Nine - Ingredient Yummy Stuffed Sweet Potato: A Vegetarian Prep-Ahead Meal

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Hi there! So, last week was a busy one! Lot’s of projects due and presentations and program wrap-ups and then we went to Scottsdale for one of my best friend’s wedding. I’m so glad that I did my meal planning the weekend before because there certainly wasn’t lots of brain space left to figure out dinner. One thing to note about my meal planning - there is nothing cookie cutter or perfect about them. I have a general plan that I could follow, but most weeks I actually go off course. This week my stuffed sweet potato was on the menu but I had actually planned to use slightly different ingredients. Then, when Monday came around, I had leftovers from dinner with friends the night before and, with that, a new idea. That is how this recipe came about that I’m sharing with you all today. It’s so SIMPLE!!! And it’s super tasty. It uses ingredients that, years ago, I would not have normally put together. However, after our trip to Israel this year I have become a little more adventurous with food and flavor combos.

This dish is a vegetarian option. However, it’s still packed with great stuff like complex carbs, vitamin A, iron, magnesium, some healthy fats and protein. I talk to so many people who think you have to eat meat to get your protein. Newsflash, you don’t! There are lots' of ways to get protein without eating meat. You may have to eat a little bit more of those foods because plant protein is not as easily absorbed in the body as animal protein, but, it can be done! For example, the 1/2 cup of chickpeas here provides about 7 grams of protein. then there are a couple of grams in the dressing and a gram or two in the potato. So, here is the recipe for my Mediterranean Stuffed Sweet Potato.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

MEDITERRANEAN STUFFED SWEET POTATO

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium sweet potato

  • 1/2 cup of Prepared Slaw (see recipe below)

  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  • 2 tbsp hummus

  • 1 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

SLAW INGREDIENTS (from Ina Garten):

  • One 10 oz. package of cabbage slaw

  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Poke holes in the sweet potato with a knife or tongs of a fork and place on a baking sheet. I usually use a fork and poke the holes in a line down the center (longways) of the potato, where I will end up slicing it once cooked.

  3. In a large bowl mix together the slaw, fresh dill and white wine vinegar. Cover and let sit, allowing all of the flavors to meld together. This can be done a day in advance. And for any of you who read my previous posts, this is from Ina Garten’s DELICIOUS salmon taco recipe.

  4. When the oven is preheated, place the sweet potato in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until when you poke the potato with a fork, the tongs come out easily and clean.

  5. You can either allow the potatoes to cool at this point and then wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator, or go ahead and prep them to eat.

  6. To continue prepping, whisk together the hummus, water and lemon juice in a small bowl.

  7. Open the potato so that there is room to pile the toppings on top.

  8. Add about half of the humus dressing followed by about a 1/2 cup of the slaw followed by the chickpeas followed by drizzles of the remaining hummus dressing. Serve and enjoy!

  9. If serving this later in the week, I prep my potato the night before or morning of, opening it and adding the slaw and chickpeas. I package the hummus dressing separately. At the office, I heat up the potato and then add the dressing once heated through. Easy peazy!

NUTRITION NOTES:

Sweet potato: vitamin A

Chickpeas: protein, folate, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese

Hummus: protein, healthy fats…

Slaw: fiber

Pesto Chicken Panini: Making Use of Leftovers

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So, I made this sandwich a way long time ago and realized I never posted it! I came up with the quasi - recipe when I was trying to figure out what to do with my remaining Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad. I love the chicken salad on it’s own but wanted to find some other way to mix up the recipe. That’s when this sandwich was born. I made it for me and my husband and we both enjoyed them! This can be a lunch or dinner item. Packed with protein, complex carbs, fiber, some calcium, and vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin K this one sandwich packs a nutritional punch! The pesto and roasted red peppers keep this sandwich moist and full of flavor and adding the melty mozzarella takes it up another few notches. I always remind clients and friends to not overthink meals. If you can get three out of the five food groups at a meal, excellent! The sandwich can be easily overlooked, but if we take a closer look at this guy, we see that you get the “3 out of the 5” in just this one item! Whole grains, dairy, and meat are all here. Plus there are just a few little veggies snuck in there as well! The next time you toss together my Seven Ingredient Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad, make sure to plan for this grilled panini with some of the leftovers. It won’t disappoint!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

PESTO CHICKEN PANINI

Serves 1

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 slices hearty whole grain bread (my go-to’s are Dave’s Killer Bread, Seeduction bread from Whole Foods, and Flax & Chia Seed bread from Central Market)

  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of my prepared Roasted Red Pepper & Pesto Chicken Salad

  • 3 thin slices of mozzarella cheese (you could also sprinkle on shredded, if desired (about 1/4 cup shredded)

  • About 3/4 cup fresh spinach

DIRECTIONS:

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  1. Lightly toast the two slices of bread.

  2. Preheat a panini press or heat a small skillet oiled with about 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat.

  3. Place prepared chicken salad on one of the slices of toasted bread.

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4. Lay mozzarella slices over the chicken (or sprinkle if using shredded

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5. Top mozzarella with fresh spinach leaves.

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6. Make sure your skillet or panini press is preheated and top the layered ingredients with other slice of bread.

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7. Place sandwich in panini press, press down and cook until the mozzarella cheese is softened and melty and the bread is crispy.

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8. Serve and enjoy!

Honey Dijon Chicken Salad: Dairy Free Chicken Salad

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This week I want to share with you guys one of my go-to chicken salad recipes. It’s so simple but makes simple baked chicken wayyyy more exciting. Growing up I did not like chicken salad because I always felt like it was more mayonnaise than chicken and the mix-ins. So, I started coming up with my own recipes! I posted one of my favorites a long time ago (this confetti chicken salad) and now I’m sharing this variety. It’s such a simple solution to making sure there is something for lunch each day and I promise it’s more meat and mix-ins than mayo. Actually this variety doesn’t have any mayo at all. I typically throw it together on a Sunday afternoon or a Monday night after work. It probably takes a total of 45-ish minutes to put together, prep to plate, but about 20 to 30 of those minutes are hands-off to free you up for other things!

Hope you make time to try this recipe and that it gives you some simple lunch or dinner solutions!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor


HONEY DIJON CHICKEN SALAD

Makes about 3 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (should make about 3 cups cooked chopped)

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 to 3 large stalks)

  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries


DIRECTIONS:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Cook chicken according to instructions for my Tender Oven-Baked Chicken. (Or use your own favorite cooking method for simple chicken)

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3. While chicken bakes in the oven, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard and honey.

4. Set aside.

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5. When the chicken is done, allow to cool slightly.

6. Once cooled slightly, dice chicken into bite-size chunks and add to a medium mixing bowl.

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7. Add honey dijon dressing to the diced chicken, mixing well to incorporate all of the dressing with the chicken.

8. Add in the diced celery and dried cranberries.

9. Mix everything well to combine all ingredients so that when served, each person gets sweet tangy bites of chicken, tart cranberries and a crunch of celery in every bite.

10. Enjoy!

NUTRITION NOTES:

A recipe packed with protein and vitamin B12

NUTRITION INFO (per 1 cup):

413 calories, 43 grams Protein, 14 grams Carb, 18 grams Fat, 0.8 grams Fiber, 1.5 grams Iron, 33 mg Calcium

Ten Minute Mediterranean Tuna Melt

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Hello!

I posted this tuna melt on my stories a while back and had some of you wanting me to share the recipe. So, I’m finally getting it up! This is such a simple meal. You can literally put it together in ten minutes. This meal is full of fiber, whole grains, complex carbs, protein, omega 3’s (healthy fats), and calcium.

It is great for a quick weekend lunch or a quick early dinner before an evening game or practice. It could also be a lighter but refueling option after a late game or practice (when dinner may have been eaten as early as 4:45 or 5:00 p.m. and it’s now 8:30 p.m. and the athlete has been playing for hours).

I actually made one of these this past Saturday. I was going to use the remaining tuna for a salad on Sunday, but when I went to the fridge, it was all gone. Apparently, Kyle is a fan as well… :)


So, here you go! The recipe for this super simple Ten Minute Mediterranean Tuna Melt!



Ten Minute Mediterranean Tuna Melt

Makes 1 sandwich (with leftover tuna to make 2 more sandwiches or a salad)

INGREDIENTS:

For the tuna salad:

  • One 5 ounce can of white chunk tuna (packed in water)

  • 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon plain yogurt (I used low-fat Greek)

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (+ more for sprinkling over top of sandwich)

  • 3 Cherub tomatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces

  • 2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives (5 Kalamata olives)

For the Sandwich:

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread

  • 1 slice of Provolone cheese



DIRECTIONS:

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  1. Shred tuna in a small bowl.

  2. Using a toaster, toast whole grain bread to desired doneness.

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3. Mix the tuna with the yogurt, dijon and honey.

4. Mix in the chopped tomatoes, olives and dill.

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5. Spread 1/4 cup of the tuna mixture out evenly over 1 slice of toasted whole grain bread.

6. Turn the oven to Broil, on high.

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7. Place toast on a small baking sheet and broil in the oven for about 1 minute until the cheese is all melty.

8. Enjoy!


Five Ingredient Breakfast Sandwich

I discovered the breakfast sandwich by chance.  It wasn't at McDonalds or another fast food place.  It was something my mom would make on slow Saturday mornings for herself to sit and enjoy.  I remember one morning at our place on the lake in Hot Springs, Arkansas, waking up and walking into the den to find mom taking her first bite of that eggy cheesy sandwich.  It looked like she was loving it and so, of course, I was curious.  I asked for a bite and was hooked!  After that, slow Saturday mornings (which typically meant the ones at the lake because all other Saturday mornings I was up at the rink at 5:45 AM skating) meant egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches.  It wasn't anything over the top, simply 2 slices of whole wheat bread, egg and American cheese, but to me it was just a touch away from gourmet.  

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Today, I still love a good breakfast sandwich, but I like to play around with ways to mix and match ingredients & flavors and, of course, find ways to make it simple and workable for busy schedules.  The other weekend after a good Saturday morning run and nothing on the calendar in the near future I decided to bring out the breakfast sandwich for a little Saturday morning brunch.  I've tried different recipes in the past but this one is my favorite so far.  I have made this particular recipe for Kyle and my dad, and both gave it a thumbs up.  

The thing about this sandwich is that while yes, it does take more time to make as opposed to pouring yourself a bowl of cereal or topping some yogurt with fruit, it's still relatively quick and simple.  If you really want to simplify, you can make the goat cheese - tomato spread the day before to have ready to go or you could even make these guys a night or two before, wrap them tightly and then freeze them to be quickly heated up the next morning before heading out the door!

So, whether you're looking for a slow savory Saturday morning breakfast or a quick and simple bite to grab and go, I think I've got you covered with this small but mighty 5 ingredient breakfast sandwich.

Happy Fueling!

 

 

MY FAVORITE FIVE - INGREDIENT BREAKFAST SANDWICH

Makes 1 sandwiches (but makes enough goat cheese spread for 2 sandwiches)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole wheat English muffin

  • 1 tablespoon goat cheese

  • About 4 sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, lightly blotted to remove some of the excess oil, and diced

  • 1/2 small avocado

  • 2 eggs

DIRECTIONS:

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1. Toast one English muffin in a toaster.

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2. In a small bowl crack two eggs and whisk together, adding a pinch of salt.

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3. In a small mixing bowl, add the diced tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of goat cheese.

4. Mash and mix together with a fork until the two ingredients are well incorporated.

5. Set aside.

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6. Heat a small non-stick pan on medium-low heat.

7. Add your 2 scrambled eggs to the pan, letting them get firm on the bottom, but turning the pan frequently to let the liquid uncooked egg spill over to the outside of the pan and cook.

8. Push the sides of the eggs down as you go to keep the eggs in a thin circle shape at the bottom of your pan (this should only take a few minutes).

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9. Once there is barely any liquid left on top, fold over one side of the circle so that the outer side is touching the center line - like in the picture above.

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10. Now fold over the other side so the outside of the opposite side touches the center as well - see picture above.

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11. Now fold over the other sides to create a small square pocket.

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12. Now flip the square pocket over with a spatula and cook for one more minute so that any uncooked egg gets cooked. I usually flip it and then put a lid on top to trap steam in and cook it quickly without drying it out.

13. Now that it's cooked, turn off the burner and remove skillet from the heat.

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14. Spoon your avocado out into a small bowl ....

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15. .... and roughly mash with a fork. I like mine to have some small avocado bites in there!

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16. Begin to assemble your sandwich by spreading 1 tablespoon of the goat cheese - tomato mixture on the top half of your English muffin.

17. Place the egg pocket on the bottom half of the English muffin.

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18. Dollop 1 tablespoon of mashed avocado onto the top of the egg and spread out gently with your spoon, knife or whatever utensil you are using.

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19. Add the top to your English muffin, goat cheese spread - side down and press gently.

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20. Voila! The perfect Egg Sandwich!

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21. Slice if you'd like or dive in and enjoy!

NUTRITION NOTES

Egg:  protein, lutein, vitamin D, choline, vitamin B12

Avocado:  monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, potassium, fiber

Sun dried tomato: vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium

Whole grain English muffin:  fiber, protein, carbohydrate, 

Goat cheese: protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus

Mushroom, Thyme & Goat Cheese Pizza

If you've been following along, you know that I have been working on, and loving I might add, this new pizza recipe.  The idea started from a magazine clipping I found in my old binder of recipes collected throughout college and grad school.  However, I've added and edited and played around with so many ingredients since then that I can't actually remember what the original recipe was, other than the fact that it used thyme and goat cheese.  Today I'm sharing with you the recipe results of many tests and tastes.  While this recipe is how I like it best, you can make a variety of little ingredient changes and I bet it will still be wonderful!  In fact, I alternate between two varieties and I want to share that quickly with you before diving into the recipe..

VARIETY #1:  THICK CRUST

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One way I make this, and actually the first way I ever tried it, is on Whole Foods fresh pizza dough that I roll out and use for my crust (I hear Trader Joe's has a fresh whole wheat pizza dough too that is really good).  This version makes a thicker fluffier crust that yields a delicious pizza where the toppings kind of bake into the bread.  Ahh, so, good!  Not only is this option delicious but it can also be an easy way to get more calories and carbohydrates in your young growing athlete that has daily games and practices, depleted energy stores, and increased energy and nutrition needs. This option does take a little more time because you have to flour a surface and roll out the dough, but if time allows, I think it's absolutely worth it!  And, because it has a thicker crust, you or your athlete can throw on more favorite toppings!

 

VARIETY #2:  THIN CRUST

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My second variety is made on the Trader Joe's already-made whole wheat pizza crust that you find in the bread aisle.  I mostly like this version because of how quick and simple it is.  Wednesday night I cooked this variety for some girlfriends.  I got home around 6:00 p.m. and only had to focus on prepping the toppings.  Once the girls were over, I assembled the pizza and popped it in the oven for about 20 minutes and it was done.  I don't know about you, but that's my perfect idea of entertaining on a weeknight - a dish that everyone will enjoy and that allows you to be present with your company, not have to put all of your attention on cooking.  This is the variety that I'm going to share with you today!

PIZZA TAKEAWAY...

I always hear people say, "oh pizza is bad".  Oiy, feels like a punch to the stomach.  While, yes, some pizzas provide less fueling and health - promoting ingredients than others and when eaten too often, in too big of quantities over a long period of time can promote weight gain and other health concerns, I cannot say that pizza is "bad" and here is just one of my examples why.  This pizza uses a whole wheat crust from Trader Joe's (or something similar), easy to make homemade blistered & crushed tomatoes, sweet caramelized onions, soft crumbly goat cheese and fresh thyme.  And, while this is one of my favorite flavor combos, it is just one example,.  You can put any variety of your favorite veggies, cheeses and herbs and spices on here or throw in some chicken or lean ground beef if you want.  A perfectly fueling & filling option if you ask me!

So, here you go, my Mushroom, Thyme and Goat Cheese Pizza..

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

Mushroom, Thyme & Goat Cheese Pizza

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 Trader Joe's whole-wheat pizza crust

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons olive oil + 1/2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil (last 2 tsp optional)

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes

  • 6 - 8 ounces of mushrooms (your choice - I love picking a variety!), chop larger ones but smaller ones can be left whole

  • 1/2 of a medium white or red onion, sliced into half moons

  • 4 to 6 ounces of crumbled goat cheese

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh thyme

  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

  • Salt and pepper, to taste



DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat the broiler on high.

2.  Line a medium-size rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

3.  To a medium-size skillet, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and heat on medium-low heat.

4.  Add mushrooms to the heated skillet and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until softened.

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5. While the mushrooms cook, in a medium-size bowl toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread the tomatoes out on half your lined baking sheet.

6. In the same medium-size bowl toss the onion slices with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Spread the onions out on the other half of the lined baking sheet next to the tomatoes.

7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let cook under the broiler for about 10 minutes, until onions and tomatoes begin to charr and the tomatoes burst. Mix with a heat-proof utensil about half-way through.

8. Once mushrooms are done cooking, turn off the burner and set aside.

9. Once tomatoes and onions are done cooking, remove from the oven and turn off the broiler. Gently crush the tomatoes with a fork (being careful not to squirt yourself with tomato juice!) and set aside.

10. Change the oven setting to Bake at 400 degrees F.

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11. Place pizza crust on a pizza stone or a large baking sheet and brush with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.

12. Then spread the tomato - onion mixture in a thin even layer, leaving a little room on the edges.

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13. Top pizza crust with mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme. This picture was from a trial where I added the mushrooms raw. You can do this if pressed for time, but I thought the mushrooms had a better texture and were more thoroughly cooked when sauteed before adding to the uncooked pizza crust.

14. Place prepped pizza in the 400 degree oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the crust is crispy and the cheese has melted.

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15. Remove from the oven and slice into 4 to 6 triangular slices (or however many you want!)

OPTIONAL - you can whisk together the lemon juice and last 2 teaspoons of olive oil and drizzle over the pizza before slicing and serving. It adds a little pop of flavor!

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16. I always like pairing my pizza with a different salad. Sometimes I keep it simple with spinach and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and sometimes I throw together lots of mix-ins and a fun dressing. Anything works!

17. Serve and enjoy!

Spinach & Feta Stuffed Salmon

The other week we had a friend couple over for dinner and I got to test our my Spinach & Feta Stuffed Salmon again.  It was a crowd pleaser and, therefore, a keeper.  I used my original recipe that I included in my "Dinner Without a Plan" post but doubled the ingredients so that it could serve 4. I've included my updated recipe below.  Hope you enjoy it!

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SPINACH & FETA STUFFED SALMON

Serves 4

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 cups of fresh spinach

  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta

  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  • Four 6-ounce salmon filets (I used Coho salmon)

 

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DIRECTIONS:

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  1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

  2. Add the fresh spinach to the skillet and cook until the spinach starts to wilt down, about 4 minutes or so.

  3. Add the ricotta cheese and feta cheese to the spinach and mix until it is all starting to melt and blend together and the spinach is completely wilted.

  4. Meanwhile, while the spinach mixture heats, add your pine nuts to another small skillet and toast on medium-low heat until they start to brown and become fragrant, about 4 minutes (watch these and you'll know when they are done. They start to brown and you can smell the nuttiness - so good!). You don't need to add any oil to the skillet because as the nuts heat they release their natural oils into the pan. I would actually take them off the heat before they are completely toasted because you will be toasting them again with the salmon and you don't want them to burn. When the pine nuts are done add them to the spinach & cheese mixture, incorporating well with a rubber spatula, and set aside.

  5. Now prep the salmon. Lay the filets out on a cutting board or baking sheet skin side down. Next take a small sharp knife and cut a slit lengthwise down the top of the filet, making something like a pocket to stuff some of the spinach mixture in.

  6. Divide the spinach mixture up evenly between the four salmon filets, stuffing each with a good portion of the spinach mixture (and some will rest on top of the salmon like in the picture).

  7. Spray a grill pan with vegetable oil or canola oil, heat it to medium-high heat and turn the oven broiler on high.

  8. Once the grill pan is hot, add your salmon filets and let those cook for about 5 to 8 minutes until you start to see it cook / turn light pink from the bottom up.

  9. Place your grill pan with the salmon filets under the broiler and let that cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until the filets reach your desired doneness.

  10. When the filets have cooked to your desired doneness, use oven mitts to take the grill pan out of the oven. Allow the salmon to rest while you plate the rest of your meal.

  11. Serve the salmon hot and enjoy!

Chili Lime Spice Mix

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Remember back in the spring when I made those roasted salmon tacos by Ina Garten?  If you missed it, I made them right before Cinco de Mayo and they were one of my best discoveries yet.  If you are looking for a simple & delicious taco recipe I hiiiighly recommend you try this one.  It was basically "love at first bite" for me and this spice mix and after dinner I started to think up what else I could use it with.



 Super Simple & flavorful Chili Lime Shrimp  Salad!

Super Simple & flavorful Chili Lime Shrimp

Salad!



Since then, I've used the rub for my Chili Lime Shrimp Salad.



 Originally vegetarian dishes. But the Chili Lime Chicken on these Burrito Bowls was delish!

Originally vegetarian dishes. But the Chili Lime Chicken on these Burrito Bowls was delish!

I have also used it on chicken, which I added to a fall vegetable salad one week and burrito bowls another.  Both recipes were from the cookbook Eat Real Food by Kathryne Taylor.






WHY DO I LOVE THIS SPICE MIX?  I LOVE THIS SPICE MIX BECAUSE:

  1. There are only 3 ingredients!

  2. These 3 ingredients happen to be items I always have in our kitchen, so that's (1) less thought and (2) less groceries to buy.

  3. It takes no time at all to prepare!


This spice mix has come to the rescue several nights already and it is guaranteed to stick around as one of my go-to simple flavorings for meats and fish to add pizzaz to even the simplest weeknight dishes.  Here's how you make it.  I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you get some deliciously simple meals on the table like it has for us!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor


CHILI LIME SPICE MIX

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By Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (or less if you prefer)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

  2. Toss with shrimp, salmon, chicken or flank steak.

  3. Cook your seasoned protein of choice.

  4. Serve and enjoy!

 

NOTE:  This original recipe was for about 1.75 pounds of salmon. (to serve 6)  You could double or halve the recipe depending on how many people you are serving.  I have done both and it's turned out delicious either way!

Sun Butter Squares: Doubled for the Growing Young Athlete

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Hey there!  Hope you had a fun and restful weekend.  To kick off this week I want to share with you a twist on this recipe that I previously posted.  It's yummy as originally written, but I created this modification in response to a need I commonly see in the young athletes I encounter.  Lately as I've been working with young athletes, I realize that we often talk a lot about ways to pack nutrition and /or energy into small quantities.  That's because one of the obstacles with young athletes can be getting enough calories and good nutrition in them throughout the course of their busy days and jam-packed schedules.  Breakfast has to be quick, lunch is short, snacks need to be easy.  

With that in mind, I decided to re-make my Cherry Sun Butter Squares but this time double the recipe.  I tried them this weekend and loved them just as much as the original recipe.  The taste was the same but they were denser so more to bite into.  And being thicker, or denser, than the original recipe, made it a little easier to cut them into squares, not crumbling as much when I sliced through them (there will be some crumbling b/c there is no flour, egg, butter, etc. in these).  If you or your young athlete have trouble getting a bite in before running out the door in the morning or if your young athlete doesn't have a huge appetite in the morning, these could be an easy solution.  Now that I've doubled the recipe you get more "bang for your buck".  They are great either way, but if you're having trouble getting enough breakfast in the morning, these bars, or something like them (because you can create your own variety with your favorite dried fruits, nut / seed butters), could be a great option.

The doubled recipe is below.  For my initial post with step-by-step pictures of how I put it all together, click the link here!

SUN BUTTER QUARES: FOR THE ATHLETE THAT NEEDS MORE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (quick cooking)

  • 1 cup Sun Butter

  • 1/4 cup (or 4 tablespoons) dry milk powder

  • 1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped

  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup (or 4 tablespoons) honey

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

  2. Mix ingredients together with a rubber spatula until well-incorporated (can also use a fork).

  3. Line a 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper ( I actually used an 8" x 8.5")

  4. Spread oat - Sun Butter mixture out evenly along bottom of dish, making sure to get to all sides and corners

  5. Cover dish and place in the freezer. Allow to rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours. I leave mine in the freezer overnight.

  6. When ready, bring dish out of the freezer and lift up the bars with the parchment paper, placing parchment paper and bars on a flat surface.

  7. Run a sharp knife through hot water and then blot carefully to remove excess water. Making the knife really hot will make it easier to slice through the cold bars.

  8. Slice evenly into 9 individual bars.

  9. Serve bars immediately or wrap, individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer so that squares are ready to go as you need them!

Hope you and your family enjoy these bars as much as we do!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Dinner without a Plan

Tuesday night's dinner had pretty much no plan at all but turned into something really delicious!  I want to share it with you to demonstrate that just because you don't have a plan, doesn't mean you can't get something simple and tasty on the dinner table after a long day of work / school / practices / motherhood / fatherhood / etc..  I mean, some days you just can't. Period.  I totally get that.  Been there,  This, however, is for those days when you think you can't but you know you have just a little left in you.

We were out of town last weekend and so I didn't do my normal recipe brainstorm and planning.  However, when we got in town on Sunday evening I quickly ran to the store and bought items for big salads plus a few veggies and other staples.  I also knew I had some uneaten veggies from last week that were still good.  

My initial plan was baked salmon with lemon, a spinach salad and bread.  Nothing fancy but it was dinner and it would do.  I actually talked to my husband after work around 6:15 and we almost threw in the towel and went out.  But then we decided to stick with the plan of salmon and somewhere between picking up the salmon at the grocery after work and pulling into the driveway I had concocted a whole new dinner idea pulling together simple ingredients that I knew we had at the house.

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In this post I'm going to list the ingredients I used for this dinner and how I went about getting it all on the table in about 30 minutes.  I didn't measure anything so these are ball park amounts.  I'll make it again and update with exact measurements in one of the upcoming weeks.  However, I think that's the great thing about cooking, sometimes measurements don't have to be exact.  You can play around with it to your liking and it can still be great!  

Before I give you the rundown of dinner, I want to leave you with 3 take-aways to remember so that you can create your own weeknight dinners when you have no specific plan in mind.

 

THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR DINNERS WITHOUT A PLAN:

  • Always have your favorite go-to ingredients stocked in the fridge / pantry. They will be so handy when the unplanned dinner rolls around! (For me this includes things like: feta or goat cheese, a bell pepper, an onion, mushrooms or summer squash, dried herbs, fresh whole grain bread, quinoa or pasta)

  • Tasty & healthy dinners don't have to be complicated. If you have a few great herbs and spices, you can have a delicious dinner!

  • It's ok to keep parts of the meal basic. I used to feel like every part of dinner had to have it's own recipe and be something glamorous. Then I realized (a) that's a lot of pressure for one weeknight meal and (b) that's just not how it has to be. For this meal, I focused on the salmon, then kept the veggies fairly simple and our starch even simpler with one of our favorite hearty whole grain breads toasted in the toaster. Protein, veggies, complex carb, DONE!

 

FOR THIS DINNER YOU NEED:

  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets (I used coho salmon b/c it's a little meatier and a little less "fishy")

  • About 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach

  • About 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

  • About 1/4 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese

  • About 1/3 cup of pine nuts

  • Pinches of salt, for the spinach stuffing and for the veggies (maybe about 1/4 tsp total but taste test if for yourself)

  • Pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced and then each slice halved (so you end up with half circles)

  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped into about 1/2 to 1 inch dices

  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and sliced into half moons

  • About 2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

  • About 1/2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence seasoning (or more, if desired)

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread (we used the Seeduction Bread from Whole Foods)

 

HOW I PULLED THIS ALL TOGETHER:

  1. My thought process on the drive home that got me from plain baked salmon & spinach salad to what was actually on the dinner table went a little something like this....... "Can I step it up a notch so that dinner is a little more interesting? I really don't want a salad if I think about it. I know I have an extra pepper in the fridge and, oh yeah, the rest of that zucchini that I didn't make last week (if it's still good. I'll have to check that). And what if I stuffed the salmon?! I know I always keep feta in the fridge and I bought some ricotta last week for something I now honestly can't remember, ha. And toasted pine nuts take everything up a notch! Yep, I think this will work". That's how deep my thought process went - clearly, not too complicated.

  2. I got home and found an onion to add to my veggie medley, which was perfect. I quickly sliced up the yellow bell pepper, zucchini (which I found to still be good) and half of that white onion.

  3. In a small skillet, I heated about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium low heat. To that I added about 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach, about 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta (I used the last of what we had) and about 2 big spoonfulls of part-skim ricotta so about 1/4 cup, I would say but you could use a little more if you want.

  4. While the spinach wilted and the cheeses all melted together (you need to stir these a little) I heated about 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Once that was heated I added my sliced peppers, zucchini and onions and let those cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies were softened and browned and the onions looked caramelized (probably around 15 minutes or so). A few minutes into cooking the veggies I added one of my favorite seasonings, Herbs de Provence, and a pinch of salt, stirred and continued to let those cook over the stove while I finished the rest of dinner.

  5. After I got the veggies started I added about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of pine nuts to another small skillet and toasted on medium-low until they were browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes (watch these and you'll know when they are done. They start to brown and you can smell the nuttiness - so good!). You don't need to add any oil to the skillet because as the nuts heat they release their natural oils into the pan. When the pine nuts were done I added them to my spinach & cheese mixture, incorporated well with a rubber spatula, and set aside.

  6. Then I prepped my salmon by cutting a slit in the top of each filet and creating sort of a pocket. I then divided my spinach-cheese mixture evenly and stuffed it into the "pocket" of each salmon filet. I sprayed a grill pan with vegetable oil , heated it to medium-high heat and turned my oven broiler on high. Once the grill pan was hot, I added my salmon filets and let those cook about 5 to 8 minutes until you start to see it cook / turn light pink from the bottom up. I then put my grill pan in the oven under the broiler and let that cook for about 1 1/2 minutes.

  7. While the salmon cooked I gave the veggies another stir and then turned the heat as low as it would go just to keep them warm. The veggies should cook in about 15 minutes.

  8. After 1 1/2 minutes I used oven mitts to take the grill pan out of the oven. While the salmon cooled down just a smidge I toasted 2 slices of whole grain toast in our toaster and set the table. When the toast was done, I prepared each plate adding a stuffed salmon filet, big scoops of warm veggies and the slice of whole grain toast.

plated_side view.JPG

This was delish!  The stuffing was mild but had a little bit of a bite from the feta and a nuttiness from the toasted pine nuts.  The veggies were tender but not mushy and the toast was simple but just as good as always.

I hope this post not only leaves you with a new recipe idea but that it also encourages you and helps you get dinner on the table the next time it's 5:30 PM and you haven't yet really thought dinner through.  Remember to use what you have, keep it simple, get creative & don't be afraid to play around with ingredients.  Sometimes the best things happen when you don't have a plan!

 

Happy Fueling!

Taylor