Chicken, Couscous, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers

So sometimes you have a meal that combines two delicious foods into one, leading you to believe¬†it will be awesome and even better than eating each item on its own. For instance, the bacon cheeseburger pizza or chili cheese fries. However, sometimes this is an epic fail, and you wish you just had one of each item rather than both of them combined into one item that kind of sucks. For instance, the chili cheeseburger (way too messy) and taco pizza (lettuce on pizza never works). This recipe right here was one of those fails. I love stuffed peppers, as well as goat cheese and chicken anything, but the combo just didn’t work for me in this dish. I didn’t think the filling tasted good with the pepper (maybe it’s just me). However, there is good news! The stuffing for the peppers was SO GOOD, so I ended up taking it out of the pepper and plopping it on an arugula salad with some dried cranberries, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. YUM! I also think it might be good in some corn tortillas for a fancy taco or in little filo dough cups as an appetizer. So while I may not make these stuffed peppers again, I would definitely make the stuffing again for salads or a party! However, I will post the recipe as I made it in case you want to try the peppers – maybe I just was having an off day ūüôā

PS: Don’t they look like little pumpkins? I love pumpkins. Sort of excited fall is on its way…but enjoying summer while I can!

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Chicken, Couscous, and Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Adapted from: Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients:

  • 4 large bell peppers (I used orange), tops cut off and set aside, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous, cooked (about 5/8 cup dry)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 pound cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 2.5 oz goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:

1.) Cook couscous according to package. I used chicken broth instead of water to add some extra flavor. I also made extra couscous and froze it!

2.) Place oven rack in top third of oven. Preheat broiler to high. Line a clear baking dish or cookie sheet with foil. Set peppers on their sides on the foil and coat with cooking spray. Broil 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes, until slightly charred. Remove peppers from the oven, keeping it on broil (high). Stand the peppers, cut sides up, in the baking dish.

3.) Combine couscous, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, spices, and chicken in a bowl. Stir in about 2 oz. goat cheese. Spoon the mixture evenly into the 4 peppers. Top peppers with the tops and broil for about 3 minutes. Remove from oven, take tops off, and sprinkle the extra goat cheese on top. Enjoy!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 313
Fat 9 g (3 g saturated)
Fiber 6 g
Carbs 34 g
Sodium 490 mg
Protein 22 g

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Baked Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Tomato Sauce

Meatballs are the perfect comfort food. Loaded up with lots of sauce and cheese over pasta…how could you not love that? I could probably eat Italian food every day for the rest of my life. But I do like to experiment with lightening it up, that way I can enjoy all the deliciousness without all the guilt. Introducing…turkey meatballs! Using ground turkey breast keeps¬†these very low in fat, while adding¬†chopped¬†carrots and onion keeps them moist and tender. So they still taste just as delicious!

To keep calories even lower and add some nutrients, I used spaghetti squash instead of pasta. I usually¬†love spaghetti squash in any traditional pasta dish, and it doesn’t disappoint here! However, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t make pasta often because it’s “bad” or because carbs are “bad.” Because veggies have carbs too! However, 4 cups of spaghetti squash has the same amount of carbs and less calories than only 3/4 cup of whole wheat pasta! So as much as I love pasta, and do use it in a lot of dishes, in this case I used spaghetti squash because I like the taste, plus it allows me to have more calories to splurge on the meatballs and sauce ūüôā

For the sauce, I kept it simple and just used a jar of sauce. I think people assume that because I’m Italian, I must make a fabulous homemade pasta sauce that I slave over for hours. But the truth is, I don’t have the time for that, and I also haven’t managed to make a sauce¬†that tastes much better than the jar kind¬†(but recipe recommendations are always welcomed!) My favorite is Newman’s Own Sockarooni – it’s a very flavorful blend of spices, onions and peppers, and chunks of tomato. I added a bag of spinach to it for an added nutritional punch. I topped it all off with some shaved parmesan cheese…perfecto! This is also a great freezer meal; I put two servings right into the freezer so I would have them for nights that I don’t feel like cooking!

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Baked Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4 servings
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Adapted from: Hello Healthy

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb¬†ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup¬†Italian seasoned whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots, chopped
  • 1/8 cup minced onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp¬†Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp¬†garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 4 cups baked spaghetti squash

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F.¬†Cut spaghetti squash in half, length-wise. Scrape out seeds and pulp. Spray inside of each half with olive oil spray and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet, inside facing down, for about 45 minutes, or until the insides are easily scraped with a fork. Let cool, then scrape the “spaghetti” out into a strainer or large bowl lined with paper towel (to soak up excess liquid).

2.) While spaghetti squash is baking, prepare the meatballs. Chop the carrot and onion, then combine with the egg, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Add in the ground turkey breast and mix everything with your hands. Form into balls and place onto a well-greased cookie sheet. Once squash is done, lower oven to 350 F and bake meatballs for about 30 minutes, or until no longer pink inside. This recipe makes about 18 meatballs.

3.) While meatballs bake, heat olive oil over medium heat and add minced garlic. Add spinach, in bunches, until it is all wilted. Then add jar of sauce and let simmer. Feel free to add your own spices or other veggies to it!

4.) Once meatballs are done, add them to the simmering sauce and heat through for a few minutes. Serve 4.5 meatballs over 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Top with a hearty serving of sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 374
Fat 13 g (2 g saturated)
Fiber 8 g
Carbs 34 g
Sodium 831 mg
Protein 35 g

Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Feta

I’ve almost been in my own apartment for a whole week – woah! I have to say that I have no complaints so far, other than missing having my roommates around. It can be lonely! But I do love having a whole fridge to myself, being able to do dishes/use the microwave late at night, and just generally being able to do my own thing. Since I was settling into the place this week and didn’t want to cook anything complicated, I made one of my favorite pasta dishes that comes together in minutes.¬†I make this dish often when I need to whip something up that will be quick yet satisfying. This always fits the bill!

I first made this when I ventured¬†out into the “real world,” when I was a rookie cook and new to living on my own (feels like light years ago!) I based it on a dish my college cafeteria used to serve, which was just bow-ties with spinach, tomato, and feta cheese. So simple yet so delicious.¬†I have tweaked it a bit to make it healthier and jazz it up, but I still owe the Stonehill College cafeteria a big thank you for introducing me to this dish!

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Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Feta

  • Servings: 6 servings
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Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole-wheat pasta
  • 1 bag spinach leaves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/c cup pesto (or more/less to suit your taste)
  • Feta cheese

1.) Cook pasta until desired firmness. Drain and set aside.

2.) While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven on medium heat. Once oil is hot, start adding in spinach, a handful at a time, until the whole bag is wilted, stirring frequently.

3.) When spinach is wilted, add the can of diced tomatoes to the sauce pan and let simmer for a few minutes. Then add pasta and desired amount of pesto and stir everything together!

4.) Top each serving with Feta cheese and enjoy!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, topped with 1/4 cup Feta cheese, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 448
Fat 21 g (5 g saturated)
Fiber 10 g
Carbs 54 g
Sodium 680 mg
Protein 18 g

Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili

Once again, the mighty crock pot has saved the day! I love being able to go to work and come home to a warm, ready-to-eat meal. My friend Katie sent me this recipe and raved about it. I’m so glad I finally got the chance to try it! The sweet potato adds great flavor, while the quinoa thickens it up and¬†adds more protein. It’s the perfect meal for a cold day. Enjoy!

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Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili

Adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1.3 lbs ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth, reduced sodium
  • 12 oz beer
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can¬†black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz can corn, drained
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 medium¬†(about 1.5 lbs)¬†sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • Your favorite toppings!

Directions:

1.) Add extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking it up into chunks as it cooks. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat and add to a 6 quart crock pot.

2.) Add remaining ingredients to crock pot, stir, and cook on low for about 8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Serve with your favorite toppings!

Skinny Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I consider these snowy, frigid weeks we’ve been having to be “soup weather.” There’s just something about having a hot bowl of soup on a cold night that makes you feel better (not as much as a sunny beach does, but I’ll take¬†what I can get). I usually love to make my crock pot chili in the winter, and probably will be whipping up another¬†batch of that soon, but I wanted to try something new. I looooove Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup (in a bread bowl…) but I know¬†that since it’s creamy and cheesy it’s also pretty high in calories.

Luckily, I just started getting Cooking Light magazine and they happened to have a lightened-up version of broccoli cheddar soup!¬†The base for this one is actually pureed brown instant rice. Now before you say “ew” and stop reading, hear me out: there’s still tons of cheesy flavor to make this allllmost as good as the original. The rice just gives it a slightly different taste and¬†actually makes it a lot more filling, but¬†it still is full of cheese and broccoli, I promise! I actually thought it tasted a lot like chicken divan in soup form (without the chicken). So maybe that’s what I should be calling it. And maybe I¬†should try it with chicken next time. But for now, here’s the recipe! At only about 300 calories a bowl, there’s still plenty of room for a side salad, a slice of bread, or fruit to go with it too. Enjoy!

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Skinny Broccoli Cheddar Soup


Adapted From: Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock/broth
  • 1/2 cup uncooked instant brown rice
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 lbs broccoli florets, chopped (about 4 cups once stems are removed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2¬†cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used half sharp and half sharp white)

Directions:

1.) Combine 2 cups stock/broth and rice in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally (mine kept trying to boil over). Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

2.) Place rice mixture and milk in a blender or food processor (this was a little messy in my food processor) and blend until smooth.

3.) Heat a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. Add onions and saute until soft, then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add in broccoli and salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add remaining 2 cups stock/broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Add rice mixture and simmer about 2 minutes while stirring.

4.) Take 2 cups of soup and put into blender/food processor. Blend until smooth and add back to pan. Add pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Divide soup among 4 bowls and top each with 1/8 cup cheese.

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 309
Fat 19 g (9 g saturated)
Fiber 4 g
Carbs 22 g
Sodium 647 mg
Protein 17 g

Chicken Quinoa Chili

Happy New Year’s Eve! I am excited to see what 2015 has to offer. I’ll be turning 25, finishing another 2 semesters of grad school, and hopefully doing more traveling! I also plan to just enjoy life as it happens, save more money, and make more time for friends and family, despite my busy schedule.

This post about 15 things to STOP doing in 2015 also really struck me, since I could agree with all of them!¬†Especially “stop saying yes all the time;” this is something I’m very guilty of. Looking forward to trying to cut down on¬†these things in the new year.

This week has been freezing here in New England, so I wanted to cook something warm and filling for dinner. I found a recipe for chicken quinoa chili on Pinterest and adapted it a bit. It was delicious and perfect for this chilly weather!

Chicken Quinoa Chili

Adapted from: iFoodreal

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs. chicken breast tenderloins (I used 2 lbs and thought it was a lot)
  • 1 cup frozen diced peppers and onions
  • 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz can black beans, drianed and rinsed
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • cooking spray/olive oil
  • shredded cheese for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray/olive oil and place raw chicken in it. Top with a sprinkle of the taco seasoning and bake about 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is done.

2.) While chicken is baking, spray a large deep skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add peppers and onions and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.

3.) Add remaining ingredients, except cheese, and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is ready (it will look like it has popped open).

4.) Remove from heat, add in cut-up chicken, and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm with shredded cheese on top!

**I used my Dutch oven and it wasn’t big enough, so I couldn’t add the chicken since I thought it would overflow. I ended up adding the chicken once I had portioned out the chili into 7 containers. But if your skillet is big enough, I would recommend adding the chicken once the chili is done and then let sit.

Nutrition Info With A Sprinkle of Cheese (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 479
Fat 12 g
Fiber 11 g
Carbs 52 g
Sodium 945 mg
Protein 42 g

Delicious and Easy Crock Pot Chili

I made my tried-and-true favorite crock pot chili the other night, since our oven has been broken and we’ve had to be creative. Sometimes I will saute the onions, peppers, and garlic with the meat to brown it, but since I couldn’t this time I just threw it all in the crock pot and set on low for about 8-9 hours. Feel free to switch up the type of meat, add more or less beans, and add any additional veggies. Chili is such a versatile but yummy dish and has always been one of my favorite comfort foods!

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Crock Pot Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 green/red pepper, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
  • 1 lb ground turkey/beef
  • 1-3 cans beans, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed/diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 12 oz tomato sauce
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 can beer (I usually use Bud Light/some other beer I wouldn’t drink ūüėČ )
  • 4-8 oz water (depending how thick/thin you want it)
  • 4 oz green chilies, diced (optional)
  • Seasonings, to taste (I use red pepper flakes, cumin, garlic powder, Italian seasoning)

Directions:

1.) In crock pot, add beer and chili seasoning and let sit for a few minutes.

2.) Saute onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Add meat and cook until brown. Then, add meat, onions, peppers, and garlic to the crock pot. Or simply throw it all in crock pot raw if you don’t have time to saute!

3.) Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cook on low for 3-4 hours (if meat is browned) or about 8 hours if meat is raw.

Nutrition Info (Per serving, without cheese, from Fitbit):

Calories 340
Fat 6.6 g
Fiber 9.2 g
Carbs 43.9 g
Sodium 809.1 mg
Protein 25.3 g