Wild Rice Butternut Pilaf

I’m always looking for a healthy side dish to go with dinner. While, this yummy recipe is perfect alongside just about any entrée, a favorite is oven roasted salmon topped with a lemon beurre blanc sauce. Alternatively, you can add chopped roasted chicken to the dish to create more of a meal rather than a side dish. Feel free to use any rice for this recipe, but my personal favorite is the rice blend found in the bulk bins at Raley’s. Enjoy!

Wild Rice Butternut PilafWild Rice Butternut Pilaf
Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

2 cups butternut squash, peeled
2 leeks, washed well & chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups wild rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350⁰. Peel and dice butternut squash into ½ inch cubes, toss in olive oil and salt & pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add the leeks and garlic to the butternut squash on the baking sheet. Toss well and continue to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender.

Pour the chicken/ vegetable broth into a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, then reduce heat so liquid is just simmering. Cover and cook until grains just begin to pop, about 40 minutes. Drain excess liquid from rice and place back into the pot. Add the cooked veggies and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Top with chopped pecans and serve warm.

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Veggie Fried Quinoa

Did you make a resolution to eat healthier this year? Keep with it and don’t give up! Changing your eating habits can be challenging, but eating better is the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. One way to stick to your resolution is to get rid of junk food and unhealthy snacks; dried fruit and nuts are a great substitute for chips and candy. I like to keep a little dark chocolate hiding in the pantry for a sweet treat now and again. Another way to eat healthy is to create meal plans. Take a few minutes and write down your meals and snacks for the week, or even a few days at a time, depending on how often you grocery shop. I like to leave one day blank for dining out or finishing up any leftovers. Enjoy this healthy recipe and good luck with your resolutions!

Veggie Fried Quinoa veggie fried quinoa
Makes 4 servings

3 tbs olive oil, separated
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh ground ginger
2 heads of baby bok choy, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, julienned
2 cups of snow peas, stems removed
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs Sriracha
1/2 tbs olive oil
2 eggs, beaten

Prepare the vegetables and fixins, set aside. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil in a small pot and turn to medium heat. Toast the quinoa, with a pinch of salt, in the oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Once the quinoa is done*, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat, add the onions, garlic, ginger, bok choy, celery, carrots, snow peas, soy sauce and Sriracha, cook for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender. Remove from skillet and set aside, covered to keep warm.
Wipe out the skillet. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggs, stirring until eggs start to scramble. Add the cooked veggies and quinoa to the skillet with the eggs and fluff with a fork until eggs are fully cooked. Serve warm and enjoy!

* Take care not to overcook the quinoa or it may get mushy by the end of the cooking process.


Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Pressure Cooker Carnitas

Did you know that the pressure cooker is of the most underrated appliances in your kitchen? It’s such a convenient, hands-off way to make dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or dessert).  A meal that takes hours of cooking on the stove or in the oven can be ready in under an hour with the help of a pressure cooker. This carnitas recipe is one of my favorite pressure cooker recipes. Not only does it cook in under an hour, but (most importantly) the meat comes out so tender and juicy! The pork practically shreds itself. You can use the carnitas in tacos with cojita cheese, pico de gallo, and some guacamole, or on a baked potato with shredded pepper jack cheese and green chiles! The options are endless.

Pressure Cooker Carnitas
Makes 6-8 servingspressure-cooker-carnitas

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large orange, sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs ancho chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, halved and seeded
1-2 cups chicken broth

Trim the fat off of the pork and chop into 2-inch cubes. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Sear the cubed meat until meat is bronwed on each side.  Add orange slices, cinnamon, ancho chili powder, and cumin. Top with onion, garlic, and jalapeno then pour chicken broth into the cooking pot making sure not to go over the liquid fill line.

Secure and lock the lid, and cook for 50 minutes at high pressure. Remove from heat and let the pressure release naturally. It should take about 15 minutes. When pressure is released carefully remove lid. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl and shred. Make sure to reserve the juices if you wish to crisp them in the oven (see steps below). Taste and add more seasoning as desired. You can serve the carnitas from this point or follow the following steps to crisp in the oven.

To crisp: Spread the shredded pork on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a thin layer. Place the baking sheet with pork under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 5 minutes. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the juices from the pressure cooker evenly over the pork, and toss well. Broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Serve immediately.

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

You’d never guess these delicious muffins are gluten-free, but by incorporating ingredients like almond meal and ground oats into your baking, you can easily serve gluten-free baked goods to your family and friends (and you may find yourself feeling better about eating these treats too)!
These muffins are tender, sweet and full of that pumpkin flavor we crave this time of year! They are perfect to grab on those mornings you are rushing out the door, or as a snack on the way to the mountains to power you through some skiing or riding! I’ll often spread almond butter on mine for an extra filling bite.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffinsgluten free pumkin muffinsgluten free pumkin muffins
Makes 12 muffins.

Dry Ingredients
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 cup oat flour
1 ½ tsp pumpkin spice
½ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs
¾ cup pureed pumpkin
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup almond milk
¼ cup vegetable or melted coconut oil

Other fixins
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 375⁰. Place dry ingredients together in a large bowl, mix well. Place wet ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk until smooth. Use the whisk to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl, mix until smooth. If using chocolate chips, fold them in once the batter is smooth. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Spoon the batter into twelve muffin cups, filling them ¾ of the way full. Smooth the tops using the backside of a spoon and sprinkle a couple pumpkin seeds on each one. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center and if it emerges clean- the muffins are done. They should feel firm yet springy to a light touch. Remove and let cool completley. Store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Let me do the cooking for you!



Delicata Arugula Salad

The holidays can make it challenging to eat healthy. On Thanksgiving we always seem to overindulge on mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, gravy, creamy green beans, or whatever traditional dishes are a must-have on your table. This year try adding a salad to your dinner and enjoy something a little lighter to help balance all of the other carbohydrate filled dishes. This salad is both filling and delicious!

Here are a few other tips to be just a little bit healthier on Thanksgiving day; start the day with exercise, eat a healthy breakfast,and skip the appetizers at dinner. At dinner, try loading you plate with the vegetables and meats first, adding the potatoes and stuffing once the plate is full.

Have a happy turkey day!

Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Candied PecansDelicata Squash Salad

Makes 4 servings.

Maple Candied Pecans
1 cup raw whole pecans
¼ cup pure maple syrup

Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the pecans and maple syrup, stir to coat. Continue to stir the pecans constantly until the maple syrup crystallizes and coats the pecans in a sugary coating. This can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes depending on your heat. Pay close attention to the pecans, careful not to burn, I find it best to cook on low. If the nuts are still sticky and glossy continue cooking and stirring until crystals start to form. Remove from heat, spread the nuts out on a piece of parchment or foil, and let cool completely. Store any unused pecans in an airtight container.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Place first five ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend while slowly pouring in the olive oil, until emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add more honey if it is bitter.

Salad Fixins
1 delicata squash (approx. size (small/med/large)? Pounds?)
5-ounces baby arugula
1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup maple glazed pecans (recipe below)
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise, then crosswise; scoop out the seeds. Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick crescents. Toss with one tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a little pepper. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Let cool slightly before serving.

To serve: Lightly toss the arugula with desired amount of apple cider vinaigrette. Place a small handful of dressed greens on each plate. Top with roasted delicata squash, cranberries, shaved red onion, maple pecans and goat cheese. Enjoy!

Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you.


Gnocchi with Pumpkin Sauce

From PSL’s to baked goods, pumpkin season is on. This week I was craving some pasta and thought it would be fun to make some gnocchi with a tasty pumpkin sauce. The image pictured is a hollowed out Lady Godiva pumpkin filled with gnocchi. You can use any type of pumpkin for this recipe, including a can of pumpkin puree. It just depends on how much effort you want to put into making the sauce. To puree the pumpkin simply cut the pumpkin in half, stem to base. Remove the seeds and pulp. Cover each half with foil and bake at 325⁰ foil side up, 1 hour, or until tender. Once tender scrape pumpkin meat from shell halves and puree in a blender. Strain to remove any remaining stringy pieces. Save the shells for serving.

Pumpkin Saucepumpkin gnocchi
1 tbs butter
1 shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 tbs chopped fresh sage leaves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream

1 lb. pre-made gnocchi or one full recipe homemade gnocchi
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (for garnish)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in pumpkin, vegetable broth, herbs and seasoning, whisk to blend. Taste the sauce at this point and add more herbs and seasoning as desired. Cook covered over medium/low heat for 10 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and whisk until combined. Continue to cook until thickened. If the sauce seems to thick just add a little more broth or water to thin. Cover and keep warm on low until ready to use.

Prepare gnocchi according to directions. Once the gnocchi is cooked toss with warm pumpkin sauce and pour into serving dish or pumpkin shell. Sprinkle with parmesan and pumpkin seeds. Serve warm and enjoy!

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Louisiana Gumbo

When I think about what my south tastes like, it’s gumbo, a staple in Cajun cuisine. And the key to a good gumbo is the roux. Roux is a thickening agent used in many dishes like soup, stew, and gravy. It is made of equal parts flour and fat; either oil or butter. Most gumbo cooks spend thirty minutes to an hour making the roux, cooking it until it turns into a dark caramel or chocolate color. This is a very hands-on process so make sure someone is always there to stir the roux during cooking so you don’t burn it. If you see black specks in your roux, you’ve burned it; throw it out and start over. I like to add the “trinity” (onion, celery, bell pepper) to the roux before it gets to the desired color, because that’ll help slow the cooking process. Once you have the roux the rest is simple. The longer you let the gumbo simmer the better it will be.

Louisiana Gumbogumbo
Makes 16 servings.

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 cup green bell pepper, diced
2 cup celery, diced
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 lbs andouille sausage, sliced
1 tbs Creole seasoning
1 bag (16 oz) frozen okra
1 lb crab meat, lump or claw
2 lbs peeled shrimp
12 cups seafood stock
4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp Zatarain’s Pure Ground Gumbo File (found in spice section at most grocery stores)
½ cup green onion, chopped for garnish
6 cups cooked rice

In a large, heavy bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, combine the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir slowly and constantly for at least 25 minutes until you make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.gumbo roux


Add chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, parsley, green onions, andouille sausage, and Creole seasoning. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.gumbo vegetables

Add the stock and broth, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 hours. Add the frozen okra, shrimp and crabmeat, cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before skimming off the fat that has risen to the surface. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Serve the gumbo over rice and sprinkle with file powder and green onions.

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!



Chicken Pot Pie

This savory recipe will fill the house with the aroma of Mama’s home cooking. Chicken pot pie is a traditional recipe that pleases just about everyone. There are a couple steps in this recipe but it is well worth it!

If you don’t have time to make everything from scratch save time with the following tips: Instead of cooking chicken thighs you can pick up a cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it. You can also buy a bag of mixed frozen vegetables or even refrigerated pie dough. You can double the pie crust and layer one on the bottom, but for this recipe I cut some of the carbs (and prep!) out and only put the layer on top.

Chicken Pot Pie
Ingredients Chicken Pot Pie
Makes four to six servings.

1 – 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbs olive oil
1/3 cup butter plus 2 tbs, separated
1/3 all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup cubed Yukon potato, skin on
¼ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup diced onions
½ cups frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, diced
salt and pepper
1 egg white
1 pie crust, see recipe below

Preheat oven to 375⁰. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté until cooked through, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once cooked through remove from pan and let cool. Once cooled, chop and set aside.

Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and place back over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, garlic, and onions and sauté until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, make the gravy. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, salt, and pepper until well blended and cook for 2-3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broth, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

Stir in the chicken, gravy, and peas into the vegetable mixture and stir until combined. Spoon mixture into lightly oiled pie or deep dish pan. Top with crust; press the dough around the dish to seal or tuck the edges into the crust. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Brush the pie crust with the egg white. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch
2 to 4 tbs of cold water, as needed

Place flour, cold butter, and salt into food processor. Pulse ingredients to combine. Turn food processor on low and slowly pour water in a little at time until the dough becomes crumbly. Pour the crumbly dough into a bowl, and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. If it’s sticky add more flour, if it is not forming a ball add more water. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Then follow your pie recipe for baking.

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Ahi Tuna Poke

Let’s face it: we all want to find that recipe that doesn’t take a lot of prep, takes great, and is healthy to boot. Lucky for you, I’ve found it. Ahi tuna poke is one of my go-to recipes because it such a simple dish and only requires a handful of ingredients. Even better, there are so many variations of poke, so you can customize it. Some people add in Sriracha for some heat, a little mayonnaise for creaminess or even seaweed for another texture, but personally I prefer this simple version. Get creative and do what you like best. Serve it with chips as an appetizer or on rice for a meal – it’s that versatile. The most important part of a poke recipe is the fish. You will want to purchase a very high quality sashimi grade ahi tuna steak. The most consistent place in South Lake Tahoe to get ahi is at Overland Meat Co. They have the freshest and most quality ahi I’ve found out here.
Ahi Tuna PokeAhi Tuna Poke
Makes two to four servings.

½ pound raw sashimi grade ahi tuna
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut the ahi tuna into ½ inch cubes. Add tuna, green onions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and sesame oil to bowl. Gently fold to combine. Taste and adjust with more soy sauce, sesame oil. Let sit 5 minutes at room temperature, then serve.

Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!

Chicken Pasta Salad Lettuce Wraps

Looking for a quick fix this week? Rotisserie chicken is an easy shortcut for just about any recipe that calls for shredded chicken. If you’d rather prepare the chicken yourself, roast two chicken breasts at 400⁰ for 20 minutes and shred. Serve this recipe for dinner tonight, and use the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, the flavor will only get better overnight. You can add halved cherry tomatoes, diced celery or even parmesan cheese to the pasta salad for a little extra flavor.

Pasta Salad Lettuce WrapsChicken Pasta Salad Lettuce Wraps
Makes 10+ lettuce wraps.

1 lb. bowtie pasta
2 cups shredded chicken (I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup chopped green olives or capers
1 head butter or iceberg lettuce, leaves pulled

Red Wine Vinaigrette
¾ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1/2 tbs dried oregano
6 garlic cloves
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place vinaigrette ingredients, except olive oil, in a blender or use an immersion blender to mix. Slowly pour in the oil while blending, until smooth and creamy.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Place the shredded chicken, chopped bell peppers, onions, olives and parsley along with the red wine vinaigrette into the pasta and mix until well combined. Taste for seasoning and add more vinaigrette, or salt or pepper as desired.

Serve the pasta salad in the lettuce cups. Enjoy!
Chef Arica Davis – Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party. Let me do the cooking for you!