Chicken Parm Sliders

I have been a burger-like mood lately. I mean way more than usual. The delicious burger I shared last week is great – but obviously, like I said, more of a “cheat day” type meal.

Lucky for you, this week’s post is still a between-the-buns offering, but is more on the healthy side. Best news? Perfect for a game day gathering – which is majorly important now that football is upon us (Woo hoo!). These savory sliders are easy to prep ahead of time, pop in the oven and during a time out, dress them up and plate them!


I had some ground chicken to use and I can only imagine your surprise that it didn’t go towards buffalo something or other. Instead, I added some sautéed onions and marinara sauce that keep the patties from drying out while cooking. I’ve done this as a dinner for two with some crispy zucchini chips as a side, and have also done a big batch for a larger gathering – easy to customize for any size group!

Chicken Parm Sliders (Makes 8 sliders / 5 WW points per slider)

2 tsp. olive oil

3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped.

2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 pound ground chicken (I usually opt for ground chicken breast – leaner)

1/2 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan

1 Tbsp. bread crumbs (I use whole wheat crumbs if possible)

1 cup Prego Light Smart sauce, divided

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

8 whole wheat slider buns

1/2 cup reduced-fat mozzarella, shredded

Fresh basil leaves for topping

Spray butter (I use “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray)

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and Italian seasoning and saute for 3-5 minutes until onions are softened.

In a medium bowl, add ground chicken, half of the Prego sauce, grated parmesan, sautéed onions, bread crumbs, salt and peppers. Mix together by hand until ingredients are dispersed evenly. Form into 8 small patties. Line a plate with wax paper and add patties. Cover and chill at least 20 minutes to ensure binding.

When you’re ready to cook, remove patties. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cook at 375 for 15 minutes. Flip and cook another 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Remove patties from the oven.

Add a cooked patty to the bottom half of each slider bun. (I also spray the top halves and put them in next to the patties to let them toast a little.)Top with about 1 Tbsp. of shredded mozzarella. Add 1 Tbsp. Prego sauce from the remaining 1/2 cup. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted slightly. Top with a basil leaf and bun.

Then, well, you know what to do…

Chicken Parm Sliders_cookingonthebrightside

Have a great weekend y’all!

Whiskey-Glazed Cheeseburger

Right now Annie is stuck in my head. You know, how she’s always excited about tomorrow?

Well friends, I am BEYOND excited for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is my Christmas. That’s right – IT’S COLLEGE GAME DAY!

In order to celebrate this day accordingly, we’re going with a bit of a cheat meal. I know, I know – normally I give you delicacies that are cheating…without cheating. But I couldn’t resist. It was so delicious and I have been thinking about it since I made it. So let’s get down to it…

The burger itself is stuffed with blue cheese. I’ve thrown crumbles in the meat before, but this way there’s just a yummy, salty, cheesy center. Delicious by itself.

But then we add the whiskey glaze. I am not even a huge fan of whiskey, but it adds a ton of flavor – like a boozy, smoky barbecue sauce.

Then, you add the cheese. I just threw a slice on there because it just made life simpler and this burger was already rather ambitious for me. Because then you add the crispy onions. Yeah, I went there.

Oh, and I have an obsession with pretzel buns. I could definitely save a ton of WW points, and dare I say make this less of a cheat meal – but I was already committed. Something to share with my readers who really want to make a splash at their football watch party or Labor Day cookout this weekend! So, I give you the Whiskey-Glazed Cheeseburger – best paired with an ice cold beer…

Whiskey Glazed Cheeseburger_cookingonthebrightside

Whiskey-Glazed Cheeseburger (Serves 4 – let’s not even discuss points right now)

Inspired by and adapted from HalfBakedHarvest – original recipe here.

For the Burger…

1 pound Laura’s Lean Ground Beef (I went 92% lean this time around)

4 Tbsp. reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. Seasoned salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

4 slices Kraft singles (I used the 2% milk ones)

Mix together beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Divide into 4 equal portions and make a well in the center of each. Add 1 Tbsp. of blue cheese in the well and form the burger around it, enclosing the cheese in the center of the burger.

When you’re ready to cook – fire up the grill to medium-high and cook 7-10 minutes on each side until cooked through.

For the Crispy Onions…

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup skim milk

4 Tbsp. white whole-wheat flour

Pinch cayenne pepper, garlic salt and black pepper.

2 tsp. vegetable oil

Add onion slices to milk and soak 10-20 minutes. Add flour and seasonings to large ziploc bag. Remove onion slices, let excess milk drip off, and add to ziploc bag. Toss to coat onions.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes, flip and cook another 3 minutes until both sides are crispy. Keep warm in oven if needed.

For the Whiskey Glaze

1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels – representing Tennessee y’all!)

1/4 cup ketchup

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. honey

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer 5-7 minutes until thickened. Keep warm.



Get your burger bun – I found pretzel buns at our local grocery store and deem them winners!

Add your burgers to the center of the bun – which may be slightly larger than the burger (no complaints here!). Spoon glaze evenly over the top of each burger. It’s okay if it seems like there’s a lot – it will run down and start soaking into the bread.

Then add your cheese slices. Then top with the crispy onions. Add the top half of your bun and prepare to say “Mmmmm” a lot. The first 2 bites had me amazed that this creation just came from my kitchen.


And then I got to the center.


Goodness. I may be making this again this weekend to celebrate a hopeful victory for my team(s). If you give this a try – let me know what you think and if you modified it all, I love hearing how people make recipes their own!

Happy Labor Day weekend y’all – and happy beginning of COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON!

Orange-Glazed Salmon

I’m going to be honest – I have not been feeling it lately.

Y’all know how I love to get in the kitchen and try out new things. But lately, it’s been whatever I can just throw together as quickly as possible. I have been in a cooking funk!

Now that we are coming up on the best time of year (football season people!) I am hoping to get my groove back!

I have been whipping up some new things on occasion – don’t you worry. And one of them just happens to be a great go-to easy recipe. So it allows me to cook without having to spend an hour in the kitchen prepping things when I just need to decompress after a long day. That’s what I call a win-win!

I find my relationship with salmon a little odd. Love it smoked. But sometimes the, well, salmon-ness of it just doesn’t seem appealing. It just always overpowers whatever sauce or breading I try to pair with it and in my opinion, it’s just not great plain.

Enter the orange glaze…mmmm.

Orange Salmon_Plated

This recipe I found in a recent CookingLight magazine – and it seemed to fit the bill. A little sweet. A little spice. And a little citrus. Really complements the salmon flavor without playing complete second fiddle. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Orange-Glazed Salmon (Serves 2 / 6 WW pts. per serving)

Adapted slightly from recipe found in Cooking Light 

2 salmon filets (5 oz. each)

1 Tbsp. molasses (or maple syrup)

1 tsp. orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. fresh orange juice

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. minced garlic

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, whisk together molasses (original recipe called for maple syrup – I tried with both and found the molasses had a better flavor and look!) zest, juice, mustard, garlic and pepper.

Place salmon skin side down (if applicable) in a lightly greased baking dish. I line mine with foil for this one since we crank up the broiler! Brush the salmon with the orange mixture, covering the top of the salmon.

Glazed Salmon

Bake at 400 for 5-7 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes until the glaze caramelizes. This gives it a delicious, light crust packed with flavor.

Remove from oven and add to your plate! This is such a versatile dish – it goes great with sauteed veggies if you’re a little pressed for time. I also paired it with some of my Skinny Au Gratin Potatoes and roasted asparagus for a fancier meal and it was fantastic.

Orange-Glazed Salmon_cookingonthebrightside

Hope you enjoy!

Chicken Veggie Bake

So leading up to our vacation this summer, I really wanted to get myself in shape so I could feel good about myself. I signed up for a virtual challenge through a friend of mine which emphasized being physically active and eating clean.

I was a little hesitant about the clean eating part of it (it has nothing to do with the 5 second rule people) and while it’s not necessarily always going to be something sustainable for me personally, it really challenged me to find some new recipes and gave me a new outlook on food and how it fuels my body.

I found Pinterest to be a great resource for inspiration, which lead me to one of our new favorites – even when we aren’t aiming to eat clean! It is my go-to recipe for a crazy weeknight when I have other stuff to get done – like preparing other meals for the week or getting a workout in. It’s filling and packed with protein and flavor. It takes 10 minutes to prep! Oh, and the best part? It only takes 1 dish. You chop everything, throw it in a dish, stir it and bake it. No messy bowls, pots and pans to worry about – just the dish you cook it in.

So recap:

Easy – check!

Quick (and you can get other stuff done while it cooks) – check!

Healthy – check!

Delicious – check!

1 dish – check!

You’re welcome.

Chicken Veggie Bake (Serves 2 – 8 WW Pts./Serving)


Preheat oven to 400. Spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray.

12 oz. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

4 oz. red potatoes, diced

1 cup asparagus, trimmed and chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced (I halve some of the slices to spread the love)

1/4 medium red onion, diced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. dried rosemary

2 tsp. dried Italian herb seasoning

Salt and pepper

Add chicken and vegetables to your baking dish. Add olive oil, garlic, rosemary, Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.


Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. Take this 30 minutes to check something off your list. Get in a quick workout. Make your lunch for the next day. Call your mom. Take a bubble bath. Pay your bills – the possibilities are endless people, because your work is done when this thing goes in the oven!

I add a side salad…and usually a side of wine too.

Chicken Veggie Bake_cookingonthebrightside

Let me know if you try this and if you love it as much as we do.

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Bagels


I’m a little embarrassed. It’s been a while FOREVER since I’ve blogged and I’m really hoping I haven’t completely run off any followers with my slacking. It has been a whirlwind – no good excuses, just needed to catch my breath!

I figure I’ll try to redeem myself with a few new recipes. That sound okay? Okay – let’s do this!

One of the things I rarely post is breakfast. I’ll be honest – it’s an important meal, but something I usually don’t put a lot of effort into preparing. During the week, I pretty much grab a bagel thin and go. Maybe a granola bar.

However, when I’m in the workout zone (a place I have been wading in and out of over the past several months – now I’m back IN) I find that weekends are when I really find myself struggling for energy. Saturday morning workouts are awesome, but a measly little granola bar ain’t gonna cut it if I need to be functioning, you know, past 11 AM.

Enter a delicious recipe I found in The Skinnytaste Cookbook that I HAD to make. We know how much I love smoked salmon, but I sometimes struggle with how to use a whole package. So this makes it easy to knock out 2 meals over a weekend, which means fewer trips to the grocery store (hooray!).

Whether you’re a smoked salmon lover like me or just a casual acquaintance of this fabulous fish, I think you’ll enjoy this as a filling alternative to kick off your morning. It’s delicious, it’s filling, and come on, that’s a beautiful bagel right there!

Smoked Salmon Bagel_cookingonthebrightside

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Bagels (Serves 4 – 3 WW points/serving)

Adapted (ever so slightly) from The Skinnytaste Cookbook

2 Bagel Thins (I use Thomas’ Everything Bagel Thins)

4 oz. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature

2 oz. pre-packaged smoked salmon, chopped

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/2 tsp. dried dill

2 Tbsp. capers, chopped

1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 medium tomato, sliced

1/4 small cucumber, sliced

Fresh cracked pepper

Kosher salt

In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, salmon, scallions, dill, capers and lemon juice. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes to meld flavors.

Smoked Salmon Bagel_Spread

Lightly toast bagel halves. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly across each half, top with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle each with black pepper and kosher salt.

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Bagel_cookingonthebrightside

Enjoy and go tackle the rest of your day!

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa

It’s December.

When did this happen and why did nobody tell me?

Okay, okay. The decorations in my house and the beautiful tree (which IS getting decorated tonight if I can stop procrastinating!) would indicate that I’m well aware that it’s December. But, I’m having a hard time remembering that November happened. Heck, I vaguely remember October!

I feel like the days are just flying by right now and this is the time of year when I really want them to last. I absolutely love the Christmas season and it always seems to go by too quickly. Do you ever just want to savor everything? I know I do – I can’t wait for a night when I can go home, hang out by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music and stare at our beautiful Christmas tree (again, once it’s decorated!).

But right now, I feel like I’m in a race with time. Working long hours to try to get lingering deadlines met before people are out for the holidays. Coming home and trying to put together Christmas lists. Getting Christmas cards ordered. And don’t you know, the parties are coming up. I love me a good party…but when I don’t get to be “at home” for 5 or 6 straight nights, I am just exhausted!

It is this time of year when I find it really difficult to eat well. I always feel like I just don’t have the time to cook, so it’s easy to grab something on my way home…because I have too many things to do once I get home. That’s fine every now and then, but when those nights are frequently wedged between dinner parties and cocktail hours, sheesh, no wonder my clothes feel a little snug come Christmas Day!

So here’s a little recipe I adapted from Food Network Magazine that is easy, filling and pretty darn low in fat/calories. I also feel like it’s a bit of a comfort food – so perfect for a chilly night. It takes about 30 minutes total – so a simple meal for this busy (but wonderful!) time of the year.

I hope you can take the time to sit back and enjoy this beautiful and festive season with some delicious food, quality company, and anything else it takes to get you feeling all holly ‘n jolly. You know, like some peppermint schnapps in that hot chocolate.

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa (Serves 2 / 10 WW points per serving)

Cheesy Quinoa_Ingredients

Adapted from original recipe found here.

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth + 1/2 cup water

1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped

7 oz. turkey kielbasa (I prefer Jennie-O), sliced thin

8-10 spears asparagus

1 cup fat-free cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350. Brush 1/2 tsp. olive oil over asparagus and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool and then cut into 1-2 inch pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add broth, water and quinoa. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Cover, reduce and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through and liquid is absorbed.

Steps for Cheesy Quinoa

In a small non-stick skillet, add kielbasa slices and saute over medium for 4-5 minutes. Stir in onion, flipping kielbasa slices and cooking another 4-5 minutes.

Once the quinoa is cooked, add to a medium bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 of the shredded cheese until blended.

Plate the quinoa and top with chopped asparagus and kielbasa and onions. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.


Dig in and enjoy!

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa

Blue Cheese Pasta with Buffalo Shrimp

Friends, it’s been way too long…since I shared some buffalo deliciousness with y’all.

I mean, we’re in the smack dab middle of college football season and I’ve been giving you salads and quinoa. For that, I am sorry. (Not that they aren’t delicious, they just don’t scream “let’s have a beer and watch football together!”.)

So obviously, I decided to rectify that. Now, this is a recipe I concocted based on a delicious meal I had with my husband’s family at a little restaurant in Pontotoc, Mississippi. The special was a “black and blue” pasta, so it was blue cheese pasta paired with some yummy charred steak.

It was great, but we all know I like some buffalo with my blue cheese. So I have been dreaming up how to pull it off while still keeping it light. I deem this one a success, and it’s perfect to serve with a small group gathered to watch the big game, the perfect balance of fancy and casual. And it can be served with a crisp white wine or an ice cold beer. Everybody wins.

Blue Cheese Pasta with Buffalo Shrimp (Serves 2 / 11 WW pts. per serving)


For the Pasta:

3 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine (I use Blue Bonnet Light)

1 1/2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1/3 cup reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Shrimp:

8 oz. pre-cooked shrimp (remove the tails)

1 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped

To start, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and cook your spaghetti as instructed.

While the water gets going, it’s time to get started on your blue cheese sauce – starting with the roux. If you’ve never worked with a roux, the staple of rich sauces and soups (think creamy mac and cheese or your favorite gumbo) then I’ll give you a brief tutorial.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over medium-low heat. Next, stir in your flour. It will look weird and pasty, but that’s good. Cook for 1-2 minutes to slightly darken (the color of the roux can impact the flavor of your dish or sauce). Now, add a little of your milk (about 1/3 of the full amount), whisking vigorously into the roux. Repeat with the next 1/3, and again until all of the liquid has been added. Once you are happy with the texture, time to stir in the cheese until it has melted. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and adjust accordingly (I probably added another Tbsp. blue cheese crumbles to make sure the kick was there!). Roux_BlueCheeseSauce

Once your pasta has cooked, drain and return to saucepan. Pour blue cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until coated.

So the pasta is in good shape – time for the shrimp! In a medium skillet, add 1 Tbsp. margarine and melt over medium heat. Add chopped celery and shrimp. Saute shrimp for 1-2 minutes, then pour Frank’s Red Hot Sauce over the shrimp. Toss shrimp to coat and cook 4-5 minutes until heated through and hot sauce has reduced slightly.

Now it’s time to assemble. Add the pasta to your plate, top with the shrimp, making sure to drizzle with any excess sauce, and sprinkle with green onions.


Serve with a slice of crusty bread for any sopping up – trust me, you won’t want any of this deliciousness to go to waste.

Blue Cheese Pasta and Buffalo Shrimp_CookingontheBrightSide

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pecans and Blue Cheese

If I could face plant into a pile of all things Fall, I would. I know, I know – just living up to all of the internet memes out there. But I have my reasons…


It’s not because of Starbucks…although their Salted Caramel Mocha does make a good case for itself.

It’s not because of scarves. Because no matter how many times I pin it, I still don’t actually believe there are 12 ways to tie a scarf cause they all turn out the same when I do it. I just get frustrated and give up.

It’s not because of the boots. Okay, I love boots – but I love looking at them in stores more than I actually love buying and wearing them. I’d rather a fancy pair of heels any day…I know, totally going against the grain here.

What I CAN (and do) get behind in the Fall are the colors (reds, yellows, jewel tones!), the smells (cinnamon, fires, pumpkin!) and the flavors (all of them!)…and yes, smells and flavors are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!

Well here, we’re all about the flavors. Enter a delicious side salad that screams Fall. Roasted brussels sprouts? Toasted pecans? Bring it on!

Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pecans and Blue Cheese (2 servings/4 WW points per serving)


½ pound uncooked Brussels sprouts
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. minced garlic
Dash cracked black pepper & kosher salt
2 Tbsp. chopped/halved pecans
2 Tbsp. reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

Whisk together shallot, olive oil, mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat oven to 350. Thinly slice sprouts and arrange on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange pecans on baking sheet. Bake (both) for 5 minutes to soften sprouts and toast pecans.


Add sprouts to a small bowl and drizzle with dressing, stir to coat. Divide and top with 1 Tbsp. each pecans and blue cheese.


Note that this is a small portion to be enjoyed as a side. We enjoyed it with some Orange Mustard Glazed Pork Chops and green beans for a delicious meal. I’m pretty sure red wine was involved as well, so there’s that.

On that note, hope y’all have a great weekend!

Eating Light – Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Today, I invite all of you to head on over to my sister’s (aka my Biffer) blog to check out my guest post. I was able to contribute to Day 10 of her 31 day challenge on blogging about LIGHT – so I provided a recipe for eating lightBaked Mexican Quinoa Casserole

My sister has been on a major quinoa kick – so I figured I’d follow along. Check out my recipe for Mexican Quinoa Casserole on her site: Our Morning Glories.

It’s an awesome recipe for Meatless Monday – but honestly, I ate it for two meals after that! It’s packed with protein so it fills you up without filling you out (see what I did there?). So stop by her blog, stay a while and read about my stinking adorable nephews, and make sure to give this recipe a try!

Mexican Quinoa Casserole_cookingonthebrightside

Also, if you love you some quinoa like we do, check out some of these other recipes she has posted:

Cashew Quinoa

Quinoa Apple Salad

Thai Veggie Quinoa (where the broccoli is raw, right Biffer?)

Lemon-Cilantro Quinoa

And of course, you can find Buffalo Quinoa Cakes on my blog. Because here, we do all the buffalo-flavored things!

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Grilled Caesar(ish) Salad

Friends, we are closing in quickly on my favorite time of year. I live in Memphis, TN, so sometimes it takes Fall a while to really settle in. I say that on an overcast, cloudy, chilly day – but yesterday, it was like 90 degrees.

I am one of the many who love me some Fall. And I’m not even a huge fan of the pumpkin spice craze. I say bring on the football, the foliage and the fire pits. I love the colors. I love the smells. And of course…the clothes.

However, before we get deep into sweater weather – there’s a glorious few weeks that I can squeeze in some good quality grilling time without feeling like I’m about to pass out from the heat. So before you consume too many Pumpkin Spice Lattes and bundle up in your scarves and furry boots, let’s enjoy this mild-tempered Mother Nature before she buries us in my least favorite task of raking leaves…

A few years ago, at a local establishment here in Memphis, the husband and I ordered a salad to start off our meal. It was not just a salad. It was a life-changing salad. Why? It kind of tasted like a cheeseburger…bizarre, right? No – it was just grilled! So obviously, I had to try this on my own. I’m not one to turn on a grill for 5 minutes of work, but I’d probably do it just for this salad. I made a simple Caesar-like dressing (embrace the Worcestershire sauce, it has anchovies in it so it gives that salty flavor – but you can always add the real deal!) and sprinkled shredded Parmesan on top. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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