You need to read “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”!

I’ve been trying to read Lord of the Rings, but good God is it a struggle; love the films, love everything to do with Middle Earth, but that book is a rough read! This past Sunday, I was looking to relax and read by the pool in my complex, and LOTR was not just not appealing at the time. Instead, I picked a tiny book off of my bookshelf that I had received in my stocking from “Santa” one Christmas but had never taken the time to read. The book was A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, at it touched me deeply.

Only 50 pages long (but filled with artsy black and white images on almost every other page so really it’s like 30 pages), this is a quick read with many valuable insights. Author Anna Quindlen admits, “I’m not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel.” And there’s something charming about that; a normal person sharing the the practices and concepts that have made their own life happy and fulfilling.

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Giada Vegas – Restaurant Review

On August 18th, I had the immense pleasure of dining at Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis’s restaurant – Giada. Now, if you know me then you will know that I am a huge Giada fan. She is the chef I receive the most inspiration from for my cooking and it is her cookbooks that I turn to first when looking for guidance or a new recipe to try. I have even had the honor of meeting her at a book signing once – yes, she is that beautiful and yes, she is incredibly kind.

This love of Giada is shared by my amazing mother, Janet. We love to watch her shows on Food Network, make her recipes together, and most importantly – eat her recipes together! After Giada opened her Las Vegas restaurant at the Cromwell in the summer of 2014, my mom always said that if she could dine anywhere, she would love to try Giada Vegas.

Giada Mom and Me

August 18th is my mother’s birthday, and this year her birthday was one of special significance for a multitude of reasons. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate her on this important birthday, so I surprised her with a trip to Las Vegas, a stay at Caesar’s Palace, and dinner reservations at Giada. I didn’t tell her where we were dining until right before dinner, and I loved seeing her face light up when I told her that we were going to finally try her top dining destination. Her birthday dinner could not have been better as our dining experience was one of the best either of us has ever had. Giada is a true treasure of restaurant.  Continue reading

Recipe Review: Giada De Laurentiis Linguine with Avocado and Arugula Pesto

With summertime going strong, I continue to make light and zesty pasta dishes for my family’s traditional Sunday Supper. There is just something about a bowl of pasta with bright flavors when the sun is shining and the air is warm. It just makes me feel like I am in the Mediterranean. A couple of years ago, I happened across a recipe for another summery pasta dish that was quite unconventional: Linguine with Avocado and Arugula Pesto.

This recipe comes to us via my favorite cook and culinary goddess, Giada De Laurentiis. Even though I find everything Giada does to be pure gold, I was quite skeptical when I first saw this recipe. How can avocado be in pesto and/or pasta? Of course, after I actually watched her make the dish, I could imagine how the flavors may work together, so I gave it a shot.

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Johnny’s Frittata

In the morning, I like to have a really nutritious, protein packed meal to start my day off right. This frittata is exactly that. Eggs and whites, spinach, vegetables, and avocado make this one power house breakfast. I make this for breakfast for myself almost every day because it is just so good and sets me up for success throughout the day.

Johnny Frittata

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 full eggs
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons zucchini, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach
  • 5 cubes avocado
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salsa, optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 ̊F. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion, pepper, tomato, zucchini, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sauté the vegetables until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook till wilted.

In the meantime, beat the eggs, egg whites, and paprika together in a large bowl. Once the spinach is wilted, pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it covers all the vegetables and spinach. Drop the avocado cubes throughout eggs.

Place in the oven and cook until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Remove and plate. Top with salsa and serve!

Summer Spaghetti

I write this on June 21, 2015, the Summer Solstice. It is a glorious warm and sunny day in Huntington Beach, CA that seems to foreshadow a luminous summer season ahead. As we dive into this summer, my foodie mind begins to think of foods that I should be making and eating to truly be able to taste this special season.

When I think of summer and food, I think of bright citrus flavors, fresh green herbs, seasonal vegetables like zucchini and summer squashes and plump cherry tomatoes, and succulent and lean seafood. And seeing as this particular day is a Sunday, I also think of pasta as it is traditional in my Italian-American family to have more Italian style dishes for traditional Sunday Supper. And so, today I combine all these flavors in one in my Summer Spaghetti.

This dish is very easy to make, requiring little effort, and is actually on the lighter side for a pasta dish which is perfect for summertime. Having this for dinner makes me feel like I am back in Italy on the Amalfi coast overlooking the blue Mediterranean while enjoying a delicious meal. I hope you can imagine the same as you enjoy this dish!

Summer Spaghetti

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 1b shrimp (figure 4-5 shrimp per person), deveined and removed of their tails
  • 1 zucchini squash cut into ½ rounds, then cut in half
  • 1 summer squash cut into ½ rounds, then cut in half
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil
  • ½ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until veggies are tender.

In the last 10 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. (PROTIP: Throw a spaghetti noodle at the wall, if it sticks to the wall, it’s done!)

Place the shrimp in a small baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and a ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes until shrimp are pinkish orange.

In a large pasta bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, remaining olive oil, ½ the basil and parsley, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and ½ the parmesan cheese until well combined.

Drain the spaghetti and place in the bowl with the lemon mix. Add the additional parmesan and toss to coat. As you toss, the cheese will melt and toss the noodles! Add the veggies, shrimp, and remaining herbs. Toss until well mixed.

Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and herbs if desired. Enjoy!

 

 

Summer Spaghetti

A Good Morning

We live in a culture where morning is a mad rush of chaos, stress, and frantic energy. We have been trained that when the alarm clock goes off, we must fly out of the bed like a jet off of an airport runway and launch ourselves with reckless abandon into the day while repeating the mantra, “I must get as much done as possible, I must make as much money as possible, I must get as much done as possible,” etc etc. I have found that this mentality that we have adopted for the sunrise hours sets us up for a more stressful, not fulfilling, and negative day overall.

Luckily, there are small practices that you can weave into your current morning routine to inspire calm, healthy, positive energy for the rest of your day. Of course, mornings will continue to be busy. And I am sorry to say that if you are a commuter with children, that editing your morning routine as it is now is decidedly more challenging. I still, however, encourage you to try to start your day off on a better note by including one or two of these practices in your sunrise hours. You may have to wake up a bit earlier, you may have to do some prepping the night before, but the overall shift in your daily life will be well worth it.

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