Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mediterranean Quinoa with Spiced Chicken Breasts

It's been a whirlwind with the holidays, but I'm back!  Hope you all enjoyed the extended weekend (Not to mention we get to enjoy yet another 3 day weekend this weekend! But, who's counting...)!

Tonight, I felt like preparing something with a Moroccan-esque vibe...with my own twist of course.  So, I cooked up a black bean and tomato quinoa with spiced chicken breasts.  This dish is very easy to make and most ingredients are right in your pantry (I didn't have to make a market run for this one!).

Mediterranean Quinoa with Spiced Chicken Breasts

 Note: This recipe is easily adjustable depending on how few/many people you are serving.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup rinsed and drained black beans
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cup vegetable broth (Trader Joe's Organic Low-Sodium variety highly recommended)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. In a pan, heat olive oil.  Add chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute on medium heat.

2. In the same pan, add black beans, 1/2 the can of diced tomatoes (juice of half of can included), 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1 cup of vegetable broth.  Mix and bring to a simmer.  Add quinoa and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until quinoa appears light and fluffy.  Add additional vegetable broth if necessary to fully cook quinoa.  All of the broth should be absorbed in the end.

3. In another pan, add remaining cup of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Add cooked chicken breasts and bathe them in the broth.  

4. Distribute ground black pepper, turmeric, and remaining cumin and cinnamon to the pan.  Add the second half of can of diced tomatoes with its juices.  Cook over low heat, for 5 minutes, creating a thickened sauce.

5. Serve this dish on a serving platter or on individual plates starting with the quinoa, topping it with the chicken breasts, and spooning the tomato broth sauce over the whole dish.

Ready to be topped with the glorious chicken breasts!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick and Delicious Stuffed Peppers!

Today was just one of those know...where you wake up tired and are restless and fidgit-y the rest of the day.  Sooo, when the clock struck 5 and work came to a close I knew just what I needed... something warm and savory that I could throw together quickly for dinner!

I searched the fridge and collected the veggies I had on hand, mixed them with some other ingredients, and spices and VOILA!...scrumptious veggie stuffed peppers!

Vegetable Stuffed Peppers
(Serves 3)

3 medium bell peppers
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice (or grain of your choice)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2-3/4 cup spaghetti sauce
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Rinse the bell peppers and remove their tops.  Line them in a baking dish (not on a cookie sheet).

3. In a bowl, combine the carrots, rice, tomatoes, parsley, black beans, spaghetti sauce, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and sprinkle of salt and toss.

4. Fill each pepper with the tomato-rice mixture to the very top and smash down with a spoon...add more mixture until you can't squeeze any more in!

5. Pour water (amount depending on the size of your pan) into bottom of baking dish.

6. Place stuffed peppers into heated oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Grainy, fibrous, and bursting with flavor
Bright and beautiful

Dig in and relish!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Veggie Chicken Chili

One of my favorite things to do on a cold day (well, let's be honest, any day really), is to enjoy a savory meal that can be served up in a bowl and devoured with a spoon.  There is nothing more comforting than cozy-ing up on the couch with the bright flannel throw that my mom quilted and designed, without having to mess around with a plate and fork, or even worse, dealing with a knife, if the meal so requires!  So, I'm always searching for new soup, stew, and chili recipes or am trying to create some new ones of my own.           
A couple of days ago, I became obsessed with the idea of making vegetable chicken chili (a healthier alternative to traditional beef chili). After researching next to 20-30 already existing chicken chili recipes, all of which were missing that certain "je ne sais quoi" I was looking for, I decided to do what I have the most fun doing when cooking...Trying “a little of this, a little of that” and hoping for a great turnout!  And what a great turnout this dish was!  My veggie chicken chili is a melting pot full of bits and pieces from other chili recipes with creativity of my own weaved throughout.  My critics absolutely loved it! 
Veggie Chicken Chili
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
2 red peppers, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 stalks celery, chopped
1  14 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup water
2  5 oz. cans tomato paste
1  14 oz. can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a non-stick pan, heat one teaspoon olive oil.  Place ground chicken (or turkey) in pan and cook until golden brown, breaking chicken up into small chunks.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

2. In a non-stick skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil.  Add chopped onion and cook on medium heat until translucent.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, and red pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft.  Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

3. Pour ¼ cup water into pan to de-glaze.  Transfer browned chicken into the vegetable pan.  Add drained kidney beans, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (with its juices).  Sprinkle in cumin and chili powder and stir.  

4. Cover and cook on low for up to 2 hours to thicken to your liking.

5. Finally, uncover and serve!
Bon Appetit!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Time!

Who doesn't love chocolate?  As a child and teenager, I actually used to despise the taste of dark chocolate.  I thought, "What's the point of eating it if it tastes bitter?  Chocolate is supposed to be sweet and 'melt in your mouth' good!  Milk chocolate=real chocolate".  That was that.

Well, I've come quite a ways since those days and all kinds of chocolate types have become some of my most treasured treats.
Whether its baked into a dessert or eaten raw, chocolate is always a rockstar!  So, in honor of the weekend and a hard week of work behind me, I thought I'd prepare a quick, no-bake, no-hastle chocolate dessert recipe!
My chocolate nut clusters are inspired by Ellie Krieger's cherry nut clusters.
Krieger is a fantastic nutritional chef featured on the Food Network!  My recipe is very similar to hers, but I add walnuts and use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of chopped dark chocolate.

Chocolate Nut Clusters


1/2 cup toasted almonds,chopped 
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped 
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped 
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 


1. In a bowl, combine the almonds, walnuts, and cherries

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or wax paper

3. Place half of the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, over low heat, stirring continuously 

4. Remove the double broiler from the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate 

5. Remove the top pan with the chocolate in it, gently wipe the bottom of it and set it aside 

6. Replace the simmering water in the bottom pan with warm tap water. Put the pan of melted chocolate on top of the warm water 

7. Stir the fruit-nut mixture into the chocolate.

8. Spoon out heaping tablespoon-sized clusters of the chocolate mixture onto the baking sheet

9. Put them in the refrigerator to set for 15 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature.

Beautiful colors!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Butternut Squash It Is!

Nothing rings fall like a hearty soup.  I love soup.  Pair a bowl of it with a piece of rustic bread and a tossed salad and I am one happy gal.

But...Why is there always a but?

So many soups served in restaurants or sold in markets are full of salt and are often unnecessarily creamy.  Another problem for countless people is that many soups are made with chicken or beef broth..and you would never know it!  For vegans, vegetarians, and kosher observing folks out there, this is the disappointing truth.

Soup is not the most fun thing to make though because it often requires long cooking times and a hefty amount of stirring.  So, when I found this super easy, healthy, and most of all HEARTY roasted pear- butternut squash soup recipe, I hurried to the market to grab the necessary ingredients and started cooking away upon my return home!

This recipe calls for no cream and very little oil, unlike traditionally fat-laden butternut squash soups!  Even better, the veggies and fruit in this recipe make it extremely nutritious and the best part is that it is very simple to make!

I have to say, my favorite part of this dish is that to top off the nutritious, pureed goodness of the soup itself,  the recipe calls for just a sprinkle of blue stilton cheese crumbled into each bowl.  This mere sprinkle creates the perfect accent of deliciously tangy, STRONG creaminess, without at all overpowering the pureness and sweetness of the butternut squash.

Tip: using pre-chopped butternut squash makes executing this dish infinitely easier.  I don't know about you, but I am NOT one who enjoys dealing with whole butternut squash.  My knife slides everywhere!  So, stick to the pre-chopped kind if you'd rather not deal with it at all, like moi!  You can find it bagged at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods!  Also, this recipe requires pureeing, so a food processor or an immersion hand blender will work perfectly here.

Serve this soup as a wowing starter or pair it with a couple of sides and you have yourself a delish dinner!                                         

Creamy, crumbled stilton

The delicious result...perfect for a cold night or a warm day