Monday, September 30, 2013

Lightened up -- BBQ Chicken Nachos

Fall has officially arrived and that means football season is in full swing!

I haven't had a lot of time to fully enjoy the first few weeks of the season, which means I haven't had much time to whip up a really fun game day appetizer.

Well, it's time for that to change and it is time for you guys to make these amazing BBQ Chicken Nachos on game day!

There are very few things in the world better than a big plate of nachos, a cold beer, and a whole Sunday full of football games. But we've all had the usual -- chips with melted cheddar cheese, jalapenos, taco meat, salsa, sour cream, the works. I think it's time we jazz up our nacho game and make it BBQ inspired instead! Added bonus - I'm lightening up this plate of nachos with a few key changes that won't compromise flavor but will make you feel less guilty when you add a second or third handful to your plate!

These nachos start with whole wheat tortilla chips (I'm a fan of Tostitos whole wheat scoops, but any tasty tortilla chip will do!) and shredded grilled chicken breasts. To stay true to the barbeque theme, Monteray Jack cheese is melted on top of the chips and chicken. Oh boy, it's getting real.

After the nachos come out of the oven, a few additional toppings are added in order to take our nachos to the next level: cole slaw, prepared with a homemade chipotle mayonnaise, low sodium BBQ sauce, and green onions. Crispy, smokey, cheesy BBQ nachos. I mean, how could this get any better?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brussel Sprouts + Asparagus + Bacon Pasta with Gruyere Sauce

It's taken me three days to decide on what I should name this recipe. It was an amalgamation of delicious foods all joined together over whole wheat pasta smothered in a homemade Gruyere sauce.

If you don't like brussel sprouts (or rather, if you THINK you don't like them because I assure you that you probably DO like them) I have the answer.

It is bacon. Bacon will make you LOVE brussel sprouts.

Oh, and Gruyere cheese. Nutty, creamy, Gruyere cheese will also make you love brussel sprouts.

This Brussel Sprouts + Asparagus + Bacon Pasta with Gruyere Sauce will make you love everything. I had a vision for this dish and I just went with it. I could not have been more pleased with the results.

Thick slices of center cut bacon are diced and cooked until crispy. I sliced the sprouts up into thin ribbons and toss them together in a bit of the bacon grease (SWOON) with pieces of asparagus and sliced leeks. Leeks are in the same family as the onion or the chive. They are a little softer in flavor than an onion,  making them the perfect accompaniment to a rich, creamy, and delicious pasta dish.

The gruyere cheese sauce could not be any easier. We start by making a roux, which is just a bit of flour whisked into melted butter. Add in milk and stir in gruyere and parmesan cheese until a melty, rich cheese sauce is staring you in the face, begging you to eat by the spoonful.

Oh, by the way. I'm no fool. I know that whole wheat pasta loses its nutritional value when bacon and cheese and salt are added to the equation. Regardless, I really enjoy how robust the whole wheat pasta is. It is not nearly as flimsy as white pasta and for this dish, I really recommend a whole wheat.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Banana Oat Almond Butter Muffins

I have a weakness when it comes to breakfast. It's muffins. I love 'em.

There is a problem with muffins, you delicious as they are, in general they are the antithesis of a healthy food. In excess, they are really bad for you.

These muffins, however. These muffins are moist and hearty and a bit better for you than your typical corn, pistachio, or chocolate chip muffin. They are every bit as delicious, the perfect compliment to a warm cup of a coffee.

Whip up a batch of these Banana Oat Almond Butter Muffins on Sunday evening and you will have a perfect on-the-go breakfast for the whole week. These muffins stay fresh for days and are incredibly flavorful!

There is no flour nor eggs in this recipe. Instead, we create delicious/amazing/tasty muffins using oat flour (AKA - rolled oats, pulverized in the food processor), almond butter, pumpkin puree, and mashed ripe bananas. Yum, yum, yum! Oh - extra fancy equipment necessary here. Just a big bowl and a good fork for mixing.

Let's not delay any longer...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin season is back. Don't go kicking and screaming and telling me it is too soon for a pumpkin recipe. If it was socially acceptable to post pumpkin recipes around St. Patty's day, I'd do it. I love pumpkin. There.

These soft/tender/delicious/delectable cookies are a perfect way to ease into the idea of pumpkin EVERYTHING. They are like little pillows rolled in cinnamon, sugar, and pumpkin spice. And everything nice.

I am totally in love with these Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. And the recipe below yielded me about 34 cookies -- plenty to share with friends and family!

The pumpkin flavor is ever so subtle, but it adds a little something that traditional snickerdoodles just do not have. Pumpkin puree keeps these cookies soft and chewy for days and days. I amped up the traditional cinnamon sugar topping with pumpkin pie spice, a bit of ground ginger, and a dash of ground cardamom. This is the perfect fall cookie!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My favorite meal: Mom's Baked Mac and Cheese

I feel like saying the following recipe is my favorite meal is a really big thing to say. But I'm also 100% confident that it's a true statement so, yes. This is my favorite meal.

Did you have one meal that you're mom would always make for you when you came home from college for a weekend or holiday break? By my junior year, my mom didn't even have to ask anymore. She knew without a doubt I was going to ask for her homemade baked mac and cheese, and she would happily oblige.

I absolutely love my Mom's Baked Mac and Cheese. If any meal tastes like home, this is the one. This macaroni and cheese is so ooey and gooey, with a rich cheesy center and a crispy top. It's everything you want in a mac and cheese dish! I literally need to remind myself to breathe when I'm eating this because I simply cannot stop shoveling forkfuls of it into my mouth.

Now, I know what you're thinking. We've all had baked mac and cheese before, and there are so many great recipes out there. This is true--it's a magical dish. I don't think I've ever met a mac and cheese I didn't like!

My mom's recipe is unique in that it all starts with Cambell's tomato soup. It's the perfect base in which to melt a delicious block of sharp cheddar cheese. It's smooth and creamy and rich in flavor. You have got to try this!

Oh, and don't even get me started on the crispy top. In it's purest form, this macaroni and cheese is topped with a layer of shredded cheddar cheese. The macaroni bakes and then gets a few minutes under the broiler. This gets that cheese brown and bubbly and irresistible. Of course, you could totally jazz this up by combining the shredded cheese with a bit of melted butter and breadcrumbs. Cory and I have even put ground meat for an added protein kick. Have fun with it! Best served with steamed broccoli or sauteed brussel sprouts* to mop up that awesome cheese sauce!

*Note: Brussel sprouts NOT mother approved..she just hates them

Monday, September 2, 2013

Crockpot Lamb Stew

September is here. Isn't that weird? Time flies when you're having fun.

I'm not too mad about September being here. I love the Fall! Fall foods, fall activities, crisp weather. Plus, I feel like I jam-packed my summer with lots of activities--I'm ready to slow it down for a few months before the Holiday season hits.

Speaking of slow, I think it's time we get back into the slow cooking spirit. Let's rev up our Crockpots for some delicious Lamb Stew.

This recipe is hearty and healthy and bursting with flavor. I've combined carrots, turnips, celery, and onions with chunks of lamb shoulder and rosemary. Everything cooks low and slow while you're at work, and when you come home, you're house will smell AMAZING and dinner will be on the table in no time!

How do you guys feel about turnips? I've never even thought about trying them. I just assumed I didn't like them. Recently, however, I've had a change of heart. I love replacing potatoes with turnips in slow cooked stews (see also: Homestyle Beef Stew). They are a little bitter but become more delicious the longer they cook. And they hold up very well in the slow cooker, which is a critical part of creating a good Crockpot meal. Of course, if you don't like turnips - diced potatoes will work beautifully.

I also strongly recommend getting up a little earlier and browning your lamb chunks in a skillet before tossing them in the Crockpot. The depth of flavor that comes from a quick sear is not worth sacrificing for a few extra minutes of shut eye!

To keep your morning effort minimal, try chopping up all your vegetables the night before and storing in an airtight container. Also, if necessary, butcher your lamb shoulder the night before as well.

I served this lamb stew over big egg noodles. The whole meal with keep you feeling full and satisfied. Take a time out from this busy life of ours and curl up on the couch with a bowl of warm, rustic stew.