Summer Green Smoothie Recipe

I love smoothies, but I have always found it hard to incorporate greens into my smoothies because I am so use to the idea of my smoothie being sweet! Well, this past weekend I was messing around with some smoothie recipes and viola! I found the perfect green smoothie recipe that is light and refreshing and perfect for summer.

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What I love about green smoothies is you can make them ahead, put them in an airtight container in the fridge, and instantly you have breakfast for 2 days! It’s super convenient, and I’m all about a great recipe + convenience!

Here is the best green smoothie recipe I have found, PS did I mention it’s less than 300 calories per serving?:

Makes 2 Servings (Approx. 295 Calories Per Serving)

Green Smoothie Ingredients

1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed

1 cup almond milk (sub with soy, rice, hemp, or coconut water if desired – may alter calorie count)

1 medium Fuji apply

1 large banana

3 pitted Medjool dates

2 tbsp. almond butter

Add ice as desired to thin consistency out or make smoothie cold

Recipe

1. Place spinach and almond milk in blender and blend until smooth.

2. Add chopped apple and blend until smooth.

3. Add chopped banana and blend until smooth.

4. Add chopped medjool dates and blend until smooth.

5. Add almond butter and blend until smooth.

6. Add ice, if desired, until prefect consistency is reached.

7. Divide into 2 portions. Enjoy one immediately, store the other in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

I hope that you love this green smoothie recipe as much as I do! The best part about smoothies? Making them your own! So add whatever else you like that you think will make it even more awesome!

 

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Chicken, Asparagus & Tomato Pasta Salad

I love asparagus, I love tomatoes, and I love pasta salad! So naturally, combining the three just made perfect sense :)

Actually we don’t eat pasta very often at home, but when I found myself with some leftover roasted asparagus from dinner the night before I just couldn’t help myself and decided to make a light, summer pasta salad for dinner. I love that this salad is delicious, healthy, and easy on my waistline! Not to mention, quick and easy to make :D

Makes 4 Servings

Prep Time: Approximately 45 minutes – 1.5 Hours (Depending on if serving chilled or warm)

Ingredients:

- 5 Asparagus Spears (Roasted with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper)

- 10 Cherry Tomatoes, split

- 1 Medium skinless, boneless chicken breast

- 2 Cups dry mini-penne pasta

- 8 tbsp. Ken’s Steakhouse Light Northern Italian Dressing

- Olive oil

- Salt, Pepper & Garlic

 

1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.

2. While the water is boiling, lay the asparagus out on a cookie sheet and coast lightly with olive oil sea salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus at 400 degrees F for approximately 8 – 10 minutes. Once cooked, remove from oven and set aside.

3. One the water has boiled, add the 2 cups of dry pasta. Allow to cook for 7 – 8 minutes, until desired tenderness is reached. Once pasta is cooked, drain and run under lukewarm water for 30 seconds. Set aside in a large mixing bowl (should be able to fit in your refrigerator if you want to serve this chilled).

4. Slice the chicken breast into bite-sized cubes. In a skillet, warm 1 tbsp. olive oil and then add cubed chicken. Cook through until white (about 15 minutes) and season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste.

5. Once chicken is cooked, remove skillet from heat.

6. In the bowl with the pasta, add the salad dressing and chicken. Lightly toss to coat.

7. Slice the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Add asparagus and cherry tomatoes to the bowl and toss to coat.

8. Add salt, pepper and garlic to taste.

 

If you want to serve your salad warm then you are DONE and the salad is ready to serve :) If you want to serve a chilled pasta salad, let your salad cool for about 10 minutes then place bowl in the refrigerator to chill for approximately 1 hour and serve after.

At less than 350 calories per serving (approx. 315 per serving), this is a nice light dinner that incorporates veggies, proteins, carbs and some beautiful summer colors! It’s also great as a side (without the chicken) for grilling out! If we are feeling extra hungry, I enjoy my chicken pasta salad with a nice side of greens with light balsamic dressing :)

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Low Calorie Breakfast Options

So summer is upon us, and that means pool parties and beach trips! Which, unfortunately, means that I have to put on a bikini….. after months of not sticking to a strict diet over the winter. And to top it off, I have my wedding dress fitting in less than 2 months! All of this means I am buckling down, exercising, and watching my calories to make sure I look, but most importantly feel, healthy and amazing this summer!

“Calorie counting” isn’t much fun, but if you get it down right it really does help you slim down and eat better. The key is portion control and understanding exactly what you are eating. For me, it’s easier to do this if I have simple, quick, go-to recipes that I know to the T and fall in at 350 calories or less.

This way I don’t have to look up every ingredient, every time, for every meal – I can just know what each meal contains, and jot it down to keep track for the day. Or even make daily menus that I know fall within the range of calories I need! It makes life a little easier :)

So, I thought I would share some of my favorite low calorie quick and easy breakfasts with you guys, to help jump start your day and help you get healthy for summer!

Niki’s Top 5 Low Calorie, Quick Breakfasts

1. Half of a large red grapefruit lightly sprinkled with Truvia + 2 large soft/hard boiled eggs + 1 cup green tea + 1  cup water (Approx. 200 calories)

2. Peanut butter & banana smoothie = 10 oz. skim milk + 1 medium banana + 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (Approx. 303 calories)

3. Yoplait Greek 100 Yogurt (any flavor) + 1/2 cup sliced strawberries + 1 slice whole wheat toast (Nature’s Own 100% whole wheat), plain + 1 cup green tea + 1 cup water (Approx. 185 calories)

4. Two large scrambled eggs + 2 tbsp. Pace chunky salsa + 1 slice whole wheat toast, plain + 1 cup green tea + 1 cup water (Approx. 210 calories)

5. 1/2 cup Quaker Quick Cook Oats + 1 tsp. vanilla extract + 1/2 cup sliced strawberries + 1 cup green tea + 1 cup water (Approx. 195 calories)

 

These are all lightning fast, tasty solutions for a healthy, low-calorie breakfast. Any of these takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, and with a little planning you can even make some of these at work if you have access to a fridge, microwave and toaster :) The smoothie is also great on the go if you are rushing out the door!

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Quick & Easy Garlic Baked Chicken Breasts

Everyone has their tried and true staple meals. Those quick and easy recipes that you don’t even have to read because you know them forward and backward. But some nights, well some nights you just want to try something new – but still quick and easy :)

Tonight I needed to throw together a quick dinner since the day got away from me at work, and I didn’t want to eat suuuuper late. So I put on my thinking cap and threw together a few ingredients to make a yummy, and fast, garlic baked chicken! This recipe was easy and tasty, and thanks to a few breadcrumbs it felt hearty and comforting – without upping the calories!

Makes 2 Servings

- 1 large egg

- 1 large chicken breast, sliced into 2 cutlets

- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

- 1 tbsp. of Flavor God Garlic seasoning (available on-line @ www.flavorgod.com)

- Half a teaspoon minced garlic

- Pinch of garlic salt, salt, pepper & oregano (to taste)

Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup, set aside.

3. Combine breadcrumbs, seasonings and minced garlic in a large bowl, set aside.

4. Crack egg into a separate bowl and whisk briskly to mix, set aside.

5. Dredge both sides of a cutlet in the egg mixture until coated, and then the breadcrumb mixture until evenly coated. Place coated cutlet on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other cutlet.

6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes; depending on your oven temperature. Check after 12 minutes to make sure you don’t dry the chicken out.

And there is it – a simple, delicious meal in less than 30 minutes! Not to mention healthy – each cutlet comes in at approximately 275 calories :) I enjoyed mine with a side of sauteed yellow squash & zucchini (seasoned with Flavor God Everything Seasoning) annnd half of a plain baked sweet potato – both leftovers from my dinner last night :)

I’ve learned that one of the big helps in eating healthy, for me, is cooking a little extra and having left overs for weeknights when you have limited time. Knowing that you really only need 30 minutes to get a healthy, filling meal on the table makes stopping at a fast food place on the way home a lot less tempting!

 

 

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Best Banana Bread – only an ocean away!

Part of being a foodie is looking for unique, local restaurants and snack shops that are “off the beaten path”. In fact, before I travel anywhere I do my research to see if any other foodies out there have any tips or hidden away gems. And of course when I get to where I’m going, I start talking to the locals!

Recently I spent a week in Maui, enjoying not only the sun, kayaking, and whale watching but also the amazing local treats! In fact in our 6 days there I think we only ate at the hotel twice. Sure, Maui isn’t another country, but it is across an ocean – and it’s a long way to go to eat the same food I can get at home.

In our adventure there we were lucky enough to hear about an amazing little place – Julia’s Best Banana Bread! OMG! Let me just say, banana bread was never my favorite until a couple of years ago, and even now I don’t have it very often. But this place, this is the mecca of banana bread! Julia’s is little more than a shack on the side of the road – it’s definitely a blink and you’ll miss it kind of place.

Located in the tiny village of Kahakuloa, you have to seek it out to enjoy the warm, delicious goodness she sells. And by seek it out, I mean a 45-minute drive (from the nearest town) on the Road to Hana; a curving, one-lane-in-some-places, road that winds along the western coast of Maui. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you brave the trek you will be privy to some of the most incredible views the island has to offer.

Once you reach the village, just along the road past a small taro farm you’ll find the faded lime-green shop. The shack opens daily around 9am, and is only open until they sell out of the freshly baked loaves. We got there right on the dot and were able to score 3 fresh – and by fresh, I mean still warm – loaves of the delicious bread. In addition to banana bread, we also picked up some coconut cashews and taro chips. All locally made, all mouthwatering!

I have to say, of all the awesome meals we had while in Maui I remember the banana bread the fondest :) Not only was it amazingly delicious, it was an incredibly fun adventure getting there and that is probably what makes this one of the best local snacks I’ve ever tried!

 

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New beginnings!

So, it has been almost two years since I posted. Which, is insane; and, there’s not much of an excuse for it. “I got busy” sounds so underwhelming – doesn’t everyone get busy? Well, I got life-changing busy. I made the decision to pursue my MBA overseas and consequently spent the following 8 months living in Europe. Followed by 3 more months on top of that living in California finishing it up. I then proceeded to go into a full throttle “apply everything new to my business and go 120%” for the past 8 months.

And while some things have changed, much has stayed the same :)  Still with my boyfriend – although now he got an upgrade to fiance! And so in addition to my business-building, I have been planing for our September wedding. Still traveling constantly, which I do still love. And still adore food! Of course :D

So while I may not have been blogging, I have definitely been “gathering material”! And now that life has started to slowly settle down… well, except for the wedding – oh and did I mention my upcoming move across the country? Well, let’s be honest – life never “settles down”, you just make time for what’s important. And I realized I missed blogging, and it was time to put it back on the list.

So here I am, back with an updated and re-designed site and a boatload of catching up to do! I hope you enjoy my updates, commentaries, recipes, and pictures and I appreciate your coming along for my blogging adventure!

-Niki

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Delicious Spanish Beans

I love beans – they are tasty and come in so many varieties, and work great in tons of recipes! One of my favorite recipes is a Spanish bean dish that my boyfriend likes to whip up (when he’s in a mood to cook ;) ) and they are out of this world!

Not only that, they are 100% vegan – which means we get to enjoy them on a regular basis!

These tasty beans go great with couscous, rice, tortillas, lentils, and even fresh steamed or roasted veggies. They’re great for a summer BBQ and also yummy comfort food for a cold winter. Versatile + quick + stores well = a favorite recipe!

This recipe can be slightly salty, it goes great with brown rice to help balance the flavor!

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients (some of these require a trip to the local Spanish/Latino market*)

Olive Oil

Goya Recaito* (Not sofrito, which is red – you want the green cilantro based recaito)

Sazón Goya* (with Coriander and Annatto)

Goya Adobo* (With Pepper/Con Pimienta)

Pimento stuffed olives

Small can tomato sauce (save the can – you’ll need 1/2 of this can of water to add!)

Goya Red Beans (2 cans)

Pepper (Optional)

Oregano (Optional)

 

Recipe

1. In a saucepan over med-high heat pour in both cans of beans. To reduce the sodium in the recipe you can rinse the beans first, but we usually don’t.

2. Add 2 tsp. olive oil, 1/4 cup recaito, and can of tomato sauce. Stir well and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

3. Separate 1/2 – 3/4 cup of olives and dice into small pieces. Doesn’t have to be tiny, you just don’t want whole olives :)

4. Add olives to beans and mix well. Then add 2 tsp. sazón, 3 tsp. adobo, and 1/2 can of water. Let simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. You can add more adobo, pepper, and oregano to taste. Don’t add any salt as it should be salty enough with all of the seasonings (it’s a slightly salty dish).

 

Hope you enjoy this great recipe! You can get really creative and add peppers and onions to this, it tastes great!

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Vegan Banana Apple Bread

Vegan baking is an art all its own – it takes practice, patience, and persistence! Trust me, the first few times it won’t turn out quite right, and the taste will be slightly different from what you expect. But no fear – you can bake the vegan way! There are great vegan cookies, cake, and bread recipes that are easy and tasty!

This banana apple bread recipe is a favorite in my house – it’s gone before I know it! It’s fairly easy for even the most amateur vegan bakers, and it makes your house smell amazing while it’s cooking, which is always a plus :)

Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients

4 Very Ripe Bananas

1 Medium-Sized Apple (Fiji or Golden Delicious work great in this!)

1 Cup Spelt Flour

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 Cup Raw Cane Sugar

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1 tbsp. Cinnamon

1/2 tbsp. Nutmeg

1/2 tsp. Cloves

1 tsp. Vanilla

1/4 Cup Milk Substitute (Almond or Vanilla Soy milk are good for this!)

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 cup Margarine/Butter Substitute at Room Temperature (I use Earth Balance Spread)

 

Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray.

3. In a bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

4. In another bowl, cream together sugar and margarine.

5. In a third bowl, mash ripe bananas together to make a paste. Add vanilla and milk to the banana paste, then add the sugar and margarine mixture to the banana mixture and mix together.

6. Combine banana/sugar mixture to the dry mixture in the first bowl and mix everything together until just combined.

7. Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

8. Remove pan and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Then transfer bread from pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

 

You can always slice into it before it’s completely cool, but it can get a little messy because the bread will be very soft! I love eating a slice of this bread with a little margarine spread on it – delicious!

Admittedly I am big on cinnamon and nutmeg, so there is a lot of it in this recipe – it makes the mixture very fragrant once everything is mixed together. If you don’t enjoy the spices that much and prefer a stronger banana flavor you can reduce the amount of spices you add :)

 

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Spicy Curry Potato Wedges

I got this recipe from a friend of mine who is a loyal vegetarian. It’s simple but oh-so-tasty and seems to be loved by all who try it :)

These potatoes are a great side dish for any lunch or dinner, and taste just as good heated up the next day! They are a simple way to spice up dinner and add a little variety to your average potato side dish.

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients

6 Medium/Large Potatoes

1 tbsp. Turmeric

1 tbsp. Paprika

2 tbsp. Mild Curry Powder

Olive Oil

Salt

 

Recipe

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees*

1. Wash potatoes well and cut each into 4 wedges. You can peel them if desired, but I like leaving the skins on because they taste fine and it’s a lot less work!

2. Place wedges in large mixing bowl.

3. Combine turmeric, paprika, and curry powder in a small bowl.

4. Pour a little olive oil in the large mixing bowl with the potato wedges and toss them around, so each are lightly coated with oil.

5. Sprinkle seasoning mix over wedges in large bowl, using a large serving spoon (because turmeric can stain!) to toss the potatoes – make sure they are all evenly coated.

6. Using tongs place the wedges skin side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. You can also put parchment paper down on the cookie sheet to help prevent staining.

7. Sprinkle wedges with salt and place the cookie sheet in the oven, cook for 28 – 30 minutes.

 

That’s it! All done! Delicious and different potatoes, and for kids – they go great with ketchup :)

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Delicious Vegan Tacos

Tacos are one of my favorite “fun” dinners to make for a group! They are versatile and can be customized for anyone’s individual tastes, so they’re great for casual groups and kids, not to mention picky eaters! When I gave up meat it was with a pang of regret that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a good old fashioned taco again… and in a way, yes, I was right. No more “old fashioned” tacos for me, but with some creativity and know-how I came up with a delicious taco filling that is vegan-friendly and heart-healthy – not to mention a nice alternative to just bell pepper and onion taco fillings that are common for vegans/vegetarians!

You can always make this recipe a little more friendly for non-vegans by putting out toppings like sour cream and cheese, but I guarantee you won’t get a single complaint about the delicious no-meat filling! Even better, it just improves in flavor as it stays in the fridge so it’s great for left overs – which is great for me not having to cook every day :)

**This recipe will take you approximately 2 hours to prepare from start to finish**

Makes 6 Servings

Filling Ingredients

1 Can Organic Pinto Beans

1 Can Organic Black Beans

1 Can Organic Sweet Corn

3 Medium Yellow Onions, sliced julienne style (Onion Slicing)

Cumin

Salt & Pepper

Paprika

Tabasco Sauce

Garlic Salt

Olive Oil

Vegetable Broth (optional)

 

Recipe

1. First we need to caramelize the onions. To do this, coat a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan with olive oil. Don’t use too much, just enough to coat the pan (about 1 tbsp. per onion). Let the oil get hot until it is shimmering on the bottom of the pan.

2. Add onion slices and stir to coat with oil then spread the onions evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. Keep the heat at medium/low, depending on your stove. It needs to be hot enough to cook the onions but not so hot to burn them. Cook the onions for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring regularly to make sure the onions don’t stick or burn. Be sure not to stir too often or it will take twice as long to cook the onions. Cook the onions down until they are a rich, brown color.

3. Once the onions are caramelized, add the pinto beans, black beans, and corn to the pan. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients, and set heat to low/medium so that the filling lightly simmers.

4. Add seasonings and Tabasco sauce to taste, mixing well.

5. Allow all ingredients to simmer together for 45 minutes to an hour, if you have the time. This is kind of like chili, the longer it simmers the better it will taste – but it tastes pretty good if you only have 10 minutes to simmer :)

6. Use the veggie broth to thin out simmering filling and get it to the consistency you want. This is optional, if needed.

 

And that’s it for your filling! Easy, yes – quick, eh, not so much. But it’s delicious and does keep well for left overs so you can make a huge batch and be all set for the week :)

I like to put out a variety of taco options when I make these, like:

Hard Shells

Spicy & Regular Tortillas

Sliced Avocado

Salsa

Diced Tomatoes

Green Onions

Sour Supreme (sour cream substitute)

 

I set it up as a buffet and let everyone make their plates – and I’ve never had someone refuse seconds! :) I usually serve these with spicy curry potato wedges (recipe coming soon!) on the side, but they are pretty hearty so you don’t even really need a side.

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