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Vegetarian Enchiladas

I was craving tacos all week. But instead of making tacos, I had planned on breaking from the norm and make a pan of enchiladas. After my run today, I was crazy hungry. Guess who forgot to take the ground turkey out of the freezer to thaw. If you answered me, you were correct. Instead of throwing the idea of enchiladas out the window, I found a can of black beans and turned everything around.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

1 15-ounce can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed
2 small zuchinni squashes, chopped
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce
5 or 10 corn tortillas (If the tortillas are thin, double up the tortillas.)
1 teaspoon canola oil
Cooking spray or olive oil in spray bottle
1/4 cup your favorite shredded cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar & prairie breeze cheese.)

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.


ONEAdd enchilada sauce, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a small sauce pan.
TWOCook at low heat for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring to ensure sauce does not stick.
THREESet to the side.


ONEAdd canola oil to skillet over medium heat.
TWOAdd zuchinni, onions, green pepper, chili powder, salt, and garlic powder to skillet. Sauté mixture for about 10 minutes.
THREEAdd beans & cilantro. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

Enchilada Filling

Enchilada Filling


ONESpray oil on both sides of each tortilla.
TWOWrap in paper towels.
THREEHeat up in microwave for 30 seconds


ONEAdd about a 1/4 cup of sauce to a small non-stick baking pan or casserole dish.
TWOOver to the side, add about 1/2 cup of filling to the tortillas and roll up. Place enchilada with seam side down in the dish.

Rolled Enchiladas

Rolled Enchiladas

THREECover with the remaining of the sauce.

Sauced Enchiladas

Sauced Enchiladas

FOURTop with cheese.
FIVEI added cilantro & black beans to the top.

Dressed Uncooked Enchiladas

Dressed Uncooked Enchiladas

SIXBake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted & not burned.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Vegetarian Enchiladas


Vegetarian Enchiladas

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Restaurant Review: Franco’s Cucina

About thirty miles northwest of Chicago’s city limits, you will find an authentic Italian restaurant that will make you forget about any chain Italian restaurant that you may patronize. The other day I had the pleasure of experiencing Franco’s Cucina located at 1550 Bourbon Parkway located in the suburb of Streamwood, Illinois.

Twenty years ago, Emily and Franco Iacciano with their son John, decided to open Franco’s Cucina after operating a successful bakery business. The Iacciano family poured their passion for food into their Italian deli and bakery.

Their passion for food can be found in each bite. From the very first bite of Chicken Vesuvio, I could tell that this visit was going to be a most memorable one.

Chicken Vesuvio

Franco’s Cucina Chicken Vesuvio

At Franco’s massive counter, you will be greeted with a welcoming smile by a member of their friendly staff. You can order piping hot daily specials, sandwiches, salads, and pizza at one end of the counter. At the opposite end, is a vast selection of sweet indulgences that made me forget about my New Year’s resolution.

I blew my New Year’s resolution in less than an hour. The Tiramisu was amazing. The Cannoli was spectacular. It was my first time experiencing Zeppole. The custard was light and airy. Biting into the Zeppole felt like I was biting into a sweet satisfying unforgettable cloud.

Franco's Cucina Cappuccino

Franco’s Cucina Tiramisu

Franco's Cucina Cannelloni

Franco’s Cucina Cannelloni


Franco’s Cucina Zeppolli

In my book, Franco’s Cucina cannot do anything wrong. They even create the perfect cup of Cappuccino. I didn’t even add sugar to this beautiful work of art. Whether it was paired with a Biscotti or a Lemon Knot, the rich taste of the Cappuccino remained smooth.


Franco’s Cucina Cappuccino

Remember to take your appetite when you go to Franco’s Cucina. The flavors are huge and so are the servings. According to owner, John Iacciano, “Go big or go home”.

Daily Specialss

Saturday Daily Specials

I now know why Franco’s Cucina has been around for 20 years. Happy 20th Anniversary to Franco’s Cucina. I wish them twenty plus more years to come 🙂

Additional Photos from Franco's Cucina

Additional Photos from Franco’s Cucina

NAEN: Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream

NAEN stands for No Additional Equipment Needed/Necessary. I have 2 ice cream makers and I AIN’T use either one. I didn’t feel like freezing bowls or going out in below zero temperatures to find rock salt.

One day I was watching The Cooking Channel and this woman was making coffee ice cream without eggs and an ice cream maker. The woman is Nigella Lawson and her show is “Nigellissima”. I am not a fan of coffee ice cream so I decided to use her technique, but with a different flavor.

I had almonds and liquor. I chose bourbon from the bar. How can I go wrong with almonds and bourbon?

Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream

Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream

And I didn’t go wrong. I think this will be my go to method for making ice cream.

Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted almonds (slivers or crushed)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup bourbon

ONEMelt butter in a skillet at medium heat.
TWOAdd almonds to melted butter. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Set to the side. Allow to cool.
THREEAdd heavy cream to a medium bowl. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks are formed. The mixture will thicken.
FOURIn a separate large bowl, combine buttered almonds, bourbon, and condensed milk.
FIVEFold in whipped heavy cream into bowl with buttered almonds, bourbon, and condensed milk.
SIXPack mixture into an airtight freezer container. TIP: I reused plastic pint containers that I had saved. For the leftover mix, I used freezer safe storage bowls.
SEVENFreeze for at least 6 hours. I froze mine overnight.
EIGHTEnjoy 🙂

Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream

Buttered Almond Bourbon Ice Cream Part II

A Favorite with a Twist: Smoked Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes to eat. I can eat macaroni and cheese every other day. I can eat it as a side dish or as an entrée. You can add meat and vegetables. You can use one cheese or a variety of different cheese: American, Meunster, Cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan, Romano, and the list goes on and on.

I like my macaroni and cheese simple. Give me pasta with great cheeses and I am winning. Check out how I made Smoked Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese:

Smoked Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

1 cup milk
3/4 cup half & half
2 tablespoons flour NOTE: I used garbanzo flour.
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 cups smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup smoked cheddar cheese & extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded mixed for topping
1 cup garlic panko bread crumbs (recipe below)
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
4 cups cooked pasta, drained

ONEPreheat oven to 375 degrees.
TWOCombine milk, half & half, melted butter, and flour in a sauce pan. Whisk over low heat until mixture thickens.
THREEAdd salt & peeper.
FOURGradually stir in cheese (Be sure to not use the cheese set aside for topping.) until mixture is completed melted.
FIVEAdd cooked pasta to casserole dish, baking pan, or cast iron skillet coated with oil or cooking spray.
SIXStir in cheese sauce.
SEVENTop with shredded cheddar cheese mixture.
EIGHTTop with garlic pinko bread crumbs.
TENBake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Garlic Panko Bread Crumbs

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

ONEMelt butter in a skillet over low heat.
TWOAdd chopped garlic. Sauté garlic for about 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant.
THREEAdd panko bread crumbs.
FOURIncrease to medium heat & stir mixture for about 5 minutes being careful to not burn the bread crumbs.

Mac & Cheese

Smoked Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Jam on It: Fruity Greek Yogurt Pops

Congratulations on making to February!! I know it didn’t help that you had to go to that Super Bowl party that was a vision of temptation with all the cheesy dips, pizza, potato chips, fried buffalo wings, and greasy sandwiches sitting amongst a small veggie tray with wilted vegetables. Trust me, I feel your pain.

I hope this recipe will make it all better. Since I have been only allowing myself cheat moments and not cheat days, I have to get creative when I want something sweet. This one particular day I wanted some ice cream. And no, I didn’t want 2 scoops of ice cream, I wanted the entire half a gallon with a large spoon.

With a refrigerator full of yogurt and my homemade cranberry jam, I whipped up these yummy Greek yogurt popsicles with my favorite popsicle molds by Norpro. These popscicles give me the creamy texture of ice cream pops and are packed with tons of protein from the Greek yogurt.

Fruity Greek Yogurt Pops

17 ounces plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0% Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup your favorite flavored jam (I used my homemade cranberry jam)
1/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons agave nectar

ONECombine all ingredients in a blender or bowl
TWOMix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. TIP: Stirring in the jam will give the pops a marble look.
THREEPour mixture into your favorite popsicle mold. TIP: I found my favorite molds at Cost Plus World Market in the Summer. They are by Norpro 🙂 Norpro Popsicle Molds can be purchased at Target, Amazon, and other retailers.
FOURFreeze for at least 5 hours, overnight is preferable.

Fruity Greek Yogurt Pops

Fruity Greek Yogurt Pops

Celebrate the Big Game: Bean & Corn Empanadas

Anyone who knows me, know that I love me some football. In my world, football is the 5th season that occurs between fall and winter. All I can say is that this girl has it honest. I grew up with food & football & family. Sundays were extra special when we sat around the television cheering & chewing.

The Super Bowl is in two weeks. Parties and get to togethers will be held in celebration of the big dance. Chicken wings, chips, cheese dishes, dips, burgers, and ribs re just a few items on the menu. Many of these items are the beginning of the downward spiral to falling off of the New Year’s Resolution healthy eating journey. Also, many of the dishes are not vegetarian friendly.

Eating what’s good for you does not have to be tasteless and boring. These bean & corn empanadas are sure to please vegetarians and carnivores alike.

Bean & Corn Empanadas

2 9-inch pies crusts
1 15-ounce can black or red kidney beans (take your pick) rinsed & drained
1/4 cup frozen broccoli, thawed
1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
10 to 12 fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
1 green onion stalk, chopped fine
1 teaspoon oil
small bowl with a little bit of water

ONEPreheat oven on 375 degrees.
TWO oil in skillet on medium heat.
THREEAdd chopped green onion, brocoli, garlic, and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.
FOURAllow mixture to cool.
FIVEAdd seasoned broccoli mixture to food processor. Add cilantro and beans.
SIXChop for about 5 to 7 minutes or until thoroughly combined.
SEVENStir in corn.
EIGHTLine cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray if parchment paper isn’t non-stick.
Roll out/flatten pie crust.
NINEUsing a 4-inch circle cookie cutter, cut out circles and place on lined cookie sheets. TIP: If you have scraps, combine them & roll them into a ball. Flattened them with your hand.
TENSpoon mixture onto circles. Be sure to leave room along the edges.
ELEVENFold one side over and press edges.
TWELVEDip fork into bowl of water. Crimp edges of empanadas closed.
THIRTEEN Bake empanadas for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
FOURTEENServe with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa. I served the empanadas with my favorite hoisin sauce.

Bean & Corn Empanadas

Bean & Corn Empanadas

I Like It Raw: Raw Vegan Cheesecakes

Last year while I was on my journey to incorporate more raw foods into my meals, I came across a website the Savvy Vegetarian. I tried the recipe for Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake. I took the raw vegan cheesecake to work. Let’s just say that it was gone in less than 2 hours.

A few days ago, I thought of different desserts that I could make. Cheesecake was one of those options; but I didn’t want to make a whole cheesecake. Not to mention, I want to stay on track with my healthier eating goal. The raw vegan cheesecake from the Savvy Vegetarian came to mind. But again, I didn’t want to eat a whole cheesecake.

Instead of making one big raw vegan cheesecake, I decided to make 12 single serving cheesecakes. I used a standard muffin pan to make 2 different flavors: strawberry and key lime.

Raw Vegan Cheesecake


5 Medjool Dates, pits removed
1/2 cup unsalted pecans
1/2 cup unsalted almonds

ONESoak medjool dates for 10 to 20 minutes. Drain water from dates.
TWOAdd medjool dates, almonds, and cashews to food processor or blender.
THREEBlend thoroughly.
FOURSpoon mixture into lined muffin pan.
FIVEPress mixture down in the bottom of muffin sections to flatten. Set pan to the side.

The Yummy Crust

The Yummy Crust

1 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut creamer
2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup agave nectar

ONESoak cashews in a bowl of water for 6 hours or more.
TWOAdd cashews & remaining ingredients for the filling into a blender or food processor.
THREEBlend until smooth.
FOURAdd your favorite flavors. I added two flavors so I divided the filling.

For key lime, stir in 1/4 cup fresh key lime juice into filling (makes 6 individual cheesecakes)
For strawberry, combine 5 strawberries with 1 tablespoon agave nectar (makes 6 individual cheesecakes. Stir mixture into filling.

Raw Vegan Cheesecake Assembly

ONEPour flavored filling into muffin cups.
TWOTop cheesecakes with lime zest or strawberries for added touch.
THREECover muffin pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
FOURPlace filled muffin pan in freezer for at least three hours.
FIVERemove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Assembled Raw Cheesecakes

Assembled Raw Cheesecakes

Raw Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

Raw Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

Raw Vegan Key Lime Cheesecake

Raw Vegan Key Lime Cheesecake

Happy New Year: Simply Raw Zucchini with Sunshine Cool Breeze Dressing

We are well into a new year. I hope the year is bringing you laughter and smiles thus far. With January, comes New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like the word ‘resolution’. I don’t keep resolutions; but the word improvements is an on-going process that gives me an opportunity to succeed. So I will use the word improvement 🙂

One of the improvements that we make concerns improving our health. Whether we set out on the journey to eat healthier or lose weight, we need to equip ourselves with tools that we will be able to sustain in the long run so that we can reach our goals. Great tasting healthy options will keep us on track to better health.

Last year, I made a lifestyle change that I have been able to sustain and carry me into the new year. The change I made was to incorporate more raw vegetables into my day. Eating raw vegetables on a consistent basis doesn’t mean that you are eating raw carrots and celery or the traditional lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad. There are a host of vegetables that will ensure you do not get bored with eating a dish packed with vitamins and high in fiber.

One of my favorite vegetables is zucchini. I love it sautéed, steamed, and raw. Truth be told, raw zucchini is boring and taste like cardboard. By adding the refreshing dressing below, the zucchini is kicked up to new heights.

Sunshine Cool Breeze Dressing

juice of 1 small lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
8 fresh mint leaves chopped fine
1 pinch cayenne pepper

ONECombine all ingredients in a bowl with lid or bottle with a cap.
TWOShake vigorously to combine all thoroughly combine all ingredients.
THREEPour over your favorite vegetables. Toss the vegetables to make sure they are evenly coated.

I julienned one medium sized zucchini. I tossed the zucchini in the Sunshine Cool Breeze Dressing. I then served the zucchini over a bed of baby spinach and baby arugula for extra vitamins. Yuuuuuuumy!!

Raw Zucchini w/Sunshine Cool Breeze Dressing

Raw Zucchini w/Sunshine Cool Breeze Dressing

Happy Holidays: Christmas Bruschetta with Garlic Crustinis

I love this time of year. I get to hang out with friends and family. Everyone is full of smiles and holiday happiness. Not to mention, the food is amazing. I want to leave you with this appetizer that is sure to be a hit with meat lovers and vegans alike.

Have your fruit and vegetable tray if you like. But this Chrstmas Bruschetta will impress even the pickiest of eaters. To accompany the bruschetta, you can serve your favorite bread. In order to make this a low carb appetizer and to make this dish vegan friendly, have fresh tomato slices on the side.

Bruschetta & Garlic Crustinis

Christmas Bruschetta w/Garlic Crustinis

Christmas Bruschetta

7 Roma tomatoes
2 green tomatoes
6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

ONEWash and remove seeds & drain juice from tomatoes.
TWODice tomatoes in small pieces.
THREEAdd tomatoes to a bowl alon with remaining ingredients.
FOURToss lightly being careful to not smash the tomatoes.

Garlic Crustinis

1 loaf of French bread
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
approximate 2 to 4 garlic clove pieces

ONEPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
TWOSlice French bread, making the pieces 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness. NOTE: It is best to cut the bread with a bread knife. Also, cut the pieces about the same size. This will allow for consistent toasting.
THREEBrush or drizzle bread pieces with olive oil on both sides. TIP: If you don’t have a brush, use a plastic bottle dispenser used for ketchup or mustard. This way you have better control over the amount of oil used.
FOURPlace on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
FIVEBake for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown.
SIXAllow to cool for 5 minutes.
SEVENRub crustinis with garlic cloves until well covered.

Happy Holidays: Lamb Meatballs Made Easy

The holidays are a time for celebration. Some people are preparing to cook one of the largest feasts they will cook all year. With proper planning and without any hiccups, people can start eating during the planned meal time. I have rarely experienced eating holiday dinner on time. Before dinner, we are scrounging around for nuts and chips.

My next few posts will be dedicated to recipes that can be served before dinner is served and won’t leave your guests ravaging the fruit basket you received from your boss 🙂

Everyone serves some type of meatball as an appetizer. I have had sweet & sour, Swedish, barbecue, and the list goes on and on. Why not switch it up and serve a well seasoned meatball with a variety of dipping sauces. I even tried something different and used lamb instead of buying a bag of frozen meatballs.

Lamb Meatballs

Easy Lamb Meatballs

Lamb Meatballs

1 lb. ground lamb
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon corriander
1 or 2 stalks green onions chopped finely
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt, optional

ONEPreheat oven at 350 degrees.
TWOBreak up the lamb in a medium to large bowl.
THREEAdd onions and seasonings to meat. Mix until thoroughly combined.
FOURMix in extra virgin olive oil.
FIVEBreak off enough seasoned meat to roll into meatballs that are about 1 inch in diameter.
SIXPlace meatballs in a oiled pan. TIP: I use a muffin pan. I place each meatball in each section so they retain their shape.
SEVENBake meatballs for 30 minutes until well browned.

If you are making average size meatballs, you should be able to make 10 to 13 meatballs. I was able to make 13 meatballs.

Allow your guests different options for dipping these amazing meatballs. Mango Mint Chutney & Cucumber Dill are two quick and easy options at your disposal.

Easy Sauces & Lamb Meatballs

Easy Dipping Sauces & Lamb Meatballs