Top It Tuesday: Homemade Pistachio, Coconut & Chia Seed Muesli Parfait

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I wish I liked breakfast foods as much as I like chunks of blue cheese, gooey s’mores and extra buttery garlic bread – but I don’t. Honestly, it’s a chore trying to get me to eat anything in the morning, especially anything healthy. Now, this is not to say I don’t love a nice stack of buttermilk pancakes or double-dipped French toast every now and then, but that’s not exactly food you can indulge in every single day. So lately, I’ve been trying to choke down yogurts and it’s seeming to be much harder than I thought.

parfait with berries

However, I have found something that seems to work – something that’s tasty, healthy and completely dairy-free. Something that I don’t have to force myself to eat and, dare I say, something I look forward to eating in the mornings.

muesli

No, it’s not bacon wrapped pancakes or fried eggs, it’s this homemade pistachio, coconut & chia seed muesli parfait! I was first hooked on muesli (a mix of cereals, dried nuts & fruits) last year when the folks at Bob’s Red Mill sent me a bag to try. Ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with the sweet, salty and fiber-packed crunch of every bite. However, I ran out of that stuff long ago and knew the only way i’d have it again is if I made it myself.

Simple healthy parfait

Luckily the folks at Silk, who I’m working with to promote their dairy-free offerings, asked me to create the perfect topping for their dairy-free yogurt. Their #TopItTuesday campaign is not only promoting their dairy-free (and delicious) yogurts, but giving a little extra love to Tuesday, a day that isn’t really paid much attention to. Before I could even say “YES” to the campaign I knew I was going to make my own muesli with a bunch of tasty add ins.

  ingredients

Making your own is so easy I’m shocked more people don’t do it. You simply mix, toss and stir into your favorite parfait – literally, that’s it. You can make it fancier with more gourmet ingredients, but I’m kind of a simple gal and I’d rather make something I know other people can make too. To make this parfait, all I did was stack the sweet yogurt, fresh berries and crunchy muesli into one perfect little jar. What’s easier than that?

simple parfait with muesli

So friends, like me, who hate breakfast food – give this muesli parfait a try. If you’re not converted, I owe you $50. Not really – but that’s just how sure I am you’ll love it.

Homemade Pistachio, Coconut & Chia Seed Muesli Parfait

SIMPLE FRESH PARFAIT

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Parfaits serve 2. Muesli serves 8 cups.
Prep time – for the muesli: 10 minutes – for the parfaits: 5 minutes
Total time: About 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the muesli:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1 1/2 cup puffed rice crisps
  • 1 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1  cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup dried apples
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Dash of nutmeg

For the parfaits:

  • 2 containers Silk dairy-free strawberry yogurt
  • About 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Directions: 

  1. For the muesli: Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir until every ingredient is distributed in the mix. (You many need to mix more so the chia seeds don’t sink to the bottom).
  2. Pour the muesli into airtight mason jars and store until use.
  3. For the parfaits, layer the yogurt, fresh strawberries and about 1/3 – 1/2 cup muesli into mason jars and serve.

Best parfait

Nutritional information per serving (1 parfait):

Calories: 350
Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 14 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Weekend Brussel Sprout Hash

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The only redeeming quality for today is this weekend brussel sprout hash. If it’s okay with you guys, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend it’s Saturday morning.

fried egg

Why is it the weekends FLY BY SO QUICKLY? I swear it was just Friday. Why on earth is it Monday already? I know, these are questions none of you can answer, but I’m still posing them in hopes some all-knowing being reads this blog and provides me with some nerdy, yet effective, explanations.

brussel sprout hash

I’m not ready for another week of work, y’all, I’m just not. I had such an amazing weekend, but it was tiring. Having a social life is hard work guys! From date nights with the hubby to girls days with my bestie, by the end of it, I need a day just to recoup from my weekend. But no, I’m forced to put on real clothes (and SPANX), do my hair and act somewhat like a responsible adult all day.

amazing egg with hash

It just isn’t fair. I want to wake up in leisure with a cute puppy, enjoy a big cup of coffee with this brussel sprout hash and not have to worry about commuting on the highway to hell, i mean, metro. Is that too much to ask?

collage

Now, this hash is something spectacular because it’s healthy, easy as heck and extremely low-carb. For those avoiding the glutens, you’ll be happy to know it’s completely gluten-free too. Now, I almost made it vegetarian but bacon. I just…can’t live without it. You could certainly omit it if you’d like. Just don’t yell at me if it’s not as good without the salty deliciousness of bacon.

Weekend Brussel Sprout Hash

Weekend Hash

Serves about 4. Adapted from Closet Cooking.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 25 – 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 8 pieces bacon
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds brussel sprouts, rinsed and shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon (3 slices at a time) and cook until crispy on both sides, about 4 – 6 minutes. Once cooked, remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Once slightly cooled, chop into bite size pieces.
  2. Once fully cooked, reserve 3 tablespoons of bacon grease (keeping two in the pan, reserving one for later). Add garlic and cook about 2 – 3 minutes. Add in onion and cook another 4 – 6 minutes or until translucent. Add the brussel sprouts and last tablespoon of bacon grease. Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring often, until leaves are softened. Remove from pan and pour into a bowl. Toss with parmesan cheese, chopped bacon and salt and pepper.
  3. Spray another skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the eggs (one at a time) until it reaches your level of doneness. (I fried mine so it had a runny yolk).
  4. Serve the hash in four bowls with fried eggs and salt and pepper.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 316
Fat: 13.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Fiber: 8.2 grams
Protein: 19.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Fresh Strawberry & Chocolate Bundt Cake

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I can’t say the word bundt cake without thinking of this scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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I mean, right? I love this movie so much. It’s one of my all time favorites. At our lake house, we didn’t have cable for a while, so my cousin and I would just watch this movie on repeat when it was storming or too hot outside. Seriously, so many fond memories of this movie. Although I could talk about it for an entire post, I want to chat a bit about this cake, tho.

rich strawberry chocolate cake

I mean LOOK AT THOSE STRAWBERRIES. Do you see that chocolate glaze? I want to shrink myself and then make a home on that sticky sweet glaze. Like, I’d be perfectly content. I’ve wanted to make a fresh strawberry cake for ever (read: all summer) and finally got my lazy bits around to making one that tastes better than Duncan Hines.

Chocolate strawberry bundt

Seriously, I’m addicted to that cake mix. I know, it’s all processed crap, will kill me and my body is a temple. BLAH. It tastes good and when I’m sad, it makes me smile. That and a bottle of wine but that’s neither here nor there. However, I am trying to act somewhat like an adult and a real food blogger so I tried my hand at making it.

Fresh chocolate chip bundt cake

And holy freaking delicious batman – it came out SO amazing. Fluffy, moist and so flavorful – it tastes like the cake mix just 10000 times better. Add a drizzle of rich chocolate glaze and this thing is damn near orgasmic. With Labor Day around the corner, it’s such a great dessert to show off those plump summer berries. Or a good way to use up the rest of them before they get that fuzzy mold in your fridge.

Fresh strawberry and rich chocolate bundt cake

That’s for another post – but I’m declaring WAR on my vegetable crisper at the moment. You can take my lettuce and my lemons, but YOU CAN’T TAKE MY STRAWBERRIES. Oh and yes i added food coloring for a pop of pink. I’m sure that’ll outrage a lot of you, but it doesn’t bother me one bit.

Fresh Strawberry & Chocolate Bundt Cake

fresh chocolate strawberry cake

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup fresh strawberry jam
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the glaze:

  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh strawberries for garnish
  • + chocolate candies for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, applesauce, white sugar and brown sugar until creamed. Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully mixed. Mix in the vanilla, Greek yogurt and jam until fully combined.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with milk, stirring until fully combined. Mix in the food coloring, chocolate chips and strawberries and mix until you get a nice pink (but careful not to smash the strawberries).
  4. Pour the cake mixture into the bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes then place on a wire rack to finish cooling.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla. Reduce heat to low and whisk until melted and smooth.
  6. Remove from heat and drizzle over the cake. Garnish with fresh strawberries and serve!

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 525
Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 62 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 7.4 grams
Weight Watchers Points:  11

Radish & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

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Today is most definitely a double (or triple) Venti coffee kind of days. I don’t know why, but I can’t get my shit together this week. I’m tired, grumpy, fatigued and lazy. I’m sure it has to do with my job, the endless slew of foster pups we bring in and a major case of post-trip depression, but it’s really making everyday life a little difficult.

fresh pasta with proscuitto

That’s why you haven’t seen more of me around these parts. I’m still alive, don’t stress – but it’s hard finding the energy to write about food lately. Not that I don’t love it – food is still my number one passion. It’s just I can’t find the words or the energy to fill a blog post.

fresh easy pasta2

But you’re not here to read about that – you’re here for a recipe. Luckily I’ve got a really good one of those for you :) It’s filled with things I just can’t get enough of – like radishes, pasta and broccoli rabe. I could seriously eat these things everyday and never tire of them.

broccoli rabe

Which is strange given I used to HATE radishes. Honestly, it was the only vegetable I couldn’t stand for 25 years of my life. Then one day, i accidentally put them on a salad and freaking punched myself as soon as I crunched into their crisp, peppery shell. I was so in love, I bought some that very night and crunched them like an apple. My friend has also introduced me to the roasted radish dipped in butter and I’m never going back. It’s honestly the most amazing combination of flavors.

radishes2

Just like this pasta. It’s so easy, you can whip up any day of the week. Plus, it’s perfect with a glass (or 10) of wine on a lazy summer night. Plus, it’s just so darn pretty right? It’s the dish to make for your friends when you want to impress them but don’t have a lot of time or money. (aka me every single day).

Radish & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

radish pasta

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces ziti noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, chopped
  • 4 ounces proscuitto
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 teaspoons pine nuts
  • About 4 fresh radishes, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and a dash of salt. Cook until al dente about 8-10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic; cook about 3 – 4 minutes. Add in chopped broccoli rabe. Cook on medium heat until broccoli rabe is wilted and softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Carefully chop the proscuitto. Toss the broccoli rabe with the pasta and mix with tongs. Add Parmesan cheese, proscuitto and additional salt and pepper.  Slice the turnips into thin slices.
  4. Serve pasta with a dash of pine nuts and thinly sliced turnips.

Best pasta

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 425
Fat: 17 grams
Carbohydrates: 69 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 12

Easy One Pot Sausage Macaroni

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I had this amazing blog post written to go with this easy one pot sausage macaroni.

Amazing one pot mac

And then it disappeared. I don’t know where it went, but it’s not here anymore and I don’t have the strength or energy to re-write it. So instead, I’m just sharing photos.

Amazing one pot pasta

Like this one.

Creamy easy one pot pasta

Recipe is below. Don’t let my stress keep you from making it. It’s honestly one of the best pasta dishes ever. It’s so easy to make, takes just ONE POT and may or may not be a rotating item on my weekly menu.

Trust me, just make it. Don’t let my ghost post be in vain.

Easy One Pot Sausage Macaroni

simply cheesy one pot pasta

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound chicken sausage, sliced
  • 12 ounces pasta noodles
  • 30 ounces canned Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (with juices)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and sausage. Cook another 4 – 6 minutes, or until browned.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a blender and blend until thick and smooth. Add to the pot with the onions and sausage. Add in the chicken stock, light cream, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Toss in the pasta.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender and the sauce has thickened.
  4. Add fresh basil for garnish and top with parmesan.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 315.6
Fat: 15.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 26 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 6.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points:  8

Easy Hot Dog Pretzel Buns

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Forget sad store-bought buns and make your own super soft, super easy hot dog pretzel buns for your next spring or summer BBQ! You’ll taste the difference, trust me!

hot dog pretzel buns.jpg

Today’s recipe comes inspired and halfway executed by my handsome husband. For the past week, he’s asked me if we could make pretzel buns for hot dogs and bratwursts. As we were snuggling watching TV last night, he looked up at me with these adorably doughy eyes and asked “Can we make the buns tonight? I just really want to make them.” It was probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

Soft pretzel buns.jpg

So we got up and started a big batch of hot dog buns at 8pm. The night before I leave for 4 days. Because why not?

I’ve actually wanted to make homemade pretzel buns for a while, but just never got around to it. Plus, anytime I’ve made pretzels at home, they’ve never gotten that perfect pretzel look. You know the really browned outside with the white splits in the center? I follow recipes to a T, adjust the heat in my oven and even let them soak a second longer in baking soda water, and still, I don’t get that perfect crust.

pretzel buns with pork.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, they brown up beautifully and taste like a pretzel should, but you know me, I’m a food blogging perfectionist and I just WANT THAT DAMN CRUST. It’s like poaching an egg and never getting that luscious runny yolk. Because of my pretzel attempts, I actually had no intention of photographing these. Imagine my surprise at 10pm when they come out of the oven with a beautiful pretzel crust. I actually think I squealed a bit.

Soft pretzel buns5.jpg

Now, they still aren’t perfect, but they are good enough for me. The outside is slightly crispy while the inside is warm and super soft. I stuffed one with leftover pulled pork (just for photos) but ended up eating it for breakfast. What goes better with coffee than pulled pork?

soft pork pretzel buns.jpg

The best thing about these buns (te-he-hehe) is that you can stuff them with whatever you’d like. Hot dogs, brats, pork, chicken, salad, a shoe, an old sock. I mean, whatever tickles your fancy. The bun will make the meal though, that I can promise you.

Easy Hot Dog Pretzel Buns

Quick easy pretzel buns.jpg

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields 8 buns. Slightly adapted from Food Network.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 14 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm (110 degrees) milk
  • 1/2 cup warm (110 degrees) water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the water, milk, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter. Let sit until yeast starts to bubble and foam, about 15 minutes.
  2. Attach a dough hook to the stand mixer. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until mixture forms a dough and pulls apart from the bowl, about 5 minutes.
  3. Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead with lightly floured hands until smooth and elastic, another 2 – 3 minutes. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces. Then cut those pieces in half so you have 8 equal size pieces. Roll the eight pieces into soft balls and place four on each sheet, about 1 1/2 – 2 inches apart from each other. Cover with damp clothes and let rest for about 20 minutes.
  5. Once rested, roll the 8 pieces into 6 inch logs (so they resemble hot dog buns). Place on the same parchment paper lined sheets and cover with damp clothes and let rise about 30 minutes.
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and mix in the 1/2 cup of baking soda. Dip the buns into the baking soda & water mixture and let boil for about 30 seconds on each side. Using a large slotted spoon remove the buns and shake off excess water.
  7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease two new pieces of parchment paper liberally with nonstick cooking spray and place on the two cookie sheets. Sprinkle immediately with sea salt. Score about 3 – 4 slices on the top of the buns.
  8. Place four buns on each cookie sheet and bake for about 13 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If you want an extra crispy crust, broil for an additional minute.

Nutritional information per bun:

Calories: 300
Fat: 3.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 9 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Creamy Asparagus Gazpacho

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It is easily the hottest (and most humid) day in DC. I stood outside waiting for the bus for less than 5 minutes and was drenched, head to toe. Honestly, it’s really the perfect kind of day to have a big bowl of this easy asparagus gazpacho. (With a fruity cocktail of choice, of course).

Creamy asparagus soup

I’ve been cooking stove-free for almost a week and I have to say, I love it. With the exception of a pan of birthday brownies and the roasted asparagus for this soup, we’ve been living off the grill and no-bake dinners. I must say, It’s so nice not to have to sweat while I prepare dishes. I can’t say the same for my hubby, who has taken to sweating over the grill, but at least we can eat inside our house without sweating.

super creamy asparagus soup

See, we live in a small-ish townhouse and when the oven is on, it has this knack for heating up THE ENTIRE PLACE. Not to mention our place was built in the 20s, so our air conditioning is a wall unit. Like, one that sticks out and makes a lot of noise when its on. It does eventually cool our place off, but we go deaf with noise while it’s on.

roasted asparagus

I won’t complain, I love where we live. It’s charming, quiet and super dog-friendly. Plus, we have the world’s cutest patio (that I’m still decorating) so I can put up with a loud ac unit for that.

blending

Before I jump too far off topic, let’s get back to this gazpacho. The best thing about it is that you can serve it chilled or hot. Honestly, I had it both ways and they are both absolutely mouth-watering. However, since it’s apocalyptic hot outside, I’d suggest serving it chilled with a bunch of fresh garnishes. One of the best garnishes (besides the crunchy croutons) is good olive oil. I was recently sent a bottle of Cobram Estate First Harvest Olive Oil and it’s life-changing.

oliveo il

So smooth, it’s something you want to sip and savor on it’s own. But on this gazpacho? It’s perfect.

creamy gazpacho

Esp. paired with a glass of chilled white wine (or rose). I know, I’m on the rose bandwagon but it’s SO good. I’ll have a little post about that one soon.

Creamy Asparagus Gazpacho

Creamy asparagus gazpacho

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: About 30 minutes
Total time: About 1 hour

Ingredients: 

For the asparagus:

  • 1 pound green asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 pound white asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the soup:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the garnishes:

  • 1 cup croutons
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Pine nuts for garnish
  • Olive oil for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In two large baking dishes, spread the asparagus so none of the stalks are overlapping. Drizzle both with olive oil and garnish with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast for about 20 minutes, flipping the stalks at 10, or until slightly browned and softened. Remove from stove and chop into quarters. Toss into a blender.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook about 4 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add in garlic and habanero and cook for another 2 -3 minutes. Add in the vegetable broth and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer another 20 minutes, or until reduced slightly and vegetables are tender.
  4. Pour into the large blender (with the asparagus) and salt and pepper; then blend until creamy. Add in heavy cream and blend again until smooth.
  5. Chill for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until chilled. Pour into bowls and garnish with croutons, chopped pepper, cilantro, pine nuts and drizzle with olive oil.

Nutritional information per serving (1 bowl): 

Calories: 326.5
Fat: 22 grams
Carbohydrates: 18.75 grams
Fiber: 2.45 grams
Protein: 5.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowl

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This is, hands down, my favorite flavor profile in the entire world. This mango coconut smoothie bowl might just be my new favorite thing.

Crunchy creamy smoothie bowl

When I was in Thailand, I’d get a mango sticky rice for dessert every. single. day. See, the Thai people do it right. They don’t eat shitty desserts filled with preservatives or sugar, they eat all natural desserts made from things found in nature.

smoothie ingredients

I miss Southeast Asia more than I can verbalize. I miss the sounds, the smells, the people. What I miss the most, tough, is the tastes. Despite the fact I got sick (from the water – NOT the food), the food I had there in the kitchens of the locals, picked up from the markets and made for us at local restaurants was some of the best I’ve ever had. Every dish was so incredible packed with flavor – fresh chiles, homegrown spices, locally sourced meats and veggies. Everything tasted like it was made with nothing  but love.

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Now, I know the US has an incredible food culture – I’m not doubting that. I love visiting the states and biting into every delicious morsel. Food is here is made with love, but not in the way the Thai dishes are. It’s so hard to explain and maybe someday I’ll be able to say what I actually mean.

Mango coconut smoothie bowl

Until then, I’ll talk about that dessert. Now, I’ve thought about recreating it for the blog about a million times. But I know it wouldn’t do the actual dessert justice. So instead, I took those exotic and refreshing flavors and turned them into something you can have for breakfast – a smoothie bowl!

Easy delicious smoothie bowls

Unless you’ve been living somewhere without Pinterest, you’ve probably seen the smoothie bowl craze. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons, but I just couldn’t resist. I mean, look at how frackin’ beautiful these bowls are? It’s a smoothie with added fruits and crunchy stuff. (“But I love caramel and crunchy stuff!”) Once you get over how pretty it is and stick your spoon into the thick, creamy smoothie, you’ll melt.

creamy smoothie bowl with mango

Or, if you’re really lucky, you’ll wake up on the white sandy beaches of Phi Phi Island.

Mango Coconut Smoothie Bowls

Super creamy smoothie bowl

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 2.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Total time: About 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 1 medium frozen banana
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used low-fat, feel free to sub in full-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons honey

For the toppings:

  • About 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup crunchy granola
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks, defrosted
  • Additional honey for drizzle

Directions: 

  1. Combine the mango, banana, coconut milk (start with 1 cup and add more if necessary), flax seed and honey. Pulse on high until thick and creamy.
  2. Pour the smoothie into two deep bowls. Top with blueberries, granola, coconut flakes, mango chunks and additional honey for sweetness. Serve immediately!

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 475
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 70 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 7.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 12

Calphalon Self-Sharpening Knife Set Giveaway

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I don’t have a recipe for you guys today, but I have something just as exciting – A GIVEAWAY! It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these on the blog and I thought it was far time we remedied that.

Calphalon Self Sharpening

And what better giveaway for a bunch of like-minded foodies than a sexy knife set? Not just any ol’ knife set though – this is a self-sharpening knife set from Calphalon.

knives

I love my knives, the ones I’ve had for years and years. So much love goes into every single slice, chop and mince. They’ve seen me through three houses, a fire, three dogs – two careers, a failed book. Normal people probably don’t get it, but when you’re a cook, your knives? They are apart of you. The reasons your recipes succeed are owed as much to them as they are to your talent.

Self Knives2

So when Calphalon reached out to me about trying a new set, I was extremely skeptical. What, like replace my knives? However, I have to say – it was love at first slice.

oranges

These knives cut like butter, truthfully. They cut as smooth and as elegantly as my far-more expensive knives. As much as I love slicing, chopping and mincing with them, the self-sharpening aspect has to be my favorite. The block automatically sharpens the straight edge knives with every single use. No more sharpening on your own – they do it for you! For gals with full time jobs and busy travel schedules, things that handle their own sharpening and maintenance are probably my favorites.

self sharpen

The chef knife, bread knife, santoku knife and parer are all made with high-carbon, no-stain German steel while the steak knives are made with stamped Asian steel. I’m not lying when I say these are seriously sexy, seriously powerful knives.

super sharp knive

And because I love you, one of you will win one of your very own! Retailing at $180, this is a seriously good deal. To enter, simply fill out the easy prompts below. Giveaway ends July 24 at midnight. GOOD LUCK!
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This post is sponsored by the folks at Calphalon, however, all opinions and photographs are purely my own.

Roasted Turkey, Cheese & Sprout Sandwich

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I’ve always been a huge sammie girl. When it comes to lunch preparation, I always flock to the deli counter and the side of the store with the fancy cheese in it. Of course as a kid I grew up eating American cheese and white bread, but I’m happy to admit my tastes have changed just a little bit.

Roasted Turkey Sandwich

Instead of white bread, I use French bread. Instead of American cheese, I use slices of Cabot horseradish cheese or fresh mozzarella. Instead of dicey turkey, I use Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey. I also have amped up my condiment and topping game quite substantially, and my sandwiches always have a beautiful bouquet of veggies on top, like beets, radishes or fresh green sprouts.

When I was asked by Hormel to create some recipes using their new NATURAL CHOICE products and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I’m a healthy girl and I love food that is preservative-free and nutritious, and these deli meats are exactly it – fresh and delicious without any extra crap mixed in.

Roasted Turkey Sprout Sammie

I knew immediately I wanted to make a simple version of a French bread sub. I loaded it with cheese, topped with fresh sprouts and homemade mayo/mustard sauce. It was To. Die. For. It’s the kind of sandwich all other sandwiches want to be when they grow up, let me tell you that.

Roasted turkey, cheese & sprout sandwich

Easy Sprout Sammie

Serves 3.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 slices Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Deli Turkey
  • 9 slices sharp vintage cheddar cheese
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • Fresh green sprouts
  • 2 large tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Slice the baguette into three equal parts and then slice in half. Spread with olive oil.
  3. Top one side with 4 slices of deli meat and 3 slices of cheese. Place the other bread slices on the same pan and bake for about 8 minutes, or until crispy and cheese is melted.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the Dijon mustard and mayo together.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven. Spread the top part of the baguette with Dijon/mayo mixture. Top with fresh greens and tomato slices.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hormel for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Fresh Strawberry & Mint Pie

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It’s about time I wrote a blog post, right? But let’s rejoice in two things today, mmk? It’s FRIDAY and I made you a pie!

best pie

Not just any pie, a fresh strawberry pie piled with gobs of fresh mint from my garden. Before you think I’m one of those awesome green thumbs, I’ll tell you this. The mint was in our front garden when we moved in and it’s spread like a weed into our poor little flowers. I’m what you’d call an anti-green thumb. Basically anything I grow is either killed by me or eaten in seconds by rodents.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

I actually get really jealous of people who have these incredible mini farms in their yards. Actually, our neighbor (an adorable elderly woman) has the most amazing spread in her backyard. Zucchinis, eggplants, green beans, plump tomatoes, squash – you name it, she’s probably growing it. And i get SERIOUS envy every time I’m back there hanging out on our patio.

berries

I’ve decided though that next year will be my year. I will have a beautiful and fruitful garden if it kills me. I will grow produce that I can then turn into luscious recipes like this fresh pie. Now, as a resident of VA I’m fairly aware I probably can’t grow the luscious plump strawberries like my friends in California can, but god darnnit, I’m going to try!

Easy fresh summer pie

I’ll keep you updated on my quest for green thumb status, don’t worry. In the meantime, I’ll use the grocery stores and farmers markets to provide me with my supply of awesome ingredients. Given my current gardening ability, that’s probably safest.

Fresh Strawberry & Mint Pie

Freshest pie

Serves 8 – 10. Adapted from Taste of Home.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 homemade (or pre-bought) pie crust (I love this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure clove honey
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot (or corn starch)
  • 1 package sugar-free strawberry jell-0
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries
  • Handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • *Optional: Drizzle of balsamic glaze (this is addictive)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a pie plate or foil pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare crust as directed if making homemade and place into the greased pie plate. Line the pie crust with thick aluminum foil and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove the foil, poke the crust with a fork and then bake another 5 or until golden brown.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk the sugar, honey, arrowroot and water. Whisk constantly over medium heat until thickened (about 3 – 5 minutes).  (Note – it may take an additional 2 – 3 minutes using arrowroot than it would cornstarch).
  3. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the sugar-free jello. Whisk until the gelatin has dissolved. Chill slightly for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, arrange the strawberries into the warmed pie crust. Pour the gelatin mixture over the strawberries until it reaches the rim.
  5. Chill for at least an hour then serve with chopped fresh mint.

Nutritional information per serving (1 slice):

Calories: 210
Fat: 6.25 grams
Carbohydrates: 37.75 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 2.125 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

Smashed Strawberry & Pineapple Vodka Mojitos

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These smashed strawberry & pineapple vodka mojitos are the perfect cocktail for any July 4th celebration!

berry pineapple mojitos

Is there anything better than a long holiday weekend? For us working gals, having a day off (where we don’t have to work) is truly the biggest blessing in the world. To be honest, I don’t remember the last day I took off from everything. Between my 9 – 5 job, my freelance obligations and this blog, there hasn’t really been a day where I haven’t cooked, written, photographed or sat in a cube in far too long.

ingredients mojito

And boy am I looking forward to it! For the first weekend in, well, forever, we don’t have huge plans for the weekend. In fact, I’ll probably find myself shopping and laying by the pool for most of it. I do plan to make a few pitchers of these smashed berry vodka mojitos though for our little BBQ on the 4th for a few reasons. One, they taste amazing.

fresh berry pineapple mojitos

Two? We have a wild forest of mint growing in our front yard.

fresh mint

Seriously, the mint is so rabid it’s overtaking my flowers. Even though I prefer wine to liquor, I knew a mojito had to happen soon or else we’d be killed by the mutiny of mint at our house. That and I’m trying to branch out of just wine and beer and up my cocktail game.

mojito2

Plus, wine and beer aren’t exactly diet friendly so I’m desperately trying to find tasty libations that are naturally sweetened and refreshing without a metric ton of calories or sugar. These? Are just that. The entire batch only has 2 tablespoons sugar and the rest comes from the fruit. Other than that, it’s all naturale baby.

fresh berry and nectarine mojitos

I’m not lying when I say these might be my new signature drink of summer. Now if only I could find a way to make a living sipping cocktails by the pool, I could indulge in these more frequently with a beautiful bronzed tan.

Smashed Strawberry  & Pineapple Vodka Mojitos

Easy fresh mojitos

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 nectarine, cut into thin slices
  • 1 1/2 lime, cut in half
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 16 ounces (about 2 cups) vodka (I used berry flavored)
  • 24 mint leaves
  • Diet ginger ale

Directions: 

  1. Place the strawberries into a large bowl. Using a spoon or muddler, gently smash the berries into the pitcher. Add the berries to a large pitcher. Add in the pineapple and nectarine slices. Squeeze the lime into the pitcher and pour in the vodka. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition.
  2. In another small bowl, carefully muddle the mint leaves so they bruise slightly. Mix the mint leaves (and extracts) into the pitcher.
  3. Top with diet ginger ale and serve!

Easy fruit mojtios

Nutritional information per serving (about 1 glass or 1/2 cup):

Calories: 171.5
Fat: >1 gram
Carbohydrates: 11.12 grams
Fiber: 0
Protein: 0.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 2

Tuna Couscous Salad

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This light, fluffy and healthy tuna couscous salad is a great summer dish that’s flavor-packed!

tuna couscous salad

I don’t think they’ll ever be a time in my life where I don’t crave healthy food over junk food. Of course, there are those occasional days when I’ve had too much wine the night before and all I could possible want is a hamburger with french fries. But no matter what, I always prefer salads to pastas and fresh fruit to candy bars. That’s just one of the reasons I was over the moon when Genova seafood asked me to create a nutritious dish using their premium tuna.

couscous2

To me, tuna has always had a bit of a bad rap. For one, people never really associate canned tuna with anything gourmet. It’s something you buy to make cheap sandwiches or mix up for a snack. It may be budget friendly and easy, but it’s far from ordinary. Tuna is such an incredibly versatile ingredient. You can toss it in salads (like I did with this tuna couscous salad), mix it into casseroles, make gourmet ceviches and even cocktail party hors d’oeuvres. The possibilities are endless, which is why I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate it into anything I make.

  tuna couscous radishes

Not only versatile, it’s also good for you, especially the Genova brand. It’s made from high-quality, premium grade Yellowfin tuna, is all natural and is packed in pure ,100% Mediterranean olive oil. If you’d like to try it, here’s a coupon offered by the wonderful folks there! I’m going to just say this once – STOP BUYING TUNA IN WATER. The olive oil adds even more healthy antioxidants, not to mention a freak ton more flavor. You’ll honestly be ASTOUNDED by how much better canned tuna in olive oil tastes.

fresh salad

The wonderfully generous people at Genova not only sent me some of their tuna to try, they sent a gift basket with tons of other Mediterranean goodies, like wine, a cookbook, pesto, tri-color couscous and more. As soon as I unwrapped the basket, I immediately knew I was going to use the couscous in something.

gift basket

After a quick stop at Whole Foods and $100 later, I had the most beautiful radishes, bean sprouts, sunflower leaves and more to create a fresh, and delicious, salad.

radishes

To help inspire you to create your own Mediterranean inspired dish, Genova seafood is giving away a gourmet gift basket to one of my readers! One of you will receive the same goodie basket as I did with enough loot to get you excited to cook up a healthy and gourmet tuna dish. To enter, follow the prompts below. Make sure to share your creation with me using the hashtag #realisticrecipes!

Tuna Couscous Salad

salad with radishes

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 6 – 8.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
Total time:  28 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups tri-color couscous
  • 2 (7 ounce) cans of Genova seafood tuna, lightly drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup chick peas
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • About 2/3 – 3/4 cup fresh greens
  • 4 – 5 fresh chives, chopped
  • Liberal dashes of sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Toss in the couscous and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and fluffy with a fork or spoon. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Add in the radishes, chick peas, bean sprouts, fresh greens and chopped chives. Carefully mix in the tuna so it’s fully incorporated.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and pepper together. Pour the oil dressing over the salad and mix to combine. Add in additional salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 326.5
Fat: 16.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 37.8 grams
Fiber: 4.2 grams
Protein: 10.4 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the prompts below! Ends Wednesday, July 1st at Midnight. GOOD LUCK!
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Raspberry Lemon Quick Bread

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It’s about 16,560 degrees outside and I’m asking you to turn on your oven. I know, I’m evil.  But trust me, one thick, soft and moist slice of this raspberry lemon bread and you’ll welcome that puff of hot air when you open your trusty oven.

Low fat raspberry lemon yogurt bread

Well, maybe not welcome it, but you’ll be glad you spent that 45 minutes sweating over the stove. That I can promise. It’s like a glass of ice-cold lemonade in soft bread form.

Fluffy lemon yogurt bread

I’ve been busy (no surprise) lately, in a very good way. I don’t know what lucky door I opened, but I’ve been welcomed with some truly life-changing opportunities lately and I can hardly believe it. From amazing food-related opps for this blog to epic adventures abroad, I’m pinching myself daily.

Easy low fat lemon loaf

In addition to that, I’m starting another venture (because I don’t have enough to do) with my great friend Kita. We can’t share details yet, but imagine a place on the web with stories and a million beautiful photos of our constant travels.

raspberry

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to bake, cook, stir and shake so I can provide you guys with some healthy and delightfully light recipes for this insanely hot summer. From this bread, to the refreshingly delicious cocktail I have for tomorrow and some spicy enchiladas on Friday, y’all are going to be very well fed.

Quick lemon bread for summer

Now please excuse me while I stuff 34 slices of this bread into my mouth at my desk. Thank god no one can see past my cube walls. *Holds head in shame whilst wiping crumbs from my face*

Raspberry Lemon Quick Bread

Easy and light raspberry lemon bread

Serves about 10 – 12. Adapted from Taste of Home.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 – 55 minutes
Total time: About 65 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups raspberries

For garnish:

  • Melted white chocolate for glaze
  • 1 lemon, sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard size loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest. In another bowl, beat the yogurt, sugar, egg, lemon juice and applesauce. Mix until combined. Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
  3. In a large stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold into the rest of the batter. Once egg whites are folded in, carefully fold in raspberries.
  4. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Drizzle the top of the loaf with white chocolate and garnish with sliced lemons.

Low fat lemon raspberry bread

Nutritional information per serving (1 slice):

Calories: 133.8
Fat: 2.75 grams
Carbohydrates: 32.5 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Protein: 6.25 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

Cheesy One Skillet Gnocchi

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Ready for a meal that’s a total game changer?

cheesy gnocchi2

I  mean, clearly you are. It’s Tuesday. And it’s a fact that people crave game-changing meals on Tuesday.

super cheesy gnocchi

I could completely be making that up out of exhaustion, but let’s roll with it. Lately I’ve been getting home closer to 7pm (instead of my normal 6:30) which throws a major wrench into my dinner plans. The hubby has been picking up the slack (and I must say – his cooking game is on point lately!) I know I shouldn’t complain, but truthfully, I miss cooking.

Easy one pot and one skillet gnocchi

I was looking through some of my photos from the freelance days, and I actually felt a pang of sadness and nostalgia. Even though I had really had days cooking full time, I still have moments where I miss spending my days in the kitchen, whipping up dishes and recipes I was truly proud of. I’m not saying I’m not proud of my work now, but my recipes and my dishes were 100% me. They were a reflection of my life at that point and I can remember every moment of my life through the recipes I created.

cheesy gnocchi

I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s the honest-to-god truth. However, I will say the recipes I’ve been making over the weekends for this blog were made with that same spark. Sure, this one skillet cheesy gnocchi sounds like any ol’ one pot dish, but I’m pretty proud of it. It’s one of those dishes I made where I actually felt good about the entire thing – the fresh, seasonal ingredients, the amazing taste and how it photographed.

  basil (1)

It may look like just a dish to you, but to me, it’s represents a little more. It shows that I still got it and my passion is still there, I just needed to find it again.

Cheesy One Skillet Gnocchi

cheesy8

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounce package of gnocchi
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (red or yellow), peeled and chopped
  • 1 large (I used an elephant garlic) clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, not drained
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Fresh parmesan chopped

Directions: 

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt. Add in gnocchi and cook until they start to float to the top, about 6 – 7 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook another 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook another 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, crushed red pepper and chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken up. Mix in gnocchi.
  4. Remove from heat and immediately top with fresh mozzarella and parmesan. Serve with additional fresh basil for garnish.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 365
Fat: 9.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 52 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 10 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

gnocchi

Lemon & Mint Cupcakes

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Are you all ready for another round of “recipes I’ve found in the depths of my 18 SD cards that have yet to be shared here?” I think once you see how fluffy, tangy and sweet these cupcakes are, you’ll forgive me for hoarding them on old camera cards.

cupcakes

I mean right? Don’t these just look perfect? I’m not tooting my own horn here, I promise. In fact, I’m probably the word’s worst cupcake decorator. It’s almost funny. No matter how many tutorials I watch or people I consult, I just can’t seem to figure out how to make my cupcakes look like the ones you buy at bakeries.

However, after a few failed cupcake disasters and enough frosting to grease a pig, I finally got it. Well, for a few at least. As you’ll see in this photo below, not every cupcake looks as pretty as the one next to it. I’m pretty sure I just gave up when it came to frosting the one the right (you know, the one that looks like a drunk child frosted it?)

Lemon mint cupcakes

That’s why I added the fresh sprigs of mint. Well, that’s not exactly why but it sure does a great job of hiding frosting blemishes. Despite my complete lack of any finesse in the frosting department, I still love to make cupcakes. There’s something just so elegant about a collection of beautiful bite-size cakes.

fluffy mint cupcakes

That and you can’t beat the combination of lemon and mint, especially in the summertime. In fact, the inspiration for these little beauties came from a lemonade mojito I had (I know, I’ll remake it for the blog). It was almost summer in DC (which means 400% humidity) and it was just too sticky for wine. So I ordered a lemon mojito and it was, hands down, the most refreshing cocktail I’ve ever had. The zing of fresh lemon paired with the mild (but still detectable) mint flavor created one incredible sip.

unnamed

Oh and the rum didn’t hurt either. I opted to skip the booze for these cupcakes and just bring those two amazing flavors together for a fun BBQ dessert. Or you could have one for breakfast. I wouldn’t tell anyone.

   lemon cuppies

Lemon & Mint Cupcakes

lemon cuppie7

Serves about 12. Cupcake adapted from Real Simple.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 18 – 22 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cups raw white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk

For the frosting: 

  • 1 cup butter, unsalted and softened
  • 3-3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a muffin liner with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. In another bowl, beat the butter, applesauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add in the lemon juice and lemon zest and beat until creamy.
  3. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture, alternating with the milk (but ending with flour) until mixture is fully combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the liners, filling about 3/4 the way full. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until fluffy and lightly browned. Place on a wire cooling rack and cool completely (about 20 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, beat the butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until creamy. Add in zest.
  6. Fill a bag with frosting and fit with a piping tip. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Nutritional information per cupcake: 

Calories: 236.5
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 19.1 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 2.5 grams
Weight Watchers points: 5

Tofu Taco Salad

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What a month. Actually, scratch that — what a YEAR. I’ve been running at full-speed ahead since January and I think my body has finally caught up to all of it. I finally know what the expression “bone-tired” actually feels like. Every ounce of me is so exhausted that I’m starting to get physically sick.

tofu taco salad

However, that has changed a little. I got out of dodge this past weekend and spent as much time as possible sleeping, relaxing on the beach and disconnecting from the stresses of my real life. I finally had a weekend where i didn’t have any deadlines, deliverables or work to get through – and I took full and complete advantage of that.

ingredients

I also cooked. Remember when I used to do that frequently? Remember when I used to make delicious dishes and share them here on the blog every day? Me too. Sort of. My life has been such a blur of long days & late nights, I don’t remember the last time I cooked for blogging purposes. Not only am I usually too drained to cook something inspiring after I get home on weekdays, my weekends are so busy with chores, friends and husband that I don’t have a second to make something.

crispy taco salad

But friends, the times? They are-a-changin’. My schedule is becoming more manageable and a heck of a lot less stressful, and blogging is finally becoming something I can actually take on with excitement once again. I’m not sure if its going to be daily, weekly, or just a few times a month, but something will happen on this little space here.

tofu taco salad2

Since I spent the weekend in the sun, drinking all of the wine and actually relaxing, I didn’t get this salad up in time for Memorial Day. However, it doesn’t matter because this is easily one of my new favorite salads because it’s so jam-packed with fantastic flavors; like zesty lime juice, Mexican seasoning, crushed red pepper, creamy avocado, ripe and juicy tomatoes and crunchy tortilla bits.

ingredients2

Not only is this the perfect accompaniment to your burgers, brats and hotdogs, it’s an amazing standalone salad for an entree too!

Spicy Tofu Taco Salad

Plus. this awesome salad is the perfect dish for any hot summer day where all you want is something light & fresh that reminds you of a Mexican getaway.

Tofu Taco Salad

crispy tofu tortilla salad

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: About 40 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the salad:

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups chopped on-the-vine tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onion
  • 1 cup chopped tortilla chips
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and chopped

For the tofu:

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, pressed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon fat free sour cream
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon fat free mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 large canned chipotle chili, chopped

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the tofu with olive oil, Mexican seasoning, salt and pepper. Bake the tofu for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until crispy, stopping to flip about 17 minutes in.
  2. To make the dressing, mix the sour cream, mayo, ranch seasoning, green onion, lime juice and chipotle chili together. Stir to combine. Cover with foil and chill for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Mix in the onion and cook about 2 minutes. Toss in the garlic, peppers and jalapeños. Saute the vegetables until soft and fragrant, about 4 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the arugula, tomatoes, cilantro and green onion. Mix in the cooked vegetables, cheese and tortilla chips. Top with chopped avocado and crispy baked tofu.
  5. Toss the salad with dressing and serve immediately!

amazing tofu salad

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 379.5
Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 22.75 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams
Protein: 21.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

A Dream Getaway to Puerto Rico

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Puerto Rico, The All-Star Island for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Photo by Breezy Baldwin/Flickr.

Photo by Breezy Baldwin/Flickr.

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t traveled to the Caribbean in years. And with how crazy my last few weeks have been, a walk along the aqua blue waters, white sandy beaches and palm tree fringed coastlines of a place like Puerto Rico sounds like an absolute dream to me. With a surprising amount of vacation time piling up and some off-season discounts hitting my inbox, I think a dream vacation to this stunning US territory might come sooner than I think!

I was contacted by IZEA to write a quick little post about the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and I knew a few things would come from it. 1). I’d probably end up booking a trip to San Juan when I was finished. 2). My wanderlust would be in extreme overdrive and 3). I’d fall even more in love with the quirky culture, multi-colored buildings and bustling personality of this unique island. Without the need for my passport or an agonizingly long travel day (it’s just a quick 3 – 4 hour flight from my hometown of Washington DC) makes a trip even more appealing.

Photo via VXLA/Flickr.

Photo via VXLA/Flickr.

I’m barely halfway through my post and I’ve already pulled up Expedia and Kayak to find the best travel deals. With a vacation looming in the distance, I’ve decided to put together my dream itineary to have when I escape to the 270 mile coastlines of Puerto Rico.

Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter & Like SeePuertoRico.com on Facebook

I’ve done my fair share of research on this island for work, and even though I want to do everything there is to do, a gal with only a few days to spare has to be more picky with time. So after hours perusing the top travel sites for inspiration and even more time gazing at photos online, these must-haves made my list.

Photo via Cory Ryan Reigle/Flickr.

Photo via Cory Ryan Reigle/Flickr.

  1. A hike and climb through the USA’s only rainforest, El Yunque, including a dip in the forest’s many natural pools.
  2. A bike tour around the beautiful (and rather mysterious) Old City of San Juan.
  3.  A day tanning, swimming, snorkeling and diving at the renowned Flamenco Beach.
  4. A dip in the incredible Bioluminescent bays of Vieques. This has been on my bucket list for almost 15 years!
  5. Watching the sunset while sipping on an authentic Puerto Rican rum cocktail (like a pina colada or a Cuba libre).
  6. A few meals in the trendy SoFo distrcit of San Juan. My mouth is already watering at the thought of some Green Sofrito or a big plate of stick-to-your-guts rice and beans.
Via Jorge Gonzalez.

Via Jorge Gonzalez.

In addition to these exciting activities, I’m going to carve out plenty of time to enjoy the five-star accommodations around the island, from hotels to top-rated spas to incredible restaurants. To be honest, it’s taking everything in me to not just book my flight right now and pack my bags as soon as I get home. (Check back with me later today, I might just be on an airplane to San Juan!)

Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico.

Visit Sponsors Site

Spinach and Artichoke Dip French Bread Pizza

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I got a wonderful comment on this happy blog of mine today. Someone said “How can you have a healthy blog when you’re so fat?” It took almost everything in me not to write back a string of expletives and report that a-hole to the google police. But instead, I’m just going to shake it off, a-la Taylor Swift, and post about pizza today.

spin dip french bread pizza

I gots my priorities in check, y’all!

french bread pizza2

Back in the day, those kinds of comments would have probably broken me. I would have spent hours going over all of my personal photos on my site, wondering if I did really “look fat.” I would have spend days crafting a thoughtful, yet stern, response to this spam-bot internet troll and would have finally sent it a week later. The sad thing, even writing a response and judging myself in every photo didn’t bring me peace. I still found myself haunted by one disgusting person’s stupid subjective opinion.

Cheesy spinach pizza

Now, I just laugh and move on. It’s weird because I am bigger than I was 3 years ago. In fact, I’m at a weight I’m very, VERY unhappy with. Yet those ridiculous comments don’t bug me now as they did 20 pounds ago. Maybe because even though I’m heavy, I’m actually happy with who I am inside. I know that sounds cheesy and very “After School Special” but it’s true. I’m doing awesome things with my job, I’m fulfilled personally and professionally and, truthfully, I’m just so tired of letting a number on the scale or in my pants define me.

artichokes

That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around all plumply without making a change toward my health. In fact, I’m feeling more motivated than ever lately to shed these pounds and go back to a weight I look good at. And finally, for the first time in, well, ever, I’ll feel as good inside as I look outside.

pizzas3

Oh and expect an onslaught of “before and after” bikini bod pics when that happens. Just for that stupid, idiotic, troll face internet monster.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip French Bread Pizza

Creamy spinach pizza

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8. Adapted and Inspired by Rachael Ray.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 16 – 18 minutes
Total time: 28 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the low-calorie white pizza sauce:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup low-fat (1% – 2%) milk
  • 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

For the pizzas:

  • 1 whole wheat baguette, quartered (so you have 4 equal size pieces)
  • 2 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (9 ounce) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small chunks
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet or rimmed baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 – 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour until you get a thicker paste. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Let sauce simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the italian seasoning and cheese.
  3. Evenly spread the cheesy bechamel sauce over the four baguette quarters. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese evenly over the four quarters. Top with equal layers of spinach and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the tops of the artichoke hearts and top with the small chunks of fresh mozzarella.
  4. Add a dash of salt and cracked black pepper over the tops.
  5. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes or until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.

Nutritional information per 1/2 pizza: 

Calories: 230
Fat: 11.25 grams
Carbohydrates: 19.75 grams
Fiber: 2.75 grams
Protein: 12.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6

Creamy Coconut & Berry Margaritas

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I’ve never needed, or wanted, a margarita more in my life than I do right now. Work has been utterly crazy time. I’ve worked almost every single day this week (weekend included) and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing content about the US states, territories and cities.

strawberry coconut margs

However, that’s not the worst part of my work. My camera, also know as my LIFE, was knocked into the tidal basin on Saturday morning but an ignorant tourist. It all happened so fast and by the time I actually registered what happened, my camera was already halfway sunk into the murky waters of the Potomac. After desperate calls to the park police, many choice words said about the idiot group of tourists and an obscene amount of tears shed, I was told there was nothing that could be done.

  coconut milk berry margs

Yes, losing my camera SUCKS big time, but the worst part of the whole disaster was losing my SD card, which had hundreds of photos not  yet uploaded to my computer, including four amazing recipes I worked my ass off on a few weekends ago. Yes, I can remake them and re-shoot them, but it’s hard when I’m working all weekend for my full-time job.

Fresh berries for cocktails

It just stinks. That camera has followed me to 30 countries, to the top of Machu Picchu, through the desert plains of Kenya, on tall rugged mountains in the Philippines and all through the amazing landscape of New Zealand. It’s made thousands of flights, been shoved in hundreds of flight containers and even more car trips. And the way i finally lose it is 10 minutes from my house. I guess that happens though. Don’t most accidents occur a few miles from your house? As much as I miss it, I’m already in the process of buying a new one (which I needed anyway) so i’m trying to find the silver lining.

  creamy margaritas with coconut

In the meantime, here’s one of the last photos taken with my beloved. Let’s all take a few moments of silence for this fallen solider, okay?

Creamy Coconut & Berry Margaritas

marg2

Serves about 4 – 6.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup chilled coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup light cranberry raspberry juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • Zest and juice from one large orange
  • Dash of freshly cracked sea salt
  • Fresh berries as garnish
  • Sugar for the rim

Directions: 

  1. Scoop the coconut cream from the top of the can and place into a blender (you should get about 1/2 cup). Fill the rest of the blender with the chilled coconut milk (until you get about 1 cup total, including the cream).
  2. Add in the sugar, cranberry/raspberry juice, strawberries, raspberries, tequila, triple sec, zest and juice from the orange and a small dash of sea salt. Blend on high until mixture is thick and creamy.
  3. Chill slightly before serving. Pour into mason jars and garnish with fresh berries.

Nutritional information per margarita: 

Calories: 235
Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 20.6 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 1 gram
Weight Watchers Points: 4

Gluten-free Avocado Chocolate Cake

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Friday calls for luscious avocado chocolate cake.

Avocado chocolate cake

At least, after the week I had, it does. That and a giant bottle of red wine, but that’s besides the point.

Grain free chocolate avocado cake

Work has been utterly crazy lately. We’re launching 2 huge website updates that has me writing over 1,000 unique pieces of content before the end of the month. Well, maybe not 1,000 but a metric TON. My sleeping, eating and exercise schedule has been thrown for a loop and i’m basically a walking, very malnourished, zombie.

Creamy avocado cake

Luckily I love my job so it’s not too painful. I will say though, I’ll be stoked when these go live so I can actually have a day or two off without having to check my email or write about the unique food scene of Iowa.

rich decadent grain free cake

Thankfully it’s Friday and then the weekend. The funny story is I actually have to work tomorrow, but it’s not all bad. My work involves playing on the Tidal Basin watching the cherry blossoms bloom and having a delicious boozy brunch. I know, things could be worse. Sunday will be spent with my phone as far away from as humanely possible and far too much pizza, wine and binge-watching.

fudgy avocado cake

Since I still have a few hours left to go before my weekend of fun, I’m going to indulge in a big fat piece of this gluten-free avocado chocolate cake for breakfast. Before you judge me and bring up my low-carb diet, may I repeat that it’s completely grain and gluten-free? And the addition of avocado gives every piece a big, creamy kick of fiber and protein.

It may not be as healthy as, say, oatmeal, but it’s still low-carb and high-protein. And those are two components of a light and healthy breakfast!

Gluten-free Avocado Chocolate Cake

Best low carb chocolate cake

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8 – 10. Adapted and Inspired by Eat Good 4 Life.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 45 minutes
Total time: About an hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure clove honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons sugar
  • Fresh strawberries for garnish
  • Melted chocolate for additional garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 circle baking dish with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large Blentec blender, add the avocado, milk, eggs, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Pulse on high until smooth and creamy. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the coconut flour, almond meal, all-purpose flour, cocoa flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture is thick and creamy. If too thick, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of additional milk or water.
  4. Pour the mixture into a cake pan. Don’t worry if it seems thick, it’s supposed to be. Using a lightly floured spatula, smooth the top of the cake into the cake pan.
  5. Bake for about 35 – 42 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove (with the parchment paper) and place on a wire cooling rack. Let cool fully before adding topping (about 1 hour).
  6. While cake cools, preparing the topping. In a chilled mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and garnish with strawberries. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips or additional chocolate.

Nutritional information per serving (one slice):

Calories: 262.2
Fat: 14.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 29.5 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Protein: 7.7 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese

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I’m a glorified carbohydrate addict. If I had to pick just one dish to eat for the rest of my life, well, it’d be a pasta sandwich topped with mashed potatoes.

cauliflower mac

Not literally, but you catch my drift.

cheesy cauliflower

As much as I adore carbs, I don’t adore the spot they’ve taken up on my hips. Or in my thighs. And most certainly NOT in my stomach. In a perfect world, I’d eat all the carbs I could possibly muster and they would either have no calories or all of the excess sugar/fat would go right into my boobs.

creamy mac

But we don’t live in a perfect world and my favorite pasta mashed potato cinnamon roll sandwiches are going right to places I can’t have them going. This means, much to my own dismay, I’m forced to replace my favorite carbs with vegetables. This isn’t too terrible given my affinity for vegetables, but it’s harder than I thought.

mac n cheese with cauliflower

As hard as it is, I will say one thing – it’s giving me the chance to really play with flavors and find ways to make my favorite dishes taste amazing despite the lack of their main ingredient. Which is how this delicious cauliflower mac n’ cheese came to exist. In place of pasta, I opted for little heads of my favorite vegetable.

cauliflower

Not only does this amazing concoction taste like my favorite cheesy comfort food, it makes it completely gluten-free, extremely low-carb and even richer in fiber.

If this is what low-carb diets look like in real life, well shoot, I should have signed up months (re: years) ago.

Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese

creamy cauli mac

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8. Adapted from Vegetarian Times.
Prep time: 10 – 14 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: About 44 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large head cauliflower (at least 1 1/2 pounds) cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 egg yolks, whisked
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs*
  • Salt and pepper

*OPTIONAL. Omit if you’d prefer gluten-free.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard size baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for about 5 minutes, or until fork tender.
  3. In another saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until a thick paste forms. Gradually add in the milk, one cup at a time, or until mixture is thick (it should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and immediately whisk in cheese, nutritional yeast and egg yolks.
  4. Add the cauliflower and fold in until evenly coated. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and additional salt and pepper.
  6. Bake until cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  7. Serve with fresh greens, like parsley.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 361
Fat: 14.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 23.25 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Protein: 25.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Easy Cocktail Meatballs

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Today we’re going back in time, to a time period I think I could have rocked. Friends, we’re heading back to the 1960’s and 70’s in honor of the new Mad Men episodes premiering on Sunday, April 5th!

madmenparty

My friend Carrie had this idea and, given my obsession with this show, I quickly joined in. When it came to finding the perfect vintage recipe for this, it immediately knew what I was going to make; easy cocktail meatballs. For one, they’re easy – and given my complete lack of time lately, I’m all about that. Two, they’re delicious.

meatballs

I’ve made these like 15 times since originally putting the recipe together for a holiday party round up on SheKnows. I mean, I even made them for our Christmas Eve celebration at my grandma’s house. I decided to amp up these traditional meatballs by adding a zesty asian flair – sweet and sour sauce, sesame seeds and a dash of spice.

meatballs cilantro

Now, when I made these, I had Don Draper in my head. I feel like he’s a definite meat and potatoes type of guy and I’m pretty sure he’d happily eat an entire plate of these meatballs while sipping on a glass of his favorite scotch. I like to think that Don and I would be friends (ha – who am I kidding, we’d be lovers) if I was on the show. And I know he’s a bit of a sleeze, but I still love him anyway. It’s hard not to fall in love with that sexy man!

don-draper

The most amazing part of today’s post isn’t just the saucy balls – it’s the giveaway! We’re giving away a whole bunch of loot from ModCloth (my favorite vintage retailer), a beautiful mint glass and an awesome mixing bowl! Make sure you enter to win below!

Easy Cocktail Meatballs

Yields 20
Prep time: 12-14 minutes
Cook time: 12-15 minutes
Total time: 24-29 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Green onions

To get the directions and more information on these amazing meatballs, head to SheKnows!

Nutritional information per serving (2 – 3 balls):

Calories: 140
Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 4.2 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 14 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 3

Now, the giveaway!

MAD MEN BLOG PARTY GIVEAWAY

Now the giveaway!  To enter to win a $100 gift card to ModCloth, this vintage 4.5 qt mixing bowl, and this gorgeous martini glass follow the directions on the widget below! Plus, ModCloth is now offering $20 off every order of $100, which means you can get more fabulous frocks for less. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter for more chances to win on these other amazing blogs!

Cocktails

Appetizers

Desserts

Crock Pot Spicy Thai Curry Soup

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Want to know how many recipes I have just waiting in my queue? I’ll give you a hint, it reminds with smive. I’ve been utterly CRAZED with work lately and barely have enough time to eat better yet cook, style and photograph something. I will say I have a few weeks of calm before a crazy travel schedule, so I’m hoping my eating and blogging habits get more regular.

Creamy thai curry soup

In the interium, let’s talk soup. I know, it’s almost April, why would you want to talk about soup? Well, funny story – it still feels like winter where I live. Although we’re expecting highs of close to 65 this week, the mornings are still shrill and I can’t leave my house without a scarf, jacket and boots.

creamy coconut thai soup2

So soup is happening more regularly than I’d like it to in the beginning of spring, but I’m not complaining. Especially because most of my soups look like this creamy crock pot spicy thai curry. As you know, I spent a bit of time in Thailand last year and I’m still so incredibly inspired by the flavors of the country. The spices, the focus on fresh, seasonal produce and the creamy coconut sauces.

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I’m planning a return trip next year (for the lantern festival) and I’m already salivating at the thought.

Best spicy thai curry

Even though this soup is so incredibly delicious, the best part about it is it can be made in a crock pot/slow cooker. That means all you have to do is toss ingredients in, stir every now and then, and wait until the aroma fills your house and you’re transported to the fresh markets Southeast Asia.

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If we’re being honest, the smell alone was enough to inspire me to book another trip. Whoever said smells are one of the biggest triggers for nostalgia and memories was SPOT on. I should send them soup to thank them.

Crock Pot Spicy Thai Curry Soup

Spicy creamy thai curry

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8. Slight adapted and inspired by Foodie Crush.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: 5 hours
Total time: About 5 hours & 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thai red curry paste
  • 2 cans (14 ounces) light coconut milk (I used Goya)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure clove honey
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (boneless-skinless), sliced
  • 3 sweet peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Handful fresh cilantro
  • Chives for garnish
  • About 3 cups Thai jasmine rice

*For added heat, add a few teaspoons of sriracha or additional thai curry paste.

Directions: 

  1. Mix everything (until the cilantro) into the basin of a crock pot/slow cooker. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well so the sauce/base of the soup is evenly distributed.
  2. Cover and cook on low for about 4 1/2 – 5 hours, or until chicken is tender.
  3. Serve soup with jasmine rice, cilantro, chives and bean sprouts.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1/2 cup of rice and 1/2 cup soup):

Calories: 488
Fat: 13.65 grams
Carbohydrates: 31.25 grams
Protein: 57.61 grams
Fiber: 14.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

Chunky M&M Quinoa Dessert Dip

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Ready for another installment of recipes I’ve been hoarding for no good reason at all? Okay, fantastic. Because there’s just not any better day than a Friday to share this incredible chunky m&m quinoa dessert dip.

chunky quinoa chocolate dip

I’m fully aware that the name is less than desirable, but i can’t actually think of a better title for this recipe. It’s chunky (in a good way, not like the way my thighs look right now), full of m&ms and, shockingly enough, has quinoa!

chunky mm dip

I’ve been a huge fan of chunky desert dips for a while, but could never find a way to really make them healthy. Or you know, worthy of posting. Sure, i’ve made the cookie dough dips for work, but those aren’t exactly something I’d advise eating more than a spoonful of.

PB

While this stuff? You can have 1/4 cup without any guilt. You may go into a quick little sugar coma or pass out due to a peanut butter overload, but you could still do it. I paired this sweet, decadent little dip with my favorite Food Should Taste Good chocolate tortilla chips and it was DIVINE. The sweet, salty mix from the chips and the dip was truly phenomenal.

creamy chunky mm dip

However, the best thing about this snack is you can pair it with anything. Cookies, bread, cake, a spoon, your mouth, a straw. It’s up to you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you with how addictive it is, because you’ll definitely have trouble sticking to the serving size.

Chunky M&M Quinoa Dip

best ever quinoa chunky dip

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8-10.
Prep time: About 8 minutes
Chill time: About an hour
Total time: 1 hour and 8 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup candy coated chocolate

Directions: 

  1. In a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk beater, place the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter. Beat on high until mixture is thick and creamy.
  2. Stir in the powdered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, quinoa and whole wheat flour. Mix to combine.
  3. Remove from the stand mixer and stir in the chocolate chips and m&ms.
  4. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least an hour. Serve with chips and enjoy!

Nutritional information per serving (about 2 tablespoons):

Calories:  290
Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams
Fiber: 2.5 grams
Protein: 5.1 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Almond, pumpkin seed & peanut butter granola bars

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After St. Patrick’s Day, these quinoa and almond granola bars are exactly what we all need to be eating. To be honest, I didn’t really veer off diet much yesterday. No green beer was consumed, I only partook in one square of chocolate and we had a really healthy, low-fat salad for dinner.

Easy healthy granola bars

Does this mean I’m getting old? As I walked past a few Irish pubs on my way home from work yesterday, I was actually GLAD I wasn’t out. I was glad that in 20 minutes I would be in yoga pants with a big glass of wine snuggling with my dog (who I sadly dyed green 6 years ago for St. Pats).

10354556_972951672715012_378403982_n

I think that makes me old. But I’d much rather be old than sit in a crowded bar drinking green dyed Miller Lite while some guy who is 0.5% irish tries to pinch me because I’m not wearing green. Yes, that has happened and yes I promptly walked away from him. If that happened today, I most likely would have thrown that cheap beer in his face, but alas.

Quinoa granola bars

Now that I think about it, there aren’t really many holidays where I’d rather be stuffed in a bar with a bunch of strangers than at home with my loved ones. Maybe I am getting old, but I’m a firm believer in going to bed at 10, wearing yoga pants as much of the day as possible and drinking good craft beer. I’m a huge fan of long brunches, Snapped marathons, comfortable shoes and big cozy blankets.

Easy pumpkin seed and almond granola bars

And If that’s being old, well shoot, I don’t mind it one bit. Bring on the walkers, canes and early bird dinners, baby!

Almond, pumpkin seed & peanut butter granola bars

Granola bars with almond

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Yields about 14.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup chopped roasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used creamy Jif)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Add the oats and pumpkin seeds, spread evenly over the parchment paper. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted.
  2. Once toasted, remove from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the quinoa, flaxseeds, almonds and chia seeds.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the butter, peanut butter, syrup and honey together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Press the mixture into the foil. Place in the fridge and chill for about 2-3 hours. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Nutritional information per bar:

Calories: 192
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams
Fiber: 3.25 grams
Protein: 5.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

Chocolate Whiskey Bread Pudding

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Can we briefly talk about how much I fail at holidays? Most of my food blogging friends have been posting St. Patrick’s Day recipes since the end of February and here I am, the day before, with an St. Paddy’s themed dessert. Oops? However, I’m a firm believer in better late than never so I’m going to pretend like I’m not an epic failure and move on.

whiskey bread pudding

And what better thing to move on to than chocolate and whiskey? I must admit, I was never a huge fan of bread pudding as a kid because we didn’t really eat much of it. My mom made such a wide assortment of other delicious desserts that there was never really a need to branch into the puddings. However, I will say, the first bread pudding I ever had completely changed my perspective.

Whiskey bread pudding2

It was an eggnog rum and chocolate chip bread pudding that was serving during a holiday party. As a 17 year old, I wanted anything with any sort of alcohol in it so I completely devoured like 3 pieces. Of course, I didn’t realize that the alcohol actually bakes out of it and I was just eating 15,000 calories, but it was that bread pudding that converted me into a BP lover.

melted chocolate sauce

Sadly, my husband doesn’t share my love for it, but I will say he ate two pieces of this without batting an eyelash. Most likely because this pudding was covered in a chocolate whisky sauce, but it’s still a win. I think the best way to get him to eat things he normally doesn’t like is to slather it in chocolate and whiskey.

Now there’s an idea!

Chocolate Whiskey Bread Pudding

  pudding5

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 10 -12. Slightly adapted from My Recipes.
Prep time: 30+ minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 7 cups chopped whole wheat french bread, slightly stale
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup light cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey/maple flavored whiskey (I used Jim Beam)
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh whipped cream for garnish
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with tongs. Remove from heat and pour into a grease 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Bring the milk, light cream and whiskey to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in chocolate chips. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, the brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Continue to whisk until thick and smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture over the bread, tossing the cubes so they are all evenly coated. Cover with foil and let sit for about 30 minutes. Add a few pokes into the foil to allow steaming.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Let sit until slightly cooled.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the remaining chocolate chips and oil in a microwave safe bowl for about 60 seconds, stopping to stir at 30 seconds.
  6. Serve the bread pudding with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 400
Fat: 15
Carbohydrates:  48
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Protein: 11 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

Maple Cutting Board Giveaway

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You know what I haven’t done in a long time? A giveaway. Which is both sad and depressing since giving away free things to the people I adore is what makes me happy. This reason is precisely way I’m hosting the world’s best giveaway today!

unnamed

My awesome friends at McClure Tables are so graciously offering to give one of my very lucky readers their own handcrafted maple cutting board! Started by  Todd and Judy McClure as a gaming and shuffleboard company, they’ve since branched into amazing cutting boards (like this one that you can win!), beautiful butcher blocks, island tables and more. I’ve spent many an hour oogling the gorgeous products on their site.

boards

Be sure to check out their other products when you get a chance! Now, to enter to win your own maple cutting board, fill out the prompts below. The giveaway ends on March 21st and midnight!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLAIMER: McClure Tables graciously provided me with a butcher block for review and are sponsoring this giveaway. As always, opinions are 100% my own.

Layered Brussel Sprout & Turkey Mac n Cheese

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Today brings you another recipe found in the depths of my Iphoto. Guys, this layered brussel sprout & turkey mac n cheese was made this in the fall. Like, last fall. In 2014. And I TOTALY FORGOT TO SHARE IT.

Super cheesy turkey mac n cheese

Can I blame something other than my pure stupidity? Crazy travel schedule? Out of town guests? New job? Okay, great. I’d much rather do that than admit I made an amazing comfort food classic that I  just totally spaced on sharing.

Cheesy sprout mac n cheese

However, my mentality is very “better late than never” and with the 8 inches of snow we got yesterday, this dish is still perfectly & very seasonally appropriate. Honestly, I don’t mind the snow. I got a work from home snowday yesterday and it’s really beautiful to look at. I’m sure I’m in the minority here with the rest of DC-MD-VA, but I definitely don’t mind the beautiful, fluffy white stuff. BUT, that doesn’t mean, mother nature, that you can snow anymore this season. I like you now, but I can promise I will not like you if you try to pull this winter stuff in April or something. Crazier things have happened, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for temperatures below 60 degrees in springtime. If I wanted snow in April, I’d much back to northern Indiana. 

Cheesy sprout and turkey mac

Now, I should probably get to sharing this recipe since I held off so long on it, right? The main star of the show are the brussel sprouts, obviously, which came in my Farmbox Direct delivery.

Farmbox direct

If you guys haven’t heard of it, check out Farmbox Direct asap! You get a box of organic, fresh, seasonal veggies delivered right to your door! I love grocery shopping, but you can’t always get some of the best produce where I live. Which is why Farmbox is a dream come true. They provided me with a box to play with in the fall and I was so hooked, I’ve been getting them ever since! Plus, when you get brussel sprouts to your door every few weeks, that’s more of a reason to indulge in this mac n’ cheese more frequently. Huzzah!

Brussel Sprout & Turkey Mac n’ Cheese

Amazing cabot mac n cheese

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves 6 – 8. Adapted from Betty Crocker.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: About 45 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles

For the roasted sprouts:

  • 4 cups brussel sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin)
  • Salt and pepper

For the turkey layer:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat (1%) milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 3/4 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Cabot extra sharp white cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove stems from brussel sprouts. In a large baking dish, toss the sprouts with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast, whole, for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until slightly crispy and browned. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. While still warm, chop into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt and the pasta. Cook until al-dente, about 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  4. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, crumbling with a spatula, until golden brown, at least 7 – 8 minutes. Remove from heat and place in another bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the meat juices and add the shallot and garlic cloves. Heat until just fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove and mix with beef.
  5. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once fully melted, whisk in the flour. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the milk and light cream. Continue stirring until mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and immediately stir in mozzarella and white cheddar (it’ll melt quickly). Mix in the pasta noodles and evenly coat with cheese sauce.
  6. Spoon about 1/3 of the macaroni noodles into the bottom of the casserole dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the chopped brussel sprouts and half of the ground turkey mixture. Layer with another 1/3 cup of macaroni mixture, another 1/3 of brussel sprouts and remaining turkey. Top turkey with the rest of the macaroni, the rest of the brussel sprouts, the breadcrumbs and the parmesan.
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes, uncovered, or until golden and cheesy.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 406
Fat: 13.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Protein: 27.75
Weight Watchers Points: 9

Sesame, Soy & Honey Glazed Chicken Wings

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Remember my last post where I talked about how I watched the movie Chef and instantly felt inspired to cook? Well, these incredible sesame, soy & honey glazed chicken wings also came from that giant bout of inspiration. In fact, I made 4 recipes that day in the span of just 3 hours.

soy glazed chicken wings

It was pure magic, my friends. Sadly such bouts of productivity have since disappeared, but I’m hoping for another big day so I can get back on track with my blog, my job and all of my freelance obligations.

Soy cilantro chicken wings

There just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything I need done. Actually, scratch that, there isn’t enough DAYLIGHT in the day for me to get everything done. If I could just get home from work and have amazing light until 11pm, that would be awesome. Sadly, enough in the middle of summer we only have light until 7.

sticky soy glazed wings

I think in order to get my life in order, I should just move to Iceland. During the summer, they have daylight until 2 – 3 am. It’s utterly insane yet completely amazing. I remember walking to dinner at 8pm and it was sunnier than it was at 3pm.

Amazing soy glazed chicken wings

I think I could probably change the world if I had that much daylight. Until then, I’ll dream of my new life in Reykjavik while still trapped in Washington, DC.

Sesame & Soy Glazed Chicken Wings

Incredible soy glazed chicken wings

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 5 – 6. Adapted and inspired by Six Sisters Stuff and Damn Delicious.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 3 pounds frozen chicken wings
  • 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sweet ginger garlic spice mix (I used this brand)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 chives, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Grease the basin of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Toss the wings into the crock pot.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, sriracha, sweet garlic spice mix and one chopped green onion. Pour 3/4 of the sauce over the wings.
  4. Whisk the corn starch with 1/2 tablespoon water. Mix with remaining sauce to thicken.
  5. Cook on low for about 4 – 5 hours, or until the wings are fork tender.
  6. Once done, remove from crock pot and place in a bowl. Top with remaining sauce, chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Nutritional information per serving (about 4 wings):

Calories: 513
Fat: 26 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams
Fiber: 1.2 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 13

Creamy Sausage Pesto Pasta

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I’m not even going to apologize for my absence. Or go into this long diatribe about why I was gone. I was in New Zealand on the trip of a freakin’ lifetime and couldn’t tear myself away from the incredible views and epic adventures that were bestowed upon me every single day. For a snippet of my adventures, here’s my Instagram handle!

Pesto pasta

But I’ll be honest, I missed you guys A TON. Even though it may seem like I let this blog get dusty in the attic without much thought while I’m away, I actually think about it every single day. As fun as my life can be, I miss my daily posts. I miss cooking, to be frank. I miss editing photos and staging dishes like this creamy sausage pesto pasta.

pasta ingredients

I can’t promise a two week hiatus won’t happen again, so I won’t try to. Instead, i’ll just jump into this dish that completely blew my mind. Actually, the creation of it came the day I returned from a week-long work trip to Miami.

Sausage Pesto Pasta

My husband was gone at a Super Bowl event and I was home alone. Since I already missed the eclectic and vibrant city scene of Miami, I decided to watch Chef. (PS: If you haven’t seen it, watch it now). While most are inspired by the cubanos in that movie, I was inspired by the pasta dish he made at the very beginning for Scarlett Johansson’s character.

sausage pasta 5

When he was making it, he had this incredible passion in his eyes. And the moment she took her first bite and had this look of, well, ecstasy was inspiration enough for me to make my own version of it.

fresh ingredients

Not only is this one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had, I also haven’t had that much fun in the kitchen in a long time. I was dancing, singing and smiling. For some people, that comes daily. For me? I sort of lost it. But it’s finally coming back!

Creamy Sausage Pesto Pasta

  creamy pesto pasta

Serves about 6.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 – 20 minutes
Total time: About 35 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, if possible)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dashes of salt and pepper

For the sausage/vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 orange sweet peppers (the smaller peppers), chopped
  • 1 red sweet pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups crumbled turkey sausage (I love these Jimmy Dean crumbles)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound linguine or fettuccine pasta
  • Fresh basil as garnish

Directions: 

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Add the noodles and cook, on medium high heat, until al-dente, about 7 – 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. To make the pesto, add everything into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Reserve 3/4 cup for this recipe and save the rest for later.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and heat until slightly translucent, about 2- 4 minutes. Mix in the chopped peppers and cook until softened, another 3 minutes. Mix in the sausage and cook, over medium heat, until golden brown. Mix in the pesto, pasta and cherry tomatoes.
  4. Heat another 2 – 3 minutes until everything is heated through. Serve with a dusting of fresh parmesan and basil leaves.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1/2 cup):

Calories: 560.5
Fat: 22.6 grams
Carbohydrates: 60 grams
Fiber: 7.1 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 

Surf N’ Turf (Steak with Shrimp)

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If you want to win me over for life, serve me surf n’ turn. There’s nothing I love more than a big juicy steak topped with shrimp. Well, maybe that and a big glass of Côtes du Rhône wine. And maybe a slice of cake.

Surf N' Turf

I mean if I’m being completely honest, the way to my heart is through food that will probably stop it.

Surf N Turf2

Which is completely hilarious and oh so ironic since my blog is technically supposed to be only healthy, good for you foods. But, as I’ve been saying for the past 2 years, I’m going through a slight crisis, er, rebrand, and I’m going to focus less on only healthy dishes and more food that I love to eat.

Which will be primarily healthy, low fat, low carb and high in fiber, but it’ll also include dishes like this that aren’t something you could eat everyday. Unless you’re a 1950’s mobster or on the Atkins diet. In that case, eat up my friends.

Surf N Turf Valentines Day

I’m still playing with new branding ideas and coming up with new website designs, so you probably won’t see a fresh new “me” until later this year. But in the meantime, you can expect to see more meals like this one grazing this little blog.

And is there really any better time to share an easy DIY surf n’ turf than the week of Valentine’s Day? Thanks to the amazing folks at Certified Angus Beef Brand for providing me with a box of amazing steak in all sorts of cuts, like rib-eye, flank and, my favorite, filet mignon. If your husband, wife or partner is a carnivore like myself, this is the meal to make them and these are the steaks to use.

steak8

Not only that, this is the perfect meal to make yourself if you find yourself alone on VDAY because you won’t have to share and can drink the entire bottle of wine yourself.  Plus, nothing cures a broken heart like a big ol’ steak. At least that’s what helps me.

Surf N’ Turf (Steak with Shrimp)

Steak and Shrimp

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves 2.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the steak:

  • 2 (5 -6 ounce) filet mignons
  • Liberal dashes salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter*

For the shrimp:

  • 1/2 pound shrimp, deveined
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley
  • Fresh parmesan

*For more flavor, use a compound butter. Here’s an easy recipe for one on SheKnows.

Directions:

  1. For the steak. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Increase the heat to hight. (You want the pan very hot. Turn on the vent in your house to avoid smoke).
  2. Rub the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Then rub the butter all over the steaks and add additional salt and pepper.
  3. Add to the pan and sear on both sides until browned, about 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the entire pan from the skillet and then place in the oven. Bake for an additional 6 – 7 minutes for medium rare. Let rest about 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the steak is baking, prepare the shrimp. Coat the shrimp liberally with seasoning.
  6. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, or about 3 – 5 minutes.
  7. Top the steaks with additional compound butter and shrimp. Serve with a dash of fresh parmesan and herbs.

Nutritional information per serving (steak with 5 – 7 shrimps):

Calories: 700
Fat: 36 grams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram
Fiber: 0 grams
Protein: 60 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 15

Fudgy Double Chocolate Brownies

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Double chocolate brownies

Valentine’s Day is less than 2 weeks away! For me, this means one thing: chocolate. Well, I guess love and that sh*& too, but in the sake of being honest, I’m mostly looking forward to the chocolate.

fudgy brownies

Dessert isn’t something I eat frequently, primarily because I’m always on a diet. In fact, I tried to think of the last time I wasn’t on a diet and the date 1998 rang a bell. Which makes sense because that’s the year I turned 13. I’ve been on a perpetual diet since then.

Best brownies ever

However, I will also say I use the word diet very laxly. Like, my diets sometimes include bottles of wine for dinner, frosted donuts for lunch and two slices of cold pizza for breakfast. My diets also often include cheese, carbs, cheese, salt and more cheese.  This could also be why my 13 year diet hasn’t prove all that fruitfull. I will say that in that time period I have lost (and subsequently gained) 30 pounds.

brownies8

And even on past Valentine’s Days where I was sitting pretty 30 pounds lighter, I was so worried about everything I ate. I was so anxious about every little calories. And now, weighing much more than I’d prefer, I will say my relationship with food has never been healthier. I indulge when I want and celebrate every morsel. That’s why I don’t feel bad about eating (or posting) these rich and fudgy brownies. Sure they’re not healthy, but Valentine’s Day isn’t about healthy. It’s about being with the ones you love, and if the one you love is made with butter, cocoa powder and slathered in chocolate frosting, who am I to say you can’t enjoy every second (or taste) of it?

Fudgy Double Chocolate Brownies

chocolate dessert

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 24.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 baking sheet with parchment paper and then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar, vanilla, butter and unsweetened applesauce together until smooth and creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flours, cocoa powder and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully combined. Using a spoon, carefully fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared dish. Bake for about 38 – 42 minutes, or until browned and crackly on top.
  5. Let cool completely then remove from the pan.
  6. To make the frosting, beat the butter, cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla in another mixing bowl. Spread the frosting over the top of the brownies and garnish with additional chocolate chips.

Nutritional information per brownie:

Calories: 350
Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 50 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 3.8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

Garlic and Butter Mussels over Butternut Squash Bisque

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One thing I loved about my job as a freelancer was that I constantly challenged myself in the kitchen. Because the site I wrote for relied heavily on social media networks like Pinterest for traffic, we were constantly having to come up with extremely unique and innovative recipes. Now that I’ve quit the world of freelancing and am just cooking for pleasure, food and my blog, I’ve sort of hit a creative wall block when it comes to inspiring ideas.

Mussels

Instead of scouring cookbooks, Pinterest, Food Gawker and G+ for ideas, I find myself reverting back to classics that don’t need a laundry list of ingredients or a whole lot of time. That might make me sound lazy, but when you’re working close to 50 hours a week for a very exhausting, creative job, a classic is all you can handle.

butternut-squash-500x333

That or frozen pizza, which is what I ate yesterday, shamefully.

mussles with bisque

However, I will say I’m trying a lot harder to inspire myself to step outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen. As part of my goals, resolutions or inspirations, I’m trying to make blogging something I do for the love of it and something I do far more regularly than I used to. I’m happy it’s not something I rely on for a source of income, but I also want it to be something I’m proud of again, something that reflects who I am as a person, a cook and a foodie.

Mussels with soup

This recipe for garlic glams with butternut squash bisque isn’t new, in fact, I made it months ago for my Gluten-Free cookbook. Sadly it never made the cut (we already had too many mussel recipes) and I completely forget it existed. Can you believe that?This soup is the creamiest, smoothest and most amazing bisque I’ve ever had. Paired with buttery and garlic mussels, it’s like a dream team when it comes to flavor. In fact, I’m going to remake it this week for a fun little date night in. Too bad my husband doesn’t like seafood, more for me, I suppose!

Garlic and Butter Mussels over Butternut Squash Bisque

soups3

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4. Soup adapted from All Recipes.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the mussels:

  • 3 pounds fresh mussels
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Fresh sea salt

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped orange carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow carrots
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • Cracked black pepper and salt

Directions: 

  1. To make the soup, heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic and onions. Stirring constantly, heat the vegetables until soft and fragrant, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add in the carrots and squash. Heat another 3 – 5 minutes, or until they just start to soften.
  2. Pour the chicken broth, salt and pepper over the vegetables. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes, or vegetables are extremely tender. Remove from heat and pour into blender in batches until smooth and creamy. Whisk in heavy cream.
  3. To make the mussels, rinse them under cold water and scrub lightly to remove dirt and excess film from outside of the shells. Remove the mussel beards (or those loose hairs on the shells) and discard.
  4. In a large dutch oven or pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat. Add the green onions, garlic and leeks. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft.
  5. Add the mussels and toss with some tongs. Add in the white wine and the broth. Cover and let steam for about 10 minutes, or until the mussels start to open up. *While the mussels are steaming, it’s important to stir them around so the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom and the mussels are on contact with the heat.
  6. To serve, ladle the soup into four large bowls. Top with a hefty spoonful of mussels and drizzle with remaining melted butter (from the mussels. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Nutritional information per serving: 

Calories: 276.5
Fat: 22.2 grams
Carbohydrates: 26.25 grams
Fiber: 2.8 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11

Banana Nut Zucchini Muffins

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I don’t typically say recipes are “the best” because I think it’s a little narcissistic to say so. I mean, who I am to judge a recipe as best? I’m no Ina Garten or Amanda Hesser. With that being said, though, I will say this, these are the best muffins I’ve ever had.

fluffy muffins

I know, totally contradictory. But I don’t have any other words to define these incredibly fluffy, moist and amazingly flavorful muffins. The mix of banana nut with fresh zucchini makes for an unbeatably healthy and delicious breakfast.

fluffy banana nut muffins

If you want to know how good these are, I’ve made them three times since perfecting the recipe last weekend. Some may call that obsessive, ridiculous or crazy, but once you’ve had a bite of these, you’ll get it.

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I have to also admit that my binge-muffin making comes off the tail of quite a few recipe fails in the baking department. In the past 2 weeks alone, I’ve had more fails that successes so having a muffin actually turn out is pretty amazing. I don’t know why nothing i make with yeast is doing what it’s supposed to, but I’m not going to harp on that. Instead I’m going to take my wins and celebrate them, how every small they may be.

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However, I will say, these fails keep me humble and they keep me challenged. I mean, how would you ever learn anything about baking if recipes worked out every single time?

Zucchini Banana Muffins

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make these for the 15th time because they are just. that. good.

Banana Nut Zucchini Muffins

Healthy banana zucchini muffins

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 16. Adapted from Taste of Home.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 22 – 28 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line one large muffin pan or two smaller ones with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder together. Make a well in the center.
  3. In another bowl, beat the sugar, honey, egg, bananas, oil, applesauce and vanilla extract together until smooth. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir, by hand, until fully incorporated.
  4. Carefully mix in the zucchini and chopped almonds.
  5. Fill each muffin liner 3/4 the way full with batter.
  6. Bake for about 18 – 22 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Nutritional information per muffin: 

Calories: 169
Fat: 5.6 grams
Carbohydrates: 27 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 2.6 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4

Simple Homemade Lasagna

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Today we’re going back to the basics with a simple homemade lasagna recipe. As much as I love the funky recipes like these melon and tofu spring rolls or this beef stew and french onion soup hybrid, I also love classics. When it really comes down to it, the food I most crave are the comfort food classics I grew up eating.

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Like lasagna. I’m such an addict when it comes to Italian food though. I could eat pasta with some sort of sauce, olive oil, crispy italian bread and proscuitto every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it. I’ve been all over the world and some of the most memorable meals I can remember come from my trip to Italy with my family in 2010.

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That trip was so special for a multitude of reasons, but it really changed the way I think of food and eating all together. I saw how much the Italians savored every bite, how meal time was a time to catch up with friends and family. Food wasn’t just something to eat to pass the time to get your nutrients, it was romantic and sensual. I came home with an entire new appreciation for eating, serving and cooking.

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I like to say I held onto that feeling, but when I was busting out recipe after recipe for the past 3 years of my life, I kind of lost it. I turned from cooking with love to cooking for money and income. Even though I’ve been out of that world for 3 months now, it’s still taking me time to find that happiness I once had in the kitchen.

meat lasagna

I will say, though, it’s coming back in spurts and certain foods really ignite that Italian mentality when I’m cooking, like this simple homemade lasagna. It’s not a complicated dish or an expensive one, but it’s one that just brings back so many amazing memories of growing up with my mom in the kitchen. It’s one that you can’t just shovel down in front of the tv. Every bite should be savored and tasted.

I realize how crazy, corny and “Eat Pray Love” that sounds, but it’s true. This was the first meal in a long time that my husband and I just ate, together, with a bottle of wine and no background noise. And if a dish can turn us away from our TV rut, it deserves at least a blog post, don’t you think?

Simple Homemade Lasagna

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 12. Inspired by All Recipes.
Prep time: About 45 minutes – 1 hour
Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 92/8)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots **
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 4 1/2 cups homemade marinara sauce (I used this recipe) *
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Dash of sugar
  • Dash of salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (16 ounce jar) (or precisely one pound of low-fat ricotta)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature (I used brown ones)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mozzarella cheese

*Sub in store bought if you don’t have time to make it from scratch.

** Use onions if you’d prefer.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a dash of salt. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until al-dente, about 8 – 10 minutes. Place in a colander and rinse in cold water, set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the ground beef to a large skillet and cook, over medium-high heat, until golden brown. Drain excess fat (reserving one tablespoon) and place in a large bowl. In the same skillet with the fat, add the shallots, garlic cloves and chopped mushrooms. Cook on medium low until fully caramelized and vegetables are softened. Return the beef to the skillet and pour in the sauce, chopped fresh herbs (parsley and basil), dried seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper and dash of sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until thickened.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, eggs and parmesan cheese. Stir until thick and mixed.
  5. To layer the lasagna, scoop about 1/2 cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread with a spatula. Top with 3 – 4 lasagna noodles. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese mixture, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of sauce and another 3 – 4 noodles. Repeat until the cheese and noodles have been used. Top remaining noodles with sauce.
  6. Cover the remaining sauce with slices of fresh mozzarella and a dash of pepper.
  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly.
  8. Serve immediately with a dash of fresh parsley.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 490
Fat: 16.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 40 grams
Fiber: 5.5 grams
Protein: 25 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 10

Red Wine Braised Pork Chops with Mushrooms

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These red wine braised pork chops with mushrooms is an easy, low calorie and a fun dinner option that adds some variety to your weeknight dinners. No more boring chicken breasts!

Red wine pork chops

It’s January 14th and I’ve still yet to put together a list of goals, or resolutions, or promises for the year. For many people, the idea of resolutions is stupid because as humans, we’re bound to screw up. And as humans, one screw up can completely derail us form our healthy motives to begin with. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. That’s why, as much as I love setting up goals in a new year, I’m always hesitate because i know i’m going to screw it up.

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However, that’s also why i’m not necessarily working on “goals” or “resolutions” this year, and instead more of a promise. Instead of telling myself that I have to lose 20 pounds, I’m going to promise myself that I’m going to find happiness in my body and focus more on health versus weight.

Red Wine Pork Chops2

But i’m still jotting down ideas. I’m hoping to have that published sometime this week, but knowing the way my life is going at the moment, it might not come out until March.

I will tease though, one of them includes a more healthy work/life balance. After joining my new job in November, I’ve been in a mad dash. The world I’m in now is so vastly different than the world I was in for 3 years, so even after 3 months, I’m still struggling to keep up. But I need to find a way to accomplish all of my work while still having time to blog, cook and work out. The last thing I want to see happen is this blog fall apart because I’m unable to balance.

red wine

I can’t say it’ll be perfect and I’ll blog everyday, but I can say I’ll try. And I think that’s just as important.

Red Wine Braised Pork Chop with Mushrooms

inside pork chop

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves 4. Adapted from First Home Love Life.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 15 minutes
Total time: 25 – 30 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless pork chops (I used Omaha Steaks!)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 – 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 sage leaf, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 ounces chopped shiitake or oyster mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large an over medium high heat.
  2. Mix the flour, rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic salt and pepper together in a shallow mixing bowl.
  3. Liberally dredge the pork chops in the flour mixture, making sure to evenly coat all the sides.
  4. Add pork chops to the hot oil. Cook until browned on all sides, about 4 – 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add in the mushrooms, onions and garlic cloves. Toss them into the pan with the pork so they’re evenly touching the pan.
  5. Add in red wine and chicken broth. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
  6. To serve, garnish each pork chop with an assortment of onions and mushrooms, and top with fresh parsley.

Nutritional information per serving (1 pork chop):

Calories: 381.75
Fat: 16.4 grams
Carbohydrates: 14.25 grams
Fiber: 2.5 grams
Protein: 32.25 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 9

Whole Wheat Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

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Since Wednesday’s topic was a little heavy, we’re going to take it light today to celebrate Friday! I do, though, have to say thank you to everyone who read, commented and emailed me about my anxiety post. As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy sharing, but I’m so at peace knowing my post help others bring their struggles to the limelight.

berry coffee cake

But enough about anxiety, let’s talk about something that’ll never make you feel worried, sad or nervous; COFFEE CAKE! But not just any kind of coffee cake, one made with tart, plump raspberries, cream cheese filling and tons of buttery crumbles.

Whole wheat coffee cake

I know everyone and their mom is on some sort of “diet” for New Years, and I can completely understand that. I too am trying to cut back on calorie consumption so I can get dressed in the mornings without having a Julie Powell meltdown. However, I also just love food and it’s hard for me to replace my morning breakfast with a smoothie that tastes like a salad.

As much as I like salad, I don’t love it for breakfast.

Cream cheese coffee cake

That’s where this fluffy, sweet, tart, tangy and delicious coffee cake comes from. The beautiful berries give it a pop of color (and myriad of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), and the whole wheat flour makes it a bit healthier than the kinds made with all purpose.

  Whole Wheat Cream Cheese Cake

And since each piece has less than 6 grams of fat, you can feel content and guilt-free enjoying it for breakfast. Because really, that’s my goal in life. To eat cake for breakfast and not immediately feel bad about it. And if I can share that with my closest friends, that’s just the icing on the breakfast cake.

Whole Wheat Raspberry & Strawberry Cream  Coffee Cake

Moist and fluffy raspberry c offee cake

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 16.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 45 minutes
Total time: 50 – 55 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the cake:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup plain, 2% Greek yogurt (not nonfat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 large egg, room temperature

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard size 8 x 8 glass or nonstick baking dish with parchment paper and dust lightly with flour. Set aside.
  2. Place the raspberries in a bowl and gently smash with the back of a spoon to create a bit of a paste.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flours and sugar together. Add in the applesauce and stir to combine. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles wet sand. Save 3/4 cup for the top.
  4. To the rest of the mixture, mix in the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, Greek yogurt and vanilla extract, stir well to combine.
  5. In another bowl, beat the sugar, cream cheese and egg together until combined and smooth (no lumps).
  6. Pour the  cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Carefully pour the cream cheese over the batter and then top the cream cheese with the smashed raspberries. To evenly distribute, carefully swirl the raspberries over the cream cheese topping.
  7. Top the raspberry filling with the remaining crumb mixture.
  8. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove and serve.

Nutritional information per slice:

Calories: 179.5
Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 27.7 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Protein: 5.6 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

My Life With Anxiety

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I wish I could just sit here and share a new recipe with you. I wish I could talk about low fat coffee cake, crunchy apple bars and gooey caramel. But I can’t today. I have to talk about me and something I haven’t been 100% honest with you guys about.

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(Image via Pinterest)

I’m not dying. I’m not getting a divorce. I’m not pregnant nor was I. As the title precludes, today we’re going to talk about something deeply personal and hard. For the past year, I’ve been facing some really hard mental demons of my own. Instead of hiding from my diagnosis anymore I’m going to sit down and talk about it frankly with you guys. I’ve been living with severe anxiety for the past year and a half, and I think I’m ready to talk about it.

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People have so many misconceptions about anxiety. For one, everyone thinks they have it. My neighbor, my family members, every friend I confide in. They all believe they’re suffering from the same anxiety I face. And while I agree that everyone does face anxiety once or twice in their life, that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface at the amounts I face daily, hourly, every minute. So many people laugh when I tell them about it, saying “oh I have that too” or “exercise totally helps me” or “oh stop, everything’s fine.” My favorite though is “oh I’m sort of anxious about this and that, can I have a few of your xanaxs?”

Yes, people actually ask that. And people constantly belittle my disease saying it’s something I can just get over. Don’t you think I’d just get over it if I could? Don’t you think I would trade ANYTHING to not get physically sick when panic attacks hit or I break into a hysteria that leaves me broken? If I could just “get over it” I would have a long time ago.

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I’m not here though to bad mouth people who say those things, instead, I’m going to enlighten them and hopefully open the doors for people who are going through the same thing. See mental illness, despite it being 2015, is still something that carries a bit of a stigma. Anytime a major celebrity dies from depression or suicide, this conversation comes up again and again. “Why can’t they just seek help? Why didn’t anyone try to help them?” And there are even people who don’t think depression, anxiety or any mental ailment is a real struggle, they think it’s something a few pills and some therapy can help. Well, that works for some and it doesn’t for others. No wonder so many people hide their problems and deal with their struggles behind closed doors, so many people are so quick to judge them for having these kinds of problems. In a world where we broadcast our lives on social media and are constantly trying to portray our lives as perfect, it’s hard to sit there and go “I’m not perfect, and here’s why.”

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Trust me, writing this post isn’t easy for me. I struggle with so many inner demons, one of them being jealousy and inadequacy. I’m terrified of admitting that things aren’t shiny and glamorous, especially when it seems all of my friends and colleagues lead these post-card perfect lives. But I’m going to because I know I’m not the only person hiding behind the curtains, staring over at the neighbors greener lawn.

I’ve been struggling with some form of anxiety my entire life. As a kid, I was also a big worrier. My parents never saw that as a point of concern, they just noticed that I seemed to worry about everything, things 8 year olds shouldn’t worry about, like bills and college funds. As I grew up, some of that worrying faded and soon I was faced with the normal anxieties of a teenager. In college my anxiety deepened. It started to manifest itself inside of me and it scared me. Instead of talking to a therapist or confiding in my friends, I drank. I drank nonstop so I could stop feeling this constantly pull inside me that was weighing me down. Untreated anxiety can turn into many things, and my first two years of college it turned into depression. A depression I self medicated, which made things worse. A depression that finally forced me to open my eyes about my problems and find a solution.

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When I transferred schools, most of my depression went away, because I started talking to my family about it. Minus one very traumatic event my junior year, my anxiety had mostly dissipated. I still had it, well after graduation, our move to DC, my first job and break into freelancing. But it was manageable. The moment it became unmanageable was the day after the fire.

The fire left me completely broken. It changed everything about my life. I couldn’t leave my apartment without having a panic attack. I couldn’t walk down the street without having a fear that I’d come home to a burnt down house. Anytime I heard a fire truck, I literally had to take deep breaths to prevent myself from breaking down in public. Every single day was a personal nightmare for me, wondering what horrible thing could happen next.

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I wish I could sit here and say that moving to a safe new place and having a great year made all of my anxiety go away. I wish I could. But I can’t. My anxiety today is as severe as it was the day after the fire. I wake up every morning with a nervous pit in my stomach. From the moment I’m awake, my mind starts processing negative thoughts. I have frequent panic attacks where I feel like I can’t breathe or control myself. When I’m traveling, my thoughts are “my plane is going to crash” or “i’m going to get mugged.” People without anxiety can combat these thoughts easily by deducting odds and understanding chances. I can’t do that. My mind functions in a black and white way. It’s either this or that. I’ll either die in a fiery plane crash or I won’t. I’m constantly thinking of worst case scenarios.

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There was a moment last year where my anxiety completely took over while on a trip for work and I was so worked up, I couldn’t sleep, despite an early flight the next morning. I was so panicked, not even a call with my husband could calm me down and I ended up keeping him up most of the night as well.

That was a breaking point for me, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore and neither could my husband. As soon as I got home, I talked with my primary care doctor about medicines that could help me deal with my anxiety. She prescribed me two kinds of medicine, one for daily anxiety and one for extreme situations. And I’m happy to report that after 8 months of taking the daily pill, I feel like I finally have some of my daily anxiety managed. But it’s not gone. I’m not someone who wants to spend their life mediciated, so I’ve recently started talking with a therapist. It’s scary at first, but incredible once you completely open yourself up to them. I was reserved, but now I look forward to our meetings every week. She doesn’t judge me or make me feel like I’m crazy for the thoughts. Instead she and I find ways I can handle it without the need for panic attacks or higher dosage medication.

I know my anxiety will never go away and that’s something I just have to find a way to live with. But I do know that I can finally manage it in a way that doesn’t leave me dependent on medicine. It’s been a very hard road and very windy one, but I’m here and I’m so grateful to have the support of the people around me. And I’m grateful to you guys for listening and letting me post this. To anyone who is facing crippling anxiety or any mental illness, don’t be scared anymore. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be a slave to your demons, conquer them.

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If I can, you can. And that’s a promise.

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