Food & Drink

Valley food bloggers share best recipes

Key lime pie by Gianna Dinuzzo.
Key lime pie by Gianna Dinuzzo. Special to The Bee

You may not know them by name, yet. But a new crop of San Joaquin Valley based food bloggers is dishing up some innovative and healthy foods.

And regardless of the type of food you like, you are bound to find a dish that will make you hungry. Among the bloggers most popular recipes are key lime pie, roasted root vegetables, spaghetti squash alfredo and refreshing, naturally sweetened drinks.

The bloggers say readers love recipes that are appetizing, relatively easy to make and lean towards healthy fare. Although a good-tasting dessert always gets attention.

“I write about foods that make you feel good, look good and taste good,” says Gianna Dinuzzo, whose blog is

Dinuzzo, who grew up in the restaurant business, has a bachelor’s degree in community health from Fresno State. She’s an admitted “health freak” who loves tinkering in the kitchen, whether at home or Mamma Mia Pizzeria, the family run restaurant at Bullard and Palm avenues.

At the restaurant, she whipped up a gluten free pizza crust, topped it with pesto sauce, sliced pears, golden raisins, Parmesan cheese and honey. The recipe is on her blog.

“It was super good,” she says.

Still, her biggest hit was a recipe for key lime pie. The secret to this recipe is a no-cook crust made from dates, walnuts, cashews and almonds. Dinuzzo mixes the nuts, dates and some vanilla, into a food processor and blends it until it has a crust like consistency. The mixture is then pressed into a pie pan and frozen.

“The crust is naturally sweet, moist and is really simple to make,” she says.

Stephanie Cholakian, creator of the, takes a slightly different approach with her blog. As a wife and mother of a toddler, Cholakian writes about food along with the challenges of raising a family in today’s on-the-go lifestyle.

Her background as a clinical psychologist also gives her the ability to share meaningful tips and life hacks for creating a happier and more satisfying home.

Cholakian credits her Serbian upbringing for igniting her passion for food.

“I was always in the kitchen with my grandmas,” Cholakian says. “All of our family functions revolved around food.”

Today, Cholakian gets her recipe inspiration from her family, Pinterest and other social media outlets. She enjoys finding ways to cut the sugar or fat from dishes to make them healthier without compromising flavor.

She also works with First Quality Produce in Fresno to develop recipes using ingredients from the company’s produce. The company offers a box of produce as part of its weekly Farm to Families program.

Recently, Cholakian’s recipe for roasted root vegetables became her most well-read recipes. She says it struck a cord with her readers because of its versatility. Not only did it make an excellent side dish, but she also used the leftovers to make a breakfast hash and a warm vegetable salad.

Later this year, Cholakian will share her experiences with meal planning.

One of the newest local food bloggers is Tawnie Kroll, a Fresno State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in food science and nutrition. Kroll has rapidly developed a following in the blogging community. Her well-produced site,, features recipes ranging from chopped barbecue kale salad to her most recent reader favorite, spaghetti squash chicken alfredo.

Kroll says people are looking for healthy, delicious food that they can make themselves. Her background in dietetics also helps her gain followers.

“People appreciate it when they know you are credible,” she says.

She says her recipe for spaghetti squash chicken alfredo got a lot of response, in part, because it looks comforting and is good tasting.

Kindra Pigott-Franzen of Visalia is an active blogger who specializes in creating paleo-style dishes that are rich in local organic produce, grass-fed meat, fish and eggs. She shuns wheat, refined sugar and processed oils.

Her blog,, is chock full of ideas for those seeking paleo, gluten-free, dairy free and Whole 30 recipes. One of Pigott-Franzens most popular recipes was for a naturally sweetened drink.

As part of the Whole 30 program, you are restricted from eating any sweetener.

“It really alters how a lot of people drink during the 30 days,” she says. “I’ve found most people complain about beverages during that time, so I made the recipes with La Croix sparkling waters that are naturally sweetened with fruit extracts and only added fruits, herbs, etc.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob


By Stephanie Cholakian

Several large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

Three or four potatoes, roughly chopped

1 butternut Squash, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large yam, peeled and roughly chopped

1 medium-sized onions, cut in ½ – then cut in ¼’s

1 large beet, peeled and roughly chopped

About 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons crushed garlic

Fresh rosemary (to taste)

Fresh thyme (to taste)

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Small container of feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place carrots, potatoes, squash, yam, onion and beet in a large bowl and toss with olive oil to coat. Add salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme, and garlic and mix well.

Pour seasoned vegetables into a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper and spread into a single layer.

Roast vegetables in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown (gently stirring halfway through the cooking time).

Plate vegetables and drizzle with balsamic glaze and crumble some feta on top.


By Gianna Dinuzzo

Pie crust ingredients (9” pie)

1.5 cups pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup raw almonds

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pie crust method

Add nuts in food processor, then slowly add in the dates as nuts are being combined. Add in vanilla until a sticky crust-like consistency is reached. Press down crust onto the pie pan and freeze until filling is prepped.

Filling Ingredients

2 cups unsalted cashews

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

½ cup pure maple syrup or honey

¾ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling method

Place all ingredients in food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour onto crust, spread evenly, then refrigerate until ready to serve.


By Tawnie Kroll

2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

2 cups steamed broccoli

1 spaghetti squash (For how to cook spaghetti squash visit this blog post)

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

For the sauce

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoon chopped sage, fresh

2 tablespoon All Purpose Flour

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half

4 oz. low fat cream cheese, cut into cubes

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

salt, pepper, red pepper chili flakes to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Whisk in the chicken broth and half in half. Stir in the cubed cream cheese and Parmesan until smooth. Add in the cooked spaghetti squash, shredded chicken, and broccoli. Cook until heated through.

Top with fresh parley and enjoy.

Notes: For the chicken I cooked it in lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic powder. I also seasoned the spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt and pepper before I cooked it. Inspired recipe by The Gunny Sack.


By Kindra Pigott-Franzen

1 can plain La Croix sparkling water

1 package frozen Earthbound Farm berry basket blend.

Several fresh mint leaves


Pour ice in a tall glass, add sparkling water and enough berries to your liking. Garnish with mint leaves.