for the cold season

Quick pastina soup on

As a kid, whenever I was sick my mom would make me chicken soup. If there wasn’t time for homemade then she’d serve up a can of chicken noodle soup. My absolute favorite, though, was chicken and stars. Stars are my favorite. Do they taste any better? No, but they look cooler and that was good enough for me.

Quick pastina soup on

Those little stars are pastina- the daintiest of all pasta shapes. Honestly, I hadn’t thought to buy it in a long time until recently when I spied it on the store shelves. It’s still my favorite.

Quick pastina soup on


As the weather gets cooler everyone tends to get sick. The first thing I do when Alex or I get sick is make a large pot of quick chicken soup- something light with broth, veggies, and in this case, a little pastina. Just like old times. Everyone should have a quick and easy recipe for soup because sometimes the person you’re making the soup for is yourself. What do you put in your quick soups?

Quick pastina soup on

quick pastina soup
makes 4 servings

printer-friendly version

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pastina

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the broth, celery, carrot, parsley, lemon juice, and sea salt to the pot and stir. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the pastina and cook for 8-10 minutes until pasta is tender.

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it’s not pretty

topped with cheese

… but it tastes pretty good! This spaghetti squash bake is reminiscent of any pasta bake, but without the carbs! By substituting the pasta with squash, you have a healthy yet delicious meal that’s all parts comforting and filling without weighing you down.

spaghetti squash

I prepared my butternut squash earlier in the day and scooped out all of the spaghetti-like flesh and stashed it in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the whole dish. You can make the entire recipe ahead and bake it off later or even freeze it.

not pretty, but delicious!

spaghetti squash bake
printer-friendly recipe
adapted from Against All Grain
serves: 6-8

1 medium spaghetti squash, baked and flesh removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
Salt and pepper
1 jar marinara
1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add the olive oil to a pan over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent. Add the beef and cook through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. Stir in the marinara, ricotta, parmesan and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Combine with the cooked spaghetti squash. Pour the squash mixture into an oiled 9×13 casserole dish and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and serve.

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bacon wrapped

bacon wrapped dates

Everyone loves food wrapped in bacon. I mean, what’s not to love about the porky deliciousness! This little appetizer is the perfect bite of salty, sweet and chewy. It’s pretty easy to make and I promise it will be a hit at any gathering.

3 ingredients

I used goat cheese for these bacon wrapped dates, but you can easily substitute cream cheese and/or an almond for a crunchy center. I used a thicker cut of bacon this time around, but will go with a thinner cut next time in order to maximize the crispiness that is cooked bacon. So good!

all wrapped up

bacon wrapped dates
printer-friendly recipe
makes: 24 bites

24 wood toothpicks
24 Medjool dates, pitted
3 ounces goat cheese
8 slices of bacon, cut into thirds
Honey, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soak the toothpicks in water while you get the dates ready. Stuff each date with 1/2-1 teaspoon of goat cheese and then wrap with a piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Bake for 20 minutes on a foil-lined sheet pan, rotating the pan halfway through. If you use thinner sliced bacon, it might not take as long– keep an eye on them. Drizzle with honey before serving, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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spice it up

homemade pumpkin pie spice

It’s here. It’s been here for quite some time. It happens every year. It’s pumpkin spice season. Like it or not.

spices ready

The funny thing is that everyone’s freaking out over pumpkin spice like it’s something new. It’s been around for years. There’s no reason to hate on it intensely. Sure, it seems to be flavoring an excessive number of items nowadays, but no one hates on chocolate peppermint during the holiday season. There’s just something about pumpkin pie spice seems to enrage everyone. Yet so few people hate actual pumpkin pie.

whole nutmeg

We love it. To me it signals fall and makes it a little easier to embrace the chill in the air. I’ve never bought pumpkin spice in a jar, I always make some fresh every season so that I have it on hand to sprinkle onto whatever I wish. I sprinkle it on top of coffee grinds before I brew my coffee to add some guilt-free flavor. I sprinkle it onto my oatmeal, onto sweet potato fries, or even sprinkle it onto some bacon before cooking it. You can, of course, also make pumpkin pie with it. But why not make your own? Go ahead, sprinkle it on something new and ignore the haters!

freshly ground nutmeg

pumpkin pie spice

printer-friendly version

2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon allspice

Combine all spices in a bowl and stir together. Store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.

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a little healthy

quinoa stuffed mushrooms on

We used to only eat stuffed mushroom caps for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were considered a special treat when I was growing up. When I started cooking I’d whip them up a little more often- usually to sit alongside steak dinners or when I was feeling the need for some comfort food.

healthy things

It never occurred to me to turn these heavily cheese and breadcrumb stuffed into lighter fare until now. Filling them with herbs and quinoa makes them a much healthier option that you don’t have to feel guilty about. With the holiday season rapidly approaching (yes, it’s coming no matter how hard we try to deny it) it’s nice to know that you can have a healthier side dish or appetizer on hand.

all in one

Since I’m constantly learning, I’m making an effort to clean my mushrooms the right way. Did you know you shouldn’t just rinse them under a heavy stream of water to get the dirt off? Additional bit of knowledge: 1/3 cup dry quinoa cooked in 2/3 cup water should yield 1 cup cooked quinoa for this recipe.


quinoa stuffed mushrooms
makes 4 servings

printer-friendly version

1 pound white button mushrooms
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 small yellow onion, diced small
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 rib celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable broth or milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the mushrooms clean, removing all the dirt. Remove the stems and finely chop half of them. Discard the rest. Add the remaining ingredients to a bowl with the mushroom stems. Stir together until well combined. Pack the filling into the mushroom caps and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Optionally, drizzle each with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

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age old battle

pumpkin spice smoothie

In the age old battle between apple versus pumpkin, I am decidedly team pumpkin! Although the good old Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) from a certain coffee spot is a bit too sweet for my grown-up tastebuds, I do love the idea of pumpkin spice– in everything!

all in the vitamix

After making some pumpkin bread recently, I was left with about a half a can of pumpkin puree. In the spirit of waste not, want not, here’s what I made with it: a pumpkin spice smoothie! It’s kind of like a grown up version of the PSL, you know, without the cloying sweetness (or the coffee).

healthy psl

pumpkin spice smoothie
printer-friendly recipe
adapted from Serious Eats
makes: 1 large serving, or 2 normal sized ones

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 medium frozen banana
1/2 cup ice
1 cup milk (I used almond)
2 Medjool dates, pitted, or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon store-bought pumpkin spice blend or spices below
pumpkin spice:
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

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comfy cozy

chicken spaghetti

Ahhhh. Fall is here! I’m loving the cooler weather and the excuse to make and eat comfort food meals. I am generally weary of casseroles, what with their cream of whatever soup and who knows what kinds of meat, but this chicken spaghetti is a guilty indulgence.

oodles of noodlespeppers and onionsall mixed upready to bake

Made with shredded rotisserie chicken, this casserole is ridiculously easy to put together and makes for a pretty delicious warm and comforting meal during these cooler weather days. Make it for dinner tonight, or freeze and save for a busy weeknight in the future.

ooey gooey casserole

chicken spaghetti
printer-friendly recipe
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
serves: 8

Shredded rotisserie chicken (at least 2 cups)
3 cups dry spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 jar (4 Ounce) diced pimentos, drained
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While shredding the chicken, cook spaghetti until al dente. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients reserving 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp cheddar. Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly.

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