Sunday, January 15, 2017

Turkey Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Casserole

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I've been under the spell of the Whole 30 and I have to say that with 13 whole days under my belt, I feel pretty darn awesome.  My energy has skyrocketed, my mood has improved (you're welcome, everyone) and I just feel good overall.  You don't realize how many foods have sugar in them until you become a master of reading labels.  Newsflash:  EVERYTHING has sugar in it.  Bummer.

The major key to the success I've had so far, is food prep.  I use Sundays to prepare for my week and without that, I would have fallen off the wagon days ago.  I hard boil eggs, make at least one protein salad, roast veggies and this week, I made a breakfast casserole.  Voila, breakfast for the week is done.  Yay!

I haven't done the best job of eating my veggies the last couple of days, so I figured if I add them in with some eggs and ground turkey, I'll make them more accessible.  I made my prep easier by roasting the veggies in the oven while I browned the turkey.  Hello, time saver! For those of you not Whole 30-ing right now, feel free to use regular milk in place of the coconut milk.  So, without further adieu, here's my first recipe in a VERY long time.  

Turkey Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Casserole

Ground Turkey

1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or oil of your choice)

Roasted Vegetables

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper roughly chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
Avocado oil, to coat
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

2 cups fresh greens (I use mixed greens from costco, but any greens will do)

Egg Mixture

9 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Hot sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Heat large skillet over medium heat.

Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Add roasted vegetables.  Mix with the oil and season with salt and garlic powder.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While the vegetables are roasting, brown the ground turkey with avocado oil in the skillet.  Break up the turkey with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes until there is no pink.  Incorporate the roasted vegetables and greens into the turkey mixture and transfer into the greased baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, salt and garlic.  Pour over the turkey and veggie mixture.  

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Top with freshly sliced avocado and hot sauce.  Enjoy!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Broccoli Strawberry Salad

Broccoli.... I know what you're thinking. Booooring.  Not so fast, my friends. Not. So. Fast. This broccoli salad is the perfect addition to your next potluck or barbecue. Yes, it's almost that time of year. You wouldn't believe it right now in Lexington because the wind is howling, but I promise, the grills will be firing up before you know it (mines been fired up several times already).  This salad is quick, easy and best of all, can be made ahead of time!

Recently my dad was directed by his doctor to try the FODMAP diet, so for Easter I wanted to make something that he would be able to partake in since 110% of the dishes at our family gatherings are made primarily of gluten. Broccoli is one of those foods that no one can seem to make their mind up about but several articles I read said that 1/2 cup is acceptable so I went with it. 

Right about now you're probably wondering why I decided to put strawberries in this salad. The reasoning behind this is two-fold. A. Dad can have strawberries. 2. I saw a picture on Pinterest. I was slightly devastated when the picture lead to a black hole of Internet nothingness. After days of trying to forget that I had ever seen it, and a few nights dreaming about it, I knew I just had to make something up. And so I did. 

I knew it would need a crunchy element so I decided slivered almonds would suit my taste just fine. Normally I would add red onions but onions and garlic aren't FODMAP friendly so I used green onions,which are allowed. I find that strange. The coup de gras is obviously bacon because bacon makes everything better.  

I never even had to think about the dressing. I would basically use the same one made for every other broccoli salad but for me personally, I've been cutting out as much processed sugar so I decided maple syrup would be my sweetener-- the real stuff, not Aunt Jemima.  I've also cut out weird chemicals so I decided I would make the mayo from scratch. . That's right. I. Made. Mayonnaise. Let's all take a moment to appreciate that statement. I would like to thank the Internet for providing thousands of mayo recipes and my mom for buying me an immersion blender for Christmas. Without those two things, this would not have been possible. #gratefulandblessed

Side note:  I'm not going to require you make your own mayo. But if you want to try it, and I recommend that you attempt it at some point in your life because it really impresses people when you tell them you made mayo, then you can go HERE or HERE or even HERE or you can simply Google "mayonnaise recipe" and the World Wide Web will present you with thousands, if not millions, of options. 

I might be spouting nonsense at this point so, I'll just get to the point.... 

Broccoli Strawberry Salad

2 heads broccoli, washed and cut into bite size pieces
1 pound strawberries, washed and quartered
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 green onions, sliced
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

In a large salad bowl, combine the broccoli, strawberries, almonds, green onion and bacon. 

In another bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and maple syrup. 

Pour over the salad and mix well. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Bisque

As long as I live, I will never understand those of you who like winter and all it's friends like snow, ice and frigid temps. It's cold here and I don't like it and now I will probably be in a bad mood for the next couple of months. Especially with a winter storm warning that is spanning a 36 hour time period and predicted to dump at least 8 inches of snow and as a bonus, some ice. Woo! (Insert sarcasm font). I guess there are a couple of things that could cheer me up--like a snow day, but that's highly doubtful. It's always Plan A. Except for twice last year which I am assuming was some sort of hole in the space time continuum. 

What else would cheer me up? Probably a big, creamy, steamy bowl of Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Bisque.  Who knew that a vegetarian delight like this would be able to warm my soul during cold, dreary winter days. Certainly not me. Ok. I'll stop complaining about winter. For now. And I'll focus on this soup. And maybe dream about the beach. 

I'm telling you. This bisque is everything a bisque is supposed to be. Velvety, smooth, creamy and soul-soothing. You should make it. And get this: it's healthy. What? Yes. Healthy. It can even be vegan if you skip the cheese. I refuse to skip the cheese. I'll give up meat on occasion but don't ask me to give up my cheese. I used a raw cheddar, but parmeggiano would be perfect too. Just adjust the measurements to taste since it's a saltier cheese. 

I got an emersion blender for Christmas. Fact. I'm in love with it. It makes my life easier and soon I will make mayonnaise and that makes me weirdly excited. Total food nerd, I know. It is the perfect kitchen tool to make this soup the perfect consistency. Now all you need is some crusty bread to dip and you're set! 

Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Bisque

1 whole garlic bulb
1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced, about 3/4 cup
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups cheddar cheese (optional)
2 teaspoons Rosemary
Olive oil
Green onion, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut the top off the bulb of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Wrap in foil and roast for about 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet with foil.  Place chopped cauliflower on foil and drizzle with olive oil, about a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes also in a 400 degree oven. 

When cauliflower and garlic are finished roasting, preheat a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and diced onion. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until onion starts to turn translucent. 

Add cauliflower and garlic to the onion mixture and stir. To remove the garlic, simply squeeze the bulb from the bottom and the cloves should pop out.

Pour in vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 90 minutes. 

Using an emersion blender, blend until you reach your desired consistency. I prefer mine super smooth. 

Stir in cheese until melted. Remove from heat. Garnish with green onion and serve with a crusty bread. Enjoy! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lemon Herb Skillet Chicken and Rice

I contemplated going off the grid on Saturday night. Literally, moving someplace with no power so there would be no internet or tv which means no football, ever again. Turns out, there would also be no Netflix and I just can't live in a world without Tim Riggins or the Braverman family, or the Gilmore Girls, or Dexter. These are my go-to's. Should they ever disappear from the massive library of Netflix, I'm not sure I would survive. Talk about a show hole. Have you all figured out yet that I'm a little dramatic about petty, unimportant things that have no bearing on the world? Don't you dare tell me football is just a game. I'm unstable right now. I might stop speaking to you. Forever.

So, we've almost got two weeks of 2016 under our belt and honestly, I'm not a fan. For the most part, it's been full of horse-crappery but as with every other year, I will push forward and eventually something good will happen. I mean really, really good. Something almost as amazing as making rice in the oven instead of the stove top. 

Apparently, I was the last person in the world to figure out this method of ricery. Is it ok if I just start making up words at this point? And I swear, I will never make rice on the stove top again. I'm not even that big of a rice fan, or at least I wasn't until this happened. I feel like you were either raised in a rice house or a potato house. My family was no doubt full of potato lovers. Somewhere, there is a video of my sister and I doing a "news report" of a baked po-ta-to that exploded in the oven. I'm not kidding. It really did happen.  It's probably not as entertaining as our "workout" video or the clip from the Uncle Al show where I proclaimed to the world that my future occupation would be cheerleader. (Um, what?) ok. So we loved potatoes and we may have had wild imaginations. 

I don't even recall the first time I had rice. I'll assume it came from some crappy buffet like Pondergrosa or Sizzler. Yeah, sometimes those were our only choices for dining out because the line at the other sit down restaurant in our town was out the door and around the block.  Just one of the many hazards of small town life.  The 80's were absolutely fantastic in my book and luckily most of us were too dumb to realize we were really missing out on creative, delicious treats and sometimes, maybe assumed that these "steakhouses" were just fine dining establishments.  (I realize that rice isn't creative.  Remember what I said about being unstable?)

Anyway, as I was saying, on Sunday I had no desire to speak to anyone or to read any malicious lies being spread on the Internet. In fact, other than my dog, the only person I spoke to was the sweet girl who took my order at Five Guys. Eventually though, I knew I would have to make dinner (which thankfully still did not require me speaking to anyone) and I knew it would involve chicken. I took a quick inventory of the kitchen and found almost every spice known to man, lemons, broth, rice and my new cast iron skillet, freshly seasoned and begging to be used.  Following some inspiration from Ina's oven risotto recipe, I opted for making this meal as easy as possible.  And also to dirty as few dishes as possible since I sliced my finger on the slicing blade from my food processor.  Seriously.  Crap-tastic start to the new year.  Also, feel free to come over and wash some dishes if you're so inclined.

I'm very tangent-y with my writing today.  Back to the blog post at hand.  So, I gathered up some oregano, rosemary, thyme, rice, salt, pepper, broth, rice and chicken and I got to work.  In less than an hour I had the perfect comfort meal and had spent less than 15 minutes of prep time.  That was exactly what I needed to prepare for Monday and my re-entry into the dark, dismal real world where my team had once again been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  Don't even.  Basically what I'm saying is, when you're down in the dumbs and you need a meal to soothe your cold, black heart, this is the one you need.  Now get your skillet and get to work! (Please make sure this is a skillet that can be used both stove top and in the oven at 400 degrees.)

Lemon Herb Skillet Chicken and Rice

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (or 3 gargantuan)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup lemon juice
Olive oil
Lemon slices for garnish

Preheat skillet over medium heat.  Liberally salt and pepper the chicken breast.  Sear the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

Place butter, broth and water in skillet to deglaze the pan (or scrape up all the good bits, as we call it around these parts).  Remove from heat.

Mix the rosemary, oregano, thyme and garlic powder in a small bowl.  Stir in half of the herbs to the broth mixture.  Next, add the rice and stir, making sure the rice is evenly spread throughout the skillet.

Place the chicken breasts on top of the rice mixture and top the chicken with the lemon juice and remaining herbs.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Colorful Collard Veggie Wraps

After a month, where my 3 major food groups were meat, cream cheese and crackers, I've decided to clean up my act. A little bit. At least I'm going try. We all know I'm not awesome at this and I go in spurts with my healthy eating. I prefer to call it balance. 

I finally took the plunge with the spiralizing fad and added one to my Christmas list.  It's oddly satisfying to use once you get the hang of it. It can also be super frustrating before you do. I have the Mueller version of the spiralizer and my piece of advice is that practice makes perfect. 

I wish I could take credit for this Collard Wrap sensation that's taking over the world. Wait, what's that you say? It's just taken over my world? Ok fine. Maybe it is just me. And obviously Ali from Inspiralized who appears to have come up with this genius idea of wrapping anything your heart desires in a big, fat collard green leaf. My head is exploding from the endless possibilities. I'm not gonna lie though. I was a little intimidated by the raw leaf. Sure, I have had collard greens before and I love them. Presumably because they are cooked down for hours with pork products. What's not to like about that? But raw? I needed some convincing. Unfortunately there's no one to actually do the convincing. My mom actually thinks I'm crazy and she gags at the thought of greens. I am completely on my own.

I might as well tell you that this isn't so much a recipe. Instead it's more of a guide. I'm using my favorites veggies and flavors and you can do the same.  It's basically a blank canvas and a blank canvas excites me. One of the best things about these wraps is that all of the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time and they can be assembled in the morning for a delicious, colorful lunch. Plus they're super duper healthy and they require zero cooking. Yeah. You read that right.

Sometimes I contemplate applying for a part time job at chipotle so I can refine my burrito folding skills, but let's be honest, I'm just too lazy.  I've never folded a burrito right. Ever. I try to fold the ends and tuck the sides tightly but in the end it ends up looking like a hot mess. Here's a video that will help all of us out. 

I used mostly serialized veggies in this like red pepper, zucchini and sweet potato, however, feel free to thinly slice or julienne and you'll still get the same result but if you've been thinking about buying a spiralizer, just do it!

Colorful Collard Veggie Wraps

Makes 1 wrap

1 collard green leaf, stalk removed
2 tablespoons hummus
Cucumber, a few slices
1/8 cup spiralized red pepper
1/4 cup spiralized  sweet potato
1/4 cup spiralized zucchini
1/2 avocado, sliced thin

Spread hummus on collard leaf. Top with cucumber, red pepper, sweet potato, zucchini, avocado or veggies of your choice.  Fold, roll and eat.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Sides

It's crunch time, people!  By now, you've probably finished most of your shopping for the big day.  If you haven't, may the odds be ever in your favor.  I was at the store earlier today and it had me like, woah.  It was a mad house but not nearly as crazy as it will be Wednesday afternoon when I will invariably have to run to pick up at least one item that I thought I had but did not.  Happens every year.  And yes, I make a list.  I check it twice.  And then I fail.  No one's perfect, right?

If you're currently checking your list and realize that you may be short on a side or two, here is a list of some of my favorite holiday side dishes.  You're welcome.  They are all pretty simple and quick and parts, if not all can be made in advance and reheated the day of.  

We're less than a week away from the official kickoff of the holiday season and I could not be anymore excited! I love this time of year, and to me, Thanksgiving is a part of one big, long celebration! I know there are some of you out there who want Thanksgiving to have it's own holiday, and that's great, but I've already put my Christmas tree up and I feel like it's justifiable. Don't judge. 

There isn't much I love more than a Pepper family holiday. I come from a family of really good cooks and we are all so grateful for each and everyone one of our blessings, including food. I thought I would give you a little insight as to what a few of our Thanksgiving side dishes are. Feel free to add these to your families table. 

What are a some of your favorite thanksgiving sides? Leave me a comment to let me know! We're always looking for new dishes to try!

I come from a family of green bean lovers.  These are super easy and done on the stove top which means it doesn't use the oven which is already prime real estate on the big day.  Definitely one of my favorites!

As a Kentuckian, I feel that this delicious side should be included in every potluck meal.   The Pepper gang has a big ol' pan of this at every family function, normally made by my mom.  I know corn pudding sounds strange to you northerners.  Just go with it.  

In an attempt to introduce my family to a new vegetable for holiday gatherings, I made these.  In order to get my family to try a new vegetable it is a rule to include bacon and brown sugar.  Seriously, it's written in our family by-laws.  I never claimed we were a family of health nuts.  It's a holiday.  Relax. 

It's mac and cheese.  I don't think I need to explain it.  Crowd pleaser for children and adults alike.  Warning:  There will be no leftovers on this one. 

This is the newest addition to our family Thanksgiving.  It's slightly healthier than last year's dish with brown sugar and bacon.  This one does still include bacon though because to me, they are the new chocolate and peanut butter.  

Whatever you serve on Thanksgiving, remember to take the time to enjoy your family and cherish all the blessings that you have in your life.  I know I will! I wish you all happiness and joy throughout this holiday season.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Soup season has arrived once again! I feel like we've been pretty lucky this year. It's November and the weather has held out pretty well. Hashtag blessed.  For some reason I'm not fearful of the changing of the seasons this year-- to be clear, I say that most years. By February I will want to rip my hair out and open a new credit card to pay for a tropical vacation. (Don't worry mom. I won't actually do that.)

I've been trying to come up with more meatless options for myself. I find this challenging because, well, bacon. And beef. And fried chicken.  And ribs. Don't get me wrong, I will never become a vegetarian (famous last words) but I'm forced to, and just should, cut back on the meat because America kind of scares me right now and locally sourced meat is expensive! I recently paid $15 for two organic, free range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Yowza! I have found that barley is a much more affordable way to get your protein.  I'm still convincing myself that I like quinoa. I want to like it, you guys. I really do.  I recently discovered a way I don't really notice it. Stay tuned for that! 

Growing up, my family would take at least one long weekend trip to Gatlinburg every year. I know what you're thinking--air brushed t-shirts, fringed and beaded, that read Bubba and Susan 4-ever, kitchsy candle shops (no one can have too many cat shaped candles), the greatest miniature golf courses,  and Christmas stores galore. Me though? I went for the food.  We would always stop at The Apple Barn on our way in (or out) of town.  Not only do they have fantastic apple fritters and apple butter, both their vegetable soup is the best I have ever tasted. It's tomato based and has a little kick to it. On top of that, it's pretty loaded with veggies.  This Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew is my ode to the Apple Barn.  I have used as many organic vegetables as possible in the recipe and turns out, it wasn't that difficult to find them.  I had to head to the frozen aisle to find organic corn but it was well worth it.  The only item in this dish that isn't organic?  Green beans.  I'm not a fan of the texture of frozen green beans and my garden didn't produce nearly enough to can.  I did at least, find green beans in a pouch.  I'll call that a win.

This recipe makes a ton of stew.  It freezes beautifully or it will feed every single one of your friends. I love freezing soups and using them for work lunches throughout the next couple of months.  Just freeze them in single serve containers and place in the fridge the night before to thaw.  You're welcome for that little tip.  Now, pull out that crock pot and get to work!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Serves: 100 (not really, but at least 6)

2 (13 ounce) packets green beans
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with the juice
2 cups cubed white potatoes
8 ounces baby carrots, roughly chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 (12 ounce) bag of corn
2 teaspoons salt
1/2-1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 (46 ounce) bottle tomato juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup barley

Place all ingredients, except barley, in crock pot.  Cook on high for 6-8 hours.  Add barley at least one hour before serving.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

How easy