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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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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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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Skinny shrimp and asparagus scampi

skinny shrimp and asparagus scampiWell, we’re back from vacation, back at work, and slowly getting back into the swing of things. After eight days of eating every meal out, including all sorts of decadent dishes (everything from fried conch to chili relleno to seafood alfredo), I thought I’d WANT to cook up some healthy meals. Maybe I wasn’t that ambitious after coming home from my first long day back at work…I didn’t want to deal with anything fancy, so this one-pot meal sticks with my theme of quick and easy weeknight meals for sure.

Sweet shrimp are sautéed with garlic and shallots and asparagus is thrown in at the end because, well, we all need to eat more veggies! The white wine and lemon really make the “scampi” in this dish…not the usual pounds of butter, and this is so perfect served over zucchini noodles, pasta or rice. This dish was such a hit that the hubby was still talking about it the next day! As I was eating breakfast he casually said, “you know, the shrimp for dinner last night was one of the best dishes you’ve made!” I love when that happens…and I guess we’ll be eating it again soon!
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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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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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