Spicy Turkey Sausage and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

sweetpotatoSpicy turkey sausage, sautéed kale, dried cranberries and hazelnuts stuffed in a roasted sweet potato topped with a drizzle of honey. The perfect combination of spicy and sweet!

Nothing beats a simple sweet potato recipe. While I’m happy to take mine oven roasted with slab of maple peanut butter any day (don’t knock it till you try it), adding a few contrasting textures and flavors can take plain sweet potatoes from good to glorious. Read More →

Kale, Quinoa & Butternut Salad with Balsamic-Glazed Pears & Fontina

fallsaladSautéed kale, quinoa and roasted butternut squash join forces with sweet balsamic-glazed pears and creamy fontina cheese to create the perfect dish for Fall.

I am in a major squash infatuation and have been roasting it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a side or main dish, even as a snack with some maple peanut butter. Thank you, Jif Gods. If I had to describe what autumn tasted like, it would be the epitome of a roasted butternut squash.

fallsalad3But let’s switch gears and briefly discuss my experience with spaghetti squash this week. I wanted to use up the rest of my turkey meatballs in a spaghetti squash dish with some sautéed veggies and a sprinkle brick of parmesan cheese. So, I go into my local grocery store on a hunt for a respectably-sized spaghetti squash and end up coming face-to-face with my worst nightmare.

Not only did my local grocery store only have ONE left, but this lonesome solider was LIT-erally the size of a damn pumpkin. No joke. It almost broke the produce scale coming in at 6.3 lbs. Not only did this thing need a forklift to transfer, but it rang up at 18$!! For a squash! Needless to say, I walked out of the grocery store with whole-wheat bowties.

fallsalad2Ok, back to the squash of the hour. If you’re so inclined, you could also do another version of squash, like kabocha or even acorn… or even sweet potatoes! One thing I will mention as far as roasting squash is to make sure the cubes of squash aren’t too crowded on your roasting pan. Otherwise, they will steam instead of roast and will be lacking that little crisp we all adore. If you’re using a whole butternut squash, you will likely need to roast in two separate batches.

I’m thinking this dish would be a refreshing addition to your Thanksgiving spread this year. It combines sweet and savory with a a nice tart punch from the balsamic. It’s packed with fiber, high in protein and very low in calories. All things we lovvvvvvve <3

Kale, Quinoa & Butternut Salad with Balsamic-Glazed Pears & Fontina

Serves 6. Serving size: 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into ~1-inch cubes
  • 4 generous handfuls of kale, chopped with stems removed
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (or chicken stock)
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1.5 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • .5 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 2 ounces of Fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve the squash lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard seeds. Remove skin. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Toss with olive-oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, combine quinoa, 1 cup of vegetable broth and 1 cup of water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. When the water reaches a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to medium/low, and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed. This will take 12-15 minutes. You will notice that the quinoa becomes sort of translucent and you can “fluff” it with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add kale and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook down ~4-5 minutes until wilted. Remove from skillet and add to bowl of quinoa.
  4. Using the same skillet, add .5 tbsp butter and minced shallot. Cook ~4-5 minutes until slightly caramelized. Add chopped pear and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until golden. Add chopped sage and balsamic and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  5. In a serving dish, add kale and quinoa mixture followed by roasted butternut squash and top with pear and shallot mixture. Grate some fontina cheese on top (it should easily melt from the heat) and serve immediately.

Nutrition facts per serving (3/4 cup)

Calories: 220, Total Fat: 7 gm; Saturated Fat: 2 gm; Cholesterol: 9 mg; Sodium: 250 mg; Carbohydrates: 34 gm; Fiber: 5.5 gm; Sugar: 5 gm; Protein: 8.5 gm

 

The Best Turkey Meatballs

turkeymeatballsI know the title is highly subjective, but as a testament to the tastiness, the title shall stay.

It doesn’t take but a quick glance in my recipe archive to realize I 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.

turkeymeatballs3However, it does happen to be football season (aka appetizer season) and these little balls of glory fit the bill. You can shove them in a sub roll or in between two slice of Italian bread or just stick toothpicks in them for a fun finger-food.

These balls are gluten-free, low in fat and have a nice little kick of fiber (thanks to a couple secret ingredients). I shouldn’t even call them secret ingredients because it doesn’t take a genius to guess that I included pumpkin in this recipe. Pumpkin is its own food group in my diet right now. Literally been using it out the wazoo. No shame.

But the other special ingredient is oats! The combination of creamy pumpkin and oats made these meatballs melt-in-your-mouth moist. I also baked them instead of sautéing them in oil which seemed to hold in even more moisture and further decrease the fat content. Double win!

Speaking of fat, I wouldn’t go too lean on the turkey or you’ll sacrifice flavor and they could end up too dry. I recommend using 94% lean ground turkey.

turkeymeatballs2turkeymeatballs2As far as the sauce, I just used a good quality jarred tomato-basil sauce and added ~2 tbsp of half & half while it simmered. I do have a fantastic family recipe for tomato sauce but it’s high maintenance and requires an entire day of sitting on the stove while making your entire home smell like Carrabbas. It’s wonderful but not so conducive to time management.

Thus, grab the jar of sauce and call it a day ;)

..And then come live in meatball land with me.

The Best Turkey Meatballs

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Protein Shake

oatmealshake2Disclaimer: No oatmeal raisin cookies were actually harmed in the making of this recipe. No need to put a perfectly delicious cookie through the trauma of a blender when you can mimic the taste with more nutritious ingredients ;)

This shake is made with protein powder, old-fashioned oats, dates (or raisins), cinnamon, vanilla extract, unsweetened vanilla almond milk and ice. It’s the perfect shake for breakfast, a midday pick-me-up or even dessert. Top it with low-fat cool-whip or perhaps some chocolate-covered raisins for extra decadence without losing the nutritious appeal.

oatmealshakeOf course we all love a fresh baked oatmeal cookie the size of our head but that inevitable sugar-crash that sets in after eating it is not so pleasant. This power protein shake, however, packs enough energy to fuel your morning routine while keeping you full and satisfied, sans the sugar-crash.

I actually made this shake over the weekend to accompany me poolside. My version of day-drinking (#rage). I poured it into a red solo cup and toasted to it being literally 90 degrees in Tampa right now. In mid-October. Did you go into hiding, Fall?!?!

We may not be enjoying hot pumpkin spice lattes as much with this weather, but ice-cold pumpkin beers are tasting extra delicious ;)

oatmealshake3If you’re half as big of an oatmeal raisin cookie fan as I am, you must try this shake! Go home, Otis Spunkmeyer. There is a new sheriff in town.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Protein Shake

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Smoky Salmon BLTs with Tangy Yogurt Spread

salmon1It’s the best thing I’ve smashed between two slices of bread in a while.

In fact, I had a striking realization when I was eating this sandwich that I may not even fully enjoy salmon any other way from now on because it just tasted SO good combined with these other components.

The salmon fillets are dusted with smoked paprika and pan-seared to create that crispy outer crust and flakey inside. Then, they’re nestled inside two pieces of grilled sourdough bread piled with turkey bacon, fresh tomatoes, romaine lettuce and a tangy Greek yogurt spread made with dill, green onion and a touch of sweetness. Such a delicious concoction.

salmonI’ve never quite understood the hype of plain BLTs with no additional meat/protein. Turkey BLT? Yes. Lobster BLT? Sign me up. But unless the bacon is thick-cut and absolutely blows my mind, plain BLTs never did it for me. Though turn that BLT and into an SBLT and we’re speaking the same language ;)

I’ve also never been a mayo fan. I usually always prefer using some jazzed up 2% Greek yogurt as an alternative. If you haven’t been turned onto using Greek yogurt as an alternative to mayo and/or sour cream yet, this recipe may be your calling!

salmon2It may be the best hanging-around-sports-watching-food ever or just generally an excellent idea for dinner… or lunch… or anything.

Smoky Salmon BLTs with Tangy Yogurt Sauce

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Fluffy Pumpkin Oat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

pancakes3Let me introduce latest obsession. Go figure, it’s something pumpkin. I need an intervention.

I’d like to eat my weight in these pancakes every morning. They’re fluffy, moist and all things wonderful. They also happen to be dairy-free and gluten-free, making me a firm believer of the best things in life being free.

pancakesThe pancake base is made of oats, coconut flour, pumpkin puree, egg whites, unsweetened almond milk and protein powder. I use Select Protein in Snickerdoodle flavor and cannot recommend it enough. Select is made of a high quality blend of casein and whey protein and the flavor is spot-on. I’ve used it in a ton of recipes, most recently this Pumpkindoodle protein shake that I nearly lost my mind over. SO delicious!!!!

Anyway, back to pancakes. They’re like a big fluffy cloud 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. We’ve all been there… lookin’ at you, iHop.

pancakes2If you’re already over the pumpkin craze, you can substitute the pumpkin puree for mashed banana and turn them into Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Pancakes – trust me, equally delicious. You can also leave out the chocolate chips or exchange them for nuts if you’re trying to further reduce the carb content. Though if I may recommend using Enjoy Life’s dark chocolate morsels – they really revved the ‘decadence-factor’ up to 10.

Ok, enough rambles. Let’s have breakfast! Read More →

Creamy Pumpkin Orzo with Figs and Spinach

orzo3There is nothing I love more than describing a dish as rich and decadent, as well as “light”. They do happily coexist. In this bowl.

Sautéed shallots, garlic, figs and fresh sage tossed in a light, yet creamy sauce made of pumpkin puree, vegetable stock and skim milk. I added spinach because it is a nice, mild cooking green, however even a more bitter green, such as kale, would complement this dish nicely.

Orzo is simply a rice-shaped pasta. It is prepared the same way as pasta (easy peasy) and works great as both a side or main entree. Orzo is also available in whole-wheat varieties, however my local grocery store unfortunately does not carry it… YET! I will be writing a letter.

orzoLet’s also talk figs (and my current obsession with them). Figs have two seasons – a relatively short season in early summer and a second, main crop season that starts in late summer and runs through fall. This is my favorite time to use figs, as I love using their sweetness to cut sharper, more savory flavors – anything from cured meats to smokey, aged cheeses. I go nuts over a crostini with a little slab of goat or mascarpone cheese, sliced figs and drizzle of balsamic. Best appetizer in existence.

They are pretty delicate when it comes to cooking so they only need to be sautéed for a few minutes. Expect them to get a tad mushy, but still hold on to their honey-like sweetness.

orzofigI was perfectly satisfied eating this dish alone, however I think it would pair beautifully with a roasted pork chop or pork loin. Sounds pretty appealing for a date night in if you ask me… ;)

AND THEN you could use your leftover figs to create a decadently delicious dessert. Perhaps a little Greek yogurt or vanilla ice-cream topped with granola, honey and figs? Or these Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns that I wish I didn’t stumble upon. Sounds like a meal worth writing home about!

orzo2

 

Creamy Pumpkin Orzo with Figs and Spinach

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Sesame-Ginger Chicken Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Crema

tacosRainbow quinoa topped with sesame-ginger marinated chicken, cilantro-lime crema and avocado all wrapped in a corn tortilla. Happy Taco Tueday Thursday!

These should really be called “melting pot” tacos. We have components of all different cuisines joining forces in one harmonious taco. Tacos = harmony, right? Or maybe my how-many-things-can-I-shove-in-a-tortilla-and-call-a-taco phase is just never-ending. Not the worst problem to have… ;)

tacos2I’m honestly just nuts over this chicken marinade. I chose to use it in tacos (because, well, it was Tuesday), though I would’ve enjoyed it with just about anything – brown rice, quinoa (alone), couscous, pita, ANYTHING! So much flavor.

The cilantro-lime crema is my go-to for any kind of taco. Using Greek yogurt keeps it light, refreshing and not too overwhelming in flavor. With an extra squeeze of lime juice and maybe a tablespoon of water, the crema also makes for a great salad dressing. Reserve some crema and a few pieces of sesame-ginger chicken and you’ve got yourself a great salad the next day for lunch.

The whole recipe comes together in a cinch – ideal for any week night dinner. Very minimal prep work, or slicing and dicing. Serve with a side of roasted veggies or a side salad and voila! Well-balanced, nutritious and as always, delish ;)

Sesame-Ginger Chicken Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Crema

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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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