Category Archives: Sneaky Healthy

These recipes contain tips and tricks to make them healthier, without others knowing (hopefully)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow

 

OMG. Guys. Don’t make this.

Seriously, it is so delish, I cannot stop eating it! I had to make a second batch in order to have enough to share at my wine tasting weekend party. Sure, it is WAY healthier than your mom’s puppy chow recipe, but still… not when you eat 5 cups of it in one go.

Not that I’d do that.

Hopefully y’all know what puppy chow IS, by the way?

This is basically chocolate and peanut butter (strong start) with Chex rice crisp cereal, sprinkled in powdered sugar. That sort of looks like puppy food, hence the name.

And moms used to make this ALL THE TIME to get the kids to SHUT THE HELL UP and leave them alone for a minute. (No, just my mom? Whatever, your loss). Which works awesomely, cause this sh*t is addictive and delicious. See above.

But… that’s a metric crapton of sugar. Isn’t that the stuff you’re supposed to keep kids away from? Ahh, the blissful “good old days” before the food police and veganism and artificial sweeteners that actually are neurotoxins took over the world.

Anyways, in all seriousness, this stuff kinda looks like dog food, but is DEFINITELY NOT FOR DOGS. Do not feed this to your puppy. Besides, it is so good I doubt there will be any left after you hoover the bowl clean. Sharing with friends / children optional.

This recipe is slightly healthier, in that we cut out a lot of the sugar by using vanilla protein powder. You can also use regular protein powder plus 1/4 cup stevia or other (healthier) alternative sugar substitute. This of course ups the amount of protein per serving, making me feel like it’s basically a health food.

(Spoiler: it is not. It is still a treat, with tons of calories, but at least it is a slight improvement. Treat it as such, in moderation, and you should be just fine.)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chex cereal
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp. peanut powder (or peanut flour)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

Step 1: In a large glass or microwave safe bowl, melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together. I nuked it in 30 second bursts times 4, with stirring in between.

Step 2: Pour in the cereal, and mix gently but well to coat all the pieces in chocolatey peanut buttery deliciousness.

Step 3: Mix the dry ingredients in a large zip top bag. Pour the coated cereal in, and shake it like a polaroid picture! (Throwback, anyone remember what a polaroid actually is? Lord am I starting to feel old these days…)

Step 4: Pour the cereal out onto a wax paper lined cutting board or cookie tray to dry. That’s it! Try to keep your hands off the slightly-still-warm tasty snacks. Good luck¬† ūüėČ

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow

Yield: 4 1/2 cup servings

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chex cereal
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp. peanut powder (or peanut flour)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. In a large glass or microwave safe bowl, melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together.
  2. Pour in the cereal, and mix gently but well to coat all the pieces in chocolatey peanut buttery deliciousness.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a large zip top bag. Pour the coated cereal in, and shake it.
  4. Pour the cereal out onto a wax paper lined cutting board or cookie tray to dry.
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Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bar Recipe

 

Sometimes, you don’t have time for breakfast or lunch and need something quick and portable. Maybe you need a before- or after-workout snack with protein. Or the kids are hungry and want a snack, but you don’t want them eating sugary fatty junk or ruining their appetite for dinner.

You’re at work, at 11am or 2pm, and hunger hits, but you can’t leave to get something and your next meal feels like hours away. Or you or your partner is hungry and staring into the refrigerator like a roast chicken may magically appear, but you can’t or don’t want to cook something right now.

This sounds like a job for the granola bar.

Granola has long been a popular breakfast food, differentiated from the similar muesli because it was sweetened and usually baked. To make granola, rolled oats, nuts, spices, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice are mixed together and baked into clusters of wholesome cereal.

The names Granula and Granola were trademarked in the 19th century in America by the Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa near Danville, and John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg). And then someone had the bright idea to take this loose granola, which is kind of messy, and press it into a bar shape. These can then be individually wrapped, and stuck in a purse, pocket, or backpack for later consumption.

Granola bar popularity took off, and continues to rise. According to theglobeandmail.com, “Granola bars, breakfast bars and cereal bars, which are referred to collectively as “snack bars,” are part of a food category that’s grown 5 per cent a year since 2005 and is worth an estimated $720-million in Canada, according to figures provided by PepsiCo Foods Canada, which owns the Quaker brand.” All across the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, Europe and China, people love the portability and growing options snack bars offer.

One of the many reasons people love snack bars so much is their perceived healthfulness. After all, they have oats in them, which are full of fiber, beneficial to heart and digestive health. Unfortunately, today’s granola bars’ nutrition facts don’t often match their health claims.

For example, Special K chocolaty crunch bars claim that each bar only contains 90 calories and that they can help reach and maintain a healthy weight. But the bars, which themselves weigh only 22 grams, contain eight grams (nearly two teaspoons) of sugar. Sugar is also listed as the first ingredient. Another popular All-Bran bar claims to be high in fiber, yet each bar contains only 4 grams of the daily recommended 25g (for women) or 38g (for men).

So what’s a health conscious adult looking for a perfect portable food to do? Make your own of course!

It is much easier than you may think. You could get very serious about it, purchase a candy thermometer, meticulously source and weigh ingredients in the pursuit of the perfect bar. But that’s not how we roll here. Soon you will see how simple making your own healthy homemade snack bars can be!

KIND bars have become a favorite of mine lately, because they have ingredients you can see and pronounce, with no preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings, and each bar is held to high standards for a low calorie count and sugar content. I had no idea there were so many options now though! There are KIND fruit & nut bars, KIND Plus, KIND nuts & spices, KIND & STRONG… you get the idea.

And the best part is, this is a WAY healthier bar than a typical granola bar. There are no oats, just puffed rice, whole raw or roasted nuts, and some sweeteners that also keep everything sticking together. These are inherently gluten free. Obviously, if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts, please don’t make these. But if not, then dive on in!

I based my recipe loosely off of Kelly’s recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. I personally most love the dark chocolate sea salt bar, so that’s what this recipe mimics. But you are free to add whatever you enjoy to create your own copycat, or a brand new kind of bar!

The general rule I follow is 1 cup nuts/dry fruit : 1 cup cereal : 1/4 cup sweetener. I would use organic plain puffed rice if I had it, but when I wanted to make these and went to the store, Kashi Go Lean puffed cereal was the closest thing I could find. It works.

I’ve tried peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews so far. I’m sure you could use just about any type of nuts in these, but I would recommend always including almonds. And I have not tried any with dried fruits yet, but that is the next experiment in line.

This recipe makes enough for a 9×13 pan, for approximately 30 of the delicious 1 inch x 3 inch bars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring

The dark chocolate drizzle is of course optional, but highly recommended. For that you will need:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea Salt

mixed nuts in a bowl

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.

Step 2: In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes. It is a balancing act, too short and you will get a syrupy bar, but the longer you boil, the more likely you will create a crunchy bark rather than pliant bars. But regardless, it will taste great in the end, I promise.

Step 3: Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.

Step 4: Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. You can use a spatula, your hand, or a cup sprayed with cooking oil if you want to make it extra flat and compact. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.

If you don’t want to add the chocolate drizzle, you can stop here and cut the bars to the desired size. I cut it into 10 strips, then cut each strip into 3 bars so they are about 1x2ish inches. I then wrapped each bar individually in wax paper.

But if you’re a chocolate lover like me, I definitely recommend continuing on to steps 5 & 6 below…

Dark chocolate drizzle for KIND bars

Step 5: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.

Step 6: Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. You could dip the bottoms in chocolate too, but I found the drizzle on top was the perfect amount. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.

These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months. I doubt they will last that long though…

According to MyFitnessPal.com, these bars only have about 100 calories each, and 8 grams of sugar*. Not too shabby!

Recipe Nutrition Calculator

: 30

Total: 3,119 334 176 107 580 227
Per Serving: 104 11 6 4 19 8

*This calculation is for the bar without adding the chocolate.

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt ‚ÄúKIND‚ÄĚ Bars

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt ‚ÄúKIND‚ÄĚ Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
  2. In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
  4. Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
  5. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
  6. Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
  7. These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months.
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Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi

 

This recipe was inspired by one I saw on Hello Fresh (look for a review coming soon!). If you haven’t heard of Hello Fresh, it is a meal kit delivery company. There are many others, like Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, Sun Basket, and oodles more.

The whole idea is they deliver the ingredients, perfectly portioned, with a step by step recipe page. All you have to do is pull out a box of ingredients and some cookware and enjoy the process. A friend of mine gave me one of the “free trial” 3-meal deals, so of course I tested them out.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience, but would not purchase it again because of how food and cooking works in my house. But I can definitely see the appeal for many people. One of the best things about the trial run is that I have access to their recipes now though, and there are some great ideas there!

As I was just browsing through the vegetarian section, this recipe caught my eye, because I had just bought asparagus and happened to have half a pound left. I also had some gnocchi in the pantry (from the Dollar Tree no less!). Thus, this recipe seemed perfect.

I switched up the seasonings a bit and swapped plain Greek yogurt for sour cream (one of my many sneaky healthy food swaps!) and it came out so delicious, the meat-eater loved it and even asked for seconds!

If you don’t have or don’t like a specific herb, that’s fine, try a different one. Use basil instead of rosemary, or try thyme, tarragon, or parsley. If you don’t like walnuts, what about almonds, or cashews, or pecans? Not a fan of asparagus? Well, you’re wrong, but that’s okay try bell peppers, kale, or zucchini.

Spring Green Gnocchi Ingredients

Makes 4 ~1 cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Step 1: Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.

Step 2: Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.

That’s all there is to it! You don’t need much to create a creamy, tasty sauce that clings to the noodles and vegetables. The walnuts add just a bit of crunch and texture, and you can sprinkle some sea salt on top if you like. (I like).

 

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.
  2. Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan.
  3. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.
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Make Ahead Egg Muffins

 

Usually, my morning routine looks something like this:

6:10 – hit snooze
6:17 – hit snooze
6:24 – finally get up, go make coffee
6:25-7:15 – enter a black hole in space and time
7:16 – realize I’m gonna be late if I don’t move it
7:17-7:20 – pack lunch, maybe breakfast
7:21-7:30 – run out the door and pray for light traffic

Now, I don’t know what your mornings are like. But if you’re anything like me, you like your sleep and don’t have time for a long and leisurely brekkie every day. And if you do, good for you! You can still use this quick-and-easy make ahead recipe and then have more time for you in the AM.

Make ahead egg muffins in muffin tin

These egg muffins are so simple, and you make a dozen at once. That way you can put 2-3 in baggies and refrigerate or freeze. Then breakfast all week is only a push of the microwave button away! You can scale up to feed a big family, or even make just one serving by mixing 2 eggs and desired ingredients in a coffee mug and microwaving. (Didn’t know that little trick? Oh yeah, it’s the best.)

You can also customize it to your taste preferences. Anything you would normally eat with or in scrambled eggs you can probably adapt to this recipe. Try sausage, or bacon, or ham. Vegetarians, this is a blank canvas! Add zucchini, shredded carrots, sweet potato, broccoli or cauliflower. And cheese is optional, but highly recommended!

Butter mushrooms and onion

Ingredients (makes 12 egg muffins):

  • baker’s dozen (13) eggs
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 pint mushrooms
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • Optional: shredded cheese,¬†breakfast meats, other veggies

butter and onions in pan

Step 1: In a pan over medium heat, add the butter and diced onion. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes soft and see-through. Pre-heat the oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin really well with cooking oil. (Stuck, baked-on egg is the worst.)

scrambled egg and greased muffin tin

Step 2: Add the diced mushrooms, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until softened. You can add a few tbsp water or chicken stock if they seem to be sticking or burning. Just before pouring into the muffin tin, add the spinach to wilt.

scrambled egg in muffin tin and eggs

Step 3: Break all the eggs into a bowl, and whisk violently for a minute or two. Mix in the cooked onion, mushroom, and spinach. Pour into the muffin tins until 2/3 full; leave a little room because the egg will puff up as it cooks.

make ahead egg muffins with cheddar cheese

Step 4: If desired, sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar or whatever cheese you like. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until egg is fully cooked. Watch carefully at the end so that it doesn’t brown or burn.

I’d recommend letting these cool for a few minutes, then removing to a different plate or container quickly. You don’t want the egg to set and harden in the tin. It’s so easy to whip up a batch of these on the weekend, and you can even mix up the mix ins to have tons of options every day.

As for the cost? A dozen eggs is .99 – 1.29, or 4.50 for organic cage-free. Depends greatly on what you use to mix in, but the cost for an onion (~.50), mushrooms (.99 on sale), butter (maybe .50), and spinach (~.25 for 1 cup) for me comes to about 2.25. This makes 12 muffins, and I generally eat 2 for breakfast, so 6 servings. Let’s estimate high:

4.5 + 2.25 = 6.75 / 6 = basically just barely over a dollar per day, and that’s if I use the fancy eggs! For plain jane eggs, the cost drops to maybe 50 cents for an awesome breakfast that includes protein, fats, and a serving of vegetables! I can get behind that. I hope you can too!

 

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

 

Sometimes, you just can’t. Can’t even. Can’t even think about running to the store, slaving over a hot stove, balancing a meal or a checkbook.

But your tummy is growling, your spouse is complaining, your kids are whining, your friends are coming over for dinner.

Enter the slow cooker.

It is a savior for anyone rushed for time (and who isn’t??) or tight on cash (can I get an AMEN!) or doesn’t love to cook (can’t say I feel it all the time, but there are days…) or lives alone, or feeds a family of ten, or… you get my point. I flipping love the things.

You can get a tiny 2 or 3 quart slow cooker for single or double cooking. You can get a giant 8 or 10 quart workhorse for crowds and big appetites, you can get multiple crocks in one base for buffet style hands off cooking. I kinda want one of those now… The point is, if you don’t have one you should get one!

This recipe is super simple, a classic favorite I pull out time and again.¬† I used pulled pork here because that is what I built into this week’s meal plan, but you could just as easily use shredded chicken, steak, tofu, etc.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

It involves items I nearly always have around the house, including frozen veggies and brown rice.¬† Feel free to use white rice, or wild rice, or even crazy things like quinoa or couscous instead. You can also substitute any other frozen veggie you are partial to if broccoli just doesn’t do it for ya.¬† And if you’re feeling extra crazy and decadent, use milk instead of water, and toss on some shredded cheese at the end, just before serving.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded cooked pork
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk / water / broth
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (or veggie of choice)

Optional: shredded cheese

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Step 1: Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or more, or high for at least 2 hours (to thaw the veggies).  Alternatively, you could put this in a baking pan and bake at 350 for 2 hours (1 if you use fresh and not frozen veg).

 

 

What are your favorite slow cooker meals??

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Smoothie Freezer Bags

 

Happy 500th Post! Time flies when you’re having fun ¬†ūüėČ

Let me describe for you a typical American’s morning.¬† We wake up to the alarm going off, maybe hit “snooze” once or twice or ten times.¬† Realize what time it is, maybe freak out about everything we need to do today. Finally coerce ourselves out of bed (probably with the promise of coffee soon).

We stumble into the kitchen and autopilot the caffeine of choice (hot tea, cocoa, Moutain Dew, but probably coffee. So much coffee).¬† Glance at the clock, think “oh crap I’m gonna be late!” run back to our room, look through closets and drawers trying to find something to wear that is appropriate / cute / in season / matches the weather / doesn’t smell like rotten garbage / still fits.

Finally clothed, we rush to the bathroom.¬† We shave, shower, do our makeup, brush our hair, bonus points for time to blow dry or style it, brush our teeth (hopefully!). Now with negative two minutes to go until we need to leave, we rush out the door, maybe with second coffee in to-go mug in hand, and off to work we go… And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous circus that is a morning when there are children involved!

Where is the breakfast in all this rush?

You know your entire life your mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and of course she is right. A healthy breakfast helps you wake up, gets your metabolism revved to create and repair cells, pump blood and oxygen, filter out the bad stuff, and move your muscles all day.

It keeps you from getting hangry right around ten or eleven am and making a trip to the vending machine / coffee shop / donuts in the break room and gets you through until lunchtime. It keeps your neurons firing so you can think and be your best all day.

But you just don’t have the time!

I get it. I’ve been there a million times. Drive through bagels, donuts or muffins from heaven when someone has a birthday or there’s a meeting and its catered, a granola bar hidden in a desk drawer. Some days you gotta do what you gotta do.

But there is a better way.

Enter: The Smoothie Freezer Pack!

Smoothie freezer bags

Oh yes, this thing is a busy persons’ dream. Just pull it out, dump in a blender with some milk or juice, push “go” and walk away for a few minutes. Pour it into a glass or travel mug and you have a real food, super healthy, breakfast of champions with almost no work! It just takes a few moments of prep and a bit of planning ahead.¬† Don’t get scared now, I believe in you.

On a weekend or whenever you grocery shop, just stock up on 5 bananas, 2-5 other fruits you like, and some sort of green (spinach is a good starter, but you can also use kale, swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, etc). Then grab some plastic zip top baggies and a knife, and here we go!

Smoothie Pack Ingredients

Step 1: Cut up all your fruits. You will notice avocados, and that may worry you. But trust me, if you’ve never tried it, avocado is AMAZING in smoothies! And it is a super way to sneak in some healthy fats and a creamy texture that no one will even know is there! It will be our secret ūüėČ

Freezer Smoothie Bags

Step 2: In each baggie, add 2-3 types of fruits, one whole banana, and a big ol’ handful of greens. I used avocados, pears, peaches, blueberries, pineapple, spinach, and beet greens. Try different combinations until you find what you like the best.

Smoothie Bags

Step 3: Zip up the baggies, and pop them in the freezer. That’s it! Now all you need to do when you want breakfast in a hurry is take out a bag, pour it into a blender. Then add about 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid of choice, I recommend milk, juice, green tea, or kefir, and blend until smooth.

Smoothie to go

These smoothie packs can also be a great after-workout refresher, or a snack / treat anytime you want a blast of healthy fruits and veggies. You can add some protein powder or a tablespoon of peanut butter for an extra protein punch. Now go forth and conquor your day!

 

What is your favorite smoothie mix? Do you have a super quick breakfast you love? Share here!

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Sweet Potato Lentil Meatloaf

 

Everyone knows the iconic meatloaf, a loaf of meat.¬† You may have fond memories of your mother serving it as a child, you may have a secret family recipe, you may have only seen it on TV, or you may be a whiz at making vegetarian versions for faux-meat-loaf. Heck, maybe you don’t actually know what meatloaf is. Whatever the case, I will bet you you can adapt this recipe to suit your tastes!

When dating/living with/married to die-hard meat lovers and trying to stuff more vegetables into a resistant person’s diet, you need some tricks up your sleeve. This recipe is great because it combines two of my favorite strategies: shred the veggies so you barely know it’s there, and add lentils to meat to bulk it up without affecting taste too much. If you want a vegetarian version of this dish, easy peasy just leave the ground turkey out and double down on lentils, or try half lentils and half black beans.

Lentils and sweet potatoes

This recipe creates a moist, tender, tasty loaf which is packed with all kinds of healthy goodies.  The sweet potato gives it vitamin A, beta carotene, fiber, vitamin C, and other nutrients.  The lentils give you tons of healthy fiber, protein, folate, iron, and other nutrients. If you add the meat, it keeps the carnivores happy too, and has a texture not much different from meat alone.

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or pork, beef, chicken)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 med-large sweet potato, shredded
  • Spices to taste (suggest garlic salt, pepper, Italian seasoning)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup

If you are staying away from processed things (good for you!) and or feel ambitious and want to make your own ketchup (see here) or hot sauce (right here) then go for it!¬† You can use other sauces if you don’t like ketchup such as BBQ sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, or Thai chili sauce. Or¬† you can go sauce-less & have your meatloaf naked!

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf ingredients

Step 1: In a large bowl, combine lentils, meat, oats, eggs, and any spices you are using. Optional additions here: diced onion, garlic, or bell peppers.

Mixing in the sweet potatoe

Step 2: Shred your sweet potato , and add that to the mix.

Naked lentil and sweet potato meatloaf

Step 3: Spray a bread pan with cooking oil, and spread the mixture into the pan, smoothing down the top.

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf with sauce

Step 4: In a small bowl or just on top of the loaf, mix the sauce ingredients together and spread evenly over top.

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf ready to bake

Step 5: Bake in a 350 oven for about 75 minutes.

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf

And that’s all there is to it! Slice it up and serve it up. I made some cheesy potatoes and fresh corn on the cob and it was a delightful summertime meal.

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf slice

Of course, with meatloaf leftovers the best thing to do it make meatloaf sandwiches! Add some shredded cheese, maybe some extra sauce, and it has a whole new life. Mmmm-mmm!

Lentil and sweet potato meatloaf sandwich

 

Sweet Potato Lentil Meatloaf

Sweet Potato Lentil Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or pork, beef, chicken)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 med-large sweet potato, shredded
  • Spices to taste (suggest garlic salt, pepper, Italian seasoning)
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine lentils, meat, oats, eggs, and any spices you are using. Optional additions here: diced onion, garlic, or bell peppers.
  2. Shred your sweet potato , and add that to the mix.
  3. Spray a bread pan with cooking oil, and spread the mixture into the pan, smoothing down the top.
  4. In a small bowl or just on top of the loaf, mix the sauce ingredients together and spread evenly over top.
  5. Bake in a 350 oven for about 75 minutes.
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Blender Pesto Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh delicious produce, including fresh herbs.¬† Basil in particular seems to grow really well near me in CT, last summer it turned into a huge bush of a plant, and this year’s crop looks promising for the same.¬† As you may or may not know, to keep basil producing you need to harvest regularly to encourage new growth and discourage the plant from going to seed.

That’s great news for those who love basil, like me!¬† Pesto is such a great, fresh, summer recipe that can be way easier than you may think. Many people are intimidated by pesto, thinking Pine nuts are way too expensive for me, or I don’t want to grate fresh hard cheeses just for a weeknight dinner.

Well, don’t worry this recipe is super low-stress! And super low cost too, if you have your own basil plant. During the summer, even if you don’t have basil of your own, it is super affordable at a farmer’s market as it peaks in production. This recipe uses fresh basil, but you can SO EASILY slip other greens in here!¬† Try adding fresh chives, green onion, swiss chard, spinach, collards, or arugula. Just keep it less than 1/3 the total volume and use mostly basil.

Basil in the blender

This recipe is made in the blender, which saves you the trouble of chopping or blending yourself. Just add you ingredients, adjust as needed, and whir away. Mix in the cheese just before serving, and you have a super quick, super healthy meal in minutes.

Blender Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Blender pesto sauce in a bowl

Step 1: Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice.  Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.

Step 2: Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

Fresh pasta and pesto sauce

Step 3: Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out.  Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste.  Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.

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Step 4: Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy! I served this with garlic bread and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan on top. Some swiss chard and arugula is hiding in there, and no one was the wiser, I got two males to eat this and praise how good it was! Give it a try and see if you don’t want this to become a staple of your summer meals.

 

(Oh, and if you still have more basil left over, pesto freezes well, or try making some blueberry basil iced tea to go with the pasta!)

 

Blender Pesto Sauce

Blender Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Instructions

  1. Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice. Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.
  2. Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.
  3. Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out. Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste. Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.
  4. Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy!
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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

 

During my whole January Freezer Month challenge (read how that went during weeks one, two, three, and four) I had used half of a decorative butternut squash to make butternut squash macaroni & cheese.  This is one of my favorite fall & winter time meals, because it has all the creamy comfort of mac n cheese with an added boost of vitamins and fiber.  It totally counts as a serving of vegetables!

But what I had discovered was that even a deceptively small-looking squash can create a ton of pulp!

Mashed Butternut Squash

This giant bowl of squash was half! ¬†Yes indeed. ¬†So, being the frugal epicurean chef I am, I decided this was not to go to waste. ¬†After searching the interwebs for inspiration, I had seen several options that were contenders, but in the end the winner was butternut squash gnocchi. ¬†It’s the sauce that sealed the deal, which I will tell you about in just a second.

For those who don’t know what gnocchi is or have never had them, go find your nearest authentic Italian restaurant and re-evaluate your life choices. ¬†Just kidding. ¬†Make this recipe instead!

Gnocchi are typically¬†thick, soft dumplings that may be made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, or similar ingredients. ¬†You basically make a thick pasta dough, and create chewy pillows from it. ¬†The most classic gnocchi shape is the oval with ridges, created in our grandmother’s day using fork tines. ¬†(Did you know the things that make a fork a fork are called tines? ¬†Now you know.)

Pressing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Growing up in Youngstown Ohio, a city with some serious mafia ties (seriously, go read about it), we have some crazy good Italian restaurants. ¬†Thus I am well-versed in gnocchi. ¬†I’ve even taken a foray into gnocchi making previously, with acorn squash and potatoes. ¬†So I was fairly confident that this project would turn out well. ¬†And boy did it ever!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

The process does take a little bit of time, I think it was just over an hour start-to-finish, and I had already-cooked squash to work with. ¬†So be sure you have about 2 hours prior to tackling this. ¬†But trust me, it is well worth it! ¬†My fiancee, who is allergic to vegetables, told me this was delicious and amazing and asked for seconds. ¬†He didn’t even believe me when I said there was squash in it.

The sauce is much easier, I just whipped it all up in my amazing Ninja blender (a Christmas gift from said fiancee) and simmered it on the stove to brown the butter. ¬†But I am convinced that the two flavors and textures are the magic that elevates this from “weeknight pasta” to “so good this could be Valentine’s Day dinner at a 5-star restaurant”. ¬†But at home.

But hey, I’m not gonna tell you what to top your gnocchi with. ¬†If you like marinara, go for it. ¬†If Alfredo is your thing, rock on. ¬†Shoot, if you want to eat your gnocchi naked, that’s fine with me. ¬†Just make sure the blinds are closed. ūüėČ

Butternut Squash Gnocchi Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
  • 4 1/2 cups flour plus extra
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • Sprinkle of ground pepper and salt

Step 1: If you haven’t cooked your squash, do that first. ¬†Go ahead I’ll wait. ¬†Bake it, microwave it, steam it, whatever. ¬†Then mash it up.

Cutting Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 2: Mix your cooked, mashed squash in a large bowl with the other ingredients.  Add seasoning to taste, so if you want it heavy on the spices, do it, or go nuts and add cinnamon.  Get your hands all up in that squishy dough mess and mix it up nice.  Add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time as needed, until the dough just barely still sticks to your hand.

Boiling Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 3: Separate out about 3 cups of dough, and turn out onto a floured surface. ¬†Pinch off a good handful, and roll it into a log. ¬†Cut the log into 1/2 – 1 inch squares. ¬†Each individual piece will be one noodle/dumpling/gnocchi. ¬†If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create ridges. ¬†(I recommend this step mostly because the ridges create a nice place for the sauce to stick to!)

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Step 4: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. ¬†(Here’s a secret tip: I actually used chicken broth to boil the noodles, for extra flavor and because I like bone broth). ¬†Boil the gnocchi for about 10 minutes, until they float to the top. ¬†Remove with a slotted spoon.

Cooked Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 5: Top your gnocchi with sauce or topping of choice, and then watch whoever is eating this oooh and ahhh. ¬†Including yourself. ¬†Go ahead and pat yourself on the back too, that’s step 6.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sauce

And if you are just dying for the sauce recipe I used, don’t worry I won’t tease you and leave you waiting. ¬†Oh wait. ¬†Yup, you have to wait until Thursday’s post. ¬†It will be worth it I promise.

Freezing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Oh, and did I mention this makes a crap ton? ¬†This recipe made me about 7 dozen gnocchi total, so I ended up freezing about half. ¬†Just lay them out in one layer in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight, then pop in a freezer bag or container and they will keep for about 6 months. ¬†So one day’s hard work equals one amazing meal now, and another amazing meal sometime later. ¬†Jackpot.

 

Mediterranean Meatloaf Muffins

 

How many of you like food that is tasty?

Everyone? Yeah, I thought so.

How many of you like food that is really easy to prepare and cook?

Again, lots of hands.

And how about food that is actually healthy?

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What if I told you I can give you all three?

Oh yes, it is possible.

These Mediterranean meatloaf cakes are super easy, take less than 30 minutes to make, are fairly affordable, and overall quite healthy. ¬†You can make a few dozen at a time and freeze them for later too, if you’re so inclined. ¬†You can also make one large meatloaf using the same ingredients and a bread pan rather than muffins.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, turkey, chicken or pork
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp garlic salt

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix ¬†together all your ingredients. ¬†You can also grate the vegetables if you want them even more mixed in and less noticeable. ¬†If you don’t want to use oats, you can use breadcrumbs or crackers instead.

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Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with vegetable oil, and pack about 1/4-1/3 cup into each muffin depression.

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Step 3: Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until totally cooked throughout.  You can top these with gravy, traditional meatloaf sauce, or just serve em up plain like I did.  They go great with baked or mashed potatoes on the side.

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And they’re so pretty!