Banana, Peanut Butter & Oat Protein Bars

oatbars3Wholesome, nutritious and easily adaptable using your favorite mix-ins. These bars may possibly become my new favorite midday pick-me-up!

Other possible names for these bars:

  • That ‘three o’clock feeling’ Bar – paired with a decaf vanilla latte, ohhh yes
  • Breakfast on-the-go Bar – except it truly makes me sad when breakfast has to be on the run. Driving, or let alone walking, while shoveling protein pancakes in my mouth could be a safety hazard…..
  • Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars – because really, do any other ingredients matter when chocolate + PB is in the mix??

They’re chewy, nutty and subtly sweet. Think of baked oatmeal with a little added protein. The taste and texture closely resembles that of a Larabar. Each bar is under 200 calories, contains 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. Not too shabby if you ask me!oatbars2My love for banana and peanut butter closely rivals my love addiction for chocolate and peanut butter. So, I figured, why not throw all three components in and call it a day? However, this recipe is very adaptable. Not feeling the chocolate chips? Add dried fruit instead. Prefer almond butter or cashew butter over good ol’ PB? Switch it out. No maple syrup? Use honey, agave nectar or even pancake syrup.

I used chunky peanut butter to add a little more texture, though I was contemplating using the new Jif Whipped Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter in my next batch.. ;) Always room for a little extra pumpkin in my life.oatbarsThe recipe makes roughly 10 decent-sized bars (similar in size to a Cliff bar). However, you could slice them a little thinner and easily get twelve out of the recipe. They are great to pack up for work week snacks or even send with your kids to school. Nutritious, filling and oh-so delicious.

Banana, Peanut Butter and Oat Protein Bars

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Autumn Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

autumnsalad2It’s fall (as i’ve announced from the rooftops) and we’re amping up our salads with all sorts of autumn flavors. Roasted sweet potatoes with a spicy kick of chili powder, sautéed apples, cranberries, buttery hazelnuts and the most delicious salad dressing to coat all of that wonderfulness in. You won’t even miss a meat topper.

I think I am one of those people that just never tires of salads. Fitting for my profession, I know. Though i’m convinced the reasoning behind this is my uncanny habit of throwing everything in my refrigerator over a bed of lettuce and calling it a salad. Chopped fruit, sautéed veggies, quinoa, rice, meat, nuts – no discrimination here. With that said, that’s basically how this salad came to be. The flavors and textures just worked. They met on a bed of greens and had a taste bud party (!!!).

And the dressing….. I could quite possibly sip from a straw if it doesn’t make it to my protein pancakes first. Never know until you try, right? ;)

autumnsaladIf sweet + spicy is your jam, you will LOVE these sweet potatoes. So much so that they may not make it to your salad. Instead you may do what I did and eat half of them right off the cookie sheet before realizing they actually have a party to attend (re: taste bud party).

They are my new obsession and only require two ingredients: chili powder and brown sugar. The brown sugar slightly caramelizes the sweet potatoes as they roast to bring out their natural sweetness. Then the chili powder comes in and adds just enough kick to level out that sweetness and keep your taste buds on edge. Perfect side dish if you ask me!

The topping combo would also be great over some massaged kale. Yes, giving kale a nice rubdown makes it SO much more workable in salads. That’s a leafy green after my own heart… ;)

Whichever green you decide to use, this salad is packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and flavor. It’s great for work-week lunches or accompanied by a flavorful meat dish for dinner. It’s Autumn on a plate!

Autumn Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

pumpinmuff2In honor of the first day of fall (which should be a national holiday), we’re eating whole-grain Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. We’re actually eating and drinking pumpkin everything…  ’tis the season! I personally blame Target.

Which, speaking of, have you TRIED Jif’s Pumpkin Spice Whipped Peanut Butter? It’s a Target-exclusive flavor that should probably come with a caution label. It is SO delicious and highly addicting. I’ve never met a peanut butter I didn’t like, but this was love at first bite.

pumpkinmuffOk, back to muffins! I love baking with pumpkin because it adds enough moisture to the baked good to allow you to “healthify” some of the other usual ingredients. Oil, in particular.

I’ve made my fair share of “healthified” muffins in the past; some are obviously healthy, some only slightly. These, however, would easily fool a blind taste tester into thinking they were much more indulgent than they really are.

pumpkinmuff3They almost taste like a chocolate chip pumpkin pancake rolled up into a muffin. Slightly dense, yet very moist with just the right level of sweetness. I tried numerous combos for toppings and all were equally delicious.

I first tried a little smear of grass-fed unsalted butter with a drizzle of honey – YUM. After, of course, came the liquid gold (aka peanut butter). I tried a smear of both the Jif Pumpkin Spice and Maple & Brown Sugar whipped peanut butter. The Maple & Brown Sugar variation definitely won me over.

pumpkinmuff4These stayed fresh for a good two days, however on day three I used the last muffin to crumble up and mix in my protein oats. Now THAT is a breakfast I need to add to the rotation more often.

Time to open up that first can of pumpkin of the season and get bakin’! ;)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Peanut Butter Basil Sauce

pork3Sweet and spicy roasted pork tenderloin with a fiery peanut butter basil sauce. I have been on a personal mission to include peanut butter in all of my meals and snacks so you can imagine my excitement with this recipe.

After drooling over seeing Peanut Butter & Co ‘The Heat is On’ peanut butter around the blog0sphere for the past few months, I FINALLY found it at Target. Way to step up your A-game, Target! I squealed when I found it and jumped in the air while simultaneously slam dunking it into my basket. It had no other destiny. It was made for this meal.

If you can’t find it at a local grocery store, you can purchase it off the Peanut Butter & Co website.

pork2Let me just take a moment to emphasis the spicy in the title of this recipe. It will definitely wake up your taste buds…. or slightly numb them. But don’t worry, it’s only temporary and all-so worth it. To make the sauce a little more mild, just use half ‘The Heat is On’ peanut butter and half plain, creamy peanut butter.

The sauce recipe makes a very generous amount. I thought about cutting it in half, but then what would I slather my chicken/turkey burgers/fish with the next few nights? It’s that good. The perfect amount of flavor, sweetness and heat. Really reels me in.

porkPork tenderloins serve as the perfect blank canvas for all sorts of fun sauces, spice rubs and marinades. They are simple enough to make during the week for a family dinner, yet can easily be jazzed up for a fancy dinner party with friends. Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of pork - almost as lean as chicken breasts. What’s not to love?

Flava bomb! Read More →

Maple Balsamic Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

acornsquash2Red quinoa mixed with dried cranberries and crushed hazelnuts in a sweet maple balsamic sauce nestled in a roasted acorn squash topped off with honey goat cheese. Perfect to enjoy as a side or main dish.

Mmmm sweet, nutty acorn squash. Also called pepper squash or winter squash, which really showcases the irony of me making it in the heart of summer. The whole dish is actually the epitome of autumn. Which we’re closer to than winter. So let’s go with that. Regardless, this dish is too tasty to not be enjoyed year round.

acornsquash3It’s sweet but not overly so and has a hint of savory from the balsamic and tangy goat cheese. I am all about the squash and cheese combo. If goat cheese isn’t your jam, a creamy fontina would also be delicious. The marriage of squash, cheese and pillowy quinoa just makes for one heck of a treat.

It’s also pretty fun to eat. Think soup served in a bread bowl… it’s kind of fun to scrape the sides and scoop the filling, right? Or do I just thoroughly enjoy my meals too much..?

acornsquashRoasting acorn squash is so easy, it’s essentially fool-proof. No need to be even slightly intimidated by cooking this veggie. Simply slice, season and roast. I think it’s safe to say i’m in a slight squash infatuation at the moment. On a weekly basis I have been dicing it up and tossing it in salads or slathering it with almond butter and cinnamon for all-star snackage. Though my favorite way to eat squash is drizzled with a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted to caramelized perfection. So simple. So yum. The perfect accomplice to any meat or vegetarian dish. 

Acorn squash is very nutrient-dense, containing high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Stuffing it with protein-rich quinoa, nuts and dried fruit adds to it’s nutrient profile and makes this a very well-balanced meal or snack. Just don’t hold back on the stuffing…. Overflow is the goal! Read More →

Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Feta Yogurt Spread

sliders4Lamb sliders with roasted red peppers, thinly sliced cucumber and spiced feta yogurt spread. Helllo,  delicious.

I don’t cook lamb often – at all. Though lately i’ve been having the most killer lamb burgers at local restaurants so I decided to finally give it a go in my own kitchen. Plus, I figured it was a about time to expand my burger/slider repertoire by doing something a little different.

sliders3Lamb tends to have less marbling than beef which makes it a little more lean. I always recommend using 100% grass-fed, if available, as this meat will have a higher omega-3 content and contain no traces of hormones or antibiotics that were potentially added to the animal’s feed.

If lamb doesn’t appeal to you, you can switch it out for ground beef , turkey or chicken. sliders2Harissa is also a new-to-me seasoning blend that I’ve been trying to incorporate in more dishes. Harissa is a vibrant seasoning that is traditionally spiced with hot chilies, garlic, cumin and coriander.

Not only does it add the perfect kick of spice to sauces and spreads, but it can also be used to create a bold, spicy rub for roasted and grilled meats. This spice should definitely be added to your collection for some summer grilling!

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Feta & Mint Couscous Salad

couscousPearl Couscous tossed with fresh veggies, refreshing mint, tangy feta and a splash of citrus. An exotic accompaniment to grilled meat or fish, or a delicious, light lunch eaten on it’s own. This salad is light and nutritious with full-bodied flavor.

couscous2A quick browse through the recipe section of Dishing Out Health makes it quite evident that I am fanatical over quinoa. I was *this* close to making this salad with quinoa as well until I saw how adorable this pearl couscous is (also known as Israeli couscous). As if I wasn’t sold on this grain based on the name alone (pearls > diamonds any day), it only takes a measly 10 minutes to cook. Pearl couscous is actually small balls of toasted semolina flour and it serves as an extremely versatile alternative to pasta or rice… or my beloved quinoa.

It’s evidently already summer here in Florida and BBQ-mode is in full-swing. I love serving a unique array of salads at cook-outs to appeal to all kinds of taste buds. It’s always nice to offer something a little lighter than the typical mayo-based pasta salad and this couscous is the perfect alternative.

It’s also very low maintenance in regards to prep work. You can whip it up the night before or hours before serving and it’s ready to when you are. It tastes awesome cold or room temp, as long as it has a few hours to sit in the refrigerator to let the flavors marry.

Make a big batch, stick it in the fridge, bring it to your next cook-out or pack it up for lunch during the work week.

couscous3It’s just pretty. Pretty little pearls. Pretty food always wins ;) Read More →

Fish Tacos with Melon Mint Salsa and Avocado Crema

fishtacos2

Light, refreshing and bursting with summer flavors. These fish tacos will be my healthy summer jam.

There is nothing more sure about a Tuesday than tacos. I have been eating fish tacos like there is no tomorrow. I just love how they serve as a black canvas to let your culinary creativity bloom. By using a mild, white fish such as cod or tilapia, the topping options are endless. Switch up the slaw, salsa, toppings and/or the tortillas and you’ve got yourself a new, creative dinner.

And then Tuesday doesn’t seem half bad.

fishtacosIt’s nearly impossible for me to make a taco or eat a tortilla chip if it’s not covered in a pile of toppings. I probably use more toppings in one taco than the average human would for three. Leave no topping behind!

Another thing I cannot get enough of right now is FRUIT SALSA. I’ve been making different variations every week and topping anything and everything with my new little creations.

I do not discriminate when it comes to specific fruit in my salsa, however I set out to make one with cantaloupe this week. I don’t know what it is about cantaloupes this season but I cannot get enough. Just give me half a cantaloupe, a spoon and some Food Network and you won’t hear a beep out of me for 30 minutes.

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BBQ Rubbed Salmon with Caramelized Pineapple Salsa & Quinoa

bbqsalmonTangy BBQ-spiced salmon over a bed of quinoa topped with a sweet, refreshing, summery salsa.

Say hello to my favorite new salsa.  I’m just going to start making it in batches and topping everything with it. All summer long. Burgers, sandwiches, salads and tacos are all about to get salsa-fied.

bbqsalmonI’ve really just been loving fruit salsas lately. Mango salsa, strawberry-mint salsa, watermelon-basil salsa and now pineapple-jalapeno-cilantro salsa – SO GOOD! It’s easy to make fruit salsas a little too sweet, however between the heat from the jalapeno and tartness of the lime juice, this baby balanced out just right.

This meal should definitely be making an appearance during your memorial day weekend. I’m partial to broiling my salmon fillets for 6-8 minutes to create that crispy crust on the outside and flaky goodness on the inside. However, if you intend on firing up the grill this weekend, this salmon would undoubtedly taste awesome grilled.

A light meal packed with a ton of flavor – what’s not to love? You deserve this. With a margarita or mojito on the side. Cheers! Read More →

Thai Basil Zucchini Meatballs

zucchinimeatballsBite-sized meatballs made with lean ground beef and shredded zucchini tossed in a flavorful Thai-inspired sauce. The perfect appetizer, side-dish or topper for rice, pasta or salad.

zucchinimeatballs5I really have a thing for meatballs. Meatballs and mini things. Mini things are cuter. Mini things are fun to make and even more fun to eat. Mini things fit in cute little jars and adorable little bowls. They just always win over my foodie heart.

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to hide veggies into things you normally would not expect veggies to be in. Beets in smoothies, carrots in smoothies, more beets in ketchup and now zucchini in meatballs. The more I talk to new moms trying to incorporate more veggies into their little ones’ diets, the more off-the-wall interesting ideas I come up with. Stay tuned…….. ;)

zucchinimeatballs3Using a cheese grater, I shredded the zucchini extra fine so the blind eye would never guess veggies were hidden inside these meatballs. Whenever i’m cooking with beef, I prefer to use grass-fed lean ground beef (personal preference), however you could sub for turkey, chicken, lamb – whatever.

I debated whether I wanted to toss these meatballs in an Italian-style tomato-based sauce or something a little more…. exotic? I can’t tell you what my fascination is with Thai-like flavors, other than that sauce experiments always seem to work and they just appeal to my taste buds.

However, I have no doubt a tomato-based sauce would pair just as nicely. Since these meatballs have already worked their way into permanent rotation in my house, Italian-style meatballs are next. I owe it to my heritage. As well as my taste buds.

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