Lemon linguine with broccoli and tomatoes

lemon linguine with broccoli and tomatoesWhile I love to cook, side dishes always seem to throw me for a loop. Isn’t it enough that I’m cooking a main course? Now I ALSO have to figure out what to cook as a complimentary side dish? That seems like a lot of work! Luckily, I came up with this recipe which can double as either an entree or a side dish! Fresh and lightly dressed pasta tossed with fresh vegetables makes for a bright and delicious vegetarian dish. I had broccoli and tomatoes on hand, but any veggies you have in the fridge would work.

Simply cook up the veggies, cook up the pasta and mix them together with a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. This is the perfect side dish for fish, poultry or meat. I especially love pairing the pasta with salmon or shrimp since lemon and fish are a match made in heaven! Top the veggie pasta with a little grated Parmesan (or a lot, in my case) and a light, easy dinner is ready to go in 30 minutes.

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10-Second microwave peanut butter smores

10-second microwave peanut butter smoresCraving s’mores but don’t have a campfire or firepit or wooden sticks? No problem! My sister and I figured out a long time ago that the microwave does an awesome job of melting marshmallows to the perfect gooey consistency for s’mores (minus the burnt parts)! We would stand in front of the microwave, watching the marshmallows swell up until they were just warm and gooey enough to melt the chocolate and squish between two graham crackers. S’mores are quite possibly THE universally loved dessert, so much so that Buzzfeed published “39 S’mores Hacks That Will Change Your Life.” I’ll take one of each!

Indoor s’mores are so easy that they’re done in 10 seconds flat! I decided to change it up a bit and use peanut butter instead of chocolate…a little more protein = a little healthier (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). The combination of peanut butter and marshmallow has that amazingly delicious salty/sweet thing going for it and believe me, you won’t be able to stop at just one! These are great for kids, parties, BBQs…tonight’s dessert…anytime you need a little something sweet.

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Roasted red pepper hummus chicken

roasted red pepper hummus chickenWho would have thought that hummus + chicken in a very hot oven would result in an AMAZINGLY tasty dinner idea? Not me, but I promise it’s true! We love snacking on veggies and hummus so we always have it in the house, and I always stock up on chicken, so this was the perfect “pantry clean-out” recipe. As soon as I saw this brilliant idea on Pinterest, I knew this recipe was a definite must-try, plus it’s super healthy, completely dairy-free, gluten-free and ready in 30 minutes!

This is cooking at its easiest! Just line a baking sheet, season chicken with salt and pepper, then place a few dollops of hummus on top. I used roasted red pepper hummus but any flavor would work! The hummus creates a delicious crust on the chicken as it slightly hardens in the oven and really pumps up the flavor. No more boring, bland chicken dishes around here! I like to serve this with extra hummus on the side for dipping, and my side dish of choice was balsamic marinated tomatoes. Whip up some rice or quinoa to round out the meal or check out the original recipe which includes baked veggies.

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Entertaining: appetizer and dessert kabobs

app dessert kabobOne of my favorite treats as a kid was a corn dog on a stick, and for good reason. There was something amazing about the hot dog wrapped in sweet corn batter that was just plain delicious, but the fact that it was on a stick made it that much more fun to eat. Apparently, the “food on a stick” concept still applies because these appetizer and dessert kabobs were a hit at our last BBQ! The possibilities are endless (and involve minimal to zero cooking/baking), so use your imagination to create your own delicious kabob combination. I’ve listed a few of my ideas for some inspiration and all are super easy and quick to put together!

The appetizer kabobs are basically a cheese plate on a stick — sweet fruit paired with tangy cheese. I used grapes, strawberries, cheddar and colby jack on 10″ bamboo skewers (about $1 at the grocery store). The cheddar was a little crumbly going onto the skewers, so I would stick with softer cheeses (mozzarella would be great)! These would be great as an “antipasto” skewer, maybe with prosciutto or pepperoni and pitted olives.
app dessert kabob

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Lightened-up no-bake chocolate eclair cake

lightened-up no-bake chocolate eclair cakeApparently this no-bake eclair cake recipe has been around for MANY years and has just as many fans, but I must admit that it’s brand new to me! Layers of creamy vanilla custard, graham crackers and chocolate AND it’s completely no-bake…how have I not heard about this dreamy dessert sooner?

I absolutely love this version of the classic eclair cake and it tastes just as amazing with lightened-up ingredients. I used sugar-free fat-free vanilla pudding mix and whipped it up with skim milk and light frozen whipped topping for the custard filling. Low-fat sugar graham crackers work perfectly and they soften up in the refrigerator after the required ‘chill’ time to really resemble the texture of an eclair pastry! My favorite tip for this recipe is to microwave a jar of chocolate frosting and simply pour it over the top, creating the most PERFECT thick layer of chocolate goodness with zero effort.

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Chicken sausage & caramelized onion pizza

chicken sausage and caramelized onion pizzaI’m always coming up with new pizza ideas because, well, who doesn’t love pizza? It’s a quick and easy meal to prepare and we almost always have leftovers, which is just an added bonus! We also love cooking up pizza at home for ‘date night’ — pizza, wine and a movie = a fabulous Friday night!

We had some leftover chicken sausage in the freezer and, knowing the hubby’s love of pepperoni/meatball toppings, I thought this recipe would be a winner. I was so right! There are so many flavors of chicken sausage out there that you could make many different variations of this recipe. I used an apple chicken sausage which had a bit of sweetness to it, so I sautéed up some onions and the combination was absolutely delicious! The sweetness from the onions and sausage balanced out the saltiness of the mozzarella and acidity of the tomato sauce. AND I had leftovers for lunch the next day!
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20-Minute chicken & asparagus stir-fry

20-minute chicken and asparagus stir fryI’ve been on a roll the past few weeks cooking up quick-and-easy dinner recipes and I have another one to share! This one is IT – the absolute PERFECT weeknight meal. Not only is it ready in 20 minutes, but this one recipe combines both protein and veggies, so it’s a complete meal by itself…there’s no side-dish required (it’s great over rice, but that’s completely optional)! I’ve made this stir-fry recipe several times and changed up the ingredients ever so slightly based on what I had in my pantry. Gluten-free? No problem! Just use gluten-free (Tamari-style) soy sauce!

I used about ¾ of a pound of chicken breast tenderloins and cut them up into bite-sized pieces, which totally speeds up the cooking time. Since I always have frozen asparagus in my freezer, I defrosted a bunch. This recipe would also be great with any frozen veggies you have on hand. Since I didn’t have a few of the ingredients handy, I just left them out and the flavor from the sauce was still fantastic! It’s a tasty combination of sweet and salty and an overall deliciously quick and healthy meal!
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