Tag Archives: food

Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am starting a new series on this blog called “Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!” which I will be publishing every other week or so. The intention behind my roundup is share links to other online material for your weekend browsing that I found interesting, informational, and otherwise inspiring that hopefully you will as well since we are all like-minded people here!

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 12, 2016!

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Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

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Balsamic Roma Tomatoes

I now find that I am asked for culinary advice and recipes for side dishes about as much as I am asked about main courses and entrees. So today, I want to give to you my recipe for a sensational summery side: my Balsamic Roma Tomatoes.

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Juicy Roma (Plum) tomatoes, fruity olive oil, pungent garlic, sweet balsamic, and fresh basil make this one delectable side, even for the odd ball eater (black sheep) who shies away from tomatoes. This recipe is insanely simple, only taking about 5 minutes to prep, and is at once both sweet and savory. I find that these tomatoes are the perfect side for light and bright chicken and fish dishes like Chicken Piccata or Grilled Swordfish, but really you can make them with anything and all will love them.

Now get cooking my foodie friends!

Balsamic Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 Roma Tomatoes (figure 1 tomato per person)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 basil leaves, torn
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the tomatoes in half, length wise. Place on the baking sheet with the cut side facing up. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Divide the crushed garlic evenly and place on top of the cut side of the tomatoes, smear around. Drizzle each tomato with a bit of the balsamic vinegar.

Place in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes and slightly withered, juicy, and the balsamic is caramelized. Top with a few pieces of torn basil and if desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy!

 

8 Things Fit People Do

Being the yoga instructor, #healthyfoodporn hashtag using Instagram cook, and lifestyle blogger that I am, I often receive a lot of questions about how to get fit and stay fit. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers come to me for my advice on how they can achieve greater health. I offer my tips and tricks like in the blog post here, and I always always always stand firm with my belief that being fit is about creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself that you can sustain over a long period of time rather than a quick fix diet or work out program. Also important, I always remind that a pant/dress size or scale number does not equivocate good health, but rather an overall feeling of wellness and ability.

All that being said, people still want to know how us-in-shape-people do it. I know lots of in shape people, and most of us have several things in common with the way we live our lives. So, I will share those with you now so that maybe you can see what we do and if those things appear to be ones you can do in your own life.

1. We prepare much of our own food

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Fit people still go out, fit people still get take out; but fit people also buy whole food ingredients and cook/prep many to the majority of our own meals. By purchasing quality ingredients and handling the preparation of them, we are able to control the amounts of fat, sodium, sugar, etc. in our food as well as manage our portions. It’s just an integral part of the lifestyle. It means carving out time to shop for the groceries, cook, and pack the food; it means hella Tupperware and a messy kitchen, but you feel great, often saves money, and it can be more flavorful too!

I have looked into the flames….

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…And I see Rubbermaid in your future!

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2. We make exercise a priority –

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It’s true; fit people make getting in movement an absolute priority in our day. I hear a lot of excuses along the lines of “I just don’t have time,” and that very well may be if you are just hoping for a random hour to open up in your day so you can fit a sweat in. The fact is, no matter how busy fit people are, they schedule the time for exercise in and rarely negotiate about it. It sometimes means getting up an hour earlier to make it to a before sunrise yoga or aerobics class or having lunch at your desk so you can squeeze in a gym sesh or spin class over your lunch break, but fit people will make it happen no matter what. Why? Because it makes us feel strong, it makes us feel good, and it makes us healthier and happier the rest of the time! The sacrifice of an hour is well worth it.

3. We drink tons of water –

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We are very blessed in the Western world to have access to clean running water. As much fun as water slides are, a much better use for all that water is using it for hydration! Hydration comes with many various health benefits including aiding digestion, purifying internally, releasing water retention and bloating, and even revving up metabolism. Fit people end up sweating a lot, and so we need a lot of water to replenish, and when we get it, our bodies are the happiest!

4. We sleep –

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Fit people make sure to get ample rest and sleep; when you’re active, it is important to allow your body to recuperate on the daily. A lot of us might be considered grandmas in that we choose to turn in early so that we can catch a full 7-8 hours, but here again, we make it a priority and it feels so good!

5. We are active in our free time –

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A lot of fit people choose hobbies and activities in their free time that involve getting outdoors and moving, and they genuinely enjoy it. Here again, it is all part of the lifestyle! For me, I enjoy taking my dog to the park after work or going on a Saturday hike, some people enjoy surfing in the mornings or playing football in the park on a weekend afternoon. These are all activities enjoyed in addition to normal exercise and movement that we simply find fun and fulfillment in while also being active and getting fresh air.

6. We eat, a lot –

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Yes, we prepare much of our own food, yes we control our portion sizes, but that doesn’t mean we are eating just kale and orange segments. Healthy people eat every few hours and make sure to get plenty of good foods with lots of nutrition. Starving yourself for 10 hours straight does not equal health, feeding yourself nutritionally rich foods every 2-4 hours usually does. Which would you choose?

7. We say no –

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Sad Panda, but sometimes we have to say no. Sometimes we turn down the slice of cake if we’ve been having too much sugar or we opt for the chicken and vegetables rather than the burger if we’ve been going to town on the carbs and salt. This is NOT to say you can never have the cake or the burger, but you have to check in with yourself and see what is going to make you FEEL the best, and sometimes that means saying no.

Here’s a sad Panda for you

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8. We say YES!

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Living a life of strict eating patterns that never permits a little indulgence is not fun or sustainable. It is important to enjoy what life puts on the plate for you, and sometimes that is a big pizza or brownie Sunday. Don’t be afraid to indulge and enjoy: make sure to treat yourself! Complete deprivation is not the goal here, its balance. Your dessert Monday through Thursday might’ve been a small piece of dark chocolate, but on Friday go ahead and have the Pizookie! You are golden! I live by an 80%/20% rule: 80% of the time I eat those traditionally healthier choices, 20% of the time I eat whatever the hell I want without apologies! So eat up me hearties yo-ho!

So, those are some of the things us “fit” people do. But remember, even if you are starting a new fitness journey, be kind to yourself and love yourself as you are now and along every step of the way!

Chicken Bellagio

Years ago when I was a teenager, the cool thing to do for us youngsters was to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner before catching a movie. A favorite dish of my friends and I was their Chicken Bellagio; pesto spaghetti, breaded chicken, prosciutto, and a lemon arugula salad – simple yet completely delectable! It is so simple, in fact, that one night while scarfing down the dish before running off to an 8 o’clock film, I had a culinary epiphany: I could totally make this at home for probably less money and for more people. And so, two days later I called on my Italian ancestors to guide me and I created a Copycat Chicken Bellagio Recipe that is to this day a friend and family favorite!

When I was the co-author of my first foodie blog, Confessions of Two College Foodies, this copycat recipe was by far our most popular and most well-read; we even made it on a local access cooking show (which I will not link to here because the 20 year old incarnation of me is much more tragic than the 25 year old one). Anyway, people love this recipe because it is so tasteful and quite elegant despite utilizing simple ingredients.

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Chicken Bellagio is a meal that gives you everything you need on one plate: carbs, protein, and greens. Rich and fresh pesto spaghetti is topped with a piece of tender and crunchy breaded chicken, which is then topped with slice of salty and delicate Prosciutto, which is then finished with a tangy and peppery arugula salad. All of these flavor profiles – the herbal freshness from the pesto and the arugula, the saltiness from the prosciutto, and the tanginess from lemon – make this such a magnificently balanced dish.

It is a little bit of work to time everything and get it all assembled, but once you’ve got the meal plated, it is really delightful and presents so beautifully. Furthermore, you can make this very elegant meal for friends and family for about $25-$35 for 4-6 people, which would easily run you over $100 when going out to eat; make this a winner in not only flavor, but in price.

This is going to be your new go-to when craving a restaurant quality meal, right in your own home!

Chicken Bellagio

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or cutlets
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus another 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1-1/2 cups store bought or homemade pesto (click here for a reliable homemade pesto recipe)
  • 4 slices Prosciutto
  • 3 cups arugula
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

For the Chicken –

Pound the chicken breast tenders or cutlets until very thin. Season both sides with about a ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper each.

Create a breading station using 3 bowls. In the 1st bowl, mix the flour, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper each. In the 2nd bowl, beat the eggs with the cream or half & half till completely mixed. In the 3rd bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. One by one, dip the chicken cutlets on both sides in the flour making sure to shake off excess, then the egg mixture making sure to let excess drain off, then in the breadcrumb mixture being sure to coat completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the breaded chicken cutlets. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until the breading is golden brown.

For the Pasta –

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Place pasta in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and the pesto. Toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce and make sure all noodles are perfectly coated in the pesto.

For the Arugula Salad –

Add the arugula to a salad bowl. Zest 1 lemon directly onto the lettuce. Mix the juice of the 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the arugula and toss.

To assemble –

Place 1 serving (about 1/8th to ¼ of the total) of spaghetti into a wide pasta bowl or onto a plate. Place 1 piece of chicken atop the post. Lay 1 piece of the Prosciutto over the chicken. Top the chicken and Prosciutto with a ¼ cup or so of the arugula salad. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

Kitchen Republic Review

To the naked foodie’s eye, the Bella Terra Shopping Mall in Huntington Beach, CA is a sea of casual dining chain restaurants that offer decent to good standard meals but not much in the way of originality. If you sail through this island of entertainment a little more carefully, however, you will happen across a new gem of a restaurant that satisfies the craving for a unique dining and tasting experience amongst the flavors of the chain establishments: Kitchen Republic. Located across from the ever popular Cheesecake Factory and next to the polarizing Buffalo Wild Wings, the fairly new Kitchen Republic offers a space that is hip, cool, authentic, and welcoming with drinks and dishes from a tapas style menu to match.

Kitchen Republic 1

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Why Meatless Monday?

Ciao friends! If you read this blog and/or follow me on social media, then you will know that I am a big supporter of the Meatless Monday movement that is taking the globe. This past month, the folks behind all the vegetarian magic at Meatless Monday reached out to me and have made Johnny La Pasta (that’s me!) an official representative of Meatless Monday!

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So, today, I want to talk to you a little bit more about Meatless Monday, why I practice it, and why you should try it out!

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Many reasons!

So what is Meatless Monday? It is a simple movement aiming to inspire the world to cut their meat consumption completely one day a week for our bodies and for the planet. The statistics around the benefits of what going meatless one day a week does and can do are frankly astounding.

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Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

As you may be aware, I have recently become entranced by the fantastic vegetable that is cauliflower and all the vegan sorcery you can perform with it. Remember when I made Cauliflower Steak and highlighted the basic technique for turning a head of Cauliflower into a steak? Well, Oops I did it again, and this time got fancy!

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with the Cauliflower.

This is my original Cauliflower Steak Marsala, which I am very proud to have developed. Inspired by Italian restaurant staple Chicken Marsala and steakhouse classic Steak Marsala, I have created a vegan friendly version of these beloved dishes.

I cut a head of cauliflower into steak looking slices, season them well as you would a piece of meat, and bake them to a crisp tenderness that possesses a meaty texture which I then effectively use to replace chicken or beef. Then I concoct a near traditional Marsala wine and mushroom sauce. Since there is no meat, I have built the sauce to be even richer in flavor than the traditional with a few heartier components. My vegan Marsala sauce includes sweet caramelized onions for another added layer of flavor and texture. Rather than using cremini or button mushrooms, I use strips of hearty, meaty Portobello mushrooms to make the meal more substantial. I add thyme and garlic for an earthy note to contrast the sweetness of the wine.

i love magic

Vegan Magic!

Lastly, I have come up with another piece of vegan magic! Most marsala wine sauces call for butter to thicken the sauce, which is great because…butter. Butter, however, is not vegan and quickly adds another couple hundred calories of fat to the dish. Instead, I puree cannellini beans which are buttery in texture and taste, and add a bit to the sauce. The pureed beans dissolve into the sauce which not only thickens the sauce, but gives it a nice silky smooth texture just like a traditional Marsala sauce.

The result is a rich, hearty, and gourmet meal that is 100% vegan! Serve with your favorite vegetable sides and you will blow your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike away! I am super proud of how this development turned out and I hope you enjoy it too!

Vegan Cauliflower Steak Marsala

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pureed cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425̊F.

Slice the head of cauliflower into 1 ½ inch steaks. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with half the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, Herbs de Provence, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake additional 15 minutes, until the upward facing side of the cauliflower is browned and crisped.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a pan. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Note* Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan if onions start to stick or burn. Add the mushroom strips and season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become tender and browned. Add the thyme and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the Marsala wine and stock to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow sauce to reduce for 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce until dissolved and the sauce becomes thick and silky.

Plate the cauliflower steaks and spoon over the sauce to cover the steaks. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve!

Note: The sauce is also good for more than Cauliflower. Grill, bake, or sauté chicken, steak, or salmon and add the same sauce over the top for a carnivorous with marsala dish with an even healthier sauce!

Note: I have only made this recipe for 2, but you could easily double or triple the recipe as needed.

Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

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YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

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Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Saint Patrick’s Day is tomorrow! Besides good beer (Guinness anyone????), comforting Irish food is one of the best parts of this previously-religious and now fully-universal cultural holiday! Fish n’ Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and most importantly: Shepherd’s Pie!

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Years ago, I used to author the now extinct blog “Confessions of Two College Foodies” with my dear friend Nicole. At that time, we developed a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that was out of this world, Celtic-god worthy divine. It has now become a St. Patrick’s Day staple among my friends and I.

While Confessions of Two College Foodies no longer exists, I used to guest write for the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and we posted the Shepherd’s Pie Recipe on their blog…which is still live! Meaning: you can get the recipe by clicking here!  And because I’m really nice, I took the recipe and reposted below so you can also get it here!

You have today and tomorrow to get the ingredients and make this for your St. Patty’s Day dinner! And it will probably last you well into the weekend. Enjoy it my friends!

Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • For the Potatoes and Cheese layers:
  • 8 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ cups grated aged white cheddar
  • 1 ½ cups grated smoked cheddar
  • For the Meat and Vegetable layer:
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 5-6 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • ¾ of a bottle Guinness beer (the ¼ cup remaining, is left for you 🙂
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 lb bag frozen peas

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

For the Potatoes: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter the potatoes and add to the pot. Cook until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Using an electric hand mixer or potato masher, begin creaming the potatoes. Add the milk and butter and combine together. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl until well mixed. As you are blending, add 1 cup of the cheese. Keep blending until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Salt and Pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Meat: Heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Season with ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Stirring often, cook until the carrots are tender, and the onions translucent about 5 minutes. Add the beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small chunks, cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Pour in the Guinness and allow to evaporate into out, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the frozen peas and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season with additional pepper. Remove from the heat.

To assemble: Spray a 9×13 inch-baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, or you bake in individual gratins. Spread the meat and vegetable layer in an even layer at the bottom. Spread the potatoes in an even, flat layer over the top of the meat. Cover the potatoes with the remaining cheese mixture. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.