Zucchini Stuffed with Pesto Beef

This is a low carb recipe.  


  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 1 pound lean grass fed ground beef 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk organic celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons nut free pesto (made ahead)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup Romano Cheese
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (made ahead)
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil



Pre-heat oven 375F.

Make the marinara sauce ahead of time. Shown here in a skillet. While the sauce is simmering on low start on the rest of the dish.



To Prep Zucchini

Scrub clean. Half each zucchini lengthwise.  Hollow each seeded half with a spoon.  Chop the centers, and set aside.  They will be used in the meat mixture.


Place the zucchini halves, face up, on a baking sheet, and place in the lowest rack of the oven and bake for 6 minutes.

Take them from the oven and set aside to cool till they are to be used.


For the Stuffing:

In a large skillet heat up the oil to sauté the onions with garlic, then add the zucchini centers and celery.  Cook through until the onions are translucent. 

Add beef.  With wooden spoon chop up the ground beef into smaller pieces.  Cook beef through till browned.

Add pesto, and mix in with grated cheese.



Fill each zucchini half with meat mixture.   

Place on baking sheet.

Top with a spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.


Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until the zucchini is fork tender.




Pasta with Sausage and Spinach

Pasta with Sausage and Spinach


    • 3 Italian sausage links, removed from casings
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 2/3 cup of fresh baby spinach, torn by hand (or a rustic chop)
    • 1/4 cup room temperature water
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Grated Romano Pecorino cheese
    • 1 lb of your favorite pasta



1. Before starting, bring a large pot of water to a boil for your pasta. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs.

2. Remove casings from sausage, crumble by hand onto a dish.  Set aside.

3. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, let heat through. Add crumbled sausage.  Cook sausage, crumbling it more with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked through. Turn heat down to a simmer. (at this point you should be close to an al dente cook to your pasta)

4. Add water, simmer until you see a yellowish hue to the sauce.

5. Add spinach, salt and pepper to taste.


6. Add pasta to mixture; mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes, until pasta is tender, and sauce is absorbed.  Toss with cheese, then top for presentation.




Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large pinch fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400F convection roast, or 425F conventional heat.

On a cutting board clean the head of cauliflower:  remove the stem/stalk, leaves and the interior leaves. Then rinse the whole head under cold water.

Cauliflower Head Removing cauliflower stalk cleaned cauliflower head

Using your hands, pull off each floret of cauliflower from the head. You can use a paring knife, but I find they break right off. Then all you are left with is the interior stem, this can be roasted too, or stored in the freezer to use in soups.

cauliflower florets

In a large bowl add in the ingredients and coat the cauliflower well.

cauliflower with parsley, olive oil, s&p and galric

Then transfer to a baking dish.  Cover the cauliflower with the cheese.

cauliflower mixture with cheese on top

Place in the oven.

Total cooking time should be 30 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark take the cauliflower from the oven to stir, then let cook the remainder of the time untouched.


roasted cauliflower


Roasted Asparagus with Tangerine Panko Crumb

Roasted Asparagus with Tangerine Panko Crumb

Being back in the kitchen is such a big joy! Never thought I’d be this happy in my life over a kitchen! But back to my home cooking is what I need after a big vacation! (which I am still drafting my vacation post!!)

Tonight I decided to take advantage of sprucing up our pallet after a big vacation with some Winter citrus by making this side dish. It was a side to a pork roast and fingerling potatoes. It lasted two seconds on the plate, which means it is husband and child approved!

Roasted Asparagus with Tangerine Panko Crumb
1 lb washed asparagus with woody bottoms taken off
3 tablespoons panko crumb
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of tangerine zest

Set oven to 400 degrees, or 425 convection roast.

Place the asparagus on a parchment paper covered baking sheet with the drizzle of oil and topped with the panko crumb.

Roll the asparagus on the pan so it coats slightly with the crumb.

If you have a hand held grater, hand plain, take tangerine (washed) and grate quickly across the asparagus. Try not to over do it, you jut want a whisper of the oils and zest.

Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, till the panko is golden brown.


Roasted Asparagus with Tangerine Panko Crumb

Pasta with Zucchini and Cannelini Beans

Pasta with Zucchini and Cannelini Beans
1 medium-sized zucchini, washed and cubed
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated cheese, Romano Pecorino works best.
1lb cooked pasta

Your ingredients- zucchini, onion, garlic and cannelini beans (shown not drained/rinsed).
Your ingredients- zucchini, onion, garlic and cannelini beans (shown not drained/rinsed).

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add in garlic and onions, cook till translucent.

Add in zucchini , stir, then sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Caramelize the zucchini (cook until the zucchini begins to brown slightly, but do not burn!!).

Zucchini combined with onion and garlic in skillet.
Zucchini combined with onion and garlic in skillet.

Push the zucchini to one side of skillet, and add in the beans to the empty side. Let beans heat through, then mix the zucchini with the beans till incorporated.

Turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 5-10 minutes, till the beans are soft and cooked through.

After incorporating the cannelini beans
After incorporating the cannelini beans

Take skillet off heat. Toss in pasta.

Top with your favorite grated cheese and done!


Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplant Rollatini
2 large-sized eggplants, washed and sliced thin lengthwise
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Romano/pecorino, and three tbsp for sprinkling on top
1/3 lb fresh spinach, washed, drained completely and minced
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling pans
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Need: 3 cups marinara/tomato sauce, a couple parchment paper covered baking sheets, and a 9×13 baking pan.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into thin slices.


Drizzle olive oil on pans, then place eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with salt. Roast till lightly browned on both sides, and fork tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices and allow to cool.

Fresh, washed spinach minced in a food processor. After washing spinach, it is important to make sure the water is drained completely.

In a food processor, or you can cut by hand, take fresh, washed spinach and mince.

In a large bowl, beat egg then mix the ricotta, spinach, Romano cheese, nutmeg, and salt/pepper .


* In the 9×13 pan-add a cup of sauce. Set aside for the eggplant’s next step.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the fatter end of the eggplant and roll up tightly.


Place the eggplant rollatini into baking pan, atop sauce, seam side down. Continue with remaining eggplant lining them up tightly in the pan.

Evenly distribute the sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini.

Season with grated cheese and mozzarella.


Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

DONE! Eggplant Rollatini!

Ricotta and Veal Meatballs

Ricotta and Veal Meatballs
1 pound veal
1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
1 1/4 cup skim ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Cheese
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of each Salt & fresh ground Pepper
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil


Need: Parchment covered baking sheet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the basil and parsley. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, veal, nutmeg, egg, that bread crumb mixture, garlic, ricotta, grated cheese and S&P.

In a large bowl, mix by hands untill all incorporated.
In a large bowl, mix by hands until all incorporated.

Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated.

The mixture.
The mixture.

Next, using your hands, shape the meatballs into balls, about the size of a walnut/1 inch, and place on baking sheet.

Valeria's Meatballs

Rolled and ready for the oven!
Rolled and ready for the oven!

Bake for 7 minutes, then flip them over, place back in the oven for 10 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Done! They come out tasting amazing, and they’re the perfect consistency!  Add them in to your favorite sauce and serve over pasta or in a sandwich!

This recipe yielded about 47 meatballs for me today.  (Yes, that’s a lot of meatballs!) But what I do is separate portions of ten meatballs, then once they are cooled, place them in freezer zip-loc bags and put them in the freezer.  This way I have a homemade meal at my fingertips anytime. I love to make my simple tomato sauce, which I was simmering before I started on these, then add that portion of meatballs in and let simmer for 30 minutes. So good! Especially if you make a sandwich out of them, which is what we are doing tonight.  YUM!

Also, here is a recipe for my regular meatballs. Click here!


A Pasta Primavera with Peas, Artichoke Hearts, and Grape Tomatoes

Nothing makes me feel better at the end of a long day than a pasta primavera.  It’s hearty, quick, and DELICIOUS! Even leftover to the next day! Also, the variations of vegetables are endless.   

Pasta with Peas, Artichoke Hearts, and Grape Tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup peas
1 cup artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s sells great frozen ones)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of tepid water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt n pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Artichoke hearts and peas
Artichoke hearts and peas- shown here are the frozen organic vegetables they sell at Trader Joe’s.  They are my go to for a lot of my dishes. LOVE THEM.  But. Before using them, run under warm water and let sit a minute.  Drain and use.
halved cherry tomatoes
halved cherry tomatoes

In a large stock pan, over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic and onions till translucent.

onion and garlic
onion and garlic

Add in the artichoke hearts, and coat with the onion and garlic. Let cook for a minute, while stirring frequently.

Then add in the peas.  Coat with the mixture, let cook 1-2 minutes.

Add in water.

artichokes with peas
artichokes with peas

After 5 minutes of cooking, add in the tomatoes.

add in the tomatoes
add in the tomatoes

With your spoon, smash up the tomatoes as they are simmering.

Let simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

smash the tomatoes with your spoon as it is simmering together.
smash the tomatoes with your spoon as it is simmering together.

Once the vegetables are tender, salt and pepper to taste, and it is done.

Toss with your favorite cooked pasta and the cheese.

And enjoy!

Toss with pasta.. and DONE!
Toss with pasta.. and DONE!

A Fun Weekend and Caponata

It was a great weekend!

Started off Saturday with hanging out with new friends, which was a lot of fun. We met this family through the girls’ dancing school. We’ve actually met 4 years ago, gingerly talking in the waiting room of the school every weekend during dance sessions. Just some of the few people I’ll talk to in there..since I am not a dance mom, and the other women in there with us are..let’s just say… uhm, ugly and annoying. Then a few weeks ago this family asked us to come over for an afternoon. We spent a handful of hours together laughing, talking about every topic, and the kids had a blast. So glad they were fun, normal people! We are going to set a counter ‘date’ at the end of May or early June, after all of our lives slow down a bit. A little fun in the sun, barbecuing at our house. I’m looking forward to seeing them next week to set it up. Then we ended the day by stuffing our faces with Belgian waffles at Ihop, which I forget how delicious their waffles are sometimes..and then we made a stop into the Home Depot to buy some outdoor stuff- ant spray, weed spray, grass seed, then a few lavender and rosemary plants.

Then today I woke up feeling energetic, and we spent the whole day in the yard dethatching the lawn, raking needles / leaves, and, cleaning up the past season’s debris. We haven’t done this much yard work since before the kids were born! I had a lot of fun, cause I haven’t been outside much since the Spring started, and I needed to clear my head by breathing some fresh air and getting my hands dirty and calloused. It is true, doing yard work is cathartic… feel so great right now! We spent about 6 hours together chugging along with each chore. We have almost an acre of yard, front and back, which is a lot to maintain, but we did a great job. And had a lot of fun. We took a break with the girls to play some football, which was a perfect way to take the load off from working so hard. Sounds like it would be opposite right? But when you’re laughing and running around, it’s less fatiguing somehow.

A view of our backyard from the patio after we were done.

Us after a whole day cleaning the yard  :)
Us after a whole day cleaning the yard 🙂


Then after all that work, decided to cook my all time favorite comfort food, Caponata. A ratatouille if you will.  I grew up with this dish, and it’s a dish that reminds me of my childhood.  You know that scene in the movie Ratatouille where the critic, Anton Ego, eats Remi’s ratatouille dish, and is immediately transported to his childhood when his mother made it for him?  It’s exactly that for me, too.  My Mom’s version is a vegetarian stew; made of eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and summer squash. Cooked together with tomato till it’s a rich stew. This dish is easy and satisfying. There is no vinegar added as with most jarred/antipasto caponata. This is served hot with a side of crunchy bread. It’s earthy, creamy, warm, and delicious. A perfect way to end a chilly day outdoors working hard for sure.

Sicilian Caponata
1 large eggplant, washed and cubed
2 zucchini, washed and cubed
2 summer squash, washed and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of tepid water
1/2 can of tomato paste
S&P to taste

All the vegetables you need
All the vegetables you need

Heat up the oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot.

Add in the garlic, sauteing for 5 seconds, then adding in the onions and letting sweat till translucent.

First add in the potatoes. Mix well to coat in the oil. Let cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Then add in the summer squash, mix. Then add in the zucchini and mix well.

All the vegetables in the pot.
Most of the vegetables in the pot.

Add in the 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil

Once boiling, turn heat down to a medium heat. Add in the eggplant. Cover the pot and let cook for 5 minutes.

Add in the tomato paste, and stir till all melted and the stock of the stew is red.

Add in a half can of tomato paste to a boiling pot.
Add in a half can of tomato paste to a boiling pot.
After stirring in the paste
After stirring in the paste

Turn the heat down to a low/simmer, and let cook for 25 minutes. Stirring infrequently.

Add in the s&p to taste. Let simmer another 5 minutes uncovered.

Simmer for 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the eggplant has basically melted into the dish.
Simmer for 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the eggplant has basically melted into the dish.

Done! The potatoes should be fork soft, the squashes should be reduced in size, and the eggplant should be melted into the stock.

Dish is DONE! Caponata with a nice slice of bread.
Dish is DONE! Caponata with a nice slice of bread.

Ok, well I gotta jet off to get ready for tonight’s two hour premiere of MadMen! I am terribly excited! I have missed my Don Draper and Roger Sterling!!

Boneless Pork Loin Chops

Boneless Pork Loin Chops
6 Boneless pork loin chops, rinsed with cool water and patted dry
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tspn Dried rosemary
1 tspn Dried thyme
A pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, add in the bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, thyme and s&p.  Mix well.

Press a chop into the dry mixture, covering all sides.

Press the clean, dry pork into the bread crumb mixture
Press the clean, dry pork into the bread crumb mixture

On a baking sheet, cover with parchment and drizzle the olive oil on top.

Place on baking sheet.

Place each piece on an oiled pan.
Place each piece on an oiled pan.

Place into oven, and let cook till golden brown. About 20-25 minutes.