a balanced plate with room for dessert

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Turkey & Rice Taco Skillet

Before I dive into our weekend adventures and the recipe,  I want to explain why I haven’t been posting as much (and why I’m eating dairy again). I’m unable to complete even a simple 5 mile run without almost collapsing. I can’t eat without being sick. Two of the most important things in my life: running and food, are now what frustrate me the most.  I’m taking it a day at a time, praying that my doctors can figure out what’s wrong with me soon so I can go back to being normal. Until then, I’ll be posting a bit less; it’s hard to post new recipes when you don’t each much of anything besides cereal and salads 🙂

But onto happier things… Mike and I went on our first camping trip of the season this past weekend with our pups. It rained Friday, but Saturday was picture-perfect and we were able to get in a nice long hike. Really long hike. Because we got lost. But hey, what’s the point of life without a little adventure? I’ve got two camping meals to share with you this week. For our Friday night dinner, I made a Turkey and Rice Taco Skillet. It was pouring, but we huddled under the tarp with the dogs and ate our dinner. It was the perfect meal to keep us warm in the cold, wet weather. I figured I would share this recipe first since it kind of works with the whole Cinco de Mayo thing, too.

Though this was made over a campfire, it is easily adaptable to be made at home on the stove top. That’s the beauty of cast iron – it can be used inside and outside. I’ve finally gotten my “inside use” Dutch oven and skillet to where they are pretty darn well seasoned. The skillet I used while we were camping, though, has been on hundreds of camping trips with Mike when he was growing up. The skillet is so perfectly seasoned that it puts my pieces to shame. I guess I have something to work on, eh?

Turkey & Rice Taco Skillet {camping meal} |

Turkey and Rice Taco Skillet
serves 4 – 6

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeded if desired)
1.25 pounds lean ground turkey
1 packet hot taco seasoning mix
4 cups water, divided
3 cups Minute Brown Rice
1 – 15 ounce can corn
1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes with jalapenos
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
sour cream to garnish
olive oil spray

  1. Spray a large 12″ cast iron skillet with olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and jalapeno and cook over the fire (or medium-high heat) until onions are tender. Add the turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning and two cups of water. Bring to a simmer and stir in rice and remaining two cups of water. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and corn and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.
  2. To serve, divide between 4 – 6 bowls. Sprinkle with lettuce, cheese and top off with sour cream.



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Spring Veggie Quinoa Power Bowls

Spring is here. With spring, comes spring cleaning. Most people clean out their closets and rid the house of dust bunnies. Why don’t ya take it one step further and clean up your lunchtime routine? Stop running to the closest fast food joint and prep this at home the night before instead. Your body will thank you.

I love quinoa for its amazing health benefits. It has protein, fiber, and iron, plus lots of vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and help it repair itself. It’s naturally gluten free and it is one of the few plant foods that is considered a complete protein. As an added bonus, the texture is really, really cool. It can be a bit on the pricier side when you compare it to other grains like pasta, bread, and rice, but it’s worth the cost. (Hint: I like getting it from Costco. They come in huge bags for a good price and it lasts forever.) Asparagus is also packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. How could you not love a veggie that is a cancer-fightin’, health-improvin’ machine?

spring veggie quinoa power bowls |

This quinoa bowl is packed with goodness and is so easy to throw together. It’s ready in under 30 minutes and it’s good warm, cold or at room temp. What more could you ask for?

Spring Veggie Quinoa Power Bowls |

Quinoa Power Bowls
serves 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
olive oil spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 ½ – 2 inch pieces
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 – 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 large lemon, juiced
8 cups spring mix (lettuce or other salad base of choice works, too)
4 ounces feta cheese
1/2 cup almonds
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the dish. Spray a large pan with olive oil. Add garlic and onion and saute for 1 – 2 minutes, or until onion softens. Add asparagus, bell pepper, and garbanzo beans and cook until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 3 – 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over the vegetables. Toss to combine.
  3. To serve, divide the spring mix between four bowls. Fluff quinoa with a fork and place on top of greens. Top with vegetables, feta, and almonds.


adapted from Clean Eating Magazine

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Cheesy Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells

Today’s recipe is a dish that I can only dream of eating… Making cheesy freezer meals for Mike is kind of torturous. Mike swears these shells taste awesome. I can assure you that they smell awesome, but I couldn’t try them.

Cheesy Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells |

Cheesy Spinach & Chicken Stuffed Shells

1 – 12 ounce box jumbo shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast., diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried
8 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, being careful not to over cook. When pasta is al dente, drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, remove chicken to a separate plate.
  3. Add more oil to pan, if necessary, and add in onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Stir in spinach, cream cheese and almond milk until cream cheese is melted and mixture is creamy. Stir in cooked chicken. Sprinkle in half the Parmesan cheese and stir until evenly distributed.
  4. Spray two 9×13 baking dishes with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce into the bottom of each pan. Spoon filling into cooked shells and arrange in baking dishes. When all shells are filled, drizzle remaining sauce onto the top of the shells and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  5. To serve immediately, preheat oven to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes. Filling should be hot and bubbly and Parmesan cheese should be melted and lightly browned.
  6. If freezing, prepare as directed using freezer and oven-safe containers. Defrost dish in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes or until filling is hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.

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Lightened Up Pesto Chicken Florentine

Lightened Up Pesto Chicken Florentine |

Being split between two cities is going to be difficult for me. I have to learn to live without my fully-stocked pantry and fridge, my stand mixer, endless pots and pans, and my million different cake, cupcake, bread, and cookie pans. I’m going to have to adjust to cooking with the bare minimum.

This dish will have no problem in my “new” life. It requires no special equipment and can be tossed together in no time. The leftovers make for a pretty great lunch the next day, too.

I lightened up this dish by making my own Alfredo sauce. The canned stuff (or worse, the packet stuff) scares me and has no place in my kitchen! This homemade Alfredo also passes on the heavy cream and copious amounts of butter. Trust me, this sauce is delish and you won’t even miss the cream or butter!

Lightened Up Chicken Pesto Florentine |

Lightened Up Pesto Chicken Florentine
adapted from All Recipes

8 ounces dried whole wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 3/4 cup lightened-up Alfredo sauce, recipe below (jarred will work as well)
2 tablespoons pesto
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add in chicken strips and cook until no longer pink on the inside, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in spinach and tomatoes and cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
  4. Mix together Alfredo sauce and pesto and pour into cooked pasta. Stir in chicken and spinach and mix well to combine.
  5. Serve immediately.

Lightened Up Alfredo Sauce
makes 1 3/4 cup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce reduced fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until soft.
  2. Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly.
  3. Whisk in cream cheese and Parmesan cheese until smooth.


Lightened Up Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

It’s swap time again! The theme this month was Mexican food and I received a recipe for Cream Cheese Enchiladas from Carrie’s Sweet Life. I read only the name of the dish and raised my eyebrows. I jumped to the conclusion that these were going to be filled with cream cheese and only cream cheese.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love cream cheese. Seriously. But the thought of eating a cream cheese enchilada was a bit too much for me. I read on and was very relieved to see that there were several other ingredients in the enchiladas in addition to cream cheese. Whew!

I absolutely loved these. They were super simple to make and had a great flavor, too. I followed in Carrie’s footsteps and made the filling and shredded all the cheese the night before. Then, the next day I assembled and baked them off. While they were in the oven I threw together a quick apple slaw to go with it.

Lightened Up Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas |

Lightened Up Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas
slightly adapted from Carrie’s Sweet Life

1 package Neufchatel or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 cup prepared salsa (I used some homemade stuff I canned last summer)
1 cup shredded colby cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
8-8 inch flour tortillas

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and Greek yogurt until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup salsa, 1/2 cup colby, and 1/2 cup cheddar.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix chicken, corn, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Fold into cheese mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup salsa into the bottom of a large baking dish.
  5. Place 1/3 – 1/2 cup of filling into the bottom third of a tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining 1/2 cup salsa on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and center of enchiladas are hot. Serve immediately.

Thanks to Taste of Home Cooking for organizing! Make sure to check out the other recipe swap posts!

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Hazelnut Tiramisu Brownies

hazelnut tiramisu brownies |

When Jessica over at My Baking Heart posted these tiramisu brownies, I knew I had to make them. Immediately. Usually I find a recipe that calls out to me and put it on my “to do” list. These babies almost skipped every other dish I had on my list and I made them as soon as I could.

A little tip – if you don’t want the 8 egg yolks to go to waste, do as I did and use 5 of them in these Layered German Chocolate Cupcakes. Then you will have not one, but TWO super decadent treats. It’s probably a good idea to share 😉

hazelnut tiramisu brownies |

Hazelnut Tiramisu Brownies
yield: 15 large brownies

2 oz dark chocolate chips
16 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c granulated sugar, divided
4 whole large eggs
8 large egg whites, divided
1 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons instant coffee
1/4 cup chopped, roasted hazelnuts
8 ounces Mascapone cheese, room temperature
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package ladyfingers
1 cup coffee
2 tablespoons dark rum

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 13×9 baking pan and set aside.
  2. Place chocolate chips in a large microwavable bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth and melted, stirring after each time. Let cool slightly.
  3. Pour melted chocolate into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in butter on medium speed until well incorporated. Add in 1 cup of sugar, 4 whole eggs, and 4 egg whites, mixing until well blended. Mix in flour and instant coffee on low speed until just combined. Carefully fold in hazelnuts. Remove 1 cup of batter and pour remaining batter into prepared pan.
  4. Place lady fingers rounded-side down on top of the batter, pushing down slightly on each one. Combine coffee with rum and brush onto the ladyfingers until saturated.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, Neufchatel cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 remaining egg whites, and vanilla extract. Carefully spread over the ladyfingers.
  6. Drop dollops of remaining brownie batter on top of the cheese layer and swirl gently with a knife.
  7. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is almost set. Let cool completely in pan before cutting.

Recipe slightly adapted from Chef Maureen Joyce & Barista Prima Coffee house via My Baking Heart

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Whiskey BBQ Burgers with Caramelized Onions & Cheddar

whiskey bbq burgers with caramelized onions & cheddar |

There’s something about a perfect burger that just screams “summer”! Even though it’s only spring, and even though it’s been a fairly cold spring so far, this burger made everything a-okay. I forgot for a few hours that summer was still forever away. Mike and I enjoyed these burgers with some grilled asparagus, grilled potato wedges, and of course, some fresh whisky sours.

whiskey bbq burgers with caramelized onions & cheddar |

Whiskey BBQ Burgers with Caramelized Onions & Cheddar
serves 4

for the whiskey barbecue sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1  teaspoon black pepper
1  teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup bourbon

for the caramelized onions:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar

for the burgers:
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
4 kaiser rolls, lightly toasted

  1. To make the whiskey barbecue sauce:  combine all barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, or until thick.
  2. To caramelize the onions: heat olive oil and butter in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Add in onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add in brown sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and soft, another 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. To make the burgers: shape beef into 4 even patties. Make a depression in the middle of each patty with your thumb. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to high heat and cook burgers until slightly charred and browned on one side. Flip and cook burgers on second side until browned and slightly charged. Top with sliced cheddar cheese during last minute of cooking.
  4. To assemble burgers: place a patty onto the bottom of  roll. Slather with barbecue sauce and top with a heaping spoonful of caramelized onions. Top with other side of the roll and serve immediately.