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

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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.

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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.

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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. 😉

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

: @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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Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

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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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Zucchini Soup

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Tomato soup is fantastic!

And it’s great for those cold months when you really just need some tomato soup and grilled cheese in your belly…

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But we’re not quite there yet.

And tomato soup’s cousin has come to town, ready to play!

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I thought it would be fun to experiment with some zucchini (which we all might have an abundance of from our gardens right now), and make it into a soup.

But at the same time I say that, I honestly had no idea it would be this good!

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Start with some onions and garlic (obviously, the best way to start!)…

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Then add some zucchini and stock…

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Puree with avocado for creaminess, and then some parm for kick…

And that’s it!

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It’s silky and light, but still totally satisfying.

If your kids don’t gobble it right up, you’ll have no problem eating all the leftovers!

And when the leftovers are gone, just remember how easy it was to prepare everything and get it on the stove!

Zucchini Soup 7(1).jpg

Zucchini Soup

servings: 2; makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1½ pounds total), peeled + grated, with peels reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ medium avocado
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook them until they are softened but not brown—3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the grated zucchini and stock, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook covered until the zucchini is very soft—about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Use a soupspoon to scoop the flesh into a blender. Then add the cooked zucchini mixture to the blender and puree its contents until smooth.
  4. Transfer the soup back to the pot and add the parmesan, salt, and thyme, cooking over medium-high until the soup is heated through, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Serve by dividing the soup into two bowls and garnishing each with the reserved zucchini peels. If you desire, you can also garnish the soup with ground black pepper or additional parmesan cheese.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Zucchini Soup 8(1).jpg
 

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White Bean Pancakes

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Every Sunday my husband takes my daughter, Ivy, to the diner for pancakes while I try to catch up on a weeks-worth of sleep.

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Ivy LOVES pancakes.

And when I found out that her iron levels were a little on the low side, I started thinking about how I could get more iron into her diet.

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Pancakes were just the thing!

I’ve done Acorn Squash Pancakes, so I figured why not try a new version by adding an iron-rich bean instead of the squash?!

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I put a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans in my batter, and I’m telling you, the result looks and tastes JUST LIKE regular pancakes!

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It was so simple (opening a can of beans!) to turn a semi-indulgent breakfast into one we can feel really good about eating!

It’s easy to “eat healthy” when you’re eating like this!

White Bean Pancakes 6(1).jpg

White Bean Pancakes

makes: 10 to 12 medium (4 to 5 inches in diameter) pancakes

Ingredients:

  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans (about 1¾ cups), rinsed + drained
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach (about 1 cup), thawed + drained (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and salt to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is smooth.
  2. Next, add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, 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. 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.
  3. Serve with extra butter, syrup, fruit, or whatever you like!

Notes:

  • If you prefer fluffier pancakes, separate the yolks and whites of the eggs. Rather than following Step 1 as written, add the beans, flour, milk, spinach (if desired), egg yolks, baking powder, vanilla, and salt, to a blender, and blend this mixture until it is completely smooth; then transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer on medium-high until they are white and fluffy and have soft peaks (they should be about 4 times larger than their starting size)—about 2 minutes; you could also whisk by hand or do this in a stand mixer. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the bean and flour mixture, deflating them as little as possible. Then proceed to Step 2 as written above.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
White Bean Pancakes 7(1).jpg
 

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Pumpkin-Poblano Pasta with Baby Bok Choy + Shrimp

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Fall is on its way, and I'm definitely already starting 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, 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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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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Cilantro Pesto Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Eggs

Cooking these days is all about finding time savers.

I'm always asking myself, What ingredients can I have on hand to make a flavorful meal quickly?

In answer to my own question, I've discovered that one food that seems to have taken up a permanent residence in my fridge--and for good reason!--is Cilantro Pesto.

Made with handfuls of cilantro, almonds, garlic, and Parmesan, this pesto can be used as a sauce or spread that instantly makes a meal special!

I’ve slathered it on pizza, spooned it over chicken, and drizzled it over shrimp. And now, I've discovered yet another dish that becomes amazing with the simple addition of Cilantro Pesto! This time, I toss it with rice, peppers, and a little tangy feta, then top the whole thing with a perfectly runny egg.

Just by having a little Cilantro Pesto in the fridge or freezer and some Veetee Rice on hand, I can make an incredible dinner in 5 minutes! No, seriously, just 5 minutes!

And of course I could cook my own rice, but this stuff is just as good!

Plus sometimes those precious 20 minutes post-Baby's-bedtime need to be spent watching the Bachelor instead of making rice.

Cilantro Pesto Rice with Feta, Peppers + Eggs

servings: 4 cups of rice + 1¼ cups of Cilantro Pesto; serves 2

Cilantro Pesto:

  • 2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup roasted almonds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds + ribs removed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • ½ cup olive oil

Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Egg:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon + a pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 roasted red peppers (an 8 ounces jar)
  • ⅔ cup crumbled feta (about 3 ounces)
  • ⅓ cup Cilantro Pesto
  • Cilantro leaves for a garnish (optional)

Cilantro Pesto:

  1. Add the cilantro, parmesan, almonds, jalapeno, lime juice, salt, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor; process until finely chopped. Stream in the olive oil while the food processor is on, and allow everything to mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Rice with Feta, Peppers, + Egg:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions.
  2. While the rice cooks, prepare the eggs sunny-side up. Place a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat, spray it with cooking spray, and crack the eggs into it. Sprinkle each with a pinch of salt and pepper cook until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny, about 5 minutes, covering them for the last 1-2 minutes to ensure all of the whites are cooked through.
  3. When the rice has finished cooking, add it to a large bowl with the peppers, feta, Cilantro Pesto, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and mix to combine all ingredients.
  4. Serve by splitting the rice between two plates. Top each serving with an egg and sprinkle with some of the reserved chopped cilantro if desired.

Notes:

  • Use leftover pesto as a spread on sandwiches, drizzled over pork, steak or shrimp or tossed with pasta or sautéed veggies.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

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

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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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Turnip No-Potato Salad

Summer is here!

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

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

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

Take turnips, for instance.

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

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

Voila!

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

Turnip No-Potato Salad

servings: 3 cups of salad, serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whatever you do, you are eating good tonight!

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos on Jicama Shells + Pineapple Avocado Salsa

servings: 4; makes 8 small tacos

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

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

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

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

Pineapple Avocado Salsa:

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

Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Taco Shells:

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

Notes:

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

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

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

But this one really might take the cakeor the roll.

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

All sitting on top of this little guy.

It hits every high note.

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

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

Okay, four bites.

See? I’m dainty.

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls topped with Fennel + Apple Slaw

makes: 4 sandwiches

Fennel + Apple Slaw:

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

Basil + Lemon Aioli :

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

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls:

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

Fennel + Apple Slaw:

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

Basil + Lemon Aioli :

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

Celeriac + Lobster Rolls:

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

Notes:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

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Why make your mac and cheese into a cup?

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 1.jpg

Why not?!

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

And did I mention how cute it is?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either way, you win.

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Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

makes: 10 cups

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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Blooming Tomato

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Why should onions have all the fun?!

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

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

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

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

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

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Then top it as you like!

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

And just imagine this with some summer heirloom tomatoes!

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

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Blooming Tomato

servings: 1; makes 1 salad

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Tomato + Cheddar Lemon Aioli Pasta Salad

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

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

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

That’s it!

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

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

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

And this is the best pasta salad EVER!

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Tomato + Cheddar Lemon Aioli Pasta Salad

servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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