaging, I realized I had all the things I needed to create an everything bagel breakfast bake. Check this out:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 diced white onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 10 cups cubed everything bagels (4-6 bagels depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion (white & light green parts, set the rest aside)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • additional eggs for frying, to be used as garnish (optional)
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and minced garlic and stir for a couple minutes, until onions become translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Place the everything bagel cubes in a large bowl and mix in the cooked onions & garlic, sliced green onions and shredded mozzarella. Spread out the bagel mixture out evenly in a greased 9×13 baking pan.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the half & half until well-incorporated. Pour the egg mixture over the bagels in the pan. Gently stir to get it all the way to the bottom, then lightly pack it all down with a spatula so the surface is even. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the leftover sliced green onion tops. Optional: While it cooks, you can also fry some more eggs to use as a garnish, sprinkled with salt & pepper.


Fresh out of the oven

First things first. This sounds heavy, but it came out so light and fluffy. It’s somewhere in between a stuffing and a bread pudding. I like using mozzarella to hold the casserole together, because it’s a great melting cheese, and then using cheddar on top for a little more flavor. You can always switch it up if you have preference.

I highly recommend putting an egg on top, because became like sauce. It’s kind of like how we drizzle maple syrup over my mom’s french toast casserole; it doesn’t really need it, but it’s so darn good it’s hard to pass.


Cracking the yolk is the most satisfying part

This breakfast bake can stand up as a meal all on it’s own, or in a smaller portion, it would be a great side. It’s a great option for any weekend, whether you are hosting a brunch party or having a cozy morning with family. It also holds up really well as leftovers. I was picking at this thing for a couple days, even after I gave some away to friends.


I got fancy with my leftovers & drizzled on some sriracha for an extra spicy kick

Operation savory, make-ahead breakfast was a success. It was easy and yummy, my two favorite things. I hope you try it out! See you again in two weeks with a new post.

Chicken Parmesan Perfection

Every now and again, I have to give you something simple and classic. I share some creative recipes, but let’s be real. I don’t cook like that every night, it would be exhausting. So today I’m sharing my original go-to.

Chicken Parmesan is one of those recipes that everyone should have under their belt. It’s a family dinner favorite and easy to make. Actually, it was one of the first real meals I taught myself to make back in college. Of course, back then, my signature dish included Shake & Bake, breadsticks out of the freezer section and a severe lack of seasoning.


Photo taken with a potato quality phone circa Sept 2006. My sad first attempt at chicken parmesan. Thank you roommate and boyfriend (who is now my husband) for choking this down.

Thankfully, things have changed.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of time, there’s nothing wrong with using some supermarket shortcuts for chicken parm. That’s why everyone has their own way of making it. No matter how much or how little time you want to devote to cooking, anything covered in sauce and cheese is going to be satisfying.

For this recipe, I’m just going to explain how to make the chicken. I feel like at this point, I don’t need to tell you how to boil and sauce a side of pasta, or put together a salad. Both of those things are great accompaniments, but really you can make whatever you like.

Now I have the urge to toast up some bulkie rolls and make chicken parm sandwiches… hmmmm.


Ready to go in the oven!

  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried organo
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups marinara sauce
  • 6 slices of fresh mozzarella
  1. Lay the chicken breasts flat and carefully cut them horizontally in half, creating two wide, thin pieces. Cover in a sheet of plastic wrap and pound the chicken out to an even thickness. Remove plastic and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion and oregano.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine italian breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Dip chicken into eggs and then into breadcrumb mixture, coating well.
  3. Carefully lay in the chicken breasts, two at a time, as to not crowd the pan. Fry for about a minute on each side, until they begin to turn golden brown. Set aside onto paper towels and a wire rack to drain excess oil.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees while the chicken cools slightly. Thinly spread a couple spoonfuls of marinara sauce over the bottom of a pan, that’s preferably lined with foil. Place the chicken directly on the sauce and spoon more marinara over the cutlets, covering the top. Place a generous slice of mozzarella on the center of each piece.
  5. Cook for about 12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and cheese is fully melted. Broil on low for an additional 2 minutes to achieve a browning effect on the mozzarella. Serve immediately with you choice of side.

I know some people get freaked out by the frying step. It’s not a big deal, and trust me, it makes all the difference. It instantly crisps the outside, locking in the juices and flavor.


Fresh out of the oil, looking gorgeous

Another place I don’t think you should skimp out on is the cheese. Using fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded kind is night and day. Shredded cheese generally has chemicals on it to keep it from clumping (hence that waxy feeling). It also keeps it from melting the way it should. Fresh mozzarella will literally envelop the the chicken, in beautiful, creamy, melty goodness.


Cheese, glorious cheese

My breading mixture is a little odd, but after many trials, this is the combination I like best. The italian crumbs add the seasoning and flavor you want, the panko adds texture and the parmesan, well, that makes it chicken parmesan.

The shortcut here is sauce. There are plenty of great tasting, organic pasta sauces out there. I would recommend something with a thicker consistency, so go for something labeled homestyle or chunky. I also opted for a sauce with roasted garlic, but anything will do.

Sometimes if I have extra ingredients laying around that I need to use or lose, I enhance a store-bought marinara. I’ll mix in some fresh chopped basil, roasted red peppers or sauteed onions. It’s not a necessary step, but it’s a good way to use up produce if you have it.

This is a great beginner recipe to start with if you are looking to get into cooking. It’s right where I began. But you can choose to take my advice, based on years of guess work. This chicken parmesan tastes like one you would get in a restaurant. I promise!

I’ll be back in two weeks with a fun new recipe that would be the star of any brunch. Until then, let me know if you try out this dish or any of the other Picky Gourmet recipes. I love to hear from you!

Rosemary Chicken Flatbread

I’m settling in at my childhood home throughout the holiday season, living (as I call it) Full House style. We’ve got 4 adults, 2 kids and 3 dogs under one roof! It’s fun, crazy and there’s always something going on.

I was really excited to get to cook for my family. I’ve tried out some new recipes and some old. My fried shrimp tacos were a big hit for a Sunday at home watching football with the family and my sister has enjoyed taking advantage of my killer grilled cheese skills at lunch time.

It was about time for a new blog post and I was thinking about how conscious I have to be to make enough food. I’m used to cooking for my husband and myself. Granted, we usually have leftovers, but now every meal I make is for 4-6 people. I can’t skimp on anyone and I can’t go overboard every night like when I have dinner parties.

One of the easiest ways to make sure everyone gets fed is individual pizzas and flatbreads. Pizzas are usually round, with sauce and lots of cheese. Flatbreads are usually rectangular, have lighter toppings and aren’t covered in melted cheese. So I’m dubbing this recipe a flatbread. I just snuck the cheese into the sauce instead… sneaky!


Ready to go in the oven!

  • 2 13oz Pillsbury pizza doughs
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 red onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Cut the pizza doughs in half so you have 4 equal rectangular bases and put them onto prepared baking sheets. Prebake the dough for 6 minutes and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts in half and season with onion powder, garlic powder, dried rosemary and a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes, flipping occasionally until it begins to brown. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and cook for an additionally minute or two before removing from heat. Chop the chicken into bite size pieces and set aside. (It’s OK if it looks slightly underdone on this inside, it will be going into the oven.)
  3. Melt the butter in the same pan as the chicken, scrapping up the browned bits. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about a minute. Pour the cream into a sauce pan, add the melted butter and garlic along with rosemary and thyme. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the parmesan cheese and increase to medium low heat, stirring until the cheese is well incorporated and the sauce is smooth.
  4. Assemble the flatbreads starting with the alfredo sauce. Spoon the sauce over the dough, starting in the center and spreading it almost to the edges. Divide the red onion and chicken equally over the flatbreads, finishing with the spinach on top.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees until the edges are brown and dough is cooked through. Sprinkle with lemon zest and fresh basil before serving.

Fresh basil, thyme & rosemary freshen things up

Shortcut central right here, right now. Buy the Pillsbury pizza dough in a tube. Do it. Two of them make four perfectly sized entrees. The taste and texture is great too. You are making an alfredo sauce from scratch, it makes up for the store bought dough.

…Unless you don’t really want to make the sauce either. In which case, a jar of garlic alfredo sauce can be simmered with the fresh herbs if you want to make this an even easier recipe.

I would say go ahead and grab a rotisserie chicken while you’re at it, but then I don’t really have a recipe.

But just saying, this is pretty easy for a week night dinner if you use a couple shortcuts…

Making everything from scratch actually doesn’t even take that long, and I do recommend it if you have the time. The sauce and the chicken are the best parts of the dish. My brother in law was using bits of crust to soak up every bit of sauce left on his plate. I really enjoyed that the richness of the alfredo was balanced by the fragrant rosemary and the lemon. Every once in a while, you would get this bright lemon flavor that was unexpectedly fresh.

My family loved it. I loved it. It was a lot of fun to make too. I can’t wait to try out some different variations on it. Let me know if you try it out, or what your favorite kind of homemade flatbreads or pizzas are!

Leftover Turkey Soup

It’s been a crazy few weeks. Since my husband is deployed, I decided to hit the road and drive myself and my dog home for the holidays. I drove 5 days with a couple friends from California to Massachusetts. I’ve done this trip a few times already, it’s a lot of fun with company but still exhausting. I originally wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family once I got back, but now I’m glad I took their advice and sat it out. I’ve been home about a week and am just now feeling like I’ve caught up on sleep.

A couple weeks ago I cooked a “friendsgiving” meal in California. Afterwards, I came up with a leftovers soup recipe that was pretty great. I planned on posting it the day after Thanksgiving. Problem is, I left my handwritten recipe on the west coast. I know a lot of people have already used their leftovers or eaten them all, but once I got my hands on a turkey carcass here, I had to try and recreate my soup.

So after a small delay, here is my leftover turkey soup!


For the stock:

  •  1 roast turkey carcass
  • 4-6 qts water
  • 12 oz wheat beer
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large shallot, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
  • 2 carrots, cut in thirds
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 pieces of peeled ginger root, about 1″
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1 stem fresh sage
  • 4 stems fresh thyme
  1. Put the turkey carcass in a large stock pot. Pour in 4-6 quarts water, until the turkey is submerged. Add the beer, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce hear to low. Simmer for 2-4 hours until meat is easily removed from the bones.
  3. Using a ladle, strain 4 quarts of stock through a mesh colander or cheese cloth into a separate bowl or vessel. Pick as much turkey meat off as you can and add it to the stock. Set aside.


For the soup:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup leftover squash puree (you can substitute with flour if needed)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions, cut into petals
  • 5 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 qts homemade turkey stock
  • 1 cup of carrot greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a ceramic soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium low heat. Stir in squash (or flour) until thick, making a roux. Add garam masala, curry powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Add zucchini, onion, celery, carrot and shallot to the pot and stir until coated. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour or ladle the turkey stock and meat over the vegetables. Add the carrot greens, rosemary, thyme, sage and lemon zest. Cover and cook on low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. In the last 5 minutes, stir in the fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs and bread (optional)

What’s kind of funny is that my brother in law loves making turkey soup after Thanksgiving. He does his with hot peppers, corn, beans… much more of a Tex-Mex take on it. He made his, and I actually “borrowed” the leftover turkey from a friends dinner the next night. So basically, it was soup wars this weekend at home. No one could pick a winner though, since they were two totally different takes.

I like traditional recipes with a twist. I kept my soup fairly classic, but was inspired by the cinnamon and nutmeg smell of the leftover squash puree, and decided to add in some Indian spices to enhance those flavors.

Soup is an easy way to use up Turkey Day leftovers. The cover photo is my first batch. I didn’t use the indian spices, squash, ginger and zucchini at first. It was definitely more traditional. In the end, I’m glad I got a second chance to revisit and add to this recipe.

You don’t need to follow this, or any, recipe word for word. Soups are a great tradition for after the holiday and every family probably had a way they like to do it. Whether it’s spicy and heading south of the border like my brother in law’s take, a classic with a twist like mine, or made with whatever herbs, vegetables and flavors you enjoy, it’s always a hit. And a great way to condense and clear space in the fridge, am I right?

Like I said, I’m with my family through the holidays. I’ll try and come up with some fun posts while I am here, especially now that the countdown to Christmas is on!

Crab Cakes with Mango Apple Salsa

I’ve been doing a lot of posts about the number three… three ways to make grilled cheese, three marinades for shrimp skewers…  I really like the number three. Today we’re getting back to a nice straight forward recipe. But guess what? There are three components! Today it’s crab cakes with mango apple salsa and a spicy remoulade sauce.

I’ve shared before that a big factor in my recipe posts is what I find on sale at the store. There’s nothing wrong with trying to save a little money! This week I found lump crab meat. I was psyched. I’ve been dying to take a stab at making crab cakes.

Yup, that’s right. I have never made crab cakes before. I’ve eaten them a lot, I’ve seen them made, I’ve skimmed some recipes… Basically, I knew how to make them, I just never did it. But I know what I like, and I cook what I like, and guess what? So I just kind of winged it, and it actually turned out pretty darn good.

Let’s start with the salsa and sauce first, because you can make these ahead of time.

  • 1 cup finely diced mango
  • 1 cup finely diced apple*
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Combine mango, apple and scallion in a bowl. Add lime zest, lime juice and salt, tossing until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

*Use whatever kind of apple you want! I went with Fuji. Red apples in general tend to be sweeter, while green apples lean more towards tart, so pick whatever appeals to you.

  • 3/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeños, finely diced
  • 2 tsp pickling liquid
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth and well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Well, those parts were easy, huh? And I know, more mayo. I declared I hate mayo in my last post, but the disclaimer is I hate it on it’s own, just spread onto things. When I started cooking I realized how many sauces and dishes secretly had mayonaisse buried within them. I had been consuming it without even knowing. But if I find a big glob of the stuff on my sandwich, it’s going back. (I’m looking at you, Wendy’s.)

If you don’t want the sauce to be spicy, you can substitute the jalapeños with regular pickles. Or use a fresh jalapeño and regular pickle juice. I know I’m kind of a weirdo and not everyone has a jar of homemade picked peppers always on hand.

Onto the main event!

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp mayonaisse
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 8 oz lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped Hawaiian roll (about one roll)
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup canola oil for cooking
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper, garlic, parsley and green onions. Gently stir in crab meat until combined. Add the bread and panko, slowly folding it in, until evenly distributed.
  2. Using your hands, form 4 patties (about the size of your palm). Try to keep them as uniform as possible. Sprinkle each pattie with a little salt and pepper. Place on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Cook patties in the skillet, about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Don’t overcrowd the skillet, cook 1 or 2 at a time if you need to. Transfer to baking sheet or pan, and let them warm through in the oven for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve the crab cakes over the remoulade sauce with mango apple salsa on top, with an optional side of micro greens and a slice of lemon.

Crab cakes can kind of seem intimidating to make, but trust me, it’s pretty easy. Taking the time to make the homemade salsa and sauce also gives this dish a wow factor. I love when there’s a lot of different texture a flavors on a plate. The sweet, cool fruit is perfect top of the warm, soft crab cake. Then that little kick from the spicy remoulade just rounds it all out. It’s got a little bit of everything all in one bite.

I’m also going to pat myself on the back, because I think this is one of the prettiest plates of food I think I’ve ever made.

You can make the salsa and sauce the night before, the morning of, or even during that hour when the crab cakes are setting in the fridge. It’s definitely not as time consuming as you would think. All three parts to this recipe are essentially dumping everything in a bowl and stirring it up, and the actual cook time for the crab cakes is about 10 minutes.

A lot of crab cake recipes use butter crackers or plain bread crumbs. I like the idea of fresh bread to really soak up the flavor, and using Hawaiian rolls adds that buttery element. You could certainly use white bread or whatever you gave in the pantry. The addition of the panko bread crumbs was for that crispy texture the crackers would have provided.

These are great for an appetizer, but honestly, two of these guys were a pretty satisfying dinner for me. You could even skip the micro greens and do a heftier simple side salad to really give it the look of an entree.

The best part of this recipe for me? I have another container of crab meat still in my fridge. I have a feeling these crab cakes will be showing up again very soon on my dinner table. Let me know if you try this recipe out- tag me on Instagram or Twitter if you get a photo, or tell me about in the comments!

The Picky Gourmet Guide to Grilled Cheese

I thought today we could have a nice little chat about one of the most perfect meals ever created. From the pickiest of eaters to the most refined of palates, everyone loves a good grilled cheese sandwich. If you tell me you don’t like it, I’m going to call you a liar.

Like many people, I started really honing my sandwich making skills in college. Grilled cheese sandwiches became a staple when rushing between classes or after night out. Actually, they still are for me. My friends will tell you, if you end up at my place after the bar, I’ll most likely insist on making you one. And it will be damn good.

Here are my tips for the perfect grilled cheese:

1. When it comes to the bread, go simple. A big food trend over the last few years has been fancy schmancy bread choices- foccacia, pretzel buns, sourdough, cheese crusted, herb infused, multi grain, etc. I love all these, but I think there is still a place in the world for some good old fashioned white bread, and that place is a grilled cheese sandwich.

2. Skip butter. Go with mayonnaise. I KNOW some of you will say no way, no how, I hate mayo. Why? Because I hate mayo. Not a fan. Except when it’s cooked into the bread of a grilled cheese. It’s easier to spread evenly than butter is and it has a higher smoking point. This means your bread isn’t going to burn before your cheese melts and you’ll end up with a perfectly golden color all over.

3. Speaking of melty cheese- ideally I would say make your grilled cheese in a skillet that has a lid you can use. If you are using a flat top or griddle, use a metal bowl or make a dome out of tin foil if you have to. Covering it while cooking creates steam that melts the cheese quicker.

4. Experiment. I know, I said keep the bread simple. But go nuts on the filling! Use whatever you have around and stuff it in there. Most things go great with bread and cheese. Here are three of my favorite ideas:

Seasoned Tomato Slices, Basil & Mozzarella

Seasoning the tomato with salt and pepper really enhances the flavor. This is my all time favorite version of grilled cheese.

Caramelized Balsamic Onions, Blue Cheese & White American

I like the contrast of the sweet onions and the salty blue cheese. Bacon could be a great salt element in place of the blue cheese, but I don’t eat it. Try it out if you do!

Pickled Jalapeño, Banana Peppers & Cheddar Jack

This always makes think “picked a pair of pickled peppers”… You can get both already in a jar from the store or make your own. I love the heat from the Jalapeño paired with the sweet banana pepper.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with just a cheese sandwich either. That’s the beauty of it. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you’d like.

I know, it seems a little weird to devote a whole post to this, but even though I am a much more adventurous cook and eater these days, I still love my classic, comfortable staples. Not every meal has to be complicated or involved. Sometimes its nice to take something you already know how to make and have some fun with it.

What would you put in your perfect grilled cheese? Have you ever tried out a flavor combo that didn’t work at all? Let me know what you think.

End of Summer Shrimp Skewers

It’s September already? I always mixed emotions because on one hand it’s my birthday month, but on the other hand, summer is coming to end. Before it does, we have Labor Day weekend… AKA one more excuse to grill out.

One of my favorite things to grill is shrimp. I always show up to barbecues with containers of marinating shrimp to skewer and throw on the grill. I mean, everyone else always has hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad covered… and since I don’t eat red meat, I like to give myself some more variety than just chicken wings and side dishes.

I love playing around with different flavors for the marinades, and here are my three favorites. For grilling, you want to use large or jumbo shrimp. I went with jumbo and each of these marinades works for about 10-12 shrimp. Obviously you can cut the amounts in half or double them, depending on how much food you want to make.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

#1 Sweet & Spicy

  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1 shallot, finely diced

#2 Lemon Garlic

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon (set aside)

#3 Teriyaki

  • 1/4 cup mirin/rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • pinch of salt & pepper

To make the shrimp, whisk the ingredients of the marinade together in a small bowl. (Except the lemon juice on recipe #2, the acid will start to cook the shrimp.) Place your tail on, deshelled, deveined shrimp into a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Shake them around a little to make sure they are well coated. Refrigerate for about a half an hour.

Skewer the shrimp and cook them over medium heat, about 350 degrees, on the grill. Reserve the leftover marinade (and at this point, add the lemon juice to #2) to brush over the shrimp while it cooks. After a 2-3 minutes, flip the shrimp and brush on more marinade. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until opaque and cooked through.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

This is great to bring to a cook out because, like I said earlier, it’s different and it’s easy to transport. Once you have your marinade baggies all set, you can put them on ice or in a cooler and take them to the party. Easy clean up too, since all you have to do is toss out the bag.

I think it’s really fun to make two or three different flavors at the same time. People can try them all and pick their favorite. These little flavor bombs will really stand out from all the typical cook out dishes people expect.

Once summer ends, you can still get down on these. Use your grill pan and make them on the stove top. Serve them over some rice or stir-fried veggies for a really easy and fun meal.

I hope you all enjoy your last days of summer! Get outside and make them count. I know I will, I’ve actually got to wrap this up and head to a picnic today! Then in the next few weeks, I can start brainstorming fun fall recipes to share. Stay tuned!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

It’s been a busy and stressful week. I’ve been trying to go through the motions to change over to my married name, which has been such a pain. I’m also elbow deep in wedding thank you cards and basically getting life in order in preparation for my husband’s next deployment. Long story short, I was feeling a little low on energy and creativity in the kitchen. So instead of coming up with a brand new recipe, I decided to perfect one of my favorites.

I LOVE buffalo chicken. (You may recall during Super Bowl season I posted what my friend loving refers to as my “three part buffalo saga”.) I also LOVE pizza. Who doesn’t? The only way these two things get any better is to put them together. Yup, it’s time for buffalo chicken pizza.

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 14oz pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/8 cup caramelized onions*
  • 1 medium celery stalk, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish
  1. Season chicken with garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Place in a small pot or skillet and pour in 1/4 cup buffalo sauce, turning the chicken to coat. Cook over medium low heat, turning occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is easily shredded with a fork. Set shredded chicken aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on to a greased round baking pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, all the way to the edge.
  3. Spread marinara sauce onto the dough, leaving a half inch around the edge for the crust. Sprinkle on the mozzarella and top with the shredded chicken. Next, evenly distribute the onions, celery and carrots, and finish with the blue cheese crumbles. If you’d like, use the remaining Tbsp of buffalo sauce to drizzle and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over everything.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

*To carmelize an onion, combine 1 Tbsp of butter with 1 Tbsp olive oil over low heat in a sauce pan. Add a sliced onion (white or red) and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring often and scraping the pan, until they start to brown. Add a pinch of salt and deglaze the pan with 1 Tbsp of wine, vinegar or water, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Drain any excess liquid. You can use these immediately or save them in a jar for a couple days in the fridge. I used a a white onion and balsamic vinegar to add sweetness to the pizza.

I have made this a lot, in a lot of different ways, but yesterday I think I really nailed it. As I was “building” this version, I thought I may have gone overboard. There is a lot of toppings. Surprisingly, the dough really held up, making it much easier to eat that it make look.


I could have just stopped at sauce, cheese & chicken…

Since I made the shredded buffalo chicken and onions, I took a short cut and used the pizza dough that comes in the tube. No shame. This is a recipe you can do a lot of prep work for the day before or morning of, so when dinner time rolls around, you just have to assemble and cook.

I was also unsure of the carrots and celery. They aren’t exactly typical pizza toppings. “Hey, delivery please. I’ll have a large pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and… celery?” But when you have wings, what do you want on the side?


Toppings for daaaaays

I set out to make this taste as much like eating buffalo chicken wings as possible, but on a pizza. And it worked. Spicy chicken, sweet onions and tomato sauce, melty mozzarella, salty blue cheese and crunchy veggies all come together for the perfect bite. I don’t mean to brag, but I would rather make this recipe than order out. My taste testers (aka husband and friends) gave it rave reviews too.

I would love to see if you try this, or any Picky Gourmet recipes! Feel free to comment or find me on social media. I had some readers share photos of my ricotta stuffed chicken from the last post, and it makes me day to know people are enjoying my food. Happy cooking everyone!

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

I don’t eat red meat. I haven’t since I was probably about 4 or 5 years old. So needless to say, I eat a lot of chicken. The struggle with chicken (especially your standard boneless, skinless breast) is that you don’t want to undercook it, but in a matter of a minute or two, they overcook and dry out.

Also, my social media feed is always showing me click bait articles and food website features on how to be creative with “boring” chicken breast. I personally think chicken is extremely versatile, but maybe that’s just the mindset you develop when you don’t eat mammals.

Side note: I am not someone who judges or hates on red meat eaters. I’m not going to tell you not to. To each their own! Just don’t try and force me to eat a hamburger. Many have tried. All have failed.

This recipe came about when I was attempting to make homemade ravioli. I had the filling ready to go, and I screwed up the pasta. Well, crap. Now I have a bowl of stuffing and no vessel. So I grabbed something I always have on hand: my trusty boneless, skinless chicken breasts.


The before pic (at the head of the post) is much neater than the after pic

Yields 4 servings

For the ricotta filling:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Combine ricotta, egg, minced garlic, chopped basil, oregano and Parmesan in a bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Carefully slice into the side of each chicken breast horizontally, leaving 3 edges intact. It’s better to slowly make many shallow cuts until you have a good sized pocket so you don’t slice right through the breast.
  3. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil onto a lined baking sheet. Combine garlic salt, dried basil and pepper and sprinkle half of the seasoning over all the chicken, on one side only.
  4. Stuff 3 or 4 spinach leaves into each breast, followed by as much of the ricotta mixture as you can, without it overflowing. Use 3 or 4 more spinach leaves to push the stuffing in and create a barrier. Secure the opening with 2 toothpicks.
  5. Place the seasoned side of the chicken face down on the oiled baking sheet. Drizzle the chicken with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes and let rest for 2-5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve.

This is a recipe that’s fairly simple since it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, but it will require you to get your hands dirty. Make sure you have paper towels and hand sanitizer near by, because you are going to really have to get all up in that raw chicken. Also, if you are using wooden toothpicks, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes so they don’t burn up in the oven.

When I tested this recipe, I served it with asparagus that I sautéed with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and the zest and juice of a lemon. Today I went make it again, so I could actually take notes and write the recipe, and I realized the rest of my asparagus had started to go bad. So today, it was mashed potatoes on the side! You could really pair this with whatever you like or have on hand.


My first attempt, with asparagus

I love this recipe because the chicken actually cooks faster and more evenly since its been sliced almost all the way through. The ricotta filling keeps the inside moist and tender through the baking process as well. Trust me, it’s going to look a hot mess when it comes out, because the filling is going to seep out a little. It’s not the prettiest dish, but it’s delicious, and that’s all that counts sometimes.

Most likely, you will have leftover ricotta filling. Keep it for a couple days. You can do what I did and make the chicken a couple times with different sides, or use it in stuffed pasta or a lasagna dish. Just stir it into some more ricotta to stretch it. Whatever you use it for, remember there’s egg in it, so you need to cook it.

Don’t write off chicken as a boring dinner. It’s blank canvas for thousands of meals if you get creative. Sometimes you just need to think outside the box… Or in this case, inside.

Homemade Pasta with Chicken & Summer Vegetables

It’s been a little while since my last post! Summer is in full swing which is great, but it’s a little bittersweet. My husband is getting ready to deploy overseas again in the near future, hence my lack of posts. I’ve been trying to focus on spending time with him and some of our friends who are also heading out to new assignments.

I’ve still been cooking, but I’ve been playing it safe, using lots of recipes I have already posted and cluld make with my eyes closed. But then a wonderful thing happened, and my creativity was restored. If you follow me on Instagram (which you should, 4500+ followers get access to almost daily posts and tips from me there), you may have already seen: I finally got my pasta press for my KitchenAid mixer!

I set it up the second the FedEx man handed me the box. My first go was good, the dough was a little dry, but it cooked up beautifully. I made bucatini and started simple, using it in cacio e pepe. I was instantly hooked once I took that first bite and the fresh pasta practically melted in my mouth.


Cacio e pepe, with some pan-seared scallops on the side

Today I have a slightly more involved recipe that I came up with for my homemade pasta. It’s a light and colorful summertime meal using some of my favorite vegetables. And of course, you can use whatever pasta you want, fresh or boxed. No judgements here!

Yields 4-6 servings

  • 16 oz rigatoni
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, halved & sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1 summer squash, halved & sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 4 oz asparagus spears, cut to 1″pieces
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Cook pasta to al dente texture and set aside, reserving the pasta water.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place veggies in a single, even layer in a 9×13 baking pan. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and season with thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to coat.
  3. Heat the other 2 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice, until they are opaque and slightly underdone. Add the chicken to the pan with the veggies and roast all together in the oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, reduce the heat on the stovetop to low and add the shallot, garlic and butter to the remaining oil in the skillet or wok. Once the butter has melted and become fragrant, add the chicken broth, white wine vinegar and lemon juice. Bring the heat up to medium until it reaches a low boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parmesan reggiano cheese and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring constantly until it’s melted and well incorporated. (If you prefer to thicken the sauce a little more, add the reserved pasta water a Tbsp at a time until you reach your desired consistency.)
  6. With the heat still on low, add the al dente pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. If there is room in the pan, add the chicken and vegetables. If you have to, toss everything together in a large serving bowl. Serve immediately, with (optional) extra pecorino romano sprinkled on top.

I think pasta dishes in a light sauce are great for a summer meal on the porch. This meal is hearty and filling, but is fairly guilt free. There’s very little butter and cheese when you think about it spread out over 4-6 servings. You could always skip the chicken or substitute it with something like mushrooms if you prefer a vegetarian meal. Trust me, this recipe makes a lot of food that could easily feed a family, or provide you with a quick lunch for the next day (or two!).


Use red, orange & yellow tomatoes for even more color

This is not a pasta recipe that relies on the sauce to be the star. Instead, everything works together to enhance the flavor of the vegetables. It just tastes fresh.

Also, if you don’t have pecorino romano cheese, Parmesan would work as well. Pecorino romano has a slightly stronger, saltier taste in my opinion, but they both work in the sauce and as a garnish. I actually just happened to have fresh pecorino romano left over from the cacio e pepe I made, as that is the cheese traditionally used in that dish.

As for the homemade pasta, I followed the standard recipe of 2 cups flour, 3 eggs and a pinch of salt. Make sure to wrap up the dough and let it rest for at least a half hour. Other than that, my KitchenAid does the rest of the work for me! But again, any kind of pasta you want to make or buy is totally fine. I like rigatoni for this recipe, because the noodles were a similar size to the rest of the ingredients, and I like that uniform look.


Rigatoni straight from the pasta press, waiting to be boiling

Is anyone else a fan of homemade pasta? If so, what is you favorite dish to make with it? I mean, I feel like it would be a challenge to find a recipe with fresh pasta that isn’t amazing, but I’d love some more ideas so I can keep experimenting!

As we roll into the last month of summer, I hope you are all finding time to get outside and enjoy yourselves! Until next time, have fun and eat well.