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You know those times when eating healthy tastes so good that you think, why don’t I just always eat this way? That’s been where I’m at since trying this whole pseudo-Mediterranean diet.

I’ve made spaghetti squash a lot throughout the years, but this has been my favorite yet!

If you’re looking for a light substitute for spaghetti, I’d highly recommend trying this!

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

What You Need:

1 spaghetti squash

1/\3 C grape (or any small tomatoes) + 1/3 C grape (or any small tomatoes)

1 zucchini (sliced, cut into quarters)

1/2 TBSP olive oli + 2 TBSP olive oil

1 garlic clove, diced

1/2 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

2 TBSP fresh spinach

1/3 C onions, diced

1/3 C kalamata olives, halved

Feta (optional)

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Cut and clean the spaghetti squash

Add the tomatoes, zucchini in the hollowed area and drizzle with with 1/2 TBSP olive oil

Cook at 400 degrees for 45ish min (until it starts browning)

While it’s cooking, heat up the oil, adding the onions and garlic

Once the onions are translucent, add the spinach, basil, and the rest of the tomatoes

Cook all ingredients in the oil over low-med head for about 7 min

Using a fork, scrape the “Spaghetti” out of the squash and put in a bowl; toss to get the zucchini and tomatoes mixed in

Pour the pan sauce over the squash and toss again

Add feta, salt, and pepper to taste

Messiness: I somehow find a way to make squashes the messiest, most complicated thing ever. So, for me, anything involving a squash is a mess, but if you’re normal, it’s not that bad!

Simplicity: This is actually something I dreamed up since I had all of the ingredients, minus the spaghetti squash on hand. Also, I find pan sauces to be one of the simplest ways to make yourself feel like you’re a cook!

Budget: Spaghetti squash are sort of in season, and if you already have the stuff in your house, then it’s cheap! Heck, even if you don’t, it’s still not terrible. AND once you have some of these ingredients, like the olive oil and olives, you’ll have them for awhile.

Delicious Factor: I love that it’s light and filling. The sauce has a lot of flavor to it, ,and the squash gets some of the juices from the zucchini and tomatoes that were cooked in it. In fact, you can halve your tomatoes before cooking them in the squash to give it a slightly more tomato-y flavor.

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I’ve been admittedly on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately. It’s like everywhere I turn, people are lauding praise on the food from this region. So, why not try it for awhile.

Also, it always takes me awhile to work through a bunch of basil.

It’s been over a week, and with few exceptions, I’ve been able to stick to the Mediterranean foods, even when eating out or ordering in at the office.

All of this to say, expect several new recipes, all with virtually the same ingredients, cooked lots of different, yummy ways.

First up, Mediterranean couscous and kale salad!

 

KALE SALAD

 

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What You Need:

1 bunch kale

1 cup cherry, grape, sugar plum tomatoes (basically, just small tomatoes, though larger ones will work too, jut chop them up)

1/4 C shelled sunflower seeds (I use salted)

1 small scallion, diced (about 1 TBSP)

Feta (optional)

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP lemon juice

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Clean and dry the kale; tear into bite-sized pieces

Add the tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and scallions

Toss with lemon juice, oil, and feta

Add salt and pepper to taste

 

MEDITERRANEAN COUSCOUS

wpid-IMAG0235_1.jpgWhat You Need:

1 C cooked couscous

1 C cherry tomatoes; halved  (see the same note about the tomatoes above)

1/3 C kalamata olives; halved

1/4 C fresh basil; chopped + 1/2 TBSP fresh basil; chopped

1/3 C fresh spinach; chopped

1/4 C olive oil

1/4 C lemon juice

2 garlic cloves; minced

Feta (optional)

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Cook the couscous according to the directions on the box

Let cool and add the tomatoes, olives, 1/4 C basil, and spinach; mix together

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 TBSP chopped basil; mix

Pour the dressing into couscous and mix up

Add feta, salt, and pepper to taste.

 

Messiness: Honestly, this isn’t messy at all. Drying the kale and chopping things will be the messiest part. As for the cleanup and dishes, just one pot for the couscous, and everything else is kind of “clean up while you go.”

Simplicity: SUPER easy! Actually, this ended up being the product of a few different recipes I found for Mediterranean couscous. That is to say, you basically can’t go wrong.

Budget: I can’t lie, these ingredients aren’t the cheapest, but if you buy them, and cook with them for a few days, it’s not that bad. Kale, couscous, basil, olives, and feta will run about $3 each, olive oil about $6 at Trader Joe’s, and everything else you should be able to find at the 99 Cent store, or somewhere not too expensive.

Delicious Factor: Really good! The best part is that all of these ingredients taste really fresh together. The kale is super filling so you’re not tempted to chow down on too much couscous. It’ll still be hard though.

 

This is a recipe that took me a few tries to figure out, but at least it still tastes yummy even when you mess it up!

I have been on a bit of a zucchini kick lately, and happen to love bite sized things, so when I saw a recipe for Zucchini Tots, I was all in!

They’re simple, crunchy and make great finger foods for an easy dinner, or football Sunday treats.

Make sure to read the notes below though, because these little things can be tricky!

Zucchini tots

What You Need:
1 cup zucchini, grated and wrung out
1 egg (1 large egg equals 3-4 tbsp when whisked together)
1 shallot
1/4 cup cheese (I used cheddar)
1/4 cup bread crumbs

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Spray a mini muffin tin with a nonstick spray (I thought just coating them in oil with a paper towel would work. I was so, so wrong. Get the nonstick spray!)

Mix the ingredients together (Make sure the zucchini has been wrung out. This is SO important so that they won’t be soggy)

Pack the mixture into the muffin tin

Bake until the tops gets brown, around 16 minutes

Enjoy!

Messiness - Here’s where things get complicated. Some recipes will tell you that you can get all of the zucchini juices out by squishing them between paper towels. I don’t know if I just had some super juicy zucchinis or what, but there was too much liquid for a couple of paper towels.

Instead, I just took handfuls of the grated zucchini and squeezed them in my hands. You’ll be blown away how much liquid those suckers have! I just squeezed until there was very little juices left, THEN patted them down with a paper towel. (There has to be a better way to do this! If you know one, I’m all ears :D )

After you’ve done all of that wringing out, THAT’s the zucchini you want 1 cup of.

Simplicity - All of that is a ton of work; I can’t lie. But when it comes down to eating guilt-free tots while watching the Oakland Raiders play football on Sunday, it’s worth it.

Also, after all of the work is done, the recipe is actually really, really simple!

Oh, and you can add things like oregano and basil (like I did above) and get Italian breadcrumbs for a different flavor.

Budget - CHEAP! Zucchinis are everywhere right now, cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs and shallots are all at your local 99 Cent store.

Delicious Factor – If you get the measurements right on, then they’re amazing! If there’s too much egg though, it may end up tasting more like a frittata than a tot.

tortilla crisps

It’s mindblowing how many things I come up with because I’m just lazy. One night I was home, and wanted something to eat, but I didn’t want to lose my parking spot. That meant I had to come up with something based on what I already had at home… which wasn’t much since the next day was grocery day.

I’m prone to making tortilla chips when I just want a small snack, but I wanted something different this time.

And that’s how the tortilla crisp was made!

They’re easier than a quesadilla and ready in minutes. Let me know how you like them!

What You Need:
Corn tortillas
Cheese (grated)
1 TBSP Oil
Salt

What You Do:
Heat the oil and fry a tortilla on one side in a small pan or skillet. The oil shouldn’t be enough to go over the top of the tortilla, just to fry the bottom

Flip and fry the other side

While it’s frying, quickly put the cheese on (and crushed red peppers if you like). Sprinkle the salt across the tortilla.

Once the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted, you’re done!

Messiness: Not too messy. The good news is if you’re using a large skillet, you can fry two at a time, and the cheese that misses the tortilla turns into cheese crisps. You can see the little crisps in the pic.

Simplicity: EXTRA simple. Even better if you have grated cheese on hand.

Budget: CHEAP! $2 for a bag of tortillas and the bag of cheese, and you can make a ton with that.

Delicious Factor: Even with just the cheese this is yummy! It’s like a quesadilla and nachos had a baby.

Lately, I’ve been discussing recipes with a lot of friends, and I finally realized something: people my age (mid twenties), on the whole, have no idea how to cook simple, SIMPLE things. Things that our parents probably learned from just watching their parents.

However, since we’re the generation of fast food lovers, a lot of things in the kitchen seem daunting, including plain, ole roasted veggies.

This recipe wasn’t anything that was taught to me, it’s just something that I figured out one day.

As a vegetarian, I have to go to the store about twice a week to make sure the produce I’m using is fresh. There are still times though when all of my vegetables stack up on me, and I either have to eat them within the next day, or they’ll go bad.

So, one day, as I stared into my fridge, I realized I had a carton of cherry tomatoes, a zucchini and baby carrots that all needed to be eaten ASAP.

I sliced the zucchini and halved the tomatoes, and threw them all on a baking sheet. It really was that simple.

As time has gone on, I’ve thrown extras in there like sweet peppers, garlic and shallots, but you really can roast whatever it is that you want.

Roasted Veggies

What You Need:

Your favorite veggies (or whatever is thisclose to going bad) (cut into bite sized pieces)

1 clove garlic (chopped)

1 small shallot (chopped) (or onion if you really like the taste of onion)

2 TBSP Olive oil

Salt

Black pepper

What You Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Place the veggies, garlic and shallot onto a baking sheet (or a Pyrex, baking tin, whatever you have on hand)

Drizzle the olive oil over the veggies (if you have a lot of veggies, you might need more oil, but don’t go overboard)

Season with salt and pepper according to your tastes (mine ends up being about 1 TBSP salt, 1 tsp pepper)

Toss everything together

Roast in the oven for 35-45min (the edges of the veggies will turn brown and the shallot/onion will become translucent when they’re done)

Messiness – You only really need a baking sheet and a cutting board, so it’s not too messy at all. The sloppiest part is tossing the veggies!

Simplicity – This is so simple that many parents probably didn’t even think it was necessary to teach their kids. Just a little salt, pepper and oil can do wonders!

Budget – Considering this was all stuff that I had in my kitchen anyway, it cost nothing. However, you can find all of these things (when zucchinis are in season) at your local discount grocery store (or the 99 Cent Store, which is where I get most of my produce). And actually, it’s stretching your dollar since it’s stuff that would have gone bad anyway.

Delicious Factor – Yummy! If it didn’t look so much like vegetables, this would be such an easy way to trick kids into eating their greens because it tastes so good! A friend of mine thinks vegetarians are crazy because “food never tastes as good without meat.” Well, even this friend asks me to make these every time we hang out

 

toast

Okay, before you think that I’m crazy let me tell you that I LOVE toast! It is my favorite food.

I’m a carb-o-holic, so bread alone makes me happy as a clam, but bread + butter… I don’t need much else.

Anyway, I live in a small studio apartment, so there’s no counter room for appliances, and sometimes that toaster oven seems like such a hassle. This time, thanks to my laziness, I discovered the PERFECT piece of toast.

It’s not difficult but in the scope of making toast, it’s really detailed.

In the end, you get a lightly crisped piece of bread with all of the softness of a fresh baked loaf.

What You Need:

French bread (or any similar, light bread)

Butter

What You Do:

Take a slice of bread

Put unmelted butter on only the top side

Put the unbuttered bottom side on an ungreased pan (on medium heat)

Wait until butter begins to melt (1-2 minutes)

Take it out and finish buttering

Messiness: It’s exactly as messy as making a piece of toast the normal way. The only difference is that you need a pan, skillet, or something else that can heat up the bread.

Simplicity: Is it difficult? Not at all. Is it easy? Well, it requires more attention than the regular way you make toast, but anyone can still do it. You just need to ask yourself, “Is the most delicious, buttery, soft, perfect piece of toast worth this effort?” I’d hope you would answer yes ;)

Budget: CHEAP! $1 for bread. $1 for butter. Now you can eat toast all day!

Delicious Factor: … I don’t know how to say perfect in enough languages.

NOTE: I’d abandoned this blog for a year, and came back to this gem saved in my drafts. I still make this all of the time (and am currently working through another package of basil).

I really love cooking with basil, but I always end up having to buy a big container when I only need a little bit. My mission this week is to use my package of basil before it goes bad. Last night I had a ton of work to do, and hadn’t even gotten around to cooking dinner. Then I realized I had a bunch of tomatoes from a friend’s garden in my fridge. Perfect!

Here’s how you make this super easy snack/appetizer/meal:

Cut up as many tomatoes as you want to eat into wedges. You can seed them if you like. I always seed half of mine in case some people like the seeds.

Place a small piece of basil on each tomato. The size will depend on how much you like the taste of basil. If you use the size above, it will be a moderately strong taste.

Drizzle olive (or vegetable) oil over the tomatoes.

Sprinkle some salt and pepper if you like (I use crushed red peppers) for some spice.

Put as much cheese on as you want. The cheese will get a bit crunchy and taste amazing. All I had last night was shredded colby jack. I also sprinkled some parmesan on it.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. They will shrivel up the longer you leave them in. If you want firmer tomatoes then only leave in for 30 minutes.

That’s it! Simple, easy and perfect for an appetizer or dinner (if you’re a vegetarian like me). Pro: tomatoes are super high in vitamin C; the same amount as an orange.

Messiness – Possibly the cleanest thing you’ll ever make.

Simplicity – All you’re doing is chopping tomatoes and sprinkling cheese.

Budget – You most likely have cheese in your house so all oyu need is basil and tomatoes (Fresh and Easy has AMAZING deals on tomatoes right now).

Delicious Factor – These tomatoes, despite looking shriveled, come out of the oven incredibly juicy and the melted cheese is crunchy around them. The two factors together are the perfect storm of flavor. It tastes almost like a pizza without the bread. 4/5 (I really like bread)

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