Zucchini Noodles with Sausage, Tomatoes, Basil, and Balsamic Glaze

This one one of my most favorite easy weeknight dinners ever. It totally tastes restaurant-quality, uses only one pan, and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. The recipe is super simple with only about six ingredients, and it packs in about two servings of veggies per person. If you want to add even more veg, sliced asparagus or broccolini would make great additions! (Oh, and a nice warm piece of bread on the side is never a bad thing either.)

Zucchini Noodle and Italian Sausage by Kate MorinServes 2

1 medium zucchini, spiralized using the blade that creates thin, wide noodles
2 Italian sausages (sweet or hot, your choice), removed from casings
4 tablespoons chiffonaded basil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups whole grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil.

Once the pan is hot, add sausage and sauté until fully cooked, about 8-10 minutes or until you can’t see any more pink. Once cooked, add the shallots, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the tomatoes have started to shrivel and release their juices, about 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of your tomatoes).

Add the balsamic and cook uncovered until the liquid has reduced and the vinegary smell is gone, about another 5 minutes.

Add the zucchini noodles on top of everything else, and cover again. Cook until the noodles have started to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover, add the basil, and toss until everything is combined and the noodles are coated in the balsamic-y sauce. Top with parmesan (or dairy-free parmesan!) if desired and serve immediately.

In My Kitchen: Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas [RECIPE]

Tortilla Quesadilla_duoIt’s embarrassing how many of my meals include one of these tortillas. Especially lunches, and especially in the 9-ish months I’ve been working from home. Quesadillas? Yeah, at least once a week. And I will put just about anything in them. Pizza? That usually happens at least once a week, too.

It’s true: rice tortillas lack the flexibility of “normal” flour tortillas, so they’re not so great for sandwich wraps (or anything that involves a lot of bending). However, crisped up in a pan or the oven, they make a great vehicle for healthy toppings and fillings, and that’s why I love them. Plus, once cooked, they’re easy to wrap up and bring on-the-go — I always make a sandwich-quesadilla hybrid with one of these and wrap it up when I travel!

I’ve made a ton of different quesadilla and pizza combos, but one of my absolute favorites is the recipe below with zucchini, roasted red pepper, and chicken. If those fillings don’t float your boat, try a mix of other veggies or proteins. Here are some of my favorite combos:

  • Black beans, spinach, and cheese
  • Chicken, broccoli, and cheese
  • Spinach, chicken, pesto
  • Avocado, black beans, spinach

Zucchini, Roasted Red Pepper, and Chicken Quesadilla

Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Quesadilla

Serves 1

What You’ll Need:

1 brown rice tortilla
1.5-inch section zucchini, thinly sliced
1 piece roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cooked shredded chicken
1/8 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt, to taste
Optional: Salsa, greek yogurt, pesto, hummus (for dipping)

What to Do:

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.

Once the tortilla is defrosted (i.e. it’s somewhat pliable), spread half of the cheese on one half of the tortilla surface. Then, layer on the zucchini slices, red pepper, chicken, and rest of the cheese.

Fold the tortilla in half, and press down. Let the quesadilla cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the cheese is melty and the bottom of the tortilla is turning golden brown.

Flip, and continue cooking or another 1-2 minutes, or until the tortilla is golden brown.

Remove from pan, slice, and serve! I served mine with 1 tablespoon greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon pesto, but you can really use whatever you like!

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Lemon Chia Muffins_wide

These. These were special.

Lemon Chia Muffins_stacked

On Thursday morning, I was loading the recipe for these muffins into Greatist’s content system, and they sounded so good I had to stop what I was doing and make them immediately. (I guess that’s what I get for trying to work before feeding myself.)

The recipe comes from my friend Kelli at The Corner Kitchen. She uses Meyer lemon, lemon greek yogurt, chia seeds, and olive oil to make a healthier version of classic lemon poppyseed muffins.

Lemon Chia Muffin_side

I was missing a few of the ingredients Kelli used, so I improvised a bit: regular lemon instead of Meyer, and plain Greek yogurt instead of lemon-flavored. I also used gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose. And I didn’t fill the muffin cups enough. Oops! (They still taste great.)

I can see how the Meyer lemon would have enhanced the flavor quite a bit, but they were just fine with regular lemon, too. I do recommend doubling the amount of lemon zest if you skip out on the lemon-flavored Greek yogurt. The sweetness level of these was perfect for me with the plain Greek yogurt, but they could have used a bit more lemon flavor.

Head over to The Corner Kitchen for the recipe

A Random Revelation: Why I Learned to Love Cooking

I was 21, and my diet consisted mostly of mac and cheese, bagels, pasta, and sandwiches of various types. Don’t get me wrong — I packed plenty of vegetables and protein into those carb-heavy meals, and I knew the basics of throwing a meal together. But, like any other typical college student, wheat was a big part of my diet, even if I didn’t notice it. It was just there.

So when I found out I had to get rid of all that wheat from my diet — hello, Celiac — it was a little overwhelming. Whaat? I can’t go grab a turkey sandwich for lunch between classes? No bagels with cream cheese? No sausage, egg, and cheese on a croissant every Saturday morning to cure my inevitable hangover? Shit.

Instagram_inpostWhat followed  was a months long (err… years long? Ongoing?) challenge to identify every source of gluten in my diet, eliminate them all, and somehow find a way to replace them all with other wholesome, healthy-to-me foods. At first, I thought it was pretty easy. Eliminating the big sources — bread, bagels, pasta — made me feel a bunch better, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the “other” sources. Then, when I learned that I was in fact still consuming gluten — which is basically poison to my body — from unknown sources like soy sauce, dressings, Rice Krispies (what?!), and cross-contamination, I got more serious about eliminating those sources, too.

It’s been three years now.  And I think I’m finally “clean.” Except there’s one thing — for the last year or so, whenever I eat out at a restaurant or even at a friend’s home, I inevitably feel awful the next day, even if the previous day’s meal had been “gluten-free.” I’ve started to refer to this feeling as a “gluten hangover” — because that’s exactly what it feels like. A hangover. No restaurant or friend is intentionally feeding me gluten, but sometimes, it just happens. Cross contamination is a bitch, people.

So I’ve adapted. I’ve adapted without even realizing it. Give me a choice of eating out or cooking at home, and there’s a 99% chance I’ll choose cooking. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy eating out — I do, ohhhhh I do. But if the result is going to be me feeling awful the next day, 99% of the time, it’s just not worth it. I’d rather do the legwork myself — buy the groceries, do the chopping, sautéing and baking, serving, and cleaning. That way, I know that what I’m putting in my body isn’t going to end up hurting me.

While feeling stressed about eating out can sometimes be annoying, it has had some perks. For one, I’ve really learned to love cooking: Probably in no small part thanks to the fact that cooking my own food is like medicine — it makes me feel so much better than anything procured in another manner. I’ve also become a pretty good cook. And I’ve become more confident in the kitchen, too. I’m proud of what I’m able to create with just my brain and whatever ingredients I have on hand. And social media — Instragram, for example — has allowed me to share those little victories with others. Sometimes, I’ve even been able to inspire others to head to the kitchen themselves, to create their own healthy meals. These little things, I think, make the rough parts of going gluten-free worth it.

That’s what I realized last week, randomly, while prepping some meals for a long day of traveling. Subway? McDonalds? No thanks, rest stop — I brought my own.

Veggie-Filled Mac n’ Cheese

Veggie Mac and CheeseApparently, I’m a bad blog-runner. Life gets just a little crazy, and I go three weeks without posting. Woops. But now I’m back in a normal groove, at least for a little while.

It’s been an interesting month. A month filled with comfort food to help distract me from certain stressors that’ve been on my mind constantly. In the last 30-ish days, I decided to move out of New York and in with a boy (ew, gross). I feared not being able to keep my job due to this move (but, thank goodness, I am!). I apartment-hunted via Skype with said boy. We chose an apartment.  I took a weekend trip to help him move in. We picked out (and fought about) furniture. And I set a moving date for myself (April 26th!) and started packing my apartment. That’s a lot of decisions in very little time for someone who hates being decisive. It’s been unbelievably stressful, but also overwhelmingly exciting. And I couldn’t have made any of these decisions without my  (very patient) friends and parents. Oh, and maybe that boy. 

While this recipe (and photos) is actually over a year old, it’s basically the same thing I’ve been throwing together regularly over the last month: A healthier take on classic comfort food. Sometimes that’s been stovetop mac n’ cheese with veggies (yes, I used Velveeta — deal with it), sometimes it’s been chicken-quinoa meatballs with homemade tomato sauce, and sometimes classic rice and beans. Those are all great things to throw together in 30-minutes after work, but this one… this one’s more special. Perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon. The cheese sauce is made from scratch (but is simplified, and super easy), your choice of fresh vegetables take center stage, and you can use whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta for added fiber (super important).

Veggie Mac n’ Cheese

What You’ll Need:

1 cup broccoli
1 1/2 cups spinach
1 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 pound small pasta (I used gluten-free shells, but you could use any gluten-free whole-grain, or whole-wheat short pasta)
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

What to Do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a medium baking dish with olive oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a healthy pinch of salt. Add noodles, and cook until al dente (according to package instructions), about 8–10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, prep your veggies. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccoli and spinach to pan. Sautée until broccoli begins to tenderize. Add tomatoes and peas and continue cooking until heated through. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm milk and chicken stock over medium-high eat. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium. Add one handful of cheddar  at a time, stirring to melt in between additions. Once all cheddar is added, add ricotta and Parmesan and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Add veggies and pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir until everything is evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. remove foil, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and edges are bubbling.

Apple n’ Oatmeal Pancakes

Apple n' Oatmeal Pancakes

Sundays are my happy days. I try to sleep as late as possible, I usually have the apartment to myself, I let myself page through magazines for way too many hours, and I typically also try to cook something to have for dinner for the rest of the week. That time spent alone in the kitchen is, I think, pretty much what keeps me sane. Usually, I’ll skip breakfast on these days in favor of nibbling on whatever I’m cooking throughout the day. But then there are those Sunday mornings I just really want to settle on my couch with a big café au lait and a hearty breakfast. Last Sunday was one of those days.

Having to avoid gluten, brunch foods are pretty limited: eggs, oatmeal, yogurt. But on this day, I was sick of all the standbys. I wanted something heartier, something a bit more special. So I decided to create a little twist on the classic oatmeal. Voila — oat pancakes. Maybe this was just an excuse for me to smother oatmeal ingredients with butter, but regardless, they came out great and will definitely be on my Sunday brunch rotation regularly from here on out. I used apples here, but you can very well use any other fruit you like — I think pears, mango, banana, blueberries, peach would all work very well!

Maybe I’ll tackle one of the soup recipes from that Bon Appétit next…

Apple n’ Oatmeal Pancakes

Apple n' Oatmeal Pancakes_doubleServes 2 (3 small-ish cakes each)

What You’ll Need: 

2 cups oat flour (you can make this at home by throwing 2 cups rolled oats in a blender or food processor)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup milk
1 apple, cored and diced small
Butter, for cooking
Extra apple slices and honey  or maple syrup for serving

What to Do:

In a mixing bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, cinnamon, honey, and milk.

Stir until evenly combined.

Add in the apple chunks, and stir again to incorporate.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add butter to melt.

Once skillet is hot and butter is melted, cook the cakes in batches, 2-3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through. You’ll want to add a little more butter before each batch. (Note: If you have a cast iron skillet, use it! That’s the best way to get those perfect crispy edges!)

To serve, stack, spread with butter, top with apple slices, and drizzle with honey or maple syrup and a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Voila!

Coffee Cake for One (in a Mug)

Coffee Cake in a Mug

I have a relentless sweet tooth.

I also have a nasty need for baked goods any time my day goes less perfectly than planned. And, unfortunately (or fortunately?) because I can’t eat gluten, that need can’t be solved by walking in to just any random bakery.

So I can’t decide if stumbling across this recipe for a single-serve cake in a mug was a good thing, or a really really awful one. As long as you have a few simply ingredients laying around, this recipe means you can have a cup cake (literally) anytime you need it.

The best (and worst) part is that you can really make this into any kind of cake you like. Add some cocoa powder for a chocolate version, or mini chocolate chips for a… well… chocolate chip version. (See specific recipes below!)

Hope you enjoy this one as much as I do. Just try not to make it an every-night habit!

Coffee Cake in a Mug

Serves 1

What You’ll Need:

For the Cake:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg, or 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Topping:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional Additions:
mini chocolate chips
chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (to make it a chai cake!)
2-3 raspberries

What to Do:

Put 1 tablespoon butter in a microwaveable mug, and heat for 10-15 seconds to soften.

Stir in the 2 tablespoons of sugar until creamy, about 30 seconds.

Add egg and stir until completely combined.

Add yogurt and vanilla extract, and stir again.

Add flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, and stir until smooth. (If you want to add chocolate chips or nuts, add those now, too!)

Now it’s time to make the crumbly topping: In a separate small dish (like a ramekin), combine the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use your fingers to mush all the ingredients together so you end up with a crumbly topping.

Now, stir half of the topping into the cake batter. Then, sprinkle the second half on top.

Microwave oh high for 1-2 minutes, or until the cake is set.

Let cool for 2-3 minutes, and enjoy!