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…

Overhead_SproutsSalad

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)

Ingredients_SproutsSalad

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.

SlicedandDressedSprouts

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

BrusselsSproutSalad_cookingonthebrightside

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!

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Greek Pasta Salad

I have a confession to make.

I am completely obsessed with Pharrell’s song “Happy” – and I know I’m not alone. I swear, it just makes me want to stop whatever I’m doing and break out into a dance. Which I have actually done. In the comfort of my home. While folding laundry. And getting the side-eye from my husband. Sorry for letting the music guide my soul babe.

Anyways, the other day my co-worker and I were talking about just the little things that get us through long and/or tough days. A big one was our girl friends and just getting to spend time with them – which we were both lamenting over the fact that we just don’t get to do enough. But then later that day she sent me a message about how the musical score to Harry Potter was making a tedious project almost enjoyable. Which was funny, because I was listening to my Harry Potter (Film Score) station on Pandora and it really is just amazing how music can help shape my mood.

I think the “Happy” song really just brings out my inner happiness, no matter how much it seems to be hiding that day. You know what else brings out happiness for me? Cooking.

Seriously, I know some people hate it. Dread it. View it as a necessary evil in order to provide nourishment. But hello, I have a blog about cooking on the BRIGHT side because I think preparing food for yourself or for others can bring so much joy.

So, in light of all of this talk of happiness and brightness, I’m sharing a delicious and beautiful dish with you – Greek Pasta Salad. This is totally an “eat with your eyes” recipe – and it tastes at least as good as it looks…

Close Up_GreekPastaSalad

Greek Pasta Salad (6 servings / 7 WW points per serving)

Ingredients_GreekPastaSalad

6 oz. whole wheat or enriched Rotini pasta (I used Barilla Plus)

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

1 small green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 medium cucumber, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped (I didn’t quite use a whole onion)

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

8 Tbsp. sliced black olives

4 oz. fat-free Feta crumbles

Dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to directions.

While the pasta is boiling, chop your veggies and make your dressing by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. I personally like the level of “tang” in this, but if red wine vinegar has too potent of a taste for you – maybe start with 1/8 cup and work your way up. I like the pizzazz.

Veggies-Dressing_GreekPastaSalad

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add to a medium bowl. Let cool for about 5 minutes.  Pour your dressing over the pasta. Then add your chopped vegetables, sliced olives and crumbled feta. Using a rubber spatula, mix until all ingredients are combined.

AssembleSalad_GreekPastaSalad

Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. I made a batch of this one Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful, vibrant and healthy lunch every day that week. Honestly, how can looking at this awesome pop of colors not make you happy?!

Greek Pasta Salad

Have a great weekend y’all!

Lightened up: Creamed Corn

I love living in the South.

There is just something about it. Laid-back but high energy. Sweet and sincere with a little bit of sass.

And the food. Ugh. The food is so freaking delicious it’s not even funny. Or fair. Particularly when you’re trying not to indulge in all of the amazing dishes offered. Especially in the lovely city of Memphis when on Fridays I can smell pork wafting down the street when I walk outside.

We are definitely known for some staples down here. BBQ. Fried Chicken. And quite frankly, when you’re in a restaurant serving either of those staples, you tend to find a lot of calorie-laden sides to accompany it. French fries. Fried pickles. Fried tomatoes. Mac and cheese. Creamed corn.

It’s almost like you don’t even have a fighting chance to be healthy.

Well, a few weeks ago I came across a recipe for creamed corn that sounded delicious – and actually not loaded with fat. Now I am picky about my sides – I can justify splurging a little on a main course, but I have to really be impressed by a side dish.

Plated - Creamed Corn

This is definitely one of those recipes. I’ve had creamed corn before – and it has just seemed bland. But the fresh herbs and  red peppers really jazz up this recipe.

Give it a try – we are definitely fans and have made it a few times already.

Lightened up: Creamed Corn (Serves 2 – 4 WW points each)

Slightly modified from original recipe found here.

1/2 Tbsp. butter (the real deal y’all)

1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1/2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Step by Step - Creamed Corn

Melt your butter in a small saucepan. Add bell pepper and thyme and saute 2-3 minutes. Add corn kernels and stir to coat. Whisk in milk, salt and flour. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove half of the corn mixture and add to a mini food processor, pulsing a few times. Return to saucepan and stir well, simmering another minute or so.

I served this with another Cooking Light recipe for pan-fried chicken thighs – a first for me. It was absolutely delicious and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty after licking my plate.

Lightened Up - Creamed Corn

Have a great weekend y’all!

Roasted Buffalo Chickpea Salad

Friends – we know I have some issues when it comes to all buffalo flavored things.

As in, I want all of the buffalo flavored things.

Now that the husband and I are getting back on track in watching what we eat and taking care of ourselves, we have started doing “Meatless Mondays” again. It can be tricky making it through one when you are absolutely craving something buffalo flavored.

But I’ve taken care of that.

Roasted Buffalo Chickepea Salad - Overhead

 

You’re welcome.

I’ve heard about (and seen) recipes for roasted chickpeas and they always sounded intriguing. God bless the chickpea. Shameless Friends reference.

Well, I decided to kick up the roasted chickpeas a notch and add some buffalo sauce. But obviously that would be a bit messy. So I threw it on a salad. Nothing like some crisp celery and carrots, some blue cheese crumbles, and spicy buffalo sauce to make a salad exciting.

The best thing about this delicious salad? It’s only 5 WW points…so perfect for lunch or a light dinner! The chickpeas are packed with protein – so it leaves you feeling satisfied.

Some other delicious dishes that require no meat? Our favorite – Baked Tacos. Another buffalo favorite – Buffalo Quinoa Cakes. A yummy Veggie Strudel. A warm Lemon Spinach Orzo Soup. A veggie-packed Tortellini and Vegetable Pasta Salad. And a delicious twist on pizza – Shaved Asparagus Pizza.

Roasted Buffalo Chickpea Salad (Serves 4 / 5 WW points)

Ingredients - Buffalo Chickpea Salad

1 14 oz. can chickpeas/garbanzo beans

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

8 cups iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup sliced carrot

1/2 cup Reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

6 Tbsp. Frank’s Hot Sauce

2 Tbsp. Blue Bonnet Light

4 Tbsp. Fat-free Italian dressing

Extra hot sauce

Heat your oven to 425. Drain and rinse chickpeas and pat dry. Add to a small container and toss with oil, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet (line with parchment paper or foil to avoid clean-up duty) and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Let chickpeas cool and assemble your salads.

Each serving gets 2 cups of lettuce and 1 Tbsp. of dressing. (I really just drizzled it on to make sure there was enough of a dressing since the buffalo sauce is added later. I also dotted a little hot sauce over the dressing.) Top lettuce/dressing with 2 Tbsp. blue cheese crumbles and 2 Tbsp. each celery and carrots.

Once your chickpeas have cooled slightly, melt the margarine in a small dish and stir in the hot sauce. Toss with chickpeas to coat and add about 1/4 cup to the middle of each salad.

Buffalo Chickpea Salad - Steps

We only did 2 salads – so I left the roasted chickpeas in an airtight container without the sauce so they wouldn’t get too mushy. They do make a pretty good snack!

Easy, unique, filling and delicious…

Roasted Buffalo Chickpea Salad

What more can you ask for?

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

You know, I’m almost a little embarrassed to share this recipe.

It’s so simple and delicious and I have been making it since college.

You see, while in college, my friend Erin and her parents invited me along on two of their summer vacations. They are big scuba divers, so it was always to a beautiful tropical destination. I know, they really had to twist my arm!

Our weeks were always filled with fun memories that we still joke about to this day such as an evening in St. Lucia when we were returning to our home for the week from dinner via an incredibly steep and windy road which also happened to be filled with gigantic potholes. We’d had a lot of beverages (water, and maybe some rum punches) at dinner – so our bladders were not too happy with the journey. So in order to take our minds off of the torturous ride, we decided singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs would help. What was on the radio? Celine Dion “To Love You More” – it was epic, especially when we got to the chorus.

There was also the evening in St. Martin when we went out for a fabulous dinner overlooking the ocean – and I got mugged after Erin and I walked to purchase her some replacement flip-flops since hers busted as we were walking into the restaurant.

All memorable times, but the most vivid memory was at a restaurant in St. Martin called Temptation. I remember exactly what I ordered, where we sat, talking to the piano player, and even our service. For dinner – I ordered the sashimi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes. Y’all, it sounds simple – but the entire experience just stuck with me.

So obviously, as soon as vacation was over – I had to re-create it. While I may not be a gourmet chef, my little amateur version of this meal has been a family favorite for years now. The tuna definitely helps with the heat of the wasabi if you aren’t heat-tolerant – but the beauty of wasabi is that it’s a quick burn! Try this one out, it’s action-packed with flavor and is super easy to throw together…

Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes (Serves 2 / Tuna – 5 WW pts. per serving / Mashed Potatoes – 3 WW pts. per serving)

2 6 oz. raw yellow fin tuna steaks

1/3 cup Kikkoman Teriyaki marinade

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cubed

1/2 Tbsp. fat-free milk

1/2 Tbsp. wasabi paste

1/2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine (I use Blue Bonnet Light)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow dish, pour teriyaki marinade and add raw tuna steaks. Marinate for 1 hour minimum, flipping halfway through the process. I threw mine in before I went to work one day – so they soaked up a lot of that goodness!

Remove tuna from marinade, reserve a few Tbsp. of what remains. Heat grill to medium-high and spray with nonstick spray. Add tuna steaks and grill 4-5 minutes per side to get a good medium center. Brush with a little more teriyaki when you flip them.

While all of this is going on, make sure your potatoes are cooking so they’re ready when the steaks are!

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the potato cubes. Boil 7-9 minutes until pieces are tender when pierced with a fork.

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Drain potatoes and add to a small bowl. Whisk in milk, wasabi paste, margarine, salt and pepper. I usually add a little more wasabi, but all depends on preference and texture – if it’s too lumpy, add another splash of milk.

Mix potatoes until smooth and add to plate, topped with grilled tuna steak…

Plated steak and potatoes

 

I roasted some asparagus with a drizzle of peanut oil, some soy sauce and topped with sesame seeds – the perfect addition to this plate of deliciousness. Let me know what you think if you try this recipe out, it’s definitely one of my favorites!

Teriyaki Tuna with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Lightened Up: Green Bean and Corn Casserole

Um, did everybody know that Christmas is 4 days away? I wish somebody would have told me – I’ve just been assuming I have plenty of time! I guess that’s why the husband and I spent a few hours wrapping gifts last night…but at least we had A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer to keep us company and get us me in the Christmas spirit!

So now that the shopping is completely almost done, it’s time to focus on the food – not that I haven’t been focusing on food for the past month, but you know, food for Christmas day!

I think we all know that it’s okay to give in a little since “it’s the holidays” and all – but if you can still make something tasty and the recipe doesn’t start with 2 sticks of butter, then why  not save yourself a few calories to use on something sweet or a festive cocktail?

So here’s a recipe that’s been floating around my family for a while now – but I found a way to lighten it up and make it WW friendly! It seems like a lot of ingredients, but it’s super easy to throw together. (Fair warning – I made a double batch to take to a work potluck – so do not be deceived by the pictures!)

Green Bean and Corn Casserole (Serves 8 – 4 WW pts. per serving)

Ingredients

1 can ( 15 oz.) french cut green beans

1 can (11 oz.) white shoepeg corn

1 can (10.5oz) condensed cream of celery soup, reduced-fat

1 cup sour cream, fat-free

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, fat-free

3 medium ribs of celery, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, add your chopped onion and celery.

Chopped Veggies

Drain green beans and corn and add to the bowl. Then add salt, pepper, sour cream, soup and shredded cheese. Mix until blended.

Sour Cream and CheeseMix

Pour mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish. Top with corn flakes and spray with butter spray. (The original recipe calls for crushed Ritz crackers, 4 Tbsp. melted butter and sliced almonds – but beware added points!).

Topping

Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes until bubbling. Let rest 5 minutes and serve.

Baked

Also, if you have a party to attend or just want something healthier to snack on between big meals – might I suggest an adorable Christmas tree vegetable tray that I made (inspired, of course, by Pinterest!) last weekend for our party. It was quite the hit…

Veggie Tree

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and get to spend some quality time with friends and family!

Asian Steak and Bok Choy Salad

So lately I feel like we’ve been so busy that I’ve had no time to go the store. Which means we’ve gone out to eat or ordered take-out a bit too frequently for my taste. It’s just hard for me to be “good” when I go out – I’m like, oh, that salad sounds lovely but I’ll have the bacon-cheeseburger with crispy onions and a side of fries please.

Well, I FINALLY made it to the store the other night and just needed a little something light but filling for a good dinner! I had been craving some Chinese food – so I whipped something up with a lil Asian flair and boy was it delicious! I had never used bok choy before, but it actually wasn’t so scary!

Try this for light dinner or a fabulous lunch!

Asian Steak and Bok Choy Salad (serves 2 / 10 WW pts. per serving)

8 oz. trimmed flank steak

1 bunch bok choy

2 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. peanut oil

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. pickled ginger, minced

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. sesame oil

2 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1 medium green onion, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.

Salt and pepper your steak on both sides and add to skillet. Cook 7 minutes on each side (ended up about medium in the center – reduce time 2 minutes for medium-rare) and remove from heat. Cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat 1/2 Tbsp. peanut oil. Add bok choy – I ended up only using about 3/4 of the bunch. I layered mine in the skillet and played the rotation game, cooking each piece for about 5 minutes. The leaves should be wilted and the lighter part should soften slightly. It has the same texture of celery – so you want it to stay slightly firm and crunchy!

Remove bok choy and add to your plate.

Now, heat the other 1/2 Tbsp. peanut oil. Add your ginger and garlic and saute for 30-45 seconds.

Reduce heat to medium and add soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil and sugar. Whisk to dissolve sugar and bring to a low simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

Take your steak out of the foil and slice, against the grain, into thin strips.

Lay steak on top of bok choy and drizzle with the dressing.

Top with sesame seeds and green onion.

Now it’s time to dig in – and it’s so “light” on points for a dinner that you don’t have to feel guilty about pairing it with a nice glass of wine!

Hope y’all enjoy this – please let me know if you try anything on my blog by leaving a comment on that recipe – I’d love to hear from you!