Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole with Peppers and Kale

Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole with Peppers and Kale

Looking for something yummy and comforting to make on Christmas morning? This make ahead hash brown casserole with peppers and kale has all the comfort ingredients - melty cheddar cheese and sausage - plus a ton of veggies for flavor and nutrition! It's super easy but special enough for a holiday breakfast! 

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Fully Loaded Refried Bean Skillet

Fully Loaded Refried Bean Skillet

Remember when you used to eat tortilla chips with refried beans from the can? This is so much better. This fully loaded refried bean skillet tops homemade spicy refried beans with extra sharp cheddar, grilled onions and mushrooms, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado, and lots of fresh herbs. Serve with warm tortillas for dipping! 

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Chicken Burrito Brown Rice Bowl Bowl with Homemade Guacamole

This chicken burrito brown rice bowl with easy homemade guacamole is the perfect clean out the fridge meal, made with frozen corn and peppers, salsa, and a little leftover cheese!

Hi guys! Apologies for no new post on Monday. I'm kinda a scatter brain with all the travel I'm doing this month. Also, after 8 hours driving back home from Virginia after being away for over a week, quality time with the hubs > glancing at my to do list.

Anyway, thought it would be fun to share a recap of my week up in Virginia/DC with you all, since I packed a lot of friends, good food and work into the trip. My trip to Virginia was half social/half work. The first weekend was my little brother's finance's bachelorette, then the end of the week, AlexAnne and I were getting together to wrap up work on our Joyful Eating program. Since my dad and stepmom live outside DC, I packed up the pups, hit the road and used that as an excuse to work remotely for the week!

The bachelorette party was an absolute blast! I didn't know any of my future sister-in-law's friends before this trip and I had such a blast getting to know them and hanging out with my SIL more, since we've never been in the same city. We rented a row house in Capitol Hill and there was a ton of fun places to go out nearby. Friday we had really tasty dinner at Smith Commons (lobster fried quinoa for the win...) before going out. Saturday, we attempted to be mature and do a walking tour of DC, but really we just ended up taking dorky pictures with the souvenir vans, waiting in a really long line to pee at Washington Monument then giving up and getting bottles of Cava with strawberries at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Hey, we tried!

Dinner at Smith Commons
Dinner at Smith Commons
Touring DC!
Touring DC!

Before heading to my parents in Virginia, I visited two of my friends to see the new house they bought in DC just a couple days before. We ate breakfast at The Royal, this really cute coffee shop with latin inspired breakfast options. Their egg arepa with avocado and chimichurri was super tasty but super messy - glad my friends don't judge! Afterwards, we walked around their neighborhood and they indulged my love of historic homes by dropping in an open house, where we pretended to be the kind of people who could afford a 1.9 million dollar home (ahem, we can't). Also, stumbled across this clearly haunted stunner - anyone want to invest a few million into my opening a B&B in the city? Anyone??

The rest of the week was pretty packed with work. Was hoping to see a bunch of my friends from home, but I completely lost my voice over the weekend. Wish I could say it was from having too much fun but I had a sore throat from allergies on Friday and it just got worse and worse all weekend! Since we were recording the audio lectures for our online intuitive eating program, I ended up having to cancel a few virtual appointments, which I felt awful about since I've never canceled appointments before, but I needed the voice rest. Still, I managed to squeeze in a visit with one of my two best friends from high school and her curly headed cutie! Can you get over these ringlets??

One Wednesday, Anne, Alex and I launched our 6-week online intuitive eating program, Joyful Eating, Nourished Life then spent Thursday and Friday wrapping up the program. It was so great to see each other in person again versus google hangout. Thursday we worked from my parents house so my dad could play instagram dad and take pictures of us for the website - poor guy was a trooper! Then Thursday we worked from Anne's house in Arlington, stopping for an extended lunch break with a really tough yoga class at Edge Yoga followed by salads at Sweetgreen. If only they would come to Columbia!

After a TOUGH yoga class
After a TOUGH yoga class
Salads at Sweetgreen! Mine was the umami bowl with baked tofu, quinoa, spicy sunflower seeds and more!
Salads at Sweetgreen! Mine was the umami bowl with baked tofu, quinoa, spicy sunflower seeds and more!

As we were going through last edits of our program, I couldn't help but get SO very excited for how wonderful it's turned out! We were able to squeeze in so much information about intuitive/mindful eating, sustainable nutrition strategies and enjoyable fitness in a usable, but not overwhelming way. We're really pumped about the number of signups so far, so if you're hoping to join the first group starting June 20th, be sure to sign up soon because we might actually reach our cap (knock on wood!).

Here's a sneak peek at our photo shoot:

Over the weekend I took it easy since it had been a pretty hectic week. I visited with one of my best friends from high school who was also my roommate for a couple years at Clemson for a walking date. She had just gotten engaged a couple weeks before so it was fun to celebrate! She's one of the absolute kindest people I know so was thrilled to see her so happy! Then for Mother's Day, went out to brunch at Silver Diner with my dad and stepmom. We used to hangout there in high school and get burgers and fries, so I was really impressed that the menu had become so locally focused with a ton of flexitarian options, like my roasted vegetable huevos rancheros.

Now on to the recipe. This burrito bowl was (obviously) inspired by the bowls at Chipotle. People always ask me what food I get when I'm on the road and if there's a Chipotle nearby, it's always a brown rice bowl, usually with their sofritas (tofu) or chicken. But it's such an easy dinner to make at home too. While this one took a bit longer with the marinated meat and homemade guac, it can be super simple. Just top precooked brown rice with canned black beans, salsa, cheese, sautéed frozen peppers or spinach and a dollop of store bought guac. If you know how to prepare plantains, that's also a really delish topping!

Chicken Burrito Brown Rice Bowl Bowl with Homemade Guacamole

Serves 4

Ingredients

Chicken: 

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Guacamole:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

Burrito Bowl:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 1-lb bag frozen peppers and onions
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • Cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, first prepare rice. Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup rice to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 40-50 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir in chopped scallion and fluff with a fork.
  3. Next prepare guacamole. Scoop fresh out of the avocado and into a bowl. Add lime juice, cilantro, and red onion. Add salt and mash with a fork to combine.
  4. Heat grill on medium high. Place chicken cubes on a skewer. Grill about 4 minutes per side until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet. Add corn and cook until corn is lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from skillet, wipe clean, and add 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet and heat. Add peppers and cook until tender and lightly charred, about 7-9 minutes. Remove from skillet. Season both with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide rice between bowls. Top with chicken, corn, peppers, a healthy scoop of guacamole. Top with cheddar, cilantro and drizzle with salsa verde.

Epic Vegetarian Nachos

These epic vegetarian nachos are topped with pantry friendly ingredients - frozen corn, canned black beans, extra sharp cheddar and shredded zucchini. 

Going along with last week's guest post by Anne on meal planning for people who hate to meal plan, I thought I'd share one of my favorite TST (throw s*** together) meals - nachos!

One thing I've learned in my years of cooking: everything tastes good on tortilla chips. Well, maybe not chocolate. Or But you get it.

I've made these nachos a bazillion times (okay five or six), and they truly are as easy as it comes. For veggies, I use either squash or zucchini, grated on the large holes of the cheese grater. I'm not sure why, but this is my favorite way of cutting squash. I swear it tastes better and different than chopped or half-mooned but maybe it's just me. Anyone else here?

Speaking of nachos, remember when fancy nachos were the thing? I think it was my high school/college years. Growing up in Atlanta, but there was one restaurant in Phipps Plaza (the fancy mall) called The Tavern and I used to LOVE to go there with friends and order fancy nachos. Salmon with tomatoes, dill and lobster cream veloute...thai chicken with peanut sauce and sprouts...yum! Plus, there was the feeling of being fancy because even though you're just eating nachos, its next to Neiman Marcus and sometimes you'd see rappers or Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Anyhoo, these aren't very fancy. Just black beans, corn, zucchini and (obviously) cheese. But they're still pretty epic. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Epic Vegetarian Nachos

Serves 6

Get a good block of extra sharp cheddar instead of pre-shredded cheese. It has a lot more flavor so you can get away with using a little less.

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, grated on the large holes of a cheese grater
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • Guacamole, for serving
  • Salsa verde, for serving
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium-high heat in a large sided skillet Add red onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add grated zucchini, season with salt and pepper and saute until zucchini is tender, about 5 more minutes.
  3. Place zucchini in a bowl, wipe skillet clean and add 1 teaspoon oil on medium-high heat. Add corn and saute until lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Spread tortilla chips evenly on a baking sheet. Top with zucchini, corn, black beans and shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and chips are crispy.
  5. Serve topped with dollops of guacamole, salsa, cilantro and hot sauce.

More ooey, gooey, melty cheese: 

Whole Grain Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri
Whole Grain Potato, Corn and Goat Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Chimichurri
Mexican Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Mexican Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Polenta Vegetarian Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale
Polenta Vegetarian Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale

Kale Tortilla Salad with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing

This cravable kale tortilla salad with jalapeno-lime dressing is the perfect lunch salad - hearty, satisfying and easy to make in advance. 

Woo! The site is back up and working! My sincerest apologies if you tried to access over the past three days and weren’t able. Long story short, my google adsense account got disabled, we tried to fix it ourselves and ended up taking down the entire site in the process. After three long days of scratching our heads, screaming and crying at my computer, then drowning our sorrows and frustrations in an ungodly amount of sushi, it’s fixed. If you love this blog, please, give my husband/IT guy a hug and buy him a drink. He basically gave up his whole weekend working on the site and I think earned a computer science degree in the process.

When “S” hit the “F,” cooking was the last thing I wanted to do (hence the massive amount of sushi we ate Saturday night). Thankfully, I had a big batch of this kale salad in the fridge already prepped and ready to go. Kale salad is kind of great for a make ahead meal - the sturdier leaves don’t wilt after dressing, so you can store an entire dressed salad in the fridge all week. With this one, all I did was toss in a handful of crumbled tortilla chips before serving to give it some extra crunch.

Reading back over that last paragraph, I don’t think I gave this salad the credit it deserves. This is, like, a really good salad. It’s cravable. Yes, we're still talking about a kale salad. This weekend when I horribly stressed and wanting to eat my feelings in the form of a bacon pimento cheeseburger with fried green tomato, I remembered this salad was in the fridge and immediately forgot about that burger. That’s how good this is!

Kale Tortilla Salad with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing

Serves 4

Adapted from Fresh, Fast, Green (<--- my go to salad cookbook by the way)

Ingredients

Dressing: 

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Salad:

  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 avocados, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, preferably grassfed
  • 2 ounces corn tortilla chips, crumbled

Instructions

  1. First, quick pickle the red onions. In a small bowl, toss the red onion slices with apple cider vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine and let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad, tossing every so often.
  2. Next, make the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until combined. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
  3. Place kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of dressing. Using your hands, massage dressing into the kale to soften. Toss kale with cherry tomatoes, avocado, black beans, cheddar and pickled red onions (discard vinegar). Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips and additional dressing before serving.

 You might also like:

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons & Black-Eyed Peas
Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons & Black-Eyed Peas
Chipotle Roasted Kabocha Squash & Kale Salad
Chipotle Roasted Kabocha Squash & Kale Salad
Brussels Sprout Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon
Brussels Sprout Salad with Ambrosia Apples & Tempeh Bacon

Black Bean Tostadas with Creamy Cilantro Sauce

Black bean tostadas with creamy cilantro sauce! A healthy, budget-friendly and flavor packed meal!  

First, thank you so much for the support and encouragement after my big announcement about starting a private practice. As someone who generally isn't a risk taker, this decision was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. Each comment, email, text and facebook message made me feel a bit more confident and for that, I am eternally grateful. I'm still scared, but I know the fear will always be there, I frankly, I kinda like it that way. As long as I can harness my fear as energy and motivation, I won't be paralyzed by it.

The other day, I stumbled across a quote that I immediately connected with. 

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~

Dale Carnegie

(of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame)

Being in transition is probably the scariest part. Fear of the unknown is the most intense fear of all. I know with each action I take towards building my private practice, the more confidence I'll build. I keep reminding myself how scared I was to teach a nutrition class or stand up for what I feel is the most appropriate medical and nutrition care to other providers. Now these are things I do without a second thought.

My other big fear is how to make it work financially. Luckily, we've always lived well within our means. And starting a nutrition coaching practice doesn't require much capital, so it won't be as difficult or risky as it is for other entrepreneurs. Still, we need to cut back, like, a lot. 

When we sat down to look at our expenses, we found two places where we could realistically save money. The first was what we'll call the random nonessentials - a latte here, a Target run there, a 12th LBD - it adds up when you're not paying attention! The second category, of course, was food.

Gulp.

I've always been mindful of our food expenses. I purchase most of my pantry ingredients from the bulk bins. I rarely buy processed food or meat, the two biggest expenses for most people. I comparison shop. We don't go out to eat as often as most people our age. And as much as I like goji berries, raw cacao powder and kale chips, I don't buy them cause they're hella expensive. Still, it adds up. So here's a look at the steps Scott and I are taking.

1. Limit dining out to once a week.

2. Cut back on meat and dairy.

2. Purchase less organic food. Unless the price difference is insignificant, I'll be purchasing mostly conventional foods. One exception - I will continue to purchase organic meat, eggs and dairy.

4. Get a bit more liberal in my adaptions of recipes. I'm trying to be better at adapting recipes based on what I have on hand. For example, the bean dip recipe I made last night called for fresh mint, but since I had parsley, I just used that. Two bucks saved right there.

5. No weeknight drinking.

So get ready, cause you're going to be seeing quite a few budget friendly bean recipes here on this blog (as if there wasn't enough already). Might as well get started today with these black bean tostadas with creamy cilantro sauce!

Black Bean Tostadas with Creamy Cilantro Sauce

serves 4

This recipe is all about the cilantro sauce. I mean, the tostadas are good and all, but the cilantro sauce takes them to another level. You may never hear me say this again, but you could easily leave off the cheddar and not even notice the difference. I used a little bit of a high quality, aged cheddar I had leftover, but between the creaminess of the beans and the tangy sauce, I could barely taste it. Quick pickled onions are an easy and inexpensive way to dress up Mexican dishes. Try them in quesadillas, chopped salads, or to garnish my green posole. They'd even made a great condiment for my spicy tofu burgers.

Ingredients

Tostada:

  • 1/2 red onion, thin-sliced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup feta
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced

Cilantro Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain, organic yogurt (preferably full fat or 2%)
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 lime

Instructions

  1. To pickle the onions, place the onions in a bowl with the vinegar, salt and sugar. Let sit at least 15 minutes, or until the rest of the food is done cooking.
  2. Next, make the sauce by blending the yogurt, cilantro and lime juice in a blender until pureed. Season with salt to taste.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add peppers and saute 5 minutes until tender. Add onion and garlic, saute an additional 5 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Add cumin, stir, and cook 30 seconds. Add black beans, water and season with salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Mash lightly with a potato masher, so about half the beans are still whole.
  4. Toast the tortillas over a low flame on a gas stove.
  5. Divide the black bean mixture over the tortillas. If using, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and place under the broiler a minute or so until melted.
  6. Divide the shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and pickled red onion over the tostadas. Drizzle (or bathe) in cilantro sauce.

Cheese Grits Stuffed Poblanos with Tomato Gravy

These cheese grits stuffed poblanos with tomato gravy and melty cheddar cheese are comfort food to the max! 

If you are from the South and do not own a Lee Brothers cookbook, then you're not really a southern. Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme.  And as someone who has lived a third of her life above the Mason-Dixon line, I probably shouldn't be judging ones southern-ness. But seriously, if you love southern food as much as I do, then you need to familiarize yourself with Matt and Ted.  Like me, the Lee Brothers were born in New York. Also like me, they moved down south as young children, ending up in Charleston, SC, the mecca of low country southern cuisine.  Their first cookbook, "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook", tells the story of falling in love with Charleston through recipes, anecdotes from their childhood and bits of culinary history. 

Both brothers moved back to New York for college.  In a city that has an Italian, Moroccan, French, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian and a Jewish deli on every block, there was just one thing they couldn't find - boiled peanuts. So, they started making and selling their own.  Soon after, they founded the Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, where they sold artisan southern foods like sorghum syrup and pickled peaches to displaced southerners. Eventually, this led to a career as food and travel journalists, and finally, cookbook authors.  

The Lee Bros. hawk legit southern food.  No Paula Dean style "let's-throw-in-another-stick-of-butter-deep-fry-it-and-call-it-southern" recipes here.  Many of the recipes have been passed down generation after generation from places all over the south - small family-run farms in Tennessee, bayou-dwellers in Louisiana, Mexican immigrants in Texas, or from another must have southern cookbook, "Charleston Receipts."  In "Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," you'll find recipes for perfect jambalaya, baked country ham, low country boil and of course, boiled peanuts. 

What I like most about their recipes is that they aren't too stuck on finding "The Most Authentic ______."  Just the version they think tastes best.  Many of the recipes, like this one, are modernized but inspired by traditional southern foods.  

The other thing I love is that they dispel the myth that all southern food is all lard, butter and white flour. Sometimes that's correct, but the south has it's roots in agriculture so southern food was traditionally plant-based with very little meat - think collard greens, red beans and rice, pickled veggies. Although you won't find the Lee Bros. cookbook in the diet section of your bookstore, (not with that four-layer red velvet cake on page 466!), you'll find many whole food recipes with an emphasis on plants. Cornbread and tomato salad, squash and mushroom hominy, whole roasted fish with sweet potatoes and scallions and pickled okra - all dietitian approved!

This recipe was inspired by the chiles rellenos the Lee brothers enjoyed from a random gas station cantina on Johns Island.  =It catered mostly to Mexican farm workers, so the food was authentic. As they point out, southern food and Mexican food have a lot in common - corn, squash, hot peppers, pork and cheese! The pairing of cheese grits and mildly spicy poblanos is perfection!

Cheese Grits Stuffed Poblanos with Tomato Gravy

Serves 4

Adapted from Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook

Ingredients

Grits:

  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Chiles:

  • 1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (ditto on above)

Instructions

  1. First, make the grits. Bring the milk and water to a boil on medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. When it comes to a boil, slowly pour in the grits and salt while stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every 2-3 minutes, for a total of about 30-40 minutes until thickened, soft and creamy. Turn off the heat, add the black pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted into the grits.
  2. While grits are cooking, preheat the broiler to high. Arrange the peppers, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Place in the oven about 3 inches from the heating element. Turn the peppers about every 3 minutes until the skins are blistered and well-charred on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl and cover with saran wrap. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, gently rub away the skins. Cut a slit into each pepper and carefully remove the seeds.
  3. When the tomatoes, onions and garlic are cool enough to handle, transfer to a food processor and puree into a chunky sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Divide the cheese grits evenly between each pepper half. Press the grits into the pepper lightly with your hands or a spoon. Place in a baking sheet and pour the tomato sauce over the peppers.
  5. Place in the oven and bake at 400 degrees until the sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top and place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes until the cheese is browned and melted.