Pancetta Brussels Sprouts

Ok, so if you had told me a couple years ago when I started this blog that I would have not one but two Brussels sprouts recipes, I would have told you to get out of town.

Seriously. I never would have guessed years ago when I was drinking more soda than ever, that one day I would want a snack and make Brussels sprouts! My husband said the same thing. 

I’ve heard many people say this, and I agree wholeheartedly, I think of you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you probably haven’t had them prepared correctly. They have quickly become one of my favorite vegetables.

This is a very similar recipe to the other one I posted, but it doesn’t require you to turn on your oven and it comes together much quicker. 

This recipe serves two as a side dish at around 80 calories per serving.

10 Brussels sprouts, halved

1 T olive oil (I love garlic infused for this)

Leeks, sliced, about an inch or two of the leek

1 oz diced pancetta 

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

In a hot skillet, add your olive oil and place the sprouts cut side down. This helps the core soften and makes for some really good caramelization.

After a minute or two over medium high heat, add the pancetta and leeks. (I used regular onions this time because I was out of leeks, but I really prefer the leek flavor.)

Let the pancetta, onion, and sprouts continue cooking until the pancetta is crispy and the onions and sprouts are browned. You can start turning over the sprouts so they can cook all over.

When everything is almost done, add a pinch of salt and the honey. Mix altogether.

Put in a bowl and finish off with a little Dijon mustard. Stir to coat and enjoy! 


Chocolate Peanut Butter Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I have a friend from high school who is now the owner of a very successful bakery. Seriously, her stuff is amazing. If I were her, I’d probably weigh about 1000 pounds just from samples of her dreamy cookies and cupcakes. Which is probably why she’s such a health nut.

It’s really funny, actually, because even though she runs a bakery, she is so in tuned to her and her family’s health. Her Instagram photos from her bakery account are chock full of cupcakes and cookies and chocolate and frosting and mini pies and sweets galore. Her personal Instagram is chock full of her cute kids and all the healthy, organic, good-for-you foods you can imagine. It’s quite the dichotomy. 

The food she makes always looks so yummy, so I try to remember and make mental notes. She recently posted about making chocolate peanut butter ice cream from an organic food blog she reads. That was all I needed to hear. Chocolate and Peanut Butter? Ice cream? And, knowing my friend, good for you? I’m in. 

I finally had a free afternoon, so I decided to try a couple new recipes I’d been eyeing: honey roasted chickpeas and this ice cream. The roasted chickpeas were a total bust. I thought they were going to turn out a lot different than they did and I just really didn’t like the texture. So, sorry, no crispy chickpea recipe from me. But then I made this ice cream, which was super easy and turned out SOOOOO Good!! And my kids loved it! 

You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, but even if you don’t have one, you should think about getting one. They have lots of varieties that run the size and price range gamut. Homemade ice cream just blows the store-bought stuff out of the water. It had been awhile since I’d made some myself, and doing this made me want to make it more often. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for the kids. They love watching it come together.

This recipe is adapted from Deliciously Organic 

1 can coconut milk (I used lite, but I’ll bet if you used full fat, it would be even creamier)

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup honey

½ cup smooth peanut butter (I used the all-natural kind)

In a saucepan, mix together the coconut milk, cocoa powder, and honey over medium heat until combined well and the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from heat and add ½ of the peanut butter. Mix into the coconut milk mixture until well combined.  

Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture through it into a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly and put in the fridge for about 2 hours.

When ready, freeze the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. This wasn’t in the recipe, but while the ice cream was mixing and getting thick and ice creamy, I drizzled in the rest of the peanut butter in an attempt to get a peanut butter swirl in the final product. I think I put it in too soon because it just ended up getting mixed into the ice cream, so it was delicious, but not swirly.

If you choose not to do this, just add all the peanut butter at the same time in the earlier step.

Pour the finished ice cream into a container and let it set up in the freezer for about an hour or so before serving. It will still be soft.

The kiddos LOVED it!

If you are going to serve it the next day, I would suggest taking it out of the freezer for a little bit before you plan on serving it because it will get hard. Based on the texture from it being in the freezer overnight, I would think this mixture would make excellent popsicles.

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

It never really occurred to me until a few years ago that food can be trendy. I figured food is food, right? But, alas, just as with overalls and midriff shirts, food also comes and goes with the times. 

Cauliflower “Fried Rice” is one of those current food trends. I can’t say for sure, but from my extensive research on the subject (meaning about 10 seconds doing a Google search), it would appear that cauliflower was the “It Girl” of the 2015 food world and that star-status has not yet faded out. 

As anyone who knows their way around Pinterest can tell you, there are about a trillion and one ways to use cauliflower to make it more flavorful and fun. Which is good, because on its own, it’s pretty gross (in my opinion). You can make pizza dough out of it, “tater” tots, mashed “potatoes”, alfredo sauce, and “fried rice” (like I’m going to show you). You can even cut it into steaks and grill it. I always viewed cauliflower as basically white broccoli, but it’s actually a lot more versatile. It is a really healthy substitute for carbs and starches. And when prepared correctly, really delicious. 

I tried making this “fried rice” a while back and it was not good. I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember what ingredients I added or didn’t add. I just know that I tried it and it was no bueno. I just figured I must not like cauliflower after all and I should just cut my losses. 

Fast forward to this week. Ever since my nutrisystem slim down success, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching clean and healthy eating. I feel like maybe I know a little more about the world of healthy eats now so I thought I’d give the “fried rice” another go. Besides, I really like the buffalo cauliflower so that sort of negated my theory about not liking cauliflower altogether. 

Like I said, I don’t remember what I did or didn’t do the last time, but this time I made sure to write it all down because it was SO FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS!! I made this twice this week. My hubby loved it. I made too much and ended up eating it as my main meal (which is fine with it being pretty much all veggies), but it would be a good side or entrée. I haven’t tried making a big batch to reheat later because I’m not sure it would reheat very well, but if any of you have any experience with that, please let me know. 

The best part? This is so easy to throw together. Trader Joe’s makes PRE-RICED cauliflower! Another reason Trader Joe’s is the greatest place on earth. They have it in the refrigerated section and the frozen section, so I just grabbed a few of the frozen bags and keep them on hand. There are a few other things I want to try with this riced cauliflower that hopefully I can sneak into the kids’ food.

This recipe is more a method than a hard and fast set of instructions. You can change up the veggies. You can add meat or seafood. It can be enough for a couple entrées on its own or four entrees with added chicken or shrimp (for example). Or it could be divided up even more as a sidedish. It’s entirely up to you and your tastes. The amounts are eyeballed, so again I say, use what you want and however much of it you want.

2 tablespoons oil

2 eggs, beaten

½ zucchini, diced

½ leek, diced

½ cup baby carrots, diced

½ cup frozen peas

1 to 1 ½ cups riced cauliflower (pretty much whatever looks good with the amount of vegetables you have in your pan)

½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

*Tip: Since this is basically a stir fry, it will cook fast over high heat. Make sure all your veggies are prepped and ready to go before you start.

In a skillet, put ½ tablespoon of your cooking oil. I used the garlic infused olive oil from Trader Joes, but you can use regular olive oil, or canola oil, or even coconut oil if you want. Add your eggs and scramble. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of your oil and the veggies. Start with what takes the longest to cook. I started with the carrots and then added the zucchini and leek. Sautee until soft.

Add your cauliflower and peas and cook until just about soft. Add the egg back in and then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together and continue cooking until the cauliflower is nice and fluffy (like rice) and cooked through. You can taste it at this point and more of whatever you want.

This is a fun dish to play around with so try it with the flavors you like. Any tips? Pass them my way!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries in a Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Ah, the poor, misunderstood Brussels Sprout. Growing up, my only knowledge of the little veggie was that it was gross. Why? Because that’s what TV shows and movies told me. Brussels Sprouts were always the example used when someone needed to make a point about a food that no one liked, especially kids. Because of this, I think it was given a really bad rap and may have grounds for some sort of libel suit.

You know, if it were not a vegetable.

I guess I sort of understand why people might not like Brussels sprouts. On their own, they aren’t the greatest. Even just boiled, they are pretty much blah. They are a bitter little cabbage that needs a lot of help to be palatable. Fortunately, that “help” comes in the form of very easy to prepare dishes that turn out delicious! A simple roast or pan fry and you’ve got yourself a yummy side dish. Add extras like bacon and cranberries and take them over the top.

Brussels sprouts are also highly nutritious, loaded with lots of vitamins like C, K, and B1; are high in folate, manganese, dietary fiber, and omega-3s.

Unfortunately, try as I might, I tend to be the lone Brussels sprouts fan in our house. The kids won’t give them a chance and my hubby doesn’t like the texture. That being said, he did like these sprouts. I roasted them a lot longer than I usually do, so the core was a lot softer than usual. He said that was much better, but he’s still not super gung-ho about them.

Oh, well. More for me, right?

This recipe was really easy and so tasty. I could eat this every day. Caramelized veggies are always good and the dressing was a tiny bit tangy and a tiny bit sweet for a really scrumptious combo. 

I know it’s July, but I think this would actually make a really good Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish (I’ve been watching a lot of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Preview Week so I’m feeling rather festive lately! Anyone wanna come help me put up my tree??)

I initially found this on Pinterest and then made a few changes of my own. I didn’t add any nuts to this version, but I think throwing in a handful of walnuts or pecans towards the end of the roasting time would be a really yummy addition.

Please keep in mind that I only made enough for myself, so any measurements listed are really guesses. I did a lot of eyeballing. You can find the full recipe HERE. I swapped out the rice wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar and added a touch of honey for the dressing. It was yum, yum, yum! Like I said, I could have this as a side dish all the time.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Dried Cranberries and Honey Dijon dressing

Adapted from A Beautiful Plate

Brussels sprouts, halved

1 cup cubed butternut squash

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

¼ cup dried cranberries

For the dressing (approx. measurements):

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Place the veggies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and make sure the veggies are in a single layer. A good tip is to put the sprouts cut-side down so they caramelize a little better.

Roast at 450 for about 20-30 minutes. During the last 5 or so minutes of roasting, add your cranberries.

Meanwhile, in the bowl you are going to serve the veggies in, whisk together your dressing ingredients. You can add more salt and pepper here, but since they are already on the veggies, I opted not to. People can always add more at the table if they want.

When the veggies are done, add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.

Serve and become a sprouts fan for life.

Black Bean Brownies

Let me guess. The title of this post made you think I was crazy? Thought so. I thought I was crazy at first too, but I promise you all, Black Bean Brownies are totally a thing. 

I’m not a huge health food stickler and I am about as far from a granola mom as you can get, but I’ve been really looking into eating cleaner and removing unnecessary things from my life. That includes my food. I figure, if we (my family and I) eat cleaner and healthier the majority of the time, it won’t be as bad when we do go get a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza every once in a while.

So I began my research and in doing so discovered black bean brownies. At first I was super skeptical. I mean, how good could they be? They are made out of black beans, for crying out loud. But, I figured if they worked out, I’ve figured out a way to make brownies with no flour or butter and get extra fiber and protein into my kids. 

I’m so glad I stuck with it and made the brownies. They turned out delicious! And my kids loved them! They don’t even know they are full of beans!

I couldn’t really find any one recipe that I loved so I made my own. The whole thing makes 16 brownies at 160 calories a piece. There is still regular sugar in the brownies, but I’m not really very familiar with sugar substitutes yet. I did do a little research and you don’t really save too many calories on something like Agave syrup vs. Regular sugar. Everything in moderation.

I would definitely recommend making these. They are perfectly cakey and chocolatey. You would never guess they had beans in them. They are a great way to get added nutrients into your day, especially the kids. 

Black Bean Brownies

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 eggs

1 T coconut oil

¾ cup sugar

½ t salt

1 t baking powder

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (you could use cocoa nibs too and save even more calories)

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips until smooth.

Gently stir in ½ the chips and pour into an 8×8 greased baking dish. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Rita’s Tricolor Pasta Salad

Don’t you just love hand-me-down recipes? Whether it’s from a friend or family member, there’s always something so special about a recipe that someone else has shared with you. This pasta salad is one of those. I got it from my mom who got it from her friend Rita, and it is always a big hit at any party or BBQ.

This salad is great for a few reasons: 1. It is super easy to put together. We are talking very minimal effort here, you guys; 2. It is really pretty to look at. Look at those colors!; 3. It is very customizable to your particular likings. Rita’s version called for raw purple onions and black olives. I don’t like either one, so I leave them out; and 4. It is great for outdoor gatherings because it isn’t a mayo-based dressing. Those tend to get a little sketchy in the sun, right?

I also like to pretend it’s healthy because you use veggies and veggie pasta. 😊

This salad is best when you make it the day before because all the flavors get a chance to party together and get all yummy. But it is also so easy that if you decide, say, a couple hours before that you want to make this dish, that isn’t a problem at all.

Rita’s Tricolor Pasta Salad

1 pound package of tricolor rotini

½ pound of sliced dry salami

1 medium tomato

1 medium cucumber

Shredded parmesan cheese (however much you want. I used about a cup.)

1 bottle of Italian dressing

Cook the pasta according to package directions. When finished, drain and put into a big bowl. Set in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the tomato, cucumber, and salami. Set aside.

When the pasta is cooled, add in the salami, tomato, cucumber and cheese. Top with the Italian dressing. I always start with about half the bottle and then taste it to see if I want more or not. I usually end up using almost ¾ of the bottle.

Mix everything together. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Slim Down Update & Buffalo Mac n Cheese

It just came to my attention that I haven’t updated my slim-down here recently! I guess after I was done with my food reviews, I didn’t really know what else to say!

I will say that it has been 10 weeks and I have lost 17 pounds! Sooo crazy, right?!? I can only wonder where I’d be if only I hadn’t kept putting this journey off.

One of my favorite side effects of all this healthy eating and working out, is when I do have an “off” day or night, my body is in a mode that it won’t ruin everything. My hubby and I went to Vegas last weekend with a couple friends to see Garth Brooks (amazing!) and when I got back, I was only up 1.2 pounds and it came off very quickly when I got back. Not hating that!

I now have two other friends who have joined me on doing Nutrisystem. One has been doing it for a little less than a month and has lost 10 pounds and the other one just started.

Now that I’ve been doing this for awhile, I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with ingredients and food combos. I’ve been doing a lot of research on eating better and clean and I can’t wait to be “on my own” soon. I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m excited.

One of the combos I have discovered is adding Frank’s Buffalo sauce to the Nutrisystem Mac n cheese. It is So. Good. I love it! I’ll bet you could even make mac n cheese on your own (substituting white cheddar) and then add the sauce into it. It would be delicious!