Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese {The Recipe ReDux}

Rich, hearty and healthy veggie-packed mac & cheese with fontina cheese, rosemary and garlic. A quick and easy vegetarian meal to throw together that’s filled with flavor and nutrients!

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese: Easily, healthy veggie-packed comfort food!

For the longest time, I didn’t get the whole deal about cast iron skillets. They just seemed like so much….work. Not to mention–this is embarrassing–but when I first started cooking, I didn’t like to use anything where I couldn’t use that fake “zero calorie” spray. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the diet mentality is a tough one to break, and I still keep that crap in my house (guilty), but my thoughts on cooking and eating have changed quite a bit.

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese: Easily, healthy veggie-packed comfort food!

My mom had this cast iron pan sitting around for years. She wasn’t exactly sure what to cook with it, and she’s much less adventurous (though still an AWESOME cook!) in the kitchen than I am. She has a few staples and will always make our favorite dishes, where as I cook something new every single time I have anyone over. I can’t help it.

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese: Easily, healthy veggie-packed comfort food!

Anyway, I started talking about wanting a cast iron skillet and my mom decided to pass hers down to me. She is always giving me the best hand-me-downs. I still have this awesome big red recliner chair that doesn’t match anything that she gave me when I moved into my first apartment. Winston and Clementine have kind of claimed it as their own in the last couple of years, but I still love that chair, and I kinda feel the same attachment towards my cast iron.

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese: Easily, healthy veggie-packed comfort food!

It’s definitely not an all-the-time dish in my house, but it makes things more special, and once you cook with one, you will absolutely understand what all the fuss is about! So when The Recipe ReDux asked us to tell a story about a treasured piece of cookware, I immediately knew I wanted to share my cast iron with you guys.

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese: Easily, healthy veggie-packed comfort food!

You don’t have to have a cast iron to make this mac and cheese. Of course it will make it better, and it certainly is a pretty way to present it, but you could easily use any pan you choose. What really makes this dish stand out is the combination of seared brussels sprouts with garlic and olive oil with creamy and sharp fontina cheese and a touch of rosemary. The flavors work flawlessly together, and even if you don’t normally get excited for brussels sprouts, I promise you’ll want to give these ones a chance. In fact, if you still don’t like them after eating this, I will do awesome embarrassing acts of your choosing. Within reason. ;)

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Brussels Sprouts Fontina Mac & Cheese

Rich, hearty and healthy veggie-packed mac & cheese with fontina cheese, rosemary and garlic. A quick and easy vegetarian meal to throw together that's filled with flavor and nutrients!

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked whole grain macaroni (I used gluten-free, use whatever works for you)
  • ~2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, ends removed and halved
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or whatever milk you'd like)
  • 1 cup freshly grated fontina cheese
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, stem removed and finely minced

Instructions

  1. In medium pot, cook macaroni according to package instructions. When finished, strain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large pan (8-10", preferably cast iron or stainless steal for best searing) over medium heat. If using a cast iron, keep in mind you do not need to use as much heat. Coat bottom with olive oil using about 1 tablespoon. Place halved brussels sprouts cut side down, season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and sear until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook opposite side until browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally.
  3. Once you get your brussels started, heat a medium pot or high rimmed pan over medium low heat. Coat with olive oil using about 1 tablespoon. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add cream cheese and milk. Season with salt and pepper and whisk constantly until cream cheese is melted and milk and cheese are combined, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in fontina and mix until incorporated.
  4. Stir cooked pasta into prepared cheese sauce then transfer to your cast iron and stir into cooked brussels sprouts. Stir in fresh rosemary. Serve immediately. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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Shredded Chicken Taco Salad {+ how to make crockpot salsa chicken}

Ridiculously easy, juicy crockpot salsa chicken turned into a hearty, healthy and gluten-free taco salad with just 10 minutes of working time. A perfect weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy!

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad: Easy, simple, healthy & gluten-free!.jpg

For the longest time I’ve wanted to share my salsa chicken with you guys. Okay, I hesitate to call it “mine” because I feel like everyone in the world makes salsa chicken, and it’s hardly even a recipe because there are only two ingredients, but it’s one of those things that when I discovered it, it totally changed my life. That sounds dramatic, but it really did.

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad: Easy, simple, healthy & gluten-free!

I make salsa chicken at least once a month and nine times out of ten, I eat it in a taco salad. This last time I finally decided to take pictures of it. Even Steve was like “Ummm haven’t you posted that before?” I mean, it’s entirely possible that I’m going senile and did post it, but forgot, but I swear I only shared this taco salad, which is my other weeknight staple.

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad: Easy, simple, healthy & gluten-free!

To make salsa chicken, literally all you have to do is place uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast in a slow cooker, cover with salsa then cook on low until done. Most people say 6-8 hours, but mine is usually ready in more like 4-5 hours.

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad: Easy, simple, healthy & gluten-free!

Then you can put it into whatever you’d like–burritos, tacos, enchiladas, or this taco salad! I like to keep things really simple since I usually save this for a night I know I won’t feel like cooking, but you can add whatever you’d like. It’s especially delicious with fresh guacamole. ;)

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad: Easy, simple, healthy & gluten-free!

The combination of the juicy, spicy chicken, smooth beans and creamy avocado and Greek yogurt with crisp fresh veggies is the best of all worlds. Healthy and fresh with the perfect combination of flavors and textures. This salad will totally solve your too-busy-to-cook dilemma!

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad {+ How to make crockpot salsa chicken}

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Total Time: 5 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 large salads

Serving Size: 1 salad

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad {+ How to make crockpot salsa chicken}

Ridiculously easy, juicy crockpot salsa chicken turned into a hearty, healthy and gluten-free taco salad with just 10 minutes of working time. A perfect weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy!

Ingredients

    For the salsa chicken:
  • 1 lb chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • approx 24 ounces salsa
  • For the taco salad:
  • approx 8 cups chopped romaine (I used 3 hearts of romaine)
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • approx 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups cooked beans (I use canned fat free refried beans, but drained black or pinto beans are also a great choice)
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 avocado, sliced, pit and peel removed
  • Greek yogurt and chopped green onion for topping

Instructions

  1. Place chicken in slow cooker and cover completely with salsa. Cook on low until chicken is cooked throughout, about 5-6 hours. Shred chicken and stir back into salsa.
  2. Layer salad ingredients in individual large bowls. I typically layer in order of ingredients listed, adding the chicken after the beans then topping with cheese, avocado, yogurt and green onions, but it won't effect anything if you do it differently. Serve immediately. Store leftovers separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Tri Training Week 5

Okay, so I’m gonna talk a little bit about burnout, but first let me just say that even though the title of this post says “Week 5″, I started training last fall for the 3 half marathons I ran at the beginning of this year. In January I added CrossFit and swimming and then at the beginning of February I actually started mostly following this training plan, but I didn’t start sharing any of it here until after my last half marathon ended and I switched to focusing solely on the triathlon, so basically I feel like I’ve been training nonstop since about October and I feel….tired. Mentally, physically, in all ways tired. Or at least I did last week.

This week I already feel better mentally because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. One more hard week and then I get to taper and recover. I actually ended up with a weirdly long taper with an extra week since I started my plan a week early on accident, so I have a free week that I can do whatever I want with. I thought it might come in handy in case I got sick or something, but I’ve actually managed to keep up with the volume of workouts surprisingly well. It’s kind of like every day I look at what’s ahead of me and wonder how I’m going to be capable of all of that, but then I am. I don’t know why I’m still surprised by it. ;)

Okay, here’s how last week went down:

Mon AM: 2:30 bike + 25 min run. I know I’ve been bitching about the wind a ton lately, but it has just been so windy! We had a pretty intense headwind on the way out (like we were going 10 mph and it was hard!), but then we got a nice tailwind for most of the way home. The way out kind of did a number on our pace, but then we killed the run. Transition runs are weird. I know it’s going to be hard, so I just try to get through it and not stalk my garmin. I guess because I expect it to feel hard, I end up running hard? My first mile totally shocked me when it went off at 8:55 and then my second mile surprised me even more when it came in at 8:52! I was only expecting to have to run about 2.5 miles, but we ended up running 2.8 and it was….not easy. It was definitely confidence boosting, though! I haven’t run that fast since marathon training, and I’m finally hopeful that some of my speed is coming back.

Tues AM: Crossfit. This is where I started to notice I was feeling burnt out. I got to crossfit, then sat in my car and thought about driving home. WTF? The hardest part of a workout is usually getting out the door (for me) and I drove all the way there and seriously was debating turning around?? Of course I didn’t, but I was not feeling this workout. The warm up was 3 rounds of 30 double unders (I got 3 in a row!!! A new record!!!) and 21 kettle bell swings. I was already tired just from the warm up! Then the workout looked like it would be easy for me since it was so much running. Ummm, I came in dead last. Of the four of us that were there at that time anyway. We did 800 meter run, 400 meter run BACKWARDS (lots of four letter words happening here), 100 sit ups, 800 meter run, 400 meter run backwards, 100 squats. I finished in 23:17 and was literally sore the entire rest of the week. I don’t know what it was, but this workout killed me! It’s always the high rep body weight workouts that make me sore rather than the heavier lifting days.

Tues PM: 1 hour swim. Tuesday was just not a good day I think. My swim felt miserable. I spent the entire hour convincing myself that it would be okay if I just stopped, and then having to convince myself that it wouldn’t. My neck hurt (I can only breathe on one side…I need to work on that…), my breathing was messed up, my body ached, it just plain sucked. BUT I made it through, didn’t quit and swam 2300 yards which is a new record!

Wed AM: Crossfit. I skipped track. Shhhhh. I rarely skip workouts, but when 4:40am came, I just couldn’t do it. I did get up and go to crossfit, and I was SO GLAD I did because this day was AWESOME!

Okay, first it was really scary, but then it was awesome. I had my first legit terrifying crossfit moment. We were finding our 1 rep max for back squats, and they taught us how to bail out of a weight if necessary, but of course my first time didn’t go as planned. I had worked my way up to 185 lb and I went down, but I was trying to get lower and my lower back went forward just a little bit, but I couldn’t come back from it and the bar ended up rolling over my neck, over my head and onto the floor. The entire room stopped and everyone stared at me, and all I could say was “I’m sorry. I think I have a headache.” Then I gave myself a few minutes and tried it again. And nailed it.

photo 1 (1)

Thurs AM: Crossfit. I was super sore I think from both Tuesday and Wednesday, so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this workout, and it ended up being even harder than I expected! We had 20 min to do as many rounds as possible of 100 meter lunge / 100 meter run / 21 push ups (I still do them on my knees) / 21 kettle bell sumo dead lift high pulls (I used 35lbs). Ummm, 100 meters is a LONG WAY to lunge! Yikes. I finished exactly 4 rounds.

Thurs PM: 45 min swim. It’s amazing what a difference the day makes! Today I got in the water and felt great, and I think this was the fastest I have ever swam! I did 1800 yards in 45 minutes. That’s a full 10 minutes off the first time I swam the distance about 2 months ago!

Fri AM: 1 hour bike intervals + 10 min run. Today was pretty uneventful other than an interval at 23.1 which made me very happy! Got in almost 15 miles on the bike and 1.1 miles running. Yes, that .1 totally makes a difference when you only run for 10 minutes. ;)

Sat AM: Long run. This run was hard and beautiful and confidence boosting! We went out with BTB to run at South Mountain.

photo 2

I’d only been one other time and I had somehow forgotten how tough those hills are! I definitely had to take a couple of walking breaks on the steeper sections, but I really felt like we had a great run and we ended up running 12 miles in 2:03 which totally surprised me! There were a few miles in there that were almost 12 minutes long, but I guess we made up for it on the downhill sections and finished a lot stronger than I expected. Also, I totally thought I couldn’t do it between miles 8-10, but that’s just an other reminder that I am stronger than I think!

Not sure if we hydrated enough post run. Just 4 bottles of water, 2 G2s, a bottle of lemonade and 2 drinks from Dutch Bros...

Not sure if we hydrated enough post run. Just 4 bottles of water, 2 G2s, a bottle of lemonade and 2 drinks from Dutch Bros…

Sun: Rest. Steve and I had a belated anniversary celebration with a perfect stay-cation in downtown Phoenix that involved zero exercise other than lifting my bourbon to my lips. ;)

Totals:

11 hours of training, 10 workouts (my tri expert Jamie says bricks count as two!), 69 miles (17 running, 49 cycling, 4,100 yards swimming

Fav workout: BACK SQUATS!!!

Hardest workout: That mountain.

Quote of the week: “It’s uphill both ways.”

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

Soft and tender slow-cooked chicken breast with a thick and creamy masala sauce seasoned with bold Indian spices. So rich, hearty and easy with NO prep work, you will want to make it over and over again.

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala: NO prep, easy, healthy & gluten-free

Ummmm, I don’t think I’ve cooked a single meal in the last week and a half. Today I tried to meal plan for the week and I looked at my calendar and asked my husband if we still had leftover chili in the fridge. He said that we did, and that was the end of that conversation since I don’t think I’ll be home before 8pm again all week. Tech week for my middle school musical and peak training week. I’m gonna be a lot of fun, let me tell ya.

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala: NO prep, easy, healthy & gluten-free

Sometimes life just gets totally crazy, and my crockpot is seriously my life saver. I don’t know how people live without them. I’m all about the no prep work required recipes. Browning meat? No thank you. I literally want to throw everything in 10 minutes before I leave for work and come home to delicious food. Is that too much to ask?

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala: NO prep, easy, healthy & gluten-free

I very rarely find someone else’s recipe and want to make it 100% as written. It’s just not me. I can almost always think of something I want to try to make it my own, or a healthier substitution, but every once in a while something catches my eye that looks perfect just the way it is, and that is how I felt when I saw this recipe on Anetta’s blog.

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala: NO prep, easy, healthy & gluten-free

With less than 10 minutes of working time and the bold, perfectly spiced flavor, this healthy, protein-packed meal is a must make, and something I will be making over and over again. I doubled the recipe and it was one of those times where I was legit excited to eat the leftovers for the rest of the week. I served mine with brown rice and added a little fresh lime juice and sriracha on top, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Make sure to check out Anetta’s blog for this fabulous recipe! PS: There’s also a super great note and lesson about using Greek yogurt as a thickener without it curdling–copying it ALL THE TIME now!

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Ultra soft and tender banana bread swirled with cinnamon brown sugar and topped with a crunchy cinnamon sugar crust. This banana bread is so irresistible, you’d never guess it’s healthy, vegan & gluten-free!

cinnamon swirl banana bread.jpg

I have this problem. When I like something, I really like it. Like the can’t get enough, want to revolve my entire life around it kind of like it. It’s kinda like how if we become friends and I think you’re really cool, I just want to hang out with you all the time and never leave your side. Some people call that “creepy”. I just call it being an extrovert and knowing what/who I like. ;)

bananabread-26

You may remember that I kinda recently discovered that I like banana bread, and now it’s become that thing I can’t get enough of. Sometimes I purposely don’t eat my bananas so that they can get to that too-ripe stage where I am left with no choice other than making banana bread. It’s kind of a problem.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread1.jpg

I keep trying to decide which one is my favorite, but that’s like asking who I love more: Winston or Clementine. I can’t do it. I will say, however, that the “crust” on this loaf makes it incredibly special and unlike any banana bread I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t even intentional. I had extra cinnamon sugar left over, and I threw it on top. It was one of those perfect surprises–I took it out of the oven and the top was sweet and crunchy while the rest was perfectly tender and pillowy soft.

bananabread-33

I happened to have a little extra of this molasses dulce de leche glaze lying around when I made it, so to make things even more ridiculous, I drizzled some on top. It totally doesn’t need it, but if you want to add a little extra umph, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Either way, you’ll find yourself going back for “Just one more slice…” until the loaf magically disappears. ;)

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 12-16

Serving Size: 1 slice

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Ultra soft and tender banana bread swirled with cinnamon-sugar and topped with a crunchy cinnamon sugar crust. This banana bread is so irresistible, you'd never guess it's healthy, vegan & gluten-free!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash salt
  • 3 extra ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • For the cinnamon brown sugar swirl/crust:
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5" loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the cinnamon brown sugar swirl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together baking blend, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together bananas, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla until well combined. Stir in half the flour mixture, then almond milk, then remaining flour mixture.
  4. Pour half of the batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon brown sugar mixture on top. Pour remaining batter and top with remaining cinnamon brown sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 50-60 minutes. Set loaf pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. If desired, serve topped with molasses dulce de leche glaze
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