Creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinachWell, it’s official, winter seems to have arrived. Today was the first really cold morning that I left the house wearing a winter coat, scarf, gloves and ear warmers. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with winter…snow is fun only during the first snowfall, until you have to shovel or dig out your car. I hate being cold but I love skiing, ice skating and hot chocolate (with marshmallows).

While I miss the warmer summer months, the best thing about winter (and the holidays) is all the rich food we get to eat! Holiday cookies, cakes, drinks – winter is definitely “eating” season. When you feel like curling up with a warm comforting dinner but you don’t want to completely ruin your diet, caramelized onion and spinach butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish. I had never thought to use squash as a pasta sauce until I found this recipe from Lauren’s Latest. Genius! The pureed butternut squash feels like a creamy, decadent sauce, but in reality you’re still eating your veggies! I added caramelized onions and spinach to bulk up the dish without adding meat, but you could surely add in chicken, sausage, etc.

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

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Easy 3-ingredient pumpkin spice cookies

Easy 3-ingredient pumpkin spice cookiesYes, I am one of “those” girls when it comes to pumpkin season. My coffee of choice? Dunkin Pumpkin k-cups. Pumpkin cream cheese on my pumpkin bagel, please. Pumpkin cocktails for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin for dinner like this pumpkin pasta bake I’m dying to try. The list goes on and on, but hey, pumpkin season is a limited time offer, so I have to get it while I can!

My list of “pumpkin everything” recipes is pretty long, but this one came to mind first since I was short on time on a weeknight (shocking, I know). I’ve made these super easy fall-favorite cookies before, but never for an unbiased audience (aka not the hubby), so I wasn’t sure how they’d go over for my work potluck luncheon. Let me tell you, they were such a hit that I made another batch for the office a week later! The soft cake-like texture topped with sweet cream cheese frosting and a dusting of warm cinnamon creates the most delicious pumpkin cookies ever. The cookies themselves are not overly sweet, so the frosting provides the perfect touch of creamy sweetness. Oh, and they’re really not terrible for you since there’s no oil, no butter, and no eggs. My co-workers helped themselves to seconds (and thirds).

These cookies would be a hit at Thanksgiving, holiday parties, cookie exchanges, you name it. With a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes, you can have these babies ready to go! This recipe is also extremely versatile – I use it to make pumpkin bread in a loaf pan, and it would be great as pumpkin muffins or as pumpkin whoopie pies (just sandwich two cookies together with cream filling)!
Easy 3-ingredient pumpkin spice cookies

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Deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipes

deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipesIt’s just about boot and sweater weather in the northeast, and since we didn’t have time last year because of our wedding, (I was too busy dealing with seating arrangements and hotel giftbags) we took FULL advantage of apple picking this season. While I made it my apple-picking-mission to find a few of each type of apple from the endless rows of apple trees, the hubby decided to taste-test one from every category. Win-win! While the apple hunting was entertaining, there’s really nothing better than the check-out line at the local apple orchard – there’s always an abundance of hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, and fresh apple…well, anything. After bringing home a whopping 8 pounds of apples, I could only imagine the endless apple recipes I could make!

My go-to fall dessert last year was Skinnytaste’s apple cranberry crumble and this is just one of those recipes that stands the test of time. The tart cranberries combined with sweet apples and crumbly oat topping is always a crowd-pleaser and it’s one of those desserts that the hubby always asks for (and he always has a second helping). I make a few modifications to make the recipe dairy-free and gluten-free like swapping out butter for coconut oil, using coconut palm sugar, and cornstarch instead of flour to thicken up the sauce. Serve it right out of the oven for a warm treat on a cool night.
deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipes

I also found a fantastic crockpot apple sauce recipe to put the rest of the apples to good use (see pic on top left). We had picked a combination of red delicious, gala and Cortland apples and I used all three variations in the recipe. If you have a lot of apples on hand, make a double batch and freeze the leftovers (if there are any!). This super easy recipe from the Frugal Girls has only a handful of ingredients and will make your house smell amazing! I added a sprinkle of nutmeg which added a warmer, ‘spiced’ flavor to the applesauce, almost like apple butter. Happy apple picking (and apple baking)!

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Make-ahead meals: ground turkey 2 ways

make-ahead meals: ground turkey 2 waysNow that the birthday/holiday/work travel rush is officially over, I’m back in the kitchen after a few weeks of running around and eating restaurant food for almost every meal. I missed cooking (really, I did!), but of course I came back to a CRAZY busy week at work. What could possibly make me happy in this situation? Coming home from a long day of work and having dinner practically made for me! In this case, one pound of low-or-no-fat ground turkey does the trick. The ground turkey is mixed with fresh, smoky southwestern ingredients and spices to create two delicious recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and chock full of veggies! Turkey stuffed peppers are fantastic to make when you have some extra time (aka Sunday night) since they take about 40 minutes to bake. Just whip up the whole pound of turkey and keep leftovers in the fridge for Taco Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday)!

Turkey stuffed peppers are the perfect one-dish meal! Smoky cumin-spiced turkey mixed with hearty black beans and sweet tomatoes and onions make for a healthy yet filling meal. I ate one red pepper half (the hubby had two) and I had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.

The spiced turkey/bean/veggie mixture does double-duty as delicious taco filling! I sliced up some avocado and served the tacos with toppings like cheese and Greek yogurt. Heat up some rice and serve with a big side salad for a complete meal. This turkey taco filling would be great for game day or for your own family taco bar!

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How to roast shrimp: 3 ways

cilantro lime shrimp

cilantro lime shrimp

If you ask the hubby what his favorite food is, without hesitation his answer will be “shrimp.” Every shrimp dish I’ve ever made for him has been a winner in his book, because in his mind, there are no “bad” shrimp dishes. I happen to think he’s right! I love to cook shrimp dishes because they’re easily and quickly defrosted from their frozen state, cooked for a few minutes, and they’re ready to eat. They literally go from freezer to plate in 20 minutes, something I can never say about any kind of meat!

I’ve recently found some recipes where the shimp are roasted instead of sautéed, and I LOVE this idea. Throw the defrosted shrimp in a baking dish with some sweet or savory ingredients, pop it in the oven for 15 minutes (max) and dinner is D-O-N-E. No more flipping each individual shrimp or watching them to make sure they’re not overdone. Roasting shrimp in the oven takes all the guesswork out of the process, it’s completely foolproof, and it’s my new favorite way to cook shrimp. Keep reading for a few roasted shrimp recipes from some of my favorite food blogs out there! Continue reading

Lightened-up zucchini bread

lightened-up zucchini bread | Lighten Up!If eating your veggies is so important, does it matter HOW you eat them? I’ve heard about parents sneaking fruits and vegetables into their children’s food without them knowing, just to make sure they’re getting their allotment of nutrients. Apparently the same concept works for adults, although hopefully there’s a lot less “sneaking” going on! Take zucchini for example. Definitely not my number 1 pick – (unless they’re in “zoodle” form, aka zucchini noodles, and that’s a whole different story). Zucchini in my dessert, however, has a very different ring to it! Eat dessert and get my daily dose of veggies too? I’ll take it!

Zucchini bread is not something I grew up on, but with the influx of zucchini recipes flying around Pinterest lately, I totally felt peer-pressured (in a good way) to bake something with zucchini while it’s still in season. Still have plenty of zucchini taking up space in your refrigerator? This is a totally non-zoodles way to use them up. This zucchini bread is made with your typical cake ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, but it’s lightened up with Greek yogurt (what else?) and the end result is a deliciously moist, sweet-but-not-too-sweet loaf cake with little specks of green zucchini peeking out from each slice. I changed up the recipe slightly by using less vegetable oil, egg whites, and vanilla. Slice up the zucchini bread for breakfast, snack or dessert. We love to reheat slices in the microwave, but leftovers are great cold too! The hubby went crazy over it, and don’t worry, he was well aware of the zucchini :)

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Creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

We are, without a doubt, “Greek yogurt people.” If there’s one item that’s consistently on my grocery list each week and one item that always fills our refrigerator shelves, it’s Greek yogurt. We can (and have been known to) literally consume it for almost every meal. The hubby brings the flavored single-serve containers to work every day for breakfast, I like the plain variety with honey and berries for breakfast/snack, but my favorite way to use Greek yogurt is in recipes and baking. Who knew that yogurt could replace butter, oil, sour cream, heavy cream, cream cheese, mayo…you name it, you could probably swap it out with Greek yogurt and save yourself the fat and calories…plus get an added protein boost! Seriously, what did we DO before Greek yogurt was invented? The stuff is ridiculously versatile – it lightens up the most decadent of baked goods, it’s amazing on its own or with fruit/granola mixed in, and, in the case of this recipe, it turns everyday sauces into creamy deliciousness.

This is one hearty dish that just happens to be vegetarian! The sweet caramelized onions balance out the meatiness of the mushrooms. Spinach adds protein, calcium, fiber and that deliciously leafy green color. The sauce is just to-die-for…sweet and tart balsamic vinegar and crisp white wine swirled together with a dollop of thick, creamy Greek yogurt. A sauce that’s both creamy AND packed with protein? Winning combination! I was craving a long pasta so I used fettuccine, but you could substitute with your favorite whole wheat or gluten-free pasta (short or long). Another recipe that’s perfect for meatless Monday!

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