20 New Thanksgiving Side Dishes To Try

For turkey day dinner, my family is pretty traditional. We stick with the tried and true staples and family traditions, but then we will throw in one or two new recipes for fun.  Here is a collection of some of my favorite new side dishes. Whether you are hosting dinner, or bringing a dish as a guest, these are great additions to introduce to your Thanksgiving table this year.

Balsamic Roasted Brussel Spouts and Carrots

I make this dish all the time.  It is my favorite way to make brussel sprouts!

 from  The Chew

Roasted Cauliflower "Rice" with Garlic and Lemon

Lately I have made this rice at least once every week. Roasting the cauliflower is the key - it gives it a much more nutty flavor.

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

This lasagna is soooooo good and makes a great vegetarian main dish option.

Summer Corn Salad

I posted a picture of this salad on my stories a few weeks back and I received many requests for the recipe.  I discovered this one from Better Homes and Gardens a few years back and it is a family favorite in the summertime.  It's a great side to go along anything on the grill, like these Hot Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches I am serving it with tonight. 

You could also add some chicken or shrimp to it to make it a meal in itself.

What's interesting about this vinaigrette is that there isn't any oil in it!  It is straight vinegar, sugar,  and salt/pepper, but you really don't even miss the oil!



  • 1/2 cup apples cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher slt
  • 1/2 freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 ears of fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quatered
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1-2 cups arugula, baby romaine, or spring mix lettuce


For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.

For the salad, cut corn kernels from the cobs and toss with the remaining ingredients except the arugula/lettuce in a large serving bowl.

Add the dressing and arugula/lettuce.  Toss gently and serve immediately.  


Chocolate Heart Lava Cakes with Strawberry Sauce

Every Valentines Day we make dinner together at home and I wanted to make something special this year for our daughter because she is such a picky eater.  However, like her mother, she never says no to chocolate.  This is such a quick and easy dessert that is sure to impress any Valentine!  They can even be assembled ahead of time and then you just pop them in the oven while you are eating dinner.  Serve them warm with vanilla ice cream or with this festive strawberry sauce.



For the Cake: 

  • four 6-ounce ramekins (preferably heart shaped if for Valentines Day!)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 450°. Butter and lightly flour four 6-ounce ramekins.  Tap out the excess flour.  Set the ramekins on a baking sheet. 

In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate.  In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the egg yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.  

Whisk the chocolate until smooth.  Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour.  Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft.  Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate.  Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold.  Serve immediately.

Strawberry Sauce:

Put the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  You can also place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 

Make Ahead

The batter can be refrigerated for several hours.  Bring to room temperature before baking.


Ginger Mandarin Chicken Lettuce Cup

These lettuce cups have been a weeknight staple in our home for years.  They are a quick, easy, and healthy dinner you can have on the table in just minutes.


I came up with the recipe as I was trying to recreate some chicken lettuce wraps that we had at a local restaurant.  These come together in about 20 minutes thanks to this short cut: Brianna’s Ginger Mandarin Dressing!



  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or canola oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup Brianna's Ginger Mandarin Dressing
  • 1 head of butter, bibb, or iceberg lettuce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped, and orange zest for garnish, optional


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan to stir the almonds.  Check every minute until they are the desired color.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and chicken and cook until chicken is browned, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the celery and onion to the pan and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.

Add the dressing to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce slightly thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the toasted almonds.  Serve the mixture in the lettuce cups and garnish with the cilantro and orange zest, optional. .

How I Keep Our 600 Square Foot Home Clutter-Free

At this time of year, everyone is trying to get organized in every aspect of life.  Getting your house in order is certainly one of the top priorities.  I have spent the past week clearing out the clutter and cleaning out every square inch of our home. (I also did it because we may be putting our house on the market, but that's an another, exciting story hopefully coming soon) 

However, did you know that our house is just a little over 600 square feet?!?!  

That's 2 adults, 1 toddler (and she comes with a lot stuff), and a 100 lb. dog in that 600 sq. ft!

We made "tiny house living" cool before it was even a thing.  It has definitely it's benefits.  A tiny house comes with a tiny mortgage, and that has afforded us to do many other things.  There are drawbacks too.  When you live in a small space, you HAVE to keep it organized and clutter free at all times or it will literally drive you insane.   The clutter can take over, leaving you feeling very claustrophobic in such a tiny space!

That is why I have become quite the expert on getting rid of unwanted household mess.  Here is my simple two-step to keeping our home clutter-free.

Every item in out house has to fall into one of these two categories below, and I mean EVERYTHING!  These categories can to applied when going through your closet, junk drawers, kitchen cabinets, offices... just about every space in your home.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Is it functional/Does it serve a purpose?
  2. Do you love it?

 If it no longer serves a purpose or you're no longer getting any enjoyment out of owning it, it's time to let it go.  At first, I wasn't very good at this, but living in such a small house, we had no choice.  However, once you do it, it becomes easier, and even sometimes enjoyable!

Once you decide what you are keeping, you can move on to the second step:

Everything has to have a home.

Make sure everything in your home has a specific place that makes sense.   Putting things back in their place when you are done with them will save yourself from unmanageable messes in the future.

Baskets, boxes, and containers  are my go-to for this step, especially now since we have a toddler and a million toys!  I have baskets designated for toys, blankets, DVDs, magazines, you name it.  Everything you keep has to have it's own designated spot in your home.  

 via the Home Edit

via the Home Edit


Get rid of paper clutter before it has a chance to pile up.  When I get the mail, the junk goes straight into the recycling bin outside before I even get in the house.  Magazines have a designated basket.  Bills or any important papers (which I try to keep most paperless) get filed away.  If you do this right these papers enter your house, They will never pile up.


Go vertical and utilize empty real estate. Hats and jewelry get hung up on the wall. (You can find my DIY Jewelry Board from years ago here)  Clothes not being used in the current season are stashed in bins under the beds.  Hanging shoe organizers on the back of doors keep shoes from piling on the floor.   Those same organizers can also be used for hats and gloves inside the hallway closet, snacks in the pantry, or beauty products in a linen closet. 



Double duty furniture helps create more space in small rooms.  Storage ottomans provide a place to put up you feet  as well as great storage.  Using a small dresser as a nightstand allows for more clothing storage in a small bedroom.  We have this piece below in our living room that doubles as our office.  It has a drop-down desk, a home for our printer, and has filing storage.



When it comes to deciding what we put in our home, I think Nate Berkus says it best:

 "Be a ruthless editor about what you allow into your home to begin with.  Consider each piece you bring into your home, asking yourself, 'does this serve a new purpose? Is it able to replace something else?' It's a universal thing to want to live better and in a more beautiful space, and the answer goes way beyond cleaning.   You're creating your world with every object you let enter into your daily life, so act as a curator to your own environment.  If you edit carefully, making sure every object has meaning and personal value, you'll eventually be surrounded by only what you love, and that much closer to realizing your dream home."




Turtle Pretzel Bites

I have had to make another double batch of these because the first round is already gone!  They have been the favorite out of all the cookies I have baked this year, and there really isn't much baking involved at all!  They are quick and simple to make so there is still plenty of time to whip of a batch.  Or four.



  • 36 pecan halves
  • 36 mini pretzel twists 
  • 36 individually wrapped soft caramel squares 
  • 16 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, melted 


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the pecan halves on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, shaking the sheet once halfway through, until lightly toasted, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Arrange the pretzels neatly on the baking sheet, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped caramel.  Bake until the caramels soften (but are definitely not melting), 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently press a pecan half onto each caramel, just enough for the caramel to fill the pretzel.  Set aside to cool completely.

Remove the cooled pretzel/caramels from the baking sheet. Spoon 36 small dollops (1 1/2-teaspoon helpings) of the melted chocolate all over the baking sheet, then lightly drop a pretzel onto the middle of each dollop, making sure the pretzel is centered. Places them in the fridge and allow them to cool completely before serving



Lemon, Ginger, and Sage Punch

I made this champagne punch last year for Thanksgiving and I'm making it again this year because it was such a hit.  It's refreshing and light and goes perfectly with your turkey dinner.  It is very pretty too with the lemon and sage ice ring in the punch bowl.

 Image and recipe via epicurious.com

Image and recipe via epicurious.com

This recipe serves about 20


For the ice ring:

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3–4 sprigs sage

For the punch:

  • 8 strips lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

  • 1/2 large bunch of sage

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice

  • 2 cups gin

  • 2 cups ginger liqueur, such as Canton

  • 6 cups unflavored sparkling water

  • 2 bottles chilled sparkling wine

Special Equipment

  • A Bundt or tube pan; a large (about 6-quart) punch bowl or mixing bowl



Make the ice ring: Arrange lemon slices and sage in bottom of Bundt pan and fill with cold water, leaving about 1" of space at the top. Freeze until set, at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Make the punch: Muddle lemon zest, sage, and sugar in a measuring cup with a pour spout until sugar starts to turn green. Add 2 cups warm water and stir until sugar is dissolved, then let sit 10 minutes to infuse.

Stir in lemon juice, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large punch bowl. Stir in gin and ginger liqueur.

Just before serving, dip bottom of Bundt pan into a bowl of hot water. Place a plate over mold, invert ice ring onto plate, then transfer to punch bowl. Pour in sparkling water and wine and stir gently.

Do Ahead

Punch, without sparkling water and wine, can be made 2 days ahead; transfer to an airtight container and chill.

If you don’t have a punch bowl big enough to hold the full amount, start by filling it with half of the recipe, then refill throughout your party as guests continue to drink.


Honey Crisp Apple and Candied Nut Salad

It's lunchtime and today I am having this fall apple salad.  I thought I would share it because it would also be a great salad to serve on Thanksgiving.   I made the candied nuts a few days ago, and honestly, I will use any excuse to add them to my meal.  That is the real reason for this salad.  The nuts are soooo good.  



For the candied nuts

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1/2 pepitas

For the salad

  • 4 to 6 cups spring mix lettuce
  • 2 honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 extra vigin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Add the nuts and seeds along with 1 tablespoon of water.  Toss to coat.  Pour the nuts/seeds on to a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Watch carefully because the sugar can burn easily.  Transfer to a clean plate or bowl and let cool. (if you leave them on the pan to cool, they may stick to the pan)

For the salad, place the lettuce in a large bowl or on a large platter.  Top with the apples, feta, pomegranates , and candied nuts.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the honey, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic and balsamic vinegar.   Add the oil and whisk thoroughly to combine.  Continue whisking until the dressing is fully emulsified.

Pour just enough of the dressing on the salad to lightly coat.  Serve immediately.

Ten New Thanksgiving Side Dishes To Try

For the big turkey day dinner, my family usually sticks with the staples and family traditions, but then will throw in a new side dish or two.  Here is a collection of some of my favorites that are traditional Thanksgiving sides with a twist.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette





Balsamic Roasted Brussel Spouts and Carrots

I make this dish all the time.  It is my favorite way to make brussel sprouts!



Roasted Cauliflower "Rice" with Garlic and Lemon

I never thought I would get on the cauliflower rice bandwagon but I tried this one and it is delicious.  Mr. Wright loved it too!  Roasted it gives it so much more nutty flavor.











Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

This lasagna is soooooo good and makes a great vegetarian main dish too.



Cinnamon Pumpkin Roll with Nutella Filling

Happy Halloween!  I know the last thing we need today is one more sweet treat, but I couldn't help myself yesterday and I made one of my cinnamon pumpkin rolls.  I'm not a huge fan of the traditional cream cheese filling so I added a cocoa and Nutella filling to mine.  Chocolate makes everything better, right??  I also love the combo of pumpkin and chocolate together.  This has become a fall time favorite in my family and is a great desert to bring to Thanksgiving as well!



  • Butter, for greasing the baking sheet
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree

For the Nutella Filling

  • 4 oz. regular cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter an 11-by-17-inch rimmed, nonstick baking sheet.  Line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.  Lay a clean kitchen towel on a work surface and dust with powdered sugar.

For the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the beater attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on high speed until thick, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the pumpkin puree.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 12 minutes.

Run a thin metal spatula around the edges of the cake and immediately invert the pan onto the kitchen towel.  Carefully peel off the parchment paper.  Starting at the narrow end, roll up the cake and towel together into a log.  Cool completely on a wire rack, about 45 minutes.

For the filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the beater attachment, combine the cream cheese and unsalted butter. Beat on high until smooth and light, about 5 minutes.  

Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl and mix on low until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat again until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the Nutella and mix on low, just until combined.

To Assemble: Carefully unroll the cake and remove the towel.  Using an offset spatula, spread the filling over the cake. Roll up the cake and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, cut the roll into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on a platter.


Jerk Shrimp with Sweet Chili Slaw

Last night I had zero time to make dinner.  I threw these tacos together in literally 10 minutes and they were a hit!  It's a super quick and easy meal for those busy weeknights.  I served them with my Cilantro Lime Rice



  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 package of bagged cole slaw
  • 1 pound of raw shrimp, any size, peeled and devined
  • 1 Tablespoon Jerk seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 6 corn or flour taco size tortillas, warmed


In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, chili sauce, cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice.  Add the cole slaw and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but longer is preferred.  

In a medium sized bowl, toss the shrimp with the jerk seasoning and set aside.  Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add the coconut oil.  Then add the shrimp and sauté until just pink - it only takes about 2 minutes.

Serve the shrimp on the warm tortillas and top with the slaw.  You can find the recipe for my Cilantro Lime Rice here



Mediterranean Kale and Quinoa Salad

To be honest, the only reason I made this salad is because I have eaten a few too many pumpkin cookies from the last post.  However this is a very tasty salad packed with lots of good-for-you ingredients.  I think the thing that takes this salad to the next level is the slow roasted tomatoes.  I used up the last of my cherry tomatoes from the garden.  Even though they take about 2 hours to make, it's totally worth!

This is a great salad to make ahead of time because the flavors get better the longer it sits.  It's the perfect thing to make on a Sunday and have it ready in the fridge for weekday lunches.



For the Salad

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasted
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups of kale, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup seedless cucumber, quartered and diced
  • 1/4 cup or more feta cheese, crumbed

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Add the cherry tomatoes and garlic to the baking sheet.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, then toss to coat.  Bake for 2 hours, turning once halfway though.  Let tomatoes cool completely, discard the garlic, and add the tomatoes to a large bowl.

While the tomatoes are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion.  Set aside.

In the large bowl, add the cooked quinoa, kale, olives, cucumbers, and feta.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  Can be served immediately or refrigerated to let the flavors develop even more.





Melt-In-your-mouth pumpkin cookies

To me, fall means football, raking leaves, picking apples, the occasional PSL (don't judge), and these cookies.  These are by far THE BEST pumpkin cookies.  I can't take credit for this recipe.  I discovered it a few years back in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  I have made them every fall since then.  They literally melt in your mouth (maybe because there is a pound of butter in the recipe?)  This recipe is also great to make for a party or tailgate because it makes a ton - about 60 cookies!


Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies


  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. If desired, sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes about 60 cookies.


Hot Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

These hoagies have been a grilling staple at our home this summer.  I have never been that crazy about a plain old hot sausage sandwich, but this recipe takes them to the next level!  The tang from the pickled peppers and vinegar cuts through the richness of the sausage and the fresh herbs really brighten it up.  This would be the perfect tailgate hoagie too!




  • 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage 
  • 1 green bell pepper, halved and cored 
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and cored  
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings 
  • 1 cup pizza sauce 
  • 4 fresh Italian hoagie rolls 
  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled cherry peppers
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, minced 
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
  • 8 slices provolone cheese 


Preheat a grill to medium high heat.  Grill the sausage, peppers and onions until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are slightly tender and a little charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Slice the sausage, peppers and onions.

In a small pot, heat the pizza sauce until warm.

Remove some of the bread from the inside of each grinder roll. Dress the grinder rolls with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and some salt and pepper. Grill until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes, then rub with a clove of garlic.

In a large bowl, combine the sausage, peppers, onion, tomato sauce. Toss until coated.

In a separate bowl, combine the cherry peppers, basil, parsley and red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to bind it all. Mix until well combined.

Place enough of the sausage mixture into each bun to fill. Cover with 2 slices of provolone cheese in each grinder. Place back on the grill on the top rack with the cover down. Cook until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Top with the cherry pepper mixture.

 Served with a grilled Caesar salad

Served with a grilled Caesar salad

What to do with all that zucchini

We do it every year.  Every year we plant too many zucchini plants in our garden.  I don't know why.  Maybe I fear that we will run out?  Even though one plant produces nearly a hundred zucchini a day.  You literally can't give them away (we have tried), you can only make people eat so much zucchini bread, and you certainly can't throw them away.  That is sacrilegious in the gardening world.  So I have been searching for more ideas.  I found a few favorites that I will share in the next few posts.  Here is the first one that I am serving tonight with my Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups.

Asian Zoodle Salad

I still haven't decided if I'm on the zoodle band wagon, but I have to say this one was delish!  It's a quick, heathly salad as a side or you could add some chicken, shimp, or steak for a main dish.  The colors of this salad are so beautiful too!


For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from about a 2-inch piece) 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated 
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime 

For the Salad

  • 2 zucchini, spiraled
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots 
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, halved and thinly sliced 
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cashews, halved or chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves, for garnish 


To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, ginger, honey, sesame oil, garlic, lime juice, and zest in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini noodles, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cabbage. Add the dressing to the bowl and toss together gently (zucchini noodles are fragile). Garnish with the cashews and basil leaves and serve.  The salad can be prepped ahead of time, but do not add the dressing until right before serving.

Strawberry picking and Strawberry Lemonade Bars

The weather here in Pittsburgh has been absolutely perfect and last week I took my daughter strawberry picking at Simmons Farm.  

We had a great time, although I think my helper ate more berries than she picked!

We had such a fun time and got lots of berries!

We've been snacking on them all week long but I still had lots left over so I wanted to make a sweet treat with the remainders - Strawberry Lemonade Bars!

The recipe calls for 12 ounces of strawberry preserves.  You can certainly buy a jar of preserves and use that, but since I had so many berries, I made this quick and super simple homemade jam. The recipe makes a little more than what you need to make the bars, but thats not a bad thing!  You can keep it in the refrigerator for toast the next morning.

This recipe is a great base for any kind of fruit bar.  You could substitute blueberries, apples, lemon, raspberries, blackberries....just about any kind of fruit jam!

Strawberry Lemonade Bars


For the Fresh Strawberry Jam (can be made ahead of time)

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

For the Bars

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4-6 tablespoons cold water
  • 12 ounces strawberry preserves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries,hulled and coarsely chopped


For the Jam

Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the strawberries and continue to cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the strawberries release some of their juices and the mixture boils slowly. Cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate. (I keep one in the freezer.) Pour carefully into 2 pint canning jars, seal, and keep refrigerated.

For the Bars

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter a 9 x 13 inch non-stick cake pan  or spray with cooking spray.  Place a piece of parchment paper inside the cake pan so that some paper hangs over the edges.

In the base of a food processor, combine 3/4 cup of oats, flour, sugars, and salt until coarsely ground.  Add the butter and vanilla and pulse to create a crumb.  Gradually add in water and pulse until a dough forms.

Dump the dough into a large bowl. Divide the dough in half.  Press half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake until the edges are golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Crumble the rest of the oatmeal-shortbread dough into a mixing bowl and fold in remaining 1/4 cup of whole oats. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the strawberry-lemonade filling.  In a medium bowl, mix to combine the strawberry preserves, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the strawberries and stir to combine. Set aside. 

Spread the strawberry-lemonade filling onto the baked crust.  Sprinkle remaining dough-oat mixture on top of the filling.  Place in the oven to bake until golden brown on top, about 25-30 minutes. 

Remove and let cool completely.  The bars will set up as they cool.   Use the parchment paper to help lift the bars out of the baking pan.  Cut into squares and serve.  Makes 12 squares.




Pineapple Party

Lately I have been obsessed with everything pineapple - especially in home decor.  Not only do these pretty pieces of fruit add a touch of the tropics, they also have symbolic meaning that is just as beautiful.  The pineapple is recognized as a traditional expression of “welcome".  The fruit symbolizes those intangible assets we appreciate in a home - warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality.  I think they add a whole lot of fun too!

Here is a round-up of some of my favorite pineapple home decor items.  Links for everything listed below.


My Beginner's Guide to Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden

I am so excited to get my veggie plants in the ground!  Gardening is something I have grown to love throughout the years.  My parents always had a garden and my grandmother, who grew up on a farm, was an avid gardener as well.  She lived right down the street from us and when I was little, and my summers were spent in her yard picking black berries, snapping the ends of green beans, and canning tomatoes.

Now Mr. Wright and I have started our own gardening traditions.  We make salsa out of our tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and herbs.  Our family and friends are always asking for our famous Wrighty's "What the Dillio" dill pickles too!

 Last summer's "Dillios" being canned

Last summer's "Dillios" being canned


If you have been wanting to reap the benefits of having your own garden but don't know how to start, I have put together a simple step by step guide of the basics:  

1. Find a location

Before deciding what you want to grow, map out a space and consider how much time and effort you can put into your garden.  Turning a large plot of your backyard into your own farmer's market requires quite a bit of time to maintain.  If you are short on time and don't have much of a green thumb, a container garden on your porch or patio might be the best bet for you.

 Not my garden, but one of my dream gardens - the garden of Chef Marcela Valladolid in Chula Vista, CA

Not my garden, but one of my dream gardens - the garden of Chef Marcela Valladolid in Chula Vista, CA

Whether its a plot of land or a pot, make sure it is in a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.  If planting in the ground, choose a well drained area.  Prior to planting, enrich your plot with an inch layer of compost (we use mushroom manure) and apply an organic fertilizer.  If you'd like, you can also purchase a soil test kit to see exactly what nutrients are in your soil.  

If you are using containers, get some organic potting soil.  We have a large garden in our back yard but I also use containers on our deck for herbs.  It allows for easy access from the kitchen when I am cooking and need a few leaves of something.  I love these City Pickers

2. Pick What and When to Plant

Talk to other gardeners in your area or visit a local nursery to see what grows well in your particular area.  Choose vegetables that you love to eat.  It may sound sound like a no-brainer, but don't plant a bunch of tomatoes if you aren't going to eat them!  Plant what you like and will use often.  Then maybe throw in a few different plants that you would like to branch out and try.  Plant veggies that require similar amounts of water and sunlight in the same bed or container.   

DO NOT plant until after the last frost of the season.  It is so tempting to get started right away on that first sunny, warm day of spring.  However there is a good chance there may still be a frosty night and all of your hard work is ruined.  Our rule of thumb here in Pennsylvania is that you should wait until after Mother's Day to plant or you can check the HERE for you area's last frost date.


3.  Seeds vs Seedlings

Seeds are inexpensive and offer a wider selection of unusual varieties, but if you are just starting out, I suggest going with seedlings.  They give you a head start and you bypass some of the tricky, delicate care that seeds require.

4.  Care and Harvest

Now that you have prepped and planted your garden, all you have to do is keep up with routine tasks.  These include:

  • Watering - the amount of watering needs depends on your location.  Ask your local nursery for suggestions.  Here in PA we water just about every day unless there is steady rain in the forecast.  When temps get really high, we may water more often.  It is best to water in the morning or evening when the sun isn't at it's strongest.
  • Weeding - do this as often as you can to prevent weeds from overtaking your garden.  You can also add some of your grass clippings around the plants to prevent weed growth.  Just make sure your lawn wasn't treated with any chemicals because you don't want those chemicals near your food-growing plants!
  • Checking for signs of disease and pests

Now it's time to reap your rewards!  You will know when to pick by looking at the vegetables' size, shape, and color.  Every veggie is different so check the tag that the seedling came with.  You want to keep up with the harvesting to encourage new growth.  The more you pick, the more the plants produce!

 Chef Marcela's harvest from her garden

Chef Marcela's harvest from her garden