The other day we hit our local farmers market to load up on all the amazing goodness that’s been growing. Spring has sprung and we’re seeing our first green veggies of the season. From asparagus to green beans, I had a hard time holding back while loading my bags. This recipe makes a great light lunch or a dinner side with grilled chicken or pork chops. And using quinoa instead of rice creates a really hearty and healthy pilaf that’s seriously delicious.
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1/3 cup raw slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups rough-chopped spring vegetables
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped
Select your favorite spring veggies for creating the pilaf. I had farm fresh asparagus, green beans, and zucchini, which pair perfectly together for this pilaf. If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, have no fear — it’s easier than you think.
Preheat your oven to 350˚F and place the almonds on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give the nuts a bit of a stir to evenly coat and then pop in the oven. They’ll be nice and toasty in no time, so set the timer for 5-minutes, which ensures you won’t forget about them.
Make the dressing for the pilaf by adding the chopped garlic to a sauté pan along with the butter. Once the garlic is sizzling, and slightly browned, turn off the heat and whisk in the mustard and lemon juice.
Take out the almonds, they’re done!
Now rough chop your spring veggies and steam until cooked al dente.
By this time the quinoa is ready, so give a quick fluff and turn off the heat.
Toss everything together and gently stir to incorporate the dressing. Season to taste and the dig in!
Not a fan of asparagus, green beans, or zucchini? What about fresh spring fava beans, artichokes, or baby spinach? For an extra kick of flavor, top with chopped scallion and a sprinkling of torn basil leaves. I couldn’t resist drizzling our finished pilaf with a bit more lemon and freshly cracked black pepper.
My daughter really loves cooking. She’s been mixing things together since she was itty-bitty, and now that she’s older, it’s time to get her in the kitchen for some real cooking. Well, actually, our craft table has recently been taken over with lots of cooking activities, with some pretty awesome results. I’m always trying to find ways to introduce brain-boosting foods to my tot, making tuna an ingredient high on my list of yummy stuff. But sometimes my daughter isn’t so excited about fish. This recipe for tuna cakes is so easy and the results are delicious. And even if your little one isn’t a big fan, you just might be surprised to see her noshing on these after having a hand at making them.
1 can of tuna, drained
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
When cooking with kids, prep by getting all the ingredients ready before starting. For younger ones, pre-mesure the ingredients, chop and shred, and have in small containers along with mixing spoons and bowls at the ready. Older kids can help prep and even assist chop and shred with some adult supervision. After washing our hands, and getting all the ingredients ready, I asked my tot about what she saw in front of her.
It as simple as dumping everything into a bowl and mixing together. For some kids this can take three seconds, or for others, like my daughter, this can turn into a 30 minute cooking segment. We used our favorite brand of tuna for these cakes and whole wheat breadcrumbs. When cooking together we have a rule that there’s no taste-testing when an egg is involved.
We added a few dashes of salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and the garlic. Then it was time to stir, stir, stir. The tuna cake batter will still be a bit moist, but, have no fear, these cakes are wonderfully delicious without being full of fillers.
Preheat your oven to 400˚ F and lightly coat a sheet pan with vegetable oil. Now your child can scoop spoonfuls of the mixture and press together to create round patties, and then carefully place on the pan. You’ll have enough to make around six tuna cakes.
Once your oven is nice and hot, toss those cakes in and bake for seven minutes and then gently flip. After baking for an additional three to five minutes those tuna cakes are ready to eat. I served our cakes with a side of special dipping sauce (equal parts plain Greek-style yogurt and ketchup) and a slice of lemon, which my daughter really enjoyed sucking on after each bite (as you can see from the picture below).
And you can add other ingredients to these tasty cakes, such as finely chopped green onion, swap pepper jack for the cheddar, or add a handful of corn — whatever your child likes.
Enjoy! We sure did!
I saw this silly video the other day of a cute dog and his owner doing yoga together — and he’s speaking in Italian.
Yes. It is adorable.
It totally motivated me to do some yoga, and maybe learn Italian, too. I decided to make a healthy lunch date that hits the spot, doesn’t add on the pounds, and is a bit Italian. Filled with fiber-rich spinach, ripe tomato, roasted red pepper, peppery pesto, and fresh mozzarella, this sandwich tricks you into thinking you are eating something seriously indulgent when you’re actually noshing really good and healthy eats. And it only takes a few minutes to toast up.
Half a whole-wheat pita (65 calories)
1 teaspoon pesto (27 calories)
1/2 cup fresh spinach (3 calories)
2 slices tomato (6 calories)
1/4 a roasted red pepper (4 calories)
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella (140 calories)
Drizzle vegetable oil (10 calories)
(255 calories! I’m not a dietitian, just estimating calorie count based on these numbers)
Carefully cut around the outside edge of the halved pita and then coat both sides with the pesto. You can leave a bit of the pita connected, which makes flipping easier while toasting, or cut the fuss and remove the top.
Now layer on the ingredients, starting with the spinach, topping with the cheese, and then the tomato and red pepper. Keeping the cheese close to the edges helps melt the sandwich together. Make it even more Italian with the addition of a few fresh basil leaves or a sliced marinated artichoke. Fold the pita together and gently press.
Drizzle a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of your pan and then add the stuffed pita. Heat over medium heat for three to four minutes per side and then serve the delicious and healthy Italian melty.
You’ll probably need a fork.
Some nights we feed the tot and then I make second dinner for us. We cozy up after she’s snoozing for a light dinner and maybe a glass of wine (or two) and chat about our days. And who doesn’t love a bowl of noodles? It’s wonderfully comforting and seriously quick and easy.
Garlic anchovy pasta.
Don’t be afraid, the anchovy adds a really rich and salty flavor, and isn’t fishy at all. Browning the garlic in butter creates a beautiful flavor that pairs well with the kale and cherry tomatoes. Or add some browned Italian sausage, slivers of fresh prosciutto, fresh spinach, black olives…. You get the idea. And this pasta dish for two is ready to eat in less than 15-minutes.
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup hot pasta water
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
8 ounces cooked spaghetti
Dash of pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Let simmer away while making the quick sauce
Place the butter in a small sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Chop the garlic and add to the butter. Keep an eye on that garlic while you devein the kale and give it a chop.
Once the garlic starts to brown, add the anchovy paste and flour, giving the ingredients a stir. Once the flour has incorporated, add the hot pasta water and the kale. Let the sauce simmer until the kale has cooked through, which takes just a few minutes. Add more pasta water as needed
Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with pepper, and dinner is served.
While embracing the warmer weather, I’m also excited to dust off the grill and get outdoors for making seriously flavorful dinners (without sweating in the kitchen). But my grill had other plans, and became infested with bees and spiders over the rainy season. After bombing the interior with bug sprays, several loud screams after discovering big lurking spiders, I decided an indoor grill pan would have to do for now.
I use the grill for just about everything in warmer weather. One of our family favorites is eggplant Parmesan (here, and here), and when made on the grill, it’s a healthier and tastier meal. Make this vegetarian dinner over a gas or charcoal grill, or make anytime of year on a stove-top grill pan (like I did). Serve with crusty bread and a fresh salad for a delicious summer dinner.
1 large eggplant, sliced
1/4 cup salt
3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (fresh is best)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Fresh basil or spinach leaves
Slice the eggplant in rounds, cutting away the skin if desired. Fill a mixing bowl with the warm water and add the salt. Place the eggplant slices in the water and let soak for at least 20-minutes, which will remove any bitterness from the eggplant and give it a slight salty flavor.
Rinse the eggplant and pat dry. Toss the rounds in olive oil and set aside.
If using a charcoal grill, crank those coals until they are nice and hot, or set your gas grill to medium-high heat. For an indoor grill pan, heat over medium-high heat, turning on both back and front burners.
Place the slices on the grill and let sear over the heat for around three minutes. Use a tongs to carefully lift the eggplant rounds and rotate 90 degrees. Let cook for another three minutes.
Flip the rounds and let grill for three minutes. Now flip again and rotate 90 degrees. Let the eggplant hang out for a few minutes until the it is fork tender.
Gather your favorite tomato sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, and fresh spinach or basil leaves. Top each eggplant round with a spinach or basil leaf, a hearty spoonful of tomato sauce, and a slice of cheese. Grill until the cheese is bubbly.
Sprinkle the tops with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs, and grill for another few minutes.
We’re really working on enjoying family dinner, but some nights it’s still easier to toss the tot a bowl of boiled noodles topped with butter and call it a night. Spring zucchini are seriously cheap at the grocery store right now, so I couldn’t resist bagging up a ton and bringing it home. And this easy and seriously healthy dish is so simple, my daughter basically made it.
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
Slice the fresh green zucchinis in half and then cut a bit off the rounded sides so they’d lay flat in your big pan. Coat the pan with a bit of olive oil and then create an even layer of the zucchini. Preheat your oven to 400˚F.
Now top the sliced zucchini with the tomato sauce — your favorite kind is perfect. And you can use as little or as much as you’d like. After my daughter got tired of dolloping the sauce, she layered on the cheese (after a bit of taste testing), and then sprinkled the breadcrumbs over the top.
Pop the zucchini casserole into the hot oven and let it bake and bubble for 25 minutes. Your baked zucchini Parmesan is ready! Serve with seared chicken breasts or enjoy as is for a delicious vegetarian dinner.
It’s been a busy week, so there hasn’t been time for doing anything fun and crafty. A freelance job that I’ve really enjoyed for the last several months has turned into an actual position (YAY!), so instead of hanging out in my house being anti-social I enjoyed a bit of actual interaction with creative and smart ladies that I’ll hopefully be working with for a very long time. So if things seem a bit quiet over here, head over to POPSUGAR Pets and POPSUGAR Smart Living to see what I’ve been up to.
After the busy week, cookies were in order. I love cookies and am always trying to put a fun spin on things. I was craving carrot cake, but was feeling a bit too lazy for baking and had a demanding daughter that wanted something sweet that didn’t require any waiting. After gathering the ingredients, we were ready for making sweet and tasty cookies.
And you can put a healthy spin on these cookies by using whole wheat flour, which would also give them a bit more crunch.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat your oven to 350˚F then measure and add the butter, sugars, maple syrup (which is really delicious in these cookies, but if you don’t have any, they’ll still be yum-o), salt, and vanilla. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together.
Now add the egg and give the ingredients another mixing. Now measure and add the shredded carrot, flour, and oats. Sprinkle in the baking soda and powder and then stir until incorporated.
Line your baking tray with parchment paper and scoop large spoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the tray leaving an inch or so between cookies to allow for spreading while baking. Gently press with your fingers to create rounds.
Pop the cookies into the hot oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and enjoy!
*Makes around 24 cookies, depending on how big you make them….
Thank you Country Crock for sponsoring this post.
There’s nothing like fresh veggies this time of year, which makes tossing together a quick, easy, and healthy casserole just about the best thing at the end of a long day. With my daughter really excited about helping to make dinner, and doing the grocery shopping, I ended up with a few more than the three fresh zucchinis that I had selected in my shopping basket the other day. Instead of putting them back, we happily brought them home for making this delicious and low-fat casserole, which is the perfect thing for celebrating spring. Instead of being heavy and covered with loads of cheese, you can enjoy this casserole as a side or on its own. Swapping butter for Country Crock cuts down on extra calories and you’ll never taste the difference when using low-fat cheeses and milk.
This recipe is seriously easy, so invite your little one into the kitchen to help make this light casserole. And if you love creating tasty concoctions as much as I do, head over to Country Crock Stars, enter a picture of your latest casserole, and share in 100 words how you demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness in the kitchen for a chance to win $5,000.
Now that the days are getting longer, we’re making a big attempt at eating family dinner. Yeah, I’ve made two dinners a night for the last few years, but it’s (amazingly) worked out just fine. I make something fun and healthy with the tot and then something a bit more sophisticated for the adults once she goes to bed. Over the last few weeks it’s quickly become apparent this schedule will no longer work. This means a big adjustment to my recipes, creating kid-friendly and adult faire that’s delicious for everyone.
This recipe is wonderfully easy, can even be prepped ahead of time, and is a perfect diner to make with your kids. And it’s easily adjustable to your family’s liking. Swap prosciutto or sliced roast chicken for the turkey, sprinkle in some pepper jack, or layer on a few roasted red peppers. The results are delicious, healthy, and on the table in less than an hour.
4 slices whole wheat bread
1/2 pound roast turkey
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup pesto
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon grainy mustard
Hot sauce (optional)
Place the pesto, water, and fresh spinach and pulse until it’s nice and smooth. Place in a small bowl for your child to use later. Now offer your child a lightly greased (with butter) 8 x 11-inch casserole dish and invite her to layer the bottom with two slices of bread. Sure, you can use white bread, but whole wheat is just a bit healthier. Artisan bread would be absolutely delicious, or mix it up with rye or sourdough. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 375˚F so it’s nice and hot when you’re ready.
Offer your child the pesto along with a small spoon and invite her to scoop and spread the sauce evenly over the slices. Try to reserve half of the pesto sauce for use later…
Next, it’s time for the cheese and turkey. Once again, try to reserve half for later… And it’s okay to taste test along the way.
Top with the remaining slices of bread, and another layer of the pesto sauce, turkey, and shredded cheese. In a small mixing bowl, add the eggs, milk, grainy mustard, and a touch of hot sauce. You can also add a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Give things a good whisking and then pour over the casserole, pressing the tops of the bread with a spatula as needed to coat the slices.
Place in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the tops of the slices are nicely browned. It’s as simple as slicing and serving! Finish the meal with a side salad and you’re good to go.
So it was Easter over the weekend and I don’t know about you, but we’ve got leftover eggs. We also had leftover (gasp) bacon — how it wasn’t all gobbled up, I have no idea. There’s nothing better than bacon and eggs, and with a healthy sauce, this leftover egg sandwich is just about the tastiest lunch around. And it’s as easy as shelling a couple of eggs and layering on the goodness.
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 slices of bacon cut in half
1 tablespoon plain Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 leaf romaine or lettuce
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
Gather the ingredients for making the sandwich. We had a great time naturally dying our Easter eggs this year, with really pretty results. You can use any type of mustard, but I love a strong grainy mustard for this sandwich.
Mix together the spread, which is wonderfully low-fat and seriously delicious.
Toss two slices of whole wheat bread in the toaster and thinly slice the eggs while they are toasting. Once they pop, spread each with equal amounts of the sauce and then begin layering on the ingredients. Give each side a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
Press the sandwich together and cut in half. You’re ready for lunch!