Lightened Up Baked Ziti with Zucchini

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I love Italian food, but lets face it Italian food doesn’t love my butt and thighs! Italian food is filled with high-fat cheeses, butter, heavy oils and lots and lots of white starchy pasta. Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, which isn’t that often, I have such a hard time figuring out what I can eat. It seems like everything is bad for you and there are so many hidden ingredients.

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I suggest if you want Italian food, make it at home! This way you know exactly what is going inside. Plus, it is usually cheaper. If you go out to a nice Italian restaurant you may get a bowl of spaghetti for $20. What the what what? Why is Italian food so expensive? It is just pasta!

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This Baked Ziti has quite a few steps, but it is really easy and so delicious. I used a lean Italian sausage, lower fat mozzarella cheese, skim ricotta cheese, greek yogurt and absolutely no butter. I made this casserole with gluten free noodles as well. I then added another little spin to it by adding in layers of thinly sliced zucchini!

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It is cheesy, saucy perfection! Most of the ingredients you will be able to find right in your pantry!

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Enjoy!

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Lightened Up Baked Ziti with Zucchini
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
If you are trying to cut out some of the cheese, cut out the 1/2 cup in the middle for layering, just put a little bit on the top because there is plenty of cheese in the noodle mixture.
Ingredients
  • 16 ounce ziti pasta; cooked, rinsed and set aside
  • 2 pounds ground Italian sausage (not in casing)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups yellow onion, finely diced (about one medium sized onion)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 jar of marinara (1 pound, 9 ounces; 3 cups)
  • 1- 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and liquid
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shreds (I used a 3-Cheese Blend from Whole Foods- Made up of fontina, asiago and parmesan)
  • 3 cups of mozzarella cheese (2 cups for cream and 1 cup for layering) (This was VERY cheesy, so if you aren’t a huge cheese fan you could easily cut the cheese almost in half)
  • 3 zucchinis, very thinly sliced
  • Italian parsley or basil for garnish, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a pot, heat the minced garlic, chopped onions and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and cook until the onions are translucent (about 3 minutes)
  2. Add in the Italian sausage and cook until browned (break down the sausage as small as you can)
  3. Once the meat is browned, add in the marinara, 1 can of whole tomatoes plus the liquids, 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste
  4. Take a potato masher and mash the whole tomatoes down, creating smaller bits and releasing their juices
  5. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes on low/medium heat
  6. While that is simmering lets start the cream for the pasta
  7. In a large bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, greek yogurt, the egg, 1/2 cup parmesan, mozzarella cheese, and salt and pepper to taste
  8. Mix in noodles and completely coat them with the cream
  9. Cook the zucchini in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil; add salt and pepper to taste (Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until bright green, not cooked all the way)
  10. Grab a 4 quart baking dish (3 quart will not be large enough, believe me I tried!)
  11. Grease the bottom with a little coconut oil
  12. Scoop out about 3 ladles of the sauce into the baking dish, just enough to have a thin layer cover the bottom of the dish
  13. Top the sauce with half of the noodles, then top with half of the sauce, top with half of the zucchini and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (SEE NOTE ABOVE!)
  14. Repeat one last time with the rest!
  15. Bake on 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, once everything is melted and bubbly
  16. Allow about 5-10 minutes to set out of the oven before serving

 

Pineapple Fried Quinoa

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Hello Friday!

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Good to see my old pal Friday again! I love Friday. I don’t really know why. It doesn’t necessarily mean my week/job is over, hello baby and bloggity, bloggity, blog. However, I still love it because I know that someone has a couple days off. I mean hey, do I really need a reason to have some excitement in my life!

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How many of you have ever been to a Thai restaurant and got the pineapple fried rice? How many of you got it “To Go” and ate the whole thing by yourself? Me? No I have only done that twice, I mean never. The point is, it’s so ridiculously delicious and really fun to eat because you get to scoop all the grub right out of this massive pineapple. Oh man, now I’m salivating!

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I decided to run with that idea but to make a twist with it by turning it into Chinese fried rice and making a second twist by turning the rice into quinoa. Are you dizzy yet? So we went from Thai to Chinese and then from rice to quinoa. Oh well, if you don’t get it then just follow the directions and you will be fine!

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This version is healthier than Chinese fried rice and Thai pineapple fried rice. There are a lot of unknown oils, sugars and greasy meats in the restaurant dishes. Plus, the white rice has no real nutritional benefit to us. Whereas quinoa does, plus it is packed with protein and is gluten free! Can’t beat that!

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Have a beautiful weekend!

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Pineapple Fried Quinoa
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry tricolor quinoa, cooked according to package (usually it is 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups of liquid, I used chicken broth for the liquid instead of water)
  • 2 cups chicken broth, to cook the quinoa
  • 12 ounces of turkey kielbasa cut into 1/4 inch pieces, cooked
  • 1 whole pineapple, cut a section out (take your knife and put it next to the stem and cut down
  • 1 cup pineapple, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (scoop the pineapple out of the pineapple boat and use that to cut the pineapple for the 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cup diced onions, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 6 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2-4 Thai Bird’s Eye Chili, smashed (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice, from the drained pineapple
  • 3 scallions, thinly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cashews
Instructions
  1. Take your pineapple and a knife and set the knife on the top right next to one side of the stem and slice down all the way
  2. Scoop out the pineapple (so the boat is hollow) from the pineapple boat and cut up 1 cup of pineapple and set aside
  3. Take a large bowl and set the pineapple boat in it upside down so any excess juice can drain out
  4. In a large pot cook 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1 cup onions, 1 cup carrots and the minced garlic
  5. Cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes until the onions have become translucent
  6. Push the veggies in the corner and add the whisked eggs
  7. Let them set in the pot until almost scrambled and then mix the eggs in with the vegetables
  8. Add in the quinoa, meat and pineapple and gently stir
  9. Turn the heat off
  10. In a small bowl add the Bird’s Eye Chili, fish sauce, coconut sugar and pineapple juice and mix well
  11. Pour the sauce over the fried quinoa
  12. Add in the scallions and gently mix
  13. Scoop into the pineapple boat
  14. Top with cashews and serve!

 

Warm Broccoli and Brussel Sprout Salad with Homemade Poppyseed Dressing

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Crunch, crunch, munch, munch… Oh hey, don’t mind me I am just chomping away over here with this yummy salad. I don’t even know if I could call this a salad. It doesn’t taste like salad and it sure doesn’t feel like I am eating a bowl of salad. So what am I eating then? Well, that’s a good question and I have no idea how to explain it. This is like… HEAVEN! So so YUMMY!

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You guys, I have totally made this twice in four days. So, pretty much I have been eating this for four days straight. Can’t get enough, must keep eating, yum yum, in my tummy, ahhh, so GOOD! So what is this salad that’s got me buzzing about. I don’t know if I want to even say because you might buy all the broccoli and brussel sprouts and then I can’t keep making this EVERYDAY. What if I start turning green? Can that happen? Oh well, for now I am just loving this. And if you don’t like it I wont cry because that just means there is more for me!

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Most of the ingredients you probably already have. You may only need to go to the store for the veggies! Even better is that this recipe is done in no time. How does 25 minutes sound? Sounds good to me!

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This is a great way to serve your veggies in a different style to change it up. Hey, the kids might even like it. My little Graeyson sure did!

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This salad should be served slightly warm, not hot or cold, just warm. The colors in this salad are so bright! I love all the textures in the salad too! They are fun to look at, but also to munch. When you are ready to serve this delicious bowl of yum, drizzle on the tangy/creamy dressing and bam! I mean pow! I mean… so DARN good!!!

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Enjoy!

Warm Broccoli and Brussel Sprout Salad With Homemade Poppyseed Dressing
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • SALAD
  • 2 cups broccoli (floret and short stem only, not the stalk), sliced (mandolin or cut thinly into strips with a knife)
  • 2 cups brussel sprouts, sliced –> same way as the broccoli
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 2 chicken breast, grilled and chopped (about 1 1/4 pound of chicken)
  • Pinch of salt to season almonds
  • Salt and Pepper to taste for salad
  • HOMEMADE POPPYSEED DRESSING
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated xylitol
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (honey or agave)
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppyseeds
  • Small pinch of Himalayan salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes
  4. Add the broccoli and brussel sprouts to the skillet and saute until bright green, about 3 minutes (Don’t cook all the way, you want them to be slightly al dente still, not mushy!)
  5. Place the chopped almonds, 1 tablespoon coconut oil and a pinch of salt on a baking sheet and bake the almonds until golden brown, about 5 or 6 minutes
  6. Throw the vegetables from the skillet into a bowl and toss the chopped chicken in
  7. In a small blender or food processor add all of the dressing ingredients and blend well
  8. Top the salad with almonds and dress the salad just before serving so it doesn’t become soggy.
  9. Serve!

 

Gluten Free Zucchini Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

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Happy Sunday!

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Sometimes I love Sundays and sometimes I don’t. Sunday’s are wonderful because it is such a quiet, low key day, but it also means that Monday is knock, knock, knocking next door! I am trying to embrace these last few Sundays before my husband comes home for good from the military. I am SO excited for him to come home, but I also know that Graeyson and I will no longer have our Sunday morning slumber parties alone.

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I have the most cuddly baby! All you have to do if bring a nice soft blanket into his room and he will cuddle with you like you won’t believe! In a few weeks, I will have to share those cuddles! Nooooo! They are all my cuddles! Ok, fine I will share.

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I was never a good sharer as a child. It always got me into trouble! I once bit a kid in the back at preschool because they wouldn’t get off the swing that I wanted to ride on. Yes, I was not a good sharer. As an adult I have had to learn how to….share. So, I will have to learn how to share my little cuddle bug toward the end of the month.

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Alright, so lets talk about some good Italian food! I first had Chicken Parmesan at Maggiano’s. It was really good, but it was battered and fried…not good! Then they poured sauce all over it that was loaded with refined sugars and placed globs and globs of greasy cheese all over…also not good!

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I took that idea and transitioned it into something healthier, plus a little more creative and voila a yummy yummy dinner that is definitely not lacking in flavor! I used almond meal and egg for the batter and fried it up in the skillet with some coconut oil. It is so crunchy and delicious just like this! In fact, I have made chicken tenders out of it with just that step.

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I made a homemade marinara sauce, but if you wanted a quicker recipe you could use a store bought marinara sauce. I also stuffed the chicken parmesan with zucchini. Great way to sneak in those veggies! Once everything is said and done you will have a bed of spaghetti (gluten-free in my case), topped with sauce, topped with chicken parmesan, topped with mozzarella cheese, topped with sauce and garnished with gorgeous bright green basil strips.

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Bam! I am good! This meal is so gorgeous looking! I mean WOW! It is a lot of food and could definitely feed a family of 6! It could feed an army!

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Have a wonderful Sunday with your family!

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Gluten Free Zucchini Stuffed Chicken Parmesan
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts (2 pounds)
  • 1 pound of gluten free spaghetti (Tinkyada), cooked and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 4 thick slices of mozzarella
  • BREADING
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning salt (I used Santa Maria)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • STUFFING
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese shreds
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • MARINARA SAUCE
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (15 ounces)
  • 2 cans tomato sauce (15 ounces each can)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 basil leaves, chiffonade + more for topping (about 4 leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of boiling water cook the pasta until al dente, then drain, rinse and set aside
  2. While the pasta is cooking take another skillet and melt 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
  3. Add the zucchini, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese shreds, and add salt and pepper to taste in the skillet.
  4. Cook on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes (just until it is nice and bright, not mushy)
  5. Take your chicken breast and cut a slice in them going from the top to the bottom. Don’t go all the way back, you just want to cut about 3/4 back. (In other words don’t slice them completely in half!)
  6. Divide the zucchini mix into four and stuff each chicken breast with it, making sure to tuck it in well (Don’t let it hang out)
  7. Now we are ready to bread! –> Grab two bowls–> One for the whisked egg and the other for the almond mixture
  8. The almond mixture, or the breading, will be made up of 2 cups of almond meal, 2 teaspoons of seasoning salt and two teaspoons of pepper (Mix these well in a bowl)
  9. Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil in a large pan (large enough to fit all four chicken breasts)
  10. Take each stuffed chicken breast and careful coat them entirely in the egg and then coat them completely in the almond mixture
  11. Set them in the large skillet with coconut oil
  12. Continue until all four chicken breast are done and in the pan
  13. On medium-high heat cook the chicken breasts for about 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown
  14. Then remove the chicken breasts and set them aside
  15. WITHOUT cleaning the skillet add the remaining 4 cloves of minced garlic and the onions to the pan
  16. Cook them for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent
  17. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes
  18. Add the fire roasted tomatoes and all of the tomato sauce to the skillet
  19. Add the bay leaves, 5 basil leaves, rosemary, thyme and parsley
  20. Lightly simmer the marinara sauce for 30 minutes
  21. After the 30 minutes are up, grab a large baking dish
  22. Put about 2 ladles of the marinara sauce on the bottom (shake it around until the bottom is lightly covered)
  23. Put the spaghetti in next
  24. Top the spaghetti with about half of the remaining sauce
  25. Top the sauce with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  26. Top with the chicken
  27. On each chicken breast top them with one thick slice of mozzarella cheese
  28. Top each slice of cheese with the more sauce (save a few scoops for when it comes out of the oven)
  29. Bake in the oven on 375 degrees for 20 minutes covered with foil
  30. Top with more sauce when it comes out of the oven, garnish it with basil
  31. Serve immediately!

 

Quinoa and Bean Sloppy Joes

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Quinoa has been the latest rage lately! It has been everywhere, everywhere, everywhere!  Quinoa is pretty awesome if they think about it. It has the highest amount of protein of any grain and has no gluten! It is a great grain to incorporate into our diet in general, but is even more important if you have a gluten intolerance, are working out, or are just trying to watch what you are eating.

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Quinoa is really easy to add into any recipe and I have seen a lot of them lately! Here’s the thing I haven’t seen, quinoa recipes that KIDS would love! So I present to you Quinoa and Bean Sloppy Joes! What kid do you know that doesn’t love sloppy joes?

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These sloppy joes are a little different not just because they are meat-free, but also because they don’t just have the traditional tomato sauce flavor. These definitely have the tomato sauce, ketchup flavor, but they also have a nice smokey barbecue flavor. Your kids will love my sloppy joes because they are just as messy and fun as the traditional one, but better!!

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Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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Quinoa and Bean Sloppy Joes
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Add a minimal amount of apple cider vinegar to start with and then increase as everything has been combined. Depending on what your barbecue tastes like you may not want to add the full 4 tablespoons.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to directions on package
  • 1- 15 ounce can of black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I used my homemade barbecue sauce–> http://nilsenpantry.com/2014/05/11/st-louis-ribs-with-homemade-rub-and-sauce/)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, depending on how tangy you want it (SEE NOTE)
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 medium sized yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 8 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • 6 whole grain buns or lettuce to wrap them up
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet melt the coconut oil
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are translucent, about 3 minutes
  3. Add the barbecue sauce, ketchup and tomato sauce and mix well
  4. Then add the apple cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, coconut sugar and red chili flakes
  5. Allow the sauce to cook on low for 10 minutes
  6. Add the cooked quinoa and beans, combine well and cook on low for 5 minutes
  7. Lastly you will add in the tomato paste mix well and cook for another 2-3 minutes
  8. If you want the sloppy joes thicker then you can add more tomato paste
  9. To assemble, top each bun with the sloppy joe mixture and then top with shredded cheddar cheese and green onions.

 

One Pot Enchilada Chili Mac

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Happy Tuesday!

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Wasn’t this just the best weekend! An extra day makes the weekend feel like the right amount of time. Two days isn’t really enough, right? Two days isn’t enough time to do much else but housework. It seems like we go, go, go all week long and then all we do is clean and cook on the weekends. Well, some people sleep. What is that like? Ah, to sleep all day long. Oh well, for now life is go, go, go. (more…)

Turkey Burger Madeira Wraps

You know when you have those meals you can not stop picking at when you are making it and then you aren’t hungry when the dinner is done. Well, that pretty much happened here! This was an idea my sister and I had. I wanted turkey burgers and she wanted chicken madeira. Why not combine them! This is exactly like chicken madeira, minus the chicken and of course mushrooms because, bleh, I hate mushrooms.

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As I was editing these pictures I was literally salivating. Okay, I am still salivating. Even talking about this meal just makes me drool. Graeyson is drooling because he is teething and I am drooling because this is so stinking delicious! Every time I went to add a photo into Aperture I was just dying because I didn’t have any left to eat! They were SO gone. I mean gone gone, like I hardly saw them. That’s okay, that just means they were that good. I was planning on having one for lunch the next day, but no dice.

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Burgers are the best part of summer! They really are just good on their own, but sometimes it can get boring! What if you wanted to make burgers, but thought that everyone was going to think you were lazy! With this it just LOOKS like you weren’t lazy. They still only take about 30 minutes, but they don’t need to know that.

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These burgers are so gorgeous I can’t even stand it. Don’t you love how I snuck all the veggies in under the cheese! Although, these asparagus are amazing because they have that little char flavor going on. The Bibb lettuce gives the burger such a lovely texture and then the madeira sauce dripping everywhere, really seriously?! If this doesn’t get you excited then I don’t know what will! I wrapped mine in the bakery paper and tied it up to make it look extra fancy, like it even needs that! They are such show stoppers on their own.

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We really need to stop talking about this meal because I am going to want to make it again, right now! Enjoy your holiday weekend with your loved ones!

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Cheers!

Turkey Burger Madeira Wraps
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
I didn’t use any oil in the skillet. Just put the patty’s straight onto the skillet. The thigh meat creates enough oil to cook the burgers. If you are using a really lean turkey or chicken then you may want to consider adding a little oil.
Ingredients
  • TURKEY BURGERS
  • 2 pounds turkey thigh meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I used Santa Maria)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • SAUCE
  • 1 1/2 cups madeira
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 10 drops of liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • MASHED POTATOES
  • 5 medium sized yukon gold potatoes (peeled, cubed and boiled)
  • 1/2 individual cup of plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (rice or other)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ADD ONS
  • 8 slices of Havarti cheese
  • 24 asparagus stalks, ends cut off
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 bunch of Bibb lettuce or any other that will wrap nicely, washed and leaves peeled off to make lettuce cups
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine the turkey meat, seasoning salt, salt, shallots, garlic, thyme and pepper
  2. Knead it until everything has dispersed evenly
  3. Make 8 burger patty’s out of the meat and put them in a large skillet on medium high heat and cook them until there is no pink, about 3 minutes each side (SEE NOTE)
  4. While your burgers are cooking you can start the sauce
  5. In a medium sized saucepan add the madeira, beef stock, coconut sugar, liquid smoke, salt, and a couple good pinches of pepper.
  6. Once it has combined and the sugar has melted down add the arrowroot powder
  7. You will have to continue whisking like crazy to get the arrowroot broken down (chase it around the saucepan!)
  8. Cook the sauce for at least 10 minutes on medium heat until the sauce has thickened up
  9. Feel free to add more arrowroot powder if the sauce isn’t thick enough for you!
  10. The last thing you are going to cook up is the asparagus
  11. Everything is going to take about 10-15 minutes to cook so you can start everything at the same time and just switch from one thing to the next.
  12. Grab a cast iron grill pan and add your asparagus to it
  13. Pour the olive oil on top of the asparagus and turn the heat to medium high.
  14. You want to get a nice little char going on
  15. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the asparagus
  16. Mash the potatoes and add the greek yogurt, milk, pepper, salt and combine well. Set aside.
  17. Go to your skillet with the turkey burgers and a good scoop of mashed potatoes (flatten them down), add three slices of asparagus to the top of each burger with mashed potatoes and then top it with havarti cheese. Turn the heat to low and cover the skillet to allow the cheese to melt. This should take just a couple of minutes.
  18. Once the cheese has melted place the patty’s on top of a lettuce cup, then add madeira sauce and top with another lettuce cup.
  19. Wrap them is desired!
  20. Serve immediately!

 

Green Apple Pork Chops

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Happy Friday!

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This Mother’s Day was my very first one, ever! Last year I missed it my a touch. One of my southern friends says, “touch.” So, I am going to start saying it because I love it! For Mother’s Day I got a brand new spanking camera! I am so in love with it.

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My husband, and of course Graeyson, got me a Canon 70D! It is so gorgeous and the pictures are beyond clear, I can’t even stand it! Pre Mother’s Day I was either borrowing a camera from my father -in- law or I was using my husband’s 10 year old camera. I had such a hard time taking good quality pictures, until now! Now I have no excuse. I have a state of the art camera and I need to learn how to use it.

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I brought my camera with me to San Diego last week and made these pork chops for my husband. They are so sweet, tart and really tender. I hate pork chops that are tough. I love getting bone- in pork chops because it really helps the meat from drying out. It adds extra flavor and I feel that the meat ends up being more tender. There was only one lame part about these pork chops. I had to leave them in San Diego! My husband got to enjoy them and I flew home with a 12 month old. Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

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I love these chops because dinner is ready in under 30 minutes. How is that even possible? See you can make a great family meal quickly with hardly any ingredients! Thank goodness they were quick and easy because I had a lot of cooking to do. I left my husband with a fully stocked fridge that he is still working on finishing!

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Cheers!

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Green Apple Pork Chops
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 bone-in pork chops about 1.5 inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 granny smith apples cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides
  2. Press the chopped thyme into the pork chops on both sides
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil and brown each side of the pork chop for 2-3 minutes, then remove and set aside
  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil and the apple cider vinegar to the pan and add apples and onions, cook on medium heat for 5 minutes
  5. Add the pork chops back to the pan
  6. Cook for 2 minutes and turn the chops over and then cook an additional 3 minutes or until there is no longer any pink in the middle
  7. Remove from heat immediately

 

Mashed Potato Stuffed Meatloaf

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Hello little muffin of yumminess! How cool is this meal? It is such a perfect little individual sized meal. Your kids and guests will go crazy for these! I know I always say this, but this tastes amazing! You have to make this!

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This is so good, I can’t even tell you. Ok, I have to tell you! On the top there is delicious sauce with a combination of flavors of ketchup, barbecue sauce and hot sauce. Just below the sauce is the meatloaf and it is so juicy, moist and full of incredible flavor! As you bit into it further you hit the creamy mashed potatoes. To make these potatoes creamy and tangy I added greek yogurt! This gives it a nice extra punch of protein without many calories. As if this isn’t enough there is turkey bacon stuffed in the middle.

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Like I said this is incredibly amazing!! The best way to do this is making the raw meatloaf and the mashed potatoes the night before because it does take up quite a bit of time. So in the future I am going to do half of the work the night before.

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Mashed Potato Stuffed Meatloaf
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 slices sourdough bread, made into breadcrumbs (3 cups)
  • 1 cup- 3 cheese parmesan shreds
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 slices turkey bacon, diced and cooked
  • 1 cup rice milk + 1/4 cup rice milk (or other milk)
  • 5 yukon gold potatoes; peeled, boiled and mashed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 container of plain greek yogurt (individual cup)
  • Chives, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup agave sweetened ketchup ( or unsweetened ketchup)
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 dashes hot sauce (I used Texas Peet’s)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, take the mashed potatoes and add the coconut oil, greek yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste
  3. In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs, eggs, parmesan and 1 cup of rice milk until well combined
  4. In a medium sized pot heat the ketchup, coconut sugar and hot sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes
  5. Take your greased muffin baking dish and fill it up about 1/2 way with the meat mixture.
  6. Pat it down to the bottom and then start to push it out to the sides and up about halfway (like a pie, but only halfway up)
  7. Add a small dollop of the ketchup mixture on top of the meat mixture (about a teaspoon)
  8. Then add about 1 1/2 tablespoons mashed potatoes on top of that
  9. Add another small dollop of sauce
  10. Add a few crumbles of turkey bacon
  11. Add more meat mixture to the top
  12. Press it gently and seal it
  13. It should look formed like a muffin
  14. Coat the ketchup mixture over the top of the muffins
  15. Then top with bacon crumbles
  16. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees
  17. Top with chopped chives
  18. Allow to set for 5-10 minutes before serving

 

Broccolini, Sausage and Shells in Truffle Oil

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Happy birthday to my favorite little goose!

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Our little man Graeyson turned 1 year old today! I can’t believe how fast this year went by and now I don’t have a little baby anymore, I have a BIG boy. Well, a big boy who isn’t even walking yet. He is so lazy! I guess he is too busy to be learning how to walk.

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This past year has taught me a lot about myself. There were a lot of things I gave up to have the best thing of all! My weight, my shape, my sleep, my schedule, my eating patterns, my boobs, my hygiene, the way I dress… yup it’s all out the window. Hopefully this year I learn how to get it back.

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Even though there are a lot of things I have had to give up, there are also a lot of things that I have gained. I have gained a sense of self respect for myself, of sense of being and a sense of understanding what life is really about. Being a mother has taught me to be less selfish and to enjoy the little things in life. Being a mother is the best gift I have ever been given and I wouldn’t trade any sleep deprived night for it.

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Okay, enough of the icky, sticky, mushy love talk!

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I love these one pot meals where everything is mixed together in one big steaming pot of yumminess. Let’s just be honest, truffle oil makes everything better. White truffle oil tastes like buttery, garlicky, amazingness! Black truffle oil has more of the mushroom taste. The white truffle oil takes the traditional pasta dish to a whole new level!

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This dish just has it going on!  Crunchy broccolini, rich sausage, tangy parmesan, spicy red pepper flakes, caramelized onion strings, garlic, lemon, with delicious truffle oil drizzled all over mixed in with perfectly cooked pasta shells. Hungry yet!? If not, look at the photo below. Hello money shot! Mmm mmm good!

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Broccolini, Sausage and Shells in Truffle Oil
Author: Nicole Nilsen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces shell pasta, cooked (according to package), rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 pound mild Italian sausage, cooked and set aside (strain out the grease)
  • 1 large bunch of broccolini, florets cut off and stems cut into bite sized pieces (cooked to al dente, about 3 minutes, then shocked in an ice bath, drain and set aside)
  • Bowl of ice water (for broccolini)
  • 1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons white truffle oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the shells (according to package) and sausage (until browned)
  2. While the shells and meat are cooking add the onions and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a skillet and cook for 5 minutes on medium-high heat
  3. Add the coconut sugar to the skillet and continue cooking for a few more minutes or until caramelized, then set aside
  4. Once the pasta and sausage are done cooking, drain both and set aside
  5. In a medium sized pot boil the broccolini for about 3 minutes until it is al dente
  6. With a slated spoon scoop out the broccolini and throw it in the ice bath to stop the cooking process, set aside
  7. In a large pot heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and add the garlic
  8. Cook on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic is lightly browned
  9. Turn the heat off and add the white truffle oil, thyme and lemon juice
  10. Mix in the broccolini, pasta, sausage, caramelized onions and parmesan cheese
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste
  12. Top with red pepper chili flakes
  13. Serve immediately with extra chili flakes, thyme and parmesan cheese