ziti (or rotini) and meatballs



You’re all starting to learn that I cook what I want to cook, not even necessarily what I want to eat.  Just what I want to cook. But there are times  I take special requests.  And usually, I try to fulfill those requests during that week or the following week.  Last week, hubs told me one night that he was craving meatballs.  Not meat sauce for his pasta but actual meatballs.  It just so happened that I had some ground beef so I graciously said that I would cook him meatballs!  There was no need for him to also know that I was looking for a way to use up the ground beef anyway! 🙂  I looked through my recipes and came across this one. These were devoured with much gusto and hubs proclaimed that it’s even better than most restaurants! That is one of his ultimate compliments to me with his other favorite one being, “YOU should open a restaurant and sell just ___________.”  I’m really glad when I can fulfill a craving and get it done on a weeknight! Making meatballs used to have me pausing with apprehension but now, it’s become so easy for me to make!  Mix, separate, kinda roll, kinda shape then baking sheet!

I’ll write an update soon about my trip to Chicago – my little brother got married!

Ziti and Meatballs

recipe from Real Simple


  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/3cup bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4cup grated pecorino (about 1 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 1 pound ziti (or other pasta. obviously I used rotini)


  1. In a food processor fitted with the coarse grating disk, grate the carrots, onion, and zucchini. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the grated vegetables, 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed and whole tomatoes (with their juices) and oregano to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon, until the sauce has thickened, 35 to 40 minutes.


  1. Meanwhile, heat broiler. In a large bowl, gently combine the beef, bread crumbs, eggs, pecorino, the remaining garlic, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Form into 32 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on a foil-lined large broilerproof baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Top with the meatballs, sauce, and additional pecorino and serve with the salad.
  3. The meatballs and sauce can be frozen together in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, run the containers under warm water until the mixture slides out. Transfer to a saucepan and cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Cook the pasta and serve with the meatballs and sauce.



Spicy Chicken Tacos With Corn, Feta, and Avocado


This spring is KILLING me! I’ve got kids in baseball, softball and dance; and in between practices and games, it’s just nonstop GO GO GO.  I feel like a crazy woman, checking my calendar constantly!  I’m on autopilot so much that I feel like I even need to look at the calendar to see what time I need to go to bed!  I sometimes wonder how things got so crazy and then my friend reminded me that it slowly amped up to this, it didn’t happen all at once. In the fall, I remembered feeling anxiety about the new sports schedules but now, that seems like a piece of cake compared to what I’m currently juggling. But I’ve been eased into it since last August so come summer, I’m going to have so much free time I won’t even know what to do with myself!  Actually, I hope to be cooking at a much more leisurely pace, with iced, fruity drinks!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Man, do I love corn.  Some people (especially moms), when left alone for a night, may reach for a bowl of cereal and call it a night…or maybe even a bowl of ice cream!  But me? My go-to “I don’t want to cook” meal is canned corn.  I open up the top, drain it with the lid and grab a spoon. I don’t heat it, I don’t add butter, I don’t pour it in a bowl. I just sit there with my can of corn and call it a night.  No dishes, no fuss and total satisfaction.  I’ve been told this habit is gross or lazy or weird but to me, corn has everything going for it. It’s sweet, filling and crunchy! Now, do I prefer canned corn to real corn?! Heck, no!  I love corn on the cob. In the summer, I get so excited that I end up buying some every week! Towards the end of the summer my family is crying for mercy, asking for the corn to stop.  And then, it’s a long, cold winter without any fresh corn. I wait patiently until the next season comes upon us. So 2 weeks ago or so, I went to the grocery store and lo and behold, the first of this season’s corn was there!  I cautiously got 2 ears and brought it home, wondering what I would do with it.  I didn’t go crazy and buy 4-6 ears; just 2.  We’re gonna ease ourselves nice and easy into this year’s corn season.  I saw this taco recipe and decided I would use my recently purchased corn for it…and it was perfect. It was awesome for dinner and then a few days later, it reappeared as part of my breakfast burrito filling, along with eggs where it was enjoyed again by the family!  It’s quite simple and delicious!

Spicy Chicken Tacos With Corn, Feta, and Avocado

recipe from Serious Eats


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon of sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta, preferably Bulgarian
  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 limes
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup picked cilantro leaves
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and sliced
  • Lime wedges and thinly sliced scallions, for serving


  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add chicken and cook until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.

  2. In the same pot over medium heat, add onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in cumin and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chipotles and their sauce, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and nestle the chicken back in the pot. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a clean plate. Allow cooking liquid to reduce slightly.

  3. Meanwhile, shred chicken with 2 forks. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes.

  4. In a small bowl, combine corn with feta, seasoning with 1 tablespoon of lime juice and pepper.

  5. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice into chicken, then spoon onto the tortillas. Serve with the corn salsa, cilantro, avocado, lime wedges, and scallions.

chili cheese dog fondue

IMG_2527[1].JPGThis was a huge hit with my son.  He loved the crescent dogs, he loved the chili cheese dip and he loved dipping the dogs into the dip.  What’s not to like?  I made this with him in mind. Really, it’s all about balancing the healthy with the occasional treats. My kids have never liked fast food.  They’re also strange creatures who don’t like potatoes all that much. Who doesn’t like potatoes?! They don’t like them baked or mashed, nor do they like hash browns or FRIES. They’ll eat fries but often they’ll skip ordering fries when we eat out.

Last summer, my kitchen was out of commission for almost 3 months due to a leak that caused major damage to our floors and cabinets.  We ate out almost the entire time and by the end, my kids were acting like they were being TORTURED.  They had to buy school lunches every day and sometimes we had access to the microwave and sometimes we had access to the stove top but it was sporadic at best. That’s when I realized that cooking meals 5-6 times a week really had an impact on how my kids eat and what they eat. Every night the whole family would chug water after eating out.  There’s so much sodium in restaurants and fast foods! They’d even ask to have cereal for dinner just to avoid having to eating out.  Also, not having a sink HUGELY impacts how and what I can cook (easily).

We learned a lot of lessons during that time with the biggest one being – don’t take home cooked meals for granted!  I still bring up those times to the kids once in a while and they groan when they remember.  What a privileged life, to be picky about the foods we eat and how much of it to eat.  I point this out to the kids to remind them that we live in a place where the food seems never-ending and the choices are limitless while other places do not have these luxuries. Back to the chili cheese dog fondue…I cook a lot at home but that doesn’t mean I always cook super healthy, balanced meals. As my husband tells the kids, even if we eat something “junky” at home, it’s still probably not as “junky” if we ate the same food out. We all acknowledge this around the table, that though it’s not a typical family meal, it’s a meal that is fun.  And so we dipped and shared and enjoyed our quick weeknight meal together, with hardly any dishes (win!).  Have fun!

Chili Cheese Dog Fondue
 recipe from Fake Ginger


2 cans crescent rolls
1 (16 ounce) package Lil Smokies
1 pound Velveeta
2 (15 ounce) cans chili without beans


  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll one can of crescent rolls and separate into 8 pieces according to perforations. Take each piece and cut into 3 smaller pieces. Roll a Lil Smokie in each piece and set on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining Lil Smokies. (You’ll have crescent rolls left over. Bake them and have a snack!)
  3. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. While the Lil Smokies are baking, melt Velveeta and chili together in a fondue pot or a saucepan over very low heat. Stir frequently until all the Velveeta is melted.
  5. Serve hot fondue with the warm Lil Smokies.

My note:  Use whatever sausage you have – hot dog, smokies, polish sausage, smoked sausage!  As you can tell from my pictures I had smoked sausage so I cut them in thirds or so and wrapped them.  I also kept the crescent dogs whole and didn’t bother cutting the dough smaller like #2 because I didn’t use lil smokies!  It’s flexible 🙂

chicken and eggplant stir fry 

I love eggplant.  It’s one of my absolute favorite veggies.  I always order it when I go out because hubs doesn’t really like it and neither do my kids.  I especially like it at Chinese restaurants and have tried to make it at home like the Chinese restaurants…sadly, mine never came out the same. I asked my friend’s mom, who is an amazing cook (and Chinese), how to make Chinese-style eggplant and she straight up told me – you won’t do it at home because to get it the way you like, all soft and delicious, would take so much oil that you’d faint.  I was like,”Oil??? What?!?!” Um, yes… apparently the dish I like needs an insane amount of oil. So, no more Chinese restaurant eggplant! But this dish comes pretty darn close without all the oil.

Let me say something here.  I am a recipe girl, remember?  Also, I started really cooking as an adult.  I’d talk to people early on when I was just learning to cook and they’d say things like, “I never measure…” or “Just add until it tastes right.”  That was like a nightmare for me so I’d actually tune out.  I couldn’t imagine life without the safety and comfort of recipe measurements.  But sure enough, over time and with enough practice, I can now guesstimate ingredient quantities and season to taste without freaking out. This is one of those recipes.  I saw it somewhere but I’ve made it my own just by adding more seasonings to taste.  The trick is this (and it may be obvious but I’ll say it anyways) – start small.  You can always add but it’s so much harder to make things less salty or less sweet!  Be conservative and keep adding in small increments until you are more comfortable.  I will add some basic measurements but this dish is really by taste.  Also, it’s a perfect example of something that tastes amazing but looks so blah.

Another funny tidbit about this dish. When I made this there were leftovers which let me pack enough for me, hubs’ and daughter’s lunch. I made hub’s portion mostly chicken, mine mostly eggplant and daughter’s a balance but with a little more chicken than eggplant. When I picked her up from school, I asked how her lunch was and she said it was good except she wished there was more eggplant.  I said “Oh no! I purposely took all the eggplant because I thought you’d prefer more chicken!” She burst into tears (no joke) and said she LOVES the eggplant and now she has to wait until the next time I make it (which I already shared will probably be in a few months).  So, I guess this dish is tear-worthy!!!  🙂

Chicken and Eggplant Stir-fry

Serves 4


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
Salt and pepper
1 eggplants, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch thick plank like pieces
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons sugar

*I added several shakes of gochugaru, korean pepper flakes, because I tend to add it to anything Asian but this is completely optional and I’ve done it many times without!


Cut chicken breasts into 1-2 inch long pieces, however you like your stir fry to look.  I tend to make them long like the sliced onion, bell pepper and eggplant.

Heat wok on high heat.  Add oil to wok.  Then add garlic and ginger and cook about a minute or when the garlic starts to brown but NOT burn!  Add in chicken and cook a few minutes until almost cooked through.  Add in all the veggies.  Cook about 3-5 minutes until everything is cooked through.

Add soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and if using, gochugaru.  Stir and mix until all the flavors are combined.  Serve over or with white rice!

chicken cordon bleu grilled cheese


This was a huge hit with my son.  As you continue following me along, you’ll notice that he prefers the heavier, junkier foods while my daughter leans towards the veggie-heavy foods.  I swear, that boy was meant to grow up in the Midwest during the 80’s!  There are dishes I make that are huge family-pleasers and then there are those dishes where only one or two of us like the dish.  Unfortunately for my family, when I like a dish and they all hate it, I still catalog it for future use.  And If they all love it and I don’t, I usually end up deleting it.  But every once in a while, I will not like a dish but someone likes it so much that it’s worth keeping around (and perhaps even making it again).  That is the case with this dish.

As we were talking about it while we ate, my son was mmm-mmmm-ing all over the place. I mentioned that I’d probably not make it again and he was so surprised!  He asked if I would please keep the recipe and maybe he’d even pick it for his birthday meal (whoa!).  I guess it really hit a chord with him because he asked me again the following day, to save the recipe.  It has all the makings of a great sandwich – crispy chicken, melty cheese and salty ham. Unfortunately, I think I’m coming to realize that I’m not a huge swiss cheese fan. And while you’re preparing this, don’t make the novice mistake I made – season allllll the components of the breading station! That includes the flour, egg and panko because it really does makes a difference in flavor.  I sometimes skip this part, assuming that the other components will make up the difference in saltiness and flavor but nope- it doesn’t always work that way.

I’ve mentioned before that I follow national food holidays and so I made this for cordon bleu day a while back.  Sometimes it actually helps me decide what to make for dinner and it also helps me try new things that I normally would not try!  I remember cordon bleu from my college dining hall – the kind where you cut into it and oil would ooze out onto the whole plate.  Yuck and yum all at the same time.  I was happy to see a version of that dish that is a little lighter and weeknight friendly. So although it’s a strange interest of mine, national food days often bring a little innocent fun into my day!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese

recipe from i am a food blog

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • oil to fry chicken
  • 2 slices bread of choice
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 5-6 thin slices ham

Lightly beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Place the panko in a bowl and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sprinkle on the flour. Toss to coat. Dip into the egg and then the panko making sure it is evenly coated.

Heat up a generous of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe down the pan, leaving a bit of oil behind (not too much!). Lay down one slice of bread and top with half of the cheese. Place the chicken on top, then the ham slices, and the remaining cheese and slice of bread. Grill, over medium-low heat until golden brown and cheese start to melt. Flip carefully and grill until golden and everything is melty.

skillet pasta with chicken and broccoli


I’m very wary of one-pot pasta dishes.  A lot of times, I don’t think they turn out very well.  Either the pasta is overcooked or it’s under-cooked and all the other ingredients get overcooked. I get anxious and realize – this is not worth it!  Even if I have to boil the noodles first, it’s what I know and am comfortable with. BUT it sure is nice when you don’t have to clean another pot.  Well, here you go…I got over my anxieties and tried out this one-pot skillet pasta dish.  I had a good feeling about it because it’s a Cook’s Country recipe and it’s the same company as Cook’s Illustrated.  Why is this important? Because they test their recipes and I know this because I used to be a home recipe tester for them! So I had little doubt that I’d run into problems putting this meal together.  Sure enough, it cooked beautifully and since my kids LOVE broccoli this was an easy win. I typically like to cook more complicated and time consuming recipes on the weekends but I made this on a Sunday night after spring break and I was ready to have a little break.  As I tell my kids, breaks are only “breaks” for kids as it usually means more work for the parents! 

 But we had a fun break because my cousin was visiting us and that was the highlight but…sometimes it’s a bummer that they give out report cards on the Friday before spring break. And there are times where it ends up being that there are issues that need to be addressed because of the report cards. Part of me thinks, “It’s spring break! We can get on track after the break is over.”  The other part of me thinks, “Nope, no one is going to be rewarded when we have issues that are going on.” 

In our family, the kids’ access to screens (tablets, phones, computers, tv) plays a role in what happens in these situations. Luckily, I was able to strike a balance. I didn’t want to punish anyone during their spring break but I also didn’t want to give in to letting them be on more screens when they have so much free time, especially given the report card “situation.”  So, thanks to the weather cooperating, I was able to say NO to screens and YES to playing outside with friends for most of the day. I think I’m happy with my decision.  Limiting screen time also meant NO to taking them to see Zootopia in the theater, but hey – I gotta stick to my guns.  There’s also the matter of punishing both if only one has an issue, but that’s for another day. My general philosophy is that no one is harmed by NOT being in front of a screen.  It’s exhausting having to be the executor of some of these hard decisions but in the end, I hope they’ll respect that I was doing my best by trying to create healthy boundaries. 

Now on to the truly one-pot recipe!

Skillet Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

recipe from Cook’s Country

    • 1 lb. Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed and sliced thin
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 1/4 C. Olive Oil
    • 1 Onion, Chopped fine
    • 6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
    • 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
    • 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
    • 1/2 C. White Wine
    • 2 1/2 C. Water
    • 2 C. Chicken Broth
    • 8 oz. Pasta (Penne, Elbows, Etc.)
    • 8 oz. Broccoli florets, cut into 1″ pieces
    • Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Season the chicken with Salt & Pepper.  Heat 1 Tbs. Olive oil in skillet until very hot.

Add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without turning until chicken is beginning to brown, turn and continue cooking until almost done.  Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, do the chicken in batches so  that the chicken browns nicely.

Add 1 Tbs. Oil to the now empty skillet.  Add onion and 1/2 tsp. salt, cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in Garlic, Pepper Flakes and Oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in wine and simmer until nearly evaporated.

Stir in water, chicken broth and pasta.  Increase heat and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often until pasta is nearly tender, about 12 minutes.

Stir in Broccoli and cook until oasta and broccoli are tender and sauce has thickened, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in chicken and cooked until warmed through.

Serve with the grated Parmesan Cheese.

baked chocolate mousse cake



I’m scared to have too many sweets around the house because according to my kids, we have a secret monster in our house that eats all the snack food (especially sweets) in the middle of the night.  How else could someone explain how a half-a-dozen cookies or half of a cake could be gone between bedtime and morning?  Well, we joke about it but we’re only half joking because the snack monster is named “Dad.” It amazes me. The man typically eats 2 meals and a light breakfast. I never saw him snacking when we were dating or even early on in our marriage but recently, he’s started snacking late at night! Eeks! He’s basically asked me to stop buying any snack food or desserts. So, when I bake, one part of him is happy and excited and the other part groans (I’m sure).

This cake is another repeat offender in our house.  I made it in December and again this past weekend.  It’s very rich and a little goes a long way!  The funny thing is, last time I made it, I may have commented to the husband that if he ate too much, it could be diabetes-inducing. Let me be clear: I wasn’t saying it to be flip. It just kinda popped out of my mouth as a comment to another adult who knows what diabetes is but the kids overheard. Ever have that happen? So me and the kids ended up having a serious discussion about what diabetes is and the dangers of it. I didn’t want them to think sugar = diabetes.  But it kinda stuck in my son’s head and he told his friends at lunch that you can only eat a tiny bit of this cake or it could give you diabetes *face palm*.  No one in their secret lunch sharing group (more on this another time) wanted even a bite after that.  I don’t know if that’s a win or lose for son – he doesn’t have to share his chocolate cake but now his friends may wonder why I keep making this cake!  So if you do make this, make sure you share with others and eat in moderation.  It’s dense and decadent – a once in a while treat, not an everyday chocolate cake!

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake

recipe from Serious Eats


  • Cocoa to dust pan and over top of cake
  • 14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa. Set pan on baking sheet.

  2. Place butter, chocolate, and salt in very large heatproof bowl. Heat over saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

  3. In mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until whites have turned opaque. While whites are beating, slowly add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat to stiff but not dry peak. Transfer beaten whites to a bowl.

  4. Using same unwashed mixing bowl and whip, beat yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light lemon color, 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Gently whisk yolks into chocolate mixture until combined (trying not to deflate yolks). Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in three batches, until just combined and no streaks of white remain.

  6. Pour batter into pan and bake until cake is puffed, edges feel set, center is jiggly set, and temperature in center reads 150°F, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool 1 hour. Chill until set, about 3 hours. Run knife along inside edge of pan to release cake. Let cake come to almost room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes.