Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

The Sweet Taste of Success!


The following post, along with my previous three posts were written back in October/November but never posted. Here is the final outcome of my 21 day sugar detox!

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November 8, 2014

The past two weeks have gone by so fast and I am happy to report that both Hubs and I completed the 21DSD successfully (with not one “cheat” or “slip-up”!). Overall this has been a major game changer in our household. We both feel great, have a lot more energy and are really happy we did this.

As for me, specifically, I can say that I feel so much better and the best part is that I do not have those crazy cravings and I no longer get hungry every two hours (nor do I have that “I’m about to pass out if I don’t eat a damn candy bar in the next 30 seconds” feeling). After the initial first week my hunger evened out and I was able to go 4-6 hours between meals and only occasionally grabbed a snack…if I was hungry. After the 21 days I lost about 5 pounds, my skin improved and I was noticeably less bloated.

The end result is that I’ve discovered a love of real food. It is so good. Even before we finished the full 21 days Hubs and I decided to get rid of all of our processed food and continue to eat real food only. Of course, we are not going to eat completely without sugar, but we will not be eating anything with refined sugar…at least not very often; and we will try to limit our sugar intake. In addition to the sugar, we’ve decided to cut out bread, pasta, traditional and whole wheat flour, etc.. These are things I have learned my body does not tolerate well.  We’ve decided to continue to eat dairy (in limited amounts….the only thing different is that we switched to “full fat” dairy so that it is less processed and I try to buy local organic cheese and milk when I can. Occasional rice or quinoa is ok, and overall we are just trying to stick to meat, fruits and vegetables.

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

I am all for living this way most of the time, but I do feel that if we want a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream, then we should not deny ourselves. Through this experience I have found that I don’t really “crave” those things anymore and when we did indulge in some molten chocolate cake to celebrate our success it tasted too sweet and was not as satisfying as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it was freakin’ awesome! But a few bites were enough to make me happy…and then it was just too much sweetness.

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I know that by no means will I ever be perfect and eat a strict Paleo or clean diet. I won’t always shop at Whole Foods, buy organic or grass-fed. And I am ok with that! What matters the most to me is that most of the time I will do my best and try to avoid sugar and processed food and eat as close to the real thing as possible. If I do eat something I know is not the best I won’t let it get me down….those days of feeling guilty for not following a “DIET” to the letter are over. As a matter of fact I won’t feel guilty at all if I have a treat because I know that I am doing my best most of the time.

So my advice to those of you who may be a junk food junkie like me or stuck in the traditional ideas of “dieting” (i.e. low fat, fat free, processed ‘lean’ meals, whole wheat, etc.) would be to consider eating whole foods, listening to your body and finding what works right for you. Stop beating yourself up over that candy bar you ate yesterday and learn to just move on.

Eat to live and fuel your body. It’s that simple! You will love real food, trust me…

As far as completing the 21DSD, my body is definitely detoxed from sugar and I feel great. It was just the start I needed to living a better life. I would recommend this for anyone who is ready to change their ways and open to the facts about the harmful effects of sugar on the body. Do a little research, read some journals, read some blogs and choose what is right for you!

I leave you with one of my favorite recipes that I tried during the 21DSD. I love it not only because it tastes great, but because it is quick and easy! I recommend using fresh herbs (always) but I have made it both with fresh and dried and either way it tastes great! This makes a about 6-8 servings, which is more than enough for Hubs and me. However, I usually always make the full recipe because it makes great leftovers.

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Chicken and Artichoke Bake

Adapted from this recipe at Paleo Newbie.

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried basil (if using fresh add more)

8 oz. jarred artichokes, liquid drained

20-24 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half and cut the chicken breasts into cubes or bite size pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and basil.
  4. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, and chicken and stir to coat.
  5. Add mixture to a large glass baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve over rice or eat as is, you can’t go wrong!
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Happy Belated New Year!


I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far….and I hope you’re all sticking to your resolutions. I haven’t made resolutions this year, but rather have extended my goals from 2014 (all of which are going quite well!) and added a few new one’s here and there. One of my main goals is to get back to cooking and blogging! Grad school will be over in just four months so there are no more excuses. I’ve had some posts written but never got around to posting so you can look forward to those in the next few weeks. The end of 2014 was full of positive changes for Hubs and me. We are regularly exercising and eating clean. Most importantly we are feeling great, better than ever before. You can look forward to some delicious recipes made with real food.

small-steps

So to kick off the return of my blog here is a quick recipe to make zucchini & carrot noodles with red sauce. I use this product to make the noodles but there are all kinds of contraptions on  the market that you can pick up. You can also just use a julienne slicer if you don’t want to buy another kitchen gadget. If you can, I recommend using organic canned crushed tomatoes or make your own.

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Zucchini & Carrot ‘Noodles’ in Red Sauce

(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium carrot

1/4-1/2 small zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup organic canned crushed tomatoes

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the zucchini.
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne cutter make the carrots and zucchini into noodles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini & carrots and boil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them; you want them to be firm and overcooking will cause them to be mushy. Remove from water and set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Add sauce to the noodles and serve!

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Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad


Have I mentioned recently how hot it’s been?! Not that I am complaining…I LOVE when it is hot. I’ll take 90s/100s any day. However as much as I love it, the heat does take its toll on me including not wanting to cook anything major or eat anything heavy. I found this recipe for Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad in Cuisine at Home Magazine and knew it would be perfect for dinner on a hot summer night.  I make salad a lot for myself and occasionally for both Hubby and me, but sometimes grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce gets to be a little bit boring. This version with a pecan crusted chicken was a very nice change of pace. It was quick and easy to make and the dressing was delicious!

For the dressing, I highly recommend using “raw honey”. It is a little bit more pricey than regular honey, but it tastes so much better and is better for you. You can usually find it at specialty stores or in the “organic/natural” section of most large chain grocery stores. You will get the most health benefits from it if you can buy it local from a farm. The reason being is that raw honey has pollen in it and every region has different types of pollen. Eating local raw honey will help build up your immunity to these types of pollen. (For more information read this article). It also has a lot of other benefits, so check it out!  If you can’t find raw honey or just want to use the regular kind, that’s cool…but you are definitely missing out! 😉  This recipe makes 4 “entrée” size salads, but can easily be changed to make whatever size you like.

Hmmmm…seems like I have a lot to say about “salad” this week!!!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

(Recipe modified from “Cuisine at Home” Magazine)

Honey Mustard Dressing

¼ cup raw honey

3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. minced shallots

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Pecan Crusted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½” thick

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. cornstarch

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup panko-style bread crumbs

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

Salad

3 cups romaine lettuce (or mixed greens)

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or shredded

4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg, cornstarch and lemon juice in a shallow dish.
  3. In another shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper & lemon zest. Add the pecans, oregano, thyme, paprika,  and cayenne.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture then the breadcrumb mixture and place in the prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  6. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the honey, Dijon, olive oil, shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl for the dressing until blended.
  7. Toss the lettuce, onions, carrot and cheese in a large bowl. Divide salad among four plates.
  8. Slice the chicken and place on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle any toasted crumbs left in the baking dish on top of the salads.
  9. Serve with dressing on the side.
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Grilled Polenta


This is a really yummy, easy and unique side dish! It is one of those things you should serve for company because they’ll think you worked really hard to make it and you’ll definitely impress them. It will just be our little secret that it is so simple!! Don’t have a grill? The polenta can be pan fried as well (but I prefer the grilled version 😉 !) You can also try switching it up with different cheeses.

USA Pans Mini Loaf Pan

Also, I’d like to mention that I had recently purchased this mini loaf pan made by USA Pans at Bed Bath & Beyond. I wanted to make mini pound cakes and typically I buy Wilton pans, but they didn’t have the one I needed so I came across this one. It was a little on the pricey side and that shiney silver made me a little skeptical that it actually was good quality and non-stick. However, I really didn’t have a choice because I needed the pound cakes for that same evening. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this pan is. It is really durable and I have had no problems in regards to sticking…everything pops out with no problem (this may be one of the best non-stick pans I’ve ever used). Plus, it feels good to actually purchase something that is made in the U.S.A.!

Grilled Polenta (Makes 8 servings)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%)

1 cup instant polenta

1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2  tsp. pepper (or to taste)

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles

    1.  In a medium saucepan bring the milk and chicken stock to a boil.

    2. Reduce heat and add the polenta, pouring in a steady stream while whisking.

    3. Whisk continuously until thickened about 2-3 minutes.

    4. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, butter and cheese.

    5. Pour hot polenta into cake pan and allow to cool.

    6. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (can be made up to one day in advance).

    7. When ready to grill remove polenta from cake pan, if using a round pan cut into 8 slices.

    8. Brush each piece of polenta lighty with olive oil and place on a preheated grill for about 3 minutes per side until heated through.

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Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza


Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

For those of you who read my posts regularly, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I love to grill!  I will attempt to grill everything! One of my favorite things to make on the grill is pizza and bread. Grilled pizza has become quite popular over the last few years and with good reason…it tastes great! So here is a really quick and easy meal that everyone will love. Typically this is one of the meals I throw together when I have leftover chicken, but you can always cook your chicken right before making the pizza. If you’ve read how to make grilled pizza you may have been told to oil your dough, but that is actually not necessary. I usually always oil my grill grates because it does help prevent foods from sticking but it also keeps the grates in better condition, however this is also not necessary for pizza. Once the dough firms up it will come right off the grate with no problems. I never measure my ingredients for this so although I’ve included measurements for each ingredient in the recipe ultimately you can just put the toppings on to your own preference.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1 Pizza Dough (homemade or store bought is fine)

1 cup Barbecue Sauce

1 cup Mozzarella Cheese

1 cup Cheddar Cheese

2 slices of cooked bacon

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

 1/4 cup chopped red onions

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat.

  2. Divide dough into four and flatten using a rolling pin or your hands.

  3. Place each piece of dough on the grill for 3 minutes over direct heat.

  4. Remove the dough from the grill to add toppings. On the cooked side of the dough, place about 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce, 1 tbsp. onions, 2 tbsp. of shredded chicken over each piece of dough. Crumble the bacon over the pizzas and add the cheese (about 1/4 cup of Mozzarella & 1/4 cup of cheddar on each pizza).

  5. Return the dough to the grill uncooked side down and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes over direct heat. Then continue to cook the pizzas over indirect heat until the toppings are heated through and the cheese is melted.

  6. Cut into slices or squares and serve!

 

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Homemade Hamburger Helper….Slimmed Down!!


So who out there is going to own up and admit they like Hamburger Helper?

Ok, I’ll start…I like Hamburger Helper…ok, ok…I love Hamburger Helper!

I love Hamburger Helper and I am not ashamed to say it!!!

Now, doesn’t it feel good to come clean about these things? 😉

Hamburger Helper has been around for about 40 years now (According to Wikipedia it was first introduced in 1971). If you were lucky like me as a kid you got to eat it for dinner once in a while and you probably loved it. If you have kids now and you are cool enough to serve them Hamburger Helper they probably love it as well. Even in adulthood I’ve never tired of the ease of browning some ground beef and adding a few ingredients and coming out with a quick and tasty meal. Now when I say “tasty” I really mean salty and processed. As a child I never realized that this yummy food was any different than when my mom cooked a real meal, but as I got older this meal became a guilty pleasure knowing that it is basically a box of chemicals and salt. I even started adding broccoli to it, to make it “healthier”. LOL!! (Don’t you just love how easily I can rationalize things?)

So this past weekend when I did my meal planning (yes, I started planning all of my meals, as well as Hubby’s dinner, a week in advance) for the week and knew I’d be getting home late from work one night I put Hamburger Helper on the menu. It’s perfect for a busy night because you can just throw everything together in no time and still say you “cooked”! Then the guilt started to set in….I mean it’s not a very Weight Watchers friendly food…or a healthy food in general. So, I got to thinking…someone out there must have come up with a “homemade” version.

After a quick search on Google, I found this blog. Awesome!!! Not only does she give you the “base” for the helper recipes, she gives you all different varieties. There are also instructions for making your own “packets” to keep on hand just like the boxed variety. Genius!!! The recipe I’m sharing with you today is a slimmed down slightly altered version of her recipe for the cheeseburger macaroni flavor.

Here is where I have to warn you…I thought it was pretty good, but immediately noticed a difference between this and the real thing. Hubby didn’t like it at all. I’ve determined, however that the reason it seems so different is because it is a lot less salty. I did up the salt a little bit in my recipe but I’d suggest starting with 1 tsp. and then tasting it as you go along and add more if you feel the need to do so. My recipe calls for broccoli but you can omit it if you want or you can be creative and add other veggies.

Also, it freezes quite well so I made up bags of 1 cup portions with my Foodsaver (you could use freezer bags or plastic containers, but it won’t be as good or last as long) and then freeze them. I pack them in my lunch and this has become a much better option than buying those expensive microwave meals (Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, WW Smart Ones, etc.). I just open the pack, put it in a bowl with a splash of fat free milk and microwave it. Tastes great and I don’t have to feel bad about eating food with all kinds of sodium and other additives…and since it’s “Slimmed Down” it is a satisfying meal for only 5 WW points plus.

So go on and try my version and you will no longer have to be ashamed that you like Hamburger Helper!! Here’s to guilty pleasures… 🙂

Slimmed Down Cheeseburger Macaroni “Hamburger Helper”

(Makes approximately 8 cups; 1 serving = 1 cup; 5 WW Points Plus)

Adapted from Chickensintheroad.com

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

1 cup whole wheat macaroni

1 cup hot water

2 cups fat free milk or unsweetened almond milk

1 seasoning packet (see below)

2 cups chopped frozen broccoli

1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese

~Seasoning Packet:

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. paprika

1 ½ tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

  1. In a small bowl or Ziploc bag, combine all the ingredients for the seasoning packet.
  2. Brown the ground beef and drain any excess grease.
  3. To the browned ground beef, add the hot water, milk, macaroni, and seasoning packet. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for a total cooking time of about 12 minutes, being sure to stir frequently. Add the broccoli after 7 minutes and the cheese at 10 minutes, stirring until the cheese is melted and well combined.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.
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Filet Mignon with Red Wine Balsamic Sauce


Need a recipe for date night? Want to impress company? Here is a really really easy recipe for filet mignon that tastes like it was made in a restaurant.

Every few weeks, I like to buy some really good steaks from the local farmer’s market.  Getting a good cut of meat is important and I’ve learned from experience that you can’t always get good quality at the grocery store. A butcher or farmer’s market is definitely the way to go….even if it is a little bit more expensive. Plus, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised to see that the prices aren’t even that much more so go ahead and treat yourself once in a while.

For my filet mignon, I always pan sear them and then finish them in the oven. I’ve found that this is better than trying to cook them completely in the pan. If you are not paying attention they can get burned or overdone. Searing to a nice brown color on both sides and then putting it in the oven is definitely the way to go! Also, I keep my steaks in the same pan for the whole cooking process so I don’t have as much to clean up. 🙂 If you do not have oven-safe pans then you will need to transfer the steaks to a baking pan.

For the sauce, you can use any type of red wine. I usually use Chianti because that is what I like, but I’ve used other kinds if I didn’t have the Chianti on hand. This sauce tastes great with pretty much any cut of beef and I’ve used it for a variety of dishes, but my favorite to use it with is the filets. Also, you can increase or decrease the amount of brown sugar based on your preference.

Ok….now make sure to try this and you will definitely be shocked at how good it tastes and how little work it required. But don’t tell your date or your guests that it was easy…you want them to think you slaved away making a gourmet meal! 😉

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Balsamic Sauce

2 (4 ounce) filet mignon steaks

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1-2 tbsp. butter

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of steak.  Allow steak to sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes prior to cooking.
  3. Heat an oven-safe saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil.
  4. Place steaks in hot pan, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned.
  5. Transfer pan to oven and heat steaks to desired doneness, checking temperature of meat every 2-3 minutes. For a medium well steak the temperature should be between 153-157 degrees F. Remember, the temperature will raise 3-5 degrees more as it rests once it is out of the oven. I remove my steaks from the oven at 157 degrees F, which usually takes about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Once steak is cooked to desired doneness remove from pan and set aside, allowing to rest. Cover loosely with foil to keep from getting too cool.
  7. To the pan add the garlic and cook over medium high heat, stirring until fragrant about 30 seconds or so.
  8. Add the red wine to pan, scraping any bits of meat that are stuck to the bottom.
  9. Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a light boil. Simmer until sauce is reduced by about half (5-10 mins).
  10. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
  11. Remove sauce from heat and whisk in 1 tbsp. butter.  Taste sauce and add another tbsp. of butter, if desired.
  12. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve immediately.
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Slimmed Down Sensation: Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla


This is a really quick, filling, and downright delicious low-cal dish! I often make this for dinner or make it at night and pack it in my lunch…it’s actually not so bad reheated in the microwave. I serve it with a salad or a very large side of seasoned steamed green beans. In the picture below, I used Mission 96% Fat Free wheat tortillas, but the low carb whole wheat tortillas are actually better in regards to calories and carbs and are less WW points.  I picked these up because they were on sale :).

Also pictured is my really old school kitchen scale (purchased at the Dollar Tree for $1!!). This scale has served me well for many years and I am sad to report that it just broke on Sunday! It has now been replaced by a more upscale digital version. I had to replace it quickly since a scale is one kitchen gadget I cannot live without.  If I have learned anything about eating healthy…even when you’re not trying to lose weight, but want to maintain that girlish figure…it is that you should always measure your food. Portion control is so important and especially crucial for losing weight. I know you have heard this before, but I am telling you as someone who has learned from experience. I didn’t always measure everything because I thought I had pretty good judgment of what the serving size of something should be…and with practice I actually do have good judgment, but nothing compares to actually measuring it out. I now even keep measuring cups and measuring spoons at work for times when I eat things that can be kept at the office (i.e. salad dressing, cereal, milk, etc.). Yes, my co-workers look at me like I’m weird, but I don’t care! This time around on WW I religiously measure and/or weigh everything! So far this seems to be working out quite well as I’ve been losing weight at an average of 2 lbs. per week.  Save using your “best judgement” for eating out.

Some of you may wonder, “Should I measure fruits and vegetables?” I typically do not measure veggies because on WW you can basically eat as much as you want, but it is good to know what an actual “serving” of veggies is. For instance, did you know that a serving of asparagus is only about 6 stalks? I sure didn’t…I probably usually eat 20 in one sitting! But veggies have been my savior this time around in my weight loss quest. I fill up on a huge salad or a large side of veggies along with my other food at both lunch and dinner so that I am not hungry. As far as fruit goes, yes it is a better alternative to picking up that candy bar, but it still has sugar, so I do measure my fruit. Remember, the dietary guidelines for fruit is 2-4 servings per day and a serving is considered ½ cup or 1 whole apple, banana, orange, etc.

Ok, ok…that concludes my advice for this post….let’s get back to the good stuff! This amazingly large and yummy quesadilla!

Word of caution…this will be sloppy when eaten!

Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla (Makes 1 serving; 5 or 6 WW points plus, depending on type of tortilla used)

1 Whole Wheat Tortilla

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle Cheese

2 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked, shredded

½ cup fat-free salsa

1 tbsp. black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp. fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. In a bowl, combine the salsa, chicken and black beans. 
  2. Spread the Laughing Cow cheese over the tortilla. 
  3. Spread the salsa/chicken mixture on half of the tortilla and top with the cheddar cheese. 
  4. Fold over the other half of the tortilla and press down gently, being careful not to push out any of the filling. 
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place the quesadilla in the pan and carefully turn over after 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crisp. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until heated through and the bottom of the tortilla is brown and crisp. (Alternately you could bake this. I usually make mine in my Nu-Wave oven and it comes out just as crispy and delicious!)
  6. Remove from pan and using a pizza cutter, carefully cut the quesadilla into 4 pieces. 
  7. Serve with extra salsa and fat free sour cream on the side. Don’t forget plenty of paper towels!
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Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs


This is a really flavorful & quick chicken dish…perfect for a busy week night meal. You can use either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or regular thighs.  I have a Nu-Wave Oven, which is how I made the chicken in the picture above, but you can bake them in your regular oven and broil for the last few minutes to get them just as crispy.

I originally saw this recipe in Cooking Light magazine and modified it to suit my own taste. Serve with mixed veggies, rice, or roasted potatoes.

Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs (Serves 3-4)

Modified from Cooking Light Magazine

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 6 regular chicken thighs

6 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken to bag, seal and shake, coating the pieces of chicken.
  3. Place chicken in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  4. While the chicken is baking, combine the honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well.
  5. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from oven. Set oven to broil.
  6. Brush chicken pieces with half of the honey mixture.
  7. Broil 1-2 minutes.
  8. Remove chicken from oven and turn pieces over.
  9. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture.
  10. Broil 1-2 minutes or until chicken is crisp.
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Italian Sausage and Three Cheese Raviolletti


This is a quick pasta dish great for a weeknight meal. Full of flavor and fresh ingredients the whole family will love it! I know my Hubby did! 😉 I originally saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine, but I did change it up significantly starting with the type of sausage and pasta. It is a pretty basic recipe, so you can definitely use any pasta you like or spicy sausage or a different type of meat. For this recipe I used Buitoni Three Cheese Raviolletti which you can find in the dairy section of the grocery store.

Back in the day  in high school (we won’t mention how far back)I had learned in cooking class to always get all your ingredients prepared and measured out and ready to go before you begin the actual cooking or baking part. Fast forward to adulthood and when I first started out cooking I seemed to have forgotten this important “preparation” step. My cooking was unorganized, timed poorly and just an all around mess. As a matter of fact my own Mother commented that I was “a messy cook.” Initially this didn’t really matter to me so much as long as the end result tasted good! However, as I’ve gotten better and better I realized taking 10-15 minutes to prepare everything and have it readily available makes everything run so much smoother and easier….no more running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off. As you can see in the picture, I took the time to chop the garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes, as well as cooking the pasta while I cut everything up. Once it was time to cook, I just grabbed everything as I went along. The total time for me to make this and put it on the table was about 40 minutes with minimal clean up afterwards. I guess those old cliche’s are true…practice does make perfect!

Italian Sausage & Three Cheese Ravioletti (Makes 4 servings)

9 oz. Buitoni Three Cheese Ravioletti

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. Italian Sausage (casings removed)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tsp. salt

Black Pepper, to taste

1-2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until it begins to brown.
  3. Add the scallions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, mushrooms, salt & pepper, stirring occassionally until the mushrooms start to brown.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften slightly, about 3 more minutes.
  6. Add the chicken stock to the skillet and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in the pasta and cheese, cook until the cheese has melted.
  8. Divide among bowls, topping each bowl with some parmesan cheese.
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