Spaghetti Squash final

Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

If you read my last post on  juicy favorites, you already know that I LOVE spaghetti squash! I am so happy that it is in season and showing up in my local markets. I also love a “stuffed” vegetable. Peppers, zucchini, eggplant…there is something comforting about it.  For this dish I roasted the spaghetti squash and filled it with some ricotta cheese, a zesty meat sauce, and topped it with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses before popping it back in the oven to melt the cheeses. It was a huge hit with my family and surprisingly simple to make. Now if we could only get some fall weather to go with the fall produce, I would really be a happy girl! I made this last weekend on a baking hot day and it was all I could do to snap a few photos with my iPhone, so I apologize for the lack of photographic creativity. I did, however, have the forethought to take pictures of the spaghetti squash prep for those of you who are intimidated by this lovely fall squash. It is a bit of a pain to cut it open, but oh so worth it! Hopefully the tips below will help!

The first step in prepping your spaghetti squash is cutting in in half lengthwise. This is NOT easy since it is about as hard as a pumpkin and it wobbles around! Using a folded dish towel on top of your cutting board helps it to steady it. Next you want to take a smallish knife and score the squash all the way around. Just cut a little bit through the flesh so you have a guide line.

1) Score the squash with a small knife.

Spaghetti Squash scoring

Then you want to use a large knife to cut all the way through. Use one had to steady the squash on the stem side while you cut through using your scored line as guide. Once you work your knife all the way through, you can stand it up and sort of “pull” it apart. You won’t be able to cut through the stem, so when you pull it apart into  2 halves, it will break on either side of the stem.

2) Use a large knife to cut all the way through.

Spaghetti Squash cutting

3) Scoop out the seeds.

You want to remove all of the seeds and “slimy” strings…just like you would if you were carving a pumpkin.

Spaghetti Squash seed removal

4) Season the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Spaghetti Squash seasoned

I like to line a cookie sheet with foil to roast the squash… nothing to wash when you are done!

5) Flip the halves over (flesh side down) for roastingSpaghetti Sqash ready to bake

Then all you have to do is wait! It takes about 45 minutes in 450 degree oven to get it all roasty and tender…yum!! Let your squash cool for a while so you can handle it without burning your fingers. All of the spaghetti squash prep/roasting can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to use it.

Spaghetti Squash roasted

Using a fork, loosen all of the little “spaghetti” strands from the skin and fluff them up a bit.

Spaghetti Squash forked

Next spoon a few dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the squash.

Spaghetti Squash with ricotta

Then top with your meat sauce. I cheated on the meat sauce and used one of my Juicy Faves…Rao’s jarred marinara sauce. Hey – it was 90 degrees out, it was all could do to even turn on the oven. I just browned some good grass fed, organic ground beef with a little onion and red pepper flakes and added the jarred sauce to it. It was delish!

Spaghetti Squash with sauce

Top with the meat sauce, some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then bake.

spaghetti squash biteCheesey, zesty, saucy, spaghetti squash goodness! And no pasta gut bomb when your done…total bonus! I served these right in the squash – 1/2 of a squash per person. It looks like a lot of food but I gobbled it up no problem, and so did my 12 year old. I suppose if you don’t have quite the same gluttonous hearty appetite that I do, you could serve it in a bowl and make the portion smaller.

Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4


  • 2 small to medium spaghetti squash- halved and seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground meat of choice)
  • 1-28 ounce jar of prepared marinara sauce (I use Rao’s)
  • splash of red wine if you have it (and you should, since it is only logical that you are drinking a glass of wine while you are cooking)
  • 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil for garnishing


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Coat your prepared spaghetti squash halves with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the squash cut side down and roast for 45 minutes. While the squash is roasting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot and saute the chopped onion until it is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and ground beef. Cook the beef, breaking it up with your spoon, until it is cooked through. Add the marinara sauce and mix well. If you have some red wine open, add about a quarter cup. Simmer the sauce with a lid for about at least 20 minutes or up to an hour on very low heat.

Once your squash is done and cool enough to handle, fluff up the “spaghetti” strands with a fork. Top each half with small spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese. Spoon about a cup of sauce (or more if it fits) into each half of squash. Reserve any left over sauce for serving if you have it (or serve it with some pasta if you have a non squash lover in the family!). Top with with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Put the filled squash back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with fresh basil and serve!

Happy Friday!

Favorite Things TextJuicy Favorites…that is!

What’s a “Juicy Favorite”, you ask? Well…let me tell you! A Juicy Favorite is something that I love and use often. Could be a kitchen gadget that I can’t live without,  a product I love, a food item I adore, or a seasonal item that I look forward to every year.  I often use something and think, I need to include this in a Juicy Bites’ post! So…I thought why not have a regular post where I just tell you about something I love?? That is what a Juicy Favorite is!


Rao’s Marinara Sauce

Rao's Sauce

My first fave share is Rao’s brand jarred marinara sauce. I have tried many quality jarred marinara sauces over the years (I’m not talking Ragu or Prego!) and this one is by far my favorite. It is as close to my home made sauce as I can get. It is priced higher than most sauces, but that’s because the quality of the ingredients. The list is really simple…only what you want in a sauce and nothing extra. The same as I would put in my own! Rao’s makes a few different varieties of sauce but the Marinara is my basic favorite. It’s perfect for a weeknight meal when you don’t have the time to simmer a sauce on the stove. I use it for stuffed shells, simple lasagnas, or even as a base for a quick tomato soup! Heck… if you add a little fresh chopped basil, people will think you made it yourself! It is sold at most supermarkets or you can buy directly from Rao’s Specialty Foods


Frontera Seasoning Sauces

Frontera Sauces

Another pantry staple I want to share with you is the fabulous seasoning sauces from Frontera. Rick Bayless is the chef behind Frontera. He is a rock star when it comes to Mexican Cuisine and has many successful restaurants. I started seeing Frontera brand foods at specialty stores a couple years ago and now they are readily available at most super markets. The sauces come in these great little pouches – no BPA can lining to worry about!  The ingredients are top quality and the flavors are unbelievable! I use the Red Chili Enchilada sauce in my chicken enchilada soup for a punch of flavor and a little heat. I love the Taco Skillet Sauce with ground beef for taco night or mixed with shredded chicken for burritos. I have tried most of them and I keep coming up with new ways to use them all. There is a lot of work that goes into making sauces like this from scratch so I love having the convenience of these without having to worry about any ingredients that don’t belong or that I can’t even pronounce! If you can’t find these at your local market, you can order them from Amazon.


Seasonal Produce: Spaghetti Squash!

spaghetti squash photo


I LOVE spaghetti squash! I love the taste, the texture, and I love that it is such a satisfying substitute for pasta. I also LOVE pasta, so the fact that this is just as delicious to me is a pretty big deal. It is delicious served as you would serve pasta – with sauce and parmesan cheese, or just as a side dish with olive oil, salt & pepper. Once you get past the hard part of cutting these bad boys in half, the rest is easy. I will share my trick in my next post for baked spaghetti squash…it was SOOO good!






Mediterranean Salsa

Mediterranean SalsaI know southern Californians are spoiled when it comes to weather, and I know people don’t have a lot of sympathy for us when we complain about it, BUT…this heat is ridiculous!! Come on, 93 degrees in October!! I am dying to cook some yummy, cozy, warming fall dinners, but I can not get motivated when it is so darn hot out.

So, while I pine away for fall weather, here is the Mediterranean salsa recipe that I promised in my last post. It goes great with my Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs. It would also pair really well with chicken, fish, or just as an appetizer with pita chips or tortilla chips. I kept this version pretty simple because I didn’t want to take away from the flavor of the meatballs, but if you added a little crumbled feta, chopped kalamata olives, or both…it would be delicious! Try it as a topping on some crostini and you would have an awesome bruschetta!

Mediterranean meatballs with salsaMediterranean Salsa

For a printable version of this recipe, click here


  • 3-4 medium sized tomatoes of choice, seeded and chopped (I used a couple heirloom and a couple roma)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced (cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a small spoon)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1/4 of a red onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a mix of chopped fresh parsley and basil (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste

Optional add-ins:

  • crumbled feta cheese (this is great if you are serving it as a dip for pita chips!!)
  • chopped kalamata olives
  • diced avocado


Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.



Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

Grilled Meatballs 1Just let me put it out there…I LOVE meatballs! I’m not a huge carnivore, but I will eat a good meatball any day of the week. Meatballs are so versatile and I love that all of the hard work can be done ahead of time.  These meatballs have a wonderful Greek flavor profile. Lots of fresh oregano, dill, parsley, and a little mint give them amazing flavor. They are tender and juicy thanks to some plain Greek yogurt and feta cheese. There is a lot of love that goes into these, and it shows through in every bite!

I know we have entered fall and grilling season is behind us, but I lagged just a teeny bit on finishing this post so you are getting it now. Here in southern California, you would NEVER know that summer is behind us. One might think that we are in the DOG DAYS of summer here. Every time I check the forecast, it’s 80’s (and some 90’s) as far as the eye can see. So there is a good chance that plenty of you out there are still in grill mode. If not, be sure and pin this recipe to your “Summer Grilling” board on Pinterest!

Raw meatballsI make these ahead of time and put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and cover them in plastic wrap so that I can keep them in the fridge until dinner. My husband has mastered the art of grilling these to perfection, which is great because all I have to do is drink wine while he cooks them. I served these babies with with some home made tzatziki (I use Ina Garten’s Tzatziki Recipe…It’s my fave!), my Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad, some toasted pita bread, and my Mediterranean salsa! I will post the salsa recipe soon!! If you are melting in this heatwave like we are, this dinner won’t have you sweating in the kitchen.

Meatball dinnerThere are tons of fresh herbs in these, so use your food processor to make quick work of all of the chopping. You will also need it for the pine nuts. Yes, pine nuts! You will grind them up in the food processor so that you have a sort of pine nut paste that adds even more yumminess to the meatballs. I suppose you could leave them out if you are opposed to pine nuts, but I can’t guarantee that they will taste as fabulous. The blend of beef, pork, and veal (aka: The Holy Meat Trilogy) is also key in these. I also think buying organic, grass fed beef and good quality ground pork (whenever possible) makes a big difference.

Meatball dinner 2Don’t skip the tzatziki! Buy it already made if you must (Trader Joe’s is pretty good), but don’t skip it – it is so good on the meatballs. It’s their perfect sauce! The Mediterranean salsa I made was really good on the meatballs as well. That recipe is on its way! This recipe feeds a crowd. I had enough for 8 servings with a few left over. The leftovers made the most amazing little sliders!

meatball sliderI cut the left-over meatballs in half and heated them up in a pan. I put them on a toasted dinner roll with tzatziki and some of my Mediterranean salsa and they were SO delicious! My kids went nuts for them! I think these would be perfect game day fare. No need to wait for left-overs…just make your meatballs slightly smaller and give them a little “smash” before grilling. These sliders would be great to serve up to all of your hungry football watchers!

Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Serves 8 – 10 people


  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves (small handfull)
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves (no stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh dill  (remove thick stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried dill
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs (I use panko)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a medium pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and tender. Set aside to cool to room temp.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the greek yogurt, salt & pepper, and whisk them all together until smooth.
  3. Add the pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor with a chopping blade (I use my small one, but any size will work).  Pulse until they form a thick, course paste (don’t over process them…you don’t want them as smooth as peanut butter). Using a rubber spatula, scrape all of the ground pine nuts from the bowl of the food processor into the mixing bowl with the eggs and yogurt.
  4. Add all of your herbs to the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add all of the herbs to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the beef, veal and pork to the mixing bowl along with the bread crumbs, cooled onion and garlic, feta, and parmesan cheese. Break up any large chunks of feta with your fingers.
  6. Time to mix! I like to use my hands for this and I wear these disposable gloves. They are perfect for this! You want to gently combine all of the ingredients and incorporate the 3 meats together without over mixing. Your hands really are the best way to get this done. Keep the gloves on after mixing…you can use them when you form the meatballs!
  7. Once everything is thoroughly combined, form into large meatballs (somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball). Keep the meatballs on a cookie sheet or a baking dish in the fridge until you are ready to grill.
  8. Before grilling, drizzle some olive oil over the meatballs and use your hands to make sure they are coated with the oil.
  9. We cook these on a gas grill. Preheat the grill on high and prep your grill by cleaning your grates well and then rubbing them with a  paper towel coated in oil. Put the meatballs over direct heat to sear on all sides –  DON’T turn your meatballs until they pull away from the grill easily. Once they have a nice crust on all sides, turn the grill down to medium heat and move the meatballs off the direct heat to finish cooking. The goal here is to get that crust on the outside to “seal” the meatball and keep it moist on the inside. You want to cook them all the way through, but not let them get too charred. Depending on your grill this can take anywhere from 20 – 30 min. If you have a thermometer, the proper internal temp is 160 degrees.

Grilling Note: If you are a grilling novice (like me) and you are worried about cooking these directly on the grill, you can use a grill pan like the one below to insure they don’t stick to your grate.











Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Orzo Salad 1

This is a great summer salad that goes well with any backyard barbeque or potluck. It’s perfect to make ahead because the kale and spinach are hearty greens that hold up well with dressing. In fact, I think it tastes even better the next day.  I made it to go with my Mediterranean grilled meatballs…that recipe is on the way soon! It would also make a great weeknight dinner with a little grilled chicken on top.

There are a few things that make this dish stand out. The bold flavors of the sun dried tomatoes, olives, and feta really make this salad. I like to buy olives from my grocery store’s olive bar so I can get a couple of different types. It’s nice to be able to buy exactly as much as you need, too.  A really good feta also makes a difference.

I love Pastures of Eden which is sold at my local Trader Joe’s. It’s an imported sheep’s milk feta and it is mellow and delicious. Even my husband likes it and he is not a big fan of feta cheese.

This recipe really feeds a crowd. We served it to company and had leftovers for lunch…yum! You can cut it in half or just use less pasta if you don’t need as much. It keeps really well for a few days in the fridge. I promise you, if you serve this salad at your next summer gathering…your family and friends will think you are a culinary genius!

Orzo Salad 2

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Serves 8 – 10

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad Printable Recipe Link



  • 1 lb of orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one bunch of dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato or Tuscan kale), ribs removed and chopped
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup of assorted olives of your choice (I used a combo of green and kalamata), sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (I like the kind in olive oil)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil


Make the lemon vinaigrette first by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well. Slowly whisking in the olive oil at the end makes for a nicely emulsified dressing that won’t separate. But…you can always throw everything in a small mason jar and shake it really well! Just remember to shake it again before dressing your salad.

Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until it is just al dente. I like to cook it just a minute less than it needs so that it still has a little bite once it has absorbed the dressing. Drain the orzo, add it to a large salad bowl, and toss it with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil so that it does not stick together. Let it cool down to room temp. Add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing and mix well. I like to save a little cheese and some pine nuts to sprinkle over the top before I serve it.

My Best EVER Corn Chowder!

Summer Corn Chowder 1Oh YUM, this was good! I make corn chowder quite a bit, but this one was the BEST! There are a few things that made it extra delicious. The first is fresh corn. I make corn chowder in the winter as a cozy warm-you-up soup, but I use frozen corn because fresh is not in season.  Using really fresh summer corn makes a very different soup. It just tastes like summer. I know soup is not the usual go-to for a summer dinner, but the summer weather here in San Clemente isn’t too hot. We get this “marine layer” thing that keeps it nice and mild. Plus, I just love soup and can’t go a whole season without making it!

Another thing that set this soup apart is simmering the corn cobs in the stock to get a rich and sweet corn flavor that adds so much to the soup. Pureeing some of the cooked corn with some stock in the blender gives a great texture to the soup as well.


Now, last but not least, the final thing that put this soup on a whole other level…drum roll please!!! GREEK YOGURT!

I know this is a simple addition, but it gave the soup a rich, creamy texture without adding the fat that heavy cream does. It also adds a fresh flavor that compliments the fresh corn so well. The trick to cooking with Greek yogurt is tempering it first so that it doesn’t separate in the soup. The high protein content of Greek yogurt can make it react funny in high heat. Whisking a little hot soup into the yogurt before adding it to the pot helps this problem. You also want to add it at the very end with the heat low or off.

Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes thinking, “simmering corn cobs” and “tempering yogurt”…ugh! Yes, these are extra steps to an otherwise simple recipe, but they make such a difference in the flavor. I don’t think I will ever make my corn chowder any other way again.

Summer Corn Chowder 2

Summer Corn Chowder

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Serves 8


  • 6 ears of corn
  • 2 quarts of chicken stock (8 cups)
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 pound gold potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) 2% or full fat greek yogurt (I like Fage)
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
  • Grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar for garnish


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees to cook the bacon. Remove the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside. Once the corn kernels are removed, put the cobs in a large stock pot and add all but one cup of the chicken stock (you will need this reserved stock to blend some of the corn later). Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the corn kernels to the pot and simmer for 10 more minutes.

While the corn cobs are simmering, cook the bacon on a cookie sheet lined with heavy duty aluminum foil until crisp (about 15-20 minutes). Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside to crumble for topping the soup.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.

In a large dutch oven (I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset), heat the olive oil and the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 – 10 minutes or until golden. Add the celery, red pepper, and the remaining raw corn kernels and saute for 10 more minutes.

Remove the corn cobs from the stock and discard. Using a strainer, strain the stock into the pot with the onions, red pepper, celery and corn and add the cooked corn from the strainer to a blender. Add the potatoes to the pot with the stock and veggies, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. I used 3 teaspoons of salt with my low sodium stock, but the amount you will need depends on how salty your stock is. Start with 2 teaspoons and add as needed.

Simmer all of the veggies for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. While the veggies are simmering, add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock to your blender with the cooked corn and blend until smooth. After the potatoes are tender, add the blended corn to the pot and mix well. In a small bowl, temper the Greek yogurt by whisking in some (about a cup) of the hot soup gradually until it is mixed in well. Turn off the heat and add the tempered yogurt to the soup and mix well.

Serve topped with crumbled bacon, grated cheese, and fresh chopped parsley on top. And of course…good crusty bread!




A Delicious Dinner for a HOT Day!

Yes…it’s true. This Juicy Bites post in front of you is for real. I am ACTUALLY posting a recipe! For those of you that have been eagerly awaiting more juicy bites, I apologize. No real excuses other than the fact that I am too darn lazy to take pictures of my food before it gets gobbled up! I won’t make any promises (I know myself too well), but I will try to keep posting more often than once a season!

Speaking of seasons…even though it is spring, it feels like summer here in Southern California! It is HOT this week. Like 97 degrees HOT! Not our normal spring weather, or summer weather for that matter. Yes…we are spoiled here. I really don’t like this weather and I really don’t like cooking in this weather! Perfect time to try a recipe from my new cookbook “Giada’s Feel Good Food” by Giada De Laurentiis. My sweet hubby and boys bought it for me for Mother’s day. It is filled with light and healthy recipes like this one.

Soba Noodle Salad


This was the perfect dinner for a hot day. I love salads that are filling, hearty, and don’t leave you feeling like you didn’t get a real meal. This is one of those salads! My family loves just about anything with Asian flavors so this was a hit. Of course I had to make a couple of changes to the recipe (I seem to be incapable of following a recipe exactly). I added some grilled chicken for more protein and tinkered with the dressing a little. There is such a nice contrast of textures in this with the crunchy cabbage and the soba noodles that have just the right “chew” to them. I love soba noodles and the brand I buy from my chain grocery store is Hakubaku.


Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour which gives them a great texture. You can find gluten free soba noodles as well which is great if you have an gluten allergy or intolerance. They are made with all buckwheat flour and are a little darker in color but also delicious. If you can’t find soba noodles, you can substitute any noodle you like in this salad. Whole wheat spaghetti works really well!

For the chicken, I just had the hubs BBQ a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Left over chicken or rotisserie chicken would be great in this salad…the less cooking the better! All of the prep work (including cooking the noodles) can be done ahead of time so that you only need to assemble the ingredients when you are ready to eat.IMG_2672The creamy peanut dressing in this is soooo good! Oh yeah…that is another change I made. Giada uses almond butter and I went with peanut butter. I think both are great, but my kids prefer peanut butter. If peanut dressing is not your thing or there are peanut allergies in your family, any Asian dressing would be good. Heck, just a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and olive oil would be delish!


Lucky for you all (and for me) there were left overs of this salad. That meant lunch for me today as well as a photo opportunity! I could hardly wait to get the pictures done so I could eat!

Soba Noodle Salad

Click here for a printable Version of my recipe

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (juice of 2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • One 1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped


  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces dried soba noodles
  • 12 ounces of cooked chicken (shredded rotisserie chicken or grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced thinly)
  • One 1 ½-pound head napa or savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots cut into matchsticks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch-thick half-moon shapes
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
For the dressing:
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
For the salad:
Boil a large pot of salted water over high heat. Cook the noodles until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Rinse the noodles in cold water, drain well and place in a serving bowl.
Pour the dressing over the noodles. Add the cabbage, green onions, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers and almonds. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.



Banana Breakfast Bread with Chocolate Chips

A little sweet and very satisfying!IMG_2471

I had to get this banana bread recipe on to Juicy Bites so that I can share how yummy this healthier version is! Its been my go to recipe for a while now because it’s simple to make and my boys love it for breakfast. Who doesn’t love breakfast with a little chocolate in it! It makes our crazy mornings before school a little easier when I have this ready to go. I slather on some peanut butter and they gobble it up. I think the chocolate chips (only a half a cup!) disguise that it is made with such healthy ingredients.

I basically took my regular banana bread recipe and substituted  some better options for the white flour. There is still some flour (whole wheat), but I took more than half the flour out to add in things like oats, flax, and almond flour. I love the hearty consistency and texture that has. It is really filling and satisfying!


Ingredient Notes…

If you have a well stocked grocery store, you can find all of the ingredients for this without going to a specialty or health food store. My grocery store has a great “Bob’s Red Mill” section where I can get almond flour and flax meal and good quality oats. I like to make my own “oat flour” in the food processor and it just takes an extra minute to do. If you can find oat flour, you can skip this step. I used to use buttermilk in this but now I prefer to use plain kefir, or drinkable yogurt. I never seemed to get through a container buttermilk, but we do use the kefir in smoothies. I also like that the kefir is mostly lactose free and it is easy for me to find organic brands. The sugar that I use in this recipe is coconut sugar. It measures the same as granulated sugar, so you can use that if you want. Coconut sugar looks and tastes similar to brown sugar. I like the way it works in this banana bread and I like that it has much less fructose than regular sugar so it is much easier for your body to metabolize it.

Banana Breakfast Bread with Chocolate Chips

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain organic Kefir (drinkable yogurt) OR buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 small or 2 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup PLUS 1/2 cup of whole rolled oats OR 3/4 cup oat flour and 1/2 cup whole oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray one 9×5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray coating.
2. Add the eggs, the kefir or buttermilk, the coconut oil, the bananas (cut in thirds), and the vanilla to a blender. Blend on medium until smooth and mixed well
3. Put 3/4 cup of oats into a food processor and pulse several times until it resembles a course flour (if you are using oat flour, you can skip this step). In a large bowl, stir together the coconut sugar, whole wheat flour, flax meal, almond flour, oats from the food processor (or oat flour) and whole oats, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the mixture from the blender and stir until just combined. Gently mix in the mini chocolate chips.
4. Pour into prepared loaf pan (I spray mine with plenty of PAM for baking) and bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until it is cooked through. Mine takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes in a glass baking dish.

Coconut and Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats!

IMG_2249I’m sure just about everyone out there has made rice crispy treats, or at least eaten them at some point in their lives, but these aren’t your average ordinary rice crispy treats! These are super delicious, all natural, vegan rice crispy treats with coconut and dark chocolate!! I am not a vegan. In fact I am pretty far from it. If it wasn’t weird to have a bacon and cheese shrine in your house, I might have one. That said, I get a little grossed out at the ingredients in your average marshmallow…gelatin kinda makes me cringe a little. Not to mention the artificial colors and flavors. So when I saw “natural” vegan marshmallows at my local health food market, I immediately thought about making rice crispy treats! Since I was at a health food market, organic brown rice cereal was easy to find. A little coconut oil instead of butter and you have vegan rice crispy treats!

rice krispy treat collageI amped up the yumminess in these by adding some shredded sweetened coconut and topping them off with some melted chocolate. Just make sure that if you want these to be vegan, look for vegan chocolate.  If you are not a fan of coconut (which would be weird… just sayin’) you could leave it out and add a couple generous tablespoons of peanut butter. Chocolate LOVES peanut butter! But chocolate may just love coconut more :).

IMG_2260I have to say, I have REALLY been looking forward to that time in the evening when I’m watching my fave DVR’d show with the Hubs and I get to indulge in one of these babies with a slightly larger than normal glass of wine. You could go with milk, but they do compliment a nice Zinfandel perfectly! I completely justify this indulgent treat with the fact that it is all natural, REAL food. That makes dessert perfectly acceptable, right?

IMG_2229Coconut and Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.


  • 1 bag of vegan marshmallows – (10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil plus 1 tablespoon for chocolate topping
  • 6 Cups of Brown Rice Cereal
  • 1 cup of shredded sweetened coconut, plus 1/4 cup for topping
  • 2.5 ounces (about 1/2 cup) of chopped dark chocolate

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the marshmallows and coconut oil over medium-low heat until completely melted and mixed well. Turn off the heat and add the rice cereal (one cup at a time) and 1 cup of the coconut and gently mix well. Spoon the mixture into a 8×8 pan or a 2 qt Pyrex baking dish that has been lightly greased with coconut oil. Gently press the mixture down flat with the back of a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

In a small heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat, melt the chocolate and 1 tablespoon coconut oil together until smooth. Make sure to stir frequently to avoid burning. Spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the rice crispy mix and sprinkle the 1/4 cup of coconut evenly over the top.  Return to the refrigerator. Once the chocolate has set (about 20 minutes), cut into squares. **Tip – It’s easier to cut these if you remove the the entire thing from the pyrex baking dish and cut with a sharp knife on a cutting board.

Store them in an air tight container at for 2-3 days. They stay best stored in the fridge, but let them get to room temp before eating so they are not so hard.

Asian Braised Short Ribs

A little sweet, a little spicy, and loaded with flavor!

IMG_2273Last week we had our first real fall weather. As soon as the weather changes I start day dreaming about all of the cozy warm dinners I can make. I love fall and winter comfort food. It’s my favorite to eat and my favorite to cook! Of course now that I am getting around to posting this, it is in the 80’s here!

These short ribs are pretty simple to prepare, but they do require plenty of time. There is something about cooking something slow, low, and long that I love. It’s as if I accomplished some great achievement because I turned a relatively cheap, tough cut of meat into something so tender and flavorful. I always have to pat myself on the back a little when I do this. Even though it’s not hard and really anyone can do it, somehow I think I’m some sort of culinary genius when I do it. I don’t eat much red meat, but I would always choose tender slow braised beef over a steak on the grill. Guess I’m a cheap date that way.

IMG_2268I have made short ribs many times, but usually I do them braised in red wine like in my Short Rib Stroganoff (SO YUMMY!). This flavor profile is totally different, but still so delicious. These babies are braised in mirin, beer, rice vinegar and soy sauce with garlic and ginger. I like serving them over Batsmati rice with some sesame green beans or snow peas.

IMG_2284The green beans are super easy. Just blanch some trimmed french green beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, shock in some ice water for a few minutes, then drain. Pat them dry and saute them in a hot pan with a little sesame oil. Top with salt, pepper, and some sesame seeds. Even Mr. Picky likes these!IMG_2278I actually had my first “Asian-y” short ribs at my 40th birthday party and they were prepared by the AWESOME caterer that I had (Amy from Delish Dish for you Orange County peeps). They were just dreamy and I was trying to duplicate them. These got close, but I may need Amy back in my kitchen to make hers again soon. I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Food Network by Dave Lieberman. I made a couple changes, like adding the mushrooms. They add something that I really like, but I wouldn’t be heart broken if you wanted to leave them out and save yourself a step. While this recipe does take a LONG time to cook, the hands on time is relatively short and it is so worth it! In fact, I bet you could throw it all in the slow cooker after browning the meat and it would be great. I just never think quite that far ahead!

IMG_2290There are just a few important tips that you want to follow when you cook meat like this. Once you get them down, you can be creative with the flavors.

  1. You need a good Dutch Oven for braising. I love Le Creuset, it’s beautiful and functional! You need something that is heavy for even heat and heat retention and you need a tight fitting lid. It should also be able to go from the stove top directly to the oven. Enameled cast iron is really your best bet.
  2. Make sure you brown the meat first over medium high heat. This is an important part of getting the end result. Even if you use your slow cooker, brown your meat first. You will want to do this in batches so you don’t over crowd your pot or pan, and make sure your meat is well seasoned with salt and pepper before browning. You want that nice “crust” to form when you brown. Think of it as the flavor sealer!
  3. Make sure you have the right amount of liquid. Whether it is wine, beer, or stock, you need enough so that whatever you are cooking is getting a nice little bath. Not completely covered, but enough to keep it moist. With a stew you want more liquid, with a braise it’s less.
  4. TIME! You need a good 2-3 hours to properly braise a tough cut of meat. Keep the temp low and even, and keep the lid on. You can do it on your stove or in the oven, but just make sure it stays at a simmer and not a boil.

Asian Braised Short Ribs

Click here for a printable version of the recipe

Serves 4-6


Makes about 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 1/2  pounds boneless beef short ribs, most of the fat trimmed off – *see note below
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •  vegetable oil for sauteing
  • 6-8 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking Sake found in the Asian food section)
  • 12 ounces good ale (like Sierra Nevada)
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 8 ounces of shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Saracha (or more to taste)
  • chopped scallions for garnish

*Note on short ribs: You can use short ribs with the bone in, just increase the amount to 3 or 3 1/2 pounds. Short ribs with the bone are even more tender and delicious when braised, but they have a lot more fat on them than the trimmed, boneless short ribs. You will also end up with a lot more fat in your braising liquid that you will use as a sauce, so make sure you skim some of that off.


Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot with a lid (Dutch oven) over high heat. Brown the ribs on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove the ribs and pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the rendered fat.

Return the pot to the stove, lower the heat to medium and saute the garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes. Add the ribs back to the pot. Deglaze the pan with the mirin. Add the beer, the vinegar, and the soy sauce. Stir and then cover and simmer on low for 2 1/2 hours. Check the meat every 20 min or so to make sure they are cooking at a simmer.

Once the short ribs are close to being done, saute the shitake mushrooms in a frying pan in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until tender.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid and strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. If there is a lot of fat rising to the top, skim some of it off and return it to the Dutch oven. Add the cooked mushrooms to the Dutch oven along with the short ribs. Combine the hoisin sauce and Saracha in a small bowl and pour over the ribs, move the pot to the oven, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serve in a bowl over rice with some of the braising liquid and garnish with the chopped scallions.