Pretty Things: May 2017

Pretty Things: May 2017

1.  H2o Plus:  Sea Salt Collection. I have been waiting to share this product for months because it didn’t feel right sharing a sea salt spray in the middle of winter.  I found this stuff last year on clearance because they were changing their packaging, and now I’m hooked.  I was worried when I bought it that the “clearance” sticker meant they were discontinuing it– thankfully that wasn’t the case.  There’s a whole line of sea salt products, but the spray is my favorite.  It’s an alternative to moisturizer during the hot months, and it smells like the beach.  Not in a fake banana-coconut sunscreen way, but in a real authentically beachy way.  It’s so refreshing.  I also used it in my hair.bodygloss_hero_h20plus


2. Alton Brown: Pickled Watermelon Rind.   Alton Brown is kind of a mad scientist when it comes to food. I love the idea of pickled watermelon rind for several reasons.  First, I usually throw away the rind, but it would be cool to turn it into something new.  Second, I love pickles.  And third, I love watermelon (but who doesn’t??)alton-brown-watermelon-pickles


3.  Heather Christo:  Cilantro, Corn, Potato, and Poblano Chowder.  The colors in this soup are so beautiful!  If you’ve never checked out Heather’s blog, it is one of the most inventive and unusually photographed I’ve come across.  Many of her recipes are vegan or gluten free, and the are all made with allergies in mind.  Everything she makes really is this pretty.27136811955_17eceecccb_b


4.  A Cozy Kitchen:  Spicy Cucumber Margarita.  If you’ve never tried a cucumber drink, you should!  I love infused cucumber water, cucumber soda, and cucumber sparkling water.  I also love jalapenos and margaritas.  Since Cinco de Mayo is coming soon, it’s a perfect time to buy some tequila and try something new!margarita.jpg


5.  Bobby Flay:  Grape Focaccia.  Grapes are at their best between May and September (even though I tend to buy them all year).  I love focaccia because it’s airy and crispy while also being chewy and doughy –kind of like a round baguette, I guess?  But much more flavorful because of the salt and olive oil.  This grape focaccia would be perfect on a warm night with some wine and a good salad.cq5dam.web.400.300.jpeg


6.  Soap Queen:  Soothing Floral Bath Salts.  Every time I find a new homemade beauty product, I always swear it’s the prettiest one I’ve seen so far.  And this one is no exception.  This would be a really gorgeous homemade gift for a good friend.Floral-Bath-Salts-Tutorial.jpg


7.  How Sweet Eats:  Summer Skillet Gnocchi.  Look at the char on the corn!  And the basil!  And the cheese!  Something about Jessica’s recipes make me want to use exclamation marks.  Her pictures seem to jump off the page, and this is basically like summer in a bowl.  And in May, I’m pretty much behaving as if it’s summer anyway.summer-gnocchi-I-howsweeteatscom-6.jpg


8.  Giada de Laurentiis:  S’mores Pizzette.  However, if it’s still a little too chilly to hang outside at night, you can always make these s’mores when you feel the need.  It’s all done indoors, and would be a perfect treat for a kid’s sleepover. 20170108_163630_10358_3095.jpeg


Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili

Turkey chili is one of the first things I cooked in a Crock Pot.  Chili is definitely one of my favorite things to make in the cooler months, and I love customizing it.  I make lots of types of chili:  crunchy taco chili, white bean chili, vegetarian chili, and  steak and beer chili.  But turkey chili is the kind I make most often because you use an inexpensive meat, and there is almost no work involved. 

I love food with lots of color and texture, so I use as many types of beans and veggies as possible. 

  I love substituting stuff in chili.  Just like with the salsa, you can substitute taco sauce or Rotel tomatoes.  Whatever you have that saves you from making another trip to the store.  I’m writing this recipe as if I were making my ideal turkey chili and have exactly the ingredients I want.

This time I used fresh bell peppers because I had some in the fridge, but you can also use the frozen pepper stir fry if that’s easier.  It has peppers and onions, so no chopping at all. 

For garnishes, I love a variety.  My favorite healthy ones are a dollop of Greek yogurt, salted avocado, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, or diced tomatoes (or pico de gallo).  I also love tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream if I’m not counting calories.  But who am I kidding, I am always counting calories. 

[Note:  I wrote this recipe in Sept. 2016.  I held it over because I hated the photos.  Then I re-did the photos with my point-and-shoot and thought they were much better.  Then I finally got a “real” camera, and now I don’t like these photos anymore, but I’m just tired of sitting on this recipe because it IS delicious!]


Total Time:  6-8 hoursimg_6258

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 onion

1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey

2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 ½ tablespoons of cumin

1 ½ tablespoons of chipotle powder

2 teaspoons of paprika

2 teaspoons of garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 can of dark red kidney beans

1 can of black beans

1 can of pinto beans

1 can of whole kernel corn

1 16 ounce can of tomato sauce

16 ounces of salsa

1-2 cups of water

1-2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes



  1. Dice the bell peppers and onion into a medium, chunky dice.  Add to the Crock Pot.
  2. Add the ground turkey on top of the vegetables.
  3. Add the Calabria chili paste and all the dried spices.
  4. Drain and rinse all the beans, and add to the pot.
  5. Add the tomato sauce. Add the corn and the liquid from the can to the pot.  Add the salsa.
  6. Add the water and bouillon, 1-2 cups or cubes depending on how thick or soupy you want it.
  7. Cook for 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Remove cover to stir and break apart turkey a few times while it’s cooking.
  8. Serve with your favorite garnishes.






Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

This is the lightened up version of my Stuffed Pepper Casserole.  The casserole is already pretty healthy, but the soup is even healthier.  And it’s just as filling.  I like to flavor stuffed pepper things with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.  I know stuffed peppers aren’t a Greek recipe, but I feel like the flavors of the soup need to be bold and savory, but not necessarily spicy. 

I didn’t start using Worcestershire sauce regularly until about a year ago.  If you’re cooking a meat or dinner dish, and it’s missing something, but you’re not sure what…add some Worcestershire sauce.  It’s especially good with beef.  Since I don’t eat beef very often, I use it when I’m mimicking beef flavors (like in this soup). 

Traditional stuffed peppers are filled with rice, but I just felt like doing something different.  I use quinoa in this soup, but you can always use rice if you want to.  For this recipe, I’m using my 5 ½ quart French oven, but you can definitely adapt it to a slow cooker!  Add all the ingredients in the same order I’ve listed below, and cook for 6 hours on high, stirring once or twice.

I always serve Stuffed Pepper Soup with hot sauce, grated cheddar or mozzarella, and sour cream.


Total Time:  2 hours (but longer is better)featured

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



Extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ red bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

1 medium sized onion, diced small

2 large (or 3 small) garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 pounds lean ground chicken

1 cup quinoa

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

24 ounces marinara sauce

48 to 60 ounces water

2 tablespoons of beef bouillon powder



  1. Heat a French oven over medium heat. Add olive oil.
  2. When you can smell the oil, add the diced bell peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and dried thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the ground chicken. Brown the chicken while breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the quinoa, Worcestershire sauce, marinara sauce, water, and bouillon powder.
  6. Bring the soup up to a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 ½ hours (but longer is better).
  8. Serve hot with grated cheddar or mozzarella, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

This is my first recipe featuring vanilla bean paste, and I have to say, it’s something I’ve been dying to cook with.  I didn’t even bother looking in stores for it because, when it comes to specialty foods, Amazon always has the products I’m looking for.  This is the kind I bought.  Vanilla bean paste is a blend of vanilla beans, vanilla extract, water, and sugar.  Vanilla bean is one of my top 3 favorite dessert flavors (along with lemon and chocolate). 

I like this paste for several reasons.  First, it’s cheaper than buying vanilla bean pods.  Vanilla bean pods are about $6 a piece.  You get about 50 times that many pods’ worth in one 4 ounce jar, and a whole jar is only $15.  Vanilla bean paste has a longer shelf life than vanilla bean pods.  Plus having it in a jar, as opposed to in beans, makes it way easier to use, so I have a reason to put that intense vanilla flavor into everything. 

From here out, expect many recipes using vanilla bean paste!  I just got my first Bundt pan, and I’m planning a vanilla bean and something (to be determined) flavored Bundt cake with vanilla bean glaze.  Doesn’t that sound good? 

For these oatmeal cups, you can substitute out any or all of the coconut flavors if you like, but I love coconut.  The recipe I adapted this from uses canola oil, regular milk, regular sugar, etc.  So you can do that in equal proportions if you like. 

I made these using reusable silicone muffin cups.  I like these because I think they’re cute, they’re reusable, and they won’t ever rip and leave paper in the muffin or cupcake.  Whether you use these or paper liners, muffin liners are a must for this recipe.

You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, and just heat them up for 30 seconds to 1 minute before eating.  If you like, add a little extra milk when serving to thin it out (I always like to do this). 


Total Time:  1 hour and 15 minutesgood

Yield:  18 Muffins

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 eggs

¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup unrefined coconut sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste 

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

3 cups old fashioned oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ sweetened flaked coconut

½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for topping



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line your muffin tin with 18 muffin liners.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to break the yolks apart.
  4. Add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and coconut sugar. Whisk together until the sugar has broken apart and dissolved.
  5. Add the applesauce, coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, salt, cinnamon, and ground flax. Whisk until combined.
  6. Add the oats, baking powder, flaked coconut, and slivered almond. Use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine.
  7. Add ¼ cup of the oatmeal mixture to each muffin cup.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from The Wholesome Dish)




Golden Chicken Noodle Soup

Golden Chicken Noodle Soup

I started to just make a classic Chicken Noodle Soup recipe tonight (my recipe is one I adapted from Ina’s classic recipe.)  But then I saw a creamy, orange hued version on Natasha’s Kitchen, and I decided to do my own take on it.  I didn’t actually read her recipe because I wanted to see what I could come up with on my own, but I was visually inspired.

I’d had the bell peppers in my fridge leftover from when I made Buffalo Chicken Soup a few days earlier.  Since I was seeing an orange/yellow theme, I decided to add the turmeric.  I didn’t want to take it too over the top, so I didn’t add anything too out there or spicy.  After all, it’s still chicken noodle soup– comfort food.  Usually for chicken noodle soup, I use either Basic Baked Chicken or a shredded rotisserie.  But I thought doing it in the slow cooker and shredding it myself would be better. 

Don’t add the pasta to the slow cooker at all.  I’ve done that before with other things and completely ruined dinner.  I think it’s best to keep it separate until serving (but you can store it all together).

Finish this soup off with some parmesan cheese and a slice of garlic toast.

Total Time:  8-9 hours; Hands On Time:  30 Minutes


Difficulty Level:  Easy

1 medium sized yellow onion, medium diced

3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 yellow bell pepper, medium diced

1 orange bell pepper, medium diced14708358_370431179962191_4579656665779348930_n

4 medium sized carrots, peeled and medium diced

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons of turmeric

¼ cup flour

10 sprigs of fresh thyme

10 cups of water plus corresponding amount of chicken base or bouillon

1 box of whole wheat rotini

Parmesan cheese

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Turn a 6 quart slow cooker to high.  Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, carrots, chicken, turmeric, flour, thyme, and chicken broth (or water and base or bouillon) to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook for 6-8 hours. Pull the chicken out, and shred it with tongs and a fork.  Add it back to the soup.
  3. Right before serving, cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  4. To serve, add a small handful of the pasta to an empty bowl, and pour the soup on top of it.
  5. Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Cranberry Almond Granola Squares

Cranberry Almond  Granola Squares

Granola bars are one of those things I never thought about actually making myself until about 2 years ago.  But it’s pretty easy, and it’s kind of neat to customize the flavors to something you could not find in a grocery store.

My favorite kind of granola bars (or cereal bars) are Fiber One Oats and Chocolate.  I eat at least one a day, and I’m going to post a homemade version at some point.  But I decided to try out the cranberry-almond-cardamom combo this time.

One of my favorite breakfast cereals in Post Cranberry Almond Crunch, and these bars were inspired by that cereal.

You can use regular sweetened dried cranberries for this.  I like to use reduced sugar Craisins because not only do they have fewer calories and less sugar, but they also have added fiber.  You can also use cinnamon instead of cardamom if that’s what you have.  I just thought it would be interesting to change it up a little.  Cardamom is similar to cinnamon, but a little more complex and a little spicier.  There is not much in here, but a little is all you need.


Total Time:  1 hour and 45 minutesa

Makes: 16 bars

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 cup chopped raw almonds

1 cup no sugar added Craisins

1 ¾ cup oats

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup almond butter

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Let it fit in with enough extra room for you to pull it out later.  This will keep the granola from sticking to your pan. **see note
  2. Spread the chopped almonds out evenly on a small sheet pan. Toast until just starting to brown (3-5 minutes depending on your toaster oven).  Watch them closely so they don’t burn.
  3. Add the almonds to a large mixing bowl. To that, add the Craisins, oats, cardamom, and salt.  Toss the ingredients together with a spoon, and set aside.
  4. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, add the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract. Whisk once or twice.
  5. Microwave the almond butter mixture in 30 second increments until runny. (Mine took 1 minute.)
  6. Drizzle the almond butter mixture over the oats. Toss together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until it’s completely incorporated.
  7. Pour the granola evenly into the pan, and spread it out with your spoon or spatula.
  8. To finish spreading it out, use a flat-bottomed drinking glass (or something similar). Alternately, you can also use your fingers with a sheet of parchment paper between you and the granola.
  9. Cover the granola, and chill in the fridge for at least 90 minutes.
  10. Slice into bars, and enjoy. ***see note

**Note:  If you can, weigh down the parchment paper with a second pan of the same size.  This will help it stay put better when you’re spreading out the granola.

***Note:  You can also individually wrap these in plastic wrap to take on the go.

(inspired by Cookie and Kate)


Vegan Southwestern Zucchini Sauté + 5 Lightened Up Super Bowl Recipes

Vegan Southwestern Zucchini Sauté + 5 Lighter Super Bowl Recipes

I have been making my Vegan Eggplant Sauté on and off for over 10 years, and it never occurred to me to change it around.  Then all the sudden I think how I can keep myself from getting bored by changing around the flavors.  This recipe is just as simple as the Vegan Eggplant Saute, but I’ve swapped around all the flavors.

Following the recipe, you’ll see a list of 5 lightened up, but still Super Bowl-worthy, recipes for game day.  I have never cared one way or another about the football, but I do like watching the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and I like the Super Bowl foods.  The rest is just background noise to me.


Southwestern Zucchini Sauté  (vegan, gluten free)

Total Time:  15 minutes

Serves:  1

Difficulty Level:  Easy



Cooking spray

1 large zucchini, medium diced

1 Original Vegan Boca Burger

1 pinch salt

1 pinch garlic powder

1 pinch chipotle powder or ground cumin

1 ice cube

½ cup salsa

Freshly chopped cilantro



  1. Add a quick spray of cooking spray to a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the zucchini, salt, garlic, and chipotle or cumin.  Sauté for a minute or so.  Add the ice cube, and cover.  Let it steam for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the Boca Burger until warm, about 1 minute. Dice into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Remove the zucchini from heat. Add the Boca Burger and salsa.  Mix together.
  5. Top with freshly chopped cilantro.



5 Lighter Super Bowl Eats

  1.  Skinny Taste:  Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeno Popper  Chicken Chili.  This is a mouthful!  I like all kinds of chili, vegetarian included.  I was going to list a vegetarian option, but I think a Super Bowl chili needs some kind of meat.  This one is a good middle ground and will make dieters and non-dieters happy.  Here are some of my other favorite chilis.  SlowCookerPaleoJalapenoPopperChickenChili-550x825.jpg


2.  The Mediterranean Dish:  Avocado Hummus and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Verde.  Another classic Super Bowl food is guacamole.  Here’s a lightened up version that you could serve with both chips and raw veggies.Avocado-Hummus-with-Salsa-Verde-Recipe-11.jpg


3.  A Beautiful Plate:  Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas.  I love roasted chickpeas!  The first time I had them was in this salad.  They are a great substitute for salty nuts, and you can switch up the flavor combinations in endless ways.salt-and-vinegar-roasted-chickpeas-1-11.jpg


4.  Dashing Dish:  Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers.  This is on my “must try” list, and of all the recipes I’ve seen for buffalo cauliflower, this one looks like a dead ringer for wings.  So, maybe you can’t forgo wings on Super Bowl Sunday in favor of cauliflower.  But maybe you can have both?IMG_4599.jpg

5.  BS In the Kitchen:  Paloma.  Tequila is my favorite kind of liquor, and the only kind I’ll ever have around the house.  The Paloma is similar to a margarita, but with grapefruit.  This version contains hardly any sugar, but relies mostly on the tart grapefruit and lime for flavor (plus tequila really has a great flavor too).  Each drink only has one teaspoon of sugar, but you could substitute stevia, or you could leave it out altogether.the-paloma-6