Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheeseball

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After eating my 124,562nd Everything Bagel with cream cheese, I had an epiphany.

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“I should make this into a cheeseball!”

“Better yet, a PUMPKIN cheeseball!!”

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And thus the Pumpkin Cheeseball was born.

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I had seen different versions of Pumpkin Cheeseballs on Pinterest.

But most of them involved hours of wait time and a series of rubber bands, which all seemed far above my pay grade (or attention span!).

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There had to be a better way.

And guess what?! I found it!

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Don't worry, I'll share my secret...

Basically you create a mouthwatering cheese ball made of goat cheese, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, and scallions.

Cover it in Everything Bagel seasoning, then shape it with a chopstick or spoon.

And for the cutest final effect, top it with a pumpkin stem.

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It’s seriously that easy, and it’s done in 20 minutes.

And once you set it on the table, it will last about the same amount of time!

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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheeseball

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 5 ounces herbed goat cheese (such as Boursin)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup everything bagel spice mix
  • 1 stem from small pumpkin or bell pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, chives, and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor or mixer, then process to combine until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic along with your hands to form the mixture into a short, squat ball, then place the plastic-wrapped ball in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove the stem from the bell pepper or pumpkin; if you use a pumpkin, it’s easiest to cut off the whole top of the pumpkin straight across, then cut around the base of the stem (rather than trying to break the stem off).
  4. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Pour/sprinkle the spice mix all over the cheese ball, pressing it in so that it sticks and coats the entire ball.
  5. Use a chopstick or spoon handle to press indented lines into the ball that resemble the creases on a pumpkin, then use your hands to smooth and reshape the ball.
  6. Insert the stem into the center of the top of the ball. Serve with your favorite crackers, and enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you’re having difficulty with Steps 4 or 5, try putting your cheese ball back in the refrigerator or freezer to chill longer. It will firm up and may be easier to work with.
  • If you don’t have a pumpkin or bell pepper, you can also use a 2-inch piece of broccoli stem; this also looks great!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Pumpkin-Poblano Pasta with Baby Bok Choy + Shrimp

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Fall is definitely officially upon us, and with it you start to see all things pumpkin popping up—from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin pancakes to pumpkin [fill-in-the-blank].

I am in full support of the pumpkin movement, but I find that all these things have a similar flavor.

Don't get me wrong: I love pumpkin (as I do all veggies!), but I also know it can be paired with more than just cinnamon.

Because of this, I wanted to share this Pumpkin-Poblano Pasta from my book Meat On The Side. It combines pumpkin puree with peppers and shrimp for a creamy, sweet and spicy sauce.

And the entire recipe only uses ten ingredients and is done in about the time it takes for the pasta to cook!

Pumpkin-Poblano Pasta with Baby Bok Choy + Shrimp

servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 poblano chile
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 3 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 4 baby bok choys, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 16 jumbo shrimp (16/20 size), peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions (green parts only)
  • ¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  1. Use the broiler or gas burner on the stovetop to roast the poblano: Simply place it under or over the flame (use tongs if you’re working on the stovetop) and cook until mostly black on all sides—5 to 8 minutes, turning as needed. Place the poblano in a plastic food storage bag; seal the bag. When the poblano is cool, rub off the skin with a paper towel. Cut the poblano open lengthwise and then remove its stem and seeds.
  2. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the pasta. While it is heating, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the shallots and garlic and sauté until tender—about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and 1 teaspoon of the salt until incorporated; then stir in the pumpkin, mixing well, and cook for 3 minutes more.
  3. Transfer the pumpkin mixture to a food processor or blender. Add the poblano and process to a smooth puree. Spoon the mixture back into the skillet. Stir in about two-thirds of the cheese along with the nutmeg and cinnamon (you’ll use the rest of the cheese for a garnish). Keep the skillet over low heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  4. Cook the pasta in the now-boiling water until al dente according to the package directions. When it is done, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a second large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bok choy, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and cook until tender—3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bok choy to a medium bowl. Add the shrimp to the same skillet and sprinkle them with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt; sauté until pink—about 5 minutes, turning once. Return the bok choy to the skillet and heat through.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the pumpkin sauce; toss to coat the pasta. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta cooking water until it has your desired consistency.
  7. Serve immediately, dividing the pasta among 4 dinner plates and topping each portion with one-quarter of the bok choy and 4 shrimp. Scatter the scallions, pumpkin seeds, and remaining cheese evenly over the tops.

Notes:

  • Keep It Simple - (1) Substitute kale, radicchio, or cabbage for the bok choy. (2) Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream instead of the goat cheese. Also add a sprinkle of Parmesan to bump up the flavor if you have it on hand. (3) If you don’t want to bother with roasting the poblano chile, simply seed and chop it, and then sauté it with the shallots and garlic: a quick alternative for a similar taste.
  • 50/50 - This pasta is as good without shrimp as it is with; simply omit the shrimp to give vegetarians a satisfying meal. If you’re making some veggie versions and some shrimp ones, just cook the shrimp separately and add to the plates you want.
  • Family Friendly - Leave off the bok choy for pickier eaters, or puree it up with the rest of the pumpkin-poblano mixture and they will never know it’s in there.
: @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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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

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A friend of mine recently 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 this time of year.

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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Broccoli Tater Tots

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Does anyone really want to eat their broccoli steamed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Then bake them up into crunchy perfection!

You'll never look at broccoli the same way!

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Broccoli Tater Tots

servings: 36 tater tots

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cheesecake Parfaits

Cheesecake Parfait

I've got my special guest, Zac Young, making Cheesecake Parfaits on Facebook Live today. Check out the recipe!

Cheesecake Parfaits

servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Assorted toppings such as fruit, preserves + cookies

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it is softened. Then add the powdered sugar and beat the mixture until it is smooth, scraping down the bowl to ensure there are no lumps.
  2. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, sour cream, heavy cream, and salt. Beat these ingredients until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes.
  3. Spoon the mixture into desired glasses, layering with toppings. Refrigerate the parfait until you are ready to serve it.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds kind of awesome right?!

Homemade Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

servings: 6

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cauliflower Tater Tots

Who doesn’t love a tater tot?

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

Simple and yet simply satisfying.

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

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

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

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

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

It's so hard to do!

Cauliflower Tater Tots

servings: 2 dozen tater tots

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

 

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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

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Turnip No-Potato Salad

Summer is here!

Or at least, it's close enough!

So, of course, I’ve got summer barbeques on my mind. And obviously that means I’ve got summer barbeque 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

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Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

As a kid--and still, as an adult--I was (am!) obsessed with mac and cheese.

But my kid-self wanted nothing to do with any kind of homemade mac and cheese sporting a bubbling crust.

Gross!

No, if it didn’t come out of a box, I wouldn’t go near it.

It’s been a couple of years, but there are still a lot of kids out there just like me (and maybe some adults, too).

So how do you get your kids to eat a homemade mac and cheese that’s also packed with veggies?

You make it look and taste as much like the original as possible!

The base of this sauce is pureed veggies.

There's no butter and no milk.

But there are so many hidden veggies inside, it will make your head spin.

It’s time to lose the box (...at least, sometimes)!

Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about ¾ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, cut into large chunks, (about 1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks (about ½ pound or 1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1¼ + ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces American cheese (6 slices)
  • 12 ounces macaroni pasta

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, vegetable stock, and the 1¼ teaspoon salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender—about 20 minutes. This should give you about ¼ cup liquid along with the veggies.
  2. Place the veggie mixture in a blender and process it until it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water if there is not enough liquid to blend easily.
  3. Then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cheddar cheese, American cheese, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; stir until the cheese melts (depending on the saltiness of your stock and cheese you may not need this extra ½ teaspoon of salt). Add more stock if your mixture is too thick or if it thickens over time.
  4. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer the macaroni to the saucepan with the veggie and cheese mixture. Toss to combine and serve.

Notes:

  • You can use any combination of cheese that you like—cheddar, parmesan, fontina or provolone— though I do like to include a little American or Velveeta in my mix, as it gives the cheese sauce the right consistency.
  • This version is on the simple side; for a flavor that makes a bigger impact, I suggest stirring in some salsa or adding sautéed peppers to the mix.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

 

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

In my book, Meat On The Side, I have a Cauliflower Wing recipe...

Cauliflower 2.jpg

I roast cauliflower and toss it with my famous (and famously simple!) Buffalo sauce.

Then I douse it with blue cheese and shaved celery, for a “salad” worthy of an Oscar (Or whatever type of award is appropriate for a salad. Probably not an Oscar, huh?).

It’s an easy and light way to get your Buffalo fix.

However, I've been playing with the whole cauliflower + Buffalo sauce thing for awhile now, and I've recently come up with a new version.

This one has just a few more calories and takes just a little more time, but in the end you are left with something that will really, truly satisfy your craving for wings.

The batter is simple--a combination of flour and milk...

You whisk it up, add some cauliflower, and suddenly start to see the magical way a piece of cauliflower can become a wing.

Once baked, you simply toss these "wings" with Buffalo sauce and, most importantly, prepare yourself to eat them all!

It’s a plate of wings that are baked--not fried! And it's cauliflower--not chicken!

Really, what more could you ask for?!

No need to send a thank you gift, just remember you owe me. ;)

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

servings: Makes 40-50 cauliflower “wings”

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce, 3 teaspoons of the Worcestershire sauce, the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  3. Toss the cauliflower in the batter, then spread it on the baking sheets. Bake the cauliflower until it is slightly browned in spots—about 20 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower bakes, in a small pot, whisk together the remaining ¾ cup hot sauce, the butter, vinegar, brown sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Once the cauliflower is browned, remove it from the oven and toss it well in the Buffalo sauce. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Then return the cauliflower to the baking sheets and cook it under the broiler until it is crispy and browned in spots—2-3 minutes more. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss or brush it with the remaining sauce. Enjoy by serving with blue cheese.

Notes:

  • Freezing Instructions: To enjoy later, freeze the completed Buffalo Cauliflower Wings in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with foil. Once they are frozen, remove the wings from the baking sheet, place them in a food storage bag, and put them back in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. To reheat, begin by preheating the oven to 375°F and lightly spraying a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cook the wings until they are warmed through, 10-15 minutes, depending on their size.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

 

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My Baby Food Philosophy

I make all my own baby food, it's not an easy process, so I've figured out how to do it as quickly, easily, and nutritiously as possible. I make small 1oz portions of food that I mix and match for her meals. I call them baby cubes...

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

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

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

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

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

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

Tomato Soup with Rice:

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

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

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

Tomato Soup with Rice:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

 

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Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes

Check out my OUTRAGEOUSLY good sloppy joes...

These Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes are from my book Meat On The Side.

If you're looking for amazing comfort food that's also good for you, you owe it to yourself to give them a shot.

The secret is that the sandwich filling is half meat, half veggies! No need to feel guilty--you can eat up and enjoy!

Mushroom + Beef Sloppy Joes

servings: 4 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 8 ounces ground sirloin
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems discarded, caps finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Finely chopped dill pickles, for serving
  • Sliced pickled banana peppers, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sirloin, breaking up with a spoon or spatula, and cook until it has browned, about 5 minutes. Then, if the skillet is too dry for sautéing the mushrooms, add a bit more oil. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until they are brown and tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bell peppers, onion, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook until all the veggies are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, vinegar, sriracha, and the remaining1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  3. Add the tomato paste and thyme to the mixture in the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes. Then stir in the tomato sauce mixture and cook until the sauce thickens and coats the veggies and meat and all the flavors come together, 5 to 7 minutes more.
  4. To serve, spoon the sloppy Joe mixture onto the bottom half of each hamburger bun, dividing it equally, and dot with some pickles and banana peppers before adding the bun tops.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

 

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