Category: Lunch

Summer Panzanella Salad

So I grew up in northern california, which most of you know, and let me just say it gets blazing hot in the summer.  When it gets to be over 100 degrees multiple days in a row there is not many types of food your body will willingly consume besides heavily iced drinks.  Well, salad happens to be one of them.  I’ve described the nostalgia of salads like my chinese chicken salad recipe in a previous post, but there really is nothing that makes it feel like summer to be than actually craving a salad multiple days in a row due to the overwhelming heat.

I’m going to be quite honest with all of you, I have absolutely zero idea where I got the idea of making a panzanella salad.  Seriously, sometimes people ask how I decide what to make and in all seriousness I think some it I think up in dreams.  So after deciding I wanted to make a panzanella salad, which for the record is a salad with fresh vegetables and big cubes of toasted bread…no leaves, I began scouring my favorite food blogs and of course pinterest to find a good recipe to follow.  Well after my thorough research I came to the conclusion that there really is no recipe for a panzanella salad, ok there obviously is if I found it on food blogs and such but what I mean by that is, you just throw whatever fresh vegetables you want together with some bread and voila!

*Sidenote*: I discovered squash blossoms about a year ago and love adding them to salads.  I also have a         fantastic post to come for goat cheese stuffed, fried squash blossoms…but thats for later.  The whole blossom is edible and I also added the mini zucchini that you see at the end of the blossom in the picture to this salad.  I have never seen the blossom in a market (maybe a specialty market) but they are reliably at the farmers market until mid august.

This salad, being so easy and more ‘hearty’ with the chunks of bread is a recipe you must make this summer. Whether you make it as a main course of a side salad is up to you but with a salad so fresh and light but also filling, youll start dreaming about it too.  And if by some change I havn’t convinced you….just look at the pictures.

Summer Panzanella Salad 


  • 3 c diced baguette or rustic loaf
  • 15 mini yellow squash  cut in half
  • 15 mini zucchini (see picture of squash blossom above) sliced lengthwise
  • 15 squash blossoms (from the mini zucchini) chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (you can substitute cherry tomatoes too)
  • 1/2 shallot sliced thin
  • 1-2 tbl capers
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon mustard vinaigrette 


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place cubed bread on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven to toast, about 20 min.  Rotate halfway to make sure the bread is toasted evenly.  Remove from oven when toasted, set aside.
  3. In 1 tbl olive oil saute the mini zucchini and mini yellow squash until just under fork tender, about 10 min. Remove and set in large bowl to cool.
  4. Chop the tomatoes into chunks or slice the cherry tomatoes in half if you are substituting.  Add the the cooled squash.
  5. Slice the shallot thin and add to the large bowl.
  6. Add the capers to the bowl.
  7. Mix up the vinaigrette and add to the large bowl, toss to coat.
  8. When you are ready to serve, mix in the toasted bread and toss again to coat the bread in the vinaigrette.  Top with chopped squash blossoms and enjoy!

{I got both of these mini squash at the farmers market but I have seen the mini zucchini alone and the mini yellow squash at the supermarket}

{Slightly blurry saute action}

{The finished plate!}


Salmon with Panko Crust and Salmon Burger with Pickled Veggies

I know I probably mention this every time I post about a seafood recipe I made, but I cannot believe I used to dislike fish.  I mean, its understandable..the fishy smell can be quite off putting, especially for younger children who seemed to be pre-programmed to dislike anything green or that smells different than chicken…which has no smell.   Regardless, sushi was my turning point and after I became ok with seaweed the rest of my fish eating habits is history.

A couple years ago I had a roommate who also enjoyed cooking and she would make a similar panko crusted salmon which is where I got the idea.  Let’s face it, anything beautifully coated in a crunchy golden panko with a little butter and even garlic is quite irresistible, not to mention extremely easy to make.  If I was feeding more than just myself I would get the salmon filets from costco where you can get a good amount of bang for your buck as they say.  But my alternative is the frozen fish from Trader Joes.  Usually they come in freezer sealed packs of two or three filets and you can get salmon, tilapia, marinated ahi and other things but that’s usually what I get there.  Just think about how many you are feeding and choose a package with a weight accordingly (obviously the lighter the cutlets the cheaper it is).  You can keep it in your freezer for a week or two even before cooking it, which is always appealing when you get too many fresh vegetables that will go bad quicker.

When I made the panko crusted salmon I made both the pieces but knew I would only eat one.  So for a leftover meal I came up with the idea of making a salmon burger! The finished product resembled more of a crab cake-like patty but was absolutely delicious.  I even soaked sliced cucumbers and carrots in some rice vinegar for a couple hours before I made the burger and topped the patty with those along with a quick sriracha mayo…but honestly sriracha has been going on most things in this apartment lately.

HERE is a good recipe for panko crusted salmon.  And below is how I made the leftover into a salmon burger.

** I also made goat cheese and pesto smashed red potatoes. To make those boil the potato until fork tender, cut in half, smash with a potato masher and top with pesto and goat cheese then bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets slightly brown.

Salmon Burger with Picked Vegetables


  • 1 filet of cooked panko crusted salmon
  • 4 tbl light mayo
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 3 tbl panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1/2 tbl capers
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Whole wheat bun
  • 1/2 cucumber sliced lengthwise
  • 1 whole large carrot sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 c rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl sugar


  1. A couple hours before eating or a day ahead combine the sliced carrot, cucumber, rice vinegar and sugar in a container, shake to mix and let sit in the fridge to marinate.
  2. In a food processer or by hand in a bowl combine the cooked salmon, 3 tbl mayo, egg, breadcrumbs, red chile flakes, capers and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly, you should be able to form a patty with the mixture.  If it is not holding together add more mayo.
  3. Heat 2 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat.  When hot add the pre-formed salmon patty.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 3 min each.
  4. While the patty is cooking, combine 1 tbl mayo with 1/2-1 tbl sriracha depending on your spice tolerance.
  5. At this point you can also toast the buns if you wish either in a toaster or in a preheated oven.
  6. When the patty is seared on each side (remember, the salmon is already cooked so you are just looking for a good golden brown crust, you don’t want to overcook it) remove from heat.
  7. Smear some sriracha mayo on bottom and top hamburger bun and place the salmon patty on the bottom bun.
  8. Top with the rice vinegar marinated vegetables and place top bun on, ENJOY!

*feel free to adjust the burger toppings to your liking.

{This is how I sliced the veggies, feel free to slice differently}

{The Finished Plate!}

{This is a jump in the directions but I didn’t get any in between pics}

{Pesto Smashed Potatoes}

{Leftover Salmon Patty Makings}

{The Finished Burger}

Creamy Spring Pasta with Paprika Shrimp

Nothing makes me more giddy than going out to check the mail and seeing a brand spankin’ new ‘Cooking Light’ magazine.  Some buy People magazine regularly, others have shelves and shelves full of National Geographic magazines…I have years worth of Cooking Light magazines built up.  At some point, I know it will be the smart thing to throw out some older ones or simply stop subscribing.  But it is such a joy to spend an afternoon flipping through the different recipes and planning new dinner menus.   I also just have a great love for this particular food magazine.  The recipes are always delicious but at the same time always on the lighter side (nutritionally).  They have a way of transforming recipes that everyone wants to eat into healthier versions so beautifully.  So if you’re thinking of picking up a food magazine, my recommendation is definitely Cooking Light.  Food Network mag is also good but not on the healthier side, and Bon Appetit is a little on the swankier side (aka not as versatile and easy to make all the recipes).    So there is my low down on various publications that are oh so important to everyones well being, but I know there are a few out there that feel the same way about food magazines, or even a different type…at least you understand my reaction to seeing the mag in the mailbox.

On another note, a lot of people ask me if I follow recipes or if I make them up as I go.  Well, it’s a little of both.  Most of the time I will see a recipe and either figure out how I can follow the basic premise of it but alter it to my delight (or based on what I have around).  Other times, I know I should follow it word for word.  But to be honest the ability to change it up is why I love cooking so much, as opposed to baking.  This post is one of those moments where I altered…most of it.  But when I saw a healthier version of a creamy pasta I knew I had to try it.  And because Cooking Light is so great about keeping the delicious taste of recipes while substituting lighter ingredients, you don’t have to worry about this cream sauce not living up to your favorite alfredo.

THIS is the recipe that I followed to make the cream sauce.  And the following are the ways I altered it based on what I had around.

1. I eliminated the asparagus and green peas.

2. I forgot to add the breadcrumbs, but wish I had.  So make sure to include those if you want.

3.  I toped the pasta with shrimp sauteed in 1 tbl olive oil until cooked through with 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp ground black pepper.

4. I substituted shells for fettuccine because that’s what I had around.

{Cooking Light love}

{1/3 less fat cream cheese is the perfect way to get a creamy sauce while keeping it healthy}

{Finished plate, garnished with capers and fresh parsley}

** I trust that you know how to boil pasta so I eliminated that instruction

Breaded Eggplant and Polenta Parmesan

Everyone should have a go to meal that does not take a lot of work to make but is reliable every single time.  Usually it doesn’t include fresh produce, I like to keep certain things stocked that I know I can make when I run out of fresh produce but haven’t gone to the grocery store.  For some its frozen meals, for others is mac n cheese, for me its sliced polenta.  About a year ago I discovered this polenta at Trader Joes and have been buying it ever since.  Slice it up, pop it into the oven and throw some marinara over it and thats a meal!

Now eggplant can be a tricky beast, its weird looking and has a weird looking inside too.  The first couple times I used eggplant I didn’t cook it long enough and was thoroughly disappointed.  However, now I have come to learn the best ways to cook eggplant, and sliced, breaded and pan fried is by far the best method.  The trick though, is to crisp it up in a pan with a little olive oil but then after its golden brown on both sides, you put it into the oven to finish cooking.  If you tried to keep it on the stove until it was cooked the breadcrumbs would be a charred mess.  The same goes for breaded chicken, if the chicken is really thick it takes much longer to cook through than to nicely brown the outside.

Breaded Eggplant 

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 eggplant, sliced evenly
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • about 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Set up a breading station.  Place the flour on a plate with salt and pepper, then place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, then finally the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish (pie dishes work great for this)
  2. Take the sliced eggplant and for each slice, coat each side in flour first and shake off any excess, then dip into the egg and let the excess run off, then place in the breadcrumbs and lightly press the breadcrumbs onto each side of the eggplant slice and shake off any excess.  Place to the side and continue with the rest of the slices
  3. If you need more flour or breadcrumbs simply add more and continue.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  5. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, when hot add 2-3 eggplant slices depending on the size of the pan, when the first side is starting to brown, flip and brown the other side. About 5 min on each side.
  6. Continue browning the rest of the slices.  When done, place them all on a baking sheet and place in oven to continue cooking for about 30 min.  (the eggplant should be fork tender and easy to slice with the side of a fork)

Crispy Polenta


  • 1 tube polenta
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbl olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice the polenta evenly
  3. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, brush with olive oil.
  4. Bake for about 15 min, flip the slices and continue baking for another 15-20 min or until the outside is firm.

* Feel free to eat the polenta plain, with marinara, with pesto, with eggplant etc.

{Breading Station}

{After oven time}

{Sliced polenta tube}

{Finished plate, with a side of balsamic green beans}

Roasted Chicken with Shredded Brussel Sprouts

Ok, lets get a few things straight…apparently I suck at consistently posting on here. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy writing and posting my pictures (as most of you on facebook/ Instagram know).  But for some reason it takes more for me to sit down and relay the recipe to you guys.  At any rate, as I take a break from the inexplicable clutches of the Hunger Games series and with a little more time on my hands now, I have decided to catch up on all the posts I have been meaning to write about.  Starting with a simple roast chicken recipe.

I know I have written about roast chicken before, particularly rotisserie chicken and the wonders of how easy and delicious it can be to simply pick up a pre-roasted chicken from the store to slice up for dinner.  But to reiterate the ease of it all I thought I would post this variation, along with my tricks of brussel sprouts.

I’d say every about 4 months I get the urge to roast a whole chicken, not that it takes effort or anything but there is some planning involved, like knowing you can roast it the day you buy it, not really having any other leftovers waiting in the fridge, because for one person a whole chicken lasts me about a week of leftovers, etc.  But this instance in particular I was SO excited to test out my new meat thermometer, yup I said it.  I broke down (with the help of a Target gift card) and bought one that has a metal prod connected to a digital reader on the outside of the oven.  I probably should have read the directions before using it but I was just too anxious, it worked just great but I did end up needing to cook the chicken a little longer for it to be completely done after the thermometer registered the correct temp.  Regardless, it was very exciting to use it and of course a delicious chicken in the end (as you’ll see below).  And with the leftovers here are some ways I use the chicken up:

  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Added to salads
  • Simply re-heated (usually for the legs)
  • Sliced to make rotisserie chicken sandwiches with a little balsamic drizzle

Ok, on to the dreaded topic of brussel sprouts, although I feel like I should stop phrasing it that way since brussel sprouts seem to be much more common now, so hot right now. I have done the typical procedure of halving the sprouts and roasting them that way but I have come to much prefer shredding them and sautéing them.  They are a little easier to eat and resemble more of a cabbage, which is just more approachable overall. So here goes, ENJOY!

Roasted Chicken 


  • Whole roasted chicken (base size on how many you are trying to feed)
  • 1 tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl chopped garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon (half left whole, the other juiced)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Remove any giblets or anything left as a present to you in the cavity of the chicken
  3. Rinse chicken and pat dry, this will help the skin brown better
  4. In a small prep bowl mix the rest of the ingredients (up to the lemon) together until a buttery paste forms
  5. Lather the chicken with the seasoning mixture outside as well as under the skin. You can usually pry the skin away from the body around the bottom with the breast side up. This will also help the skin crisp up and season the actual meat
  6. Place chicken in a roasting pan or oven safe dish
  7. Brush the lemon juice over the chicken, place the whole half in the cavity.
  8. Insert thermometer (if you have one) in the thick part of the thigh, avoiding bone (if you hit a bone the temp will be inaccurate)
  9. Bake for about 1.5-2 hours or until the temp registers 180 degrees.  Don’t fret if you cut it open and its not fully cooked, just place it back in the oven and check it every 20 min.
  10. When the chicken is done, let rest for 10 min before slicing into it so the juices soak back into the meat.

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts 

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • About 5 or 6 whole brussel sprouts
  • 1 tbl rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp celery seed (if you have it)
  • 1 tbl olive oil


  1. Shred the brussel sprouts with a knife (see picture below)
  2. Heat oil over medium heat
  3. Add the shaved brussel sprouts
  4. Constantly stir for about 2 min or until slightly wilted
  5. Add seasoning, continue stirring for another 3-4 min depending on desired crunchiness (less time will be crunchier, more will be wilty-er).
  6. Serve hot!

{Ugly uncooked chicken, but sweet new meat thermometer}

{Shaved Brussel Sprouts}

{The finished plate, with white rice}


Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

I have to admit something.  It’s pretty terrible and nearly unforgivable.  I hope you all learn from my mistakes… I almost forgot the site that I found this recipe on.  There you go, I just put it all out there for your judgement.  Ok, but really if you learn anything, let it me to write down where you find recipes, especially if they are as good as this one… and double especially if you blog about what you eat.

I made these when my mom was visiting recently really for no other reason than I wanted to make a lighter dinner and that my mom loves sauce.  Yea, it sounds weird I know.  She just loves different sauces over chicken or, in this case, over quinoa cakes.  I used THIS recipe for the quinoa [Keen-waa] cakes and they came out great!   Halfway through you will feel like everything is going to fail but true to the blog post I followed it reinforces your panic attack and then gives you great satisfaction when they turn out well.

You can pair these cakes with any vegetable really.  I decided to put them over mixed greens as more of an accompaniment to a dinner salad with a thin yogurt dressing (to appease the mom).  But they would be just as good by themselves served next to roasted vegetables or something similar.

I ended up having a lot of leftover quinoa sweet potato mix so the next couple nights I would top a bit of the mix with an egg and bake at 350 for about 20 min.

For the yogurt sauce this is what I came up with:


  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (if you use greek yogurt it will just be a thicker dressing/ dip)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1.5 tbl red wine vinegar


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk together.
  2. Adjust ingredients until it tastes like you want it  to (i.e more pepper, more vinegar, etc.)


{Quinoa in the raw}

{The quinoa sweet potato mix}

{The finished plate}

Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil Skillet Pizza

In case you haven’t noticed, I like pizza.  Looking through my past posts I’ve made various kinds of pizza (and many that I did not take pictures of), not to mention a breakfast pizza I made today that I intend to post about but after writing this post figure I should spread out my pizza posts.  So you can expect to see  that post in a week or two.  When I made this pizza in particular it was a day that I was craving pizza but did not want to go to the store to get pizza dough etc.  So I happened across the recipe from Deliciously Organic, and realized I had all of the ingredients in my fridge.  It was a done deal, pizza for dinner.  The only disappointing part was that I didn’t have any fresh basil, but I still included some dried basil for taste.  I’m sure it would have tasted a bit fresher but I’m pretty sure I finished half the pizza before even thinking about fresh basil.

I think the main reason I liked this pizza recipe is because the crust was thin and crispy but so flavorful!  There is a pizza place where I grew up that serves deep dish pizzas with this thin crispy crust that is just hard to explain but if you’ve had deep dish pizza you probably know what I am talking about.  Anyway, because of the beer in the crust (yes beer, see below if you are in awe), it just has this flavor that borders on beer but not too overpowering.  Just enough to stand up to a mozzarella and tomato pizza or BBQ.

The recipe makes 2 pizza crusts that create basically 2 individual pizzas.  But if you make a salad in addition you can easily split the pizza with another.  Or make it a pizza night and create different kinds of pizza depending on who is craving what.  Since I only made the one pizza the first night I had the second in the fridge and needed to use it the next day (believe me, it did not take too much persuading).  The second day I went with a BBQ pizza with BBQ sauce, garlic, mozzarella, and caramelized onions (I was too impatient to defrost and cook chicken to add to it). The pizza is easiest to flip if you are cooking it on a skillet or in a pan with no edges or low edges so you can get under the crust to flip it.   ENJOY!

Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Skillet Pizza 

{It helped to have all the toppings prepared before cooking the crust}

{Tomato Mozzarella variation}

{BBQ variation}