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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

{Creamy Polenta with Spicy Tomato Chickpea Sauce}

I love a good impromptu "dinner party" with good friends, good food and great conversation! Cooking for others just makes me happy and is one of those dare I say "tasks" that bring people together.  There is nothing better then sharing a great meal with others!  I could honestly spend hours around my dining room table eating, chatting and drinking good glass of wine.  Seriously those three things make for the perfect night in.  Simply put... food brings people together! 

Monday was one of those such "dinner party" nights and was the best way to kick off the work week!   This simple yet tasty polenta dish was perfect and easy to whip up and made for a pretty impressive presentation!  The spicy tomato chickpea sauce added a kick to the creamy, cheesy polenta and paired perfectly with a full bodied red wine!  Bonus points for this dish... its a great meatless Monday meal!  And yes, I did just say great meatless Monday meal but please note the name of the wine!  

Creamy Polenta with Spicy Tomato Chickpea Sauce
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4 


Creamy Polenta: 
1 -18 oz package Polenta - Cut into chunks
1 Cup + 1/3 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Teaspoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro  
1/3 Cup Cheddar Cheese 
2 Tablespoons Milk 

Spicy Tomato Chickpea Sauce - Adapted From Cooking Light 
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
1/2 Cup Green Pepper Chopped
1 - 15 Oz. Can Diced Tomatoes - Undrained 
1 Cup Canned Chickpeas 
1 Tbs Honey 
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar 
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder 
1 Teaspoon Cumin 
1/4 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Pepper 
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Large Handful Chopped Cilantro 

1- Heat olive oil in a large skillet add onion and saute until translucent.  Add in green pepper and saute for 4 minutes until tender. 
2- Add in canned tomatoes through pepper and bring to boil.  Once mixture is boil reduce to simmer and add in chicken broth.  Simmer sauce until liquid has reduced by half - start polenta while sauce simmers. 

For the polenta: 
1- In a medium sauce pan bring 1 cup chicken broth to a low boil.  Add polenta and garlic powder to chicken broth.  Cook polenta on the stove until smooth, add remaining 1/3 chicken broth as needed to finish cooking polenta.  
2- Stir cheese, milk and cilantro into polenta. Return back to tomato sauce and stir in cilantro.  Now serve! 

To Serve: 
1- Divide polenta among 4 plates and top with tomato sauce.  


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

{Baked Banana Bread Oatmeal}

 Banana bread, a childhood favorite that I just cannot get enough of!   I go weak in the knees over a good banana bread, especially when peanut butter and possibly chocolate are involved!   I don't know what I love more; the sweet smell that engulfs your home when you bake banana bread, or the memories of spending an afternoon in the kitchen with my mom making delicious banana bread. Both are sweet and make baking banana bread extra special.  

I have taken everything that I love about banana bread and baked it into this delicious baked oatmeal recipe.  Slightly sweet, a touch of spice and a hint of peanut butter make this banana bread baked oatmeal irresistible!  Make this baked oatmeal Sunday night and eat for breakfast all week or enjoy as a sweet afternoon snack!  If your a banana bread lover like me you need to try this recipe... really you need too! 

 Baked Banana Bread Oatmeal
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
8-10 Servings 

2 Bananas Mashed 
3/4 Cup Quick Cook Oats 
1/4 Cup Flour 
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar 
3 Egg Whites 
2 Eggs 
1 Teaspoon Vanilla 
2 Tablespoons Milk of Choice 
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (melted)
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder 
1/4 Cup Peanut Butter 
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon 
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg 

1- In a large bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix until well combined and set aside. 
2- In a medium bowl combine mashed banana, egg, egg whites, milk, coconut oil and peanut butter.  Mix until well combined. 
3- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir lightly until well combined. 
4- Pour batter into an 8 inch greased round cake pan and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until baked through (toothpick inserted comes out clean).  


Friday, August 22, 2014

{Mexican Sweet Corn Salad}

Sweet corn, one of those summer time staples that I just cannot seem to get enough of!  There is something irresistible about really good sweet corn.  Do I sound like a crazy person rambling about corn?  Maybe, but you know I am right!  

I love cutting fresh sweet corn off the cob and tossing it into salads, or using it as the star ingredient of the salad like I did here!  I combined fresh ingredients and bold flavors together to create this delicious mexican inspired sweet corn "salad."  The spicy green chilies add just the right amount of heat while playing into the sweetness of the corn.  Fresh cilantro adds unique flavor while the simple squirt of fresh lime brightens the whole dish up!  Perfect as a light lunch or dinner salad or the perfect side dish for fajitas or tacos!  

Mexican Sweet Corn Salad
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 4-6 

6 Ears of Corn - Shucked and corn cut off the cob 
1/4 Cup Onion Finely Chopped 
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Pepper
1 - 4 oz can green chilies (I used Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Green Chilies) 
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder 
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder 
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin 
1 - 15 oz can chickpeas drained 
1 Large Handful Fresh Chopped Cilantro 

1- In a skillet coated with cooking spray saute onion until translucent.  Add in green pepper and saute until tender (2-3 min). 
2- Add corn into the skillet and saute for 5 minutes.  
3- In a small bowl whisk together chili powder, garlic, cumin and olive oil.  
4- Pour olive oil mixture over corn and saute for another 5 minutes.  Stir in chickpeas. 
5- Top skillet with fresh cilantro and serve. 

**Serve as a salad or as a side dish to grilled meat, fajitas, or tacos.  Delicious topped with a little shredded cheese and avocados!  


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

{Baked Seasoned Kale Chips}

Kale, a green leafy veggie that kinda scared me at first!  Yes, I admit... me the veggie loving queen was scared to try kale at first.  But you know what, kale has truly become one of my favorite leafy greens!  Just check out a few of the delicious kale salads that have been featured on the blog, here and here!  

But kale chips have been my most recent obsession!  Kale chips make the perfect crunch snack or even a delicious side dish to accompany dinner.  These crunchy green chips are effortless to make and are down right tasty!  Just toss chopped kale with a bit of olive oil, seasonings and bake to crispy perfections!  Now go conquer your kale fear (if you have one) and bake these little beauties today! 

Baked Seasoned Kale Chips: 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 2-4

2 Teaspoons Olive Oil 
1 Large Bunch Dinosaur Kale - Roughly Chopped 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Garlic 
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin 
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder 

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2- In a medium bowl toss chopped kale with olive oil and spices.  Rub kale for 2 minutes to ensure that olive oil and spices are evenly distributed. 
3- Spread kale out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crunchy and slightly browned.   I usually stir the kale after it has been in the oven for 10 minutes to ensure even browning. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

{Cheesy Baked Zucchini Noodles}

Seriously, the veggie spiral cutter that my sister purchased a few weeks ago has become my favorite kitchen gadget!  I am obsessed and cannot stop experimenting with "zoodles!"

For the longest time I have been wanting to try a baked "pasta" recipe but could never get myself to spend the hour baking a spaghetti squash!  Not to mention making zucchini noodles was out of the question because I didn't have the fancy shmancy veggie spiral cutter.  Well that has all changed and I am about to share with you a delicious and super cheesy baked zoodle recipe!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it! 

Anyways, this baked "pasta" recipe has all the flavor and comfort food qualities of the typical baked pasta, only with less carbs and more veggies!  Win, win, right?  Easy enough to make on a hectic weekday night and delicious to reheat for lunch the next day!  Top with grilled chicken, shrimp or your favorite protein source for a complete meal.  Make sure you serve with some crusty french bread to soak up the remaining marinara sauce!  

Cheesy Baked Zucchini Noodles
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 6 

4 Zucchinis 
1 Cup Marinara Sauce 
3/4 Cup Part Skim Ricotta 
1 Cup + 1/4 Part Skim Mozzarella 
1/4 Onion Chopped 
3 Garlic Cloves 
1 Tablespoon Basil 

**Grilled Chicken, Shrimp or other protein source for serving

1- Cut zucchini into "noodles" using a veggie spiral cutter into a large bowl.  Toss zucchini with 1 cup cheese (reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for the top) Set aside.
2- In a skillet coated with cooking spray saute onions until translucent add garlic and basil and saute until garlic is fragrant.  Set aside. 
3- In a small bowl mix together marinara sauce and ricotta until well combined.  Add onion mixture to the marinara mixture and mix until well combined. 
4- Pour marinara mixture over zucchini noodles.  Toss zucchini noodles until evenly covered with sauce.  Pour zucchini noodles into an 8x8 inch glass baking dish.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.  
5- Bake zucchini noodles in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. 

** Serve with grilled chicken, shrimp or protein of choice!

Check out these other delicious Zucchini Noodle Recipes from around the web! 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

{Spiral Cucumber Salad with Tomatoes}

I am seriously in love with my sisters spiral veggie cutter (check it out here)!  I used it to make zoodles for this delicious "pasta" recipe and I used it last night to make this fresh and summery cucumber salad! I am obsessed!  I have already thought of about a million ways to use this ingenious kitchen gadget!  

This salad screams summer to me and the best part about it was I used all local farmers market produce!  Side note, can you believe that this past Saturday was the first time I had been to the farmers market all summer?  I know... its sad and I am embarrassed to admit that!  We can talk about my laziness later.  Right now we need to talk about this salad and how simple yet delicious it is!  The simple dressing gives a hint of flavor to the fresh cut cucumbers and the fresh tomatoes add texture and more flavor!  A little salt and pepper help amp up the flavor without taking away from the produce!  Make as a side dish or enjoy as part of a light lunch! 

Cucumber Salad with Tomatoes 
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 2-4

 1 1/2 Medium Cucumber - Cut with vegetable spilar 
1/2 Cup Grap Tomatoes - Halved 

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
2 Teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar 
1 Teaspoon Honey 
1 Teaspoon Garlic 
Salt and Pepper to Taste 

1 - Cut cucumbers with spiral veggie cutter (we used this one)
2- Toss cucumber and tomatoes together lightly in a bowl and set aside. 
3- In a small bowl mix together olive oil, balsamic, honey and garlic.  
4- Pour dressing over cucumber/tomatoes and toss until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

{Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes}

Baked potatoes are my go to, super fast and easy week night dinner staple!  Because lets be honest, we have all had those nights where we don't even want to spend 15 minutes making dinner!  I love to cook but sometimes just the thought preparing a meal makes me want to throw in the towel and have cereal for dinner!  

Well, that little rant about not wanting to make dinner really has nothing to do with the recipe I am going to tell you about today!  Well expect for the fact that this is a baked sweet potato recipe that is!  But, I can promise you that these twice baked sweet potatoes are delicious.  And I can promise you that they are easy and take little to no time to prepare!  I lightened up these flavorful twice baked sweet potatoes by using greek yogurt instead of sour cream and packed them full of sauteed veggies!    Don't worry I left all the cheesy goodness in these potatoes that we have grown to love about traditional twice baked potatoes!  Enjoy these twice baked sweet potatoes as a simple meal or enjoy as side to grilled chicken or shrimp! 

Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Brunch N'Cupcakes 
Serves 3-4 

4 Small Sweet Potatoes Washed and Dried(I used one large and a small... all we had!)
1/2 Cup Broccoli Florets 
1/4 Cup Onion Chopped 
2 Tablespoons Greek Yogurt (I used 0%) 
1/3 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Shredded Cheddar Cheese 
2 Garlic Cloves Minced 
1/2 Teaspoon Salt 
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin 

1- Pierce each potato with a fork and place on plate.  Microwave the potatoes for 8-10 minutes or until tender when pricked with fork. 
2- Set potatoes aside and allow to cool.  In the mean time heat a skillet sprayed with cooking spray and sautee onions until translucent.  Add in garlic and cook until fragrant.  Finally add broccoli to the skillet and cook till tender.  Remove skillet from heat and set aside.  
3- Grab your potatoes and slice each one down the middle.  Carefully scoop out the inside of the potato into a bowl.  Slightly mash the potato in the bowl.  Add yogurt and spices to mashed potato and mix until well incorporated.  Next stir in 1/3 cup cheese and the veggies.  Mix once again until well combined.  
4- Carefully lay potato skins out on a baking sheet and carefully stuff each potato skin with the potato/veggie mixture.  Top each potato with 1/2 Tablespoon of cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted (about 10 minutes).  

** Top your potatoes with sour cream or greek yogurt if you wish!  Serve the twice baked sweet potatoes as a the main meal with steamed veggies or as a side to grilled meat!