Minestrone Verde

The weather is still a bit unpredictable here. I find myself always being over or under-dressed for it. It doesn't help that we live literally by the ocean and it's a lot cooler here than it is out in town. So, I've found myself on more than one occasion bundling up in a coat only to sweat my butt off while out running errands. Then I come home and it's cold again. Needless to say, our dinners this past week have ranged from soups to BBQ. I'm not complaining though. I could be in NY under a foot of snow. So, I mean, there's always that.

One of my favorite food blogs is Joanne's Eat Well With Others. I've made a few of her recipes and have loved them. So when I saw that she made this soup with a pesto twist, I was all on board. I LOVE pesto. Heck, I love the color green. No, I'm serious. I own a lime green car. So, she totally got me with this minestrone verde recipe. Like everything I've tried from her site, this recipe did not disappoint. The best part of this whole recipe is that it's all made in ONE POT! Gah. I love easy recipes with an even more easier clean-up.

recipe adapted from Eats Well With Others

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, clean and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut horizontally into wedges
  • 6-7 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 lb small pasta
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 5 oz baby kale or spinach
  • ½ cup pecorino romano (look for vegetarian cheese w/o rennet in it)
  • ½ cup basil pesto

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and salt to the pan and saute, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the zucchini into the pot and season again with salt and black pepper. Saute until soft but not yet falling apart, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the broth into the pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the peas and kale. Continue to simmer until pasta is al dente. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecorino romano. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  5. Divide among serving bowls topped with dollops of the pesto.

Gluten-Free Cheesy Veggie Bake

While my family back home on the east coast is getting hit with below zero temperatures and snow, us on the west coast are getting hit with El Niño rains. Not that I'm complaining though because we are in some serious need of rain. I'm pretty sure the palm trees outside are actually clapping with joy and dancing in the rain and not getting whipped around in the wind.

Needless to say, the next two weeks (or however long this stretch of rain lasts) I will be making casseroles and crock-pot meals to help combat the dark and gloomy days ahead. Last night I made one of my favorites and realized that I haven't even shared this on the blog yet. I make it all the time, even in the summer. It's easy to make. The most time consuming part is baking and shredding the spaghetti squash. Otherwise, you just mix everything in your baking pan and pop it in the oven. I've been known to assemble the casserole the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and then pop it in the over the next day. Plus, this is perfect if you are counting calories. It's only 273 calories per serving and this makes 6 huge servings.

recipe adapted from PopSugar

1 whole spaghetti squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 carrot, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
16 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Poke spaghetti squash all over with a knife and place the poked squash on a baking pan and bake at 375ºF for 45 to 60 minutes. If you are short on time cook the squash in the microwave for eight to 12 minutes until soft. While it's cooking, add the oil, garlic, pepper, zucchini, and carrots to a pan, cooking over medium heat.
  3. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and with a fork, scrape the flesh from the peel. It should flake off easily in strings, resembling spaghetti. Place the spaghetti squash flesh in a casserole dish. Add the cooked veggies, diced tomato, sauce, and most of the cheese and mix well. Sprinkle leftover cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
  4. Allow to cool for five minutes, serve, and enjoy.

Spicy Nut Brittle

There's something about peanut brittle that makes me automatically think of the holidays. I really don't know why. Maybe an aunt used to make it for the family's annual Christmas eve party? Maybe I saw it in a movie once? I mean, it's not like my family ever made it. We were more of the anise cookie kind of people. So, when I was flipping though the Franks cookbook last year and saw a recipe for the brittle, I knew I had to make it. Which I did... and then I made them again this year to send to family and friends. Oh yes, they are that good.

One of the things I love about this brittle is that it's not sweet. So, if you are looking for a sweet brittle, this is not the brittle for you. I, personally, don't have a sweet tooth unless it's a baked good. So, I loved that these weren't sweet. In fact, they are like the brittle version of spicy nuts. The Frank balances out the sugar perfectly and then you get the nuts in there and it's just amazing. These are really easy to make, too. One piece of advice though, if you don't have a candy thermometer and you do the water test, make sure the candy that comes out of the water is really and truly hard and brittle and not of caramel consistency. I did just that and took it off the heat too early and the brittle wouldn't harden up. If that happens to you, just cut up the brittle and melt it back down and cook it longer.

adapted from Cooking with Franks RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups shopped nuts*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. Franks RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the nuts in a medium-sized dry skillet. Toast the nuts over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat but keep the nuts in the pan.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and Franks to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the candy reaches 300°F or until the mixture darkens and a dollop of the mixture dropped into a cup of cold water hardens instantly. This should take about 10 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the baking soda. Fold in the nuts. Immediately pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and use a spoon to create a layer between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thick. Allow to cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container.

*Unsalted peanuts, almonds, and pecans are great nuts for this brittle.
*If you want even more spice, add 1/4 tsp. of ground cayenne to the mixture when you add the nuts.

Quinoa with Moroccan winter squash and carrot stew

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I don't know about you but I was ready to pull my hair out by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. So, needless to say, there were a handful of days where our dinners were either leftovers or burgers. I just did not want to cook anymore. However, after a three day break from cooking I decided to refresh reboot my love of cooking with this recipe. I had actually purchased everything to make it before the holidays but considering I had a three day cooking and baking extravaganza, I didn't get around to making it until now. I really wish I had the energy to make it before because it's delicious and oh so perfect for these colder nights we've been getting here.

The only "hard" part about this recipe is all the peeling and chopping you have to do. However, if you are lucky enough to have an awesome husband like me, then they will see how stressed you are, hand you a glass of wine, and will peel and chop those veggies for you. Once all the tedious stuff is out of the way, the recipe is super simple. Just like with any stew, you throw it all in a pot and let it cook. Granted, I let mine cook a lot longer than it should have (if you couldn't tell by the look of mushy squash). I thought I had turned off the burner when it was all done. Apparently I did not. So, for the 30 minutes to an hour that the Mister and I watched television and unwound from the day, the stew was still cooking away. Whooops! I'm not complaining though. The consistency of the squash reminded me of when I'd make beef stew and the chunks of meat would just fall apart and melt in your mouth. So, while the dinner didn't look as pretty as it should have, it tasted phenomenal.

adapted from Bon Appétit


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups 1-inch cubes peeled butternut squash (from 1 1/2 pound squash)
  • 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled carrots

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint, divided

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Mix in paprika and next 8 ingredients (all of the spices). Add 1 cup water, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Bring to boil. Add squash and carrots. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Rinse quinoa; drain. Melt butter with oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and turmeric; sauté 1 minute. Add quinoa; stir 1 minute. Add 2 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
  1. Stir in half of cilantro and half of mint into the stew. Spoon quinoa onto platter, forming a well in the center. Spoon stew into the well. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs.

Parmesan Pumpkin & Spinach Quinoa

It's finally cooling down here (as much as So-Cal can cool down) and I'm loving it! I've been pulling out all of my fall favorites and looking for new ones to add to the list. This just so happens to be one of the new recipes I am adding to my must-have fall favorites. It was delicious and super easy to make. Plus, when you eat it you just feel like it's fall outside, whether you are looking at the beautiful leaves changing colors or at palm trees.

Did I mention that this was super easy to make? I made this within half an hour, transferred it to my slow-cooker, put it on the keep warm setting, and it was waiting for The Mister and I after our softball game. Plus, the leftovers are just as good when they are heated up. I'm pretty sure I devoured the leftovers in record timing. If you want something that's super healthy, hearty, and screams fall... than you have got to try this recipe.

 recipe adapted from ifoodreal

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

  1. Cook quinoa as per package instructions and set aside.
  2. In the meanwhile, preheat large deep skillet on low - medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic, saute until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add pumpkin puree, vegetable stock, pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes uncovered.
  3. Stir in Parmesan cheese until melted. Remove from heat and add quinoa and spinach. Stir gently to combine. Adjust thickness with extra chicken stock if desired. I like my quinoa saucy and hot. Because of Parmesan cheese, liquid separation with time is normal. Just give it a good stir. Serve hot.