Steamed Artichokes with Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce

steamed artichokes with spicy citrus dipping sauceWell, I think it’s finally safe to say that spring has sprung around here! The weather channel is consistently reporting temps in the 60s, meaning I’ve traded in my winter coat for a spring jacket AND I get to wear flats without freezing my feet off! More importantly, my favorite spring veggies are back in season, including fresh artichokes. I cook with artichokes year-round thanks to the magic of the freezer, but fresh artichokes are definitely a treat…especially because they give me an excuse to whip up a deliciously creamy dip to go along with each leaf. The dip-to-artichoke ratio may be extremely skewed in my case…no judging please!

I added some lemon juice and white wine to the steaming liquid for the artichokes, because, really…what’s not better with wine? The dipping sauce is a combination of creamy, spicy, and citrusy thanks to the splash of hot sauce and plenty of lemon juice to balance out the mayo and greek yogurt.

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Gluten-free Brownies

gluten-free browniesI always like to keep up with the trends (clothes, food, you name it), but I was seriously behind the times when it came to the ‘trendy’ coconut ingredients. After hearing about all of the amazing health claims swirling around coconut oil and coconut palm sugar, I decided to pick them up on a trip to Trader Joe’s. I had yet to find a recipe where I could use both…until I found these delicious-looking flourless brownies. I’m all for healthier ingredient substitutes and I wholeheartedly trusted the claim that “no one will know about the black beans!” The beans replace the flour, offer an unexpected protein boost…and I promise, no one will know they’re in there (until you tell them). Brownies made with black beans = gluten-free genius in my book! To take this recipe to the next level, I replaced the sugar and oil with the coconut palm sugar and coconut oil — so I could finally say that I successfully used BOTH superstar ingredients!
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Healthy Kale “Au Gratin” With Panko Parmesan Breadcrumbs

healthy kale "au gratin"

Kale…the vegetable of champions. Chock full of fiber and vitamins A (good for the immune system), C (antioxidant), and K (anti-inflammatory) — why is it that a veggie so good for you can’t taste more like…french fries? With such amazing health benefits, I’ve been trying to sneak more kale into our diets. Not only have I been on a kale kick lately, but I’ve noticed that restaurants have been too! Everywhere we go, kale ends up on the menu in one form or another (fancified, of course), and we always end up ordering it.

healthy kale "au gratin"The bitter, dark leafy greens are SO good for you, but they take a little “finessing” to get them to taste amazing. My go-to method of cooking kale is usually just steaming or sautéing with some garlic for added flavor…but I’ll admit that it doesn’t produce the most exciting side dish. The hubby and I were browsing in Williams-Sonoma (one of my favorite stores) when I came across the Williams-Sonoma Healthy In A Hurry cookbook. The book is full of amazing recipes, but I couldn’t pass up the one named ‘kale gratin’ and it has since become one of our favorite veggie side dishes…and yes, Healthy In A Hurry found a new home on my bookshelf.
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Baked Coconut-Crusted Shrimp with Fig Dipping Sauce

baked coconut crusted shrimpI don’t know about you, but this winter felt like the longest winter EVER. We had so much snow, ice, and sleet that I definitely got my money’s worth from my snow boot purchase. Since our escape to a warm climate for vacation is months away, I knew I had to do something drastic. I know what you’re thinking…coconut shrimp is traditionally slathered in butter and fried in oil, and there’s a reason we only eat it when we’re on vacation. You’ll be happy to know that this lighter version requires no butter and no frying (because baking is totally the ‘new’ frying!) and the end result is insanely sweet and tropical-tasting shrimp that could stand up against any coconut shrimp served in the Caribbean. Clocking in under 300 calories per serving, this dish is light, delicious, and super quick to make — 25 minutes and you’re good to go…perfect for a busy weeknight.

Pair the coconut-crusted shrimp with a fruity dipping sauce and you have a winning combination that the entire family will love! I had a bottle of fig preserves in the fridge just waiting to be finished, so I whipped up a fig dipping sauce but any flavor of jam would work with this recipe.  My apricot-mustard glaze would also be delicious as a sauce. The hubby couldn’t get enough of this dish and if he has any say in our menu planning, this one will be on rotation in our house…until we order the real deal in the Caribbean!
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Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberries

flourless chocolate cake with strawberries

Fair warning: this post is not the ‘lightest’ of recipes, but because this cake turned out so beautifully I had to write about it! Also, because it’s a holiday, I’ve put my ‘everything in moderation’ theory into play…because really, what’s a holiday without cake?! This cake looked so amazingly fudgy AND it happened to be flourless (aka gluten-free), so I knew I had to try it. I’m so (pat-myself-on-the-back) proud of myself for making a cake that came out as beautiful as it is DELICIOUS! It’s definitely a challenge to find flourless dessert recipes that don’t taste (or look) like cardboard…and this one is a winner!

flourless chocolate cake with strawberries

The cake is densely rich and chocolatey — almost like eating a slice of fudge rather than cake, and there’s no added sugar! The recipe calls for only a handful of ingredients and it was VERY easy to make (no fancy equipment needed). I changed up the original recipe slightly by using margarine (dairy-free) and I topped it with powdered sugar and sliced strawberries. This cake is perfect for Easter and can easily be adapted for Passover — just use kosher-for-Passover chocolate and powdered sugar.  Click the link below for the full recipe and enjoy!
flourless chocolate cake with strawberries

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Apricot-Mustard Glazed Salmon

apricot mustard glazed salmon

If you look through my recently DVR-ed shows, you’d notice that I have a slight (ok, major) obsession with Giada, the Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond), and Ina Garten of the Food Network. I’ve learned a LOT from these three ladies, but one of my favorite cooking lessons came from Ree out on the ranch. I had seen some Pinterest claims that Ree had the secret for “perfectly cooked salmon” and since my salmon recipes always turned out hit-or-miss at best, I figured I had nothing to lose. The big secret (aka Ree’s method) is to put the salmon in a cold oven, crank up the heat to 400 degrees and let it cook for 25 minutes. The result is perfectly pink and flaky salmon! You can use the same cooking method no matter the seasoning or topping on the fish — it’s quick, super easy, and I’ll never make salmon any other way!

When it comes to salmon recipes, I’m guilty of making the same one over and over again…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the hubby asks if we’re having the “good salmon” for dinner (at least he likes it!). I decided to think outside the box on this one and it turned out absolutely delicious! The apricot preserves and Dijon mustard work together really well in this dish — each ingredient balances the other so that you end up with the perfect ratio of sweet to savory. I like mine on the sweeter side, but feel free to change up the ratio to your liking. This one will forever be on my “weeknight recipe” list!

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Skinny Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting

skinny red velvet cupcakes

What is it about cupcakes that instantly make everything better? Maybe it’s the never-ending delicious variety of flavors to choose from, or the fun toppings, not to mention the FROSTING. In my world, everything’s better with frosting!
I was searching for lighter dessert recipes and I came across these skinny red velvet cupcakes on Pinterest. Red velvet isn’t usually first on my list…maybe it’s the stigma that red velvet cake seems daunting to make — well, not these, which are lightened up with Greek yogurt and egg whites. That’s right, no butter or oil here. You’ll never look at boxed cake mix the same again!

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