Every year around Christmas time, my grade school would host a weekend holiday shopping boutique in the gymnasium. Card tables set up row by row with folks from my hometown selling theee most random stuff. I went with my mom every year - started off helping her sell pumpkin pies at the bake sale table and then at a certain point we just attended as guests. However, I never went to shop - I went for the chicken casserole that was served out of the lunchroom every year.
This stuff is pure magic. Not the prettiest, I'll admit. But it's damn good. Comfort scooped into a bowl and topped with love that is crunchy cornflake cereal and melted margarin.
I grew up eating this rice dish and completely forgot about it until my mom randomly decided to make it as a side dish for Christmas last year!! I started posting about recipe testing it a few weeks back and got a huge number of responses from people saying their moms used to make this dish too and that it goes by several diff names. "Stick of butter rice" was my personal fave, lol.
The fact that there's an entire stick of butter in it means you know it's going to be amazing and super comforting. That said, there are ways to make it a bit healthier. You can use plant-based butter, I've made it with both dairy and plant-based butter and both turned out to taste very similar. When my mom made it on Christmas, she made her own french onion soup base with caramelized onions and beef broth!! So that would be another way to maybe eliminate some sodium and give it a more natural feel if you don't want to use the canned soup.
I also love how EASY this recipe is - 5 ingredients total and only three steps. It's probably the easiest side dish you will ever make and it's always a huge hit at dinner. Makes enough for 4-6 sides, can be doubled in the same size pan.
I love a good basket of fried calamari with peppers and marinara dipping sauce but I also love stewed or sautéed calamari too! It pairs so well with crushed tomatoes and garlic and basil!!
It is VERY easy to overcook the calamari. If overcooked, the texture will be very rubbery and ruin the dish. I know cooking seafood is scary and you want to make sure it's completely done but calamari cooks very fast. If you're a newb, test out cooking a single ring in the sauce for one minute and see what you think before cooking all the others.
OKAY, SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. One of my favorite Italian restaurants in Cleveland, Luca, has this insane pasta dish on their menu that has absolutely changed my life since the first time I tried it several years ago.
The sacchetti is a bucket purse shaped pasta that is usually filled with cheese. At Luca, they use ricotta and truffle and serve it in a truffle cream sauce with an aged fig balsamic glaze and microgreens.
What you need
For the sacchetti:
What to do:
For the sacchetti:
I make alfredo sauce with a heavy whipping cream base and I am not sorry!! So many people are scared of heavy cream because of the amount of dairy and fat but this is one of those recipes where you really just treat yourself and don't try to make short cuts. You'll be glad you didn't once you start eating it, I promise!!
I shared a salad I was eating on my story one time and got soooo many requests for the honey chipotle dressing that I was using! It's inspired by the chipotle vinaigrette salad dressing at Chipotle! The main components of it are chipotle peppers, red wine vinegar and honey! It's so good, and also really good when mixed with greek yogurt to make a chip dip!!
Feel free to customize this salad with whatever you like. I like doing a mix of romaine lettuce with iceberg and then adding charred corn, black beans, diced red onion, cheese, a few crushed tortilla chips and then a small dollop of greek yogurt. (Also, you don't have to use chicken, you could do ground beef or a vegetarian option!)
The dressing recipe makes a little more than a cup of dressing and it can last in the fridge for 7-10 days. Since the salad portion mainly depends on how much lettuce you use, I'll leave it up to you to eyeball that part. I recommend cooking one piece of chicken per person having a salad!
What you need
For the dressing:
What to do
For the dressing:
I used to love caeser salad growing up but I hit a certain age where my seafood allergy started to get more severe to the point where I would notice even when I consumed even the tiniest amounts of it...aka the small amount of anchovy in caeser salad dressing. There are NO anchovies in this recipe - I know that's not traditional but I gotta do what I gotta do to accommodate my food allergies. I did add caper brine to the dressing though to give it an extra salty, briny flavor.
Homemade croutons are a game changer. First of all, you can make them as big as you want and second of all, since they're homemade you don't have to worry about any additives or preservatives. I discovered Bread Srsly GF Sourdough Bread last year and that's what I used to make the croutons so this recipe doesn't contain any gluten!! I always keep a loaf of their sourdough in my freezer and I loveeee to make croutons and breadcrumbs with it.
A few tips: make sure you use freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese instead of just parmesan, makes a big difference, I think! Plus, the cheese looks prettier if you grate it yourself instead of just trying to sprinkle the fake powdery stuff on top. If you follow a plant based diet, I would suggest using vegan parmesan cheese (I like Violife) and vegan mayo! Super easy to swap these in to make it all vegan, especially since there's no anchovy.
What you need
For the breadcrumbs:
What to do
My family has eaten at this old school Italian restaurant by my parent's house called Nino's since as far back as I can remember. I've always loved that they put rotini noodles in their house salad...so much more fun to eat a salad when there's pasta in it, I mean... ;)
This salad is inspired by the Nino's salad, but it's a little lighter. I used turkey pepperoni and brown rice rotini instead of regular pasta. (Note: if you use brown rice pasta, don't put it in the fridge, the texture hardens once it gets cold and that would ruin the salad.) Another thing, the dressing that Nino's uses is super rich, almost too rich where the amount of vinegar and oil can be rough on a sensitive stomach so I decided to pair my version of their salad with a much lighter vinaigrette.
This recipe makes enough for 2 large salads or 4 side salads. (Since the size mainly depends on how much lettuce you chop up, it's very easy to eyeball and change the proportions to how large or small you want it.) The salad dressing can last for 7-10 days in the fridge.
What you need:
For the dressing:
What to do:
I started cleaning my entire house with Branch Basics during quarantine. I think everyone cleaned a lot during those months, but it feels so good to know that all the cleaning I did was with safe and non-toxic solutions instead of harsh chemicals!!
Since Bryant and I have started our TTC journey, I have really been focusing on how I can make food/lifestyle changes that are healthier. Eliminating processed foods was the first step, and then I started eliminating other less obvious toxins in our home like laundry, deodorant and toothpaste. Cue, Branch Basics! My mom started using it a few months before I did and ALWAYSSSS mentioned how well it works. I was like, "Yeah, okay Mom! I'm glad you love it!" And thennnnn I got an email from Branch Basics asking if I wanted to sample the product and ever since my first spray and wipe - I've been OBSESSED.
My absolute favorite part about Branch Basics besides the fact that it's non-toxic and is actually extremely effective is that one bottle of their mineral-based concentrate solution is all you need to clean your entire house. There are a few different empty bottles that come in the Starter Kit including the bathroom, all-purpose, streak-free, foaming wash and laundry bottle. Simply fill each bottle with certain amount of water + concentrate by following the directions on each one and then get to cleaning! You can read more about how the concentrate works here.
Every week or so, we wash our sheets and pillowcases, but the bestttttt is when the comforter gets a wash too -- we especially love washing it at the start of a new year. We have white linen sheets, pillowcases and a white comforter. Our dog, Basil sleeps in our bed every single night. Dog + white bedding is a dangerous move but I NEVER have to worry because I haven't met a stain yet that Branch Basics Oxygen Boost couldn't solve.
I usually pour two scoops of the oxygen boost and two cap-fulls of the laundry cleaner (two because the comforter is a heavy duty load) into my washer and let the cycle start by filling the machine with water. Add the comforter and let it soak for 30 minutes before closing the door to start the actual wash part of the cycle. Once it's done, you'll notice not only super clean bedding, but veryyy vibrantly white bedding! It restores the bright color every single time and looks brand new, I'm always so amazed.
I think the second best thing to fresh bed sheets is a sparkling clean bathroom. Something about take a shower or bath in what feels like a new space just gives off all the clean vibes! My favorite way to use BB to clean the bathroom:
Windows & Mirrors
Not to be dramatic, but the first time I used the Branch Basics glass cleaner, I gasped. I've never seen a window so clean and sparkly. The streak-free cleaner bottle directions say to fill with water and use ONE DROP of the concentrate. That's how powerful (yet safe) this stuff is!! If you windows are looking streaky then you probably accidentally spilled a little more concentrate into the bottle than just a drop and it needs more water. Feels weird to only add such a small amount to the water but trust me when I say that a drop is all you need.
Don't forget you can use code "JANE" for 20% off of the Branch Basics Starter Kit. The starter kit comes with everything you need to start cleaning your whole house. (I make a small commission off of each purchase made with my code, so shopping with code "JANE" is a great way to support me at no extra cost to you! (This blog post was created in partnership with Branch Basics.)
Okay this reminds me so much of my vodka sauce recipe, except a vegan Thai version. In addition to tomato paste, there's Red Thai Curry Paste and a little lime juice and ginger. It's really good and different if you're in the mood for a creamy pasta but don't want to deal with heavy amounts of dairy.
Sometimes, when I make coconut milk based sauces, I notice that leaving it over high heat can cause things to separate and get oily so that's why I added the starch into it. It holds together better that way!
Per usual, this recipe is enough to feed two people, or it can be split into three smaller sides. For reference - a standard box of pasta is around 1 lb and I always make half a box which is the perfect amount for two entrees.
My kind of cereal. A few weeks ago, I made two different pasta recipes. One was regular-sized stuffed shells and the other was a creamy lemon pasta dish with medium-sized shell noodles. After making and eating both the lightbulb went off in my head and I was like OMG, what if I stuffed THE SMALLER SHELLS?!?!
Usually, mini food recipes are somewhat impractical but besides being fun as hell to eat - this is actually one of the more successful mini recipes I've made, which is why it's deserving of an entire blog post! Here's why -- the ratio of shell to cheese is actually really nice with the mini version because in the regular version, there's A LOT of cheese. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes classic stuffed shells can be super heavy on the cheese since there's so much to fill, and for someone like my husband who thinks it's too much cheese and not enough pasta - the mini version is perfect.
As far as process goes, using something to assist with filling the shells helps a lot. You could use a pastry or ziplock bag and cut a hole in the bottom corner to squeeze the ricotta cheese, but I just used an old fashioned ketchup bottle with a pointy tip. Whatever works, but I def wouldn't recommend trying to free hand it!
If you've ever been in the Southern U.S. States, you know that fried green tomatoes are huge. Every time I'm in Georgia or South Carolina I see them on every single menu. During a road trip to Florida, we stayed in a random hotel overnight to break up the drive and ordered takeout from a nearby place that had this awesome BLT Salad that I fell in love with and had to recreate to share with you guys! It was served with ranch dressing but I opted to add goat cheese instead. You could go either way!
What you need:
What to do:
If you missed it, I found out this year that despite my life-long seafood allergy, I can eat mollusks. Which means I can eat clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, calamari and octopus!!! I always felt like I was missing out on the seafood pasta dishes my family would order at Italian restaurants on vacation and now that I can eat some seafood, I've been ordering it like crazy and of course, I had to try and make it at home too. Most of the times I see this kind of dish on the menu at a restaurant, there's almost always shrimp in it - so that's pretty much the only thing missing from this dish as far as what's "typical." (Sadly, I can't have shrimp, crab or lobster.)
Cooking time is a little more than my usual recipes since you have to pay close attention to preparing the scallops separately - but it's so worth it to get that tasty sear. If you're going to roast your own tomatoes and garlic like I suggest, that takes time too. You could use jarred marinara sauce but I truly think fresh is best for this one. I'd say the whole thing start to finish can be done in around 45 minutes. Like the rest of my recipes, this will serve 2 people.
What you need:
What to do:
I am over the freaking moon. I cannot believe how good these little treats are!! First and foremost - there are no peanuts or tree nuts. I used my girl @AvoKween's vanilla granola butter which is honestly the best thing a person with a nut allergy could ever ask for. It can replace almost all nut butters in most recipes and it's freaking delicious. To firm up the consistency in order to make the 'caramel' part of the twix cup, I added pureed dates to the granola butter which helped hold the middle layer up a bit better than if I were to just use the melty granola butter.
So, these granola butter 'twix' cups are naturally sweetened with a lil maple syrup + they are gluten free, grain free, dairy free and peanut allergy friendly. Amazing.
Also, I almost ALWAYS forget to add flakey sea salt to any chocolate that I melt and put on things so if you're less forgetful than me I would def add some right before you stick them in the fridge to cool.
Peanut and tree nut free pesto!!
It's also packed with all the green things and that's always a plus! I used arugula, spinach, basil, garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. The whole arugula leaves you see mixed in there are coated in a super simple vinaigrette recipe so there's an extra little vinegar kick in the dish from the white wine vinegar I used too!!
UGH. Vodka sauce. This is by far my most popular recipe and it's suuuuper easy to make and pretty much foolproof so that's why I think everyone loves it so much.
I started making this a few years ago and I think my favorite part about the recipe I originally developed is that there are several different ways to customize it depending on whatever I'm in the mood for. Sometimes I like it spicy, sometimes I like it to be less cream-heavy, sometimes I'm avoiding dairy in general so I eat it a vegan version of it!! So I'll list below the different ways that I love to make it and let you decide which version you're feeling.
This pasta is freaking amazing and one of my fave simple dairy-free "cheesy buttery" pasta sauces. It's made from just oat milk creamer, vegan butter, garlic powder and nutritional yeast. If you love cheese and dairy but can't eat either or are trying to cut back - this will be your new bestie.
First, if you don't salt the water you cook the pasta in, the finished product may need a little salt. Second, don't get oat milk and oat milk creamer confused. I'm not so sure if regular oat milk would work since the creamer is a little more thick. Here's the oat milk creamer I use. (I buy it online because I can only find their almond oat milk creamer at stores and I'm allergic to almonds.) And honestly, if you're in a pinch you could just add the vegan butter, garlic powder and nooch to the hot pasta in a bowl and eat it that way - no skillet or sauce prep required and suuuuper fast! Been there, done that.
I love pairing it with a fun pasta shape. If I'm using brown rice pasta I use these shells, if I'm using regular pasta, I use this cannolicchi.
Technically, you don't have to eat this pasta dish with linguine but the name 'linguine and clams' is so iconic to me that we're just gonna call it that. I personally loveeee clams with mafaldine too which is like a more wider long noodle with curly edges.
I love adding chopped clams to this dish in addition to the fresh clams in the shell. One of my favorite restaurants serves it that way and the texture + extra amount of clams is so gooood. Also, sometimes I add cherry tomatoes at the same time as the garlic cloves and it's so good that way too!
This dish is enough for two entrees, or three small plates and it takes about 30 minutes to whip up.
What you need:
What to do:
I stumbled upon this recipe from Jessica in the Kitchen last week and changed it around a bit to fit the way I like to eat. I did use her vegan cream cheese recipe and it was FIREEEE, the best vegan cream cheese frosting I've tried hands down so I didn't change a thing about that part. (Tap here for her vegan cream cheese frosting recipe.)
When it comes to desserts, I'm obsessed with trying to find healthier ways to bake them! So instead of using 1 1/2 cups can sugar, I used 3/4 cup maple syrup. I also love subbing out wheat (flour) in baking recipes for a 1:1 oat flour and all purpose gluten free flour combo so I did that here too.
What you need:
What to do:
Taco Bell! But won't make your stomach hurt afterwards. :)
Believe it or not but I actually found low carb Mission soft tortillas at the grocery store that taste EXACTLY the same as a regular tortilla? Like what? Why haven't they always made them that way?
I have recipes for both regular sized crunch wrap supremes and then mini ones below. The mini are handheld and SO FUN!!
What to do:
Loooove me some carbonara. I love making this dish because it can be easily customized. Want it creamier? Add heavy whipping cream. Want to add in some fall flavors? Add some butternut squash or pumpkin puree. Want it to taste like cacio e pepe? Toast some peppercorns and toss em' in. Looking to add some greens? Arugula or spinach both work great mixed in. Want to give it an Asian flare? Miso paste is so amazing in it too! The options are endlessssss.
A few carbonara tips I've learned over the years:
What you need:
What to do:
I baked with applesauce for the first time!! The texture it brings to this cinnamon apple bread is insaneeeee. Don't expect some giant apple flavor to take over your tastebuds, it's pretty subtle but still so sosossoso good. I really love this one because even though one of the main components is apple, there aren't any apple chunks involved in the recipe. I hate apple chunks in any baked good, the texture of this bread is the same as like banana bread/pound cake! Aka, amazingly moist.
If you don't know by now, I have a weird obsession with baking healthy treats. It's usually at the start of a new season when I bake the most. Sooooo, this recipe is actually *vegan* because the applesauce replaces the eggs and I use oat milk instead of cow's milk. It's also gluten free because I used oat flour/gf all purpose flour and then it's nut free too, obviously, no almond flour used in any of my recipes due to my nut allergy! Oh and I used maple syrup instead of sugar so it's naturally sweetened. AHH, SO FUN TO BAKE HEALTHY THINGS THAT STILL TASTE THIS GOOD!
**Everyone's oven works differently and reaches different temperatures at different times so be patient with it and keep checking it throughout the suggested cooking time! It's a little harder for gluten free flour to rise, so if you have options, use a more narrow than wide bread pan.
Also, one more thing. It looks sort of ombre colored and I believe that is because I overdid it with the olive oil I used to brush the sides of the loaf pan. I am always scared that the loaf is gonna stick to the pan so I tend to over do it and that can sometimes lead to the edges of the loaf browning due to the heat and amount of oil seeping into the bread. Just an FYI.
I am having such a hard time writing this blog post because I'm actually eating this right now as I type and I don't want to stop taking bites but I also need to remember the amount of the ingredients I used before they disappear from my brain so here we goooo!
The pasta is gone so now I can actually think. A few notes:
Some people get excited about the cooler weather aspect of fall but for me it's all about the food. I'm a huge fan of all things butternut squash and I especially love pairing it with pasta.
All of the ingredients I used were purchased from my local ALDI grocery store! I was super impressed with not only the value but also the variety and selection of groceries that they offer! I also love that in addition to visiting the store or doing curbside pick up, you can shop with ALDI on Instacart too - perfect for those super busy days. One of my favorite products I found and used in this recipe would be the Priano Three Cheese Tortellini because of how quick and easy it was to make - it only takes a minute or two after being tossed into boiling water and then it's ready to go.
There are a few factors that take this particular butternut squash pasta sauce to a whole new level of cozy. It's obvious that the butternut squash is roasted and pureed but I also roasted a handful of garlic cloves with the squash and coated the entire roasting party in extra virgin olive oil and Stonemill Ground Nutmeg.
This recipe makes enough for two large entrees or 3-4 small sides. Prep time is 10 minutes and cooking time is 45 minutes, so it takes about an hour total to complete!
Last week, I made Monique from @AmbitiousKitchen's Lemon Blueberry Zucchini Cake recipe and it was soooo good - like I freaked out when I ate it. Almond flour is one of the key ingredients but I found a way around that since I can't eat nuts. I was actually super skeptical about using an almond flour alternative since it distinctly says in her recipe a few times that she doesn't recommend a sub. I ended up used Pamela's Products GF/V Flour instead of the almond flour! Upon completing the batter, I realized it was super dry, almost like cookie dough instead of cake batter - so I added in a few splashes of oat milk and prayed that would do the trick. It did!
What I'm sharing below is a recipe totally adapted from Monique - I don't claim it as my own. I just changed a few things around and adjusted it to accommodate my nut allergy. Sooo many of you were excited about it that I decided to share for my fellow nut allergy fam.
So basically, this is the best healthy-ish cake I've ever eaten. There's 1/2 cup honey instead of sugar, no dairy and no gluten. Say whhaaaatttt. The frosting is optional but I think the sweetness from it is what makes it taste more like a cake than a sweet bread.
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