Category Archives: Quick dishes

Quinoa Pizza Bites (gluten-free!)

HAPPY HUMP DAY!  Man, for being such a busy week, I feel like we are moving at a glacial pace.  I’ll admit, I’ve been sneaking home from lab early this week to beat the cold (it has been 50 degrees in our building due to heating issues), but it has made for more time for recipe creations and pictures–which brings me to today’s recipe, Quinoa Pizza Bites!


I’ve been making these for quite some time now, but am just getting around to blogging about them.  They are great for so many reasons.  Pizza is one of my most frequent cravings—but I do not want to splurge on that many calories that often!  These pizza bites satisfy my craving, are gluten free, AND can be adapted for a vegetarian diets…heck, with the base of quinoa, egg, and cheese, you could come up with a lot of creative combinations! 

The other thing I love about these pizza bites is that they store well in the fridge and are great for grab-and-go lunches.  Other than cooking the quinoa, these are super quick to whip up and they pack a lot of protein thanks to the quinoa as the “crust”!

Quinoa Pizza Bites


1 heaping cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella shredded cheese

1/3 cup chopped  tomato (I used roma)

1/3 cup chopped onion (yellow or white, I’ve tried both)

1/2 cup cooked ground beef or turkey (can substitute mushrooms for the vegetarian folk!)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. parsley

1 tsp. pepper

1 beaten egg

Pizza sauce for dipping


Prepare quinoa according to directions on package preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, adding the egg last.  Mix thoroughly, as the egg is what holds the bites together! Press a heaping spoonful (about 2 tbsp) into a greased muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.  This recipe usually makes 9-10 bites.

photo 2


Helpful Hints:

**Sometimes, I add in one egg + one egg white if I feel my mixture isn’t sticking together before I put them in the muffin pan.

**I despise mushrooms, but my friends who are vegetarians RAVED about these when I made a batch with mushrooms instead of beef.  Veggie lovers, I think you could come up with some AWESOME combos!

And lastly, I’ll leave you with this embarrassing picture I took after I was trying to be creative with the pizza sauce. Pizza sauce does not drizzle as pretty as glaze! :)



Now you tell me…what would you put in YOUR pizza bites? And have you ever taken a food photography course?

friendsgiving + thanksgiving recipe roundup


Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! YAY! 

How was your weekend? My instagram feed was blowing up with friendsgiving celebrations and people seeing Catching Fire.  For the latter, I’m insanely jealous—did you like it?! I reread the book this weekend and am seeing it with my sister when I get home!

I kicked off Thanksgiving week with our own “friendsgiving” celebration here in Madtown.  We’ve all been super busy lately, so it was nice to spend an afternoon together drinking, eating, and watching football together!

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My roommate and I contributed cheesy potatoes….don’t even act like you are surprised. :)

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For a group of poor grad students, there was quite the spread!  Pretty sure that no one left hungry…

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Oh and our friends just adopted the cutest puppy ever.  Meet Willow! Is that not the most precious face you have ever seen?!2013-11-23 13.59.49

Lemme tell ya, graduation and my present to myself of adopting a dog cannot come soon enough!!

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving love.  For the past couple weeks, I’ve been scouring the depths of pinterest for Thanksgiving recipe ideas.  My family usually has a relatively similar menu each year (why screw up a good thing?!), but I just love turkey day so much I always enjoy procrastinating my work by find new recipes and ideas!  I rounded up some of my favorites for apps, sides, and desserts as possibilities for our table this year and thought I’d share them all with you.  Enjoy!



Veggie Turkey Appetizer (this is one of my all time favorite blog posts on here, i couldn’t leave it out!)

Crostini with proscuitto, goat cheese, and fig jam from The Italian Dish

Skinny artichoke dip from Iowa Girl Eats

Kale Ceasar Salad with Crispy Garbanzo Bean Croutons from Mountain Mama Cooks

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate, Bleu Cheese and Pistachios


Side dishes

Healthier Green Bean Casserole from Lean Green Bean

Texas Roadhouse Rolls + Cinnamon Butter from Chef in Training

Healthier Crockpot Mashed Potatoes from Healthy From Scratch

Cauliflower Risotto from Fool Proof Living

Healthier Cheesy Potatoes from Persnickety Plates

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pecans From Real Simple

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes from Sinful Nutrition

Snickers Salad


No Bake Peanut Butter Bars (super quick!)

Healthy Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars from Half Baked Harvest

Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Bars from The Picky Palate

Pumpkin Cheesecake Shooters from Skinnytaste


Now you tell me, what is your all time favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

Easy Bruschetta!


One of my favorite things about summer is that the grad school world tends to loosen it’s belt a little bit.  Sure, we still work everyday, but the absence of class and post-semester tension release brings time for fun summer sports, trips to the terrace, and my favorite- barbeques!

But being completely honest, while I love the lazy summer afternoon barbeques, I often procrastinate in the hours before barbeques and am stuck with the age old question: what can I bring to the grill out that I can make last minute?  I loathe just going out to the store and buying something, because it is so much more fun when it is homemade!  But when time is of the essence, I am torn.  Anyone else run into this?

Well this summer, I gotcha covered and there will be no need to run to the store for that last minute chips and salsa!  Bruschetta is a super quick, tasty appetizer that is perfectly light for summer get togethers. It takes less than 15 minutes to throw together and you can make as much as you want for a group or keep it simple for yourself.   Most of the ingredients (tomatoes, onions, and basil) can be found at your local farmer’s market for pretty cheap too!  Here’s how it goes:

Bruschetta Ingredients (for one):

1 roma tomato chopped

1 slice white onion (~2 tbsp) chopped

2 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1 small clove of garlic, minced

dash of oregano

1-2 large slice Italian bread cut in half

Bruschetta Ingredients (for a party):

7 roma tomatoes, chopped.

1 medium white onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped basil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. oregano

9-10 slices Italian bread, cut in half.

Directions (for all):

Slice Italian bread and place on a baking sheet.  Using the broiler setting on your oven, broil until top side is golden brown and flip to broil the other side.  This should take about 4-5 minutes for the first side (once oven has heated) and about 3 minutes for the second side.  WATCH CLOSELY AND OFTEN as different ovens heat differently!


Chop all other ingredients and mix well with spices in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate if serving later.  When ready to serve, scoop the mixture onto bread, and enjoy!

Makes 18-20 pieces/servings of bruschetta.


I want to hear from you!  What are some of your favorite go-to dishes for summer barbeques?

Crockpot Chicken Chili

First things first.  It’s beginning to look a lot little like Christmas!emilyschristmas

Yep, that’s how last Saturday night was spent for my roommate and I…homemade chili and cornbread, putting up our Christmas tree (straight up 1950’s metallic from my grandma’s basement), movies on demand…all in our sweats.  It was glorious.

And this chili?  chilifinal

AHHHHMAAAAZZZZIINNNNNNNG.  Seriously, I know I’ve said it about a lot of recipes I’ve been posting recently, but it is SO easy and delicious.  Thick, hearty, and the right amount of spice… just how I like my chili!  I also like using chicken instead of beef for a more lean option.  I adapted this recipe from skinnytaste to make it taste more like my mom’s and am so pleased with how it turned out.  I definitely am adding this to my regular rotation of crock-pot soups that I go to during the winter months!

Ingredients for crock-pot chicken chili:

1 can tomato sauce

1 can black beans

1 can chili beans in medium sauce

1 can diced tomatoes (with chilies, if you like)

1 can corn

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 packet taco seasoning

2-3 chicken breasts, raw, fat trimmed

Optional toppers:

reduced fat shredded cheese

reduced fat sour cream

corn bread (my faveeeeee!)


tortilla chips


In a large crockpot, combine all ingredients except chicken and mix well.  Place chicken in crockpot on top of other ingredients.  Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.  Remove chicken when done and shred.  Place back into crockpot and mix well.  Top with your favorite ingredients. Simple as that!!


Whole-wheat cornbread and honey…DELICIOUS.  Tortilla chips make good chili toppers too!



I love my crockpot.  You should love your crockpot. End of story.

Cheesy Chicken Crunchers


When my sister and I were kids and we’d go out to eat with our family, I can’t really remember if I had any certain pattern or tendencies to what I ordered.  My sister on the other hand, had one order and one order only.  For as long as I can remember, as long as the restaurant had her one thing on the kids menu, she was set.  Anyone have a guess to what it was?

Chicken tenders.  Rain or shine, night or day, that girl loved her restaurant chicken tenders. 

It wasn’t until we were older that our mom found the best recipe for homemade chicken tenders and it became a weekly regular for dinner.  Making them yourself may seem like a lot more work than buying the premade frozen kind, but it is totally painless and as a bonus, you actually KNOW what’s going into your chicken tenders!  WOOOOO!  Seriously, this is a super quick and easy recipe, it’s approved by all ages, and you  get to eat them with ketchup (i LOVE ketchup).  WIN.

Ingredients for Cheesy Chicken Crunchers

2 chicken breasts, fat trimmed

3 cups corn flakes

1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

1 egg + 2 egg whites or 1/2 cup egg beaters

2 tbsp. low-fat milk

1/2 cup flour

dash of pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut up chicken breasts into 1/2-1 inch strips



Crush cornflakes.  I throw mine in a big ziploc and crush them using my hands.  Mix in cheese.


Mix eggs and milk in small bowl. Mix flour and pepper on a plate and set aside..  I also poured the cornflake mixture onto a plate.  Place all three close together for an easy “breading station”


It’s breadin’ time! Roll chicken strips in flour.



Dip in egg wash.


Press and roll in cornflakes.


Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Grease with cooking spray and place breaded chicken on the foil



Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for 7-10 more minutes or until crispy golden brown.





Enjoy! Happy Tuesday!

Cyclone Salad

cyclone salad

And we’re back once again!  Happy Friday, all!  I have an awesome salad for you today, inspired my favorite team of all time, the Iowa State Cyclones. :)

My entire life we have been die-hard Iowa State fans at our house.  So it’s about time some Cyclone love made it into my cooking.  As I went about making this salad for a Fourth of July grill out, I had extra sunburst yellow tomatoes, so I decided to mix them in.  Looking at the finished product in all it’s gold and red cardinal awesomeness, I decided this shouldn’t be named chickpea and tomato salad….definitely a cyclone salad!   This is super easy dish to put together…perfect for grill outs, tailgates, potlucks, and I think even Iowa Hawkeye fans would think it’s delicious. :)


Ingredients for Cyclone Salad:

1 pint red cherry tomatoes + 1 pint sunburst yellow cherry tomatoes (or you can just use all red if you want!)

2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

5 cloves minced garlic

2/3 cup chopped fresh basil (about 40ish leaves)

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. olive oil

pinch of salt


Wash and halve cherry tomatoes and combine with garbanzo beans, garlic, and basil, mixing well.  Add in vinegars, honey, olive oil, and salt, mixing well once again.  Chill covered for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.  Easy, right?!

cyclone salad2

Oh, and I’ll also have you know, that my roomate and I can work a grill now!



The finished product.   Have a good weekend everyone! And when September rolls around, Go State!

Recipe adapted from Green Lite Bites.

Skinny Southwest Peppers


Happy Wednesday!  For today, a twist on one of my favorite dinners…stuffed peppers!  I’ve been trying to clean up my eating this week with adding more veggies and lean protein, so this was perfect.  Enjoy!

Skinny Southwest Peppers Ingredients:

1/3 lb. lean ground turkey (I used 93/7)

2 large bell peppers

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn

1/2 cup cannellini or black beans

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup reduced fat mexican or cheddar cheese

1 tbsp. EVOO

Directions (makes 4 servings):

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brown ground turkey over medium heat and set aside.  Cut peppers in half lengthwise, removing stems and seeds.  Sauté chopped onion over medium heat in EVOO for 3-4 minutes, then adding in corn and beans and sautéing for about 5 more minutes.  Stir in turkey, salsa, and tomato sauce to mixture.  Spoon mixture into peppers and place peppers into a baking dish filled with 1/2 inch water.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and top with cheese, and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 


Let cool for at least 5 minutes…I topped mine with more salsa and a dab of sour cream. 

Creamy Veggie Pasta


Lately, I’ve had a hankering for alfredo sauce.  Don’t ask me why, but I crave it allll the time! The taste that is, not the fat and calories it contains!  I’ve been trying to develop my own recipe of a “lighter” alfredo sauce. Normally, it contains heavy cream, egg yolks, cream cheese—all those culprits that are so delicious, yet so disastrous for my backside.  Last night, while playing around with leftover half and half and a laughing cow cheese wedge, I think I came up with a keeper!  Add in lots of veggies along with some pasta (a good rule of thumb-your pasta bowl should be at least half, if not more, of veggies!) and it was a nice little dinner!  Here’s the scoop.

Ingredients for Creamy Veggie Pasta:

6-8 oz. fettuccini pasta

1 yellow pepper, sliced

1/4 cup sliced onion

1 cup cooked broccoli florrets

1/2 cup chopped tomato

1 tbsp. EVOO


Light Alfredo Sauce Ingredients:

2 tbsp. butter

1 cup half and half

2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

1 skinny cow light swiss cheese wedge

Easy Lighter Alfredo Directions:

Melt butter over medium heat in a small/medium sized saucepan.  Stir in half and half and cover until boiling, letting the sauce thicken.  Reduce heat to low and stir in parmesan cheese and skinny cow cheese (i cut it up to make it easier!).  You’ll have to stir for about 4-5 minutes constantly to get everything melted and mixed in.  If the sauce is too thick, I added 1% milk to thin it out!

Please excuse the messy picture, it was culinary research at it’s finest, but trust that it is delicious!


Veggie Pasta Directions (aka puttin’ it all together!):

Boil pasta according to directions (I used leftover wine-flour pasta from my foodie pen pal).  While pasta is cooking, sauté peppers and onions. Add them to a big pot or mixing bowl.


Add cooked broccoli and tomatoes.


Add pasta.


Add 1 tbsp. EVOO and mix!


Add desired amount of sauce.  For dinner, I took a heaping one cup serving of pasta and veggies and added about 1/3 cup sauce and it was a good combo!  I had leftovers for lunch the next day with the pasta…so it would be a perfect dish for two or for those of you who hate preparing lunches in the morning!


There ya have it, super easy!   With that, I’m off to Portland for some family love! 

Speaking of that, any readers out there been to Portland?  What are your favorite foodie things and or attractions?  Would love to hear ‘em!

Rhubarb crisp for two!


In honor of upcoming Father’s Day, I thought I would get back to posting recipes and highlight one of my dad’s favorite treats….rhubarb!  When he was here a couple weeks ago, it was plentiful at the farmers market and I decided to pick up some to make rhubarb crisp.  I love making “crisps” because they are so easy!  This recipe is simple and makes a smaller batch, which I like so I am not eating it for days after I make it.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for Rhubarb Crisp (2 heaping servings!)

2 cups chopped rhubarb

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup oatmeal

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp. butter.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop up the rhubarb.


Add the sugar, mix well!


Melt butter. Combine oatmeal, brown sugar, and melted butter.


Spread rhubarb/sugar mixture into a greased loaf pan.


Top with oatmeal mixture!


Bake for 30-35 minutes or until very bubbly!  Serve with ice cream (highly recommended)!

On the go breakfast burritos


Alright.  I don’t know how mornings go for all of you, but I’d like to give you a snapshot of mine. 

My alarm goes off, I snooze it for about ohhh 20 minutes, then frantically decide to get up when I realize I have to be at lab or my morning group strength class pronto!  This usually isn’t a problem, as I am pretty fast at getting ready, but I often find myself scrambling for breakfast.

Insert my new best friend, breakfast burritos that you can make ahead of time, freeze, and warm them up as you need!  Breakfast in 3 minutes?  Sign. me. up.

I got the idea from Iowa Girl Eats when she posted them a couple weeks ago and decided to give them a go this week.  It took about 30 minutes on Sunday to put them together (so easy!!) and hooray! Breakfast for the week!

I halved the portions that she used and added a few different toppings, but that’s the beauty of it…you can fill ‘em with whatever you want!


9 large eggs

1/4 cup skim milk (optional)

pinch of pepper

6 tablespoons reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

6 strips turkey bacon

6 tortillas (I used La Banderita low carb tortillas)

Saran wrap

1 gallon size ziploc bag


Scramble eggs and cook turkey bacon in separate skillets.  For the eggs, I added milk and pepper, but they can be cooked without if preferred.  Crumble bacon by hand for topping the eggs in the burritos.

Lay out tortillas and set up your fillin’ station


Divide eggs evenly among tortillas


Divide bacon evenly among burritos and add 1 tbsp. shredded cheese to each.


Next, fold up the sides of the tortilla and roll, placing the seam at the bottom on the saran wrap.  Use the saran wrap to cover the burrito as tightly as possible. 


After they are all rolled up, place them in a ziploc bag and into the freezer!



When you are ready for one, remove saran wrap and microwave for 1 min and 30 seconds.  Flip burrito over and microwave for 1 more minute. 




If you were to make breakfast burritos, what would you put in yours?