Monday, May 26, 2014

Easy Creamy Cheesy Baked Ziti

Today is Memorial Day, a day to think of and honor those who served and died fighting for our nation's freedoms. My dad was one of the fortunate ones who served and made it home safely to his family. He was able to come home, get married, have and raise his own family and be best dad a girl could ask for. Now because he's no longer with us, I will always honor him along with those who weren't so fortunate to come home. 

Ultimately, the war in Vietnam had a hand in taking my dad much too soon from us as he was one of the many victims of Agent Orange. My dad passed away from heart disease back in 2005. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and miss him. I hate that my son Jude never had the chance to meet his Papa, however, I see a lot of my dad in Jude and it makes me smile. And I know that he and my mom are Jude's guardian angels watching over my sweet boy. 

Remembering my dad who served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner (last on the right back row).

Being off on Memorial Day, I decided to make pasta (something I've been craving lately) for my family for lunch. I wanted something creamy, cheesy and easy to make. I got to thinking about a recent trip to Olive Garden where my hubby, Lance, discovered baked ziti. He loved it so much, he asked if I could make some at home. 

With trial and error, I have come up with my own EASY copycat recipe that Lance said  "I wouldn't mind you making it again" after finishing thirds of the baked pasta concoction. It's not exactly like the Olive Garden baked pasta, but with only 7 ingredients and very little prep and baking time, it's still so yummy you definitely won't be disappointed.


1 box whole wheat ziti or penne pasta (you can use regular if you like)
1 24 oz jar marinara sauce 
1 15 oz jar Alfredo sauce 
2 cups shredded mozzarella 
1 cup shredded Parmesan 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare pasta as directed on box (boil 11-12 minutes). As pasta is boiling, combine Alfredo and marinara sauces in a large bowl. Add in 1 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella to the sauce mixture (leaving the remaining mozzarella for the top) and mix well. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce mixture and coat completely. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish (I used 2 8x8 dishes so we could eat one at lunch then reheat the other for dinner). Bake for 25-30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan on top and return to the oven to continue baking. Remove from the oven and serve.

The next time, I'd like to try this recipe and use spaghetti squash as a substitute for the penne pasta. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

I'd love to know if you made this recipe and your thoughts on how it turned out and whether your family enjoyed it. Be sure to comment and, if you like the recipes you see here, subscribe! 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Creamy Mushroom Stuffed Baked Chicken Breasts

I've been on a mushroom kick lately, in the last week or two at least. This spring I've been cooking with a lot fresh vegetables. I'm really looking forward to home-grown summer vegetables as the season changes soon. 

 I'm lately looking for and working on new recipes where I can incorporate fresh mushrooms my hubby and I both love. And being a protein seeker, I've adapted this recipe to be healthy and protein-packed and, at the same time, absolutely delicious. The added protein is added into the cheese mixture so it's basically undetectable to anyone but the chef. 


2 boneless chicken breasts (thawed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons spreadable cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon flax seed/chia seeds (I use Raw Organics flax seed and chia seed combined)
Black pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Add in garlic and onion. Sauté until until onions begin to look translucent. Add in mushrooms and sauté, heating through completely.  Turn off heat and add basil, flax/chia, cream cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Mix together to create a creamy cheese mixture. Flatten out chicken breasts to 1/4 inch. Spray non-stick oil spray into a casserole dish. I used the square one to bake two breasts. Add half the mixture to one breast. Roll the mixture up in the breast loosely and secure with a toothpick. Push the leaking mixture back inside the rolled breast. Add the remaining mixture to the other breast, roll and secure. Add both chicken breasts to the casserole dish. Sprinkle with garlic powder, black pepper and red pepper (may omit). Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Remove from oven and serve.

I served the stuffed chicken with sautéed garlic Parmesan zucchini. Absolutely delicious. 
Give this recipe a try. Let me know what you think in the comments. And as always, please subscribe!

 Bon appetite! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A New Hairstyle and A Recipe For Protein-Rich Egg Salad With A Little Kick

Each time I get my hair colored, somehow I go shorter and shorter, which in turn makes me love my hair more and more. Now that I've taken so much of the weight off, I can wear it short, making it more fun and also much easier to do my hair in the mornings. Whoo hoo! 

So what do you think? 

I love it. I absolutely love my hair this short. I wasn't sure at first, but it's quickly become my favorite style I've had in a long time. I feel like the color suits me (a dark brown with dark red highlights) and best part, no double chin like I would have had 20 lbs ago

In my search for meal and snack ideas loaded with protein, I've also discovered that I love homemade egg salad. Searching through recipes on Pinterest (another of my obsessions), I couldn't find just the right recipe with the combination of ingredients to create the homemade egg salad I wanted to make to take to work for lunch. So with some trial and error, I've created a tasty egg salad with the added protein so many of us are seeking. 

Where does that added protein come from you ask? I use Greek yogurt, chia seeds and flax seeds in my recipe. Here's a fantastic combination of the two seeds I found at the grocery store that I use in a lot of different recipes including my yogurt and oatmeal in the mornings as well as meatballs, meatloaf, etc. I keep mine fresh (particularly the flax seed) by storing it in the refrigerator. 

Check out my version of the old classic egg salad recipe. 


6 hard-boiled eggs (peeled and diced small)
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip but you can put in another tablespoon of Greek yogurt instead of mayo)
2 teaspoons stone ground mustard (adds a nice spice to the recipe but regular mustard works too)
1 celery stalk (diced)
1/2 small onion (diced)
2 teaspoons sweet relish
2 teaspoons dill relish
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
2 tablespoons chia seeds/ flax seeds
Red pepper flakes (to taste, may be omitted)

Peel and dice up the boiled eggs pretty small. I prefer my salad chunky, so I don't mash up the egg. Chop up the celery and onion and set aside. Add in the Greek yogurt, mayo, mustard, relishes, paprika, and chia/flax seeds.  Mix well. Then add the diced onion and celery. Mix well. Sprinkle a little more paprika and red pepper flakes (to taste) on top. Chill in refrigerator before eating and then serve. 

I let it chill overnight to let the flavors mix and mingle for just the right taste. I like to dip mine with homemade wheat tortilla chips. Also I make mine into a (multigrain) wrap occasionally as well. 

I hope you like my version of the traditional egg salad. I like it because of the crunch in it, spiciness and combination of sweet and tangy flavors. Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you try out the recipe. Be sure to subscribe too!