Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup quinoa, precooked & cooled
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 10-12 pieces of pearl mozzarella (the kind that come in a small tub)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut off the thick stems at the top. Using a small metal spoon, carefully scrap out the inside of the zucchini to create “boats”. (Leave a little inside for structure so that they don’t fall apart.)
  3. Using paper towels, squeeze excess moisture from the zucchini pulp over the sink. Measure out 1 cup of shredded zucchini into a large bowl.
  4. Add the precooked & cooled quinoa of your choice to the zucchini pulp. Add the tomato sauce, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic & crushed red pepper. Stir until everything is combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Spoon the sauce/quinoa mixture into the zucchini boats & place them on a lined sheet pan. Cut the mozzarella balls in half & place them evenly on top of the stuffed zucchini.
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the zucchini, until the filling is bubbling & the mozzarella is melted. Let them cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving.

Suggestions & Substitutions: I used a simple instant red and black quinoa package that you make in the microwave, because if there’s one thing I always seem to mess up, it’s cooking grains on the stovetop. (I still never feel like I get rice quite right.) It is totally your call on how you want to make it. This is a great recipe if you happen to have leftover quinoa laying around from another meal.

Does the color matter? Not really. White/tan quinoa tends to be the most delicate and as it gets darker (red and black) they have more flavor, texture and fiber. The flavor will be dominated by the sauce here, so I went with the mixture of red and black because I wanted that added texture and fiber in the recipe.

This is a vegetarian meal, as I mentioned, but if you want to switch out the parmesan for some breadcrumbs or nutritional yeast and omit the mozzarella, you have a vegan meal!




Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Pear & Brie

Long time, no see.

I was dealt some big blows over the last couple months in terms of health and personal life, and despite all my intentions to keep up with the blog, it wasn’t in the cards. I am not going to get into detail about all that at the moment, perhaps in the future, but for now, let’s focus on some food. For the record, I am OK now, feeling good and ready to move forward.

I have a few recipes already developed, tested, & photographed, so expect a lot more action in the next few weeks! (And yes, I mean it this time.)

When people ask me what kind of food I cook and write about, I always say it’s comfort food with a twist. I like taking familiar, beloved dishes and giving you another way to look at it. I think the spins on classics make things fun and interesting, but also are a way of introducing yourself to new idea (especially for people who grew up picky like me).

So what’s one of the classic-iest classic comfort foods ever? Grilled cheese. This is my take on a gourmet version, mixing the elegance of a fancy cheese board with the nostalgia of everyone’s favorite childhood sandwiches.

Note: Since a sandwich can vary in size, these are estimated amounts based on a shopping list that will make at least 4 sandwiches with some ingredients left over.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • medium white onion
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • loaf of sourdough bread (8 slices)
  • small jar of mayonnaise
  • 7-8oz brie cheese, sliced
  • baby arugula (1 cup, packed)
  • fresh basil (2/3 cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 bartlett pear, thinly sliced
  • 4oz blue cheese crumbles
  1. Start by caramelizing the onion. Thinly slice the onion. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & cook the onion for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar & scrap any bits from the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool. Onions can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
  2. To make the sandwich, start by heating a skillet, griddle pan or panini press to medium heat. Spread mayonnaise evenly on what will be the exterior sides of the bread slices. (You can used softened butter if you are anti-mayo, but trust me, it cooks much more evenly.)
  3. Build the sandwiches. On the bottom piece of bread, start with a layer of sliced brie, waxy shell removed for better melting. Mix the arugula and basil, adding that next. Follow with a layer of pear slices, the caramelized onions, and finally the blue cheese crumbles. Top with the second slice of bread. Repeat for additional sandwiches.
  4. Toast the sandwiches for 4-5 minutes, flipping halfway through (unless you are using a panini press). The brie should be melted & the bread crispy but not burnt.

  5. A couple cross sections so you can see how I arranged the ingredientsIf you are new around these parts, I always like to offer up suggestions on how to modify my recipes for your tastes. I know a lot of bloggers and chefs hate when people make changes to their dishes, but my motto is “I cook what I like”, and you should too.

    Bread… use whatever you like. Italian, wheat, whatever. I happen to love and suggest sourdough because of the way it offsets the sweet flavors of the brie and pears. Speaking of, I am obsessed with pears. They are one of my favorite fruits, but I know it’s apple picking season in a lot of areas. (Jealous! But makes me wonder if there’s anywhere to go pineapple picking here in Hawaii…) You could definitely swap the two if you are looking for a new way to use up your surplus of apples and you are over pies and strudels.


    Bartlett pears are sweet & soft when ripe, perfect for this application

    If you want this sandwich right away with less hassle, an onion or bacon jam could be used in place of the caramelized onions to add that smoky, savory bite. And yes, bacon or prosciutto in general would really add to the gourmet cheese board theme going on here, but I don’t eat pigs and cows, so I’ll leave that up to you.

    This recipe is great for lunchtime when you are feeling a little fancy. You don’t have to make a bunch of sandwiches all at once, it’s totally easy to use them over the course of a week. If you are having a get-together, you could make 4, 5, or even 6 of these and cut them small to serve as an appetizer. It’s a great, hearty vegetarian option.

    What do you think? Is a grilled cheese a good way to experiment in the kitchen, or do you prefer the classic white bread and american combo? Let me know what you think, and I’ll see you soon with another new recipe!


Indian Chicken Lasagna

I have been a little MIA from the blog. My family came out for a week long visit, we had a couple different military balls to attend, and overall it’s been a busy time. The good news is that I have been cooking, and I have like three new recipes waiting to be shared. It was just a matter of having the time and energy to write them out. But I’m back in the swing of things!

So there’s no escaping the reaction the title of this recipe will get. Indian food mixed with Italian food? Uh… what?! The whole time I was making this dish, I kept asking myself if it was crazy. And it was crazy… crazy delicious.


It looks delicious, right?

I love Indian food. Tikka masala and vindaloo and pakora and curry and the rice and the naan… YUM. Unfortunately I have not found a good place here in Hawaii yet (hit me up if you have any leads) so when I am craving those bold, spicy Indian flavors, I have to make it myself.

The base of this recipe comes from having a lot of leftovers from my slow cooker coconut curry chicken. So yeah, the lasagna kind of requires making a recipe before the recipe, but you can always use the chicken (or beef, or lamb, or whatever) tikka masala from your weekend take-out leftovers. Another shortcut option would be to get a really good jarred curry or tikka masala sauce and throw it in the crock-pot with some chicken for a few hours.

**The only thing you have to keep consistent is that before going in the lasagna, the chicken (or whatever protein you choose) needs to be shredded and easy to spread**

  • 2 cups coconut curry chicken (or any leftover Indian chicken in sauce)
  • 12-16 lasagna noodle sheets (avoid the “no boil” noodles, use traditional)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  1. Make sure the chicken in the sauce is properly shredded & will spread evenly. Boil the lasagna noodles according to package directions & let cool. (The “no boil” noodles need a lot of moisture to cook in the oven & can come out dry/uncooked, so use traditional lasagna sheets.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of salt & pepper.
  4. In a 9×13 baking dish, start by spreading 1/3 of the ricotta mixture thinly & evenly over the bottom. Top that with 3 of the lasagna noodles. (If yours come up short, use an extra to fill in the gap. Better to have too many than too little.)
  5. Continue the layers by adding, in this order: 1 cup of the coconut curry chicken, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, noodles, the remaining ricotta mixture, noodles, the remaining coconut curry chicken, noodles & top it all off with the remaining mozzarella & the parmesan.
  6. Cover with foil & bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil & finish for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown. Top with fresh chopped parsley.

It looks like lasagna, it tastes like Indian cuisine. Maybe it’s wrong to call it lasagna? Maybe it’s more of a casserole? I’m not sure. This is a rare recipe that I threw together on a wild whim and ended up surprising myself. (Thank goodness I had the instinct to write down measurements as I went.)

Unlike most recipes I come up with, this isn’t one I urge people to get up and try right away. It’s more in the vein of an interesting use for your leftovers. Here’s the scenario I found myself in: It’s two days later, the curry chicken is sitting in the fridge and you just aren’t feeling it anymore. Oh hey, you have those lasagna noodles that have been hanging out in the pantry, why not? Boom, a whole new dish.

Again, the key here is some shredded, saucy chicken. If you need to stretch it a little more to hit 2 full cups, add a little tomato sauce. Really, that’s the only difference between this and normal lasagna… the meaty sauce. In theory, this could work with chicken in enchilada sauce, or sesame sauce, or buffalo sauce.


Ricotta mixture + {insert your chicken here}

The possibilities are endless, and it really gives new life to the leftovers and (added bonus) 1-2 servings of chicken becomes a meal for 4-6 people.

Part of me thinks maybe this recipe was a little too unrefined and improvised to share here, but when I tasted it, I couldn’t help myself. It was so fun and delicious and different that I had to put it out here. I don’t expect it to be my most popular dish, since it kind of requires the extra step in the beginning and I prefer making things easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy for you all… but hey. No harm in letting you decide for yourself if you are ready for Indian chicken lasagna.

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Stuffing

I am in full-on holiday mode here in Hawaii. I mentioned that my last few holidays were all over the place thanks to military life, but this year, we have all our decorations (and furniture) and there’s no traveling to do, so it’s on. Christmas movies, mulled cider, baking, twinkle lights, evergreen scented candles, gift shopping… I LOVE this time of year.

Speaking of gifts, if you don’t follow my Instagram, this would be a good time to start. My first ever giveaway is live! You have a couple more days to win one of two tropical care packages to warm up your holiday, curated by local Hawaiian businesses!

Annnnd while we’re speaking of things… speaking of Instagram… this post is because of a poll I did. I asked which recipe you wanted me to share for the holiday season and the vote was split down the middle. In my last post I shared my method of cooking turkey or chicken in a spicy Cajun style for a family meal. Today it’s all about stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you live.) I call it stuffing, despite never actually putting it inside anything other than a baking pan.

Since stuffing can really reflect where you come from regionally, I decided to put together the traditional flavors I’m used to, but with a twist.


If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s Hawaiian sweet rolls!

I also used some goodies from my garden that I get to enjoy year round here, because honestly, it’s producing food faster than I can cook it sometimes.

For this recipe, I measured out exact quantities of my finely chopped veggies because I wanted to get the ratio right and not end up with either a dry or soggy stuffing.


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: prepping vegetables is a zen experience for me

For grocery shopping purposes, I’ll include what you actually need to shop for. Always buy a little more than you think, it’s better to have too much than too little, and leftovers can always be thrown in the roasting pan of the main entree, put in a salad or a crudité spread, etc.

  • 1 package of King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls (12 rolls)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp chopped sweet peppers (buy 2-4 depending on size, mine are the thin Italian kind I grow in my garden, but any small sweet pepper will work)
  • 3/4 cup chopped swiss chard leaves (buy the bushel)
  • 1/4 cup chopped swiss chard stems
  • 1 cup chopped celery (buy 4 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (buy 2)
  • 1.5 cups chopped yellow onion (buy 1 large)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chop the Hawaiian sweet rolls into cubes, about 1/2 inch (crouton size). In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with 2 Tbsp of olive oil & dried oregano & thyme. Spread the cubes evenly onto a baking sheet & toast for about 10 minutes until golden & crispy. Return to the bowl & let cool.
  2. Over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet or pan. Cook the chopped pepper, swiss chard, celery, carrot & onion, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until tender & the onions turn translucent.
  3. Stir in the chopped fresh thyme, parsley, sage & rosemary & the minced garlic to the veggies. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant & remove from heat. Allow the veggies to cool for at least 5 minutes before tossing with the toasted bread cubes in the bowl.
  4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the chicken stock with the large egg. Pour over the bread & veggies & gently fold it in, until well incorporated. Transfer to a greased 13×9 baking pan or casserole dish. (At this point you can cover & save for later in the fridge or freezer.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & bake for 35-45 minutes.

Who doesn’t love a good stuffing? It’s a lot of ingredients, and admittedly a good deal of prep, but it’s worth it. When I made this for Thanksgiving, it was the first thing my guests requested for their to-go leftover plates.



You’ll also realize it’s worth it when you smell those herbs & garlic hitting the pan

One of my favorite things about it is that I can prepare it ahead of time and freeze it. Seriously, figuring out stuffing did just fine being frozen for a week or so was a game changer to my holiday meals. The key is to double wrap it in plastic and get most of the air out, then cover it in tin foil. Then I keep it covered and let it thaw out overnight in the fridge before the day I’m going to cook it. (If you prep it the day before, just leave it in the fridge until showtime.)


It looks so good but resist eating it out of the bowl… remember the raw egg

I love that stuffing can be made in so many different ways by just swapping out ingredient for ingredient. Maybe skip the carrots and go with granny smith apples? You can sub out the sweet peppers for jalapenos to add a little spice or if you want something meatier, cut back on the amount of vegetables and work in some sausage. Stuffing can end up being your personal signature on the meal.

I hope your holidays are shaping up to be as fun (and delicious) as mine are! I might not be back here until 2019, but as always, you can keep up with me on Instagram. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Burger Bun French Toast with Strawberry Syrup

Labor Day has come and gone, which means everyone is arguing about whether summer is over or not. Growing up in Massachusetts, I knew it was fall when it felt like fall. Unfortunately, there isn’t much change in the air in southern California, and I bet the next few years in Hawaii will be more of the same.

Don’t roll your eyes. I’m allowed to complain about too many sunny days in a row. I’m from the land of foliage, apple picking, pumpkin patches and all-out autumn insanity. I suddenly understand why Max was weirded out by everyone in Salem being obsessed with Halloween in Hocus Pocus… because he grew up in California, where seasons don’t exist. Side note: Hocus Pocus is (and always will be) the best Halloween movie ever.

WHOA. How did I end up all the way at the end of October? I’m starting to get a craving for hot cider. Let’s get back to today, the end of summer or beginning of fall, whichever you prefer it to be. I bet there’s a good chance most of you have leftover hamburger buns laying around.

Go get them.

We’re going to make French toast.

  • 2 hamburger buns, split (4 “slices” of toast)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp strawberry simple syrup*
  • 1/4 cup chopped strawberries
  1. Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar in a shallow bowl or dish. Soak each bun for at least a minute in the mixture.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle pan to medium heat and coat with vegetable oil. Cook the toast for a minute or two on each side, until golden brown.
  3. In a small saucepan, stir together the maple syrup and strawberry simple syrup over low heat. Once warm, add the chopped strawberries and toss them in the syrup. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve French toast warm, drizzled in strawberries & syrup, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if you wish.

*(I used this recipe for the strawberry simple syrup. Initially I made it for yummy frozen rosé drinks, so it’s worth making. You can add it to a lot of things.)


Fresh strawberries keep that summer feeling alive

If your buns are a bit stale, good. You want them to be as sturdy as possible. If they are still super soft, leave them out for a day. Hamburger buns can be flimsy and you don’t want it falling apart.

I’ll be honest with you guys, it’s always going to look like a hamburger bun, there’s no hiding that. If I was having people over for brunch and I wanted to make something fancy, I would probably go buy brioche or challah bread. But that’s not always practical.

I try to make my recipes as budget-friendly and accessible as possible. I feel like most people grew up with their mom or dad making them French toast with plain old white sandwich bread, and that’s exactly what this version tastes like. Bread is bread, so use what you have.


Close-up, it all looks the same: delicious

I didn’t reinvent the wheel with flavor profiles here either. Classic French toast has a very comforting and nostalgic taste that I didn’t want to compromise. Kids will love this dish. This is perfect for slumber parties, because you can make burgers for dinner and use the leftover buns for a cute breakfast everyone will love. You’ll have to double or quadruple the recipe amounts though!

Alright, sorry to recipe and run, but I’m literally in the middle of a huge house clean-up. We have friends coming to town for the weekend, and then immediately after we have a house/dog sitter coming to stay… while my husband and I house hunt in Hawaii! Make sure you follow my Instagram @thepickygourmet to see my stories and pics. I’ll talk to you all again when I’m back!

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

Summer has been much busier than even I anticipated. We live in Ventura county, and in the past couple months we have flown home to Massachusetts, spent the weekend in San Diego twice, and taken day trips to places like Solvang, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Disneyland. I was planning on writing a post about travel as a picky eater, but I got a little side-tracked and decided I’m going to save that one for a later date.

For now, I’m back with what I know best: a super simple, super delicious dinner. I’ve obviously been all over the place lately, so this is the kind of meal that makes my day easier because you aren’t going to use a bunch of dishes. In fact, everything cooks on one pan.

Here’s my take on shrimp fajitas!

  • 1 white onion
  • 3 bell peppers (red, yellow, green)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parika
  • 32 large shrimp, cleaned & tail off
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 jalapenos, seeds removed & thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 8 large flour tortillas
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the onions and bell peppers into strips. Spread them on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, oregano and paprika. Sprinkle half of the seasoning mixture over the vegetables and set the rest aside. Toss with your hands to coat them evenly. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. While the peppers and onions cook, toss the shrimp with the remaining seasoning, adding in 1/4 tsp of chili powder. After the vegetables cook, remove the pan and add the shrimp, halved cherry tomatoes and sliced jalapenos. Cook for 8 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream and lime juice. Take the flour tortillas and carefully char them over a gas burner. (If you don’t have a gas burner, put them in the oven for a couple minutes when the food comes out to warm them up.)
  5. Spread a little sour cream on a tortilla, top with vegetables and shrimp and enjoy!

My husband and I were content with just the fajitas for dinner, and I even had plenty of leftovers to make quesadillas the next day. If you want to stretch this for a family of four, a salad or a side of rice and beans would round the whole thing out.

Personally, my picky tendencies make me prefer to portion things out. I like to make sure everyone gets the right about of everything, so if you don’t want to do the math, my recipe makes 8 fajitas, with 4 shrimp in each. If you aren’t a crazy person like me, just serve it family style right off the pan.


I also chop my veggies ahead of time. Yay, meal prep!

Unlike some well-know chains, I do not own any off those sizzling platters that cause a big stir when they go by. I also don’t want to fuss with a bunch of sides and toppings. I like adding lime juice to some sour cream because it cools everything down, holds everything in place and add that fresh note you need. If you have some salsa or guacamole you want to add instead, go for it.

Also, I know, the tomatoes. Not usually in fajitas, unless it’s in a pico de gallo. I happened to have them around and wanted to use them, and honestly, I loved it. The onions and peppers are one texture, then you have the shrimp, and then these little pops of the tomato. If they weren’t there, I would have needed to make more shrimp to fill them up. I don’t think I have to tell you cherry tomatoes are less expensive than shrimp.

It’s an easy recipe to customize. You don’t have to use tomatoes. You don’t have to use jalapeno. Shrimp could easily be substituted for another protein. This is a great solution if some members of your family are vegetarian and others aren’t, because you can keep the shrimp (or whatever) on only one half of the pan.

Guys, I have to say. I can’t believe September is coming up so fast. I always have this bittersweet feeling because summer is ending, but September IS the best month because it’s my birthday month! But I promise, I have some ideas for last minute summertime recipes coming soon. (Make sure you hit follow up there in the corner so you don’t miss out!)

Island-Inspired Chicken & Pineapple Fried Rice

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my announcement a few days ago: we are headed to Hawaii at the end of the year! I’m still getting used to this military life. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years in California and that it’s already coming to an end. But, if you have to leave, Hawaii is a pretty darn good place to head to.

I mean, so I hear. I haven’t actually been yet. House hunting trip is already booked though… look out for that soon!

So I’m going to cut to the chase. My husband finally said it was cool to share the moving news (even though pretty much all my friends already heard) and I got super excited and I saw a pineapple at the market and I said I’m going to buy that pineapple and it’s going to be my Hawaiian celebration! (Exhale.)

I don’t need to defend my love of a good theme meal to you. Especially when it’s this delicious. This recipe is a little more complicated than some of my others, but I have some shortcuts for you at the end as always. Let’s dive into my island-inspired pineapple fried rice!


Hello, gorgeous

For the chicken:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and red pepper flakes until combined. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade (save the marinade) and use a shallow pan or plastic bag to toss with the cornstarch until evenly coated. Heat oil on the stovetop to 350 degrees. It should be deep enough in the pan to just cover the chicken when it’s added. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the marinade to a boil, stirring consistently as to not let it burn. You have to let marinade that has been on raw chicken come to a couple boil for about a minute. Remove from heat and toss with the fried chicken pieces to coat.

For the fried rice:

  • 2 cups pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 bell peppers, red and yellow, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced (white & light green parts, save tops for garnish)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 large egg
  1. Skewer the pineapple pieces. On the grill or a stove-top grill pan over medium heat, sear the pineapple for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or extra large skillet over medium-low, add the mirin, garlic and the chopped bell peppers, carrots, red onion and green onion. Stir often for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies become slightly tender.
  3. Add the cooked rice and soy sauce, stirring to mix with the veggies. Make a well in the center of the pan and crack open the egg. Once it is cooked through, break it up and incorporate it into the rice.
  4. Add the cooked chicken and grilled pineapple, continuing to stir and toss all the ingredients together. Serve immediately with sliced green onion tops for garnish and a drizzle of sriracha sauce, for added heat.

OK, I’m not going to lie. This took me a while to put together. It was worth it though, and this recipe easily makes 4-6 servings. I like challenging myself a little bit, so I executed it all from scratch to prove a point or something stupid like that. Now that that’s done, here’s all the shortcuts!


Oh this old thing? It was no trouble at all

If you are in a rush, don’t make a pineapple bowl. It was time spent on watching YouTube how-to’s and cleaning up a sticky mess. If you want to make it fun or take a nice photo, give it a try though, because it is fairly easy and looks awesome. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was super fun to eat out of the shell, but you could just buy some pre-cut pineapple and get this show on the road.

Next big thing is the chicken. If you are vegetarian, leave it out! Easy. If you don’t want to fuss with an extra pan by frying it, you can cook it in the wok with the marinade and set it aside before you start the fried rice. Again, I do recommend the cornstarch/frying method because it adds a nice texture to the dish, but I understand it’s extra work.

You know, this could be a great way to spice up some Chinese take-out left overs. If you have some sesame or general tso’s chicken in the fridge, cut it up and throw it in. My next tip was going to be that fried rice is an awesome way to use up leftover rice, because even it’s a bit dry or clumpy, you can bring it back to life in the wok.


It’s like skittles, but, you know, like not at all

If you don’t have leftovers and are starting from scratch, you can always save yourself some time by prepping the rice, the chicken and the vegetables a day in advance. If you do that, this recipe will take about 10 minutes to dump in the pan and toss together.

The one thing I don’t want you to skimp on is the pineapple. Cooking it in the wok, the pineapple can fall apart and make the the whole thing mushy and too sweet. You need to lock in all those juices, so when you get a piece of pineapple it’s like a little flavor bomb. If you don’t have a grill or grill pan or griddle or anything, just sear it in a skillet if you have to.


Grilled pineapple is severely underrated, if you ask me

I kid you not, while typing this, my husband stopped in for lunch and reheated a bowl of this and it smells so good. I need to wrap this up and get in that action.

The second half of 2017 is going to be full of travel and new adventures, and of course, food. I’m pretty excited, so I’ll be back soon with more updates and more recipes!

On The Side: Easy Panzanella

Hey everyone, I’m a little behind on my blog schedule, I know. That’s because the countdown is ON for my husband coming home from deployment. I have been concentrating on that so much, I completely forgot to type up my recipes this week!

Yes, that is recipes… plural. I’m going to keep things short and sweet with two mini recipe posts over the next couple days, each featuring a different side dish.

You know when you have a great star of the meal, like a fantastic marinade for chicken, and you just end up throwing some rice or steamed veggies next to it? Yeah, that’s OK, but these are a little better.

First up is panzanella, which is quite literally bread salad. I’m resisting the urge to say “that’s my kind of salad!” in my best dad-joke voice, but I suppose I failed just by typing that.


I love carbs

Anywho, let’s dive in.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 6 cups cubed ciabatta bread (bite-size)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat the balsamic vinegar & honey over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (You can prepare the rest of the dish while it simmers.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder & dried basil until well coated. Spread them out on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes, until toasted & golden.
  3. Salt & pepper the halved cherry tomatoes to taste and toss in a bowl with the sliced red onions and bread. Drizzle on some of the balsamic vinegar, reserving half to dress individual servings.

This is so quick and easy, but comes out looking so beautiful. You can add more to it if you like. I threw some sliced green onions in because I had extra from a different dish. Fresh basil or parsley would be fantastic, or if you want to add a salty element, you could use capers or olives. If you don’t want to bother with the balsamic reduction, a simple dressing of oil & vinegar will do the trick.

I opted for some really pretty rainbow tomatoes, because it adds so much color to the dish. Again, not set in stone. Same thing with bread. I think a ciabatta or sourdough is best, but it’s not wrong to know what you like and eat what you like. If you want to use a baguette and roma tomatoes, I’m sure it’ll be great.

I wanted this to be something that could come straight out of your pantry on a weeknight. I imagine this next to a beautiful piece of fish or grilled shrimp skewers, perfect for dining outdoors in the summer. It’s filling without being heavy, and flavorful without overpowering whatever the main course may be.

I’ll be back in a couple days with my second side dish idea. You know this next recipe will be easy, because it’s straight out of the slow cooker. See you soon!

Puff Pastry Party Food

I’m sad, but I’m happy. I’m sad that next week football season will be coming to a close, but I’m happy that my boys, the Patriots, are playing yet again. I love having people over for games, even though outside the realm of New England, it’s hard to find friends who will actually root for the Pats with me. Playful rivalries are what make watching so fun though!

No matter what team you support, everyone can agree that Super Bowl parties are a lot of fun. Why’s that? Because in my opinion, every good football party has two things: ice cold beers and amazing snacks. Beer isn’t for everyone though, so let’s talk about some easy appetizers to put out for the game.

Before I hosted a get together for the playoff last week, I was looking through my fridge for ideas for an appetizer. I found a box of frozen puff pastry sheets and all of a sudden it was no brainer.

In anticipation for the weekend, I had a container of shredded chicken that I had made in my slow cooker with buffalo sauce & diced sweet onion. To me, football and buffalo chicken go hand in hand, so I made it knowing I would use it in some dish. What I did was add some light cream cheese and mixed the buffalo chicken into it (about a 2-1 ratio of shredded chicken to cream cheese) and folded it into the puff pastry to make, essentially, a turnover.

They were good. My girl friends and I took down a platter of these in no time. Of course, being me, I had to switch it up and try to make it better. I decided to redo my puff pastry appetizers, to try to make them even easier to make and even tastier to eat.

I turned to my old friend, the muffin pan. I’m pretty sure mine has been used more for miscellaneous kitchen endeavors than actually making muffins or cupcakes. I thawed out my puff pastry sheets (usually come two in a box) and cut them into nine even squares which were lightly pressed into the muffin pan.


You don’t have to mold them too much, just make sure there’s a little of the dough going up the sides to form a bowl shape.

Here comes the fun part: stuffing them. I knew I wanted to keep going down that buffalo chicken road I started on, but then I thought, what if I made more than one kind? I could potentially make all my Super Bowl snacks at one time. Here’s what I came up with:

Buffalo Chicken

Of course. You start with shredded buffalo chicken. I make mine with chicken thighs in the slow cooker with a packet of ranch seasoning and buffalo sauce, cooked on low for about 6 hours until it falls apart easily. I added diced sweet onions this time around too, but that’s optional. You could also use rotisserie chicken tossed in sauce as a short cut. I like to make it and keep the leftovers for quesadillas, sandwiches, pizza toppings… yum.

I mixed the chicken with cream cheese (again, 2-1 ratio). All you need to fill the pastry is about a tablespoon, so consider how many you want to make when you mix the ingredients together. Once I filled them in, I topped each with a little shredded cheddar and blue cheese crumbles. Everything is better when you add some cheese.

Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? Plus, this is a great option for kids and for vegetarians. I simply sprinkled the puff pastry with dried oregano while it was in the pan. Then I added about a tablespoon of marinara sauce in each cup and topped it with a healthy dose of shredded mozzarella. Fill the pastry about halfway up, because it will expand and you don’t want it to overflow.

This is an easy one to customize. You could bake half of these with a slice of pepperoni on top, or do what I did and add a pickled banana pepper on top after they come out of the oven. Whatever you like on top of your pizza, throw it on there.

Again kids, would love these, any day of the week. They aren’t much harder to make than those frozen pizza bite things, and trust me, they are way more satisfying.

Cinnamon Sugar

You have to have a dessert! But who knew you could make them at the same time as the appetizers? Usually desserts can be complicated but this was the easiest one of the day. I took some more of my light cream cheese and whipped in cinnamon sugar to taste, filling each pastry with a tablespoon.

I love a dessert that isn’t overly sweet, and this was perfect to me. It was flaky and airy like a croissant but the flavor was like having a warm cinnamon bagel with cream cheese. My only regret is I was out of honey, if not I would have drizzled a little on at the end. You could also sprinkle on some powdered sugar to up the sweetness factor and make them look pretty.

I baked all three of these pastries in the same oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until they were golden brown. They all came out fantastic. Granted, if you are making a bunch you will probably need more than one muffin pan or time to do them in batches, but it’s the same cooking process for all of them.

You could make one kind, you could make all three. If you are hosting, these will cover a lot of bases. Have your friends bring some chips and salsa, maybe some veggie dip, and you’d be all set. They aren’t just for football parties either! Everyone has that box of puff pastry hanging out in the back of the freezer, doing nothing. Use it! It’s the easiest way to make something in 5 minutes that looks like it took all day.

What are some other ideas we could stuff into puff pastry? Let me know what you think, or if you try any of mine! Whatever you are doing next weekend, whether it involves the big game or not, I hope it involves great food.

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!