Spring Crostini – Two Ways



It’s finally happened after another dreadfully long winter my “Bring Spring” chants have been heard!  Spring is officially here and with it all of the beautiful dishes that remind me of this glorious season.

I was talking to a child the other day and asking her to describe Spring for me.  She stated in a matter of fact way that “it just makes you happy to be alive.”  Well…..I could not have said it any better.  With longer days, more sunshine, warmer temperatures (hopefully) and flowers about to bloom what doesn’t make it a wonderful time to enjoy life?  Hopefully life outdoors again at that!

I hosted a dinner party for my girlfriends on Friday night and what better to begin with than a bright Spring appetizer.  These little crostinis are “blooming” with bright flavor and went over really well.  In fact, they were requested at our next girls night party!


Spring Crostini - Two Ways
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Recipe type: Appetizer, light meal
Cuisine: Spring
Serves: 40 pieces
  • 1 baguette - sliced into thin rounds - I used 40 rounds for the recipe
  • 1 15 ounce container of Ricotta cheese - either whole milk or part skim
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 can chickpeas - drained and rinsed
  • 10 ounces of snow peas - ends cut off, chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans or walnuts - chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning spice blend
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • Olive oil - for drizzling
  • Spicy olive oil - I used Harissa - for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Lie the baguette slices onto a cookie pan lined with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Drizzle the baguettes with olive oil and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, Kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes until slightly browned and firm.
  4. Allow the baguettes to cool so they can be handled.
  5. Place the chickpeas in a single layer on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper or foil.
  6. Drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil and mix them with your hands to evenly coat them with the oil. Sprinkle them with the cumin and Kosher salt and pepper.
  7. Roast the chickpeas in a 400 degree oven until nicely browned and a bit crispy, approximately 12-15 minutes. Check them frequently to prevent burning them.
  8. Allow the chickpeas to cool.
  9. Mix the Ricotta, lemon zest, Kosher salt and black pepper in a bowl until creamy.
  10. Assemble the crostinis:
  11. Spread a nice layer of the ricotta mixture over the baguette rounds.
  12. Top ½ of the baguettes with the roasted chickpeas and the other ½ with the chopped snow peas and the chopped pecans.
  13. Drizzle the spicy oil onto the snow pea crostinis and the olive oil over the chickpea crostinis.
  14. Serve and enjoy!


5 Small Lifestyle Changes For Better Health……With Lasting Results


How are your New Year Resolutions going?  Are you still a regular at the gym?  Are you eating healthier?  Are you being more positive and getting your sleep?  If you’re like many, by February, those good intentions for improved health begin to fall by the wayside. Well, all is definitely not lost.  Drastic lifestyle changes may be tempting but can be tough to maintain after a few weeks.  A more realistic approach is to make a few small and easy to follow changes that are more likely to become a part of your daily routine.  These healthy habits add up to a noticeable improvement in your overall health.


Water is a necessity for almost every organ in your body to work at his prime level.  It’s also great for beautiful and healthy skin, hair and nails.  To meet the recommended 8 cups of water per day it’s important to track how much you are drinking during a regular day.  If you’re drinking less than 8 (I know I was), try scheduling times to get in the rest.  For example, a glass of water before your morning coffee or tea really kicks off your day and gets your digestion revved up.  Try carrying a refillable water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day.  Often thirst is mistaken for hunger.  Therefore, drinking more water can actually decrease your appetite allowing you to consume less calories…..BONUS!


Infusing your water with fruit and herbs makes a refreshing and visually appealing drink that’s easy to make in batches and keep on hand.  Make it by soaking the ingredients in a pitcher for 6 hours or overnight.  The longer you soak the ingredients, the stronger the flavor will be.  Cut the fruit into thin slices to expose more surface area to the water to help the flavors meld.  Squeeze the fruit and muddle the herbs to release even more of their flavor directly into the water.


My favorites fruits include lemons, oranges, strawberries and pineapple.  For herbs I like mint, a pinch of basil, ginger and rosemary.  My favorite veggie infusion is definitely cucumber.



Whole grains are actually the seeds of the grains.  Wheat, corn and oats are the usual suspects.  They provide fiber, are packed with energy-producing complex carbohydrates and several essential vitamins and minerals.  Refined grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of many nutrients through the milling process.  Also, the healthy outer shells of the seeds have been removed.  Easy changes like eating whole grain bread and pasta and brown rice instead of their white varieties really incorporate whole grains into your diet.  Plus they taste great, really hearty and satisfying.  Here are some of my most favorite whole grains:


QUINOA (pronounced “keen-wa”).  It’s a versatile, gluten-free whole grain that’s great as a side dish or a main course.  Learn all about it here.



kale_farro_saladFARRO.  It’s another ancient grain, like quinoa, but it has a more rice-like texture.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse with a unique nutty flavor.  Farro was a mainstay in the diet of ancient Romans.  It is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein.  It is easily digested making the nutrients easily absorbed into the body.  Try two of my favorite farro recipes here and here.



fruits.jpgOne great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet is by making smoothies for quick energy-rich breakfasts and snacks.  Berries, bananas and citrus fruits are all great smoothie choices but for an extra nutritional boost try adding spinach, kale or cucumbers.  The fruit masks the flavors of the veggies.

If you avoid fruits and veggies because of the prep work they require, try making them more convenient by washing and cutting them up at the beginning of the week and storing them in bulk in airtight containers in the fridge.  veggies.jpg







avocado.2Fat has always been thought of as bad, especially when you’re trying to get healthy.  However, fat is an important part of the diet when it comes from the right sources.  Saturated fats and trans fats are mainly found in cream, butter and processed oils.  They raise cholesterol levels and therefore can increase the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, come from vegetables and natural oils and are an important source of energy that can actually improve cholesterol levels.  Try replacing butter and fatty red meats with healthier alternatives such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and chicken.   Nuts.jpg






canstockphoto4433902Lean protein is heart healthy and key for remaining satisfied and energized for long periods of time.  Since protein is vital for building muscle, this nutrient is highly effective when paired with exercise.  Fish, chicken and turkey are great protein choices.  White meat is generally a bit leaner than dark meat and removing the skin can help cut down on calories.  Baked, steamed, roasted and grilled are the healthiest cooking methods for your lean proteins.

There’s no better time than then the present to resolve to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle.  Do you have a positive change that you’ve made to your overall health?  As always, I’d love to hear about it.  Here’s to a healthy and happy 2015……..

Here’s my “Super Bowl” Southwestern Turkey and Bell Pepper Chili


Well, it’s Super Bowl Sunday; a day that many people, myself included, think should be a national holiday.  Actually, I think the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday should be the holiday so that after all that partying and eating we don’t have to get up for work.  Come on, who’s with me?

Sadly, our worst blizzard of the winter decided to hit this morning cancelling Super Bowl parties all across the area.  Such a shame, especially when you’re the hostess and have already bought and probably started cooking all that great food.  Well, my plans certainly changed due to the weather so I decided to make a big pot of chili.  There’s no better comfort food for warming you up on a stuck-in-the-house blizzard day than chili.  So here’s my Super Bowl, a super bowl of turkey chili that is!

This one is kind of a no rules chili.  I know, I know, many of you will not think that this is an authentic chili.  Dad, I’m talking to you!  It is a bean-free turkey chili with a southwestern spice profile and I think it’s a healthy fresh take on traditional chili.  I would serve it with some chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a little sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese…..yum!




Southwestern Turkey and Bell Pepper Chili
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This is a bean-free turkey chili with a southwestern spice profile and I think it's a healthy fresh take on traditional chili. I would serve it with some chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a little sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese.....yum!
Recipe type: Chili
Cuisine: Comfort Food
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper - diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper - diced
  • 1 red bell pepper - diced
  • ⅔ cup green chili peppers from a jar or 2 small cans of diced green chilis
  • 3 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 3 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can of whole kernel corn (no sugar, no preservatives) - or 1½ cups of thawed frozen corn
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder - or 1-2 teaspoons of regular chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Brown the ground turkey and the onion in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the bell peppers, a generous pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper and all of the spices. Sautee until crisp tender, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic to the peppers and sautee for 1 minute.
  4. Add the pepper mixture to the turkey.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn and green chilis to the pot.
  6. Bring the chili up to a simmer over medium high heat.
  7. Turn down the heat to very low and cook for 1 hour to let the flavors blend and intensify, stirring frequently.
  8. Serve with lime wedges, fresh chopped cilantro, lowfat sour cream and shredded cheese.



Mandarin Orange Vinaigrette



I absolutely love mandarin oranges!  The fresh ones and yes, the ones from a can.  I buy the no added sugar variety, the ones in their own juice, and they are delicious and so versatile.  I like them in a mixed green or spinach salad, fruit salad and made into a vinaigrette that I’ve shared here.


The best part of the mandarin orange is……its peak season is WINTER!!  What, winter?  How can a perfectly sweet citrus fruit want to be born in the winter?  Truthfully, I don’t really know or care to look it up.  All I know is I love them and love to cook with this beautiful sunny fruit in the winter!

Mandarin Orange Vinaigrette
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This vinaigrette is fresh and light. Try it over a spinach or mixed green salad or as a marinade for your baked chicken. The best part of the mandarin orange is......its peak season is WINTER!! Bring this sunny citrus fruit into your winter kitchen, I'm certain it will brighten it up!
Recipe type: Dressing, Vinaigrette, Marinade
  • juice from 2 mandarin oranges or juice from 1 large can of mandarin oranges (⅓ cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or jar.
  2. Mix or shake to combine.
  3. Serve on your favorite salad. This would also be a delicious marinade for chicken, fish or beef.
  4. Store in a tightly sealed container for 1 week in the refrigerator.


New Year’s Eve, it’s all about the appetizers!


What’s more fun than an appetizer party?  I love an evening of all “finger foods” where no utensils are needed.  Appetizers that you can nibble and snack on throughout the night are great.  An appetizer party is much more casual feeling than a dinner party.  I think without the formal sit down meal the party guests are free to walk around, socialize with more people and feel much more at ease.

New Year’s Eve is a great time for an appetizer party.  I’ve included a few of my favorite appetizers and “finger foods” here.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year filled with health and happiness!  Welcome 2015…..


A classic veggie tray served with some more unique selections is always a smart choice.  It provides a lot of color and it is nice to have a healthy choice on the table.  I try to provide a healthier dip choice as well.  there are several good choices on the market now made with Greek yogurt and fresh herbs.

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These are English cucumbers filled with tzatziki sauce (or cucumber sauce).  The cucumbers are cut into 1 inch thick rounds with the center seed portion carefully scooped out making a little bowl to hold the sauce.  They’re then sprinkled with paprika and chopped green onions.


Spinach tortellini skewers with cubed fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes.  They’re drizzled with a basil pesto vinaigrette.  The colors are perfect for a holiday gathering and they’re very satisfying, like a mini meal on a stick.


Edamame hummus is a delicious alternative to traditional hummus as it’s made with edamame (soy beans) instead of chick peas.  Plus I love the green color; it’s beautiful served with veggies and pretzel or pita chips.


Roasted grape bruschetta, three words that will change your life and I’m not kidding.  I created these last year at holiday time and they were hands down the hit of the season!  Again, at this year’s holiday party they were the most talked about food item.  People absolutely love them.  The combination of flavors is perfection.  The fig balsamic drizzle is the star ingredient that brings it all together.  Don’t miss making this one, it will make you a rock star!


Ham wrapped asparagus spears are yummy and decadent.  Par boiling the asparagus makes them a bright green.  They’re then wrapped with a slice of ham that’s been spread with cream cheese and baked in the oven so the cheese gets melty and the ham golden browned.  Wow, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Ham wrapped asparagus spears
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Asparagus spears wrapped in ham slices that have been spread with cream cheese. They're baked in the oven melting the cheese and browning the ham. Yummy!
Recipe type: Appetizer
  • enough asparagus spears for each guest to have 2 spears (or maybe 3)
  • 1 slice of deli ham for each asparagus spear - sliced medium-thick
  • 1-2 tubs of onion and chive flavored cream cheese - I use a whipped cream cheese from my bagel shop
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Fill a large spaghetti pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add 2 pinches of Kosher salt to the boiling water.
  4. Trim the asparagus spears to remove the hard ends.
  5. Cook the asparagus spears in the boiling water for 4 minutes.
  6. Remove the asparagus from the water and rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  7. Spread the cream cheese in a thin layer onto each slice of ham.
  8. Gently wrap the ham slices around the middle of each asparagus spear.
  9. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 8-10 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and the ham browns slightly.


These are stuffed cherry peppers.  The peppers are from Trader Joes.  They come in a jar and are both hot and sweet.  They’re perfectly shaped for stuffing.  Here I have put some whipped veggie flavored cream cheese into a small Ziploc bag.  I trimmed the bottom corner of the bag and piped the cream cheese into the peppers.  They’re simple to put together and taste really good.  You could also stuff them with blue cheese or goat cheese.  They sell for less than $3.00 a jar.  What?!  Now that’s an economical appetizer!












Spaghetti Squash Two Ways


Spaghetti Squash, what’s not to love about it?  It’s wonderful as a main course for a satisfying dinner that will make you feel like a sinner but you’re really a saint.  I’ve shown it here two ways.  The squash in both dishes is prepared the same; by roasting it on a sheet pan.  One is served with a simple tomato sauce and the other with roasted Brussels sprouts and a drizzle of spicy harissa oil.

Once you know how to cook the spaghetti squash the possibilities are truly endless.  I like it with chick peas and roasted red peppers, mushroom gravy and served aglio olio style to name a few.  It’s a great vegetarian meal for a Meatless Monday Main course.  You could of course, add your favorite meatball or meat sauce or serve it along side a chicken breast or piece of baked fish.


It’s a low calorie and satisfying meal.  What’s not to love?

Spaghetti Squash
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Recipe type: What's for dinner, main course, side dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian cuisine
Serves: 2-4 servings
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash - cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the olive oil over the flesh sides of the spaghetti squash halves.
  3. Rub the olive oil over the squash so that it is all evenly coated.
  4. Sprinkle the squash with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Lie the squash halves, skin side up so the flesh is on the pan.
  6. Roast for approximately 40 minutes until tender, so a fork is able to completely pierce through the skin and flesh of the squash.
  7. Cool the squash enough so that you can handle it.
  8. Using a fork, shred the squash forming noodle-like strands.
  9. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy.




Holiday Cake Batter Truffles…..and they’re no bake!


“Step away from the desserts.”  These are the words I keep screaming to myself this entire holiday season…..so far it’s not working.  I’m not a sweet eater, my nemesis is crunchy and salty snacks i.e. the pretzel, one of the truly most perfect foods in the universe. But, these cake batter truffles are truly a decadent delight.  As you know by now, I’m not a baker.  These little balls of happiness are easy to make and require absolutely no baking!!  Think of the possibilities for them with different colored sprinkles and coatings for Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July and birthday cake varieties.

There are hundreds of different recipes for these little treats but this is the one that works best for me.  I do not have a KitchenAid Mixer so I use a combination of my hand mixer and my own two hands to get the dough to come together.  It works just great every time.


I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.  I’m down to only two left from Christmas so I’m almost out of the woods!  I’m working under the premise that they’re small and therefore not that many calories per truffle.  Do I have you convinced yet?

Holiday Cake Batter Truffles
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Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2 dozen
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter at room temperature
  • 1½ cups yellow cake mix (or white cake mix) - I used Duncan Hines moist yellow cake
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 16 oz (8 squares) white chocolate or vanilla candy coating
  • red and green nonpariels (very small round sprinkles)
  1. Combine butter, cake mix, sugar, flour and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  2. With a hand mixer and the dough beaters blend on low until the dough begins to come together.
  3. Continue to blend and work the dough with your hands until a firm dough forms and there are no more lumps.
  4. Roll dough into 1½ inch balls.
  5. Place on a large baking sheet covered with wax paper.
  6. Place dough balls in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  7. Melt the white chocolate (or candy coating) in a double boiler until it is silky smooth.
  8. NOTE - I make my own double boiler with a 2 quart saucepan filled up halfway with boiling water and a medium glass bowl on top of the pan.
  9. Dip the dough balls in the melted chocolate by piercing them with a knife or fork.
  10. Return them to wax paper and sprinkle the tops with the red and green nonpareils.
  11. Let the chocolate harden in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  12. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
  13. They do not need to be stored in the refrigerator.

I have tried many times to effectively melt chocolate in the microwave and I just can’t get it right.  The method I use is to create my own double boiler out of a 2 quart saucepan filled up halfway with boiling water and a glass bowl on top of it.  I can’t believe how good the chocolate comes out!  It’s perfectly melted and I never have to thin it to the proper consistency.  It comes out silky smooth and stays melted for a long time.





Spinach Tortellini Skewers


How cute are these?  I saw the Pioneer Woman make these and just loved the idea.  They could not be simpler and they are so festive, especially for a holiday party which is what I made them for.  The hardest part was assembling them.  They were very tasty and fresh and remained good at room temperature throughout the entire night.

The dreaded has finally happened, my homemade basil pesto is gone!  I freeze several batches of homemade basil pesto in the summer so that I can have it in the winter.  But, sadly, I’ve used it all.  I used basil pesto from a jar (Trader Joes brand) for this recipe and it was delicious.

I’m all about party food that is easy to prepare, can be prepared ahead of time and that lasts throughout the life of your party so you, as the hostess, can stay out of the kitchen and enjoy your guests.  These delicious skewers fit the bill.  Plus, they fall into my favorite party food category….”finger foods,” no utensils needed here!


Spinach Tortellini Skewers
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These are delicious and so festive with their red, white and green colors. A great dish to serve at your holiday gatherings. Plus, no utensils are needed!
Recipe type: Appetizer, casual main course
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Italian
Serves: 25 skewers
  • 1-2 packages of spinach and cheese filled tortellinis (I used 1 package but they were relatively small and there were a lot in the package).
  • 1 block of fresh mozzarella cheese - cubed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons basil pesto - from a jar or homemade
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh basil - chopped - optional, used as garnish
  • Skewers - I used bamboo
  1. Cook the spinach tortellini according to package directions. Drain the tortellini, rinse and set aside.
  2. Assemble the skewers the way you like.
  3. Note- I put two tortellinis on each skewer with the mozzarella and grape tomato in between. I made 25 skewers total and still had tortellinis left.
  4. For the dressing:
  5. Whisk the olive oil, basil pesto and red wine vinegar together in a small bowl.
  6. Drizzle the dressing over the skewers before serving.
  7. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil as garnish if desired.



Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi



By this stage of the holiday season you’ve probably already indulged in a few too many cookies, bacon-wrapped appetizers and festive cocktails.  Tis the season for holiday parties and high calorie treats galore which of course, do nothing good for our waistlines.

Well no fear; here’s a light and healthy guilt-free meal that’s on the table in no time at all, giving you more time to do your last minute shopping, bake, write out the Christmas cards, wrap gifts…….

This one uses the Veggetti spiral cutter I wrote about in the prior post.  You can also use a mandolin to cut the zucchini noodles.  I just love this little gadget; it creates beautiful veggie spiraled noodles that are perfectly shaped every time and nearly calorie free in your favorite pasta dishes.

Enjoy this dish, it’s a real holiday gift to yourself.

Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi
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Recipe type: main course, what's for dinner?
Cuisine: Shrimp and Vegetable, Light and Healthy
Serves: 1 serving
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-2 cloves garlic - minced, approximately 1 generous Tablespoon
  • ¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup white wine or chicken broth
  • zest of ½ of a lemon
  • juice of ½ of a lemon2 medium or 3 small zucchinis - cut into spiral noodles
  • chopped basil or parsley for garnish (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat until the pan is hot.
  2. Add the olive oil and heat it through.
  3. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sautee for 1 minute stirring constantly so the garlic does scorch.
  4. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides and add them to the skillet. Cook until pink on all sides, about 3 minutes total, turning over once.
  5. Remove the shrimp with tongs, leaving any liquid in the pan.
  6. Increase the heat to medium and loosen any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the white wine (or broth), lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the zucchini noodles to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Return the shrimp back to the pan and toss to combine them with the zucchini and sauce.
  10. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve immediately.



The Veggetti Spiral Slicer


Is the Veggetti Spiral Slicer on your Christmas list?  No you say?  Well, it should be!  This little kitchen gadget may have a very naughty sounding name but it’s definitely on the nice list.  It takes ordinary zucchini, carrots, yellow squash and cucumbers and turns them into beautiful curly noodles and spirals either thin or thick cut.

I have been very impressed with the Veggetti but I’ll admit I haven’t tried any other spiral slicers.  There are several models on the market but the Veggetti was inexpensive, $14.99, and came recommended by my friend who is a true foodie so I knew it must be good!

It did not disappoint.  I’ve made only a couple of dishes so far but both of them have turned out really delicious.  The Veggetti works great and does what it promises.  Take a look for yourself….


Stay tuned for my zucchini noodle recipes, they’re easy, healthy and really yummy.  I hope Santa puts a Veggetti in your stocking this Christmas.


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