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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Oct 142014
 

Some people may be getting a little tired of the pumpkin spice EVERYTHING that is popping up everywhere, but let me tell you, I am NOT one of them. It’s finally fall–arguably the best season of all–so bring on the scarves, booties, brussel sprouts, apples and pumpkins. In the fall nothing is safe from being pumpkinized, and that’s exactly how it should be. Because I love pumpkin spice as much as the next 20-something female in New York City, I made this amazing and super healthy Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds.
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If I could eat a slice of pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream every day of October and November, I would. Unfortunately I was not blessed with a metabolism that allows me to do this, so I have to get creative. As a disclaimer, this is certainly less decadent than a traditional pumpkin pie and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend serving it to your guests on Thanksgiving, but I do think it’s the perfect every-day snack, breakfast, or dessert for you to enjoy all fall. It was also incredibly easy to prepare–simply whisk pumpkin puree with spices, vanilla, and a little maple syrup, and layer it with greek yogurt and your favorite toppings (like granola, nuts, dried cranberries, chia or toasted coconut).
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Nutritional Highlights: Let’s talk about pumpkin, pumpkin. I know we don’t usually think that the healthiest foods come out of cans, but this is an exception. Canned pumpkin puree is really great for you, and way way way less labor intensive than roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins (although if you do that, more power to ya). First of all, it only has about 90 calories in a whole cup (and for each serving of this recipe you’ll only be eating about 1/2 a cup). Additionally, it’s high in fiber (7g per cup) which means a lot of great things for your body–keeps you full, helps keep things moving (if you know what I mean), and may also reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling your cholesterol. It has a ton of vitamin A which is important for vision as well as normal cellular functioning in the whole body. In this recipe, we up the nutrition even more by adding greek yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, and chia seeds which are high in fiber. This is truly a guilt-free dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth, keep you full and energized, and help you cozy up to fall.
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Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds
makes 4 servings
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What’s in it:
1 15-oz can of pure pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons good quality maple syrup (less if you are watching sugar intake)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups non-fat greek yogurt (recommend plain but if you need extra sweetness vanilla would work)
Toppings: Low fat granola, chia seeds, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, toasted coconut

How to make it:
1. In a bowl, whisk the first 6 ingredients. For a chilled parfait, refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes or keep your can of pumpkin in the fridge before you begin.
2. Prepare your toppings. You can use any combination you like, but I mixed about 1/2 cup plain low fat granola with 1-2 tablespoons each of chopped pecans, chia seeds, dried cranberries, and toasted coconut. You can also just choose a granola that already has some of those ingredients.
3. Prepare your parfaits: Start with a scoop of the pumpkin mixture (about 1/4 cup), top with a layer of greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup), sprinkle with some of your toppings, top with another 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, and additional toppings. Repeat for the remaining parfaits, or if you’re just making one serving at a time, store the components separately until you whip up your next one.
4. Serve chilled and enjoy!!
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Yum. Enough said.
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Oct 052014
 

Spaghetti squash is one of those foods that I literally did not know existed until a few years ago. Odds are that I probably had seen it, and thought, what is this hard round thing doing in the produce aisle, as it is certainly not edible. Well, let me tell you, that me from a few years ago was very wrong and she has many regrets, because spaghetti squash is one of coolest veggies out there. So I’m making up for lost time by using it as much as possible–as the “pad” in a healthier pad thai I made last year, as the base for baked chicken parm and now in this Swiss-Chard and Parmesan Baked Spaghetti Squash.
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Part of the beauty of the spaghetti squash is how deceptively easy it is to make. The quickest option is to stab it a bunch of times and microwave for about 10 minutes, or you can halve it and roast it (I like the flavor and texture a little better with this method). Once it’s cooked, you can just scrape out the flesh and it turns into thin, noodle-like pieces. One spaghetti squash gives you TONS of “spaghetti” and you can use it in any recipe instead of traditional noodles. For this recipe, while my squash was roasting, I sauteed some garlic, shallots, and rainbow swiss chard, added lemon, parmesan, and salt/pepper, mixed in the cooked squash and then baked it for a few more minutes in the squash with some
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Nutrition Highlights: If you’re anything like me, when the weather starts to get cooler, you start to crave warm and comforting dishes. This recipe is a great alternative to your typical cheesey-noodley casserole. Spaghetti squash only has 30 calories per cup, where as spaghetti has 220. I’m not saying it’s the same as pasta, but it cuts a HUGE amount of calories and might be worth trying once in a while. It’s also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Swiss chard is an amazing green to incorporate into your diet when you’re getting a little bored of Kale and Spinach. It has a ton of different vitamins, but most notably, Vitamin K, which is important to help you clot blood properly in your body. It’s also one of only a few non-animal sources of calcium in the diet. I used just a hint of parmesan cheese which can be omitted if you’re trying to keep the recipe vegan (although the cheesey crust on the top is crucial in my opinion!).
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Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard & Parmesan
serves 4 as a side
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What’s in it:
Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash (cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard (rinsed and cut or torn into pieces)
4 green onions (chopped)
1/2 cup good parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray or drizzle the cut side of the squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and lay the spaghetti squash halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, you can microwave it to cut the time to only about 10 minutes).
2. While squash is cooking, work on the rest of the filling. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add about tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute. Add the swiss chard (you may need to add it in batches so there’s enough space, but don’t worry, it cooks down very quickly).
4. Once swiss chard has wilted, squeeze in the juice from 1/2 a lemon and season with salt and pepper. Set mixture aside.
5. Once squash is done, use a fork to scrape out all of the “noodles”. Mix it into the swiss chard, and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Turn the oven to broil. Fill the empty spaghetti squash halves with the mixture and top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Whole wheat bread crumbs and/or any type of nut would be delicious in the topping as well for more texture.
7. Broil for a few minutes until the parmesan has melted and the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Notes: In my photos, I have some toasted squash seeds as part of the topping. I didn’t recommend this because they got pretty soggy and tough to eat in the left overs. But a different toasted nut (pine nuts or hazelnuts perhaps) would be amazing!

*Feel free to get creative with this and add any ingredients you like! To make this a main course, add some chicken, quinoa, or chickpeas to add a little protein. I added some sundried tomatoes in when I ate the leftovers and that was delicious too!

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This is the perfect dish to welcome back fall!
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May 272014
 

If you’re a regular tush cook reader (hi, mom), you have probably noticed that I don’t make a whole lot of Indian food. It’s not that I have anything against it, but more that I find it a bit daunting. With other types of food, I feel like I understand the flavors enough to whip something up without a recipe, but I just don’t know where to begin with Indian spices. So why, you might wonder, was I inspired to make this dish? Well, a month ago my fiance left for India (am I that much of a bridezilla already?). Really it’s just for work, and thankfully he’s back in just a few days, but I still wanted to make something to feel a little closer to him while he’s halfway across the world. Without the food poisoning.
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One thing that I do love about Indian food is that most of it is vegetarian. Another big plus is that most of it is spicy and has bold flavors. This recipe was all of those things and more–loaded with veggies, just spicy enough, and incredibly comforting. The kind of comforting you need when your fiance leaves for a month!
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Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is both healthy and filling. It’s vegan and gluten free too! The lentils provide protein and fiber, and the greens (spinach or kale) and cauliflower give tons of vitamins. Garlic and onions are associated with heart health and ginger a happy GI tract (which I’m sure comes in handy when you’re traveling in India). There’s not a single unhealthy thing about this dish…well, aside from the quantity of naan I dipped in it while eating it.
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Coconut Red Lentil Dal with Roasted Cauliflower
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet
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What’s in it:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds (Note: if I made this again I would up it to 2 jalapenos)
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (10 oz)
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 14 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
3 cups packed dark green leafy greens, like kale or spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
Juice from 1-2 limes
Roasted cauliflower (see recipe below)
Optional Accompaniments: brown rice or whole wheat naan

How to make it:

1. Cover red lentils with water and allow to sit for about 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Strain before use.
2. In a large pot, heat 1 T oil and cook onion, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and chile and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. Stir in vegetable broth, drained lentils, diced tomatoes and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Squeeze in juice from one lime and taste. Season with additional salt or add more lime juice as desired.
5. Serve with roasted cauliflower and cilantro sprigs scattered on top. Enjoy!

For the Roasted Cauliflower:


Preheat oven to 450. Cut 1 small head cauliflower into floretes (or about 3 cups prepared floretes). Drizzle floretes with 1 T olive oil and season with salt and pepper (feel free to add any other spices as well). Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender and brown.
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Mar 092014
 

There are certain junk foods I’m OK with giving up, but mac and cheese is just never going to be one of those. Mac and cheese was a staple of my childhood–a special treat we got when we had a babysitter (along with grape soda). I’ve grown up a bit since then, and no longer frequent noodles from boxes or flourescently colored sodas, but I still do love some cheesy noodles. So I decided to make a version that was both more grown up and a little healthier. Perfect for adults, kids, and adult kids like me.
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Homemade mac and cheese is definitely an undertaking and does take some time and effort commitment, but the result is so much better. Plus, you can make a big batch that will feed a crowd and have leftovers to spare.
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Nutritional highlights: This recipe has some amazing swaps that majorly cuts down the calories and ups the nutritional factor. The easiest swap- whole wheat noodles to add fiber. The second, more sneaky, swap- some of the cheese and cream that would usually be in a mac and cheese sauce is replaced by pureed butternut squash, which maintains the creaminess without all the fat. While we’re talking sauce, this one only uses low fat milk instead of cream or whole milk in typical recipes. Finally, who said mac and cheese had to just be mac and cheese. Why not throw in some veggies. This one has roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, and kale to increase the nutrients a ton and fill you up with a lower noodle ratio.

And here’s a picture of the mac at my “grown-up comfort food” dinner party. Was definitely the highlight!
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Grown-up Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Mushrooms
Makes about 10 servings
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Ingredients
4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (either from 1 large squash or save yourself a lot of time with the pre peeled and cut kinds that a lot of stores have these days!)
16 oz Cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups fat-free or low fat milk (can also sub unsweetened non-dairy milks)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese, plus and extra handful for the topping (I chose Trader Joe’s Shredded Swiss and Gruyère blend)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound whole wheat macaroni or other small noodle
Olive oil, salt, pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Optional: red pepper flakes, dried thyme, and garlic powder for the topping

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Dice squash into small cubes (1/4-1/2 inch) and slice the mushrooms. Spread the veggies onto two baking sheets, toss with olive oil or oil spray, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven, tossing vegetables half way through, for about 20 minutes or until squash is soft and mushrooms are brown. The mushrooms may be done a bit sooner than the squash.

2. Boil the macaroni in a large pot according to directions, but for one less minute than the directions indicate. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, begin making your sauce. In a large pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high and add the minced garlic and shallots. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until onions begin to brown. Add the broth and milk, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When squash is done roasting, add all but 1 cup to the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. To blend the sauce, you can either transfer to a blender or use and immersion blender. I wanted mine a little chunky so I just mashed it in the pot with a potato masher. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the shredded cheese and half of the Parmesan. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

4. Add cooked macaroni, roasted mushrooms, remaining 1 cup squash, and chopped kale into the sauce. Mix until evenly coated and transfer it to a sprayed baking dish.

5. Combine the bread crumbs, remaining parmesan, a small handful of the shredded cheese, and any seasonings you like (I threw in a little thyme, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes along with plenty of salt and pepper). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over your mac and cheese.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately and enjoy!
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I’m not going to lie this is a a lot of work, but SO good.
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And while we’re doing recipe throw backs…here’s the little girl I was telling you about that loved her mac and cheese. And here’s that moment when you realize you might have peaked at age 3…oh well. Happy Throw Back Sunday!
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Jan 112014
 

This is definitely one of the craziest winters I’ve seen in a while. In New York it has gone from 10 to 60 degrees over the course of the week. When I checked on the weather in Chicago earlier in the week to see how my family was doing , it said the “real feel” was -41. How does one even feel that? Anyway, it was a perfect week to try out my new slow cooker. I came up with this Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Turkey Sausage soup, and it was the perfect thing to get me through this crazy week.
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Nutritional Highlights: This soup is pretty nutrient packed. Kale is an amazing source of fiber and calcium, white beans have more fiber and protein, and the turkey sausage give you a little extra lean protein. You could leave out the sausage for a vegetarian soup, but if you do that’d I’d up the seasonings a bit. Best part about it is it’s almost completely hands off…just brown the turkey and throw everything else as is into the slow cooker and let it rip. This soup will definitely keep you full, warm, and happy this winter.
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Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Turkey Sausage Soup
makes 5-6 servings
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What’s in it:
1 lb hot turkey (or chicken) italian sausage
1 small sweet onion (or 1/2 large), finely chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon italian herbs
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 14.5 oz cans white beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (more or less according to desired thickness)
6 cups roughly chopped kale
optional (but encouraged): 1 parmesan rind (I always save the ends of my parmesan to use in soups. Adds such great flavor!)

How to make it:
1. Remove turkey sausage from casings and brown in a skillet over medium high heat. Break it up into small pieces as it cooks. Once brown, drain off excess fat and transfer cooked meat into your slow cooker.
2. Add the remaining ingredients except the kale and stir to combine.
3. Turn on your slow cooker to the 6 or 8 hour setting depending on how much time you have.
4. An hour before it’s done, add in the kale. Also, taste and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper as needed (I didn’t think this needed salt since it got plenty from the canned ingredients and sausage).
5. Serve topped with parmesan and with crusty whole grain bread. Enjoy!
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Dec 222013
 

Around the holidays, everything is better covered in chocolate and peppermint. This is a fact. I was looking for a festive treat that wouldn’t take hours to make, and would feel decadent without putting me in a full blown sugar coma. So I came up with this Peppermint-Chocolate Popcorn (aka: christmas crack). IMG_7225 Nutritional Highlights: I popped my popcorn in a very small amount of oil in a pot, which is already WAY better than butter-loaded movie theater popcorn. Plus, it doesn’t have any of the weird chemicals in some of the bagged popcorns out there. Sure, I proceeded to drizzle it with white and dark chocolate and sprinkled it with crushed candy canes, but at least the base is natural, high fiber popcorn, right? One thing to keep in mind in general, is that fiber will slow your blood sugar spikes, so you won’t have quite a steep rise and crash as you would if fiber wasn’t in the picture. And we know that Santa needs to watch his blood sugar. IMG_7216
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Chocolate-Peppermint Popcorn (aka: Christmas Crack)
makes about 8-10 cups
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What’s in it:

1/2 cup popcorn kernals
2-3 tablespoons oil (coconut or vegetable oil work well)
sea salt to taste
1 6-oz bar of dark chocolate
1 6-oz bar of white chocolate
3 full sized candy canes, crushed (I put mine into a large plastic bag and used my rolling pin to let out some aggression)

How to make it:

1. Pop the popcorn: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add popcorn kernels and cover. Shake the pot occasionally so the kernels don’t burn. After a few minutes, the kernels will start a-poppin. Shake the pot often until the popping slows or stops.
2. Spread popped corn into an even layer on a large baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with plenty of sea salt.
3. In 2 small microwave safe containers, melt the white and dark chocolate separately, stirring every 30 seconds until it is melted.
4. Drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. You’ll want to work relatively quickly so the chocolate doesn’t fully harden before you sprinkle the candy canes.
5. Allow chocolate to harden at room temperature for at least a few hour or overnight (you can cover with tinfoil once it’s cool).
6. Break the popcorn into chunks and enjoy!

IMG_7227 Let me tell you, Santa will be extra generous this year if you leave some of this out by the chimney.