chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and it will. not. go. away. until you make it?? That is today’s recipe for me. A colleague brought in leftover stuffed peppers (mmmmmm) a few weeks ago for lunch, and an idea suddenly popped in my head: chicken parmesan stuffed peppers. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I thought so too, so I looked around on the internet and the few recipes I could find weren’t calling out to me, so I decided to create them. If I do say so myself, these are a winner.

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Inside of frying the chicken a la chicken parm, I decided to impart that crispy crunchiness by topping the peppers with a whole wheat panko, cheese and parsley topping. Delicious, and a great way to cut down on calories. We are using whole wheat orzo pasta in the filling, but feel free to use regular orzo pasta. I also found these super cute teeny tiny little fresh mozzarella balls, but any small fresh mozzarella will work for this. Mine were about 1/2 inch big, but you could always buy a big ball of it, and cut it down. That would probably be more economical, but hey, I was all about convenience, and cuteness.

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This recipe seems long, but it’s really just cooking each component, adding them together, and then assembling the peppers. Beautiful! My friend James and I devoured these the night I made them. The recipe makes five as written, and three of my peppers were on the smaller side. One big one was almost too much. As with many casserole type dishes, these get better the next day.

A portable, healthy way to get my chicken parmesan craving? yes, please!

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
a ‘PTL’ original recipe. 

ingredients
12-15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached or roasted, shredded or cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
scant one cup whole wheat orzo, cooked
5 assorted bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded, tops reserved and diced (preferably red/orange/yellow)
1/2 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 1/2 cups jarred marinana sauce, 1/2 cup reserved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

topping:
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)
5 baby mozzarella balls (optional)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oval 2 quart dish, add cut peppers, standing up to the dish. Cover with foil, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes to slightly soften the peppers. Remove dish and let cool. Set aside.

To cook the chicken: Heat a deep skillet with one tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cover and let cook for 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat, let cook for 3-5 minutes, and then shred or cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat a pot with boiling water and cook orzo to package directions for al dente. Remove, strain, and then add cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the panko topping: combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss together with a fork.

While orzo is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat with remaining tablespoon of oil. Add diced onion, diced pepper tops, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring often for 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove and add to mixing bowl. Add cooked, chopped chicken, marinara sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper is using. Lightly toss. Add baby mozzarella balls and lightly toss again.

Using a spoon, carefully fill each pepper with filling to the top of the pepper. Add a small spoonful of sauce to each top, and spoon the remaining sauce around the peppers in the casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to assess softening of peppers. Once peppers “give” a little (about 45 minutes), remove foil, add the panko topping, and top each pepper with remaining mozzarella ball. Turn the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure no burning.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for a few minutes. Serve, topped with ribbons of basil.

Serves 5.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

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basic, perfect polenta.

I’ve been trying to get better at meal planning for the week, as I already make about 24 stops at Wegmans/Trader Joes/public market/natural foods store each week. It never fails, I inevitably forget an ingredient or pick up a quick meal. I always have the best intentions to do a weekly shop…

A few weeks ago, I picked up some hot turkey Italian sausage at a great price, but never had time to make it, so I promptly tossed it in the freezer. When I did said weekly meal prep, I decided to cook up that sausage with some marinara. I wasn’t in mood for pasta, so I decided to make the classic Italian side dish, polenta.

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Mm, polenta. Have you ever tried it? Polenta is not for weeknight cooking. Classic polenta is made from humble cornmeal, and it takes a while for the cornmeal grains to swell up and cook properly to become tender, yielding that creamy finished texture, not unlike grits.

Polenta is remarkably simple, in both technique and number of ingredients. I used homemade stock for mine, but if you use store bough stock, please try and buy low sodium, as you’ll want to adjust the salt you use. Most recipes have you add the cornmeal to boiling water, a la quinoa or pasta, but not here! I think that contributes to the risk of lumpy polenta; no thank you! We want smooth and creamy: starting both cold and lots and lots of whisking will alleviate that risk.

Leftovers can be cut into squares or triangles and fried crisp in a pan with some oil; you’ll see the leftover polenta will thicken up considerably.

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Serving this under sliced Italian sausage and marinara sauce was a hit, and a delightful change from pasta. This homey, cozy side dish is perfect for short January days.

basic, perfect polenta.
adapted from New York Times Cooking. 

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ingredients
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon (I have used an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella, fontina, romano with success).

directions
In a deep saucepan or saucier (2-3 quart), combine the stock, cornmeal, olive oil, salt and pepper over medium high heat. Whisk often (consistently, if not constantly), until the mixture comes to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Partially cover and cook for at least 45 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so. When polenta becomes too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon, adding the additional cup of stock if needed (I always add 5 cups in total). Polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot, and individual grains are tender and creamy.

Turn off heat and gently mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. Top polenta with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

whole wheat pasta with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes + asiago.

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I was bored one weekend day, and was flipping through some magazines, when the cover photo on one of them caught my eye. Pasta dishes very rarely make me oh and ah, but this one caught my attention for two reasons. 1. It sounded SO summery; combined two of my favorite things: cooked baby tomatoes and zucchini. 2. Most important! I actually had every. single. ingredient. Right at that exact moment hanging out in my kitchen. I mean, how crazy fortuitous! I knew I had to make it.

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Confession: I may not have had every identical ingredient, so I swapped whole wheat thin spaghetti for the original’s penne, and I used a cheese blend from Trader Joe’s that included asiago, parmesan and romano in place of just asiago. This is a delicious, elegant dish that comes together in under 30 minutes (hello, weeknight meal!), but it’s different and inventive enough for guests.

You will need 8 ounces of pasta for four people. That’s a half of a normal box. I realize that this doesn’t sound like much, but trust me. Two ounces is the normal serving size, and with everything else going on in the pasta, two ounces is all you need! It’s super filling and oh-so-delicious. And it uses gorgeous summer produce. Pasta perfection I’d say.

pasta with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes + asiago.
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2016.

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ingredients

8 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ounce prosciutto, thinly sliced and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
⅛ teaspoon, crushed red pepper
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 ounces Asiago cheese blend, grated and divided (I use Trader Joe’s blend of Asiago/Parmesan/Romano)
⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped

directions

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto, cook for 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove prosciutto from pan.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan. Turn pan down to medium heat (this will ensure the garlic doesn’t burn). Add onion, garlic and red pepper and saute for 4 minutes, or until onion is translucent and soft and garlic is fragrant. Add zucchini and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and salt; cook 3 minutes. Stir in pasta and vinegar; cook 30 seconds.

Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, prosciutto and 1 ounce of cheese. Divide pasta mixture among the four bowl and top with remaining 1 ounce of cheese.

Serves 4.

skinny chicken parmesan with zucchini noodles.

Chicken Parmesan. That crispy breading, juicy chicken, all deliciously covered in fatty, salty melted cheese and smothered in marinara sauce…. YUM. If that wasn’t decadent enough, let’s throw it all on a massive bed of pasta! Yes? Well, that would indeed be very tasty, but not exactly light. In any sense. Luckily, I have a delicious “skinny” version of chicken parm that will delight your taste buds and satisfy the craving without weighing you down! Perfect for the upcoming warm weather, especially since Memorial Day is ten days away. Um, hi…. When did summer arrive?

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So, how did I skinny-ify Chicken Parm? Well, one of the major ways was to get rid of that huge piece of mozzarella or provolone atop each chicken piece. I know, I know, but before you balk, hear me out. We’re going to swap in salty, intense Pecorino Romano cheese and mix it in with the breading, so that the chicken itself will be nice and cheesy. Pecorino Romano is a full flavored, hard cheese, which is perfect for recipes like this because harder cheeses tend to have less fat, and their full flavor means a little goes a long way.

We are also using whole wheat panko bread crumbs instead of regular. Panko is a Japanese style bread crumb which only uses crustless bread, which results in lighter, airier crumbs. We are also only using an egg white instead of the whole egg, which lowers the fat and calories. As I made this on a weeknight, I used my favorite Marinara from Newman’s, but feel free to make your own! If using store-bought like me, please look for ones that have no more than 80 calories a serving and are low in added sugar.

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One more thing! The pasta. Dump the wheat and serve over zucchini noodles, or “zoodles”. I know they are trendy, but with good reason. They are delicious, and a great way to get a serving of vegetables into a dish that only gets its veggies from the tomato sauce. I used a handheld spiralizer, but you can slice the zucchini very thin (1/8-1/16 of an inch) on a mandoline, or carefully slice very thinly with a sharp knife. They only need a minute in a hot skillet, and they are perfect. My grandparents used to make a tomato sauce with chopped zucchini and then can it, so the pairing of the two together is so nostalgic and lovely for me.  A bonus? This will be safe for any gluten free friends and family.

I hope you love this as much as I do! Your waistline will. ; )

Skinny chicken parmesan with zucchini noodles.
inspired by Cooking Yourself Thin.

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Ingredients

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halved and pounded thin, ¼ inch thick)*
½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
1 egg white
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (a mix of rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 medium zucchini, spiralized or sliced very thin
2 cups marinara sauce (this is the one I use when I purchase it)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Directions

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat and add oil, swirling to coat bottom of the pan. Once chicken is pounded, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In one shallow dish, mix together bread crumbs and cheese. In another shallow dish mix whisk egg white until light and fluffy. One by one, dip chicken in egg white and then into the bread crumb/cheese mixture, pressing breading to chicken if needed. Immediately place in skillet. Repeat with remaining chicken cutlets. Cook on medium heat for 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove and keep warm.

While chicken is cooking, heat sauce in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Heat another skillet on medium heat and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often until slightly softened. Add some of the warmed sauce to the noodles and combine. Divide evenly among 4 plates. Top with chicken and 1/3 cup of sauce, and ½ tablespoon of reserved cheese.

Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**

Notes: My chicken package had two chicken breasts, resulting in ½ pound, which resulted in 4 cutlets. 1 pound should yield 8 cutlets, or 2/per person

Zucchini noodles keep well for one day. If planning on making chicken ahead of time, make noodles the night you plan to serve.

orecchiette with sausage + rappi.

Hey there! Long time, no talk. I know I’ve been MIA, and my deepest apologies to my readers (all 6 or 8 or you. Hi friends!). Work has been absolutely insane, and months of work ramped up and finally culminated last week with a big site visit/interview/audit that will help determine if our program will be able to add a shiny, brand new residency to our repertoire! It has been a crazy amount of work by several people and it was actually quite surreal that it actually happened last week. Of course, the very next day I hopped on a plane to attend a conference and happily, see some dear friends that lived in the D.C. area and of course, squeeze in some time for the National Zoo! It was whirlwind, but so fun and exhausting. Now I’m back and trying to get into the groove of my routine. I’ve been eating way too much take out and snack/pseudo meals due to my schedule. Now that I’m home, it’s time to get back in the kitchen.

One of the first meals I ever made myself was a riff on this recipe, although I used pre-made Italian dressing as my “flavoring” and used diced chicken and steamed broccoli. It was my I’m-new-to-cooking-and-this-is-my-go-to-I-won’t-screw-up meal, and I ate it OFTEN. Now that my cooking skills have improved, it’s rare that I use a pre-made dressing for a marinade/sauce, and little did I know that pasta with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe (a lovely, bitter green) and cheese is a classic Italian dish that is stunningly delicious and simple! I scooped up some beautiful sweet Italian sausage on sale a few weeks ago and it’s been hanging in my freezer just waiting to be used. Even though I’ve been eating lots of take out, finally decompressing from work and travel combined with frozen temperatures have resulted in me craving some serious Italian comfort foods.

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As I’ve mentioned before, if I’m going to eat Italian, I prefer to make it, and this recipe is a great example of why. Just a few good ingredients combined with a relatively quick cooking process yields a beautiful, classic,comforting dish. Broccoli rabe is often called rappi or rapini at the grocery store, and its bitter flavor mellows out during the cooking process. This dish comes together in no time flat, and is crazy comforting. Enjoy!

orecchiette with sausage + broccoli rabe.
adapted from Williams + Sonoma. 

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ingredients

1/2 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 bunch broccoli rabe, end of stems removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

directions

Heat a pot of water until boiling. Cook past to package directions. Once finished, drain and set aside; do NOT rinse.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Once it is all browned and cooked through, remove to a fine mesh strainer or plate. Set aside.

Add chicken broth and garlic to the pan and allow to come to a fast simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat slightly to medium and add the broccoli rabe and crushed red pepper. Stir frequently, allowing the greens to wilt, about 3 minutes. Once wilted but still bright green, add sausage back in along with the cooked pasta. Add parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

The chicken stock will have thickened; if it is still very thin, reduce heat to low and allow the dish to come together for a few additional minutes; stirring often. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if necessary.

Divide among four bowls and serve, topping with additional cheese, if desired. Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**

chicken parmesan meatballs.

Hello there! How is it only Tuesday afternoon? I feel like this week has been dragging and dragging, which is odd, considering fall is one of the busiest times of year for me, work-wise! I manage a medical residency program, and fall is when we begin our interview season, where throngs of medical students come and interview over a two month period. It’s exciting, as pouring over the applications and subsequent interviews bring me right back to my recruiting days! Good times.

The upcoming weeks at work will be very busy and long, and I will be left with very little energy or desire to cook. Which of course leaves me completely vulnerable to unhealthy choices like lots of take out, or eating an entire tub of hummus and bag of pita at 8pm. Not like that’s ever happened or anything…

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Because of this, meals that are freezer friendly are an absolute godsend to me this time of year. We already get lunch catered during interview season at work, so that means with all the temptation during the workday, I definitely need healthy, easy, no fuss meals when I get home. Good thing today’s recipe checks all of those boxes! These chicken parm meatballs are easy, require a little prep to make a big batch, and are easily frozen in freezer bags. On a busy weeknight, pop the frozen meatballs into the fridge in the morning, and then heat them through in a 350 degree oven or in a pot with some sauce, boil up some pasta or spiralized veggie and you’ve got an easy, healthy dinner on your table with next to no effort.

I got this idea from Jenny over on Dinner: A Love Story, via Pinterest. Probably like many of you, I often will scroll through recipes on Pinterest whenever I have a few moments (waiting at the doctor’s office, a coffee shop, etc.), but rarely do I actually go back and make those recipes I pin. Well, I was trying to find a freezer friendly meal, and came across this pin, and the actual recipe was full of stuff I usually have, so I gave it a whirl! Delicious – made even better with homemade marinara, but if you use Newman’s Own Sockarooni, who will know? That’s my favorite store bought pasta sauce – zesty, full of veggies, and nice and low in both sodium and sugar — two things always overused in shelf stable sauces, in my opinion, anyway!

This recipe makes about 35 small/medium meatballs, as I used a heaping tablespoon (seriously. make sure it’s heaping.) for my measurement. Feel free to scale up or down to your preference, but the cooking may vary accordingly. These are light and full of fresh, vibrant Italian flavor. Comfort food without the guilt!

chicken parmesan meatballs
from Dinner: A Love Story. 

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ingredients

2 pounds organic ground chicken breast
scant 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I like to use ezekiel whole wheat bread to make mine)
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
3 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons dried fennel seed
2 eggs, whisked
zest of one small lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup marinara sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
marinara or pasta sauce, for serving
grated fresh parmesan cheese, for serving

directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, making sure rack is situated in the upper 1/3 of the oven. Using a large bowl, gently mix together the chicken breast, bread crumbs, onion, cheese, garlic, fennel, eggs, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Be careful not to over mix.

Using a tablespoon measuring spoon or melon baller, scoop a heaping tablespoon and shape into a ball about the size of a ping pong ball, but no large than a golf ball. Arrange these on a foil lined baking sheet, with a few inches between each one.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and marinara sauce. Brush this on top each meatball. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through completely.

If serving immediately, cook up pasta or veggies and heat sauce. Spoon sauce over meatballs, and top with grated parmesan cheese.

If freezing, let cool completely and then freeze on baking sheet (this will prevent them from freezing together). Transfer to freezer bags, freeze in portion sizes if desired. Use within three months.

Serves 6-8 (about 4 to 6 meatballs per person).

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

BLT Panzanella with roasted tomatoes.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but Summer! Fresh produce! Farmer’s markets! Vegetables! Well, please forgive me, but the best thing about summer (for me) is the abundance of gorgeous, local veggies. I just love them, and this salad highlights the best of two worlds: salads and sandwiches. I bring you Panzanella.

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If you’ve never had a panzanella before, well, you’re in for a real treat! Panzanella is a Tuscan dish that is traditionally made of day old bread, tomatoes and sometimes onions and basil with an oil and vinegar dressing. That’s it. It’s basically a bread and tomato salad. This Italian staple is fresh, vibrant and oh-so summery. If that wasn’t enough, we’re adding bacon and arugula to this variation, and you have BLT Panzanella. You know how I feel about arugula (yum!), and it’s a perfect match for this salad. I don’t know about you, but I love BLT sandwiches. They are one of my mom’s favorites, and they always seemed so sophisticated to my little girl palate. Growing up I was not a fan of tomatoes, so my mom would make my brother and I “BLTs”, as in “bacon, lettuce and toast”. I always felt so fancy eating them, and they remain a favorite of mine to this day.

This salad is inspired by one I saw in my Food52 cookbook, and I knew I had to make it as soon as I found the perfect tomatoes. I put my own spin on the salad by roasting the tomatoes for a few minutes, just until they began to char and started to burst. Roasting already sweet cherry tomatoes just intensifies their flavor. Add those to the bacon and toasted bread cubes, toss with a bright lemon balsamic vinaigrette, and add the arugula. Balsamic vinegar and tomatoes go together like peas and carrots, and the lemon complimented the peppery arugula just perfectly. You guys. I could not believe how good this was. Isn’t that always the way? You really can’t go wrong with in season vegetables, crusty, toasted ciabatta and smoky bacon. Don’t skimp on the bacon here, quality matters.

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The individual components of this dish can be made ahead of time, and stored separately. When ready to serve, gently toss the bread cubes with the bacon, add some of the vinaigrette, and toss. Add tomatoes and arugula and toss again, adding in more dressing as desired. The tomatoes can be cold, room temperature or slightly warm. I liked them slightly warm, as it wilted the arugula ever so slightly.

I hope you try this soon – if you love BLTs, I know you’ll love this dish! Add a glass of crisp white wine, and enjoy late summer’s bounty.

BLT Panzanella with roasted tomatoes.
inspired and adapted from the Food52 cookbook. 

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ingredients

Salad:
1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (day old is best, but not required)
1.5 cups small cherry tomatoes (halved if on the larger side)
3 ounces thick sliced bacon
3 large handfuls baby arugula
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Lemon Balsamic dressing:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons balsamic dressing
1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Makes about one cup of dressing. Leftoves can stored in the refrigerator up to one week. 

directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add bread cubes to large baking sheet and toast in oven for about 10-15 minutes until they are golden. Remove and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Once oven is up to temperature, add tomatoes to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes are slightly charred and beginning to burst.

In a medium saute pan, add bacon and cook until slightly crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Once slightly cool, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

In a small bowl or small jar mix together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and mustard. Add in olive and oil. Secure with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate until needed.

In a large bowl, add bread cubes, bacon and 1/3 of the dressing and combine gently. Add in roasted tomatoes and arugula and mix together. Add more dressing if the salad seems dry (you will have dressing left over). Transfer to serving platter and serve immediately. Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients when possible**

quick and easy tomato vodka sauce.

You know when you are the on the exact same page with someone regarding a particular topic? When you both just intrinsically know what the other is going to say about (fill in the blank here)? Well, I happen to have one of those people at work. One the physicians I work with refers to me as his “food wife”, as we are always, 100 percent on the same page regarding food/restaurants/dishes/cocktails. My job requires regular dinner meetings every few months, and once a restaurant is chosen, he and I can be counted on for scouring the menu and deciding on what looks most pleasing. We both usually lean toward more eclectic dishes.

I told him since I love to cook, I like to reserve dining out for dishes and dining experiences that I cannot easily replicate at home (I’m looking at you, favorite German sausage shop!). He agreed, and said “yes, like Italian!”. I remember whipping around in the hallway and saying “no way! That’s exactly what I say about Italian restaurants!”. Now, nothing against the many amazing Italian restaurants out there, but my palate tends to crave spicy flavors from Asia, South America, Africa. When I DO get a craving for Italian food, the recipe below always hits the spot. Easy, spicy vodka sauce that can made on a weeknight with ease.

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This is after the tomatoes have cooked down a bit, but before the addition of the cream. I left my sauce fairly chunky and ‘rustic’, but you could process the tomatoes to make a smoother sauce. 

Vodka sauce was not something I ever ate growing up. My mom used to make skillet lasagna, and chicken and veal parmesan were regulars. I first had “vodka pasta” with my ex-boyfriend, who made it on the regular for his kids. And oh boy, is it delicious! I could see why they absolutely loved it and leftovers were nearly non-exisistent. I make it a little differently than the original recipe, which called for adding the pasta prior to the vodka and cream and then mixing it all together.

I hope you try this out the next time you’re craving “pink sauce”!

easy tomato vodka sauce.
inspired by K’s penne with vodka and spicy tomato cream sauce.

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ingredients

1/2 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
28 oz can whole roma or plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
3/4 cup heavy cream (can sub half and half)
3 tbsp. vodka
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh basil or parsley if desired for garnish
salt and pepper

directions

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook garlic, onions, crushed red pepper and salt over medium heat until onions are translucent and garlic is golden but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add vodka, being careful to stand back in case the alcohol flames. Let cook for about a minute to allow the  alcohol to cook out.

Add tomatoes, oregano and basil. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, gently mash the tomatoes until roughly crushed (alternatively, you can crush tomatoes in a food processor prior to adding them to the skillet). Stir to blend all together, and let simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 15 mintues. Reduce heat to low and add in cream. Stir and let it simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. If using, add in fresh basil and parsley. Serve over your favorite tubular pasta or over roasted spaghetti squash (like I did tonight)!

Serves 4-6.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**