Margharita Pizza

As a child I didn’t really like pizza. Then again, I also didn’t like mashed potatoes, french fries or steak so it could be argued that I just didn’t like delicious food.

College changed all of that. Between living on free pizza being given away on campus to the fact that I could buy a pizza and eat it for DAYS, pizza grew on me. Still wasn’t my favorite, but free and/or cheap was my go to in college.

Then we moved to Italy. Obviously the pizza as amazing, and I am trying to recreate the thin, flavor packed dough we would have there. I have not mastered it yet. But living in Italy re-ruined American pizza for me. So heavy! So greasy! Why is the crust so thick and sweet?

This pizza, is my happy medium. American pizza with less sugar basically. I do have an excellent “American” Pizza crust recipe, but you do have to make it in the morning, thus requiring some pre-mediation.

On this particular  pizza, homemade sauce tops a *gasp* store bought dough (When I decide I want pizza later in the day, I buy the fresh dough from the deli section of my grocery store, typically Whole Foods or Publix). Crowned with mozzarella and chopped grape tomatoes, topped post-bake with basil from my plant outside. (That I haven’t killed!!!!) Easy peasy.

Even better, this sauce is made with pantry staples. A can of diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and dried herbs. All in all, I would say you can have pizza in 30 minutes, faster than delivery!

Margharita Pizza

  • Servings: makes a medium pizza, serves 2 to 4 depending on appetites
  • Difficulty: Easy
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For Pizza

  • 1 store bought pizza crust, or homemade dough
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 15 grape tomatoes
  • 6 leaves fresh basil
  • Pizza Sauce

For Pizza Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (I buy brands with no added sugar)
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste (ditto no sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat your oven to 500°F or whatever temp your particular crust requires. If you have a pizza stone, pop it in the oven while you are pre-heating. If you are using a sheet pan skip this step.

Place a large pan over medium high heat on the stove. Add your olive oil, when warm, toss in your garlic and give it a quick stir. Add your diced tomatoes. Cook tomatoes and garlic over the stove for about 5 minutes. Add powdered garlic and onion powder, as well as dried herbs. Then carefully pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour back into pan and add tomato paste. Stir to combine and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Leave in pan over low heat.

Now that your sauce is done, take your pizza stone out of the oven with hot pads and place on a safe workspace (if you have a pizza paddle leave in oven and use paddle. I don’t. If you are using a sheet pan, just pull it out of the cabinet and place on workspace)

Stretch dough on stone/pan into a circle to your desired thickness. Generously spread pizza sauce all over dough. Add cheese and chopped tomatoes. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until dough is golden brown on the edged and cooked through. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil Serve and eat!

Note: Fresh tomatoes will probably make the top of the pizza a little watery as the water comes from the tomatoes while baking. I just took a paper towel and absorbed some of the water, like you do with really greasy pizza.


Chipotle Salmon with Roasted Broccoli


Okay, so not my best photography, but this was dinner last night and it turned out so well I had to share it.

Seafood does not get prepared very often in our house, my husband does not like fish or shellfish, and cooking it tends to make the house smell decidedly fishy. However, salmon was on sale, the tiny human likes it, and I was in the mood for fish.

Once a week we go into town for my son’s swim lessons, and I like to swing by Whole Foods when we are there. While poking through the aisles I saw a Chipotle Powder I knew I needed for my ever expanding spice rack. Into the cart it went and I started to think about how I could use the spice.

How Sweet Eats BBQ Salmon opened my eyes to the fact that not only does BBQ salmon exist, its delicious. So I figured a spicy chipotle twist would also be tasty. Roasted veggies are a pretty standard side in our house, especially when I can take some frozen broccoli straight from the freezer, toss in olive oil salt and pepper and roast. So easy. Cauliflower is my favorite veggie to roast but today was broccoli.


If you grill, I think this would be fantastic grilled. I pan seared my fish, it was quick and easy, but also made my house smell like salmon. Worth it.

Chipotle Salmon with Roasted Broccoli

  • Servings: 2 adults, or 1 adult twice and one toddler
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Inspired by: How Sweet Eats


Chipotle Spice Rub

  • 1 teaspoon Ground Chipotle Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper


  • 2 five ounce portions salmon (or however many you want, the spice mixture can definitely cover more than two portions)


  • 1 bag frozen broccoli, stems and tops
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, maybe 2 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet lined with foil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until roasted to your liking. I like it a little burnt. (I prefer the term crisp but it may appear burnt).

Mix spices together in a small bowl or ramekin. Place a saute pan over medium high heat with some olive oil, like a tablespoon Take your salmon and pat the top dry. Rub a generous amount of the chipotle mixture on top of your salmon. Once the oil is hot, place salmon spice side down and cook for 5 minutes. Then flip and cook skin side down until you reach desired doneness. ( I like it well done).

Kale Salad with Avocado-Tomato Dressing

We went to the beach yesterday and I have quite the sunburn. My little guy LOVES playing in the surf so between keeping him alive and making sure he drank enough water and was coated head to toe in sunscreen, I forgot to reapply my own. Sigh. The beach is always a good time but it wears me out.

Luckily, I prepped dinner the day before and made sure I had all the ingredients on hand to make this 10 minute salad.  Pre-washed Kale? Check. Avocados? Check. Bacon cooked in the oven the day before? Check. Cherry tomatoes? Check. The rest of the ingredients are pantry staples for me and help this come together quickly.


Bonus? Eating this salad definitely negates the “snack” you eat later of Nutella straight from the jar. Trust me.

Kale Salad with Avocado-Tomato Dressing

  • Servings: Serves one person as a meal, two as a side
  • Difficulty: Easy
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With kale, tasty tomatoes, and a creamy dressing, this hearty salad is simple enough for a quick lunch or side to some grilled chicken or steak for an easy summer dinner.


For dressing:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For salad

  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 3 cups shredded kale
  • I added asiago cheese, but what cheese and how much you want is up to  you.
  • I didn’t have these originally, but added sunflower seeds the next time I had the salad and really enjoyed the crunch.


If you haven’t already cooked your bacon, start now. (I put mine in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes). Add all of  your dressing ingredients except salt and pepper to a blender/food processor. (I used a blender). Blend until you reach a creamy, thick consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, add your kale and toss with the dressing, completely coating the kale. Let your kale absorb the dressing while your bacon cooks, it softens it a bit. Once your bacon is cooked, crumble it into your salad and add tomatoes and cheese. Feel free to add anything else you like, sunflower seeds or cucumbers would be nice.

Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

For some reason I feel like I grew up eating stuffed peppers, though I don’t have a clear memory of my Mom ever making any. I do remember her making stuffed cabbage leaves.

Either way, one day all I could think about was stuffed peppers. “I could hide so many veggies in them!” And use the quinoa I have had in my pantry forever.  That is one of the best things about these peppers, you can make the stuffing out of whatever you have in your pantry/fridge.

The savory stuffing starts with browning some breakfast sausage in a large pan. You could use any protein you want, I like sausage for the fat and seasoning in the sausage. After it is browned and cooked through, through in your desired vegetables and a grain. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. The best thing about these stuffed peppers? Follow this basic format and swap out whatever you need to customize it! Need it to be paleo? Swap the sausage for ground beef or turkey (or you know, use paleo sausage) and remove the grain. Gluten free? As written, this recipe is totally gluten-free. Google tells me quinoa is gluten free, and I think rice is too, so you could also sub rice if you prefer.  Vegan? Omit the meat and use coconut oil to saute’ your veggies. Omit the cheese. My child is the only child in the world that doesn’t like cheese, so I only topped two peppers with cheese.


The actual best part? My son LOVED these. Any healthy meal he’ll eat with gusto is a winner in my book. Now we just have to convince his Dad……

Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

  • Servings: 4-6 depending on size of peppers
  • Difficulty: Easy
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These family friendly stuffed peppers are easily customized to suite many special diet needs, are filling, and toddler approved!


  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1/2 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 4 bell peppers
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • parsley
  • salt
  • pepper
  • mozzarella cheese (optional)


Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Cook your quinoa per packages directions. While it is cooking, cut the tops off of your bell peppers and remove seeds/membranes from insides. Chop tops, throwing away the stem. Reserve tops for stuffing. Discard seeds and membranes.

In a pan over medium heat, crumble and brown your breakfast sausage. Once cooked through, add your onions and bell pepper tops. Cook until soft. Add frozen peas and place lid on pan, cook for 5 minutes. Add your quinoa and cheese (if using).

Take a pepper, and stuff! Over fill the peppers, as they cook the stuffing will shrink down a little. Repeat with all of the peppers. I only stuffed 3 peppers, and had tons of stuffing left over. Its delicious the next day! Top peppers with cheese if desired. Place peppers on a greased baking sheet and bake for 2o minutes. I like my peppers to still have a little crunch, feel free to bake longer for softer peppers. The filling is completely cooked when you stuff them, so you can really bake them as along or short as you want.


Pork Tacos with Honey Mango Relish

Looking at that title I realize its not the most appealing name I could have come up with. But, that’s what they are. Pork shoulder coated in spices and tomatillo salsa slow cooked all day over a bead of onions, shredded and placed on corn tortillas. On top of that, a fresh mango relish. I realize many people would liken it more to a salsa, but the crunch of radish and the red onion say relish to me.


I had been in the mood for tacos for a few days but could not decide what kind I wanted to make. Ground beef? Steak? Chicken? A trip to the butcher decided for me. We popped into the butcher and waiting for me was this pork shoulder (aka boston butt). Once I laid my eyes on it my taco destiny was decided.

Fruit salsas/relish don’t usually appeal to me. I like my savory dishes savory and my sweet dishes sweet, rarely do I enjoy combining the two (except for the classic salt+chocolate]. However, I had a few honey mangos hanging out on the counter, and figured I would give this whole fruit salsa thing a go. Speaking of honey mangos, where have you been all of my life? I have never seen them before this year and suddenly they are in every supermarket. I’m glad for it, they are way easier to prepare than the mangos I am used to eating.

Anyway, the next time you find yourself wanting some tacos, or need to feed a crowd, definitely give these a try. If you are a savory fruit skeptic, give the relish a go, it definitely made me a convert.

Pork Tacos with Honey Mango Relish

  • Servings: It depends on the size of your pork shoulder, we had at least 8 tacos with leftovers
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Savory pork in a warm corn tortilla topped with a sweet and crunchy mango relish.


For the pork

  • 1 bone in pork shoulder/butt roast, mine was about 11 lbs.
  • 1 cup tomatillo salsa
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (I use pre-chopped garlic from a jar, it makes life so much easier. Probably the equivalent of three large cloves of garlic, chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • generous kosher salt
  • pepper

For the Mango Relish

  • 1 honey mango, chopped into cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 radishes, diced
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt and pepper


The morning (or night before) you plan to have your tacos, prepare our pork. Lay your onion slices over the bottom of the slow cooker. Take your pork shoulder and cut diagonal lines into the fat on the top of the shoulder roast (you could cut the fat off, but I like to leave it on). Place the pork in top of the onions in the slow cooker, fat side up. Put the cumin, salt, pepper,garlic, and paprika on the pork, topping it all with the tomatillo salsa. Set the slow cooker to “low” and leave alone for 8-10 hours.

For the relish, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl at least one hour before you plan to have the tacos.

The pork is done cooking when you can easily shred a piece off of the bone with a fork. Place the pork on a cookie sheet and shred the meat. Feel free to add a little juice from the slow cooker to keep it from drying out. You could also toss come in a hot pan to crisp it up, but that step is not needed at all. To assemble the tacos, warm some corn tortillas over the stove. Add some shredded pork, and top with mango relish. Serve with avocado, lime, and anything else you like on tacos.



I really wanted to name this blog post Des-Pasticco. Like the song Despacito. The original version by Luis Fonsi was all over the radio before we left Italy. When I arrived here and heard the version by Justin Bieber I was all kinds of confused.  Dad jokes aside, let’s get back to Pasticco.

Pasticco is basically lasagna, just not the version we typically expect in America. There is no mozzarella, no ricotta, and no tomato sauce. The pasta does not feature the familiar ruffle on the edge (I’ll link the one I used below), and this version does not have any beef, though veal is commonly used. It is worth noting that I also saw this dish referred to as lasagna al forno, pasta al forno, and other iterations throughout Italy. For the most part in our region, it was commonly called pasticco.

I originally asked my neigbor Giulia how Pasticco is made. She outlined the ingredients for me. Start with sofrito, the Italian word for the classic combination of carrots, onions and celery, in olive oil. Add Pancetta and other meats. A little white wine. Some milk. This is your ragu. Make basciamella (in the US this classic white sauce is called a bechemel) with butter, flour, milk and nutmeg. Layer with pasta and bake.

Armed with Giulia’s ingredient list, I searched the Internet for recipe. I found a few that used the ingredients Giulia mentioned and cobbled together my own recipe from there.

I find this recipe is easier to make that than your average American lasagna. Or at least faster because this sauce doesn’t need to simmer all day. Though the ragu’ recipe typically calls for pancetta, I was only able to find prosciutto locally.  Though pancetta and prosciutto  are not the same, the prosciutto worked out. If you aren’t able to source either in your area, you could give bacon a try. I would dice it and when you start your ragu’ do not fry the bacon until crisp, just render the fat a little bit. If you do this, please let me know how it works out!

This is easily my husband’s favorite dish from our time in Italy, he often ordered two servings when we went out to dinner. Now back stateside, this is also a meal my toddler eats with gusto. It has become a regular in our weekly rotation, and I think the next time I will make a double batch, because it freezes really well.

Forget what you think you know about lasagna, and give Pasticco a try! You will not be disappointed.


  • Servings: 6-8 depending on how large you slice it.
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  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced (or 1 teaspoon pre-chopped garlic from a jar, I like both)
  • 4 ounces pancetta (or prosciutto) diced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable,whichever you have on hand)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • black pepper


  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • a few shakes of nutmeg (It is recommended you freshly grind your own, I used the pre-ground nutmeg, I already had it in my pantry. One day I will be the kind of person that grinds their own spices, but today is not that day.)


  • Ragu’
  • Basciamella
  • Lasagna noodles   
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating (I have found my local grocery stores carry both chunks and pre-grated versions for sale. Just please do not use the kind that comes in a can in the pasta aisle! Treat yo’self.)



Preheat your oven to 375°F.  In a large pot or dutch oven, warm your butter and olive oil over medium/high heat. Once the butter has melted, through in your garlic, carrots, celery, and onions, and pancetta/prosciutto. Saute’ until your veggies are translucent and the fat has begun to render out. Add your ground pork and cook through. Add your white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot. Add your tomato paste, milk, bay leaves and chicken broth. Stir to combine, then turn the heat down to low and let your sauce simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.

When you are ready to prepare your pasticco, make your basciamella. In a large pan, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in your flour. Cook for a few minutes, until your flour/butter mixture (roux) is a golden brown. Gradually begin to add your milk, whisking to combine. If you add your milk too quickly, your basciamella will not be thick, so go slowly! It is way easier to thin, than thicken. Once you have added all of your  milk, add nutmeg, salt and pepper , to taste.


The noodles I used did not require me to boil them before making my pasticco. If you use wavy lasagna noodles, please follow your package directions for noodle prep, then follow the directions below. If you use homemade noodles, follow the directions below.

In a 9×13 pan, spread a thin layer of ragu’ on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle some parmiagiano-reggiano. On top of that, lay three sheets of pasta. (Or follow your package directions). It is okay if the pasta does not touch the sides of the pan. As it cooks, it will expand. On top of the pasta, add a layer of bascimella, then cheese, and repeat. I had three layers of pasta, topped with a layer of basciamella and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes (or however long your pasta suggests). For the last 10 minutes, I removed the aluminum foil to allow the top to brown.