Chef Carly’s Food Lovers Special

by Carly Cerniglia

Let me introduce you to Daniel. This charming young chap is the lucky guy who gets to eat all my craziest creations every night. And while usually it’s a hodge-podge of what I can find in the fridge, we do have our go-to meals. This issue is a conglomeration of all our favorite dishes for the week, including snacks, dinner, and dessert! 

Daniel always gets the comment “I bet she makes a lot of good food at home” when people find out I’m a chef, but the best part of these meals is Daniel is always there to help. Some of them even came from him! Sometimes, the last thing I want to do after working in a kitchen all day is make dinner. Daniel always steps up with this chicken tikka masala recipe or the chicken parmesan. So, if you’re looking for some easy meals that are a little different from your usual go-to, and want to get some help in the kitchen, this spread is for you!

Fresh, Crusty Bread 

Nothing is better than freshly baked bread with a crunchy crust and warm steamy pockets to hold melted butter. And it really isn’t very hard to make. With just 5 minutes of prep before bed, you can have fresh bread just an hour or two after waking up. A versatile recipe, you can get creative and add in toppings and fillings to your desire. Be careful! Once you make this bread you might never stop! I like to serve it with the next recipe!


1 teaspoon active dry yeast

3 cups flour

1½ cups water

Optional Add-Ins: 

Chopped olives




Dried fruit


Heat water to 115 F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until a shaggy dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot overnight. 

Preheat oven to 450 F with an empty Dutch oven and lid inside. Be sure to use a Dutch oven with a heat-proof handle! Once the oven is heated, dump dough onto a floured surface and gently form into a ball*. Place the ball in the preheated Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes, covered. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from Dutch oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and enjoy!

*Knead in your optional add-ins here.

Chicken Parmesan 

Chicken Parmesan has been one of my favorite meals since I was a kid. The crispy breading and melty cheese pair so well with the tomato sauce. I used to eat two whole chicken breasts this way after track practice! Turns out, chicken parmesan is also one of Daniel’s favorite meals, so we make this frequently together. Our favorite use of these leftovers is making chicken parmesan sandwiches with garlic bread and giardiniera. Perfection!


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pounded flat

1 cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup grated parmesan

½ cup flour

2 eggs

Salt and Pepper

1 log fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

1 box spaghetti noodles

1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

Vegetable oil for frying

Chopped parsley and grated parmesan for garnish


Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with tin foil. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

Set up a dredging station: Place beaten eggs in one shallow dish, flour in another dish, and breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt, and pepper in another dish. Dip chicken thigh in flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat with all thighs.

Heat 1-2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan. Fry breaded chicken thighs for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to a pan lined with tin foil. Top with a spoonful of pasta sauce and cover with mozzarella cheese. Repeat with all the chicken thighs. 

Bake chicken thighs until cheese is melty and chicken is 160 F (about 7-15 minutes). Broil for a few minutes if you’d like more color on your mozzarella. 

Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss in pasta sauce. 

To serve, place a chicken parmesan thigh on a bed of pasta. Top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Enjoy!

Chicken Tikka Masala

This meal was one of the first meals Daniel made for me when we first met. Now we make it at least once a month. Using good quality spices and yogurt here are key to a delicious masala. Through the years I’ve managed to tweak his recipe to get very close to restaurant style Tikka Masala. Masala is something you want to cook with love, so go ahead and adjust seasonings as your heart tells you to. We love to serve this tikka with rice and garlic naan for a filling and scrumptious meal. 


For the marinade: 

2.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces

1 cup plain yogurt

1 ½ tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili (or ½ teaspoon ground red chili powder)* 

1 teaspoon fenugreek*

1 teaspoon small black mustard seeds*

For the curry:

2-4 tablespoons ghee

1 large white onion, finely diced

1 ½ tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, grated

1 ½ teaspoon garam masala

1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

⅛ teaspoon cardamom powder

1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili (optional, can be spicy!)

1 14-ounce can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon brown sugar

¼ cup water, if needed

Chopped cilantro to garnish

*These spices may be hard to find without going to an Indian grocery store or shopping online, so it is ok to leave them out if you cannot find them.


In a bowl, mix all marinade ingredients except the chicken. Add in chicken and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

In a large skillet, heat ghee and fry chicken pieces in batches. Try not to crowd the pan. Once the chicken becomes golden brown, transfer to another small bowl. Chicken will not be cooked through at this point, so resist the urge to sample! Continue with remaining chicken. Scrape out any burnt bits from your pan if necessary. Add some more ghee if necessary and sauté the white onion until translucent and somewhat caramelized. Add in garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add in spices and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in tomato sauce and salt. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce becomes dark red, and stir as needed. 

Stir in heavy cream and sugar. Add in chicken and its juices. Cook for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Thin sauce to your liking or as needed with water. Adjust salt as needed.

Serve with rice and naan and enjoy! 

Note: This masala gets even better the longer it simmers and as leftovers! Don’t be afraid of making a BIG batch. You can also freeze finished masala and thaw for future meals!

Chili Sauce Enchiladas

Let me begin by saying YUM. This is my all-time favorite enchilada recipe (Sorry, Mom). The chili gravy is everything you could want and is as tasty as it sounds. Paired with melty-stringy chihuahua cheese and a pop of white onions, this is the best Tex-Mex food you can make at home. The gravy also freezes well, making it a super easy meal to prepare during the week. If you’re looking for more healthy ingredients, add in some black beans, pulled pork or chicken, and veggies to the enchiladas. But sometimes, we just like to be naughty and go full-on cheese. 


4-6 large flour tortillas

1 large bag shredded chihuahua cheese (about 3-4 cups)

1/2 medium white onion, diced

For the gravy: 

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup water

1 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons chili powder (get from the Hispanic aisle at the grocery store!)

½ teaspoon oregano

Small pinch sugar

1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 bouillon cube

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons garlic powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon Achiote paste

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Chopped cilantro for serving.


Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a deep baking dish. Fill 4-6 tortillas with about ⅓ cup of cheese and a sprinkle of onion for each. Place snugly into a baking dish. 

Heat a large skillet, melt butter, and add flour. Stir and cook roux until slightly golden and it smells nutty. Slowly pour in a bit of chicken broth, and stir, stir, stir! Continue until all the chicken broth is added. Repeat with water. 

Stir in tomato paste and spices. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until gravy becomes slightly thick and spices have infused. Taste and adjust salt and spices to your liking.

Pour gravy over enchiladas and top with more cheese and remaining onions. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted inside the enchiladas. 

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and hot sauce!

*Tip! This gravy freezes nicely! Make a double batch and freeze for easy weeknight dinners. Just pull from the freezer a night or two before and place in the fridge. Heat for instant sauce!

Creamy-Dreamy Hummus

This protein-packed spread gets many uses in our household. From a snacking dip to slathering on sandwiches and wraps, to thinning out into a dressing, we eat up this hummus in just a day or two. The simplicity of the recipe makes it even better to enjoy so quickly. You can use either canned chickpeas if you’re in a hurry or soak dried chickpeas overnight for a creamier hummus. Both work great. We also love to dress up our hummus two ways, which I’ve included here. But feel free to get creative with what you love, and top away! 


1 cup dry chickpeas (or 1 can fresh)

½ teaspoon baking soda, divided (if using dry chickpeas)

2-3 teaspoons chickpea cooking liquid (aquafaba) or can liquid

2 heaping spoonfuls of Tahini

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

¼ teaspoon salt (to taste)

½ teaspoon Greek seasoning

¼-½ teaspoon honey 


Soak chickpeas with ¼ teaspoon baking soda in water overnight, covering with water by several inches. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place into a large pot and cover with water by 4 inches. Add in remaining baking soda and bring to a boil. Boil until slightly mushy. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid, then strain and let chickpeas cool a bit. 

If using canned chickpeas, drain peas, reserving 3 tablespoons of the liquid. 

Add all ingredients, less aquafaba, to the food processor and process until creamy. Add aquafaba as needed until you get your desired texture. Process longer for smoother hummus. 

Top with desired toppings and serve with crisp veggies and pita chips! Enjoy!


Chop kalamata olives and crumble feta cheese with some za’atar seasoning for a flavorful Mediterranean-style hummus. 

Chop pickled beets and crumble feta cheese for a slightly sweet, zesty pop of flavor. 


Shakshuka originates from North Africa and the Middle Eastern region. It is a lovely tomato-based dish that is easy to make during the week. With just a few ingredients to prep, you’ll have a light but filling dinner on your hands in no time. (It also makes a great lunch or brunch!) Best when served with fresh, crusty bread to soak up all the yummy juices. 


2 teaspoons olive oil

1 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin 

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 eggs*

¼-⅓ cup crumbled feta

Chopped cilantro and parsley for serving.

*Depending on how many servings you want. Only cook the desired number of eggs. If you’re serving two, just make two to four eggs so your leftovers last longer. Just add a poached egg later!


Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions until translucent. Add in peppers and cook until semi-soft. Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add in the tomatoes and their juices. Crush with your cooking spoon to break them apart or give them a crush with your hand before adding them to the skillet. 

Stir in spices, salt, and pepper, and let cook for 5 minutes. Make 6 wells in the sauce and add a cracked egg to each. Cover the skillet and cook for 5-8 minutes or until eggs are done to your preference. 

Top with feta and herbs and enjoy!

Carly’s Hot Buttered O’s 

Quite possibly the most retro recipe I make around the house, these little O’s are delicious. A great alternative to popcorn, we make these to enjoy while watching movies. While regular hot buttered O’s are just made with salt and butter, I like to jazz it up with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Warm, crunchy, salty goodness!


1 cup toasted O’s cereal 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Worcestershire sauce



Melt butter in a skillet. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Add in toasted O’s cereal and stir. Keep stirring until O’s are darkened and toasted (about 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle with salt and toss into a bowl. Serve warm! 

Sweet and Salty Cashew Cookies

If you haven’t tried salt on a cookie yet, let this be the one recipe to convert you. The sweetness of the butterscotch chips mixed with the salty cashews makes this cookie a dream. A popular favorite around Daniel’s office and our volleyball team, these cookies don’t last long around the house. We also like to freeze pre-scooped cookie dough for quick, fresh cookies during the week! Just thaw and bake. 


1 ¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup cashew butter

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup roughly chopped cashews

1 cup butterscotch baking chips

Flaky sea salt and extra cashews for topping

Heat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a stand mixer, cream butter, cashew butter, salt, vanilla, and both sugars. Once fluffy, mix in egg. Once fully incorporated, add in flour and baking soda and mix until starting to come together. Add in butterscotch chips and cashews. Mix until just combined. 

Scoop onto baking sheets and top with a cashew. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and the edges are golden. When removing from the oven, give the sheet pan a whack on a heat-proof surface to help flatten the cookies. Quickly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let cool on sheet pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!