Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff (Dairy-Free!)

As I have mentioned before, beef stroganoff is my favorite meal, yet now that I am lactose intolerant I’m aiming to be dairy-free at home. But when I found a dairy-free recipe for stroganoff, I was more than skeptical. How can it be stroganoff without the sour creamy sauce?! A dairy-free version would certainly be sub par. Maybe even inedible. The secret creamy ingredient in this recipe is coconut milk. Insert more skepticism here. I LOVE coconut, but in stroganoff? Yet since the recipe got great reviews, I decided to trust the recipe creator’s promise that the other flavors would mask any coconut taste. I also really wanted to try a crock pot version of this meal, since that makes my life wayyyy easier.

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And let me tell you, it was SO GOOD. I went in with about as much skepticism as possible and came out praising Amy at Wholesomelicious for creating this seemingly-unlikely-to-impress-my-stroganoff-taste-buds recipe. I want to find her and give her a hug. Oh, and I also may have licked the bowl clean. It was that good. Coming from a beef stroganoff connoisseur, that means it is awesome – trust me!

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I actually ended up adding more coconut milk to the crock pot after taking these pictures (and eating the first bowl). I found the taste to be even better after that, making me even more excited to eat the leftovers. I also found that it looked the exact same color as my sour cream version, which made me happier. But depending how creamy you like the sauce, you can experiment to your taste. You can also add more/less beef, mushrooms, add in other veggies…I will definitely be trying some other variations! It made 5 servings for me, because I like a lot of sauce, but you could definitely get 6 servings out of this recipe.

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Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff (Dairy-Free)

Adapted from: Wholesomelicious

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs stew beef
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp onion flakes/powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 to 1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. corn starch
  • Egg noodles

Directions:

1.) Add beef to 6 quart crock pot and top with onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Pour broth, soy sauce, and vinegar over the beef and veggies. Add garlic and onion powders and stir. Cook on low for at least 5 hours.

2.) At the last 30-60 minutes of cooking, add the coconut milk (shake well before adding) and the cornstarch. Stir in and continue cooking on low for 30-60 minutes, until sauce is thickened.

3.) Serve over egg noodles or another pasta, rice, veggies, etc.

I’m Back! With a Baked Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

I am back! I feel like I have been away from the blog forever, and it basically has been – my last post was in February. February?! Working a million hours a week plus school plus (trying to have) a life has pushed other things to the wayside. But I am back and my first focus is better time-management to fit in more blogging! Maybe if I tell my professors this, they’ll give me less homework once fall semester starts….here’s hoping.

Life updates: I am still working my full-time research job but quit my part-time bartending gig to start clinical hours for school. It was hard to leave, and I do miss it, but I know it was the right decision in the long run. I feel much less stressed and, while I did replace it with another part-time job, the new job counts for hours for school plus it’s giving me the real-world nutrition experience I need. So far I really like it! Being in a hospital and getting to see first-hand how patient meals are planned, made, and delivered has shown me SO MUCH in just 4 short months. A good sign that I am on the right career path🙂 Oh and I got a cat! Her name is Margo and she’s pretty sassy like me. She makes a great addition to my little apartment living.

I also have recently been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Which sounded like a death sentence to a cheese-addict like myself. However, I have found that cutting out dairy for the most part isn’t too bad. It’s allowed me to be a little more adventurous with cooking and a lot less dependent on cheese for flavor in (almost) every dish. So I am trying to be dairy-free while eating and cooking at home and saving my dairy “splurges” for special meals out, with the help of my good friend Lactaid. I never thought I’d be saying that…

So now it’s time for a recipe! This summer I’ve been eating an abundance of zucchini and squash, and I don’t hate it. My brother’s friend has a farm and I’ve stopped there when I can to get some fresh veggies. Shout-out to my friend and her mom for recommending I make baked stuffed zucchini – it was so delicious! I sort of threw together this recipe with what I had on-hand, so you can play around with it too. Add cheese if you aren’t deprived of all that is good like I am (sorry, I’m still being dramatic about my newly cheese-less life). It’s also a great freezer meal if you have tons of zucchini to use up!

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Baked Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini, cut in half
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • veggies! (I used diced onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach)
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • Spices, salt, pepper

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut both zucchini in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the “pulp” inside. Save the pulp. Place zucchini halves, cut side up, on sprayed baking dishes or cookie sheets.

2.) In a large skillet, sauté olive oil on medium heat and add garlic. Let cook for about a minute and then add in zucchini pulp and veggies. Sauté until soft, then add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Turn off heat and add pasta sauce. Stir everything together and add spices/salt/pepper, if desired.

3.) Scoop beef and veggie mixture into the zucchini halves. If there is extra filling, you can save and top off zucchini halves after baking or mix with pasta for another meal (that’s what I did!) Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Top with extra pasta sauce and cheese (if desired).

 

Asian Peanut Chicken

So this recipe was sort of a last-minute experiment, but somehow those always end up tasting the best! I wanted a protein/veggie combo for lunches this week, rather than my usual salad. So I decided on roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and some sort of chicken. I had recently seen a Pinterest recipe for a peanut sauce on noodles, so I figured “why not try making that with chicken instead?” Let me just say it is SO YUMMY and tastes like something you would get for take out, but much healthier. The sauce is so peanutty, yet a little salty and spicy, with the perfect consistency – even reheated. You could switch up the protein, make it over rice, quinoa, zucchini noodles, veggies, or serve with veggies and potatoes like I did! I like meals that I can make quickly yet also customize – since I tend to crave different things every other minute🙂

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Asian Peanut Chicken

Adapted from: Kelley and Cricket

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp diced onion
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp sweet chili sauce (or sriracha)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Directions:

1.) Over medium heat, melt butter in a skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent.

2.) Add olive oil and chicken cubes to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes. Turn heat to medium low and add peanut butter, vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, maple syrup, and sweet chili sauce. Stir until chicken is fully cooked.

3.) Remove from heat and add sesame oil. Stir again and add another tbsp soy sauce, if you’d like it to be a little more salty!

Mini Banana Breakfast Cheesecakes

Happy hump day! I love breakfast, but I tend to eat the same things during the week…usually peanut butter and banana toast, yogurt parfaits, or overnight oats. I like things that I can grab and eat in the car or at work. So I wanted to try something new! These cheesecakes are the perfect little treat…feels like you’re eating a dessert for breakfast! Grab one with a piece of fruit and you’re good to go. I also tried freezing some and they were just as good defrosted, so you can make these ahead and defrost them as you need them!

Note: I adapted these from a recipe that was supposed to make 2 cheesecakes, and I wanted to double it to make 4. I ended up having way too much filling but only enough crust to make 4. So for the other 4, I used Larabars that I smushed into a crust. Larabars are made from dates, nuts, and spices…so simple yet so yummy! You could actually make your own “Larabar crust” if you use a recipe similar to this or this and press it into the muffin tins. I actually ended up liking the taste of the Larabar-crust cheesecakes best, and they’re easier to make🙂 But I put both options for crust in the recipe below!

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Mini Banana Breakfast Cheesecakes

Adapted from: Amy’s Healthy Baking

Ingredients:

Cheesecake filling:

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 12 oz light cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

Crust:

  • 4 Larabars (I used Pumpkin Pie, which was a seasonal flavor, but any fruit-based flavor would be good!)

OR

  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 300 F. Spray 8 muffin tin wells with non-stick cooking spray.

2.) IF USING LARABARS: Split each bar in half and press each half into the bottom of the muffin tin wells. (don’t need to bake)

IF USING OAT CRUST: In a small bowl, mix together oats and applesauce. Divide evenly among the 8 wells and press into the bottom. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool in pan.

3.) In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and honey until smooth. Then add in the mashed banana, vanilla extract, coconut, and cornstarch and mix well.

4.) Pour filling over crusts and bake for 20-25 minutes (centers will be slightly jiggly). Cool to room temp in the pan, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Cranberry and Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

After a lengthy absence…I’m back! Between school and a new job I was so busy I barely had time to breathe, let alone blog. This semester I will try to balance a little better so I can blog at least more than one every few months…I promise🙂

Despite the lack of posts, I was still whipping up some new recipes! This one was a favorite of mine – the combination of flavors is delicious and it is super filling. It can either be served warm (heat the quinoa and squash before putting all ingredients together) or as a cold salad. Top with your favorite salad dressing (I used balsamic vinegar and olive oil) and enjoy!

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Cranberry and Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2.5 cups raw spinach
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 20 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay out cubed squash on a greased baking pan or cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and any other seasonings desired. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until squash is soft.

2.) While squash is baking, cook quinoa according to package instructions.

3.) In each bowl layer quinoa, spinach, and squash and top with cranberries, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and feta. Drizzle with your favorite dressing!

Chicken, Spinach, and Feta Pizzadillas

Ladies and gentlemen, I present…the pizzadilla. Where pizza meets the quesadilla in a delicious, cheesy, heavenly combination that’s perfect for dunking in marinara. The best part is that it can be ready in about 10 minutes! Go crazy with whatever pizza toppings you like…I picked my go-to combo of chicken, feta, and spinach and added some extra tomatoes and garlic. Holy yum. I used brown rice tortillas which I found at Trader Joe’s…I usually use whole wheat, but these had less ingredients so I figured I would try them. They are less soft than regular tortillas, which worked perfectly here; it made the pizzadillas more crunchy and crispy. I made them in my quesadilla maker, which is basically a Mexican George Foreman grill that puts the indentations into the quesadilla so you know where to cut it. So quick and easy to make! These would be great as appetizers too; you could make a bunch of different combinations and have them out for people to enjoy. Or you could eat them all yourself, like I did here. Whatever your heart (and stomach) desires!

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Chicken, Spinach, and Feta Pizzadilla

Ingredients:

  • 2 tortillas
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Pizza “toppings” of choice!

Directions:

1.) Cook pizza toppings (I sauteed the veggies and added cooked chicken) or use them cold. Take 1 tortilla and lay it on a plate. Spread a thin layer of marinara on the tortilla and add a sprinkling of mozzarella. Add pizza toppings and sprinkle with more mozzarella. Put other tortilla on top and place in quesadilla maker, pressing top down, or cook in a skillet, flipping once cheese starts melting.

2.) While pizzadilla is cooking, heat a small bowl of marinara sauce in microwave. When cooked, let pizzadilla cool, then cut into 6 triangles. Serve hot and dip in marinara!

Creamy Dijon-Dill Salmon with Spiralized Cucumber Salad

Let’s talk about how this is the first time I’ve cooked fish at home. I know, it’s about time! But I was nervous…that it would smell the place up, that I would cook it wrong, that I wouldn’t cook it enough, and what do I do with the skin?!…so many irrational fears. I found a recipe for salmon in Cooking Light that seemed super easy and sounded delicious. Too good to be true? NOPE! Simple, delicious, and easier to cook than most poultry or beef. The sauce was SO GOOD and the fish cooked so easily and quickly. Like walk in the door, have a meal ready to eat in 20 minutes quick – there’s nothing better than that!

Since I cook just for myself, I only cooked one fillet at a time. I usually make a meal and then eat leftovers all week, but I knew the fish wouldn’t reheat well. So I just made the sauce in a big bowl and kept the raw salmon in the fridge, and each night I cooked one fillet and smothered it in sauce. Easy and so yummy – my mouth is watering thinking of the sauce right now. I served the salmon with a spiralized cucumber salad, which is a great way to turn garden-fresh veggies into a nice, light side dish. Make this meal ASAP – you won’t be disappointed!

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Creamy Dijon-Dill Salmon

Adapted from: Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mayo
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 salmon fillets (mine were about 5 oz each)**

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 425 F. Separate or cut the salmon into 3 fillets.

2.) Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Place desired number of fillets, skin/skinned side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread yogurt mixture over salmon. Bake for 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

** I decided to try the salmon both with the skin and skinned…I liked the taste of both, and both were very moist and delicious. Just keep in mind the skin adds more calories. So use whichever method you prefer!

Spiralized Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cucumber
  • Handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tbsp parsley or cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

1.) Use a veggie spiralizer to turn the cucumber into “noodles”. Chop them a bit in a small bowl to make them into smaller noodles. Cut grape tomatoes in half and add to cucumber.

2.) In a blender, add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Pour over the cucumber and tomatoes and mix together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You may have noticed that I have stopped putting the calorie/nutrition information for my recipes. This is mainly just because I have stopped trying to track calories and nutrients since, for me, I end up getting too obsessive over this. I lose sight of the real reasons I like to cook healthy foods, which is to make me feel healthy and energized, and instead I start eating things just because they will help me fit my macros or hit my calorie goals. Like a Thin Mint is less calories than an apple, so if your focus is just calories, you pick the cookie. But the apple is obviously the way more nutritious choice! I’ve started listening to my body and eating what my body craves until I am full, which usually ends up being a smaller serving than I may have previously eaten. And if I want a cookie, I have a cookie, and if I want an apple, I have an apple! However, if you all think having the nutrition info is helpful, I can keep doing it. Let me know what you think!