spaghetti squash tacos

spaghetti squash tacos

spaghetti squash tacosI know there are many of you who have been patiently waiting for this recipe ever since I showcased it in my weekly menu post last week. Thanks for being so patient and I hope that these tacos make your wait worthwhile. I love it when I find a new family approved and easy weeknight meatless dinner (that was a mouthful). It’s so nice because I try and strive to have at least 2-3 meatless dinners a week, if possible. I want to make meatless nights fun and tasty and full of variety for the family, not boring and something that no one looks forward to. I truly have found the best recipes since I started my meatless search, and these tacos along with my Paul McCartney refried bean tacos are keepers!

Paul McCartney's refried bean tacosI was originally hesitant to try these tacos because even though I like spaghetti squash, I don’t LOVE it as a substitute for good old pasta, (I’m truly a carb girl) and neither does my family. We eat as a substitute once in a while because its healthy.  So, I finally picked up my reserved copy (after months of waiting) of Smitten Kitchen’s new cookbook from the library. I opened it up and this particular recipe grabbed my eye. Deb’s photo was amazing and really made me want to eat these tacos. I also loved that Deb was not a huge fan of spaghetti squash being a substitute for pasta either. She did feel differently about spaghetti squash when she made these tacos though. The squash really captures all the flavors from the chili spices and lime and it pairs wonderfully with all the toppings, plus it looks so pretty. I felt that if Deb and I were both in agreement that spaghetti squash is not a great substitute for pasta, then I might agree with her about these tacos, so I was game to give these a try.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for January 27th

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IMG_3001-1Took that opening shot in the car via my iPhone last night. I thought it was cool because you can see all the hustle and bustle of the city, the Transamerica building and all the beautiful architecture of San Francisco right smack in front of you.  I truly love living here and whenever I head into the city, I feel alive.  My favorite part of heading into San Francisco is crossing over this beauty of a bridge.  I have lived here a little over 15 years, and I never tire of this bridge. Zoe took this below picture last night through the sunroof and instagramed it.

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She’s a natural I must say.  BTW, she recently joined instagram, (privately with her friends) and she had to teach me how to use it, as I really had no clue. I will be adding an instagram button to my blog once I figure out how to do it.  In the meantime you can follow me on instagram via marinmamacooks.  I don’t have any cool pics yet because I’m just starting. I have a feeling that it will become another addiction, so watch out!

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turkey meatballs

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DSC_0081Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs! I know, not the most exciting or creative recipe out there, but it’s a classic! These are not your typical heavy, sit in your stomach meatballs. They’re a lighter and simpler meatball, as they are just made with ground turkey.  Yep, no pork sausage is needed for these puppies. Turkey is rich in vitamin B and zinc, and is a full flavored and lower-fat alternative to ground beef. My brother Brandt, who doesn’t like meatballs, LOVED these. I served these up for dinner and he was actually just going to eat the spaghetti, but he wanted to be nice so he said I could throw a couple of meatballs in his dish. He politely tried one and then asked for 3 more. He LOVED these and was quite surprised that he did.  He wanted me to be sure to tell all of you that he loved these, because he is not typically a fan of meatballs. Of course, my kids loved these, I mean they’re meatballs right?

I paired them with my new favorite basic tomato sauce and linguine, and it was a winner dinner. These meatballs do not fall into the quick and easy weeknight category, unless of course you make them up over the weekend and just re-heat them during the week.  I like to make these on a day where I know I have some time (which is usually a Sunday).  I typically make the sauce up ahead of time (remember my basic tomato sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks) just to save time when it comes to making the meatballs, but I have made both on the same day. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to throw together.  The only step that takes a bit of time is browning the meatballs, but other than that, it’s pretty simple and pretty calming rolling out meatball after meatball.  I usually throw on some tunes and get into a rhythm.

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for January 20th

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DSC_0188_zps0a379416-2So, last week I had a few cooking successes and a few cooking failures. The failures are tough because I get so excited about a dish and then when it doesn’t turn out right or even good for that fact, I get sad and a bit frustrated. What I’m realizing as I evolve as a cook is that cooking is like anything in life, sometimes its great and a winner, and other times it’s just not. Usually a recipe flop has nothing to do with cooking skills, sometimes a recipe is just not what you expected it to be. I’m learning that you just have to roll with it and realize that it’s just food, and move onto the next recipe. So, I’m not going to bore you all and go into last week’s failures, but I will go into the successes.  I made some yummy cupcakes for my 3 best girl friend’s birthdays last week. We met in the city for lunch and I brought along and surprised them with these celebratory cupcakes.  I also gave each of them a favorite book from this series that I have been reading called, Anastasia, The Ringing Cedars, Book 1.  It’s a more of a spiritual book, but my girlfriends and I have a such an amazing soul and spiritual connection that I knew they would enjoy this book.  I will post the cupcake recipe soon for all you sweet tooth’s out there.

DSC_0004Another success were these spaghetti squash tacos. I know, the name sounds a bit strange and not to exciting, but just roll with it.  The recipe was a success, but I’m sad to admit that I wasn’t that impressed with the 50 plus photos I took.  Tacos are certainly not the prettiest nor the most cooperative models I tell you.

spaghetti squash tacos

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easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesanHere’s an easy weeknight chicken parmesan recipe that can be made and on your table in under 30 minutes, and the added bonus is that it can all be done in your cast iron skillet, making clean up a cinch! It’s also flour-less and egg-less and gluten-free to boot!  My foodie friend Amanda kept telling me that I needed to try this recipe.  I already had my favorite chicken parmesan recipe that was passed down from my mom, so I was a bit hesitant to try a new one.  I then remembered that I have a recipe blog, and my readers may want some variety, so I gave it a try. I’m so glad that I did because it was fantastic and John and the kids gave it a double thumbs up. I gave it a thumbs up due to taste as well as ease.  I still love my classic chicken parmesan because I love the crunchy bread coating, but I love this one just as much, so bonus!

This is basically another pantry meal. Most of the herbs I either had in my backyard or in the fridge, I had some leftover tomato sauce, and I always have cheese on hand, so all I needed to pick up was the chicken breasts.  I really love easy meals that I can throw together at the last-minute.  It’s just helpful to have an arsenal of those easy pantry recipes on the nights when you’re pulling out your hair wondering what to make.

So, I know you all were anticipating the turkey meatballs recipe today, but ever since I posted this photo on my weekly dinner menu, I’ve had numerous emails asking me to please post this recipe soon. I then decided to be nice and post it today instead of making you wait one more week. I figure the meatballs will be perfect for next week’s Super Bowl as they make a great meatball sub.

easy skillet chicken parmesan

easy skillet chicken parmesan

recipe from Giada De Laurentis
serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh italian parsley – I used flat leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise and lightly pounded
  • 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato or marina sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese – We like our cheese, so we used 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces – The recipe called for 2 tablespoons but I used about 1 1/2

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Let’s prep the ingredients.  Prep your chicken, measure out your cheeses, measure out your sauce, cut up your butter and rinse and chop up the rosemary, thyme and italian parsley.  In a small bowl add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in the chopped herbs along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

DSC_0013-2Get out your chicken and brush each side with the olive oil and herb mixture.

DSC_0119Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet (I used my 12-inch cast iron) over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  This step may take longer if your breasts are a bit thicker.

DSC_0137Remove the skillet from the heat.  Spoon the tomato sauce over and around the chicken.

DSC_0025Top each breast with a bit of mozzarella.  Then sprinkle each breast with some shredded or grated parmesan cheese. It’s really an individual preference here with how much cheese you want to add.  We like cheese as you know, so we tend to go a bit on the heavier side.

DSC_0027Sprinkle the butter pieces over the chicken breasts.

DSC_0153Pop the skillet into the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  The timing will vary on this as well depending on how thick your chicken is.  You really just want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.  I always use a meat thermometer to test my chicken, as I will not eat undercooked chicken.

easy skillet chicken parmesanIf you want your cheese a bit browned on top, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two until you see the cheese brown up.

DSC_0024Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and a nice big salad.  We love it served alongside my lacinato kale salad.  Feel free to play with this recipe to suit your dietary needs, add less cheese and butter if you want a healthier or lighter version.

Three cheers for another easy weeknight meal!

easy skillet chicken parmesan

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4 people

easy skillet chicken parmesan

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh italian parsley - I used flat leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise and lightly pounded
  • 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato or marina sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese - We like our cheese, so we used 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces - The recipe called for 2 tablespoons but I used about 1 1/2

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Let's prep the ingredients. Prep your chicken, measure out your cheeses, measure out your sauce, cut up your butter and rinse and chop up the rosemary, thyme and italian parsley. In a small bowl add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in the chopped herbs along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Get out your chicken and brush each side with the olive oil and herb mixture.

Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet (I used my 12-inch cast iron) over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. This step may take longer if your breasts are a bit thicker.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Spoon the tomato sauce over and around the chicken.

Top each breast with a bit of mozzarella. Then sprinkle each breast with some shredded or grated parmesan cheese. It's really an individual preference here with how much cheese you want to add. We like cheese as you know, so we tend to go a bit on the heavier side.

Sprinkle the butter pieces over the chicken breasts.

Pop the skillet into the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. The timing will vary on this as well depending on how thick your chicken is. You really just want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through. I always use a meat thermometer to test my chicken, as I will not eat undercooked chicken.

If you want your cheese a bit browned on top, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two until you see the cheese brown up.

Serve this up with some crispy garlic bread and a nice big salad. We love it served alongside my lacinato kale salad.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2013/01/easy-skillet-chicken-parmesan/

Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for January 13th

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DSC_0035-1-1I don’t know if it was from being cooped up and lazy for the two weeks of Christmas vacation, but I cooked up a storm last week.  The house was quiet and empty and everyone was back to their routines.  I felt a sense of freedom and really just wanted to get back to the kitchen and just play.  Play I did, and here are some of the recipes I tried:

Kale, wheat berry and toasted coconut salad.  I had this for lunch two days in a row and I have to tell you that it tasted better day two. Love that!DSC_0011-2

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how to cook spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce

spaghetti squash with tomato sauceToday’s post is sort of a recipe, but really more of a “how to” post. I’m going to show you all how to cook spaghetti squash.  I figured if I didn’t have a clue the first time I cooked one up, then there are those of you that are in the same boat. Spaghetti squash is a delicious and nutritious alternative to pasta.  It’s loaded with fiber, nutrients, vitamins and is high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, plus its fun to eat. When cooked, the inside of the squash shreds into long, thin noodle-like strands resembling spaghetti pasta.  I didn’t believe it until I actually made it and saw the transformation.

The squash is pretty mild in flavor and really tastes like pasta.  I have to admit that my kids and hubby were not entirely satisfied with the squash as they would be with a traditional spaghetti pasta.  To make it more of a satisfying meal, I either have to top the squash with some meatballs or if I’m keeping it vegetarian, then I need to add a side of garlic bread for my carb loving kids.

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basic tomato sauce

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Here’s an easy, family friendly, homemade and vegeterian tomato sauce that will feed a crowd, or at least feed your family for a number of meals. This sauce is really simple, but tastes hearty like a tomato sauce should.  It’s the perfect sauce to top a pizza, use in a lasagna, pair with meatballs, (turkey meatball recipe coming soon) top over gnocchi, spaghetti squash or your favorite pasta. I mean it’s so simple that you can really use it as a base for just about anything. This sauce is basically a pantry sauce, you may have to run out and grab a carrot or onion, but if you have a well stocked pantry, then you should have everything you need. Another great thing about this sauce is that it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  I used it to top this spaghetti squash below.

spaghetti squash with tomato sauce

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Marin mama’s weekly dinner menu for January 6th 2013

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Have you all gotten your New Year’s resolutions in place?  Have you started any or broken any yet?  I’m not doing the typical resolutions like eating healthy and exercising more, because I really try to do that year round.  I also let myself enjoy my vacations, and if I happen to eat a bit more and workout a bit less, then so be it.  I know that I can work it all off after vacation.  Life is about moderation and enjoyment, and if we get so caught up with worrying about what were eating or not doing, then we’re not really having fun in that moment, and what a bummer that is, right? 2013 is about letting go and living.  So let it go, let go of the guilt and worry and know that all is going to be OK, really!

Speaking of letting things go, this is the time of year when I go through the house and clean out! I clean out the cupboards, pantry, closets and basically wipe down the entire house. I want everything to be cleansed and fresh for the new year.  It’s really the perfect time of year to do such boring work because it’s all rainy and cold out.  I’m sure your all feeling the same way, so I thought I would share with you these helpful links that I found from Food 52.  They have a whole series on whipping your kitchen back in shape.  This post on how to organize your pantry is super helpful.  I also love these two posts on where you should store items in your kitchen such as, what items to store on your counter and in your pantry and what items you to store in your freezer and fridge.

I’m easing back into the weekly routine this week, so our menu is composed of things that I can pretty much make ahead of time.  I’m making the butternut squash soup today for Monday’s dinner as well as making the chicken enchiladas up Tuesday morning.  I’m also saving time by roasting up the chicken for the enchiladas Monday night while we’re eating dinner.  I find that prepping and making things ahead of time help during the busy after school hours.

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Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year everyone!  I’m wishing you all of the above for 2013.  This is the year for all of us, I can feel it.  It’s a year of light and a break from all the shadows of the past.  Its time to re-invent, turn your dreams into reality, and to let go of the past and things that hold you back. Basically, its time to just GO FOR IT! Go after what you desire!  The best way to figure out what you want is to get out and play!  When we play, we get grounded and get centered in the moment, and our imaginations unleash.  Our imaginations lead us to what our true desires and dreams are.  So make room for more play in 2013!

Did you all have a great holiday?  We had a wonderful one!  We got up and opened our stockings and presents and then had our traditional Christmas brunch.  John made up his famous english muffin, ham and egg sandwiches, he squeezed us up some fresh orange juice and I made our favorite sugar-crusted popovers.  Seriously, have you made these yet?  They’re the best!  They’re crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. These are my kid’s favorite breakfast treat.  They beat out pancakes, french toast and waffles any day.

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