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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

{Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites}

I am constantly on the lookout for new/healthy pre-workout snack ideas!  Since becoming a person who spends the wee hours of the morning at the gym I have found that eating breakfast prior to my sweat session is not an option,  and neither is going to the gym with my fuel tank on "E"!  
I like my pre-workout snacks simple, nutritious and portable which is why I have been loving homemade energy bites and homemade granola bars! 

These Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites are my new go to grab and go pre-sweat sesh treat!   Honey and an over ripe banana provide sweetness, oats provide healthy nutritious carbs and the peanut butter and almond flour give me a healthy dose of fats.  Plus the rich cocoa flavor is a nice little treat in the AM!

Whip up a batch Sunday night and you have a portable go to snack for the week!  Enjoy! 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites 
Brunch N'Cupcakes
Makes 24 Bites 

2 Cups Quick Cooking Oats 
1 Cup Almond Flour (Almond Meal) 
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 
1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds 
1 Over Ripe Banana - Mashed
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter (Natural or Organic) 
1/4 Cup Honey

1- In a large bowl combine Oats, Almond Flour, Chia Seeds and Unsweetened Cocoa Powder.  Mix well so that everything is combined. 
2- In a smaller microwave safe bowl combine honey and peanut butter.  Melt peanut butter and honey together (about 30 seconds) and stir until peanut butter and honey are mixed together well and smooth. Add mashed banana to the peanut butter/honey mixture and stir until well incorporated. 
3- Carefully pour peanut butter/honey/banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir until wet and dry ingredients are incorporated.  
4- With wet hands carefully roll dough into 24 bites.  Place in an air tight container and store in fridge. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

{Maple Dijon Glazed Roasted Salmon }

You guys, I miss grilling!  If there was a way I could grill year round in Minnesota and not freeze my butt off I totally would (though with the sudden warm weather again I might be able to grill outside right now)!  Salmon is one of my all time favorite things to grill, so since the weather is a not exactly grilling and chilling weather this Maple Dijon Roasted Salmon will just have to do! 

I love that this roasted salmon seems fancy (I would serve it for fish loving guests) but in reality its really super simple to whip up!  Another great thing about this dish... you only need a few pantry items to make it!  The maple syrup gives the salmon a nice sweetness while the soy sauce and dijon mustard give the dish a little pizzazz and tang.  Whip up some fresh roasted veggies and you have yourself a mouth watering meal in under 45 minutes!  Oh, and don't worry your house won't smell all fishy after you make this dish!  I promise!  

Maple Dijon Glazed Roasted Salmon 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4-6 

1 Lb Fresh Salmon (skin still on) 
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder 
1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary 

For Maple Dijon Sauce: 
3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup 
1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard 
1/2 Tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce

1-Pat Salmon dry, and place fish skin side down on a greased baking sheet with raised edges.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. 
2- Roast salmon in a 450 degree oven for 7-8 minutes.  While salmon is roasting whisk together your Maple Dijon glaze by combine the maple syrup, Dijon mustard and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Whisk well until combined.  Set aside.  
3- Remove salmon from oven and brush with maple Dijon glaze.  Place salmon back in oven and bake for an additional 2 minutes or until salmon has reached it's desired doneness.  
4- Remove salmon from oven and garnish with dried rosemary, serve immediately!  

Serve with roasted vegetables (we like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) or a simple green salad! 

Check out these other delicious salmon recipes from around the web! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

{Cauliflower Fried Rice}

Winter has officially hit Minnesota, and after the very mild weather we have been having... the snow and cold sorta felt like a slap in the face!  Can we go back to the balmy 40-50 degree weather we were having just a few weeks ago?  Pretty Please?  

This is silly to say but even though I am a baby when it comes to to cold weather... the snow and cold does make it feel a little more like the Holiday season.  I know, only a crazy Minnesotan would say that... but to me the Holiday season isn't complete without the white fluffy stuff... I know I sound crazy again! 

You want to know what else is kinda crazy?  The fact that I can get Derek to eat this insanely delicious Cauliflower Fried Rice!  I know... crazy, but cauliflower is one of his favorite vegetables!  I love this fried rice for so many reasons.  But the main reason I love it so much is because it is loaded with veggies and good for you protein.  Plus it is super flavorful.  Ricing the cauliflower does take some time, but I promise you the end results are totally worth it!  To save on time rice the cauliflower the night before, or buy Green Giants riced cauliflower in the steamer bags, you can find it in the produce section with the other fresh steamer bag veggies!  So have I convinced you to make this dish yet?  Good... happy cooking! 

Cauliflower Fried Rice 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4 

1 Cup Match Stick Carrots 
1 Medium Bell Pepper - I like Red - Chopped 
1/2 Large Onion - Chopped 
4 Garlic Cloves Minced 
2 Large Egg Whites +1 Large Egg beaten
1 Package Organic Tempeh - I like Trader Joe's 
1 Head Cauliflower Cut into Florets - Or 2 Bags Green Giant Chopped/Riced Cauliflower 
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce 
1 1/2 Tablespoon Sesame Oil 
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar 
1 Tablespoon Agave 
Pepper to Taste 
1/4 Teaspoon Ginger 

1-Place cauliflower florets in a food processor or blender (I have a ninja) and pulse until cauliflower resembles grains of rice - don't over chop!  Set cauliflower aside. 
2- In a large skillet coated with cooking spray saute onions, pepper, and carrots until tender.  Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  
3- Add Tempeh to the skillet and cook until lightly browned.  Now carefully add riced cauliflower to the skillet, stirring well.  Cook cauliflower for 5-10 minutes or until soft.  
4- Make a well in the center of skillet.  Carefully pour beaten eggs into center of the well and cook.   Once eggs are cooked carefully stir to combine eggs with cauliflower rice, veggies and tempeh.  Turn off stove. 
5- In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, agave and ginger.  Pour over cauliflower rice and stir until cauliflower is evenly coated in sauce.  Turn stove back on and heat for 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

I served mine with crushed peanuts, sriracha, and fresh cilantro! 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

{Easy Chicken Chili}

With Thanksgiving being next weekend (Gasp) I really should be focused on sharing Thanksgiving inspired dishes with you... but I am sometimes a procrastinator, and the weather has turned bitterly cold (well colder then it has been)... so I thought it would be best to share this delicious White Chicken Chili recipe with you!

I am guilty of making chili once a week in the winter time, so to me I can never have to many delicious recipes to circulate and choose from.

I love this recipe because big chunks of chicken are subbed in for ground turkey/chicken, and the beans help make the chili extra thick!  I add lots and lots of veggies for added bulk and amped up the spice with a  jalapeno, omit if you would like a milder chili!  This chili really does get better with time which means this chili makes perfect leftovers!  Round out the meal with a salad, crackers or crusty bread for dipping and shredded cheese for some melty goodness!  You could even serve this chili with your favorite whole grain tortilla chips!

Easy Chicken Chili
Brunch N'Cupcakes - Inspired by My Dad
Serves 6-8

4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth 
1 Large Onion Roughly Chopped
1 Red Pepper Chopped 
1 Jalapeno Seeded and Chopped 
1 Cup Frozen Corn 
5 Garlic Cloves - Minced
1 Cup Matchstick Carrots 
1 - 15 Oz. Can Fire Roasted
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder 
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika and Cumin 
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro Minced 
About 2 Cups Shredded Cooked Chicken 
1 - 15 Oz Can Garbanzo Beans 
1-15 Oz Can Great Northern Beans 

1- In a large pot coated with cooking spray saute onion, pepper, jalapeno and carrots until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and cook until fragrant. 
2- Add chicken broth, fire roasted tomatoes, and spices to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling add chicken and corn to the pot.  Reduce heat and let chili simmer for 20 minutes covered. 
3- Remove lid stir in garbanzo beans, great northern beans and cilantro.  Adjust seasoning as needed.  
Serve with Greek Yogurt, Tortilla Chips/Crackers/Bread, Cheese, Hot Sauce, and Avocado slices,

Check out these other great chili recipes from around the web! 
Cafe Latte Chicken Salsa Chili - Featured on Minneapolis Runner
Fast Chicken Chili - Cooking Light 
5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili - Gimme Some Oven 


Friday, November 13, 2015

{Parmesan and Ricotta One Pot Vegetable Pasta}

Thanksgiving is just two weeks away!  Can you believe it?!  I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it is Mid November already, mainly because we have had some of the craziest weather here in Minnesota... I am talking 60+ degrees, that is just unheard of!

But now that the weather is beginning to be more "Fall/Winter" like I find myself craving warm delicious dinners that are both comforting and nutritious.

I am craving things like this ridiculously creamy Parmesan and Ricotta One Pot Vegetable Pasta.  This pasta dish is light and packed with vegetables.   But it will still satisfy your want or shall I see need for a delicious creamy pasta!  The best part about this dish... you only have to dirty one pot, and everything literally cooks together (well minus the cheese, you need to add that at the end)!  Feel free to toss in some chicken or white beans for a little protein!  I love serving big bowls of this pasta up with a simple spinach salad, makes for a perfect meal!

Parmesan and Ricotta One Pot Vegetable Pasta
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 6-8 

1 Large Onion Chopped 
2 Cups Broccoli Florets 
1 Cup Match Stick Carrots 
6 Garlic Cloves Minced 
1/3 Cup Frozen Peas 
1 - 14 Oz Box Whole Grain Penne (I use Barrilla)
4 Cups Chicken Broth 
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning 
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/3 Cup Fresh Basil - Roughly Chopped 
1/3 Cup Part Skim Ricotta Cheese 
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese 

1- In a large pot combine vegetables, Penne Noodles, Chicken Broth and Italian Seasoning.  Bring to Boil. 
2- When mixture comes to a boil reduce heat and cover pot with a lid.  Let cook for 7-10 minutes (stiring occasionally so noodles don't stick) until the noodles and vegetables are tender, and broth is almost absorbed (you want a little left over to help make the sauce)
3- Stir in ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and serve. 

Serving Suggestions: 
Serve with additional shredded Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, or a simple spinach salad. 


Check out these other great one pot dishes from around the web:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

{Spicy Brown Rice Enchilada Bake}

This Spicy Brown Rice Enchilada bake is seriously delicious, I have made it twice this month (within the same week even), and I am making it again this weekend for Halloween!  Yes, I am obsessed with this one pot wonder meal, and I think you will be too!   

This enchilada bake is ooey, gooey and cheesy!  Packed with tons of flavor and veggies.  But the best part about this dish is you can assemble it the night before, and then toss it in the oven the next night for 15-20 minutes and voila, you have dinner!  Oh, and there is no stuffing tortillas with filling either, that's pretty great too! 

I adapted this recipe from Damn Delicious’ Enchilada Quinoa Bake.  Since Derek is not a huge quinoa fan I decided to use brown rice in place of the quinoa.  I added sautéed onion, pepper, and jalapeno to up the veggie factor and added some salsa into the mix for extra heat!  Yummo!  I served up this enchilada bake with my favorite Southwest Chop Salad, Greek Yogurt, Extra Salsa, Avocado, and Tortilla Chips!  So yummy, it would even make a great Taco filling.

Spicy Brown Rice Enchilada Bake  
Brunch N'Cupcakes - Inspired by Damn Delicious 
Serves 6-8

1 Cup Brown Rice (Dry)
1 Red or Yellow Pepper
1/2 Large Onion Chopped
1 Jalapeno Chopped
1 Cup Corn
1 Cup Black Beans
1 - 10 Oz Can Enchilada Sauce
1 can Mild Green Chilies
1/3 Cup Favorite Salsa
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1/2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
3/4 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Chopped Tomatoes, Greek Yogurt, Avocado Slices, Salsa and Sriracha for serving

1- Cook rice according to package directions.
2- While rice cooks saute chopped onion, jalapeno, pepper and garlic until tender.
3- Once rice is cooked and veggies are tender combine together in a large bowl with corn, black beans, enchilada sauce, green chilies, salsa, spices, mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese(reserve the remaining cheddar to sprinkle over the top). 
4- Stir until everything is well mixed together. 
5- Pour the rice mixture into a greased casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese (1/2 Cup) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. 

Serve immediately with additional salsa, sour cream/Greek Yogurt, avocado slices, tomatoes and tortilla chips.

Check out these other delicious enchilada recipes from around the web:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole - Cooking Light 
Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet - Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Black Bean and Quinoa Enchilada Bake - Two Peas and Their Pod 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

{Cheesy Broccoli and Spinach Strata}

Hi Friends, I am going to be honest with you for a moment… 
There are weeks (they are rare though) when I simply do not want to go to the grocery store, and the sheer thought of meal prepping makes my head hurt!  There I said it!  But it is during those very rare weeks that I make it my mission to use up all the random leftover we have in our fridge and cabinets to make our weekly meals (I kinda like the challenge)!  

This comforting Cheesy Broccoli and Spinach Strata was the outcome of one of those rare I don’t want to go to the grocery store type weeks!  And you know what, I am completely OK with that, because this Strata is the bomb!  

Is there anything better then thick bread that has been piled high with veggies and cheese before finally being baked to bubbly cheese perfection?  Well, cupcakes and peanut butter might bet better but this strata rates right up there with both (I am a carb lover by nature)!  This delicious pan of cheesy baked goodness is so simple to prepare.  Throw everything together the night before, let the strata sit overnight in the fridge and then bake it up for dinner (or brunch) the next day.  Simple and delicious.  Oh and did I mention that this dish is healthy?  Because it is! 

Cheesy Broccoli and Spinach Strata 
Brunch N'Cupcakes Inspired by Cooking Light 
Serves 8 

8 Cups Sour Dough Bread cut into 1 inch cubes ( I used week old Great Harvest Sour Dough) 
2 Cups Spinach 
1 Onion Diced 
2 Cups Broccoli 
1 1/2 Cup Egg Substitute or Liquid Egg Whites 
1 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk 
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese 
3/4 Cup Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese 
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning 
2 Teaspoons Garlic 
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil 
Cooking Spray

1 - in a large bowl toss bread crumbs with 1/2 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.  Then evenly spread seasoned bread crumbs in the bottom of a well greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.
2- In a large skillet heat 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Saute onions until translucent add broccoli to skillet and cook until tender 7-8 minutes.  Add spinach to the skillet and cook until wilted.  Evenly spread the vegetable mixture over the cubed bread.  
3- Sprinkle top of veggies evenly with Parmesan and cheddar cheese. 
4- Whisk together almond milk, egg whites, remaining Italian seasoning, remaining garlic, salt and pepper.  Carefully and evenly pour milk and egg mixture over veggies and bread.  Cover strata and place in refrigerator for 8 hours. 

To bake: 
1- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 
2- Bake strata uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until bubbly and cooked through.  

Serve with simple salad or fruit for a complete meal!  Perfect for an easy meatless Monday meal or delicious as apart of a beautiful brunch spread! 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

{Classic Two Bean Turkey Chili}

If you follow me on Instagram you know that yesterday I was excited about two things.  1- When workout clothes can double as work clothes, and 2- that Mother Nature finally got the memo that it is supposed to be Fall and finally sent some cooler weather to Minnesota!  Hallelujah!

Although in my little world it has been Fall for the past few weeks, despite the 80 degree weather we have been having.  Yup, I have been enjoying all things pumpkin, gotten the itch to decorate our house for Fall/Halloween, have been swooning over my new Fall clothing just waiting for cooler weather, and munching on this delicious Classic Two Bean Turkey Chili (while pretending it was cool outside)! 

Speaking of this chili... it is hands down delicious!  You can never have to many chili recipes in my opinion.  I think I could honestly eat chili all winter here in MN and be completely happy.  I love whipping up a big batch on the weekend and enjoying the leftovers all week.  Makes for easy week night meals, and great work lunches.  Plus the longer chili sits the more the flavors develop and come together.  What I love about this recipe is how classic and comforting it is!  Two types of beans combined with lean ground turkey make for a comforting Fall meal.  I amped up the veggies in this chili by adding peppers and matchstick carrots!  Cocoa powder and cinnamon give this chili great depth and a little agave lends sweetness to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.  Derek thought this might be his favorite chili that I have whipped up... you know what that means... it must be good!  Serve this chili up with your favorite chili toppings (I like Greek Yogurt, sriracha, and jalapenos), and your favorite bread or cornbread!  Enjoy!

Classic Two Bean Turkey Chili 
Brunch N'Cupcakes - Inspired by Cooking Light 
Serves 6-8 

1 Lb Lean Ground Turkey 
1-15 Oz. Can Red Kidney Beans - Rinsed and Drained 
1-15 Oz Can Pinto Beans - Rinsed and Drain 
4 Cups Chicken Broth 
2 - 15 Oz. Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes 
1 Medium Onion Chopped 
1 Jalapeno Pepper Seeded and Chopped 
1 Red Pepper Chopped 
1 Cup Matchstick Carrots 
4 Cloves Garlic Minced 
1 Tablespoon Agave 
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder 
Salt and Pepper to Taste 
1 Tablespoon Cumin and Chili Powder 
1/2 Tablespoon Cinnamon 

1- In a large stock pot coated with cooking spray saute onion, pepper, carrots and jalapeno pepper until tender.  
2- Add ground turkey to the pot, along with chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and cinnamon.  Cook until turkey is cooked through.  
3- Once turkey is cooked add fire roasted tomatoes, agave, chicken broth, and cocoa powder to pot.  Bring to boil.  Once chili is boiling reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  
4- Stir in beans cook an additional 5 minutes and serve! 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

{Loaded Veggie Baguette Pizza with Feta and Mozzarella}

This past weekend was a great one, one for the books!  My dear friend and Sorority sister (Go, Tri Delta) Kate came into town to visit Derek and I, and we had an absolute blast showing Kate around Stillwater (the city we call home), Hudson and Minneapolis!   We chatted, laughed, shopped, laughed some more, ate great food, enjoyed the perfect MN weather (most beautiful Fall weekend we have had), and just enjoyed life!  

I also ran my third half marathon this past weekend, the City of Lakes Half around beautiful Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. Kate, Derek, Miranda (my sister) and my parents were the best cheerleaders a girl could ask for!  They had cow bells, signs and cheered louder than anyone I know, you guys rock  and helped me achieve an unbelievable PR.  I ended up beating my last half time by 6 whole minutes which left me in shock!  I ran my third half in 1:40 and it honestly still blows my mind, hard work, dedication and lots of training def. paid off!  Such a great weekend!

Wanna know another highlight of the weekend?  This fantastic veggie loaded baguette pizza!  Super yummy, easy to make and a great light dinner (or app).  I was inspired by ­­­Espresso and Cream after she posted a picture on Instagram.   I topped my baguette pizza with tons of veggies, a little mozzarella, feta and fresh basil!  End results, delicious pizza that takes no time to make! 

Loaded Veggie Baguette Pizza with Feta and Mozzarella
Brunch N'Cupcakes - Inspired by this Recipe 
Serves 6-8 (smaller portions) 

1- Baguette cut in half width wise
1/2 a Medium Zucchini Cut in half and thinly sliced 
1/2 Cup Chopped Red or Yellow Pepper 
1/3 Cup Onion Chopped 
4 Garlic Cloves Minced 
1/3 Cup Part Skim Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 
1/4 Cup Feta Cheese Crumbles 
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Pepper 
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil 
1/2-1 Cup Favorite Marinara Sauce 

1- In a medium bowl toss veggies with minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. 
2- Spread each baguette half (cut side up) with equal amounts of marinara sauce. 
3- Pile veggies on top of each baguette half and cook in a 375 degree oven for 12 minutes. 
4- Pull pizza from oven, top each baguette half with mozzarella and feta cheese and return pizza to oven.  Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.  Once cheese has melted broil on high for 2 minutes or just until cheese begins to brown but not burn.  Top finished pizza with fresh basil and serve! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

{Coconut Curry Lentil Soup}

There must be a little switch within me that triggers my senses to crave everything Fall once September hits! 

September is here and I am already looking forward to cooler days where I can bundle up in sweaters and boot.  The thought of going to the apple orchard for fresh Honey Crisp apples makes me giddy, and I want everything pumpkin.  I am dying to see the leaves changes colors and I long for crisp Autumn evenings that are just cool enough to sit outside on the patio with a big blanket, cup of tea and good magazine.  Yes, to say I am over this hot summer weather is an understatement… give me Fall!

September in my mind also kicks off soup making season!  There is nothing better then a warm bowl of soup on a chilly Minnesota Fall evening!  So despite the fact that we have had days where we experience 80 degree temps I have been whipping up soup over here like winter is coming!  This Coconut Curry Lentil soup is full of flavor and just what you need on a crisp fall day.  This soup is thick and hearty thanks to the lentils and sweet potato, and the curry adds a nice warming effect!  I snuck in some kale to up green factor, and you know what Derek didn't mind!  Serve with crackers or your favorite hearty bread to make it a meal.   

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 8 

2 - 15 Oz. Cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes 
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste 
1 - 15 Oz. Can Light Coconut Milk - I used Trader Joe's 
1 Cup Chicken Broth 
1 Cup Green Lentils 
1 Medium Carrot Chopped 
1/2 Large Onion Chopped 
1 Medium Sweet Potato Peeled and CHopped 
1 Large Zucchini Roughly Chopped 
2 Garlic Gloves Minced 
2 Cups Roughly Chopped Kale 
1/2 Tablespoon Curry Powder 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin and Chili Powder 
Salt and Pepper to Taste 
1 Tablespoon Agave 

1- In a large stock pot coated with cooking spray saute veggies until tender - about 7 minutes. 
2- Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, spices, agave and lentils to stock pot.  Bring to boil. 
3- Once soup is boiling reduce heat and cover pot with a lid.  Allow soup to simmer on stove for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender. 
4- Gently stir in coconut milk and kale and cook until kale has wilted.  Serve with crackers or your favorite bread! 

Other great soups from around the web:

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 - Uncooked 
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 uncooked 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!