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Lighter Baked Ziti


Anyone else feel like they need a comfort food hug today? You know, because Monday. I promised last week that I would share a healthier baked ziti. It’s a week late, but it’s worth the wait. I mentioned before that I’ve been focusing on my health more lately. But that doesn’t mean I want to sacrifice flavor. This dish was just what I was looking for. I wanted something substantial, full of flavor, and something I didn’t have to feel terrible about eating. Bonus, the left overs are super delish. It just keeps getting better!Β After I had my son, my thinking shifted to be more health conscious. Unfortunately, my eating habits did not follow suit and I gained a lot of weight. Now that my son is three and more inquisitive, I realized that I need to lead by example and make healthier choices that will benefit us all. I never mention dieting, but that we are making “happy food” choices. That also means having some ice cream, or a treat, we just really try to balance it all out. That’s why I love finding dishes like this one. I have to admit Skinnytaste has been my go-to for recipes and inspiration for healthier eating. There are so many great resources out there, you just have to find what works best for you. I’m an adventurous eater, so for me this tends to be easier. My husband and son have very similar eating habits, so that is where it’s a bit more challenging. My son was hesitant to try the noodles, but my husband really enjoyed the dish. I consider that success.



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. For any baked pasta dish, I like to cook for less time than instruction. Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the spinach, crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sauce, ricotta, Parmesan and 1/2 of the mozzarella to the pot with the pasta and mix together. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.


This recipe is barely adapted from Skinnytaste.

Healthy Rustic Panzanella

Salad is a struggle. I like it, but not all the time. There are so many delicious salad recipes, but then you look at the ingredients and to make it taste good you’ve added so many calories you should probably just go eat the burger you really want and call it a day. But then I found panzanella. It’s unbelievably refreshing and versatile. I’ve made another version of this, a Greek panzanella, and sort of fell in love. The large pieces of toasty bread are like oversized croutons and the vegetable/herb combination is so refreshing. In this particular recipe I stuck to the olive oil and left it at that, but you can add a drizzle of vinegar and chop of some fresh herbs and toss them in. It’s certainly a taste of summer, something that I was craving here in chilly New England. Another benefit is that you can use up some of those veggies that sometimes go to waste. Also, I highly recommend freshly baked bread that’s a day old. It just takes those toasty croutons to the next level. Especially when you need to test a few pieces to be sure they are toasted just right!



  1. In a bowl, combine the cucumber, tomato, red onion and set aside.
  2. In a large pan or cast iron skillet, add the bread cubes and spray liberally with oil spray and sprinkle with salt. Toast the bread in the skillet until the outside of the bread is toasty and getting golden brown. You can also grill the bread which will give it a delicious rustic flavor. To do this, slice the bread rather than cube it, spray with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on top on a heated grill. Watch closely, the slices can go from perfect to burnt in seconds! Once cooled slightly cut it into cubes.
  3. Once the bread is toasted, add it to the bowl with the veggies. Add the cheese and torn basil. Drizzle with olive oil. Maybe a tbsp or so. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Let the salad sit for about 30 minutes...if you can wait that long! This will allow the flavors to combine.


This recipe is only slightly adapted from Skinnytaste.


Mexican Quinoa

Do you hear that? It’s celebratory music, because it’s Friday! I am so happy this week is just about over. But this recipe had to be shared before the weekend.

Quinoa haters (and lovers) rejoice! This is probably one of my favorite quinoa recipes, ever. When I first tried cooking with quinoa, I could not get past the dirt taste. It tasted like I literally just shoveled some dirt onto a plate and tried to make it taste good. Not the best first impression. Then I stumbled on another version of this recipe and gave it a shot. I was very pleasantly surprised. It was absolutely delicious. I’ve only slightly adapted this to suit our taste, and let me tell you it’s absolutely delightful. The only thing that would make it better, is serving it with a margarita.



  1. Rinse the quinoa and set aside to drain well.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and diced chilies and cook about 30 seconds longer, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, black beans, corn, and diced tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cover.
  4. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Be mindful to check to be sure the mixture doesn't burn.
  5. Remove from heat and serve with toppings of your choice.


Recipe slightly adapted from Annies Eats.