Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

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I LOVE this salad.

Yes, LOVE.

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

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

Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

servings: 4; makes about 1 cup dressing

Honey-Orange Dressing:

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

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

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

Honey-Orange Dressing:

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

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

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

Make It Meaty:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

makes: 1 large plate of nachos

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Keep It Simple:

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

Make It Meaty:

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

Family Friendly:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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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

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Roasted Broccoli, Corn + Green Chile Stuffed Naan

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Naan bread is tasty…

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

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

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

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

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

TASTY!

Roasted Broccoli, Corn + Green Chile Stuffed Naan

servings: 2; double the recipe as you wish

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Keep It Simple:

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

Make It Meaty:

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

Family Friendly:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

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

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

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

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

Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

makes: 4 baked potatoes

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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Golden Milk Overnight Oats

servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Add the oats, almond milk, honey, turmeric, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, and salt to a jar (or bowl). Shake vigorously to combine (or stir well).
  2. Place the jar in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight, or for at least 2 hours.
  3. To serve, remove the oats from the refrigerator and top them with the blueberries, walnuts, and chia seeds (this can be done the night before, if desired).
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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

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Banana Carrot Oat Muffins

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My daughter, Ivy, loves all carbs (I can’t imagine where she gets it from 😉).

She'll also gobble up anything that looks like a muffin.

And from a mom point-of-view, I know muffins are the perfect food to freeze and pull out as needed.

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So I challenged myself to make a super healthy muffin that would taste just as delicious as a regular not-as-healthy one.

My goal was to make this muffin so tasty that not only would Ivy eat it, but the big kids in the house (my husband and I) would gobble it up as well.

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The result is a muffin basically made of bananas, carrots, oats, and a touch of maple syrup. You puree all of these ingredients up and put the batter in the cups of a muffin tin.

These muffins couldn’t be easier to make and they actually taste like banana bread!

Whenever I’m eating one I have to remind myself how healthy they are because all I’m thinking is, I’m in muffin heaven.

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Now don’t get me wrong, they're a little denser than a regular muffin (they're all oats instead of flour, so that's why that happens).

And they're a touch more moist than you might be used to (this makes them perfect when re-heated though!).

But the fact that you can eat ten of these and still feel like Healthy Eating Champion of the World makes it all worth it!

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Banana Carrot Oat Muffins

servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups rolled oats, more for a garnish
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1½ cup shredded carrots (about 4½ ounces)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the oats, bananas, carrots, yogurt, maple syrup, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to a blender; blend until the mixture is batter-like and nearly smooth.
  2. Pour the batter evenly into a 12-cup muffin tin prepared with cooking spray. Then top each of the filled cups with a sprinkle of the reserved oats.
  3. Bake the muffins until the tops are dry and a knife inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean—15 to 18 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.
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Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachio + Pink Peppercorns

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I love easy appetizers!

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And even better than just being easy, I love appetizers that are easy and ridiculously tasty.

You know the type—they're made with just a couple of ingredients but still get oohs and aahs from your guests.

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Well, look no further for your next appetizer that fits this bill!

This one's really just about assembly...

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Bread, brie, honey.

Bake!

Peppercorns, pistachios, more honey...

Then serve to your adoring audience!

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The pinch of sharpness from the pink peppercorns cut through the sweet honey and creamy brie—for a perfectly gooey bite.

A bite that also happens to look like a Christmas ornament decorated in red and green!

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Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns

servings: 8 crostini

Ingredients:

  • 8 baguette slices
  • 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into eight ½-ounce slices
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pink peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pistachios

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each of the slices with 1 piece of the brie and 1 teaspoon of the honey.
  2. Broil until the cheese is melted and brown—2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the crostini from the oven and top each with another teaspoon of the honey, and a heavy sprinkle of both the peppercorns and pistachios.
  4. Serve immediately with a knife and fork, or simply pick up and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Christmas Green + Red Cheese Balls

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a party—small or large, planned or last-minute—where I haven’t served cheese.

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If I’m standing around, drinking wine and chatting, I want to be snacking on some sort of cheesy goodness.

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And when it comes to Christmas, I find that my family is always in need of appetizers.

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I love the part of holiday gatherings where everyone is just relaxing and munching...

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So to bring some cheese to the holidays and keep things super festive at the same time, may I present you with Christmas Cheese Balls!

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The ingredients are few and the time involved is minimal, but in the end you'll be walking in with a show-stopping appetizer!

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You can make just the cheese ball with the green inside and enjoy a pesto-inspired ball with a red outside of tart and crunchy pomegranates.

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Or you can choose the ball with the red inside made with sundried tomatoes and green-coated in pistachios and herbs.

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No matter what you do, you’ve got a cheese ball!

And with that, you’ve got a party!

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Red Outside + Green Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped spinach
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, spinach, basil, and garlic powder in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly green.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator to chill until it is firm—25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Press the pomegranate seeds around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then reshape it as needed to form a sphere. If you are having any trouble shaping it, let it chill for longer and try shaping/decorating again.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Green Outside + Red Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios


Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly red.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic wrap and transfer it to a small plate. Press the parsley around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then repeat with the pistachios. Reshape the cheese ball as needed to form a sphere.
  4. Serve alongside the red cheese ball and your favorite crackers!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Christmas Cheese Balls 10.jpg
 

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Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

Sometimes you want to take things up a notch!

You want to put a little extra time and love into some special dishes that are sure to get "oohs" and "aahs" at your table.

If this is what you are looking to do, I suggest you start by simmering down some pomegranate juice into a thick molasses-type sauce.

Then make it into a honey, orange zest, and vinegar dressing that will coat your perfectly roasted carrots in a glaze of goodness.

And finally take the time to top those glistening, sticky sweet carrots with pecans, a touch of yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and parsley...

In the end you will be rewarded with a side dish that definitely takes things to the next level--offering all the flavors of a home-cooked meal, but with enough elegance for a sophisticated restaurant service.

Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

servings: 2 -3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice (see note below)
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of ¼ orange
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a small sauce pot, bring the pomegranate juice and sugar to a simmer. Continue to simmer this mixture until it has reduced to a molasses-like consistency—about 30 minutes. You should have about 2 tablespoons of this thickened pomegranate juice.
  2. Transfer the pomegranate mixture to a medium bowl, then whisk in the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the honey, Dijon, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the orange zest.
  3. Add the carrots to a baking sheet, tossing them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Roast them in the oven until they are tender and nicely browned on the outside—about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss them with the pomegranate vinaigrette, then return them to the oven for 5 minutes more.
  5. After removing the carrots from the oven, serve by drizzling them with the yogurt, then sprinkling with the pecans, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.

Notes:

  • You will want to use 100% pomegranate juice, not pomegranate juice mixed with other juices, or with added sugar. If you can't find pure pomegranate juice, you can use a blend, but your glaze will be significantly sweeter; adding a little extra vinegar may balance it out.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam + Pecans

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam_SMALL(1).jpg

Appetizers are an important part of the holiday season. 

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When you're sitting around drinking bubbles and singing Christmas carols or opening presents, it's just not the same without something warm and cheesy to nibble on.

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Brie is not the most loved cheese (there are people who find it slightly stinky)...

But when you bake it into an ooey-gooey mess, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist a taste (or two, or three—or eleven).

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 4.jpg

And it only gets better when you top it with homemade blackberry and apple jam, candied pecans, and pomegranate seeds!

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Because although we can all agree that melty cheese is ridiculously good, when you combine it with slightly tart jam and crunchy pecans, you will NEED a second, third—and eleventh!—helping!

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And let’s be honest, it’s darn cute.

It’s a present in itself!

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam

servings: 1 brie wheel with about 1¾ cups jam, serves 8 to 10

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  • 2 cups blackberries, halved
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled + chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Baked Brie:

  • 1 brie cheese wheel (16 ounces), rind on
  • 1½ cups Blackberry Apple Jam
  • ½ cup whole blackberries
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the fruit is purple and has broken down; the liquid should be absorbed and the mixture thick and jam-like—10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Brie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top rind off the brie wheel and discard it. Place the brie wheel in a small, round, oven-proof dish, then place the dish on a baking sheet and cook until the cheese is melty—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the baked brie from the oven and top it with the Blackberry Apple Jam, blackberries, apple slices, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and thyme leaves.

Notes:

  • As the brie is eaten, there will be less jam at the bottom. Feel free to add the remaining ¼ cup of jam (the amount remaining after putting the 1½ cups of jam on top of the baked brie) to the bottom bit of the brie to increase the jam-to-brie ratio.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 8.jpg
 

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Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed potatoes are wonderful, am I right?!

But when you’re looking for a healthier, more nutritious option—let’s talk about mashed cauliflower!

These days, it's not uncommon to have a Thanksgiving Day guest who steers clear of gluten.

And even if you don't, we all want to cook up something that will have everyone at the Thanksgiving table seriously wanting—maybe even needing—to go back for seconds.

It just so happens that you can serve your gluten-free friends and get everyone and their brother excited about the same fabulous food. I’m talking about a mouth-watering, velvety, cheesy side dish…

mashed cauliflower!

And not only is this dish healthy and incredibly delicious, but super simple!

Start by steaming up a little cauliflower and garlic…

Puree it with some cream cheese, Parmesan, and chives… 

And you'll find your result is the creamiest, most flavorful side dish.

It’s definitely worthy of a place next to (or in place of!) your traditional mashed potatoes.

Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (2 pounds), broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Add the cauliflower and garlic to a large pot and fill it with just enough water so that the vegetables are covered. Simmer until the veggies are tender—about 10 minutes, then drain.
  2. Next, place the cauliflower and garlic mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cream cheese, parmesan, salt, and pepper, and pulse until the mixture is smooth, but with some small lumps. When you are finished, it should look similar to mashed potatoes.
  3. Add the chives to the mixture in the food processor and pulse only a few times—just to combine. Then remove the cauliflower mash from the food processor, place in your favorite serving dish, and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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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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Brussels Sprout Poppers

 

 

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner and this means you're about to be eating all the Super Bowl snacks your little heart could desire.

 

 

 

 

 

It's a day to sit around, watch TV, crack open a beer, and forget about those New Year's resolutions--while enjoying all the cheesy, fried, Buffalo-flavored things you can imagine.

 

 

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Spaghetti Squash Crust Pizza

 

 

Cauliflower is definitely having its moment in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the reasons it’s so popular is that everyone is churning out cauliflower crust pizzas--and loving how tasty an all-veggie crust can be!

 

 

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Cauliflower Soup

 

 

$4.99!

Almost Five Dollars!!

That’s how much it costs for a can of average quality soup at my grocery store. FIVE DOLLARS, PEOPLE!! And what’s in that can?? Not a whole lot...

 

Making soup is just like making any of your favorite dishes…pureeing it up…and thinning it out with a little chicken stock...well kind of...

 

 

 

 

The bottom line is that making your own soup saves you a ton of money, plus you can get some great nutrition in a filling, flavorful and many times low-cal little package.

 

Have I sold you yet???

 

 

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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.

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.

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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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