Sweet Potato Risotto

risottoCreamy sweet potato risotto with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. A decadently delicious vegetarian meal or hearty side dish.

Risotto is just one of those side dishes that tastes fantastic with everything. Beef, pork, chicken, lab, fish or tofu. It could triple duty as an appetizer, entrée or side dish. I recently learned that Risotto in Italy is normally a primo (first course), served on its own before the main course. I could definitely get my palette fired up with this dish on a daily basis….

Risotto has also become one of my favorite grains to cook. Yes, it is a labor of love, but the finished product is always worth it. The texture is like a hybrid mixture of farro and rice. Slightly chewly and insanely creamy when cooked. Texture is imperative for my foodie soul.

risotto3Being a huge fan of the savory + sweet combo, sweet potatoes mixed with a sharp cheese and earthy sage is definitely one of my favorite combos. It’s like all of my favorite things meshed together into one perfect dish.

Risotto is typically made with broth, butter and wine. Sometimes heavy cream or milk to add extra creaminess. As much as I love a buttery risotto made with white wine and truffle oil, for this recipe we are nixing the wine and butter to make it as light as possible without skimping a bit on flavor or texture.

It’s healthy comfort food at its finest. I want to make a big pot for like, everyone I love.

risotto2It’s the perfect accompaniment to a red wine + Netflix night OR to share with friends at a dinner party. Dress it up or dress it down, as long as you enjoy a bowl of all of its creamy goodness, your soul will be happy.

Sweet Potato Risotto

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Zucchini and Corn Chicken Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

cknburgerHello, summer in a bun!

Chicken burgers made with shredded zucchini, fresh corn and spices topped with grilled tomatoes, arugula and an extra tasty roasted red pepper hummus. These should definitely make an appearance on your July 4th grilling menu!

This summer is blowing by so quickly and I can’t even believe the year is more than HALF way over! You guys. They are already selling PUMPKIN SPICE coffee creamer in the grocery store. What is life?!

The good thing is we still have at least 4 more months of outdoor grilling and dining al fresco. Well, technically since I live in Florida we have until December. Trust me, it’s not as glorious as it may sound.

cknburger4But back to this hand-held beauty. I am always looking for new ways to jazz up chicken burgers because as we all know, chicken alone does not pack much flavor. It’s fun to get creative and add in different veggies, herbs and spices galore to make each chicken recipe a fun, new experience.

This is also one of the EASIEST way to get kids to eat extra veggies. Zucchini is my favorite vegetable to grate and secretly add in food you wouldn’t typically expect it in. Breakfast items such as muffins and bread, as well as appetizers such as mini meatballs. Zucchini is quite flavorless on its own, but it soaks up other flavors like a sponge. It also adds a nice little bulk to the meat patties while adding extra nutrients and fiber.

Zucchini – you da real MVP.

cknburger3Let’s switch gears and also talk about this hummus. You are only 5 ingredients and 5 minutes away from your new favorite spread/dip/bowl of faceplant-worthy goodness. The one star of this recipe is, without a doubt, the roasted garlic. Roasting garlic has  become one of my favorite food-prep necessities to complete before the start of the week.

Whole heads of garlic are roasted with olive oil until each individual clove is golden and buttery with an aromatic, slightly sweet flavor that is out of this world. Roasting garlic takes away their crunch and astringency and leaves you with rich, caramelized cloves that are perfect to spread on toasted baguettes or use in dips, sauces or spreads. Heeaavven.

cknburger2Low in fat, rich in fiber and full of flavor. Give these chicken burgers a shot for your next indoor or outdoor grilling experience!

Zucchini and Corn Chicken Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Slow Cooker Pork and Saucy Spanish Rice

porkrice2Slow roasted pork tenderloin over seasoned brown rice in a rich tomato sauce topped with sweet peppers, goat cheese and cilantro. A one-pot wonder that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

It’s Monday (though I swear it was Friday 5 minutes ago) and honestly, what is better to come home to than a delicious dinner that is already prepared for you? Perhaps skipping Monday all-together, but the NEXT best thing might be this recipe.

porkriceMy crockpot has been fulfilling my foodie fantasies like a pro lately. How can you beat fall-apart, super tender meat on a pillowy bed of rice with loads of flavor?

I’ve also decided this is also the best meal to stuff inside a toasted tortilla. It just so happens to have all of the necessary burrito ingredients: meat, rice, sauce, peppers, onions, cheese and herbs! Perhaps plate it in an aesthetically appealing fashion for Monday night dinner and then stuff it in a glorious taco the next night in recognition of Taco Tuesday?

Voila! Your first two weeknight dinners are set!

porkrice3I tried Spanish Rice for the first time recently and I am completely dumbfounded by the fact that I waited 26 years to do so. It is SUCH a delicious accompaniment to steak, chicken, pork or Mexican entrees such as tacos or enchiladas.

Being italian and having a deep love for any type of red sauce, Spanish rice may as well be the marriage of my two favorite cuisines – Italian and Mexican. In traditional Spanish rice, the rice is browned (or toasted) prior to cooking it, but for ease of preparation, we are just adding it right to the slow cooker. However, by using brown rice instead of white, you’re getting more of that earthy flavor (in addition to added nutrients) that browning rice typically yields.

porkrice4I absolutely love the combination of rich tomato sauce with refreshing cilantro and sweet, creamy goat cheese. This dish is my idea of healthy comfort food. The rice is cooked perfectly and soaks up loads of flavor. Since the rice of slow cooked in creamy tomato sauce, it stays incredibly moist and almost creamy. The texture was actually similar to risotto. So delicious!

You could use chicken breast or thighs, pork shoulder, or pork butt in place of pork tenderloin in this recipe. However, since pork tenderloin is just as lean as chicken breast and tends to be more flavorful, I would highly recommend it!

Let’s fiesta!

Slow Cooker Pork and Saucy Spanish Rice

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

OOIAJDecadently delicious chocolate peanut butter overnight oats. Cold, smooth, creamy and the most satisfying summer treat.

So tell me. Are you more of a breakfast for breakfast person or a breakfast for dinner person? I’m a breakfast for everything person. All the major breakfast staples are just so satisfying to me. Eggs, waffles, pancakes, oats, oats and more OATS!

But the best part about these oats is they taste like a hybrid version of breakfast and dessert. A couple of bites will completely satisfy your chocolate craving. My taste buds have almost been completely fooled into thinking I’m eating a cold Reese’s. Mmmm :)

OOIAJ2The real MVP of this recipe is chocolate PB2. If you’re not familiar with PB2, it is a powdered peanut butter with 85% less fat than traditional peanut butter. Simply mix it with a little water to obtain the creamy consistency of peanut butter and slather it on toast, fruit, crackers or whatever your desired snack may be. Or, of course, use it in your instant or overnight oat recipes.

I’ve always been a huge fan of traditional PB2, but chocolate PB2 has been a real game changer. The combination of premium blended cocoa beans with slow roasted peanuts creates such a rich, wonderful flavor that is oh-so satisfying.

OOIAJ3Overnight oats are the perfect breakfast to make in advance for hectic weekday mornings. They are high in fiber and protein, low in sugar and will keep you full and energized as you tackle your day. I love eating them right out of the refrigerator with a warm mug of coffee. Chocolate + Peanut Butter + Caffeine = winning combo, folks.

I will close this post with one request: take 5 minutes out of your evening tonight to prepare these oats. You deserve a delicious, nutritious Friday morning treat!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

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Goat Cheese and Basil Sweet Potato Mash

sweetmash3Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with creamy goat cheese, basil and sautéed shallots make for the perfect side dish.

Never have I wanted to faceplant into a pile of mashed potatoes more in my life. They’re sweet with a slight tang from the goat cheese and a refreshing herbalicious (new word) kick from the fresh basil.

In the name of transparency, I’ve never been a mashed potato fan. A pile of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy honestly offends me. #dramatic.

But in addition to my disdain for gravy, I’m also a texture freak so mashed-anything typically doesn’t strike my fancy. So even though you’ll never see me eating mashed potatoes by themselves, they serve as the most perfect base for an array of toppings. Pork! Chicken! Fish! Or in this case, cherry-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted garlic-sautéed spinach. Ohhhhh YES.

sweetmash2There was so much deliciousness on that plate, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and fourth meal.

This chicken is also incredibly simple and requires very few ingredients. One of my favorite ways to marinate chicken is combining a sweet fruit preserve with tangy balsamic vinegar. For this chicken, I simply coated the chicken breasts in a combination of cherry preserves and balsamic vinegar and seared the chicken in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. You could also bake it, but I love the crisp, charred “crust” the chicken gets from pan-searing it on higher heat.

IMG_1594It ALMOST mimics the taste and texture of chicken that is scorched outside on a grill. ;)

sweetmashBut back to this bowl of golden goodness. It is low in fat, high in fiber and brimming with nutrients. Sweet potatoes are actually one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.

Also, by leaving the skin on the potatoes, you’re getting an extra dose of dietary fiber in addition to their hearty flavor and added texture.

Jazz up your traditional mashed potato recipe with this delicious combination!

Goat Cheese and Basil Sweet Potato Mash

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Honey Sriracha Almond Crusted Salmon

srirachasalmonThis post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

Baked salmon filets with a sweet honey glaze and crunchy almond crust with the perfect hint of spice. Master the balance of savory and sweet with this simple, delicious dish.

Let’s just take a moment to highlight the real MVP of the hour  – Blue Diamond’s Bold Sriracha almonds. For someone who would literally carry around Sriracha in her purse if it didn’t hog the space of my other snacks, this is MAJOR. Favorite snack + favorite condiment = foodie heaven.

I just feel like all snacks should be made in a Sriracha flavor. Baked chips, rice cakes, crackers, CEREAL. Let’s just be bold.

srirachasalmon2So now not only do I have a new favorite snack, I also have a new favorite way to prepare my salmon. To say i’m a happy camper is the understatement of the year.

Not to be confused with my last salmon recipe that also included Sriracha. I can’t help myself. The two just belong together.

I served this salmon over a bed of tri-colored quinoa with sautéed asparagus, but i’m also thinking it would be totally delicious on top of a big salad with a citrus or balsamic dressing. Dress it up, scale it down or heck, eat it between two pieces of toasty bread. It’s flaky and flavorful but most of all, it’s SO SIMPLE. The bold flavor of the almonds add all of the spice you need. Is anything more appealing than a 3-item ingredient list and estimated prep time of 5 minutes?

srirachasalmon3Not 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. The almond crust acquires a toasted flavor reminiscent of brown butter while the salmon roasts and adds the best texture and crunch. I can foresee many remakes of this dish in the very near future.

Honey Sriracha Almond Crusted Salmon

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Slow Cooker Maple and Brown Sugar Steel Cut Oats

oats1This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.

Creamy steel cut oats with a hint of maple, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. The most delicious, versatile oats that are cooked overnight and ready for your enjoyment in the morning.

What’s not to love about the idea of waking up to a warm, hearty breakfast already prepared for you?? If the smell alone doesn’t peel you out of bed, it will only take a few bites to really awaken your senses and get you ready to face the day.

oats2I’ve come to the conclusion that steel cut oats are best prepared in the slow cooker.  I’ll be honest, cooking these oats stove top can be a bit of a pain. Steel cut oats take roughly 30 minutes to cook and my appetite is typically too impatient for that first thing in the morning.

Plus, slow cooking these oats gives them an extra creamy, fluffy consistency that just can’t quite be obtained on the stove top. Using a mix of water and almond milk adds to the creaminess of the oats and gives them an extra dose of sweetness and calcium. Win-win!

If you’re not familiar with steel-cut oats, they are unrefined whole grain oats that are cut, as opposed to rolled, for a full, hearty texture and rich, nutty taste. They are rich in B-vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber. They look like tiny grains of rice or chopped up nuts. You can find them in most grocery stores in the same section as your typical old-fashioned oats.

oats3The amount of maple syrup and brown sugar in the recipe adds just a touch of sweetness. I like to keep my oats pretty simple so that I can change up the toppings each morning. Some of my favorite combinations:

  • Fresh berries, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts with shredded coconut (pictured above)
  • Banana slices, peanut butter and honey
  • Diced apples or pears with cinnamon, almond butter and golden raisins
  • Blueberries, lemon zest and agave nectar — ahem, blueberry muffin steel cut oats

The recipe makes roughly four servings so that’s four delicious weekday breakfasts prepared in advance for you. Or you could double the batch and make enough to feed your family, as this recipe is 100% kid-friendly. All you have to do is pop a bowl in the microwave and add your favorite toppings.

And then, my friends, it is time to face-plant.


Slow Cooker Maple & Brown Sugar Steel Cut Oats

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Tex-Mex Breakfast Stuffed Peppers

peppers4Baked eggs nestled in sweet peppers stuffed with diced sweet potato, apple-maple chicken sausage and spices topped with shredded cheese and avocado. Total breakfast game-changer.

These honestly transpired out of my craving for something savory, satisfying and spicy one morning after eating pancakes the night before for dinner. Pancakes with a side of dark chocolate washed down with a decaf French vanilla latte. What?? I guess brinner for the winner.

My food cravings are a beast of their own.

peppers2Yes, these make a fantastic breakfast or brunch dish, but since I’m knee deep in a serious egg obsession, which I like to refer to as my eggsession, I’m already planning on making them for dinner.

I love the versatility of eggs and how they instantly add great flavor and texture to different foods. Pizzas, peppers, hashes, tacos, GAH! If you like it, then you should put an egg on it.

One of the many great things about this dish is you can totally customize the fillings to your liking. I used diced sweet potatoes and apple-maple chicken sausage, though you could use any starch, vegetable and/or meat you like.

Perhaps brown rice and some turkey sausage? Hash browns, turkey bacon and diced peppers/onions? Maybe even throw some enchilada sauce or Salsa Verde in the mix? There are endless options to experiment with and for an easily bored, scattered food-infatuated freak, that is music to my ears.

peppersIf a breakfast like this just does not seem feasible for a weekday morning, do not fear! 75% of this can be prepped the night before. The only step that needs to happen the morning of is actually stuffing and baking the peppers, which takes max 15 minutes. Eating them only takes 2-3 minutes because they are THAT good.

The fact that this dish is high in fiber and protein AND provides a healthy dose of fat, it will keep you full and satisfied well into your morning. You will walk into work or school with your GAME FACE on feeling empowered by these Tex-Mex noms.

peppers3When in doubt, brunch it out.

Tex-Mex Breakfast Stuffed Peppers

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Mediterranean Bean Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing

beansaladLight, refreshing Mediterranean-inspired salad with chick-peas, kidney beans, cucumber, radishes and feta tossed in a light lemon dill dressing. The perfect Spring salad that is light on calories, yet full on flavor.

This salad takes about 10 minutes to whip-up and only requires an hour or two of marinating. I used it throughout the work week for lunches and even topped grilled white fish with it for dinner. Deee-licious!

The flavors of lemon, dill, olive oil, salt and pepper just mesh and create wonders. It is the simplest of dressings, though fresh salads like this definitely don’t need to be overcomplicated.

Kidney beans are among the highest fiber-containing legume and are also an excellent source of potassium and magnesium. I’ve been absolutely loving them in all types of salad – pasta salads, quinoa salads, spinach salads, etc.

They’re also a great bean to cook with because they tend to soak up flavors like a sponge. Though I love their deep, full-bodied flavor and smooth texture without any additional add-ins.

…that sounded way too romantic for talking about beans.

beansalad2Anyhoo, I like to take half of the feta that I’m planning on using for the salad when serving and crumble it in. If you think feta tastes good on it’s own, marinated feta is like giving your taste buds a big bear-hug. It is the real deal.

When you’re ready to eat your salad, go for it in it’s pure marinated form or toss it with some arugula or spinach. Either way, it is a nutritious, delicious delight that may become a staple in your Spring recipe repertoire.

Let’s salad up this Tuesday.

Mediterranean Bean Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing

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Whole Wheat Zucchini, Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

muffins1Whole wheat muffins with shredded zucchini, banana, creamy ricotta cheese, dark chocolate chips and spices. Rich in fiber, protein and nutrients, these delicious muffins are the ultimate healthy treat.

They’re breakfast. A snack. Lunch! Second lunch. Dessert! Middle of the night munchies. Whatever your calling is, these baked delights aim to please.

I don’t know about you guys, but the thought of hot muffins being spread with creamy almond butter that melts into every crumb and crevice gets me out of bed faster than any alarm ever could.

muffins2Ricotta has officially become one of my favorite breakfast ingredients.

Since I add it to my pancake on occasion, I figured why not add it to my muffins. The ricotta gives them a delicious little fluff, adds extra moisture and gives the muffins an extra dose of protein. All of which make me oh-so satisfied.

Second on the list of new breakfast favorites is zucchini.

In addition to the added dose of fiber, the zucchini actually contributes a nice bulk to the muffins while adding extra moisture. Zucchinis are quite flavorless on their own, though they soak up other flavors like a sponge. Other flavors such as warm cinnamon, spicy nutmeg, and of course rich dark chocolate.

zucchiniI also personally love the green specs the shredded zucchini adds throughout the muffins. The pop of color makes them look almost as good as they taste!

If weekend baking is on your agenda, give these delicious muffins a shot. They’re perfect to have on hand for weekday breakfasts or snacks on-the-go.

Plus, is there anything in this world better than a muffin that will not contribute to a muffin-top?? Case closed!

Whole Wheat Zucchini, Ricotta & Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

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