Friday, December 17, 2010


If you're looking for a satisfying meal that involves very little cooking, quick preparation from healthy pre-packaged foods, and looks oh-so-impressive when it's sitting in front of you- then you've just found it! My rice noodle bowls are so simple to put together and all the different flavors tasted together just explode in your mouth! It's spicy, sweet, salty, smooth, warm, crisp, and fresh all in one delicious bowl. So if you're feeling a little 'exotic' tonight, whip up some noodle bowls and you'll be a fan for life!

7-8 oz. rice noodles (Thai style, such as Annie Chun's)
1 small onion, small diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced or finely grated (on a microplane)
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1/3-1/2 English cucumber, cubed into 1/4" pieces (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks size
15 oz. can bean sprouts
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fish sauce
3 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. hot sauce (such as Sriracha)
4 cups chicken broth, warmed
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)
canola or vegetable oil

-cook noodles according to instruction on the package, set aside
-in a large skillet or wok, warm 1 tbs. oil over medium-low heat
-add onion, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes until onions start to soften
-add carrots, chicken, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, and hot sauce
-stir and cook until warm through and combined
-divide the noodles evenly into 4 large soup bowls
-divide evenly the cabbage, bean sprouts, cucumber, and chicken mixture into the 4 bowls
-pour 1 cup warm broth in each bowl
-sprinkle with copped cilantro and peanuts
-serve with a lime wedge and chopsticks, and enjoy!

I came up with this dish when we had a fridge full of Chinese leftovers (lettuce wraps) and I was looking to change up the taste and texture of the food. It went from cool, crisp, and spicy to warm and comforting, and quickly became a favorite!

-SAVE TIME! Use prepackaged shredded cabbage and carrots and a store bought rotisserie chicken.
-You can skip the fish sauce if you can't find it, don't have it, or don't want to use it. But- I recommend trying it. It has a deliciously mild flavor!
-No fresh ginger? Add a pinch of dried ginger instead.
-Don't like cabbage? Try this dish with chopped ice burg or romain lettuce.
-No cilantro? Chop up some mint and/or basil or you can use a combination of all 3 too!
-Try the dish with shrimp, beef, or pork!
-Can't find rice noodles? Use whole wheat angel hair pasta, or soba noodles.
-You can certainly leave out any ingredient you aren't fond of, and it will still taste delicious!
-Make this dish vegetarian: leave out the meat and add in some more veggies such as sliced bell peppers, cubed zucchini, and snow peas.
-You don't have to use chopsticks, but it makes eating the meal more of an experience!
-Like it spicy? Add on as much hot sauce as you'd like- but be careful! It is HOT!
-Most larger grocery stores have great international sections where you can find such ingredients as the rice noodles, fish sauce, bean sprouts, rice vinegar, and thai hot sauce. No need to go to specialty stores anymore!
-Cook and chop all these ingredients up to a day ahead, and assemble the dish when you are ready to eat!

-If you use rice noodles, this is a naturally gluten free meal! (Make sure to check the packaging of the noodles, just in case!)
-This meal is called many things: Vietnamese Noodle Bowl, Bun, Pho, Asian Noodle Bowl, Thai Noodle Bowl- they are all just about the same tasty dish with a few ingredient variations.
-If you've never used fresh ginger before, take off the brown outer skin with a vegetable peeler or a knife, cut off the 1" 'knob' and grate/mince the bright yellow ginger. With your leftover ginger, tightly double-wrap it in plastic, and keep it in the freezer. It will keep fresh for months this way!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Start the fiesta with course of my chicken tortilla soup! This dish is just about as easy to make as it is to open a can (or two!). Chicken and black beans provide plenty of protein to the dish, and the tomato paste and cheddar make this soup rich and creamy. Make this soup-gluten free, dairy-free, spicy, or mild- this soup is easily adaptable to any one's needs!

1 small yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz. can of black beans, drained
4 oz. can of green chilies
1/2 cup corn (frozen, fresh, or canned)
1 chicken breast, shredded
3 cups chicken broth
8 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for serving)
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 flour tortillas
canola or vegetable oil
sliced avocado (optional)
sour cream (optional)

-in a large pot, warm 1 tbs. canola oil over medium-low heat
-add onion and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-pour drained black beans into the pot, mash with a potato masher so beans become creamy
-add broth, tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin, stir until combined
-add chicken breast, corn, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and green chilies, stir until combined
-let soup cook until warmed through, adding salt and pepper to taste
-slice tortillas into thin strips about 2"-3" long
-in a large skillet, warm 1 tbs. canola oil over medium heat
-stir tortilla strips into oil
-let cook for about 5 minutes until strips start to brown and crisp, stirring occasionally
-pour soup into individual bowls, place a handful of crisp tortilla strips in each soup bowl
-serve with sliced avocados, sour cream, and extra cheddar cheese, enjoy!

serves 4

I first fell in love with tortilla soup at Max & Erma's... I love their creamy, cheesy take on this dish!

-Leave out the chicken if you want the dish vegetarian.
-Try the dish with a can of refried beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans instead of black beans.
-Want your soup to be extra creamy? Instead of the tomato paste, stir in a can of cream of cheddar soup!
-Throw in a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite salsa to help flavor the soup! Or, if you don't have tomato paste on hand, you can use salsa instead too.
-Make it spicy but adding in some diced jalapenos, use hot green chilies instead of mild, add a few shakes of cayenne or hot sauce, or add in a couple spoon fulls of spicy salsa.
-I like my soups thick; but if you prefer yours a little bit thinner, add more broth to the dish (about 1 extra cup should be enough).
-Slim this soup down by leaving out the cheese and the tortilla strips; it's still just as tasty!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


These tasty little pasta shells are the perfect carrier for cheese and vegetables. Creamy ricotta pairs up with roasted veggies to make this dish not only delicious, but healthy! My vegetarian stuffed shells are great for large family meals or dividing up into smaller serving dishes and freezing for later. This versatile dish shows you how to go 'vegetarian' tonight and I promise, you won't miss the meat!

1 box of jumbo pasta shells (you'll need about 30 shells, or a 10 oz. box)
1 medium sized eggplant
1 medium sized zucchini
1 small yellow onion (1/2-3/4 cup), small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large mushroom caps (such as crimini or button mushrooms), halved and sliced thin
1-2 handfuls fresh spinach
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbs. prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2-3 cups marinara sauce (jarred or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil

-boil and prepare pasta shells according to directions
-peel eggplant, and cut it and the zucchini into 1/2" cubes
-place eggplant and zucchini on a large baking sheet
-drizzle about 2 tbs. olive oil on top of eggplant and zucchini, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and toss to coat
-cook vegetables in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes
-meanwhile, in a medium sized skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium-low heat
-add garlic, onion, and mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes until onion starts to turn transparent
-stir in the spinach and let it wilt in the warm mixture
-in a large mixing bowl, stir in beaten egg to the ricotta cheese
-add vegetables, onion mixture, pesto, parmesan cheese, and a pinch of nutmeg
-fill each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon of ricotta filling and place in a greased 13x9 casserole dish
-cover with marinara sauce and top with mozzarella cheese
-cook in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is hot and bubbly
-serve and enjoy!

[shells before they are 'sauced']

[shells after they are 'sauced' and baked]

serves approximately 4-6

These shells are a version of a creamy pesto vegetarian lasagna served at Vaccarro's Trattoria off of Ghent Road in Akron, Ohio.

-You can leave the egg out if you can't eat eggs!
-Add some meat to it such as: shredded chicken, crumbled sausage, or ground beef or pork.
-No time to cook and stuff the shells? Make this dish into a lasagna! Layer no-boil lasagna noodles with the ricotta filling and marinara sauce. Cook as directed on the noodle box.
-Put the shells into 2 8x10 casserole dishes, eat one now, and freeze one for later! Cover the dish you freeze with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Cook frozen shells at 350 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, until hot and bubbly.
-Need it milk free? If you can't find diary-free ricotta, try blending up some dairy-free cottage cheese in a blender or food processor. If the mixture is too thick, add a few splashes of chicken broth or water. Leave out out the additional cheeses, or use dairy-free cheese substitutes!
-No pesto? Chop up several fresh basil leaves or add in 1/2 tsp. dried basil or Italian herbs.
-Make it your own recipe: leave out the eggplant, add yellow squash, put in some more mushrooms...etc. Make it how YOU like it!
-Make it for a crowd! Double the recipe! Make ahead and keep in the fridge (for up to 24 hours) or freezer, and let it cook while you enjoy your company.