Game Day Guacamole

So, it’s that time of year again… (Don’t brag about New England, don’t brag about New England…)

That special day, when friends & family gather around the TV to chow down and cheer… (Don’t say Brady is the greatest, don’t say Brady is the greatest…)

Yes, the Super Bowl is upon us! (OK, I can’t help it…)

GO PATS! BEAT LA!

Whew, sorry about that. It’s a little hard to keep the level of humility under control when your team is once again headed to the big game. In all honestly though, I love Super Bowl Sunday no matter who is playing (but it’s always the Patriots).

Game day is the perfect excuse to pig out while the pigskin flies. One thing that is on many menus is good ol’ fashioned chips and guacamole, so I decided to share an easy recipe for the green stuff, with a little Lara twist to it, of course. Here’s what’s going to be in my bowl on Sunday:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes, zested & juiced
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango habanero salsa
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  1. Remove the avocados from their skins & place in a large bowl. Add the lime zest & juice. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth (some texture is just fine).
  2. Add the onion, salsa, garlic & chili powder. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add a generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste.

YES, I added salsa to my guacamole. YES, I know that’s not really traditional. But my garden has been popping out habaneros like crazy this season, so I am always making my mango habanero salsa, which you can get the recipe for by clicking here (or above in the recipe). Sometimes I make it with pineapple instead of mango, equally delicious.

Since the salsa is always in my fridge, I’m always looking for new dishes to use it in. Feel free to use a store-bought version, or leave that step out if you want it to be more mild.

One ingredient you can’t skip it the fresh lime juice. Not only does it add flavor, but it actually keeps the avocado from turning brown quickly. Make sure you get that lime on there fast.


Keep that beautiful green bright

And of coooourse the easy thing to do would be buying a bag of tortilla chips, but it’s really easy to make them yourself. Just cut corn tortillas into triangles, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a touch of lime juice, chili powder and salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crispy. It’s like instant restaurant quality chips, and you can control the seasoning and salt levels.



Baked tortilla chips, before & after

Usually I like a make-ahead type recipe for party situations, but this is so quick to put together, I don’t mind making it the day of. Guacamole doesn’t last very long in the fridge, only a couple days.

Fun fact though, you can totally freeze it for a couple months. Just put it in a freezer safe bag and make sure to squeeze all the air out before sealing. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going that route before a party, but if you happen to have a lot leftover, it’s a good way to save it. Then down the road you can thaw it out for taco night or something else (because we all know how expensive avocados can be).

Well, whether you are into the game or not, I think we can all agree that Super Bowl Sunday is fun for everyone if you have the right snacks. What are you more excited for, football or food? I’m know ready for both.

(Go Pats!)

 

Curry & Yogurt Marinated Chicken with Mint Dressing Two Ways

That title is a mouthful, but I suppose that’s appropriate when you have two dishes in one blog post.

I hope everyone has a nice start to spring so far. Our remodeling is still underway, but things are starting to feel like home. We also have our first visitors coming tonight… my awesome in-laws! They are coming for a week and besides taking a break from DIY projects to explore Oahu with them, we are going to Maui for the weekend. I’m excited to do some island hopping!

I’m not going to waste anytime with today’s recipe, because I still have a lot to do before company comes. This was supposed to be one thing, but I ended up with so much leftover marinade, it became two dishes: a salad and sliders. The heart of both is a curry & yogurt marinated chicken. It might sound a little off-putting at first, but give it one taste and you’ll understand why I had to reuse it. So here’s the recipe the chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts, portioned according to dish*
  • 8oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, curry powder, fresh ginger, garlic, tumeric, cayenne & cinnamon. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon and a dash of salt & pepper.
  2. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Cook the chicken on a grill or grill pan for about 8-12 minutes over medium high heat, turning once, until cooked through.


Remember: plain yogurt does not mean vanilla yogurt! I used three of these Chobani cups between the marinade and the dressing.

*The asterick! If you are making the salad dish, cut 2 chicken breasts into about 1″ cubes and grill them on a skewer (kebab style). If you are making the sliders, put 2 chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it out until it’s of even thickness. Cut the chicken to the size your sandwiches will be, using the bread as a reference. Each recipe makes 2-3 servings.

Now for the dressing:

  • 5 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. Stir together the yogurt, mint, garlic, cumin and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Whisk in the EVOO until smooth and add a dash of salt & pepper to taste. Keep refrigerated.


I love fresh mint… plenty left over for mojitos!

At this point, honestly, the chicken is so good you could eat it plain and be satisfied. I know, because I snacked on the extra pieces while taking the “glamour shots” until there was none left… and then I ate the salad from the pictures too.

Speaking of the salad! You have the chicken, grilled up and smelling oh-so-delicious, and you have the mint dressing, ready to take the edge off the spice. I plated them up next to a salad of mixed greens, arugula & spinach with thinly sliced shallots & cucumber.


Healthy never looked so good

I tossed the salad with a touch of olive oil to keep it from being too dry, but I wanted to keep the mint dressing over the chicken only. I’m not a fan of salads with a heavy dressing, because I feel like people tend to overdress and everything gets too soggy. Drizzling just a little over the chicken ensures the perfect bite every time of spicy meat, cool sauce and fresh greens.

The second incarnation of this marinade came about because I still had a lot of usable sauce left in the bowl. I cut up some more chicken, tossed it around and put it in the fridge for round two.

One of my signatures for weekend meals has become sliders, so naturally this recipe had to get the sandwich treatment. I toasted up some Hawaiian rolls, and piled on the chicken, a dollop of mint dressing, some more thinly sliced cucumbers and my FAVORITE: pickled red onions.


Oh, did I mention I made oven-baked fries with garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder & paprika?

The color of this chicken is beautiful. The smell and taste is unreal. I hope you try it with my salad or as my sliders, but I really just wanted the focus to be on the chicken. This is the kind of thing you can make a large batch on a weekend and do anything with. Beyond my ideas here, you could put this with rice, over whatever veggies you like, or in a wrap for lunch on the go. I’m already trying to come up with as many ways to use it as I can in my head, as an excuse to make more.

Remember to prep this a day ahead of time. You could shortcut it and let it marinade for a few hours, but trust me, doing it overnight makes a difference. The chicken will be juicier and more flavorful the longer it sits in that delicious sauce.


It’s meal prep gold, literally.

I have to get back to my endless to-do list around the house. Follow my Instagram (@ThePickyGourmet) to see some foodie adventures around Maui in a couple days! I’m sure I’ll get some great pics and some inspiration for my next recipe!

On The Side: Veggie & Sweet Corn Stir-Fry

I’m a few days behind on blogging, but I have a good excuse, like I always do. We spent a week in Hawaii, house hunting! I don’t want to say too much and jinx anything, but I think I’ll have some good news to share in one of my next posts.

It was also my 31st birthday the last day we were in Hawaii. Everyone was saying how great it was to spend it there, but in reality, it was the most stressful day of the whole trip. We made an offer on one house and after a lot of ridiculous back and forth, phone calls and emails, the deal wasn’t going anywhere. We realized this home wasn’t going to be for us just as we boarded our red-eye home. The process is exciting and fun at times, but I was also so exhausted by it.

Everything happens for reason (at least, I sure hope so) and I’m confident that the direction we are going in now is the right one. Whatever house we wind up in, dude, it’s on the island of Oahu. It’s amazing. It’s like 1/3 beautiful beaches, 1/3 urban/suburban wonderland and 1/3 giant Jurassic Park mountains. No really, Jurassic Park was filmed there and I plan on eventually going on ALL THE TOURS!

I’m realizing this is the second post in a row that I’ve shown love to movies from 1993. (Hocus Pocus came up in my last one.) Obviously, this was the golden era of films. And obviously, I’ve gone a little crazy with the hyperlinks. Maybe it’s time to get to recipe?

This side dish came about after we got home from our trip. It was a week of eating and drinking in vacation mode, which isn’t always the best. I was craving fresh vegetables, we didn’t have anything in our fridge, and I stupidly went to the store without a list. I just picked out a bunch of veggies.


Sweet peppers, those look pretty. An onion, super. Oh, we haven’t had asparagus in a while.” -my inner grocery store monologue.

Once I got home, I grabbed some chicken out of the freezer to thaw and noticed I had a couple bags of frozen sweet corn hanging out in there. Lightbulb moment. Time to break out the wok, we’ve got a stir-fry on our hands.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (about a cup)
  • 10-15 small sweet peppers, chopped & seeded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped & seeded
  • 4 oz chopped asparagus (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1.tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 oz bag frozen sweet corn
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 3 Tbsp pesto sauce
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  1. Heat oil in a wok or a deep pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until they start to become translucent.
  2. Add the sweet peppers, jalapeno, asparagus, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and oregano. Toss the ingredients together and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Turn the heat to medium, add the bag of frozen corn and toss to incorporate. Cover the pan for 2 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the spinach, pesto sauce and lemon zest and juice. Toss and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the veggies are tender.
  5. Strain to remove excess liquid and serve alongside your favorite protein.

There are two key tricks here. First, prep everything and have it ready to go when you turn on the stove, because it only takes a few minutes and you’re going to be stirring a lot. You just want to grab the next thing and dump it in.


Chopping vegetables is like meditation for me

The second trick is that all the veggies should be cut down to similar sizes. They will cook more evenly if they’re as uniform as possible.

The pesto was a last minute addition. I was planning on just using the olive oil and lemon juice to keep it light and fresh. I was tasting as I was cooking, and felt like it needed something to bring it all together. I found a jar of store-bought basil pesto and figured that was pretty in line with the herbs I had already added. It was just enough to really punch up the flavor, without overwhelming or weighing down the dish. Actually, when I told my husband what was in it, he said he would have never guess there was pesto in it.


The full meal

I plated this up with some spicy chicken tenders and mashed potatoes, both homemade. This recipe will make 4-6 servings easily, so I also grilled some chicken to prep a couple lunches.


Much better than a PB&J, don’t you think?

This would also be really lovely on a platter with some salmon or scallops over the top. The leftovers are great to wrap up in a burrito with some ground beef, or with beans and rice if you are vegetarian. A vegetable stir fry is such an easy way to make a colorful, fresh side dish that can work for almost any dish.

Fingers crossed that the next time I post I will have good news on the house front! Until then… happy cooking!

Cauliflower Rice Sushi

Hidden vegetables is a huge, healthy trend that’s been floating around for a while. I’ve done posts before about using spaghetti squash and zucchini in place of pasta, but even more creative ways have started popping up. For example, veggie tots are becoming a big trend… essentially tater tots made from healthier options like broccoli or sweet potatoes.

What’s the point? Well, if you have kids, I don’t need to explain why sneaking extra vegetables into meals is important. But I am not a mom. I am just trying to get some better stuff inside my system, without compromising the things I like.

I started with cauliflower. It’s very popular right now to use in place of things like pizza crust to mashed potatoes to a multitude of rice dishes. Cauliflower is low in carbs, calories and it’s a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins. Sounds super to me, as long as it tastes good!

I decided making cauliflower rice would be a simple jumping off point for myself. I initially had the intention of making some kind of stir fry or couscous type dish, but the day I was going to, something caught my eye in my catch-all kitchen drawer: my rarely used sushi kit.

Lightbulb moment. One of the steps to using cauliflower in things like crusts or mashes is that you have to remove as much of the moisture as possible. Since sushi rice needs to be little sticky, I figured this would be a more fool-proof kitchen experiment.


Yup, this comes from that!

And I was right. Here’s how to make the rice:

  1. Take a whole head of cauliflower and cut it into small florets, removing any thick stems.
  2. In batches, grind the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like cooked rice.
  3. If you want to save some, you can bag it and freeze it at this point. (For example, I used about half of the “rice” I made, approx. 2 cups, and ended up with enough for about 2-3 sushi rolls.)
  4. Place the cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl or container. Cover it, but keep it vented so some steam can release. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  5. When it’s cooked, drizzle the cauliflower with 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar or mirin per cup of rice. Stir and set aside to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Seriously, that’s it. It’s almost easier than making real rice. Now all you need are some nori sheets and your favorite sushi roll ingredients.

I went for a classic, the California roll, with imitation crab, avocado & cucumber and a shrimp tempura roll with avocado & mango. Save the shrimp, the prep is the same for all these ingredients. Slice them in long, matchstick style strips.


I actually went back and cut them even smaller once I had my nori sheets and rice ready

The shrimp was a slightly more ambitious venture:

  1. The batter starts with mixing 1 cup of sifted flour and 1 Tbsp of baking powder. Then add one large egg to a cup of water, whisking it together. The key here is super, super cold water. Slowly pour the water/egg mixture into the dry ingredients while whisking. You want the batter to be a little clumpy, so don’t over mix. Once the flour is absorbed, you are good to go. FYI, this made a nice amount batter, so get some vegetables and extra shrimp involved as a side dish if you want.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp if you need to. You want them raw and clean but with tail still on. Sometimes you can find them that way, but my Whole Foods only had raw, uncleaned shrimp or cooked, cleaned shrimp. To make them easier to stretch out straight, make shallow cuts on the inner curve of them.
  3. Heat up 2-3 cups of vegetable oil in a small, deep pan. Once it hits 325 degrees, dunk the shrimp in the batter and then into the oil. Don’t over crowd the pot, so work in batches if you need too, removing any floating bits of batter between. The shrimp only need about 2 minutes to get golden and crispy.
  4. Let them drain and cool before using them in a sushi roll, because you don’t want excess oil mucking it all up.


They can still curl slightly when they cook, but you can gently stretch them out again while they are warm

So once you have all your components prepped and cooled, whatever they may be, all you have to do is roll the sushi. Having a bamboo mat helps greatly. I haven’t ever tried rolling sushi without it, so it’s worth the minor investment if you are a fan.

Place a sheet of nori on the mat and spread the cauliflower rice over about 60% of it, close to three edges. Pile on your fillings, as evenly and compactly as possible, and roll it tight like a cigar. Using a very sharp knife, slice the sushi into pieces, about an inch long.


Seriously. That’s cauliflower?

And don’t forget the soy sauce for dipping. Because guess what, this idiot did. Sigh.

But honestly, it didn’t matter too much. I’m a very light “dipper” of foods. If I order fries, I don’t want a mouthful of ketchup, and if I order wings, I don’t want a mouthful of blue cheese. Just like I don’t saturate my sushi with soy sauce, only a little bit to get that extra salty kick.

I found some sweet chili sauce in my fridge just in case, but when I sat down to eat it, I tried the sushi naked first. It was great. Frankly, I was expecting to cringe a little, but the taste was spot on. The cauliflower rice texture was slightly more grainy than normal rice, but other than that, it’s on par with flavor. I don’t claim to be some sushi master, and my rolls could have been a little prettier, but I don’t mind if it’s yummy.

Even though one of my rolls had some fried shrimp in it (and let’s be honest, I ate the extras behind the scenes), I feel really good about this as a healthy veggie substitute worth adding to my repertoire. Not that sushi was unhealthy to being with, but 1 cup of cooked white rice has about 200 calories, 40+g of carbs, and 550+mg of sodium. 1 cup of cauliflower rice has about 45 calories, 3.5g of carbs and 20mg of sodium. So why not?

Have you tried using cauliflower rice or any other fun veggie trade-outs? I think this is one fad I’m going to really get behind.

I’ll see you guys again in two weeks! Happy cooking until then!

Recipe Redux: Healthy Pasta

I’m rounding out this block of recipe redux posts with a look back on a couple of posts from last January when I began exploring healthier ideas to pasta dishes. I love pasta. A lot. I could eat it all the time, but sometimes it’s nice to take a lighter approach.

You can check out my past posts: healthy alternatives to pasta and a recipe for shrimp and zucchini noodles.”

It’s funny, I’m seeing a trend among some of my friends that since the spouses all deployed a few weeks ago, everyone is starting up diets. It makes sense though. It’s easier to eat better when you are just cooking for yourself. Also, I feel like the last month or so my husband was around we were making the most of our time together, which included dining out and a few overindulgent nights of drinking and fun. Even outside my little circle, diets seem to be big right now with the holiday season coming up fast. Everyone is trying to drop a couple pounds before its time for turkey, pie and all that good stuff.

This week I played around with spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles. Let’s talk about the differences. Both are great alternatives to pasta, and low in calories. A cup of the squash is around 40 calories and a medium zucchini has around 30. I wouldn’t recommend saving and storing any cooked squash for the next day, but zucchini noodles can be made ahead of time and stored for a couple days in the fridge. As for taste and texture, both really take on the flavor of what ever other ingredients or sauces you use to dress them up. Squash has more of an aroma to it though. I look at them essentially as angel hair (squash) versus fettuccine (zucchini). You can’t go wrong with either.

Spaghetti squash doesn’t take much more than a knife and a fork to prepare. Poke a couple small holes into the squash and microwave it for about 4 minutes to make it easier to cut in half. It made it much easier. Then I removed the seeds and roasted the squash with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and italian seasoning for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Zucchini on the other hand will require some kind of spiralizer, unless you want to cut it into small strips by hand.

I use zucchini noodles a lot. Spaghetti squash not so much. I have a couple friends who swear by it though, so for my first go with it, I used my old recipe.

I just replaced the zucchini noodles and added a little baby spinach into the mix. It was really good, but texturally I think I am more of a zucchini noodle kind of girl. But I look forward to trying so more recipes, maybe something with a heartier sauce or that uses the oven.

A couple days later I decided to flip the script. I made zucchini noodles and swapped shrimp for some sea scallops. I like to cook my scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a small skillet. I melt a little butter with some garlic and fresh herbs like sage, basil or rosemary (whatever I have on hand) to sauté them in, just a couple minutes on each side until they turn a light golden brown.

For the zucchini noodles, I sautéed them in a separate skillet with a little olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. After a couple minutes, when they start to become tender, I toss the noodles with a basil pesto sauce. If you can manage both skillets at the same time, this dish only takes about 5 minutes to put together, and it looks and tastes like something from a restaurant.

I apologize for the lack of an exact recipe to follow here, but that’s kind of the point. Both of these veggie noodles are easily added to your favorite pasta recipe. Keep it simple and use them with marinara sauce and meatballs, or alfredo sauce and grilled chicken. They are extremely adaptable, so don’t over think it. Also, since they are so much healthier than regular pasta, you won’t feel guilty about a little extra parmesan cheese on top.

I hope you liked looking back at some of my past posts with me. I plan on doing some more of these sporadically in the future, but next up will definitely be a brand new recipe for you all… I just have to to get back into my kitchen and figure out what it’s going to be!

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.

We All Scream For Banana Ice Cream

I’ve mentioned before, summer is here and I am obsessed with fruits. I’ve been using them in all types of dishes. When I have a lot leftover, I freeze them to keep for smoothies and such. Actually, my go-to morning meal is a smoothie bowl topped with fresh fruit and things like shaved coconut, granola and flaxseed. I love posting my breakfast creations on Instagram, they are some of my most popular pics.

Be sure to follow @thepickygourmet!

This past week my husband was out of town and I ended up buying a little more than I needed for the week. Long story short, I had a lot of bananas I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat and were starting to brown. So I peeled them and froze them, without any plan of what to use them for.

I try to keep snacks to a minimum. I used to graze all day but now I try to stick to just meal times and one snack or treat a day. I try to keep things like yogurt cups and homemade salsas in the fridge and avoid packing the pantry with temptations. It helps me from picking at things all day (you know when you eat, just because you are bored?) and I don’t end up with a bunch of half full boxes and bags of stale snacks that we never finish.

A big problem for my husband and I was ice cream. He buys a carton on a whim, I buy a carton on a whim, and we end up with three or four kinds of ice cream at a time in the freezer, that we forget about. So when I was craving a snack last week, I remembered my frozen bananas and how I heard you can make “ice cream” out of them. I had three frozen, peeled, chopped bananas and I could have used a food processor to make a big batch, but I wanted to experiment. I actually used my NutriBullet to make myself individual servings and over three days, I tried out three different flavor combinations

Shaved coconut, vanilla & cinnamon. I used one banana with about a 1/4 cup of shaved coconut and a couple drops of vanilla extract and blended it together. Then I added a couple teaspoons of ground cinnamon and pulsed until it was incorporated. I garnished with some more shaved coconut and some cinnamon sticks (just for presentation, really.)


Strawberries & mini marshmallows. This time I blended the banana first and then added 3 sliced strawberries and about 1/8 cup of mini marshmallows. I didn’t want to chop them up too much, so just a couple pulses to get them mixed in was all it took. I also garnished with both ingredients. I wished I had some graham crackers to add to make this like a strawberry cheesecake kind of deal, but I’ll try it next time!


Mint, chocolate chips & cocoa powder. I blended the banana with 1/8 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and some fresh mint leaves. Then I added a tsp of cocoa powder at the end, because I tasted it and wanted a little more chocolate flavor. The chocolate chips added a great texture though, and I garnished with a few more of those and some mint.

The best part of this is you can taste as you go and add some more if you need to. I started off with a little coconut in the first batch and ended up throwing some more in, just like I added the cocoa powder to the last one. My advice is to start with a little and build on it if you need to. One banana is perfect for a serving, so keep that in mind if you are making this for a group. I personally love that I can make just enough for myself, and then tomorrow I can make something different. No need to commit to a whole carton.

Actually I take it back, the real best part is eating it. It is so creamy and delicious, just like real ice cream. Whether you use a NutriBullet like me or a food processor, you will need to have a rubber spatula on hand to occasionally stop blending and push it all off the sides. Have patience, because the more you blend it, the better it gets.

This is the perfect summer treat. Easy to make, refreshing and healthy- it doesn’t get much better than that. There’s also an infinite amount of possibilities for mixing in other flavors. What would you add to your banana ice cream? Let me know, or even better, try it out! (And then let me know!)

Sweet & Spicy Grilled Chicken

Grilling out goes with summer the way peanut butter goes with jelly. When I was a kid though, I hated cook outs. I don’t eat red meat (honestly almost never have), so I was obviously not a fan of blackened hot dogs and hamburgers. Anything else on the grill I didn’t trust because it probably was “contaminated” by beef. Cook out meals for me were usually some potato chips and maybe a piece of corn on the cob. Not very exciting.

Now that I’m no longer a kid and can cook for myself, the grill is no longer the enemy. I make sure burgers have their own designated area because I am still a little weird about it, but most of my loved ones don’t complain about it.

I really like thinking outside of the box when it comes to grilling. Not everything has to be barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard. The other day I stumbled upon a list of fruits that are great for grilling and I saw pineapple. My gears started turning and I decided to try a dish that sounds more like it comes from a take out menu than a cook out: sweet and spicy grilled chicken!

Yields 2-4 servings

  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • mango, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • pineapple, cut to 1 inch pieces
  1. Cut the chicken into chunks. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, sriracha, ginger and sugar. Add chicken and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  2. Heat your grill (or stove top grill pan) to medium heat. Thread the chicken, bell pepper, pineapple and mango on separate skewers.
  3. Place the chicken and bell pepper skewers on the grill over direct heat and brush both with reserved chicken marinade. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Move the chicken and peppers to indirect heat, and place the pineapple and mango skewers over direct heat. Brush all skewers with marinade and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through and the peppers and fruit start to char, remove the skewers and serve immediately over white rice.

OK. Confession. I don’t have a grill right now. I used a stove top grill pan. It actually works really well, and it’s a great option if you live in an apartment or don’t have space for a real grill.We’ve all had versions of sweet and sour chicken, mango chicken, pineapple chicken, whatever. This has all the taste of a take out meal, but with this extra boost from grilling. The carmelization on the fruit from cooking it on that direct heat really brings the flavor to another level.

The marinade unifies all the components. The fruits aren’t too sweet, the chicken isn’t too spicy. Just don’t use the reserve marinade as a sauce at the end, since it had raw chicken in it. Only use it for cooking. Trust me, the pineapple and the chicken thighs are juicy enough that you don’t need to drown this in sauce.I used separate skewers for each ingredient because I wanted to make sure it all cooked evenly. Having colorful, mixed kabobs is a more interesting presentation, but I served this up off the skewer. The serving sizes are a little vague in the recipe above, but I had a large skewer of each ingredient and it was more than enough for two servings. Use that rule of thumb if you want to make this for a crowd.

I hope this inspires you to try something different at your next cook out! This recipe is really quick and just as easy as prepping a burger. Cheers to a summer full of fun and food!

Banana Oat Pancakes

Woo! It’s great to be back!

I am so sorry that I left my blog high and dry the past few weeks. I drove from California to Massachusetts, spent about a month living on a pull out bed in the basement of my childhood home and getting my wedding together, had said wedding, then drove back to California! Phew. But now I’m home, I’m relaxed and I’m thrilled to be playing around in my own kitchen again.

This recipe I came up with is actually more like a pantry short cut, to be honest. Yesterday morning, I really wanted a fun, sweet breakfast so I grabbed an ol’ standby out of the pantry: pancake mix. I’m talking the fool proof, just add water stuff. Right next to it was a bag of cinnamon oat clusters. Hmmm. My wheels started turning. Then I saw the bananas on the counter and it was really a no brainer. Banana oat pancakes were born.

Yields about 4 large pancakes/8 small pancakes.

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix (just add water variety)
  • 1/3 cup oat clusters or granola (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • maple syrup
  • powdered sugar for garnish
  • fresh berries for garnish
  1. Mash the banana into a paste in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 3/4 cup water and whisk until combined. (Follow box directions for exact measurement. The brand I used is 3/4 cup water to 1 cup dry mix). Whisk dry mix into the water and banana mixture, until smooth.
  3. Put 1/3 cup oat clusters in a sandwich bag, and lightly use a rolling pin or can to crush them into smaller, uniform pieces. Whisk the oats into the pancake mix, along with cinnamon and cardamom, until blended and smooth.
  4. Heat a greased pan or griddle on medium heat. For large pancakes, use 1/2 cup of batter or for smaller pancakes, use 1/4 cup. Make them one or two at a time, cooking a minute and half on each side until golden brown, flipping only once.
  5. Serve with more oats sprinkled on top, a drizzle of maple syrup and powdered sugar, along with some fresh fruit.

I mean, seriously? Pancake mix, a banana and some oat clusters? I’m pretty sure any one could do this. It’s a really kid friendly recipe, not just for taste but for prep too. Get them in there mashing bananas and crushing oats. It’s easy clean up and the whole thing takes about 10 minutes tops. Really, 10 minutes and you get this:

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Picky Gourmet recipe without some customization ideas. I really like Kind cinnamon oat clusters for this but you could use anything in the same vein. I have a vanilla flavored bag I’d like to try this with, but really any kind of oats or granola that can add that texture and extra flavor can be used. It’s a great way to add something healthy into a tasty breakfast.

This is a nice, easy recipe to kick things back off over here. I’ve got a bunch of notes and ideas kicking around from my trip, and I’m excited to get back into it! I’ll hopefully be back to weekly/bi-weekly posts soon. I’ve really missed it. No one ever told me how crazy the last couple weeks before a wedding can be!

Does any one else have another fun way to make pancake mix exciting? Or any other favorite shortcuts? I’d love to hear, and I promise I’ll be posting again soon! Thanks for sticking with me.