Spinach Salad with Mozzarella, Tomato & Pepperoni

This is another super simple salad that will become a favorite for you. Great as a light lunch or served as a side with any protein. If you don’t have Mozzarella or want a sharper tasting cheese feel free to use a different one. I have used a sharper Monterey Jack that I can find here and love it. Tossed in a dressing with Italian seasoning is perfect. Enjoy!

3 C. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 1/2 C. diced Mozzarella, or fresh Mozzarella balls
Chopped pepperoni or salami, to taste

The dressing:
1/4 C. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon (or 1 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar)
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

In a small jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Shake vigorously. In a salad bowl, combine spinach, tomatoes, red onion, and Mozzarella. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and drizzle with the dressing. Toss the salad to combine. Serve the spinach salad immediately or chill before serving.

Yields: 3-4

Pasta with Creamy White Beans

This pasta dish is courtesy of chef Giada De Laurentiis. You can use any pasta you have on hand, but one that can capture the sauce is best. By smashing a few of the beans while the sauce is simmering you will begin the makings of a beautiful creamy sauce. Add cheese of choice and a little of the salty starch water from the pasta until desired creaminess. I use a lentil pasta and do not use anywhere near a pound. Between the lentils and the beans this has become a meatless meal for us. Enjoy!

1 pound shell pasta
1/4 C. olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or less)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 15oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 C. chicken stock
8 oz. smoked provolone or smoked mozzarella
cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1 5oz. container baby spinach, chopped

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season well with salt. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than indicated in the package directions, about 7 minutes. Drain well reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, carrot and onion to the skillet. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and thyme and cook another minute. Stir in the drained beans and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use the back of a spoon to gently smash some of the beans. Set aside.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to coat well. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add the 1/2 cup pasta water as needed to maintain a creamy, broth-like sauce. Sprinkle in the spinach and cook until wilted. Taste for seasoning.

Juicy Skillet Pork Chops

If you have lost faith in being able to cook pork chops without drying them out, try again with this quick, simple, and delicious dish. As you can imagine, the spice rub of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika brings so much flavor to the pork, and then they are smothered in a beautiful, simple sauce. If you are leary of over cooking your pork, make sure to use a thermometer to ensure your success. Enjoy!

4 pork chops, 1-inch thick
salt to taste
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (I used chickpea flour)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 C. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey or brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Remove pork chops from the refrigerator and season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile make the spice rub. In a small bowl, mix the flour, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika. After 30 minutes, use a paper towel to pat the pork chops dry then rub both sides of the chops with the spice rub.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet(with lid) over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot and looks shimmery, add the pork. Cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chops, reduce the heat to low then cover with lid. Cook 6 to 12 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 145 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the chop. Transfer chops to a plate then cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.

While the chops, rest make the pan sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high then add the chicken stock, vinegar, and honey. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan so that any stuck bits of pork come up. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Taste then adjust but adding salt, more vinegar or honey. Slide the skillet off the heat and when the sauce is no longer simmering, swirl in the butter. Slide the chops back into the pan and spoon some of the sauce on top. Top with chopped parsley.

Honey Balsamic-Arugula Salad

Need a salad but don’t want your typical lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad for guests? This arugula salad is super simple with a dressing full of flavor. If you are serving just a couple of people I would not recommend tossing the salad with the dressing, but just adding to individual salads. Enjoy!

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups arugula
1/4 C. sliced red onion
1/4 C. shaved Parmesan
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

Whisk together first 9 ingredients until combined in a large bowl. Add arugula, onion, Parmesan, and walnuts; toss gently to coat.

Coconut-crusted Red Snapper

Not being big on fish, this is my first red snapper recipe I have tried and I was surprised first that the fish was so mild, then the coconut coating with curry, coriander, and cumin had such great flavor. Since first preparing this red snapper, it has become a repeat meal for us. Quick and super simple to prepare, this can easily become a great new dish for your busy weeknights. Enjoy!

4 8 oz. red snapper fillets with skin
1/2 C. shredded coconut
1/2 C. flour (I use chickpea flour or tapioca flour)
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 C. milk
1 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil

In a shallow bowl combine coconut, 1/4 cup of flour, curry powder, coriander, cumin, pepper, and salt. In another shallow bowl whisk together the egg and milk. Place the remaining 1/4 cup of flour in a shallow bowl.

For each fillet: working with the skin side only, press each fillet into the flour, then into the egg/milk mixture, and then into the coconut mixture.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan until hot. Add the fillets to the pan, coconut side down. Cook 3 minutes, then turn and cook until done, about 1 minute.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

This festive looking salad was a great healthier dish to add to our holiday table. The pomegranate seeds and dried cranberries add sweetness next to the kale and quinoa, and the walnuts give you a little crunch. The dressing is a super simple but delicious combo of apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey and olive oil. If you have not used kale before, especially in a fresh salad, remove leaves from the stems (which are hard) and chop according to your preference. Kale can be tough and bitter, massaging it once chopped can help break it down and soften. Acids, like the apple cider vinegar in the dressing, help to reduce the bitterness and brighten the taste with a contrasting flavor. Enjoy!

1/2 C. uncooked quinoa, rinsed
6 C. chopped kale (typically 1 bunch)
1 C. pomegranate seeds
1/2 C. dried cranberries
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

For the dressing:

1/4 C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the quinoa, add 1/2 cup of water to a small saucepan and add quinoa. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 13 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping quinoa covered, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl mix together the kale, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and walnuts.

To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss together until evenly coated. Top with additional pomegranate seeds, cranberries or walnuts if desired.

Blueberry Oatmeal with Cheesecake Swirl

Who loves a bowl of warm oatmeal to start your day off? Who loves cheesecake? Taylor at Food Faith Fitness combined them and created this warm, delicious, desert-like oatmeal that will have you looking forward to breakfast. Depending on your appetite this can yield 2 servings, but doubling the recipe is super easy also. If you are using fresh blueberries, just adding them to your bowl instead of adding while cooking the oatmeal is an option. Enjoy!

1/2 C. old-fashioned oats
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Sweetener of choice, to taste
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 C. milk, water if you prefer
1/4-1/2 C. blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened

In a small pot, combine the oats, cinnamon and sweetener of choice. Add in 1 cup of milk or water and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract and bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until the oats are thick, stirring constantly.(about 5 minutes) Add in the blueberries. Take off heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

While the oatmeal cools, combine the cream cheese, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla and sweetener of choice in a small bowl.

Transfer cooked oatmeal to a bowl and stir in the cream cheese.

Yields: 1-2 servings

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pancakes are a beloved breakfast staple for many whether it be your basic pancake, flavored, or filled with chocolate chips or fruit. There are so many ways to go with pancakes and I have started exploring them! This is a favorite of ours not only for the holiday season but year round. We like to top ours with maple syrup, homemade whipped topping, and walnuts or pecans. They have a perfect balance of pumpkin and warm spices. For my husband and I, we make half the recipe which yields us 8 pancakes. If you are cooking for more, place cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet and keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all the pancakes are ready. Enjoy!

2 C. all-purpose flour (I use Einkorn flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 C. packed light brown sugar or sweetener of choice
1 C. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 C. buttermilk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted, plus cold butter for griddle
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat a non-stick electric griddle to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Make a large well in center of mixture and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Pour pumpkin mixture into well in dry mixture and whisk just until combined. Let batter rest at least 3 minutes.

Butter griddle then pour batter about 1/4 to cup at a time onto griddle. Spread pancakes outward just slightly with bottom of measuring cup. Cook until golden brown on bottom then flip and cook opposite side until golden. Repeat process until all the batter has been used. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Yields: 12-16 pancakes

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is something I grew up thinking only came out of a can and it wasn’t very tasty to me. It wasn’t until my mother in law made it fresh with ingredients like oranges, nuts, and spices that I questioned what was really in that can! I have now made a couple of versions, and this is one that I got from a chef in Nashville from The Salted Table. Like most cranberry sauce recipes, his called for a lot of sugar, I am using half the amount of sugar the recipe called for, so if you need more sugar feel free to add more. Enjoy!

1 bag cranberries
3/4 C sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 orange, zested and juiced

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Cool, remove cinnamon stick and serve.

Crispy Oven Fried Garlic Mushrooms

These oven fried mushrooms will surprise you with just how delicious they are. This “shake and bake” style mushroom is coated with a nutty flour of ground almond and sunflower seeds with garlic powder, salt paprika, parsley and parmesan cheese for seasoning. To make things even easier, you can prepare this mixture ahead of time. Another simple, easy appetizer for the upcoming holidays or a great side dish for your busy weekday dinner. Enjoy!

1 carton of mushrooms, 6 to 8 ounce, small to medium-sized
1/3 C. almond flour
1/3 C. raw sunflower seeds, ground
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 xl or 2 small egg
1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. avocado oil or olive oil
1 quart zippered bag

Preheat oven to 400. Use the avocado oil or olive oil to coat the bottom of baking sheet. Clean mushrooms with a wet towel, set aside. Using a coffee grinder, processor, or blender, grind sunflower seeds until powdered texture. In the zippered bag, add sunflower seed powder, almond flour, garlic powder, salt, paprika, parsley and parmesan cheese. Close bag and shake to mix.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add melted butter and combine. Dip a mushroom into the egg mixture and place it into the zippered bag of almond flour mixture. Close bag and shake until mushroom is coated. Place mushroom on coated baking sheet. Repeat with each mushroom. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning mushrooms halfway through. Then turn broiler on low for 1 to 2 minutes to get the coating more crisp. Check after one minute to be careful not to burn. Serve warm.