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 veggies—to 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—not just some veggies tossed together on a plate.

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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, croutons—and to make it really special, 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.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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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.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

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Stop.

Do not look at this muffin and say, "EW! It's green!"

Instead, I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you're eating a mini banana bread muffin.

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Now open your eyes.

This is when you discover that this same weird green muffin tastes just like banana bread.

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But instead of using banana bread ingredients, I’m using a bag of spinach, some carrots, oats, bananas, and a touch of maple syrup to create a muffin that packs some serious nutritional punch.

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And it's as simple as throwing everything in your food processor, blending it up, and baking.

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I’m telling you, every time I eat one, I have to remind myself that they're good for me.

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And if you’re on board, maybe your kids will be too.

And if you have a little one like mine, they might not yet realize that most kids think a green muffin is a scary thing. 

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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

servings: 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed + squeezed dry (about 1 cup after squeezed)
  • 2½ cups rolled oats, more for a garnish
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 6 ounces)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the spinach to a blender or food processor and pulse until it is finely chopped and almost pureed.
  2. Add the oats, bananas, carrots, maple syrup, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt to the spinach, then pulse until all ingredients are well-combined and the mixture is almost pureed, but not quite smooth. You may have to stop and stir the mixture a bit to make sure it doesn’t contain any large chunks.
  3. Scoop the batter evenly into 36 cups of a mini muffin tin prepared with cooking spray, then top each muffin with a light sprinkle of the reserved oats.
  4. Bake the muffins until a knife inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean and dry —24 to 28 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @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 oil—on 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 everywhere—it’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 scallions—and, 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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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 jam—a 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 thing—you 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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BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

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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!

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 Chive Risotto

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My goal is a simple one—to 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 helping—because 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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Broccoli Tater Tots

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Does anyone really want to eat their broccoli steamed?

Sitting there, waterlogged and sad on the side of 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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Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza

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Remember that time on The Wendy Williams Show when I showed everyone how to make a fabulous Fully-Loaded Broccoli Crust Pizza?!

Well, I still can't decide which is my favorite part—the 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 help me 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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Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

When I knew I was bringing soups to The Wendy Williams Show, butternut squash soup was obviously at the top of the list.

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But knowing Wendy is vegan, I really had to rethink the classic recipe. 

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Without using chicken stock or cream—both of which can add so much flavor to soups!—I had to extract as much flavor as possible from my ingredients, while finding other ways to give the soup a creamy texture.

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I discovered roasting the squash was vital, as it really intensified the sweet taste of the squash.

And pairing the roasted squash with apple made it even better.

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A handful of cashews later, and my soup was even creamier and more velvety in texture than it would have been if I had added a cup of cream!

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In the end what I’ve really created is just a better soup—that also just happens to be vegan.

Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

servings: 6; makes about 16 cups of soup

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup:

  • 1 large butternut squash (3 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 red apples (about 1 pound), peeled + coarsely chopped, some reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:

  • 3 cups one-inch cubes sourdough bread (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole pecans (about 4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 leaves fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed + finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Peel the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds and discard them. Cut the squash into ½-inch-thick slices and then into ½-inch chunks. Place them in a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Toss to coat; then spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender—about 50 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it is tender and browned in spots—about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
  3. Add the stock, apple, cashews, and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the pot and cook for 50 minutes. When the squash has finished cooking, remove it from the oven, add it to the pot with the stock, and cook the soup for 10-20 minutes more until the cashews are very soft.
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the ginger, nutmeg, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Blend until combined and then transfer the soup to serving bowls. Top with breadcrumbs, diced apple, and enjoy!

Topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bread cubes on a (parchment-lined? No, nothing) baking sheet and cook them in the oven until they are dried out and toasty—about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until small bread crumbs form. Add the pecans and continue pulsing until the bread crumbs are fine and the pecan pieces are about the size of a pea.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the sage leaves and fry them until they are crisp—about one minute. Then transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the oil in the skillet.
  3. Next, add the bread crumb mixture to the hot oil and toss until it is light brown and toasty—2-3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the parsley and salt.
  4. Top the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with the bread crumbs, fried sage, and pomegranate seeds.
: @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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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Shaved Asparagus + Prosciutto

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My husband likes to eat low-carb—which is terrible!

Yes, I know it's good for me, and yes, someone like me who consumes carbs like a junkie could obviously use a break, but I just don't want to!

Especially when it comes to pizza!

But what if there was a pizza that was big on flavor yet low on carbs?

This is a game changer: Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

There is plenty of cheese, it still warms your belly—it just doesn't add to it—and you can get as creative as you want with the toppings.

The crust uses cauliflower instead of flour; anytime a substitution like that works without sacrificing taste, I’m on board!

In fact I'm the captain of that tasty ship!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Shaved Asparagus + Prosciutto

makes: One 10- to 12-inch pizza

Cauliflower Crust:

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 ½ pounds), broken into florets
  • 1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg

Asparagus + Prosciutto Topping:

  • 5 asparagus stalks (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 Fresno chile
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil

Cauliflower Crust:

  1. Place the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. You may need to stir as you go to make sure the bigger pieces don’t sit on the top. You should have about 4 cups.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the cauliflower in a large saucepan along with ½ inch of water. Cover and cook on medium-high until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Drain and let cool. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle transfer it to a kitchen towel or piece of cheesecloth; roll up the cloth and twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Squeeze hard to get out all the excess water, this is crucial to getting a good crust. Once done you should have 1 to 1 ½ cups of dry cauliflower.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the cauliflower, mozzarella, oregano, garlic powder, and salt together. Add the egg and mix to combine. Don’t be worry if the mixture seems too wet and loose. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to the baking sheet and shape it into a 10- to 12-inch-diameter round, about ½-inch thick.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the crust until golden brown—about 20 minutes. While it bakes, prepare the topping (below). When the crust is done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn the heat up to 475°F.
  5. Spread the ricotta topping mixture over the crust. Scatter the asparagus and chiles over the top and then sprinkle them with a little salt and add a drizzle of olive oil. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake the pizza for 10 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, scatter the prosciutto over the top; cut into wedges and serve.

Asparagus + Prosciutto Topping:

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to completely shave the asparagus spears into thin ribbons; place in a small bowl. Cut the chile crosswise into thin rounds. Stir together the ricotta, thyme, lemon zest, and ½ teaspoon salt in a second small bowl. Cut the prosciutto into ½-inch-wide strips.

Keep It Simple:

  • Since you are spending a bit of time on the crust, you may want to spend less prepping the topping. Store bought pizza sauce or plain ricotta right out of the container both work as a great base for some veggies.
  • Fresno chiles are fully ripe jalapenos and have a fruity heat. If you can't find them use any hot pepper, or skip and use red pepper flakes and sweet peppers instead.
  • Prosciutto is an especially tasty form of cured and aged pork leg, but it can easily be replaced with ham, pancetta, or even cooked bacon.

50/50:

  • With or without the prosciutto, this is a super satisfying pie. But if you don’t want one 50/50 pie, make 2 individual pizzas out of this recipe.

FF:

  • The cauliflower crust will quickly become a staple in your home. Be sure to make extra so you have it on hand. Make the pie to completion except for the prosciutto, cool and freeze; when you’re ready to eat, bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes until hot and crisp; top with the prosciutto and serve. Or freeze the crusts with no topping, let thaw in the fridge, top and bake as instructed above.
  • The more you process the cauliflower the less you'll see bits of cauliflower and the more it will look like a traditional crust.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

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I LOVE this salad.

Yes, LOVE.

The char from the grill, the slightly bitter radicchio sweetened up by a dressing of honey and orange, and then the burst of fresh grapes to brighten up the smokiness.

Make this for your next dinner party, make it tonight, heck make it for breakfast—just make it!

Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

servings: 4; makes about 1 cup dressing

Honey-Orange Dressing:

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts, cut lengthwise into 4 wedges
  • 1 radicchio, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 1 red onion, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups halved red grapes

Honey-Orange Dressing:

  1. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, orange juice, honey, vinegar, and salt to a medium bowl. Whisk together until well blended; then whisk in the chives.

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

  1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill (or plan to use a grill pan). Use a pastry brush to brush the oil over all surfaces of the romaine, radicchio, and onion wedges; then sprinkle the salt evenly over them.
  2. If not using a grill, heat a grill pan over high heat. Working in batches if necessary, arrange the romaine, radicchio, and onions on the hot grill or grill pan. Cook until all pieces are slightly wilted and charred on all sides—1 to 2 minutes per side for the romaine and radicchio, 2 to 4 minutes per side for the onions.
  3. To serve, divide the romaine, radicchio, and onions among 4 plates. Ladle one-quarter of the dressing (about ¼ cup) over each serving. Divide the grapes over the tops.

Make It Meaty:

  • When the veggies are done, leave the grill or grill pan on and cook up a small pork tenderloin. Cut, place next to the veggies and top everything with the dressing.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

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Now that football season’s over, I find myself missing it a little. My husband and I are used to watching football every Sunday…and sometimes Thursday, Saturday, and Monday, too.

I like football, but when I think about it, what I really miss is football food.

A football game is a good excuse to whip up snacks, open some beers—or maybe some sparkling rosé—and watch TV all day.

But I guess I don’t really need an excuse. ;)

I think it’s time to get back to Sunday tailgate snacks all day! And to start, how about some Cabbage Nachos?!

Mild, crunchy cabbage adds texture and acts as a delicious glue to hold a showstopping tomatillo salsa and crispy chip together.

Since I’ve solved the problem of missing my football snacks, it’s time to settle back onto the couch. The only question now is, what to watch?!

Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

makes: 1 large plate of nachos

Ingredients:

  • ¾ pound tomatillos (5 to 7), husks removed
  • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chile
  • Half a yellow onion, peeled and cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 5 cups lightly packed shredded green cabbage (about half a head)
  • 30 large tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese (8 ounces)
  • ¼ cup pickled sliced jalapeno chiles

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Place the tomatillos, fresh jalapeno, and onions on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and then stir to coat the vegetables. Broil until the vegetables are tender and slightly charred—7 to 10 minutes. (You may have to remove the tomatillos and jalapenos and let the onions cook for an extra minute or so.) Leave the broiler on while you do the next steps.
  2. To make the salsa, transfer the charred vegetables to a food processor or blender; add 2 teaspoons of the salt and the cilantro. Process until almost smooth.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the cabbage is tender but not mushy—about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in about half the salsa until combined. You want the cabbage to be coated, but not dripping wet, so then stir in as much of the rest of the salsa as you need to get to that point.
  4. Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer on a large oven-safe serving dish. Spread the cabbage mixture over the chips and then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Broil the nachos until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Scatter the pickled jalapenos over the top and serve right away.

Keep It Simple:

  • Tomatillos look like green tomatoes with papery skins around them, and taste like a tart apple. If you’re having trouble finding them at your store, you can use tomatoes instead—the taste will be different but similarly delicious.
  • To make this dish in less than 10 minutes, try these shortcuts: simply buy a jar of your favorite red or green salsa instead of making the tomatillo salsa. And save major time by purchasing shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix as well as shredded cheese at your market; no need to do it yourself!

Make It Meaty:

  • These nachos are currently meatless, but you can add your favorite nacho topping, including ground beef, over the whole plate—or just over half for a 50/50 appetizer.

Family Friendly:

  • Your family will never know there is a pound of cabbage sitting in these nachos. The sautéed cabbage has a really mild flavor and its job is to help the tomatillo salsa stay on the nachos to give you a flavorful hit with every bite.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Collard Greens Pot Pies

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You already have a favorite pot pie recipe?

OK, but mine’s better.

Yours was passed down for generations? Oh, that’s sweet…

But mine’s still better.

Why?

Because mine is stuffed with collard greens, of course!

This slightly bitter, hearty green breaks up the richness of the traditional dish but leaves the classic pot pie flavor as the star.

And best of all, you’ll leave your meal feeling great when you think about the massive amount of greens you just ate…

The bottom line is, I win for best pot pie!

And if you make this your new favorite pot pie recipe, then you’ll be a winner too!

Collard Greens Pot Pies

servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onions
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound collard greens (8 to 10 leaves), coarsely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • ⅓ cup chopped parsley
  • Two 9-inch pie crusts (not baked)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Add the chicken to the pan and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides and cooked through—10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside to rest.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium; add the butter to the pan and cook until melted. Stir in the celery, carrots, onions, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the vegetables are soft and tender—5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Stir the wine into the vegetable mixture, scraping with your spoon to release any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes until most of the wine has evaporated and then stir in the collards and nutmeg; cook until the collards are wilted and soft—3 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the flour to the pan with the vegetables, stirring to combine well; cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock and milk. Bring the liquid to simmering and then simmer until the mixture becomes thick—3 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken and parsley to the thickened vegetable mixture, stirring to combine.
  5. Spoon the vegetable mixture into four 3½-inch oven-safe bowls (like a French onion soup bowl), dividing equally. Lay the pie crusts on a work surface and then from each crust, cut 2 rounds sized to fit generously over the bowls. Place a crust on each bowl and crimp it to the edge. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl and then brush this wash over each crust. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the tops, reserving a bit to add before serving if you wish. Use a small sharp knife to cut a couple of slits in the top of each pot pie. Bake the pot pies until the crust is brown—about 30 minutes. Dust with the reserved Parmesan and serve.

Keep It Simple:

  • The white wine can easily be replaced with chicken stock or even water.
  • The nutmeg gives the dish a special but subtle flavor and really compliments the greens. But you can leave it out if you don’t have it on hand.
  • You can bake this dish in 1 or 2 large casseroles (or deep-dish pie plates) instead of in individual bowls. If you need to, be creative and piece the pie crusts to cover!
  • Make this an under-500 calorie meal by baking or poaching your chicken with no oil and using a reduced-fat milk instead of whole. It will all still be creamy and delicious and you won’t feel as bad about having seconds (or thirds in the case of my husband).
  • Make it ahead! Once you have put the crust on, stop! Cover the pot pies with foil and then freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to dig in, heat your oven to 400°F and put the pot pies in with the foil still on, bake 40 minutes, remove the foil, and then add the egg wash and Parmesan and cook for 20 to 40 minutes more, depending on the size of your dish. (If you don’t have freezer-to-oven casseroles, use disposable pans.)
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Brussels Sprouts + Tomatillos Skillet Pizza

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I like my food to be amazing, and there are a couple of amazing things happening in this recipe…

First, we are making pizza in a skillet, which is a foolproof way to create a crisp crust with a chewy and moist inside.

Second, we are taking Brussels sprouts to a whole new level, separating the leaves and allowing them to get the perfect amount of “charredness” (totally a word).

And last we are adding tomatillos—after peeling away their papery outer skin, we are left with what looks like green tomatoes but tastes like “apple-ish, grape-ish amazingness” (yes, totally words).

I’m introducing Italy to Mexico and creating a tart, refreshing finish on an amazing pie…along with some really great words. ;)

Brussels Sprouts + Tomatillos Skillet Pizza

makes: One 12-inch pizza

Ingredients:

  • ¾ pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium-large tomatillos
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Half a lime

Directions:

  1. Cut off the bottom stem of each Brussels sprout and then gently tear or cut the leaves away from the core; discard the very center. Place the leaves in a medium bowl (you should have about 3 cups loosely packed leaves). Stir in 1 teaspoon of the oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Brush a 12-inch cast iron skillet with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and stretch or roll it to a 10-inch-diameter round. Fit the dough into the skillet, pushing it out to the edges. Scatter the cheese evenly over the dough and then sprinkle with the garlic. Spread the Brussels sprouts over the top.
  3. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the underside of the dough is very lightly golden brown—about 5 minutes. Then transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the leaves are charred and the dough is cooked through—for 10 to 12 minutes more.
  4. Meanwhile, remove and discard the husks from the tomatillos. Wash and dry the fruit and then coarsely chop it. Place the tomatillos in a small bowl; add the cilantro. Juice the lime into the bowl and add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt; toss to combine. Scatter over the hot pizza and serve.

Keep It Simple:

  • I never quite mastered making my own pizza dough, so I prefer to leave it to the professionals. Just pop into your favorite pizzeria and ask them if you can buy some dough: They are happy to sell it to you and you are happy to have fantastic dough you didn’t have to make.
  • To make this pizza you can use 12 ounces of dough, 15 ounces, whatever you can get your hands on, just don’t use more than 1 pound as the pie will get too thick.
  • Though I’m a big fan of tomatillos they are not always easy to find, so to replace them try diced pears, apples, or tomatoes.
  • Gruyère can be replaced with a combination of mozzarella and Parmesan or just mozzarella.

Make It Meaty:

  • Crisp and chopped bacon or pancetta are great toppings that can be sprinkled on with the tomatillos. Or for something a little more substantial, 4 to 6 ounces of cooked, chopped chicken is a great addition.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Roasted Broccoli, Corn + Green Chile Stuffed Naan

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Naan bread is tasty…

OK, I assume you’re looking for me to describe it as more than “tasty.”

Naan is an Indian bread that, like a pita, has a large hollow in the center, created by the moisture in its dough turning to steam and forming an air pocket when it bakes.

But unlike pita, naan is chewy and delicate in flavor and texture, and once again…very tasty!

Besides stuffing it like I do here, you can use naan as the base for a flatbread or pizza or cut it up for dipping into any kind of hummus or cheese dip.

However you prepare it, it's sure to be (you guessed it)…

TASTY!

Roasted Broccoli, Corn + Green Chile Stuffed Naan

servings: 2; double the recipe as you wish

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup very finely chopped broccoli
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup corn kernels
  • 1½ cups shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • Half a 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 1 naan
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Toss the broccoli with ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the oil in a medium bowl until well coated. Then spread it on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler until charred and tender—3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Return the broccoli to the medium bowl. Add the corn to the broccoli, along with the cheese, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the chiles. Stir to combine.
  3. Very gently open the naan by running a knife along one edge, between the layers. Naan usually has one layer that is thicker than the other, so try not to rip the thin layer. If some breaking occurs, that’s okay—the filling should stay in and the cheese will act as a glue, sealing up the bread as it cooks.
  4. Gently spoon the broccoli mixture into the naan. You want to push it to the edges but if you are having trouble getting the filling into a particular spot don’t worry, it will melt into those areas, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  5. Briefly heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the turmeric, making sure it spreads evenly through the oil. Lay the naan in the skillet and cook until crisp and golden brown on the bottom—3 minutes. Gently turn it over and cook the other side until it is golden brown and the cheese inside has melted—for 3 minutes more. Cut the naan into sixths or quarters and serve immediately.

Keep It Simple:

  • Though most stores are carrying naan bread these days, there are lots of substitutes that you can use for this recipe if it’s hard to find: Pita works very nicely, you can use two tortillas and make it like a quesadilla, or use the filling in between two slices of regular loaf bread, creating an outrageous grilled cheese.
  • Turmeric has a warm, peppery flavor and adds a great bright yellow color to the dish, but it can successfully be replaced with paprika or garlic powder or simply left out.
  • Green chiles come in a small can and can usually be found next to the refried beans, taco sauce and tortillas in your grocery store.
  • Instead of buying frozen corn or corn in a can use the kernels from one ear of fresh corn. Simply place the husked ear in boiling water for 5 minutes or better yet, put it on your grill till slightly charred. Use a sharp knife to cut down the side of the ear to remove the kernels.

Make It Meaty:

  • Add 2 ounces of very finely chopped cooked chicken to the filling mixture. Or to add an extra protein kick without the meat, add ¼ cup very finely chopped edamame.

Family Friendly:

  • Nothing like hiding broccoli in cheese and between some bread to get your kids to gobble it up. But if the spice from the pepper Jack cheese is too much for them, replace it with mozzarella or cheddar.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

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To ensure that all of my recipes turn out perfectly for you and not like a #PinterestFail, a lovely woman, Carol, helps me double-, triple-, and quadruple-check everything so we can be sure my recipes are clear, precise, and easy to follow.

During one of our millions of conversations, she mentioned that her favorite light meal is a baked potato with olive oil, Romano cheese, and watercress…

Well once you make me hungry for something I must have it, so that night I whipped up my version: Soft and well-seasoned potato with peppery arugula and roasted grapes that are insanely good, especially when mixed with honey and goat cheese.

It’s one of the simplest meals you can make and guaranteed to be one of your absolute favorites.

Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

makes: 4 baked potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed + dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups red grapes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped arugula
  • 4 ounces soft garlic + herb goat cheese log, crumbled
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick each potato with a fork 5 to 10 times. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil over the potatoes and sprinkle them with ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Place them in the heated oven, directly on the rack, and bake until they are soft when squeezed—45 to 60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, toss the grapes with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper on a rimmed baking sheet or in a medium baking dish. When the potatoes have about 20 minutes baking time left, place the grapes in the oven; when the potatoes are done the grapes should be slightly shriveled and starting to burst open.
  3. Slice each potato lengthwise, cutting about three-quarters of the way down. Push the ends of each toward the middle to open up a crevice. Divide ½ teaspoon of the salt over the 4 crevices and then fluff each with a fork. Add one-quarter of the arugula to each potato and divide the remaining ½ teaspoon salt over all 4; fluff again to mix the potato flesh and the arugula (you want to try and salt the entire inside of the potato).
  4. To serve, place each potato on a plate. Divide the cheese and grapes among them, filling the crevices, and then drizzle 1 tablespoon honey over each. Eat right away!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Brussels Sprouts + Pear Carbonara

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Brussels sprouts didn’t make a regular appearance in my meals until quite recently.

At first, their bitterness was an unwanted one, but what I have found is that the key to balancing out these bitter little nuggets is to add something a tad sweet—like pears, for instance.

Combine that with a little bacon (or not) and a rich, eggy carbonara sauce, and you bring out the best in this shrunken cabbage. Its bitterness perfectly cuts through the richness of the pasta sauce, while the pear adds that wanted touch of sweetness.

You’ll be making your inner child shudder as you greedily go back for another perfect bite of pear, pasta—and of course Brussels sprouts!

Brussels Sprouts + Pear Carbonara

makes: 4 entrée portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 4 bacon strips, chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add the oil and 1 teaspoon of the salt; toss to coat. Spread the sprouts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the linguini. Place the Brussels sprouts in the oven and roast until they are tender and charred—for 20 to 25 minutes. As soon as the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package instructions; then drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the fat in the skillet. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and sauté until soft—about 5 minutes. Stir in the pasta and remove the skillet from the heat.
  4. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl. Slowly add ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the egg mixture, whisking as you go (you don’t want to cook the eggs, so add the hot water very slowly). Add the egg mixture to the pan with the pasta, stirring vigorously until well incorporated. Place the skillet over low heat and add the Parmesan and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, tossing to combine. Finally add the Brussels sprouts, pears, and bacon, stirring gently until mixed. Then gradually stir in as much as you need of the remaining ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to give the mixture a saucy consistency. Serve immediately, scattering scallions on each portion.

50/50:

  • For a completely vegetarian meal, simply leave out the bacon and sauté the shallots and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil instead.
  • To make this dish for a mixed household (vegetarians and meat-eaters alike) sauté the bacon (1 piece per person) and set aside in the pan. Complete the recipe as written but sauté the shallots and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a second large skillet. Serve the pasta, adding some bacon and a drizzle of its fat to each meat-eater’s portion.

Family Friendly:

  • For a sweeter taste overall, use the outer leaves of the Brussels sprout only and chop them small. They are less bitter than the center.
  • As soon as the Brussels sprouts are out of the oven, sprinkle with a little Parmesan to make them look and taste a bit more appetizing for picky eaters. You can also cook them for only 15mintes to achieve less charred flavor.
  • Sometimes dinners have to wait on the stove while everyone gathers: Keep extra pasta water on hand and add it as you need to keep the pasta nice and saucy. It will be ready when you are.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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