Monday, March 21, 2016

Peanut Thai Chicken and Broccoli Bowl

My default last-minute meal is a quinoa bowl with everything leftover in my fridge thrown together. Within reason, of course. This usually ends up being some spinach, chicken and black beans but I've done some varieties with broccoli and sweet potatoes.

This bowl meal is an upgrade and is 100% planned and intentional. There's a great variety of food groups thrown into this bowl and you could easily swap out some broccoli for snow peas or green beans. What makes this a Thai bowl is more about the seasoning than the components.

In doing my meal prep last week, I think I literally used every bowl in my kitchen and every pan. Granted, I don't have a gourmet kitchen and have 3 pots/pans so, ya know, perspective. This bowl was a combination of rice with spinach (hiding my veggies as an adult), chopped carrots, chickpeas and broccoli with chicken cooked in a sweet Thai marinade.

The best way I found to go about this was to start by marinading the chicken and preheating the oven first. While the chicken marinaded, I prepped the veggies by chopping the broccoli first (since that will be cooked) and getting the water going for the rice. Once the chicken goes in the oven, cook the broccoli in some olive oil. Add red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.

While the broccoli and rice cooks (2 pans already), use a food processor to grind the carrots. Easy as pie. You can use one large bowl to start gathering all your ingredients to mix together in the end. Add those carrots into the giant bowl along with your chickpeas (once they're drained). After the broccoli cooks, in goes the broccoli.

For the rice, I cooked it and then added some spinach and left covered for a couple minutes to wilt. Then the rice goes into that big bowl of delicious veggies. Lastly, the chicken will be added. I chopped the chicken into bite-sized pieces first.

Toss it all together and pour the remaining peanut marinade over top. Stir stir stir, serve and enjoy!


Bowl Components 
  • 1 cup brown rice (measured when uncooked)
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken tenders
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sesame oil (pure sesame oil will be gluten-free but a lot of options are blends)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  1. To make the marinade, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients.
  2. Pour half of the mixture over the chicken tenders and allow to marinade for 30 minutes, covered in the fridge.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  4. Chop the broccoli into desired size pieces. Cook in a frying pan with olive oil and seasoned with red pepper flakes for a little spice. You will need to keep an eye on these and stir every once in awhile to cook evenly.
  5. Cook the rice in a saucepan, using 2x the amount of water to amount of rice you're making (ie: 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water). Bring the water and rice to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover until rice is cooked and the water has been absorbed.
  6. Once the chicken has marinaded, place tenders on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
  7. While the chicken, rice and broccoli cook, shred the carrots by grinding in a food processor. Set aside.
  8. Drain and rinse the chick-peas. Set aside.
  9. When the rice is cooked, add your spinach directly to the rice and stir. Keep covered to allow the spinach to wilt. 
  10. When the chicken is cooked, allow to cool slightly before chopping into bite-sized pieces.
  11. Assemble your bowl by layering rice, broccoli, carrots, chickpeas and chicken together.
  12. Pour some of the remaining marinade over your bowl and enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Chocolate Doughnuts with Bailey's Cream Glaze

It's hard to trust that everything will work out exactly how you expect. Life is life and you can't anticipate everything or every turn, you just have to go with it and have a little faith and trust and pixie dust (okay, that morphed into a Disney quote real fast).

I trust that when I put sugar together with chocolate, flour and eggs that I will get a delicious cake. I don't need to taste it to know if it's right, I trust that the baking magic is there. So these doughnuts are my gift to my coworkers: untested and full of baking magic.

There have been a few different St. Patrick's Day treats on this blog in the past but it's been awhile since a doughnut has graced the pages. We're sticking with a classic chocolate baked doughnut but gettin' feisty with the glaze.

A touch of Bailey's makes this breakfast treat into a morning pick-me-up worthy of this festive holiday.

Kiss me, I'm Irish! And I gave you doughnuts soooo...

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly grease a doughnut pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until combined.
  3. Gradually add the buttermilk, eggs and vegetable oil and whisk until smooth. You should not see any dry ingredients poking through.
  4. Spoon or pipe the batter into the doughnut pan, filling almost to the top.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until firm. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely before glazing. 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons Bailey's
  • 2 teaspoon buttermilk
  1. Whisk ingredients together until there are no lumps left in the powdered sugar.
  2. The consistency shouldn't be too runny or it won't stay on the doughnut. If it's too liquidy, add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add more Bailey's (or milk). 
  3. Dip the doughnuts in the glaze one at a time.
  4. Place on waxed paper to set and repeat with all doughnuts. While the glaze is still damp, you can add sprinkles or other decorations to set.
  5. Once the glaze is dry, you can then stack the doughnuts. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I know, Pi Day was yesterday. And I've made my fair share of pies but what about a pizza pie? Totally still a pie. #closeenough.

I've had this ongoing battle with bread baking. I'm not good at getting the bready things to rise, yeast is not my friend. But I really love pizza so there's that. Loophole: cauliflower pizza crust. This is possibly and most likely the healthiest pizza I've ever had. Ever.

My favorite pizza has evolved from 'just cheese' to 'just about everything'. Supreme is my jam but meat lovers is right up there. So let's do a bit of both, vegetables AND meat. We're covering all the major food groups.

The cauliflower crust is made by grinding and cooking the cauliflower florets, much like we did for cauliflower rice. To prevent the crust from getting too crumbly, the cooked cauliflower is strained using a cheese cloth or paper towels (I used paper towels). This is also done when making zucchini breads or cakes to get the extra water out.

The cooked cauliflower is then mixed with some almond meal (ground up almonds), spices and one egg. It's not too messy so using your hands is recommended. Spread the dough on a greased baking sheet (or if you have one, a pizza stone).

Next is the easy part: toppings! Add your desired sauce (red sauce, pesto sauce, BBQ sauce) and then a sprinkling of cheese. I used non-dairy cheese which can either be Daiya or almond cheese (I prefer the almond cheese). Or you could use regular cheese. Top with your toppings! In this version, I used peppers and onions which were pan cooked before adding to the pizza. I also used some pre-cooked chicken sausage.

Add some more cheese to your toppings to really make sure they stick. Bake until the crust is no longer wet and the cheese has melted.

I found the crust wasn't structurally sound enough to pick up and eat like a regular pizza but dang it was still good with a fork. This satisfied my pizza cravings without the guilt, winning! You know you're an adult when you use a fork and knife to eat pizza. I'm sorry I laughed at my parents for doing so all of my life.

Makes 1 small pizza
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Pizza sauce and cheese for topping (I used non-dairy almond cheese)
  • Toppings of your choice
  1. Chop the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Pulse the florets in a food processor until there are no large pieces left. It should be kind of like corn meal.
  2. In a large pan, cook the cauliflower for 5-6 minutes, lightly toasting. I added some olive oil to the pan first.
  3. Allow the cooked cauliflower to cool until you can touch it with your bare hands. 
  4. While the cauliflower cools, preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease. Alternatively, you can use a pizza stone, just follow the prep instructions that come with it.
  5. Once the cauliflower is cool, place in a cheese cloth or paper towel and gently wring to remove excess water. If using paper towels, be careful as the towels may tear.
  6. In a medium bowl, mix together the cauliflower, almond meal (made by grinding almonds into a course meal, similar to the cauliflower step), olive oil and spices. Stir to combine.
  7. Next, add the egg and mix together. This is most easily done with your hands. 
  8. Spread the dough onto the parchment paper, flattening as you go. You want an even distribution of dough. (If using a pizza stone that's been preheated, approach with caution!).
  9. Now you're ready to dress it up! Add a layer of pizza sauce and evenly spread.
  10. Sprinkle your cheese of choice on top but not covering the pizza sauce completely.
  11. Add your toppings of choice (I used 1/2 a green pepper, 1/2 red pepper, 1/4 onion and 2 pre-cooked chicken sausages that I cooked together first) and add a final layer of cheese.
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is firm. You can cook longer if you like a crispy crust.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Salmon Avocado Salad

I love going out to eat. Usually this means I'm not on my couch and am socializing with friends so that's a plus but I also love trying something new that someone else has prepared for me. So I usually try to get something that I wouldn't make at home. Salmon is something I make all the time so when I go out and find myself thinking "ooo the salmon looks good", I have to take a minute to decide if I really want salmon or something new and exciting.

I had this salad at a local restaurant recently and decided to give it a go because although it had salmon, it had avocado, bacon and goat cheese which I wouldn't normally pair with salmon. Technically, this was a Cobb salad but I asked for no egg (that was pushing the mixing limits) so not a Cobb salad anymore.

Making this at home, I stripped it down to the bones: salmon, avocado, goat cheese. So simple and yet so delicious. I roasted the salmon in the oven like I would normally do but then added it to a bed of spinach. The last step, the day of consumption, was adding the avocado and goat cheese. I warmed the salad up in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften the cheese and warm the salmon to perfection.

Personally, I was fine eating this without a dressing but it was originally served with a honey mustard vinaigrette. Adding this to my meal rotation is an easy thing to do since it just requires baking the salmon and then assembling. Go!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Prepare and Cook Spaghetti Squash

I love pasta. I love ravioli, tortellini, spaghetti, orecchiette, you name it. I also love bolognese, pesto and alfredo. So realistically, I love the sauces more than the pasta itself. Plain pasta is okay but ya know, I could take it or leave it. I've been experimenting with zoodles to fulfill my pasta cravings and now, I'm experimenting with spaghetti squash.

What I love about spaghetti squash is how easy it is to make. Zoodles aren't too bad either but you still have to spiralize things yourself. Spaghetti squash is literally made to be little squash strings. Once it's cooked and tender, a fork can run through it like soft butter and voila! Spaghetti.

Similar to how we roasted acorn squash, the spaghetti squash is sliced in half and the seeds are removed. I think a spork would do quite nicely here. Then, the halves are oiled and roasted, face down, until tender.

Then it's attacked with a fork. You immediately start getting long strands of squash and you're able to really empty the whole thing if you've baked it long enough.

Topped with some bolognese, I'm in heaven. This week, I did a simpler combination by pan cooking broccoli with tomatoes and chicken to add to the spaghetti squash. Oh and some spinach for good measure.

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil for brushing
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Carefully chop the spaghetti squash in half, long-ways.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and strands like you would for carving a pumpkin.
  4. Brush olive oil around the cut side of the squash.
  5. Place face-down on the baking sheet and roast for 30-45 minutes (depending on size) until tender.
  6. To test if the squash is ready, turn over so it's face-up and poke with a fork. The fork should easily pierce the squash.
  7. Allow to cool slightly. Using a large fork, shred the squash into strands. Place cooked squash strands into a bowl and continue until all of the squash is removed from the rind.
  8. Add your favorite sauce or fixins to the mix! For this recipe, I added cooked chicken, broccoli, tomatoes and spinach.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Coconut Maple Granola

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day--or so I'm told. If I had to pick, brunch would be my favorite meal of the day. You have more time to sit and enjoy yourself, you can have a sandwich or a waffle, best of both worlds.

Weekdays are not for leasurely brunching, unfortunately. Last week, we talked about on the go granola bars. In a similar vein, let's talk about good ole granola. This granola literally got me jumping out of bed Monday morning because it smelled so good when in the oven, I couldn't wait for breakfast to roll around.

Our basic granola ingredients: oats, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, quinoa (yes, quinoa) and spices are mixed together. Next, we need the glue. I actually bought coconut oil for once! This is melted with the maple syrup and poured over our granola base. Stir until everything is covered in the coconut-syrup mixture.

Spread out on a baking sheet and baked until toasted, you get a perfect crunch. You could also add dried fruit like cranberries or raisins to make it even more like a cookie.

I served this as-is with some almond milk but you could just eat it straight up like trail mix. What are your favorite granola additions?

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 225. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, quinoa, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut oil and maple syrup. Heat only until the coconut oil is melted (you could also do this in the microwave if you prefer).
  4. Pour the melted coconut oil and syrup over the oats mixture. Stir until all of the dry ingredients are dampened.
  5. Spread mixture on the baking sheet, as evenly as possible.
  6. Toast for 45-60 minutes, until crunchy.
  7. Allow to cool before consuming! It's best to keep this in an airtight container so it stays crunchy. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Reading: The Perfect Portion Cookbook

A couple weeks ago, I was approached to take a look at a new cookbook that was being released, The Perfect Portion Cookbook by Anson Williams, Bob Warden and Mona Dolgov. Initially, I was hesitant. Whenever I hear something about portions or 100-calories, I think of portion control and diets within a specific calorie count.

But, you know what they say, "Never judge a book by its cover" (--er, its title, its cover looks delicious). And I have to say, I'm glad I gave it a go. The cookbook is very informative on what qualifies as a 'portion' when you're cooking food at home and there isn't a handy nutrition label to tell you. It also educates you on how much 100-calories looks like but as a guideline for determining serving size or 'perfect portion' (I see what they did there).

The 150 recipes are divided into ten sections for different types of food: casseroles, snacks, breakfast food, sides, pretty much anything you could want. The recipes focus on your good old fashioned homegrown dishes like meatloaf and mac 'n cheese with new and easy things to add to your meal rotation like ratatouille and honey mustard salmon (yes please!).

I also love how they include behind-the-scenes photos showing the authors preparing some of the recipes. When trying something new, I appreciate the photos so I know how it's meant to look as a final product.

I gave the Honey Mustard Salmon recipe a whirl. An easy marinade of Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice and dill gave a nice tangy flavor to a fish I prepare the same way over and over.

You can purchase The Perfect Portion Cookbook on QVC's website or through Amazon.

from The Perfect Portion Cookbook

  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 4oz. salmon fillets
  1. In a mixing bowl, stir the mustard, honey, lemon juice, dill and spices together to make a glaze.
  2. Place the salmon fillets in the glaze, fish-side down (skin-up). Toss until evenly coated.
  3. Cover the marinaded fish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The skin will stick to the parchment paper as the fish cooks, making it easier to get the fish off the pan.
  5. Place the marinated salmon fillets on the pan, drizzling any remaining glaze on top. 
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the thickest fillet is cooked through. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chicken Butternut Squash Stew

I'm doing this thing, no big deal, but this healthy eating thing. In case you're a regular, you may have noticed fewer baked goods on this blog of late. Don't panic, my sweet tooth is very much still intact but my desire to be healthy has muted it a bit.

Along these lines, I've tried to make balanced meals each week that have a good helping of protein and vegetables while not neglecting the grains. To the crockpot!

Butternut squash is a favorite for me, especially if it's soup. But I'm lazy when it comes to prep will sometimes cave and get the pre-peeled, pre-diced version. But those chunks always look a bit dry seeing as they've been exposed to air for awhile. So I decided to get clever. Although squash rinds look pretty thick, it's actually fairly easy to use a vegetable peeler! Amazing.

This soup came out more of a stew for me since I used 4 cups of broth instead of the recommended 5 cups. If you prefer soup to stew, you can add more liquid (either broth or water). The chicken, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, garlic, quinoa and squash all go in the crockpot and are covered with the broth.

Set to high for 3-4 hours (or low for twice that long), the liquid cooks a nice and tender chicken. Similar to the chicken tortilla soup, you can shred the chicken with a couple of fork. I used hefty sized garlic cloves so this had a strong garlic flavor (sorry, office mates) but you can season with pepper or paprika for a little more kick if you prefer.

  • 1-1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked but rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  1. In a crockpot, place the chicken breasts on the bottom. Pour the beans, tomatoes, squash, quinoa and garlic over the chicken. 
  2. Stir carefully to mix ingredients.
  3. Pour broth over ingredients. For more of a stew, use 4 cups. For a soup consistency, use closer to 5 cups.
  4. Set the crockpot to high for 3-4 hours until chicken is cooked through and squash is tender (alternatively, cook on low for 6-8 hours).
  5. Serve hot!