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The first time I ever had spaghetti squash was when Seth and I did Whole 30 last year. Since you aren’t allowed to have any type of actual pasta, we were always making things like zoodles, sweet potato noodles, or spaghetti squash. I was skeptical the first time I tried to roast a spaghetti squash, but I loved it! It’s such a yummy and satisfying meal.

Does it taste like pasta? Nope. Definitely not. But does it satisfy the pasta craving when it hits? It did for me. I think mainly because of the appearance of it (the noodle-like strands) + the fact that you are using sauces that you would normally be using on regular pasta. The texture is softer than regular spaghetti, though.

But it is really yummy – it has a delicious, slightly sweet flavor – and it’s SUPER filling and satisfying. I am a big, big fan. However, if you go into it thinking it’s going to be an exact match to the regular spaghetti sitting in your pantry, it won’t be. Kind of like how pureed cauliflower is yummy but doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes. Nah mean?

We take a pretty traditional “spaghetti” route here with our chicken marinara sauce. This is a really quick and easy sauce that comes together pretty quickly while the squash is roasting in the oven.

We brown some ground chicken with oregano, remove it to a plate, and throw in some onion and garlic to soften. We add the chicken back in with the onion mixture and then throw in some crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, more oregano, and some pepper flakes.

We let this simmer for a bit until the spaghetti squash is ready to stuff, and then we pull the squash and mix it all together.

This is the fun part of spaghetti squash – you just pull the squash away from its “shell” with a fork, and these little noodles form. It’s pretty satisfying, IMO. We throw the squash “noodles” into a big bowl with the sauce and some parm, mix to combine, stuff each shell with the sauced squash mixture, sprinkle some more parm on top, and broil these babies until golden brown and perfect.

Top with basil, and you’ve got yourself a super healthy, hearty, satisfying, and filling meal. I miiiight like it even more than regular spaghetti and marinara, but if it’s not better, it’s at least just as good.

So I told you guys about that little kitchen that we bought Ford since he loves to help me cook so much. It came in last week, and it is seriously the cutest thing.

It’s THE most basic of all time though…like it has a keurig style coffee maker and a burner that makes sizzling sounds when you put the toy pan on it…2019 kids toys – what a time to be alive.

It’s been pretty entertaining to watch him play with it! Funniest things: one – him “making coffee” – aka putting the little K-cup in, pulling it out, and sipping it. Not the cup of coffee…the K-cup. Two – putting food so carefully into his pots and pans, putting it on the burner, and then stirring it with the most intense, frantic ferocity of all time, causing the food, pot, and lid to fly all over the place.

So funny. It’s been nice to have something to distract and entertain him a little bit during this preeeeetttty challenging phase of his life. Maybe teething? Maybe a developmental leap? Maybe fairies coming into his room into the middle of the night and sprinkling struggle bus dust all over him in his bed? Maybe option one, but I’m thinking option three is the most realistic.

He’s the most adorbs, but we are in survival mode over here from about nine am to noon in the Chesson household, fam. Post nap he’s a happy little nugget. But…the mornings? SEND HALP.

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Chicken Marinara Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients For the spaghetti squash:
  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
For the sauce
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, divided
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup parmesan, divided
  • Fresh basil, optional garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Microwave your spaghetti squash for 8 minutes. Slice off the stem so you have a flat surface, place it cut side down on the cutting board, and slice the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  3. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil onto each squash (the cut size only), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub the oil and seasonings around the squash, turn them cut size down onto the baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes
  4. While the squash is in the oven, make your sauce. Add 2 teaspoons of your oil into a large, non stick skillet, and add your chicken. Season with salt and pepper and break up with a wooden spoon, sauteing until browned. Season with 1 teaspoon of oregano, stir to combine, and remove to a plate
  5. Add your remaining teaspoon of oil into the pan and add your onion and garlic + salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Add your chicken back in with the onion mixture, and add your crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper flakes, and remaining teaspoon of oregano. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer
  6. Simmer until your squash comes out of the oven, adding water if the sauce gets too thick
  7. Let your squash cool for a bit after it comes out of the oven, and then, using a fork, pull the squash away from it’s “shell” – it should pull away in little angel-hair-like strands
  8. Add all the squash “noodles” in with your sauce (you might need to do this in a separate mixing bowl if your saute pan isn’t big enough).
  9. Mix together thoroughly, stir in your parmesan, and season to taste with salt and pepper
  10. Stuff the spaghetti squash mixture back into each shell, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of parmesan onto the tops of each, and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and golden
  11. Garnish with fresh basil if desired!
Notes

This recipe is 6 Freestyle SmartPoints per serving!

Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 1 spaghetti squash boat
  • Calories: 325
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Sodium: 493 mg
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 34 g
  • Cholesterol: 84 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

In the mood for more veggie noodle goodness? Check these out:

Coconut Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowls

Spiralized Sweet Potato Taco Skillet

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Homemade popcorn is one of my all time favorite things to eat. I can crush an insane amount of it in one sitting – it’s slightly inhuman. Most people I know aren’t super used to making homemade popcorn, but it is SO easy, and it’s a million times better, IMO.

I use something called a Whirley Pop, but you can use a lot of different things. I’ve seen air poppers for popcorn that are pretty cool, too. And I’ve also read about people making it in just a standard dutch oven over the stove. I’m a Whirley Pop proponent #forlife though. Love it.

Throw your popcorn in there and minutes later, you’ve got fluffy, crunchy, hot and fresh popcorn ready to be smothered in whatever toppings you desire.

My usual go to is EMBARRASSING amounts of butter and enough salt to raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels within a thirty minute period. And this is my problem with homemade popcorn. At its base, it’s way healthier than the microwave kind because it doesn’t have all the junk, fake butter, and artificial flavorings added in. Buuuuttt when you add gallons of butter, it kind of takes the health element away, nah mean?

BUT – I have found a solution. And what a delicious solution it is, friends. Enter: NOOCH POPCORN. Go with me here, because it sounds funky, but if you try it, you will be a nooch popcorn convert FO-EVA.

What is nooch? A funny little nickname for nutritional yeast. What is nutritional yeast? In technical terms, all it is is deactivated yeast. In non technical terms, it is a powdered/flaked vegan super food that just so happens to be nutty, cheesy, savory, and DELICIOUS. I first started using it when I did Whole 30 last year, and it’s lived in my pantry ever since.

But on popcorn…oh man. It’s the freakin’ best.

And the best part? It converts butter loaded popcorn into a lightly oiled, flavor PACKED healthy snack. Did you know that popcorn itself is actually fantastic for you? It’s low in calorie, high in fiber, and loaded with antioxidants. The problem comes from when we load it up with cups of butter/other delicious but not so healthy goodies.

But instead of doing that, we air pop this popcorn, add just a little bit of coconut oil + butter combo to lightly coat the popcorn just enough to make the seasonings stick, and then absolutely PILE on the nutritional yeast + some salt. Because you can’t really have popcorn without the salty bite…right?? Skip that part if you want, but I can’t. I am too weak to resist the salty goodness.

And that’s all there is to it! It’s a healthy, super simple snack that ends up tasting like savory cheddar popcorn with the most complex and delicious flavor. You’ll be thinking, what in the world is in this to make it taste so dang good? Nutritional yeast, friends. It’s revolutionary.

I’m a nooch popcorn convert, now and forever. I raise my right hand and solemnly swear to never load my popcorn up with an entire stick of butter (don’t judge) again – I will solely use this delicious and healthy powder from heaven. LOVE.

Print
Nooch Popcorn
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 0 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Air pop your kernels using a whirley pop, air popper, or other device
  2. Melt your butter and coconut oil together in the microwave
  3. Pour part of the melted mixture onto your popcorn, toss to combine, pour another portion of it, toss to combine, and pour over the last of it, tossing to combine one final time until all kernels are equally coated
  4. Sprinkle on your nutritional yeast and salt, toss to combine, and season to taste with salt
Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 2 cups
  • Calories: 108
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Sodium: 208 mg
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Cholesterol: 5 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

In the mood for more popcorn goodness? Check these out:

21 Day Fix Garlic, Rosemary, and Parmesan Popcorn

Brown Butter Popcorn

Peppermint Bark Christmas Crunch

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Alright, I’ma need you to bear with me through this one with some TRUST, people. Because this recipe sounds weird, and it might be a little hard to wrap your head around. Savory oatmeal…I was the most skeptical of all time when recipe testing this. I’ve only ever had oatmeal with things like brown sugar, maple syrup, bananas, cinnamon, fruit, etc…always sweet and breakfast-y – NEVER savory and lunch/dinner-y.

So I was very skeptical to try this, but I heard someone talking about a savory oatmeal that they topped with a poached egg, and I was morbidly intrigued and had to try it out.

And let…me…tell…you…OH MY GOSH I AM OBSESSED. I no joke have made this and eaten it most days for lunch since I created the recipe a few weeks ago. I bought a giant double pack of goat cheese from Costco so I’d have enough of it in the fridge to make this whenever I wanted (the rest of the ingredients are always staples in my fridge and pantry).

Where to even start in my description of this beautiful little bowl of creamy goodness? I’ll start with how crazy easy it is to make. Here’s your process:

  1. Microwave your oats in chicken stock + garlic and a pinch of salt…yes…microwave them. I use quick oats in this recipe because it’s what I always have in my pantry for my son’s breakfast. And – I’m definitely not an oat snob – but I think the quick oats work great for this. If you want to go even more legit and use steel cut oats, I bet it’d be awesome. However…one of the appeals of this recipe is how quick and easy it is, so if you want to ride that train with me, stick with the quick oats that microwave in less than two minutes!
  2. Poach an egg. This sounds scary and intimidating, but I promise it’s literally the easiest thing ever if you follow a few foolproof little tricks. One: add a splash of vinegar to your water. Two: add your egg to a small bowl so that you can add it to the water more gently. Three: when the water is simmering, create a vortex in the pan by swirling a spoon in circular motions around the edge of the pan. These three things will allow you to pop the egg into the water and forget about it for four minutes. At the end of those four minutes, you will have THE most perfect poached egg.
  3. Stir goat cheese into the oatmeal and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Finish it off – add the poached egg to the top of the oatmeal, and sprinkle with lots of chives (we’ve also done pickled red onions, which are also delicious).

And this is what you are left with .

The oats are rich and complex in flavor from the chicken stock and garlic, and they are luscious and creamy from the goat cheese. When you break open that poached egg and stir it into the oats, it ups the rich, velvety, unctuous flavor and texture even more. And then the chives add some freshness and onion-y bite. YOU GUYS. I can’t. It’s like a ten minute, microwave risotto. LOVE.

It’s my new favorite thing. I eat it all. the. time. Like at least every other day probably.

So yummy, so easy, so fast, and so so so insanely good. You have got to try it out!

Print
Savory Poached Egg Oatmeal
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 servings
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup quick oats
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 ounce goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced chives
  • Splash of white vinegar
Instructions
  1. Add your oats, chicken stock, garlic, and a large pinch of salt to a big coffee mug (bigger the better so it doesn’t boil over – you can also use a bowl)
  2. Microwave for 1 minute and 45 seconds, or until the liquid is absorbed into the oats*
  3. Meanwhile, add at least a few inches of water into a skillet and bring to a simmer. Season the water with a little salt and add a big splash of vinegar
  4. Crack one egg into a ramekin (or small bowl) so you can add it to the water more gently
  5. When simmering, create a vortex in the pan by swirling a spoon around the edge of the pan in a circular motion (will help the egg white come around the yolk)
  6. Gently add the egg to your pan while the water is still simmering, and simmer for 4 minutes
  7. Add your goat cheese into the cooked oats, stir well to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. When your poached egg is done, add it to the top of the oatmeal and sprinkle over your chives
Notes

*Microwave cook times will vary based on your microwave. 1 minute and 45 seconds was perfect for me, but if the oatmeal is still soupy and the liquid isn’t absorbed at the end of 1 minute 45, pop it in for 30 second intervals until most of the liquid is absorbed. It will thicken a bit as it sits, too.

This recipe is 4 Freestyle Smart Points per serving!

Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 1 mug of oatmeal
  • Calories: 325
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 357 mg
  • Fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 39 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 17 g

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

In the mood for more oatmeal recipes? Check these out:

Flank Steak with Goat Cheese Ris’oat’o

Maple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Cups

Reese’s Cup Oatmeal

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One of my best friends is a vegetarian, and since moving to Charlotte, I see her WAY more often (one of the best parts about living here!). She is here for dinner a decent amount, and it’s been really fun coming up with vegetarian stuff to cook when she comes over.

This lasagna is seriously the ultimate vegetarian meal – it is loaded with flavor and comfort, and you’ll never miss the meat! I thoroughly enjoyed this more than my traditional meat sauce lasagna that I usually make because you make up for the lack of meat with some insane flavor in your delicious filling. For the filling, we saute some spinach in lots of garlic, making it creamy from the ricotta, hearty from the spinach, and so soooo flavorful and complex from that garlic. If you give me a garlicky meal, I’m going to be a large fan automatically.

Which you probs could guess from my blog title. Garlic is life. That is all.

There are several reasons why I love these lasagna roll-ups more than life. Shall we discuss? Let’s discuss. I am determined to convince you to make them as soon as humanly possible.

  1. There is no meat, so it’s vegetarian friendly and makes your grocery budget way lower. We really like to try and cook vegetarian meals about half the time to save on groceries, and it’s amazing how much less we spend at the grocery store when we do this. The lack of meat is also just a fun new spin on the lasagna you’re used to stuffing yourself with eating on the reg.
  2. The flavor. The main flavor we’ve got goin’ on here comes from our filling. To make the filling, we saute three cloves of garlic (or more if you like to live dangerously ) in a little bit of olive oil, throw in your spinach just until it wilts, and then throw this whole mixture into a bowl. To this, you’re going to stir in some chopped basil leaves, ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and an egg. I mean…if that doesn’t sound heavenly then I don’t know what will. Tender spinach; rich, melty cheese; deep, complex garlic flavor; fresh basil…it’s just all swoon worthy in every sense of the word.
  3. The roll-up-ness. We’re going to roll with that gross misuse of the English language that just happened…it’s fine. Lasagna roll-ups are one of my all time favorite things to make. They are just so dang satisfying. They roll up into these perfect little single serving packages that fit snugly into your lasagna dish like a dream. They just are satisfying and adorable – that’s all there is to it.

I’m going to stop rambling here before I get too deep, because I’ve already made this too lengthy! To sum it up…these are life…make them immediately…especially if you want to cook a yummy meal for a vegetarian friend.

Speaking of food, I have to tell you about something I’m super excited for. It’s going to signal my dangerously high level of domesticated mom-ness, so strap in. Ford (our 1 1/2 year old) is OBSESSED with helping me cook. Which I love, even though it can be a lot at times when he’s constantly tugging at me while I’m cooking, but I still love it. I usually put him up in his high chair next to me and give him some spoons and little things to stir around in a bowl, but he super extra loves when I hold him and he stirs the actual food that is cooking on the stove top.

Because of this, I’ve been wanting to get him a little kitchen for FOREVER but haven’t yet because we just moved across the country, which comes with lots of expenses. I finally gave in last week and ordered him one on Amazon, though, and it comes in tooooddaaayy!

I ordered a bag of food toys (the ones that have Velcro in the middle and you “cut” them apart with the little toy knives), and those came in yesterday. He. Is. Obsessed. He loves them so much, which makes me even more excited for the kitchen to get in today.

I desire so strongly for my kids to grow up with a love of cooking, because I think raising adults who love to cook and don’t see it as a chore is one of the most valuable life skills you can give. You have to cook for yourself or your family at least once a day for the most part, and I’d much rather them find joy from that rather than dreading it like another household chore.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out with the kitchen . For now, let’s get back to this lasagna!

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Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna Roll-Ups
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 basil leaves, chopped
  • 12 lasagna noodles (boil extra because some might break)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 25 oz jar pasta sauce*
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water (it should taste like the ocean) to a boil and cook your lasagna noodles according to package instructions. When they are done, drain them, rinse with cold water, and lay them out on several sheets of paper towels. Pat the tops of the noodles dry
  3. Meanwhile, add some olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add your garlic and saute until fragrant
  4. Throw your spinach in there and cook, stirring frequently, until it has wilted. Season it after it has wilted (the spinach reduces so much, it’s very easy to over season if you salt it before it wilts)
  5. When wilted, add the spinach mixture to a medium bowl
  6. To the spinach, stir in your basil, ricotta, 1/2 cup of your parmesan, and 1/2 cup of your mozzarella. Stir together and season to taste with salt and pepper
  7. When satisfied with your seasoning, stir in your egg.
  8. To assemble, pour 1/3 – 1/2 of your jar of pasta sauce into the bottom of a lasagna dish (a 9×13 works too). In each lasagna noodle, spread out 1/4 cup of filling across the noodle and roll it up. Place it seam side down on top of your sauce – you should end up with 4 rows of three roll-ups
  9. Pour the rest of your sauce over top of the roll ups and sprinkle on your remaining cheese
  10. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Broil at the end if you want your cheese a little more golden
  11. Top with fresh basil (optional) and serve!
Notes

I get my pasta sauce from Costco, and that’s where the 25 oz jar comes from. If your grocery store doesn’t have that exact size, you can easily use a little more or a little less – it’s a flexible recipe!

Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 1 roll-up
  • Calories: 262
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Sodium: 472 mg
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 14 g
  • Cholesterol: 46 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

In the mood for more lasagna goodness? Check these out:

Crock Pot Lasagna Soup

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll Ups

Absolute Easiest, No-Fuss Lasagna

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Taco night needs to be a mandatory occasion in households across America. Can we all get on board with this? Tacos are such a delicious, simple, and homey dinner!

I know a lot of families that have a specific night every single week where the family loads up on as many tacos as they can pack in their bellies, and I also know that when tacos are a weekly occasion, it’s good to be able to switch it up sometimes with something a little unique and different.

Because as good as tacos are, and THEY ARE, anything can get old if you have too much of it.

Enter: quinoa and walnut taco meat!

It’s filling, hearty, super flavorful from all the Mexican spices, and it tastes just right when you load it up in your tortilla with some other goodies. This is delicious in tacos, but it definitely can be used in a bunch of stuff apart from the traditional taco, too! Burritos or burrito bowls, nachos, taco salad, lettuce wraps – the list goes on and on.

Here’s how you can make this happen, ladies and gents:

  • Simmer your quinoa for about fifteen minutes
  • When it’s done, add your oil, seasonings, and walnuts
  • Spread that mixture out on a parchment lined baking sheet
  • Bake, tossing around in the middle, for 30 minutes
  • Load it into any taco deliciousness you desire!

We did a tortilla, the taco “meat,” lettuce, pico de gallo, avocado, and pickled red onions. If you eat a scoop of the taco “meat” plain, you might think the walnuts are a little odd, but when you’re eating it in taco form, the walnuts add delicious, hearty texture that is so reminiscent of ground beef.

So this past weekend Seth’s mom came to visit, and Seth and I went out for a big date night on Saturday night while she watched the kids. You guys, Charlotte is seriously THE best! There is SO MUCH to do here, it’s absolutely insane. I feel like we could go out to eat at a fun restaurant every single weekend for the next ten years and not even scratch the surface of what Charlotte has to offer!

We loved living in Kansas, we really did enjoy the (almost) four years we spent there, but when we went out on dates, we went to the same restaurant almost every time because there just wasn’t a ton of variety.

But Charlotte…SO soooo much stuff to do. I am subscribed to this email called Charlotte Agenda, and they basically send daily emails cluing you in to everything going on that day/week/weekend. So this weekend we were looking at one of the emails and there was a link to the best 17 new restaurants in Charlotte, and that’s how we picked where we went on Saturday. It was this Asian sushi/ramen/poke restaurant, and it. was. BAAEEEEE. The best meal we’ve had here so far for sure.

We got dumplings and sashimi tacos for appetizers, Seth got ramen for his dinner, and I got sushi for mine. The sushi was absolutely amazing, and Seth’s ramen was the best ramen we’ve ever had.

SO much fun! Anyway, these tacos are the perfect weeknight meal, but I’m loving all the fun restaurants we’ve been exploring around the city on weekends!

Print
Quinoa Walnut Taco Meat
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped to be about the size of ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil (any other type of oil will work just as well)
  • Extra lime and cilantro (optional)
Instructions
  1. Add two cups of water to a pot, season it with salt, and bring it to a boil. Stir in your quiona, reduce to a simmer, and cook for fifteen minutes (or until the water has absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through)
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
  3. To the quinoa, add your avocado oil, spices, and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper and stir until totally combined
  4. Spread this mixture out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, removing from the oven and tossing with a spatula half way through
  5. Season to taste, add extra lime juice and cilantro to taste, and use however you want!
Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 293
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Sodium: 40 mg
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 24 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 8 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

In the mood for more taco goodness? Check these out:

Flank Steak Tacos with Cilantro Lime Yogurt

Banh Mi Tacos

Blackened Fish Tacos with Cucumber Salsa

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I have conflicting opinions about Olive Garden…I’m not a huge fan of their food overall, and Seth definitely isn’t super into it, BUT their unlimited soup and salad is BAAAEEEE. The salad is okay, but the soup is tha bomb.com. Specifically their Zuppa Toscana. It’s so simple, but it’s so so yummy. The flavorful sausage, soft potatoes, tender kale, and delicious, slightly spicy, slightly creamy broth – DREAMS. It’s the only reason I ever go to Olive Garden.

I wanted to create a dairy free version for all those Whole 30-ers out there. We aren’t officially doing Whole 30, but we like to cook and eat Whole 30 food a lot during the week, and this soup just NEEDS TO BE able to be consumed and enjoyed by every human on earth, including those doing Whole 30.

There aren’t any huge, significant changes here – just making sure you use Whole 30 compatible sausage and subbing almond milk for the dairy. Still so good, you guys. Soooo good.

Not only is this soup so yummy and addicting, it’s also super easy to make. Here’s what we’ve got goin’ on:

  • Italian sausage – brown it up until it’s got some nice color on it, aka FLAVOR.
  • Once your sausage is browned, throw in your sliced potatoes, onion, and garlic.
  • Add your broth + almond milk and simmer all of it together for about fifteen minutes.
  • In the last five minutes, add your kale.
  • Season it up with salt and pepper, and YOU DUN.

Easy, right? Since you can’t have parmesan cheese on Whole 30, I highly recommend throwing some nutritional yeast on top of each bowl instead. I absolutely LOVE nutritional yeast. It was something I had never tried before doing Whole 30, and now it’s a pantry staple for me. I just love the cheesy, slightly nutty flavor, and it adds a note of savory complexity to this soup that is just chooiiccee.

Like I mentioned in my last “life update” post, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina recently. Which we love so far. HOWEVER – oh. sweet. Lord. the rain. WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE EAST COAST?! Excuse me please, but I have a one and a half year old who loves to be outside, so can we work something out here, Charlotte? Because this seven day a week rain that’s been a constant presence for the last million weeks is really killing it for me.

We have tried to find fun indoor stuff to do, which we have (Charlotte has a lot of fun stuff), but nothing can beat a good ol’ playground in sunny and at least slightly warm weather.

I really shouldn’t be complaining, because if we were still living in Kansas, it would be freezing cold outside even if it was sunny. At least when it’s sunny here and the rain is taking a break, it’s usually warm. I’m just spoiled because for the first month we lived here, it was beautiful with a capital B, and we spent soooo much time outside!

I grew up in Charlotte, and I really don’t remember it being this rainy, but right now I feel like we are living in Seattle, not Charlotte. Hopefully it lets up soon and Fordy can frolic in the sunshine again!


Until then, give me allllll the delicious soup during these rainy days. Is there anything better than a hot bowl of yummy soup on a cold rainy day? Grab a bowl and join me, friends .

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Whole 30 Zuppa Toscana
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 5 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 yukon gold potatoes, peels left on, sliced into half moons (about 5 cups when sliced)
  • 1 small bunch of kale or 1/2 large, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped (about 5 packed cups when chopped)
  • 1 pound Whole 30 compatible Italian sausage, casings removed if the sausage is in casings
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups almond milk
  • Nutritional yeast (optional topping)
Instructions
  1. Add some olive oil into a large pot over medium high heat. When hot, add your sausage, season with salt and pepper, and break up with a wooden spoon, sauteing until brown
  2. When the sausage has browned, add your potatoes, onion, garlic, and pepper flakes. Season with more salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
  3. Cook your potato mixture for a few minutes in the pot, stirring often, and add your chicken stock and almond milk
  4. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender
  5. When there are five minutes remaining, stir in your kale
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper and top each bowl with nutritional yeast if desired (I highly recommend!)
Notes

There are lists online that name the Whole 30 compatible brands of Italian sausage, so check those out and see which brands your grocery store carries!

Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 2 cups
  • Calories: 446
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 46 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 23 g
  • Cholesterol: 60 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries so I can see!

Want more yummy Whole 30 soup? Check this Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Fried Sage Leaves out! It’s a keeper!

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YAASSSSS to everything about this recipe. Yes to the fact that this chicken is crusted in flour + ground pecans before being cooked until crispy and perfect in the pan. Yes to the fact that in the same pan we make a to-die-for sauce out of garlic, shallots, mushrooms, and half and half. Yes to the fact that the chicken is smothered in the sauce and then sprinkled with toasted pecans.

Like…can I just…can we just…LET’S EAT THIS FOREVER.

This is one of those meals that you throw together when you’re feeling a little extra fancy or maybe having a date-night-in dinner with somebody special. It’s not like the recipe is hard or complicated, per se, but it takes a little more effort than a “dump and cook” type of situation (like the Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli I posted a few weeks ago, for example ).

It does take a few extra steps, but man oh man, it is WORTH IT. So yummy.

Here’s whatchu gon’ do to make this happen:

  • STEP ONE: Prep the chicken. You’ll start with two breasts and slice each in half and then pound each out with a meat mallet so they’re thin and tender.
  • STEP TWO: Crust the chicken. You’re going to use two bowls for this. In one bowl, you’ll have a beaten egg, and in the other bowl, you’ll have a combo of flour and pecans that you’ve ground up in your food processor. It’ll go egg first, flour + pecan second, and then set out on a plate until ready to cook!
  • STEP THREE: Cook the chicken. In a large skillet with some olive oil and butter over medium heat, you’ll pan fry your chicken breasts until each side is a nice, deep golden brown and the middle is cooked through! Pretty quick and simple.
  • STEP FOUR: The sauce. The ssaauuucceeee – so good. You’ll set the chicken aside and in the same pan, add your shallot and garlic and saute until that starts to soften up. Then you’ll throw in a little more butter + a few cups of sliced mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms are getting nice and soft and then pour in your cream. Bring this to a simmer and cook until the sauce has gotten delicious and thick – it shouldn’t take long!
  • STEP FIVE: Smother the chicken with sauce, sprinkle with toasted pecans, and DEVOUR IMMEDIATELY. Love.

Print
Pecan Crusted Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce
  • Author: Annie Chesson
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup pecans, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (we used button mushrooms, but anything will work)
  • 3/4 cup half and half
Instructions
  1. Slice your chicken breasts in half so you have four pieces, pound each piece out with a meat mallet until they are all even thickness, and season all sides liberally with salt and pepper
  2. Blend 1/2 cup of your pecans in a food processor until they are finely ground
  3. Add the pecans to a bowl with the flour and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine
  4. In a second bowl, beat your egg with some salt and pepper
  5. Dip each chicken breast half in egg before adding to the flour/pecan bowl and turning over and over until each piece has a nice, even coating of flour/pecan. Set aside until ready to cook
  6. In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons of your butter + 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil/butter is hot, add your chicken breasts and cook on both sides until they are deep golden brown and cooked through. Set aside to a plate and make your sauce
  7. Turn the heat down to medium and, in the same pan that you used for the chicken, add your shallot and garlic + a little salt and pepper. Cook until softened
  8. To this, add your remaining butter and your mushrooms + some salt/pepper. Cook until softened
  9. Meanwhile, chop your remaining pecans and toast them in a small pan. Set aside until ready to serve
  10. When the mushrooms are soft, add your half and half + a little salt/pepper to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced – it shouldn’t take longer than several minutes
  11. To serve, top each slice of chicken with sauce plus a sprinkle of toasted pecans!
Nutrition
  • Serving Size: 1 piece of chicken + sauce + pecans
  • Calories: 501
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 182 mg
  • Fat: 45 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 11 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 16 g
  • Cholesterol: 120 mg

If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries!

In the mood for more yummy chicken recipes? Check these out:

Nashville Hot Chicken

Blackened Chicken with Avocado Cream

The Trick to THE Juiciest Chicken Breasts

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