Chocolate Peanut Butter Black Bean Brownies

beanbrownies2Rich, chocolatey fudge brownies that are gluten-free, dairy-free, low in sugar, high in fiber and the decadently delicious. A healthified version of my favorite dessert and hopefully yours, too!

The secret to pleasing friends and family with these is just to not initially call them “black bean” brownies. Offer them a “dark, rich, fudgy, chocolate peanut butter brownie” and spare them the details until they ask what the secret it. Cheers to healthy deception!

IMG_0635I’ve been disappointed by mediocre black bean brownies recipes in the past so I was determined to create something that I could please friends, family and even the pickiest of eaters with. Well, I’m happy to report these are kid, boyfriend, and dietitian-approved!

I honestly couldn’t get over how decadent and fudgy these were. The blind eye would never assume they were actually a healthy dessert. I’m a huge sweets girl and I’ll usually opt for a couple bites of an unhealthy dessert over a whole serving of a healthy one. Sometimes the more nutritious option just doesn’t completely satisfy my sweet-tooth. These brownies, however, completely won me over after just one bite. Chocolate peanut butter heaven.

beanbrowniesThey’re also ridiculously simple to make. Just a handful of ingredients that you may already have on hand, a food processor (or blender) and pan for baking. Clean-up is a cinch and your reward is oh-so satisfying.

beanbrownies3Enjoy these plain, topped with some vanilla ice-cream, slathered with a little extra peanut butter, or topped with fresh berries and Greek yogurt. As long as they make it to your mouth, you are winning at LIFE. Exaggeration totally warranted.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Black Bean Brownies

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20-Minute Shrimp Brown Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce

shrimpbowls2Brown-rice noodle bowls with assorted vegetables, cashews, shrimp and cilantro in a sweet peanut sauce topped with a drizzle of spicy Sriracha. Quick, simple and totally delicious.

Easy weeknight meals on deck! The words simple, quick and flavorful are KEY for weeknight meal planning for me. Nutritious, of course, is an added bonus.

I’ve been experimenting more with brown rice noodles and absolutely love them. They’re a great, healthful alternative to ordinary pasta and cook in less than FOUR minutes. Four minutes! They’re also gluten-free, an excellent source of fiber and have a nice mild flavor that allows for a wide array of sauce pairings.

shrimpbowlsThe best thing about bowl-style meals like this is you can get as creative and versatile as you want. You can essentially customize it to coincide with your food preferences and I’ll bet any combination you choose will be delicious. Toss in whatever vegetables you have on hand and a protein of your choice (chicken, shrimp, beef, tofu, etc.).

The sauce has four simple ingredients: rice vinegar, reduced-sodium soy sauce, peanut butter and coconut palm sugar. The Sriracha topping is optional, though since the sauce is on the sweeter side, I love the spicy contrast of the Sriracha sauce.

It also makes for fantastic leftovers to take for lunches during the work week. Believe it or not, this dish is actually great served either hot or cold. Leftovers would be great served over a bed of fresh spinach for a hearty salad!

bowlAlso worth mentioning, all of the components of this dish (with exception to the noodles) are prepared in ONE pan. Can I get a Hallelujah?? I don’t know about you guys, but nothing impedes my love for cooking like a huge pile of dirty dishes at the end of a meal. I absolutely loathe them. I will gladly prepare anyones meal if they agree to do the clean up afterwards. Any takers?? ;)

Give this fun, flavorful bowl a try for your next weeknight dinner. It’s sure to be a crowd and taste-bud pleaser!

Shrimp Brown Rice Noodle Bowls with Peanut Sauce 

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Honey-Roasted Almond, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Granola

granola3Sweet, crunchy honey-roasted almond granola with coconut flakes and dark chocolate chips. A nutritious, energizing snack and the perfect topping to your yogurt parfaits or smoothies. It’s snack time and this granola is calling your name!

In addition to the almonds, chocolate chips and shredded coconut, I also tossed in flaxseed and chia seed for an extra nutritional punch. The granola is baked in a mix of vanilla extract, honey and coconut oil and will make your entire house smell like pie. Or the holidays. Or heaven. Can someone please make this into a candle scent??

granola2The combination of chocolate and coconut make this granola taste like decadent treat, yet it is lower in fat and calories than most store-bought granola. It is rich in protein, fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fats to keep you full and energized. What else do you need in a snack? Besides another batch… ;)

My absolute favorite use of granola is on top of smoothies. I just feel like i’m having a more complete, satiating snack if I have something to chew, as opposed to just something to drink. The granola gradually sinks down to the bottom of the smoothie and you end up with frozen, crunchy chunks of granola as the grand finale to your smoothie-drinking experience. Anyone else look forward to this?? #confessionsofasmoothieaddict

granola4This morning I topped my banana, kale and peanut butter smoothie with this granola and it was a match made in breakfast heaven! Naturally sweetened and brimming with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If a kale and banana smoothie doesn’t strike your fancy, be sure to check out my other smoothie recipes for alternative deliciousness. Especially the one that tastes like a Wendy’s frosty. Try it and you will totally see why it is my favorite!

Kale, Banana, Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • One frozen banana
  • 1 handful of fresh kale
  • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond or coconut milk
  • Ice to desired consistency — I only needed a few cubes

granola1Give your breakfast some extra love this week with a batch of this delicious, nutritious granola. Though before I bid you adieu, I will leave you with these two warnings:

  1. Store-bought granola will never look as appealing
  2. It is HARD to stop at just one handful. Portioning out in advance is highly recommended…. ;)

Honey Roasted Almond, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Granola

Makes roughly 3-3.5 cups prepared

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Shaved Brussels Salad with Apples, Bacon and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

brusselsShaved Brussels with sautéed apples, shallots, sliced almonds and crispy bacon tossed in a light honey mustard vinaigrette. A light, crunchy, flavorful salad that is perfect for Spring!

I was really set out on a mission to master the balance of sweet and savory with this salad. The Brussels could be shaved and served raw, however I prefer to slightly sauté them to reduce the bitterness. So, we have crunchy, yet slightly bitter Brussels paired with sweet apples and shallots, smoky bacon and a sweet, yet sharp dressing. My taste buds go nuts.

brussels3If it were up to me, burgers and Brussels sprouts would be their own food groups, but I do love the fact that we have fruits, vegetables, nuts and some protein/fat all in one bowl. So do we have a salad or a side dish? You decide. According to me – It’s both ;).

Oh and we are also mastering the art of simplicity with this salad because the dressing only has THREE ingredients. Hallelujah. When is the last time you looked on the ingredient label of a salad dressing and it had less than TEN ingredients? The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Always, always. Especially for convenience and/or frozen foods.

This dressing would really work for just about any salad. I like to make homemade dressings in batches and store them in mason jars so I always have something on hand to work with. My other alternative for dressing is a good quality balsamic vinegar. Always worth the extra $$!

brussels2The bacon preference is up to you, too. I used two slices of turkey bacon, however center-cut bacon would be a good alternative if you’re not a turkey bacon fan. Center-cut bacon is sliced close to the bone, so it’s less fatty than standard strips.

Speaking of…. I plan on using some tonight on top of Hawaiian turkey burgers with pineapple and BBQ sauce – photos to come! ;)

Shaved Brussels Salad with Apples, Bacon and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

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100 Calorie Double Fudge Brownies

browniesThese chocolatey fudge brownies are whole wheat, low in sugar and the ultimate guiltless treat for only 100 calories.

I’ll be honest, baking is not my strong suite. Especially when it comes to trying to master healthy baked goods. They’re either too chewy, too dry, not sweet enough or just an all-around catastrophic disaster. These took a few attempts, but boy were they so worth it! Damn delayed gratification.

brownies2They’re so moist (Gawd, I hate that word), they practically melt in your mouth. One of the tricks to creating the fudgey goodness was to actually melt the chocolate chips in coconut oil, forming a pseudo hot-fudge, before adding them to the batter. I was so jazzed when I finally nailed this recipe that I decided to create even more of this pseudo hot-fudge and just dump it over the whole batch of brownies.

Ugh, if only I had some vanilla ice-cream to complete the trifecta. They’d still totally be 100 calories because calories from hot-fudge and ice-cream do not count. Shh… Chapter stolen straight from out of the dietitian chronicles.

brownies3I’ll go nuts for just about any kind of brownie. Chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter, s’mores, walnut, etc. But nothing beats a traditional fudge brownie in my book. They just ALWAYS sound good. And always satisfy my sweet tooth teeth. Actually sometimes the only thing that will satisfy my sweet tooth is pure chocolate bliss. Let me tell you…. these totally did the trick.

However, St Patty’s day is coming up so I totally approve adding a little mint or Baileys to the mix. Or better yet, mint chocolate chips. Ohhh yes.

brownies4Something you also should know about these brownies…. I got to keep them all to myself. :)

100 Calorie Double Fudge Brownies

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Salmon Almondine

salmon2Roasted salmon coated with a rich marinade topped with crunchy almonds. What better way to welcome Spring than with a delicious, flaky, buttery salmon filet? Besides than with a margarita…..

This dish is quick to prepare, ascethically appealing and a total treat for the taste buds. I paired it with a simple garlic-herb pearl couscous salad, but If I may recommend this feta & mint couscous salad if you really want to seal the deal.

Also on the side is a generous serving of charred, lemon-parmesan brussels because I can’t get enough. Seriously, the sight of charred brussels to me is equivalent to the sight of an original Van Gogh painting to an artist. No exaggeration.

I get these sprouts nice and charred by sautéing them in a large skillet with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper over medium-high heat for ~10-12 minutes, tossing frequently. I love to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice and grate some sharp parmesan over them once they’re cooked. Puuurfection ;)

salmon1I typically prepare salmon at least once a week at mi casa. Not only is salmon the most rich, flavorful fish (in my opinion), but it’s also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, an excellent source of protein and brimming with many vitamins and minerals.

My favorite way to prepare salmon is simply broiling the filets until the outside is crispy and the inside is soft and buttery. It practically melts in your mouth. Heaven.

When buying salmon, I strongly encourage choosing wild salmon over farm-raised for better quality, less-contaminated fish. I literally cringe when I see “farm-raised, color-enhaced” salmon in the fresh fish window at the grocery store. Thankfully, if you don’t have easy access to wild salmon in your area, you can purchase it frozen year-round.

salmon3So this marinade is composed of smoked paprika (must-have in your spice collection!), honey, soy sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The almonds acquire a toasted flavor reminiscent of brown butter and the marinade almost caramelizes as the salmon broils. It’s just a complete flavor party and very low maintenance in regards to prep work.

I’ve exploited my fair share of salmon recipes on this here blog, and now i’m beyond thrilled to add this one to my repertoire.

Salmon Almondine 

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Lemon Ricotta Coconut Pancakes

lemonricottaLight and fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes with chia seeds and toasted shredded coconut. Gluten-free, high protein and my new favorite way to break-the-fast.

No joke. I enjoyed these so much breakfast, I had to make them again for dinner. Brinner for the winner.

The ricotta gives them a delicious little fluff and the Meyer lemon juice adds the perfect touch of sweetness. Ricotta and lemon are truly a fabulous combo, but what really completes the trifecta is the shredded coconut. I want to stuff this trio inside of everything, like breads and muffins… and… all the things.

lemonricotta2I highly suggest splurging on the Meyers lemons for this pancake stack. They have a sweeter and more floral taste because they’re actually thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange. This gives them that bright, sometimes orangey, hue. So photogenic.

Considering Meyer lemon is almost over (tear), this recipe may as well be your season closer. In the meantime, I’m going to work on just growing a Meyer lemon tree of my own in my backyard. The backyard of my condo complex, that is.

As a finishing touch, If I may suggest, throwing some lemon rounds on the skillet for maybe 10 seconds on each side once the pancakes cook. They’ll slightly caramelize and almost turn into a candied lemon round. Combined with some agave or pure maple syrup and you’re in for a taste of heaven.

lemonricotta3They’re like fluffy little clouds that I want to take a nap on. The perfect lazy Sunday morning stack of pancakes that won’t put you in a food coma afterwards.

Pancake hugs all around.

Lemon Ricotta Coconut Pancakes

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Moroccan Roasted Tomato Sauce over Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

moroccanI’ve got a little spice to add to your Meatless Mondays. Actually a whole lotta spice. Enough to make you want to start belly dancing to village music.

This Moroccan tomato sauce includes sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, chickpeas, edamame and a slew of lively spices. It’s blanketed over a pillow of cilantro cauliflower rice (or “couscous”) making it extremely light, yet ultra satisfying.

I absolutely love how boldly-spiced most Moroccan dishes are. You’ll often taste notes of ginger, turmeric, saffron, cumin, paprika and my personal favorite, harissa, in a lot of zesty Moroccan dishes.

Harissa is a vibrant seasoning that is traditionally made 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 all of the above!

moroccan2I’ll be honest. I struggle going completely meatless for meals, with the exception of breakfast. I usually find myself hungry again an hour later because the meal was either too high in carbohydrates (#carbcrash) or too low in protein. I wanted to make this dish relatively low in carbohydrates, yet amped up with some quality plant-based protein. I truly didn’t miss the meat one bit.

Let’s also talk about this cauliflower rice. You guys. It is easy peasy and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Throw some chopped cauliflower in a food processor, pulse for ~10 seconds, transfer it to a heated skillet with a little olive oil and let it cook for 10 minutes. Voila! A lower calorie, lower carb alternative to rice that takes a fraction of the time.

Major food crush.

moroccan3I like to season mine with sea salt, pepper and some kind of herb. In this case, cilantro. Parsley works great for just about any other dish you pair it with. You just gotta season it with SOMETHIN’ or it’s else its way too plain jane. Your options, however, are limitless.

The cauliflower absorbs flavors like a sponge, so I found it’s always better the next day. Make-ahead lunches for the win!

Also, since this dish is meatless, it should stay good up to 4-5 days refrigerated….. A lot of winning going on right now.

Moroccan Roasted Tomato Sauce over Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

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Kale, Quinoa and Walnut Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

salad4Massaged chopped kale salad with rainbow quinoa, walnuts, honey goat cheese, blood oranges and mint topped with a tangy blood orange vinaigrette. A refreshing, delicious salad brimming with nutrition.

You guys. How photogenic are these oranges? I’m actually quite envious. I’m convinced that blood orange season is the universe’s way of allowing us to eat beautiful salads and stunning cocktails. Yes, I did turn these oranges into margaritas too.

orangeThese beauties are peeled, sliced and blanketed over the salad like pretty jewels. Other must-haves for this chopped salad: honey goat cheese, walnuts (or any nut you have on hand), fresh MINT (so much love) and quinoa to up the protein factor.

Let’s also talk about the nutritional profile of this salad because it may be thee healthiest, most well-balanced salad i’ve ever made. Between the kale and oranges, this salad will give you a MEGA dose of Vitamin C. The kale is also packed with Vitamin A and is an excellent source of potassium, fiber and folate. The walnuts are a rich source of health benefiting omega-3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants.

And the quinoa? Aka my favorite grain (which is abundantly obvious when perusing my recipe archives) has its own slew of health benefits:

  • Plant-based complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the body
  • Contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat omega-9, and polyunsaturated fat omega-3
  • Contains antioxidant phytonutrients called flavonoids
  • Loaded with essential vitamins and minerals
  • Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber

orange2The salad is topped with a blood orange vinaigrette that is equally tangy, sweet and savory. Fresh squeezed blood orange juice is mixed with olive oil, honey, white balsamic vinegar and a touch of spice. It perfectly compliments the sweet goat cheese and sharp kale. The sweetness is also slightly countered by the refreshing mint leaves.

Combine the mint and blood orange juice and the next cocktail on our list, by default, is a mojitoooo!

Thank God Florida decided it was going already going to feel like summer so we can enjoy them poolside. Your invite is already in the mail.

salad3Try this beautiful, tasty salad as a make-ahead lunch during the week. It is satisfying enough for a meal, yet light enough to pair with dinner or lunch entrees. Your health and palette will thank you!

Kale, Quinoa and Walnut Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette 

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Brussels and Turkey Penne Ragu with Whipped Ricotta

pasta2Crispy brussels tossed in a rich turkey ragu with whole-wheat penne pasta topped off with whipped ricotta and a sprinkle of parmesan. Nutritious comfort food at its finest!

Being Italian, I used to polish off obscene amounts of pasta back in the day. Like, my high school days when I was either competitively swimming or running track and carbs were my life.

Growing up, my Mom would make homemade sauce, meatballs and italian sausage every Tuesday and Good Lord, there were some nights I think I ate my Dad under the table. These days, pasta is a treat I only like to enjoy once in a while. Though lately i’ve been having colossal cravings for rich, cheesy, saucy Italian food that I cannot seem to kick. Enter, this plate of glory.

pasta1These crispy Brussels paired with rich tomato sauce is an unexpected combination made in heaven. The rest of the pasta is studded with onions, garlic, oregano and basil. Then we have the whipped ricotta which just nestles in the pockets of the pasta like a pearl in a clam shell.

Little pillowy clouds of creamy goodness. Too cheesy? Am I getting carried away with the romantics of my food?

pasta3As an aside, I’m on a secret mission to make brussels work in any and all dishes. I’m now certain that pasta is actually where brussels belong. Next up is a brussels pizza.

Fifty shades of cray.

And this is not, by any means, destroying the sanctity of the sprout. My main goal (in life) is to make healthy eating appealing to all walks of life. For someone that doesn’t like brussels, or any greens for that matter, I challenge you to not enjoy this plate of pasta.

pasta4It’s like a glorious pile of comfort food and I’m into it. Really into it.

It may be deceiving, but I actually found this meal to be relatively light. A side salad, some crusty bread and glass of vino really fit the bill to complete this healthy Italian meal.

Let’s eat!

Brussels and Turkey Ragu Penne with Whipped Ricotta

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