Sausage and Eggplant Lasagna Rollups

Lasagna and eggplant parmesan are two of my favorite Italian dishes and this meal is the perfect blend of both. Ready in just a little over 30 minutes, it’s a fast take on lasagna that’s perfect for a busy weeknight meal. It’s excellent made with homemade marinara using farm-fresh tomatoes.

If you’re struggling with recipes that please the carb lovers and low-carb people in your life, this recipe is perfect for both. You can easily prepare whole wheat spaghetti or garlic bread on the side and give your dinner guests options.

Ingredients:
2 large eggplant, trimmed and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups good-quality marinara, divided
1 pound mild ground sausage
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the broiler to high and arrange half of the eggplant in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Brush both sides of eggplant with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned, flipping halfway through cook time. Set aside until cool enough to touch. Repeat process with remaining eggplant. Turn off the broiler and heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cook the sausage in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crumbly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain grease from skillet and return to the stove top. Add 3 cups marinara to the sausage and stir to combine.
  3. Spread 1 cup marinara in the bottom of a large rectangular baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil and nutmeg. Top each eggplant slice with about a tablespoon of ricotta filling and spread it out evenly. Roll up the eggplant, starting with the shorter end and arrange seam side down in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Top eggplant rollups with sausage and marinara mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, until the sauce is warm and bubbly.

Servings: 6 to 8

Grilled Cabbage Wedge Salads

There’s something so beautiful about a wedge salad where you can see layers of green produce decorated with your favorite toppings. Instead of lettuce, I used cabbage grilled in foil packs with an orange-sage marinade that doubles as a warmed dressing. Crunchy bacon and melt-in-your-mouth blue cheese round out my Grilled Cabbage Wedge Salads. These are elegant enough for entertaining and simple enough to make on a busy night.

Ingredients:
1 medium head green cabbage, cored and cut into 4 wedges
1 orange
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Blue cheese crumbles, for serving

Directions:

  1. Place cabbage wedges in a shallow dish and zest orange on top of cabbage.
  2. In a small bowl, juice the orange. Whisk in olive oil, sage, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over cabbage wedges and marinade for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Place each cabbage wedge over a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle any marinade from the bottom of the dish over the cabbage. Seal foil tightly around wedges and grill for 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  4. Remove from grill, unwrap and serve with bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

Eggplant and Summer Squash Stacks

Summer is not over yet, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to some of my favorite seasonal produce. If you are like me and want to savor these flavors as long as you can, fire up the grill and celebrate these last couple of weeks before we welcome fall. Eggplant is a great match for summer squash stacked between layers of melted fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto. Enjoy as an appetizer or pair with a simple salad and a glass of your favorite white wine for an easy dinner outdoors as you watch the sunset.

Ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 small eggplants, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 medium summer squash, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons pesto
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, add garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, creating a grilling sauce for the produce.
  2. Arrange eggplant and squash on a large plate or platter and brush both sides evenly with the grilling sauce.
  3. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Grill vegetables until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and move produce to a working surface.
  4. Create eggplant and summer squash stacks by spreading a thin layer of pesto on a slice of eggplant and topping with a slice of summer squash and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and top with an extra squash or eggplant slice.
  5. Place eggplant and summer squash stacks back on the grill for a couple of minutes, until cheese melts. Remove from grill and serve.

Grilled Pizza with Roasted Summer Vegetables

Summer vegetables make the most delicious and light pizza toppings for warm weather days, while adding beautiful color to your plate. Dollops of ricotta and fresh mozzarella cheese compliment the slightly sweet roasted vegetables with shredded ribbons of fresh basil on top of my crispy thin pizza crust. Cheers to enjoying the flavors of summer as you savor the last few weeks of the season.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium summer squash, sliced
½ pint cherry tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
⅓ cup part-skim Ricotta cheese
1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
8 to 10 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pace squash and cherry tomatoes on a medium backing sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and tender.
  2. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  3. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel is handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom. Remove crust from the grill.
  4. Evenly place squash and tomatoes on top of the cooked side of the pizza crust. Add dollops of Ricotta cheese and slices of mozzarella.
  5. Return the pizza to the grill for about five minutes, until the cheese has melted and the bottom of the crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill and top with fresh basil before serving.

Black Pasta with Seafood Medley

Made with squid or cuttlefish ink, black pasta has a slight salty taste that makes it an ideal pair with seafood. This trendy style of pasta has been popping up in restaurants and speciality grocery stores. You can also purchase squid or cuttlefish ink from specialty grocery stores or online retail sites and make homemade black pasta by adding 4 teaspoons of this specialty ink into your favorite fresh-egg pasta recipe. Top this pasta with an easy seafood sauce with fresh tomatoes and pair it with your favorite Pinot Noir.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ cup red wine
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
12 ounces seafood medley, defrosted if frozen
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ ground black pepper
8 to 10 ounces black spaghetti (made with squid or cuddle fish ink)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add tomatoes and cook until tender, about five minutes.
  2. Add wine, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add seafood medley. Simmer uncovered for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the pasta. Add more wine if needed.
  3. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain and plate noodles, topping with seafood medley sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Summer Fruit and Vegetable Salad

This salad tastes as splendid as a beautiful summer day feels, with sweet melon, refreshing cucumbers and juicy cherry tomatoes. Freshly chopped produce this time of year is delicious served uncooked and the combinations are endless. The addition of cantaloupe takes this salad from simple to spectacular. It is a great dish to pack for a picnic or enjoy at home along with grilled chicken on the patio.

Ingredients:
½ medium cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 medium cucumbers, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
basil, cut into thin strips
salt and pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine equal amounts of cantaloupe cubes, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and red onion onto small salad plates.
  2. Top with feta cheese, basil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Servings: 4

Summer Tomato and White Bean Pasta

My Pantry Pasta dish just got a summertime makeover with my new Sumer Tomato and White Bean Pasta recipe. It is still a quick meal for a busy night when you want a delicious homemade meal without spending a lengthy amount of time in the kitchen. Sweet summer tomatoes pair excellently with white beans in this hearty vegetarian pasta. Cheers to making meals that are both healthy and convenient.

Ingredients:
½ pound whole wheat or brown rice spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
¼ cup red or white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about ten minutes.
  3. In a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender, puree bean and tomato mixture to create a creamy sauce. Return to skillet and simmer for five more minutes.
  4. Serve over spaghetti noodles and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Barbecue Pork Potato Skins and Nachos

These appetizers with pulled pork are game day favorites in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and they are about as popular as Elvis around my old stomping grounds. For my take on this southern classic, I recommend a tangy and slightly sweet sauce. I keep my pantry well stocked with my favorite barbecue sauces so I am ready for any good sports event throughout the year or a summer get together. Using leftover pork that has been smoked and pulled the day before, makes this a quick recipe you can whip up during halftime or for a meal with friends.

Barbecue Pork Potato Skin Ingredients:
7 to 8 small Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups pulled pork
¼ cup barbecue sauce
½ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
Light sour cream for serving

Barbecue Pork Nacho Ingredients:
4 ounces tortilla chips
2 cups pulled pork
½ cup barbecue sauce, divided
¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 extra small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce potatoes a few times with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove potatoes, leaving oven on. Let potatoes cool enough to touch and cut each in half. Scoop out a small amount of potato, leaving a divot like space in the potato halves.
  3. In a small bowl, toss 2 cups of pulled pork with barbecue sauce and stir to evenly coat. Place potatoes on a baking dish and add equal amount of pork to potato halves and top with two types of cheddar cheese and 1 jalapeño pepper slice.
  4. On another baking dish, arrange tortilla chips across the pan and top with pork. Drizzle half of the barbecue sauce over the pork and chips and top with cheddar cheese, onion slices and jalapeño slices. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the nachos.
  5. Bake potatoes and nachos for 7 to 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Top potatoes with sour cream and nachos with diced avocado before serving.

Blueberry & Lemon Dessert Pizza

Blueberries are as beautiful as they are delicious in my gluten-free dessert pizza. A sweet and tart cream cheese base makes a great compliment to the nutty almond crust. This is a great dessert to make for a summer party and it is delicious with any seasonal berries.

Ingredients:
1½ cups almond flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 egg
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 lemon
1½ tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint blueberries
honey for drizzling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir almond flour, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Add canola oil and egg and mix with an electric mixer to combine well. Form into a ball of dough.
  2. Lightly grease a pizza pan and place ball of dough on top. With your hands, gently flatten the dough to form a small disc. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a thin round crust, about ¼ inch thick. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly brown.
  3. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Zest entire lemon and add to bowl. Add lemon juice and powdered sugar to the bowl . Mix together until smooth and creamy.
  4. Remove pizza crust from oven and top with cream cheese spread. You may need to dip your spreading knife in hot water occasionally to help evenly distribute across the crust. Top with blueberries and drizzle with desired amount of honey. Serve immediately.

Broccoli Cheese Curd Frittatas

Cheese curds are delicious nuggets of freshly made cheddar cheese that actually squeak in your mouth, when you eat them soon after they are produced. There are cheese factories throughout Wisconsin where you can find warm cheese curds made daily. All cheddar cheeses actually begin as curds before they are formed into blocks or wheels and aged.

After a recent Wisconsin visit, I brought home some cheese curds and decided to explore cooking with them. I paired these with broccoli and eggs for individual frittatas with gooey gobs of fresh cheese in each one. If you cannot find cheese curds, you can substitute cubed cheddar.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and chopped
1 cups cheese curds
8 eggs
1 cup skim or low-fat milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté a couple of minutes, until it starts to soften. Add broccoli and sauté until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to the skillet to prevent sticking.
  3. Break large cheese curds into bite size pieces and place in a medium bowl. Stir vegetables in with cheese curds and fill the muffin tin with an equal amount of the mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and cheese curds, filling each cup to the rim.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until frittata tops are lightly golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: An ice cream scoop is a great tool to use for adding the frittata mixture to the muffin tins. Fill each cup with one scoop and avoid messy spills.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Dip

Grab a graham cracker and enjoy my dessert dip made with seasonal strawberries, melted chocolate and neufchâtel cream cheese. Whether you’re serving it at a get-together or snacking at home, you’ll have a tasty treat with delicious fresh berries ready in less than 10 minutes.

Ingredients:
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces neufchâtel cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 pint strawberries, divided
Graham crackers for serving

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in a small sauce pan over low heat. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade add cream cheese and powdered sugar. Puree until smooth.
  3. Remove stems and hulls from strawberries. Slice ⅔ of strawberries and finely chop ⅓ of the pint. Add the sliced strawberries and melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and puree until smooth.
  4. Place mixture in a serving bowl and top with finely chopped strawberries. Serve with graham crackers.

Grilled Buffalo Chicken Pizza

This pizza tastes like buffalo wings and cheese pizza had a baby. When it is game day and you can’t decide which of your favorite appetizers to serve, just combine them into one delicious pizza. My grilled pizza tastes more like a flatbread with a thin crispy crust and it is really quick to make. You’ll have a meal on the table in less than 20 minutes, leaving you more time to cheer on your favorite team.

Round out your meal with cauliflower buffalo bites. Just make extra sauce, coat the cauliflower and roast in your oven until tender. Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dip or ranch dressing.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 medium chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons corneal
1 homemade or store bought pizza dough ball, about the size of a grapefruit
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
2 celery sticks, trimmed and thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Add butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When butter has melted, whisk in the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, honey, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to simmer and stir occasionally until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat, add chicken to the saucepan and stir to coat.
  2. Sprinkle cornmeal over a large cutting board or flat working surface. Use a rolling pin to roll or your hands stretch (I do a combination) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal-free side.
  3. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel is handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with chicken and buffalo sauce. Add cheeses and top with celery slices.
  4. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Servings: 4

Strawberry Salad with Baked Brie and Champagne Vinaigrette

You can skip the cheese plate and go straight for the salad, because these leafy greens are served with creamy and decadent baked Brie with a sweet and nutty bourbon glaze. This salad is elegant enough to delight your dinner guests, but quick and simple to prepare. Add grilled shrimp or chicken to turn this side salad into a main dish.

Baked Brie Ingredients:
9.5 ounces Brie
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette Ingredients:
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Salad Ingredients:
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place brie in a Brie baker or small baking dish. In a small bowl, combine pecans and brown sugar. Spread pecan and sugar mixture on top of cheese and drizzle with bourbon. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. In a mason jar or small container with a tight-fitting lid, combine strawberry jam, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. With lid securely tightened, shake vinaigrette until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Serve lettuce and strawberries on salad plates and top with a wedge of baked Brie. Drizzle with strawberry champagne vinaigrette and serve.

Servings: 4

Fish Tacos with Purple Cabbage and Avocado Cream

With bright purple cabbage, one look at this dish is like sunshine on a rainy day. Filled with tender and flaky fish, crunchy cabbage and avocado cream, one bite of these tacos will have you reminiscing of ocean- or lake-front dining. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by pairing these tacos with black beans, chips and salsa, and margaritas.

Ingredients:
4 cups purple cabbage, shredded
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
The juice of 2 limes, divided
salt
1 small avocado, pit removed
1 cup plain, light Greek yogurt
1 ½ pounds white fish like cod, haddock or halibut
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
12 flour or corn tortillas
⅓ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cabbage, cilantro, half of the lime juice and a pinch of salt. Stir until evenly coated and set aside.
  2. With a spoon, scoop inside of avocado from the outer shell and place in a food processor. Add yogurt and a pinch salt, and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Prepare an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Brush fish with olive oil and season with chipotle pepper, black pepper and pinch of salt. Grill fish until opaque, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and flake into large chunks with a fork. Drizzle fish with remaining lime juice.
  4. Place tortillas on the grill for about 30 seconds on each side, until light grill marks appear. Remove from grill and place an equal amount of fish in each tortilla. Top with cabbage, avocado cream and cojita cheese.

Servings: 6

Grilled Pineapple, Ham and Arugula Pizza

This pizza is the perfect use for leftover ham, and if you smoke your ham it is even better. The combination of salty ham with caramelized pineapple from the grill and spicy arugula is a new take on this Hawaiian classic. Grilling the thin pizza dough creates a crispy crust that is similar to a flatbread.

This is a great pizza to serve family or friends on a spring or summer patio night. For a real island experience while entertaining, welcome guests with an Aloha and a Mai Tai.

Ingredients:
½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into 2 large pieces
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball, about the size of a grapefruit
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 cup leftover ham, diced
¼ cup ricotta cheese
⅔ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups arugula

Directions:

  1. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  2. Brush pineapple with half of the olive oil on all sides. Grill directly over burner or charcoal until light brown grill marks appear, about 4 or 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and dice after pineapple is cool enough to handle.
  3. Roll or stretch (I do a combination) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
  4. Place crust on the grill over indirect heat (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust.
  5. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with remaining olive oil, spreading evenly. Add ham and pineapple in an even layer. Add dollops of ricotta and sprinkle shredded mozzarella.
  6. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until mozzarella cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, top with arugula, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam

Sautéed kale is not just for side dishes. Give it a try as a sandwich base and you will forget all about lunch meat. This Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam is a hearty vegetarian sandwich with seasonal farm-fresh favorites. It is comfort food that packs a nutritious punch and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:
2 sub sandwich loaves (5 to 6 inches each), cut from a whole-wheat baguette
1 medium bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 slices white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat a panini maker to medium-high. Slice sandwich loaves in half and set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic vinegar and cook or another minute, tossing to evenly coat.
  3. Layer apple slices, kale and cheddar cheese on the bottom bread slices. Spread strawberry jam on the top bread slices. Stack together and place sandwiches in the panini maker, closing the top. Grill until the bread is crusty and golden and cheese has melted. Slice sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: If you do not have a panini maker, use a grill pan or skillet and flip the sandwich to grill both sides. Placing a heavy skillet on top of the sandwich will give you the panini effect.

Servings: 2

Grilled Pizza with Asparagus, Brie and Caramelized Onions

Nothing says spring like fresh asparagus, and warmer days inspire me to fire up the grill. With sweet caramelized onions, earthy asparagus and creamy brie, this is a unique take on a vegetarian pizza that celebrates the season. Make this meal a quick one to prepare on a busy night by caramelizing the onions and roasting the asparagus the night before. You’ll have a homemade pizza on the table in around 15 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sugar

Pizza Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 3 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball, about the size of a grapefruit
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces brie, sliced

Directions:

  1. To make the caramelized onions. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet, over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over asparagus and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness, until slightly tender.
  3. Roll or stretch (I do a combination) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil, spreading evenly. Add mozzarella cheese and top with roasted asparagus, caramelized onions and brie.
  5. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until mozzarella cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into wedges and serve.

Servings: 4

Cauliflower and Mushroom Tacos

Make it a Meatless Monday with these hardy vegetarian tacos, stuffed with mildly spiced cauliflower and mushrooms and topped with sweet bell pepper sauce. This mostly hands-free meal is perfect for a busy week night, because you get 20 extra minutes to relax while dinner is roasting. Round out this meal with a side of pinto or black beans and Mexican hot chocolate for dessert. This is also a great make-ahead meal, especially if you are entertaining. Reheat the vegetables, make a pitcher of margaritas and you are ready to host book club.

Taco Ingredients:
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
8 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chili pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
8 soft flour tortillas

Roasted Sweet Pepper Sauce:
2 bell peppers (yellow, orange or red), seeded and cut in half
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt

Optional Taco Toppings:
grated smoked cheddar cheese
avocado slices
chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cauliflower and mushrooms on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add garlic to the tray. Season with cumin, chipotle chili pepper, salt and pepper, and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Roast vegetables for 20 minutes.
  2. Place bell peppers on a baking tray, cut side down and roast for 20 minutes, until lightly charred. Place peppers in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade attached. Add cayenne pepper and salt, and pulse to chop until slightly smooth with fine chunks of pepper.
  3. Serve cauliflower and mushroom filling in tortillas and top with roasted sweet pepper sauce and optional taco toppings if desired.

Servings: 4

Bacon and Apple Peanut Butter Dip

The inspiration for this dish came from Old Bourbon County Kitchen, a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky that serves a honey bourbon and sugar glazed bacon appetizer with peanut butter. My version is lighter, but still captures the wonderful combination of bacon and peanut butter. I know it sounds a little odd, but once you have tasted it you will forget all about peanut butter’s famous sidekick—jelly. Peanut butter and bacon is the new duo in town.

This appetizer is a perfect pairing with your favorite Kentucky bourbon. It brings out the whiskey’s sweet notes of vanilla, caramel and honey. Cheers to good bourbon, an appetizer your friends will love and adventurous food combinations.

Ingredients:
1 pound center cut bacon, cooked
1 large apple, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut butter
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon skim milk

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food process, combine peanut butter, Greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and milk. Blend or process until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately with bacon and apple slices or refrigerating until ready to serve.

Seafood and Bean Stew with Pesto

Fish, shrimp, beans and pesto make the most delectable combination in this heavenly bowl of soup that will have you reaching for leftovers. Go ahead, it is comfort food with a conscience packed with three types of lean protein and juicy tomatoes. When basil is in season and my CSA box is full of this aromatic green goodness, I make batches of pesto and freeze tablespoon-size portions using mini-muffin tins. I store them in a freezer-safe container and enjoy during winter months in recipes like this. Don’t have fresh pesto on hand? Store-bought pesto will also work well and taste delicious in this dish.

Ingredients:
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces any firm white fish, such as cod or halibut, cut into bite-size cubes
8 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added cannellini beans
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons pesto

Directions:

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until brown and crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove pancetta with a slotted spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Add onion to the stock pot and sauté, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth to the stock pot and increase heat to medium high. Bring to a gentle boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and add the fish and seafood to the soup. Cover and simmer for about five minutes.
  5. Remove lid and add beans, pancetta, salt, pepper and pesto to the soup, stirring to combine. Cook for two to three additional minutes and serve.

Servings: 4

Winter Vegetable Tacos

Say goodbye to the season on this last day of winter with my vegetarian tacos, featuring winter squash, a comfort food you can feel good about devouring. Butternut or kabocha squash make excellent choices, but any winter squash will work well paired with Tex-Mex spices and heart-healthy beans. Enjoy as a meal or serve as tapas for your next gathering. Leftovers are excellent the next day or could be transformed into a delicious salad served over your favorite leafy greens with a few crushed tortilla chips for a little crunch.

My slow and spicy pinto beans are a great option for these tacos if you make them in advance. If you are pressed for time, simply use no-salt-added canned pinto beans.

Taco Ingredients:
1 medium winter squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups cooked pinto beans
1 lime
¼ cup chopped cilantro
12 soft corn tortilla shells

Topping Ingredients:
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash cubes on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add chili powder, cumin and salt and toss to evenly coat. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, make smoky cream sauce by combining sour cream and yogurt in a small mixing bowl. Add smoked paprika and garlic, stirring until well mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Add beans to roasting pan with squash and toss to combine. Continue roasting for 5 more minutes, until beans are heated. Drizzle the juice of one lime and sprinkle cilantro over squash and bean mixture.
  4. Warm a couple of taco shells at a time in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Fill corn tortillas with an equal amount of squash and bean mixture and top with smokey cream sauce, avocado and cotija cheese.

Servings: 6

Slow and Spicy Pinto Beans

Top these Slow and Spicy Pinto Beans with a little shredded mozzarella and you have the perfect side dish for your fish tacos or chicken enchiladas. They also make a great vegetarian protein for your main course. Try them in veggie tacos or simply add them to a cheese quesadilla or on top of a salad.

Dried beans are extremely simple to prepare and the slow cooker does most of the work in this dish. If you have leftovers they freeze well for a ready-to-eat protein on a busy night, just defrost and reheat.

Ingredients:
1 cup dry pinto beans
7½ cups of water, divided
2 garlic whole cloves
1 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash and sort beans, removing any small stones, dirt or damaged beans. Place beans in a large stock pot and cover with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow beans to soak for up to 4 hours.
  2. Drain beans and place in a slow cooker set to high heat. Add garlic, chipotle chile pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and cayenne pepper to the beans and cover with 2½ cups of water.
  3. Cook for 4 hours, until beans are soft and tender. Discard garlic cloves and serve.

Servings: 6

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Frozen corn from last season’s harvest is a special treat to enjoy this time of year. It shines in my Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup, which also features delicate squash. A perfect blend of winter and summer produce to enjoy this time of year when drastic weather changes leave you sporting flip-flops one day and snow boots the next. This colorful bowl of produce will surely brighten your day regardless of the weather you are experiencing.

The ingredient list may look long, but the recipe is easy to prepare and is mostly hands-off. Topping your bowl with oven-baked tortilla strips elevates this simple bowl of soup to restaurant quality, but without extra the calories of fried tortillas.

Soup Ingredients:
1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 small delicata squash, seeded and chopped, leaving the skin on
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¾ teaspoon salt
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen yellow corn, defrosted
1 lime


Tortilla Strip Ingredients:
4 corn tortillas
½ tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Optional Toppings:
Chopped cilantro
Diced avocado
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker and top with delicate squash, onion, jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika and salt. Add tomatoes with their juice and chicken broth. Cover with lid and cook on high for one hour. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for five hours.
  2. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker and add corn and lime juice. Stir to combine and continue cooking on low while you prepare the tortilla strips.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush both sides of each tortilla with olive oil and cut into ¼-inch thin strips. Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 12 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.
  4. Serve soup topped with tortilla strips and optional toppings of choice.

Servings: 6

Butternut Squash Grilled Pizza with Blue Cheese and Bacon

I am one of those pumpkin-crazed people who embraces all things, from lattes to ravioli and lip balm to candles. Fall squash is also one of my favorite things to cook with and I enjoy it throughout the winter. I particularly love sweet and creamy butternut squash, which is the star of my grilled pizza. A touch of maple syrup enhances the sweetness of mashed butternut squash, which is smothered on top of the crust and topped with sharp blue cheese, crispy bacon and toasted pecans. Round out the meal with a salad, like spinach with apples or roasted beets.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup blue cheese crumbles
5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a small baking sheet, place squash halves flesh side up. Place 1 teaspoon of butter in the hollow of each squash. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to touch. This step can be done several hours earlier or the day before.
  2. Scoop inside flesh of squash from skin and place in a food processor or blender. Add maple syrup and puree until velvety smooth, without any lumps.
  3. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel is handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom. Remove crust from the grill and place on a workable surface.
  5. Spread a thick layer of butternut squash on top of the cooked side of the crust. Top with mozzarella, blue cheese, bacon and pecans. Return pizza to the grill and continue cooking for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and light grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove from the grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

BOURBON MAPLE PORK TENDERLOIN WITH GOAT CHEESE MASHED POTATOES

The aroma of grilled meat lofting in the air makes me hungry, even if I’ve already had a meal. Add a little bourbon, maple syrup and Dijon mustard in the mix, and the smell of your pork tenderloin on the grill may even bring your neighbors over for dinner. Paired with creamy goat cheese mashed potatoes, this recipe is simple enough for a throw-together meal and impressive enough to serve when entertaining. Doubling the recipe will give you more to pass around if you are serving a crowd. Add some grilled broccoli to round out this delicious meal and serve with your favorite bourbon of course.

Bourbon Maple Pork Tenderloin Ingredients:
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Goat Cheese Mashed Potato Ingredients:
1 pound potatoes (about 2½ cups), diced and unpeeled
water
½ tablespoon butter
½ cup skim milk
4 ounces goat cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pork on a large plate or platter and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, bourbon, mustard and rosemary. Reserve half of the glaze in a clean bowl and brush the pork with the other half of the glaze.
  2. Grill the pork tenderloin for 17 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally and brushing with the remaining glaze, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pork on a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Let the tenderloin rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain water and return to the stove over low heat. Add skim milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher while butter melts. Add goat cheese and use a hand-held mixer to whip potatoes on high until smooth and creamy.

My Heart Beets for You Risotto

I love a good vegetable pun and this one is perfect for Valentine’s Day. This is a delicious and easy meal to make for your sweetheart and it pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir. Nothing says I love you like this bright and beautiful, heart-healthy meal.

Since garlic scapes are not in season in February, I use frozen pesto that I have stashed away for winter meals. If you don’t have garlic scape pesto, simply use any store-bought pesto and add some garlic to your dish when you are sautéing the onion.

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup red wine
2 medium to large roasted beets, diced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon garlic scape pesto
Parmesan cheese, grated for serving

Directions:

  1. Warm vegetable broth in a small stock pot over low heat.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add the rice and stir to combine with the onions. Add red wine and continue stirring until absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle full of broth, stirring constantly until absorbed. Continue, slowly adding broth and stirring for about 25 minutes, until all broth has been added and the rice is soft but still has a bite.
  5. Add diced beets, salt and pepper, stirring to combine until risotto is bright red in color. 
  6. Spread garlic scape pesto around the edge of the plate, making a full circle. Fill the center of the circle with risotto and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Fall Harvest Overnight Oats

I enjoy a healthy and hearty breakfast every morning, but busy mornings leave me with little time for food prep. Overnight oats are one of my favorite go-to meals for hurried weekdays. They are almost effortless to assemble the night before and in the morning you have a delicious breakfast just waiting for you to open and enjoy. Preparing this recipe in a mason jar makes it a great portable breakfast option.

Pureed butternut squash is a fresh alternative to cooking with canned pumpkin, and it is extremely easy to make. After roasting the squash, simply puree in a food processor. If you have extra on hand it freezes well for future use, saving even more time when making these nutritious Fall Harvest Overnight Oats.

Ingredients:
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup pureed butternut squash
½ cup skim milk or non-dairy milk of choice
¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt of choice
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. In a pint-sized mason jar, add all ingredients and gently stir to combine. Place the lid on the jar and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy as a cold cereal for breakfast in the morning.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

I love the way the leaves fall off Brussels sprouts when you quarter them, resembling flower petals and creating a beautiful centerpiece for your plate. This cooking method caramelizes the vegetable, bringing out its natural sweetness. If your family members don’t love Brussels sprouts, this recipe may just change their mind.

This dish is so simple and mostly hands off, which is why I love roasting vegetables. You can step outside and grill your favorite lean protein while your Brussels sprouts roast. Pair this side dish with grilled salmon, a simple salad, fresh whole grain bread and your favorite white wine for an elegant and easy stay-at-home, date-night meal.

Ingredients:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1½ tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters, keeping the leaves (or as I like to call them, petals) that fall off.
  2. Place Brussels sprouts on a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt and pepper on top and toss with a spatula to evenly coat.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking cycle. Brussels sprouts will be tender with dark brown outer leaves. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, toss and serve.

Delicata Squash Cheese Spread

Picky eaters will not even know they are eating a vegetable when they bite into this velvety cheese spread with a delicate taste of pumpkin pie. While pumpkin is all the craze, let us not forget about other varieties of winter squash that offer the same delicious taste of the season. If you are unable to find delicata squash, use any variety of locally grown squash. Delicata squash has a silky smooth texture when roasted and a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. If you want to enhance the nutty flavor and add a little more protein to your plate, top your toast with walnuts or pecans.

Ingredients:
1 medium delicata squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, plus more for serving
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
Whole wheat toast

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash slices, skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut butter into six cubes and place three in each squash cavity. Drizzle each squash half with a tablespoon of maple syrup. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Remove squash from oven and set aside until cool enough to touch. With a large spoon, remove the golden squash from the skin and place in a food processor. Add pumpkin pie spice and cream cheese. Process until smooth.
  4. Spread on whole wheat toast, top with a dash or two of pumpkin pie seasoning and serve.

Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Hash

Vegetables are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast, but I had never thought about combining spaghetti squash with eggs until I had a similar dish for brunch at Posana in Asheville, NC. Their garden vegetable hash was superb and I enjoyed it on their dog-friendly patio where they even have a menu for fur babies. Back at home in my kitchen with my four-legged-boy, Rocco, beside me, I crafted my version with a light and creamy Dijon sauce in place of their leek vinaigrette.

This recipe is also a great one to make when serving breakfast for dinner. Looking for a grab-and-go breakfast option? Serve the hash in small containers and add boiled egg slices on top in place of the poached or fried eggs. Hope you enjoy this unique take on spaghetti squash and comment below to let me know about your favorite breakfast veggies.

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash
16 ounces small potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 leek
1 bunch or 6 ounce bag of spinach
salt and pepper
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic
4 eggs, poached or fried

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends of the squash and slice in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the center of the oven until tender and squash flakes with a fork into noodles, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Roast until tender, for 25 to 30 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Remove vegetables from the oven and cover potatoes with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let spaghetti squash sit until cool enough to touch.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the dark green stalk from the leek, keeping the light green and white section. Wash the leek well to remove dirt in between the layers and thinly slice. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek to the skillet and sauté until tender and fragrant, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, for a couple more minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  5. In a small bowl, add yogurt, mustard and garlic and stir to combine, creating creamy garlic sauce.
  6. Use a fork to remove the strands of spaghetti squash by lightly raking across the inside surface. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add ¼ of squash, spinach and potatoes to each plate and serve with an egg on top and a dollop of creamy garlic sauce.

Servings: 4

Halibut with Tropical Salsa and Coconut Rice

I created this recipe while on vacation using fresh seafood from a coastal fish market. I have enjoyed this dish back at home with local bell peppers from my CSA share and the taste brings back wonderful memories from vacation. The tropical salsa and coconut rice also make a great pair for grilled pork chops and filet mignon if you want to serve a variety of options for your guests. Cheers to firing up the grill with your protein of choice as we enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer.

Ingredients:
2 cups white rice
2 (13.5 ounce) cans unsweetened, light coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
1 lime
8 (4 to 6 ounce) halibut steaks or cod filets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 small or 2 medium bell peppers, any color
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Directions:

  1. Bring coconut milk to a boil, add rice and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until milk is absorbed and rice is tender. Add sugar and coconut flakes and stir to combine, allowing sugar to melt into the steamy rice.
  2. Meanwhile, zest lime with a citrus zester or microplane grater. Brush halibut or cod with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and zest from lime. Set aside while preparing the tropical salsa.
  3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove seeds from bell pepper and slice in half. Brush pineapple and bell pepper with remaining olive oil. Grill produce until light grill marks appear on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside until cool enough to touch.
  4. Grill fish for about 4 minutes per side until the center is firm and opaque. Remove from the grill and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  5. Dice pineapple and bell pepper and place in a medium bowl. Juice lime over salsa and add cilantro and salt, stirring to combine. Serve fish over coconut rice and top with tropical salsa.

Servings: 8

Greek Chicken Salad Wraps

A salad you can hold in your hand is the perfect backyard grub to serve on a hot summer night. The fresh vegetables make a colorful presentation for this build-your-own dinner, and you can change or add more protein options by grilling pork or tofu along with your chicken. Grill your meat and slice your toppings in advance to have a meal you can serve in just a few minutes on a busy night or on an evening when you’d rather kick back and enjoy the sunshine.

Wrap Ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup feta cheese crumbles
¼ cup pitted Greek olives, thinly sliced

Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:
1 small cucumber, roughly chopped
1 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim the bottom of the lettuce and separate leaves. Wash and set on a towel to dry.
  2. In a small bowl, combine oregano, garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir to combine and rub the mixture over chicken. Grill chicken breasts until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and thinly slice.
  3. Combine cucumber and yogurt in a small bowl. Zest and then juice lemon, adding 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice to the bowl. Add garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Add lettuce leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese and olives to a couple of large plates along with the Zatziki sauce, and serve buffet style.

Servings: 4

BKT Bites

Move over lettuce, sautéed kale is a new match for crispy bacon and juicy tomato slices. Served over toasted baguette slices, my BKT Bites make a hardy appetizer or light dinner. It’s an easy dish to make with two summer favorites from your farm share or local Farmers’ Market. This dish pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Oregon. Just make this simple recipe, open a bottle of vino and you are ready to entertain.

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for serving
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ whole grain baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked to desired level of crispy

Directions:

  1. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat broiler to high. Broil for about one to two minutes per side, until lightly browned on the edges.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar. Spread balsamic mayonnaise on baguette slices and top with bacon, kale and tomatoes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the tomato slices and serve.

Servings: 4

Thai Chicken Cabbage Cups

Here is a delicious and nutritious meal you can eat with your hands. Small cabbage leaves make perfect cups for holding chicken and vegetables, and these are drizzled with my spicy Thai peanut sauce with just a touch of heat. The ingredients can be prepared in advanced and assembled when ready to eat, making this an excellent meal for busy nights or lunches on the go. If you have large cabbage leaves, just fold them like a burrito to create cabbage wraps.

Ingredients:
½ cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste
¼ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 lime, halved and divided
3 to 4 dashes of Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 cups any combination of vegetables, diced or shredded (such as bell pepper, cucumber, radishes or carrots)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small head cabbage, leaves separated
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
¼ cup unsalted chopped peanuts

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine coconut milk, curry paste, peanut butter, soy sauce, juice from ½ of lime and Sriracha hot chili sauce. Process until smooth and creamy.
  2. Combine vegetables in a large bowl and squeeze the juice of the remaining lime half over the produce. Add cilantro and stir to evenly combine.
  3. Fill each cabbage leaf with an equal amounts of chicken and vegetables. Drizzle each cup with peanut sauce, top with peanuts and serve.

Servings: 4

Steak and Zoodles with Blue Cheese Sauce

Sautéed zucchini makes an excellent side dish for a steak topped with blue cheese butter, but this dish goes a step further by combining all of those delicious flavors. Steak and Zoodles with Blue Cheese Sauce is a perfect summer meal when you are in the mood to fire up the grill and use your farm-fresh zucchini. Zoodles, made from zucchini noodles, are as fun to make as they are to eat. There are a lot of vegetable spiralizers on the market now, and this kitchen gadget leads to endless possibilities for new takes on vegetables.

Ingredients:
4 medium zucchini
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
¼ teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sirloin steak, grilled to desired degree of doneness and thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Spiralize zucchini into thin noodles. Place in a colander over a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour and cook another minute. Gradually add the milk, whisking as the sauce thickens. Reduce heat to lowest setting and add blue cheese and white pepper. Whisk together until cheese has melted.
  3. Place zoodles in a tea towel and gently squeeze over bowl to remove excess water. Place zoodles in skillet with blue cheese sauce and gently combine with the sauce. Cook for about two minutes, until heated through.
  4. To serve, add zoodles with sauce to plates and top with with slices of steak.

Servings: 4

Sweet Potato and Kohlrabi “Fries” with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Oh, how American’s love French fries, myself included included. The crispy, greasy, fried potato is the perfect burger companion. For a healthy alternative that is just as satisfying, I’ve created an oven-baked version with sweet potato and kohlrabi and a creamy garlic sauce for dipping. The sweetness of the potato is a perfect balance for kohlrabi, which has a slight bitter taste. Enjoy as an appetizer or pair with a hamburger or your favorite sandwich for healthy pub grub at home.

Ingredients:
1 large sweet potato
1 large kohlrabi bulb
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel sweet potato and kohlrabi and cut into fry shaped strips.
  2. Place sweet potato and kohlrabi strips in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.
  3. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip with a spatula. Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, add yogurt, mustard and garlic in a small bowl and stir to combine, creating a creamy garlic sauce for serving.

Servings: 4

Green Eggs Benedict with Hoecakes

Served over hoecakes, made from fresh ground cornmeal, this is a southern vegetarian version of Dr. Suess’ breakfast. Sautéed kale and a light avocado sauce give this traditional egg dish two shades of green and a healthy makeover. Create a make-your-own Eggs Benedict station for brunch guests by adding ham or smoked salmon as additional options. Pair with a fresh glass of orange juice, mimosa or Bloody Mary to finish out the meal.

Hoecake Ingredients:
¾ cup cornmeal
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
canola oil, for greasing the griddle

Green Eggs Benedict Ingredients:
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled
Juice of 1 small lemon
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
¾ cup water
a couple pinches of salt and pepper
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped, or 5 ounces baby kale
8 eggs, fried or poached

Directions:

  1. Prepare a griddle over medium heat. In a large bowl, make the hoecake batter by stirring together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the egg and buttermilk and whisk to combine.
  2. Lightly brush griddle with canola oil. Ladle the batter onto the griddle, working in batches to create 8 hoecakes. Cook until bubbles start to form on the top and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown and the center is cooked through. Place cooked hoecakes on a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the batter, adding remaining oil to the griddle as needed.
  3. Place avocado in a blender or food processor. Add lemon juice, 2 teaspoons canola oil, water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, adding more water as needed to reach desired consistency.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a medium skillet and add kale leaves. Sauté until wilted, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Top each hoecake with sautéed kale and an egg. Drizzle with avocado sauce and serve.

Servings: 8

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Banana Cream

I love the occasional calorie splurge for ice cream, but most often I prefer more nutritious and lighter desserts. My Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Banana Cream meets my regular sweet tooth criteria, while also delivering a decadent taste. A frozen treat that is reminiscent of peanut butter and vanilla ice cream with chunks of chocolate and bits of pretzels. This kid-friendly recipe is easy and fun to make, but plan in advance because the child in all of us may not want to wait an hour for freezing.

Ingredients:
3 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup peanut butter
⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup chopped pretzels
coconut flakes for serving

Directions:

  1. Combine bananas and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. The creamy mixture will resemble the texture of soft-serve ice cream. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue processing to reach this consistency.
  2. Add peanut butter and pulse gently to combine. Remove peanut butter banana cream and place in a freezer safe container. Stir in chocolate chips and pretzels.
  3. Cover and freeze for an hour. Serve in bowls or in a cone and top with coconut flakes.

Servings: 4

Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry

In less than 10 minutes, you can have a delicious plate of kohlrabi, bok choy, mushrooms and shrimp on the table with my easy stir fry recipe. Earthy mushrooms compliment the asian greens and kohlrabi in this low-sodium meal. For a vegetarian version, substitute tofu for the shrimp. For a gluten-free option or to amp up the veggies, go for cauliflower rice instead of brown rice. This meal for two can be doubled to serve four and if you can’t find kohlrabi with greens attached, just add more bok choy.

Ingredients:
1 medium kohlrabi bulb with leaves attached
1 medium or two small bok choy
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
3.5 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces raw shrimp, defrosted if frozen
2 teaspoons coconut aminos (gluten-free choice) or low-sodium soy sauce
Brown rice, prepared

Directions:

  1. Remove leaves from kohlrabi bulb and roughly chop. Peel and dice kohlrabi bulb. Roughly chop bok choy, separating the light green stems from the darker top leaves. Set vegetables aside.
  2. Heat oils in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add kohlrabi bulb and bok choy stems and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing with a spatula. Add kohlrabi and bok choy leaves and mushrooms. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, until vegetables are tender and leaves are wilted.
  3. Push vegetables to the sides of the wok or skillet and place shrimp in the middle. Cook for about three minutes, flipping to cook both sides until shrimp are pink.
  4. Add coconut aminos or soy sauce and stir to evenly coat and mix shrimp with vegetables. Serve over brown rice and sprinkle with a little more coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce if desired.

Servings: 2

FIVE-MINUTE BREAKFAST BOK CHOY

Vegetables are my favorite thing to eat for breakfast after my morning workout, and I love making fast meals like this one to fuel up for the day. Bok choy has a light and refreshing taste with leaves similar to spinach and stems like a cross between cabbage and iceberg lettuce. This superfood is super delicious and tastes excellent with brown rice, Asian flavors and fried eggs. Move over cereal, breakfast just got a lot more interesting. Go ahead and give veggies a try for your morning meal.

Ingredients:
2 baby bok choy bunches or 1 medium bunch bok choy
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Separate white stalks from bok choy and dice. Coarsely chop green bok choy leaves.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat coconut oil. Add bok choy and Chinese five-spice powder and sauté until stems are soft and leaves are wilted, about 4 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, fry two eggs.
  4. Add brown rice and soy sauce to bok choy and stir to combine, cooking for another minute. Serve eggs over bok choy rice mixture.

Servings: 2

Berry Breakfast Quinoa

Hearty quinoa with its nutty flavor compliments sweet berries and crunchy almonds in this breakfast bowl that will keep you satisfied all morning. Substitute the strawberries and blackberries for any seasonal berry in your region of the world. Quinoa is a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids, making it a great choice for vegetarians. It’s also an excellent whole grain option for those with celiac or gluten sensitivities since it’s naturally gluten-free.

I love to make a big batch of Berry Breakfast Quinoa on the weekend for a fast breakfast to just reheat on busy weekday mornings. A nutritious and delicious breakfast doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water, plus more for rinsing
⅓ cup dried cranberries
6 ounces strawberries
6 ounces blueberries
⅓ cup sliced blackberries
2 tablespoons sorghum or honey

Directions:

  1. Using a fine-mesh sieve, rinse quinoa with water.
  2. Combine quinoa, water and cranberries in a rice cooker and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Add berries, almonds and sorghum. Stir to combine and serve warm or chill and enjoy cold.

Servings: 4

Grilled Scallop Salad

Firing up the grill is one of my favorite activities. I love it even more when I can cook my entire meal over the grill in a matter of minutes. I know, lettuce is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cooking out. However, this sweet and smokey salad with grilled radishes and scallops may become your favorite go-to dish. In less than 15 minutes, you will have a delicious meal for two that is perfect for enjoying on your patio with your favorite white wine. Cheers to fast and healthy seasonal meals.

Salad Ingredients:
8 large scallops
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 head romaine lettuce

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. Brush scallops and radishes with half the olive oil and season with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Grill scallops and radishes for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until scallops are cooked through and radishes are slightly tender.
  2. Cut lettuce in half, leaving the core intact on both sides. Brush flat side with remaining olive oil. Place lettuce cut-side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes, until grill marks appear and lettuce is slightly wilted.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together salad dressing ingredients. Top each lettuce slice with half the scallops and radishes and drizzle with salad dressing.

Servings: 2

Quick Kale, Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits are one of my favorite southern duos. This dish is often prepared with heavy cream and can take some time to make with slow cooking grits. I created this lighter, quick-cooking version, which is ideal for evenings when you want a delicious homemade meal in less than 15 minutes. Fast meals like this one free up time to enjoy beautiful spring evenings. Cheers to spending less time in the kitchen, while still making delicious and nutritious meals.

Ingredients:
½ cup quick cooking grits
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons half and half

Directions:

  1. Prepare grits according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute, until fragrant. Add kale and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until wilted. Add bell pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Push kale and pepper mixture to the edges of the skillet, creating an empty space in the middle. Add shrimp to the center of the skillet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice. When shrimp becomes pink on the bottom, flip and continue cooking until both sides are pink and shrimp is cooked through. Stir vegetables and shrimp together to combine.
  4. When grits are done cooking, remove from heat and add grated parmesan cheese and half and half. Stir until cheese is melted and grits are thick and creamy. Add grits to dinner plates and top with shrimp and kale mixture.

Servings: 2

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toast

If you know a local mushroom farmer or grow your own mushrooms, you are so lucky and I am a little jealous. I created this recipe when I had access to weekly fresh mushrooms at a Farmers’ Market when we lived in Wisconsin. Most Saturdays I would make this recipe as soon as I got home from the market and serve it with a fried egg for breakfast or side salad for lunch. I couldn’t wait to eat these mushrooms and this simple and quick dish made it possible to get them on my plate in about 15 minutes. The recipe quantities below make this a great appetizer for a small group, but just trim the amount back if you want to enjoy this as a meal for one or two.

Ingredients:
14 inch baguette
8 ounces shiitake or white button mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broil setting to low heat. Slice bread into about 16 pieces and place on a baking sheet. Set aside while preparing mushrooms.
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and gently wash the tops before thinly slicing. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about four minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add thyme, salt and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Broil baguette slides on each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with equal amounts of mushrooms and goat cheese and continue broiling for another 2 minutes until cheese is warm. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8 (2 slices as appetizer)

Grilled Tilapia and Field Pea Succotash

Growing up in the south, black-eyed peas were a staple in our house and they will always be one of my favorite vegetables. This dish brings back childhood memories of family potlucks with tables full of farm-fresh vegetables for supper and homemade pies for dessert. We might have had fried catfish with our field peas back then, but I’ve lighted things up with grilled tilapia. This succotash also pairs well with scallops, shrimp or any white fish of choice.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas or field peas, drained
1 cup frozen corn
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
4 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

Directions:
  

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and bell pepper and continue cooking a few more minutes until tender.
  2. Add peas, corn, salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, and reduce heat to low to keep succotash warm while grilling tilapia.
  3. Season tilapia fillets with lemon pepper seasoning and brush with remaining olive oil. Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill fish for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until fish flakes with a fork. Serve fish over succotash.

Servings: 4