Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I always envied people who could successfully grow their own vegetables, fruits or anything at all.  My friend, Rene, is incredibly talented in that department, and was kind to stop by my house this week to bring a  basket full of beautiful home grown tomatoes and peppers.  Thank you, Rene!  These tomatoes were put to delicious use.

Whole Tomatoes

With a basket full of fresh tomatoes, and Fall upon us, making a homemade spaghetti dish was inevitable, and we were in for a culinary treat when this meal was ready.

The first thing you want to do it chop the tomatoes as seen in this photo:

Chopped Tomatoes

It is very much up to you to add what you like to your sauce.  For this one I chose to add some sweet red peppers, mushroom, and chicken sausage.

Sliced Peppers

Sauté chopped garlic in a little olive oil and add the sliced peppers.  Once the peppers are a little soft, add the chopped tomatoes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally.

At this point you may add the spices you like.  I added salt, pepper, paprika, chicken bullion,  and oregano.

Note that you may use more than one kind of tomato, to make the sauce richer.  Also, I did not need to add any water to this sauce since the tomatoes provided all the fluids necessary.

You will need to cook the sauce for a while, until the tomatoes are soft.  Add the mushrooms and sliced chicken sausage, and cook approximately 30 minutes, stirring once in a while.

You can then pour this aromatic sauce over your cooked spaghetti.  It will make a delicious and memorable meal that is comforting and relaxing after a long day.


Enjoy with a glass of red wine and good music!

Whole Chicken Stuffed with Couscous, in Turmeric Mushroom Sauce with Cauliflower Side Dish

I have to start by saying that these recipes are not for a casual night and take a little time to prepare and cook.  This is a great meal for a special occasion or a holiday, and you are sure to impress your loved ones and your guests with this combination of foods.  From the responses I received, it is worth the effort!

Cooking a whole chicken can be very flavorful and different from cut-up chicken pieces.  It can also be a lot cheaper.

To make this chicken you will need a dish you can use in the oven, like a rectangular glass baking dish.

Here’s what you need:

One whole chicken

One sweet onion – chopped

A small carton of whole white fresh mushrooms, washed (you can use any other type that you like)

Olive Oil

Cooking spray (olive or canola)



Chicken Bullion powder


Parsley Flakes

A box of couscous

Chicken or Vegetable broth (I prefer organic)

Don’t forget:

Heat the oven on 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

 Here is what you do:

Spray the baking dish with cooking oil.  Clean the chicken and place it inside the dish.

In a small skillet, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until golden, and spread over the chicken.

Make the couscous according to the instructions on the box, then stuff the chicken with the couscous (you can use what’s left around the chicken, just like in the photo).  Spread the mushroom around the sides.

In a small bowl, mix about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, some chicken bullion, turmeric, parsley flakes and one cup of broth (chicken or vegetables).  Stir well until all the spices are well mixed, and then pour evenly over the stuffed chicken.

Cover with foil paper and bake in the heated oven for two hours.

Here is what you will have:

Whole chicken stuffed with couscous

You will need a vegetable side dish for this meal, and if you like cauliflower, you will love this recipe.

Here’s what you need:

A cauliflower head (or two, depending on how many people you are feeding)

One sweet onion – chopped

Olive oil



Chicken Bullion


Vegetable broth

You will cook this one on the stove so you will need a pot that is deep enough and a little wide.

Here’s what you do:

Cut up the cauliflower to florets and wash them well.  In a little bowl, mix vegetable broth (enough to cover a third of the pot) and all the spices.

Sauté onion in a little olive oil.  Once the onion is golden, add the florets and pour your wonderful spice mix over the cauliflower.  Cover and bring to boil.  Lower the flame and cook about 20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Here is what you will have:


This is what the complete meal looks like once it’s served:

Plate with chicken and cauliflower

This meal is delicious and perfect for a relaxing special evening at home.  It is also healthy since it’s made from fresh organic ingredients and it is low on carbs.  Cooked cauliflower has excellent nutritional value as it is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol.  It is a good source of protein, Vitamin C, and Fiber.


Traditional Moroccan Couscous Dinner

Dinner is one of those things that gives you an opportunity to turn an ordinary night into an extraordinary evening. You don’t have to wait for Friday night to do that. Why not have a relaxing evening in the beginning of the week?

In my desire to take another break from cookbooks, and still stay healthy, I gave in to my Mediterranean roots. After a trip to one of my local organic produce shops, where I was inspired to prepare a hearty dinner, I knew what to do.

At this point, you ask: so, what is it that you made?

The answer? Couscous with Moroccan style vegetable and garbanzo bean soup, served with baked turmeric chicken. Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Not really!

Moroccan food is slow to cook, and for that I enlisted the help of my beloved slow cooker, which I used to make this delicious soup.

Here is what you need:

1/2 Butternut squash, cut to 2″ cubes

4 Carrots, cut to three pieces each

4 White zucchini squash, sliced in the middle and cut up to 1″ pieces

One big onion, peeled and cut to 8 pieces

1 can of garbanzo beans

Extra virgin olive oil

Chicken bullion




Chicken broth

Here is what you do:

Drizzled one tablespoon olive oil on the bottom of the slow cooker. I like to use a plastic slow cooker liner, which makes it easy to clean later, but it’s up to you.

Place butternut squash, carrots, white zucchini squash, and onions (in this order) and top with garbanzo beans.

To season, drizzle just a touch of olive oil and sprinkle chicken bullion, salt, pepper, and turmeric according to your taste. Fill up slow cooker about 3/4 with chicken broth and… Cook for 6 hours on high.


This soup is served over couscous.  Making couscous from scratch is a laborious and time consuming process. The next best thing, which I find to be an acceptable culinary substitute, is the out-of-the-box version.  Just pick up your favorite kind (plain works best with this soup) and follow the cooking instructions. You can make this part right before you serve the meal, since it takes no longer than 10 minutes.


The traditional way is to serve these two dishes together, with couscous first and the soup poured over it.


Some people add chicken to the pot and cook it as part of the soup. I occasionally do that to make things easier, but wanted to have an abundance of vegetables, so I cooked the chicken separately.

Just spray an oven friendly dish with a non-stick spray (I like olive oil spray) and place the chicken on the dish. Season with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, chicken bullion, turmeric and parsley flakes, and a 1/4 cup water, cover with foil paper, and bake on 350 degrees for two hours. This is a delicious addition to the couscous and soup combo and makes for a satisfying dinner.


Dinner was fabulous and colorful. It looked like I slaved in the kitchen all afternoon, when in reality it was super easy to make. My family was excited to have one of their favorite meals served in the beginning of the week, to cure the occasional case of the Monday Blues.

Local Harvest

The last few dinners at our house were improvised with what we had around the house.  We try to keep our meals healthy, and make use of whatever ingredients we have before we go shopping again.

For one night we had baked chicken with cauliflower and white zucchini, and a side dish of white quinoa.  A variety of baked chicken dishes are very healthy and tasty choice, and most importantly, very easy to make.  You can lower the calorie (or points plus) intake by using a little olive oil, trimming the fat and skin off the chicken, and adding a lot of cut up vegetables.  The only downside is that they take a while longer to cook.

On another night we had some pasta with ground turkey and sun-dried tomato sauce, and one night we went out to take a much needed break from cooking.

When you run out of ingredients it’s time to replenish your supplies.   Try to plan ahead by choosing just a couple of recipes for the week.  This way you can be sure you are not missing key ingredients when you are ready to prepare your meals.  Then of course you go shopping for food.

Shopping?  How many of you are excited about going to your local grocer?  I know I am not.  Shopping is a big part of cooking and if you want to cook healthy, you need to do some planning.

In my search for local farmer’s markets I found that there are many choices in a variety of times during the week.

A great place to search for local farmer’s markets is Local Harvest, at www.localharvest.org

I recommend searching by zip code for better results.  I found some great options in my area, and outside of my area as well.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 9.47.57 AM

I look forward to finding some great locally grown organic food this morning.  I have a couple of recipes in mind and dinner tonight should be fun.

See you soon!




Salmon and Asparagus with Citrus Gremolata

I kept my promise to have everyone ooh and ah over Friday night dinner.  The Salmon and Asparagus with Citrus Gremolata was divine (recipe can be found on page 175 of the Weight Watchers Points Plus Cookbook).

Everyone gathered around the kitchen to enjoy a glass of excellent Malbec while I was making this very easy recipe.  No better way to start off the weekend and set a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere around the house.

The Gremolata is made of fresh chopped parsley, orange and lemon zest, and minced garlic, and it smells so fresh!  I once again followed the recipe almost exactly, and even served it with lemon wedges.  I decided to make more fish than the recipe calls for, and roasted it for 20 minutes to perfection.  It was delicious! And… looked beautiful!


Salmon with Citrus Gremolata


Roasted asparagus paired perfectly with the fish, and was placed in the oven for exactly 12 minutes, to not overcook.  The orange fish, garnished with green herbs and citrus zest, looked very appetizing next to the green asparagus spears.  If you are tracking your Weight Watchers points Plus, this fabulous dish is only 7 points per serving (1 salmon fillet, 10 asparagus spears, and 1 tablespoon gremolata).


Roasted Asparagus Spears


For this special dinner I ventured out of my Weight Watchers book and added some pasta, with [I Can’t Believe It’s Not] Butter and some goat cheese.  This pasta was fairly light in flavor and worked really well with our fish and the great wine we had with the meal.  Obviously, portion matters if you are trying to lose weight.


Pasta with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and Goat Cheese

Not sure yet what’s for dinner tonight, but I am guessing some chicken with whatever I have around the house.  Once in a while it’s fun to just get creative in the kitchen, so it will be interesting to see what I will come up with.

Shopping Local Makes The Difference

Food shopping does not have to be a boring chore.  I heard from many people lately about how they simply do not like to go to the grocery store.  I agree that a lot of big grocery stores can be boring and taxing, but you can change that for yourself.

Like anything else you love to do, it is fun to occasionally find ways to be inspired.  Inspiration can be anywhere, and for cooking, what’s better than shopping in a colorful store that carries locally grown food.

Sigona Locally Grown Sign


For Friday night dinner, I plan to make the Salmon and Asparagus with Citrus Gremolata recipe (on page 175 of the Weight Watchers Points Plus Cookbook).  I wouldn’t dream of making it with anything other than local wild salmon, and I went on a search of a store that will carry it in my area.

My search took me to a local store that I absolutely adored.  Colorful and fresh locally grown produce lined the aisles and I had a blast.  It reminded me of some of the Middle-Eastern markets (Souk) I visited as a child.  There, I would trail behind my mother and watch her closely examine each tomato and cucumber she selected to bring home.  The memories of eating beautiful food that was prepared with a lot of love flooded me when I started picking the best produce I could find in this charming store.

Sigona Cucumbers

Sigona Plums

I then found out that they carry their own fresh pressed olive oil.  Two very friendly employees offered me a taste of a variety of oils, in their olive oil bar.  I chose an oil that was somewhat mild and got a small bottle to start with.

Sigona Olive Oil

If you are located in the San Francisco Bay area, I recommend you visit Sigona’s Farmer’s Market.  They are located in Redwood City, and have a smaller location at the Stanford Shopping Center.  Check them out online:


It was there that I was able to find the local wild salmon I will prepare for tonight’s dinner.  I am looking forward to a nice and relaxing time at home with my family, as they ooh and ah over this wonderful fish.  I hope you feel a little more inspired to explore your area for a fun food shopping experience that will help create a beautiful time with those you love.



A Fun Summer Night Grilled Indian Chicken Dinner

The Weight Watchers Points Plus Cookbook has proven once again that you can make a finger licking recipe that is also healthy.  My family was so excited as we put these beautifully marinated chicken breasts on the grill last night.  The wonderful smell of Indian spices was so appetizing, my son and husband said that they LOVE my new blogging project.  Smile!

This delightful and easy recipe for Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices can be found on page 154 of the book.  I followed the recipe exactly as written (except for the garnish part), but scaled up the ingredients for the paste since I made a little more chicken than the recipe calls for.  It does not take more that 15 minutes to prep, but allow a couple of hours for it to sit in the fridge after you marinate it and before you grill it.  Using raw and fresh herbs and spices for the paste is so simple and yet refreshing.

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices

While the chicken is on the grill for about 25 minutes, you can enjoy a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay.  In the last 10 minutes of grilling you may add a few slices of polenta, to make for a satisfying and easy side dish.  The Points Plus Value for this delicious chicken is 4 points per 1 serving (one chicken breast).  If you are tracking your food’s points values for Weight Watchers, please know that any additional food or wine will be extra points.

To embellish this summer night dinner, you can prepare a nice Mediterranean style vegetable plate with some goat cheese.  Season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil to bring out the flavor of the cheese.  And voila!  A great dinner you will be thanked for!

Israeli Veggie Plate

Mediterranean Style Vegetables and Goat Cheese