Homemade Sausage Balls (No Bisquick!)

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Sausage balls are a super easy appetizer that everyone loves…especially my husband! They’re a Christmas tradition in his family, and I must admit they are really tasty! What’s not to love: sausage + cheese is a tasty combination. Not healthy, but tasty. : )  They really are usually a Christmas-only indulgence, but I wanted to make some for a party a few weeks ago. I found the traditional recipe but did not want to go buy Bisquick, so I went on a hunt for a completely made from scratch recipe. As it turns out, it is SUPER easy to substitute Bisquick! This made me very happy because I now did not have to purchase another ingredient, and we could eliminate another processed food from our kitchen. Win-win!

IMG_20140201_164035454_HDRTo substitute bisquick, all you need is flour, baking powder, and salt. Do you have those 3 ingredients in your kitchen? I bet you do! It’s actually more cost-effective to mix them up yourself than to buy them already combined, plus there’s no added MSG or hydrogenated oil. Once you have that mixed up, you add the cheese, sausage, onion, and butter until really well combined. Form the mixture into little balls, bake them, and enjoy!  These will definitely be a crowd pleaser!

Homemade Sausage Balls (No Bisquick!)

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 16 ounces bulk breakfast sausage
  • ½ large yellow onion, grated
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

2). In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Add the cheese and toss to make sure it is evenly coated in flour. Add sausage, onion, and melted butter. Use your hands to mix until thoroughly combined.

3). Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place them on the parchment paper, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F. Enjoy!

Servings: 45 balls. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 63 Carbs: 3g Fat: 4g Protein: 3g Points+:2

Recipe adapted from: http://www.marthastewart.com/326848/sausage-cheddar-balls 

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Cuban Picadillo.

Picadillo: ground beef cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce with onions, cilantro, garlic, spices, and olives. If you don’t like olives don’t write this one off!! My husband hates olives but loves this dish. They are barely noticeable and the brine from the olives is really what’s necessary to give this dish a unique taste.

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If you’ve never had picadillo, think of it almost as an alternate to hum-drum taco meat. It’s traditionally served over rice but you could get creative and eat it as a taco if you’d like. Each bite has so much flavor, and this is a PERFECT weeknight meal. It can be on the table in about 30 minutes! What’s not to love?!

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This picadillo has some flavors you’d expect in a Latin dish: cilantro, cumin, onion, and garlic. But, what really makes this dish special (as I alluded to earlier), is adding a few tablespoons of “alcaparrado”, which is basically just green olives and peppers. You should easily find a jar in your grocery store’s international aisle. I used Goya. Add the olives and a little bit of the brine from the jar to the meat sauce while it cooks. The other most important flavor-creating step is simmering the meat in the tomato sauce because this allows it to thicken and coat every bite of meat in that delicious sauce. Yum!

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One more bonus about this recipe: you can play with the ratio of ingredients to suit your tastebuds. Want more olives/brine? Add them. Want more sauce? Add more tomato sauce. Don’t have a pepper? Leave it out. Want to add a tomato? Do it! I suggest making it once following the recipe pretty closely and playing with it from there however you’d like. You have lots of freedom with this recipe!

So, if you are in a dinner rut and need something quick, easy, (and healthy!), you need to try this recipe. This savory meat dish is an absolute favorite in our home; both my husband and I love it and I make it quite often. I actually served it at school last year to some of my students and they inhaled it, so I can tell you it is kid-approved!

Cuban Picadillo

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pepper, finely chopped (I sometimes omit)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • 1-1/2 lb 93% lean ground beef (or as lean as you can find!)
  • 4 oz (1/2 can) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp alcaparrado + 2 tbsp brine

1). In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat until cooked through, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Drain grease and add meat back to the pan.

2). While meat is cooking, chop onions, garlic, cilantro, and pepper (if using). Reduce heat to medium-low and add to the pan. Saute until onions are soft.

3). Add alcaparrado, 2 tbsp brine, tomato sauce, and water. Mix well and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for at least 5 minutes or up to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Servings: 6 (1/2 cup). Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 170 Carbs: 4.5g Fat: 7g Protein: 22.5g Fiber: 1g Points+: 4

Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/03/picadillo-6-ww-pts.html

Easy Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes.

We’ll get back to regularly scheduled healthy recipes in my next post. But, with Valentine’s Day on Friday, I thought this recipe might come in handy for you now!

If you’re looking for a simple but impressive dessert for Valentine’s day (or any occasion really), this dessert is perfect! Molten chocolate lava cakes seem so decadent and restaurant-worthy, but they can be whipped up in your home in a cinch. The entire batter is mixed in 1 bowl, so there’s virtually no clean-up. Start to finish, you can have these on the table in under 20 minutes. I’m telling you, this recipe is fabulous. The cake portion is tender but firm, and the gooey chocolate center? Obviously to die for. Silky smooth, super rich, and ultra-chocolatey. This is a chocolate lover’s dream!

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You can customize each cake to your preferences by adding your favorite flavors as toppings. I left mine plain with just a light sprinkle of powdered sugar because the cake itself is so rich, but I think fruit would be a perfect addition. Strawberries or raspberries sound great, don’t you agree? If you wanted to kick it up a notch you could even add a light drizzle of melted peanut butter. The options are practically limitless!

I have actually had this recipe tucked away since my junior year of college. I made it for my roommates and myself on a night when we were all snowed in, and it was a hit! Thankfully I had the recipe saved in an email because the website where it originally came from no longer works. This dessert is always perfect. Upon first glance, the cake seem so unassuming. Just a tiny chocolate cake…

IMG_20140116_203417689_HDRUntil you take your first bite and see what’s inside!

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The only tricky part about this recipe is flipping the ramekins after they come out of the oven. I really do set a timer for 2 minutes as soon as they come out of the oven so I know I don’t let them sit too long. I put my plate over the ramekin and give it a fast, confident flip! Remember the ramekins are still very hot at this point, so you must wear oven mitts to do this. It can also be helpful to have someone else on hand to help, but I have always managed to do this by myself without any trouble.

IMG_20140116_203600456_HDRI didn’t try to make this recipe healthy so just know this is a very, very indulgent treat! This recipe makes 2 cakes, but each cake is definitely big enough and rich enough to be shared. You may want to go ahead and plan on running an extra couple miles tomorrow. Just sayin’. : )

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C powdered sugar
  • 3 TBS all-purpose flour
  • Cooking Spray
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F and microwave butter and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 45 seconds on high, then whisk until smooth.
  2. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and whisk again.
  3. Add in sifted flour and powdered sugar and – you guessed it- whisk.
  4. Pour into a small and VERY VERY VERY well greased dish (I used a ramekin).
  5. Bake 12-13 mins until top is done but insides are jiggly.
  6. Let sit for 1-2 minutes then run a knife along the edges. Put a small plate upside down on top of the bowl and flip over quickly.

Servings: 4 (assuming you split each cake with someone you love!) Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 441 Carbs: 48g Fat: 30g Protein: 7g Fiber: 4g WW Points+: 13

Recipe courtesy of AudreysApron.wordpress.com.

Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning

Let’s talk about taco seasoning. You can buy it at the store in the form of those little convenient packets, or you can add maybe 3 minutes to your total cooking time and make your own from the spices sitting in your pantry.  It is EASY and tastes just as good (if not better!) than what you get in the packets. Plus, even if you don’t want to make it a habit of making your own, someday you may realize you are out of taco seasoning right before you wanted to whip up some tacos. Now that problem is solved!

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All you need are 7 common spices, plus salt and pepper. Give them a stir in a little bowl and continue on with your dish as usual! Like I said, it’s so easy. One batch of this mixture is equal to one packet of taco seasoning. If you are making tacos, you will need to add 2/3-3/4 cup water just like you would with the seasoning packets.

Now, I’m going to jump on my soap box about why you may want to start making it a habit to prepare your own taco seasoning. Packaged taco seasoning has many unnecessary and even unhealthy ingredients. For example, take the list of ingredients from a name brand taco seasoning I found in my pantry: maltodextrin, chili pepper, salt, onion powder, corn starch, garlic powder, spice, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, yeast extract, silicon dioxide, sunflower and/or cottenseed oil, spice extractive, and ethoxyquin. Um, what? I can hardly pronounce some of those unrecognizable ingredients. And “spice”?? Why don’t they name the spice? The first ingredient listed, maltodextrin, as well as “yeast extract” are alternate names for Manufactured Glutamic Acid, aka MSG (source). And the partially hydrogenated soybean oil? Trans fats (source). The side effects of MSG and trans fats have been pretty well documented and I encourage you to read up on them if you haven’t already. Ok, ok. I’m done. All I want to say is if you are going to buy pre-packaged taco seasoning (which, let’s face it, we all probably will from time to time), read the ingredients list and make sure you select one where all they list are regular spices. No preservatives or ingredients you don’t recognize, k?

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1). In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients. (This mixture will be equivalent to one packet of taco seasoning).

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/ 

Salmon with Sriracha and Lime Sauce

I LOVE salmon because it is so healthy (Omega-3s!) and it only takes 20 minutes to bake, making it a great option for busy weeknight meals. When I’m really in a time crunch, I season it with my go-to creole seasoning and throw it in the oven. We love it that way, but I also love experimenting with new ways to make it. In this version, the salmon is topped with a flavorful mixture of lime juice, lime zest, sriracha sauce, and maple syrup before baking–no marinating required! Then, after baking, the salmon gets sprinkled with a bit of fresh cilantro on top. The cilantro adds a bright pop of flavor and color! Did I mention this is all happening on top of a parchment-lined baking sheet, which results in virtually no clean up? Just throw the parchment paper away and you’re done! I told you, this one’s perfect for a weeknight meal.

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The really neat thing about this recipe is the fusion between Asian and Latin flavors due to the combination of sriracha with lime and cilantro. This recipe was my first go at using sriracha. I know, I know…I’m a bit late to join the sriracha club. I was hesitant to use it because I was afraid it would be way too spicy, and sometimes I’m a wimp in the heat department. Although sriracha is very spicy by itself, when mixed with other ingredients (in this case the lime juice and maple syrup), it is definitely not too spicy. Bonus? There are only 5 calories in a teaspoon, but it packs a flavorful punch, making it a valuable ingredient. This salmon can be served along either an Asian flavored side dish or a Latin one! Even a salad would be perfect.

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This is a unique but simple way to completely change the way you cook salmon. Let me know what you think!

Salmon with Sriracha and Lime Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs pounds salmon fillet, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

1). Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon on parchment paper.

2). In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice/zest, maple syrup, sriracha, and salt. Pour over salmon.

3). Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Servings: 4 Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 219 Carbs: 4g Fat: 9g Fiber: 0g Protein: 28g WW Points+: 5

Recipe adapted from: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/recipes/2013/04/salmon-sriracha-sauce-lime 

 

Clean Southwestern Bowl with Turkey and Black Beans!

We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming of healthy recipes on Audrey’s Apron! This recipe is simple but has a ton of flavor! Just a few ingredients (ground turkey, black beans, onions, and a pepper) combined with lots of delicious spices and herbs make this delish. I chose to serve it over a little bit of brown rice, but you could also use spaghetti squash or even quinoa. You can add cheese, corn, or substitute ground turkey for ground beef as well. It’s completely customize-able to whatever you and your family prefers!

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You can see the specks of fresh cilantro peaking through, but what you can’t see is the perfect medley of spices in each bite: cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano ensure each bite is really flavorful. One of the most important ingredients: lime juice. It brightens up the entire dish and counters some of the heat from the other spices. This is so, so good!

This is a meal that tastes great and will keep you full without weighing you down. Plus, it’s so quick to whip up! It definitely falls under the 30 minutes or less category, especially if you have your brown rice prepared ahead of time. I plan on making this again in the coming weeks!

If you have a new year’s resolution to eat clean, unprocessed meals, this recipe is a great place to start!

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Clean Southwestern Bowl with Turkey and Black Beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (or ground beef, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red or white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper (or any color–I used orange because it’s what I had!), chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1). In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook thoroughly, breaking it up into small pieces. Add garlic, spices, and salt and pepper. Mix together.

2). Stir in black beans, cilantro, and lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or spaghetti squash.

Servings: about 5. Nutritional information per serving: Calories: 222. Carbs: 18g Fat: 4g Protein: 31g Fiber: 5g WW Points+: 5.

Recipe inspired from: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2013/10/southwestern-stuffed-spaghetti-squash.html. Adapted recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Mmm…pumpkin spice muffins! How appropriate for the season! These are my favorite pumpkin muffins I have ever made. I recently made the mistake of deviating from this recipe and was so disappointed that I had to make these to redeem myself. I stumbled upon this particular recipe a few years ago and it remains a favorite to this day. I’m so excited to share it with you!

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Just look at those beautiful specks of sugar and cinnamon on top! Don’t skip that step–the cinnamon sugar adds flavor, texture, and really makes these muffins gorgeous. The recipe calls for combining a tablespoon of sugar with cinnamon, but if you have a spice container of pre-made cinnamon sugar, by all means use that!

The pumpkin flavor in each muffin is subtle and no one flavor stands out. I actually like to increase the amount of pumpkin pie spice included to elevate the fall flavors a little more than the original recipe stated. My husband does not love pumpkin flavored things, but he loves these muffins. One big advantage of this recipe is how quick and easy these come together; all you need is a bowl and a whisk! With no special equipment necessary and little clean-up, these are perfect to whip up on a whim for breakfast.

IMG_20131012_100504This recipe is very adaptable. To keep these muffins on the healthy side, I substituted apple sauce for the vegetable oil and white whole wheat flour for all-purpose, but you can use whatever you prefer. If you’re feeling creative, try adding some fun mix-ins at the end! I think dried cranberries or chocolate chips could be delicious! If you try it, let me know!

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Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups white-whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice (I like to use 1 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • CInnamon sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 tbsp sugar)

1) Put oven racks in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups. Whisk together pumpkin, applesauce or oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1 cup sugar, baking powder/baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour with mixture until just combined.

2) Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

3). Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. (Mine were done before 25)

4). Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool. Enjoy!

Servings: 15. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 114 Carbs: 24g Fat: 1g Protein: 3g Sugar: 15g Fiber: 2g  WW PointsPlus: 3

Adapted from: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/10/promise-keeper-pumpkin-eater/ 

Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This roasted red pepper sauce is really unique and different, but in a great way! I served it over salmon but it would be great on tilapia, chicken, or mixed with steamed/sauteed vegetables, too. My husband took a bite of this and said, “wow, I’ve never had anything like this before!” and loved it. The food processor does all the work in this recipe, all you have to do is mix it up and spoon it over your perfectly cooked salmon!

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This sauce can be described as slightly sweet, tangy, nutty, and very savory. With just a spoonful of this sauce the entire filet of salmon was transformed from a simple dish to an interesting one. I love that this is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal but could also be a great dish to serve to company. The recipe makes enough that you will likely have leftovers unless you cook for 6, so be sure to plan different ideas for the leftovers!

Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds (original recipe calls for toasted, sliced almonds)
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 6 wild-caught salmon fillets, skinned (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

1) In a small food processor, combine the sunflower seeds, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pulse until smooth.

2) Prepare salmon by preferred method–roasted (400F for 20 minutes) or in a pan (5 minutes per side over medium heat until fish is opaque). Spoon sauce over salmon and serve.

Servings: 6 Nutritional Information for sauce per serving: Calories: 67 Fat: 6g Carbs: 2g Fiber: 1g Protein: 1g 

WW PointsPlus for sauce: 2.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.handletheheat.com/2013/08/grilled-salmon-and-zucchini-with-red-pepper-sauce.html 

Egg White French Toast

When I think of french toast, I think of one of my dear college roommates. She would randomly whip up a batch of french toast for us all to share for breakfast from time to time. The first time she made it for us was the first time I watched anyone make french toast, and I couldn’t believe how simple it was! Previously I always assumed it was a labor intensive task, but she inspired me to make it more often. I actually prefer it to pancakes or other typical breakfast items because it seems to be more filling, specifically due to the protein in this version of the classic.

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Who said french toast needs to result in a heavy meal? I used mostly egg whites to increase the protein and used light bread to keep this dish lighter. You can certainly use whatever kind of bread you have on hand!

I love topping this off with fresh berries or some of my homemade crock pot apple butter. It is so much better (and lighter!) than maple syrup!

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One last thing–a neat trick I have is to preheat the oven to 250F so you can keep the first few slices of french toast warm while the second round is cooking. This is really important if you are cooking for a large crowd because you can ensure all the french toast is warm when you serve it!

Egg White French Toast (Serves 3)

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices Light bread (I used Sara Lee 45 calorie bread)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Pre-heat oven to 250F. Heat a large skillet/ non-stick pan over medium heat. In a shallow dish or large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the bread. Coat all slices in the mixture.

2. Add bread to the heated pan. Cook until both sides are golden, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining slices of bread. Enjoy!

Servings: 3. Nutritional information per 2 slices of french toast: Calories: 142 Carbs: 21g Fat: 2g Protein: 13 Sugar: 2g Fiber: 5g          WW PointsPlus: 4

Recipe adapted from: http://theskinnyconfidential.com/2012/03/13/egg-white-french-toast/ 

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

I love going out to my little herb garden to pick fresh basil for recipes. There is something so satisfying about growing what you eat. As summer comes to a close, I imagine many of you probably have an abundance of basil to be used in the next few weeks. This recipe is perfect for taking advantage of summer’s bounty, specifically fresh basil and tomatoes.

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This salad has bright flavors, making for a light side dish, or it could be a main dish if you are vegetarian/vegan.  Did I mention it is dairy free, gluten free, and incredibly healthy? It is very quick to prepare and gets better the longer it sits because the flavors meddle together. You can easily add more fresh vegetables to if you’d like. I think cucumber would be a lovely addition!

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 25 basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp honey ( or agave to make it vegan)
  • pinch of salt

1). Toss all ingredients together. Allow the salad to sit about 20 minutes (or longer) for the flavors to mingle. Refrigerate or eat! Told you it was easy. : )

Servings: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish. 

Nutritional information per serving as a side dish: Calories: 123 Carbs: 20g Fat: 3g Protein: 4g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 4g 

Recipe adapted from: http://greenlitebites.com/2011/06/20/chickpea-and-tomato-salad-with-fresh-basil/