Hot Toddy


When you have a cold and/or a sore throat, a hot toddy is the best cure! And if you’re not sick but it’s a cold winter night it’s also the way to go.

All you need is bourbon, a big squeeze of honey, 1/2 of a lemon. Then mix and add hot water.



As you can see in the photo my husband’s is slightly darker.  He felt I didn’t put enough bourbon… I’ll let you all decide what’s “enough”.

Sausage & Pepper Grinders

Sausage and peppers is an Italian classic. It’s easy to make and can be a meal on it’s own or on fresh Italian bread for a delicious sandwich. The catch is that this meal is all about getting the right ingredients. Go to an Italian deli and get their store made sausage, mozzarella and fresh baked bread. The ingredients will make the difference in an average grinder and one that blows you away. This sandwich we made last Sunday night was incredible and the two of us ate two of these…


Ingredients:

  • 3 small hot Italian sausage links and 3 sweet links (or whatever combination you prefer) fresh made at a deli
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1-2 sliced garlic cloves (this is optional)
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 fresh baked Italian grinders
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  • Turn your pan on med/high heat and brown your sausages, then remove from pan.
  •  Add olive oil and sliced onions & garlic to pan and sautee until start to brown. 

  • Add your peppers and let them cook down for several minutes. Then add your diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil. Bring them up to a simmer and add sausage.
  • Cover the pan with a cracked lid and let cook through and let the favors meld. Roughly 15-20 minutes. You really can’t over cook this dish.
  • Cut your sausages length wise in half so you can place them flat on the bread. Then add the toppings and fresh sliced cheese.     
  • Put in the oven on broil until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella is melted. Then enjoy a truly amazing sandwich. 

A note on leftovers… We had leftover peppers and onions in the sauce but no sausage. The next night I boiled some pasta, tossed it in the sauce, topped with some fresh parm and you have yourself another meal. You can also add some seared chicken or white beans for some protein 🙂  You can’t let that delicious sauce go to waste.

Crock Pot Flank Steak Tacos

We all have busy days when we don’t have time to cook dinner so the crock pot is a wonderful tool for the working….any person. I was very skeptical about putting flank steak in a crock pot but I would never post anything I didn’t think was awesome. 10 minutes in the morning allows you to come home to a ready made meal. Try it for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb flank steak
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (I recommend Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce)
  • Spice rub of your choice. I used the following: salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and coriander
  • White corn tacos (or whatever you like)
  • Toppings of your choice: mexican cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, etc but it honestly doesn’t need it

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Directions:

  • Rub your steak with the spices and place in the refrigerator overnight. You can do this the morning of but I was trying to save time. 
  • The next morning put your steak in the crock pot on the bottom.
  • Slice your pepper and onion and put on top of the steak.

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  • Pour the soy sauce and hot sauce around the steak.
  • Cook on low for 9 hours.
  • Shred and serve.

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If you divide by 4 servings and use 2 corn tacos per serving you can see below this is a very healthy dinner option.

Oven Fried Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In an effort to keep things healthy post January 1, last weekend I decided to try a healthy spin on buffalo chicken wraps–one of my favorites. Whats better than a soft flour tortilla, crunchy fried chicken smothered in buffalo sauce, some mayo or ranch and crunchy lettuce…. amazing. So, how can we make this better? Avoid frying and the calorie ridden flour tortilla. This recipe satisfied my craving. The crunchy bread crumbs and avo purée make this healthy dinner feel indulgent but it’s much more friendly to your waistline.


Ingredients:

  • Package of chicken breasts, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup or so of Franks Buffalo Sauce
  • 1 cup or so 2% Greek yogurt 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped for topping 
  • Bibb lettuce, washed and separated
  • Avocado 
  • Fresh parsley 
  • 1 tbsp White balsamic vinegar 

Directions:

  • For this recipe I cut my chicken into nugget shapes. You can cut them into tenders or anything you want. 
  • In a large mixing bowl add your chicken and sprinkle with salt. Add 3/4 of the Greek yogurt and some Franks red hot. Stir everything to combine and then cover with saran wrap and stick in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. (A few hours is fine if you want to get prep out of the way early).

    • Pre heat the oven to 375.
    • Pour panko bread crumbs into a shallow dish and wet with some oil. Coat each piece of chicken with the bread crumbs but pressing them firmly into the chicken, and place on a cookie sheet topped with a drying rack. This will help crisp up the chicken. 

    • Bake for about 30 minutes or until they get golden. If necessary broil them at the end to finish browning. 

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    • You have the option of spraying the chicken with a light olive oil towards the end to ensure the breadcrumbs get nice and crispy.
    • Meanwhile put avocado, the rest of the Greek yogurt, fresh parsley, vinegar and salt and pepper in blender and purée until smooth. I also added a few celery leaves. 

     

    • When the chicken is done, assemble a lettuce wrap with the purée, chicken, celery,  and a drizzle of hot sacue and a dollop of ranch.  Enjoy!

    These also make great chicken nuggets for kids without the hot sauce on top! My neighbors 2 year old ate them right up! 


    Updated 3/26/17

    Baked Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Stack

    I was somewhat complaining earlier today because all I had in my fridge for dinner was an eggplant and I didn’t feel like going to the store. I ended my night however with a meal that Kyle said was in my top 5 of all time. (Woo hoo!) I was able to pick some tomatoes right out of my aunt’s neighbor’s garden and somehow I came up with a healthy, heavenly, fresh summer dinner.

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    Ingredients:

    • 1 Eggplant
    • 2 ripe tomatoes
    • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • Fresh basil
    • 1 egg
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
    • Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
    • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
    • Whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
    • Balsamic glaze
    • Olive oil spray
    • Salt  & pepper

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    Instructions:

    Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

    Cut your eggplant into thick slices.

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    Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add your breadcrumb mixture to another shallow bowl. Add fresh chopped garlic and parsley if you have it on hand- if you are using seasoned italian breadcrumbs it’s not necessary.  I also added some salt and pepper.  Then add oil to the breadcrumb mixture to wet it a bit. Since we aren’t frying the eggplant, wetting the breadcrumbs will help them crisp up in the  oven.

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    Place each slice of eggplant in the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Coat it well. Then place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with oil so they don’t stick.

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    After about 15 minutes turn the oven to broil so the breadcrumbs start to brown. Then turn the eggplant over and do the same to the other side. Spray with more oil if necessary.

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    Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella into thick slices.

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    I placed some fresh arugula on the plate (an optional step). Then layer the eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and drizzle some balsamic glaze. Repeat steps until the stack can’t grow anymore.

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    Dig in with a knife and fork. It may get messy but don’t let that stop you.

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    Portabella Pizza

    Want to eat pizza without all the carbs? Instead of using dough, buy some large portabella mushroom caps. They can hold a lot of toppings, they cook well in the toaster oven (or on the grill) and they pair wonderfully with all the traditional pizza ingredients. Tonight’s mushroom pizza was one of my favorites so I thought I would share it. Plus, Kyle loved it, and when he loves something healthy I know I’ve done it right. You can make any kind of pizza toppings and cheeses you can imagine.  While I was making the topping for this pizza I also reserved half to put over whole wheat pasta for lunch the next day. So this recipe can make 4 portabellas or, 2 portabellas and a lunch portion of pasta.

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    Ingredients:

    -4 large portabella mushrooms

    -2 spicy Italian chicken sausages from whole foods

    -2 garlic cloves

    -1 fresh tomato, diced

    -About 1 cup of tomato sauce (you can just use a can of diced tomatoes instead of the combination of fresh and sauce but I didn’t have any)

    -1/4 or so of red wine

    -Fresh chopped basil

    -Mozzarella

    -Parmesan cheese

    Directions:

    Saute your red onions in olive oil in a hot pan until they start to caramelize. Cut your chicken sausage out of the casing and add to the pan. Let it brown on all sides. Using a potato masher will help grind the chicken up in to small pieces. Then add garlic. Let the mixture cook until the sausage is browned and mostly cooked.

    Add the red wine and let reduce. Using your spoon, scrape the grits off the bottom of the plan. They have tons of flavor.

    Get your toaster oven heating up to about 350 on bake.

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    Add the fresh tomatoes, basil and tomato sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes. You want it to be a thicker sauce so it holds well in the mushroom. If it is too thin, add some tomato paste.  I used half of the mixture in the photo below to fill two large mushrooms, and saved the other half for pasta the next day. If you choose this option, add a bit more tomato sauce to the pan so the noodles have liquid to soak up. I recommend cooking the pasta now, adding it to the sauce and then putting it in the fridge for lunch the next day.

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    Place your mushrooms on tinfoil and using a spoon scrape out the insides so they are easy to fill. Add the mixture.

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    Top with your favorite cheeses! I sprinkled some parmesan, some shredded low fat mozz and I diced up some fresh mozz I had on hand. 20130805-201413.jpg

    Cook in the oven until the cheese melts and turns golden brown. The mushrooms will release some liquid which is normal. Use a spatula to take the mushroom off the tinfoil and plate.

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    Top with fresh basil and enjoy!!

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    Get out your fork and knife and dig in! 🙂20130805-201554.jpg

    Ancho Chicken Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Avocado Crema

    It’s taco night!! Kyle and I LOVE tacos. We have multiple restaurants nearby that serve fantastic tacos: Bodega in Darien, Molcajetes and Tacos Mexico in Norwalk and in Hartford, my coworkers and I love (almost) weekly trips to the Lucky Taco truck parked on Bushnell Park. Tacos are versatile, incredibly flavorful and the best part, are really not bad for you. (Okay, well if you stuff it with fried fish and lots of cheese, that’s another story).

    I’ve made countless kinds of tacos: shrimp, steak, black bean & veggie…I could go on. But this week I was looking for a high protein and low-fat taco to compliment the T25 workout program Kyle and I are doing. So I used a skin less and boneless white meat chicken breast, red cabbage and an avocado crema topping.

    I had to leave the house for a meeting before Kyle got home. I left the tacos out for him to eat and he texted me to say, “I ate 3, is that really bad??” I responded “Haha no; I also had 3”. And his response was “I feel like I was really bad…” meaning no way eating 3 tacos was a healthy choice! So, this proves to you they are delicious and don’t compromise on flavor. Now, let me prove to you that they are good for you.

    For 3 of these tacos you are looking at roughly 450 calories, good fat from the avocado and a fresh vegetable. And you will be full. Kyle may have went on to eat 4 but who’s counting, and he’s allowed more calories. Dig in and enjoy 🙂

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    Ingredients:

    • 2 boneless and skin less chicken breasts
    • 2 jalapenos (add one more if you like it hot!)
    • Fresh cilantro (maybe 1 cup? – just eyeball it people!)
    • 2 limes
    • 1 avocado
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 tbsp reduced fat sour cream (optional ingredient)
    • 1/3 of a head of red cabbage
    • 2 tbsp red or white vinegar
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 1 tbsp or so of ancho chili powder
    • 1/2 tbsp lawrys seasoning
    • White corn tacos

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    Avocado Crema:

    Cut the jalapenos in half, lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems.

    Place jalapenos, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.

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    Cabbage:

    Slice the red cabbage into coleslaw-style strips. Add vinegar and salt and mix.

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    Ancho Chicken:

    I marinated my chicken overnight with ancho chili powder, lawry’s, pepper and a bit of extra virgin olive oil just to moisten the ingredients. If you use lawry’s you do not need to add more salt. The overnight marinade is an optional step. If you don’t have time, simply season the chicken before you cook it.

    Sear the chicken on both sides of a hot pan to get a nice crust. Then add chicken broth or a squeeze of lime juice, place a lid over the pan and let cook on low heat.

    When the chicken is close to being finished, remove from the pan and dice in tiny pieces on your cutting board. Then place back in the pan to be sure everything is cooked through.

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    Build your tacos with each of the ingredients and enjoy them guilt-free!

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    Caramelized Onion Turkey Burger

    For a long time the idea of a turkey burger, for lack of a better phrase, grossed me out. I can’t explain it, but it just didn’t sound appetizing. Maybe because for years my father has repeatedly told us the ONLY bad meal my mother ever made in 30 years of marriage was turkey meatloaf. It ingrained in me the belief that turkey belonged on the Thanksgiving table with mashed potatoes and gravy– and that’s it.

    However, given my desire to eat a little healthier and my passion to explore new foods and make my own recipes, I gave it a try. I went to the local market where I could get fresh ground organic white meat turkey (so I could be sure what was in there) and gave it a shot. I knew it needed to be packed with flavor in order to even try to compare it to a beef burger, so what better than caramelized onions and Italian seasonings?? All in all, I thought these “burgers” were delicious and would make them again–definitely on a grill this summer and try different variations.

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    INGREDIENTS:

    For the burger:

    • 1/2 lb ground white meat turkey
    • 1/2 lb ground dark meat turkey (optional but adds flavor and juiciness)
    • Fresh chopped parsley
    • 3/4 of a cup (ish) of caramelized onions (2 onions raw… I know, I’m bad at keeping track of how much I use. It’s the Italian in me… go with the flow)
    • 2 cloves fresh chopped garlic
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Mozzarella cheese (if you have something with more flavor like fontina or gouda that would also work well)
    • 2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
    • Red pepper flakes, to taste

    For the rest:

    • 1 garlic naan or whole wheat pita
    • Arugula
    • Tzatziki sauce (I made it from scratch the first time and while it was good, it wasn’t perfect. So after I perfect it, I will post it)

    You can also throw this burger on a traditional bun and it would be great!

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    • Caramelized onions can be made at any time and kept in the fridge for sweet and savory additions to meals throughout the week. Simply slice your onions thin, and place in a hot pan with olive oil. Cook on medium to high so they brown (be careful not to burn!). The longer you cook them, the better. About 20-30 minutes should do it. For this recipe I would dice them into smaller pieces so they work in the burger.
    • Add your turkey, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, parmesan, red pepper flakes and onions in a bowl and mix to incorporate. Make 4 even sized patties.
    • Place your cheese on top of 2 of the patties and then put the remaining 2 on top to make 2 larger burgers.

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    • It was winter so I was working inside instead of on the grill but either cooking method will work. Put your pan on medium/high and spray with oil. Place the burgers on the pan and brown on each side (roughly 5 minutes each). I then turned the heat down and put a cover over the burgers to ensure they cooked through.

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    • Place your burger on a bed of arugula and top with tzatziki sauce! Dig in and enjoy.

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    Spinach Stuffed Filet of Sole

    This is a very straightforward dish inspired by Italian flavors and made for the fish lover. It’s very easy to make and you can adapt the stuffing ingredients to whatever your heart desires! It’s also very healthy and satisfying.

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    INGREDIENTS

    • 4 pieces filet of sole
    • Fresh spinach
    • 1 shallot
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 1-2 tbsp of whole wheat bread crumbs (optional)
    • olive oil for sauteing
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Salt & pepper
    • Tomato sauce (2 or so cups of your favorite!)
    • Fresh basil

    INSTRUCTIONS

    • Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
    • Heat up a pan with olive oil and add red pepper flakes to infuse the oil. Add onions and then garlic until translucent (3-5 minutes).
    • Saute the spinach and add the onion mixture and breadcrumbs. Cook for about 3 minutes and then set aside to cool.

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    • Lay your fish flat and season with salt and pepper. Divide your spinach stuffing into 4 parts (for the 4 pieces of fish) and spoon the mixture on the end of your fish.

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    • Gently roll the fish and place in the baking dish.

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    Add your tomato sauce (enough to just cover the fish) and sprinkle with fresh basil.

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    • Cover your pan with tin foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.

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    Mexican Black Bean Quinoa Burger

    I love burgers especially those huge juicy, cheesy ones topped with tons of fun things! However, I am always willing to try new things–especially if means a healthy alternative. In anticipation of our vacation next week, I decided to stick with low carb and low-calorie meals.  For that reason I opted to rest the burger on a bed of kale and spinach but I this would be phenomenal on a bun! I tried black bean burgers on their own which were delicious but the quinoa makes the burger a bit more hearty and filling.  As far as toppings go, the options are endless. I went with a small scoop of guacamole and some tomatillo salsa I had on hand. You could do caramalized onions, a fried egg, sautéed mushrooms, cheese, and much much more.

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    Ingredients:

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    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 cup quinoa
    • bell peppers (I used baby red, orange and yellow for nice color), chopped

    Peppers

    • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper for heat (optional)
    • 1 lime
    • 1 egg
    • 3 scallions, chopped (you can use onion instead)
    • 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
    • Avocado for topping
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Chili powder (1/2 – 1 TBSP)
    • Cumin (1 teaspoon)

    Instructions:

    • Cook 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups liquid (water or chicken broth)
    • Strain the can of black beans and place in a bowl. Using a fork, mash up the beans so it will form into a burger. If you need to add a splash of water it will help the process along.

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    • Add the chopped ingredients to your bean mixture. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the ingredients and if you like lime zest like I do, add some to the bowl as well.  
    • Season with chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.

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    • Add the cooked quinoa and egg to the bowl and mix well. I made 2 very large burgers with these ingredients. It might be more manageable to make 4 smaller patties – but it’s your call. 

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    • Heat a flat pan to medium high heat and spray with olive oil.
    • Place your burgers on the pan and cook until you crisp up each side and the ingredients head through (about 4-5 minutes per side)


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    • While they are cooking place half an avocado in a bowl with fresh lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix well to place on top of your burger.
    • Serve your healthy and flavor packed black bean burgers!

    Black Bean Quinoa Burger

    Shrimp Fried Quinoa

    Fried rice is one of my favorite take out items. I can’t imagine it’s that great for you so why not put a healthy quick on it and make it at home. I  made this “fried rice” with quinoa and lots of veggies. Feel free to use any vegetables you like or have on hand. This can also be made with chicken or any other kind of protein. Enjoy!

    Shrimp Fried Quinoa

    Ingredients:

    • Shrimp, cleaned and deveined, chopped into bite size pieces
    • 1 cup cooked quinoa
    • Peas
    • Fresh ginger
    • 3 scallions, diced
    • 1/2 white onion, diced
    • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 2 stalks of celery or bok choy, chopped
    • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
    • Vegetable oil
    • 1 carrot, diced
    • salt & pepper
    • A few tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
    • 1/2 tbsp sriracha sauce (more for a spicier kick)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

    Seasonings are optional. Fresh cilantro would work well. I have a Chinese dried seasoning blend that I use

    Veggies
    Chopped veggies
    Fresh grated ginger
    Fresh grated ginger
    Shrmp
    Cleaned, deveined, and chopped frozen shrimp

    Instructions

    • Add sesame and vegetable oil to a wok and turn to high heat
    • Add onion and scallions to the hot pan and saute for 1-2 minutes
    • Add your egg to the middle of the pan, season with salt and pepper

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    •  Add the garlic and the rest of veggies and saute for 2-3 minutes.
    • Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and fresh ginger. Then immediately add the quinoa. (the shrimp will only need 3-5 minutes to cook)

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    • Add sriracha to taste and mix well.  Then serve!

    Shrimp Fried Quinoa

    Black Bean Soup

    Black bean soup has been on my food bucket list for a while now. (Yes, I have a food bucket list– which includes foods that I have never attempted to make. i.e. crab cakes, sushi, homemade ravioli, etc). Black beans are good for you and I happen to love them. And loving black beans is clearly a pre-requisite for making this soup. It’s easy to make and it’s a low-calorie, healthy anytime meal/snack (Kyle and I calculated a hefty bowl being under 300 calories). If you puree the entire batch (instead of adding ingredients back in for a hearty more chunky soup), it can be used as a delicious sauce on top of chicken or in a burrito. I know the photo doesn’t exactly make you salivate but I promise it’s good, real good. There were two ingredients I didn’t have in my house which I highly recommend adding; fresh lime juice for some acidity and fresh cilantro for a finishing touch.

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    INGREDIENTS:
    -4 cans organic black beans
    -3-4 cloves of garlic
    -1 red bell pepper
    -1 Spanish onion
    -Olive oil (for sauteing)
    -1 Anaheim chile pepper (a jalapeño or other hot pepper of your preference is fine)

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    -Broth – chicken, vegetable or beef is fine. It’s a matter of preference. I used vegetable because I had it on hand. I used about 1 box.
    -Squirt of tomato paste (optional)
    -Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano
    -Optional Toppings: reduced fat sour cream, cheese, avocado, cilantro

    INSTRUCTIONS:
    -In a large soup pan on med-high heat, add chopped onions with salt and pepper. Let cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add in the peppers and garlic. Stir and let cook for another minute.
    -Add the strained and rinsed black beans to the pot and mix well (personal preference, not necessary). Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir again making sure everything is evenly coated. Let cook for a few minutes.

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    -Take about 2/3 of the ingredients out and put in a small bowl to the side.
    -Add your broth of choice. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

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    -Using your hand held mixer puree the soup until smooth. If you feel your soup is not thick enough add some tomato paste or if its too thick add more broth. (If you don’t have a hand held mixer, you can pour half of your soup into the blender)

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    -Add the mixture you set aside back into the soup bowl and let simmer until you are ready to eat.
    -Serve with a small scoop of reduced fat sour cream, a slice of avocado, a sprinkle of Mexican cheese and topped with fresh chopped cilantro. You can use any or all of these toppings. I happen to think the avocado added a creamy and decadent flavor to the soup. Enjoy!

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    Spaghetti Squash with Broccoli and Cheese

    I fell in love with spaghetti squash a few winters ago and made it almost weekly coming up with different recipes. There are so many ways you can use it–essentially you can substitute almost any spaghetti recipe. When you are watching your carb intake it’s a filling and warm winter meal! No, it’s not the same as pasta and don’t let anyone tell you that–but it’s still good! I previously posted my pasta with broccoli recipe which is one of my favorite dinners. The below recipe is similar but with… spaghetti squash.

    Spaghetti Squash


    Ingredients

    • 1 spaghetti squash
    • Olive Oil
    • Fresh grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and lots of coarsely ground black pepper
    • 2-3 cloves of garlic
    • 1 shallot (optional)
    • Chicken broth- about 1/4 cup or so
    • Butter (amount to your liking- I used 2 spoonfuls of whipped butter)
    • Broccoli

    Directions

    To bake the squash, cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Spray with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Put it in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

    Put a small amount of water in a pan on high and steam your broccoli florets until bright green – about 3 or 4 minutes. Take out and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Then place on a cutting board and chop up into small pieces. You can also put them in food processor and give it a rough chop.

    In a saute pan add olive oil, garlic and shallots and cook until translucent. Then add some chicken broth and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.

    garlic and shallot

    Add the broccoli and butter.

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    When your spaghetti squash is ready, use a fork to scrape out the “spaghetti”. (This time I scraped the seeds out after I cooked it)


    Squash
    Squash

    Add the spaghetti in your pan with cheese salt and lots of black pepper. If you’d like, dress with some more olive oil. Toss together and serve.

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    Squash and broccoli

    Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken

    Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do with chicken. It can get boring. One night after staring in my fridge for a few minutes analyzing ingredients I put together this pretty quick meal. It can be varied with different flavors. I went Greek but you can certainly use any kind of cheese you like. The nice thing about this dish it is pretty healthy as feta is better for you than some of the more fattening cheeses.

    Ingredients:

    • Thick chicken breasts
    • Spinach
    • Crumbled Feta Cheese
    • Half an onion
    • 2 Garlic Cloves
    • Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper
    • Olive Oil
    • Toothpicks

    Directions:

    • Saute onions and garlic in a pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Cook until translucent. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute. Add this mixture into a small bowl and combine with the feta cheese. Incorporate all ingredients.

    • Pre-heat the oven to 350.
    • Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in your chicken breasts with out going all the way through. Using a small spoon, add the mixture into the center of the chicken. Really pack it in there and close your chicken with a toothpick.

    • Season your chicken with salt and pepper.
    • Turn a saute pan on medium high with olive oil. Sear both sides of the chicken until brown (about 3 minutes per side).

    • Pour the leftover juices from the pan in the baking dish with the chicken. Add some chicken broth if you have it on hand to give the chicken some juices to cook in. You could also use some white wine.  Cover with tin foil and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
    • Serve with rice pilaf and enjoy!

    Mom’s Perfectly Crispy Chicken Cutlets

    Growing up chicken cutlets were a delicious treat for dinner in our house as mom didn’t fry many things. This year for her birthday, Mom had a craving so we made her perfect chicken cutlets and served them in the perfect chicken cutlet sandwich.

    You can use this chicken to make chicken parmesan, you can throw it on a sandwich of your choosing, or you can have it on a plate with a side of your favorite veggies and pasta. It pairs quite nicely with pasta and broccoli. If you really wanted to splurge I recommend a heaping side of mac n cheese or fettuccine alfredo.

    We always make plenty extra of this dish because however you eat it that night, you’ll want to try it a different way the next day.

    Ingredients:

    • Chicken tenders cut into single pieces and pounded if needed
    • Flour
    • Eggs
    • Milk
    • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (we add fresh chopped parsley and fresh grated parmesan cheese)
    • Salt & pepper
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Milk (low-fat or 1% is what we use)
    • Extra virgin olive oil/vegetable oil 

    Directions:

    • Wash and prepare your chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Set up paper bags with paper towels on them to help drain the grease from your chicken.
    • Add 2 eggs to a large bowl and about 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together well to create an egg wash to dip your chicken in. Add salt and pepper. 

    • In another bowl pour your bread crumbs and add a little flour.
    • Turn your pan on medium high to get the oil ready.
    • Dip your chicken in the egg wash and then transfer to the bread crumbs. Don’t be afraid to really pack the bread crumbs on there pushing with your fingers or fork. Transfer to another plate to get ready for frying.


    • When the oil begins to roll place one piece of chicken in and make sure it makes a sizzling sound. Depending on how thick your chicken is you will cook it about 4 minutes per side. The bread crumbs should get a deep golden brown color. If you see a thick white foam come out of the side of your chicken it means its ready (if you see a runny white liquid that means your chicken is still raw).

    • When your chicken is cooked, place it on the paper towels to suck up some of the oil. Then put in a large baking dish to keep warm with the others.

    • We served the chicken with fresh Italian bread, chopped lettuce, and mayo mixed with hot cherry pepper spread. That’s all you need! **Here’s a tip. Get a head of iceberg lettuce, wash it, dry it and then chop it up fine. Place it in a bowl with a paper towel on top in the fridge. When you get it out later, it will be nice and crunchy for your sandwich! Deeelicious.


    Chicken parm and spaghetti!

    Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce

    My friend Sarah participated in a CSA this year that gives her locally grown produce every week. She gave me a bag of tomatoes she couldn’t get through that were absolutely delicious. It’s rare to get a really good tomato anymore so when I do, I will usually just sprinkle salt on it and eat it like an apple! But since I had this big bag of beautiful tomatoes and not much in the fridge, I decided to make a quick sauce for lunch this weekend. It’s fresh from the garden- a little bit sweet and creamy balanced by a dash of spice!

    I will apologize in advance for the photo quality as my iPhone camera has taken a turn for the worse. Hopefully this will be remedied soon!

    INGREDIENTS:

    • Whole Wheat Penne
    • Fresh tomatoes
    • 1 sweet onion
    • 2-3 cloves, garlic
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • Fresh basil
    • 1 carrot
    • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 3 tbsp (or so) vodka (could substitute with white wine or red if you take out the balsamic)
    • dash of cream or half and half
    • red pepper flakes (to taste)

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    • Slice your onions very thin and put them in a pan with oil. Cook on medium to high for 30 or so minutes. The longer they cook, the sweeter they will get!

    • Put a pot of boiling water on for the pasta. When it comes to a boil add the penne and cook until al dente. It should take about the same amount of time to finish the sauce.
    • Add your diced tomatoes to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Grate one carrot into the pan. It will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes and add hearty flavor. (I often throw a whole carrot in my pot of sauce while its cooking and remove it before serving.) Then add the chopped garlic.

    • Pour in vodka and raise the heat, let it come to a boil and then lower to simmer and reduce. Add balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a few minutes.

    • Add a spoonful or two of water from the pasta if you need some more liquid in the pan. Put the sauce on low.
    • Pour in a touch of cream and stir.
    • Add in the pasta to the pot of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
    • Eat and enjoy!

    Fettuccine con Pesto

    In continuing my theme of using ingredients from the garden, my friend Alex and I recently made pesto sauce. It’s a great time of year to make pesto and it is extremely easy to make. You can switch up ingredients depending what you have on hand making it a very versatile recipe.

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    My favorite kind of pesto is a mixture of basil and arugula. Sometimes I use parsley or spinach but since I have a huge fresh basil plant, I wanted that to be my primary ingredient today. I also happen to have a small bagful of arugula in my fridge which I added. Pesto is great on pasta and you can easily add it to proteins such as grilled shrimp or chicken. You can marinate them in pesto or brush it on after it comes off the grill.

    Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts) lightly toasted
    • 1-2 garlic cloves (remember the garlic is raw so the flavor will pack a punch and you don’t want to overpower the pesto)
    • 1-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
    • 1 cup arugula
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 cup good olive oil depending on how much pesto you are making. You want your mixture to be smooth.
    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

    Directions

    Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil and salt well. Add your pasta. In the meantime, prepare your pesto.

    Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they start to produce an aroma and turn golden brown.

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    Using a small food processor add the basil, arugula, pine nuts, red pepper flakes salt and pepper. Blend for roughly 15 seconds. I don’t have a machine that allows you to pour olive oil in while it is running. If you do, this is a great time to use it. If not, just simply add the olive oil and blend until smooth. Finally add the cheese and blend until smooth again.

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    When your pasta is al dente strain it and set aside until your pesto is ready. Toss all together in a large bowl and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

    If you have leftover pesto, put it in a small glass jar in the fridge and use it as seasoning on future meals. For example, the next morning I had a nice piece of Italian toast and put 2 slices of tomatoes on top from the garden. I then added a smear of pesto to each tomato. I topped the sandwich with a fried egg over easy. When you cut into the egg it will warm the pesto and you have yourself a fresh and delicious breakfast.

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    Grilled Vegetable Quinoa

    I love grilled vegetables, especially in the summer. You can eat them as a side, add them to a pasta dish, put them in a fajita, mix them with rice, or in this case make a very healthy and inexpensive light summer meal with quinoa.

    Quinoa is new to me but I have fallen in love with it. The texture is hard to describe but it’s very hearty. Much like rice, quinoa is incredibly versatile so the possibilities are endless. I think it’s fun to try something new once in a while. It’s a bonus when you like it, and a double bonus when it’s good for you too! 🙂

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    INGREDIENTS:
    -1 eggplant
    -1 red pepper
    -1 red onion
    -2 zucchini
    -1 bunch asparagus
    -Olive oil or some kind of marinade. I had leftover chimichurri sauce. You can use balsamic vinegar, add fresh herbs and chopped garlic to oil, whatever you like or have on hand.
    -1 cup quinoa
    -Salt & pepper

    DIRECTIONS
    -Slice all your veggies and lay them out on a tray. Brush the marinade on both sides of each veggie.
    -Add salt & pepper.
    -Cook quinoa as instructed on package. (Optional: for more flavor cook in chicken broth and add your favorite herbs)
    -Place veggies on hot grill. Cook on both sides for 3 minutes or so. It depends how thick you cut them.

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    Take veggies off the grill when they are cooked to your liking.

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    -Cut your veggies up into bite sized pieces, toss in a large bowl and top with your choice of cheese.

    This night we had fresh mozzarella so we cut it up and mixed it in. When I took the leftovers to work the next day, I topped it with gorgonzola and heated it up in the microwave- deelish! I imagine feta or parmesan would be great too. Overall, this is a healthy meal you can throw together pretty quick and the leftovers are great. It won’t break the bank or your calorie intake for the day so I recommend you try your own version. Enjoy!

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    Asian-Inspired Scallops with Bok Choy and Soba Noodles

    Tonight I was inspired by a dish Kyle ordered while we were on vacation in Newport, RI. I don’t love scallops but Fluke restaurant served the best scallops I ever had. They were simply amazing. So I decided to give them another shot with a very simple preparation. Since they are so simple I wanted to come up with some flavorful and exciting side dishes.

    This was my first time making soba noodles and I have no idea why I never made them before. The recipe is surprisingly easy to make even though I used a lot of ingredients. Its sweet and a tad spicy but very refreshing on a hot summer night. It also turns out these noodles have less calories than regular white flour pasta! The baby bok choy is prepared in a basic sauté and is a nice crunchy vegetable on the side. Overall, it was a great dinner with a nice balance of flavors. We both gave it two thumbs up. My favorite was the noodles and Kyle voted for the scallops.

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    SEARED SCALLOPS:
    -Salt & Pepper
    -Butter (1-2 tbsp depending on the size of your pan)
    -Olive oil
    -Sake, rice wine or white wine

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    Wash and pat dry the scallops. Add fresh cracked salt and pepper.
    Heat your pan on high with butter and oil. Place scallops in pan making sure they don’t touch each other. Add wine.
    Sear scallops for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

    I had too much oil in my pan and that’s why I didn’t get a nice seared crust so learn from my mistake. Kyle says they were amazing nonetheless.

    SWEET & SPICY GINGER AND SCALLION SOBA NOODLES:
    -2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
    -1 clove grated garlic
    -1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
    -2-3 tbsp soy sauce
    -2-3 tbsp rice vinegar
    -cilantro
    -fresh cracked pepper
    -1-2 tbsp sesame oil
    -1 tbsp hoisin sauce
    -1 tbsp honey
    -sriracha sauce (depends on how spicy you want it. I used about 1 tbsp but could have done more)
    -sesame seeds
    -julienned cucumbers (optional) I don’t have a julienne so I just spent a few minutes with a sharp knife and got the same effect.

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    (fresh grated ginger)
    Add all ingredients to a bowl except for the sesame seeds and cukes. Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes to let favors meld.

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    Cook soba noodles as directed and rinse with cold water.
    Mix everything together and add sesame seeds and cukes.

    BOK CHOY:
    -1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
    -2 cloves grated garlic
    -olive oil
    -salt and pepper
    -few dashes soy sauce

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    Heat garlic and ginger in oil for a minute.
    Add bok choy and season with s&p. Add a few dashes of soy sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes.

    Don’t forget to pair this dish with a delicious pear sake on the rocks!

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    Adult Grilled Cheese

    They call it grilled cheese for a reason. Trust me. It should be made on a grill.

    My sister came over to eat dinner with us on a beautiful Friday night and we decided to grill on the back deck. After debating several options we thought it would be fun to make adult versions of the childhood classic grilled cheese. There is little I enjoy more than the combination of bread, butter and cheese and with probably a million options of topping combinations it wasn’t easy picking the finalist. In the end a few favorite Italian staples won out: pancetta, pesto with gruyere and tellegio cheeses. Wow. Enjoy a crunchy, cheesy, salty and savory dinner, with your vegetable protein and starch, all between two slices of bread.

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    INGREDIENTS:
    Pesto
    -basil (about 1 cup)
    -spinach
    -arugula
    -1/2 avocado
    -1 or 2 cloves garlic
    -parmesan cheese
    -olive oil
    -salt & pepper

    Sandwich

    Crusty Italian bread, sliced (Don’t underestimate the importance in picking out good fresh bread that is sturdy enough to hold the sandwich. It’s critical to the success of your grilled cheese)
    -Gruyere cheese
    -Tellegio Cheese
    -Pancetta, sliced thin and sautéed until crisp
    -Butter

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Spread butter on the front and back of each piece of bread. I recommend a butter with olive oil in it for easy spreading and extra flavor. If you only have regular butter just set it out before using so it softens a bit.

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    In a blender add basil, arugula, spinach (or whatever combo you have/prefer), olive oil, salt & pepper and parmesan cheese. Blend together. Add half an avocado for extra creaminess and blend again for a few seconds until combined.
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    Spread the pesto on the bread.
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    The first layer should be the cheeses and then add the pancetta. Top with more cheese and close the sandwich.
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    Turn your grill on and get it nice and hot. Place your sandwiches directly on the grill (the butter will prevent sticking). Cook for 90 seconds and then move each sandwich to get the x marks from the grill. Cook for another 90 seconds. Flip and repeat. Make sure to use your spatula and push down on each sandwich to help it meld together. Turn the heat on low and cook until cheese is melted.

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    Grillin outside on a beautiful night, drinks in hand=perfect.

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    Cut in half and serve.

    What’s better than this?

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    Baked Potato with a Twist

    Sometimes a plain old baked potato is good, but that’s what it is, plain and old… I was inspired by a photo on pinterest to put a fun twist on the classic side dish. Easy, inexpensive and satisfying!

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    INGREDIENTS:
    Potato
    2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
    1 tbsp butter, melted
    Drizzle of olive oil
    3 tbsp or so of sour cream
    Fresh or dried chives
    Fresh or dried parsley
    (fresh is always preferred)
    Truffle salt (optional)

    DIRECTIONS:

    Cut your potato in thin slices almost to the bottom. Place the pieces of garlic in between a few of the potato slices.

    Brush the potato with butter, drizzle with oil and top with fresh cracked sea salt and pepper.

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    Place on tin foil and put in 425 degree oven or toaster oven for 40 minutes or until nice and crispy. Sprinkle a pinch of truffle salt on the potato.

    Top with sour cream, chives and parsley. Dig in with your fork and enjoy the soft, warm potato surrounded by a salty and savory crunchy crust.

    Pasta with Broccoli

    Easy. Low cost. Delicious (IF you love broccoli).

    Pasta with broccoli has a long history with our family. Growing up, my mom made it often as a side to a meat focused dinner. We typically use the farfalle or “bowtie” pasta as we called it as kids. This meal can be made so many different ways and with different accents. Below is my favorite version but you can also consider using lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, and certainly butter if you aren’t trying to keep it too healthy. It’s an easy weeknight dinner when you don’t have a lot in your fridge, it’s a great side to a protein and it’s delicious leftover hot or cold. I usually make extra so I have leftovers for lunch the next day. The hard part is refraining from eating it all!

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    For a healthier option steam your broccoli in water and chicken broth instead of using olive oil. It will still be tasty and u can drizzle a tiny bit of oil on top for finishing. You can also skip the blender to remove an extra step when you are pressed for time. I like it because it makes the sauce a little thicker. Think of it as a broccoli pesto.

    INGREDIENTS:
    -2 heads fresh broccoli
    -2-3 cloves garlic
    -2 shallots
    -few tbsps Parmesan cheese
    -olive oil
    -red pepper flakes
    -chicken broth as needed
    -pasta (whole wheat penne used here but I encourage the bowties)
    -salt & pepper
    -fresh basil or parsley (optional)

    DIRECTIONS:
    Place a large pot of water on high heat. Bring to boil.

    Sauté garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes in olive oil.

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    Place half of your broccoli in blender And blend until the big chunks are gone.

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    Add the mixture to your pan with the remaining broccoli that you chopped into bite sized pieces. Add salt and pepper.

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    Add chicken broth as needed so you have enough liquid for your pasta. Let cook for a few minutes. I don’t like mushy broccoli so as soon as it gets soft I take off the heat. Mix in a large bowl with pasta. Add cheese, more fresh basil and serve.

    Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups

    Chicken lettuce wraps exploded as a popular appetizer/entree mostly because of P.F. Changs. They are delicious and healthy, or at least you would think. Check out the nutritional facts on PF’s version and you’ll be shocked at the sodium content. I made these a few years ago for my cousin’s wedding shower and recreated them again this week for a healthy weeknight meal. They are spicy, crunchy, tasty pockets of flavor. My recipe uses a lot of ingredients but feel free to pick and choose based on your own personal preferences. I also didn’t include peanuts which you will often find in this dish (as I don’t like nuts in my food).

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    INGREDIENTS:
    -1 lb. Fresh ground chicken (I buy organic cage free chicken)
    -1/2 package shiitake or bella mushrooms, chopped fine
    -2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
    -3 scallions, chopped fine
    -1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
    -2 celery stalks, diced
    – small can watercress (adds a nice crunch but optional)
    -Hoison sauce (few tablespoons depending on your taste)
    -Sriracha sauce (1-2 tablespoons depending on how hot you like it. I love it spicy!)
    -Few dashes sesame oil for frying
    -Rice wine (about 1/4 cup)
    -Fresh ginger
    -Few dashes soy sauce
    -1 teaspoon cumin
    -1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    -1 teaspoon paprika
    -Fresh cilantro for topping (I didn’t have any)

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    DIRECTIONS:

    Wash your lettuce well and select the leaves that will be good for cups. Set aside in the fridge with a paper towel on top. This will get your lettuce nice and crisp for when you are ready to eat. Place any pieces too small for cups in a large plastic bag with a paper towel for use at a later time.

    Put a wok on medium-high heat with sesame oil. Add your chopped onions, garlic, mushrooms, and scallions.

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    Add your ground chicken to the center of the pan. Break it up using your spoon and let brown.

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    Add Hoison sauce and mix well. Then add Sriracha, soy sauce and let everything cook for 3-4 minutes. Add cumin, paprika and cayenne. Then add rice wine and let the liquid reduce.

    Add fresh grated ginger. This will brighten up all the flavors and it smells incredible. You can’t replace fresh grated ginger.

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    When you are almost ready to eat add your celery to the pan and turn the heat to low. I like to add it at the end so it retains a nice crunch in the lettuce wrap.

    Add fresh cilantro if you have it (I forgot it at the store) and enjoy a nice cup of sake!

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    Lasagna Soup

    If you love lasagna, then you will love this recipe. My friend at work, Marie, showed me a new recipe from Bobby Deen (Paula Deen’s son who is trying to put a healthier twist on Paula’s meals). “Lasagna soup” sounds very strange and I was hesitant at first but it tastes amazing; it’s lasagna in a bowl with half the amount of cheese and pasta. You lose out on calories, but NOT on flavor. I’m so happy she turned me on to this recipe. I have a feeling I will be making it many, many times in the future.

    Here is the link to Bobby’s recipe, which of course I slightly altered. I am not a fan of green pepper so I substituted with fresh finocchio. I added red wine because I would add it to my gravy I use in lasagna and I decided to top the dish with cheese and broil it rather than stir it in for a nice bubbly crust.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • Italian Chicken Sausage, 2 links or about 1 lb (Whole foods makes an excellent one where you can read and understand all ingredients. Be careful when buying sausage, pay attention to the ingredients b/c it can get gross)
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 1 onion
    • Finocchio (few stalks)
    • Fresh basil
    • Parmesan Cheese, few tablespoons
    • Part-skim mozzarella cheese
    • Part-skim t ricotta, 1 large spoonful
    • 4 whole wheat lasagna noodles
    • Tomato Puree (San Marzano tomatoes are the best, you can find them at Whole Foods)
    • Diced Tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup Italian red wine

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick saucepot or Dutch oven. Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic.

    Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is crumbled and browned, 8 – 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

    Add the broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, more salt, and crushed red pepper. I also added the red wine I was drinking. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes.

    Bring to a boil again when you are ready to add the noodles. Break the noodles in small enough pieces so they will fit on your spoon. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens slightly and the noodles are tender, 10 – 12 minutes. I added a few squirts of tomato paste to thicken it a bit more.

    Remove from the heat; stir in the ricotta. Turn your oven broiler on.

    Spoon the soup into oven safe bowls and top with parmesan and mozzarella. Bake until the cheese bubbles, sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and serve.

    Baked Halibut with Roasted Garlic Brown Rice

    Another dish my mom often made us growing up was baked halibut topped with Italian-seasoned bread crumbs.  It was one of the only ways I would eat fish growing up.  I still love it today! Halibut is a bit pricey so if you are watching your spending, any other white fish will do for this dish. We splurged because I really wanted it!

    Also, if you have never made roasted garlic before, you are crazy.  It’s delicious and will make your house smell amazing. If you are having company it’s a great thing to stick in your toaster oven and have cooking.  Mix it with butter or olive oil and serve with bread at the dinner table. This will surely impress your guests!

    INGREDIENTS:

    • Halibut
    • Italian seasoned bread crumbs (I’m partial to Progresso’s)
    • Whole wheat panko bread crumbs
    • Fresh chopped parsley
    • 1 Lemon (juice and zest)
    • Paprika
    • Butter (I used whipped because it’s a little lighter and better for you)
    • Olive oil in your misto

    For the Roasted Garlic:  Take 1 garlic bulb and chop the top half off. Place in a tin foil cup, drizzle some olive oil and top with kosher salt. Roast in the toaster oven on 300 for as long as you can. The longer you go the softer it gets and the more the smell will permeate your house and make your mouth water. (Mine is just writing and thinking about it).

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    • Place your fish on a baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
    • Squeeze lemon juice on top of your fish and add salt and pepper.  Use the zest of 1/2 your lemon.  
    • Chop up fresh parsley and mix with your Italian bread crumbs and whole wheat panko bread crumbs.
    • Top your fish with the bread crumb mixture.  Add some paprika on top.
    •  Spray with your olive oil misto.  Place a few small dollops of butter along your fish. 
    • Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through. It depends how thick your fish is.
    • When it’s cooked perfectly the halibut will fall apart with the touch of your fork.  Serve with your brown rice!

    For the brown rice:  Mash up the roasted garlic and stir into cooked brown rice.  I also added a few sprinkles of feta cheese, salt & fresh cracked pepper.

    Enjoy!