Oct 262014
 

My definition of “pizza night” has evolved quite a bit over the years. As a kid, it usually meant a joyous visit from the domino’s delivery guy. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the magic of making your own pizza. I started off simple, with margarita pizza, maybe a few mushrooms if I was feeling crazy. Over the years I’ve made some burnt pizzas, some soggy ones, and even set off a few smoke alarms (don’t worry, no one was harmed in the making of this blog post). But ladies and gentleman I think I have finally found my pizza groove. Since mastering the process, I’ve gotten a little fancier with the ingredients, and this may be my favorite creation yet.
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This recipe highlights two of my favorite fall ingredients–apples and brussel sprouts. The process to make this beautiful fall pizza is actually way easier than you may think. First you saute some shallots, garlics, and shredded brussel sprouts, seasoning them with some salt, pepper, and lemon juice. You top your partially cooked pizza crust with the shredded brussel sprouts, top with sliced apples, sprinkle with cheese, finish cooking, and finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and some toasted nuts.
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A few keys to success for making this pizza (and any pizza).
1. The crust. If you can, find a pizzeria that makes whole wheat pizza and will sell you the dough. In not, whole foods and other grocery stores usually sell it.
2. A hot oven. Like, really hot. Basically turn it up as high as it goes, or about 450-500 degrees. You want to let your pizza stone or baking pan get hot in the oven before putting the pizza on it. This will help ensure your crust is crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.
3. Don’t get sauce happy. Too much or too watery of a pizza sauce will result in soupy pizza. I’ve been loving pizza like this one that really don’t have a sauce at all, and just get their moisture from the toppings and some olive oil. Tomato sauce is fine too, but try to get one that is thick and not watery, don’t don’t use too much.
4. The toppings. Good quality cheese, veggies, and pretty much anything you can think of. Don’t get trapped in the margarita pizza box. This recipe has the perfect combination of sweet and savory, and a great mix of textures. Get creative and have fun!
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Nutrition highlights: While take out pizza can derail a healthy diet, making your own doesn’t have to. By using whole wheat crust, you get additional fiber, and by making it yourself you can be sure to roll it out very thin. This recipe also has a ton of nutrients and fiber that come from the brussel sprouts and apples. Making your own pizza also means you have control over the amount and type of cheeses you use. Instead of covering the whole pie, just sprinkle a little bit on–you still get the melty cheesy flavor without drowning in high fat cheese. When you make your own pizza, don’t forget to make a big salad to go with too, and stick to only two small slices and all the salad you want! I’m still working on that part…
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Apple & Brussel Sprout Pizza
makes 1 medium pizza (about 3 servings)
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What’s in it:
Whole wheat pizza dough (a ball about the size of a grapefruit)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups of shredded brussel sprouts
1-2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large apple, thinly sliced
4-6 oz of cheese (I used 2 oz goat cheese and about 3 oz shredded mozzarella)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped pecans (or pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts)
Balsamic glaze, to drizzle (be sure to use balsamic glaze and not just vinegar, unless you reduce it first)

How to make it:
1. Make the brussel sprout mixture. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for about a minute until fragrant. Add the shredded brussel sprouts and lemon juice, and saute, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Set brussel sprout mixture aside. *can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to use
2. When ready to make the pizza, heat your oven to 450 or 500, and leave your pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven while it pre-heats. Be sure to let your pizza dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before starting.
3. On a piece of parchment paper, press and stretch your pizza dough until it’s at the desired thickness.
4. Once oven is preheated, remove your pizza stone from the oven. Sprinkle it with rough corn meal (or flour if you don’t have it) so the dough doesn’t stick to the stone. Transfer the pizza dough from the parchment onto the stone. Return to the oven and cook for about 3-5 minutes until the dough is beginning to brown.
5. Remove the stone from the oven and assemble your pizza. Spread evenly with the cooked shredded brussel sprouts, then a layer of apple slices. Sprinkle with the cheese and top with chopped pecans. Return to the oven and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
6. Remove from the oven and let the pizza sit for a few minutes before eating. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, slice, and enjoy!
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Now THAT is how you pizza.
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Aug 172014
 

Something terrible happened today. I was walking down the streets of New York City, minding my own business, and something fell from the sky. It was a leaf. But not just any leaf–a brown leaf. I looked up, and spotted a whole tree full of leaves trading their vibrant greens for dull browns. Um, excuse me fall, it is August 17th, you are not welcome yet. In protest, I did the only thing I knew how to do–bought a watermelon, the epitome of summer in my mind. And then I cut it into adorable little cubes and stuffed it with burrata, because why not.
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Other than highlighting this amazing watermelon, the other big plus to this recipe is that it is incredibly easy. Cube the watermelon, dig out a little burrata crevice, fill said crevice with burrata, and top with a tiny bit of lemon zest and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You can serve it just like that as a classy appetizer, or top mixed greens with the cubes and serve it as a salad.
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Nutritional Highlights: You know that signature bright pink/red “watermelon color”? Well it’s not just pretty, it also is a sign of it’s high lycopene content–an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and prevent a number of chronic disease in the body. It is also high in vitamin C and low in calories due to it’s high water content (about 46 calories per cup). Another unusual fact about watermelon is that it has a good amount of citrulline, an amino acid that is converted into arginine in the body (another amino acid). Through a lot of boring sciencey steps, our body produces something called nitric oxide synthase (NOS) which may cause blood vessels to expand, reducing blood pressure. To up the protein/calcium and enjoyment factors of this dish, I added just a tiny bit of burrata to each watermelon cube–you won’t regret it.

And here’s a photo of the whole meal–spicy sriracha-lime grilled shrimp, panko crusted zucchini-corn saute, and of course the watermelon-burrata salad. Not a bad dinner, if I do say so myself.
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Watermelon-Burrata Cubes with Lemon Zest
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What’s in it:

  • 1/2 watermelon, cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
  • 8 oz burrata (or another soft cheese like goat cheese)
  • zest from one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • balsamic glaze/reduction

How to make it:
1. Prepare your watermelon by cutting into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. Using a small spoon or knife, scoop out a small hole in the center of the cube to make it a cup. Be careful not to scoop all the way through to the bottom.
2. Fill each watermelon cube with a small scoop of the soft center of the burrata or goat cheese.
3. Top each cube with a piece or two of lemon zest and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. If serving as an appetizer on their own, arrange the cubes on a platter and drizzle with balsamic reduction or glaze. If serving as a salad, arrange cubes on a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
5. Enjoy this refreshing summer appetizer/salad while you still can!!
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Aug 072014
 

Does anyone else find that when you’re super busy you are the most productive, and when you have plenty of free time your lazy alterego comes out? I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. By “not busy”, I mean I ONLY have a full time job and am not in any classes. The concept of going home after work is pretty foreign to me, but with all this freedom to do anything I want, I’ve found that what I really want to do is nothing at all. I have plenty of time to clean, but yet there’s a pile of clothes growing in the corner of my closet that my neat-freak fiance can’t see. Plenty of time to pick up a good book, but yet I’m watching marathons of Chopped and Say Yes to the Dress (yes, the bridezilla is growing stronger). So that’s why my posting has been a little sparce this summer, but don’t worry I’ll be making a comeback soon. And I have to say these summer corn and zucchini fritters are a pretty good way to start.
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Good corn is one of the best parts of summer. These corn “fritters” (and I use quotes because they are far from fried) are the perfect combo of sweet, spicy, herbal, crunchy, and tender. They can be served as an appetizer with a little avocado or crema on top, or over a salad, or just straight out of the pan because you can’t wait to pop a few. Good news is they are also super easy to make and start to finish only take about 30 minutes. Hooray for lazy summer Marissa having more time to watch bad TV!
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Nutritional Highlights: Corn sometimes gets a bad reputation. If you’ve read any of Michael Pollen’s books, you were probably surprised to learn that almost everything we eat is somehow made of corn–our farm animals are fed it and almost all our processed foods and drinks are made out of it. But yet we don’t eat nearly enough of the really great kind…fresh corn right off the cob. Although some carb averse people see this as a scary starchy food (which it is to some extent), it’s a healthy carbohydrate that provides a good amount of fiber which benefits the GI tract and helps control blood sugar spikes. It also has several antioxidant phytochemicals, which help reduce inflammation and help protect us from many chronic diseases. This recipe highlights this ingredient in both a healthy and craveable way. While typical fritters are deep fried, these are crisped up in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil spray. They also have added veggies and herbs such as shredded zucchini, scallions, and cilantro which add to it’s nutrients. They can easily be made gluten free by choosing a GF flour. This is a healthy summer app or side that will please both your overachieving and lazy sides.
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Sweet Corn & Zucchini “Fritters”
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What’s in it:
2 cups fresh corn cut from the kernels (about 2-3 kernels)
1 zucchini, shredded
2 green onions/scallions
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
optional: 1/2 – 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour of choice (whole wheat or gluten free types encouraged)
2 eggs (1 whole egg and 1 white only)
Juice from one lime plus 1/4 teaspoon zest
Olive oil or canola oil spray, for frying
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How to make it:
1. Shred the zucchini and put it in the center of a few layers of paper towel. Squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid and set aside.
2. Combine the first 8 ingredients (through the pepper) in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, flour, beaten eggs, and lime juice/zest and stir gently until just combined.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over medium/high heat. Spray the pan with oil and add the corn mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons per fritter). Using a spoon, flatten the fritters a bit so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cook for about 3 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Spray the uncooked side of the fritter with a little oil, flip, and cook for another 3 minutes.
4. Set the cooked fritters aside and cook the remaining batter in as many batches as you need.
5. Enjoy these amazing little summer un-fritters in any way you like!
– topped with a slice of avocado and extra cilantro or pico de gallo
– drizzled with lime crema (light sour cream or greek yogurt mixed with lime juice and zest)
– in a salad with your favorite summer veggies
– or straight out of the pan because they’re so good!!
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Jul 252014
 

Sometimes the best dishes appear when I pick up a random ingredient with no plan in mind as to how to use it. This is one of those times. I’ve been noticing beautiful black figs at the grocery store lately, so I decided to pick up a box and think of a way to use them. I love the flavor of figs paired with the sweet/acidic flavor of balsamic vinegar, so I made two dishes using this combination.
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Both of these dishes could not be easier. All I did was halve the figs, brush with EVOO and a tiny pinch of salt, and grill for a few minutes. For the “sundae”, I used store bought greek frozen yogurt (of course you can make your own too) and topped with the grilled figs and the balsamic reduction. This is the perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts. If you’re like me and DO love overly sweet desserts very very much, no worries, you’ll still like it. It’s a perfect light summer dessert and putting balsamic reduction on frozen yogurt makes you feel like a grown up.
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The salad was delicious in it’s simplicity as well. To the same grilled figs, I added mixed greens, sliced peaches, roasted almonds, shaved manchego, and topped with balsamic reduction. It was sweet and savory and super fresh with just enough acidity.
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Nutritional Highlights: Figs are a great source of fiber and potassium, and even though most people eat them dried, they’re even more delicious and healthy when you eat them fresh. These grilled fig dishes are both incredibly healthy, and highlight the natural sweetness. This sundae is way better for you than your average chocolate whip cream covered vat of deliciousness. I used fat free greek frozen yogurt which is lower in sugar, fat, and higher in protein than ice cream. Balsamic reduction and figs are much lower calorie and sugar toppings, sadly, than hot fudge and sprinkles. The salad is also incredibly healthy, getting a little extra protein from the almonds and even though higher in fat, I shaved the manchego very thinly so you get the bold flavor without adding too much.
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Grilled Figs & Balsamic Reduction – Two Ways
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You really don’t even need recipes here, but I’ll give you the synopsis

For the grilled figs: Halve your fresh figs and spray or lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt. Grill on a medium-hot grill cut side down for about 3-4 minutes or until slightly charred and softened.

For the balsamic reduction/syrup: Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced significantly in volume (to 1/3 cup). Let cool completely.

To make a salad: Toss your favorite greens with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and top with grilled figs, fresh peach slices (I did this mostly for color, so you can just let the figs stand alone), a few roasted salted almonds, and shaved manchego. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction. You can also swap goat cheese for the manchego, or any nut for the almonds.

To make a sundae: Use store bought or homemade vanilla greek frozen yogurt (or ice cream if you musttt) and top with a few grilled figs, chopped toasted nuts, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Enjoy some figs outside of the newton for once!

May 042014
 

Mexican food is probably my all time favorite genre of food. I know it is a bold statement, but Mexican food has so much going for it. First of all, avocados can be involved in just about every dish, and this is a great thing. Plus, there’s always a great mix of bold flavors, colors, textures, and ideally an aggressive kick. Obviously, with Cinco de Mayo approaching, I was not going to miss an opportunity to make something fiesta-worthy. After wandering the isles of whole foods with absolutely no game plan, somehow I ended up making these absurdly delicious spicy baked plantain chips with tropical fruit and avocado salsa.
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The plantain chips were very simple, seasoned with olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. The salsa was also simple and fresh–a mix of avocado, mango, strawberries, serrano chile, red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is the perfect appetizer for your Cinco de Mayo party. Or really any of the days of Mayo. Or Junio or Julio o Agosto. You get it.
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I had never worked with plantains before, but you should know that even though they look like a green banana, they are really more like a potato in flavor and texture. They have a slight sweetness but are very starchy, which is why they make an excellent and super crunchy chip. They don’t peel as easily as a banana, but if you just run a knife down one side through just the skin, you can peel it off relatively easily.
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Nutritional Highlights: This app is definitely a big health improvement from your regular chips and guac. Instead of fried tortilla chips, these are baked with only a little bit of oil. Plantains are high in fiber, vitamin B, A, and C, and potassium. The salsa is also super healthy–with tons of vitamins and antioxidants from mango and salsa, and healthy fat from the avocado. Your favorite guac and salsa at a mexican restaurant may be loaded with salt and leave you bloated and thirsty, but I didn’t even have to add any salt to this salsa, since it was so flavorful on it’s own! Added bonus–this recipe is gluten free and vegan!
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Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
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For the chips:
2 green plantains
2 T olive oil
1 T chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the salsa:
1/2 large mango, chopped
6 strawberries, chopped
1/2 avocado, cubed (or the whole avocado if it’s small)
1 small serrano chile, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped cilantro
Juice from 1/2 lime (or more to taste)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using a paring knife, cut a slit down one side of the plantain, just through the skin. Use your fingers to peel off the skin. Slice as thinly as possible on a diagonal, or use a mandolin to make thin chips.
2. Toss the sliced plantains with olive oil and spices. Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and spread the plantains in a single layer. Spray a little additional oil spray on top to help them get crispy and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the chips after 8 minutes and watching carefully toward the end as they can easily burn. Once they are browned and crispy, you are good to go!
3. While the chips are baking, make the salsa by simply combining all the ingredients. You can also make this in advance and refrigerate.
4. Let the chips cool and serve along with the salsa. Enjoy!

Note: these are best eaten right away but can be saved a day or two (although they will lose some of their crispiness).
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Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)
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Mar 282014
 

Ok, I finally gave in. Cauliflower pizza crust has been everywhere recently, and I have been a little hesitant to give it a shot for a few reasons. First of all, pizza is sacred. I’m all about healthifying recipes, but I have issues with messing too much with anything as perfect as pizza. Second, I honestly wasn’t totally convinced it would work, and even more unsure that it would be tasty. Luckily, I can say that I was proved wrong on all counts, and all the pizza ancestors would be proud.
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This recipe also turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. But, if you remember one thing from this post, remember this- the key to success is squeezing out every last drop of liquid from the cooked cauliflower. Once you’re sure you’ve gotten it all, TRY AGAIN. This is what will help keep your crust intact and look like this…
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Nutritional Highlights: Now I’m not sure this will totally replace pizza for me, but I do think it’s a great option for those with gluten intolerance or are reducing carb intake. I was impressed that basically a whole head of cauliflower went in to this recipe and you would never know it…it’s a great way of sneaking extra veggies into your diet. I made the already healthy recipe even healthier by adding some chia seeds and flax seed for extra fiber, because why not? Now here’s my slight issue with the concept—I’m not sure that pizza, which is typically covered in cheese, needs ADDITIONAL cheese in the crust. Even though you’re swapping out carbs you are increasing fat. So, because of this I decided not to add additional cheese on top of my pizza, but instead used hummus as the sauce and topped with spinach, olives, and sundried tomatoes. You can really top your pizza with anything, but I’d try to go easy on the cheese if you are using this crust recipe!
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“The Best” Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Makes one approx. 10-12 inch pizza
Adapted from The Lucky Penny Blog
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What’s in it:
1 small to medium sized head of cauliflower – should yield 2 to 3 cups once processed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 T Italian Seasoning Teaspoon
optional a few shakes of crushed red pepper
option: 2 teaspoons of chia or flax seed (or both)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
1 egg

Desired amount of sauce, cheese for topping, and other toppings.

How to make it:
1. Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking oil.

3. Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Don’t get one the size of your head unless you are planning on making 2 pizzas. Cut off the florets, you don’t need much stem. Just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food
processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower.

4. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Microwave
for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.

5. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring the heck out of it. You want to squeeze out as much water as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly
mess. KEEP SQUEEZING!!

6. Dumped cauliflower into a bowl. Now add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 teaspoon
kosher salt, 1 T Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon garlic
powder (not garlic salt), and a dash of red pepper if you want. I also added 1 teaspoon each of flax and chia seeds for extra fiber/texture

7. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your oiled parchment paper. Pat it down throughly, you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don’t make it too thick or thin either. Using a cutting board slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven.

8. Add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want and
cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.

9. Let it cool for two minutes (if you can contain yourself) and enjoy!

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I dare you to try not to eat the entire thing yourself…
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Jan 292014
 

As a person who is pretty ambivalent about the sport of football, you might be surprised to hear that I LOVE the Super Bowl. It’s not because of the commercials or even the halftime show (although these both beat the main attraction in my eyes). It’s about the excuse to eat as much junk food as you want to for approximately 5 hours straight. I know, I know, this is not what a future nutritionist should be saying, but you have to admit it’s pretty fun. Still, even more fun is making healthier versions that feel like junk food, like these UNREAL Buffalo Quinoa Bites. Approved by football and non-football fans alike.
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Nutritional Highlights: Americans consume more calories on the Superbowl than any other day, INCLUDING Thanksgiving. I guess it makes sense, since at least on Thanksgiving you might eat A vegetable. One superbowl staple, buffalo wings, has over 200 calories in just 3 little wings (and let’s be honest you’re going to eat a lot more than 3). This version is not only vegetarian, and packs a ton of protein and fiber from the quinoa and white beans to make you too full to eat the rest of the bad stuff. Instead of blue cheese dressing which usually has a high fat mayo or sour cream base, mine is mostly greek yogurt. Best of all, I found these totally addictive and didn’t miss the chicken or deep fried-ness at all…and neither did my initially very skeptical finance.
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Buffalo Quinoa Bites with Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce
makes 24 quinoa bites
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For the bites:
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cannellini bean mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, finley chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hot sauce (ie franks), + a bit more for topping
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup low fat shredded cheese, + a bit more for topping
Serve with: additional chopped scallions, blue cheese yogurt dressing, and carrot/celery sticks

How to make them:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients
3. Add a spoonful of the buffalo quinoa to each mini muffin cup and press down firmly.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, adding the extra cheese for the last 5 minutes. Remove and cool for a few minutes before removing.
5. Top with a few extra scallions and an extra hit of hot sauce if you’re crazy like me. Serve warm with the blue cheese dressing and enjoy!
*Any leftovers? I have been putting these in salads all week for lunch at work and it’s pretty life changing. Just saying.

For the Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce:
1 6oz container nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely crumbled blue cheese (I actually used gorgonzola because I prefer it and it was great)
½ tspn garlic powder
½ tspn onion powder
salt and black pepper to taste

How to make it: Mix all those things. The end.
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Here’s to Super Bowling without Super Sizing 😀