The Easiest and Prettiest 5-Minute Salad You’ll Ever Make

I’m half Italian, which means half of my body is made entirely of mozzarella cheese and tomato. Which is exactly why this is one of my favorite salads to make. (It can be a starter salad, or a full-on meal, depending on how many layers you make!)

Tomato and MozzarellaI LOVE fresh mozzarella. The stringed kind is fucking great too, but there’s really nothing better than the fresh stuff. It’s delicate, soft, and pairs super well with tomatoes.

A tomato and mozzarella salad is really light but also incredibly tasty. (I actually had this one for dinner last night, because we’d had a heavy BBQ lunch.) Plus, it looks so pretty on a plate that people will think you’re some kind of chef unicorn and assume you put a lot of time and effort into this salad. It literally takes 5 minutes, maybe 3 if you’re an EXPERT.

Did I mention the ingredients you need to buy are just really tomato and fresh mozzarella? (Assuming you have all the other stuff.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (serves 2):
  • 1 container of fresh mozzarella in water (look for one that has 2 sizable mozzarella balls, not the ones with a munch of minis!)
  • 2 red, ripe tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette
Directions:
  1. Wash tomatoes thoroughly, then cut them into smallish flat slices. (Each slice should look like a pizza pie crust, because pizza is great.)
  2. Remove the mozzarella balls from the water, and cut them into slices.
  3. Take out a plate and layer your salad with a mozzarella slice, then tomato, mozzarella slice, then tomato. (Each plate should get 1 mozzarella ball, and one fully sliced tomato.)
  4. Sprinkle your masterpiece with plenty of pepper.
  5. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over each plate.
  6. Drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic over each place.
  7. Finish with a sprinkling of salt over everything. (I use a lot of salt, but I really love salt.)
  8. Garnish with basil or fresh spinach if you’re feeling fancy.

Anyone who eats this at your table will think you’re the fanciest cook ever, I promise. Plus, it tastes so fresh and wonderful. Enjoy!

Greens That Fill You Up And Taste So Savory: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Did you all know that brussel sprouts are actually spelled brussels sprouts? I did not know this, but it’s because they were popular in Brussels, Belgium. (Hence brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts, kinda nifty.)

So these brussels sprouts, as it turns out, not only have a cool name origin, but are also just super delicious. As a kid, I always ate my veggies, and I liked them, so maybe I’ve got a soft spot when it comes to brussels sprouts. Truth is I can’t help it: They’re so filling, so tasty, and when cooked just right, you totally forget you’re eating veggies.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

So begins my veggie journey. I’ve been trying to cook more veggies and stay healthy, and something I learned from my recent diet is that if you’re going to pick a time to eat carbs, it should be early on in the day. Meaning that at night time, pairing whatever you’re eating with veggies is a solid plan.

I was cooking up salmon, and decided to add some brussels into the mix. It took me roughly 5 minutes to throw it all together, and then all I had to do was let it cook in the oven. So easy, and so pretty on a plate too!

Brussel Sprouts
Here’s what you’ll need:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
  • 1 lb bag of brussels sprouts
  • 1/3 cup of Italian salad dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
Directions:
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash the sprouts, then cut off the hard, stalky ends, and halve the remaining sprout. (They may fall apart a bit, but that’s totally OK!)
  3. Line a glass pan, or oven-safe dish, with aluminum foil.
  4. Place the halved sprouts in the pan, and feel free to pile them onto each other. Then drizzle on the Italian dressing, olive oil, and generously coat with salt and pepper.
  5. Combine the ingredients with a large spoon until well coated. Feel free to use more dressing if it’s looking a bit sparse.
  6. Pop the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes, and voila! Delicious crisp and tender brussels sprouts.

The Very Best Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies To Make Your Heart Sing

I spent the past week or so on a diet. Yes, a diet. Not because I wanted to lose huge amounts of weight, but because I’d stopped fitting into my jeans, which is a bit of a problem.

My very good friend Tommy cooked for me during that week. He’s a personal chef, and he was able to figure out how to wean me off of things like sugar, oils, heavy fats, and cook food for me that still tasted like food. He delivered all of my meals every three days: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All I had to do was open up the tupperware and heat up whatever he’d made me. It was kind of nice, actually, to not have to worry about cooking for awhile.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
I won’t lie to you, there were three days where I wasn’t allowed to eat any sugar or oils, and I kind of thought I’d somehow fallen into the seventh gate of hell. But after that, things were much better. The food Tommy cooked had FAT. And SOME sugar. It was like he beat me down, just to build me back up again. And, best of all, by the end of it I was able to fit into my jeans, and not suck it in. So, that mission WAS accomplished.

Of course, a few days after the diet had ended, all I wanted to do was make cookies and gorge. (Totally diet friendly, right?) I went over to one of my favorite cooking blogs, The Pioneer Woman, and found a recipe for Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies. Now those sounded great and all, but I’d been living for the past week off of kale and lean proteins. I needed CHOCOLATE. So I added my own thing to this recipe and holy guacamole, these cookies were everything I needed and more.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:
  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1.5 cups of flour
  • 3 cups of old fashioned oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Whip those up with a whisky until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix until well combined.
  3. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix them together. Then slowly add in the oats one cup at a time.
  4. Once the oats are well combined, sprinkle in two nice handfuls of chocolate chips. (Or three, ya know, if you’re feeling frisky.)
  5. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or foil, and drop 1 inch wide balls of dough onto the sheet.
  6. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until they start to look golden.
  7. Take them out of the oven, and add them to ice cream. (Did I mention I also ate these with ice cream? One scoop of coffee, and one scoop of peanut butter are key here.)

Slow Cooker Magic: Honey and Soy Crockpot Chicken

Up until this point, I’ve used my crockpot exclusively for booze. I always thought, Someday, I’ll use you for food that isn’t liquid, and then promptly poured some wine and cinnamon in.

But over the weekend, I used it for actual food. Like, stuck some chicken and things in there and just let it sit. A few hours later, we had some seriously flavorful chicken. And putting it all in that pot to cook took me roughly 15 minutes. I’m a food crockpot convert!
Crockpot Chicken

I knew that we were going for a long hike on Saturday, and I also knew that we had to cook the chicken breasts in the fridge at some point. But I kind of wanted something to be ready for when we got back from hiking in Griffith Park. So, as I sipped my coffee, I started rummaging around in my cabinets. I didn’t have much, to be honest, but I did have an awful lot of soy sauce and honey. Luckily, I found some crockpot recipes that called for exactly those things, (plus a few things I didn’t have, but I improvised, and the results were pretty fab.)

I used two chicken breasts (about a pound), honey, soy sauce, red chili flakes, half of an onion, four diced garlic cloves, and dried basil leaves. That was it! That was all I needed! A lot of the recipes called for rice, to serve the chicken over, and I think that would be super yummy — especially since there’s a lot of soy/honey juice that you can drizzle over the rice. We didn’t have rice, however, so we used tortilla chips to sop everything up. Which also was a nice plain counterbalance to the super flavorful chicken.Slow Cooker Chicken
Here’s what you’ll need, and get ready for this to be ridiculously easy and yummy:

Crock-Pot Honey Soy Chicken:
  • 2 chicken breasts (though, if you want leftovers, use three, and no need to double the ingredients, there is seriously a lot of yummy juice to go around)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 3 dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes
  • 1/2 of a large white onion, sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, diced
    Soy Chicken Slow Cooker
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, and red chili flakes. Stir until well mixed.
  2. Slice and dice the onions and garlic in a separate bowl.
  3. Cut the chicken into medium cubed pieces.
  4. Pour the soy/honey mixture into the bottom of the crockpot first, then add the onion and garlic, followed by the cubed chicken pieces. Top it all off with the basil leaves.
  5. Combine all of the ingredients with a large spoon, and make sure each chicken piece is well coated.
  6. Turn the crockpot to low heat, and cook for 4-5 hours over low. The kitchen and your house will smell amazing, and when it’s time to take the lid off, you’ll see why!
  7. Serve the crockpot chicken over rice, or with chips (like we did.)

Sub Out The Beef, Sub In The Healthy: Turkey Meatball Sub

Yeah, so, this just happened…Turkey Meatball SubHave I mentioned that I was a fat kid? Well, I was, and one of my favorite fat kid foods was meatball subs. I used to get one from Subway, which was a 5-minute drive from our house and which my Mom would agree to drive me too after I whined enough. And I’d get that sub, and I would savor the shit out of it. I mean, like, worship it as if it were my last meal, and slowly eat each and every bite until I was licking my fingers. I just drooled a little, thinking about it.

The other night, I thought back to those meatball subs, and I found myself to be very very hungry. All I had were healthy things though; ground turkey, whole wheat rolls, cheese that was part skim…. And yet, the meatball sub came out really yummy, and it was incredibly filling, and way healthier. It was the same sub, but better for me, and I was still able to lick my fingers after.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes 2-3 subs):

Supplies:
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup sliced onions
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (if you want a stronger kick, try pepper jack cheese)
  • 3 sub rolls, preferably whole wheat
Directions :
  • In a large bowl, crack and whip the egg. Add in ground turkey, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hands (it will feel weird and awesome!!!) and form 1 inch to 1.5 inch meatballs with that mixture.
  • Take out a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add as many meatballs as will fit in the pan, let them sit on one side for 2 minutes, then flip and cover the pan for another 3 minutes, or until the meatballs looked cooked (but not totally browned, as they will be cooking more).
  • Once you cut a meatball and make sure there’s no more pink inside, keep the meatballs in the pan, and add the tomatoes, half the basil, onions, and butter. Stir all of it up, and cover over low heat.
  • While the tomatoes and meatballs meld together, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Take out your rolls and open them up. You’re going to lightly drizzle the remaining olive oil (if you need a little more, then feel free) over the inside of the rolls.
  • On a foil lined baking sheet, place the rolls open-side up on the sheet, and bake them at 350 degrees for five minutes, or until they’re warmed and toasted.
  • Take out the rolls, and take the meatballs off their heat. When the rolls have cooled enough, pile on the meatball/sauce mixture, and top with the remaining basil leaves and a nice handful of shredded cheese. VOILA! Healthy, delicious, and so filling.

Baked Ziti That Will Wow Everyone (And It’s So Easy To Make!)

Need to feed a big crowd? And need something that will make people think you’re an awesome cook (even if you aren’t)?

My aunt Eileen’s baked ziti is one of those go-to recipes I always use when I’m trying to impress people for a few reasons:

  1. Because it’s so cheesy and delicious that I can’t even handle it. People will be licking the plate.
  2. It looks like one of those things that’s really hard to make and took you forever, when in reality it’s laughably simple.
  3. It almost tastes better as a leftover than when it’s fresh out of the oven.

Baked ZitiMy Aunt Eileen was an awesome cook. She passed away when I was younger, but to this day the only ziti recipe my mom and I ever make is Eileen’s. It’s perfect for large crowds, as you get 6-8 servings, and is seriously so good when you eat it cold out of the pan the next day. (I wish I was joking, but I’m not. I love cold ziti.)

I recently made this one night when I was feeling homesick and really needed something warm to just fill up on. I knew it was ziti that would make everything better, and it really, really did change my mood entirely.

So, if you’re looking to make something to wow your friends, or really just need a hearty meal, here’s what you’ll need:

Supplies:
  • 1 box of ziti noodles (I use Ronzoni!)
  • 1 jar of plain marinara sauce (you can also buy flavored sauces, or one that has basil/garlic/etc)
  • 16 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of white mushrooms
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Directions :
  • Heat a large pot of salted water until it boils. Add the box of ziti noodles and cook for 7 minutes, then strain. (It should be a little al dente.)
  • While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet add the olive oil and brown the pound of ground beef with the mushrooms, it should be 5-7 minutes.
  • In a large oven safe dish, add the cooked ziti, then the meat and mushroom mixture, and top it off with the sauce. Mix until it’s all well blended.
  • Miz in the mozzarella cheese, and add 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan.
  • Add ricotta cheese in very large clumps. Take a spoon, and spoon out a clump at a time. Whatever you do, just DON’T MIX it in. Let it sit in those clumps.
  • Cover the dish with tinfoil, and back for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling.

Stuffed Peppers With Shredded Chicken, Couscous, and Mushrooms

Why the hell had I never made stuffed peppers before? Seriously, they are so easy, they look gorgeous, and when you cut into them, it’s like a pot pie, only without all the bread. They are amazing!

Stuffed Pepper Recipe

I decided to make these the other night for two reasons: 1) A friend once told me that peppers are good to eat when you’re sick, and I had a cold, 2) I’ve been eating so much pasta. So much. Like, I might actually be SICK of it right now. (It will pass, trust me, I’ll be back on the pasta train in no time.)

So, I had chicken breasts, two big peppers, and a couple of other things that I scrounged out of the cupboards. I don’t know how, but it all came out SUPER tasty and I will definitely be making these again. Based off of a few recipes I saw online, this is what I ended up using:

What you’ll need:
  • 2 bell peppers. I used red, but yellow or any other shade will do!
  • 1 shredded chicken breast.
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock (or 1/2 cup of water).
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
  • 1/2 cup of white mushrooms.
  • 1/2 cup of canned black beans.
  • 1 cup of couscous (I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat version, and it’s super easy to make).
  • 1/2 a lime.
  • 1/4 cup of shredded of thinly cut pepper jack cheese.
  • Tablespoon of butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Red chili flakes
  • Hot sauce to taste
Directions :
  • Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over low to medium heat in a skillet. While that heats up, take out the chicken breast. Place the chicken breast in the skillet and coat it generously in salt and pepper. Let the chicken sit for five minutes on that one side, then flip the chicken over. Add the chicken broth and cover, keeping on medium heat, for 10 minutes. (It’s the exact same process I use for my shredded chicken salad.)
  • Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the heat and let it cool for ten minutes.
  • While the chicken cools, make at least one cup of whole wheat couscous according to the directions on the box. (For Trader Joe’s, their serving size will give you more than one cup, which is great for leftovers.)
  • In a large pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Shred the chicken and toss it into the pan. Add a cup of couscous, the black beans, chopped onion, white mushrooms, salt, pepper, red chili flakes, and a few shakes of hot sauce. Squeeze half of a lime over it all. Stir occasionally over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove all of the seeds from the inside.
  • Line a baking dish with tinfoil, place the topless peppers (LOL) on the foil, and fill them with the chicken skillet mixture. Really stuff them as full as you can. If you have leftovers, make sure to try a bite, because it will be damn good.
  • Top the peppers with the pepper jack cheese slices.
  • Bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top turns a little golden.

That’s it, now enjoy this protein rich meal! And you might want to bring a little extra hot sauce with you, in case you like a bigger kick.

 

Ginger Snap Cookies For The New Year

Before you start your New Year’s resolutions and give up gluten, or start a juice cleanse, or beg your friend Tom to cook you healthy food for a week… Can you guess which one I plan to do?

Anyway, before you start all that, you should make these cookies as your final hoorah.
Ginger Snaps

My Aunt Katherine is FAMOUS for these ginger snaps. And by “famous,” I mean that my cousin Stuart told me they are awesome, so I decided to make them.

The trick to making these is to use fresh ginger. If that sounds intimidating, it isn’t. I legit Googled how to do it, because I’d never grated ginger before, and found this weird but also helpful video.  All you need is a piece of ginger and a cheese grater. It’s super simple, and it made the cookies really have that fresh ginger kick to them.

Ginger Snap Recipe

I put these out as part of the dessert for a dinner party, and needless to say they went FAST. I made them small enough, so that you don’t feel too badly about having two. Or three. Or as many as you can cram into your mouth.

Also, this recipe makes a solid 4 1/2 dozen, so they make a great gift to send people home with as well.

What you’ll need:

1 cup sugar.
2 cups flour.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
1 teaspoon baking soda.
3/4 cup Crisco.
1/4 cup molasses.
1 egg, slightly beaten.

Directions (verbatim from my Aunt):

Combine dry ingredients. Add Crisco and mix together until crumbly. Add molasses and egg. Mix until well blended. (I make mine in the food processor.)

Form dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press slightly to flatten a little. (I use the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

The Best Way To Spike Your Hot Chocolate (And It’s Dairy-Free!)

Call me old fashioned, but I like to drink.

Especially when it’s cold outside, and even more so when it means I can have alcohol and chocolate at the same time. If you couldn’t tell, I made this treat over the weekend, and paired it with some dark chocolate cookies. They were perfect to dip into the cocoa, FYI.

Spiked Hot ChocolateThis isn’t my first time at the spiked cocoa rodeo. No, no, I’ve been perfecting this recipe for years. You see, I’ve become somewhat lactose intolerant in my old age, which means that I get to find all sorts of creative ways to work around dairy.

And since this recipe is dairy-free, it tastes a lot less heavy than a lot of other cocoas. Which is great, because you can drink up and not feel like you have to lie down after. Here’s how you can make it for yourself:

What you’ll need (serves 2-3):
  • 1/2 cup of Frangelico, which is a hazelnut liquor
  • 1/2 cup Brandy
  • 2-3 tablespoons of hot cocoa mix to taste (I used the Aztec cocoa mix from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups of Almond milk
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan, combine the almond milk and cocoa powder. Stir until it’s well mixed.
  • Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a warm temperature, but make sure it doesn’t boil.
  • Add in the Frangelico and brandy, stir and let it heat for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Pour the drink into two mugs, serve with cookies, and enjoy!

A Hot Toddy Recipe To Keep You Warm

It’s a brisk 51 degrees in Los Angeles right now, which means we’re all breaking out the parkas. (No joke, people in LA cannot handle “cold” weather. Myself very much included.)

To warm up this weekend, I decided to make one of my favorite drinks of all time: a hot toddy.

Hot Toddy RecipeI don’t know why I love hot toddies so very much. They’re a grandma drink, and people have told me as much. But I think it’s the combination of yummy bourbon and sweet honey. And all of that hot water to warm me up. And basically everything about it. It’s the perfect winter drink, and it’s super simple to make.

Hot Toddy Hot-To:
  • Start by heating up a pot of water. To gauge how much you need, measure each person as one cup. So for two people, boil two cups of water, and so on.
  • Add a teaspoon of honey, and 2-4 tablespoons of bourbon to a mug. (That’s all up to how warm you want to feel after drinking this.)
  • Once the water comes to a boil, fill up your cup, and stir all of the ingredients together.
  • Top off the drink with a squeeze of lemon, and you’re ready to feel WARM ALL OVER.

Happy drinking, and stay warm!