Cooking, Essentials, Food, Kitchen

Ingredients 101: Easy, Affordable Cooking

Keep these staple ingredients on hand for cooking, and always have an easy, affordable meal at your fingertips!


danielle-macinnes-676245-unsplashEggs: Cheap, satisfying staple for hearty breakfasts, lunches and easy dinners. Plus top any pasta with an egg for rich deliciousness! More egg tips here.

Lentils: Hearty, energy-boosting and protein-packed for easy salads, stews and more.

Ground beef: Easy to prepare and versatile. Cook a bunch at once, using half for tacos and the rest for a hearty meat sauce the following night.

Chicken thighs: A great affordable and flavorful option. Buy in bulk on sale and freeze for up to 6 months.


andrea-tummons-448848-unsplashOatmeal: Cook a bunch of steel-cut oats at the beginning of the week, along with some easy stewed cinnamon apples. You can also add sliced banana during the last few minutes of the oatmeal cooking for a yummy treat. Adults and kids love oatmeal! Try easy overnight oatmeal too to simplify your mornings.

Brown rice: Versatile for simple grain salads, soups, sides and healthy rice pudding. Always have a batch ready to eat in your fridge.

Quinoa: Great for breakfast bowls, easy side for grilled meat or tossed with leftover veggies for a simple lunch.

Pasta: Easy, no-fuss meals with tomato sauce, simple butter sauce, pesto and seasonal veggies. Also pasta for breakfast makes waking up easier.

Fruit & Veg

jessica-lewis-512219-unsplashFruits: Always have apples, grapes, bananas, and berries for yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal and more. Keep an apple or pear sliced and ready to eat so you’re more likely to grab that when you mindlessly poke around for a snack.

img_2572.jpgStaple Veggies: Always have carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, and/or butternut squash. All of these will last a while, so you don’t need to stress out about using them right away. Just keep the carrots, broccoli & cauliflower clean and ready to use in your crisper. The potatoes and squash can stay out at room temperature until they’re cut.

chiara-conti-505587-unsplashGreens: Always have fresh greens on hand! Spinach is the best for versatility, but arugula, kale and others are nice to switch things up, especially if you like things a bit more flavorful!

Pro tip:

Don’t forget the freezer! Keep it stocked with frozen veggies, which are flash frozen at their peak for healthy deliciousness year-round!

Happy cooking!

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Basics, Cooking, Essentials, Food, recipes

5 Easy Summer Salad Recipes


Who doesn’t love a delicious salad? Easy, healthy and heat-free, make these salads ahead and refrigerate for cool relief all week.

Plus it’s a great excuse to try your tools: tongs, olive oil bottle, garlic skin remover, garlic mincer.

Heirloom Tomato and Cornbread Panzanella
Literally translated to “bread salad,” this is the easiest, and perhaps tastiest, summer salad and a fun one for kids to help with too.
Tip: You can use any dry crusty bread or toasted cornbread, as mentioned here! Skip the oven and use leftover stale bread (the traditional way!)

Grain Salad with Olives and Whole-Lemon Vinaigrette
Easy, hearty, flavorful – and great as leftovers! This actually gets better as it sits, which is true for all these salads.
Tip: Once you’re comfy making grain salads, you can add in whatever leftover ingredients (cooked meat, tofu, any veggies and even fruit!) you have to create your own recipe. You can also sub in any grain you have on hand or already cooked!

Kale, Apple and Walnut Tabbouleh
There’s probably no better go-to for salads than Philadelphia-based chef Michael Solomonov, since salads are a specialty and major part of Israeli cuisine. This is a great dish for breakfast or any time of day!
Tip: No sumac? No problem! Just omit it for a still-delicious recipe.

Cucumber Salad
This couldn’t be easier: a perfectly refreshing, 5-ingredient salad that’s a summer all-star!
Tip: The thinner you slice the cucumbers, either on a mandoline or carefully by hand, the more they’ll absorb the flavors.

Campanelle Pasta Salad
We love this version of pasta salad with pretty campanelle noodles and hearty tuna in olive oil. You can omit the tuna if you’re veg!
Tip: The secret to a great pasta salad? Don’t overcook the pasta.

Basics, Box 1, Cooking, Essentials, Food, Kitchen, recipes, Uncategorized

It’s Time! Tomato Recipes for Summer

They’re here! It’s July and we’re talking tomatoes. If you can resist eating all your ripe tomatoes with just a little salt & pepper, here are our favorite summer tomato recipes.

Grab your serrated knife and cutting board for the easiest tomato action!

  1. Tomato Peach Salad with Basil
    With all seasonal ingredients, this tasty summer treat is a show-stopping salad.
    Tip: Add burrata or mozzarella for a more substantial dish.
  2. Easy Vegan Bruschetta
    A simple go-to snack or appetizer. Kids like it too!
    Tip: Don’t have basil? Use up any fresh herbs you have on hand! Set aside a few plain ones for the kids.

  3. Tomato Margarita with Fennel Salt (or just regular salt!)
    Try this summer sipper in the backyard or on the porch. You’re welcome.
    Tip: Not feeling the fennel? Plain salt will do! Still feeling a bit fancy? Try a mix of Old Bay and salt on the rim!
  4. Easy Gazpacho
    Tip: Use your garlic tools & oil pourer from Box 1 to make this recipe even easier. This is a fun, customizable recipe, so don’t stress!
  5. Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce
    Tip: You can make this in advance and leave it either chilled or at room temp for later! It actually tastes better the longer it sits.

Continue reading “It’s Time! Tomato Recipes for Summer”


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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Avocado Toast


Avocado Toast. I hope this trend never goes out of taste. It is such a satisfying meal?…snack?…both? Anyway, as I started my Sunday morning enjoying a go-to favorite nosh of protein, healthy fat and carbs (sounds pretty balanced to me) with a cup of hot coffee; I was reminded of a 60-Minutes interview earlier this year where Australian real estate mogul Tim Gurner stated that young adults would be more likely to buy a house if they didn’t spend their money on things like dining out and more specifically, buying avocado toast. When this interview took to the internet becoming viral I could help but feel a bit offended (and apparently I wasn’t alone ).

Trust me, I enjoy going out to eat or for drinks with friends just as much as the next millennial but the difference is I get more joy out of re-creating meals at home that I would have gotten out and paid double the price for (because….the cost of living in 2017). The average cost of cooking a meal at home is $4 vs $13 at a restaurant. Plus, I get to choose where my ingredients come from (I like to buy organic where I can) and I can even make adjustments to make recipes my own. Imitation is the sincerest for of flattery, right?

But I know this isn’t reality for everyone. For those who may not feel as confident in the kitchen this may be a difficult task. But I say you have to start somewhere, right? and why not with your own version of Avocado toast.

My favorite thing about this dish is there are a million and one ways to customize to your liking. The type of bread, smashed or sliced avocado, with or without an egg, tomatoes, cheese, fruit, nuts, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, spices. Need I go on? The point is, you could probably make yourself Avocado toast and brew coffee at home and save close to $20 and feel more satisfied. I’m a classic gal when it comes to my AT, with either sliced or smashed avocado (really depends on the ripeness of my avocado on hand) and will top with a crispy, buttery fried egg and top with either hot sauce (M and I are hot sauce lovers) and a sprinkle of Everything Bagel seasoning* (if you haven’t tried it – you need to get your hands on some because you can put it on literally anything..ANYTHING and it will taste SOOOO good). Within five minutes you can have your own customized delicious snack.

So maybe I’m not running out tomorrow to go buy my dream home, but I take comfort in knowing that I save money when I can while I do something that I love which is cooking. You tell me, what’s your favorite way to eat Avocado Toast? I want to hear.

*BTW – Just for new Quoco Now subscribers, we’re giving you 15% your first box AND throwing in a bottle of Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning  because we love it so much and think you will too. Here’s how. Use coupon code SOCIAL15.