chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and it will. not. go. away. until you make it?? That is today’s recipe for me. A colleague brought in leftover stuffed peppers (mmmmmm) a few weeks ago for lunch, and an idea suddenly popped in my head: chicken parmesan stuffed peppers. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I thought so too, so I looked around on the internet and the few recipes I could find weren’t calling out to me, so I decided to create them. If I do say so myself, these are a winner.

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Inside of frying the chicken a la chicken parm, I decided to impart that crispy crunchiness by topping the peppers with a whole wheat panko, cheese and parsley topping. Delicious, and a great way to cut down on calories. We are using whole wheat orzo pasta in the filling, but feel free to use regular orzo pasta. I also found these super cute teeny tiny little fresh mozzarella balls, but any small fresh mozzarella will work for this. Mine were about 1/2 inch big, but you could always buy a big ball of it, and cut it down. That would probably be more economical, but hey, I was all about convenience, and cuteness.

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This recipe seems long, but it’s really just cooking each component, adding them together, and then assembling the peppers. Beautiful! My friend James and I devoured these the night I made them. The recipe makes five as written, and three of my peppers were on the smaller side. One big one was almost too much. As with many casserole type dishes, these get better the next day.

A portable, healthy way to get my chicken parmesan craving? yes, please!

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
a ‘PTL’ original recipe. 

ingredients
12-15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached or roasted, shredded or cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
scant one cup whole wheat orzo, cooked
5 assorted bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded, tops reserved and diced (preferably red/orange/yellow)
1/2 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 1/2 cups jarred marinana sauce, 1/2 cup reserved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

topping:
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)
5 baby mozzarella balls (optional)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oval 2 quart dish, add cut peppers, standing up to the dish. Cover with foil, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes to slightly soften the peppers. Remove dish and let cool. Set aside.

To cook the chicken: Heat a deep skillet with one tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cover and let cook for 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat, let cook for 3-5 minutes, and then shred or cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat a pot with boiling water and cook orzo to package directions for al dente. Remove, strain, and then add cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the panko topping: combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss together with a fork.

While orzo is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat with remaining tablespoon of oil. Add diced onion, diced pepper tops, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring often for 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove and add to mixing bowl. Add cooked, chopped chicken, marinara sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper is using. Lightly toss. Add baby mozzarella balls and lightly toss again.

Using a spoon, carefully fill each pepper with filling to the top of the pepper. Add a small spoonful of sauce to each top, and spoon the remaining sauce around the peppers in the casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to assess softening of peppers. Once peppers “give” a little (about 45 minutes), remove foil, add the panko topping, and top each pepper with remaining mozzarella ball. Turn the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure no burning.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for a few minutes. Serve, topped with ribbons of basil.

Serves 5.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

cider glazed chicken with garlicky swiss chard.

The cider love continues! This dinner is super fast and perfect for a weeknight. In my overzealous fall shopping, I picked up a gallon of local apple cider. Turns out, I don’t really drink all that much apple cider, so after a week or so, I still had over half of the gallon left. Cider makes a delicious pan sauce, and this one is so simple. Just cider, dijon, salt, pepper and finished with a pat of butter. So much flavor with very little effort!

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I used a whisk to break up the mustard and smoothly incorporate it into the apple cider. This will bubble, and you’ll want to stir and/or whisk it often while it thickens. No cornstarch necessary here! Butter at the end makes the sauce oh-so silky and rich. Perfect for the chicken, although this would be equally delicious with pork chops or tenderloin. This sauce is SO. DELICIOUS. I loved the bitter greens agains the sweet sauce, but pick your favorite veggie if swiss chard isn’t for you.

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This comes together in under 20 minutes, making it a super fast and elegant weeknight dish that will make the return of short days that much easier!

cider glazed chicken with garlicky swiss chard.
adapted from cooking light. 

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ingredients
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (4)*
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon butter

swiss chard:
1 bunch swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
pinch of sea salt
splash (1 teaspoon-ish) red wine or cider vinegar

directions
Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add cider and mustard to pan, scraping pan to remove all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add remaining salt and pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes while sauce is bubbling until thickened and syrupy. Remove from heat, and swirl in tablespoon of butter. Pour over chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat heat. Add minced garlic clove, and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add swiss chard to pan, and add crushed red pepper and sea salt. Toss together for one minute, and add in slash of red wine vinegar. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, until the swiss chard begins to wilt. If finished before the pan sauce, remove from heat and cover.

Serves 4.

*I typically buy a pound chicken breasts, which yields two breasts in a package. I cut each breast in half, and pound to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness with a meat mallet.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

beef noodle bowls with sesame ginger dressing.

I’ve been trying to get more iron into my diet. I recently had some blood work, and it was revealed that I’m pretty deficient in my iron stores. I’ll soon be starting on some iron supplements, but I truly believe that the best way to get essential vitamins and minerals is through food. Since beef is one of the most well-known sources of iron, I figured it was the perfect starting point. I had a beautiful, lean top round steak in my freezer, and one Friday evening I decided to grill it up. It was nearly 1.25 pounds, so I had a lot leftover. Regular leftover steak sounded boring, so I made the leftover meat a focal point into a brand new, remade dish: asian beef noodle bowls.
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What a hit. Delicious cold, room temperature or hot, this is the ideal lunchtime food. I ate it cold on day one, and heated up the next day at work and both were equally delicious. You can bulk out the noodles with extra vegetables, and a delicious, luscious sesame ginger dressing. The dressing is thin, but coats the noodles, vegetables, and meat in the more delicate way. Give this a garnish with some sesame seeds and additional scallions, and you have a takeout-worthy dish that will simultaneously help you repurpose leftovers and clean out your vegetable crisper. Win-win!

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beef noodle bowls.
dressing adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

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ingredients
6-8 ounces leftover steak, thinly sliced (top sirloin, hanger, skirt, flank)*
4 ounces brown rice noodles or whole wheat thin spaghetti
1/2 cup white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil

salad dressing:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce (or 1/4 cup tamari)
1.5 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon avocado oil (can use olive or grapeseed)
1.5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar OR coconut palm sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced

directions
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Meanwhile, take the leftover steak out of the fridge to pull the chill off of it.

Make the dressing: Combine the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until well combined. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Once the oil is heated, add the mushrooms, carrots and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until just slightly tender. Remove vegetables and add to the noodles. Add the scallions and beef and 1/2 of the dressing and toss to combine, adding more to your taste.

Divide amongst two bowls and top with sesame seeds. Eat cold or warm.

Serves 2.

**Please use grass fed beef and organic ingredients wherever possible**

Note: If you do not have leftover steak, you can simply sprinkle your choice of steak with sea salt and pepper and grill for 4-5 minutes per side, until medium rare. Let rest and slice, proceeding with the recipe.

 

 

 

chicken taco stuffed zucchini boats.

I know this is my second zucchini recipe in a row, but if you’re anything like me, you are positively overflowing with zucchini right now. I tell you, every summer! My grandmother gifted me with a few from her garden, and while most of them were of normal size, there was one gigantic squash. I stuck it in the refrigerator while I waited for inspiration to strike. I had just made cookies, so I didn’t want to use it for another baked good. I wanted to use the whole thing in one dish, so I decided on stuffed zucchini, or zucchini ‘boats’! I decided to play around with the flavors for this recipe, and went with Mexican flavors.

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Stuffed with Tex-Mex spiced ground chicken, hearty healthy black beans, and rounded out with some extra vegetables, and we have a very healthy take on tacos!

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Naturally gluten free, the filling is chock full of protein, thanks to the black beans and lean ground chicken. If you’re avoiding dairy, just omit the jack cheese and the cotija.

Now I had a huge squash, so a quarter of the squash would serve on person. If you have normal sized zucchinis, you can plan on one half per person for a medium sized one, or two halves for a small squash. This comes together quickly and is so incredibly filling!

chicken taco stuffed zucchini boats. 

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ingredients
2 large or 4 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise with seeds scooped out
1/2 pound ground chicken
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup of zucchini, diced
1.5 tablespoons of taco seasoning (homemade or purchased)
1 10 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes with chiles
1/4 cup of salsa, plus extra for serving
monterey jack cheese, for serving
cotija cheese, for serving
cilantro, for serving
sea salt
black pepper

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly spray each zucchini half. Place skin side up and bake for 10-15 minutes, until just slightly softened. Remove from oven and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of grapeseed oil. Once the oil is shimmery and hot, add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften. Add your taco seasoning blend, salt and pepper. Add in bell pepper and zucchini and cook for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add in fire roasted tomatoes with chiles and salsa. Stir well to combine and allow to simmer softly until everything is heated through and the flavors combine (about 5 additional minutes).

To assemble: Divide the chicken mixture evenly amongst the zucchini boats, top with desired melting cheese (NOT cotija) and put into the oven. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve, topping with cotija and cilantro. Serve with additional salsa if desired.

Serves 4.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

 

whole wheat pasta with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes + asiago.

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I was bored one weekend day, and was flipping through some magazines, when the cover photo on one of them caught my eye. Pasta dishes very rarely make me oh and ah, but this one caught my attention for two reasons. 1. It sounded SO summery; combined two of my favorite things: cooked baby tomatoes and zucchini. 2. Most important! I actually had every. single. ingredient. Right at that exact moment hanging out in my kitchen. I mean, how crazy fortuitous! I knew I had to make it.

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Confession: I may not have had every identical ingredient, so I swapped whole wheat thin spaghetti for the original’s penne, and I used a cheese blend from Trader Joe’s that included asiago, parmesan and romano in place of just asiago. This is a delicious, elegant dish that comes together in under 30 minutes (hello, weeknight meal!), but it’s different and inventive enough for guests.

You will need 8 ounces of pasta for four people. That’s a half of a normal box. I realize that this doesn’t sound like much, but trust me. Two ounces is the normal serving size, and with everything else going on in the pasta, two ounces is all you need! It’s super filling and oh-so-delicious. And it uses gorgeous summer produce. Pasta perfection I’d say.

pasta with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes + asiago.
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2016.

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ingredients

8 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ounce prosciutto, thinly sliced and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
⅛ teaspoon, crushed red pepper
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 ounces Asiago cheese blend, grated and divided (I use Trader Joe’s blend of Asiago/Parmesan/Romano)
⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped

directions

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto, cook for 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove prosciutto from pan.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan. Turn pan down to medium heat (this will ensure the garlic doesn’t burn). Add onion, garlic and red pepper and saute for 4 minutes, or until onion is translucent and soft and garlic is fragrant. Add zucchini and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and salt; cook 3 minutes. Stir in pasta and vinegar; cook 30 seconds.

Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, prosciutto and 1 ounce of cheese. Divide pasta mixture among the four bowl and top with remaining 1 ounce of cheese.

Serves 4.

sesame-soy turkey meatballs.

A gluten free, egg free, healthy, Asian-inspired meatball that doesn’t fall apart? Yes, it can be done! To ensure this dish is gluten free, make sure to use certified GF soy sauce, or use tamari, which is common in Japanese cooking, a thicker, more fermented soy sauce, and is usually gluten free (but make sure to double check!).

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For some reason, meatballs always seem like such an ordeal. A liquid, an egg, a binder, meat, spices… and my eyes are glazed over already. Granted, I do make meatballs in the classic fashion (see these delicious chicken parm ones!), but these Asian-inspired ones are  SO. EASY. Just a few ingredients, mix together, roll and bake. Done.

They are delicious on their own, but I’ve been eating them with quinoa and steamed carrots and green beans, drizzled with a touch of sesame oil and soy sauce. You could even make these smaller and use them in soup. Or stick a toothpick in them and serve alongside your favorite Asian dipping sauce. Endless possibilities!

Make a double batch and freeze them for a rainy day!

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sesame-soy turkey meatballs.
adapted from Cooking Light. 

ingredients

1 pound lean ground turkey breast
1/3 cup scallions, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons reduced sodium, gluten free soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon chile garlic paste
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
cooking spray

directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking rack over a baking sheet and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add turkey, scallions, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chile garlic paste and garlic. Using your hands, mix together until all combined, being careful not to over mix.

Using a one tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop a heaping tablespoon and roll into a ball. Place onto baking rack. Repeat with remaining mixture; you should end with about 15 meatballs.

Cook for 15-20 minutes until no longer pink and browned on the outside. Remove and cool completely prior to freezing.

Yields 15-16 meatballs.

**Please use all organic ingredients**

 

NOTES:
*I like to use a baking rack to let any extra fat drain off during the baking process! This is not necessary, and you can skip it if you’d like.

*Over mixing will yield a tougher meatball, so mix only until ingredients are combined.

 

mole-style turkey chili.

I love chili. It is one of my go to dishes for a meal that is easy, filling, inexpensive and oh so simple to make. Although I love a traditional chili recipe, and this amazing sweet potato turkey chili, I’m always looking for a new take on a beloved recipe. I came across this recipe for turkey chili, which included traditional mole ingredients such as cocoa powder and cinnamon. If you’ve never heard of mole, it is a very traditional Mexican sauce that can be prepared in tons of different ways. Moles can be yellow, green, orange, red and the classic dark red and brown sauces. They almost always start with chiles, maybe some sour ingredients like tomatillos, spices, nuts/seeds and/or dried fruit, thickeners like day old bread, and chocolate. If chocolate is used, it is added at the end of the cooking process, as moles typically cook for long periods of time.

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But this post is about chili, not mole! I call it “mole style” because of  the unsweetened cocoa powder and cinnamon that is added the recipe, along with chipotle chile in adobo sauce. Chipotles in adobo are super spicy, but delightfully smoky and best of all, a little goes a long way!

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I highly recommend this spin on a beloved, classic dish such as chili. Feel free to serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and shavings of bittersweet chocolate atop the bowl. Trust me!

mole-style turkey chili.
adapted from myrecipes.com

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ingredients

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can tomatoes, diced or petite diced with juices
1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced (seeds removed if desired), plus 1 teaspoon of the sauce
2.5 teaspoons chili powder (NOT cayenne)
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon of unsweetened raw cocoa powder (I really love the Nativa Naturals cacao)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, for garnish
3 scallions, sliced, for garnish
tortilla chips, for serving

directions

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add 1/2 tablespoon oil, until slightly shimmering and hot. Add turkey and cook for 5 minutes, breaking apart as it cooks until cooked through. If desired, drain turkey in a colander and return to pan.

Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to turkey and add onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Cook for 3 minutes and add carrots. Cook for additional 3-5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and soft and garlic is fragrant. Stir spices frequently, and allow them to bloom and become fragrant. Add a tablespoon or two of water and scrape gently with a wooden spoon if needed to release spices on the bottom of the pan.

Add tomatoes, chipotle chili and adobo sauce, chicken broth, water and cocoa powder and stir to combine. Increase heat and allow pot to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Top with cilantro and scallions prior to serving. Serve with baked tortilla chips if desired.

Serves 6. Freezes beautifully!

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**