Looking for a healthy appetizer to make for girls night? I am usually that person who brings the rich, creamy spinach and artichoke dip with French baguette or homemade soft pretzels with homemade nacho chees sauce or hand dipped mini corndogs and hand cut French fries. So, in an effort to eat a little lighter and get a little lighter, I introduce to you, baked falafel! Loaded with garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, onion and garlic, this is a Friday night favorite you can feel good about eating!
With that said, obviously there is a time and a place for super indulgent foods and I am certainly not one to tell you to skip your favorite greasy pizza or fabulously rich dessert. However, I personally am trying to make some lifestyle changes and appetizers like this one are making it easier for me to do so!
I for one am not into the calorie counting. Which might be why I weigh 20 pounds more than I did 10 years ago… So I have tried to at least start writing down everything I eat in a day. Not necessarily thinking about the calorie count, but more just realizing how much I am eating, when I’m eating and maybe even why I’m eating. I’ll tell you I’m not someone who eats for fuel or when I’m hungry. I mostly just eat whenever there is yummy food around and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll notice that is more often than not. So I’ll let you know how things go. Hopefully in 6 months I can post one of those awesome transformation Tuesday posts on Insta and tell you about how much better I feel and sleep and blah blah blah.
But for now I am trying to find the little things that make me happy and focus on those. A walk on the bike trail with my daughter and husband. A really good show on HBO. A quiet evening to read when my daughter goes to bed early. Laughing with good friends and maybe a glass of wine now and then. Because it’s the little things that make life so great, right? Like these falafel!
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil, flour, cumin, baking powder, salt and pepper to a food processor. Process until all ingredients are minced and well combined. Then add garbanzo beans and pulse until they are finely diced, but still a bit chunky. The mixture will be tacky but not too sticky.
Spray a baking sheet with coconut oil baking spray. Use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop balls of falafel. Place balls about an inch apart and use a little oiled palm to flatten the falafel into 1/2 inch thick discs. Spray the tops of the falafel with another thin layer of coconut oil baking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, then bake for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before serving.
Enjoy falafel nestled in a big pita pocket along with tzatziki, cucumber, onion, feta and tomato. Or just dip them in some hummus!
Remember last week when I shared that yummy Pork Carnitas recipe? Well somehow I ended up with leftovers (I have no idea how!?!?!?) and some extra poblano peppers. So naturally my mind went straight to my meal prep for Sunday. These taquitos are loaded with flavor and pack a bite so crisp you’d swear they were fried, but they’re not! They’re baked!
To achieve the same crispiness as our fried friends (with wayyyy less fat) you just wrap your filling in a corn tortilla and then brush it with oil. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes and voila!
Crispy, crunchy, melty, healthier taquitos. These would be the perfect appetizer for your next party!
You could make them ahead and refrigerate, and then just before your guests arrive brush with olive oil and bake. Of course I serve them with my signature dipping sauce – equal parts full fat Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce, combined.
Pork and Poblano Taquitos
- 18 yellow corn tortillas
- 2 cups Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (or your favorite Mexican pulled pork)
- 2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any shredded cheese)
- 1/2 cup diced poblano pepper
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup diced jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Taco Bell hot sauce (for the dipping sauce)
- Whole milk plain Greek yogurt (for the dipping sauce)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. In a small bowl combine pork, cheese, poblano, onion, jalapeno, chili powder and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Heat tortillas in the microwave in batches of 4, heating each batch for 30 seconds. This will make them warm and pliable. Work quickly, as the cooler the tortillas get the more likely they are to rip.
Place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of each tortilla and roll the tortilla tightly away from you forming a fat little cigar shaped taquito. Place rolled taquitos, seam side down, onto the cooling rack on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
Brush the entire top surface of the taquito with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to get brown and the taquito is crisp. Serve with my favorite dipping sauce/dressing combo–equal parts Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce combined.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet because it’s Saturday and I want to spend it outside with my family and not inside on my laptop. But I really want to share this recipe with you because it’d be perfect for Sunday morning breakfast.
Do you remember my Beer Braised Pork Carnitas from last week? We didn’t quite finish it all so I showcased those tender, juicy, crispy leftovers in this meal. I’ve been trying really hard not to let any food go to waste, especially when it tastes as amazing as this pork.
The fried egg on this pizza really makes it for me.
But don’t take my word for it. Get going and make this pizza for your family tomorrow! Or tonight!
BBQ Pork Carnitas Breakfast Pizza
- 2 lavash breads or your favorite kind of pizza crust (about 8 inches across)
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I like Annie’s Chipotle BBQ)
- 1 cup Chihuahua shredded cheese (or any other melty shredded cheese)
- 1 cup of my Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (or your favorite pulled pork)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced poblano pepper
- 1/2 of a jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 eggs
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- pico de gallo
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place crusts on a foil lined baking sheet. Divide BBQ sauce evenly between the two crusts, leaving about a half inch of crust around the edge. Next divide the Chihuahua evenly between both pizzas, sprinkling it in an even layer. Then divide the pork, onion, and peppers between both pizzas. Bake pizza for about 10 minutes.
While the pizza is baking, fry up those eggs! Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium low heat. Allow the pan to heat for a couple minutes. Carefully crack eggs into the pan and sprinkle them each with salt and pepper. If the oil starts to sputter and spit, turn the heat down. You want to cook the eggs low and slow. Cook until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.
Place fried eggs onto the center of each pizza. Garnish with pico de gallo and enjoy!
I’m going to share some intimate details about myself in this post. I’ve never really liked raw tomatoes. I will eat almost anything, but when it comes to tomatoes they just aren’t my jam unless they are cooked. If they’re pureed and simmered in a creamy tomato soup or cooked up in a tangy marinara sauce, I’m game. If you’re putting a big ol’ slice of raw tomato on my cold turkey sandwich you can guarantee I’ll be picking that baby off and throwing it away. I have been known to enjoy a tomato now and then on a grinder from Mancino’s, but only because it’s a hot sandwich and the tomatoes are basically overpowered by all the horseradish and jalapenos and Cajun seasoning I like on my Flavor Train.
However, this summer I have been eating BLTs with reckless abandon–with raw tomatoes! I think my taste buds are turning over a new leaf. What’s changed? Pretty sure it’s because the only tomatoes I’ve been eating are from our Square Roots Farm CSA and they’re so ripe and juicy and tasty. I have come to realize how delicious a tomato really can be when it’s grown with great care and picked at the peak of ripeness.
So when we were invited out to dinner at the farm I felt like I had to bring something showcasing the delicious variety of tomatoes we’ve been getting from them all summer. And since I had no clue what I wanted to make, I was pleasantly surprised to find all the ingredients for this tart right in my kitchen!
So this should actually be called the “clean out your fridge” tart. However, I feel like when you call something that it sounds less appetizing to others. Nonetheless, that is exactly what I did and it was delicious!
I had some cute little green cherry tomatoes, some of those little orange baby tomatoes and giant slicing tomatoes that we got in our CSA this week. Those tomatoes would have been perfect for another batch of Roasted Tomato Gazpacho but they were destined for other things.
- 1 large slicing tomato
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (assorted colors will make for a prettier tart)
- 1 store bought refrigerated pie crust
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any other melty cheese)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
Core the large tomato and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half of in thirds depending on how large they are. Place them in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray your tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Unroll pie crust, lightly flour your work surface and roll the crust to match the size of your tart pan. Be sure the crust not only covers the bottom, but also the sides of the pan. Press dough firmly into the bottom and along the sides of the pan.
Use a fork to prick the dough all over so that no large air bubbles form. Bake the crust by itself for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Sprinkle Chihuahua cheese in an even layer across the bottom of the tart. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Place tomatoes in an even layer across the bottom of the pan creating almost a mosaic of tomatoes. Then sprinkle on feta, onion, Parmesan, thyme, a couple pinches of red pepper flakes, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.
Bake tart for 15-18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then garnish with fresh dill and serve. This tart is also delicious at room temperature as well.
Try as I might, I am not a morning person. I never have been. I’m definitely not a night owl either. I’m more of a “needs 9 hours of sleep to function properly or I’ll be super grumpy” kind of person. When I was younger my parents used to call me Margaret whenever I was tired and grumpy. Or hungry and grumpy. Looking back on it now, I realize it was their polite way of telling me to quit being a grouch. I shared this fond memory with my husband years ago and he has carried on the tradition of calling me Margaret since he takes the brunt of her grumpiness. Lucky him…
And so, Margaret has kind of become my alter ego. I try not to let her out, but sometimes it just happens. It’s usually when I’m woken up any time between 10pm and 8am. Or whenever I go more than 3 hours without eating. But seriously other than that, I’m pretty easy going, I swear. Every once in a while I forget about Margaret and I get this crazy idea that I’m going to start being a morning person. Not just a morning person, but a morning person who works out. In the morning. Before I go to work. In the morning. Even as I type the words, I realize how crazy it sounds.
But without fail, every few months I try for a week to wake up at 6am and get my sweat on. And without fail, when my alarm goes off at 6am, I shut it off, reset it for 730am and go back to bed. Then at some point I feel frustrated and Margaret probably makes an appearance and nobody is happy and I’m still not a morning person. So just like last week, when I came to terms with not being a gardener, now I am admitting that I will never be a morning person.
To minimize the appearance of Margaret and let myself sleep in as much as possible, I have been getting really into meal prep on Sundays. My goal each Sunday is to create two meals that we can eat throughout the week that are healthy and satisfying at the same time. This week, it was Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (which I mixed with brown rice, black beans and veggies to make burrito bowls) and Turkey Meatball Gyros. I find that my mornings run so much smoother when I can just grab my lunch from the fridge and go. And I’m less tempted to eat crap when I get home from work if I have dinner made already.
This recipe makes a ton of carnitas because no matter what I always find myself wishing there were more. These would be great to make and then freeze too if you’re just cooking for one or if you don’t like to eat the same thing multiple times in a row. However, once you taste these carnitas, chances are pretty good you’ll want to just eat them until they’re gone. They are juicy and tender, but also crisp and filled with flavor. And best of all, they are SUPER easy to make. 20 minutes of prep and the rest is just inactive cooking time. Alternately you could make these carnitas in a slow cooker too. I’d cook the pork on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, checking about halfway through to see how tender and shreddable they’ve gotten. I usually just want to eat them as soon as possible, so I make them on the stove. My favorite new dressing/dipping sauce for anything Mexican is equal parts full fat Greek yogurt mixed with Taco Bell hot sauce. It might sounds weird, but it’s really good and mostly healthy.
Beer Braised Pork Carnitas
- 2 tablespoons + 3-4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 4 lb. pork shoulder/butt roast
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer
- 32 oz. chicken stock
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. In a small bowl combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and a couple large pinches of salt and pepper. Rub spice mixture all over the surface of the pork roast. Place roast into the pot and cook each side for about 1-2 minutes or until the entire outside of the roast is seared nice and dark golden brown. Remove roast from the pot and set aside for the moment. Add onion to the pot and turn heat to medium. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring often. Put roast back into the pot.
Add beer, chicken stock and orange zest and juice to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium low for about 2 hours or until pork shreds easily with two forks.
Transfer pork to a large bowl. Heat the same pot you cooked the pork in over medium high heat. Working in batches, add one teaspoon olive oil and then an even layer of pork. Sauté the shredded pork for about 1-2 minutes, then flip it over and let the other side get nice and crisp. The goal here is to have tender, juicy shredded pork with dark golden brown crispy bits on the ends.
And seriously, don’t skip that last step. It makes the dish.
Serve in a burrito bowl with brown rice, beans and veggies or in a warm corn tortilla with chopped raw onion and fresh cilantro.
So I’m going to get really real with you guys. I failed at gardening this year. My husband and I got this super cute little plot in our community garden and envisioned ourselves bringing home bounties of fresh vegetables each weekend. We figured we’d have tomatoes coming out our ears and zucchini for months. We expected juicy, ripe summer strawberries, and boat loads of green beans. We planned to get to the garden once a week to weed and a couple times a week to water. Our hearts were in the right place, I swear.
However, what we ended up with was a weed infested rectangle of Earth that we maybe visited a total of 4 times. It gave us 2 tiny strawberries, 2 ridiculously huge zucchini and a constant nagging feeling that we never should have done this in the first place. I know what you’re thinking… There’s still so much more summer left! It’s just the beginning of August! Give it another shot! Yeah. No. It’s over. We’re done with the damn garden. We have given the green light for it to be passed on to someone else. Someone who will take care of it and spend time with it and give it the love that it needs. And we’re totally okay that with admitting that’s not going to be us. I’m not going to beat myself up over it either. Between our crazy work schedules, and caring for our child, we haven’t felt like prioritizing time for the garden. And so the garden must go.
Sometimes you have to cut your loses, move on and accept the fact that you did your best, but now it’s over. Thankfully we have a delicious CSA from Square Roots Farms that delivers us fresh veggies every week so we can try to forget about our own gardening shortcomings and enjoy the fruits of their labor. This week our box was filled with a bunch of big, beefy slicing tomatoes. Bright red, perfectly tender and ripe, juicy tomatoes grown with the appropriate amount of love and care. And so this weekend I made gazpacho and sipped chilled sauvignon blanc and came to terms with the fact that I will not be adding gardening to my list of hobbies any time soon.
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Gazpacho
- 3 lbs. beefstake (or any slicing) tomatoes, core removed, quartered
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 heads garlic, sliced in half width wise
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can coconut milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic, cut side up, onto a small piece of tin foil. Drizzle each half of garlic with about a teaspoon of olive oil, then fold the tin foil up into a small pouch. Spread tomatoes and onions across a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle remaining olive oil across the onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scooch veggies over to make room for the garlic pouch and place baking sheet in the oven. Roast for 1 hour. But remove the garlic after 40 minutes or it will start to burn. After an hour, the edges of your tomatoes will look burnt. This is good–the tomatoes will be most flavorful.
Allow the tomato and onion to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a high speed blender. Squeeze garlic from the peel into the blender. Add basil and blend on high for about 3 minutes or until smooth.
Transfer pureed mixture to a large pot over medium high heat. Stir in Parmesan, oregano, chicken stock and coconut milk. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow soup to cool for at least 1 hour on the counter. Then place in sealed container in your fridge and allow to chill for another hour. At this point your gazpacho is ready to be served!
I like to serve mine with crusty French baguette topped with a schmear of goat cheese or burrata, but it’s totally up to you.
Optionally, you could also serve this soup warm, which I did on an unseasonably rainy, cool, July day. I ate it with crusty French baguette topped with a dollop of burrata and it was divine.
On a seasonably warm Friday evening in June I had the pleasure of enjoying the first grass-fed beef grilling class and dinner out at Together Farms in Mondovi, Wisconsin. Located just 30 minutes south of Eau Claire, this beautiful farm is home to many happy hogs and piglets, as well as grass-fed cows and sheep along with a crew of quietly clucky chickens. Much to my delight, upon arrival we were greeted with a complimentary beverage – wine, beer, Wisco Pop or water – and the wagging tails of four furry doggos. True to form, I chose a nice chilled glass of Pinot Gris and tried to win over the copper colored weiner dog, Winnie.
Wine in hand, we wandered around the farm, followed by our furry friends, and checked things out while waiting for the other guests to arrive. We walked along the edge of the pond and admired the beautiful rolling hills that sometimes go unappreciated. We said hello to the chickens and visited the piggies in their large pen. The cows were in a pasture too far away to see since they move them frequently to graze in different areas, but if you stood still enough you could almost hear them mooing in the distance. We grabbed a seat around the fire pit, sipped our beverages and just took it all in. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze keeping all of the gnats away and time seemed to slow down for a bit. I wasn’t checking my phone or thinking about all the errands I had to run. I was able to relax and enjoy the beauty of this Wisconsin family farm.
Together Farms owners, Stephanie and Andy Schneider, welcomed about 10 guests on this evening, which made for an intimate dining experience and farm tour. They invited chef Luke Bilda to prepare the appetizers and main course, and his creations did not disappoint. We kicked the night off with wasabi bacon deviled eggs–the perfect hand-held snack to take along on the farm tour. Stephanie led us around the property showing us the different livestock while foraging for wild greens to add to our salad for dinner. She explained that when they purchased the farm it was the typical industrial style with soy and corn. They revamped everything creating their own self-sustaining ecosystem and decided to farm the way it was done years ago. When we circled back from the tour there were grilled slices of French baguette and fresh-made tomato bruschetta waiting for us. We nibbled on bruschetta, refreshed our beverages and gathered around the grill for the main event. Chef Luke gave us the basics of grilling with charcoal and propane while he sliced up the tenderloin steaks. We discussed the different cuts of beef offered by Together Farms and how to prepare them. Chef Luke welcomed questions and shared with us the secret to knowing when your steak is done. While the steak was cooking we took a seat around the table and enjoyed a fresh salad with homemade vinaigrette, homemade coleslaw and another helping of bruschetta. Shortly after that, dinner was served! We feasted on Together Farms grass-fed beef tenderloin steaks grilled to perfection, baby red potatoes with fresh dill and grilled portabella mushroom caps. There was no fancy steak seasoning or A1 steak sauce. The beef was so phenomenal that just a hearty sprinkle of salt and pepper was enough. For dessert we enjoyed a rhubarb shrub – a delicious drink made from fresh picked rhubarb, gin and simple syrup. We thanked our hosts, said our goodbyes and left feeling full and happy.
If you’re looking for something a little different for date night, or a new place to go with a group of friends, I would highly recommend taking the short drive out to Together Farms. They have many events coming up this summer including two more grilling nights and several burger nights. The farm is welcoming and relaxing. The owners are kind and inviting and raise their livestock in a humane, loving way. This is a small Wisconsin business that you can feel good about supporting.