home, HOMEPAGE, recipes

Make Ahead Dinners for Busy Weeknight

The holiday season is officially upon us and I am so excited! As you probably know by now, I love this time of year. There is just something about the music, lights, and celebrations that always makes December feel so magical (I think I have already been watching too much Hallmark). This weekend, we picked out and decorated our tree so it felt extra “Christmas-y” (Luckily M likes Christmas just as much as me).  And since I have been a little MIA from the blog for a few weeks so I wanted to fill you in on my Holiday “breaks in routine”.


I will start out by admitting that I have been in a bit of a rut lately. Ever since Thanksgiving, I haven’t been on top of my A-game. Meals have consisted of leftovers, takeout or using whatever we had in the freezer/fridge. And being the type of person that I am, the lack of creative & balanced meals 24/7 coming out of my kitchen has definitely got the best of me. I started this blog as a place to share useful and easy kitchen tips and techniques when it comes to getting into the kitchen and what kind of example am I if I do not practice what I preach?

With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, it is SO easy to get stressed and overwhelmed and I know I am not alone in this which is why I wanted to share. After a little self-pity, I have decided to go easy on myself for the next few weeks and not stress out about having every single meal of the week planned out or about bring in takeout after a busy day (and neither should you!). After all, I️ am working on building a dream into a reality so any extra time I can get will be put into sharing more content for you.

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So if you too are feeling run down or that the holidays are stressing you out, take a step back and slow it down. I have come to realize that everything always finds a way to get done and we often stress for no reason. There is only so much one person can do in 24 hours and that doesn’t have to include everything on your to-do list.

Okay, you get the point, I’ll stop with the sob story! So, what does one do when they feel burnt out? Go back to basics and start out slow. Here are four of the area’s that I like reassess when I get stressed out to the max.

Use whatever system works for you, but stick to it. I love google calendar, I can access it from anywhere and all of my devices are synced up to it. I will use it as an outline of what needs to be done and how I can manage to fit everything in. Start by the month. Are there any big events, projects or meetings coming up that might take up more time (or stress) than normally? Once you have jotted down the big ticket items break it down by week, what can you to accomplish this week that will ultimately help your end goal? From there you can create a To-Do list for each day that ties the week together. My rule of thumb is NEVER to have your To-Do list exceed 8-10 tasks. Otherwise, you may look at it and feel overwhelmed – which basically defeats the purpose of planning.

Preparation can be your best friend. When you know you have a super busy week coming up, it pays to be prepared. If your weeknights are filled, plan to have that week’s worth of dinners premade.  Use the weekend to get your food shopping done. Plan out one or two meals that will allow you to have leftovers (ie crockpot or casserole). Lately,  I️ have found myself meal prepping batches of chili (recipe & video coming soon) for quick filling meals during the week. Coming home after a long day knowing there is one less thing to worry about is a huge relief!


This is always a tough one for me. It’s inevitable that things are not going to go the way we wanted them to 24/7. I am such an organized person that when things aren’t heading in the direction that I planned for I automatically begin to stress. I am lucky to have found someone who is the opposite of me and will always bring me back to reality and the reality is, we need to be flexible with our expectation of what is supposed to be. Things don’t always work out the way we hoped or wanted them to be and that’s OK too because good things happen when we least expect them.

Time for yourself
Last, but not least, it is non-negotiable that you must make time for yourself. Whether it is enjoying a meal out, spending time with friends and family, pampering yourself or even if it is 20 minutes in the morning while you drink your coffee. It is so important to relax and try to have fun, even if you need to plan it into the schedule. Life is too short and the last thing any of us want is to feel burnt out and miserable in a season that should be filled with joy (nobody likes a Grinch).

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So in order to keep this a food-related blog post, here are some good go-to make-ahead meals for those busy weeknights. (FYI – all can be made ahead of time).

Creamy Cheddar Quinoa with Chicken & Spinach
One Pot Lasagna Soup
Ultimate Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole



Favorite & Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

I freakin’ LOVE the holidays! Once November hits, I feel all the magical holiday feels. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is something so nostalgic about this time of year (sitting on the couch watching Home Alone as we speak…Buzz your Girlfriend, woof).  Anyway, I am pretty sure I have been counting down to Thanksgiving since before Halloween…thats the true Foodie in me, daydreaming about the one holiday dedicated to eating.

But it’s not just eating that makes me love it so much, it’s more about everything else that goes into making the day so special that makes me thankful. We host Thanksgiving at my parent’s house so the entire family is usually involved and working together.  With such busy lives, it’s a great bonding time doing something we all love to do..cook. At this point, we all have our specialties and take charge to whip up a feast.

My mom is the master of stuffing (call if dressing if you prefer), she has it down to a science and while some may argue turkey is the pinnacle of Thanksgiving, I would have to disagree because who doesn’t love buttery, soft, herb-flavored bread and realistically when else do you eat stuffing?

My brother is a master of meats, the guy knows how to cook a bird. His precision and patience when it comes to cooking a turkey is a desirable skill. He never disappoints when he’s in the kitchen.

The sides are usually where I come in, I make a mean mashed potato…it’s all about a little TLC, well that and a healthy dose of butter. Along with mashed sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts and corn casserole

My great-aunt, Nancy is hands down a saint, every year (well and basically every holiday) makes two classic family sides, Artichoke Pie (artichokes, mixed with bread crumbs and parmesan to form a pie- ugh so good!), and Stuffed Mushrooms. We basically don’t let her over if either is not in tow.

 Whether you are prepping for the big day or even for a fun Friendsgiving this weekend, I put together a roundup of some of my favorite Thanksgiving sides. Not only are most of these staples, but they are the perfect place to start if holiday cooking is new to you. It can be nerve-racking cooking for a crowd. The key is all about preparation, being prepared will get you far. Having all the ingredients ready and measured out ahead of time is half of the battle. Then it’s just following the directions and let the cooking magic happen. And by the way, it is totally acceptable to tweak and add ingredients, add more or less of a specific herb if you like. Trying to be health conscious and don’t want to use a pound of butter (sorta kidding) in your mashed potatoes? Cut the amount in half and add to your liking. Plus, the great part about all of these is they are easy, non-complicated recipes and perfect for transporting if your traveling…now, try not to get hungry while looking.
Stuffing ? Dressing? Whichever way you prefer, this herb-filled bread mixture is essential for sopping up gravy.
Are mashed potatoes not heaven on earth? Creamy, buttery, smooth deliciousness. I dare you to name me one person who is not a fan.
Only because you want to feel like your making a healthy decision every Thanksgiving needs some green, why not my roasted broccoli
Ok, for the kid in us all, a healthy scratch smothered is melted marshmallow.
Another staple for many. Gotta get your greens in some way, even if its creamy-crunchy green bean casserole.

The Perfect Frittata for Brunch



I love a good brunch. It is one of those meals where it is perfectly acceptable to still eat breakfast after 12pm but also just as acceptable to have a glass of champaign (with OJ, of course) before noon. Brunch is also a great excuse to get together with girlfriends and sit for hours talking about life…while drinking Mimosas. There is just something about brunch on a Saturday that keeps me going during the week. Mostly because I rarely get to enjoy a full breakfast during the week, I’m either making a protein shake and drinking it on the way into work, or I’m sitting at my desk with a bowl of oatmeal.  Don’t get me wrong, those two breakfast items are staples to my weekday routine, but it’s that monotony which makes thinking about a weekend brunch THAT much more enjoyable.

Although getting to see friends and gossip first thing on Saturday morning is pretty high up on my list; staying in and making brunch at home is at the top of my list. It’s more cost-effective, less crowded, I can make what I want and all while in my pajamas (I feel like I talk a lot about being in pajamas, I swear do actually get dressed in normal clothes). Anyway, my go-to dish is a Frittata.  It is an Italian dish very similar to an omelet or a crust-less quiche. It is quite frankly is almost foolproof to make, can be whipped up in 20 minutes and makes enough to feed a crowd.

Frittatas are so versatile which is why they are so great, there is no right or wrong way to make one. You can make it using the ingredients you like or what is available in the fridge. Not a fan of cheddar, use mozzarella or go cheese-less. You have kale instead of spinach, make the swap. The best part is you can get as creative as you want with your add-ins.
Another reason why I love Frittatas is how perfect they are to make ahead for weekday breakfast. You can make a batch on Sunday during meal prep and be ready for the busy work week.
So whether you are planning a fab brunch or getting on top of the busy work week a frittata should be on top of your list.
12 Eggs
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 cup spinach
5 small fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to an oven proof* nonstick pan, over medium-low heat add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until slightly soft.
  3. After 5 minutes of cooking, add diced vegetables into the pan with the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and saute for the last 5 minutes.
  4. While the potatoes and vegetables cook, in a medium bowl, whip the eggs until lightly combined.
  5. Once the eggs have been beaten, mix in cheese.
  6. Pour the egg and cheese mixture into the pan with vegetables and potatoes.
  7. Let mixture cook on the stovetop for 1 minute.
  8. Place pan into the preheated oven and cook for 10-12 minutes. The eggs should be firm.
  9. Let cool before cutting into even sections.
  10. Cut up some fresh fruit, pop the champs and brunch is ready!
*Don’t have an oven proof pan? That’s ok if your handles have a rubber coating, wrap a piece of tin foil around to keep them from melting.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies


Does anyone else wake up early on the weekends (even though you can sleep in) with the urge to start baking? Looking for a friend!

Lately, I have had the strongest urges to bake. I think it must have to be something with the fall, a warm-up for all the holiday baking that is to come over the next two months. But all week, I think about what delicious sweet treat want to whip up and indulge in over the weekend.

But I always end up with so much left over and once I’ve had a taste, I am usually (I use that term loosely) on to the next recipe and poor M, is left to with 3/4 of a pan of brownies to finish. I try to remind myself every time I bake to cut the recipe in half. It never happens.

Anyway, last week I was feeling nostalgic and decided I wanted to make a batch of old-school chocolate chip cookies. I was feeling fancy so I threw in a few peanut butter chips and some walnuts (M likes a little crunch in his cookies).

Honestly, I did not think these were going to come out as amazingly delicious as they did. Cookies can be tricky though, depending on your preference. They can be too crispy, too cakey, too dense or lacking flavor. I have made many a cookie in my baking career, many times for a quick sweet/chocolate fix and quite frankly they were half-assed, under-measured ( a reason why I love my new measuring cups) lackluster batches. But over time, and lots of research and learning through trial and error (see above), I FINALLY hit the jackpot. I was jumping for JOY in my tiny apartment kitchen when I took my first bite of this recipe.

Soft, a bit crispy, chocolatey, chewy, a hint of salt. Basically heaven.

This non-stick mat is life changing for baking

We even had a friend of ours who is a professional baker try them out. I was expecting him to dissect them and come up with something that wasn’t perfect about them…but he didn’t! He was just as impressed with the recipe, the texture, and consistency. I was jumping for JOY again after he gave his review.

But I’ll let you decide what you think! By the way, the mix-ins are totally personal preference, if you just want to go straight up chocolate chips, have at it; if your not a nut person or allergic, they are completely optional. The fun part about cookies is once you have your base, you can add any mix-ins you like!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like using Nestle)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (I like using Nestle) (optional)
1/4 cup crushed up walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda
3. In a separate large bowl, whisk brown and granulated sugar
4. Add melted butter into sugar mixture and whisk until evenly combined
5. Into the sugar & butter mixture, whisk in eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract until fully mixed into the batter
6. Into the large bowl, slowly combine the dry flour mixture into the wet sugar-butter mixture
7. Combine until ingredients have been thoroughly combined.
8. Stir in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and walnuts until evenly distributed throughout
9. scoop the dough into 1/4 cup portions (I use an ice cream scooper) and add each scoop to a lined cookie sheet (I LOVE my reusable mat)
10. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes – the edges should begin to turn golden brown
Let cool and enjoy!
Bakers Note – IF you have extra time and can wait, let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before scooping and baking. This allows all the flavors to come together. Also, if you don’t want to be tempted by all 24 cookies you can pre-scoop the dough and freeze up to one month and bake when desired -give yourself a few minutes for them to defrost while you preheat the oven, before. Bake as directed above.



Easiest Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

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Now that it officially becomes dark at 6:30 pm, it seems like all of my motivation to get anything done flies right out the window. Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way. The whole concept is kind of funny, because the number of hours in the day doesn’t change at all, yet once the sun goes down I get REALLLY tempted to put my pajamas on, pour a glass of red and watch Gilmore Girls re-runs. But then my guilt sets in as my To-Do list calls to me “Girl, we’re not going to do this ourselves!”, so I settle for a pair of leggings and a tee and bring my butt into the kitchen.

And don’t get me wrong, cooking is what I love to do; whether it’s for myself, my boyfriend or family & friends. I get so much pleasure watching other people enjoying food, especially if it is something I prepared. Growing up, cooking and eating is what my house revolved around. We would take any opportunity, big or small, to celebrate with food. My mother is a Home Economics teacher so my brother and I were taught the importance of how to cook for ourselves at a young age, and for both of us it just stuck and became a crucial part of our lives. Cooking is what calms me down, how I relax, and what I do in my downtime.

I know for many millennials I talk to, cooking for them is a chore, or they aren’t sure how to or where to start. It is easy to forget that not everyone has the same cooking experience that I have so to them, cooking is foreign, but it doesn’t have to be. I started Quoco Now and this blog with the goal to inspire the inner chef in us all, to feel confident in the kitchen, and to provide a toolkit of useful and innovative kitchen tools and utensils.

I’m not classically trained nor have I ever stepped foot into culinary school. I only have lessons learned from my amazing family, techniques acquired from watching cooking shows and following some seriously talented food bloggers and websites. It is my hope to be able to show my readers (or whoever stumbles upon this) that it doesn’t matter what you know, but to simply just start by using what you have. And if you don’t have much, that’s OK because most recipes can be modified to use whatever you have on hand, or what you like or whatever tools are in your kitchen (although we have a solution for that here).

Even I have nights after a long day that I just don’t feel like being creative or having to shop for food or physically doing the cooking. So luckily for us all, we have the slow cooker, a god-sent. When the evenings are dark and there is a chill in the air, the slow cooker is the next best thing next to flannels, Pinot Noir and some Dean vs Jess showdowns (Team Jess alll the way!).

All it takes is a little bit of prep and you are guaranteed to have dinner hot and ready to eat as soon as you walk in the door AND enough for leftovers. There are an endless number of slow cooker recipes online & Pinterest that I honestly believe you will find one that you will love.

I knew this week I would be busy in the evenings so I planned & prepped ahead and made the most delicious Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie. We are on night 2 of it and it just keeps getting better. Before you get scared, don’t worry because this recipe uses biscuits in place of pie crust (which isn’t everyone’s favorite to work with). I threw in all the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and by the time M and I walked in the door that night, we were drooling over the smell. For the most part, this recipe is a lightened up version (minus the biscuits – but a girl’s gotta live!)  but JUST as creamy, flavorful and full of chicken and colorful veggies. It’s the kind of meal that you will always be glad you made!

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie


2 – 2 1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts or thighs cut into approx 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup milk (heavy cream or whatever you have on hand)
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/3 cup flour
2 large carrots chopped (can be replaced with frozen)
2 large celery ribs chopped
1 large onion diced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon rosemary (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon parsley (finely chopped if fresh or dried)
1 package of store bought biscuits
salt and pepper

1. coat the slow cooker with olive oil, butter or cooking spray
2. place chicken pieces into the slow cooker
3. season with salt and pepper
4. in a medium bowl, mix together cream, chicken stock, flour, thyme, rosemary, and parsley until evenly combined
5. add in cream mixture into the slow cooker
6. stir in chopped onion and veggies (except for the frozen peas)
7. cook on LOW for 4 hours*
8. after 4 hours, stir in frozen peas
9. cook for another 30 minutes
10. in the meantime, cook biscuits as directed on package or until golden brown
11. serve immediately with a toasty biscuit. Once cooled can be stored up to 3 days.
*Slow cooker recipe cooking times can vary, and like me, depending on your schedule or your slow cooker model you may not be home to manually turn it off. I use an automatic timer for anything less than 7 hrs – it makes life a lot easier.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite slow cooker recipes:

Best Crockpot BBQ Chicken
The Best Ever Potato Slow Cooker Soup
Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragu

How to Roast Broccoli


Growing up, did anyone else feel like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts were basically an arch nemesis?? You couldn’t pay me enough allowance to take a bite out of a single brussel. I used to drive my mother crazy by insisting she cut off the tops of broccoli because I only ate the stems (what a brat!) But, as I grew up, I have grown to love, and even crave these cruciferous vegetables so much that I willingly incorporate them into my diet regularly.
Arguila, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale all fall under the category of cruciferous vegetables. As we transition into fall, most of these veggies are now coming into season and will be in abundance at your local grocery store. You may love some and hate others, but regardless of your preference, these veggies contain some major health benefits. In fact, cruciferous vegetables are the highest group to contain natural sources of vitamins.
 Vitamin A – think good for the skin, promotes better vision, and an antioxidant (oxidation of molecules in the body)
Vitamin C – is an immune system booster (preventing your body from illness)
Vitamin K – great source of calcium, AKA strong bones and teeth.
Folic Acid- produces red blood cells in the body and prevents Anemia (lack of oxygen in  your blood)
Fiber helps to maintain healthy bacteria levels in the gut (I know it seems gross, but gut health is more important than you think).
Since cruciferous vegetables are low calorie and high in fiber they give you that full and satisfied feeling without making you feel resentful from over indulging in a guilty pleasure food.
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We can talk about the health benefits of these leafy greens but unless they are made to taste delicious, you might have to pay me a pretty penny to eat them. I am sure we are all familiar with a side of mushy, over steamed broccoli, but it doesn’t have to be this way, there are sooo many delicious ways get you fill of veggies.
Of course one of the most common forms is steamed, but to me, when prepared this way only brings me back to my childhood and refusing to take a bite. You can always eat it raw if your into that sort of thing but you might find it find it upsets your stomach if your body isn’t used to digesting it. Pan seared with some garlic and olive oil is a close second, but my personal favorite, and easiest way (in my opinion) is to roast those suckers.
When made correctly you are left with a crispy, crunchy tender broccoli. In fact, while writing this post, I basically almost ate the entire tray of them right out of the oven before I remembered I need to take photos to create this blog post for you. They are just THAT good.
Easy Roasted Broccoli 
1-2 bunches of fresh broccoli
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Remove broccoli florets from stem, cut stem into smaller pieces
  3. Add broccoli florets and stems to a baking sheet
  4. Toss with olive oil
  5. Season with salt and pepper (use a little more if you like them crispy)
  6. Roast for *30 minutes, stopping after 15 minutes to toss.
*Depending on how you prefer them, you can keep them in longer. I like them extra crispy so I tend to keep them in the oven for an extra five minutes or so.

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Best Healthy Pancake Recipe


Since social media and recipe round-ups have been primarily geared towards mom’s sending kids back to school; and although I am neither a mom nor going back to school (did anyone else feel like they were the only ones with an actual year round job after seeing practically every female in their life stress about going back to work after the summer? Hi Mom!) So out of fear of not being relevant, I figured, if you can’t beat em, join em. Amiright.

One of my go-to back to basics is making a batch of healthy- filling Pancakes for the week. I will cook em up on Sunday and pack them up for quick on the go breakfast and snacks. On days that I want to get my carbs in early in the day, this is a perfect breakfast along with some fresh berries. They are also ideal for before or after working out, I like to add crunchy peanut butter, I find it to be very satisfying.

Pancakes have come a LONG way from Aunt Jemima mixes. A quick Pinterest search will leave you wanting breakfast for dinner every night. I guarantee you there is a recipe for every craving. From 3 ingredients to bacon covered to red velvet flavored. Although you might have a serious stomach ache and a potential sugar addiction after indulging in some of these. And if you are not in the mixing-it-yourself mood, you can still rely on the old school package or brands like Kodiak Cakes (which I keep on hand for emergencies only if I need a quick fix), but make sure to look at the nutritional information; most of these mixes have ingredients that are near impossible to pronounce, and if you’ve never heard of one, then its probably best not to put it into your body.

The same goes for syrup. And don’t be fooled, Pancake syrup is not the same as Maple syrup. Here’s a great article on the differences. In short, Pancake syrup is full of processed ingredients and everyone’s worst enemy…ta da, high-fructose corn syrup. While Maple syrup is sap boiled down, bringing out the concentrated sugar giving it the distinct color and maple flavor. And just because you use Maple syrup, doesn’t make it the healthier choice BTW. Although Maple syrup is made from a natural source, a single serving contains more sugar than a can of Coke (talk about a sweet tooth). But lets not kid ourselves, what is a stack of pancakes with syrup. But do yourself a favor, next time you’re in the market for syrup, try a Grade A (lighter maple flavor and color) or Grade B (deeper in color and maple flavor) maple syrup and see which one you like better. Hopefully you will instantly see the difference from Pancake syrup. Also, check out this in depth taste test of the grades of Maple syrup.

Now back to the recipe…growing up, my family would visit the Jersey Shore during the summer, and stay with my Great Aunt and Uncle. My Aunt is one of my cooking inspirations (along with my mother and grandmother), because she has a way of making even the pickiest of eaters go back for a second helping of Cauliflower (what kid honestly likes Cauliflower?). But one of her specialties was Pancakes all due to a special un-assuming ingredient…Orange Juice. You would drink a glass of OJ while eating Pancakes, so why not add it to the batter? So, don’t knock it until you try it because it adds a subtle light and sweet flavor that goes so well with the rich caramel maple syrup flavor. As I began my search of a go-to pancake recipe, I combined a take of an old family recipe with a healthier “clean” version.

1 1/2 cups of quick oats or oat flour
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 ripe mashed banana
1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup almond or skim milk
1/4 cup orange juice
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
dash of cinnamon
mixed berries

In a blender, combine oats, protein powder, banana, yogurt, milk, OJ, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Blend until a smooth batter has formed (add a splash of OJ or Milk if looks dry). Cook on griddle until golden brown. Top with berries, walnuts or syrup as desired.

Check out some of my favorite Pancake recipes:




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