crock-pot split pea soup

Yes, yes – another crock-pot recipe.

c/o Whole Foods

c/o Whole Foods

Y’all, I honestly just can’t help myself!…we’re in the throes of winter, the sun is barely out, it’s gloomy and I JUST.WANT.TO.EAT.ALL.THE.SOUP. Forever and always.

Well maybe not for that long, but as long as this weather continues to be dreary, I find myself craving rich and hearty dishes. The kind that warm you from the inside out, and stick to your ribs so you don’t succumb to winter’s chill. Sure, I’ll give into the rich and luxurious dishes that winter is so well known for {like this and this and this}, but sometimes…sometimes, a girl wants that warm and fuzzy feeling without feeling weighed down, too!

So that’s where my split pea soup comes in. I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t one of the easiest dishes on the planet to prepare. It literally takes 10 minutes; from the time you pull out your crock-pot until you’re layering in the ingredients, this is a meal you could find the time to make, even if you slept through your alarm. And man oh man, is it worth it! Chock full of winter vegetable goodness, it’s easy on the wallet, too! One delicious bite in, and your taste buds will be in split pea heaven. Truth.

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Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup {recipe adapted, minimally, from Whole Foods}

Requiring no prep work other than layering all ingredients in the crock pot, this soup is an ideal weeknight meal. Low-fat and full of vitamins, why not do your future self a favor and make a double batch? It freezes beautifully!

Ingredients:

1 {16-ounce} package dried green split peas, rinsed

1 package of ham ribs {you can also use a ham bone, 2 ham hocks or 2 cups of diced ham}

1 cup sliced baby carrots

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt & pepper, to taste

optional: 2 ribs celery plus leaves, chopped

To Prepare:

Layer ingredients in your slow cooker, in the precise order given. Add in the stock last.

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Cover and cook on high {4-5 hours} or low {8-10 hours} until peas are very soft and the ham is falling off the bone. Serve with toasted baguettes.

greek-inspired roast chicken

Oh, the whole roasting chicken. Super simple and basic, but bursting with possibilities.

Not to mention flavor – I was feeling inspired, and also craving one, several weeks back. It was particularly gloomy Sunday, and I keep reminiscing how my mom used to make the best whole roasted chickens when we were growing up. Deciding to act on those memories, I began drawing up ideas for how to make it my own. The hubs LOVES oregano, so I thought was would be a way to incorporate that? I settled on the notion of “going Greek!”

Hands down, this is the best roast chicken that I have yet to make. It requires minimal prep work and comes together in just a few minutes. We’re filling it with briny capers, fresh vegetables, and of course – lots of oregano! A generous pour of good white wine in the bottom of the roasting pan creates a culinary perfume that envelopes the bird while it cooks, resulting in a bright, fresh flavor. Served alongside my smashed cauliflower, it was the perfect meal.

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Without trying to state the obvious, you’ll most likely end up with leftovers, as this recipe will easily feed a small army. Once the chicken is broken down, it freezes beautifully and can be used in a plethora of dishes. Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Noodle Casserole, and Chicken Pot Pie come to mind – but don’t be surprised if you see me making chicken salad of out it and stuffing it into a pita.

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Greek-Inspired Roast Chicken {recipe adapted from Lemon & Olives}

The perfect Sunday dinner for a chilly winter evening, this flavorful roast will leave you feeling supremely satisfied. Plus – it comes together in no time! 

Ingredients:

whole roasting chicken {mine was just over 6 lbs.}

1 lemon, cut into large wedges

2 onions, cut into wedges

1.5 cups baby carrots, left whole

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1 heaping tbsp. capers, drained

1 tbsp. dried oregano {plus more for seasoning the chicken}

3/4 cup good white wine {I used a Pinot Grigo}

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

olive oil, for drizzling

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and rinse well, making sure to get the inner cavity. Dry thoroughly, and rub with olive oil. Liberally season the inside and outside with salt, pepper, and oregano. To the inner cavity add in half the amount of onions, half the baby carrots, half the lemon, one garlic clove, and the capers. Set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add  in the white white and chicken stock, mixing to incorporate. Place the remaining vegetables plus the 1 tbsp. oregano into the liquid mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you have a V-shaped roasting rack, set the chicken atop it {if not, do what I did – lay a cooling rack atop the roasting pan and carefully place the chicken on top of it}. Roast the chicken according to the package directions. Baste occassionally, using the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Once cooked through, remove from the oven and set aside. Cover with foil and let it sit 15 minutes, so the juices can redistribute. Carve the chicken and serve with pan drippings and vegetables. Enjoy!

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superbowl snacks!

Are you ready for some football??

I must say, I am super excited! It took me quite some time to develop my love for the sport, but ever since college {go hokies!} I’ve been rather fanatical. On any given Sunday during the season, you’ll find the hubs and I curled up on the couch flipping between the games. I absolutely love it. And let’s not forget – the football food! Snacks galore, y’all.

As always, I try to balance the unhealthy with the healthy. So that means enjoying dips with crunchy vegetables instead of chips; spritzers and wine instead of the {oh-so} delicious dark beers that we love in our house; lightened up sweet versions. So with all that being said, I thought it would be fun to do a recipe round-up of what to prepare for the game!

Appetizers & Snacks:

Entrees:

Drinks:

Desserts:

 

Happy SuperBowl Sunday, y’all!!

smashed cauliflower

Right about now, it seems as though everyone is starting fresh along with the new year. Time to cut back on indulgent treats and start eating clean, they say! 

There is certainly nothing wrong with that! I love the start of the new year; acting as a clean slate for many of us, why not use this time to pursue goals and dreams we may have pushed to the back burner? But let’s not deprive ourselves, regardless of our goals! After all, shouldn’t we treat them as lifestyle changes, rather than just looking for a quick fix?

For those who may have set fitness goals, whatever they may be – boy, do I have a spectacular side dish to share today! A beloved side dish, mashed potatoes, is getting a new look…and that look is cauliflower! I realize that many people tend to shy away from this vegetable {I was one of them for a long time!}, but this is one that is so versatile, it can be transformed in countless ways. A nutrition-packed powerhouse, it boasts a low carbohydrate count and low fat content; it contains vast amounts of fiber, folate, and vitamin C. What’s not to love?

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We’re keeping it simple and sweet here today, but don’t be afraid of transforming your dish however you like! Smashed garlic, chili flakes, a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese on top…the possibilities are endless. Make it your own, and make it special! You deserve it.

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Smashed Cauliflower

Simple and delicious, this makes a wonderful replacement side dish for classic mashed potatoes. Lower in carbs and big on flavor, you won’t miss those potatoes a bit!

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, rinsed and trimmed

1/4 – 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock

1/3 block of cream cheese {I like to use a greek-yogurt blend}

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Bring a large saucepan {filled halfway with water} to a full boil. Add in the cauliflower pieces and cook until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Once cooked through, drain off water and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher/hand mixer/immersion blender, puree just until broken up. Add in the cream cheese and mix well; slowly drizzle in the stock until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Enjoy!

peanut butter & banana breakfast smoothie

There’s little to be said about smoothies, I think.

When prepared right, you find yourself using only a select few ingredients – wholesome, fresh, and good for you. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve never been one of those who loads up the blender with 100+ different ingredients, hoping to whip up some amazing concoction. Give me a handful of fruit, some yogurt, and maybe a handful of ice and I’m a happy camper. Keep it simple, am I right?

That’s where this smoothie comes into play. The hubs and I LOVE smoothies – so much in fact, that I keep a special stash of Mason jars at close hand. They are a weekday staple for us; I can prepare as many as we need for the week, and just store them in the refrigerator {or freezer, if I’m making them a few days in advance}. After dinner you’ll find him at the sink and me with my blender. It’s a safe and comfortable routine, of which I find comfort and enjoyment.

The recipe I’m sharing today is, hands-down, our favorite combination of flavors. Peanut butter and banana, y’all…I mean, it doesn’t get much simpler than that! But what makes them special is the benefit behind these ingredients. Banana provides not one, but two servings of your daily fruit recommendation. Greek yogurt is a protein workhorse, keeping you going strong even through the mid-morning slump. Peanut butter is full of good fats, stabilizing your energy levels. And depending on what milk you choose, you’re reaping the benefits of calcium and other vitamins {FYI: I loooooove to use plan kefir in mine! – talk about a probiotic punch!}.

This won’t weigh you down; rather, you’ll have an extra spring in your step because you’re starting your day of right….healthfully and naturally!

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Peanut Butter & Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Super simple and easy to assemble in minutes, this breakfast drink is the perfect grab-and-go for busy weekday mornings. Packed with healthy fats and protein-packed Greek yogurt, you’ll be feeling ready for the day in no time!

Ingredients:

1 whole banana, frozen

2 heaping tbsp. peanut butter {here’s my go-t0 homemade version}

1 six-ounce container Greek yogurt {we typically alternate between 0% vanilla or 0% plain}

choice of milk, to use as necessary

To Prepare:

Place all of the ingredients, except for the milk, into a high-powered blender. Blend until the frozen banana has been broken down, about 30 seconds. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Add in desired amount of milk until it reaches your desired consistency, and blend until smooth. Pour into a tight-sealing cup and store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

healthy recipe substitutions

With the start of the new year, many of us are in post-holiday recovery mode. Perhaps we overindulged at one too many holiday parties, or had one too many cocktails on more evenings that we should. Regardless of your reason, let’s work on a fresh start, and let’s do it together! I’ve put together a list of my favorite recipe tips, tricks and healthy hacks to share with y’all – and if you have any please feel free to share in the comments! Cheers to good health :)

Healthy Swaps {cooking and baking}

  • plain, non-fat greek yogurt can be used to replace plain or low-fat sour cream
  • vegetable oil can be replaced with equal parts of applesauce; I prefer unsweetened
  • natural honey takes the place of sugar in many recipes; and because it’s sweeter, you can use less than the amount of sugar called for
  • avocado puree can replace butter
  • bread crumbs can be replaced with rolled oats; you get the benefits of whole wheat flour
  • 2 egg whites take the place of using 1 egg

Replacements {side dishes, entrees}

  • try making mashed cauliflower or mashed turnips instead of mashed potatoes; significantly less carbohydrates, and you get the benefits of vitamins
  • swap out iceberg lettuce with my favorite mix of power greens: kale, spinach, swiss chard, and arugula
  • make zoodles {zucchini noodles} rather than pasta to serve with your favorite sauces
  • bake fresh corn tortillas in the oven to serve with your favorite dips and salsas, rather than reaching for the bag of fried flour tortilla chips

Sips {virgin and non-virgin drinks}

  • replace tonic water with soda water
  • ask for just a splash of juice in your favorite drink; you get all the flavor without all the calories {think: vodka-soda with a splash of pineapple juice}
  • make a wine spritzer rather than indulging in a whole glass, if you know you will be having more than one
  • enjoy your favorite liquor straight up or on the rocks; you’ll sip it slower and really enjoy the flavors
  • make a big pitcher of water infused with cucumbers/lemons/limes and leave it in the front of the fridge; you’ll reach for that instead of the soda
  • almond milk has significantly less sugar and carbs than dairy milk, and can be easier to digest if you have a lactose intolerance

Some of my favorite healthy-cooking sites:

Again, feel free to share your favorite tips and tricks in the comments! Happy healthy living!

butternut squash mac & cheese

Vegetables never cease to amaze me. Did you ever imagine that something so simple can be elevated into, quite possibly, one of the smoothest and creamiest sauces you’ve ever tasted?

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I had no idea, before tasting this dish, that butternut squash could be easily whipped up into the base for creamy mac and cheese. In fact, to say I was surprised is an understatement. But I think that that is what makes cooking so fun! You can find new and unusual uses for items that would traditionally not work. This recipe proves that butternut squash can go above and beyond simply being roasted as a side dish; it becomes the star.

We’re taking a tried and true mac and cheese recipe today and elevating it not only flavor-wise, but packing it full of healthy goodness. The use of pureed squash replaces several cups of cheddar cheese typically found in such a dish. Tangy, rich blue cheese {in a much less amount} will pack in flavor and just the right amount of fat, making it perfectly balanced. Cubed pieces of roasted squash and halved tomatoes are folded into the casserole, letting us reduce the amount of pasta {and carbs} that would normally be used. A hefty dose of spices – sage, chili flake, pepper – satisfies our taste buds. This is a perfectly balanced dish, and comes together in no time. Grab your fork and let’s dive in, shall we?

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese {recipe adpated, minimally, from Daily Unadventures in Cooking}

An unusually healthy twist on a classic dish, this mac and cheese recipe is sure to please even the most old-fashioned palate. Butternut squash puree makes up the body of the cheese sauce, with creamy blue cheese elevating its flavor to an even higher level. Additionally, folding in more vegetables reduces the amount of pasta needed, making this a dish you can enjoy without all the guilt. 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. chili flakes

1 tbsp. flour

2-1/4 cups milk {I used 1%}

2 cups butternut squash puree

2 cups roasted butternut squash, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

6 ounces blue cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Put a big pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In the meantime, start your sauce.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the onions, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Sweat out over low heat until sweet and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, sage and chili flakes and continue sweating until garlic is softened, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour on top of the garlic and onion mixture and stir it in. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it starts simmering before stirring in the next back. Whisk in the squash, then lastly, fold in the blue cheese. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, undercooking slightly. Drain. Fold the pasta together with the sauce, and add in the halved tomatoes and cubed butternut squash. Transfer to a greased casserole dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve hot, atop a bed of fresh greens.

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