Vietnamese Chicken Ragu

vietnamese chicken ragu
Although nothing about Vietnamese Chicken Ragu screams Vietnamese, it remains one of our most beloved dishes. Clearly, it is a culinary delight left behind by the French from the old colonial days. Perfect on a cold winter’s day, or any day for that matter, this stew-like dish is traditionally eaten with freshly baked, crusty French bread. I simply love dipping the bread into the savory broth!

After years of watching my mother and grandmother make this dish, I have perfected the recipe by combining their techniques with a few of my own :-). I prefer to use a combination of chicken drumsticks and thighs because they are my favorite; however, you could use any combination of chicken parts you prefer. I hope you give this recipe a try soon!

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Quick and Easy Orecchiette with Chickpeas

orecchiette with chickpeas and olives
Nothing is easier or more convenient than making a one-pan dish for dinner! I found this recipe last year in a Martha Stewart Living Magazine. By changing a few ingredients to my personal liking, I made a delicious and easy pasta dish that was ready in 30 minutes. Best of all, I only had one pan to clean afterwards!

I love this pasta dish because it’s light, healthy and bright with the fresh arugula and lemon zest. The chickpeas add a nice nutty flavor and give you that protein boost to keep you full longer. Although this is a vegetarian dish, you could always add your favorite meat, such as Italian sausage or ground beef. Sliced mushrooms also add a great umami flavor to the dish! The original recipe includes olives which would give a salty flavor; however, I chose to omit them because I’m not a huge fan of olives.

Be sure to give this recipe a try for your next lunch or dinner! Continue reading

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

baked ziti
Who doesn’t love baked ziti? Pasta, fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese bubbling on top…yum! I found this amazing recipe on the Food Network and made a few tweaks of my own. What I love about this dish is that it’s perfect for a large group because everything is baked in one dish AND you can prepare it ahead of time. I recently made this for a dinner party and the ability to prepare ahead of time was a definite plus. I made the sauce the day beforehand and stored in the refrigerator. I boiled the pasta and mixed with the sauce and cheese a few hours before serving.  Then transferred everything to a baking dish and covered with foil. All I had to do was pop the dish into the oven 30 minutes before serving. I ended up having more time to mingle with my guests and have a few cocktails myself. 😉 Continue reading

Cá Nướng Cuốn (Vietnamese Roasted Fish Rolls)

Those who are familiar with Vietnamese cuisine understand that it’s all about freshness and different flavors coming together perfectly. Cá nướng cuốn is no exception to the rule. Cá nướng means ‘fish grilled or roasted’ and cuốn means ‘roll.’ Using a fish, such as Bluefish, that has a lot of flavorful, white meat with a minimal amount of bones is very important; however, what makes this dish so fresh and bursting with flavor is the combination of herbs and vegetables in the roll. Fresh mint, Thai basil, cilantro, lettuce and cucumber are the usual suspects in any Vietnamese roll. The fish sauce, though, takes everything to a whole new level!20140408_175524

Vietnamese people love to socialize and have a good time over a meal. Hence, dishes like this are typically eaten for lunch or dinner in a group setting. Growing up, I watched my grandma, mom, aunts and uncles make this dish many times for our family gatherings. Using their original recipe, I made a few adjustments based on available ingredients and my own preference. I hope you enjoy this dish with your loved ones too :).  Continue reading

Squash ‘Carbonara’ with Pancetta and Sage

squash carbonara

I absolutely love this recipe from bonappetit. What a healthy, delicious and clever twist on a classic pasta dish! This ‘carbonara’ recipe is much lower in calories and fat than the traditional recipe because it does not have any heavy cream, eggs or butter. But don’t fret – it does not lack in flavor either! The sauce has a natural creaminess from using pureed butternut squash – so clever, right?! Obviously, nothing can ever replace the taste of heavy cream and butter, but this squash substitute will certainly satisfy your taste buds. I made this dish for Michael, a carbonara connoisseur ;-), and he loved it. The crispy pancetta and light sprinkle of Parmesan go a longgggg way! Continue reading

Quick and Easy Lentil Soup

Lentils, a tiny little member of the legume family, but a mighty source of fiber, minerals and vitamins. All at virtually zero fat and calories! These little guys fill you up and keep you full so you don’t go searching in your kitchen for a snack a few hours later (we can all admit to doing this after having a ‘light’ salad for dinner). Sure, lentils aren’t the prettiest to look at, but with just a few spices and ingredients they are extremely satisfying and delicious.

I’ve played around with a few different recipes for lentil soup, but this is my favorite version. It’s simple, quick and easy. What I love most about this recipe is that you can just throw all the ingredients into one pot and let it simmer. In less than an hour, you have a hearty and delicious soup for dinner. It’s perfect for any cold day this winter! (Have leftovers? No worries. It freezes very well!)  Continue reading

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

I was so excited to try this recipe from Martha Stewart Living because it’s such a fun and convenient way to combine protein and veggies in one dish! You don’t even need to make any side dishes with this sausage stuffed zucchini because it’s surprisingly satisfying. There are so many wonderful flavors already mixed into the Italian sausage. Plus, the fresh lemon zest and juice add such a nice brightness to the dish.

I’ve already made this dish several times because Michael loves it so much. I used sweet Italian sausage the first time, spicy Italian sausage the second time, and a mixture of the two the third time. If you can handle a little spiciness, I would definitely recommend mixing the sweet and spicy. I find it to be the perfect balance of flavors. (If you’re planning to serve this dish to kids, definitely stick with just sweet Italian sausage!)

Be sure to give this sausage stuffed zucchini a try the next time you make dinner! This recipe yields about 4 portions if served with side dishes and 2 portions if served without.

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Easy Rigatoni Bolognese

rigatoni bolognese
Nothings says comfort food better than a big bowl of pasta bolognese topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Sure, you can go to your local Italian restaurant and order this dish, but who knows what quality of ingredients are used? Or how much oil or calories are in the dish? We all want a delicious, homemade meal where we can control the quality of ingredients and fat content, but not everyone has hours before dinnertime to simmer a pot of this meat sauce. That’s why I came up with this quick and healthy recipe that takes no time to prepare. You’ll have all the delicious flavors of a bolognese sauce in 45 minutes!

This is my take on the classic – I hope you enjoy! :) Continue reading

Penne with Steak and Spinach

penne with steak and spinach
This is my new favorite pasta dish! Not only is it quick and easy to make, but the flavors of the steak and dressing are so good! It’s also a great dish to make for dinner parties or larger groups because it can be served hot, warm or at room temperature. You also get your protein, carbs and veggies all in one convenient dish. It doesn’t get better than that!

I stumbled upon this recipe one day while watching Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network. Giada used arugula in her recipe, but I used spinach because the store was out of arugula the day I went shopping. I think either one works very well with the dish. Arugula adds a nice spicy flavor while spinach is much milder. You can choose either one based on your own preference.   Continue reading

Asian Baked Salmon

asian baked salmon

Salmon has become a staple in my kitchen these days. Not quite like chicken, but getting there! I try to incorporate more wild fish into our diet and wild salmon is the most readily available in my grocery store. I usually buy wild sockeye salmon because it’s very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Since our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids, it’s important that we eat food containing it. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health by lowering triglycerides which is essentially the fat in our blood.

I never fry fish in my apartment because it takes days to air out the fishy smell. Plus, it often leaves my stove very messy from the oil splattering everywhere. I love this salmon recipe because it works well in your oven, which means easier cleanup and no fishy smell in your house! I also love the soy sauce in the recipe because it adds such a nice Asian flavor to the dish. Serve with a side of rice and veggies and you’ll have a delicious healthy dinner in no time!   Continue reading