10-Minute Side Dish: Tex-Mex Zucchini

10 minute side dish, Low-carb, Mexican, My Tasteful Life, Paleo, side dish, spices, Zucchini

Since it’s still summer, zucchini continues to be abundant and on sale. Finding new ways to prepare it gives me a fun challenge, and my recent blog post on Zucchini Crisps turned out to be a delightful experiment. Today I’m sharing my Tex-Mex Zucchini. IMG_3463

Eating Mexican food doesn’t mean you must have beans and rice as a side dish. If you’re following a Paleo diet, then those items are prohibited anyway. Here’s a perfect low-carb side dish that takes just 10 minutes to make and pairs perfectly with any Mexican-inspired meal.

The unique ingredient is dried chipotle pepper flakes. Traditional in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine, chipotle peppers are smoke-dried jalapenos. Because they are dried, these peppers have a less intense heat than fresh jalapenos or dried red pepper flakes.

Chipotle peppers have a sweeter, smokier heat that tends to linger on the lips. If you truly dislike anything hot, then try reducing the chipotle pepper flakes to a half teaspoon on your first attempt.

This dish only takes 10 minutes to cook, but I like to let zucchini marinate in the chipotle pepper flakes and oil for at least 5 minutes before cooking. This dish serves three, so double it if you’re feeding a crowd.


1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/2″ rounds

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes

1 teaspoon kosher salt


Mix the zucchini rounds, red onion, oil and chipotle pepper flakes in a bowl. Let sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

When the zucchini is done marinating, heat a dry pan on medium-high heat for 1 minute. Then add the zucchini mixture and sauté for 6 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the kosher salt and stir.

Turn the heat up to high and keep stirring for 2 more minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm until you’re ready to serve your meal.

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Hello Fresh, Hello Yes!

Family, meal planning, My Tasteful Life, Planning, tips

Parents everywhere are excited and a little overwhelmed as they get back into the school year routine. Between open houses, sports tryouts and the typical morning rush, what to have for dinner can be an afterthought. Wouldn’t it be great if healthy, fresh ingredients and clear recipes arrived at your door?

That’s where a meal delivery service, like HelloFresh, can come into play.
My good friend introduced me to this little luxury, and I’ve been pretty impressed with the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The recipes can make weeknight meals easier because you don’t have to come up with the idea and purchase the various ingredients. Even cooks like me will be impressed with the quality and variety that HelloFresh offers its clients.

Here’s how it works: you sign up and get your first box free. That box includes all the ingredients for three meals that feed two people. The box is well packed, and keeps everything cold. Each meal has a clearly written recipe, with pictures and nutritional values, that provides precise cooking instructions.

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After your first free box, then you’re charged weekly for whatever amount you choose. The options feed either two or four people. You can easily put a week on hold (as long as you do so a week and a half before delivery) so that you don’t have food arriving when you’re on vacation or during a week that you don’t need the service.

You can also pick your meals from different options the week before your delivery. This ensures that each box is perfect for your family. If you and your family don’t eat fish or need vegetarian options, then you can customize the box to fit your needs.

I’ve been most impressed with the types of recipes (great when you’re stuck in a cooking rut) and with the quality of the ingredients. HelloFresh has obviously partnered with some good brands and the mini condiments are not only tasty but also adorable.

There are other similar services out there like Blue Apron and Plated. I’ve only tried HelloFresh, and was honestly surprised that I liked it at all. As someone who enjoys cooking, I didn’t think I would need a service that spoon fed me ideas, recipes and ingredients. But I have to admit that some weeks my meals are less than inspired, and not having to plan for every night has its benefits.

Here are my overall findings. The pros: interesting meals, clearly written recipes containing all the nutritional information, and most recipes seem to stay between 400 and 600 calories per serving. Meals usually only require one pan for cooking, and the fresh ingredients get delivered to your home. The cons: it’s not cheap ($69/week for three meals feeding two people). Most recipes require a decent amount of prep-work for a weeknight meal, and you can’t choose your delivery day.

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Singles, young couples, empty nesters and families with a mix of vegetarians and meat eaters would truly benefit from something like HelloFresh. You will have to do some of the work, mostly chopping and cooking, but if you can prep your food before work or during a child’s nap, then you can have a delicious and healthy meal within 30 to 40 minutes that evening. Most recipes are made in one pan, which makes clean up a breeze.

So the next time you’re looking ahead on the calendar and see an upcoming crazy week, give a meal delivery service like HelloFresh, Blue Apron or Plated a try. You’ll be surprised at the inspired and delicious recipes you’ll put on the table.

10-Minute Side Dish: Bok Choy

10 minute side dish, Asian, Low-carb, My Tasteful Life, Paleo, Stir-fry, vegetables

Bok choy with teriyaki glazed Sea Bass.

Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that lends itself to being sautéed over high heat. It’s a delicious vegetable that you can find in most grocery stores, and I think it’s a great alternative to my regular green side dishes.

I really love baby bok choy because of its delicate taste and texture. But the regular variety is just as good and easier to find. To prep bok choy, remove the lowest, hardest white part where all the leaves connect. Rinse with water and pat dry. Then slice into 1/2″ strips, including the leaves.

The rest is up to you. The recipe below calls for a quick sauté with ginger, garlic and onion, but you can add it to stir fry or even roast it in the oven. Bok choy works with any protein, so instead of green beans or sugar snap peas, grab some bok choy this week. Try it once, and I’m sure you’ll be adding it to your vegetable rotation.


1 large head of bok choy or 3 heads of baby bok choy IMG_2944

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional – reduce or remove if you don’t like heat)

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)


Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat for 30 to 60 seconds. Then stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add onion and cook for another minute. Then add all of the bok choy.

Cook, stirring regularly, for 6 minutes. Turn heat to high, add the soy sauce or coconut aminos, and the red pepper flakes. Continuously stir for another minute. Turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

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Low-Carb Appetizer: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

Appetizers, Herbs, Low-carb, My Tasteful Life, Party Planning, tips, vegetables

Do you ever have one of those fun and busy weeks that by Sunday afternoon you feel like you need another weekend? That’s how last week was for me. There were dinners out during the week, farmers’ market and a cookout with friends on Saturday, and then I spent Sunday helping out around my mom’s house.

By Sunday evening, I had no energy to cook and no desire to eat out. That’s when a stocked refrigerator is my best friend. Ummm … what do I have that isn’t a lot of work, that’s tasty, and that isn’t too far off from Paleo?

I found some sopressata (Italian dry cured pork similar to hard salami), a block of Irish cheddar cheese (I know it’s not Paleo but my house would revolt without a little cheese), and three fresh zucchinis from the farmer’s market. In my pantry, I located a can of olives and a bag of pistachios. IMG_3050

A cheese and meat board is simple and delicious, but I used this opportunity to do  something new with the zucchini. Since I wasn’t making a full dinner, I decided to try my hand at Zucchini Parmesan Crisps.

This simple recipe had been floating around the web for a while, and now was a perfect chance to try something new while sneaking veggies into my charcuterie and cheese plate.

On my first attempt, I was able to create a delicious and surprisingly healthy finger food. However, the zucchini rounds didn’t quite get crispy enough for my liking, probably because zucchinis naturally contain a lot of water. Don’t get me wrong – we ate all three zucchinis’ worth. However, I couldn’t help but think a slightly alternative prep work could have yielded a more delicate and crunchy texture.

Round two was more successful and that recipe is below. Make it tonight for a low-carb appetizer or keep it in mind the next time you need a vegetable to round out a meal or a table of finger foods.

Tools You’ll Need

Paper towel or hand towel

Baking sheets

Parchment paper or baking mat

Basting brush


3 medium to large zucchinis, sliced into 1/8” to 1/4″ thick rounds (this is a great time to use a mandolin slicer)   IMG_3018

2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons your choice of herb (I use chives, parsley or basil)

1 scallion, green and white parts, chopped

1 teaspoon pepper, freshly cracked

1/4 cup Kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix cheese with pepper and herbs, set aside.

In a single layer, spread the zucchini rounds on a large paper towel or clean hand towel. Generously sprinkle the kosher salt over the zucchini. The salt helps draw out the moisture in the zucchini, which will help make it crisper.

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After 10-15 minutes, pat the zucchini dry, removing the majority of the salt. Then line a baking sheet with either the parchment paper or the baking mat, and place the zucchini rounds in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Using a basting brush, lightly spread the oil on top of the rounds. Then sprinkle with the cheese mixture. Bake on the center or upper third rack for about 30 minutes until they are crisp but not burned. Serve immediately and enjoy.

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Quick Garlic Beef with Wilted Greens

Asian, Garlic, Greens, Marinade, My Tasteful Life, Paleo, Sirloin, Stir-fry, Swiss chard

Garlic Beef with Wilted Greens over jasmine rice.

This Garlic Beef recipe will surprise you with its taste, speed and ease. I found it in a cookbook I recently picked up, One-Pot Paleo. It’s packed with flavor and healthy greens, and the high heat sears the beef and caramelizes the garlic.

Wilting greens makes it easy to eat large quantities of healthy leafy vegetables. I love the effect of watching four or more cups significantly reduce while cooking over high heat. The balance of protein and vegetables in this dish creates a satisfying and healthy effect you will surely love.

This quick recipe is a weeknight’s best friend, and it works great served with cauli-rice or jasmine rice. The sirloin takes a little knife work, and you want to marinate the beef for at least 30 minutes. But once you turn on the heat, this one-dish meal only takes 10 minutes and feeds 3 adults.


1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

8 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

4-6 cups mixed leafy greens, such as bok choy, spinach, Swiss chard and baby kale

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos

Process IMG_2978

Thinly cut the sirloin on an angle into 1/8” thick slices.

Combine the beef with the  minced garlic, black pepper, and oil. Marinate for at least 30 minutes but no longer than an hour.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and let the pan warm up. Add the sirloin to the hot pan and stir-fry for 4 minutes. Add the onion and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the greens on top of the beef.

Cook, stirring regularly, for another 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and soy sauce and turn the heat up slightly to dry out the pan. Stir fry for another 3 minutes, and then remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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10-Minute Side Dish: Peas, Red Onion & Bacon

10 minute side dish, Dijon, Herbs, Lamb, Paleo, Pancetta, Peas, pork, Turkey Bacon, vegetables

I love green peas. They’re bright, delicious little pops of goodness in my mouth. Trying to follow a Paleo diet means maximizing my vegetable dishes because I don’t eat the traditional sides like rice that we’ve become accustomed to consuming. IMG_2779

This peas and bacon recipe will make anyone a pea lover. The cured meat fat combined with the freshness of the peas and red onion is delightful. It works great paired with pork, lamb or chicken, especially when the protein is marinated in my Dynamite Dijon recipe.

This side dish’s surprise ingredient is mint. Its light and refreshing flavor is unexpected and perfect with the richness of the bacon and the sweetness of the red onion and peas. Don’t be afraid to add it! Your family and guests will be truly surprised by how much they love the touch of mint in this dish.

I’m happy to use frozen green peas, and that makes this even easier because I can keep them on hand. The amount of bacon (or you can easily substitute pancetta or even turkey bacon) is minimal – only 2 ounces. That’s only about 2 to 3 slices. Ask your butcher or deli for just a few slices of whatever cured meat you choose, and that way you don’t feel compelled to buy a pound in the traditional pre-packaging.


2 ounces bacon, pancetta or turkey bacon (if using turkey bacon, add 1 tablespoon of ghee, coconut oil or olive oil to the pan when cooking)

1/2 red onion or 1 large shallot, sliced IMG_2763

1 garlic clove, chopped

10 oz. bag or box of frozen peas

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


Cut bacon or pancetta into small strips or chunks. Cook in large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the red onion or shallot and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add the frozen peas. Stir and add the salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the peas are tender and bright green. Turn off heat, add mint, and stir. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Family Vacation Survival Guide

Beach, Family, My Tasteful Life, Planning, Salt, Survival, Vacation

Traveling with extended family can be as stressful as it is fun. My husband, daughter and I recently met up on Amelia Island, Florida, with my parents, four siblings, an aunt and her two teenage kids. The dynamics of organizing 12 people’s wants and needs can be challenging to say the least. But below I’ve identified four key ways to maximize and enjoy your time with loved ones. Following these simple guidelines can make your next holiday the best family vacation you’ve had in years.


Sitting on the beach next to my dad and watching my three brothers play with my daughter, I was completely content. The familiarity of my dad flipping the pages of his newspaper, the sound of the surf and the squeals of delight from an entertained 4-year-old truly warmed my heart. I made an effort to savor that moment.


Building the Great Wall of Amelia!

I also savored the delicious food and drink. Champagne has been a favorite choice lately, and it fit perfectly with my beach vacation. We were also lucky enough to eat at Salt, the premiere restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. You know I savored the heck out of my shrimp appetizer and Wagyu beef strip steak.


Wagyu Strip Steak at Salt, Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island


Other than setting a 10 a.m. daily meet-up time for everyone, I did my best to go with the flow. I’m sure that sounds rigid, but my experience has taught me that if you don’t carve out a specific time to get together, then you end up seeing your family only in the hotel hallway and at dinner.

Back to relaxing! Having kids can make you follow a schedule. Naps, bath and bedtime seem to run the roost. A family vacation is a perfect time to relax those routines, if your child is comfortable winging it. For instance, if it was close to 2 p.m. (and Lily wasn’t sunburned) we’d hang at the beach until 3-ish, pushing her nap time an hour or more. I also let her nap for as long as she wanted, and then there was no leaving dinner early to “get her to bed.” That gave us even more time with the family we don’t get to see often enough.


Staying up late and loving it!


Inevitably there will be the occasional conflict when traveling with 12 people. Accept it! Instead of worrying about it or freaking out when it happens, just know it will pass. The quicker everyone can get over it, the faster you can all get back to enjoying the trip.

Remember, this is family – you didn’t get to pick them but they are yours for life. It’s better to accept each other’s faults than hold onto the animosity that would typically end friendships. Besides, it’s only for a few days and there is a bar nearby.


It had been over five years since I was last with my parents and all of my siblings at the same time. That seems crazy, but life gets in the way. All the more reason to capture the moment. Take a ton of photos. Be annoying about it. This is the digital age – you can erase the crappy ones. Keep snapping and I guarantee you’ll capture a gem that will probably become an iconic family image.


Patriarch watching over little ones in the surf.

If you have the opportunity to hire a professional photographer on vacation, then take it. My sister Erin coordinated a low-stress, one-hour photo shoot that yielded some beautiful family photos. It had been 11 years since the last formal family photo we had taken, and that was at my wedding! The hour session might have been a little crazy organizing all of us, but the end result was more than worth the effort.

Green 12

Time flies so capture special moments.

Introducing Cauli-rice: Your New Paleo Side

Asian, Coconut Milk, Herbs, Indian, Paleo, side dish, Spanish

Paleo cooking is packed with flavor, but one of the things I miss most are side dishes like rice, couscous and potatoes. While I can happily abstain from these less-than-healthy sides, it’s harder to ask my friends and family to adhere to my Paleo regimen. IMG_2597

Therefore, I’ve been trying to be creative and have come to love cauliflower rice – a.k.a. cauli-rice. Cauliflower can be transformed into a rice-like texture by using a good blender or cheese grater. Such a mild vegetable, cauliflower absorbs whatever flavors used in its cooking process.

Basic cauli-rice can be as simple as a large skillet, a grated head of cauliflower, a tablespoon of healthy fats, and 1/3 cup of chicken broth. However, by adding basic ingredients such as garlic, onion, and fresh herbs, you can create flavorful combinations that enhance your main dish while satisfying guests and families alike.

Saffron Cauil-rice

Saffron Cauil-rice

Even if you don’t follow a Paleo lifestyle, you can treat this cauli-rice like risotto. Add some saffron and peas. Or try it with mushrooms, cream and parmesan cheese. The options are endless once you grate the cauliflower and treat it like rice.

Hand-grating the cauliflower may take a little elbow grease, but a blender makes this recipe much easier. The key is to crumble the cauliflower in batches. You also need to pulse the blender to ensure that you don’t over-grind the cauliflower florets.

Below I’ve shared one of my favorite ways to make cauli-rice. This combination of cilantro, lime and coconut works great with all Asian, Indian and Spanish cuisines.

Cilantro and Coconut Cauliflower Rice


1 small head of cauliflower or bag of pre-cut cauliflower

1 tablespoon ghee, coconut oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup onions, chopped

1/4 cup red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1 lime, juiced


Create the cauli-rice by cutting the cauliflower head into large chunks. In your blender, pulse each section individually until it has a rice-like texture. Remove any large fragments that don’t shred and save them for later or discard.

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Once you’ve riced all of the cauliflower, melt your oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the cauli-rice and spread over the entire surface area of the pan. Press down and let cook for 2-3 minutes, and then mix. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes.

Then add the lime juice and coconut milk, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add salt and cilantro, stir and serve.

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Summertime Marinades: Soy Spring

Chicken, grilling, Marinade, Paleo, pork, Seafood, Shellfish

The Soy Spring recipe below works with virtually all food. Those strictly adhering to a Paleo diet can easily substitute Coconut Aminos for the soy sauce. However, for me, the amount is so small and it’s used as a marinade so I’m okay with cheating a little bit. IMG_2702

Soy Spring (best with vegetables, chicken, seafood, pork or thick-cut steak)


1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be substituted)

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (Coconut Aminos can be substituted)

2 tablespoons sweetener (local honey, agave or raw sugar)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely chopped (1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger can be substituted)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper


Mix ingredients together in a bowl and place your protein into the mixture, and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. Steak is the only exception, and it should only marinate for 30 minutes. Grill at 425 degrees until cooked through.

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Summertime Marinades: Major Mojo

Chicken, grilling, Marinade, Mojo, Paleo, Salad, Shellfish

Today’s summertime marinade is a Cuban classic – Mojo. This mix of citrus, garlic and cilantro works works great on chicken, fish and shellfish, and it might just be the new recipe to spice up your menu. Serve anyway you want – with tortillas, on a salad, or be traditional and go with black beans and rice. IMG_2158

Major Mojo (best with chicken, seafood or shellfish)


6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 cup white or yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2/3 cup olive oil or coconut oil


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, place your protein into the mixture, and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Grill at 450 degrees until cooked through.

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