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Balsamic Penne Caprese with Spinach

Stay at home week 9. We officially have a two month old (on Sunday the 17th) and I cannot believe how time flies in a matter of a snap. I kind of wish time would go quicker so I can have family and friends over again, be close enough to hug again, enjoy a brunch cocktail at a restaurant again, but all in good time. This time spent at home with Rowen is something that not many new moms experience so I am eternally grateful to have this special bond with him, and more time with my husband too. Having more time at home also allows me to be in my kitchen more which I will never complain about.

I’m going to officially call this week pasta week, because I’ve made pasta twice already, including the dish I’m sharing on the blog today: penne pasta with tomato and mozzarella (caprese) tossed in a homemade balsamic sauce/glaze with sautéed spinach. As most recipes do, this one came to me in the shower. Don’t judge me. I think a lot in the shower and I had a vision for a lighter, vegetable-based, with a touch of sweetness pasta dinner that would be good with a variety of mix-ins. Caprese, which is simply tomato and mozzarella, is delicious on its own, so to throw it together with penne pasta, a homemade balsamic glaze, and add in some spinach, what’s not to love?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pkg penne pasta ( I did NOT make this recipe gluten free but I imagine any gluten free pasta would do, Banza in particular or Jovial – found on Thrive Market – link to the site on the banner on the right!)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pint fresh mozzarella balls “ciliegine” style (size of a cherry tomato)
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil (to sauté the spinach)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Oregano
  • Dried Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the pasta:

  • Sauté the spinach on the stove with the butter and set aside (the spinach will wilt and become half the portion you put in).
  • Take out the mozzarella balls from its container and put into a separate bowl to let them dry. Rinse and quarter the grape tomatoes – set aside as well.
  • Prepare your pasta as described by the package and drain. Pour pasta into a large serving bowl.

For the balsamic:

  • Pour the cup of balsamic into a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  • Add in the coconut or brown sugar and maple syrup.
  • Whisk together and bring to a boil, stir for 3-4 minutes until it becomes a little thicker.
  • Turn off heat or set to a very low flame, be careful not to burn.

Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach in with the pasta and mix. Pour the balsamic sauce/glaze all over and mix together. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried basil, and oregano. Serve with a side of garlic bread, a glass of Montepulciano, and a new show on Netflix and you’ve got yourself a great evening. NOMaste 🙂

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Sausage and Peppers

Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Donuts and coffee. Okay, the donuts and coffee doesn’t necessarily fit the analogy, but I can always go for a donut when I have coffee it sort of counts. Classic pairings are sometimes even more delicious than getting ultra creative and trying hard in the kitchen. During today’s current reality (I REFUSE to say new normal, because nothing about this is normal, it’s our current reality and if things shift afterwards – hopefully they do – it will be our new reality), it’s damn near impossible to order groceries on whatever site you use, grab a delivery slot, and get everything you hoped for. Sometimes, we have make do with what we have, and that’s what sausage and peppers was for me.

I’m a purist when it comes to certain foods, and sausage is one of them. I’m not a huuuge turkey or chicken sausage fan, I just feel like the flavor in pork sausage tastes better, and it’s higher fat for a reason! Trader Joe’s makes an awesome pork and beef uncured sausage link pack that I am dying to grab again, when I am brave enough to venture to stores. I had a pack in the freezer and decided “THIS is a good time to take these out and make lunch with them.” I had also ordered several bell peppers from the previous week’s grocery delivery, so AHA!… let’s make sausage and peppers. I’d like to take a moment to settle a debate here too: I despise green peppers. There is no room for them at the table: they smell and taste like dirt and are super bitter. I prefer orange and yellow bell peppers and usually have them on hand.

Here’s what you’ll need for this super simple and tasty dish:

  • 1 pkg sausage (I’ll allow turkey or chicken substitutes here), sliced into small rounds
  • 2 medium peppers, julienned (sliced thin)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Your favorite spicy seasoning – I use a fajita mix or cajun mix, I would also use New Bae seasoning from Primal Palate, found here!

Start by heating a large sauté pan with the olive oil. Throw in the peppers and let them cook down until they begin to sweat and slightly brown, this will be around 5-7 minutes. Throw in the sliced sausage and sprinkle in your seasoning. Cook until the sides of the sausage are browned and the peppers are soft.

This dish is perfect on its own, over orzo pasta, paired with rice, or can be tossed with other roasted veggies. I will also say this stays well in the fridge so it’s a perfect stay-at-home meal prep for lunches. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Banana Bread

I admit this was not supposed to be a banana bread. I had every intention of making my almond butter collagen muffins (linked here!) and instead decided on pouring the entire batter into a loaf pan and praying it came out edible. If you know me, you know I’ve struggled with a banana bread recipe, and I can get quite stubborn when trying to figure out the measurements. For this recipe though, I did actually swap out a few ingredients, add in some, and eliminate collagen altogether. Thankfully, this time around it came out damn near perfect, and tastes SO good that it’s already gone. I’ll blame my insatiable hunger from breastfeeding on that.

Now that I’m not completely novice to baking, and from chatting with some close girlfriends who love to bake, I have come to the conclusion that not everything needs (or should) be substituted with healthier ingredients. Sometimes, recipes require specific measurements of particular ingredients and I find that swapping more than maybe one or two (possibly three if you have done it before – which in this case gluten free, all purpose flour) can alter the authenticity of the recipe, thus resulting in poor taste and texture. For this banana bread, I nixed the collagen, swapped whole milk for almond milk, used an all-purpose gluten free flour, and added chocolate chips. I truly think that this banana bread worked so well because it has minimal swaps, I’ve used the flour before (Bob’s Red Mill all purpose GF flour is amazing!), and almond milk is not too hard of a swap anyway. I will be making this again in a few days as my bananas go bad – or I just “happen to forget about them.” The texture in this bread is spongey, with a soft and chewy mouthfeel, the perfect hint of banana and almond butter, and the right amount of sweetness from the coconut sugar and banana.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 large ripe banana (I mean LARGE)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp (or really large spoonfuls) of almond butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 1/4 cup GF all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • *note: toss the chocolate chips in some flour before adding to batter so that they do not fall to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375* and grease a loaf pan with oil spray or butter. Whisk together the banana, almond milk, sugar, eggs, extract, almond butter, and avocado oil in a medium sized bowl until everything is JUST combined, try not to over mix. In a separate bowl or in a measuring cup, add the flour, soda, powder, and salt and whisk together. Add a bit of flour into the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Continue to pour the flour into the wet mixture as you mix little by little. Once all the flour is mixed in, add the chocolate chips and fold using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Pour into the loaf pan.

Top the mixture Bake for 40-45 minutes, testing the inside of the bread with a knife; if it comes out clean then it is done! The result is a decadent, tasty, perfectly baked gluten and dairy-free banana bread you can hoard all to yourself, just like I did! NOMaste and stay safe!

Classic Breaded Chicken Cutlets

There’s nothing like simplicity in a time like this. Staple ingredients, basic recipes, and home cooking somehow taste so much better and flavorful than complicated and obscure meals sometimes. I can get a little too over-complicated sometimes when it comes to cook, and ESPECIALLY baking, so I am always working to reflect on what I’m doing: how many swaps did I implement this time? What was the measurement of this ingredient? How long should I bake or sear it for? How do I remedy too much salt? Too liquidy? These are some of the questions I am always asking myself when in the kitchen, but with classic recipes like chicken cutlets, the measurements and taste somehow always come out perfect.

I’m not diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance, but I just feel better when I don’t eat a whole ton of bread or gluten. Sure, I can take down a massive french toast, or a large hero sandwich from a deli, but 9 times out of 10 I feel like garbage afterwards, largely because of the bread. That’s not to say I don’t indulge, but I am mindful, and that’s why a lot of my cooking and baking is directed toward gluten-free. However, I will N E V E R say no or turn down a good chicken cutlet. Who doesn’t love a tender, juicy, crispy on the outside piece of delectable chicken?

If you’re a novice cook in your kitchen, this is THE recipe for you. It’s incredibly simple, with standard ingredients, and once you’ve mastered the chicken cutlet, you can ramp it up with chicken parm, chicken cutlet wraps, chicken cutlet salads, and even chicken pasta bakes! Let’s get started…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and filleted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil, and probably more to coat the pan
  • Cast iron skillet or deep frying pan
  • 3 dinner plates
    • one for the breadcrumbs
    • one for the breaded chicken
    • one for post fried chicken to sit on paper towel
  • Salt
  • Pepper

To start, get your “assembly line” together, meaning: arrange your plates and bowl for the egg-wash. You’ll have a plate (or I use a cutting board) of the filleted chicken breasts, bowl of egg wash (Just cracked and whisked eggs), plate of breadcrumbs, and extra plate to put the breaded chicken before you fry it.

  1. First, rinse and pat dry your chicken breasts. Lay flat on a cutting board and fillet them: you’ll place a hand on the chicken breast, take a slicing knife, and cut the chicken breast horizontally in half from one side to the other, this will make one chicken breast into two thin sliced breasts. Repeat for all pieces (if you have four large breasts, you’ll end up with eight!). Then, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Crack your eggs. Whisk them together and leave as is.
  3. Take your cast iron skillet or your deep frying pan and place onto the stove. Pour enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and add another two tbsp. You want enough oil in the pan so that there’s minimal splatter, and so the oil crackles/fries the chicken enough without sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Begin to make the cutlets. Take a piece of chicken, dip into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs, coating both sides evenly. Place on plate and repeat until all chicken is breaded.
  5. Heat your skillet/pan on medium heat. You may need to play around with the heat so that the cutlets do not burn. Layer two or three pieces of chicken into the pan and let them fry for 3-4 minutes per side. Overcooking the chicken will burn the breading and will also dry out the chicken – our goal here is a golden crust with a juicy bite!
  6. Place the fried chicken cutlets on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat this step until all the chicken is cooked.

I swear by this method, and it is pretty standard from what I understand, but I wanted to add this recipe here for anyone who is venturing into the cooking world, for anyone who has attempted cutlets but forgot how much oil or how to fillet a chicken. This recipe will become your backbone of cooking and will virtually take you anywhere when it comes to being in the kitchen. Have fun, stay safe, and happy frying!

Ground Turkey and Chickpea Skillet with Roasted Veggie Medley

Good ol’ quarantine. Welcome to week 5 of stay-at-home, and getting creative in the kitchen. I accidentally bought a 5lb (YES 5LB) bag of carrots from Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and have been lucky to snag some slots at Whole Foods and Fairway delivery frantically throwing in zucchini and yellow squash into the cart, hoping that they still had it in stock. Thankfully, they did. I’m breastfeeding and while there really isn’t much science to back up cruciferous vegetables tend to make babies gassy, I still err on the side of caution and stick to spinach and zucchini for my vegetables.

I love ground turkey, and when I wasn’t much of a red meat eater (which changed the minute I tried Bistecca Fiorentina in Florence on my honeymoon five years ago), I relied heavily on ground turkey for everything. I find the key to making it tasty is a generous amount of seasoning and bone broth. That’s why I love this skillet: it has an abundance of flavor from cumin, onion, and garlic powder, a splash of dry white cooking wine (because why not?) and chicken bone broth from Kettle and Fire. I thickened the skillet with my trusty arrowroot and sprinkled some sharp white cheddar on top and broiled until it was perfectly melted. Let’s get down to business…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • For the ground turkey skillet:
    • 1 pkg or 1lb ground turkey (I like dark meat turkey – that’s where the flavor and juices are!)
    • 1 tbsp oil (I prefer Olive or Avocado oil)
    • 1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1.5 cup baby spinach
    • 1/4 cup bone broth or chicken stock (you could use vegetable stock too!)
    • Splash of dry white cooking wine
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic powder
    • Cumin powder
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar (or any kind of shredded cheese – this is completely optional)
  • For the roasted veggies:
    • 3 large carrots, rinsed and sliced into long quarters
    • 2 zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
    • 1 yellow squash, sliced thick

Begin with cutting/slicing the vegetables and toss in some oil then layer onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and dried basil and/or rosemary. Bake at 375* for 35 minutes.

In the meantime, grease a cast iron skillet with the oil of choice and set the heat to a medium flame. Add in the ground turkey and cook until 90% browned. Add in the garbanzo beans, spinach, and let the spinach begin to wilt – trust me it will. Add in seasonings and toss together. Pour in white wine to deglaze the skillet, and add in the broth. Turn flame up a little bit to bring to a gentle boil and add in arrowroot/thickener. Mix together until broth and turkey/garbanzo mixture becomes thick. Sprinkle cheese on top and broil for 3 minutes. Serve on top of the veggies or make a side of rice, either way, this is a perfect “what do I have on hand?” meal fit for a family at home 🙂 NOMaste healthy and safe my friends!