Everyday Tomato Sauce

I’ve been meaning to do this one for a while, because tomato sauce is something that we use a lot. I’m actually going to be posting another recipe tomorrow, but while I was working on it, I decided I needed to do this first. This is my standard tomato sauce that I use all the time, so this post will be a great reference tool. I’ll be linking back to this in the future, whenever a recipe calls for it.

I make sauce like this at least every couple weeks. I prefer it to jarred sauce, and hey, at the moment, it might get you out of a pinch. I don’t know about your local grocery, but our pasta and sauce aisle has been really picked over lately. There always seemed to be canned tomatoes though!

It’s worth noting this makes about 2 standard mason jars worth of sauce… sometimes a little extra. If you don’t have any, save and reuse jars from the store! (Just make sure you clean them out really well.)

Everyday Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 14.5oz crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Put the olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion & let it sweat for about 2-3 minutes, until it begins to become translucent. Add the garlic, grated carrot & diced bell pepper. Stir to combine & let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are tender.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the veggies. Using a rubber or wooden spatula, stir it in & scrap up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once it’s all well-incorporated, add the crushed & diced tomato. Stir it all together & reduce the heat to low.
  3. Stir in the dried oregano, & the dried & fresh basil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover & allow the sauce to simmer for at least 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately or let cool, jar & refrigerate.

Suggestions & Substitutions: I like to use a mix of crushed and diced tomatoes because I like the added texture. If you want a smoother sauce, go with two cans of crushed instead.

You can also use fresh tomatoes as well! For a while my garden was producing roma tomatoes like crazy and I would dice and blend my own. Or sometimes, if I have a couple tomatoes I have to use up soon, I’ll add them in with canned to freshen it up. The pros of canned tomatoes is that they stay in your pantry for a very long time, which is very helpful, especially at the moment when avoiding the store is a big priority.

If you have options, try to find canned tomatoes that don’t add salt. Lots of brand name sauces have a lot of salt and sugar in them, and one of the things I like about making my own is that I can control that. Carrots add a nice natural sweetness to it, but you can always add a pinch of sugar to yours if you prefer it.

This is also a fantastic way to use up things you have laying around. Have fun with this as your base! Add ground meat, mushrooms, chopped spinach or spicier peppers if you like. I love adding in roasted garlic (when I feel like taking that extra step), crushed red pepper flakes & sometimes a little grated parmesan cheese. It’s a great canvas to work with.

And just think of all the ways to use it…

…On homemade ricotta gnocchi

…Used for baked eggs aka shakshuka

…In quick & easy pizza roll ups

…Used two ways in chicken parmesan

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.

Eggs In Purgatory (With A Few Friends)

OK, first new recipe of 2019! It took a little while to sit down and do this, as I’ve had a lot going on. The holidays were lovely, and now I’m preparing for a trip next weekend, and I’ve been starting some new projects. I’ve taken a position as the Honolulu ambassador for an online influencer marking company called Zipkick, which is very exciting. Basically it’s my job to cultivate a local community, recruit more influencers and reach out to brands to connect them with the company and it’s network.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about becoming an influencer and success on social media. We’ll see. I’m still shocked at how far The Picky Gourmet has come in 3 years. I never thought I’d be turning it into (hopefully) a career.

I also never thought I’d be doing an egg recipe. All the way into my adult years, eggs freaked me out. First off, there’s so many ways to cook them… whenever a waiter would ask how I’d like my eggs, I’d just say no thanks. Where do you start?

Scrambled seemed like an obvious choice, so that was my first attempt at liking eggs. Nope, nope, nope. I was not a fan. Still not a fan. I thought the fluffy, yellow eggs looked more appetizing than those weird runny yolks, but eventually, I learned the error of my ways.


The best part… so satisfying

I started practicing cooking eggs to give them another shot. I didn’t get far past the fried egg. I’m sunny side up/runny yolk for life now. Especially when it involves dipping some kind of bread into it. It tastes like melted, buttery goodness. Suddenly the whole “put an egg on it” movement made sense to me.

Then I heard about “eggs in purgatory”… baked eggs in a bed of spicy, thick tomato sauce. And you eat it with bread. I knew immediately this was going to be my jam. Honestly, I threw this together with what I found in my kitchen, and it’s one of the only times I’ve ever created a blog-worthy recipe on the first try. Here’s how I did it:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts (from the jar)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped capers
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pickled banana peppers, thinly sliced for garnish
  • chopped fresh basil & parsley for garnish
  • 1 loaf of sourdough or Italian bread, sliced & lightly toasted (I like to toast the bread first & keep it warm in the oven while making the rest of the dish)
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet (about 12 inches ideally). Add in the onion, artichoke hearts, capers & garlic. Stir occasionally for 1-2 minutes, until the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme, basil, paprika & oregano. Stir into the onion mix for a minute.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes & tomato paste. Season with a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Let it gently boil for about 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce thicken for about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, create six divots in the sauce. Crack an egg in each cavity, then cover the pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the whites are cooked & the yolk is to your liking (I prefer a shorter cooking time for a runny yolk).
  5. Garnish the dish with the sliced banana peppers, fresh basil & fresh parsley. Serve family style with toasted bread slices.




The three stages of cooking

Easy and delicious. My favorite things. This was one of those things I had to stop myself from eating because I was getting full but didn’t want to stop! I love the runny egg, I love the spices and herbs, and I love getting the salty pops from the capers and the sweet, vinegary bite of the peppers on top.

You can scoop individual servings into bowls for people, but I like just digging right into the pan with the bread. I love a recipe that looks (and tastes) impressive, without a ton of work. This is essentially just throwing a bunch of delicious ingredients together, and when you serve it out of the pan, clean up is that much easier.


Beautiful even when it’s messy

This is also a great “pantry grab” recipe. Pretty much everyone has cans of tomatoes and tomato paste in their cupboards. If you don’t have jars of artichoke hearts, capers & banana peppers, that’s fine. This is a great way to use up the ingredients you do have and love. You can use jalapenos, or you can leave out the spicy pepper flakes altogether. You can add more garlic, or something healthy like spinach. You can substitute parmesan cheese for the salty capers or that last bit of jarred marinara sauce no one it going to use in place of the tomato paste. Use your favorite herbs and make it your own. As long as you have a thick, tomato sauce base, there’s a million ways to make eggs this way.

This is a fantastic option for a brunch where you want to have a few different dishes. It satisfies the need for eggs, without you having to make them to order or worry about cooking them correctly and you can even make the sauce the night before to save time. With just a few minutes on the stove top, you have a show-stopping dish.

I’m already trying to think of the next time I can make this. It would be perfect for a Super Sunday pre-game brunch (since the big game airs at 1:30pm out here in Hawaii) or for when my family comes to visit next month. Actually, this is just perfect for any breakfast, any day. I have a feeling this is going to become a staple in our household.

I promise to stop making it long enough to come up with a few new recipes soon. I’ve got some ideas that I can’t wait to try out when I’m back from traveling next week. See you soon!

Recipe Redux: Crab Cake Sandwiches Two Ways

Lots and lots of exciting things going on lately. The biggest news is (drumroll, please)… we bought a house in Hawaii! It’s feels surreal, especially since we don’t move for a few more weeks. I’m dying to get my hands on it, the kitchen and backyard especially.


Sneak peek! The kitchen will be getting a little bit of a facelift. The tacky plastic pergola in the yard is already gone, thank goodness. 

It was also my husband’s birthday recently. Ours are a month and day apart, which was a little funny because we made an offer on our house on my birthday and we closed on it just after his.

We celebrated all those things, but I wanted to do one more thing for my husband. When I posted about my crab cakes, he was on deployment. He looooves crab cakes. I made a bunch of them perfecting my recipe and he didn’t get any while he was gone. (My girl friends lucked out though!)

I decided it was time for another recipe redux. There is a restaurant we love back in Massachusetts that used to have something like this on the menu, but one day, it disappeared. My husband was so disappointed. It’s been a couple years so I don’t remember exactly what was on theirs, so I decided to have some fun in the kitchen and give him some options.

The base is the same, but the meal is totally different, because we are making crab cake sandwiches two ways!

Everything you need for this meal can be prepped a day (or two, or three) in advance, so we are going to start with the toppings.

Pickled Sweet Peppers

  • 2 cups sweet peppers, thinly sliced & seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup hot water
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar and salt until fully dissolved.
  2. Put the peppers, thyme and garlic into a mason jar. Add the vinegar mixture. Carefully pour in the hot water until full.
  3. Cover the jar and leave it at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Pickled Red Onions

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup hot water
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar & salt together until dissolved.
  2. Put the onions, peppercorns & garlic into a mason jar. Add the vinegar mixture. Carefully pour in the hot water until full.
  3. Cover the jar and leave it at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Mango Jalapeno Salsa

  • 1 cup finely diced mango
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp pickled sweet peppers, finely chopped (optional if you happen to make them first, I like the extra color)
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • pinch of salt
    1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl & toss until mixed. Cover & refrigerate until serving.

Spicy Remoulade Sauce (modified from the original recipe)

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp pickling liquid (from either jar)
  • 1 tsp cayenne
    1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Cover & refrigerate until serving.

See? All I did was make a bunch of fun toppings to dress up the original recipe, which I have doubled below to make five sandwiches.

Why five? Well, I used a half dozen package of brioche buns for my sandwiches. They are sturdy enough to hold up to the patty and have a buttery taste that will compliment it. One bun goes into the actual crab cake as a binder, so that left five.

If you have another burger bun or rolls to use in the crab cake mix, you could definitely stretch this for six sandwiches. It’s all about using what you have and having to overbuy bread that won’t get used.

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp mayonaisse
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 16 oz lump crab meat
  • 1 cup of finely chopped brioche roll (about 1 roll)
  • 4 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, green onions, salt & pepper. Gently stir in crab meat until combined. Add the bread and panko, slowly folding it in, until evenly distributed.
  2. Using your hands, form 5-6 patties (try to match the size of the brioche buns). Place on a pan lined with parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a least an hour and up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a deep skillet or pan. Without overcrowding the pan, cook patties about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. (Flip them away from you carefully to avoid splatter) Transfer to baking sheet or pan and let them warm through in the oven for 3-4 minutes.


Uncooked crab cakes, to give you an idea of the shape

I highly recommend prepping this all the day ahead of time, at least the toppings. The crab cakes could be made the morning of if you like. Just make sure you give them enough time to set up in the fridge so they don’t fall apart. Speaking of not falling apart, I like to use two spatulas to hold the crab cakes when I flip them on the stove top. These suckers are heavy, and you want to move slowly and not get oil everywhere.

From there, it’s simply about building.

Sandwich #1

  • Crab Cake
  • Toasted Brioche Bun
  • Mango Jalapeno Salsa
  • Spicy Remoulade Sauce
  • Sliced Avocado
  • Baby Arugula

A great mix of sweet and spicy. I love fruity salsas, especially paired with something rich like crab. The avocado almost melted into the spicy sauce I smeared on the top bun, balancing out the flavors. Any greens would be good to add some freshness, but I love the peppery taste of arugula.

Sandwich #2

  • Crab Cake
  • Toasted Brioche Bun
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Pickled Sweet Peppers
  • Spicy Remoulade Sauce
  • Baby Arugula

The vinegar-y bite from the onions and peppers is perfect with the light, fluffy crab cake. I went heavy handed with the spicy sauce on this one and added my arugula again. Greens make a nice barrier to keep the bottom of the sandwich from getting too saturated. Reminder: drain your pickled veggies on a paper towel before putting them on the sandwich, so you don’t get it soaked and soggy with the liquid!

My husband and I kept going back and forth, and in the end, neither of us could pick a favorite. Crab cakes feel like being at the beach to me. The first sandwich definitely had that tropical island vibe, while the second felt more like being on the water somewhere down south instead, like the Carolinas or Louisiana.

I love this because now I have all this great stuff to pick at. Mango salsa is perfect for a snack, tacos or over the top of grilled fish or chicken . The spicy sauce isn’t exclusive, it works on all kinds of sandwiches. It’s also amazing with fries or onion rings. And pickled onion and peppers? They last for months!


Get creative with your leftovers: I made twice baked potatoes with the remoulade sauce mixed in & pickled onions on top!

Not only do I have a fridge full of goodies after the fact, having all these components makes it easy for everyone at the table to customize their own sandwich. This spread would be fantastic with a black bean veggie burger or chicken breast too, if you have someone at dinner who isn’t a seafood fan.

It looks like a lot of work in this long post, but trust me, it’s not as hard as it seems. I personally love spending a weekend morning pickling things for the week or making my own sauces and dressings from whatever I can find in my kitchen. Those little things can make all the difference.

Well, I’ll let you all go. I hope you have a fantastic, safe and spoooooky Halloween… and that no one puts raisins in your Trick or Treat bag.

Mediterranean-Spiced Chicken Sandwiches

Most people would say their favorite thing about summer is the weather or being on vacation. Well, here in southern California, as an adult with no children, those distinctions aren’t as prevalent in my life. My favorite part is spending time with loved ones. Summer means beach trips, pool days and cook-outs. It means parties!

I’m lucky to be surrounded by a great group of friends here in Ventura county, but being a military spouse means moving around a lot and next fall we will be on to our next adventure (stay tuned for that official announcement in a couple months… it’s pretty exciting!). I’m looking forward to some fun times and day trips while we are still California residents.

Summer is also time for friends from all over the country to come visit us, and we’re working on our own plans to visit them too! Travel has been on my brain lately, especially when I was coming up with this weeks recipe.

Travel… summer… cook-outs… naturally, this lead me to creating a chicken sandwich. I don’t eat red meat, so the chicken sandwich is my burger. The problem with chicken on a grill is it can be so dry and bland, so my go-to move was to drown it with hot sauce.


Don’t you dare put hot sauce on this

Here’s my new alternative: mediterranean-spiced chicken sandwiches with marinated cucumbers & onions and a lemon-dill yogurt sauce. It sounds like a tall order for grilling out, but you can prep everything the night before. There are three parts to this recipe, so let’s break it down!

Marinated Cucumbers & Onions

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • dash of salt & pepper
  1. Slice the cucumber, preferably with a mandolin, so it’s paper thin. Divide the cucumber & sliced onions into two mason jars (or any glassware with an air-tight lid).
  2. In a bowl, combine the water, vinegar and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients (you can omit the crushed red pepper if you do not want heat) and pour into the jars, making sure all the veggies are submerged. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before use.

These are so delicious, I was snacking on them while I was working on everything else. This will make much more than you need for a couple sandwiches, but keep it around for a couple weeks in the fridge, throw them on every sandwich you can think of! They are also a great little side dish.


Pretty enough for a photo… I’ll spare you a photo of the yogurt sauce

Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 lemon, zest & juice
  • dash of salt & pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl & whisk until well-incorporated.

That’s it! Easy. Again, you will probably have left overs, but this a great alternative spread for mayo or ranch on sandwiches. Also, it’s great to use as a dip for veggies for your afternoon snack! Last but not least…

Mediterranean-Spiced Chicken Breast

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound the chicken until it’s 1/2″ thick all around. Trim down to “sandwich size”. (Save your scraps!)
  2. Brush chicken breasts with EVOO. Mix the spices together in a small bowl, and rub generously onto both sides of the chicken. Use right away, or refrigerate up to overnight.
  3. Grill the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side over medium heat, flipping once, until it reaches 165 degrees internally.

OK! Here’s the star of the show. This chicken is delicious on it’s own for a weeknight dinner over rice or veggies, and can totally just be cooked in the oven instead of on the grill. I actually used a grill pan on my stove-top, because I don’t have my own backyard here in my townhouse. Womp, womp.

My recipe is only for two breasts/sandwiches because it’s just me and hubby over here, but it’s pretty easy to double this one up. (The cucumber and yogurt sauce recipes will make enough for like 8 sandwiches, at least.)

I have a complex where I hate when ingredients are two small or two large for the sandwich, hence my note to trim down to “sandwich size”. If I end up taking a lot of decent meat off, I save the trimmings. Keep them in the fridge for a stir-fry or a pasta dish.


Naked chicken, waiting for all the toppings

Now that we have everything we need…

BUILD THAT SANDWICH!

Do I really need to do bullet points here? Take your favorite, hearty sandwich roll and lightly toast it. Top it with the chicken, right off the grill. Pile on those marinated cucumber and onions. Add something fresh and green, like arugula. Spread that yogurt sauce evenly on the top bun, smush it all together and go to town.

As for the potato wedges, those are just russet potatoes that I sliced and soaked in water for an hour. Then you rinse and dry them, toss them with a dash of salt, pepper, garlic, parsley & paprika and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Ta-da!


Would you like fries with that?

I’m actually mildly obsessed with this sandwich. The chicken is so yummy… we did used half the spice rack on it for good reason. The cucumbers and onions are spicy, sweet and tangy all at once without overpowering the other elements. The yogurt sauce brings it all together, with a bright, fresh note from the lemon and dill. I like greens on my sandwiches, so I also added arugula, but you could use any leafy greens you like and have on hand.

OK, honestly, since I have sat down to type this out, I have gotten up twice. First was to get the jar of cucumbers, which I have been picking at ever since and second was to make sure I had more chicken defrosted (I do, yay!) because now I’m craving one of these bad boys.

I love recipes were I can prep components ahead of time, so when I am hungry and want food in face immediately, it’s not a hassle. When the cook-out starts, it will take you just as long to put this sandwich together as it would a burger with ketchup, tomato and lettuce. And trust me, anyone who thought a burger was the right choice will take one look at this and change their minds.


Couldn’t even make it through the photo shoot

Happy Summer everyone! I’ll be back sooner than later with a couple bonus mini-recipes. See you then!

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!

Easy Pizza Sauce

I hope everyone has recovered from Super Bowl Sunday! Along with the snacks, I made two simple pizzas yesterday that were deeeeelish. Luckily there was so much food, I have a couple slices leftover for my lunch today. Score!

Today I’m going to share my recipe for pizza sauce. I made a fairly traditional margherita and a spicy arugula pie, so it’s actually two sauce recipes in one post. You can decide which to try… or, c’mon, make both. Two pizzas are always better than one.

Yields sauce for two 12″ pizzas

  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

To make it a spicy sauce you will need:

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Combine tomato paste, diced tomatoes, oregano, garlic, paprika and Italian seasoning in a bowl and stir until all ingredients are well mixed.
  2. Optional: if you prefer a smoother sauce rather than a rustic, chunky sauce, put the mixture into a blender or food processor and pulse until it’s the desired consistency.

That’s it! No need to heat this at all, it does all the cooking in the oven. At this point, I divided the sauce and spread half of it on my first dough. I topped it with fresh mozzarella slices and torn basil leaves. Next up, spicy arugula.

  1. Stir black pepper, cayenne and red pepper flakes into remaining sauce.

It couldn’t be easier. If you want the whole batch of sauce to be spicy, just add a little extra to the peppery ingredient amounts, mix it all in at the start and taste as you go.

My second pizza had the spicy sauce and I simply sprinkled on some grated Parmesan cheese. Both pies baked for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees, but make sure you follow instructions for whatever kind of dough you are using. I usually make my own from scratch, but I cheated and used the store bought kind this time. It was a busy day! Don’t judge me!

When they were done cooking, I put a little more fresh basil onto the margherita. This is perfect for fans of a plain pizza, but so much better than using shredded processed cheese. The spicy pizza was finished off with two handfuls of fresh baby arugula. At first, the tough guys thought this looked like a salad more than a pizza, but the heat from the sauce and the peppery greens take this a long way from boring. It’s a flavor bomb!

I asked my guests and my social media followers which team they were on, and I was actually shocked that the spicy arugula was the clear winner here! So try these two, or your own, pizza creations at home and have a vote. It’s a fun and easy for a party or even a weeknight family dinner that everyone will love.

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