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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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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Eggplant Zucchini Meatballs

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My stash of freezer foods for my daughter, Ivy, is one of my greatest sources of pride.

Forget a big bank account—if I have a freezer full of Banana Carrot Oat Muffins, Acorn Squash Pancakes, Cauliflower Tater Tots, and Broccoli Tater Tots, I am truly a rich woman.

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My daughter eats like me—she’s definitely a "Meat On The Side" kiddo.

And she wears her bib proudly.

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She eats every veggie under the sun (even if she doesn’t always know it!), which is incredible!

But I do want to get a little meat into her diet.

And since I know meatballs freeze really well, I went to work perfecting one for the whole family.

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And even though the goal is to add meat here, let's be real—I knew right away I wanted to bring veggies to the party.

I also wanted to make a meatball that was a little on the moist side, so it would be perfect for new eaters who don't have all their teeth yet.  

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Pureed roasted eggplant and zucchini add moisture and a depth of flavor that don't just make these meatballs more nutritious—they elevate them to a ridiculously flavorful level.

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The not-so-secret secret?

You're using vegetable puree instead of milk or any other wet element you might normally add to your favorite meatballs.

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And you end up with an awesome meatball.

Or maybe we should call it a vegemeatball.

Or a meateggieball.

Or maybe not 😉 .

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Eggplant Zucchini Meatballs

servings: 30 to 34 meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 small eggplant (about ¾ pound)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound)
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with ½ teaspoon of the oil and then sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper over them. Bake the eggplants until they are very soft—about 15 minutes.
  2. While the eggplant is baking, cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and drizzle them lightly with the remaining ½ teaspoon of oil and then sprinkle them with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper.
  3. Remove the eggplant from the oven and add the zucchini cut-side-up to the same baking sheet. Continue to cook the eggplant and zucchini until the zucchini can be easily pierced with a fork and the eggplant is very soft—25 to 30 minutes more. Then remove the baking sheet from the oven, but leave the oven on.
  4. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape the flesh of the eggplant into a food processor or blender; discard the skin. Then place the entire zucchini (including the skin) into the food processor as well. Process until pureed; this should give you about 1¾ cups of puree.
  5. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, then add the beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine well and then form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls by hand and space them evenly on a prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until they are golden brown—about 30 minutes.

Notes:

  • If you wish, you can sauté the meatballs instead of baking them (if your meatballs are on the moist side, this may be a little harder to do). After forming the mixture into balls, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides—8 to 10 minutes.
  • To reheat the meatballs, bake them in an oven preheated to 400°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Lasagna Soup

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Lasagna Soup

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound ground sirloin
  • ½ pound hot Italian Sausage, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for a garnish
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Two 32-ounce boxes chicken stock (8 cups), plus extra stock or water to thin as needed
  • One 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles, broken by hand into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped lightly packed basil, plus more for a garnish
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese, for a garnish
  • Ricotta cheese, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat, then add the sirloin, sausage, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until it is very brown and mostly cooked through; try not to stir too much to allow the meat to really brown—5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Cook until the onions are mostly tender and translucent—about 5 minutes. Add the stock, crushed tomatoes, marinara sauce, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it reduces slightly and the flavor intensifies—about 25 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles and cook until al dente—about 8 minutes, then stir in the basil. Taste, and add more salt if needed; this will depend on how salty your stock is. Also, add more stock or water if your soup is too thick (if your soup sits, it may thicken and you may need to add more stock or water later on).
  4. To serve, divide into bowls and top with the mozzarella cheese, a dollop of the ricotta, a sprinkle of black pepper, and extra basil.

Notes:

  • You could cook your noodles separately and then add them individually to each bowl. This way, if you have leftovers, your noodles won’t get “water logged.” In this case, you should use 2 cups less stock.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Beer Cheese Soup

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Beer Cheese Soup

servings: 4; makes 8 cups of soup

Ingredients:

  • Four 6-inch-round loaves sourdough bread
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 12-ounce beer, pilsner or your choice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 8 ounces American cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the bread bowls by slicing the top inch or top third of each sourdough loaf. With a paring knife, cut a circle about an inch from the edge all the way around the loaf, being careful to leave about an inch of bread on the bottom as well. Gently remove the bread from inside the loaf, reserving it for another use.
  2. Brush the insides of the bowls with melted butter or olive oil, or spray them with olive oil spray, then place them on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread bowls are warmed and begin to brown—12 to 20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, peel the squash. Cut it in half and then use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds. Chop the flesh into 1-inch cubes; you should have about 3 cups of squash cubes. Remove the base of the stem and leaves from the head of cauliflower and roughly chop into florets; you should have about 4 cups of florets. Set the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and sauté until the veggies are tender—5 to 7 minutes. Add the beer and cook for 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary.
  5. Add the squash, cauliflower, stock and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the pot. Cover the pot and let the mixture cook until all the vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally—about 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer the soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary, and blend until it is very smooth. Place the soup back in the pot over low heat, then stir in the cheddar, American, and parmesan cheeses. Continue stirring until all of the cheeses are melted, then stir in the cream. Taste the soup and add up to another teaspoon of salt if needed (this is dependent on how salty your stock and cheese are).
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Citrus Honey Dressing with Fish Oil + Radicchio Salad

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Citrus Honey Dressing with Fish Oil + Radicchio Salad

servings: 4; makes about 1 cup dressing

Citrus Honey Dressing with Fish Oil:

  • ¾ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon flavored fish oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

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

Citrus Honey Dressing with Fish Oil:

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

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill (or preheat a grill pan). Brush the oil over all surfaces of the romaine, radicchio, and onion wedges, then sprinkle evenly with the salt. Arrange the romaine, radicchio, and onion wedges on the hot grill or grill pan. Cook until all pieces are slightly wilted and charred on all cut sides (leave the uncut sides raw), 1 to 2 minutes per side for the romaine and radicchio; 2 to 4 minutes per side for the onions.
  2. To serve, divide the romaine, radicchio, and onion wedges among four plates. Ladle one-quarter of the dressing over each serving. Divide the grapes equally and scatter over the tops.
: @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
Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils Healthy
 

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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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Christmas Pasta

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year.

Around Christmastime I’ll never complain about the cold and the snow.

The snow is the perfect backdrop to sparkling lights!

Christmas is sneaking up on us quickly, so I'd say it's time for some Christmas-themed pasta to warm our bellies on these cold nights.

The red sauce is simple but deeply "tomato-y"--and only takes minutes to make.

It starts with slowly simmering tangy olive oil and garlic until their flavors fuse together...

...And ends with tomato paste and canned tomatoes for a rich, but bright flavor.

And because we all know that you can't have the red without the green at Christmastime, we'll also whip up a green sauce with a Basil Pesto base.

To the traditional pesto, we'll add avocado and lemon--creating a creamy and colorful sauce that's the perfect counterpart.

Each is good on its own, but together they're incredible!

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Christmas Pasta

servings: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound rotini pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil + a splash
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • One 14.5-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ cup Basil Pesto
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the pasta. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions—or about 10 minutes. Then drain, toss with a splash of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together, and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the ¼ cup of olive oil and the garlic and cook until the oil has become infused with the garlic and the garlic is translucent and golden, but not browned—about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, salt, and chili flakes. Simmer the sauce until it thickens slightly and comes together— about 10 minutes.
  3. While the tomato sauce simmers, cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and use a soupspoon to scoop half of the flesh into the bowl of a food processor (reserve the other half for another use). Then add the Basil Pesto and lemon juice and puree this mixture until smooth.
  4. Transfer the basil mixture to a large bowl and toss it with half of the pasta. Toss the other half of the pasta in a separate bowl with the tomato sauce. To serve, place both the green and red pasta on each plate and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 1 small.jpg

I love a breakfast casserole on Christmas morning!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 1.jpg

When I’m at my sister’s house for Christmas, the present-opening part of the morning tends to go on...

and on...

and on!

Finally, my brother in-law, Josh, can’t stand it anymore.

He'll declare a break for us all to fuel up so that maybe we can finish all of presents sometime before dinner!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 2.jpg

We used to just make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

But as much as we all love a good, old-fashioned, sugar-filled breakfast, we decided we wanted something a little more substantial—not to replace the sugary stuff, of course, just to go with it!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 3.jpg

And that brought us to breakfast casseroles!

What’s better than making a breakfast big enough to serve your whole family and barely lifting a finger because you made that breakfast the night before?

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 4.jpg

Well, I guess there is one thing better...

Making your casserole with everything bagels!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole 5.jpg

It’s like a bagel sandwich with eggs, bacon, and veggie cream cheese—in casserole form!

And this year, it just might be the best present under your tree!

(Just to be clear, please don’t put this under your tree. Keep it refrigerated and bake at 375°. 😉)

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 4 bacon strips (about 4 ounces)
  • 6 everything bagels (1 pound, 4 ounce-bag of bagels), chopped
  • 1 medium yellow squash, chopped (about 2 cups or 8 ounces)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 8-ounce block of cream cheese, cut into ½-inch slices

Directions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then coarsely chop and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the bagel, squash, red bell pepper, and scallions, then set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, Gruyere, salt, garlic powder, and ground black pepper.
  4. Prepare a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, then add half of the bagel mixture to the dish. Next sprinkle on half of the cream cheese and half of the bacon. Repeat this layering with the remaining bagel mixture, cream cheese, and bacon.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over the entire casserole, then cover the casserole and chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour, but preferably overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and bake it covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered until the eggs are set and the bagel pieces are toasted in spots—about 15 minutes more.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

Turkey Hash with Brussels Slaw(1).jpg

I love creating Thanksgiving dishes that use holiday staples in brand new ways. And veggie sides have always kind of been my specialty…

But this time around, I wanted to try something with the most classic ingredient that comes to mind when you say the word “Thanksgiving”—the turkey.

Combining turkey with sausage, and adding sweet potatoes and cranberries makes one mouth-watering dish that gives you all the fixings of your Thanksgiving table in every bite!

Happy Thanksgiving! ♥

Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

servings: 2 to 4; makes 2 entrée portions or 4 side dish portions

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  • 8 Brussels sprouts (about 4 ounces), shredded (about 2 cups packed)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces turkey breast, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)
  • 3 ounces chorizo sausage, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 14 ounces), chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • Brussels Sprout Slaw (optional)

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  1. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and then crosswise to create ribbons; discard the ends.
  2. Mix the shredded sprouts with the lime juice, salt, and pepper, then allow the mixture to sit as long as possible—for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, chorizo, and 1 teaspoon of the salt, cooking until the meats are brown and cooked through—5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the turkey and chorizo from the pan, but do not drain the pan; set aside the meats. To the same pan, add the sweet potato, onion, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook the veggies over medium heat until the sweet potatoes and the onion are tender and browned in spots—7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and chorizo back to the pan, then add the cranberries to the pan as well. Toss all ingredients to combine.
  4. Serve the hash with the Brussels Sprout Slaw, if desired. Enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Egg In A Squash Hole

 

 

Some chefs will tell you that presentation is everything.

 

 

 

 

Well that’s not exactly true, though yes, we eat with our eyes first, it’s really all about the taste.

 

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Beet Pasta with Brown Butter Arugula Pesto

 

 

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent 11 Valentine's Days with my husband.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the older you get--or the longer you've been with someone--you start to think things like Valentine’s Day are silly.

 

 

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Pea-Threaded Pasta

 


Since I’m normally coming up with new and hopefully inventive recipes, there are definitely times in my kitchen where things don’t turn out quite as I expected.

 

 

 


 

 

 

And then there are the times that you put a pea on uncooked pasta, throw it in boiling water and instead of it falling apart, the pea and pasta fuse together for one insanely cute dish. 

 

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Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

Srirach Chicken Soup.jpg

Chicken noodle soup is great and all, but if the stock you're using isn’t first class, well, the whole thing can end up tasting...just okay.

Srirach Chicken Soup 2.jpg

So for this recipe, I’m using veggies that will infuse the broth with a spicy, smoky flavor.

A flavor that will wake up your taste buds.

Srirach Chicken Soup 1.jpg

Roasted red peppers, fire roasted tomatoes, and sriracha—all things you can find in any grocery store these days!

These ingredients elevate what was once a basic soup to anything but.

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But let’s be honest, I hooked you as soon as I said Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup. 😉

Srirach Chicken Soup 4.jpg

Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 celery ribs, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Two 12-ounce jars roasted red peppers (about 4 small peppers)
  • Two 32-ounce boxes chicken or vegetable stock (8 cups)
  • One 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, more for garnish
  • 1 avocado, pit + skin removed, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook this mixture until it is soft and fragrant—about 7 minutes.
  2. While the veggies cook, drain the roasted red peppers, then prepare by pureeing them in a food processor or blender, or finely chopping by hand.
  3. To the pot with the veggies, add the stock, pureed roasted peppers, tomatoes, sriracha (use 1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you like things), and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this mixture to a simmer, then cook to allow the flavors to combine—about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg noodles and cook until they are a couple of minutes short of al dente—about 5 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, lime juice, and parsley, then cook until the chicken is warmed through—about 3 to 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if needed.
  5. To serve, top with the additional parsley along with the avocado. Enjoy with grilled bread if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

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Acorn Squash Pancakes

Acorn Squash Pancakes_SMALL(1).jpg

I’m not sure I've ever meet a kid who doesn’t like pancakes.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 1.jpg

What’s not to love?!

Soft on the inside, slightly crisp on the outside—and covered in maple syrup, of course.

Pancakes are pretty much a perfect food.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 2.jpg

But when the mom in me decided I wanted to make pancakes more nutritious, the chef in me knew I could use veggies.

Not only would these pancakes pack more of a nutritional punch, but I was sure the veggies would actually make them sweeter and more perfectly moist.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 3.jpg

As I thought about all of the possible veggies that could to the trick, it didn’t take long to realize that acorn squash was the perfect person for the job.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 4.jpg

Acorn squash's inherent sweetness and velvety texture make these pancakes something you will want to eat everyday—and because of their nutrition factor, something you actually should eat everyday.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 5.jpg

Now I’ll always tell it to you straight, so know that as-written these pancakes are very moist.

My daughter doesn’t mind at all, but if you have kids that are already into classic pancakes, you may want to use less of the acorn squash puree (look for details in the “notes” section of the recipe).

Acorn Squash Pancakes 6.jpg

If you do use a little less puree for a more traditional version, you'll find yourself with the perfect pancake—slightly sweet, warm, and soft yet crisp with a buttery warm yellow color.

And if you go for the more moist "toddler" version, you can truly count your pancake breakfast as a perfectly balanced meal.

Either way, I'd say we're all winners.

Acorn Squash Pancakes 7.jpg

Acorn Squash Pancakes

servings: 10 to 12 four- to five-inch pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large acorn squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds and discard them. Arrange the squash cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the oil evenly over each piece and then bake the squash until the flesh is tender and can be easily pierced with the tines of a fork—30 to 40 minutes. Set aside until it is cool enough to handle.
  2. Scoop the flesh of the squash into a blender and puree it until it is smooth; this will give you about 2 cups of puree. Then add the flour, milk, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and salt, and blend this mixture until just smooth.
  3. Add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot and the butter is melted, pour about ½ cup of the batter into the pan; this will make one pancake, about 4 inches in diameter. Cook the batter until bubbles start to pop on its surface and the bottom is nicely browned. Then flip the pancake and cook it until the other side is also brown and the edges are dry—about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.
  4. Serve with extra butter, syrup, fruit, or whatever you like!

Notes:

  • You can decrease the amount of squash you use in the recipe, using a small squash—about 1 pounds (this will give you about 1 cup of squash puree after blending it). If you do so, also increase the amount of milk to 1 cup and the decrease the baking powder to 1½ teaspoons.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Acorn Squash Pancakes 8.jpg
 

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Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

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

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

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

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

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

Tomato Soup with Rice:

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

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

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

Tomato Soup with Rice:

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

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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.
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Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

Cauliflower Alfredo Kids Version_SMALL(1).jpg

When I create a recipe, I’m always thinking about what different versions of a dish I can suggest to different groups of people.

For instance, sometimes I think about how to make my vegetarian recipes “meaty.”

Or I might toss out some ideas about how to make a dish more family-friendly (something adults can enjoy that kids will also eat!).

I love when—with just a few tweaks—you can make a couple of versions of a meal at the same time, so everyone is satisfied.

Cauliflower Alfredo Process 1.JPG

And it’s always a bonus if we get our kids to eat their veggies!

This Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce is one of the most melt-in-your-mouth pasta sauces I’ve ever made.

And I honestly can’t tell the difference between this version and the full-on-million-calorie version.

Cauliflower Alfredo Process 2.JPG

Actually, I can tell the difference, oh-so-slightly. And I’m not lying when I say I like this one better.

It’s garlicky, cheesy, and creamy—as you would expect.

But the cauliflower adds a whole new element that deepens the flavor and literally makes you want to eat the sauce with a spoon (nooooo, I’ve never done that 😉).

Cauliflower Alfredo Process 3.JPG

And by dividing the sauce in two and adding parsley and pepper to one half and peas to the other, you’ve got a dish that makes both parents and kids happy.

Grownup version: linguine, parsley + freshly ground black pepper.

Grownup version: linguine, parsley + freshly ground black pepper.

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, broken or cut into bite-size florets (about 5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the pasta shells. To a second large pot, add the cauliflower, chicken stock, and garlic. Bring this mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the cauliflower is very soft—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, salt, and pepper, and puree until very smooth.
  3. When the water boils, add the pasta shells and cook according to the package directions; drain when done.
  4. To serve, fold the cauliflower sauce and the peas into the pasta.

Notes:

  • The kid’s version is delicious! But if you want to make it a little more adult, replace the pasta shells with linguine. And instead of folding peas in with the cauliflower sauce, fold in about 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Divide among four bowls and top with parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Voilà!
: @NikkiDinki

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