Monday, April 13, 2015

Healthy No Bake Granola Bars

I like to make a weekly snack that my husband can have at work (and I can enjoy while my toddler naps).  My criteria for a snack recipe is something pretty easy to make, pretty healthy, and of course, delicious.  These granola bars are my new favorite! While you do have to dirty a food processor to make them, there is no baking involved and it comes together very easily.  My 2 year old loved helping me make these (and sampling the dates, too).

These actually taste like a real granola bar to me.  They also do not really crumble and stay together very well, unlike some other granola bar recipes I've tried.  Finally, while they're sweet, they're not too sweet and most of the sweetness comes from dates.  I love the ingredient list - dates, honey, almond butter, almonds, oats, and chocolate chips.  What's not to like?

These will definitely go into our regular snack rotation.  Highly recommend!

Healthy No-Bake Granola Bars
Taken from: Minimalist Baker
Makes 8-10 bars
  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool) - I like to soak these in water for about 10 minutes, then drain them before using
  • 1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or agave)
  • 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 cup unsalted chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • Optional: 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Add chopped almonds to your food processor and pulse for 1-2 seconds, just to get a finer chop (you do not want to process them).  Scrape almonds into a bowl.
  2. Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency (mine rolled into a ball).
  3. Add processed dates and the oats into the bowl with the almonds. Set aside.
  4. Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout (the mixture will be stiff).
  5. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8 dish or other small pan, sprayed with cooking spray or lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
  6. Press down until uniformly flattened. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the bars and press down hard. Cover with a lid or parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge for at least 15-20 minutes to harden.
  7. Remove bars from pan and chop into 8-10 even bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge - they will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Asian Salmon Tacos

While I was a bit skeptical about this meal before making it - I wasn't sure how Asian flavors plus salmon plus guacamole would work.  But obviously, since I'm blogging about it, we loved it.  In fact, it might be one of our new favorite recipes.  My husband especially loved it and made sure we got a picture of the last taco just to ensure that it ends up on this blog (which means on our table) again.  Our toddler devoured hers too and anything that helps her (and us) eat more salmon is a win in my book!

I used the Asian slaw that I've blogged about here.  It can be made anytime, even a day or so in advance, so I prepped it during my toddler's naptime.  I also marinated the fish at that time, too, so dinner was just making guacamole, cooking the fish, and warming tortillas.  It's also a pretty well rounded meal in itself.  We did an extra heaping of the slaw as the only additional side (the slaw recipe makes a lot so it lasts us several days), but it would be great with a side dish such as refried beans, corn on the cob, or any kind of vegetable. 

Asian Salmon Tacos
Taken from: Heather Christo
Serves 4-6
  • 1 pound of salmon, preferably wild-caught
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil
  • 6 flour tortillas

Asian Slaw (this makes a lot - I would halve this recipe if you don't want slaw leftovers):
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Optional: 1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, finely chopped
  • 1 small green or red cabbage (1- 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 4 scallions, sliced (you could also substitute 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

  • 1 large Haas avocado, halved, seeded and peeled
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Optional toppings: sriracha, sesame seeds, chopped cilantro  

  1. Combine the sesame oil, rice vinegar, oyster sauce and soy sauce in a large bowl or large ziploc bag and stir.  Add salmon and let marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours in the fridge.
  2. While the salmon is marinating, combine all the ingredients in a separate large bowl for the Asian slaw. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. About 30 minutes before cooking the salmon, combine all the ingredients for the guacamole. Refrigerate until ready to use
  4. In a non-stick pan, add the tablespoon oil and heat it to medium to medium-high heat. Add the salmon, flesh side down and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Flip the salmon and let the fish cook all the way through, about 3-5 more minutes (salmon should be cooked until an internal temperature of 145 is reached -- it should also flake easily with a fork). Set aside.
  6. Heat the tortillas in a non-stick pan until hot on both sides.
  7. Divide salmon among the tortillas and top with guacamole and slaw.  Add any additional toppings, if desired.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vegetable Chowder

I write our weekly menu on a chalkboard and had to laugh when I realized I wrote this dish down as vegetarian chowder, not vegetable chowder.  With 4 strips of bacon (which I think are essential for the flavor of the dish), I'd say this meal is most definitely not vegetarian. But it is loaded with vegetables, which I love.  And it also has great flavor. As I mentioned, the bacon adds so much to the dish - the soup made great leftovers the next day (sans bacon) but it's definitely the best with just a little bacon crumbled on top.  A little goes a long way! 

While soup season might be ending for some, I think this still is a fabulous option and still works for spring! It's a filling meal but not overly so.  I served this with a salad and I think some fresh bread on the side would be excellent, too.

Vegetable Chowder
Taken from: Pink Parsley
Serves 4-6 as a main course
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only; halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 large onion)
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2-3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme (I used about 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh chives, plus more for serving (I forgot to add)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, 5 to 9 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.  
  2. Stir in the leeks, onion, carrots, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt into the pot.  Cook until the leeks are translucent and the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add the broth and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  4. Discard the bay leaf.  If using an immersion/hand blender, blend about half of the soup, making sure there are still plenty of chunks of vegetables in the soup. (Alternatively, you can transfer 2 cups of the liquid to a blender, and use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the vegetables to the blender as well.  Puree until smooth, about 1 minute -- just be sure to open the vent on your blender and cover it with a towel, to prevent explosions! Stir the processed soup back into the pot.) 
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup half-and-half, chives, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add additional half and and half one tablespoon at a time, if desired.  Top each portion with a sprinkle of chives and the reserved bacon, and serve.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Salmon Cakes

Lately, I've been trying to add a little more salmon into our diet.  We usually eat fish once a week and I've just been focusing on salmon for those meals. I've also been buying the more expensive, wild-caught salmon at our local grocery story and it makes such a difference in taste (and nutrition)! I highly recommend it. 

I'm happy to have found some excellent salmon recipes to add to our repertoire! These salmon cakes were wonderful - while I made them back in February, they seem to be especially fitting for spring.  They're pretty easy to make and come together quickly.  Altogether, they probably can be made in about 30 minutes from start to finish.  I also love that I can mix it up ahead of time while my toddler naps in the afternoon and then refrigerate it until I'm ready to cook them at dinner.  It makes dinnertime go even smoother! I served this with roasted potatoes and sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts, although something like asparagus would be very fitting for a spring menu.

Salmon Cakes
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated
Serves 4 as a main course
  • 3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons mayo or plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin (I omitted)
  • 1 small shallot, minced (I used about 1/4 cup minced onion instead)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup canola oil (I haven't tried it yet but I think you could also use coconut oil here instead)
  1. Combine 3 tablespoons panko, parsley, mayonnaise/yogurt, lemon juice, scallion, shallot, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne in bowl. Working in 3 batches, pulse salmon in food processor until coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 pulses, transferring each batch to bowl with panko mixture (if you do not have a food processor, you could also try very finely chopping the salmon with a knife). Gently mix until uniformly combined.
  2. Place remaining 3/4 cup panko in pie plate. Using 1/3-cup measure, scoop level amount of salmon mixture and transfer to baking sheet; repeat to make 8 cakes. Carefully coat each cake in bread crumbs, gently patting into disk measuring 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Return coated cakes to baking sheet.
  3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place salmon cakes in skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip cakes (add up to 1/4 cup of more oil if necessary) and cook until second side is golden brown, 2-4 minutes. Transfer cakes to paper towel–lined plate to drain 1 minute. Serve.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Honestly, I'm still working on perfecting this recipe.  The flavor and texture of the bread has been wonderful each time but it's taken me several tries to get that crispy outside.  However, I actually think I prefer it without the crunchy crust - sacrilege, I know, but it's so much easier for my toddler to eat!  I think the difference is brushing or spraying the loaf with water before cooking it, just so you know.  But no matter which way this comes out, it's always devoured in less than 24 hours.

Baguettes have always intimidated me but when my dad talked about making it at home, I had to try it, too (even though he's a much better and more experienced bread baker than I am - I grew up on some delicious homemade bread!).  I love that I can make this dough and let it sit in the fridge until I'm ready to bake it. (It actually requires an overnight rest so definitely read the directions before making this!) Actually, the dough can sit in the fridge for up to 7 days so I usually make it twice during a week so we have fresh bread for two dinners! It was amazing served with the chicken parmesan meatballs and I'm pretty sure it would be just as good on the side of a soup or a salad (like the roasted vegetable chopped chicken salad).

Overnight Baguettes
Taken from: King Arthur Flour
Makes 1-2 loaves (could easily be doubled)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur brand)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons or 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  1. In a large mixing bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), add water.  Add the dry ingredients to the water, and stir to combine. Mix until there are no dry spots; the texture of the dough should be fairly soft.
  2. Knead the dough gently for a few minutes by hand (or knead for 1 or 2 minutes in a stand mixer). The dough will be very sticky . Cover the container (I used a clean kitchen towel), and let the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 7 days.
  4. To bake bread: Scoop out about half of the dough and place on a greased work surface (I use a silpat mat).  Shape the dough into a rough, slightly flattened oval.
  5. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten slightly, and fold lengthwise and seal again. With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the of dough into a 15" log.
  6. Place the log seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (I use a silpat mat), or into the well of a baguette pan. Cover and allow the baguette to rise till it's very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.
  7. Slash the baguette three or four times on the diagonal.
  8. 13) Spritz the baguette heavily with warm water (I used a pastry brush to brush it with warm water), and bake until a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes (the internal temperature should be about 210 degrees). Remove baguette from the oven and cool on a rack.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

I know I probably mention how much I love each dish in every blog post (or else I wouldn't post the recipe!) but this could be my new favorite dinner.  I love Italian but we're not huge fans of pasta which seems to make up a good chunk of Italian recipes.  But this recipe gives all the right Italian flavors, is easy to make ahead of time, and I love serving it with good bread and a salad (and if I were drinking wine at this point, I would definitely serve that, too).  The best of all worlds, in my opinion.

I love the meatballs although honestly, I omitted the parmesan from them (because I forgot to buy it) so I'm sure they are great with or without the cheese in them.   I also added some extra vegetables to the marinara sauce and just blended it to make a smooth sauce.  Of course, you top it all with mozzarella (and more parmesan, if you have it) which is just delicious.

My husband thinks this would be great as a chicken parmesan meatball sub and I agree!  It's just that when I make it, we enjoy the leftovers so much that I never remember to make subs.  However, I'm thinking I might try to make the meatballs and sauce (and freeze them separately) before baby comes so maybe chicken meatball subs will finally make an appearance in our home!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Taken from: Annie's Eats
Serves 4-6

For the sauce:
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes including liquid
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1½ tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (depending if you want it milder or hotter)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: sliced mushroom, chopped bell pepper, chopped spinach, etc
  • 1-5 tbsp. heavy cream or half-and-half (I've even omitted altogether as well)
For the meatballs: 
  • 1/3 cup dried panko
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley (I used 1 tsp. dried oregano instead)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (I used 1/2 tsp. dried thyme instead)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I omitted)
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ lbs. ground chicken (I used just 1 lb ground chicken which worked out fine)
To finish: 
  • 2-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp. minced fresh basil (optional)
  1. To make the sauce, add the can of tomatoes to a blender or food processor or use a hand blender.  Puree until smooth.  Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook about 1 minute, until it begins to soften.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, and any additional vegetables, and mix just until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook about 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Puree sauce (this is where a hand blender is very convenient).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream, if using (you can do one tablespoon at a time until it reaches a taste you like).  Set aside, cover and keep warm.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  
  3. To make the meatballs, combine the panko, grated onion, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg.  Stir together with a fork just until blended.  Mix in the ground chicken and knead together gently until evenly combined.  Form the mixture into meatballs about 1- to 1½-inch in diameter.
  4. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the meatballs in a single layer and cook for about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you could brown the meatballs by heating 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer and let cook for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned.)
  5. Place the meatballs in the pan with the hot tomato sauce.  Sprinkle the mozzarella and additional Parmesan over the top.  Bake until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the meatballs are fully cooked through (to 165 degrees), about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and garnish with the fresh basil, if using.  Serve warm.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Roasted Winter Vegetable Chopped Chicken Salad

I really like this salad.  I mean, really, really like it.  I was surprised, too because it was so much more flavorful than I expected.  While I like all the ingredients separately, together, they make a great meal.  I think it's the lemon zest dressing and feta (or cheese of your choice) that really made this salad stand out. 

We were going to a friend's house for appetizers so we needed a lighter dinner -- and preferably one heavy on vegetables. This was perfect! However, I was just as happy (and satiated) eating the leftovers for lunch the next day when I didn't need a lighter option.  I need to add this to our menu again soon!

Roasted Winter Vegetable Chopped Chicken Salad
Taken from: Pink Parsley
Serves about 4
  • 12-16 oz brussels sprouts, stem-end cut off, halved, and quartered if large (about 3-4 cups of chopped sprouts)
  • 1/2-1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tsp
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp juice)
  • 1 romaine heart, halved lengthwise and chopped into bite-sized piece
  • 3-4 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach (or more romaine)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated aged Gouda or crumbled feta (we used feta which I loved)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Toss the brussels sprouts and cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of this mixture, then arrange in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet set over medium high heat.  Pat the chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper, then cook 3 minutes per side, until golden-brown.  
  4. Place the chicken on one of the baking sheet with the vegetables, and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the chicken over, stir the vegetables, and return the pan to the oven.  Cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through (check after 5 minutes, and take it out if the chicken has reached 165 degrees in the center).  
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon zest and juice into the olive oil-garlic mixture.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  6. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, then chop into large chunks.  
  7. Toss the romaine and spinach with the dressing, then gently mix in the vegetables, chicken, and cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed, and serve warm or at room temperature.