Chickpea Spinach Stir Fry

Stir fry is one of the easiest dinners to make. First of all, it’s a one-pot-wonder so there are very few dishes to clean up after your meal. Second, throw just about any veggie in the pot with the right seasonings and you have a delicious, healthy meal. Third, it’s super easy to double or triple the recipe to make leftover lunches for the week.

I like this particular stir fry recipe because you pretty much just dump already prepared veggies in the pot – there’s no need to worry about cooking chicken separately before you start cooking the main meal. It’s also vegetarian, which is great if you’re going meatless (I usually try to go vegetarian one day a week). Plus, it’s overall just plain healthy. In fact, I found the recipe that inspired my own variation from a running magazine featuring great meals for runners’ recovery. Chickpeas have both protein and fiber, and the spinach adds tons of vitamins and nutrients.

Whether you’re recovering from a long run or hard workout, or even if you’re looking for just an easy, healthy weekday meal, throw this recipe together for dinner and an extra couple lunches during the week. And feel free to throw in some extra veggies if you have them in your fridge! This dish is delicious by itself or over quinoa or rice.

I love the nuttiness of the chickpeas, the tang of the lemon, and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious.

I love the nuttiness of the chickpeas, the tang of the lemon, and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious.

What you’ll need:
2 x 14-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ginger (dry or fresh)
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 x 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted

What you’ll need to do:

If your spinach isn’t already defrosted, go ahead and get that going.

Meanwhile, set your wok or large pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Add the olive oil, chickpeas, garlic, and ginger. Saute for about 4 minutes.

While the chickpeas are cooking, slice your grape tomatoes in half and set aside for later.

After the 4 minutes have passed, add the spices and lemon juice. Cook for about 1 minute, then stir in the spinach and tomatoes. Heat through for about 1 minute.

This dish made 4 good sized servings for 2 dinners and 2 lunches.

This recipe makes 4 good sized servings for 2 dinners and 2 lunches.

Enjoy!

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Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi, and a 50th post thank you

To celebrate my 50th post on SeaJetCook, I wanted to post one of my favorite dishes of all time: Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi. There are so many reasons why this is my favorite. The mango brings me back to one of my favorite places in the world: the beach in Hawaii. The cilantro in the salsa reminds me of growing up in Southern California, my home. Fish is one of my favorite foods ever, and mahi mahi in particular tops the list. It’s spicy, sweet, light, and fresh. The crunchiness of the salsa perfectly balances the delicate flakiness of the fish. The deliciousness of this meal is to die for (no pun intended, keep reading), and I just lucked out that it’s incredibly healthy, too.

Maybe this is a little morbid, and maybe it’s a bit of an over-share, but my family and I have often discussed what we would want our last meals to be. More specifically, what our death row meals would be. It’s weird, I know. But if you throw away the weirdness, what it really boils down to is what our favorite meals are. I know Clinton’s would be teriyaki steak and chicken with a zesty salad and giant scoop of white rice. My dad’s would be a bone-in filet with a baked potato, sautéed mushrooms, and beets. Mom’s would be the same (which is why they’re meant for each other). Throw a big helping of steamed broccoli and creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes with mango salsa-topped mahi mahi, and you have mine. So here’s my recipe, I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do!

It’s spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it’s healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 filets of mahi mahi
  • Mango salsa (makes enough for leftovers):
    • 2 ripe mangos
    • 1 medium onion
    • 2 Serrano chiles (or 1 if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 cup chopped cilantro
    • 6 tbsp lemon juice

What you’ll need to do:

Though I generally like to multitask when cooking, I like to make the mango salsa before I even start cooking the fish. It gives the salsa time to let the flavors marry and letting me focus all my attention on one element of the dish.

Start by peeling your mango. Once it’s peeled, cut off the very bottom to make a flat surface or base, making easier to cut around the pit. Use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit. Chop the mango into small- to medium-sized chunks. Add to a medium-sized bowl.

Cutting a base on your mango makes them easier to cut. After you cut off the big fleshy sides of the mango, they’re easy to chop into small, salsa-perfect pieces.

Peel your cucumber and chop into chunks, making them about the same size as your mangoes, and add to the bowl. Finely chop your onions.

The chiles are going to give you the heat in your salsa. Start by cutting them in half and removing all the ribs and seeds to control the heat (the spiciest parts). Then mince into very small pieces and add to your bowl.

Chop your cilantro with both the leaves and stems – I like to leave the stems in because I think they have a ton of flavor that you miss when you add only the leaves.

Add the lemon juice to your bowl, and thoroughly combine. Set aside.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It’s a fun twist on a traditional favorite.

**Tip: I purposefully make extra servings of the mango salsa because it’s also delicious to simply serve with tortilla chips as a dip. You can also use it to top chicken or pork.

Set a pan over medium-high heat on your stove, and spray with cooking spray. Cook your mahi mahi in the pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Top your mahi mahi with mango salsa and enjoy!

**As I’ve written my 50th post on the 5 month anniversary of SeaJetCook’s launch, I would like to thank all of my readers. I started this blog as a small passion project. It was a way to write down some of my recipes so I wouldn’t forget them, and I hoped to inspire a few hesitant cooks to get in the kitchen and give cooking a try. So far, SeaJetCook has reached thousands of readers in 27 countries, which simply astounds me. While I set out hoping to inspire you, it’s you that has inspired me to keep creating and keep writing. So again, thank you. And bon appetit!

Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with my Zesty Dressing

A few weeks ago, I posted about how much I love avocados, so much so that an avocado tree was my tree of choice when I was a kid. Well today you’re in for a treat, this recipe was made with avocados from that very tree.

This salad is one of my favorite summer dishes because it’s fresh and light. The ingredients are all in season, which makes them super flavorful. The avocados taste smooth, buttery, and rich with a subtle nuttiness; the tomatoes pop with a slight sweetness and acidity; the cucumbers add lightness and a crunch to the salad; and my zesty dressing adds the citrusy zing that brings this simple salad to the next level. Whenever I make this dish, I can’t help but go back for a giant scoop of seconds.

I love how fresh and delicious this is. And I love that it’s not your typical salad.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):

For the salad:

  • 2 large avocados
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes (or 4 plum tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber

For the dressing:

What you’ll need to do:

For any salad, as I’ve mentioned, I always start by making the salad dressing because it gives the flavors some time to marry. In whatever container is good for salad dressing, start by combining your zesty Italian salad dressing mix, lemon juice, and sherry. Shake or stir, and then set it aside until you’re done preparing your avocados, tomatoes, and cucumber.

As I wrote in my guacamole recipe, start with ripe avocados. You’ll know they’re the perfect ripeness if they’re about the same density as if you press on the pad of your hand. Use your knife to cut your avocado all the way around length-wise, dragging your knife tip around the pit and being careful not to puncture it. Twist your avocado like an Oreo to release it. Then, use your knife to chop into the pit to get a grip on it, then twist your knife to release the pit. Slice your avocado vertically while it’s still in the skin, but be careful to not puncture the skin, then slice horizontally to make perfect chunks. Use a spoon to scoop the chunks out of the skin into a medium bowl.

**Tip: I found this awesome diagram of how to cut an avocado, which I posted on my Facebook page here. Like my Facebook page while you’re there!

See those beauties? Those were grown on the tree I planted years ago at my parent’s house. Delicious. My pride and joy.

Chop your tomatoes into the same-sized chunks as your avocado. Then peel your cucumber and slice into similarly-sized chunks. Add the tomato and cucumber to the bowl with your avocado.

Go back to your salad dressing and add the oil, then shake or stir to combine. Toss your avocado, tomato, and cucumber with about 1/2 cup of your dressing (you’ll have leftover dressing, perfect for any regular salad). The lemon juice in the dressing will help the avocados stay green and not brown. Most importantly, it adds an extra zing to your delicious dish.

Enjoy!

Yum.

Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip

In my opinion, veggies by themselves can be pretty boring – especially if you eat them every single day (as you should). In the interest of being healthy, I make it a point to snack on veggies every day for either my morning or afternoon snack. They’re easy to throw in with my lunch for work, and they’re great to snack on while I’m sitting at my desk. But I always need a little something else, something to go with the veggies that adds a little richness and makes my afternoon snack slightly more filling and satisfying. This is where my Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip comes in.

Rather than dip my veggies in Ranch dressing – which believe me, I’d love to do – I have this dip to satisfy my craving. Ranch is too fattening, processed, and high in sodium to qualify for a healthy snack; it cancels out the veggies. Instead, this dip has all the creaminess of Ranch, but it’s not processed and it’s high in protein, which adds nice balance to the fiber-rich veggies. Plus, I added lemon juice and a little cayenne pepper for a little zing. It’s easy to make little containers to pop in your lunches for work, or even bring to a BBQ or serve at a party.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert – Bob Harper.

What you’ll need:
2 tablespoons nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of cayenne pepper

**This makes the perfect serving size for a snack, but increase the amounts based on how much you need. It’s just two parts Greek yogurt to one part lemon juice. Add cayenne pepper to add a little heat.

What you’ll need to do:

Take all ingredients and mix. Simple as that!

I have these little containers that I throw these ingredients in, then seal the lid and shake.

Serve with any kinds of veggies. My favorites are baby carrots, celery, slices bell peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower.

Oven Baked Tilapia with Roasted Tomatoes and Spices

Cooking healthy, simply, and deliciously are not mutually exclusive concepts. This tilapia dish accomplishes all three in under 200 calories per serving, with actual prep time under 5 minutes, and with mostly kitchen staples – all you’ll need is a fresh tomato!

** Tip: While I pick up that fresh tomato, I pick up tons of veggies to chop and individually package as grab-and-goes for weekday lunches while my tilapia defrosts (if it’s frozen) and bakes. While my dinner cooks, I get super healthy lunches and snacks set all week!

The tomato adds the perfect amount of acidity to the fish, and roasting them adds a hint of sweetness. After you add in some chopped garlic and some dried herbs for layers of flavor, you have yourself a delicious, easy, super healthy weeknight meal.

There’s nothing better than a light dish that leaves you filling full and satisfied.

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
2 tilapia filets (if frozen, defrost in water like I do with chicken)
1 tomato (I prefer vine-ripe tomatoes for this)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano

What you need to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line an 8×8 casserole dish with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray – you can use any dish size you have, you just don’t need a big one. Place your tilapia in the dish.

Cut your tomato in half and slice thinly. Layer the tomatoes over your tilapia.

Drizzle the lemon juice over your tilapia and tomatoes. Sprinkle the entire dish with the garlic, basil, and oregano.

Bake for 35 minutes.

You can barely see the tilapia under all those beautiful roasted tomatoes! But trust me, you’ll definitely get tons of flaky forkfuls when you dig in.

Enjoy! Serve with a heaping portion of steamable veggies. Or, throw in Brussels Sprouts with a Kick in the oven with the tilapia – they cook at the same temperature for the same amount of time!

 

Citrusy Kale Salad with Canned Peaches

Kale is one of those super-foods you’re always hearing about. It’s a dark green, leafy veggie that’s packed full of vitamins and nutrients. Because it’s also high in fiber and low in calories, I consider kale a “free” food (as in, one you can eat and eat to your heart’s content without a worry for your waistline). For those of you who haven’t had kale, it’s basically like spinach with the crunchiness of lettuce. And paired with a citrusy-sweet, homemade dressing and canned peaches, it’s a guilt-free yummy side that makes enough leftovers for lunch.

Two giant cups of this is less than 100 calories, so eat up and enjoy!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch kale (save a few stems for kale chips, recipe to come!)
  • 1 can peaches in light syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • For the dressing (all from your kitchen staples):
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

What you’ll need to do:

Okay, I know this recipe is going to sound complicated, but it’s not. Step 1, slice kale into thin strips. Step 2, massage lemon juice in with kale. Step 3, make dressing. Step 4, slice your canned peaches and add to the kale. Step 5, toss with dressing. It’s simple, really. But here’s an in-depth step-by-step…

After you’ve washed and dried your kale, tear the leaves off the stems and slice the leaves into thin strips. *Quick tip: have your salad bowl on the counter and your trash can on the ground next to you so you can throw your sliced kale leaves in the bowl and discard your stems as you go.

This is what kale looks like so you can find it at the market. You’ll want to remove all those stems by tearing off the leaves with your hands. Then you can slice the leaves into thin strips with your knife.

Toss your sliced kale with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and use your hands to massage the lemon juice into the kale for about a minute, kind of like how you knead bread dough. You want to massage the kale until it gets nice and soft – trust me, you’ll know when it’s done. Let it rest while you make your dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and remaining lemon juice. Drizzle in your olive oil while you whisk to see the dressing form.

Drain your canned peaches and rinse with water. Since the dressing has honey in it already, you don’t want to add any more sweetness from the syrup. Slice into bite-sized chunks and throw in with your kale. *Quick tip: the original recipe that inspired this dish uses mango. Mango is super delicious but is more of a pain to deal with than just a simple can of peaches. But if you have the patience to peel, slice, and chop a mango, then go for it! 

Lastly, toss your kale and peaches with the dressing and serve.

Enjoy!

For dinner, I served my kale salad with a basic lemon chicken (see “let’s talk chicken“) and sweet potato chips (recipe to come!). After I put my chicken in the pan and popped my potatoes in the oven, I started my salad. The timing works beautifully. 

Zesty Salad Dressing and a Salad Veggie How-To

This is definitely going to be more of my more “how-to,” “knowledge-packed” posts, so brace yourselves. But I promise it takes longer to say the title of this blog post than it does to make the salad and the dressing.

Clinton and I love salads. They’re so light and crisp and refreshing that for us, healthy is just a nice benefit. And I love having a nice, bright salad as a side dish to a simple chicken dinner, especially with summer right around the corner. Salads are such a simple addition to a potluck, BBQ by the pool, or picnic in the park. So the goal of this post is to take you step-by-step through what I like to buy for my perfect side salad, how I pick out my veggies, how to chop them, and how to make a super easy, homemade dressing.

While it looks like there are a lot of steps to this salad, it's really quite quick and simple. Not to mention, all that chopping is quite the stress-reliever!

What you’ll need:

For the salad (and how to pick it your veggies at the market):

  • Head of iceberg lettuce
    • Choose a head of lettuce that’s less rust-colored on the bottom. Also, choose one that’s the most tightly bound – that’s how you know it’s the freshest.
  • 2 bell peppers – I usually do 1 red and 1 orange for color
    • Choose the bell peppers with skins that look the waxiest.
  • 4 carrots
    • Carrots are carrots. Just choose ones that look good without blemishes.
  • 6 or so stalks of celery
    • Like the lettuce, choose celery that’s the most tightly bound and without blemishes.
  • 1 medium jicama
    • What’s jicama, you ask? It’s one of my favorite additions to salad ever. It’s just like watercress, but a little bit sweet. They kind of look like a really round, hairy potato or a less-hairy coconut. To pick out a good one, just find out with the most uniform skin without blemishes or bruises.
  • 2-4 Roma tomatoes
    • Choose tomatoes that are a rich red color and without blemishes. I find that a lighter red color means they’re less flavorful.
  • 1-2 cucumbers
    • Choose cucumbers that are dark green and firm when you squeeze them.
  • 4 or so green onions
    • Choose green onions that stand straight and don’t look wilted.

All my perfect veggies, ready to go. That round, beige-looking thing next to the lettuce? That's jicama. You'll usually find it near the Asian veggies.

For the salad dressing:

What you’ll need to do:

For a salad, I always start by making the salad dressing because it gives the flavors some time to marry. In whatever container is good for salad dressing, start by combining your zesty Italian salad dressing mix, lemon juice, and sherry. Shake or stir, and then set it aside until you’re done chopping all your veggies.

I have a pretty nifty salad dressing container that Clinton's mom gave me. If you have a container with a lid (like mine), just shake to mix. I leave the mix, lemon, and sherry in there for awhile so that the flavors can marry while I chop my veggies.

Next, have your veggies all out and ready to go with a good knife, cutting board, salad bowl standing by so you can throw your veggies in as you chop them, and your trash can sitting next to you. That’s right, have your trash can right next to you when you do this. In fact, I always have my trash can right at my feet whenever I cook so that I can toss tidbits right in as I go so I don’t have a big pile of garbage on my kitchen counter and in my way.

First, make sure you wash all your veggies that aren’t going to be peeled. Now on to chopping. I try to get rid of some of the bigger veggies first so that I can have more space on my counter as I chop. This is purely by choice, there’s no real order you need to chop the veggies.

Let’s start with the lettuce. Some people say it’s taboo to cut your lettuce with a knife or it’ll get that rust-colored look where you cut it. I find that it takes way too long to tear a head of lettuce by hand, and I almost never find that it gets rust-colored around the edges when I cut it with a knife. So I start by cutting the head of lettuce in half, and then cutting out the core by cutting diagonally into the head (throw the core right into the trash can next to you). Cut the rest of the lettuce in rough chops so you have big pieces.

You can see how I take out just the core of the head of lettuce by cutting diagonally into it. This saves as much of the lettuce as possible for my salad.

For your bell peppers, cut them in half and then use your hands to tear out the big bunch of seeds and stem towards the top of the pepper. Then, because I often find it’s easier, cut the bell pepper into quarters so that you can use your knife to cut out the ribs. Make sure you get rid of all the seeds and ribs of the bell pepper – they don’t taste so great. Then slice into big chunks.

It's easier to cut this by putting the outside part down on the cutting board (as shown) and slicing your bell peppers this way. One the half you see quartered, you can see I sliced out the ribs and seeds. Even though I used my hands to tear out the big bulk of seeds from the other half, you can still see the ribs I need to cut out.

Your tomatoes will be chopped similarly to your lettuce, actually. Cut them in half, and then use your knife to diagonally cut out the very top of the tomato – this preserves the most amount of yummy tomato meat possible. Then, chop into big pieces. I typically like to take out the seeds of the tomato because they make the salad runny (but instead of throwing them in the trash can, I pop them into my mouth as a treat!).

Like the lettuce, you can see how I cut diagonally into the tomato to save as much of the meat as possible.

Celery is super easy. Chop off the ends of the celery, and then chop into nice big chunks. I love the crunch of celery in a salad!

Your green onions are the last veggie you can chop without peeling. Make sure to cut off the ends, and then chop into smaller pieces since onions are a lot stronger tasting than many of your other veggies.

Peeling veggies isn’t my favorite, but for this salad it’s totally worth it. I start with my cucumbers because they’re super easy and because I don’t have to wash my peeler before I move onto my other veggies (jicama, on the other hand, can get messy). Completely peel your cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise so you have a nice flat surface to work with. Then, flat-side down, cut off the ends of the cucumbers, and then slice in medium slices.

I put them flat-side down on my cutting board and then slice right through the rest of the cucumber. I like leaving the cucumbers in these bigger slices so you can really taste big bursts of them in your salad.

Now onto your carrots. Completely peel these, and then cut off the end that used to have the stem. Depending on how big your carrots are width-wise, you may want to cut them in half lengthwise like your cucumbers. But if they’re smaller, go ahead and chop in medium slices.

Lastly, onto the jicama. Now as good as jicama tastes, it’s quite the pain in the butt to peel – but so worth it. I start by cutting my jicama in half before I peel. This allows me to have a nice edge to work my peeler from because it’s definitely hard to get started. Make sure you get off all the jicama skin because it’s very hairy and not very good tasting. After it’s completely peeled, I chop it very similarly to how I chop an onion. Start by putting it flat-side down on your cutting board, and then slicing across the jicama vertically. Stack your jicama so that you can slice it again horizontally, making medium-sized chunks of jicama.

Here you can see it totally peeled and flat-side down on my cutting board. I slice all the way through the jicama (starting as shown), and then stack my slices and cut horizontally to make medium-sized chunks. Snack on a few of these pieces as you chop - it's so yummy!

By now, all your chopped veggies should be in your bowl and ready to go. Remember that salad dressing we made and set aside? Add the oil and then shake or stir. Toss with the salad, mixing up the dressing and the veggies. And you’re done!

While I normally throw my veggies in my salad bowl as I chop them, I laid them all out here so you can see what the finished product looks like. I generally like to chop my veggies in larger chunks so you get big bursts of flavor when you take a forkful.

It seems like a lot of work, but I promise it’s not. Once you get going with the chopping, it takes about as long to make this salad as it does to make a standard chicken dish (I recently made this with my Chinese BBQ chicken). And because it’s easier to make a salad like this in a large batch, you’ll have yummy, healthy, fresh leftovers all week that are a great compliment to any other dinner or are an easy lunch to bring to work. This salad is definitely a favorite in my house!

Chinese BBQ Chicken

Calling this dish Chinese BBQ chicken is slightly deceiving. It sounds way more fancy than this dish actually is. But it tastes so yummy that nobody will ever guess how simple it is. Basically, you use three ingredients: frozen chicken tenders, lemon juice, and hoisin sauce (I also throw in green onions if I have them in the fridge). That’s it!

What’s hoisin sauce, you ask? Well that’s where the Chinese BBQ component comes in, because hoisin sauce is basically Chinese BBQ sauce. As soon as you smell it, you’ll instantly recognize what it is because it’s a key ingredient in a lot of Chinese food dishes. It’s a sweet, a little vinegary, with a hint of garlic and chili peppers. The simple addition of this one ingredient to a couple kitchen staples you already have will really shake up your weeknight repertoire. It’s my epitome of an easy, healthy weeknight meal.

Hoisin sauce will keep in your cupboard for a long time, so it's definitely a good investment ingredient to have on hand.

What you’ll need:
4-5 frozen chicken tenders
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 green onions, chopped (optional, if you have them)

What you’ll need to do:

Start by heating your large pan on the stove over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. You’re going to cook the chicken exactly the same way you do in “let’s talk chicken,” so get that chicken in your pan and cover with aluminum foil.

After about 8 minutes, check your chicken – the chicken should start to look white around the edges and still pink in the middle. That’s how you know it’s ready to turn. Recover and cook for another 8 minutes.

Here's the chicken, white on the outside and pink on the inside. It's ready to flip.

Once the chicken is done, add your 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce right on top. Throw on your green onions, and then pour in your lemon juice.

The beauty of this meal is that it's a simple twist on your basic chicken. You still mostly use kitchen staples.

Turn your chicken in the pan to cover with the sauce. Let it cook for another minute just to heat up the hoisin and cook down some of that lemon juice. And your super easy Chinese BBQ chicken is done!

It’s healthy, tasty, and I seriously can’t stress how simple this is. If you put rice in your rice cooker and a steamable bag of veggies in the microwave before you start, you have a delicious and healthy meal after a long day at work when all you want to do is crash on the couch. Not to mention, it’ll cure any craving for the much-less-healthy Chinese take out, too 🙂

Enjoy!

Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Parmesan

While a more traditional red sauce is always good with pasta, a lemony-butter sauce is my no-contest favorite. This pasta is refreshing and light, while still tasting totally decadent. It’s made with all kitchen staples and only takes about 15 minutes to make, so it’s super easy to whip up any night of the week.

It's tart, creamy, garlicky, and extremely delicious. After this easy treat, you'll never want to order in pizza again.

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):

4 cups angel hair pasta
3 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
10 frozen precooked shrimp (optional)

What you’ll need to do:

First, get water boiling in your very large pot.

While you wait, start defrosting your frozen shrimp. It’s super easy. Just put the shrimp in a bowl and run cold water over it, changing out the water every couple minutes. You can do this while everything else is cooking on the stove. Before you know it, the shrimp will be done. I think shrimp makes this dish feel extra special, but you can just as easily use chicken if shrimp isn’t handy.

Side note on shrimp: Although I didn’t include frozen shrimp in my kitchen staples, you’ll often find a bag of precooked shrimp in my freezer to jazz up pasta, a salad, or an omelette.

After the water is boiling, dump in your angel hair pasta. It only takes a few minutes to cook because it’s such a thin pasta, so keep a close eye on it. Once it’s done cooking, drain in a strainer and then return to the pot.

Pasta tip: Toss the pasta with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.

While you’re keeping a close eye on your pasta cooking, it’s easy enough to make this simple sauce on the next burner over. What you’ll need to do is put a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the margarine to your pan, and once it starts to melt add the garlic. Let the garlic saute in the pan for a couple minutes.

Be careful to not put your heat up too high or you'll burn the garlic.

After the garlic is a nice golden-brown, add the lemon juice, olive oil, and lemon pepper. Let the sauce simmer over medium-high heat for just a minute to let the flavors blend together.

Tip: I use my palm as a measuring spoon when I cook. When I cup my palm, half a palm-full is about 1 tsp. A full palm-full is about 1 tbsp. The best part about cooking (in my opinion) is that you don't have to be too exact, so have fun with it! And using your palm saves a dish, so it's a double-win.

By now, the shrimp should be defrosted and the pasta should be ready to go. All that’s left to do is combine all the ingredients together. Toss the pasta with the sauce simmering on the stove. Then, add the Parmesan to your pasta, saving a little to sprinkle on the top.

Scoop a giant mound of pasta on your plate, top with the shrimp, and then sprinkle the little bit of extra Parm on top. And buon appetite! A molto delizioso, 5-star Italian feast.

Let’s Talk Chicken

Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins to make on a weeknight. After years of nailing down the simplest way to do it when you really don’t feel like cooking, I developed a few ideas of how to make it easy, healthy, and inexpensive. So before I get into my go-to chicken recipe, let me give you my chicken philosophy.

First, let’s discuss fresh vs. frozen. Fresh is great. It’s going to give you great flavor and texture, but let’s face it, I always get nervous about fresh chicken going bad. So if I ever buy it at the market (which I sometimes do), I keep it in the fridge for about 3 days before deciding to use it or freezing it. If I feel like chicken in those three days since I bought it, then great! If not, throw it in the freezer so you can have it whenever you want it. So let’s face it, most of the chicken I use is frozen. Because of that, instead of buying fresh chicken, I actually just buy bags of frozen chicken instead.

Defrosting isn’t as hard as you think. Here are some tips:

  1. My #1 tip about defrosting: DO NOT defrost in the microwave. More times than not, you’re going to end up cooking part of the chicken when you do that, and you end up with tough chicken.
  2. Tip #2: I stay away from taking the chicken out of the freezer and putting it in the fridge in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the middle of the chicken still frozen. Not to mention, sometimes after doing all that work in the morning, I really don’t want chicken when I get home! So waiting until you get home to decide whether you want chicken for dinner gives you more flexibility in planning your meals.
  3. How I always defrost chicken is my tip #3: Put the frozen chicken in a bowl and run hot water over it from your sink. Fill the bowl with water (enough to cover the chicken), and constantly change out the water with fresh, hot water until the chicken is defrosted. This won’t cook the chicken, and it only takes about 20 minutes. So what I do is get my grain cooking (usually rice in the rice cooker), then get the chicken defrosting, and go relax while I wait.

That being said, I don’t always defrost my chicken before I cook it. Yep, that’s right. To even cut out the 20 minute defrosting process, I often cook my chicken from frozen. I’ve found that this also keeps my chicken nice and juicy in the center. So I only defrost my chicken if I’m going to stuff it, which is rare, but I’m sure you’ll find a few recipes in my blog at some point!

Frozen chicken tenders are my savior, which is why I made them a Kitchen Staple. When I get home from a long, grueling day at work, I want to do the most minimal work possible, and these are the best to cook from frozen. So, on to my go-to chicken recipe, Lemon Chicken.

What you’ll need for Lemon Chicken:

6-8 Frozen Chicken Tenders
Cooking spray
1tbsp Lemon Pepper
1tbsp Lemon juice
1tbsp Sherry

Get your grill pan (or very large pan) heated up over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray. Put as many frozen chicken tenders as you’d like on the pan (I usually eat 2-3, Clinton usually eats 4-5), and then cover the pan with tinfoil. Cook for about 8 minutes, covered over medium heat, and then turn and recover. After about 5 minutes, pour in the lemon juice and sherry, and then recover and cook for about 3 minutes. This takes the gamey flavor out of the chicken, and leaves it tasting fresh and delicious.

Your chicken should be looking pretty good by this point. After it’s a nice golden-brown on both sides, take off the foil to let the lemon-sherry sauce cook down for a couple minutes, and then season with the lemon pepper.

All in all, the chicken takes about 20 minutes to cook. This is the perfect amount of time to also cook rice (white or brown) or quinoa for a grain. And with about 5 minutes left in the cooking process (so after you added the lemon and sherry), stick a bag of frozen, steamable veggies in the microwave. This is a great, easy dinner to have on any weekday night. And since each chicken tender is only about 100 calories, it’s a healthy one to boot!