Penne + Shrimp & Cilantro Pesto

From the beginning of our relationship Bryan knew I was a foodie – he may have known before we even met since all I contributed to the camping gear was food.  We met on a camping trip up in Ludington back in September 2011.  On that trip, I brought a ton of food.  On our second “meeting”, I made a delicious meal while up north skiing in Boyne.  Third date, I prepared homemade pasta carbonara for him in Chicago.  Needless to say, he caught on for my love for food and knew he had to step it up on his kitchen knowledge.


The first homemade meal Bryan prepared for me was this Shrimp Pasta with Cilantro Pesto.  We lived together at this time and for the most part I had done most of the meal prep.  However, one day he said he was going to try out a recipe and cook for me.  I was very excited and came home to find him in the kitchen adorning an apron.  He was slowly removing each leaf of cilantro off of the stem.  It took him a really long time to pull off all those leaves and I didn’t mention that you can use a little bit of the stems., but I won’t forget him tearing all those leaves.. it was his meal, his preparation and boy was it good.

This dish has become a regular in our weeknight meal rotation.  Super quick to make, minimal dishes and a delicious and satisfying result.  Do you remember my Tilapia with Cilantro pesto post?  This pesto is basically the same, but with a couple adaptations to the pesto.  It is made a bit thinner so that it coats the pasta nicely.  Also, I don’t use nuts because I want to avoid the nutty flavor in order to maximize the cilantro flavor.  Over the years, we have tweaked our version of the pesto and continue to make improvements to it.


I strongly recommend this dish when entertaining guests too.  It is a very pretty dish and since it is easy to make (pesto can be made ahead) you have more time to hang out with your guests instead of spending the whole evening by the stove.  Use whole grain penne, wild caught shrimp and organic ingredients in the pesto for a clean & wholesome meal.

Penne + shrimp & cilantro pesto

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  15 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 8-10 minutes   |||   Servings: 4  |||   Difficulty: Low

half box whole grain penne pasta
1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 bushels of cilantro, leaves only
1 garlic clove
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan
1 tsp dried oregano
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add penna when boiling and cook according to package directions.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the water once the pasta is drained.
2.  Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the cilantro, parmesan, oil, garlic, and seasonings.  Pulse until combined then slowly add 1/4 cup of water at a time, pulsing until smooth.
3.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
4.  In the pasta pot, combine the pesto, shrimp and pasta.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
5.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

Enjoy & have a wonderful weekend!!


Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

Hi everyone!  Happy Tuesday :)  My blogger friend, Becca at Two Places at Once contacted me to do a guest post on her blog while she is off getting married.  If you’ve been a frequent reader, you will remember that we did a swap back in February.  Blueberry Scones on this blog & Steamed Mussels on hers.  Of course, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to appear on her blog.

I love pesto, but my basil plant is not yet producing enough leaves so I put a spin on it & tried kale!  It was super delicious so head over to Two Places at Once to see my post & the recipe!



#LoveYourLunch – Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad

{what’s in your cupboard lunch}


I can’t believe this is the 5th week of the Lunch Your Lunch series!  Cooking Like Lou & I were just going to post for 5 weeks, but I am in for it again next week too.

If you are new to the series, all the details are here in my first Love Your Lunch post.  I definitely started to become more creative when it has come to my lunches.  I really am loving my lunch too!  Sometimes, if the day is busy I tend to just eat at my computer.  However, I try to avoid this at all costs because it is important to get up, stretch, eat, and most importantly take my eyes away from the computer.  Having a yummy lunch makes it a more enjoyable break too.


So I’d be lying behind these lines if I said this post was planned and I got the ingredients and everything was organized ahead of time.  Nope.  That is why the subtitle of the post is called the “what is in your cupboard lunch”.  This happens to us about 95% of the time, right?  Well, this recipe shows you that if you get a little creative and make lunch ahead of time you will Love. Your. Lunch.

I hadn’t been to the store and knew I needed to prepare my post for today so I dug through the pantry to see what I could throw together as my lunch.

The cast of the show:  leftover box of farfalle, a can of artichoke hearts, bag of spinach, parmesan cheese.

And the recipe was born.


Pasta for lunch is not typically on my lunch menu.  However, a small amount with some healthy oil and some veggies won’t kill me.  I highly recommend preparing this dish the night before for a grab-and-go morning.  It is especially easy to make if you had pasta for dinner the night before.  Save a bit of whatever noodle you have and add the rest of the ingredients.

spinach & artichoke pasta salad
Recipe By:  Sara
Yields:  2   ///   Prep Time:  10 minutes   ///   Cook time:  10 minutes   ///   Serve:  Chilled

4-6 oz pasta [I used bow ties]
3-4 artichoke hearts, quartered
1 handful fresh spinach
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1.  Cook pasta according to directions and reserve about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
2.  Add pasta back into the pot it was cooked in.
3.  Add spinach and artichokes.  Stir until spinach wilts.
4.  Stir in oil, vinegar, pasta water, cheese, and spices.
5.  Place in tupperware and store until the next day.
6.  Eat chilled or warmed in the microwave briefly if desired.

*This recipe made enough for two people so grab a lunch buddy & treat them #loveyourlunch style :)

love your lunch

Need some more lunch ideas?  Be sure to check out Cooking Like Lou & Two Places at Once have this week!



Shrimp Scampi {lightened up}

{same taste. no guilt.}
IMG_3468So I have to give myself a huge pat on the back.  Go me.  I did a great job eating clean and light last week.  The result: a pleasant reduction on the scale.  I hate scales and I try to avoid using it, but I was involved in a Diet Bet so it was required. The month was coming to an end and I needed to submit by final weigh in for the challenge.  I ate so well and the motivation to win the diet bet definitely worked because.. I won!  I was able to lose 4% of my weight in the month of February, resulting in being $50 richer.

I was back at Bikram three times a week & 1 day at the gym.  On top of that, I was only eating clean and organic.  It definitely paid off and I am even more motivated now.  I joined another Diet Bet and plan to lose another 4% in the month of March.  Hello more money!  Cheer me on & enjoy my healthy recipes this month!

Onto the yummy meal pictured above….

Isn’t so annoying how all bad things taste the best?  It seems the higher the calories, the better it tastes.  Not with this recipe though.  It contains the same delicious flavors, but way less calories that the original scampi.


For this recipe, I used all organic ingredients including the pasta.  The silky sauce perfectly coats the shrimp and noodles and the broccoli is an added blast of nutrients.  Compared to heavily buttered scampi sauces, this lightened up version contains no butter or wine.

I tried to avoid carbs as much as possible, but I thought a small splurge with this meal was OK.  I just worked out extra hard & ate light for my other meals.  Shrimp is one of my favorite proteins. They are very light & healthy, aiding in the production of the good LDL cholesterol.  Shrimp is a great addition to a heart healthy diet.


If you are in a rut and thinking that it is hard to eat healthy and that you have to give up all your favorites.  Pull yourself back up and tell yourself that is not true!  Any high calorie, high fat meal can be altered and still provide the same wonderful tastes.  This shrimp scampi dish is light, healthy, and incredibly tasty!

Shrimp Scampi [lightened up!]
Recipe Adapted from:  Cooking Light Magazine
Hands on Time:  20 minutes   ///   Cook Time:  20 minutes   ///   Servings: 4

1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 small organic shallot, minced
8 oz organic spaghetti
2 cups organic broccoli
1 cup organic, low sodium chicken broth
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp organic parsley, chopped
zest of juice of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp H2O, mixed together into a paste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese + additional for serving
salt & pepper

1.  In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package instructions.
2.  About 2 minutes before the pasta is finished, add the broccoli.  Cook 2 minutes & drain.
3.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the shallot & 4 garlic cloves. Saute about 1 minute.
4.  Add the shrimp and cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until pink.  Remove and set aside.
5.  Add remaining garlic and chicken broth to the pan.  Bring to a boil.
6.  Reduce heat and add lemon and cornstarch mixture.  Whisk to incorporate.
7.  Slowly add in the parmesan and stir until melted.
8.  Add the pasta, shrimp, and broccoli and toss to coat.
9.  Stir in parsley and serving with a sprinkle more of parmesan cheese.




Creamy Linguine & Clam Sauce with Sage

{a twist on the original}


Linguine & Clam Sauce is one of my go-to meals at any Italian restaurant.  It also is a quick and simple weeknight meal.  If you are weird about canned clams, don’t be.  They do not give off a strong fishy smell, they are not slimy, and they are not gritty.  You get a ton of clams for not a whole lot of money.  Obviously, you can use real clams for this recipe, but that hurts my wallet and isn’t as quick to prepare.

I added my spin to the traditional white wine based sauce.  I used a bit of fat free milk to add creaminess to the sauce.  Also, fresh chopped sage gave that hint of wintry goodness that I can’t seem to get enough of right now.


This recipe can easily be adapted to your preferences.  Afraid of the clams?  Add chicken or shrimp.  Want a tomato based sauce?  Use canned, diced tomatoes instead of wine.  Sage too strong?  Use thyme or parsley.  The beauty of pasta dishes is that they can be altered in so many ways and still taste delicious.  This recipe is no exception, but in my opinion it needs no adjustments :)  Make my Copycat Olive Garden Bread Sticks and you will think you’ve apparated (Harry Potter, anyone?) to Italy.


Sara’s Linguine & Clam Sauce

Hands on Time:  30 minutes   ///   Cook Time:  30 minutes   ///   Servings:  4   ///   WW+Pts:  9

1/2 lb linguine, cooked
1 (10oz) can of whole clams, juice reserved [I used Bumble Bee]
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp Urban Accent Mushroom Truffle Hunt
1 cup fat-free milk
1 Tbsp flour
2 tsp oregano
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh sage
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1.  Heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add the butter and once melted add the onion.  Saute about 5 minutes or until soft.
2.  Add the garlic and saute 1 minute.
3.  Add the Urban Accents seasoning and clam juice.  Bring to a boil.
4.  Add the wine and oregano. Reduce to a simmer in add the clams.
5.  Mix the flour and milk together until combined and no clumps remain.
6.  Slowly add the milk and flour mixture to the clam sauce.
7.  Stir in the sage, cayenne, salt and pepper.
8.  Dish the sauce over a portion of the linguine.
9.  Serve with additional sage and shredded parmesan cheese.





this & that

Happy Sunday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend & are gearing up for Christmas Day.  I have a few things I wanted to share!  So let’s get down to business…

Click Here to check it out!

  • Last week we were hit with a decent amount of snow.  We wanted to see how Toby & Ramona reacted to the snow.  Ramona would not go out and was a diva who just wanted to stay warm inside.  Toby… he is now coined our Snow Leopard.  He LOVED it and only came inside for a treat.  He was so cute & I snapped some pics that must be shared!


Thinking about it….


Testing it out…snowcat3

I love the snow, Mom!! I’m catching snowflakes on my kitty tongue!


Now I’m going to dig in the snow!


Kitty Paw Prints!

  • On Friday, we had our holiday decorating judging at work.  The theme for my row was “Santa’s Workshop”.  We spent a lottttttttttt of time making the decorations and thought we were a shoe in for 1st place.  Unfortunately, we got 3rd :-/  I snapped some pictures of our work… take a looksie.

  • For our work Christmas Pot Luck, I made a Sugar Cookie & Strawberry Trifle.  It was sort of a last minute thing, but it turned out great and perfectly sweet.  As you can see from previous posts, I am not much of a sweet tooth.  However, there are certain things I like in sweets and this recipe encompasses all of them:  fruit, cookies and homemade whipped cream.


{Click here for the recipe}

Alright that’s what I have for you today!  Enjoy and happy holidays :)


Three Cheese Pasta with Italian Sausage

{oh so cheesy}

Nothing beats comfort food like macaroni and cheese.  The cool & breezy weather called for something warm, comforting & also quick as it was pumpkin carving night [see here for post]!

So I have a confession about my experience with this recipe… Confession #1:  my sauce did not turn out as I had planned.  Confession #2:  when I cook I sometimes go really fast because I can’t wait to try it in the end.  The latter resulted in the first confession.  In the recipe directions, you will notice that I BOLDED the word slowly when I talk about adding the cheese.  My hastiness and urge to pile spoonfuls of creamy, cheesy macaroni into my mouth resulted in me dumping the cheese in all at once.  BAD. IDEA.  My sauce immediately separated and the cheese became one giant clump.  I was so mad.  I flapped my arms (like my sister usually does during spouts of frustration) and claimed the recipe was a failure.  After significant arm flapping, I calmed myself and began to fix the sauce.  I add a bit more milk and increased the heat and vigorously whipped the sauce.  It slowly came back together, but it was not as it should have been.  So in conclusion to my confession, definitely add the cheese in slowly!

I added a few bits of fresh spinach to the baking dish to add a little veggies.  You can add any type of vegetable really and any type of meat to this dish.  It is very adaptable to your current cravings or dietary needs.

Chase deemed this dish his first, second, THIRD (he could not decide) favorite dish I make, spaghetti & Cincinnati chili taking first and second place.  All three pasta dishes… hmm, doughie?  So there you have it, firsthand evidence that this dish is kid friendly!

What is your go-to comfort food?  Share with me – I am on a mission to try to not so doughie-ize  comfort food favorites.


{Click here for the recipe}