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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

{Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Spinach}

Growing up Mac and Cheese was one of my favorite foods.  

However I was pretty picky about my mac and cheese!  I wouldn't eat mac and cheese unless it came from the blue box (you know... the Kraft blue box... homemade just didn't cut it), there had to be peas and carrots mixed into the finished mac and cheese, and I had to have a little pile of the powder cheese mix on the side of my plate to dip my already cheesy noodles in!  Oh and I would never eat leftover mac and cheese... because that was just gross!  Yes, I was an odd odd child! 

However now a days I prefer homemade mac and cheese to boxed mac and cheese and I no longer need a pile of powdered cheese to dip my noodles in... But I do still want my mac and cheese loaded with veggies which is why I love this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Spinach! 

This mac and cheese is so flavorful and creamy and just darn delicious!  You won't even taste the squash!  Trust me my squash hating husband even gobbled this mac and cheese down and said he would even eat it again, that's a winner of a dish!  And if I haven't given you enough reason to make this awesome mac and cheese here is another reason... You make the whole dish start to finish in the same pot!  Have I convinced you? 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Spinach 
Serves 6

Cooking Spray 
10 Oz. Pureed Butternut Squash ( I bought frozen Archer Farms Squash and pureed it myself)
1 Cup Almond Milk 
2 Cups Chicken Broth 
10 Oz. Elbow Macaroni Whole Wheat Pasta 
3 Cups Broccoli Florets 
2 Cups Spinach 
3 Garlic Cloves 
1/4 Cup Onion Chopped 
5 oz. Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Pepper 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin 

Serve with additional cheese and sriracha if you like! 

1- Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray ( I used a small cast iron Le Crusest Dutch oven) add onions and cook until tender, add garlic and cook until fragrant. 
2- Carefully stir in butternut squash puree, almond milk and chicken broth. Stir occasionally. 
3- Once squash mixture is boiling add in your elbow macaroni.  Cover the pot and reduce heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes occasionally stirring.  Stir in your broccoli and cover and cook an additional 3 minutes or until sauce has thickened and pasta has cooked. 
4- Carefully stir in 4 oz of cheese, spinach, salt and pepper into macaroni allowing the heat of the pasta to wilt the spinach.  Top with remaining cheese and serve! 


Friday, August 28, 2015

{Spicy Pumpkin Quinoa Bake }

The weather in Minnesota recently has felt more life fall then late August!  And I loved every minute of it!  Cool crisp mornings and beautiful 60-70 degree evenings!

I will say that I am secretly ready for fall!  I am ready to to pull out all my fall clothes, Boots, chunky sweaters, cute light jackets... I cannot wait!  And I am even more ready and excited for the wonderful fall activities (apple picking, pumpkin patches)  and smells!

It was so funny with the weather cooling off a bit this week I found myself craving everything pumpkin!  Pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread, but most of all my pumpkin chili!  Which is why I decided to try my hand at a delicious one pan quinoa bake that featured pumpkin like my delicious chili! The end results are hands down delicious.  This is a perfect dish to enjoy on a cool evening.  Serve it up with fun chili style toppings along with crackers/tortilla chips for dipping!  Tasty, healthy and super delicious! 

Spicy Pumpkin Quinoa Bake 
Brunch N'Cupcakes
Serves 6-8

1 Cup Quinoa 
1 - 15 oz can Pumpkin 
3 Cloves Garlic 
1 - 15 oz Fire Roasted Tomatos
1/2 a Large Onion Chopped 
2 Red Peppers Chopped 
1 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock 
1 - 15 oz Can Kidney Beans - Drained 
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese 
2 Teaspoons Sriracha 
1 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder, Cumin and Cinnamon 
1 Teaspoon Salt and Pepper 

1- Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Toss veggies and kidney beans in the bottom of the casserole dish.  Top veggies and beans with quinoa and toss in casserole dish till combined. 
2 - In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, chicken broth, tomatoes and spices.  Carefully pour the wet ingredients over the veggies and quinoa in the casserole dish.  Give everything a quick stir to make sure that the veggies and quinoa are equally coated. 
3- Bake casserole in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes or until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Top casserole with cheese and broil on high for 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned! 

Serve with plain or with your favorite chili toppings!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

{Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage Skillet}

A few weeks ago I had a dear friend over for dinner!  We enjoyed a lovely evening on the patio catching up on life; all while enjoying the beautiful weather, a glass of wine and this delicious Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage Skillet.  

Let me just pause for a moment and say that there is nothing better then a night spent with a dear friend, where you get to talk for hours and enjoy good food and wine!  Nothing better!  Let me also say that this Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage Skillet is hands down amazing.  

Oh, and you know what makes this dish even greater?  It is simple to make,  not a lot of complicated steps... week night win!  I used Trader Joe's Jalapeno Chicken Sausage to give the dish a kick, but if your not into heat use a chicken sausage that is a bit milder (like Roasted Red Pepper, or Mild Italian - Trader Joe's has tons of options)!  Don't like kale?  Sub in spinach!  Wanna serve it over rice?  go ahead, but I love the extra veggie boost and flavor the cauliflower rice provides!  PS Derek even loved this dish... cauliflower rice, kale and all!  Win Win for this cook! 

Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage Skillet 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4 


1 Package of Chicken Sausage (5 links total) - I used Trader Joe's Jalapeno - Chopped 
2 Garlic Cloves 
1/2 Cup Chopped Mushrooms 
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil 
1/2 Medium Onion Chopped 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin, Paprika, Chili Powder
1-2 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar 
3/4 a large bag of chopped kale
Salt and Pepper to Taste 

Cauliflower Rice
1 Head Cauliflower - Roughly Chopped 
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion 
1-2 Garlic Cloves Minced 
Salt and Pepper to Taste 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin and Paprika
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil 
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Chopped 


To make the Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage Skillet: 
1- Heat coconut oil in a large skillet.  Saute onions until tender.  Add Garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add mushrooms and seasoning to the skillet.  Cook until mushrooms are soft and liquid from mushrooms has absorbed.  Add chicken sausage and cook until heated through and chicken sausage is lightly browned.
2- Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar to the skillet and de-glaze the pan.
3- Add spinach to the skillet and cook until wilted.  Serve immediately over cauliflower rice or plain rice.

To make the cauliflower rice:
1-  Place chopped cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse food processor until cauliflower resembles grains of rice.
2- In a large skillet heat coconut oil.  Saute onions until tender.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Carefully add "riced" cauliflower to the skillet.  Season with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika.
3- Cook cauliflower for 7-10 minutes until tender and heated through.  Carefully stir in cilantro and remove from heat. 


Saturday, August 22, 2015

{Clean Eating}

Over the years I have learned that my body just functions better when I eat cleaner.  I am more alert, have more energy and overall just feel better.  But I also like to indulge every now in then, because what is life without a little sugar?  

I will say these days I try to embrace an 80-20 lifestyle.  Eating clean 80% of the time and indulging/living 20% of the time.  It is a balance that works for me and has become sort of second nature to me.  But eating clean wasn't always easy for me, it took a lot of effort, that is why I was so excited when Cooking Light asked their Blogger Connection to share how they make clean eating a part of everyday life, in partnership with Panera Bread!   Which if you have not been to Panera recently you need high tail it over there and try their new menu!  I am in love with Panera's new fresh salads that feature good for you ingredients, clean dressing and loads of flavor!  Panera's Mediterranean Chicken and Quinoa salad is my new fav, its so delicious!  Plus, I can enjoy it knowing that I am putting good for me nutrients into my body!  

So now lets talk about how I make clean eating work in my busy everyday life!  Below are 5 ways that I make clean eating work along with some tips!  

1- Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep.
I find that when I plan out meals for the week (yes even breakfasts, lunches, and snacks)  I make better food choices.  Sunday nights I like to cut all my veggies for my weekly lunches, cook up a big batch of grains and cook up hard boiled eggs for quick easy grab and go breakfasts/snacking.  By prepping all this Sunday I can easily assemble a healthy and clean salad to take for lunch each day.   I also spend Sunday nights prepping as much as I can for our weekly dinners (chopping veggies, assembling meatballs, marinading chicken, etc).  This helps ease meal prep during the week and makes creating a healthy and clean dinner a breeze during the hectic work week.   
2- Read Labels, and stick to what you know!
In the beginning I didn't know where to begin when it came to grocery shopping, so I did a lot of research to find the cleanest foods, and read a lot of labels.  Grocery shopping took a lot of time in the beginning when I was trying to clean up my diet.  Now a days I have my tried and true staples that I purchase on a weekly basis, think Greek Yogurt, Beans, Canned Tomatoes etc.  These are my clean eating staples that I know I love and help eating cleaner so much easier!  Remember the shorter the ingredient deck the better! I also make sure that I shop mainly the perimeter of the store! 
3- Stock up and fill up on fresh produce.  
Fresh fruits and veggies are some of the cleanest and purest foods you can eat, so why wouldn't you want to fill your tank with as much of that goodness as possible?  I love subbing in fruits and veggies in lace of other snacky foods like pretzels, chips, etc.  I am a huge lover of chips and salsa but in an effort to eat cleaner and up my intake of fruits and veggies I dip carrot chips into fresh salsa instead of tortilla chips!  With that simple swap I upped my veggie intake and cleaned up my diet just a little more! More go to snacks; apple with peanut butter, homemade hummus and veggies, greek yogurt with honey and berries! 
4- When in doubt make your own! 
I love making my own salad dressings, granola and granola bars/energy bites!  By making my own I can control the ingredients that go into the foods I consume and I can make sure that I am putting only whole and nutritious ingredients into my body!  Busy?  Try making a pan of granola bars on Sunday night as a part of your meal prep!  For salads try drizzling greens with a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 apple cider vinegar!  I also love combining olive oil, honey, lemon juice and zest for a zippy and bright salad dressing! 
5- Make smart choices when dining out, but also enjoy!
When dining out I stick with dishes that feature loads of fresh and in season veggies!  I love grilled foods and if I don't like something the dish is featuring I ask for it on the side or not at all!  Don't be scared to ask for modifications to a dish when you are out!  But remember dining out is also a treat and you should enjoy it!  Remember 80% clean and 20% indulging and living.

Enjoy and Happy Eating!

Friday, August 14, 2015

{Grilled Greek Chicken}

Let me first start by saying these are not my finest photos!  Derek and I enjoyed this delicious Greek Chicken a few weeks ago outside by our pool and I didn't have my camera with me... so iPhone photos it was!  But hey, photos are better then no photos in my eyes!   

This chicken is what I would classify as a perfect summer meal.  The chicken is light and full of flavor... and  pairs great with warm weather, wine, outdoor dining and grilled veggies!  All the things I love about summer cooking! Perfect for week nights or a weekend grill out with friends... enjoy and happy cooking! 

Grilled Greek Chicken 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4 

2 Chicken Breast 
Salt, pepper, dried dill and garlic to season chicken 
1/3 Cup Cucumber Diced 
Juice and Zest from Half a Lemon 
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt 
1 Garlic Clove Minced 
Teaspoon Agave 
2 Tablespoons Fresh Dill 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine Greek yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, minced garlic, agave, cucumber and fresh dill together in a medium bowl.  Place Greek yogurt cucumber sauce in fridge. 
2- Liberally season both sids of each chicken breast with salt, pepper, dill and garlic.   
3- On a grill heated to medium-high grill chicken flipping once until chicken is cooked fully through. 

To serve:
1- Cut each chicken breast in half and top with equal portions of Greek yogurt cucumber sauce. 

**Serve with steamed veggies, grilled veggies or a simple side salad! 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

{Black Bean Meatball Bowls with Cauliflower Rice}

Hi friends! 
I just thought I should let you know that my brain is completely fried!  After a crazy but totally fun weekend of traveling (we drove 18 hours in 3 days) and now a busy busy work week... I have to say that I am lucky if I can even string a full sentence together... So I will leave you with this... and I am going to go take a nap, or get another cup of coffee!  One of the two! 

Simple, healthy and delicious - Check. 
Veggies - Check 
Protein - Check 

"Rice" that fakes you into thinking you are actually eating rice... Check! 
Yup, these Black Bean Meatball Bowls with Cauliflower Rice has it all!  I have been enjoying these little veggie packed bowls for over a week now, and am in heaven!  The meatballs can easily be made ahead of time and they freeze wonderfully (trust me I have tried it).   You can even chop the veggies and rice the cauliflower ahead of time to help cut cooking time down! Don't let the cauliflower rice scare you... it is super easy to make and hands down delicious!  I hope you enjoy as much as I did! 

Black Bean Meatballs with Cauliflower Rice 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4-6 


Black Bean Meatballs:
1 - 15 Oz. Can Black Beans Drained and Rinsed 
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro 
1/2 - Medium Red Pepper - Finely Chopped 
1/4 - Medium Onion - Finely Chopped 
3/4 Cup Quick Cooking Oats 
Teaspoon Cumin and Chili Powder, Pepper and Garlic Powder 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
2 Large Egg Whites 

Cauliflower Rice
1 Head Cauliflower - Roughly Chopped 
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion 
1-2 Garlic Cloves Minced 
Salt and Pepper to Taste 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin and Paprika
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil 
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Chopped 

To Serve - 
1-2 Cups Spinach 
1 Red Pepper 
2/3 Cup Grape Tomates - Halved 
Salsa and or Srirach 
Avocado, Lime Wedges, Greek Yogurt, Cilantro 


To Make the Black Bean Meatballs: 
1- In a large bowl lightly mash the black beans with a fork. 
2- Add oatmeal, spices, cilantro and egg to the bowl and mix until well combined.  Set aside. 
3- In a large skillet coated with cooking spray saute peppers and onions until tender. 
4- Add veggies to the black bean mixture and mix until veggies are incorporated throughout the black bean mixture. 
5- Grease a muffin tin (with 12 slots) and form black bean mixture into 12 meatballs placing one meatball in each muffin tin.  
6- Back in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until tops are slightly browned. 

To make the cauliflower rice:
1-  Place chopped cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse food processor until cauliflower resembles grains of rice.  
2- In a large skillet heat coconut oil.  Saute onions until tender.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Carefully add "riced" cauliflower to the skillet.  Season with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. 
3- Cook cauliflower for 7-10 minutes until tender and heated through.  Carefully stir in cilantro and remove from heat. 

To Serve: 
1- Divide cauliflower rice among four plates. 
2- Top each serving of "rice" with equal parts spinach, tomatoes, and peppers. 
3- Top plate with black bean meatballs and additional toppings of choice! 


Monday, August 10, 2015

{Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes}

**Update** this is one of those easy yet delicious recipes that is great for a week night dinner! Also perfect for meatless Monday!  Enjoy! 

Baked potatoes are my go to, super fast and easy week night dinner staple!  Because lets be honest, we have all had those nights where we don't even want to spend 15 minutes making dinner!  I love to cook but sometimes just the thought preparing a meal makes me want to throw in the towel and have cereal for dinner!  

Well, that little rant about not wanting to make dinner really has nothing to do with the recipe I am going to tell you about today!  Well expect for the fact that this is a baked sweet potato recipe that is!  But, I can promise you that these twice baked sweet potatoes are delicious.  And I can promise you that they are easy and take little to no time to prepare!  I lightened up these flavorful twice baked sweet potatoes by using greek yogurt instead of sour cream and packed them full of sauteed veggies!    Don't worry I left all the cheesy goodness in these potatoes that we have grown to love about traditional twice baked potatoes!  Enjoy these twice baked sweet potatoes as a simple meal or enjoy as side to grilled chicken or shrimp! 

Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 3-4 

4 Small Sweet Potatoes Washed and Dried(I used one large and a small... all we had!)
1/2 Cup Broccoli Florets 
1/4 Cup Onion Chopped 
2 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (I used 0%) 
1/3 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Shredded Cheddar Cheese 
2 Garlic Cloves Minced 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin 

1- Pierce each potato with a fork and place on plate.  Microwave the potatoes for 8-10 minutes or until tender when pricked with fork. 
2- Set potatoes aside and allow to cool.  In the mean time heat a skillet sprayed with cooking spray and sautee onions until translucent.  Add in garlic and cook until fragrant.  Finally add broccoli to the skillet and cook till tender.  Remove skillet from heat and set aside.  
3- Grab your potatoes and slice each one down the middle.  Carefully scoop out the inside of the potato into a bowl.  Slightly mash the potato in the bowl.  Add yogurt and spices to mashed potato and mix until well incorporated.  Next stir in 1/3 cup cheese and the veggies.  Mix once again until well combined.  
4- Carefully lay potato skins out on a baking sheet and carefully stuff each potato skin with the potato/veggie mixture.  Top each potato with 1/2 Tablespoon of cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted (about 10 minutes).  

** Top your potatoes with sour cream or greek yogurt if you wish!  Serve the twice baked sweet potatoes as a the main meal with steamed veggies or as a side to grilled meat!