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Sheet Pan Ratatouille

True story: Ever since the Disney Movie, Ratatouille, I’ve been mildly obsessed with making ratatouille. In the movie, it looked SOOO good. Which is funny, because I haven’t been a historically big fan of zucchini and other summer squashes. I’m coming around as an adult, but it’s still got to be GOOD.

This sheet pan “ratatouille” is perfect for summer. Easy, flexible, uses seasonal produce, and super delicious. Chop up the veggies, lightly coat with oil, season generously, and then cook. If you don’t want to turn on your oven, you could put the sheet pan on a medium heat grill as well. Timing would likely vary that way. As pictured below, you can also cook some chicken or fish on top for the last half to make it a full meal. Enjoy!

Sheet Pan Ratatouille (Serves 4-6)

Sheet Pan Ratatouille

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 summer squash (yellow or zucchini or a mix), cut into 1 inch pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh)
½ teaspoon dried basil (1-2 teaspoons fresh)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. Toss vegetables with oil and seasonings. Spread onto sheet into an even layer. Roast for 25-40 minutes, until vegetables are desired degree of doneness. Stir at least once during cooking time.

3. If adding chicken or fish, lightly season protein and place on vegetables after 25 minutes of cooking time. Return to oven and bake until done (165 degrees for chicken , 145 degrees for fish).

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 156
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 160 mg

Recipe notes: The vegetables here can be fairly fluid. Onion, tomato, and garlic should likely stay. But I’ve thrown cauliflower and broccoli in here as well. Use up what you have!

Source: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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Brownie Date Bites

Are you a chocolate lover? I hope so, because I sure am. I’ve tried giving up chocolate before, and I found I just ate more junk. I like all forms of sweets, don’t get me wrong. But I’ll almost always choose the chocolate option.

Being at home often leads to more snacking. These little bites are healthy and chocolatey. They also easily lend themselves to portion control because eating too many dates can really upset your tummy. They don’t taste healthy though. The dates make them rich and gooey like a fresh brownie. Yum!

Brownie Date Bites (Makes 20 bites)

Brownie Date Bites

½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pitted dates
⅔ cup almond butter
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
cocoa powder (optional)
shredded coconut (optional)

1. Place dates in a food processor. Process until almost a paste. Add remaining ingredients except walnuts. Process until well combined. Mix in ½ of walnuts by hand.

2. Roll into 20 balls. Roll each ball in remaining walnuts, cocoa powdered, or shredded coconut. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes until eating. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information (amount per 2 bites):

Calories: 190
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 14 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 17 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 97 mg

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Creamy Spring Pasta

Even though we are spending more time at home, I don’t find that personally translates into wanting to cook long, complicated dishes. I especially don’t want to make 5 pans dirty that I then have to clean up. Any one else?

This creamy spring pasta is quick, easy, and doesn’t make a ton of pans dirty. I could even lie to my children and say it was like mac and cheese, so they ate it. Wins all around. It LOOKS there is alfredo, but this is a mornay sauce. What is the difference? Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce with cheese added to it. Béchamel is a roux based sauce, so like how this macaroni and cheese starts. Alfredo sauce is technically a sauce made by reducing cream, but many recipes start with a basic béchamel recipe. All of that was a convoluted way of explaining why I didn’t call this alfredo. Hope you enjoy it no matter what you call it!

Creamy Spring Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Creamy Spring Pasta

1 lb pasta (any medium shape would work, penne, rigatoni, bowties)
1 bunch asparagus, chopped (about 1 – 1 ½ cups chopped)
¾ cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups skim milk
1 can chopped artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well, chopped
½ cup parmesan, divided
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Boil pasta without salt or oil according to time on package. With 6 minutes left, add asparagus to pot with pasta. With 2 minutes left, add peas. Drain all well.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan. Add garlic, cook stirring, for about 1 minute. Add flour. Whisk together for 1-2 minutes. Stir in milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until desired thickness, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in ¼ cup parmesan cheese.

3. Add pasta, asparagus, peas, and artichoke hearts to cooked sauce. Stir well. Top with parmesan. Serve with extra parmesan at the table.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per serving)

Calories: 437
Protein: 18 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 19 mg
Carbohydrates: 74 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 275 mg

Recipe notes: You could mix up the vegetables here with whatever you have on hand and like. These were just nice spring flavors.

Source: Adapted from Food Network and NYT Cooking (recipe was free but now is behind paywall, so no link, sorry!).

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Pressure Cooker Mexican Chicken

I love celebrating holidays with food whenever possible. Cinco de Mayo is a great holiday for food. Who doesn’t love a big spread of Mexican food, however authentic? (If you don’t, I hope we can still be friends.)

Today’s recipe is very versatile. You can make tacos, enchiladas, salad, nachos, and rice bowls. The world is your oyster with this one. And it uses lots of canned ingredients you may have hanging around. I also could find all of these ingredients at my local Walmart this week, so if you don’t have them, they shouldn’t be hard to find. Have a bueno Cinco de Mayo next week!

(Sorry for no picture. We ate it before I got a picture.)

Pressure Cooker Mexican Chicken (Serves at least 6)

1 can no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced green chiles
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 T taco seasoning
1 can no salt added dieced tomatoes (not drained )
4 ounces low fat cream cheese

1. Place all ingredients except cream cheese in pressure cooker. Close lid.
2. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Use natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Then release any remaining pressure and remove lid.
3. Shred chicken (can do this in pot or remove it).
4. Return pressure cooker to moderate heat (saute function if instant pot). Stir in cream cheese and shredded chicken.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 336
Protein: 46 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 142 g
Carbohydrates: 17 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 295 mg

Recipe notes: I didn’t include tortillas or anything else as the way you serve this is up to you. You can start with frozen chicken as well. I add about 5 minutes to the cook time when the chicken is frozen. I’ve kept everything else the same but cut the amount of chicken in half as well if you are rationing meat. Worked very well, but would say it definitely only served 4 as tacos that way.

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Quick Eggs Benedict (or Florentine)

Friends, the world has completely changed since my last post. I’ve been trying to navigate this new temporary normal with my family as I know you are with yours. My daughter has been using my laptop most days for school. We just got a loaner from the school for her, so I might be able to get on here more frequently. But the craziness in this world is hard right now. The most stressful part of my week is menu planning and grocery shopping. It’s tough. I almost hesitate to share recipes right now since I know finding ingredients can be hard. I will do my best to provide timely content as much as possible right now. If you have any questions or issues I can help with, please reach out to me. I’d love to help if I can!

With all this time at home and everything topsy turvy, it is important to find things to celebrate. Small victories, random holidays, you name it. This Thursday is Eggs Benedict Day. Random? Sure. But why not? For once we have time to do these things.

Today’s recipe is a pseudo benedict. It should technically be called florentine since I included spinach. And it uses a make shift hollandaise sauce because 1) it is faster and 2) I don’t actually love traditional hollandaise. Hope this makes your week a little brighter!

Quick Eggs Benedict (Serves 1)

Quick Eggs Benedict

1 whole wheat English muffin or 1 slice of whole wheat bread
1-2 eggs
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 cup spinach
1 oz slice of ham
½ tomato, sliced
¼ cup shredded cheese or 1 slice of cheese
1 tbsp light mayo
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
dash lemon juice

1. Toast muffin or bread.
2. In a small skiller over medium heat, heat ham. Cut in half and place half on each half of muffin. Top with cheese.
3. In same skillet, saute spinach until wilted. Place on top of cheese. Place tomato slices on top of spinach.
4. Whisk together egg and milk. In same skillet, scramble egg until set. Place on top of spinach.
5. In a small bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, and just enough lemon juice to make it almost thin enough to pour. Drizzle sauce over eggs.

Recipe notes: The recipe has instructions for scrambling the egg. This is easier for splitting 1 egg over 2 halves of an English muffin. However, as pictured, you could also go for a more traditional poached egg. Alton Brown explains this process well here.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 396
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 20 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 221 mg
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 804 mg

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Cast Iron Skillet Beef Pot Pie

Pi Day is this coming Saturday. I love making some sweet pies for us to eat on that day. But it is fun to spread the pie love throughout the day. Try a quiche for breakfast or brunch. Pizza “pie” for lunch or dinner. Or a pot pie. Make it a party – even with just your family. Small changes can help with the quarantine time most of us have looming over us right now.

This pot pie is very simple to throw together. It all cooks in one pan. Super simple and hearty. Fill yourself up with some yummy veggies before sampling some sweet pie this Saturday! Enjoy!

Cast Iron Skillet Beef Pot Pie (Serves 4-6)

Cast Iron Skillet Beef Pot Pie

Pie Crust:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup cold water (or more)

Filling:

1 lb beef stew meat
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 ¼ cups low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen peas
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Make crust: cut butter into flour, sugar, and salt to form small crumbs. Gently stir in water to form crust. Roll to fit size of skillet. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in large cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add beef and mushrooms, cooking for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.

3. Add tomato paste, garlic, and sweet potato. Cook for about a minute, stirring. Stir in flour and cook for 1 more minute.

4. Stir in ½ cup of broth. Stir until almost evaporated. Add remaining broth and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring to remove lumps. Stir in peas and thyme.

5. Cover skillet with pie dough. Cut a couple slits in the top of the crust. Bake for about 30 minutes, until crust is browned and filling is bubbling. If crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 467
Protein: 24 g
Fat: 26 g
Saturated fat: 14 g
Cholesterol: 99 mg
Carbohydrates: 38 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 481 mg

Recipe notes: You could mix up the veggies if you have some you prefer. You could leave out the mushrooms and do more beef. Or skip the beef and do all mushrooms. I liked the half and half since I have some non mushroom eaters at my house. You could also use your favorite pie crust recipe. This was just an idea for a whole wheat one to try.

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African Hominy and Beans

February is Black History Month. I think we are all aware of traditional Southern United States dishes that get mentioned this month. But it is interesting to look further into the roots of those dishes and the origins of African Americans. Most of us haven’t been to Africa or an African themed restaurant, with the possible exception of Moroccan food. It’s great to change things up and learn about new foods.

This hominy and beans dish is very easy to put together, uses common ingredients, and tastes great. My kids are big beans fans, so they downed this. If you are worried about a spice level, you could halve the curry powder. Depends on if you have a sweet or spicy curry. Enjoy!

African Hominy and Beans (serves 6)

African Hominy and Beans//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed well
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well
1 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken stock

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 4 to 5 minutes until soft.

2. Stir in garlic and sauté 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant.

3. Add tomato paste, oregano, curry powder, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Stir in hominy, pinto beans and vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid is mostly absorbed.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 136
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 6 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 181 mg

Recipe notes: This is great served over rice.

Source: Slightly adapted from Food and Nutrition Magazine

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Apricot Pecan Bites

Since February is snack food month, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite snacks. My kids love little bite sized snacks. Even better if they are sweet. But I don’t want them eating a ton of extra sugar. I do want snacks to have protein and fiber.

Enter these little apricot pecan bites. Sweetened almost entirely from fruit (there’s a little added sugar in the nut butter), these are sweet enough for my kids. They also fill you up quickly. We found this recipe at our local children’s museum. So, while kids need a bit of supervision with a food processor blade, this is definitely a snack they can help you make. Enjoy!

Apricot Pecan Bites (Makes about 24 bites)

Apricot Pecan Bites

1 cup dried apricots
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
½ cup dates
½ cup dried cherries
juice of 1 orange
6 tablespoons almond butter

1. Place all of the ingredients except half of the cocunut into a food processor. Blend until smooth.
2. Carefully scoop out about tablespoon size portions and roll into a ball. If it is too sticky, try sticking it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up first.
3. Roll balls in remaining coconut. Store in refrigerator.

Nutrition Information (amount per bite)

Calories: 141
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 20 mg

Source: our local children’s museum

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Sweet Potato Tots

February is also National Snack Food Month, so it’s a great time to change up your snack routine and find some healthier options. I’ll be sharing a few over the course of the next weeks. Today is sweet potato tots.

I have a strange confession – I have never seen Napoleon Dynamite. But I know enough to know he’s gotta have his tots. Tater tots are delicious, but often not the healthiest snack or side dish. Why? Pre-made tots are high in sodium. If fried, they can be quite high in fat as well. While regular potatoes do provide nutrients, you can mix up your nutrient profile with sweet potatoes.

February is also National Snack Food Month, so it’s a great time to change up your snack routine and find some healthier options

But wouldn’t making homemade sweet potato tots be hard and time consuming? No, not really. These make a great after school snack with some ranch dressing or a fun way to mix up burger night. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Tots (Serves 4-6)

Sweet Potato Tots

1 sweet potato, shredded
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
⅓ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine, until mixture will clump together.
3. Shape vegetable mixture into “tots” and place on baking sheet.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, flip then bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 139
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 68 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sodium: 208 mg

Recipe notes: You can mix up the veggies in these tots. We’ve done mixed veggies, like carrots and broccoli, with good results as well.

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Shakshuka

Happy Hump Day! Wednesday at our house is breakfast for dinner night. I love this tradition for several reasons. First, I don’t have to think about it too much when I’m meal planning. It’s set. Second, most of the time we use staples I already buy or leftovers to supplement our meal here, so I don’t have to allot grocery budget for it. Third, breakfast is fast to cook and quick to clean up. What’s not to love?

Setting aside nights as a specific meal or type of cuisine is a great idea for meal planning. Some people go further than I do, with each night of the week assigned. I’ve even recently seen someone who has the same seven meals every week. That isn’t my cup of tea, but I understand the appeal of routine and simplicity at dinnertime.

To continue our African Heritage Week and Black History Month theme from yesterday, I’m reposting an older recipe today – Shakshuka. It fits with breakfast for dinner at my house. It’s a surprisingly easy dish that is different enough to make breakfast for dinner night feel special. The dish is of North African or Middle Eastern origin.

Shakshuka (Serves 3-4)

IMG_6236label

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced (preferably 2 different colors)
1 jalapeño chile, sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, crushed through your fingers a bit
6-8 eggs (depending on how many eggs each person wants)
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 small or 4 large whole-wheat pitas or flatbreads (optional)

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until beginning to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute more. Add all the peppers; sauté until they soften, about 5 minutes more. Add cumin, oregano, marjoram, and paprika. Cook one minute more.

2. Pour in the tomatoes plus half a can of water. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.

3. Warm pitas or flatbreads, if using.

4. Make indentations in the sauce for each egg. Crack an egg into each indentation. Put lid on the pot. Cook the eggs to your desired level of firmness, keeping sauce at a simmer. Scoop eggs and sauce into pitas or onto flatbreads, if using, or just onto a plate. Garnish with feta. Eat immediately.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 443
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 19 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 389 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 606 mg

Source: adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Low iodine adjustment: Skip the feta and pita.

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