Zone Fra Diavolo

Since this is a new year, we have been trying to get off on the right foot dietwise. CrossFit Julia is doing a fitness challenge called Vision Quest and we have joined the team. Part of the challenge is doing the Zone diet. CrossFit generally encourages eating either Zone or Paleo diets for maximum results. We were told that people get the best results with the Zone. For those of you who don’t know about the diet, it started in the 90’s  with research provided by Dr. Barry Sears. The concept is a diet ratio of 40:30:30  Carbs:Protein:Fat. It has been a big challenge for us, especially since we like to cook. Getting the proportions right can be difficult (and honestly, a bit boring.) This week I am taking it as a challenge to get creative and find a way to cook “In The Zone!”

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

(Adapted from Gavan Murphy)


1 medium spaghetti squash (preferably organic)

1 lb medium wild, locally caught shrimp (21-30′s) P&D’s (peeled & de-veined)

1 cup pasta tomato sauce (whatever you like, but I always have some homemade in the freezer: stay tuned for tips)

1 tbsp capers

1/2 lemon- zested

chili flakes (as much as you can handle)

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds from the interior. Drizzle the flesh with olive oil and season with S&P. Lay each squash half flesh side down on a foiled oven tray and pop in the oven until a knife pierces the flesh easily. Smaller ones will take less time to cook than larger ones so check them after about 45 mins.

Once ready, remove from oven, let cool enough to handle and using a fork gently scrape out the ‘spaghetti’. Place in a colander over a bowl to drain some of the liquid. Set aside for later.

Place tomato sauce, capers and zest in a saute pan and gently simmer shrimp until pink and firm to touch about 5-10 minutes, approx. When ready to serve add spaghetti squash to sauce and toss to coat.

In order to get the zone portions right, I measured the squash separate and added the sauce and shrimp on top. This dish came out perfect and will become a staple in our house! (If you are not watching your figure, you could certainly substitute pasta, but the squash is excellent!)

Weeknight Dinners: Tacos

Tacos are always a family favorite. You can pretty much make them from start to finish in 20 minutes. It is great for finicky eaters because you can keep everything on the side and let everyone choose their own combo. Tacos can also be a great way to empty the fridge and the pantry.

Our tacos usually start with 85% ground beef, some kind of beans, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Traditionally, we used Gebhardt Chili Powder, but lately we have been experimenting with some more heat (ancho and guajillo chili powders). These get added to taste to the ground beef while browning it along with salt and black pepper. When the beef is brown, remove some of the fat (we usually just use paper towels, but you can pour it off). Add onion and garlic to the browned meat and saute until the onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Adjust the seasoning as needed. We sometimes add chili beans or tomatoes to the meat. Other times will serve beans on the side.

Some traditional Mexican toppings are radishes, cilantro (love it or hate it), onion, and salsa (pico de gallo). We also add avocado, scallions, and the ever present Tabasco. If you have a gas stove, you can just heat the tortillas directly over the flame until soft and lightly colored on both sides. Otherwise, warm them in the microwave or oven.








This is a great meal to get on the table quickly or for a fun and hands on party where your guests can help! Get creative and make it yours!

Get Started, Get Fit

Sneezing hurt my abs today. I guess it is just part of getting back after my fitness goals for 2011. Started slow with the fitness regime on January 1st with a very slow and VERY cold walk. In my defense, it was 1 degree! Started out the door with every intention of getting a good walk/run start to the year but when my face stung after 200 yards, I decided to ease in to the year.

We have always had fitness goals as a family and this year is no exception. We started this morning with our early morning CrossFit class (at CrossFit Julia) and started prepping for their Vision Quest Fitness Challenge starting this week. If you aren’t familiar with CrossFit, the workouts combine Olympic weight lifting with plyometrics and cardio. The workouts are short(ish) but intense. You generally start with a warm up and stretching and skills building before transitioning into the WOD (work out of the day). The workouts range from 10 min-45 min but you never stop moving. What is great about CrossFit is that you workout with people of all different levels. When starting out, it is more about beating your own benchmarks than competing with others. Anyway, I am really sore…in a good way.

In 2010, the whole family took on our first half marathon together. We all did Big Sur Half Marathon in November to finish up the year. It was a great accomplishment for everyone to be healthy and finish! We are looking for another race for this year. My dad is a dedicated runner and inspired the rest of us to get moving. If you are looking for some new inspiration for the new year, take one step at a time and make it fun! Getting fit and staying on track is always easier when it is fun. Find a buddy and mix it up. Set goals and write everything down. That is my formula for success, now just go for it! We would love to hear your goals and accomplishments as well!

Grandma Del’s New Year’s Day Vegetable Soup

Growing up we spent most holidays at my grandparents house in Southern California. It always meant lots of people gathered around and on New Year’s, it always meant football. My Grandma Del always made soup as an easy way to feed the crowd after having festivities for several weeks.

This year, my dad decided he wanted to attempt the soup. Even though he is not the cook in our family, he followed the recipe to the letter. I think it came out just like hers. I never would have gotten it that way because I would have fiddled with it along the way. This is an old fashioned home-style Midwestern soup. It is delicious in its own right, but it we thought it needed some more oomph for today’s tastes. The ever-present bottle of Tabasco and Parmesan didn’t hurt and neither did the homemade french bread (courtesy of Peter Reinhart).

Grandma Del’s New Years Day Vegetable Soup

Shop on the 30th of December.  On New Years Eve Day morning put ½ gallon of water in big soup pot.  Cut in small pieces 2 ½ lbs of any good beef.  Round, chuck or Rump.   Add to water.  Include any bones.  Cut off green leaves of 2 stalks celery.  2 onions cut in ½ and pepper, garlic, basil,  rosemary.  Simmer all day, adding water.  Drain stock into big bowl.  Discard all except meat.

New years day while watching parade.  Return stock and beef to clean soup pot.  Cut small the two stalks celery, 2 more onions, 4 potatoes, 1 bunch carrots, salt and pepper to taste.

when first football game comes on add 1 lg can tomato sauce, salt pepper and basil.

2nd game add water – Stir.

3rd game add ¼ c rice.

At half time Rose Bowl Game add large package frozen mixed vegies.  Do not boil.  Serve w/ French bread butter cheese and leftover fruitcake and cookies.

Happy 2011!


We would like to kick off 2011 by welcoming you to Zest! We hope you enjoy our upcoming posts on food, fashion, fitness and anything we find fresh. We hope to share with you some useful tidbits and tips that we love and use in our everyday lives.

Share with us your favorite things as well! Cheers to a very Happy New Year from Zest!!