Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts


I have never been a fan of brussel spouts, the smell as they were being cooked never settled well with me so I always avoided them.  Enter my Clipboard…I was perusing my Recipes section when I came across this recipe for Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts from Real Simple.  The title of the article that was originally from Real Simple was titled, “I Just Made Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts, and I Might Never Order Takeout Again”.  Now that is a title!  I am not sure how (since I have always hated brussels sprouts), but my mouth began watering!

I viewed the ingredients and I instantly fell in love – they were simple and with the exception of the brussels sprouts, I had everything on hand.   The recipe as listed in Real Simple is made up of garlic, scallions, ginger, crushed red pepper flakes, soy sauce, maple syrup and rice vinegar.  After making this, I found that I needed either reduced sodium soy sauce or since I only had full sodium soy sauce, I used half soy sauce and half chicken stock when I made these the second time.   I loved the sauce, so the second time I made these I doubled the sauce recipe so I could drizzle it over the chicken and brown rice I served the brussels sprouts with.

If you love brussels sprouts you should definitely give this recipe a try and if you are on the fence about these little cabbages,  I would still give it a try.  They are really, really good and if all else fails you will find a recipe for a delicious kung pao sauce that can be used on other veggies and dishes.   Enjoy, I hope you love these as much as I do!

King Pao Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts Ingredients
2 pounds Brussels Sprouts (trimmed and halved)
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. salt (Real Simple recipe states 3/4 t. salt, but I found it too salty)
1/2 t. freshly-ground black pepper

Directions
Heat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Brussels sprouts, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. You know those outer leaves that come loose when you cut the sprouts? Scoop ’em up and make sure they make it onto the sheet tray. In fact, the more, the better—they get extra charred and crunchy.  Roast the sprouts for 15-20 minutes to your desired doneness. While sprouts are cooking make the sauce, recipe below.

Brussel Sprouts Pre-Roasted
Brussel Sprouts Pre-Roasted
Brussel Sprouts Roasted
Brussel Sprouts Roasted (the charred bits are AMAZING!)

Kung Pao Sauce
Sauce Ingredients
1 T. vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
4 scallions, white and light green parts chopped, save green parts for serving
1 T. ginger, finely minced
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. chicken stock (or other stock of choice)
3 T. maple syrup
2 T. rice vinegar

Directions
Heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, the white and light green parts of  chopped scallions (save green parts for serving), ginger and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Toss with cooked brussels sprouts and enjoy!

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
One more picture
Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
So stuffed….

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Top 10 Favorite Trader Joe’s Finds

Trader Joe’s…how I love thee…I mean, what is not to love?  So much goodness that you can’t find at regular grocery stores at prices that are incredibly reasonable.   An added bonus is that there are just so many healthy choices.   Some are new and some are old, but all are delicious and some are even nutritious.  Here are my top 10 favorite Trader Joe’s finds:

Trader Joe's Organic Red Lentil Sedanini

Lentil Pasta, $2.99 for 12 oz.  This is a new find for me.  I love pasta so finding a healthier version was so appealing.  The taste is nutty and there is a hint of squash-like flavor.  I love that this pasta is made up of only one ingredient, organic red lentil flour and each serving is packed with 13 grams of protein!   If you are looking for an exact substitute for pasta that tastes exactly the same then this is not the item for you, however if you are feeling adventurous I would give this a try.  Personally, I love it.

Trader Joe's Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce, $2.99 for 25 oz.  I love this sauce.  It is creamy, full of rich tomato flavor and has nice basil notes.  There is also parmesan in the sauce which gives it a nice, cheesy richness. It is the perfect marriage of each ingredient that blends seamlessly into one delicious sauce.  My kids love it and it makes a super simple meal that you can throw together in no time.

Trader Joe's Green Dragon Hot Sauce

Green Dragon Hot Sauce, $2.99 for 16 oz.  I love all things spicy –  sauces, chips, just about anything.   This Green Dragon Hot Sauce is made with jalapeños, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, habaneros, vinegar and a splash of lime juice.  If you can take the heat, put this in your kitchen.  I love adding it to takeout teriyaki, Chinese food, pasta, meat, eggs…the possibilities are endless.

Trader Joe's Mini Brie Bites

 

Trader Joe’s Mini Brie Bites, $4.49 for 5 – 0.9 oz mini bites.  Oh my gosh, I love brie. I have been known to hover over a cheese platter and slather warm brie on top of crisp crackers and really stuff my face.   Did you know how many calories are in brie?  A LOT.  I don’t seem to mind when I am on my 2nd or 3rd glass of wine though so brie at parties is no problem.  However, in a non-social environment I am a little more controlled which is why I was soooooooo excited to have these handy little, portioned packages of heaven.  There are five mini containers and each little brie contains only 70 calories.  Don’t let the calorie content fool you though, this is all the flavor that you get in a giant wheel.

Trader Joe's Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto

Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto, $3.69 for 8 oz.  Clearly I am not a vegan based on these favorites, but I am a pesto lover and a kale lover, so when I saw this I had to try it.  This heavenly green sauce is garlicky, lemony, thick and delicious on everything. I have put it on pasta, veggies, fish, chicken and enjoy it on toast with some sliced tomatoes.  It is so yummy and a new staple.

 

Trader Joe's Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Frozen Sweet Potatoes, $2.49 for 18 oz.  I love sweet potatoes, but truth be told I sometimes forget about them and they can take a while to cook so unless I am meal planning I often forget to use them.   However, that problem was solved with I found this package of heaven in the Trader Joe’s frozen food section.  They are perfect in a pinch and I am so happy when I see these in my freezer.  The ingredients are simple – sweet potatoes.  They are mashed and come in medallions so you can add them to saute pan or microwave them and you are good to go.   I love using these as a side for pork tenderloin with a maple, chili sauce drizzled on top, but they are also fabulous on their own.

Trader Joe's 8 Mini Croissants

Trader Joe’s Mini Croissants, $3.99 for 12 oz. (8 croissants).  I love a good croissant, however short of venturing out to a specialty bakery I don’t really get to enjoy them.  Croissants from the grocery store just are not good and frankly, not worth the calories.  These however are a game changer.  You set them out overnight to proof and in the morning you pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  You will get flaky, buttery, soft croissants that are perfect slathered with butter (yes, I put more butter on them – don’t judge) and my favorite berry jam.   As an added bonus, your house will smell out of this world!

 

Trader Jaques Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce

Caramel Fleur de Sel Sauce, $3.99 for 10 oz.  I love caramel, so much in fact that I used to make my own and sell them.  I stopped (story for another time), but when I found this I was transported back to all the homemade goodness from my caramel making days.  This sauce is creamy, buttery and has just the right amount of fleur de sel to balance the sweetness.   I love it on ice cream, apple pie, in coffee, right out of the jar….I can make an excuse to pretty much add it to anything – it’s that good.

Baker Jose's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownie Mix

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownie Mix, $3.99 for 16 oz.  My youngest son is gluten sensitive, so we try to limit/eliminate gluten as much as possible in our home, but it is really hard.  It can also be difficult to find gluten alternatives that taste good so when I tried this brownie mix I was thrilled, as was my son.  These brownies are  everything – fudgy and rich, plus they’re super simple to make and they taste homemade.  I love having these on hand as a quick treat.

Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter

Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter, $4.99 for 8 oz.  Every year around the holiday season there is a “Favorite Things” party that I attend with a group of girls that is by far, my favorite gift exchange party of the year.  I received a container of this Coconut Body Butter as this was one of my friend’s “favorite things” and completely agree with this being a favorite.  This is a thick, smooth, buttery, body cream that’s made with pure coconut oil and other natural, skin-soothing ingredients, like aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E. It absorbs into your skin very quickly, and doesn’t leave it feeling oily. Beyond all that it smells AMAZING!  A dupe for Body Shop’s Coconut body butter for sure.

 

Do you have any Trader Joe’s favorites?  I would love to hear what they are!

 

 

 

 

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Almond Butter Banana Bread


I would consider myself a connoisseur when it comes to banana bread.  I love the stuff, so I try countless recipes and variations.  My tried and true favorite classic banana bread is this one, however this Almond Butter Banana Bread has become a fast favorite.  I came across this recipe while watching Live with Kelly and Ryan.  Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend was on the show sharing her recipe for banana bread and I had to try it.

Now I am not going to lie…when I first saw the recipe I wasn’t sure how it would all come together because there is no flour and the base of the bread is almond butter.  However, it looked good so I gave it a try.  Oh my gosh…it is really, really delicious and very filling.  The almond butter base gives the bread great flavor and fills it with healthy fats making it very satisfying.  I love adding dark chocolate chips and a sprinkling of homemade granola.   The sweet creaminess of the chocolate, combined with the crunch of the granola makes for the perfect combination.

Whether you have a favorite banana bread recipe or not, please give this recipe a try.  A slice of this delicious bread makes an excellent breakfast or a healthy snack.  Slather a bit of all fruit spread and it will be even more delicious…if that is even possible…

Frozen Yogurt Bark

The holidays are over and I, like many, have felt the need to stop indulging – all the time at least.  I feel that moderation and a healthy lifestyle are key, however I went wild this holiday season gorging on spritz cookies, sugar cookies, haystacks, fudge, caramel corn – you name the cookie/candy and chances are I took a bite.  Same goes for cheese – brie, cambozola, gouda…yum!  I enjoyed every moment, but I feel gross and my jeans are snug.  In an effort to save money and not have to purchase new pants I am breaking out some of my favorite recipes to curb my appetite.  Which leads me to this little gem I wanted to share, Frozen Yogurt Bark, a favorite treat.

Frozen yogurt bark is one of those items that I will eat and eat and eat, then I will forget about it for a while only to come back to this oh so easy concoction.   OK, so Yogurt Bark is crazy easy – just yogurt that you spread onto a piece of parchment paper, then sprinkle with whatever you want to add and then freeze for a couple of hours.  Once frozen, break the yogurt into pieces and enjoy!  The variations are endless since you can use any kind of yogurt you like as well as the toppings.  You can also add no toppings, tons of toppings, you get the idea.

My personal preference when making yogurt bark and I am trying to get back on track, is to use individual yogurt cups that are high in protein.  This way I am sure of exactly what I am eating in terms of carbs, protein, fat and calories.  For the variation pictured I used a mix of goji berries, chia seeds and cacao nibs.  All of these add-ons play double duty in that they are delicious, add tons of nutrients and add crunch.   Another delicious way to amp up the flavor is to add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup, honey or even some chocolate syrup.  Like I said, moderation is key. 🙂  Try this recipe out.  It takes under five minutes and could not be simpler.  Here’s to healthy eating!

Frozen Yogurt Bark
Ingredients
Yogurt of your choice
Toppings (use anything – be creative)

Directions
Line a pan with parchment paper and spread yogurt onto the parchment paper in a thin layer.   Place desired toppings on top of yogurt and freeze for at least two hours.  Break apart and enjoy!

 

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Extreme Chocolate Cupcakes

I love a good cupcake.  There is something about a fluffy, decadent, sinful piece of heaven that makes me want to melt and immediately cheat on an otherwise healthy day of eating.  And you know what?  It’s worth it.  Every. Single. Time.  No regrets – ever.  The one time I don’t like to buy those delicious cakes is when I need to bring a lot of cupcakes.  A couple of dozen cupcakes can cost a pretty penny which is why I LOOOOOVE this recipe for Extreme Chocolate Cupcakes.  It is moist, delicious and you won’t believe how easy they are to whip up.

The best thing about this cake is that you can dump everything into a bowl and let the mixer do the work.  There is no butter to cream or no liquid and flour mixture that needs to be mixed alternately.  It is so, so simple.  When baking or cooking anything for a crowd this is a huge bonus for me.  The cake uses oil instead of butter which keeps the cake from being too dry which is the ultimate killer when it comes to any kind of cupcakes or cake.  My favorite way to top these cakes is with my basic buttercream frosting that you can find here.  This is the perfect combination of fluffy cake topped with a creamy, sweet frosting.

So, this is my secret to baking delicious cupcakes for a crowd or anytime you are having a cupcake craving for that matter.  Even though this recipe is simple nobody will ever guess…they are that good.  Try making these, you won’t regret it.