Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

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I love bread.

And by that, I mean:

I. LOVE. BREAD.

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And if you have a fresh loaf of bread, according to me (or you!), of course it’s good all on it’s own.

But let me tell you how it gets even better...

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It's so simple to char the bread in a grill pan with a little olive oilon high heat.

It will get mouth-wateringly crusty on the outside, while still remaining soft and chewy on the inside.

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And when it’s crisp and browned, take it off of the grill pan and rub it with cut garlic and tomato.

This infuses those flavors ever-so-delicately—and just so incredibly perfectly!—into the bread.

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Sprinkle this amazing bread with salt and another drizzle of olive oil, and you have definitely transported that fresh loaf of bread to a whole new level.

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Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • One 8 X 5-inch loaf ciabatta bread (or other crusty bread)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 medium tomato, halved
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Cut the loaf of bread in half length-wise and drizzle all sides of it with the olive oil. Place the bread crust side-down on the pan, and cook until grill marks appear and the bread is crusty—2 to 3 minutes. Flip the bread over, then press it down to ensure good contact with the pan; continue to cook until grill marks appear and the bread is charred in spots—2 to 3 minutes more.
  2. Remove the bread from the heat and and rub the cut side with the cut side of the garlic, going over the bread a few times. Then rub the bread with the cut side of the tomato, squeezing the juice out of the tomato and onto the bread as you do so.
  3. Sprinkle the cut side of the bread with the salt and a little extra olive oil. Serve hot and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cauliflower Egg Salad Sandwich

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So you think adding cauliflower to your egg salad is weird?

While it may sound newfangled, twenty years from now, this version will be a household staple everywhereit’s that good.

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A little steamed cauliflower added to a traditional egg salad gives you the perfect texture you didn’t know was missing from the classic recipe.

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But the egg salad is still soft and creamy when you bite into it.

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Let's not forget to mention that this recipe includes the perfect combo of mayo, mustard, celery, and scallionsand, of course, those beautiful eggs!

It's hard for me to talk about this any more without actually eating the sandwich, like, RIGHT NOW!

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Veggies shouldn’t just make things healthier, they should make things better!

And this is a better sandwich.

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Cauliflower Egg Salad Sandwich

makes: 2 sandwiches, with about 2 cups of egg salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ head cauliflower, stems removed + broken into florets or coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 4 pieces romaine lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced

Directions:

  1. Begin by hardboiling the eggs; in a small saucepan, arrange them in a single layer and add cold water until it reaches an inch above them. Set the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to boiling. Then cover, remove from the heat, and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water and set this aside to cool; peel when ready to use.
  2. Add ½ inch of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a large saucepan and bring this to boiling over medium-high heat. Next, add the cauliflower, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy—3 to 5 minutes. Drain and run the cauliflower under cold water, finely chop it, and then pat it dry (this should give you about 1½ cups of cooked, finely chopped cauliflower).
  3. Peel the eggs and finely chop them. Place the cauliflower, eggs, mayonnaise, celery, scallions, mustard, paprika, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt into a large bowl. Gently toss this mixture until it is well combined.
  4. Place a slice of bread on each of 2 plates. Mound the salad on top, dividing equally. Then divide the lettuce and tomato between both sandwiches, and top each with a piece of bread. Cut each sandwich in half and enjoy!

Notes:

  • Sometimes you can find cauliflower florets in a container in your produce section. If you buy the cauliflower this way, you will need about 6 ounces or 7 to 8 medium/large florets.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Boxed Mac + Cheese Pancakes

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When I was first starting out in the world of food, I was on a radio show here in NYC.

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One of the first segments I did was on a hole-in-the-wall diner known for all sorts of crazy-delicious concoctionsone of the concoctions being mac and cheese pancakes.

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They made theirs a bit differently than I make mine.

But with both versions, you get the tangy cheese and salty bacon swimming through the pancake, which is obviously a very good thing.

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I’m basically taking a box of mac and cheese and adding it to a pancake batter.

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Not exactly my healthiest meal ever, but I couldn’t resist recreating those diner mac and cheese pancakes.

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Thank you for coming on this Hack Your Mac journey with me this week!

My purpose in reinventing boxed mac and cheese was to show you that you don’t always have to make everything from scratch for it to be delicious.

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In real life we take shortcuts, and in real life sometimes we just need to have mac and cheese pancakes for dinner.

I mean, we just need to. 😉

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Boxed Mac + Cheese Pancakes

makes: Twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce box of macaroni and cheese (with liquid cheese packet)
  • 4 bacon strips (about 2 to 3 ounces or ¼ cup), some reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped scallions, more for a garnish
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces), more for a garnish
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished. Stir in the cheese packet, then set aside.
  2. While the macaroni cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—6 to 7 minutes, turning once. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, then crumble it into small pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, baking powder, and salt until they are fully combined. Then fold in the cooked macaroni along with the scallions, cheddar, and crumbled bacon.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the butter and allow it to melt. Scoop about ⅓ cup of the macaroni and cheese mixture into the skillet and cook until both sides of the “pancake” are dark golden brown—3 to 5 minutes per side.
  5. To serve, garnish with scallions, cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Buffalo Chicken Boxed Mac + Cheese

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Buffalo Mac and Cheesemade in minutes and good for you?!

If  you think you're dreaming, I would suggest pinching yourself! Then read on!

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I wanted to bring all the usual Buffalo chicken suspects to the table: Franks RedHot Sauce, celery, and chicken, of course.

Then to make sure you feel good about piling your plate with seconds, we'll toss in some wilted spinach, which also livens things up a bit.

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And because you already have butter in there from the mac and cheese, the hot sauce is all you need to finish off that classic Buffalo flavor.

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This is sinfully delicious, but let’s not forgetyou are eating chicken, celery, and spinach.

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So it really is a complete meal, veggies included!

Dig in, already!

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Buffalo Chicken Boxed Mac + Cheese

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • One 7.25-ounce boxed mac + cheese with cheese powder (such as Kraft Macaroni + Cheese Dinner Original)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh baby spinach (about 1½ ounces)
  • 4 ounces cooked chicken, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • Pinch of blue cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished.
  2. Return the pasta to the same pot over medium heat, adding the butter, milk, hot sauce, and cheese powder packet, then stir all ingredients to combine.
  3. Add the spinach, chicken, and ½ cup of the celery, then stir to incorporate all ingredients and wilt the spinach.
  4. To serve, top with the remaining celery and a sprinkle of blue cheese (if desired).
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Sweet Potato Boxed Mac + Cheese

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For this hack on your mac, I really wanted to bring some veggies to the partywhile also giving some new flavors and textures to the mac and cheese.

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This is an exciting version to say the least, and it still involves almost no extra cooking!

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Throw the sweet potato in the microwave, then puree it or just mash it with a fork.

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Add in the the sage, nutmeg, cheese, and sweet potato, then mix it all up and top with pecans and cranberries.

You get a whole new flavorand seriously the only extra thing you did was put a sweet potato in the microwave!

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac + Cheese

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce boxed mac + cheese with liquid cheese sauce (such as Kraft Deluxe Macaroni + Cheese Dinner Original Cheddar)
  • 1 small or medium sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage, more for a garnish
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished.
  2. While the pasta cooks, pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork. Cook the potato in the microwave on high in 2-minute increments until soft—4 to 6 minutes total. Then set the potato aside until it is cool enough to handle.
  3. Peel the sweet potato (alternatively, you can cut the potato in half and scoop out the insides) and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth; this should give you about ¾ cup of sweet potato puree. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash the sweet potato with a fork, adding a little of the hot pasta cooking water to make it easier to mash.
  4. Return the cooked and drained pasta to the medium pot over medium heat, adding the sweet potato puree, cheese sauce packet, sage, nutmeg, and salt, then stir until fully combined.
  5. To serve, garnish with the cranberries, pecans, and additional sage.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Salsa Boxed Mac + Cheese

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This might be my favorite souped-up mac and cheese recipe.

And it’s also the simplest!

Win-win!

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All you need to do is add some chili powder and scallions!

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Then top it with some tangy salsa!

It’s so easy, but mac and cheese and salsa just really love each other.

And my belly can't help getting in on this Lovefest, too!

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Salsa Boxed Mac + Cheese

servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • One 6-ounce box macaroni + cheese with powdered cheese mix
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped scallions, more for a garnish
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • ¾ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ cup chunky salsa or pico de gallo

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished.
  2. Return the pasta to the same pot over medium heat, adding the scallions, milk, butter, cheese powder packet, and chili powder, then stir all ingredients to combine.
  3. To serve, top with the salsa and reserved scallions.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Sausage + Pepper Boxed Mac + Cheese

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I love this recipe because it makes boxed mac and cheese into a complete meal.

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A complete meal complete with the mouth-watering flavor combination of sausage, peppers, and cheese.

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You sauté up the peppers and sausage while the pasta cooks up, so there's minimal extra time involved in hacking this mac!

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Then it all gets mixed together into one cheesy, porky mess.

Vegetables, protein, cheese, and carbsnot bad for something that (mostly) came out of a box!

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Sausage + Pepper Boxed Mac + Cheese

servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups beef stock
  • One 14-ounce box macaroni + cheese with liquid sauce packet
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 link sweet Italian sausage (about 4 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Add the stock to a large pot over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook until al dente—8 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally; drain when finished, but do not rinse, then return to the pot.
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pepper, sausage, paprika, and salt and cook until the sausage is browned all over and cooked through—about 5 minutes, stirring to break it up.
  3. Return the pot with the cooked pasta to a burner set at medium heat. Add the cooked peppers and sausage along with the cheese sauce packet, then stir to combine.
  4. To serve, divide evenly among 4 bowls.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

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My goal is a simple oneto always make veggies YUMMY!

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I like to show people just how delicious and versatile veggies can be.

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Sure you can roast them and add some seasonings, which will always make them tastier than if they were steamed.

But let’s take it a step further...

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Let’s add cauliflower to a creamy risotto...

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This gives the dish great texture, and makes you feel like a rock star after your second helpingbecause you’ve had a days worth of veggies!

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Veggies don't just add nutrition to any dish; they also make the dish taste better!

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And I don’t know about you, but this is the way I like to eat my veggies.

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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

servings: 4; makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • ½ small head cauliflower (about 8 ounces), or 2 cups prepared cauliflower rice
  • 32-ounce box vegetable stock (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1¼ cups grated parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives, more for a garnish
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop the cauliflower, then add it to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it has a coarse, rice-like texture (this should give you about 2 cups), then set it aside.
  2. Next add the vegetable stock to a small saucepan over low heat. While the vegetable stock warms, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent—3 to 5 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and continue cooking until it is just toasted—3 to 5 minutes. Then add the wine and stir continuously until it is fully absorbed.
  3. Gradually add the warmed stock to the vegetable and rice mixture, ½ to ¾ cup at a time, stirring very often and waiting until it is fully absorbed before adding more. The more you stir, the creamier your risotto will become. Continue until the rice is just tender and still al dente—20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower along with ½ to ¾ cup more stock and cook, stirring, until the stock is fully absorbed—about 5 minutes. Then add another ½ cup of stock and repeat. Taste the cauliflower; if it is still a bit raw, add a little more stock and cook for a couple minutes more (note, you may not end up using all of the stock).
  5. Add the parmesan, chives, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Continue to cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are well-combined. Add the salt in small amounts to taste (depending on the saltiness of your cheese and stock, you may need more or less than the 1½ teaspoons). Garnish with the additional chives and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Toddler PB + J with Quick Frozen Fruit Jam

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There are a lot of delicious peanut butters out there, but not as many good jams. 

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So I'd like you to imagine an incredibly tasty jama jam that is made simply of fruit and a touch of sugar.

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And now that you're conjuring up this super appetizing vision, this is where I say, “Oh, but you can make a jam like that yourself!”

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And then you snap out of your jam-filled fantasy and say, “Um, Nikki? I really don’t have time to be making my own jam.”

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But here's the thingyou do!

It's as easy as grabbing a bag of frozen berries, adding a tablespoon of sugar, and cooking for only 15 minutes.

That’s it!

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And if you want to combine this amazing new jam (that you made!) with some peanut butter and hemp seeds on your favorite bread, you suddenly have a seriously awesome lunch for yourself!

Oh, and your kids, too, of course. ;)

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Toddler PB + J with Quick Frozen Fruit Jam

servings: 1 sandwich with ¾ cup of jam

Quick Frozen Fruit Jam:

  • One 10-ounce bag frozen fruit (such as mixed berries)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Toddler PB + J:

  • 2 slices sandwich bread (such as whole wheat)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon hemp hearts
  • 2 tablespoons Quick Frozen Fruit Jam

Quick Frozen Fruit Jam:

  1. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the frozen fruit, 2 tablespoons of water, and the sugar. Bring this mixture to a high simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the fruit with a spoon.
  2. Continue cooking the fruit mixture over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to leave trails in the pan when stirred—10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer the fruit mixture to a small bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the jam to set and chill.

Toddler PB + J:

  1. Spread one slice of bread with the peanut butter, then sprinkle it with the hemp hearts.
  2. Spread the Quick Frozen Fruit Jam onto the other slice of bread, then sandwich the two slices of bread together.

Notes:

  • The ¾ cup of jam yielded by the Quick Frozen Fruit Jam can make 6 sandwiches.
  • You can omit the sugar if you prefer; the jam will still be super tasty.
  • If you use tarter fruits, such as cranberries, you may need more sugar.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Quinoa Crust Cheese Pizzas

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My daughter loves pizza.

LOVES pizza.

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Recently she even learned how to say the word “pizza,” and is hella cute as she asks for it over and over.

This obviously means that we have pizza once a week in our house (or, possibly four times a week?).

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Often we go out to one of our local pizza places and then eat our slice in the park.

But lately I’ve been trying to find a version I can make at home that's a little healthierbut still satisfies Ivy's need (all of our needs, really) for pizza.

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These quinoa crust pizzas are remarkably easy.

You just cook up some quinoa and mix it with the eggswhich believe it or notgives you a nice, sturdy crust.

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If you're trying to understand how that wet mixture of quinoa, eggs, baking powder, and Italian seasoning forms a crust, you'll have to trust me.

It firms up so beautifully in the oven and is one of the most robust alternative-type crusts I've ever made.

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This crust has a slightly wheat-y taste, which Ivy doesn’t mind at all.

But if you have an extra picky eater, try making the crust on the thin side and loading on the toppings.

This will allow the focus to be more on the flavors of the sauce and cheese rather than the quinoa.

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This is the kind of meal I love to make because you don’t feel like you're being healthyyou just feel like you're eating pizza!

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These are also great to freeze so you have individual-sized pizzas ready to go anytime!

ENJOY!

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Quinoa Crust Cheese Pizzas

servings: Eighteen 4-inch pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups quinoa
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups pre-made pizza or tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella (16 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer and then transfer it to a medium saucepan. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat; cover the pan and turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Let the quinoa cook until it is tender—10 to 15 minutes, then transfer it to a medium bowl and let it cool.
  2. Mix the eggs, baking powder, Italian seasoning, and salt in a small bowl. Then add this mixture to the cooled quinoa and stir to combine.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the quinoa onto it; flatten and shape it with your hands into 4-inch-diameter rounds (using about ¼ cup of dough for each round), ¼- to ½-inch thick.
  4. Place the crusts in the oven and bake them until they are golden brown—about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and top each with about 2 tablespoons of the pizza or tomato sauce, then 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
  5. Return the pizzas to the oven until the cheese is melted—5 minutes more.

Notes:

  • If your kids are weary of the quinoa crust, try adding some extra toppings so you have a lot of sauce and cheese and just a little crust in each bite. Another option is to make the crusts a little thinner.
  • To Freeze: Let the crusts cool before adding the toppings; once cooled, add the toppings as in Step 4. Freeze the pizzas topped, but not baked. To heat from frozen, bake at 450°F until the cheese is melted and the crust is thawed through—7 to 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Lentil + Carrot Chicken Nuggets

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The classics are the classics for a reasonthey're delicious!

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Chicken nuggets are simple and simply tasty, and with so many options out therefrom the grocery store to McDonaldsyou may ask yourself, why make them myself?

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Well, I'll tell you why!

These nuggets are worth making because they're unlike anything you can buy.

They're actually half lentils and carrots, and yet they taste like the good-old fashioned chicken nuggets you (and your kids!) are used to! 

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The lentils get slightly pureed, which allows them to pretty much melt into the meat.

As for the carrots, you will see some small specks of them in the mixso if your kids are super weary, you can always skip them.

Or if you’re feeling crazy, you could use parsnips instead!

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Like many of my toddler recipes, these are the kinds of things that I make huge batches of and freeze.

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And a freezer full of chicken nuggets is a happy freezer indeed!!

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Lentil + Carrot Chicken Nuggets

servings: 36 nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry split red lentils
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken stock and lentils in a small saucepan. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook the lentils until the broth is fully absorbed and the lentils are very soft—about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are crumb-like in texture—ground, but not pureed. Then transfer the cooked lentils to the food processor with the carrots and pulse to combine the ingredients.
  3. Next add the chicken, parmesan, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to the food processor and pulse again until all ingredients are just combined; avoid overmixing.
  4. Scoop the mixture by heaping tablespoons and shape it by hand into nuggets (the easiest way to do this is to form the mixture into a ball, then smash it flat and add dents and curves by hand). Then coat each nugget well in the breadcrumbs.
  5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 10 to 12 nuggets and cook them until all sides of the nuggets are golden brown—4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat this process until all of the nuggets have been cooked.

Notes:

  • If you prefer to bake the nuggets rather than frying them, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the prepared nuggets on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Spray the nuggets with olive oil cooking spray and bake them until they are light golden and cooked through—about 15 to 20 minutes. Note that the nuggets will be paler in color—not as brown—than if you were to cook them as in Step 5.
  • From frozen, reheat the nuggets at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Broccoli Tater Tots

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Does anyone really want to eat their broccoli steamed?

Sitting there, waterlogged and sad on the side on the plate?

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I don’t know about you, but broccoli tater tots seem like a MUCH more exciting way to eat this green veggie!

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Sure, these tots take a minute or so longer than steaming up some florets, but I’ve streamlined the process for you.

And they're the perfect food to store in the freezer, so yes, you can have tots ANYTIME!

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To make them, just mix together finely chopped broccoli (stems and all!), throw in some eggs, seasonings, a touch of cheese and flour...

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Form them into whatever shapes you like and let them roll around in a flurry of panko and crushed tortilla chips...

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Then bake them up into crunchy perfection!

You'll never look at broccoli the same way!

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Broccoli Tater Tots

servings: 36 tater tots

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup crushed yellow corn tortilla chips
  • ¾ cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large bunch broccoli (about 1½ pounds), entire stem + florets coarsely chopped + rinsed
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (about 3½ ounces)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the corn chips to the food processor and pulse until the chip pieces are close to the size of panko breadcrumbs (this should make about 1 cup). If you don’t have a food processor you can also place the chips in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a pan or rolling pin. Then transfer the corn chip pieces to a medium-sized bowl along with the panko and paprika and mix these ingredients well.
  2. Clean the bowl of the food processor, then place the broccoli inside and pulse until it is coarse and grain-like in texture (you should have about 4 cups of this broccoli “rice”).
  3. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl with the parmesan, flour, eggs, salt, garlic powder, and pepper and mix together to combine.
  4. Using your hands, roll the broccoli mixture and pack it tightly by the tablespoon into tater tot (or other desired) shapes approximately 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Roll each tot in the corn chip breading mixture, reshaping afterwards if necessary.
  5. Place the formed broccoli tots on a nonstick baking pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Spray the tots lightly with nonstick olive oil spray and bake them until browned—about 20 minutes.

Notes:

  • Freezer Instructions: Place cooked and cooled tots on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer. Let freeze completely; once frozen place them in a plastic food storage bag. To reheat, place in a 425°F oven on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Eggplant Parm Meatballs

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I love it when I get to be on The Wendy Williams Show!

Today I showed everyone how to make one of my favorites—Eggplant Parm Meatballs!

They're an amazing add to your favorite pasta dish, but also pretty delicious all on their own!

 

Eggplant Parm Meatballs

servings: Thirty 1½-inch meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs*
  • ½ cup grated parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • ½ cup marinara sauce + more for serving
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with 1 teaspoon of the oil and then sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper over them. Bake the eggplants until they are very soft—about 30 minutes.
  2. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape the flesh of the eggplant into a food processor or blender; discard the skin. Process until everything is completely pureed; this should give you about ¾ cups of eggplant puree. Note: If your marinara sauce is very chunky, puree it with the eggplant.
  3. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, then add the beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan, marinara sauce, egg, onion powder, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine well and then form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls by hand.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Place the meatballs in the pan and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary, cooking until the center is no longer pink—5-7 minutes.
  5. Preheat the broiler to high. Place the meatballs in a serving dish and cover with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you wish, you can bake the meatballs at 400°F for about 30 minutes.
  • *Depending on the amount of moisture in your eggplant and sauce you may need more breadcrumbs to ensure your meatballs hold together nicely.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza

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Today on The Wendy Williams Show I showed everyone how to make a fabulous Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza.

I can't decide which is my favorite partthe super flavorful crust, the melty cheese (always in the running!), the crispy bacon, or the warm and savory potatoes!

I think you owe it to yourself to cook up this amazing pizza and be the judge!

 

Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza

servings: 3; makes one 10- to 11-inch pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads broccoli (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ + ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium red potatoes cut into about twenty-five ⅛- to ¼-inch slices
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream, for a garnish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped scallions, for a garnish
  • Hot sauce, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove most of the tough, thick stems of the broccoli. Working in batches, place the remaining broccoli in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it until it is finely ground. You may need to stir as you go to make sure the bigger pieces don’t sit on the top. After grinding the broccoli, you should have about 5 cups.
  2. Place the broccoli on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high heat for 6 minutes, stirring halfway through. Once it is cool enough to handle, put the broccoli in a kitchen cloth or a piece of cheesecloth; roll up the cloth and twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. When you are done, you should have about 2 cups of dry, packed broccoli.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli with 1 cup of the cheese, the eggs, chili powder, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Transfer this mixture to the baking sheet and shape it into a 10- to 11-inch diameter round, about ½-inch thick.
  4. Bake the crust until it is firm and brown around the edges—about 20 to 25 minutes. While the crust bakes, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until it is crisp—6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel (leaving the bacon fat in the pan) and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the potatoes to the pan along with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until brown all over and tender—about 7 to 10 minutes
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and top it with the remaining 2 cups of cheese. Return the pizza to the oven and bake it until the cheese is melted—about 5 minutes. Top the cheese with the potatoes and bacon and cook until the potatoes and bacon are warmed through —about 2 to 3 minutes
  6. Remove the pizza from the oven and top it with dollops of the sour cream, the scallions, and a dash of hot sauce. Cut and serve it immediately.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

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Today on The Wendy Williams Show I showed everyone how to make a dish that will be your go-to this spring and summer, BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing.

Yes, the dressing is actually made with lettuce!

Combined with the classic flavors of a BLT sandwich (minus the bread), it's the perfect dish to ring in Spring in a few days!

 

BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

servings: 4 to 6 servings, with about 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  • 2 romaine hearts, halved
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

BLT Pasta Salad:

  • 1 pound short-cut pasta
  • 4 strips extra thick-cut bacon
  • 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach or chopped romaine
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Then brush the 4 lettuce halves on the cut side with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Grill the lettuce cut-side-down until it is slightly charred and wilted—about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lettuce from the grill pan, coarsely chop it and discard the stems.
  2. Combine the lettuce, remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. If all of the lettuce does not fit at one time, puree a portion of it, adding more as you do, until it is all in the food processor. Once it has all been pureed, set it aside for later.

BLT Pasta Salad:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Then drain it, rinse it under cold water, and set it aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy—about 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Once it is cool enough to handle, coarsely chop it; this should give you about 1½ cups of bacon pieces. Set the bacon aside for later.
  3. Toss the pasta with the Romaine Lettuce Dressing, spinach or romaine, grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onion, salt, and pepper. Top it with the bacon and serve!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cauliflower Tater Tots

Who doesn’t love a tater tot?

Crunchy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside...

Simple and yet simply satisfying.

So if they're already so good, why would I mess with them and make a different version?

Because cauliflower tater tots are also delicious--that's why!

This recipe isn’t about making a healthy version of something you already love.

It’s about celebrating the tater tot with a new and equally yummy recipe.

And just so you understand how yummy, let me tell you that I have some of these stored in my freezer and the goal is to avoid consuming any more than 12 each day.

It's so hard to do!

Cauliflower Tater Tots

servings: 2 dozen tater tots

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1½ pounds), stemmed, coarsely chopped + rinsed
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2½ ounces)
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup crushed yellow corn tortilla chips
  • ¾ cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is coarse and grain-like in texture (you should have about 2 cups of this cauliflower “rice”).
  2. Then transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl with the eggs and mix together to combine. Mix in the flour, parmesan, salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
  3. Add the corn chips to the food processor and pulse until the chip pieces are close to the size of panko breadcrumbs (this should make about 1 cup). If you don’t have a food processor you can also place the chips in a food storage bag and smash them with a pan or rolling pin. Then transfer the corn chip pieces to a medium-sized bowl along with the panko and paprika and mix these ingredients well.
  4. Using your hands, roll the cauliflower mixture and pack it tightly by the tablespoon into tater tot (or other desired) shapes approximately 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Roll each tater tot in the corn chip breading mixture, reshaping afterwards if necessary.
  5. Place the formed tater tots on a nonstick baking pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Spray the tater tots lightly with nonstick spray and bake them until browned—about 20 minutes. Serve with ketchup if desired.

Notes:

  • Freezer Instructions: Place cooked and cooled tots on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer. Let them freeze completely; once frozen place them in a plastic food storage bag. To re-heat, place in a 425°F oven on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

There is nothing wrong with classic comfort food, and Hamburger Helper was something that I grew up with and still has a special place in my heart.

I'm not trying to make the original super healthy or low-cal, I'm just making it from scratch and making smart choices so that it's as nutritious as possible while still tasting exactly how you remember.

Taste is always first in my book, the bonus is a little extra nutrition.

Nobody even needs to know that there is squash in the sauce and that you used half the meat because you added in lentils.

You'll be gobbling up this melty, meaty pasta dish only to remember at the end that you had a balanced meal.

Sounds kind of awesome right?!

Homemade Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils (⅓ cup dried)
  • ⅔ pound ground beef
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder (or regular chili powder)
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for a garnish
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook it until it is easily pierced with a fork—about 10 minutes. Then puree the squash in a food processor (this should give you about 2 cups of puree) and set it aside.
  2. While the squash cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Mash the cooked lentils with a fork and combine them with the ground beef. Using your hands, mush the lentils, beef, and 1 teaspoon of the salt together. Add the oil to the skillet and then the beef and lentil mixture. Cook the mixture, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks, until the meat is brown—about 7 minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups of the beef broth, the pasta noodles, squash puree, cream, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder to the meat. Stir this mixture to combine, and cook it until the noodles are al dente, 10-15 minutes. Add more broth as needed until the noodles are cooked through.
  4. Add the cheese, chives, remaining salt, and a pinch of pepper. Stir to combine, again adding more broth if the mixture is too thick. Serve hot topped with extra chives.

Notes:

  • You can substitute ancho chili powder with regular chili powder. The smoked paprika can also be subbed out for regular paprika—or you can use more chili powder in its place. A packet of taco seasoning can be used here as well, but you may need more liquid as some seasoning packets will thicken up the mixture. Also if your looking to make this dish a bit leaner add 2 cups of cheese instead of 4, you will still find it cheesy and flavorful.
  • When reheating this dish as a leftover, add an extra splash of water or stock. This will help bring it back to the right consistency.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Banana Crêpes

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Some recipes are too good to be true…

And this is one of them.

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I’m about to tell you that you can take a banana and an egg and make some of the best crêpes (or pancakes!) ever!

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But seriously, it’s just a banana and an egg—THAT’S IT.

Okay, yes, there is some salt and vanilla, but those don’t technically count.

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You blend them, you pour the batter out, and voila!

You end up with light, moist crêpes that can be eaten any way you like.

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I like mine with Nutella and strawberries, because, well, that tastes amazing.

But in your kitchen, the crêpe-topping rules are up to you!

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So try them!

There is literally no chance you will be disappointed.

And in the highly improbable case that you are, send those leftovers my way!

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Banana Crêpes

servings: six 5-inch crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread, plus more for a garnish
  • 6 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. To the bowl of a blender, add the bananas, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Blend these ingredients until they are smooth, then set them aside.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Then make the crêpes one at a time by adding about ⅓ cup of the banana batter to the skillet, cooking each until its bottom is a deep golden brown—about 3 to 4 minutes. Then flip the crêpe over and cook it until the other side is also a deep golden brown—1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat this process with the remaining batter, wiping out the skillet and adding 1 teaspoon of butter between each crêpe.
  3. To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon of the Nutella over each crêpe. Then place a line of sliced strawberries slightly off center in each crêpe and roll them up, starting from the side closest to the strawberries. Drizzle the finished crêpes with more Nutella, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

When I was younger, I was addicted to cans of the Progresso version.

I can picture myself at age 22, squeezing my way into my 2x2 foot kitchen, cracking open that blue can, and then waiting those 2 minutes for the microwave to deliver my spoils.

If only I had known how much better making my own tomato soup could be.

Like, SO much better, and requiring no skills or fancy ingredients.

And what I also couldn’t have imagined at the time was how adding tender rice to my soup would completely take it to the next level.

Or that topping it with a beautiful and refreshing three-ingredient basil yogurt drizzle would boost its amazing-factor sky-high.

But now that I know what I didn't know, let's take our tomato soup there.

We just need to sauté some garlic and onions...

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

And while that all simmers, combine yogurt, basil and a little salt for a drizzle you could never find in a Progresso can.

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

servings: 8 cups of soup, with about ½ cup drizzle; serves 4

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 46-ounce can tomato juice
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Basil Yogurt Drizzle
  • Fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, for a garnish (optional)

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. Add the yogurt, basil, and salt to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend this mixture until it is mostly smooth. If you prefer, you can skip the blender and instead finely chop the basil, then mix it by hand with the yogurt, water, and salt until all ingredients are well combined.

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Then add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook until the vegetables are tender and fragrant—3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree it until smooth, then return it to the pot and stir in the rice and cream.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into bowls, top with the Basil Yogurt Drizzle, and sprinkle with the basil leaves if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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