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You look like the 4th of July… makes me want a hot dog real bad

Happy Independence Day Americaaaaaaaaa! I’m writing this post from Greece, BUT celebrating in style with a champagne toast.

I actually made this dip for a Memorial Day Party, but obvs it’s totally usable for any celebration of the country. It’s also suuuuper easy to make because, duh, you know how I like my dishes. Quick and easy.

The other things I like about this dip is that it’s healthy-ish which is great when you’re at a pool party in your swimmies #absofsteel

Anyway, I’m sure you’re in a hurry trying to whip up a side dish for the pool party you’re headed to so I’ll get to the recipe 🙂

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (14.5) oz fat free refried black beans (get mine at Whole Foods)
  • 2 cups pre-made guacamole (my recipe below)
  • 1 sm container low fat sour cream
  • 1 c. salsa (store bought is fine) OR pico de Gallo (can also buy pre-made or make at home)
  • 1 1/2 cups monterrey jack cheese (I know the picture is mixed but that’s bc I forgot my cheese when I packed up the ingredients so had to make due with what was available!)
  • 3 finely diced roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 black beans

*I usually heat the refried beans in a saucepan with 1/8 c. water until smooth so that it’s easier to spread in the pan.* In a 9 x 13 pan, spread in this order: refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa. After you’ve got those done, use the black beans and make a rectangle in the top left corner of the pan in a 2×4 shape. One the beans are placed, make 1 in. even rows alternating between the white cheese (first at the top) and the tomatoes until you reach the bottom. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips for an even more festive side.

 

Guacamole:

  • 2 large avocados
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • 2 tbsp Tony Chachere seasoning
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp tobacco sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mash up the avocados, then top with seasonings & salt/pepper as desired. Squeeze 1/2 half of lemon over and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt/pepper and other half of lemon’s juice if needed.

 

Whats your favorite America-themed side dish??

Lemon Chicken Pasta- Weight Watchers Approved!

First and foremost, I must confess how I came to know about this delicious dish. This is (unfortunately) not one of my own creations, but it sure is delicious and EASY and you know that’s what I’m all about.

Many, many One Tree Hill years ago I used to get together with a girlfriend of mine each week so we could watch together (hey @idkmybffjes !!). On one of the week that we watched at her place she made this for us for dinner, and I loved it so much that I stole it from her and surprised everyone with it at our weekly recipe club (the event when she realized I stole her recipe LOL… we have a laugh about it don’t worry.) This dish is awesome because it’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s delicious and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day. Can you really ask for anything more?

Without further ado, lemme give you the recipe…

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 4-6 oz chicken breast per person, cut in to bite size pieces
  • 2 oz penne or farfalle pasta per person (I personally love the Barilla ProteinPLUS)
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon

Heat 2- 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cooking for the recommended time. Season with salt and pepper, and cook the chicken until done in a medium to large skillet. Combine the cooked pasta with the cooked chicken in a large bowl. In a small skillet, heat the EVOO on medium heat. It’s crucial you don’t overheat the oil because if you do, when you add the garlic you will have a sizzling mess on your hands. Once the EVOO is heated, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking until the garlic begins to brown. Pour the EVOO “sauce” over the pasta/chicken mixture. Squeeze the lemon juice in to the bowl, and toss to combine. Easy peasy!

Long haul flight carry-on essentials

On one of my first trips out of the States as an adult I packed up my *one* suitcase with what I thought I would need for my 10 day trip and headed to the airport. I learned two things quickly: 1) it’s very easy to get your suitcase over the weight limit on the way home if you do any shopping while you’re traveling, and 2) there were a lot of things I wished I had for my flight there to make myself more comfortable. Honestly, it never crossed my mind before. I fly all the time in the states, and you basically just rock up at the airport and hope for the best right?? LOL

Below is a list of all the things I now pack in my carry-on for long haul flights. It’s a LOT, I know. However, just take what works for you 🙂 I’ve broken it up by category so as not to make it seem so overwhelming. The number one thing you need to remember for any flight that’s over an hour and a half is layers, layers, LAYERS. You never know what the plane temperature will be like. Side story, 10 years ago I on a flight to the UK the AC on the plane was out. I was wearing a sweater and sweatpants with no alternative clothing options on board… that’s a mistake you do not make twice!

 

Long haul flight carry on essentials:

Essentials:

  1. Travel wallet
  2. Cash/credit cards
  3. Passport AND ID
  4. RFID passport cover
  5. Pajama/track pants to keep you warm while you sleep
  6. Large water bottle *buy post security* (buy after security to take on plane & stay hydrated without calling the attendant 25 times during your flight!)
  7. Change of clothes in case of lost baggage

Comfort:

  1. Layers (scarf, cardigan/jacket, socks/compression socks, etc)
  2. Travel pillow and eye mask (I like this pillow by BCozzy because it supports your chin)
  3. This is optional, but I have a foot hammock you can buy on Amazon that makes economy feel more like first class (who wouldn’t want that?!)
  4. Flats/sandals AND running shoes (in case you find yourself sprinting to catch a flight/train, etc)
  5. Compression socks if you normally experience swelling due to changing temperatures or altitudes

Entertainment:

  1. Books
  2. Noise cancelling headphones (or earplugs) & headphones to plug in to the plane
  3. USB cable/battery pack
  4. iPad with downloaded movies/tv shows (I’ve had an international flight where the tvs were out)

Beauty:

  1. Face sleep mask (I like the Neutrogena HydroBoost gel mask)
  2. Toothbrush & toothpaste
  3. Hat to wear on arrival & cover bed head
  4. Hydrating face Mist
  5. Chapstick
  6. Deodorant
  7. Hair ties & brush
  8. Travel Makeup & face wipes
  9. Dry Shampoo
  10. Perfume

Odds & Ends:

  • GUM
  • Advil/allergy pills
  • Purell
  • Tissues
  • Vitamins (valerian root for relaxation, vitamin b for energy, potassium to alleviate muscle cramps)
  • Melatonin or Lavendar mist to aid sleep

 

What are your must haves for long flights?

Spaghetti with a veggie twist

I, like most humans, looooove pasta. My body does not which honestly is going to be interesting when I’m in Italy for a week soon. Anyway, I try to find ways to incorporate some simple pasta dishes in to my meal plan just by substituting the starchy typical pasta noodle for a veggie one. If you haven’t had veggie noodles they are actually very delish, and per my recipe taster last night (Mattie you da real MVP) you can’t taste that much of a difference. Heyyooooo!

For Monday night dinner I always like to have not only food that is easy to make, but also comforting because I’m still mourning the loss of the weekend. This super easy baked spaghetti fills all of those requirements, AND it’s healthy to boot so you don’t hate yourself after you’ve eaten dinner. It also makes for great leftovers, and the bonus to the noodles being veggie versus regular is that you’re not eating the starchy carbs that turn in to sugar in your body and leave you feeling like you need a long nap an hour later when you’re in the middle of your workday.

If you don’t like your spaghetti baked with cheese (who are you), then you can just as easily serve this up the good old fashioned way 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (ground beef can be very high in fat even at a ratio of 90/10 so look for the lowest you can find.. I use 96/4)
  • 8 oz Spaghetti veggie noodles (be sure to read the ingredient list on the box, if you can’t pronounce something or have no idea what it is look it up before proceeding)
  • 1/2- 1 c. preferred red sauce flavor (again, read the nutrition label because many sauces are very high in sugar and sodium)
  • 1 c. mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. When the water starts to boil, add the noodles and cook per box instructions (typically 7-8 minutes). While the noodles are cooking, add your ground beef to a medium sized skillet, season with garlic, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until all of the pink is gone. Drain the meat if necessary (for 96/4 I don’t usually need to do this), and add in the red sauce and 1/4 c mozzarella Stir to combine. Drain the veggie noodles and mix in to the meat sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella, sprinkle with parsley, and bake for 7 minutes.

 

What is your favorite veggie noodle dish??

Mexican Halibut for Taco Tuesday!

I think by now we all know how much I love a flakey white fish. I use halibut most often because it’s easily available at my local grocery store, AND it’s low fat/very high in protein. That’s what I’m talkin abouttttt.

It’s taco Tuesday, but when you’re cutting carbs it really can put a damper on taco night because you can’t eat taco shells or tortillas. Whomp whomp… OR is it?? In strolls the lettuce wrap. I’m sure you’re thinking “umm, not the same thing Brittany.” I know, and I feel your pain. However, would you rather have an altered taco or no taco at all? I’m hoping it’s the latter! But, if it’s the former, you can still enjoy this fish on Tuesday and every other day of the week because it’s damn delicious with this avocado salsa.

I always start by prepping the “salsa” so that it can chill in the fridge, and the ingredients can start to meld together. Salsa… pico? Call it whatever tickles your fancy 🙂

For the salsa/pico:

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 roma tomato or 4-6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. diced onion
  • 1 small jalapeno
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt & pepper to taste

Dice/chop all of the vegetable ingredients, and toss together in a bowl. Add lime juice, salt & pepper and toss again. Set aside in refrigerator.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small/medium skillet.Take your thawed halibut filets and pay them dry. Season both sides with salt & pepper. Cook the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side depending on how done you like it.

Either flake the fish apart with a fork, fill your “taco shell” with the fish & top with the salsa (feel free to add whatever other toppings you like!), or you can also just plate the fish & top with the salsa. I like to serve mine with a side of black beans when I do that.

Who else loves taco Tuesday?!

 

Simple marinated blackened tuna steaks

How is it already Monday again?? I wasn’t ready for it, but the universe didn’t ask me what I wanted so here we are! On the bright side, I like to think it was a good weekend if it passed by so quickly. A boring weekend would drag by right? Anyway, this super easy marinated tuna steak is perfect for Monday nights because it cooks in under 30 minutes, and is really yummy. Obvs.

I always like to think on Sunday night about what I’ll make for Monday dinner because it seems like by the time it’s 5pm the last thing you want to commit your brain to is more work in the kitchen. The other plus to this is that you can put whatever meat/seafood you plan to cook in the fridge overnight to thaw. This is by far the safest way to defrost meat because it won’t go above the 41 degree (F) threshold where food poisoning starts to lurk about. Another added bonus is that you can pre-prep your side. I like to have some long grain brown rice by Simple Truth which takes about 45 minutes to make. When I prep the day before, I just take it off the burner when there’s still a little bit of the water left in the pan, and store in the fridge over night. The extra water helps to keep the rice from drying out. Then I just cook up an easy veggie, and I’ve got a simple, balanced and delicious dinner in under 30 minutes. What a DREAM!

 

Ingredients:

  • Yellow fin tuna steak (4-6 oz)
  • 2 tbsp blackened seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Cholula chili lime sauce (for a little added kick)
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

Please the tuna and remaining ingredients except for the blackened seasoning in a zip lock bag, shake to combine, and let marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 10 minutes or up to 8 hours. The longer it marinates, the stronger the flavor! Heat a small to medium sized skillet over medium to medium high heat. With my glass top oven, I find the perfect temp to actually be in between those two settings. When the skillet is heated (about 2-3 minutes) use 1 tbsp of the blackened seasoning on each side of the tuna steak, pat to settle, and add to the skillet. Cook the tuna for about 4-6 minutes on each side, sticking to the longer end if you like your tuna well done. I prefer mine just cooked with a little color to it so I usually do 4 minutes per side. After it’s cooked on the other side of the appropriate amount of time, just plate your dish with your sides and you’re ready to go! How freakin easy is THAT?

I paired mine with a simple kale Caesar and 1/4 cup of brown rice 🙂

What’s your favorite Monday night meal?

 

Cheesy Baked Meatballs with Rose Sauce

I love those meatballs a lot because… cheese. I don’t really do a lot of dairy (take a calcium supplement, don’t worry!), but my one and only dairy weakness is cheese. Who can say no to cheese?! It’s so hard. SO HARD. Cheese is life. Amirite?

I made these meatballs for a little dinner party I hosted for some friends (if you’re reading this, NOLA2k18). One of the greatest things about this meatball mixture is that you can freeze whatever you don’t use. I cooked for 5, and had not only cooked meatballs but also a full serving for 2 of the mixture leftover that went in to my freezer for a rainy day. The cooked meatballs can be thawed in the fridge overnight, and then you heat them up in the oven on 350 for 20 minutes. With the mixture, also defrost overnight in the fridge, and then just ball up and cook per the instructions below when you’re ready!

Typically my recipes are of the quick and easy under-30-minutes kind, but special people call for special circumstances. Put on your comfy shoes and clothes when you head to the kitchen to start this journey. Prep time is approximately 30 minutes, and cook time is 1 hour.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 lbs ground beef (I use 94/6) OR you can mix up meats for a different flavor (beef/pork/etc)
  • 6 tbsp or 1 head of minced garlic
  • 2 c. Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 c. milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 c. shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sage
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the over to 400 degrees F. Line 2 oven safe dishes with foil (you need 2 unless you cut the recipe in half to make less meatballs) and spray with a light cooking spray (to prevent the meatballs from sticking… trust me, they will).

In a small to medium sized mixing bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and set to the side. It should look like this when it’s blended well enough:

In a large mixing bowl mix the ground meat(s), garlic and breadcrumb mixture. Once well combined, add the Asiago & half of the Parmesan cheese, 3/4 of the parsley, eggs and salt & pepper. Mix by hand until combined. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon form the meatballs and place in rows in the prepared oven dishes. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 375. In another medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together half of the marinara sauce with the whole jar of afredo sauce to make a rose sauce.

Take all of the meatballs out of the dishes and set aside on a plate. Remove the foil, and pour just enough of the rose sauce to cover the bottom of the dish. Line the meatballs back up in rows, and pour the remaining rose sauce over to cover. Top with the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheeses. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the cheese very lightly. You want just enough so that your Italian seasonings have something to stick to. Sprinkle oregano, sage and thyme over the olive oil drizzle. Cover the dishes with foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20.

If desired, broil for 5 minutes after you bake sans foil for 20 minutes to create a crispy cheese top. Sprinkle remaining parsley over the top and serve!

A lot of time and effort goes in to these meatballs, but they are worth the work. I promise 🙂

What are your favorite dishes to make for friends?

Xo, B

Spicy shrimp with cauliflower mash for the win

First of all, it is not lost on me that I accidentally plated this in the she of a heart because it is by far one of my favorite meals to make and eat. It’s suuuuper easy (30 mins, duh!!), and also very delish. There’s something about the spice from the shrimp that pairs so well with the cauliflower mash.

Also, can we just take a moment to praise cauliflower? Who.knew. that it could but such a tasty substitute for so many things including mashed potatoes. Being a southern girl, I LOVE my mashed potatoes, but… carbs. So they have to be reserved for special occasions for the most part.

This dish gives me some New Orleans cajun vibes which makes me love it even more. If you’ve never been to Nola, the food is amazing. The city is known for it’s party culture, but the cuisine there is to die for. Because I am a foodie it’s one of my favorite US Cities to visit! I would try to recommend a few restaurants to you, but I really can’t limit it down to that small of a list.

A few tips for making this meal: 1) buy a head of cauliflower vs the pre-cut version sold in bags for boxes. It’s typically 75% cheaper, and you can easily use the whole head. 2) make sure you buy kale greens, and NOT baby kale. I know that probably seems menial, but you need the crispy crunch you get from sautéed kale greens to help this dish reach it’s full potential. Now for the recipe…

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 c. kale greens
  • 1 c. cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • juice from 1/4 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbsp butter (I use Earth Balance olive oil butter because it’s got lower sodium)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (buy based on dairy/dietary preference)
  • 1/4 c milk (whatever your preference)
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (use half if you’re not that in to super spicy and just want a tiny kick)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place the shrimp in a ziplock bag (be SURE it is a zipper seal and not a slide close seal or you’ll end up with a mess). Add in 1 tbsp of EVOO, cayenne pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Shake to cover the shrimp and set aside.

Using a large sauce pan bring 2 cups of water to a boil then add the cauliflower. This part is very tricky because you need the cauliflower to be soft enough to mash, yet not so soft that it turns to complete mush. The boil time that I’ve found works best is anywhere between 8-10 minutes. The way I test it is to stick it with a fork. If you can get the fork through the stem without force then it’s ready. If the cauliflower is sliding off the fork immediately when you stab it then it’s overdone. I know right, who knew there was an art to the perfectly blanched cauliflower for making faux mash. Drain the water from the sauce pan, and put the cooked cauliflower on a cutting board to remove and toss the stems (if you keep them in, you’ll get lumpy mash so if that’s your thing then carry on my friend!). Put the cauli either back in the saucepan or into a mixing bowl. I prefer the mixing bowl so I don’t have to worry about scratching up my saucepan.

Heat one tbsp of EVOO in a small skillet (or large if you’ve multiplied the recipe to feed more people) on medium to medium-high heat (my glass cooktop cooks like a hot tamale so I go for medium so the shrimp don’t end up burned and undercooked). Once the oil is hot, dump the shrimp from the bag in to the skillet. The shrimp will need to cook for 2-3 minutes per side. While the shrimp is cooking mash up the cauliflower, and then add in the butter, sour cream, milk and garlic. Whip to desired consistency.

Once the shrimp is done I will typically plate it atop the cauliflower mash. Wipe out the skillet used for the shrimp and toss in the other tbsp of EVOO. It should heat almost instantly because the skillet will still be hot. Add the kale, garlic and lemon juice. Toss for 1-2 minutes until the kale starts to wilt slightly and then plate with the shrimp & mash.

I know that is a LOT of detail, but I promise you this meal is ready in 30 minutes or less. As usual the recipe is set for one so that you can easily multiply for a crowd.

What are YOUR favorite restaurants in New Orleans? I’m heading back in a few months and am up for trying a new spot.

Xoxo, B

Broccoli Tot Treats

I love broccoli. I love tator tots. I love cheese. It’s very hard not to eat ALL of these as soon as I take them out of the oven. Even better, they’re baby approved! Sorry that I don’t have a fun story to tell about these. I typically like to chat it up, but the truth is I was looking for a way to use up a pound of broccoli that I forgot I bought and let live at the back of my fridge until it was almost too late, and thus the broccoli tots were born.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c broccoli
  • 1 c. italian bread crumbs
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk (whatever your personal preference is)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix the bread crumbs in the milk together in a small bowl and set aside. Blanch the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. You’ll want it soft enough so that it chops up easily, but not so soft that it just mushes. Basically, if you can stab aa piece with a fork easily and it doesn’t slide off you’re good to (little trick of mine). Once the broccoli is ready, do a coarse chop and remove any big stems. Put the broccoli in a large bowl and add the cheese, breadcrumb mixture, eggs, salt and pepper. Fold everything together using a spoon or your hands, and then use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to measure out the amount for each tot. Form them using your hands, and line on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, and you’re ready to party. They will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days… if you can stay away that long 🙂

 

Xoxo, B

Shrimp Superfood Salad

Ya’ll, I love to re-create super yummy meals I find at restaurants, and that is exactly how this salad was born. Typically I’m not one to order a salad when I go out for dinner because when I’m at a restaurant it’s a treat and I want to indulge in something I wouldn’t typically eat at home. However, for some reason this salad caught my eye, and now I make it at home as a light summer dinner. Truth be told, the radishes weren’t in the original salad, and I have no idea how they made it in to mine. Not complainingggg! As usual, you know it takes 30 minutes or less! #priorities

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of kale, chopped
  • 1/4 c. brown rice
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 3-4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/4 c. sliced red onion
  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 6 oz shrimp, grilled
  • 1 1/2 oz. vinegarette salad dressing (I use Girard’s Light Champagne, but it’s very high in sodium so it’s also a treat just for this salad)

Layer the brown rice and then the kale in the bowl. Top with all vegetables and grilled shrimp. Enjoy!

What are your favorite salads to make at home?