Baked Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Baked Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

If you need a new “after school” snack or the perfect side dish to complement any summer meal, I have the perfect option for you! AND it’s pretty darn healthy!

IMG_0052 Baked Zucchini Fries

Health benefits of zucchini

I frequently wonder how to use zucchinis in my everyday kitchen life. They’re incredibly inexpensive and have great health benefits – an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C, with high amounts of fiber to keep your body in check. Turns out, zucchinis are very versatile and can be used in many recipes – from bread, to cake, to casseroles, and of course, crispy fries!

Zucchini Fries

Usually, sticks like this have been cooked in a deep fryer, which means lots of heart trouble and calories for you. Luckily, these zucchini sticks are oven-baked and they taste AMAZING! Adults and kids alike will love these delicious alternative to fatty fries, adapted from EatingWell.

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Ingredients

  • Zucchini Fries:
  • Canola or olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchinis cut into french fry size sticks
  • 2 large eggs whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups whole wheat Panko or bread crumbs
  • Spicy Ranch:
  • 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • (Combine all ingredients and mix well)

Instructions

  1. Zucchini Fries:
  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  3. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  4. Stir together the whole wheat panko with salt and pepper and place in a large Ziploc bag.
  5. Dip zucchini sticks in the flour, followed by the egg white, then shake in the bag to coat and arrange on the baking sheet, not touching.
  6. Coat all exposed sides with cooking spray.
  7. Bake on the center rack for 7-10 minutes. Turn the zucchini and continue to bake until golden, about 5 minutes more.
  8. Serve hot with spicy ranch or marinara sauce!
http://www.pepperminting.com/baked-zucchini-fries-with-spicy-ranch/

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach FettuccineYou know I’m always down for easy, meatless dinner options, and this recipe is definitely one of them! Ricotta is one of my favorite cheese to cook with. It’s creamy, sweet, and fresh, and perfect for a spring pasta dish – I’ve adapted it from my favorite Budget Bytes blog. The mild ricotta creaminess mixed with al dente fettuccine and mineral-packed spinach, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, easy dinner for tonight! **Bonus points if you use this recipe and make your OWN ricottaIMG_3418

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Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Ingredients

  • 12 oz uncooked fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • 6 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in salted water following directions on box. Boil until al dente. Save 1/2 cup water before draining pasta.
  2. Prepare the ricotta sauce in a large skillet. Cook minced garlic in olive oil 1-2 minutes. Add ricotta, milk. Allow sauce to come to a low simmer for 4-5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Squeeze excess water out of thawed spinach and stir into sauce. Add in pasta water as desired to thin. Toss in pasta and serve warm!
  4. *Optional: add sliced strips of grilled chicken or shrimp
http://www.pepperminting.com/creamy-ricotta-and-spinach-fettuccine/

New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls (Vegan & Paleo Friendly)

Happy New Year, friends! I’m sure you all made your lovely New Year’s resolutions about health and fitness and love and travel, but how easy is it to actually keep them?? I have an easy peezy recipe that’s only 3 ingredients AND no bake, and will keep you full and energized between meals! (And no, they’re not meatballs… even though they totally look like it.)

Energy Balls

These energy balls are not only great tasting, but they’re incredibly good FOR your health. If you want good things to happen to your body, you have to put good things into your body, and popping 1-2 of these a day will do just that. Combine ingredients in a food processor, roll ’em up, refrigerate, and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Health benefits of:

Dates: Fiber-rich – keeps you regular, prevents heart problems and intestinal disorders.

Walnuts: High omega-3 fatty acid content – antioxidants, reduce breast cancer, supports brain health.

Almonds: High quality protein – prevents heart disease.

SISTER TIP: This recipe is extremely versatile. Substitute any nut (cashews would be tasty!), add fruit or raisins, or roll in coconut flakes. The possibilities are endless. 🙂
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New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls

New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of nuts (I use 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup walnuts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted

Instructions

  1. Place nuts and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are roughly ground.
  2. Add the Medjool dates, tightly packed. Process until you can squeeze some of the mixture in your hand and it sticks.
  3. Roll the mixture into balls 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll in coconut flakes if desired!
http://www.pepperminting.com/new-years-resolution-energy-balls-vegan-paleo-friendly/

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

I certainly didn’t invent this recipe, but I thought I’d pass it along to you because I absolutely love making them and they’re perfect for the busy mom or individual who doesn’t have time to make a healthy, filling breakfast every morning! The best part? You probably have all three ingredients in your kitchen right now to make these today!

3 Ingredient Waffles

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

Ingredients

  • 1 egg & 1 egg white
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup oats

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender (Vitamix works beautifully!) Add oats if wet, add a splash of almond milk if dry.
  2. Pour batter over hot waffle iron.
  3. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Serve warm with berries, syrup, almond butter or bananas!
http://www.pepperminting.com/3-ingredient-yummy-waffles/

SISTER TIP: Note to readers – these waffles don’t get super crispy, but I’ve found that if you let them cool a bit, then toss them in the toaster (cut in half first), you can get a bit of crunch you might be looking for! They’re great for on-the-go breakfasts or snacks, too!

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Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Grilled corn and mango avocado saladGrilled corn is one of my favorite summer staples. It’s such a great side dish and super inexpensive to buy at farmer’s markets on the weekends! You can boil it, grill it, or even microwave it, and it pretty much goes with everything.

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A unique dish to make with grilled corn is this mango avocado salad I read about from Trader Joe’s recipes. It’s so easy to make and you can munch on it as an appetizer with a side of chips, or serve it on top of chicken or fish to add flavor and color!

SISTER TIP: Here’s an infographic I made to show how to cut a mango! Chop off the two “cheeks” on the side of the pit, the slice into cubes and scoop out with a spoon. Couldn’t be easier. 🙂

How to cut a mango

Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 1 ripe avocados, cubed
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup green onion, diced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Drizzle cobs of corn with olive oil and grill for 10-12 minutes, turning every few minutes. Slice off kernels with a knife into a medium bowl.
  2. Add mango, olive oil, red pepper, cilantro, cumin, and salt and pepper.
  3. Refrigerate and let sit for an hour.
  4. Add avocado and lime juice. Sprinkle with green onion. Serve with chips or on top of a meat dish!
http://www.pepperminting.com/grilled-corn-mango-avocado-salad/

Yummy Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

This dinner could not be easier or more healthy! I found it on the side of my bell pepper package. It’s the perfect colorful dish to serve in the summertime, but hearty enough to make year round. I absolutely love stuffed peppers! The cost is less than $4 per serving, so make as many or as few as you need, I guarantee you’ll want seconds. 🙂

IMG_6612The great thing about these peppers is that you can use as much filling as you want, and you can really add any ingredients you have leftover in your kitchen! – mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, spinach, beans, quinoa, peppers, just mix it right in, it’ll be delicious. I like to make extra filling and eat it plain or over pasta the next day!

5-Ingredient Meatless Stuffed Peppers

5-Ingredient Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 6 bell peppers, seeded, with tops removed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, sautéed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce

Instructions

  1. Boil 4 quarts of water, add peppers, cover and boil 3-4 minutes to soften. Drain.
  2. In a bowl, combine rice, corn, beans, garlic and tomatoes. Add any other ingredients you wish (turkey, meatless crumbles, vegetables etc) and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Stuff peppers with the mixture. Stand peppers upright in an 8x8 dish. Pour any remaining tomato sauce over the peppers.
  5. Cover with foil. Bake 10 minutes. Uncover, bake 15-20 minutes longer until soft. Top with cheese if desired.
http://www.pepperminting.com/yummy-meatless-stuffed-peppers/

Perfect Summer Pasta Dish: Penne with Green Beans and Basil

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I’m always looking for summer pasta dishes that aren’t too hearty or heavy, and this one is perfect for patio weather, and SUPER easy to make! I got the recipe from the book “Good Housekeeping: 400 Healthy Recipes”, and as an added bonus, it’s vegetarian too! You’ll never miss the meat.

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Each serving is about 370 calories, 10G of protein, 15G total fat, and 0MG cholesterol. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must eat this entire bowl immediately. 🙂

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SISTER TIP: Tired of needing to buy fresh basil everytime you want it for a recipe? Trader Joe’s is selling basil plants for only $3.99 per potted plant! Go grab one (or two) and you’ll be set for a few weeks!

 

Perfect Summer Pasta Dish: Penne with Green Beans and Basil

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces penne or bow-tie pasta
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and each cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 up extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Basil leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. In large pot, cook penne as label directs.
  2. In 12-inch skillet, heat 1 inch water to boiling over high heat. Add green beans and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; heat to boiling. Cook beans until tender-crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain beans. Rinse beans under cold water to cool slightly; drain again.
  3. In blender at high speed, combine basil, oil, and water and puree until almost smooth. Transfer basil puree to large bowl; stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.
  4. Drain pasta; rinse under cold running water and drain again. In warm serving bowl, toss pasta, beans, tomato, and basil puree. Garnish with basil leaves.
http://www.pepperminting.com/perfect-summer-pasta-dish-penne-with-green-beans-and-basil/

Strawberry Graham Frozen Yogurt Squares

Strawberry Graham Frozen Yogurt Squares

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I was reading my monthly Shape magazine, and the authors of “Eat This, Not That” suggested substituting ice cream cookie sandwiches with graham crackers and cool whip topping this summer. I modified that idea a bit, and created a delightful, low-calorie frozen bar made with fresh, mouth-watering strawberries. You can use any fruit you want, but strawberries are in season right now and wonderfully big and juicy (and most importantly, cheap)!

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So instead of ordering that hot fudge sundae with extra whipped cream, go grab these four ingredients from the store, and make these scrumptious strawberry graham cracker frozen yogurt squares – your taste buds & bikini bod will thank you. They’re not super smooth or creamy, so don’t expect a perfect trade for your fattening ice cream, but the icy cold strawberries add flavor against the crunchy cinnamon graham and it is tasty! This refreshing dessert is perfect for summer parties and a low-calorie treat when you’re craving ice cream during these hot months. Don’t give in to the pressure! Remember your beach body, darn it! I promise you it’s worth it! 🙂

Strawberry Graham Frozen Yogurt Squares

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Serving Size: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Light Cool Whip Topping
  • 1 1/2 cups Vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup pureed fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 Graham Crackers

Instructions

  1. Line an 8-inch square pan with wax paper for easy removal. Arrange half of the graham crackers along the bottom of the pan.
  2. Combine all toppings in a mixer until somewhat smooth. Spread over graham crackers. Top carefully with the remaining graham crackers so they match, cinnamon side up.
  3. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Cut bars in half. Enjoy!
http://www.pepperminting.com/strawberry-graham-frozen-yogurt-squares/

Good-for-you Banana Bread

Good-for-you Banana Bread

I LOVE making easy bread recipes. They’re perfect for breakfast, snack time, or even to give to friends for gifts! This is my favorite banana bread recipe, and any time I have a few leftover ripe bananas, I whip a loaf of this whole wheat banana bread together and voila! Breakfast for the week! (Who am I kidding, it’s gone in a day.)

Good for You Banana Bread

Whatcha Need:
6 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce (I use a 4 oz cup)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Various mix-ins: walnuts, chocolate chips, pecans etc

Whatcha Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk applesauce, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and milk together. Add in eggs and banana and whisk until combined.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the rest of the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes; test with a toothpick to ensure that it comes out clean. Allow the bread to completely cool before cutting! This is important so it holds!

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SISTER TIP: I like to top mine with Greek yogurt and eat with a fork! This bread is fairly dense, so even one piece can fill you up. 🙂

I Love You, I Loaf You: My Famous Meatloaf Recipe

I Love You, I Loaf You: My Famous Meatloaf Recipe

You’re probably wondering what the heck is up with my post title today, allow me to explain. When I was just a young little Jesi – or, during the 2-year stage in which I only responded to my middle name, Ashley (big-ups to my Grandpa who was the only person to abide by this demand) – my parents used to tuck us kids in every night. And when they would say goodnight, instead of just saying “I love you” like normal families do, they would come up with tons of other words that started with “L” and sub those in. My nightly routine became “good night, Jessica Ashley, we leaf you,” or “we live you,” or “we loft you,” or my personal favorite, “we loaf you!”

So, whenever I make one of my favorite (and easiest) homemade dishes, meatloaf, I think of this adorable memory, and put a little extra “loaf” into that loaf! Here’s my take on a healthy meatloaf for you to try out this week. 🙂

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SISTER TIP: The thing I love about meatloaf is that you can pretty much add any nutritious veggie to it and it will still taste amazing. Have some leftover carrots? Green peppers? Zucchini? Sweet potatoes? Beets? Blend ’em in the food processor and in they go! I even added some chia seeds and wheat germ for extra goodness, and diced up these mushrooms I had in my pantry. ^^

Whatcha Need:
1 lb ground turkey
1 container mushrooms, chopped finely
1 small onion, diced
2 cups canned or fresh spinach, drained and chopped
1 egg white, beaten
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Salt & pepper to taste

Whatcha Do:
Basically, just mix that stuff up! Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands until well incorporated. Form into a loaf and put on baking sheet, or into a loaf pan. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with barbecue sauce or ketchup.

Turkey MeatloafSISTER TIP: For side dishes, I made a basic romaine salad and these easy cauliflower mashed potatoes! You won’t even miss the carbs, I promise. MOM! THE MEATLOAF!