a balanced plate with room for dessert

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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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California Rice and Beans

My favorite part of traveling for work is getting to eat at different restaurants. My first business trip meal was at Mona Lisa’s in Eau Claire. I had their gnocchi with sausage and peppers, and it was phenomenal. The downside to all this eating out is… well, it’s a lot of eating out. I got home and just needed an easy, home cooked meal. I saw this recipe in the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine and knew it would be perfect after being on the road.

I’m still trying to find a balance between my new work life, working out, and cooking. Before, I was able to run before work. I opted to work 7 – 3:30 at this new job, so running before work just isn’t going to happen! I’m a morning person, but waking up at 5:15 is as early as I can manage. Running before work would mean getting up an hour or more earlier than 5:15, depending on my distance. Nope, no thanks!  So, now I’m running after work and racing the clock to get dinner on the table at a decent time. Simple dishes are good right now since I don’t have a fully stocked pantry like I’m used to and I’m limited with my cooking tools as well.

California Rice & Beans |

California Rice and Beans
adapted from Food Network Magazine, September 2013

1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 – 15 ounce can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
5 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 green onions, sliced

  1. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, bell peppers, squash, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss until evenly coated.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Place vegetables into pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place beans in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place hot rice on 4 plates and top with vegetables and mashed beans. Top beans with sliced almonds and green onions. Serve immediately.

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Panko-Coated Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley Potatoes

Summer means shorter work hours for me, but for some reason I’m finding myself less and less motivated to make elaborate meals. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe the shorter work weeks make me lazy. Maybe it’s Summer Brain. 

All that said, I love this dish because it tastes complicated but is really quite simple to make. The worst of it was it requires a lot of pans, plates, and utensils, but that’s not really my problem since Mike does the dishes 😉

Panko-Coated Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley Potatoes |

Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley Potatoes

for the chicken:
1 cup flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, butterflied and pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons capers
juice of 1 1/2 large lemons
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

for the potatoes:
1 pound red potatoes, quartered or cut into eighths if large
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. To make the chicken, place the flour, eggs, and panko in three separate shallow dishes. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper into the flour mixture.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. Dip into egg and then coat with panko, using your hands to gently press the panko to the chicken.
  3. Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 – 4 minutes each side.
  4. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until lightly browned. Add in chicken broth, capers, and lemon juice. Spoon over chicken and sprinkle with parsley before serving.
  5. To make the potatoes, place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss gently until potatoes are coated evenly.

schnitzel recipe adapted from Food & Wine


Lightened Up Lemon Yogurt Cake

I’ve got a storm of baked goods comin’ your way. I would apologize for not posting healthier foods or main dishes, but I’m really not sorry. If you want someone to blame, you can start with Mothers’ Day. And then birthdays. Because all those occasions require baked goods. And when they all fall within a few days of each other… well, I end up pumping out a lot of goodies from my tiny kitchen.

I’ll start off with a lightened up lemon yogurt cake. I loved how light and spring-y this cake was. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I love lemons and their tartness. The next time I make this cake I will bump up the zest to 3 lemons and I’ll consider using a lemon-flavored Greek yogurt as well. I may double the glaze as well – I couldn’t get enough of that stuff! My sister liked it so much that she ate the top off a slice of the cake, leaving behind a sad naked slice. Rude 🙂

lightened up lemon yogurt cake |

Lightened Up Lemon Yogurt Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8.5″ loaf pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir gently to combine. Mix in canola oil until combined.
  4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  6. When cake is done, let cool in pan for 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack over a sheet pan . Using a toothpick, pierce top of cake several times. Pour lemon-sugar syrup over warm cake. Allow cake to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze: in a small bowl combine lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Pour over cake.


Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake. I love it in all different forms and with all different sorts of add-ins and toppings. Nuts, coconut, pineapple, cupcake or cake: I will shove it into my mouth. In fact, I love it so much that it made an appearance at our wedding:

Photo taken by Alacrity Photography

I don’t think I’ve ever had carrot cake with lemon, though. Not surprisingly, I love carrot cake with lemon, too. I love it a lot.

Let me back up a second. This whole carrot cake madness started because of a recipe swap. This swap was Blogger’s Choice. I was assigned Feed Me, Seymour. I found so many recipe on Kim’s blog it was impossible to narrow it down. I had five of her recipes open on my iPad, no joke. I finally narrowed it down to two and couldn’t go any further. So, I made both. The other recipe I picked from her blog will be coming shortly. I just couldn’t wait to share this carrot cake with you!

healthy carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting |

Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Feed Me, Seymour

for the cake:
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper with butter. Set pan aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, oil, honey, and vanilla until combined. Mix in carrots and ginger.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together white and whole wheat flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Pour mixture evenly into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely and slice into 36 bars.
  5. To make the glaze: combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat on medium until well combined. Pipe onto bars and serve immediately or store, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

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


Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I can’t help myself. Every time I go to the store, I buy strawberries. Walking through the farmers’ market is dangerous. I buy strawberries. I just love strawberries!!! I love them in salads, I love them in cakes, and now I love them in cupcakes!

This was inspired by one of Mike’s favorite summertime drinks – strawberry lemonade. I wanted a cupcake that echoed the taste of strawberry lemonade – sweet, but tart, and really refreshing.

I think this one really hit the spot. I found a recipe on  Annie’s Eats and modified it to suit my tastes. I love this! Be warned – the more strawberry and lemon you put in, the runnier the icing will be. I ended up with 5 teaspoons of lemon juice and the whole half cup of strawberries in my frosting. I wanted the flavor in there. I paid for it with runnier frosting. Worth it 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcake:
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

For the syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the frosting:
½ cup fresh strawberries
6 ounces cream cheese
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Stir together and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in egg, scraping in sides, until well combined.
  4. Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until just incorporated. Mix in milk until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in strawberries.
  5. Divide batter evenly into paper lines, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cupcakes have cooled, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar for the syrup, until well combined.
  7. Poke holes into cupcakes with a skewer (I used a chopstick) and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.
  8. To make frosting, puree strawberries in a food processor or blender and set aside. Beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in powdered sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree a little at a time until desired consistency and flavor is reached.
  9. Frost cupcakes and serve immediately or keep refrigerated.


Lemon Chicken Piccata

Between working at the bank and working on the house , I find myself with little energy left at the end of the day. It was hard enough to find the energy and motivation to cook for Mike, but now I have my younger brother to feed, too! No complaints, though!* Except for the fact that he eats enough for 3 people. I made this dish thinking there would be plenty of leftovers. Boy, was I wrong. So, in my case, this dish fed 3. I think that you could easily get away with making this for a group of 4 or 5, though! But hey, at least it was easy to make!

Lemon Chicken Piccata

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whole wheat all purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large lemon, juiced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound pasta of choice

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Butterfly the chicken and then cut in half. Tenderize the chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge through flour and shake off excess.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.**When butter and oil start to sizzle, add chicken to pan. Cook until browned, flip and cook until other side is golden brown and chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken to plate. Cook remaining chicken in same manner, using more butter and olive oil as needed before each.
  4. Add lemon juice, broth and capers to pan. Bring to a simmer, scraping pan to release browned bits for more flavor. Add more salt and pepper if desired. Add 2 tablespoons butter and stir until melted.
  5. Pour sauce over plated chicken and garnish with chopped parsley.
  6. Serve immediately with pasta.

*Ok, I have one complaint – my parents didn’t take me to Italy with them. They get Italy, I get my brother.

**I have this Calphalon pan. I love love love it. It was big enough to cook 5 pieces of chicken at a time without over-crowding the pan.

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Lemon Pepper Shrimp Linguine

I stumbled across this recipe on and just had to make it. I made a few adjustments and was pretty pleased with the results. I think next time I may kick it up a notch and make it a 3 Pepper Lemon Shrimp Linguine. Ohhh yeah: that’s this recipe with a dash of cayenne and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes added to it to give it an even bigger kick than plain black pepper. Some white pepper might even be good.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp  Linguine
adapted from

8 ounces linguine pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 lemon, zested and juiced
salt to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried basil

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Saute garlic in oil 1 minute.
  3. Add in chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 7 minutes.
  4. Mix in shrimp, butter, parsley and basil and cook until shrimp is opaque, about 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta and toss, coating evenly. Cook for 2 more minutes and then serve immediately.

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Shrimp Scampi

The first time I made this recipe from it was just a little too buttery for me. This time, I scaled back on the butter and made a few other adjustments. I was pretty pleased with the results.


Shrimp Scampi
serves 6

1 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds medium raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound spaghetti, cooked
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Whisk butter, mustard, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl.
  3. Arrange shrimp in a baking dish and pour butter mixture over the shrimp.
  4. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until shrimp are pink and opaque.
  5. Serve over spaghetti and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Lemon Raspberry Swirls

These cookies were time-consuming, but well-worth it!

lemon raspberry swirl

Lemon Raspberry Swirls

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon peel
1/3 cup seedless red raspberry spread

For the icing (optional)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  1. Beat the butter for 30 seconds with an electric mixer on medium-high speed.
  2. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally.
  3. Beat in the egg, milk, almond extract and vanilla.
  4. Beat in the flour and 1 1/2 tsp. of the lemon peel.
  5. Cover and chill the dough for 2 hours.
  6. Place the raspberry spread into a small bowl and stir and mash until it breaks up and becomes smooth. Set aside.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12 x 10 inch rectangle. Spread the raspberry spread on the dough to the end of both the short edges and one of the long edges. Leave a 1 inch gap of plain dough on one of the long edges.
  8. Roll the dough, starting at the long side that has the raspberry spread on it. Pinch the ends to seal
  9. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, turning the dough every 15 minutes.
  10. While waiting for the dough to chill, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  11. Slice the dough into 1/2 inch thick slices and place an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  12. Bake for about 14 minutes or until the edges are set and the bottom is slightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for a minute and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  13. For the icing, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and remaining lemon peel. Add enough water to get a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the cookies and then sprinkle with almonds.