Balsamic Roasted Onions

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I love taking underrated vegetables, shining them up, and showing people just how much delicious-potential they have!

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Onions don’t generally get their own place on your dinner table...

Instead, they usually play the supporting role in dishes.

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The tick to getting them to take center stage is infusing them with flavor—in this case, balsamic, Dijon, and rosemary.

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Then add some sweetness to the mix, and let them roast up to sticky perfection in the oven.

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When you treat them right, they become a show-stopping side dish that will be gone before the main meal!

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Okay, Mr. Onion, it’s your time to shine!

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Balsamic Roasted Onions

servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium Vidalia onions, cut into ½-inch slices (skins left on)
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey, more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Place the onions in a large plastic food storage bag or shallow dish. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic, olive oil, honey, mustard, rosemary, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Pour this mixture over the onion slices and close the bag or cover the dish. Marinate the onions in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight; be sure to occasionally shake the onions around in the bag or stir them in the dish ensure that the marinade gets into all parts of the onions.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay the onion slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake them until the onions are very tender and dark in color—about 55 to 60 minutes, removing them from the oven to lightly baste the tops with more of the vinegar mixture every 15 minutes.
  3. After removing them from the oven, drizzle each of the onions with about ¼ teaspoon of honey and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

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A friend of mine wrote an article about having a ton of zucchini in her family's garden when she was growing up.

So much, in fact, that her family resorted to dressing their excess of squashes in "outfits" and leaving them on a "lucky" neighbor's doorstep (read more).

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I suppose that is one (uh...ahem) effective way to deal with an excess of zucchini in your garden.

However, may I gently suggest another?

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To bring another vegetable into the conversation, cucumbers are similar to zucchini.

For instance, both vegetables are delicious raw as well as cooked.

With this in mind, I'd like to point out that anything cucumbers can do, zucchinis can do also!

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So instead of making the same old cucumber salad (don't get me wrong, those cucumber salads can be delicious!), I decided to bring our mutual friend, Mr. Zucchini, to the pickling party.

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The best think about this Cucumber Zucchini Salad is that it takes only a few minutes to make and only a few more to marinade.

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In the end, you have a light, refreshing salad with crunchy cucumbers and zucchini that are seriously a match made in heaven.

And as a bonus, it’s like -20 calories (okay, not really, but I'm sure it's close)!

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Cucumber Zucchini Salad

servings: 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
  • ½ small red onion (about 2 ounces), very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the cucumber and zucchini into very thinly sliced rounds. When you are finished slicing, you should have about 2 cups of cucumber and 1½ cups of zucchini.
  2. In a medium size bowl, toss the cucumber and zucchini slices with the onion and salt, allow this mixture to sit for 30 minutes, then transfer it to a colander to drain off the excess liquid. Return the veggie mixture to the bowl and set aside.
  3. Next, combine the vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes, whisking or stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour this mixture over the veggie mixture, tossing the veggies to coat them evenly.
  4. Chill the salad for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Be sure to drain off any excess liquid once again, before serving.
: @NikkiDinki

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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 salsa—that 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 tacos—that 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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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

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Stop.

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

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

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Now open your eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Banana Carrot Spinach Oat Muffins

servings: 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

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My goal is a simple one—to always make veggies YUMMY!

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I like to show people just how delicious and versatile veggies can be.

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Sure you can roast them and add some seasonings, which will always make them tastier than if they were steamed.

But let’s take it a step further...

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Let’s add cauliflower to a creamy risotto...

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This gives the dish great texture, and makes you feel like a rock star after your second helping—because you’ve had a days worth of veggies!

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Veggies don't just add nutrition to any dish; they also make the dish taste better!

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And I don’t know about you, but this is the way I like to eat my veggies.

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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

servings: 4; makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • ½ small head cauliflower (about 8 ounces), or 2 cups prepared cauliflower rice
  • 32-ounce box vegetable stock (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1¼ cups grated parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives, more for a garnish
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop the cauliflower, then add it to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it has a coarse, rice-like texture (this should give you about 2 cups), then set it aside.
  2. Next add the vegetable stock to a small saucepan over low heat. While the vegetable stock warms, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent—3 to 5 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and continue cooking until it is just toasted—3 to 5 minutes. Then add the wine and stir continuously until it is fully absorbed.
  3. Gradually add the warmed stock to the vegetable and rice mixture, ½ to ¾ cup at a time, stirring very often and waiting until it is fully absorbed before adding more. The more you stir, the creamier your risotto will become. Continue until the rice is just tender and still al dente—20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower along with ½ to ¾ cup more stock and cook, stirring, until the stock is fully absorbed—about 5 minutes. Then add another ½ cup of stock and repeat. Taste the cauliflower; if it is still a bit raw, add a little more stock and cook for a couple minutes more (note, you may not end up using all of the stock).
  5. Add the parmesan, chives, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Continue to cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are well-combined. Add the salt in small amounts to taste (depending on the saltiness of your cheese and stock, you may need more or less than the 1½ teaspoons). Garnish with the additional chives and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Banana Crêpes

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Some recipes are too good to be true…

And this is one of them.

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I’m about to tell you that you can take a banana and an egg and make some of the best crêpes (or pancakes!) ever!

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But seriously, it’s just a banana and an egg—THAT’S IT.

Okay, yes, there is some salt and vanilla, but those don’t technically count.

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You blend them, you pour the batter out, and voila!

You end up with light, moist crêpes that can be eaten any way you like.

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I like mine with Nutella and strawberries, because, well, that tastes amazing.

But in your kitchen, the crêpe-topping rules are up to you!

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So try them!

There is literally no chance you will be disappointed.

And in the highly improbable case that you are, send those leftovers my way!

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Banana Crêpes

servings: six 5-inch crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread, plus more for a garnish
  • 6 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar, for a garnish

Directions:

  1. To the bowl of a blender, add the bananas, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Blend these ingredients until they are smooth, then set them aside.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Then make the crêpes one at a time by adding about ⅓ cup of the banana batter to the skillet, cooking each until its bottom is a deep golden brown—about 3 to 4 minutes. Then flip the crêpe over and cook it until the other side is also a deep golden brown—1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat this process with the remaining batter, wiping out the skillet and adding 1 teaspoon of butter between each crêpe.
  3. To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon of the Nutella over each crêpe. Then place a line of sliced strawberries slightly off center in each crêpe and roll them up, starting from the side closest to the strawberries. Drizzle the finished crêpes with more Nutella, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Shaved Asparagus + Prosciutto

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

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

Especially when it comes to pizza!

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

This is a game changer: Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

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

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

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

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Shaved Asparagus + Prosciutto

makes: One 10- to 12-inch pizza

Cauliflower Crust:

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

Asparagus + Prosciutto Topping:

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

Cauliflower Crust:

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

Asparagus + Prosciutto Topping:

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

Keep It Simple:

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

50/50:

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

FF:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

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I LOVE this salad.

Yes, LOVE.

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

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

Grilled Romaine + Radicchio Salad with Honey-Orange Dressing

servings: 4; makes about 1 cup dressing

Honey-Orange Dressing:

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

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

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

Honey-Orange Dressing:

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

Romaine + Radicchio Salad:

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

Make It Meaty:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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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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: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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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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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 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
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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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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

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

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“I should make this into a cheese ball!”

“Better yet, a PUMPKIN cheese ball!!”

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And thus the Pumpkin Cheese Ball was born.

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I had seen different versions of pumpkin cheese balls on Pinterest.

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

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There had to be a better way.

And guess what?! I found it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Notes:

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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Carrot Pumpkins

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I like to celebrate Halloween as much as the next person, but I’m not the type to spend hours crafting or piping pumpkins onto everything I make.

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But what I do love is to take a carrot, make a couple of simple cuts in it, and suddenly have a pumpkin patch on my plate!

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These pumpkin carrots could not be simpler!

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Look for thick carrots, then cut two “V”’s lengthwise down the tops of the sides.

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Cut the carrots into rounds, then let yourself feel like one of those Pinterest moms as your kids go to school with NO BORING CARROTS in their lunches.

They've got PUMPKIN carrots!

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Carrot Pumpkins

servings: 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium carrots

Directions:

  1. Peel the carrots and cut off their tops. Place the carrots on a cutting board and cut two short vertical lines into the tops of each carrot, about ¼ inch from one another; the cuts should go about ⅓ of the way through the carrots’ diameters and should extend the length of the carrots (see cross section of carrot below).
  2. Next make two diagonal cuts into the tops of the carrots that intersect the first two cuts, creating long, triangle-shaped strips that, when removed, create pumpkin shapes when you look at cross-sections of the carrots (see below).
  3. If needed, use a vegetable peeler to refine the shapes of the carrots so that they look more like pumpkins. Cut each carrot width-wise into ¼-inch slices, discarding the smallest ends.
  4. Serve with your favorite hummus or veggie dip and enjoy!
: @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.

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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 😉).

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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!

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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
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No-Bake Granola Bars

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It's back-to-school time!

For a lot of families that means struggling to find time to make food that is healthy but also something your kids WILL eat.

This week, my goal is to bring you some nutritious recipes (well, maybe with the exception of one 😉) that both kids and adults will enjoy.

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I love a good granola bar, so I thought that might be the perfect thing to kick off the weeksimple to make and great for school lunches or after school snacks.

A while back I started testing recipes in search of a great one I could make and keep on hand...

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I tried baked ones, different combos of ingredients, and in the end found this relatively simple one the best by far.

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I’m using two kinds of nuts, some hemp seeds, oats, cranberries, and a little cinnamon.

Then I'm folding in peanut butter and honey to make a chewy bar that has some texture, but is still soft enough for my toddler.

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It’s kind of amazing what mixing just a couple of ingredients can do...

And with NO BAKING!

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I made mine in a 9 by 13-inch pan (you press the granola bar mixture into a dish to form them into bars), but after eating a pan's-worth this week, I would say that you might want to try them in something a little smaller. That will allow them to be so thicker and hold together even better.

Really though, no matter what shape you make, they will be your family's new favorite snack!

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No-Bake Granola Bars

makes: 16 bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups instant oats
  • ½ cup finely chopped pine nuts
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup smooth peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Line a baking dish, no bigger than 11 by 17 inches or 8 by 8 inches, with parchment paper, leaving the paper hang out about 2 to 3 inches over two of the sides (which will allow you to easily lift the finished granola bars from the dish); spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pine nuts, walnuts, hemp hearts, cranberries, cinnamon, and salt, then set aside.
  3. Add the honey and peanut butter to a small saucepan and cook them over medium heat until they are fully combined and just beginning to bubble—about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir to coat the dry ingredients evenly and fully.
  5. Firmly press the oat mixture evenly into the pan to ensure the granola bars stay together well; spraying your hands with cooking spray is helpful to prevent the mixture from sticking to them. Chill for at least two hours before cutting.
  6. Remove the granola bars from the pan using the edges of the parchment paper. Cut them into your desired size and enjoy! To store, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
: @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

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Quinoa Crust Cheese Pizzas

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My daughter loves pizza.

LOVES pizza.

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Recently she even learned how to say the word “pizza,” and is hella cute as she asks for it over and over.

This obviously means that we have pizza once a week in our house (or, possibly four times a week?).

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Often we go out to one of our local pizza places and then eat our slice in the park.

But lately I’ve been trying to find a version I can make at home that's a little healthierbut still satisfies Ivy's need (all of our needs, really) for pizza.

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These quinoa crust pizzas are remarkably easy.

You just cook up some quinoa and mix it with the eggswhich believe it or notgives you a nice, sturdy crust.

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If you're trying to understand how that wet mixture of quinoa, eggs, baking powder, and Italian seasoning forms a crust, you'll have to trust me.

It firms up so beautifully in the oven and is one of the most robust alternative-type crusts I've ever made.

Quinoa Crust Cheese Pizza 4.jpg

This crust has a slightly wheat-y taste, which Ivy doesn’t mind at all.

But if you have an extra picky eater, try making the crust on the thin side and loading on the toppings.

This will allow the focus to be more on the flavors of the sauce and cheese rather than the quinoa.

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This is the kind of meal I love to make because you don’t feel like you're being healthyyou just feel like you're eating pizza!

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These are also great to freeze so you have individual-sized pizzas ready to go anytime!

ENJOY!

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Quinoa Crust Cheese Pizzas

servings: Eighteen 4-inch pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups quinoa
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups pre-made pizza or tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella (16 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer and then transfer it to a medium saucepan. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat; cover the pan and turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Let the quinoa cook until it is tender—10 to 15 minutes, then transfer it to a medium bowl and let it cool.
  2. Mix the eggs, baking powder, Italian seasoning, and salt in a small bowl. Then add this mixture to the cooled quinoa and stir to combine.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the quinoa onto it; flatten and shape it with your hands into 4-inch-diameter rounds (using about ¼ cup of dough for each round), ¼- to ½-inch thick.
  4. Place the crusts in the oven and bake them until they are golden brown—about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and top each with about 2 tablespoons of the pizza or tomato sauce, then 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
  5. Return the pizzas to the oven until the cheese is melted—5 minutes more.

Notes:

  • If your kids are weary of the quinoa crust, try adding some extra toppings so you have a lot of sauce and cheese and just a little crust in each bite. Another option is to make the crusts a little thinner.
  • To Freeze: Let the crusts cool before adding the toppings; once cooled, add the toppings as in Step 4. Freeze the pizzas topped, but not baked. To heat from frozen, bake at 450°F until the cheese is melted and the crust is thawed through—7 to 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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