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!

This Chocolate Cross Wants To Wish You A Happy Sunday

I don’t remember seeing chocolate crosses around Easter before, because, ya know, it’s a little weird to eat something that someone was nailed to. But I was walking through CVS and saw this little gem…

Hungry, anyone?

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.)

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.

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.

Meet George, Our Morbidly Obese Bearded Dragon

Every time I go home, one thing I look forward to is seeing what George is up to. George is my family’s pet bearded dragon, and he’s morbidly obese.

I should also say that after a recent vet visit, we discovered that George is, in fact,  a lady. Georgette. Still, we call her George, and often confuse pronouns.

Some of you may already know George from me chronicling his weight-loss journey over on La Rosa Knows. But for those who don’t know her, allow me to introduce you…George

George is now 5 years old, and has been on a diet for the past two years, mainly because our vet noticed that she was “unable to lift her body” and had “excessive abdominal fat pads.

If you don’t believe me, then here’s the doctor’s assessment to prove it. That note still hangs on my parents fridge, along with instructions for exactly how many worms a lady of her stature should be eating each day.

George Vet Visit

Since being put on that diet, George has lost weight. Even if it’s hard to notice any difference at all. For all practical purposes, George still appears to be morbidly obese. Her belly hangs over the small rock that she likes to perch on, and her little dragon arms still seem burdened by her girth. But there are small differences that we’ve kept track of over the past year.

She can now run across the floor with ease. RUN. Before, she sort of dragged her sagging belly until she became fatigued, and then just sort of sat in the middle of the floor and waited for one of us to fetch her.

While I was visiting, I watched her scurry up a rock on her own, then climb down, and waddle across her cage to a different rock. There were so many options! So many places to sun! And now she’s light enough to move to each one without working up a sweat! (Note: I have no idea if bearded dragons sweat. My guess is that they don’t, but what do I know.)


My parents have been really great about giving her 6 worms total a week. (Except for Christmas, when she got an extra worm as her gift.) Before that, it was something really decadent like 12 a week. As a result, George has really lost weight, and become a much happier dragon as a result.

Even if she doesn’t look it, (“That’s one LARGE lizard,” someone remarked at our family holiday party), she’s definitely acting like someone who was given a new lease on life. Hell, she’s basically able to outrun our cats now, who are downright baffled by her new svelte figure.

George 2If you have any words of encouragement, or advice for our plus-sized lady, please send them my way!

Super Cute (And Easy) Thanksgiving Desserts

Everyone loves a good pumpkin pie, don’t get it twisted. But chances are that I won’t be baking that pumpkin pie, because I’ll be opting for something a little simpler. A little less… time consuming. Plus, Grandma La Rosa has always been the baked goods lady in our family, so I’ll leave that honor up to her.

All that being said, there are some incredibly low maintenance and really adorable desserts to make this Thanksgiving, whether you’re spending it with your family, or hosting a Friendsgiving.

  • Nutter Butter Turkey Cupcakes are probably the easiest way to top a cupcake without going crazy with icing designs or fondant. Not that I’d even know how to use fondant, but you get the idea.

Nutter butter turkey cupcake recipe

  • Mini Pumpkin pies that you make in a muffin tin. The recipe is insanely easy, and will save you going through the hassle of making a full-out crust from scratch.

Muffin Tin Pumpkin Pie

  • A Thanksgiving cookie pop, made with golden Oreos, a peanut butter cracker, and candy corn

Thanksgiving cookie pop

Via Best Friends for Frosting

  • Caramel apple dip fit for a turkey

Thanksgiving Apple Dip

Via Make and Takes

  • Peppermint Pilgrim Hats, made with three ingredients: peanut butter cups, peppermint patties, and white icing

Thanksgiving Peppermint Pilgrim Hats

See the full recipe here

  • Plymouth Rock cookies, because YOLO. You prepare these like you would any sugar cookie, and use a toothpick to “engrave” the date, plus a little food coloring to get the gray-green glaze. Full recipe here.

Plymouth Rock Cookie Recipe

  • Acorn Cookies that you can pop in your mouth, and only 3 ingredients: Hershey kisses, mini Nutter Butters, and peanut butter

Acorn CookiesSee the full recipe here

  • Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprint Cookies. I don’t know about you, but thumbprint cookies are kind of EVERYTHING to me. They look really simple, and at the same time, like cookie-sized perfection. Plus, the Hershey’s pumpkin kiss makes it really easy to label this a Thanksgiving treat. (Are you noticing a big theme here with the candy additions?)

Pumpkin Thumbprint Cookies

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Amazing Recipes From The Pioneer Woman That You Have To Try

Most of the time I’m pretty good about cooking for myself during the week. I don’t know if it’s something I inherited from my Italian side, or I just feel guilty about buying groceries and not using them. But either way, cooking is not usually an issue for me.

However, since I’m in the midst of moving, and haven’t had the motivation to unpack my boxes marked kitchen, I’ve been doing the next best thing: watching other people cook on Food Network shows.


Have you all heard of The Pioneer Woman? I feel like I found her first, long before the Food Network did. Because I used to read her blog and cook recipes from there. It was like I’d found this heavenly midwestern angel to show me how to cook the damn beef, and then she was stolen from me. Stolen by the TV executives who seek to destroy everything I love.

That being said, and much to my surly dismay, they haven’t actually destroyed anything. Now more than ever, I get even more of The Pioneer Woman than I did before. (Those TV exec bastards know what they’re doing!)

Since I didn’t make anything from her recipes this week, I thought I’d share ones that I’ve made in the past and have come out amazingly well:

  • Spinach Artichoke Pasta: I cut this recipe in half, because the serving size is for 10 people, and ain’t nobody got time for that. But I have to say that it was super easy to make, and took no time at all. It also was really tangy, because of the artichokes, and had a big kick with the red pepper. It was creamy and filling, perfect pasta to make on a cold night.
  • Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas: I justified making these because they are “healthy” with kale and squash. But, really, they are coated in butter. Delicious, irresistible butter. They came out great, though I’d say are better to eat on a date night than as an app. (Butter hands, ya know.)
  • Meatloaf: Let me just say that my boyfriend E has always said that his father’s meatloaf cannot be beat. While I’d never say that the PW’s meatloaf beat out E’s dad’s recipe, I think it came pretty damn close. (The thing is covered in bacon strips. It’s basically meatloaf on bacon crack.)
  • Pumpkin Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream: As someone who hates whipped cream, I can honestly say that whiskey whipped cream is tasty. Truly, it doesn’t taste like whipped cream, even though it is. It’s like whiskey ice cream, on top of a pumpkin cake. I made this for a dinner party, and it went over very well.

Hopefully I’ll make it through that kitchen box sometime this week, but if not, I’m just glad I can watch other people do it. Speaking of, what are your favorite food shows to watch? I could use some suggestions, just in case…