Pico de Gallo Salsa

Picco de Galo

 

Pico de Gallo is an authentic Mexican salsa made with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro.  This is my favorite salsa recipe.  It has a bit of a kick to it.  If it is too spicy for you, just decrease the amount of jalapeno used in the recipe.  Serve with tortilla chips, on a taco, along side grilled chicken breast, or add 1/4 cup to one mashed avocado to make a quick guacamole.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients, let flavors sit for 1 hour before serving.

Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta

pesto pasta salad

 

Basil pesto chicken pasta is the perfect weeknight summer dinner. Fresh basil pesto combined with cherry tomatoes,mozzarella, chicken, arugula, and short cut pasta; this couldn’t be easier to prepare.

In this recipe, I used my simple homemade basil pesto and a store bought rotisserie chicken.  If you have a little extra to prepare, roast two chicken breasts instead of using the rotisserie chicken.  On the other hand, if you only have a couple of minutes to whip up dinner, you can use your favorite store bought pesto. Just wake up the flavors by adding 1-2 tbsp lemon juice.

This dish is perfect served at room temperature or chilled.  It’s also a lovely entree for a picnic!

Ingredients: 

  • 14.5 oz short cut pasta
  • 1 cup basil pesto, see recipe below
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz container of Ciliegine mozzarella aka “small cherry” mozzarella
  • 2 chicken breasts from a whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded
  • 2 cups arugula
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.  Drain pasta and reserve.

Combine pesto and reserved pasta water in serving bowl.  This will thin the pesto, making it easier to coat pasta. Add cooked pasta and toss to combine.

Add the remaining ingredients. Toss and serve.

Basil Pesto Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2  cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor. Add 2 tbsp olive oil. Pulse 2-3 times until a rough paste forms.  Repeat with more oil, adding 1 tbsp at a time pulsing until smooth.  Add parmesan cheese and pulse to combine.

Greek Quinoa Salad

Greek Quinoa

 

Quinoa is an ancient seed from South America. When cooked, it takes on a mild nutty flavor.  Although it is technically not a grain, it cooks similarly and can be substituted in many recipes if you’re looking for a healthier alternative.  Quinoa is rich in protein, potassium, iron, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

When cooked, the seed expands 4 times it’s size. Thus, 1 cup of dry quinoa yields 4 cups cooked.  The usual recommendation is to soak and rinse quinoa before beginning the cooking process. However, many brands are now pre rinsing their quinoa, which is such a time saver.  Quinoa preparation is very easy. Combine 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.  You can also refer to package cooking instructions as a guide.

In this recipe, I combined cooked and cooled quinoa with crisp vegetables, feta cheese, and herbs. This results in a delicious combination of Mediterranean flavors.  I am a sucker for cold and refreshing salads, especially during the hot summer months.  I add feta cheese and a yummy herb lemon vinaigrette to this dish, making it one of my go-to’s.  This recipe is incredibly easy to whip up and a true crowd pleaser!  Make it at your next BBQ or prepare on a Sunday to eat throughout the week for lunch. The flavors are even better the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of cooked and cooled quinoa (1 cup of dry quinoa)
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Herb Lemon Vinaigrette  (recipe below)

Directions:

Combine cooked and cooled quinoa with the next 7 ingredients, through parsley.  Toss with herb lemon vinaigrette and add crumbled feta.  Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Herb Lemon Vinaigrette Recipe: Combine the juice of 2 small lemons, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp fresh chopped dill, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Individual Spaghetti Squash Lasagnas

spaghettisquashlasagna

 

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna is the perfect example of healthy comfort food.  Cheesy and saucy, yet mostly squash. Spaghetti squash is a winter squash.  When roasted, spaghetti squash separates into thin strands similar to spaghetti noodles.  When I am craving baked pasta, but I want to be healthy, this is what I turn to.  Trust me.  Once you try it, you will be hooked.

This recipe serves two, but it can easily be doubled or quadrupled to serve a larger crowd.  These individual casseroles are perfectly portion controlled. They’re great to prepare on a weeknight, yet elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.  Combine with a nice salad and crusty bread, and the result is a wonderful and comforting meal.  If you would like to add a layer of Italian sausage, who’s stopping you?  Get creative! This recipe is easily adaptable.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (4 cups of prepared squash)
  • 1 cup marinara (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 cup part skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, torn
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • a pinch cracked red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. (Hint: I like to use an ice cream scooper.) Place squash on a baking sheet cut side up and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375° for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Using a fork, scrape out the flesh of the squash.  It will separate into spaghetti like strands.  Reserve squash.

Combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, parsley, and spices.

In 2 individual oven safe baking dishes, ladle 1/4 cup marinara sauce as the bottom layer. Next, add 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash, 1/8 cup ricotta mixture, and 1/4 cup mozzarella.  Repeat, ending with mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover and cook an additional 5 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.

Top with additional parmesan cheese and fresh torn basil.

Enjoy!

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