Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

I love that Brussels sprouts have made a powerful comeback in recent days.

People are excited to learn that a deeply browned, roasted Brussels sprout is much different--and tastier!--than a steamed one. 

And now that we've all figured out just how heavenly a sprout can be with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, I’d like to bring us to a whole new level--adding honey for sweetness, sriracha for heat, and pumpkin seeds for crunch!

The result is a Brussels sprout that is sure to make you sing in delight.

Because you sing when eating delicious food, right?

I’m not the only one, am I?!

Sriracha Honey Brussels Sprouts

servings: 1 pound of Brussels sprouts; serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, stemmed + halved (quartered if very large)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a baking sheet, toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Place them in the oven and roast them until they are deep brown and crispy on the edges—about 35 minutes.
  2. While the Brussels sprouts cook, in a large bowl, mix together the sriracha, honey, vinegar, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
  3. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss them in the bowl with the sriracha honey mixture. To serve, top the Brussels sprouts with the toasted pumpkin seeds and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

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A friend of mine wrote an article about having a ton of zucchini in her family's garden when she was growing up.

So much, in fact, that her family resorted to dressing their excess of squashes in "outfits" and leaving them on a "lucky" neighbor's doorstep (read more).

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I suppose that is one (uh...ahem) effective way to deal with an excess of zucchini in your garden.

However, may I gently suggest another?

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To bring another vegetable into the conversation, cucumbers are similar to zucchini.

For instance, both vegetables are delicious raw as well as cooked.

With this in mind, I'd like to point out that anything cucumbers can do, zucchinis can do also!

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So instead of making the same old cucumber salad (don't get me wrong, those cucumber salads can be delicious!), I decided to bring our mutual friend, Mr. Zucchini, to the pickling party.

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The best think about this Cucumber Zucchini Salad is that it takes only a few minutes to make and only a few more to marinade.

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In the end, you have a light, refreshing salad with crunchy cucumbers and zucchini that are seriously a match made in heaven.

And as a bonus, it’s like -20 calories (okay, not really, but I'm sure it's close)!

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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

servings: 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
  • ½ small red onion (about 2 ounces), very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the cucumber and zucchini into very thinly sliced rounds. When you are finished slicing, you should have about 2 cups of cucumber and 1½ cups of zucchini.
  2. In a medium size bowl, toss the cucumber and zucchini slices with the onion and salt, allow this mixture to sit for 30 minutes, then transfer it to a colander to drain off the excess liquid. Return the veggie mixture to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Next, combine the vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes, whisking or stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour this mixture over the veggie mixture, tossing the veggies to coat them evenly.
  4. Chill the salad for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Be sure to drain off any excess liquid once again, before serving.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Turnip No-Potato Salad

Summer is here!

So, of course, I’ve got summer barbecues on my mind.

And obviously that means I’ve got summer barbecue staples on my mind—potato salad, to be exact!

I think we can all agree that potatoes are great, but there are other root veggies out there that are primed for side dish glory.

Take turnips, for instance.

Turnips are a little sweeter than potatoes and make for the most amazing substitute in a “potato” salad.

Combine them with some crunchy celery, a hit of bacon, and a simple dressing made of mayo and Greek yogurt.

Voila!

You’ve got a potato--I mean a turnip--salad to die for!

Turnip No-Potato Salad

servings: 3 cups of salad, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 small to medium turnips (about 1½ pounds), cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
  • 1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • ½ teaspoon paprika, more for a garnish
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced into half-moons (about ¾ cup)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup), more for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the turnips with the balsamic vinegar, oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Bake the turnips until they are tender and lightly colored—20-25 minutes.
  2. While the turnips bake, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until it is crispy—6-7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, then coarsely chop it and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, pickle juice, mustard, and paprika. Add the turnips, celery, scallions, and three-quarters of the bacon. Toss this mixture to combine, and season it with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  4. Garnish the salad with the remaining bacon, along with more scallions and paprika.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

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There are a lot of cool things going on in this recipe.

First, the shrimp get tossed in cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, which gets them nice and spicy and gives them TONS of flavor.

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Next, you're making a spread of creamy sour cream, spicy chipotle, and cool lime.

Not to mention that you're also whipping up a pineapple avocado salsathat you should just go ahead and make extra of, because you will want to put it on EVERYTHING.

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And last, all of this goodness goes on a piece of jicama that is sturdy yet flexible, and adds another layer of freshness and crunch to the dish.

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And because it’s really just a slice of jicama, it takes almost no extra time.

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You could use these components separately in lots of dishes this summer, or you could combine them all and make the most outrageous tacosthat are actually crazy healthy for you.

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Whatever you do, you are eating good tonight!

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

servings: 4; makes 8 small tacos

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

  • 1½ cup finely chopped pineapple
  • 1 avocado, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle puree *see note
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • One-1½ pound jicama, about 4-5 inches wide
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 16-20 large/extra large shrimp (about ¾ to 1 pound)
  • Pineapple Avocado Salsa
  • Cilantro, for a garnish

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, avocado, red pepper, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Mix together and set aside.

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, lime zest, chipotle puree, and 1½ teaspoons of the salt. Mix together and set aside.
  2. Peel the jicama and cut it in half widthwise, creating two circular pieces. Place one of the halves on a mandolin cut-side down and set the mandolin for about 1/12 inch-thick slices (You should set the dial between ⅛ and 1/16, but closer to the 1/16 mark.). Your slices should be thin enough to bend without breaking, but thick enough to hold the filling. Also, if the jicama is too big for your mandoline, trim one of the sides until it fits. After slicing the jicama, you should have about 20 “taco shells” (the extras can be saved for up to a week in the fridge). Discard the ends or use for another purpose.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook the spices for 1 minute, then add the shrimp and cook it until it is pink and cooked through—about 2-3 minutes. Note: You can cut the shrimp in half prior to cooking if you prefer; the smaller the shrimp, the better they fit into the jicama taco shell, which also makes the taco a little easier to eat.
  4. Place the jicama shells on plates and sprinkle each with a touch of salt. Next top with the sour cream mixture, then the shrimp, and finally the Pineapple Avocado Salsa. Garnish with extra cilantro if desired.

Notes:

  • You’ll find chipotles in adobo in a small can next to your taco fixings in the supermarket. A whole chipotle pepper is generally too spicy for a recipe, so I take the whole can and puree it in the food processor or blender. Then you can measure out what you need. Store the remaining puree by placing in the bottom of a Ziploc bag and allowing it to freeze like that so you get a log shape. Then just slices off as much of the frozen puree as you need in the future.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Celeriac + Lobster Rolls topped with Fennel + Apple Slaw

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There are a lot of good things in my book Meat On The Side (I might be a little biased?).

But this one really might take the cakeor the roll.

There's the fresh, yet hearty, caramelized celeriac that perfectly compliments the lobster, and then the crisp apple and fennel slaw with a hint of orange...

All sitting on top of this little guy.

It hits every high note.

This is the kind of dish I make for company, or when I need to do something nice for my husband (I can be a cranker when pregnant).

It’s really special, but not so fancy where you won't want to devour the whole thing in two bites.

Okay, four bites.

See? I’m dainty.

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls topped with Fennel + Apple Slaw

makes: 4 sandwiches

Fennel + Apple Slaw:

  • 1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 Red Delicious apple, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1 jalapeño chile or Fresno chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Basil + Lemon Aioli :

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 celeriac (1½ to 2 pounds), peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 split-top hot dog rolls
  • 9 ounces fresh lobster meat (equivalent to one 3-pound lobster), coarsely chopped

Fennel + Apple Slaw:

  1. Mix the fennel, apples, jalapeño, lemon juice, orange juice, and salt in a large bowl, stirring until well combined. Set aside on the countertop to let the fennel and apples soften while you prepare the rest of the sandwich.

Basil + Lemon Aioli :

  1. Add the egg yolk, mustard, and garlic to a blender and blend on high for 10 seconds. Add the vinegar, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice and blend again for 10 seconds. With the blender running, very slowly drizzle in the oil, starting with a few drops at a time. After you have added 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil and the aioli has emulsified and you see no separation, you can add the remaining oil in a faster stream as the blender continues to run. Scrape the thickened aioli into a small bowl and stir in the basil. Set aside.

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the celeriac, sprinkle with the salt, and stir again. Cook until the celeriac is tender and browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a second large skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add the rolls and cook until browned on the sides, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. As soon as the celeriac is cooked, reduce the heat to low and stir the lobster into the skillet. Cook until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the aioli and stir until well combined.
  4. Spoon the lobster mixture into the rolls, dividing it equally. Top each roll with one-quarter of the slaw.

Notes:

  • If you’re not in the mood to make your own aioli, skip it and use ¾ cup mayonnaise instead, adding the basil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little grated garlic.
  • Fennel has a nice licorice flavor, but can be replaced with a small red onion or cabbage in a pinch. If you have some tarragon on hand add it when using these substitutes.
  • Go ahead, make the slaw in advance. You’ll get a jump on the prep and the longer it sits, the better it gets.
  • For simpler slaw use, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes instead of the hot pepper, and just lemon juice instead of both juices.
  • Make this a meal a bit more accessible by substituting shrimp for the lobster. Or for a different take on things, chopped chicken breast makes for one heck of a tasty sandwich, too!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Nikki Dinki + Damaris Phillips on Guys Grocery Games

I couldn't be more excited to share that you can catch me and Damaris on Guys Grocery Games this week!!

Damaris and I are partnering up to win $20,000!

And show everyone what kind of chefs we are and what a great team we know we are.

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We've been best friends since we met on Food Network Star and most recently have been working on our anti-lifestyle lifestyle blog BluebirdandBlackberries.com

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$20,000 would be good chunk of change to put towards our brand and we will be cooking up something fierce to win it. 

No matter what happens, I'm just happy to call this girl my partner and friend!!

 

CHECk oUT MY COOKBOOK, Meat on the Side!

 

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Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

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Why make your mac and cheese into a cup?

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Why not?!

It’s cute, your kids will be more likely to eat it no matter what is inside, and you can serve it at parties!

And did I mention how cute it is?!

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For this hacked version of mac and cheese, I'm adding sundried tomatoes and pesto.

Two easy-to-find, jarred ingredients that suddenly make mac and cheese feel elegant!

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All you need to do is make the mac, add the sundried tomatoes, top it with pesto and parm, bake and serve!

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The tomatoes deepen the flavor, while the zingy pesto adds a fresh note!

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It’s mac and cheese that you can suddenly serve to guests!

Or just devour standing in the kitchen on a Tuesday night.

Either way, you win.

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Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

makes: 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce box of macaroni and cheese (with liquid cheese packet)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a non-stick muffin tin with cooking spray. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook until al dente—about 9 minutes; drain when finished. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and turn the heat down to medium, then stir in the cheese packet and tomatoes.
  2. Scoop ½ cup of the macaroni mixture into each of the prepared muffin cups, then top each cup with about 1 tablespoon of the pesto and about ½ teaspoon of the parmesan.
  3. Bake the cheese cups until the pasta on the top of each is lightly browned but not crunchy—about 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cups to sit in the pan to cool for at least 10 minutes before unmolding them.
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Blooming Tomato

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Why should onions have all the fun?!

Forget the Blooming Onion (though it is undeniably delicious), because this summer the Blooming Tomato is taking over!

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I’m always looking to do something new with veggiesto transform them into something special.

And sometimes just cutting a veggie in a different way can accomplish that goal...

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This tomato becomes the centerpiece of a salad, and suddenly the salad is an experience and not just some lettuce and tomato.

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The trick is to cut it into wedges while leaving the bottom center intact.

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Then top it as you like!

I’m going with Caesar dressing, lettuce, bacon, croutonsand to make it really special for Wendy, some crab.

And just imagine this with some summer heirloom tomatoes!

Oh man, get ready for a lot of Blooming Tomatoes on my Instagram!

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Blooming Tomato

servings: 1; makes 1 salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 bacon strip
  • 1 large tomato
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup croutons, cut into small pieces
  • Crab meat (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—6 to 7 minutes, turning once. Then transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain.
  2. While the bacon cooks, remove the tomato’s stem and place it stem-side-up on a cutting board. Then cut the tomato into 8 wedges making all of your cuts on the stem side and leaving the bottom intact (first cut the tomato in half one way without cutting all the way through, then cut it in half the other way without cutting all the way through, and finally cut each quarter in half without cutting all the way through—for 8 even wedges).
  3. Next, sprinkle the cut tomato with the salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over the tomato, fill it with the shredded lettuce, and top it with the croutons and crab meat (if desired). Finally, when the bacon has finished cooking, remove it from the pan, crumble it over the blooming tomato, and serve.
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: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Tomato + Cheddar Lemon Aioli Pasta Salad

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With summer finally here, I feel like I’m always looking for things I can bring to a BBQ or out to the beachfoods that can be served at room temperature, and also won't have reduced themselves to some crazy-looking concoctions by the time I get wherever we're going.

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Pasta salads are always a good bet, and when you add a homemade lemon aioli (I stole the recipe from my cookbook, Meat On The Side!) and the perfect balance of textures and flavors, you are guaranteed to be the hit of the party!

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For the aioli (a fancy word for mayo), you just add garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and egg yolk to a blender, then drizzle in some oil.

That’s it!

And the combination of those ingredients, although kind of basic, creates a taste that is out of this worldcreamy, tangy, and light!

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Once you add your all-star aioli to chunks of cheddar, richly-flavored sundried tomatoes, juicy grape tomatoes, and crunchy lettuce, you end up with a simple pasta salad that doesn’t taste so simple.

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This incredible dish is about using familiar flavors, but making them the best they can be.

And this is the best pasta salad EVER!

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Tomato + Cheddar Lemon Aioli Pasta Salad

servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon + zest of half of the lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, sliced
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 16 ounces dry rotini pasta
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups packed spring mix lettuce
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 8 ounces cubed sharp cheddar cheese (¼-inch cubes)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the rotini. Add the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a blender and blend on high for about 10 seconds. Then, with the machine still running, slowly add ¼ cup of the oil at a time, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Set aside.
  2. When the water boils, add the rotini and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer to a large bowl, allowing the pasta to cool.
  3. Once the pasta has cooled, to the same bowl, add the tomatoes, spring mix, sundried tomatoes, cheese, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper, then stir to combine. Serve and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

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Ultimate Veggie Burgers

ULTIMATE VEGGIE BURGERS!!!

It's been my goal for awhile now to make a bang-up version of a veggie burger.

But every time I really thought about it, I was super intimidated.

I mean, all of those weird ingredients, lots of chopping, and then the fear that after the first bite, the whole thing might just fall apart.

So instead of tackling this daunting task head-on, I've avoided it like the plague.

I just told myself that someday I'd make a better—no, a perfect—veggie burger.

More perfect than any other one out there.

And so when the time came for me to face my fear, I came up with something that makes me wonder what I was so afraid of in the first place.

My Ultimate Veggie Burgers have no weird ingredients, are super dense (for that BIG bite experience!), and look better than some of the best beef patties you've ever laid eyes on!

Like all amazing things we can't have right away, the reward is SO worth the wait!

Ultimate Veggie Burgers

servings: 6 patties

Ingredients:

  • One 15-ounce can brown lentils, rinsed + drained (1½ cup cooked lentils)
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1½ cups cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup walnuts halves + pieces
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons barbeque sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the lentils and mushrooms on a parchment-lined or lightly sprayed baking sheet and roast them until the lentils are dry and crisp on the outside and the mushrooms are dry and shrunken to half their original size—25 minutes.
  2. Use a wooden spoon to move the mushrooms to the side, then spread the cooked rice in the open space. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the rice is lightly toasted in places and the lentils are very dry—15 minutes.
  3. While the beans, mushrooms, and rice are cooking, place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until they are coarsely ground. When the lentils, mushrooms, and rice have finished roasting, add them to the food processor and pulse until well-combined, but not completely smooth. Then add the flour, barbeque sauce, egg, salt, garlic powder, rosemary, and paprika and pulse just until all ingredients are combined.
  4. Next, form the mixture into six even patties by hand, each about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and ¾-inches thick. Then heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook them until they are well-browned and crisp—about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Notes:

  • ¾ cup dried lentils should yield the 1½ cups cooked lentils you need in this recipe. Also, ½ cup uncooked brown rice should yield the 1½ cups cooked rice needed.
  • If you prefer to bake the patties rather than sautéing them, place them on a lightly-sprayed unlined tray and bake them at 400°F until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside, flipping halfway through—about 20 minutes.
  • You can omit the flour for a gluten-free patty. The patties will be slightly less stable, but still very good.
  • To prepare from frozen, bake patties at 400°F for 13 to15 minutes.
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: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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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!
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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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