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!




One Pan Chicken Thighs with Lemon & Herb Vegetables & Potatoes

Well…. it’s been a while. My instincts are to write a long explanation of what got me sidetracked and how I took some time to think about what I want to do next here. The conclusion I came to was to focus on my cooking and sharing more recipes. Less filler, more flavor, so I figure maybe the best thing to do is get right to the food.

I’m purposefully finishing this post up with no time to spare. I am leaving in a couple hours to catch a flight to Seattle for a week of adventures, food & a good friend’s wedding. It’s fitting, since this dish is one that takes some time to prep, but is easy to clean up and walk away from. (You know, like the thoughts in my head lately about the blog.)

I specifically came up with this recipe when I got a new 5qt pan by Chrissy Teigen for Target and wanted to challenge myself to make dinner using it only. This is my one pan plan for a perfect weeknight meal:


You will need a large oven-safe pan with a lid for this

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow onion, halved & sliced
  • 6-8 small red potatoes, quartered (bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise & sliced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  1. Mix the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, chili powder, salt & pepper together. Split the spice mix in half.
  2. Rub the chicken thighs all over with half of the spice mix & let it sit for at least an hour to overnight. If you do refrigerate the chicken, remember to take it out a few minutes early and let it come up to room temp before cooking.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  4. On the stove top, put a Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large, deep pan over medium-high. Place the chicken thighs skin side down & cook for 3-4 minutes until it begins to brown. Flip the thighs & cook another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan & set aside. (Alternatively, you can also grill the chicken.)
  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the sliced onions & peppers to the pan & cook for 4-5 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the potatoes & butter. When the butter melts, stir in the remaining spice mixture. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover the pan & cook for 15 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes, zucchini & lemon zest to the pan & stir it together. Place the chicken thighs skin side up in the pan on top of the veggies, being careful not to submerge them. (You want to keep the skin from getting soggy.) Drizzle the lemon juice over everything.
  8. Cover & cook in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the lid & cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender & the chicken is golden brown.

The key to this whole thing is keeping the chicken skin as crispy as possible. I personally like to use a grill or a grill pan to really get a good sear on it, but for the sake of the one pan meal, I tried it & it does work pretty well on a hot stovetop situation. Just make sure you let the pan cool a little bit before adding the veggies so you don’t char them.


Heavenly

Chicken thighs can be a little scary for some people, especially with the bone in them. I personally think a chicken thigh is much more attractive on the bone with the skin, but maybe that’s just me. They have more flavor & don’t overcook & dry out nearly as easily as the chicken breast.

This is not only an easy clean up recipe, it’s an economical one too. Chicken thighs are often on sale & always way cheaper. All the spices and dried herbs are pantry staples. Add some veggies and get to it!


It’s also approved by Mona & her sniffer

I really hope you guys try this one out. Let me know what you think! I’m also super excited to get this post up, go explore Seattle, & then come home to work on all the new recipes & projects I have in mind.

Make sure to follow along on instagram, @thepickygourmet! There should be a lot of fun stuff to see in the PNW this week. Peace out, internet!

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!

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!)

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!

Leftover Turkey Soup

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

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

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


For the stock:

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


For the soup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Recipe Redux: Coconut Curry Chicken

First off, I want to thank everyone who’s reads, follows and support this little blog of mine. I started this to stay motivated to keep cooking and try new recipes. The fact that I now have a rapidly growing social media following and all this amazing feedback from family, friends and strangers alike is un-be-lievable. It’s encouraging and humbling. I’m just so glad you like me, you really like me!

My last post was a milestone: my 50th post! Not bad, since I only started this project last January. Do you remember what my first post was? Well, if you don’t, I’ll give you a hint. It’s in the title. Coconut curry chicken.

I’m trying to start a little weekly ritual of making dinner for some of my girl friends who also had their significant others deploy recently. When I am cooking for other people, I feel like it’s not really the time for experiments. I like to do recipes that are tried and true, but after making them so many times, they tend to change and evolve a bit.

It’s been the better part of a year that I have been working on this blog. It’s not really a surprise that time and experience have improved my cooking, so I want to do some posts where I go back and revamp some of my older recipes, ones that you folks may have missed way back when.

I’m not saying the originals aren’t any good. In the case of the coconut curry chicken, I actually just added onto it, making it a little more complex.

For reference, here is my first blog recipe. I didn’t really talk much back in the old days, huh? I guess I’m getting less shy.

And here is the version 2.0!

Yields about 6 servings.

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tsp garam masala*, divided
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 13.5 oz coconut milk
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic, stirring for about a minute until fragrant. Add onion, celery, carrot and peppers. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender.
  2. Add 2 tsp garam masala, curry, cayenne and a dash of salt and pepper to the saucepan and stir for 1 minute until vegetables are well coated. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Put the chicken into a slow cooker, and season with remaining tsp of garam masala, and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour the sauce and veggies over the chicken, and cook on low for 4 hours. Serve over rice with an optional garnish of fresh parsley or cilantro.

*If you are having trouble finding garam masala at the store, you can make your own. I have used this recipe when I was in a pinch.

I love to break out my slow cooker when fall rolls in, even though it is still in the high 70’s where I live. I just can’t control my New England roots. No joke, October 1st I was loading all this into the cooker while sipping a hard apple cider, pretending the palm trees were changing colors.


Not the prettiest when it’s cooking, but it smells fantastic

For the record, this recipe does not have a strong coconut flavor. The coconut milk thickens the sauce in place of something like heavy cream and adds a subtle sweetness. Actually, if you took the chicken out of this dish, it would be vegan/vegetarian.

Again, there is nothing wrong with my first post. Consider that the express version. This new take definitely has more prep involved with all the extra vegetables. Try out whichever way works for you! I’m just a sucker for all the great produce still available here in California. I get so happy seeing all the colorful veggies sizzling together in the pan.


It’s the little things

I’m excited to revisit some more recipes with everyone! Time to get back to work, browse through my blog and see what else I can come up with. Hopefully I’ll be back soon with another recipe!

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.

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

A few years ago, if you put a whole raw chicken in front of me I would have freeeeeaked out. Today? I think roasting a chicken is the most fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. I still make some girly noises and scrunch my face up if I have to pull the giblets or neck out, but once I get past that point, it’s all good.

I’m going to start with how to cook a chicken and my recipe for it. In a couple days, there’s going to be post on all the beautiful ways you can use the leftovers. I was in Whole Foods and organic free range chickens were on sale. I got a 4.75lb bird for $7.17. This literally can feed my husband and I for days. I’m used to buying 3 boneless, skinless breasts in a pack for the same price. So first lesson is, if it’s on sale, get it. I changed my entire shopping list for the week when I found this beauty.

Let’s cut to the chase, here is how I cooked my chicken.

  • 4-5lb chicken
  • 3 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tsp pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary, divided
  • 2 tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 3 russet potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 carrots, thickly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 1 white onion, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Remove giblets and neck if needed and place the chicken in a large bowl or pan. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp of the salt, 1 tsp of the pepper, lemon pepper, 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme and dried parsley. Rub over the entire chicken, bottom and top, covering as evenly as possible. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours to let it dry brine.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large roasting pan or dish, combine chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, and half of the white onion, which should be thickly sliced. Mince 3 garlic cloves and mix into the veggies. Season with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary and 1/2 tsp dried thyme.
  3. Depending on the size and what can fit, stuff the chicken with the last half of the white onion, 5 crushed garlic cloves, half a lemon, fresh rosemary and thyme. If space is tight, cut the onion and lemon into quarters. If you can’t fit everything, it’s OK, but try to get a little of each in.
  4. Place the chicken directly on top of the veggies, so it’s not touching the bottom of the pan. You could also use a roasting pan with a rack if you have one. Use the last half of the lemon to squeeze over the entire dish. Tie the legs together with cooking twine and tuck the wings under the body.
  5. Cook for 1 hour, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees. If it’s not done in an hour, keep roasting in 10 minute intervals until it’s up to the right tempature.
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving so you don’t lose all the juice. Stir the veggies around to coat them in the pan juices. Carve the chicken by removing the legs and separating the drumstick from the thigh. Remove the wings next. Cut vertically against the bone in the center to remove the breasts. Serve along side the roasted vegetables.


I can’t think of another meal more comforting than a roast chicken with vegetables. It’s also a meal that everyone makes a little differently. There’s millions of ways to do it, everyone has a “secret” to making it delicious, but my approach is simple, classic flavors.

I prefer a dry brine over a wet brine simply because it’s easier. If you have the time to wet brine, go for it. I did my thanksgiving turkey in salt water, beer and other spices and it was lovely, but for everyday cooking, a dry brine does the trick.

Some people like to use butter to achieve a crispy skin. If you coat the chicken well with the spices, you really don’t need it. With the addition of the lemon squeezed over it right before cooking, the skin came out beautifully browned and crispy.

Keeping the seasoning consistent between the chicken and vegetables make for a harmonious dinner. My favorite part is moving the chicken to the cutting board and then mixing all the veggies with the pan juice that was created. They become so delicious, I acutually ate the leftovers for lunch the next day, without any chicken. It was great on it’s own, with a tiny dollop of sour cream on top. Here’s a photo of the vegetables before roasting, totally gorgeous.

Like I said earlier, in a few days I’m going to be posting about all the possibilities of leftover roast chicken. This is a great recipe to do on a Sunday to have leftovers for the rest of the week. Also, in keeping the seasonings fairly traditional, it makes it easy to use again in a number of different dishes.

Roasting a whole chicken takes time and some work. You also have to be willing to get your hands dirty (I always keep hand sanitizer within reach) but it’s so worth it. It can be scary, especially when that naked, raw bird comes out of the plastic, but with some practice, it becomes easy breezy. And soon my next post will show you how putting in the work on the weekend will benefit your week ahead!