Category: Uncategorized

Greek Yogurt Cheese Ball

So next week is Easter! This will be the first year we wont be doing the egg hunting. Now that we are getting mature and older. Okay lets face it, we had a kid and now it’s his turn to do the Easter egg hunting. I mean it would just be embarrassing to have him show us up in an egg hunting contest.

IMG_7234 (1)

It should be totally fun, except Graeyson can’t walk yet. So pretty much we will be dragging him around from one area to the next until we see that little goofy grin on his face that says “Ooo pretty, shiny!”


With Easter comes the tradition of food, just like every other holiday! Usually the host handles dinner, traditionally ham, and the guests bring appetizers. With that in mind I thought I would give you a healthier option to make and bring for your appetizer! I know you want the traditional pigs in a blanket, but lets face it we are what we eat. I don’t want to be a pig in a blanket, do you?


Typically cheese balls are made with cream cheese and more cheese. I decided to change it up and give it a little more flavor. The only cream used here is plain greek yogurt. This cheese ball has such a great texture and flavor. You bite into it and you’ve got the creaminess going on, then the onions, then the garlic and lastly a nice slightly salty crunch of almonds bits and turkey bacon. Can I hear a “Yum!”?

I made a batch of this and so many people wanted to try it that I had to start rationing it out. I would only let people have a tiny bite so that everyone was able to try it. It went really fast! It will definitely be an appetizer I will keep making again and again because it is a major crowd pleaser!


*Make sure to make this the night before or at least a good couple hours before you need it because it does need to chill in the fridge before you roll it into a ball.

Greek Yogurt Cheese Ball
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Serves: 3-4
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 green onion, finely diced
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped, mixed with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and a pinch of salt, and placed in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes until lightly browned.
  1. In a medium sized bowl add your greek yogurt and cheese and mix well.
  2. Add in the green onions and garlic and mix
  3. Once the almonds and turkey bacon have cooled those can be added too
  4. Chill the mix for a couple hours
  5. Pull it out of the fridge and carefully roll the mixture into a ball and set on a platter
  6. Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to serve
  7. Serve with fruits, vegetables, bread, or crackers.


Crunchy Thai Quinoa Salad

Can you believe it is almost Summer! I know that we still have 2 months, but I am ready for it now. All this time in San Diego is making me want Summer like yesterday! With Summertime comes less clothing time, meaning we have got to get into shape! We have to start eating lots of veggies to make our tummies go away. I am so excited this year because I am not 1 month post-pregnancy. So I will actually be able to fit into shorts or a bathing suit.


I love everything about Summer! The BBQ’s, the late sunsets, the water and all of the fellowship that comes with it. What is your favorite part about summer?

Here is the perfect meal to help you cleanse and shed some of those unwanted love handles. Don’t be mistaken flavor is not lacking here. It is so crunchy, hearty, filling and has flavor pouring out the brim! This salad is packed with nutrition and I promise you wont even feel like it is “diet food.” This is a great summer food because it will keep you lean but it is also really cool and refreshing!

IMG_1989 (1)

Just make sure to pour the dressing on as needed so that it doesn’t get soggy!

Happy Friday everyone!!

Crunchy Thai Quinoa Salad
Recipe Type: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: Thai
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Serves: 4
  • For the salad:
  • 1 cup red cabbage, grated
  • 3/4 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, leaves chopped only
  • 1 cup edamame, shelled
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsalted almonds, smashed or cut up and toasted on 350 degrees with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and a pinch of salt for about 8 minutes until browned. Make sure to flip them every couple minutes
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup Coconut Aminos
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame chili oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Take out two large bowls and a whisk
  2. In the first bowl add all of the salad ingredients listed, except the almonds. (#1-6)
  3. In the second bowl add all of the sauce ingredients (#8-17) and whisk away!
  4. Pour the dressing on top just before serving (so it doesn’t get soggy!) or have everyone pour their own dressing.
  5. Top with the almonds.


Shrimp Carbonara

Happy Wednesday! Graeyson, who has become the official taste-tester of The Nilsen Pantry, and I caught a flight from San Francisco to San Diego last night to visit my husband. Yes, kind of a weird situation my husband and I have. He is in the military and so for now this is how our lives are! So, we will be reporting to you from sunny San Diego!

IMG_7817 (1)

I love the weather in San Diego! Even though it is only about 500 miles from where Graeyson and I live it sometimes it seems like a completely different world when it comes to the weather, especially in the winter. We spent our whole winter this year in San Diego and I believe it rained once and not even for an entire day! At home they had a couple of flash flood warnings! The humidity in San Diego is much higher as well. You could probably where shorts 365 days a year, okay maybe 363 days.


The food here is fabulous! I have never found a place with more variety, uniqueness and flavor. I usually go home with lots of inspiration for cooking in the kitchen when I leave San Diego.


Before we had Graey, we would go to nice restaurants occasionally and actually get to savor, chew and enjoy all the food we ordered. Now, I don’t even think I get the chance to swallow my food!

We used to go to this restaurant called Primavera in Coronado. It was a lovely, quaint, quiet restaurant. Super romantic! I always wanted them to prepare a dish that wasn’t on the menu! It was similar to this Shrimp Carbonara, however, I have made my health tweaks to this dish.


My Shrimp Carbonara tastes like Shrimp Scampi meets Alfredo meets Carbonara. I realize none of those are even healthy, but trust me this version is. I also use brown rice noodles, so it is gluten-free! It is creamy, garlicky, salty, sweet, meaty, yummy, seriously do you need me to keep going!

Enjoy and don’t be too jealous that Graey and I are sunning it up in sunny San Diego!

Shrimp Carbonara
Recipe Type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-5
**Side Note: Cook the pasta a couple minutes less than the package instructions. You want it to be al dente because it is going to cook a little more once the heat from the bacon sets on there. You don’t want it to be mushy!
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp or prawns
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package of linguine (I used brown rice noodles)
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (full-fat), mix cream and water in the can well before measuring out
  • 1 package of turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Fill a large pot with water, a good pinch of salt and a couple splashes of olive oil. Once it begins to boil throw in your pasta and cook as directed. (See note in summary)
  2. While the pasta is cooking grab a medium sized bowl and add your eggs yolks, coconut milk, and 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Add half of the scallions, 2 garlic cloves and the chopped shallot to the cooked turkey bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes
  4. In a medium sized skillet melt 3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
  5. Add in the other two garlic cloves and the shrimp.
  6. Cook shrimp until it is pink
  7. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain the water but do not rinse.
  8. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and mix it around the help separate the pasta.
  9. Add the cream mixture to the pasta and mix well
  10. Add in the ingredients that were in the skillet with the bacon and gently mix
  11. Pour the entire skillet with shrimp, liquid and all into the pasta pot and mix well.
  12. The oils from the shrimp skillet will help to keep the sauce thinner as well as add more flavor


Sticky Crock Pot Chicken with Colored Quinoa

IMG_7630 (1)

Have you ever tried making dinner with a child, or even worse children! It is so difficult. I was trying to make this while also occupying Graeyson. I close both doors to the kitchen so it is completely closed off and will throw a bunch of toys on the floor. However, he always seems to find something he is not supposed to play with. His toys occupy him for a few minutes, the pots and pans a few extra minutes and some puff cereal will possibly buy me a few more.


Being a food blogger is not all glimmer and glam! It is hard work, especially when you have little ones under your feet while you are trying to write down and calculate measurements. If I had to do math all over again I would probably get an “A” just because I had a peacefully quiet room and an entire hour to myself to take a test. When will I ever get that again? A whole hour to myself in the peace and quiet? Maybe in twenty years. For now it is going to be extra pots and pans on the floor with an 11-month-old.

IMG_7662 (3)

Luckily, this meal was super easy and quick! It didn’t require a lot of bribing with the baby. Once this is done cooking the chicken shreds so easily! It is so tender and moist. The coconut sugar gives the chicken a nice sweet caramelized flavor that is absolutely to die for! Pour it on top of some gorgeous colorful quinoa and you have dinner done in no time!

IMG_7659 (2)

Sticky Crock Pot Chicken with Colored Quinoa
Recipe Type: Dinner
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-5
  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup zevia lemon- lime soda (sweetened with stevia)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Aminos
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more if you like it really spicy)
  • 2 cups prepared colored quinoa (Cook with chicken broth and a pinch of salt)
  1. In a medium sized bowl mix together all of the ingredients (except the chicken)
  2. Place the chicken breasts in the crock pot and pour the sauce over the chicken
  3. Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours
  4. Shred the chicken up in the crockpot and serve on top of quinoa


Chateaubriand with Sunset Fingerling Potatoes


Did you ever make the Honor Roll when you were a kid? I was one of those children many would call a pain in the butt. I had to be bribed to do anything! My parents made a deal with me when I was younger. Whenever I made the honor roll we would go out to Black Angus and I could have a steak and lobster dinner. I worked so hard to get a B-! I needed at least that, so that’s where the bar was set.

My grades have always been a roller coaster. Who seriously wants to sit in a class and listen to someone talk non-stop for what seemed like an eternity? Why couldn’t we just go to the beach? My Mom would try to make light of our grades calling them “F for fabulous” or “D for dandy.” My Dad was never amused. Lighten up Dad! Maybe I did need a few math classes, but seriously geometry? What is that all about? Is someone trying to mess with us?

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days where I could just sit around and have someone talk. Sitting down, whats that like? I wish someone was giving me a steak dinner to sit on my duff now as an adult. But, in order to do that I have to pay for a babysitter and pay or dinner! Things were much simpler back in the day.


Chateaubriand is basically a fancy name for Top Sirloin. I love this cut of meat because it isn’t as expensive as your finest meats, but when cooked correctly it can be just as delicious and tender.

I am and will always be a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I love the sunset fingerling potatoes. Especially when they are drenched in garlic! All of the colors make everything feel like a special occasion. But, really it’s just Tuesday night.


This is a great meal for any day of the week. It is really easy and quick to make! Start to finish it is only about 45 minutes and most of that is the oven working its magic. My kind of meal! Now if I could just get someone to help me with the dishes!

Chateaubriand with Sunset Fingerling Potatoes
Recipe Type: DInner
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-5
  • 2 pounds Chateaubriand
  • 1 bag of Sunset Fingerling Potatoes (about 20)
  • Santa Maria Seasoning (from Whole Foods Market)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil + 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Himalayan salt
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a cast iron, dutch oven or large baking pan
  3. Place the meat on the cast iron (or other pan)
  4. Cover the meat with Santa Maria seasonings and pepper on both sides
  5. Put in the oven for a total of ten minutes. Flip the meat over to the other side after the first five minutes.
  6. While the meat is in the oven melt 1/4 cup coconut oil in a large pot.
  7. Add the potatoes and a couple pinches of salt and pepper.
  8. Saute on medium heat for 4 minutes and take then take the potatoes off the heat
  9. Add the freshly minced garlic to the potatoes and stir
  10. After the meat has been in the oven for 10 minutes remove the meat and place the potatoes on the cast iron (or other pan)
  11. Put the meat on top of the potatoes and bake it for 15-20 minutes
  12. Take the meat out once it is cooked to medium (total of 25-30 minutes)
  13. Leave the potatoes in the oven for a few additional minutes or until you can prick them with a fork (potatoes should cook for a total of 20-25 minutes)
  14. Remove the potatoes from the oven and garnish with fresh chopped parsley


Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

French fries are something that has been in my life for a very long time. I don’t think people realize how bad the fast food restaurant fries are. Sure, regular potatoes are vegetables and all, but they aren’t the most beneficial to our health and then you throw on some disgusting hydrogenated oil on the top of them that has been sitting in the fryer for weeks and you’ve got yourself a nice bath of free radical garbage! You start off with something descent and turn it into one of the most unhealthy food products on the planet. What is sad is that people are feeding these to their children! Oh here you go you’ve been such a good boy how about I give you a higher percentage of getting heart disease. It makes no sense.


Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Soup

Can you think of something that makes you happy? For me, I only need one word- Thanksgiving. I know we are far from Thanksgiving on both ends of the calendar, but who cares! Seriously, are you going to complain about having Thanksgiving too many times in a year? If you are then we can’t be friends. Ok, come back we can still be friends. But, I will give you the stink eye for 2.5 minutes. Thanksgiving is just one big ball of yum. Every once in a while I love to bring out the Thanksgiving flavors because they are too good to only have one day a year.