Pork Chops with Herb Goat Cheese Butter and Asparagus

So confession time: this is the first time I have cooked both pork chops AND asparagus. I really have no explanation for why I’ve never cooked either, other than that I always thought pork chops were nothing special and asparagus seemed too hard to cook (I know, I know, lame excuses here). But this recipe looked too good not to try! And I found asparagus on sale and decided they would be the perfect side for my (hopefully-they-turn-out-well) pork chops. Everything was so good and also so easy. This recipe will definitely be on repeat!

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Pork Chops with Herb Goat Cheese Butter and Asparagus

Adapted from: Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 3 boneless pork chops, about 1 lb.
  • Desired pork seasonings – I used adobo, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and layer asparagus evenly, ends trimmed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

 2.) While asparagus is baking, combine butter, thyme, lemon juice, goat cheese, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

3.) Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle one side of pork chops with desired seasonings and place pork, seasoning side down, in the skillet. Let cook for 3 minutes and season the uncooked side, then turn pork over. Cook for about 4 minutes and remove from pan.

4.) Top each pork chop with 1/3 of the goat cheese butter and serve with a side of asparagus.

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Broccoli Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

I just realized that my last three recipes were all full-blown comfort meals…I don’t mind it at all! This time of year certainly calls for warm meals that make you want to stay inside and forget about the cold New England weather outside. This mac and cheese was the perfect winter recipe – it has plenty of cheese while sneaking in a bunch of veggies! Then the addition of crumbled bacon is the perfect topping. Enjoy and stay warm!

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Broccoli Bacon Mac 'n Cheese

Adapted from: Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more if desired)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1 10-oz package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
  • 10 oz uncooked pasta
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1.) Heat a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until crisp and remove from pan onto a paper towel-lined plate.

2.) Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings and saute until soft. Add stock, milk, and squash and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

3.) Add pasta, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add in broccoli. Cook until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

4.) Add 1 cup of cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle bacon and the rest of the cheese on top.

Avocado BLT Pizza

Anyone who knows me sees that I eat avocado pretty much every day (it might be an addiction). I also looooove bacon and goat cheese, which luckily doesn’t hurt my stomach at all. So this recipe was right up my alley! You might be thinking “Avocado instead of pizza sauce? What??” but I promise it’s just as glorious as it sounds. And so easy to make! This is a great recipe to whip up on a Friday night when you don’t want to cook. Just keep some pizza crusts in the freezer and you can have this pizza ready in less time than delivery!

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Avocado BLT Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 pizza crust (I usually buy the frozen ones)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 slices bacon, pan fried and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • Handful of arugula

Directions:

1.) Bake pizza crust according to instructions.

2.) Mash avocado in a small bowl with garlic, red pepper, and salt and pepper. Spread on baked pizza crust. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, bacon crumbles, and goat cheese. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese begins to melt.

3.) Top with arugula, cut into fours and enjoy!

Cranberry and Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

After a lengthy absence…I’m back! Between school and a new job I was so busy I barely had time to breathe, let alone blog. This semester I will try to balance a little better so I can blog at least more than one every few months…I promise 🙂

Despite the lack of posts, I was still whipping up some new recipes! This one was a favorite of mine – the combination of flavors is delicious and it is super filling. It can either be served warm (heat the quinoa and squash before putting all ingredients together) or as a cold salad. Top with your favorite salad dressing (I used balsamic vinegar and olive oil) and enjoy!

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Cranberry and Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2.5 cups raw spinach
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 20 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay out cubed squash on a greased baking pan or cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and any other seasonings desired. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until squash is soft.

2.) While squash is baking, cook quinoa according to package instructions.

3.) In each bowl layer quinoa, spinach, and squash and top with cranberries, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and feta. Drizzle with your favorite dressing!

Creamy Dijon-Dill Salmon with Spiralized Cucumber Salad

Let’s talk about how this is the first time I’ve cooked fish at home. I know, it’s about time! But I was nervous…that it would smell the place up, that I would cook it wrong, that I wouldn’t cook it enough, and what do I do with the skin?!…so many irrational fears. I found a recipe for salmon in Cooking Light that seemed super easy and sounded delicious. Too good to be true? NOPE! Simple, delicious, and easier to cook than most poultry or beef. The sauce was SO GOOD and the fish cooked so easily and quickly. Like walk in the door, have a meal ready to eat in 20 minutes quick – there’s nothing better than that!

Since I cook just for myself, I only cooked one fillet at a time. I usually make a meal and then eat leftovers all week, but I knew the fish wouldn’t reheat well. So I just made the sauce in a big bowl and kept the raw salmon in the fridge, and each night I cooked one fillet and smothered it in sauce. Easy and so yummy – my mouth is watering thinking of the sauce right now. I served the salmon with a spiralized cucumber salad, which is a great way to turn garden-fresh veggies into a nice, light side dish. Make this meal ASAP – you won’t be disappointed!

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Creamy Dijon-Dill Salmon

Adapted from: Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mayo
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 salmon fillets (mine were about 5 oz each)**

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 425 F. Separate or cut the salmon into 3 fillets.

2.) Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Place desired number of fillets, skin/skinned side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread yogurt mixture over salmon. Bake for 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

** I decided to try the salmon both with the skin and skinned…I liked the taste of both, and both were very moist and delicious. Just keep in mind the skin adds more calories. So use whichever method you prefer!

Spiralized Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cucumber
  • Handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tbsp parsley or cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

1.) Use a veggie spiralizer to turn the cucumber into “noodles”. Chop them a bit in a small bowl to make them into smaller noodles. Cut grape tomatoes in half and add to cucumber.

2.) In a blender, add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Pour over the cucumber and tomatoes and mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You may have noticed that I have stopped putting the calorie/nutrition information for my recipes. This is mainly just because I have stopped trying to track calories and nutrients since, for me, I end up getting too obsessive over this. I lose sight of the real reasons I like to cook healthy foods, which is to make me feel healthy and energized, and instead I start eating things just because they will help me fit my macros or hit my calorie goals. Like a Thin Mint is less calories than an apple, so if your focus is just calories, you pick the cookie. But the apple is obviously the way more nutritious choice! I’ve started listening to my body and eating what my body craves until I am full, which usually ends up being a smaller serving than I may have previously eaten. And if I want a cookie, I have a cookie, and if I want an apple, I have an apple! However, if you all think having the nutrition info is helpful, I can keep doing it. Let me know what you think!

Shrimp and Veggie Fried Rice

I can’t even remember the last time I had Chinese food, which is sort of sad, but I love the fact that it’s so easy to make food that tastes like take-out at home. One of my favorite things is fried rice, so I decided to whip up some at home. I bumped up the nutrition factor by using brown rice and adding tons of veggies. I used shrimp for protein, but you could also do chicken or pork or beef. It’s such a versatile dish too, so feel free to add any extra veggies or other ingredients. So quick and easy and much better for you than actual take-out!

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Shrimp and Veggie Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4 servings
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry brown rice (I use instant)
  • 1/2 pound cooked, deveined shrimp (frozen)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (about 3 cups)
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar

1.) Cook rice according to package. Defrost shrimp. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or dutch oven, add olive oil and heat on medium. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, then add bag of steamed stir fry veggies (or veggies of choice). Cook for about a minute with the garlic, then add the soy sauce and stir. Let simmer.

2.) Once soy sauce is simmering, add the two eggs. Stir everything together to scramble the eggs with the veggies. Then add the shrimp and rice and stir everything together. Enjoy!

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

Calories 306
Fat 8 g (1 g saturated)
Fiber 4 g
Carbs 44 g
Sodium 1184 mg
Protein 15 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