simple ingredients

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!



Serves 1



  • 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


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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!

Garlic Sage Garden Gnocchi

I. love. gnocchi.  Not sure exactly what it is about it but I love it.  I think it has something to do with the delicate texture, the versatile taste (you can pair it with so many different flavors and sauces) and, of course, the ease of cooking and preparing it.  To me gnocchi is one of those foods that looks and sounds so fancy but that is actually SO SIMPLE to make!  All you do is drop the prepared gnocchi in boiling water and wait about 5 minutes or less until it starts to float to the top and voila - it's ready!  I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "she's not actually making gnocchi- she's just boiling it".  Kind of like when I was a little girl, around 6, and the kids got to contribute to our church cookbook.  I believe one of mine was lasagna, and it went something like "take the lasagna box out of the freezer, remove lasagna from box and bake in preheated oven until bubbling."  Don't get me wrong;  My mom and dad both made some excellent homemade dinners, but we did love a good Stouffer's frozen lasagna. One day I would love to make gnocchi from scratch.  However, in reality, I just flat out don't have the time for that.  So buying it prepared and ready to cook is the way to go for me!  

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If you're curious where to find it, I usually get mine at Central Market, either in their shelf stable pasta aisle or in their freshly made pasta section over by the meats and the fresh spreads and olive bar.  I have also found it at Tom Thumb and am fairly certain it's at most groceries.  The gnocchi I purchased for this recipe was in the refrigerated fresh pasta section.  I had a Central Market helper assist me and she assured me this was better than the air-packed gnocchi you find in the pasta aisle.  I had my doubts but, after cooking it, confirmed that there absolutely is a difference!  It's much more tender with a softer bite than the air-packed variety.  Of course, either will do (I have used both) but this definitely feels a smidge more elegant.  And, always a bonus, it reheats for a quick dinner leftover the next night.


I got this idea while in Memphis for Christmas and New Years.  The guys were off hunting and I had the house and time to myself.  Usually when this happens, when I find myself alone with my thoughts and a little free time, my brain starts to run wild and new ideas start to take shape.  These ideas can be anything from how to add a new feature to my website to new flavors to pair together for a recipe to a new nutrition topic I want to talk about on my blog.  On this particular occasion ideas started churning when I was at the Memphis Whole Foods and passed by a refrigerated case of featured fresh pastas and two varieties of gnocchi - a sweet potato and a spinach variety.  I passed it up this trip because I had no real plan for these guys and I'm trying to keep my grocery bill somewhat under control (gulp).  But as I continued to wander through the store and check items off my list (I'm a perpetual list maker if you were unaware) my brain kept wandering back to the gnocchi.  And the wheels were still spinning long into the evening.  I knew I wanted to create a recipe with gnocchi and I wanted to try one with this sweet potato variety.  Since I knew the gnocchi would have a bit of a sweeter taste, I decided I wanted the sauce to be savory.  I recently saw a recipe with sage and remembered how much I love it and, yet, how little I use it.  From trial and error in previous gnocchi recipes, I decided I wanted a bit of a creamier sauce, something that would be light but would also really stick to the gnocchi.  So I spent the next evening whisking up this new creamy sage and garlic sauce, roasting broccolini, sauteeing mushrooms, and combining it all for a rewarding and  satisfying dinner.  The final product was very tasty; However, the two thoughts I had as I finished were:  (1) "I bet it would be better with a little more sauce" and (2) "the sweet potato gnocchi is good but I bet this dish would be on a whole separate level if I kept it simple with a classic white potato gnocchi". 

Now, fast-forward to this past week where I am back in Dallas and kicking of 2018.  With a much more concrete plan in mind I got home after work with my ingredients and began to quickly rinse and chop the broccolini, mushrooms, sage and garlic.  I roasted the broccoli, sauteed the mushrooms and then whisked up my sauce again - this time using a little bit more of my ingredients to yield more sauce.  While letting the sauce simmer and the flavors come together, I boiled a pot of water, added the gnocchi and about 3 or 4 minutes later, just as I could smell all of the flavors come together in my sauce, those gnocchi all popped to the top.  Perfect!  Using a slotted spoon, I gently spooned them from the water straight into the sauce.  I gently mixed it all together and could already see the sauce begin to thicken due to the starch from the potato in the gnocchi.  Then I added my broccolini and mushrooms, gently stirred again and topped it all with some grated Parmesan cheese.  Wow.  This is a dish that smells incredibly complicated while actually being incredibly fast and relatively easy to put together!  What allowed it to be so quick and simple to put together?  I say it's because I incorporated one of my main cooking principles that I cook by to keep things simple and balanced.  That principle is: use different cooking methods in a meal.

Now, enough talking.  I want to share with you the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it and serve it as much as I plan to!

Happy Fueling!





Serves 2 - 4


  • 1 bunch (about 2 - 3 cups raw) broccolini, stems removed

  • 8 oz. container baby bella mushrooms, quartered & stems removed

  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided

  • 18 oz. container prepared gnocchi (should be about 3 cups uncooked)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 1/2 cloves chopped garlic

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

  • 3/4 cup 1% milk

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, + more for serving


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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine the broccolini with 2 teaspoons of canola oil and a pinch of salt (about 1/16th teaspoon).

3. Spread broccolini out onto parchment - lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, mixing with a rubber spatula halfway through for even cooking. Once broccolini is done cooking, set aside.

4.  While the broccolini cooks, heat remaining 1 teaspoon of canola oil in a large deep skillet on medium - low to medium heat.

5.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 6 - 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften and release their water.  Once cooked, transfer mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside.  You can leave some of the remaining juices from the mushrooms in the bowl.

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6. In the same skillet that you cooked the mushrooms in, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter at medium - low to medium heat.

7. Once melted and the butter starts to brown (you will see the change in color and smell a deeper, richer smell from the butter) add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes (stirring frequently). You want to cook until just fragrant and starting to brown - but be careful not to burn or you'll have to start over!

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8. Next add the fresh sage and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes.

9.  Turn the temperature down to low and add the 1% and whole milk, stirring consistently as you pour in the milk so that it doesn't scald (and form that film on the surface of the milk).  Once all the milk is in, turn up the heat to about medium and allow it to bubble, stirring occasionally and then turn back down to low, allowing all of the flavors to come together while you prepare the gnocchi.  The sauce will seem a little runny, but don't worry - it thickens once the gnocchi is combined due to the starch in the gnocchi that releases into the sauce.  

10.  As the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling add the gnocchi and cook until done.  You'll know they are done when the gnocchi pop to the surface of the water.

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11.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi straight into the sauce (alternatively, you could drain the gnocchi in a large colander when cooked and then add to sauce when ready).  Stir gnocchi into sauce until all is well incorporated. 

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12. Add the broccolini, mushrooms and grated Parmesan cheese and toss again to incorporate the sauce and veggies and get the cheese melted and incorporated throughout.

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13. Serve in individual bowls, sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired, and enjoy!


Potato gnocchi:  fiber, protein (a little bit), some brands have a little calcium and iron but may not be significant per serving

Broccolini:  vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium

Mushrooms:  riboflavin & niacin (B vitamins), selenium, potassium, varying amounts of vitamin D, depending on sunlight exposure.

Parmesan Cheese:  protein, calcium, phosphorus

Milk:  calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, B12, vitamin D, riboflavin

Canola Oil:  monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, (also contains some saturated fat, but not as much as poly and mono), vitamin E, 


NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Serving 2:  620 calories;  18.7 g protein;  86 g carb;  23 g total fat (5 g sat, 11.5 g mono, 2 g poly);  10 g sugar (0 g added);  9 g fiber;  1354 mg sodium;  270.5 mg calcium;  2 mg iron

Serving 4:  310 calories;  9.35 g protein;  43 g carb;  11.6 g total fat (2.5 g sat, 5.75 g mono, 1.5 g poly);  5 g sugar (0 g added);  4.5 g fiber;  677 mg sodium;  135.25 mg calcium;  1 mg iron