Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Bowl

To date, Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa is by far my most popular recipe. So I wanted to do another little spin on that bowl, this time with a Mediterranean twist. And instead of making a pasta bowl or a rice bowl like in the aforementioned recipe, I swap in still-incredibly-tasty-but-much-healthier quinoa. This dish is high on protein and fiber with all the flavors of the Mediterranean, so skip the line and cost at your local lunch place and make it yourself. Plus, it makes great leftovers!

This one is a big hit!

What you’ll need:

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  red pepper, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

**Don’t be afraid of the ingredients list. You should already have the quinoa, chicken, olive oil, and herbs in your kitchen staples, and the herbs can be either dry or chopped fresh. The red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard are almost always in my kitchen anyway because they last forever and you can use them in other recipes. So all you really need to pick up is the spinach, tomatoes, pepper, shallot, olives, and cheese – that’s less than half the ingredient list!

What you’ll need to do:

Start cooking the chicken so that it’ll be done by the time the rest of your ingredients are assembled. For instructions on how to cook the chicken, check out my post “Let’s Talk Chicken.”

Right after you start the chicken, get the quinoa on the stove. Combine the water and the quinoa in a small pot over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. For more detailed instructions and pictures, check out “Quick and Easy Quinoa.”

While the chicken and quinoa cook, chop all your veggies into similarly sized, smallish pieces. As you chop, throw them into a large salad bowl to get them out of the way.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something relaxing about chopping veggies. It helps me unwind at the end of the day.

In a separate container or bowl, mix together your red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, cut it into small, bite-sized pieces and add to the large bowl. After the quinoa is done, add it to the large bowl with the veggies, chicken, feta cheese, and herbs (by this time, all your ingredients are in the bowl except the dressing). Lastly, toss all the ingredients with the vinegar, oil, and mustard dressing.



Garlicky Shrimp Fajitas with Guacamole

I have recently become addicted to Pinterest. Along with my friends and Food Network, I’ve found that Pinterest is an awesome source of cooking inspiration. While browsing one day, I came across a recipe for garlicky shrimp fajitas with guacamole that sounded easy and delicious. So I took a little twist on the idea by adding some flavors, some veggies, and my homemade guacamole. And in 15 minutes, I had a flavorful, filling dinner.

This delicious dish only takes about 15 minutes to make!

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
2 cups shrimp
1 bell pepper
1 small onion
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry
6 tablespoons guacamole (store-bought is fine, or see my homemade recipe)
4 whole wheat tortillas

What you’ll need to do:

I usually like to buy the frozen, already cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp to make things easy. So start by defrosting your shrimp in water. It’s super easy. Just put the shrimp in a bowl and run cold water over it, changing out the water every couple minutes until the shrimp are defrosted.

While the shrimp is defrosting, chop your pepper and onion. Set aside.

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the olive oil. Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until just slightly tender.

Since your shrimp are already cooked, they just need to be warmed with the pepper, onion, and garlic. Add them to the pan when the veggies are almost done. Then, add the sherry for taste.

The sherry adds flavor, color, and texture. And fajitas just aren’t fajitas without peppers and onions!

**Tip: Sherry is in your kitchen staples. But if you don’t have it, tequila or white wine would also be tasty! The sherry is added to deglaze the pan and add a little extra flavor.

Let the sherry reduce for about 2 minutes, and then turn the heat down to low. Heat your tortillas over the stove or in a microwave.

**Tip: If you have a gas stove, throw your tortilla right over the flame. Start the flame and turn down to low, put the tortilla on the burner and turn the heat up to medium-high for about 10 seconds. Turn the heat back down to low so you can flip the tortilla, then repeat on the other side. If you don’t have a gas stove, warming your tortillas in the microwave is fine. Simply cover them with a damp paper towel and heat for 30 seconds on high.

I love a slight char on the tortilla – for whatever reason, it makes it taste homemade.

Smear about 1 1/2 tbsp of guacamole on each tortilla and add your shrimp and veggies. Crack open a nice cold beer and enjoy!

My Healthy Fried Egg Sandwich

For those of you who don’t know, I have been training for a half marathon. It’s coming up in 3 weeks (yikes!), so my long runs are getting up there in mileage. And after a long run, I need to eat. Immediately. It’s important to replenish your energy and rebuild your muscles with a combination of carbs and protein. This fried egg sandwich accomplishes both of those nutritional needs – the bread gives you the carbs you need to replenish glycogen, and the egg gives you protein to rebuild your muscles – and it takes about 5 minutes to make, satisfying that urgency to eat.

Don’t let the word “fried” fool you. Instead of frying the egg in oil or butter like in a traditional fried egg sandwich, I just use a little cooking spray. I also use high-fiber whole grain bread and light mayo instead of their high-calorie counterparts. It’s a great post-workout snack or even a quick, healthy lunch.

Ooey, gooey, and delicious. You can barely tell it’s healthy!

What you’ll need:
2 eggs
2 slices high-fiber whole grain bread
1 tbsp light mayo
Optional toppings: ketchup, pickle relish, or mustard

What you’ll need to do:

Put your bread in a toaster and toast to your liking; set it and forget it.

Set a small pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. After it has heated, crack one egg into the center and let it cook for about 2 minutes – you’ll see the white of the egg start to cook.

Kind of like a pancake, when you see the white start to bubble and cook you know it’s time to flip.

Flip the egg, and cook for another 2 minutes.

The yolk will cook over-easy, which makes for some great dipping later.

After it’s done, put the first egg on your toast (which should be done by now; if not, you burned the bread).

Repeat with the second egg. Once that egg is done, top your first egg with the second egg.

Smear your second piece of toast with the light mayo and top your egg sandwich.

Yum. And so easy.

Cut it in half and enjoy. You can dip your sandwich in the yolk that has run all over the plate – yum!

Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon

I like making Brussels sprouts often because they require very little effort, yet they’re extremely healthy.  They’re low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. They are also a good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper,  and – let me catch my breath – a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese. Wow. And if you don’t think you’re the hugest fan of the taste, throw in a little turkey bacon and you’ll barely notice. For all that awesomeness and basically no downside, sign me up.

I came up with this dish when I had a few ingredients left in my fridge that I needed to use up because I was going on vacation. Because Brussels sprouts are so awesome, as you can see, it’s not uncommon for me to pick them up at the market to keep in my fridge if I don’t feel like a frozen steamable veggie. And although I didn’t include turkey bacon in my kitchen staples list, you’ll almost always find some in my fridge because it’s a great low-cal breakfast protein (you can see that I use it in many of my recipes).

But both the Brussels sprouts and turkey bacon needed to be eaten before I went on a 10-day trip, and I was starting at the almost-empty fridge thinking, okay what do I do now? I didn’t have eggs or other veggies to make an omlette or frittata. And the thought of my Brussels Sprouts with a Kick didn’t sound awesome with a side of turkey bacon. So I thought, why not combine them? I still had my jar ‘o chopped garlic, and luckily I had some chicken broth in my pantry. 20 minutes later and my oddball dinner was done.

Super healthy and totally delicious.

What you’ll need:
2-4 slices of turkey bacon (your preference)
1-1.5 pounds of Brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

**Tip: If you have it, a shallot would be awesome in this dish. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that in my extremely limited fridge when I made this. Chop the shallot and add it to the pan at the same time as the garlic.

What you’ll need to do:

Put a medium pot over medium-high heat on your stove and spray with cooking spray. Use kitchen scissors to cut the turkey bacon horizontally into strips and put them in the pot.

**Tip: Cutting turkey bacon with scissors is way easier than using a knife. I do this for regular bacon, too.

You want to cut the bacon thinly enough that you get a little bit in every bite, but not so big that you can’t taste it with the Brussels sprouts.

Continually stir the turkey bacon for about 6 to 8 minutes until it is cooked on all sides.

While your turkey bacon cooks, prep your Brussels sprouts. Cut off the stem and cut them in half (see my Brussels Sprouts with a Kick for a visual). Set aside.

After your turkey bacon is done, turn the heat down to medium and add the olive oil and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, and then add your Brussels sprouts. Cook the Brussels sprouts for about 2 to 3 minutes to soften, then add the chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat.


Two-Step Homemade Sausage Pasta Sauce

One of the best things you can do as a cook is make friends with your butcher. Not only can they give you tips on how to cook the meat, but they can also point out specials on good cuts of meat. And honestly, they’re generally ignored and love to strike up a conversation. My butcher makes this delicious sweet Italian sausage without the casing, which is perfect for sauce. It’s especially easy because I don’t have to cut the sausage meat out of the casings (which you can certainly still do). It’s the “cheater” way to make a good sauce that tastes like you’ve labored for hours (it’s way better than anything from a jar alone), and it only takes as long to make as your pasta.

Delicious dinner in less than 15 minutes!

What you’ll need:
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 jar pasta sauce (tomato basil, tomato garlic, or whatever is in your cupboard)
1 tbsp olive oil

What you’ll need to do:

Set your saucepan over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. If you get your sausage meat in the casings, cut the meat out of the casing so you only have the ground sausage. Put your ground sausage in the pan, then break apart with a wooden spoon.

Keep breaking that meat apart as it cooks. If you think about any good meat sauce, you just get little pearls of sausage instead of big chunks.

While the sausage meat browns, continue breaking apart into small pieces – you want it to be evenly distributed in the sauce. After the sausage meat is cooked all the way through, add your pasta sauce and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for a few minutes (or until your pasta is done cooking).

Let it simmer so the flavors have time to marry.