Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

Sometimes you just crave salads, especially as the summer temperatures warm up. This one is a great alternative to standard tossed salads, loaded with protein, healthy veggies, and tossed in a versatile Thai peanut dressing.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

Thai Peanut Sauce
(Original recipe: The Creative Bite)

3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger
OPTIONAL: 1½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Store refrigerated for up to one week.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
(Original recipe: The Creative Bite)

2 cups coleslaw mix
2 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup grated carrot
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-1/2 cup cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cucumber, seeded & chopped
1 cup Thai peanut sauce
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and serve immediately.


Grown Up Mac and Cheese

I’ve been working on a fitness goal for a couple months now. When I started this endeavor, I told myself my celebration of completion would be this recipe. It’s easily one of my absolute favorite foods. The first time I made it, I was surprised at how easy homemade macaroni and cheese actually is, not to mention the depth of flavor compared to the boxed stuff. Next time you’re feeling gluttonous or want to celebrate, give this one a try; it never disappoints!

Grown up mac and cheese

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
(Original recipe: Ina Garten)

6 ounces bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed (I use the microwave)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all­ purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra ­sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
A pinch of dry sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until cooked. Drain and set aside.
Cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the warm milk. Continue whisking for 1-2 more minutes, until thickened and smooth.
Off the heat, add cheeses, sage, chives, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
Fold in the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon. Combine well.
Pour the mixture into a 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
Tip: don’t be afraid to let the corners get brown and crusty; that’s my favorite part!

Incredibly tasty Wild Rice Pilaf

This rice pilaf puts other rice pilafs to shame. Stuffed with bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and many more hidden goodies, this is not – I repeat not – a health food alternative. But to those who don’t really care about that, make this and eat it. You will not be sorry. I served it with roasted chicken, but I couldn’t help but notice it would make an excellent lower-carb alternative during the holidays. It tastes like Thanksgiving in a bowl.

Wild Rice Pilaf


Wild Rice Pilaf
(Original recipe: Iowa Girl Eats)

1 ­1/2 cups wild rice
2­ 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 dried bay leaf
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Add wild rice, chicken broth, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 40-­45 minutes or until rice is al dente. Let pan sit off the heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf, fluff rice with a fork, and set aside.
Meanwhile, brown bacon in a skillet; transfer to a bowl, reserving bacon fat in skillet. Melt butter in skillet and add shallots, mushrooms, and celery. Once mushrooms have
released their liquid and begin to brown, add dried thyme. Saute until mushrooms and vegetables are tender. Add garlic and fresh sage; saute until garlic is fragrant, about 2 more minutes.
Remove skillet from heat. Add cooked rice, cooked bacon, chopped almonds, and Parmesan cheese; stir well to combine. Add a splash of chicken broth if you need to loosen the stuffing up a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Cheesy chicken and rice casserole

I had a wicked craving for chicken and rice casserole last week, but it is so difficult to find recipes for casseroles that don’t use canned soups or bouillon cubes. So when I found this one, I was eager to try it. It uses a homemade cheese sauce similar to that which you make for homemade mac and cheese. I opted to bump the flavor up a bit and crossed my fingers as it went into the oven. I was not disappointed; it was exactly what I’d been craving, and my husband ate half the 9×13 pan in one sitting. It’s certainly not health food, but it’s clean comfort food, and that’s precisely what I wanted. This recipe is shooting straight to the top of the regular rotation.

Cheesy chix casserole B

Cheesy chicken and rice casserole
(Original recipe: Brown Eyed Baker)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sage
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups cubed cooked chicken (I used 3 large chicken breasts)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 pound), uncooked
2 cups cooked rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked down and all of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms to a separate bowl.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Once all flour and butter has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened, whisk in the cheddar cheese, adding a handful at a time and whisking until completely melted before adding the next handful. Turn off the heat. Add garlic, sage, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently fold in the chicken, broccoli, rice, and cooked mushrooms. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

*also excellent with additional shredded cheese or bread crumbs sprinkled on top before baking.

Cheesy chix casserole

Pasta Fagioli

They say April showers bring May flowers, right? This hearty Italian soup will help get you through the last few months of rainy days before the sun returns. If freezes really well. Just leave out the pasta before freezing, then add in before serving. This is also an excellent meal to bring to families in need, as it is loaded with protein and carbs; a little goes a long way!

Processed with VSCO


Pasta Fagioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 lb mild Italian chicken sausage*
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it just begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots; cook, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the sausage to the pot, crumbling as it cooks (remove from casings, if necessary). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Stir in herbs. Stir in tomatoes and stock.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Stir in the beans and pasta. Simmer for 6- 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
Serve piping hot with Parmesan cheese.

* My favorite mild Italian chicken sausage to use is a one-pound roll made by Isernio’s.

Lemon Cheesecake with Mascarpone Cream and Candied Lemons

Summer is coming, which means citrus! If you like lemon desserts, this one is sublime. The flavor is delicate; not too sweet, not too tart. The cheesecake itself bakes in a bain-marie, or water bath, a trick for assuring it is evenly baked and doesn’t crack.

Candying lemon slices to use as decoration is optional, but if you decide to attempt it, they need to dry overnight, so plan accordingly.


Candied lemon slices

3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup water
1 large lemon, sliced 1/4″ thick, seeds removed

In a skillet, bring water and confectioner’s sugar to a low simmer over medium heat. Do not let it boil and brown; you want to create a simple syrup, not a caramel.
Once the sugar water is simmering, submerge the lemon slices. Let the whole mixture simmer slowly for 20-25 minutes.
Remove lemons onto a candy or drying rack with parchment paper underneath to catch the drips. The lemon slices should be pliable, but still intact.
Leave the rack of lemon slices out on a counter for at least 12 hours to dry completely.

Tip: Don’t throw out the lemon-infused simple syrup that remains in the pan after you remove the lemon slices. It is especially delicious in tea.

Lemon cheesecake A

Lemon cheesecake with a graham cracker crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
4-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
4 eggs

Heat oven to 325°F
Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and butter. Press onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan.
Beat cream cheese and remaining 1 cup of sugar in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream, zest and juice; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low after each just until blended. Do not over mix. Pour mixture over crust.
Put the cheesecake pan in the center of a roasting pan and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
Bake at 325°F for 40-50 minutes or until the center is almost set. It should have a slight jiggle to it.
Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before adding the mascarpone cream layer.

Lemon cheesecake D

Mascarpone whipped cream
Original recipe: Stress Baking

4 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Chill a large mixing bowl in the fridge.
In your chilled bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and sugar on a high speed until completely combined.
Add vanilla and heavy cream, and mix on a low setting until it is mostly combined. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.
Spread all the whipped cream evenly over the top of the cooled cheesecake; place candied lemons on top for decoration. Return your beautiful dessert to the fridge to keep cool until serving.

Crispy baked garlic Parmesan chicken wings

These wings, you guys. They’re as good as they look. And as a bonus: they’re baked, not fried. Try these; you won’t regret it!

Garlic Parm chix wings A

Crispy Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings
(Original recipe: JoyfulHealthyEats)

2 lbs. of chicken wings and drumettes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese, divided
⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400
Add chicken to a large bowl. Pat chicken dry.
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Gently toss to coat all the chicken.
Place chicken on a wire rack lined baking sheet.
Bake for 40 minutes, flipping the chicken after 20 minutes.
Turn the Broiler on to HIGH.
Place chicken under broiler for 8-10 minutes, until browned.
In the meantime, heat a medium sauce pan to medium heat. Add butter and 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.
Once butter is melted, add the garlic to the pan. Let cook in the liquid for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant.
Next add in 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Let the sauce cook for another 2 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven. Place in a large bowl, pour the garlic parmesan sauce over the chicken wings. Using a pair of tongs, toss the wings to coat all of them with the sauce.
Serve. Top the wings with an additional 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese.
Optional: add chopped chives and a sprinkle of parsley for garnish.

Garlic Parm chix wings CGarlic Parm chix wings B

Thick and spicy chicken tortilla soup

This soup surprised me. I have an old standby recipe for Southwest Chicken Chili, but my husband asked for something spicier and a little more “like a soup”. I decided to try this unconventional recipe, trusting all the rave reviews. The unfamiliar idea of using corn tortillas as a thickener seemed awkward, but I gave it a shot anyway.

The soup looked unremarkable on the stove, but upon tasting it, my husband claimed it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. Ever. At first, the spice level caught my delicate palate by surprise, but then it grew on me. The depth of flavor is addicting! By the time we’d finished the entire batch, we’d decided this was an Always-Have-On-Hand recipe. I plan to make more very soon; four thumbs way up!

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thick and Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
(Original recipe: Chowhound)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but the cream balances the heat)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 ripe, fresh avocado, cut into large chunks
Shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar recommended)
Sour cream

Saute onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper in large saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add broth, water, tomatoes, salt, and pepper; stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, add the cut tortillas pieces, and stir to combine. Simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Use a handheld mixer to blend until smooth.
Add the heavy cream, cooked chicken, and chives. Simmer until heated through. Add more S+P if needed.
Serve the soup over chunks of fresh avocado and topped with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

*Especially excellent topped with crushed tortilla chips.

Baked breakfast cups

I am not a morning person. If I have to get up early, breakfast needs to be easy to grab in a sleepy stupor or it won’t happen. Devoting an hour on a Sunday afternoon to stocking the fridge with these baked cups is one of my favorite ways to have healthy sustenance for early weekday mornings.

Baked Egg Cups

Egg cup recipes abound. You can add any meat, veggies, or cheese that you prefer into these omelette-like bites. My favorites include bacon, chicken sausage, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, and cheddar. Just cook your meat and veggies first, then either fold into whisked eggs or gently break one egg over the top, and top with your choice of cheese. Pour into unlined cupcake tins sprayed with olive oil. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes, or until the centers are set.

Egg Cups collageBaked egg cups D

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cups
(Original recipe: Live Well Bake Often)

Oatmeal cups collage

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until fully combined.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Gently fold in chopped apple chunks.
Evenly distribute the mixture between all cavities of a cupcake/muffin pan that has been sprayed with greased with butter or oil. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the oatmeal cups are lightly golden brown and firm.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: these are less sweet than you might expect. For additional sweetness, drizzle additional maple syrup or honey over the top of each once cooled.

Chicken Marsala

It’s a classic recipe for a reason and definitely a favorite around here!

To lighten it up, skip dredging the chicken in flour and thicken the sauce before serving with a slurry of one tablespoon of cornstarch and water.


Chicken Marsala
(Original recipe: Sweet Savory Life)

2 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Sprinkle of dried parsley
Salt and pepper

Split and tenderize each chicken breast until they are about a quarter inch thick. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour. Fry in the oil over medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium. Sauté mushrooms in butter until soft.
Add wine; simmer a couple minutes until alcohol cooks off.
Add chicken stock and cream, simmer to reduce until desired consistency. Add parsley, season with salt and pepper. Pour over chicken and serve.