Lightened-up Homemade Basil Pesto (Nut-Free!)

 All the bright, bold flavors of traditional pesto, but without all the calories! This basil pesto is easy, quick, and versatile.

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Pesto.
So vibrantly green. Slightly salty. Fragrant. Rich. It’s great on sandwiches (like this pesto chicken panini), on pasta, on baked chicken, or even mixed in to rice! That last one is a brand new discovery that I am really excited about. Brown rice alone is bland, but mix in a little pesto and ta-da! Bursting with flavor!

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3 summers ago I planted my first basil plant and successfully kept it alive for several months. This year I decided to plant 2 basil plants, knowing plenty of homemade pesto could be in our future.

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That time is here! My husband and I both love pesto, but the traditional recipes are calorie-laden due to lots of olive oil, nuts, and cheese. So, I went on a hunt for a lighter pesto. Same great flavors, just a little healthier! The biggest difference between this recipe and most others is the absence of pine nuts. Typically either pine nuts or walnuts are used, but not here! Don’t worry, you won’t miss them.

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From start to finish, this whole process probably takes less than 5 minutes (thanks food processor!). Add the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to your food processor and then slowly add in your olive oil. If I have enough basil in my garden, I’ll double the recipe to have on hand or freeze for use during the winter months.

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Lightened-Up Homemade Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 tbsp EVOO
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1). Place the basil leaves, garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper in the food processor. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the 5 tablespoons of olive oil until smooth. Store in a sealed container in the fridge or freeze for future use.

Servings: 10 servings of 1 tbsp each. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 86 Carbs: .8g Fat: 8.3g Protein: 2.3g Fiber: 0.3g Points+:2 
Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/07/skinny-basil-pesto.html

 

Crispy Parmesan Roasted Potatoes.

These potatoes are a perfect side dish to accompany any meal! They’re tossed in olive oil, grated parmesan, and spices, then roasted until crispy. Sure to be a family favorite!

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Everyone loves potatoes, am I right? Kids love ’em, adults love ’em, and they’re usually the first to go at pot-lucks (or the dinner table). Potatoes + parmesan cheese = awesomeness. It’s no wonder my parmesan upside down potatoes and roasted parmesan sweet potatoes are always the most viewed posts on the blog! So, I combined some of the things I absolutely love from those two recipes into one to create these crispy parmesan roasted potatoes.

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This recipe is quite simple. You’ll need some spices, olive oil, grated parmesan, and, of course, potatoes. I used baby red potatoes (with the skin on), but yukon gold would be perfect here too. Chop the potatoes in about 1 inch cubes, and do your best to ensure they’re uniform for even cooking. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll cook through and crispen up for you.

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Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and spread them on parchment paper. I typically cover my baking sheets with foil, but I do not recommend it here. Even if you spray the foil with cooking spray before baking, you will likely have some potatoes stick, which is less than ideal. Parchment paper eliminates that worry and still makes for super easy clean-up like foil does. Trust me–use parchment paper!

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Every 10-15 minutes while the potatoes are cooking, give them a quick stir to make sure they’re roasting evenly. This will prevent them from getting crispy on the bottom alone. You’re cooking at a fairly high temperature (425F), so stirring them regularly is important. For me, it took about 35 minutes for my potatoes to cook through and attain that crispy exterior we all love. It was the perfect amount of time to get the rest of the meal together while the potatoes finished up!

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When the potatoes are golden brown and crispy, pull them out of the oven and season them with an extra hit of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Yum!

Crispy Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups baby red potatoes, skin on, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1). Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2). In a large bowl, combine the chopped potatoes with olive oil, garlic salt, sea salt, pepper, paprika, and only 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Mix well to ensure each potato is evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, moving the potatoes around until they are in one even layer.

3). Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and mix. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft in the middle but crispy on the outside. Every oven is different so watch them carefully. Remove from oven and sprinkle the last 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese on them before serving.

Servings: about 8 servings of 1/2 cup each. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 114 Carbs: 12g Fat: 6g Protein: 3 Fiber: 1 Points+: 3
Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

From the Archives: Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Parmesan roasted green beans are an easy side dish that can accompany chicken, fish, steak, pork, or any dish! The simple roasting method brings out the best in the green beans, giving them a unique flavor and delightful texture. No bland, mushy green beans here!IMG_0839

The first time I roasted green beans was life-changing; I never knew they could taste so good! My husband and I don’t particularly care for the green veggie unless it’s roasted. The texture and flavor completely changes so that even green-bean haters love them this way!

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I originally posted this recipe last year in conjunction with my easy crock pot bbq chicken, but this simple recipe deserves its own post. For the last couple years this has been my tried-and-true green bean recipe, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Trust me, if you haven’t roasted green beans yet, you must try them. And then let me know how they turn out. I promise they’ll win you over this way!

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Sometimes I’ll add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese when I take the pan out of the oven, and sometimes I won’t. The parmesan adds another dimension of flavor and saltiness, but if you don’t have any or are cutting out dairy for dietary reasons, they’re still delicious as-is.

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They key is to season them well. Season with quite a bit of freshly cracked pepper, sea salt, and garlic powder before baking, then taste one out of the oven and re-season, if necessary. I like to season them once they’ve been tossed in olive oil and are laying flat on the baking sheet because I feel it gives me better control, but you can also season them as you combine them with the oil.

One last trick I use: I always cover my baking pan in foil for virtually no clean up. I lightly spray it with cooking spray before adding the green beans. Works every time!

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz green beans, washed and dried
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

1). Preheat oven to 425F. Line a pan with foil for easy clean up. Mix the green beans with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Make sure they are all in one even layer on the pan.

2). Bake for 10 minutes. Mix the beans lightly and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese (optional).

Serves: about 4. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 62 Fat: 2.9g Carbs: 8g Protein: 2.7g Sodium: 38g without salt

Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/11/roasted-parmesan-green-beans.html

 

Baked Falafel with a Spicy Feta Dip.

Quick update: #1) School is out and summer is here, so expect more weekly posts! #2) For my birthday, my husband bought me a DSLR camera, so hopefully the quality of my pictures will be improving (considering I was using my phone camera before!)

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Ok, let’s talk about falafel. Such a funny word, isn’t it? Good thing it is incredibly delicious! We love Mediterranean food and falafel is high on the list. If you’re not familiar with falafel, it is made up of mashed chickpeas and spices, and usually deep-fried. My version is baked, but don’t worry, no flavor or texture is compromised, and it’s so much better for you! Falafel is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan friendly. I think it’s pretty kid-friendly, too. You can eat them plain, inside a pita, on a salad, or dipped in this spicy feta dip I’m sharing with you today. Falafel is so versatile that everyone in your family will find a way to enjoy it!

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Because falafel is awesome (and overpriced in restaurants), I wanted to make my own at home. My first attempt at making falafel was almost 3 years ago. Let’s just say that batch did not turn out right, but I learned from my mistakes. Really just one mistake, in particular: over-processing the chickpeas. I was new to using my food processor and went a little crazy with the pulse button until my chickpeas were well blended and, sadly, mushy! The horror! It has taken 3 years for me to forget how unsuccessful that trial run was, and this week I decided to go for it again. I am SO glad I did; they turned out perfectly.

Here’s what they look like before baking:
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And after:
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Other than the tasty end result, there are so many things I love about this recipe/falafel in general. First of all, it is cheap to make. You can easily make an entire batch for less than $5. Secondly, it’s good for you! In 3 falafel there’s 10g of protein and 10g of fiber, and virtually no fat. And lastly, the food processor does all the work for you! Chickpeas, garlic, green onion, spices/herbs, lemon juice, flour, baking powder…they all go in to the food processor, which makes for no chopping and easy clean-up.

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I used the pulse button on my food processor instead of just turning it on and letting it go because it gave me better control of the texture of the falafel. I made sure to stop when the mixture was beginning to come together, but there were still visible chunks of chickpeas, as you can see above. This gave the falafel awesome texture!

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I always make tzatziki sauce to go with our Mediterranean meals, but this time I wanted to switch it up a bit. Instead, I made a spicy feta yogurt dip from plain non-fat yogurt, reduced-fat feta cheese, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. Since I had my food processor out for the falafel, I used it to make this dip while the falafel baked. Another easy recipe: place all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on! Done.

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This dip has awesome texture AND flavor. It is thick and the feta is definitely noticeable. The salty and savory feta compliments the cool, creamy yogurt and the cayenne pepper adds a nice little punch of heat. The dairy in the dip cuts down the heat a lot, so feel free to taste and add more if you want more spice. You can use this feta dip with your falafel pita, in a salad or just plain! Bonus: it is a great dip for cold vegetables, too!

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Baked Falafel

Ingredients for the falafel:

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp lemon (about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cooking spray

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. In a food processor, pulse the garlic a few times to get it smaller. Add the chickpeas, green onions, parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice. Pulse until the chickpeas appear mashed, but not pureed. Add flour and baking powder and pulse a few more times. (See picture above in post for texture).

2). With clean hands, form 1 1/2 inch rounds using 2 tbsp of falafel mixture.  Flatten them slightly, place on a lined baking sheet, and repeat. Before baking, lightly spray with cooking spray.

3). Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and gently flip the falafel over. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve with spicy feta dip.

Yield: 9 falafel patties. Servings: 3. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 156 Carbs: 29g Fat: 1g Protein: 10g Fiber: 10g Points+: 4

Recipe adapted from an awesome vegetarian friend!

Spicy Feta Dip

Ingredients for the spicy feta dip:

  • 8 oz reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more)

1) Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning or add more olive oil for a smoother texture.

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 152 Fat: 9g Carbs: 2g Protein: 6g Fiber: 0g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2014/02/baked-falafel-with-spicy-feta-yogurt-dip/

Cucumber, Strawberry, and Feta Salad.

Strawberry season is here!! One of my best friends and I went to a local farm to pick fresh strawberries this week, and although I already froze and ate some plain, I wanted to incorporate them into a salad. Last year I really enjoyed this strawberry and baby kale salad, and this year I think my new favorite will be this cucumber and strawberry salad!

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I know what you’re thinking: cucumbers and strawberries?! Yes. Surprisingly they go very well together. I’m kicking out the tomatoes from the traditional cucumber/tomato salad and replacing them with another bright red fruit: strawberries.

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Reasons to love this salad:

-It is light and refreshing.

Chilled cucumbers and strawberries together? Cool and crisp!

-It requires only 4 ingredients.

Just cucumbers, strawberries, feta cheese, and a poppyseed dressing.

-It is quick and easy. 

Chop your cucumbers and strawberries, sprinkle some feta, pour the dressing, mix and you’re done!

-It is an unexpected combination.

Everyone expects to see cucumbers and tomatoes together. Why not change it up and use strawberries?

-It is a beautiful color combination.

Bright green cucumbers and red strawberries with a sprinkle of white feta in-between? It’s practically art in a bowl.

-Everyone seems to love it!

I can’t tell you how many people have raved about this salad! It’s a winner, for sure.

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Now, I am typically all about making your own salad dressings. After all, I already have several posted on the blog: creamy garlic, red pepper jelly vinaigrette, chia seed dressingavocado ranch, and a tangy blackberry balsamic. In this case, I did take a shortcut because of time restraints and bought Panera’s poppyseed dressing. If you have time to make your own, do it. If not, I was quite pleased with the flavor of this one and would recommend it. There are certainly more ingredients listed on the label than what you would use if you make your own, but that’s almost always the case with store-bought products.

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So, are you looking for a new way to sneak strawberries into a meal? Want to try a light and refreshing salad? You should really try this one; it just might become your new favorite!

Cucumber, Strawberry & Feta Salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 tbsp poppyseed dressing

1) Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and serve!

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 121 Carbs: 19 g Fat: 5g Protein: 5g Fiber: 4g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://thehousewifeintrainingfiles.com/cucumber-strawberry-poppyseed-salad/ 

Kitchen Tips and Tricks: How to Make Homemade Whipped Cream.

Homemade whipped cream is one of the easiest things to make, and it undeniably takes your dessert to a whole new level. Whenever I need to serve whipped cream, I always make my own. It is cheaper, requires only 3 ingredients, and is ready in 5 minutes. In my opinion, the light and fluffy richness of homemade whipped cream is not reproducible in the store bought variety. Thanks to my best friend from high school who first made me appreciate the value of this homemade topping, it has revolutionized the way I view the stuff!

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So, let’s get started. All you need are 3 simple ingredients: whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Easy peasy, right? Start by pouring the whipping cream in a bowl. Next, turn your whisk attachment/mixer on to a medium-low speed because you don’t want to splatter cream all over your kitchen.

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Now let the mixer do the rest of the work! See the bubbles happening in the picture below? That’s a good sign. Keep going…

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After a couple more minutes your whipped cream should look like the picture below. It is starting to firm up enough that the whisk is leaving it’s “path” through the cream.

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Mix in your sugar and vanilla, to taste. I like a good amount of vanilla in my whipped cream so I usually use at least 1 teaspoon, often more. Whipped cream should be slightly sweetened, so I use about 1 tablespoon of sugar–granulated or powdered will both work. Taste it and adjust to your liking. Let your mixer continue to whisk the cream until the cream becomes stiff. You should be able to pull out the whisk, turn it upside down, and have stiff peaks of whipped cream on the end that stand up. (Just for the record…if you continue to whisk after it is stiff you will eventually end up with butter, so don’t go too crazy!)

Can you believe it’s that easy?!

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Homemade Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • Whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar (granulated or powdered)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or more!)

1) Pour the whipping cream in a  large bowl. Using the whisk attachment, turn it on medium-high and whisk the cream for several minutes until it begins to stiffen.

2). Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whisking until the whipped cream is firm enough that stiff peaks form. Enjoy!

Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches.

French dip sandwiches make me think of one of my dear college roommates. We used to frequent a popular sandwich chain on campus and she would always order the french dip sandwich. She introduced me to these delicious sandwiches and I was happy to find out they’re incredibly easy to make at home. In fact, your crock pot does almost all the work for you. Don’t you just love recipes like that?

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The ingredient list for this recipe is quite short: just the meat (well-trimmed, please!), low-sodium soy sauce and beef broth, garlic, worcestershire, and an onion! Combine it all in the slow cooker and let it cook low and slow alllllllll day. When you come home from work or running errands, you’ll be greeted with a lovely scent as you walk through the door, and dinner is almost ready to eat!

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I was shocked at how tender the meat was after cooking. I tested it with a fork and it literally completely fell apart. I hate shredding meat (unless it’s in the kitchenaid mixer!) so I was thrilled to eliminate that extra step. Grab whatever your preferred bread is and some cheese, make a sandwich, and panini press it! If you do not have a panini press, you could heat up a pan over medium heat and use a smaller pan to press the sandwich down. Either way, it’s important to make a panini out of the sandwich so everything sticks together easily.

And don’t forget about the sauce! According to my husband, the au jus is one of the best parts of the sandwich. Reserve some of the liquid in the crock pot for dipping the sandwiches. You can also remove the onions if you’d like. Either way, the au jus is what puts the “dip” in french dip sandwiches, so don’t leave it out!

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We both agreed the meat was incredibly tender and flavorful. I have made this recipe once before and I will be making it again! You may also be interested in my crock pot balsamic roast beef recipe–it can be turned into a french dip sandwich as well, but with more of a balsamic tang!

Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 10-ounce can low-sodium, fat free beef broth
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard (I used grey poupon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2.5 pound chuck roast, very well trimmed of visible fat
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 sandwich rolls, split
  • 6 slices of cheese (provolone, swiss, or just your favorite)
1). Spray your crock pot with cooking spray for easy clean up. Add the beef broth, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, mustard, and garlic into the crock pot. Stir to combine. Slice the onion into thin rounds and add to the crock pot. Place the roast in the crock pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for about 8 hours.
2). Remove the roast from the crock pot and pull apart into smaller pieces. The meat should fall apart easily.
3). To assemble sandwiches: Preheat the panini press. Place meat on bread, then top with cheese and the remaining half of bread. Panini press it (or use the stovetop method described in the post) until golden-brown and melty. Serve with some of the au jus and enjoy!
Servings: about 6. Approximate nutritional information per serving (not including bread and cheese): Calories: 269 Carbs: 3g Fat: 10g Protein: 39g WWPoints+: 6
Recipe adapted from: http://fakeginger.com/?p=1614 

“Black & Blue” Spring Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.

It is finally feeling like spring around here! As soon as the weather turns warmer, I immediately turn to cool, crisp salads to keep my meals light and filling. I love salads and eat them year-round, but somehow when it’s freezing outside the idea of biting into a cold piece of lettuce does not appeal to me as much!

Salads can get really boring, really fast. The trick to keeping them from becoming mundane is (obviously) change! Change the base of your salad (baby spinach, romaine, spring mix, etc.). If you like cheese, change what type of cheese you add. Change what vegetables you include. Change what crunchy add-ins you include. Change the dressing. And in this case, change it up completely by adding fruit!

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I love ripe, juicy fruit in my salads and usually stick to strawberries, blueberries, apples, or pineapple. Until now, I had never included blackberries! They were perfect in this salad. They were tart but sweet, and off-set the bite from the blue cheese perfectly. I added a few sliced almonds for added crunch, too.

And then, of course, there’s the dressing. It’s the real star of the show (and of this post)! To play up the blackberry flavor more, I topped the salad off with a blackberry dressing. It was quick to make, easy, and had the right balance of sweet and tangy. It’s sweetened with honey and a touch of sugar. I tried it without the sugar and my face immediately puckered–way too tart! I usually try to eliminate added sugars, but in this case the dressing  most definitely needs it. A scant 1 tablespoon is all that’s needed, though, which turns out to be less than a teaspoon per serving. Not too bad!

I love the deep color of the blackberry dressing–so pretty! All I had in the fridge was romaine lettuce, but I think this dressing would be even more beautiful among the deep green of spring mix or baby spinach! Use your favorite, or whatever you have on hand.

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“Black & Blue” Spring Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the salad: 

  • 4-5 cups of your favorite salad base (romaine, spring mix, baby kale, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese*
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries

For the blackberry balsamic dressing:

  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
  • salt and pepper

1) To make the dressing: Add the blackberries and sugar to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper and process again until smooth.

2) To assemble the salad: in a large bowl, add the greens, blue cheese, sliced almonds, and blackberries. Top with blackberry balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy!

*Note: to make it vegan, use agave nectar in place of honey and do not include the blue cheese!*

Servings: 4. Nutritional information per serving for the dressing: Calories: 105 Carbs: 10g Fat: 7g Sugar: 10g Fiber: 1g WWPoints+: 3

Nutritonal information per serving for the salad base: Calories: 91 Carbs: 5g Fat: 6g Protein: 4g Sugar: 2g Fiber: 3g WWPoints+: 2

Recipe adapted from: http://iowagirleats.com/2014/04/02/black-blue-spring-salad-with-honey-roasted-pecans-and-berry-balsamic-vinaigrette/  

 

 

Cauliflower “Rice” 2 Ways: Plain & Cilantro Lime.

Have you heard of cauliflower rice? All you cauliflower haters listen up: this does NOT actually taste like cauliflower!! My husband tasted the cilantro lime version assuming it was rice and loved it, and the only way he will eat cauliflower is roasted. This side dish is super easy to make, a blank canvas just like rice, and a great way to sneak more veggies in your meals! It is gluten-free, paleo friendly, and clocks in at just 61 calories a cup. Any time you want to serve rice, you can serve this instead.

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I have 2 versions for you today: plain and cilantro lime. Let’s start with the plain first, as it will be the foundation for the cilantro lime version anyway.

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There is an essential tool you’ll need for making cauliflower rice: a food processor. If you don’t have one, I’m sure you could meticulously chop up your cauliflower florets until they’re teeny tiny, but it would take long time! Place your cauliflower florets in the food processor and pulse until they’re about the size of rice granules. Be careful not to over-process or else you will release too much moisture from the cauliflower and it will get soggy. No one likes soggy rice, right? Right.

A tip: you may have to pulse your cauliflower in 2 batches. I have what I consider to be a standard size food processor and found I had more cauliflower than would fit at once!

While this is happening, heat up olive oil in a large pan over medium heat with onions and garlic. Once they soften, you’ll add your “rice”, give it a stir, and cover for 5 minutes. Stir it again until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. The last step is perhaps the most important: season with salt and pepper! The salt and pepper will take it from blah to perfect. If you taste it and think it tastes bland, chances are you need more salt and pepper. You can also add garlic powder if you’d like!

The end result is fluffy, slightly chewy “rice” that tastes good AND is good for you.

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A few weeks ago I posted this recipe for cilantro lime rice. You all seemed to love it, so here’s how to make cilantro lime “cauliflower rice”: once the cauliflower is cooked, pour it into a big bowl. Add the juice of 1/2-1 lime and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or more, to taste. That’s it! Easy, huh? This week I served it along with fajitas (I used this copy-cat Pappasito’s Fajita Steak marinade), but it would be perfect as a “rice bowl” using my super easy Crock Pot Mexican Shredded Chicken!

Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped into florets
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1). Place half the cauliflower in the food processor and pulse until cauliflower resembles the size of rice or couscous. Be careful not to over-process or too much moisture will be released and it will be mushy. Remove and pulse the second batch.

2). Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes, while stirring often.

3). Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the pulsed cauliflower to the pan. Toss to combine and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender inside.

4). Season well with freshly cracked pepper and sea salt. Taste and re-season, if necessary. (Do not skimp out on the salt and pepper: it is critical to add flavor!)

For Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice:

1). After cooking the cauliflower as stated above, add the juice of 1/2-1 lime (depending on your preference) and 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro. Toss to combine and enjoy!

Servings: 5. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 61 Fat: 3g Carbs: 8g Fiber: 3g Protein: 2.5g WW Points+: 2.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/10/cilantro-lime-cauliflower-rice.html

Adapted recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron. 

Easy Peanut Butter Frosting.

The next time you wonder what kind of frosting to use on your chocolate cake/cupcakes, the answer is here: peanut butter frosting. YUM! The combination of peanut butter and chocolate is always a winner, and this easy frosting recipe is perfect. It is sweet but slightly salty from the peanut butter, fluffy, rich, creamy, and completely divine. This may be one of my new favorites!

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The chocolate cupcake batter is hands-down my all-time, go-to, never-messes-up chocolate cake batter that you can find here. After I made that recipe the first time, the search for the perfect chocolate cake ended and I have made it countless times since! It is the perfect base for this delicious peanut butter frosting.

Now, when making frosting, the most crucial ingredient is the butter. You MUST have room-temperature butter for the frosting to really get fluffy and smooth. In this case, you need to plan ahead by taking the butter out of the fridge a few hours before you plan to make the frosting. The softer the butter is, the better it is. Why? Because the first thing you will do is whip the butter until it’s really light and fluffy, and this is nearly impossible to do with cold butter. After whipping it up really well, add the peanut butter, part of the sugar, vanilla, salt, and milk before beating in the rest of the powdered sugar. Taste it and adjust as necessary. Depending on how thick/thin you want your frosting to be, you may have to add an additional tbsp (or two) of milk to thin it out. It’s completely up to you and your frosting preferences!

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This recipe makes a lot of frosting, but if you pile it on super high like I did in the photos above it only makes enough to frost about a dozen cupcakes. Just by looking at the picture I think you can see you could easily use half that much and still have a good frosting-to-cupcake ratio. So, depending on how many cupcakes you make and how much frosting you want on each, you may need more/less.

I should add, even though I reduced the amount of butter in half from the original recipe, this is still super indulgent! Enjoy in moderation!

Easy Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use all-natural here)
  • 3 1/2- 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used non-fat), plus an additional 1-2 tbsp if needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt

1). Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix for a few minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary, until butter is light and fluffy.

2). Add peanut butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/8 tsp salt. Mix. Gradually add in the remaining powdered sugar. Taste and adjust to your preferences, adding additional milk by the tablespoon to thin out the frosting if it is too thick. Enjoy!

Servings: at least 12, depending on how much frosting you use. I used a LOT (pictured above) for this batch of cupcakes. Nutritional Information per 12 servings: Calories: 338 Carbs: 41g Fat: 18g Protein: 5g Fiber: 1g Points+: 9

Nutritional Information per 24 servings: Calories: 169 Carbs: 20g Fat: 9g Protein: 2g Fiber: 1g Points+: 5

Recipe adapted from: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/easy-peanut-butter-frosting/3b3b77bb-939a-4607-bd0f-428f1876903f

Adapted recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.