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
  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.

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
  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):

  • 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:

  • 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
  • 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!

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…

Mushroom, Spinach, Tomato and Red Wine Pasta

You know those meals you make when there’s absolutely nothing left in the fridge, but you’re hungry and need SOMETHING?

This was one of those meals, and it actually turned out pretty swell.
Whole wheat pasta with spinach, red wine, and tomatoes

Whatever I Had In The Fridge Pasta:
  • Handful of whole wheat pasta, and a handful of regular pasta (Yup, I only had so much of each, so I combined the two! You could also just use one or the other, if you’ve got enough of it.)
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups of white mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese (or less, depending on how cheesy you like it)
  • Generously salt a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Toss in the pasta and set a timer for 6 minutes.
  • While the pasta cooks, put a skillet on medium heat and pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. After a few seconds, add in the mushrooms, tomatoes, a teaspoon of salt, and a few dashes of the red and black pepper. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and browned, and stir occasionally.
  • Turn the heat to low, and add in the red wine and spinach.
  • Drain the pasta, and add it directly into the skillet. Stir the pasta and veggies together until well mixed. Top with a half cup of parmesan and stir again.
  • Serve with whatever red wine you have left, and the remaining half cup of cheese for extra topping.