Veggie Chop Quinoa Salad

veggie-chop1After a couple months of heavy holiday indulging, it feels much better to be back on the clean eating routine. Another cooking-obsessed friend of mine got a couple of new cookbooks and this dish caught my eye. Obviously there could be variations galore, but this combo works pretty well. I can’t wait to make it again next week with some different fresh herbs and other veggies.

RECIPE: Veggie Chop Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, room temp or chilled
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced, steamed green beans, room temp or chilled
  • 1/2 cooked, sliced mushrooms (lightly sauteed in olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS: Add all chopped veggies and walnuts to a large bowl and toss to combine. Add quinoa and toss again. Then whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pour over the veggie/quinoa mixture and toss well. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!


Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti with Parsley, Parmesan & Chile Oil

squashonfenceMany, many weeks ago, I noticed a lovely spaghetti squash growing from our neighbor’s garden through the crack of our fence. I’ve been eyeballing it ever since, watching it mature, wondering about its fate. Luckily Matt asked our very friendly neighbor if he wanted to back, and he graciously said it was all ours. Sweet! Now, what to do…

Since I love the concept of spaghetti squash more than I like spaghetti squash itself, I was scouring the internet for anything that inspired me. Then it hit me…what about a marriage of the imposter ‘spaghetti’ with actual spaghetti – well, brown rice spaghetti to make it gluten free and give it a healthy boost. The best part? This recipe has half the starch of a delicious pasta dinner, yet all of the satisfaction.

oilRECIPE: Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti with Parsley, Parmesan & Chile Oil

  • 2 cups of cooked spaghetti squash, warm (cooking methods below)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice spaghetti, warm (break in half before cooking)
  • 3 TBSP garlic and chile infused olive oil (see below)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (reserved 3 TBSP for garnish)
  • 3 TBSP freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (reserve 1 tsp for garnish)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • red chile flakes (for garnish)
  • salt and cracked black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan. Add 2 cloves of smashed garlic and 1/2 tsp red chile flakes. Slowly heat oil until garlic starts to brown. Remove from heat and strain to remove the chiles and garlic (you’ll have more than the recipe requires – store it in the fridge).

Add 3 tablespoons of infused oil and lemon zest to a large bowl. Add brown rice pasta and toss. Add spaghetti squash and toss again. Throw in Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm or room temperature; top with a little more cheese, parsley, a few red chile flakes and cracked black pepper. Drizzle with a little more infused olive oil, if desired. Enjoy!


There are a couple ways to cook a spaghetti squash. Usually I roast it in the oven (instructions can be found at the bottom of THIS PAGE >). But for this recipe, I prefer no color at all, and want the squash to remain a little al dente. The fastest means to an end is the microwave. (I almost never use the microwave, but for this, I make an exception.) *Carefully* stab a few holes in the squash with a chef’s knife so the steam can escape. Put the squash in a glass dish and microwave uncovered for 8-10 minutes. Let it rest for 15 minutes or so. Slice the squash in half the long way, scoop out the seeds and then using a folk, scrape out the strands of warm, delicious squash. If you’ve never worked with it before, you find a video tutorial on YouTube.


Really Neat Mexican Stuffed Peppers

neatandeggsI’m really excited to write this blog post because it features a product I’ve wanted to try ever since I read about it in August. I local family right here in Lancaster County is rolling out a new meat alternative called ‘neat.’ Described as the market’s first shelf-stable, soy-and-gluten-free meat alternative, the goal was to appeal to more than vegetarians; they were looking to create something that would satisfy any meat-etarian, too. More importantly, they were wary of meat stand-ins already out there, which typically contain chemical additives and genetically engineered soy. Neat is a perfectly balanced combination of pecans, garbanzo and white beans for protein, plus organic cornmeal. When you add a little egg (or vegan egg replacement) and a splash of water, you have the fixins’ for an awesome ground beef alternative – perfect for anyone trying to lower their cholesterol through diet. Did I mention it’s delicious, priced comparably to a pound of ground beef, and if you don’t live in Lancaster County, can be purchased on Amazon?

This morning I came home with my very first package of neat. I decided to make stuffed peppers because I had some veggies that I wanted to use and always have organic canned tomatoes on hand. But since neat introduced its product to the marketplace leading with their Mexican mix, that was all I could find – so my stuffed peppers which are usually filled with ground beef and Italian style, turned vegetarian and Mexican on the fly.

RECIPE: Really Neat Mexican Stuffed Peppers
  • pepperingredients1 pkg of neat, prepared per package directions – 2 eggs + 2 TBSP water
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • 3 bell peppers (I like red, but you can use whatever you like), cut in half, seeds removed and blanched for 5 minutes to soften
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, sides removed and diced (core is discarded)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes, whizzed in blender for just a moment to break up large chunks (no need to drain)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • dried oregano
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack, pepper jack or mexican blend cheese
  • scallions chopped for garnish
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

peppermixtureDIRECTIONS: After blanching and draining the pepper halves, arrange on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil on high just until the edges of the pepper start to blacken. Remove from oven and set aside. Re-set the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and brown neat like you would ground beef. Set aside. Add a little more olive oil and add the onion, zucchini, carrots, dried oregano, salt and pepper to the pan. Saute just until veggies start to brown (approx 5 minutes); pour in tomatoes; let simmer for 5 minutes; adjust salt and pepper to taste. Reserve 2 cups of sauce for topping.

peppersuncookedAdd neat and brown rice to the mixture and combine. Spoon mixture evenly among pepper halves. Top with reserved tomato mixture and cheese; bake covered with foil for 45 minutes. Remove foil for the last ten minutes to get a little color on the cheese. Garnish with fresh scallions. Enjoy!

Read more about neat >


High Protein Chicken Pot Pies with Parsnips in Greek Yogurt Goat Milk Cream Sauce

potpie_topviewMy friend, Lois, asked me if I could figure out a healthier version of chicken pot pie. I have to say it’s a bit of a challenge to replace all of the goodness in that ooey, gooey comfort food full of chicken and veggies floating in a rich, creamy sauce of butter and heavy cream underneath a crispy pastry shell. But it is possible.

After a couple of trials, it’s clear the answer lies in compromise. This recipe cuts a ton of fat from the filling and adds a bunch of protein to the mix. Although you can top it with an olive oil pie crust top or simply sprinkle it with fresh breadcrumbs made from high-fiber, whole grain or gluten free bread, I recommend a little splurge by keeping the puff pastry top – it is a comfort food, after all. Also, if you bake it in a deeper dish as opposed to a wider one, you can cut the pastry you need in half – which cuts the fat and calories in half, too. Here goes…

RECIPE: High Protein Chicken Pot Pies with Parsnips in Greek Yogurt Goat Milk Cream Sauce

  • 1 roasted chicken, skin removed and rough chopped (rotisserie chicken will work if you don’t want to roast your own)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups goat milk (or almond or cow’s milk if you don’t like the taste of goat milk)
  • 1/2 block greek cream cheese, cut in pieces
  • 2 cups nonfat greek yogurt
  • 6 TBSP oat flour (or gluten free)
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup peas, frozen is fine
  • 3 TBSP freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (or gluten free pie crust/bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, beaten

chicken_stockDIRECTIONS: First, remove the skin and bones from the roasted chicken, give the meat a rough chop and set aside. (Use just the breasts from two chickens if you want to make it extra healthy). Put the chicken carcass in a small sauce pot and add just over two cups of chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes to infuse some extra chicken flavor into the broth. Trust me – it makes a difference. Strain and set aside. Remove puff pastry from freezer and thaw until you can unfold it. Sprinkle a board with oat flour and roll pastry just a bit to remove the seams and thin out a little bit.

chicken_fillingNext, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom of a dutch oven or a large, deep saute pan. Saute onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, thyme and seasoning over medium/medium-high heat until the veggies become translucent and barely start to brown (about 5 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the brandy and stir for another minute. Sprinkle the oat flour on the veggies and stir for a minute or two. Slowly add the warm chicken stock to the veggies, whisking as it thickens to avoid lumps. Then add the goat milk, 1/2 block of cream cheese, peas, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat. Whisk in greek yogurt; add chicken and parsley. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary.

puffpastry_potpieDivide mixture among 4 large or 6 smaller oven-safe bowls, mugs or ramekins (something that is deeper, rather than a long cassarole-shaped dish that would require more pastry to cover). Whatever dish you use, flip it upside down on the pastry and cut out a shape slightly larger than your dish. Cover the filled dishes with the slightly oversized pastry and push it against the edges. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and using a knife, cut a couple of slits in the top to let the steam escape. Bake the pot pies in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry puffs up and turns a nice golden brown.



Salmon Kale Cakes with Sweet & Spicy Mustard Jam

Sometimes dinner comes from the pantry because I can’t spend every day shopping or waiting for something to defrost. This recipe happened one day when the fridge was pretty bare. With the exception of the kale, everything else tends to be a staple for most. The jam is something my mom recently made for shrimp, so I thought it would be tasty on the salmon cakes, and it was. Serve the whole shebang on top of a large arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette. This recipe makes 2 large or 3 average sized cakes.

salmonbowlRECIPE: Salmon Kale Cakes

  • 1 cup finely chopped kale
  • 1 5oz pkg skinless/boneless wild salmon
  • 2 slices of bread, crumbled in food processor (use whole grain or gluten free)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • chopped green onions (for garnish)

salmonmixtureMix all ingredients together thoroughly with clean hands. Form into patties. (They’ll be kind of loose, but pat them together as tightly as possible and handle with care while putting them into the pan.) Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Gently set salmon cakes in pan, leaving enough room to flip when it’s time.) Cook over medium heat until the first side is brown. Carefully flip over and cook until the second side browns and the cake is heated all the way through.

RECIPE: Spicy Mustard Jam

  • 1/2 cup peach, apricot or pineapple jam or orange marmalade
  • 2 tsp thai sweet chile (optional)
  • 3 tsp spicy chinese or coleman’s english mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP water

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Add as much or as little of the water as you need, depending on the consistency of the jam you choose. Top the salmon cakes with a generous spoonful of jam and sprinkle liberally with chopped green onions. Enjoy!salmonfork


Cream of Baby Bella Mushroom Soup

I LOVE mushroom soup. When I was little, mushroom soup was always the clear winner over chicken noodle – much like tomato juice was always the clear winner over orange. (I think I was a weird kid.) As an adult, I make mushroom soup a thousand different ways. Sometimes thin, sometimes thick, sometimes chunky in a broth, sometimes pureed with ‘cream of’ in front of its name. Hungarian style loaded with paprika, or traditional style that tastes a little like Thanksgiving. But I wrote this recipe because I was looking for a super fast and healthy way to make my favorite soup. No butter, no flour, no sauteing – no guilt. This recipe makes two large or three average size bowls, so double it as you wish. Here goes:

RECIPE: Cream of Baby Bella Mushroom Soup

  • mushroomsoupcooking1 box chicken stock (vegetable stock, if you’re a vegetarian)
  • 24oz mushrooms (crimini) sliced – reserve a cup, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot (or 1/4 onion)
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 4 TBSP brandy
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 block cream cheese

Add stock to a large soup pot and bring to a rolling simmer over medium heat. Slice mushrooms in a food processor (or rough chop); it doesn’t much matter since you’ll be pureeing this soup anyway. Add those to the stock. Slice the shallot; throw that in the pot. Add the thyme, brandy, salt and pepper into the pot and let simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Puree using an stick blender or regular blender. Put back on stove over low heat; add chunks of cream cheese and remaining chopped mushrooms. Simmer on low for 10 more minutes stir until cream cheese melts completely into the soup. Re-season with salt and pepper, if needed. Great drizzled with olive oil and cracked black pepper, or even topped with homemade croutons (recipe can be found here: SPICY GARLIC CROUTONS). Enjoy!


Teriyaki Chicken with Stir Fried Garlic Ginger Green Beans

Every Sunday, I marathon cook. And mostly that means making a pile of lunch that reheats well and is large enough to feed my giant man for five days. He and all of his strongman buddies eat, eat, eat and then they eat some more. Especially right before a show, they’re packing in the protein and intentionally OD’ing on (pretty healthy) calories as often as they can. This recipe is simple, well-balanced and even takes a little help from some store-bought Japanese teriyaki. I’ve included a homemade teriyaki recipe at the bottom of the page, but since I’m writing this recipe mostly for the strongmen, I’m taking some shortcuts that will make things easier. All-in-all, this recipe is more prep and assembly than a complicated cooking endeavor, but delicious nonetheless. It’s also a perfect meal for families during a busy weeknight (but 1/2 of the recipe would be plenty for a family of 4 average-sized human beings).

teriyakisauceRECIPE: Teriyaki Chicken

  • 15 chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup teriyaki sauce (Sushi Chef brand, in the black bottle)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay out chicken thighs on a sheet pan leaving a little space between them so they don’t just steam. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove pan from oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before slicing into strips. Toss with 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce. Taste and add more, if desired.

soygingergarlicRECIPE: Stir Fried Garlic Ginger Green Beans

  • 2 lbs fresh french green beans (the thin ones that usually come washed and trimmed in a plastic bag in the produce section)
  • 3 TBSP fresh ginger root, minced
  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

blanchedgreenbeansgreenbeansBring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch green beans for 3-4 minutes. Drain into colander while you heat up olive oil over medium-high heat. (You should shock the green beans in ice water, but I don’t bother since I’m stir frying right away). Saute ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds.

Add green beans and toss quickly to coat, and to keep the garlic and ginger from burning. After about two minutes, the green beans will start to blister slightly. Hit the pan with soy sauce until it caramelizes. Taste the green beans and add a little more soy, if desired.

teriyakichixthighplateServe chicken and green beans with a side of steamed jasmine rice and top with sesame seeds for garnish. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

  • 2/3 cup mirin
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Bring mirin to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour in soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey/agave. Add garlic and ginger; simmer 5 more minutes.

Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Whenever I make quinoa for a recipe, it never ceases to amaze me how it makes five times as much as I plan for every single time, so there is usually a big container in the fridge for the next day or two. There isn’t always a plan for the leftovers, but the other day I was craving fried rice. So I had (plenty of) quinoa, happened to have all the traditional veggies in the fridge, and even found some little salad shrimp in the freezer. (I wish I had fresh shrimp in the fridge instead, but it just wasn’t in the stars that day). Nonetheless, here’s what I whipped up.

NOTE: This can be made into a vegetarian meal by substituting diced, baked tofu instead of the shrimp. ANOTHER NOTE: I recommend cooking the quinoa in stock instead of water to give it more flavor.

RECIPE: Shrimp Fried Quinoa

  • shrimp_ingredients3-4 cups leftover quinoa, chilled
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 8 green onions, chopped (reserve 2 TBSP)
  • 1 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ lb cooked salad shrimp or cooked large shrimp diced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 TBSP teriyaki sauce
  • 4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 TBSP safflower or light olive oil for stir frying
shrimpfriedquinoaBegin by making the sauce. Mix together the soy, teriyaki and sesame oil and set aside. Then start stir-frying the ingredients in layers. Using a wok or large saute pan, heat the oil and cook the carrot and onion for a few minutes before adding the green onions, ginger and garlic to the pan. Stir for a couple minutes more. Make sure the pan is super hot, then add another drizzle of oil to stir fry the quinoa. Next add the shrimp (or tofu), peas, sauce mixture and stir over high heat until it’s evenly distributed. Then scrape everything to the edges of the pan so there is room to scramble the eggs in the middle. Once the egg is cooked, mix throughout the rest of the fried quinoa. Top with remaining scallions for garnish and serve. Makes 3-4 servings, depending how hungry you are. Enjoy!

Creamy Cheese Tortellini with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Pesto

My boyfriend, Matt, is a large human being. As a 6’5″, 300-pounder who trains strongman events with what is known as the ‘meat crew,’ my extensive list of kale salads doesn’t cut the mustard in feeding that guy. I’m committed to make sure he eats as healthy as possible, but considering his 4,000-calorie and 300 grams of protein a day diet, feeding him can be exhausting, to say the least. Unfortunately I loathe the crockpot, which would probably be the easiest way to deal with this scenario. Give me a dutch oven and I can braise anything to almost perfection. But as a cooking vessel, the crock pot makes no sense to me and I promise to ruin everything I put in there, without fail – except this. Thank you Facebook for another fad recipe that turned out to be a winner that can satisfy a strongman.

NOTE: This recipe has been altered from the original to add protein and more flavors, but can easily be served as a vegetarian meal.

spinach_tortellini_crockpotRECIPE: Creamy Cheese Tortellini with Spinach, Tomatoes, Sausage & Pesto

  • 1 bag of frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach
  • 2 cans of organic diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 block of cream cheese, cubed (Greek style for extra protein, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto (I usually have leftover pesto in my fridge, or you make it fresh or buy it)
  • OPTIONAL 1 lb. of sausage, cooked (ground or cut links, pork, turkey, chicken, italian, plain or seasoned – your choice)
  • box (or 4 cups) organic vegetable or chicken stock

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hrs. Check tortellini after 3 hours to see if it’s finished, and keep your eye on the consistency of the sauce. Add a little more stock if it gets too thick before the tortellini is done cooking. Enjoy!

*Images by Little Fellow and Tawna Allred

Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops with Sweet & Sour Mint Jus

Just when you can’t eat another piece of grilled chicken or hamburger on the barbie, lamb chops are a welcome change – plus they are so easy to make and really delicious. Perfect with a giant salad or some grilled veggies of your choice.

RECIPE: Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops
• 2 lbs lamb chops
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 3 TBSP fresh, chopped rosemary
• olive oil
• salt and pepper

Toss lamb in olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Salt and pepper each side. Grill over direct heat 3-4 minutes per side, flipping only once. This should be medium, depending on your grill. Tent with foil for 10 minutes to let the meat rest.

RECIPE: Sweet & Sour Mint Jus

• 1/4 cup vinegar (white wine, cider, champagne, red wine)
• 1/4 cup raw sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/3 cup chopped mint
• 1 tsp chopped hot red pepper, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Muddle together sugar and mint in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and then whisk in olive oil. Taste and adjust sweetness, saltiness and sour levels to your liking. Divide into small bowls so each plate has their own for dipping. Enjoy!