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Vegetable + Meatball Soup


This soup recipe is very healthy for you with lots of cleansing ingredients that will make your body happy.  It's also flavorful and great for making in bulk.

I love Italian Wedding Soup and I wanted to make it myself since it's simple.  But the more times that I made it, the more that I adjusted it by adding more and more ingredients.  Unlike Italian Wedding Style, there's no pasta in here but you could definitely add some.  Anyway, that is how this recipe came to be.

You don't have to cook the meatballs and vegetables in advance, but I think that cooking them before helps maintain the shape of the meatballs so they don't crumble apart, making the soup cloudy.  It also keeps the flavor of the vegetables a little better, but it's very subtle.

Sometimes I get a slow cooker and put the meatballs in the bottom, pile on the seasoning and veggies, add the broth, and let it cook all day.  It still tastes great and requires a fraction of the work.

Slow cooker soup - this is what I mean by "cloudy"

Vegetable + Meatball Soup

Makes 8 servings
Prep time:  40 minutes
Cook time:  3 hours



1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Triguisar Colombian Seasoning
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 cup Italian Style breadcrumbs 
1 large egg


2 tbsp. water (for pre-cooking veggies)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 celery stalks
6 carrots
1/2 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch of cilantro (1 cup chopped)
1 bunch Italian parsley (1 cup chopped)
12 small red, purple or yukon gold potatoes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
48 ounces chicken broth
6 oz. uncooked baby spinach
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cups of water


1. Put all the meatball ingredients into a large bown and mix throughly with your hands.  I like to knead and smash it over and over.  Then form the meatballs by rolling the meat between your hands.

2. Throw the meatballs into a large stew pot to brown on all sides. I like the meatballs to be medium-large in size so they hold more flavor, but any size is fine.  I usually have about 17 or 18 meatballs from the 1 pound.

They only need to cook for about 1 minute on each side, but if you keep the heat low you can let them slowly brown while you prep the vegetables.  Just remember to turn them occasionally.

3. Chop up all the vegetables, fresh herbs, and finely mince/smash the garlic. (There's no need to chop the spinach, it'll whither up during cooking)

4. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and put aside. If there is any grease in the pot, throw it out.

5.  Add oil and water to the pot.

6.  Add all the vegetables and sprinkle with the sea salt.  Put the lid on the pot and let them cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

7.  Add the garlic and put all the meatballs on top of the vegetables.

8.  Add all the seasonings, the parsley, and half of the cilantro. 

9.  Pour the chicken broth and 2 cups of water into the pot. 

10.  Bring it to a boil, add the lid and reduce it to a simmer.  Let it cook for about an hour.  Stir it gently to mix all the layers together and distribute the spinach around.  Cook for at least another hour so all the flavors will come out.  Sometimes I'll leave it for up to 4 hours and occasionally stir and add more water. 

11.  Top with fresh cilantro and serve. 

Nutrition information:

Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means that if you click them and buy, I'll receive a small commission. Your price doesn't change at all, and I can keep improving this site. For my full disclosure, click here

Self-Portrait - Lace Dresses!

Self-Portrait and their mixture of lace, ruffles, and prints have really won me over, in a major way!  I'm not usually very big on lace dresses or super feminine clothes, but I was drooling over their website for a while.  This three are definitely on my wishlist:

The ones shown in this collage are really obvious "wow" pieces to me, but some of their stuff does require you to be fearless with your style.  If you like to blend in, these clothes are not for you.

I believe they've been around since 2013, but I'm not certain about that.  I heard they have some leather/lace combination pieces but I haven't seen them yet in their current collection.  When I was browsing through some of their previous collections, I did see that combination and more block colors.  I wish I could go and get those!

How familiar are you with Self-Portrait?

Turkey Sliders

We eat these turkey sliders every couple of weeks.  They're tasty, light, and easy to make!  Normally, I just slice up some red onion really thinly and dollop on some guacamole as a topping.

We prefer without a bun but I realize most people like sliders to be mini burgers.  In that case, we do like to use King's Hawaian Sweet Bread Rolls for buns because they're so sweet and work well with some red onion and the savory sliders.

This recipe also calls for Triguisar, which you'll probably be seeing a lot in my recipes now that I know about it.  I'll make a post about this seasoning in the future, but yeah, I'm obsessed with it.  You have to order it from Amazon or go to a South American market to find it, unfortunately.  This recipe works well without it though, so if you don't want to do that, just leave it out.

Another suggestion for these is to slice up some tiny strips of spinach and mix it in with the seasonings.  It's healthy, subtle, and tasty.

Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means that if you click them and buy, I'll receive a small commission. Your price doesn't change at all, and I can keep improving this site. For my full disclosure, click here

This is how I eat them!
Turkey Sliders

Makes 4 servings
Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time:  15 minutes


1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Triguisar Colombian Seasoning Mix
1/2 cup Italian Style breadcrumbs 
1 large egg
12 scallions, thinly sliced


1. Spray a skillet or griddle and heat to medium-high

2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your hands until all the ingredients are very well combined.  I like to squish and knead, over and over.

3. Form small little patties with your hands, and add to the pan.  

4.  Cook for 5 minutes on each side (165 degrees). 

5.  Add to a bun and enjoy! 

Nutrition Information:

How to - EyeShadow Tutorial for Asian Monolid Eyes

In this makeup tutorial I show you how to do eye makeup for women with monolid eyes - or those who don't really have eyelids, like me.

Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means that if you click them and buy, I'll receive a small commission. Your price doesn't change at all, and I can keep improving this site. For my full disclosure, click here

I used the foil technique, which is applying the eyeshadow wet.  You should only use a loose eyeshadow or a baked eyeshadow or you'll ruin your eyeshadow (or you can scrape the top part off, but why waste it?).  If you want to make your own cream eyeshadow, get a noncomedogenic moisturizer such as Cetaphil, which I use daily anyway, and scrape some of your eyeshadow into the moisturizer and mix it together.

Cream eyeshadow is your friend when you have monolid eyes, and so is foiling!

Unfortunately, none of the eyeshadows that I used are being sold anymore.

I found some eyeshadows that are similar but I have not tried them yet.
Bare Minerals - Blue Pat McGrath Palette with blue and gray Surratt Beauty Smoky Eye Baton in Blue

And these are the other products that I used:

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Urban Decay Eyeliner Makeup For Ever Mascara Ardell False Eyelashes 110 Tarte Matte Lipstick

That's a tarte blush in the photo but I didn't put it on, sorry about that.

Have you ever tried foiling and do you use cream eyeshadows a lot?

What I Learned From Being In Love

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Today is also my 12 year anniversary with my boyfriend and to honor that, I am going to share with you what I have learned from being in love all these years.

At three months
1. You can't plan your life.  

I wasn't looking for him at all.  I was busy trying to launch a career in radio and had just given up my dreams of swimming in the Olympics and was still licking my wounds, so-to-speak.  Having fun and moving up in life was all I was concerned with.  I was working with one of his best friends at the radio station and only meant to get to know him as a friend.  Before I knew it, we were together and I was scared because I had not planned to even LOOK for a husband until my late 30's! Marriage and settling down sounded so boring in my early 20's and I was horrified at the idea of finding "my lobster" (but I love him so it's okay).

I love this part in "Friends"!
2. Routine is actually nice (and I'm a domestic woman - NO one saw that coming!).

We were both into partying when we were young, but now we actually love to stay in and just veg out together in our comfy pajama clothes.  We are pretty routine now and everything is really comfortable.  My 20-year-old self would cringe, cry, or be pissed to know what I've become - but love has taught me that it's really nice to be able to just sit around and be sloppy with the man you love.  It's fun to get glammed up and go dancing or hit up a party, but I just don't need it.  I'm sure a lot of that is just part of growing older as well, though.

I also realized that it's fun to express my love by feeding him and having a cozy house together.  I work from home so even if I'm out with friends during the day, I like to come home in time to have dinner ready for him when he walks in the door.  We divide the house up to do the cleaning 50-50 and we go grocery shopping together every week, so it's not totally a 50's household, but I admit that I never thought I'd be making breakfast and dinner for two every day.

3. We don't have to be together all the time.

Even though we usually are together all the time, I've learned that it's so liberating to know that we always have a choice.  It's nice when we do things together, but we know we don't have to, and that automatically makes our time together way more enjoyable (no one wants a needy ball and chain).  I'm sure our friends appreciate that it's not always "Dan and Caity" every time they want to hang out, too.

10.5 years later

4. 100 pounds is nothing.

I went through a lot of health issues in my early 20's and some of it caused me to gain 100 pounds in three months.  I was terrified that he would leave me or that he'd lose physical interest because we hadn't even hit the 1-year mark, but nothing changed.  He just helped me get through it all.  In fact, he also gained about 130 pounds (I consider it sympathy weight).  We both gained it and we both lost the weight, together.  We've been through a lot of very emotionally difficult situations (far worse than traumatic weight gain) and it has only brought us closer together, which taught me that 100 pounds in the eyes of genuine love, is nothing.

5. Everybody poops (we're all human).

This is a lesson for me because when I was younger and I would meet a guy, I would be terrified to let him see me be human.  No, I don't have old lady underwear! Yes, I just wake up like this every day - fully dressed and smelling like a scented candle!  They had to think I was perfect but that also meant that I was terrified of when I'd see the guy's human-ness.

I once went with a date to my favorite beach and didn't want to have to carry my sandals while we walked on the sand, so I left them on the ground near the entrance where I knew we'd pass through again to leave.  It was dark and late at night and they were Reef sandals, not like Swarovski crystal slippers or anything, you know? Well, the guy kept obsessing about my damn sandals.  He kept saying, aren't you worried they'll get stolen? No, no one is going to take them at the beach, dude.  And if they do, I'll survive because I have four other pairs of sandals at home.  He wouldn't let it go and I slowly stopped feeling any attraction to him that night.  He was being human, and I didn't like it (before you think I'm a total asshole, there weren't a ton of sparks to begin with, so that played a factor too).

Well... when you've both had the flu for a week, at the same time, and you live together - you cease to blush at anything.  We've seen it all, heard it all... you get my point.  We're both human and we definitely know it!

Um... no.  Love means seeing, smelling, and hearing "gross" stuff and not minding.

6. There are different types of love. 

When I was in high school, I thought I was in love.  I really thought that nothing could feel so deep or hurt so bad when it was over.  Then I turned 19 and realized that was nothing! That was a buddy-ship, not a relationship! Now I finally knew what love was.

Well, what I had thought was love that second time around was actually emotional abuse and narcissism because I had absolutely no love for myself yet.  It was neediness and a giving away of my power because I lived in self-loathing.

While I was in that relationship, my cousin had just become engaged to the man she'd been with for three years, and I asked her what it was like to have such a long relationship.  She simply said, "he feels like home".  Well, that didn't make any sense to me and I had no idea what she meant... until I met Dan.  Now I get it.  It is unconditional and easy - just like the feeling of coming home.  Easy in the sense that you don't have to work for it and you don't have to look for it.  It just is.

7. Even when you have great love, you still have to find self-love. 

What? Well, this sort of piggybacks onto the last point:  When you love yourself, you don't need to find it outside of yourself anymore.  When we hit the 5-year mark, I felt that he didn't express to me that I was attractive enough.  I realized that I enjoyed it too much when other guys would flirt with me or look at me, and I wondered why.  I had a wonderful man who loved me, and I loved him.  I didn't have any desire to actually cheat on him or leave him, so why was I being so gross and attention-hungry?  Because you can't fill a hole from the outside-in.  If you don't love yourself, no one can do it for you.  Others can love you, but it won't make the hole inside feel any smaller (it will at first, but it's not sustainable).  When I began to work on how I spoke to myself and how I felt about who I am as a person (reaching for self-love), our relationship shifted naturally and I believe we became more balanced as a couple, too.

8. Communication matters.  

Like the old advice goes, we don't go to bed angry and our fights always blow over in about 20 minutes because we've learned how to communicate with each other.  I know it sounds sort of unbelievable that we rarely fight, but it's true.  I believe that's because we always express ourselves.  He isn't the most demonstrative boyfriend, and he's not the most emotional person, but after years of being together, I've conditioned him to express himself much more.  I always say, "this is how I felt when...." or "I heard..." so that he knows where I'm coming from and why I'm reacting that way.  Usually, he needs a few minutes to absorb this and then he'll react with a calmer "well, this is what I actually meant..." or "but I reacted this way because..."

Sometimes "this is how I felt" sort of backfires because he'll say "that's crazy..." and that NEVER goes over very well... but usually, he'll say something like, "I'm sorry too.  This is what was going on in my mind..."

Maybe don't say this...

Now, it's taken years for our fights to become this succinct.  In the beginning, we'd take a couple of hours to get to the resolution but we eventually realized that neither of us enjoys being mad at each other, and neither of us likes drama.  So if our goal is to make up and just be heard and understood, that can be done quickly.  We have both learned to put aside our egos which need to be right and to just validate each other so that we can resolve things and come to an understanding. Our fights always make us stronger.

Also, sometimes we just need to vent, and we've started saying things like, "I'm just venting right now.  I'm not trying to make you feel bad, but this is just how I feel..." and usually once all the venting on both sides occurs, we are able to start moving towards a resolution and it feels like we are working together, which instantly helps.

9.  Expectations ruin relationships

You can't change other people and you can't expect them to be what you want them to be.  He's good about not minding that I follow my dreams even though it means that I didn't finish college or I get bored with stuffy office jobs.  I need a dynamic, creative career and he knows that nothing will ever bring me fulfillment like acting does and he accepts that even though he's a very ducks-in-a-row kind of guy who likes stability and linear ways of living.  I appreciate that he has never had expectations of me because that means I can't disappoint him.  In return, I have also released my expectations of him, and I think it keeps us free. 

Well, this is longer than I had intended.  Thanks for reading! 

What has being in love taught you?  I'd love to hear your stories or any thoughts you have about mine. 

Get Ready for Valentine's Day!

I was playing around on Polyvore and saw all the Valentine's Day boards and felt inspired.  I had just seen this dress on the Macy's website (it's on sale too!) and died.  It's so cute!!

So I decided to join in the Polyvore board game and make a love-inspired board.  Here's how I would wear the dress for the perfect Valentine's Day date night and some other fun things that will make your night cozy, romantic, and sweet!

Sorry, I didn't know how to remove the background until after this post was created! Oops!

Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means that if you click them and buy, I'll receive a small commission. Your price doesn't change at all, and I can keep improving this site. For my full disclosure, click here

8. Steve Madden - Stecy Two-Piece Sandals (I have these already and they're sexy AND comfortable!)

Do you have a special Valentine's Day or Galentine's Day outfit planned?  Tell me about it! 

The "Faked Ziti" Experiment - Part 2

Last week I experimented with a creation called "Faked Ziti".  Today, I remade the recipe while adjusting the ingredients.

Here's the final recipe.  This time, I mixed in 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour to the sauce before tossing it in the zucchini, while it was still heating on the stove.  I skipped the ricotta/egg mixture because it was unnecessary as well.  I did not add the final layer of mozzarella on the top either, though I don't see any reason why you should hold back if you love cheese.

The end result was delightfully light and tasty.  I recommend meat sauce if you want this to be a heartier meal and you can also mix in some pasta if you'd like it to be super filling, but I just made it with zucchini and that was our entire dinner.

Faked Ziti - A Zucchini Dish

Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes (without sauce)
Cook time:  30 minutes, cool down for 30 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes (without sauce)


2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 zucchini 
3 cups of pasta sauce
3 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese 
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese 
sale and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Slice the zucchini in half, then quarter it so that they resemble speared pickles.  Then slice the seeds off (doesn't have to be precise, just get the bulk of the seeds because they become mushy when cooked).  Then halve them and slice into smaller strips, so they resemble ziti pasta.

3. Heat some olive oil in a pan with a lid.  Add the zucchini, stirring a bit.  Salt and pepper to taste, turn heat down and cover.  Cook for 5-10 minutes or until soft.

4. Transfer to a paper towel to drain any juices.

5. Heat the tomato sauce (or if you just cooked it, turn up the heat and add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir until mixed). Stir in the cheeses. 

6. Toss the zucchini with the sauce in a bowl until it's all covered.  Pour into a casserole dish. Cover with extra mozzarella if preferred, though I did not. 

7.  Cook for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and the zucchini is very soft. 

8. Cool for 30 minutes so that the sauce can thicken. 

Serve and enjoy. 

Nutrition information:

Using my sauce (version with no sausage and no optional ingredients)

Using generic a tomato sauce

I Love Amika Hair Products

Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means that if you click them and buy, I'll receive a small commission. Your price doesn't change at all, and I can keep improving this site. For my full disclosure, click here

Amika Hair Products + Lifestyle Blog

My friend bought me some Amika hair products as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and I fell in love with the brand upon the first use! It works great, is lightweight on my hair, and has a nice, fresh, sweet smell.

Asian hair tends to be slippery and shiny, thick and heavy, and when you rub it between your fingers, it's almost course in texture even though it looks very smooth.  That means that it generally doesn't hold curl easily (but once it's curled it STAYS) and any layers are hard to see.  I usually get my hair cut differently every time but no one can tell unless I lose some major length or do something crazy like get a pixie cut (which I did in high school but with the layers invisible, I just looked like a boy). 

Anyway, I digress.  I mostly air dry my hair because the last time I colored and used heat regularly, my hair was a frizzy, dead mess.  I'm not the kind of person who has the patience for tons of hair maintenance so it was totally my own doing (and I tried joining the "no poo movement" which really stripped the crap out of my hair but that's a whole 'nother Oprah).

But when I DO style my hair, I always use the "Amika Bombshell Blowout Spray" for heat protection and I get massive volume.  I lay down on the bed and dangle my hair over the edge or bend at the waist while blow drying and that really helps give it some lift.

Some days I'll go the extra mile and do the rest (which is only about 10 more minutes, haha) In that case, I mist my roots with the "Amika Undone Texture Spray".  I also get under my layers, a little bit, and work it in with my fingers.  Then I begin flat ironing.  After, I rub a little bit of the "Amika Haute Mess Texture Gel" on the tips and my layers become much more visible.  

I should just do it all the time because my hair has major volume that lasts all day and I feel way prettier, but I guess I'd rather be lazy than pretty. 

What's your favorite hair product and are you super loyal or do you like to try lots of things? 

How much time do you spend on your hair every day?

Cilantro Black Bean Dip


Happy Super bowl Sunday!  In the spirit of Superbowl parties, I am sharing my favorite bean dip recipe. 

This black bean dip is creamy and rich in flavor.  I hope you enjoy!

Serves 3


1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons mild salsa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice
Dash of salt 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and run until it's fully blended together.  Taste and adjust ingredients as preferred. 

Stir in most of the cheese and then pour into a greased baking dish. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  

The beans should be soft and the cheese melted in, but it shouldn't be crusty yet.  Stir and pour into a dish to serve immediately.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Enjoy!

Flipping over African Fashion - Afrikrea

Last week, I was catching up on some Shark Tank and a woman named Kelechi Anyadiegwa was on, looking for a deal for her clothing website Zuvaa.  Intrigued, I took to my iPad and searched for it.  The site is gone now - I guess there's been some issues with her not paying the merchants but I don't want to get into that.  I want to talk about the clothes! 

My understanding is that she is now a merchant with another site, called Afrikrea.  It is all apparel made by designers in Africa and shipped to the Western market. 

The first thing I saw was this gorgeous jacket:

I'll be honest, I wasn't at all familiar with African clothing or design before this moment, and my first thought was, "Yes! Yes, this is beautiful."  I love colors and bold prints and this jacket makes me very happy.  I must have it. 

Then I found this skirt:

The vibrant yellow and blue - omg!

And this other coat

It looks so comfortable yet chic!

The more I searched through the site and "favorited" the items that I want to come back and buy later, the more I felt this rumbling inside of my spirit.  My inner black woman was stirring! (Calm down, that's not intended to be offensive, we all come from Africa anyway!)

Point is, I'm obsessed with these pieces and must have them. Even the accessories like this scarf!

They also have clothes for those who prefer classic and simple styles.  Such as this dress:

Are you into the African style? Share with me what you love about these looks and if you know of other places I can shop clothing made by African designers, I'd love to hear about it! 

How I Learned to Cook... Intuitively

"I want some mashed potatoes!" My friend Mary Ellen declared as we were driving back to my house to watch television after water polo practice, once upon a time, a million years ago.  My mouth started to water immediately. "Oh dude, mashed potatoes, yes!" I love every variation of cooked potato in existence, and I talked about it at length, along with ice cream, so she knew very well that I would be in the mood.

"Should we go to KFC?" I asked, which was my main source of mashed potatoes at the time.

"No! That's just wrong! They're not even real potatoes!"

"So... where do we get them?" I asked, helplessly.  Thanksgiving wasn't for months and it just wasn't my reality to eat real mashed potatoes at any other time.

I drove us to the grocery store while she went on and on (furiously), about how it was insane that I didn't know the difference between dehydrated potatoes and real ones, and that I thought they were a seasonal meal.  Mary Ellen was born in Idaho, and her mom was a stay-at-home mother, so she had learned how to cook young - quite the opposite of myself.

The extent of my cooking knowledge was scrambled eggs, chocolate chip cookie dough, Top Ramen noodles, and potato salad which I had learned from a Boxcar Children Cookbook (and it took me all day to make).  So Mary Ellen taught me how to make mashed potatoes that day and I realized the value of knowing how to cook something from scratch.  I also learned that cooking wasn't actually that mystical of a skill.

Shortly after, my parents remodeled their kitchen and expanded its size significantly.  We were so excited that for months we watched The Cooking Network, dazzled by electric mixers, silicon baking mats, and beautiful copper pans.  My mom bought a Vitamix that she still uses to this day, so that we could make sorbets and soups.  It never really happened, but I do think that watching hours of cooking shows in high school laid some important foundations for me.

Fast forward to 10 years ago.  Gina, my unofficial mother-in-law and her husband purchased a house with a large kitchen.  We would visit and stay for a week or a two at a time, and that was my serious cooking training, as well as the place that we grew to know each other.  I had been cooking regularly for a few years, but I was a very strict "follow-the-recipe-exactly" kind of gal.  My food came out alright, but never anything spectacular.

Gina is an amazing cook.  She is intuitive and inspired in the kitchen.  If I didn't know any better, I would assume she had trained at fine culinary academies and was a seasoned chef.  But she is largely self-taught and after a decade of watching her cook and spending hours with her in the kitchen, I began to pick up her tricks as well.

(I also had to practice because - as 1950's as this sounds - when my boyfriend and I moved in together, he was used to her cooking.  I always chose to cook because it interested me, but I had to learn quickly how to improve if I wanted to make his spoiled stomach happy.)

So how does she do it?  It took a long time to learn from her because she never writes her recipes down and she doesn't measure anything! Which in turn, I learned to stop measuring things as well and now I eyeball everything.

She cooks with love, she uses all of her senses, and she listens to her heart.  It's amazing to watch her rub seasoning into meat and then she'll pause and go to the cupboard and take out four more jars of various seasonings to add.  Just when I think, "That is going to taste so amazing.  It has to be done!" she will toss the roast into a slow cooker and add soda, teriyaki sauce, citrus marinade, A-1, and Italian dressing.  That is what separates her from everyone else.

She's really good at remembering things that have worked well in the past, seeing what other recipes suggest, knowing how food interacts with each other, and then mixing all that information together.  She'll say, "Bell peppers and lime juice and Italian dressing will make a nice tangy marinade for these pork chops, but first I should sprinkle on some salt and garlic powder." And she's always right.

When observing her, I realized that she listens to the food, she trusts her instincts, she smells it, she touches it, she tastes it (when it's safe to do so obviously), and it's almost like she asks the food what it wants her to do.  Her intention is always to make her family happy and feel her love for them through the food, so she anticipates the end result as well.  I think those are crucial habits of being an amazing cook and I try every day to emulate all of it.

The best way I can explain it is, I season here and there, and I just go with my feelings every time.

Are you an intuitive cook or do you prefer the safety of a recipe?  What's your food story?  I'd love to know!

A Cooking Experiment: "Faked Ziti"

The Experiment: Substituting Zucchini for Ziti

I've always loved how zucchini tastes with tomatoes.  It always seemed like it would make the perfect gluten-free pizza crust with more flavor than say, a cauliflower crust.  I am sure there's a reason I haven't seen anyone do it - like maybe it falls apart too easily or something.  I have seen recipes for zucchini pasta, so I decided to make a Baked Ziti with zucchini instead of real ziti pasta.  Meet my "Faked Ziti"!

Getting ready to put it together - spiral pasta, zucchini and ricotta mixture

The Results

Well, I made a few mistakes.  The first was that I only had 3 zucchini, when I probably should have used 5 or 6.  I also used too much sauce and it all fell apart.  I suspect I should have baked it a little bit longer and let it cool all the way to help with that problem.  A friend of mine also suggested adding a touch of cornstarch next time, which is a great idea. 

The end result was a goopy mess of pasta sauce, cheeses, zucchini and pasta, all combined.  It tasted SO GOOD and was so filling that I only ate about a cup of it (good thing I love leftovers).

I think that without that impromptu addition of pasta, it would be a very light and tasty meal.  But when I think of Baked Ziti, I think of a hearty Italian dish and it falls under the category of a comfort food.  Without the pasta, this is not comfort food but for a light, Italian-inspired dish, I think it does the trick.

"Faked Ziti" Recipe

Here's the end result recipe: go here. 

I need to check the amounts of all the ingredients and redo this recipe, so I'll just list the ingredients and steps for you.  I may omit the ricotta cheese - I don't think it's necessary, and for zucchini only, I don't think we need such a goopy filling. 


Pasta Sauce
Ricotta Cheese - 1 container
1 large egg
Parmesan Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese


1. Cut the zucchini into quarters, so they look like speared pickles.  Cut out the seeds, then halve them and slice into ziti-sized shapes. I don't think it has to be precise, just remove the bulk of the seeds which tend to get mushy.

2. Throw the zucchini into a pot with some olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes before adding 1/2 cup of water and bringing it to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and let them steam for about 5 minutes or until soft.

3. Remove the zucchini bits and place on a paper towel to drain. Put aside.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Pour the contents of the Ricotta cheese into a bowl and add the egg.  Beat it with a fork until combined.  

7. Stir in mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese to the pasta sauce and let them melt together.

8. Toss the zucchini with the pasta sauce mixture before adding it to a baking dish in a single layer.  Spread ricotta cheese mixture in a thin layer and then add more zucchini/sauce, covering the ricotta completely.  Top with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  

9.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Quick & Easy Pasta Sauce - Meat and Marinara


marinara sauce on food and lifestyle blog

I used this sauce in my "Faked Ziti" recipe.  It's super easy to make, very tasty, and quick when you use canned sauce as a base!  Obviously, the longer you let the pasta simmer, the better it will taste - but I often make this for dinner in only 10-15 minutes, without the meat or cheeses.

If you're looking for a marinara recipe, just leave out the meat. If you're in a hurry, you can replace the onion and minced garlic with onion powder and extra garlic powder.

My boyfriend gets heartburn easily, so to keep him comfortable, I add 1/4 cup whole milk or 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream to keep the acidity down.  It also gives it a creamier texture.

Serves 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced and smashed
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
2-3 Italian sausage links, removed from casings
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (optional)
1/4 cup chicken broth (optional)
1 15oz can tomato sauce 
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried or fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup whole milk or 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (to taste) (optional)
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese  (optional)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or sauce pan.  I prefer to use a deep skillet pan that comes with a lid, but anything works. 
2. Chop the onion and mince the garlic, smashing it after.  
3. Add the onion to the oil, letting it soften.  Add the garlic and the meat together to prevent the garlic from burning. 

ground turkey meat, food blog

4. Brown the meat.  If there is any grease, drain it. Add salt and pepper.
5. Add the white wine vinegar and let it cook for about a minute. 
6. Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, sugar, parsley, and basil.  Stir occasionally while you bring it to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes, but preferably longer.

7. Stir in milk or cream and any cheeses you like, tasting as you go.  Salt and pepper to taste.
8. Let it simmer until you're ready to eat it. 

Serve with your favorite pasta and enjoy! 

Nutrition Info

Using Whole milk and all other ingredients
Not using any "optional" ingredients and with NO sausage

No "optional" ingredients but WITH sausage

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