Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Popped Quinoa + Sea Salt

A little piece of dark chocolate is almost always the perfect sweet fix for me, even if it just means a palmful of chocolate chips. Dark chocolate has a permanent spot in this house!

Chocolate bark is so easy and so fun! I've never experimented much with it but after making a batch this weekend, I am a believer! I spotted this recipe on Cooking Light's Instagram account last week and knew I needed to make it. It turns out that popped quinoa is, in fact, and thing and it is one of the most surprising bites! I'm currently making a list of other things that I can add popped quinoa to. POPPED QUINOA. I just love it. 

This bark is the most incredible (and incredibly easy) sweet treat ever. It's rich and decadent and basically takes no time at all to make. Pistachios and sea salt make lovely chocolate toppings and the popped quinoa...well, you just need to try it for yourself. It's toasty and poppy and adds a fun little crunch. 

Mmmmmm. I love this stuff. 

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Popped Quinoa + Sea Salt

1 Dark chocolate bar (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao)
Handful unsalted pistachios
2 Tbsp. quinoa, popped
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To pop the quinoa, heat a small, heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat. Add 3-4 pieces of quinoa and cover, wait for them to pop. Once you hear them pop, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons. They will pop very quietly and quickly. Remove from the burner and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

In a double boiler on medium-low heat, melt the chocolate. Pour melted chocolate onto the parchment prepared baking sheet and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle with pistachios, quinoa and sea salt. 

Transfer sheet to the refrigerator and let harden for a few hours or overnight. Break into pieces and enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese


When I get a craving for a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, I always head straight for my family's recipe. It's not too rich, extra cheesy and is Italianized by adding tomatoes to the base and using Italian breadcrumbs as the crispy topping. It's OMG SO GOOD and always, always hits the spot. I have so many delicious mac and cheese recipes saved and I haven't once ventured into new territory.

I changed that over the weekend when my sister and I cooked up this delicious Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Butternut squash in your beloved macaroni and cheese may sound like a strange combo but trust me, it works in all of the right ways. This dish is perfect for the chilly months, especially when butternut is abundant and in season. It's slightly sweet with a hint of spice and every bite is perfectly creamy thanks to a sauce that is made with roasted and pureed butternut squash. I wanted to eat the entire top crispy layer because it was what (comfort) food dreams are made of. 

Snuggle up on a snowy night with a bowl of this butternut goodness.

Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese
Recipe adapted via Two Peas and Their Pod

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 lb. cavatappi pasta
2.5 cups milk, divided
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a large bowl, drizzle butternut squash chunks with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Arrange evenly on the baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is cooking, cook pasta according to instructions on box until al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the butternut is done roasting, transfer to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the milk and pulse until the milk and squash are combined. 

In a large skillet or french oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the nutmeg and whisk in the flour, whisking constantly. Add the remaining two cups of milk and whisk until smooth. Turn the heat up to high and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. Once the sauce is thick, turn the heat back down to low and whisk in the butternut squash mixture. Stir in the rosemary, then add the pasta and toss until it is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil. Add half of the pasta mixture to the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/2 cup the aged cheddar and 1/2 cup of the sharp cheddar. Add the remaining pasta on top of that, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Sprinkle the panko in an even layer on top. Drizzle with olive oil. 

Bake mac and cheese for 25- 30 minutes, until it is nice and bubbly. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

No Bake Energy Bites

Energy bites are not a novelty around here and we almost always have a batch in the fridge or freezer available for healthy snacking. In fact, my Paleo Snack Bites have been one of my most popular recipes and most pinned posts to date. They are slightly sweet a filled with so many good-for-you ingredients.

I shook things up a bit with this week's batch of bites and used a new recipe from my friend Kealy. She uses oats instead of almond meal, honey instead of maple syrup and cacao nibs instead of mini chips. The differences are slight but the taste is entirely new and we have loved snacking on these this week. They are perfect for snacking on the go, pre or post workout bite and even after dinner when you need a little something sweet. 

I love the sweetness of the honey and this is my first time experimenting with cacao nibs- I am obsessed! By themselves they have the initial taste of chocolate but are not sweet at all. A subtle chocolatey flavor comes out when you use them with other sweet ingredients for a healthier chocolate chip with lots of good nutrients and tons of antioxidants. 

No Bake Energy Bites

1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cups natural crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp. vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes to let it firm up. Form into balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Buttery Lentils with Shallots

Lentils are one of my pantry staples. When I have a lentil dish on my meal plan, I like to make it towards the beginning of the week, often times doubling the recipe, so that I have plenty of leftovers for weekday lunches. Cold, hot, in a salad or as a salad, we love lentils in this house!

These Buttery Lentils with Shallots come from the December, 2014 issue of Cooking Light. The ingredients are simple, but the flavors are big. One Tablespoon of butter goes a long way in this dish and adds a slight creaminess. I doubled the recipe and ate the leftover lentils on top of kale salad for the rest of the week!

Buttery Lentils with Shallots
recipe from Cooking Light, December 2014

2/3 cup dried green lentils
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper 

Place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to about three inches above lentils. Bring to a boil. Once the lentils are boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft and cooked. Drain.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for about two minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Add lentils, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan and toss. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

Winter has definitely made it's way into Charlotte. Christmas may be long gone, but Jack Frost is certainly nipping at everyone's noses. On a chilly night, something warm and comforting always sounds best for dinner, but, when you're in holiday detox mode, it always requires a bit more creativity to make sure you keep it healthy at the same time. 

I always love taking our favorite comfort meals and giving them a healthier spin. It's such a misconception that eating healthy isn't as delicious, but I think that is completely untrue! The fresher the ingredients, the tastier the food and the less items that come in a package, the better they are for you!

These meatballs are full of flavor and stuffed in the center is a tiny little surprise- a ball of fresh mozzarella! I have used ground chicken breast as well and they have been equally as good. They are extra delicious served with fresh pasta, but most of the time, we eat these over zucchini noodles or just by themselves with a simple salad on the side. 

Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
recipe adapted via 

1 lb. ground turkey breast
1/2 cup grated parmesan 
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Bocconcini mozzarella balls
1/2 cup olive oil
Marinara Sauce
Handful fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

In a large bowl, combine turkey parmesan, egg and spices. Combine everything with your hands until the ingredients are evenly mixed. 

Form the turkey mixture into golf ball sized meatballs. Insert a small bocconcini ball into each meatball, making sure the meatball is reformed around the mozzarella. The cheese should be completely hidden.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet (I use my French oven) over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs (you may need to do this in two batches). Turn them as they cook so that they all brown evenly. 

Once all meatballs are browned, add the marinara sauce to the skillet and transfer the meatballs to the skillet as well. Transfer the skillet to the oven and continue to cook the meatballs for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. 

Remove the skillet from the oven and garnish with basil and the extra bocconcini.

Friday, January 2, 2015

In January, We Diet

I have never been a fan of the word diet and prefer to call it a "healthy lifestyle", but once January hits, I'm always ready for a fresh restart on healthy eating. After over a month of holiday celebrations, parties, extra treats and one too many stops into Starbucks because lattes taste better in red cups, I love the newness of the new year to get right back on track. 

If you're looking for inspiration in the kitchen, Amazon is offering 40 Paleo cookbooks (Kindle edition) for FREE! In addition, there are many other titles available for $0.99. I am not sure how long this promotion lasts, so take advantage of it now. You can find these downloads HERE.

If you are looking for new blogs to add to your reading list, here are some of my favorite spots for healthy eats:

And lastly, I'm always pinning new recipes during my nightly Pinterest binge! Follow me HERE.

Cheers to peace, love and more healthy eating in the new year!