Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw

You can’t have a barbeque without coleslaw. The crunchiness of the cabbage and carrots balances melt-in-your-mouth ribs. The coolness of the mayo quells any fire from the kick of a good BBQ rub. But the tang in this coleslaw will definitely keep you coming back for more. And honestly, coleslaw can be made healthy! Just swap your regular mayo for light mayo (because you have to have mayo in coleslaw, in my opinion) and use Splenda instead of sugar. So with  Memorial Day just around the corner, I thought why not get a head start on this simple dish.

Nothing beats the heat quite like a heap of this delicious dish.

What you’ll need:
1 small head of cabbage
3 medium carrots
1 cup light mayo
1/3 cup sugar or Splenda
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard – yellow or Dijon

What you’ll need to do:

If you have a food processor that can shred the cabbage and carrots, more power to you. I don’t, so I had to do that by hand. If you’re like me, just cut your cabbage in half and then angle your knife towards the bottom to get out the core (see how I did this with lettuce in my salad recipe). Slice your cabbage as thinly as you can so you get long, thin strips. Have a large salad bowl sitting next to you so you can toss in the cabbage as you slice.

Peel your carrots, and then slice as thinly as you can get them. Because carrots are round and quite a pain to chop without them rolling around, cut them in half vertically (top to bottom) so you put them on their flat side for more stability. Or, you can grate your carrots lengthwise on a cheese grater if you have one.

Add your light mayo, Splenda, cider vinegar, and mustard. I just mixed this with my hands so I could thoroughly coat all the strips of cabbage and carrots with these ingredients (I purposefully didn’t make the sauce in another bowl so I could save a dish, but you can if you’d like).

And your dish is done! Easy, healthy, inexpensive – it’s a great dish to volunteer to make for a potluck BBQ.

I topped my slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches with this coleslaw. So. Delicious.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day, everyone. And to all the troops, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for your service. Thank you.

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Sweet Potato Chips

I love carbs. A meal doesn’t feel complete without a protein, veggie, and starch. But carbs and starches can be the worst calorie offenders of the meal, offering empty calories and a sugar crash that makes you feel hungry sooner. But I crave carbs with my meals, so I’ve had to figure out how to enjoy my favorite carb-goodness while filling myself with healthier foods. Sweet potatoes are a more nutritious starch swap that’s just as satisfying as that hunk of bread or giant scoop of white rice.

One of my favorite sweet potato recipes is my sweet potato chips. They’re kind of a hybrid between sweet potato fries and the crispy potato chips you’re used to. So instead of having soggy fries (because I bake them) or by painstakingly slicing them on a mandolin for thinner chips, I just slice them with my knife, throw them on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and bake. What you’re left with is a super healthy, crispy-on-the-outside and softer-on-the-inside, flavorful side dish.

I served my sweet potato chips with my citrusy kale salad and basic lemon chicken. You’d never guess that such a delicious dish was so healthy!

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
1 sweet potato
Salt and pepper

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then spray with cooking spray.

Slice your potato in thin circles and layer them on your baking sheet. Once all your potatoes are sliced and on your baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sliced and ready to go in the oven. You can see that my slices are thin enough to qualify as chips, but not so thin that they’re a pain to cut!

Bake for about 20-25 minutes (you’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown around the edges).

You can see that they’re just barely brown on the outside. If you flip them over, you’ll see that the other side is much darker. These actually look better if you flip them halfway through the cook time, but in the essence of simplicity, I don’t flip them. They still taste just as good!

Simple as that! They’re great to pop in the oven before you start cooking chicken or make a salad.

For those of you who are interested, let’s break down the nutrition. In a head-to-head comparison of white potatoes versus sweet potatoes, you’ll find that these two tubers seem very similar. In a 100-gram portion, the white potato has 92 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, and 2.3 g of protein. The same amount of sweet potato, on the other hand, has 90 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.

The difference comes in the nutrients. Sweet potatoes have twice as much vitamin C as white potatoes, and sweet potatoes have 380% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants, they’re rich in beta-carotene, and vitamin E. Basically, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck by swapping out the sweet potato without sacrificing flavor.

The Perfect Pancake (with Strawberries and Whipped Cream)

My earliest cooking memories are sitting on the kitchen counter and cracking eggs while “helping” my dad make one of his Bisquick specialties – I couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old. Cooking with Dad was a weekend tradition in my family, and every Saturday and Sunday we made something off the back of the Bisquick box, whether it be pancakes, waffles, or coffee cake.

Needless to say, I’ve come a long way since adding egg shells to pancake batter, but cooking off the back of the Bisquick box remains a weekend tradition (I’m partial to Bisquick because you have to add milk, all those “just add water” pancake mixes aren’t nearly as good). Here’s my step-by-step on how to make the perfect pancake so you can start your own weekend family tradition.

Nothing beats pancakes with fresh berries on a lazy Sunday morning.

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
1 cup Bisquick
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
Splash of vanilla

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your pan one tick over medium on your stove so it’s just slightly medium-high. Spray your pan with cooking spray (you’ll only do this for the first batch of pancakes, don’t keep spraying every time you add batter to the pan).

I always stir my pancake batter in a larger measuring cup. This helps save dishes, and I love how my measuring cup has a spout for easy pouring.

I pour my ingredients right up to the measurement lines. 1 cup of Bisquick goes in first, then I fill the milk up to the 1 2/3 mark, and then just add the egg and vanilla. Easy as that.

Simply combine all your ingredients. Your batter will be slightly runny. The runnier the batter is, the thinner your pancake will be.

When the batter drizzles off your spoon, it’s perfect. It should be about the same consistency as cake batter (hence, pan-cakes).

Pour just a few tablespoons worth of batter into your pan so that it takes up about 1/3 of your pan (you’ll want to fit 3 or 4 pancakes in there). I’m careful to not make my pancakes too big, because the bigger they are the harder they are to successfully flip. Watch your pancakes, and after a few minutes you’ll see bubbles start to come up around the edges and throughout the pancake.

All those beautiful bubbles let me know these babies are ready to flip.

Use a large spatula to flip your pancakes, making sure to get completely under the pancake before you flip it so that it doesn’t fold on you (don’t worry if it does, it’ll still taste good!).

Post flip – beautiful!

After your pancakes are flipped, let them sit for just a couple minutes to cook the other side.

Serve with sliced strawberries and whipped cream, syrup, or (Clinton’s favorite) Nutella. In less than 20 minutes with all kitchen staples, you have a beautiful, fun Sunday breakfast. Enjoy!

Los Gol Inspired Guacamole

When I was about 12 years old, my brothers and I each got to pick a tree to plant in our backyard. Daniel, chose a peach tree, Kevin chose a apricot tree, and I chose an avocado tree. Sure, my mom told me that avocados probably wouldn’t grow on the tree until I left for college (it turned out to be grad school, by the way), but I was determined. I love, love, love avocados. I could eat them like apples. So it’s no surprise that guacamole is my all-time favorite snack food.

My favorite guacamole of all time comes from this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in my hometown called Los Golondrinas (affectionately known by locals as “Los Gol”). After moving away from Southern California, I was left to my own devices to recreate this tasty guacamole (kind of like what I did for my SoCal Steak Tacos).

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

What you’ll need:

4 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon salt

What you’ll need to do:

Start with ripe avocados. You’ll know they’re the perfect ripeness if they’re about the same density as if you press on the pad of your hand. Use your knife to cut your avocado all the way around length-wise, dragging your knife tip around the pit and being careful not to puncture it. Twist your avocado like an Oreo to release it. Then, use your knife to chop into the pit to get a grip on it, then twist your knife to release the pit (see picture). Don’t worry too much about it being perfect, your avocado will be mashed anyway!

You have to use a little force when bringing your knife down on the pit so that you can get a grip on it. Once the pit lifts out of the avocado, it’s easy enough to get off your knife and into the trash can.

Use a spoon to scoop out your avocado into a medium bowl. Mash your avocado with a fork, making sure to leave some bigger chunks of avocado still in there. Immediately mix in your lemon juice with the avocado to avoid it turning brown (lime juice would be better, but I always have lemon juice in my kitchen staples).

I could eat a giant spoonful of the avocado and lemon just like this!

Chop your onion and cilantro, then add to the bowl with the salt and garlic.

Some people like to put tomato in their guacamole, and honestly, Los Gol’s guac has it in theirs. However, I find tomatoes tedious to work with when adding your guacamole because it can make it too watery if you don’t do it right. And in keeping with the honesty, I don’t think it adds enough flavor to make the hassle worth it. But if you do want tomatoes, make sure to remove all seeds first and then slice thinly and add to your guacamole.

Make sure your guacamole is well combined, but still leave some big chunks of avocado if you can. I generally taste test along the way to make sure I don’t need to add more salt or lemon juice. If you’re a guac-lover like me, you’ll know if and how much of which you’ll need to add.

I added some of my guacamole to simple chicken tacos for a tasty, easy dinner. Just cook your basic chicken, and add some sliced tomato, lettuce, and guac to a warmed tortilla. Yum.

Guacamole can be healthy, too! Scoop a little on a chicken sandwich, add some to fish tacos, or even eat with veggies (avocados have healthy fats when eaten in reasonable portions). However, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a big bowl of guacamole, tortilla chips, and a beer on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And since it’s avocado season, I am frequently whipping up this treat.

Kale Chips

A few days ago I talked a lot about the deliciousness and nutritiousness of kale when I made citrusy kale salad with canned peaches. So I’ll reiterate – this superfood is simply awesome. Because it’s so high in fiber and low in calories, this is basically a “free” food; you can eat tons and tons of it without feeling guilty.

Kale chips are the best way to cure any craving for a salty, crunchy snack without feeling any of the guilt. They’re a super easy post-workout treat because you can pop them in the oven while you get in a quick shower. Or, pop them in the oven when you get home from work to give yourself a few minutes to unwind. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this super easy, guilt-free snack.

There’s a reason why I always save a few stalks of kale when I make my citrusy kale salad!

What you’ll need:
1 bunch kale
Cooking spray
Salt

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Tear the leaves of your kale in big pieces, and throw on the cooking sheet.

After your kale leaves are on the cooking sheet, spray them with cooking spray and then sprinkle with salt.

Pop your baking sheet in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Citrusy Kale Salad with Canned Peaches

Kale is one of those super-foods you’re always hearing about. It’s a dark green, leafy veggie that’s packed full of vitamins and nutrients. Because it’s also high in fiber and low in calories, I consider kale a “free” food (as in, one you can eat and eat to your heart’s content without a worry for your waistline). For those of you who haven’t had kale, it’s basically like spinach with the crunchiness of lettuce. And paired with a citrusy-sweet, homemade dressing and canned peaches, it’s a guilt-free yummy side that makes enough leftovers for lunch.

Two giant cups of this is less than 100 calories, so eat up and enjoy!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch kale (save a few stems for kale chips, recipe to come!)
  • 1 can peaches in light syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • For the dressing (all from your kitchen staples):
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

What you’ll need to do:

Okay, I know this recipe is going to sound complicated, but it’s not. Step 1, slice kale into thin strips. Step 2, massage lemon juice in with kale. Step 3, make dressing. Step 4, slice your canned peaches and add to the kale. Step 5, toss with dressing. It’s simple, really. But here’s an in-depth step-by-step…

After you’ve washed and dried your kale, tear the leaves off the stems and slice the leaves into thin strips. *Quick tip: have your salad bowl on the counter and your trash can on the ground next to you so you can throw your sliced kale leaves in the bowl and discard your stems as you go.

This is what kale looks like so you can find it at the market. You’ll want to remove all those stems by tearing off the leaves with your hands. Then you can slice the leaves into thin strips with your knife.

Toss your sliced kale with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and use your hands to massage the lemon juice into the kale for about a minute, kind of like how you knead bread dough. You want to massage the kale until it gets nice and soft – trust me, you’ll know when it’s done. Let it rest while you make your dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and remaining lemon juice. Drizzle in your olive oil while you whisk to see the dressing form.

Drain your canned peaches and rinse with water. Since the dressing has honey in it already, you don’t want to add any more sweetness from the syrup. Slice into bite-sized chunks and throw in with your kale. *Quick tip: the original recipe that inspired this dish uses mango. Mango is super delicious but is more of a pain to deal with than just a simple can of peaches. But if you have the patience to peel, slice, and chop a mango, then go for it! 

Lastly, toss your kale and peaches with the dressing and serve.

Enjoy!

For dinner, I served my kale salad with a basic lemon chicken (see “let’s talk chicken“) and sweet potato chips (recipe to come!). After I put my chicken in the pan and popped my potatoes in the oven, I started my salad. The timing works beautifully. 

Super Simple Pasta Salad

For the same reason I love making a big pot of soup on Sunday, I love making a giant bowl of super simple pasta salad. You can load it with whatever veggies you need to use up, add a little chicken, and throw it in pre-packaged lunch containers in the fridge for grab-and-goes all week. It’s delicious! And if you do it right, it can be pretty healthy, too.

I’m notoriously not a morning person and will sleep until the last possible second, so having lunch already made for the week let’s me get my precious Z’s and saves me from buying lunch.

The idea behind my pasta salad, if I haven’t emphasized it enough, is its simplicity. You just take a box of short pasta (like penne, rigatoni, or rotini), take whatever veggies you like (or need to be used), add a little chicken for protein (tofu would work, too), and toss in a light balsamic vinaigrette (or any olive oil based dressing). I like tomatoes and olives in every pasta salad, and both are really easy to grab at the market. Cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, celery, spinach, bell peppers, jicama, beans, or cheese would be good, too. You have a lot of wiggle room on this, so go nuts! Here’s what I did this week…

What you’ll need:
1 16 ounce box rotini pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes (about 2 cups, or whatever you have on hand)
1 can olives
2 cups arugula
1 1/2 cups light balsamic vinaigrette
2 chicken breasts

What you’ll need to do:

Get that pasta cooking according to the instructions on the box – after you add your short pasta to boiling water, it’ll take about 10 minutes to cook. Use the taste test to check if it’s done (my preferred method, of course).

Slice your chicken in small bite-sized chunks so they’ll be ready to pop right in the salad. Throw your bite-sized chicken chunks in a large pan over medium-high heat (don’t forget to spray with cooking spray!). Turn with a spatula to make sure all sides are cooked. After it’s done, just turn off the heat and let it sit until everything else is ready.

My chicken takes about as long as the pasta, so I figure I can pack in a little protein while I’m already in the kitchen.

While your pasta and chicken cook, slice your grape tomatoes in half and add them to a giant salad bowl as you go. Then drain your olives, and dump them in the bowl with the tomatoes. Add your arugula. Super simple, no?

I try to make my tomatoes about the same size as my olives so that I can get as much goodness on my fork as possible.

Once your pasta is done, drain and add back to the pot. Toss your pasta with about half of your salad dressing so it has a chance to seep into the hot pasta and so the pasta doesn’t stick (I really don’t measure this, I just add most of the bottle of salad dressing by the time all is said and done, tasting to make sure it’s good as I go). Let it briefly cool.

Lastly, add your pasta and chicken to the large salad bowl with the tomatoes, olives, and arugula. Toss with the remainder of the salad dressing and portion out into lunch-sized containers for the rest of the week. Or, save it as a special side for another dinner that week.

Enjoy!

Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

Nothing beats a beautiful beefsteak tomato, and nothing’s easier than whipping up a simple tuna salad. I love tuna stuffed tomatoes because of how simple it is, so it’s a perfect go-to when you really don’t want to put forth any effort. For under 200 calories and in less than 5 minutes, you can have a delicious summer lunch or snack.

The acidity in the tomato works great with the tuna.

What you’ll need:
1 beefsteak tomato
1 can light tuna in water (not oil)
1 tablespoon light mayo
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

What you’ll need to do:

Open your can of tuna and drain out the water. In a regular bowl (the bowl you’ll eat this in so you save a dish), mix together your tuna, mayo, and pickle relish with a fork (again, the fork you’ll eat with so you save another dish) to make your tuna salad.

You can use any tuna salad recipe you like, but this is my favorite, most simple go-to. I sometimes throw in onions if I have them.

Slice your beefsteak tomato in thin slices and position around the edge of your bowl. Make sure you have a hole in the middle so you can scoop up tuna salad with a slice of tomato.

And enjoy! It’s as simple as that.