Two years gone by

Hi friends, Happy Easter Monday! I hope you had a memorable day and weekend with your families. I spent Easter with some of my favorite people.

We were missing a few other favorites (furry friends included) but one in particular was constantly on my mind:
Today’s the day that I (along with his family and friends) have been waiting for for over two years now: today Brandon comes home FOR GOOD! It’s hard to believe that two years have gone by, but somehow they have. And now we can officially kiss our long distance relationship goodbye…AMEN! I’m headed to the airport tonight with his family and the butterflies in my stomach are out of control. I swear I will have a permanent smile plastered on my face for the next year.  When I knew he was boarding his plane last night, the smiles just didn’t stop. Someone pinch me, I can’t believe it’s finally here! 
I couldn’t be prouder of my love for his accomplishments over the last two years. In that time, he made lifelong friends and a lifetime of memories. I am so happy we were able to share part of his Australian journey together.

Anyway, I have so much to share but for now, here’s the recipe I promised last week. I made this way too many times last week…literally for 3 out of 7 days this was on my dinner plate. Whoops. I guess you could call me an incredibly boring eater, but like I said, it’s just too good to stop! And yes, I have a cauliflower problem.

Cauliflower Poppers

3/4-1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large mixing bowl, mix olive oil, nutritional yeast, and garlic salt together.
2) Wash and chop cauliflower into florets; then place in mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
3) Stir all together until the cauliflower is mostly covered with the yellowish mixture.
4) Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then turn each piece over with a fork and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until browned.
5) Try not to eat the entire batch…good luck! 
This dish is gluten-free, dairy-free, and relatively low in calories, too. It has quickly become my staple side-dish… I am hooked!  I suggest making a double batch if you are serving four or more people, otherwise, you might run out too quickly. Just a tip!

Counting the hours until we’re off to the airport tonight, yay! Wish me luck : –)
Also, best of luck to all of the Boston Marathon runners today, I’m cheering for you. And to my dear friend Michelle, who continues to be my inspiration day-in and day-out, I’m thinking of you. Love you, girl xoxo

How was your Easter?
Do you like cooking with nutritional yeast?
I was a bit afraid at first, but now I love it!
What’s your favorite cauliflower recipe?


Springtime Shrimp and Quinoa Salad For One

Hey there! How was everyone’s start of the week? Mine was nice and busy, starting with a 5:30 a.m. boot-camp, followed by a day full of classes until 6 p.m. Needless to say, it was a long day, but still a good day. Sometimes after long days, I want to go straight to bed. However, being in the kitchen is truly one of my favorite parts of every day, and last night was no exception. As tired as I was, I could not wait to make dinner; it was all I could think about! Honestly, I have been craving a good salad for months. It might sound funny, but salads as a “meal” are so popular in the U.S.A. and offered nearly everywhere,  whereas  restaurants around us in Australia don’t seem to offer many salads on their menus, if any at all.  So a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a certain salad recipe at one of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, I bookmarked it immediately. I knew I had to make it, or at least attempt a similar version.  I’m only cooking for one this week since Brandon is gone for work, so I cut down the quantity of her original recipe, and I adapted the ingredients to fit what I had available.

This salad incorporates cooked shrimp for protein, quinoa tossed with feta cheese as the salad base(another excellent protein source), and additional mix-in’s of corn, avocado, roasted broccoli and roasted chickpeas, and blueberries for a pop of color.  All of this is drizzled in a lemon and olive oil based dressing to top off the salad. I loved every bite of this! It is filling, but very light.  A perfect salad for the start of spring!


Springtime Shrimp & Quinoa Salad (for one)
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats Superfood Salad
Salad Ingredients:
1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I used gluten-free, organic)
8-10 cooked shrimp (I got mine at the seafood counter, pre-cooked with tails on)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 avocado, diced
1/4 cup blueberries
1/2 cup roasted broccoli
1/4 cup roasted chickpeas
2-3 Tbsp. of crumbled feta cheese (or the cheese of your choice)

Dressing Ingredients
1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
salt & pepper

1) Cook 1/2 cup quinoa, following the package directions. I cooked mine in 1 cup of boiling water, and simmered it for about 15 minutes, until it was fluffy.

2) While the quinoa is cooking,  prepare your salad ingredients. First, I set my shrimp on ice in the fridge to make sure they were nice and cold for the salad. Then, I chopped the avocado, cooked the frozen corn for about 1.5 minutes in the microwave, and got my other ingredients out of the fridge, including roasted broccoli, chickpeas, and blueberries.
***Keep in mind, you could add virtually any fruit or vegetable to this. I added what I already had in the fridge, so it was even simpler to make. Set these ingredients aside.

3) Now make your dressing by combining the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper, and whisking them together in a small bowl until combined.

4) Once your quinoa is cooked, add the feta cheese(or your cheese of choice) and stir. Then prepare your salad. I started with the quinoa as my base, then added in the toppings, and finally the shrimp. Drizzle with the lemon dressing, and you’re all set!
I enjoyed this so much, I’m seriously debating making this again for dinner tonight. The sweet lemon dressing paired with the textures and flavors of the fruit and vegetables, along with the fluffy quinoa, was a perfect meal to round out a long day.  I have leftover quinoa, so it just may happen again tonight!

What are your favorite salad ingredients?

Light ‘n easy greek pasta salad

Hi friends, happy weekend!Hope everyone is having a restful Saturday and Sunday. It was a busy week for me full of studying, classes, practicals, and labs. I had my first exam yesterday (Saturday exams=horrible!) and I finished my first class, too. That, coupled with some hardcore morning workouts and a week of regular classes left me quite exhausted come yesterday afternoon.  Sleeping in today followed by blueberry pancakes for breakfast was like a dream, and was just what I needed! I <3 the weekends. Normally, I prefer to go the homemade route for pancakes, but this little gem came in handy for a lazy Sunday:

They may not be the best for you nutrition-wise, but they sure do taste good.  We’re all allowed to splurge every now and then, especially on Saturday’s and Sunday’s in my book!

Anyway, since this week was quite busy, I resorted to making simple dinner recipes all week, including taco salad, homemade pizza, and a night of breakfast for dinner, too. It was nothing fancy, but it did the trick! Since this week was pretty boring on the meal-front, I thought I’d share something I made last Saturday for a dinner party that was pretty exciting in my book. I’m calling it Light ‘n Easy Greek Pasta Salad (minus the olives!). I have made this twice now, and I think I enjoyed it even more this second time around. Not only is it healthier than a traditional pasta salad (it’s mayonnaise-free and I reduced the amount of oil used in the original recipe), it’s also packed full of crisp vegetables and antioxidants, and you can use whole-wheat pasta for added nutrients. That is a win-win in my book!

I haven’t always been the biggest pasta-salad lover, simply because I despise mayonnaise, and the majority of pasta salads offered at restaurants and stores seem to be mayo-based. However, this recipe combines my love of feta cheese, cucumbers, spinach, and a olive-oil based dressing all into one. Just look at these colors!

It’s also super easy and quick to make, too. I recommend boiling your water for the pasta first, and while it’s boiling, do all of your vegetable chopping and make the dressing. By the time the pasta is cooked, most of the work will be done!

Light ‘n Easy Greek Pasta Salad
Adapted from All Recipes Greek Pasta Salad
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I used a tablespoon of pre-minced garlic)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Pasta Salad Ingredients:
1 pound whole-wheat medium shell pasta
3/4 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 dry pint cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped in half
1/2 large red onion, chopped
6 ounces reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved (optional) I omitted these, I am not an olive lover!
3 cups firmly packed baby spinach

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until done, about 8 minutes or so. Drain and rinse under cold water, then transfer the pasta to a mixing bowl.

2. While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, chop the vegetables and set them aside. Then  make the dressing. For the dressing, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, water and olive oil in a small bowl, until well combined.

3. Add the dressing, spinach, and vegetables to the pasta, then crumble with the feta cheese, and toss it all together. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Enjoy!

We enjoyed this on the side of barbequed chicken, zucchini, and a simple tossed salad. It was the perfect end-of-summer- in-Australia meal. By reducing the amount of olive oil used in the original recipe and adding water to the base, it lightened-up this pasta salad even more, without bringing down the taste. This is becoming a repeat recipe in our house. I just love when that happens!
Do you have a favorite pasta salad recipe? Please share!

A rockin’ risotto

Happy weekend, all! Gosh, where does the time go? I for one was thrilled for Friday to come around. Not only did I finish my first week of classes, but I also completed my two massive final projects for my  health professionals research class. I can not even explain how excited I was to pass those in. In my four years at Bryant U., I don’t ever remember having such time consuming projects! I celebrated with a glass of well-deserved wine and a homemade pizza. It was just what I wanted!

Know what else is perfect? Homemade risotto. Last Sunday, Brandon mentioned he had a craving for a cheesy risotto. Cheesy risotto? Yes please, he didn’t have to tell me twice! However, I prefer risotto with something other than just cheese, so we added vegetables, a source of protein, and cheese into our Sunday night risotto recipe. For vegetables,  we included broccoli, mushrooms and onion; for protein, grilled chicken; and for the star-of-the-show, parmesan cheese. I think the key to any creamy risotto is to be consistent with stirring, so make sure when you make this that you have the time to stay by the stove and stir, stir, stir! Trust me, it may seem tedious to stand over the stove for 20-25 minutes and stir, but it’s truly worth it once you take your first bite!

I adapted my all-time favorite Cooking Light Risotto recipe to include our ingredients of choice, and it turned out just as we hoped. You’ll notice that this recipe only uses one cup of rice, but believe me, you will have leftovers, and leftovers of risotto=bliss!

Parmesan Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Risotto
Inspired by March 2010’s Cooking Light

4 Cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 T butter
½ cup chopped onion
1.5 tsp. minced garlic, divided
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
2-3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms ( I used pre-cut white mushrooms)
1 large head of broccoli
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
2 grilled or baked chicken breasts, chopped

1) In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer, then keep warm over low heat.
2) While your broth is simmering, prepare your vegetables by washing and chopping the broccoli, mushrooms, and onion, and then set them aside for the time being.  I steamed the broccoli in the microwave for 3-4 minutes and set it aside, so that step was complete!
3) Now in a separate skillet, melt your butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp. garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Now add the  rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
4) Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in ½ cup broth; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes). Set aside. *Tip: I kept the broth right next to the simmering rice so that it was super simple to ladle the broth right into the mixture, and there’s less chance of spilling!*
5) Now spray butter spray on a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms, and sauté until tender. Add the remaining garlic.  
6)Lastly, stir the cooked mushrooms, broccoli, chicken, ¼ cup cheese, and pepper into risotto; cook for 3 minutes on low heat. Serve, and sprinkle each serving with additional cheese if desired.

Doesn’t it look yummy? Brandon took the duty of cooking the chicken while I stirred the risotto, and I was grateful for the help!  I do think it would be easiest to have your chicken cooked before you start the risotto, but it’s not a requirement. This dish is filling, yet healthy; just a little cheese goes a long way! Only 1/4 cup in the entire batch, and you can taste it in every bite. We ate ours with a side salad, and it was the perfect Sunday meal. Hope you try this tonight! 

Do you like risotto? If so, what are your favorite risotto ingredients?


Happy Wednesday to all! This is my last week of “summer vacation” before I start in as a full-time student in Australia, so I’ve been trying to cook as much as possible this week. However, with temperatures consistently around 35 degrees Celsius (that is high 90’s Fahrenheit!), cooking has become somewhat of a challenge. I don’t particularly enjoy standing over a hot stove in those temperatures. It basically looks like I went for a run and can’t cool down…it isn’t pretty.  Thank the lord for air conditioning. It has been my savior this week for cooking because without it, I may have served up cereal bowls all week for dinner, with a dish of ice-cream on the side! Hmmm…that doesn’t sound so bad! Note to self…that goes on the dinner menu next week  : – )

Anyway, instead of succumbing to the heat, I sat in the AC and searched Pinterest for some meal inspiration incorporating broccoli. Broccoli was on sale this week, and while we had steamed broccoli one night, I wanted to mix it up later in the week. Mix-it up we did! Not surprisingly, I stumbled upon a Pinterest recipe that I fell in love with. I adapted it slightly from the original recipe found on this amazing blog: Smitten Kitchen.  I feel fortunate that, thanks to my Mom’s healthy habits, I’ve always been a vegetable lover.  I rarely get tired of eating vegetable options like carrot sticks and dip, steamed cauliflower, green beans, summer squash, etc. But sometimes, I want something a bit more exciting. Enter in: Broccoli Parmesan Fritter Cakes. All you’ll need is one bunch of broccoli, parmesan cheese, flour, one egg, and a few spices for this winning side dish. So much more exciting than plain old steamed broccoli!

Broccoli Parmesan Fritter Cakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 medium bunch of fresh broccoli (about 3 cups chopped)
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Several grinds of black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Cooking Spray

1) Prepare your broccoli by washing it under running water, and then chopping it into 1-inch chunks. Don’t throw out the stem, you can use it if you want (I did). To prepare the stems,  slice them into 1/2-inch lengths. You should have about 3 cups of chopped broccoli total once you’re finished.

2) Now steam the broccoli until tender, but not mushy. I boiled water on the stove and steamed mine for 5-6 minutes. Once steamed, drain the broccoli and set it aside to cool slightly.

3) While the broccoli is steaming, grab a large mixing bowl and lightly beat the egg with a fork or whisk. Add in the flour,  parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and stir it together.

4) Then, add the semi-cooled broccoli and use a potato masher to mash the broccoli just a bit. You don’t want to completely mash it up, but the chunks should be small enough  so that you can press a mound of the batter into a fritter formation in the pan. Once you’ve mashed the broccoli a bit, stir the ingredients together the rest of the way with a spoon. Add more salt/pepper if necessary.

5) Now heat a large skillet over moderate heat on the stove. Spray with cooking spray, and add one TBSP of olive oil and swirl around. Once the oil is hot and your pan is greased, scoop up a mound of the batter (I used a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup to help me form the fritter cakes) and drop it into the pan.  Then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Each scoop of batter should be about 2-3 tablespoons in size (mine were a little too big, so it made less fritters. The smaller the mound of batter, the more fritters you’ll get!) Continue to repeat this method with the additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each mound in the pan. Let them cook on one side until they are browned underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip each fritter carefully and cook on the other side until equally cooked, for a few more minutes.

6) Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain and cool, and then serve.

We ate our fritters with ketchup as a dipping sauce, as a side dish with homemade pizza and salad, however, the sauce you use and whether you eat this as a side dish or main dish is up to you.  I bet a cheese sauce, ranch dressing, or even eating them plain would be delicious. The good news is, we had leftovers so I got to try these cold and on top of salad greens the next day. They were just as delicious. I hope you like this “brand new broccoli” as much as we did!


There’s a new favorite vegetable in this house

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve spent countless hours “pinning” recipes I’m dying to make. Seriously, that website is ridiculously addicting. Recently, after looking over my many boards, I decided I should probably start making some of these recipes. Otherwise, what’s the point?  So that was my goal this week; incorporate grocery store buys into pinterest-inspired meals.

Yesterday as I strolled through the produce department at the market, zucchini was a big sale item, going for $2 per kilogram. Any vegetable on sale over here is basically what I’ve been buying since I moved because it’s much easier to stick to a budget that way, and it’s also good because it forces me to mix-up the produce we eat each week. So zucchini it was, and thank goodness for that. I had stumbled upon a “zucchini fries” recipe on just last week that looked very intriguing, and have been itching to make it ever since.

These were super simple to make and extremely delicious to eat. My only wish was that I made more. Since they’re a vegetable and there’s no shame in seconds, next time, I’m doubling the batch! Brandon actually said he liked these more than potato-based baked french fries. That’s a win in my book!

This recipe is originally from this great website, but I made a few small changes to this, too. I actually doubled the amount of breadcrumbs the original recipe uses, which gave them more of a crunchy outer-layer, and I didn’t have garlic powder, so I used garlic salt. Make sure you cut the zucchini into carrot-stick like shapes(similar to french fries), and try to keep them around the same width for baking purposes. If you make these tonight, you just may have a new favorite vegetable in your house, too!

Baked Zucchini Fries
Adapted from Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes at SkinnyTaste

2-3 medium zucchini, sliced into 3’’ by 1/2’’ sticks ( I used 2)
1 large egg white (I used 2 small egg whites)
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs ( I used what we had (white bread crumbs) and doubled this amount)
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese (I doubled this)
1/4 tsp garlic salt (or garlic powder—I doubled this)
salt and pepper
cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F(or 218 C).
2)Next, chop the zucchini and set aside on your cutting board.

3)Now set up what I like to call your “dipping station”.  You’ll need a small bowl for your egg whites and a larger bowl for your breadcrumbs. In the small bowl, beat the egg whites and season them with a dash of salt and pepper. Then in a ziplock bag, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic salt(or garlic powder), and parmesan cheese and shake well. Place in bowl.

4) Line your cookie sheet with tinfoil and  spray with cooking spray. Then set it aside at the end of your dipping station.
5) Now, dip the zucchini pieces into the egg whites, coating them, and then into the bread crumb and cheese mixture a few at a time, shaking them to coat. I used a spoon to help me roll them around in the breadcrumbs. Then place the breaded zucchini in single layers on the sheet and spray more cooking spray on top. Bake at 425° for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

We used ketchup as our dipping sauce, but really it’s up to you to choose. With or without sauce, these are bound to be a household favorite. Hope you enjoy these!

Lets make (healthy) Macaroni & Cheese

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m living with a cheese addict. He admits to it, so I don’t feel too bad writing it! I’m being serious when I say I’ve never seen cheese go so quickly.  We are talking 6-8 ounce blocks gone in 2 days people!  Lucky for me, this means I get to taste, try, and buy all the different kinds of cheeses,  and Australia has some REALLY good cheese, even good “light” cheese!
IMG_0942 I’d say 9 times out of 10, cheese makes it onto the grocery list. It made the list this week too, and with all these thoughts of cheese bombarding my brain and senses, I’ve been craving one thing…homemade macaroni and cheese.  Since I’ve been in Australia, more often then not I’ll do meal-planning on Sunday, followed by a big grocery shop mid-day to get ingredients and necessities for the week.  Sometimes though, life gets in the way and this just doesn’t happen.  Life happened this past weekend (thank you Sunday-Funday…whoops) so neither the meal planning nor the grocery shopping happened over the weekend. Thankfully, it did happen on Monday, and with a recipe in hand  I jotted down what else we’d need for this new-to-me “healthified” macaroni and cheese recipe. I was hoping to make my Mom’s version, but I had misplaced the recipe.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  I stumbled upon a recipe  very similar to my Mom’s, but it makes a larger batch and uses 1% milk instead of skim milk. I altered this recipe a bit, specifically omitting the nutmeg and frozen vegetables, along with opting for a rotini pasta instead of cavatelli, and I baked it with breadcrumbs on top. To me, breadcumbs are an essential mac ‘n cheese ingredient.

The verdict? Cheese addict had four servings and yours truly had two. I’d say it was a success! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Healthier Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from


  • 1 package  (16 ounces) rotini pasta
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups 1 % milk
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • breadcrumbs (optional)


  1. Boil large pot of water; then add pasta and cook for the time directed.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt margarine over medium heat in another medium-sized pot. With a wire whisk, stir in the flour, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk a little bit at a time and stir constantly, continuing to cook over medium-high heat until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. (This will take a while, but it’s worth it for a better consistency of sauce!) Boil this for 1 minute once all of the milk has been added, continuing to stir.
  3. Remove your saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheeses (cheddar and parmesan) just until melted(it won’t take more than 30-45 seconds!) Now, blend mixture in saucepan until smooth. (I used a hand blender to save on dirty dishes, but you could use a blender, too.)
  4. Drain pasta and then return the pasta to the pot and stir in cheese sauce.
  5. Place in a sprayed casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 F (or 176 Celsius) for about 20 minutes, or until browned.

You could serve this as a side-dish or as a main course, it’s up to you. We had ours on the side of veggie burgers, green beans, and a side-salad. A healthier cheesy accompaniment to a nutritious dinner? I’ll take it!  Either way, I hope it fulfills your cheese cravings…I know it did in our house (for one day anyway!)

What is your favorite “cheesy” recipe? Please share!