Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Roasted Veggies

November 1st.  How did that happen?  I’m actually pretty excited to see November.  I love the holiday season.  But just because October has come and gone, don’t think I’m going to stop with the “pumpkin.”  I actually love pumpkin.  And in this mac and cheese pumpkin not only adds lots of nutrition but it makes the mac and cheese super creamy and will make you feel like you’re eating the cheesiest bowl of noodles.

The mac and cheese is made even more nutrition by adding in roasted veggies:  brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  While the veggies are roasting, start boiling your noodle water. Feel free to use whatever noodle you want – I went with a gluten free spiral noodle.  The cheese part of this mac and cheese is a mixture of gouda and cheddar.  Yum.  Go ahead and grate that so that it’s ready when you are.

When you have about 10 minutes left of roasting, cook your pasta and make your cheese sauce.  Simply sauté onion in a little butter before adding the flour of your choice to thicken the mixture.  Mix well and then whisk in chicken stock (or veggie if you want to keep it vegetarian) and milk.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg – my favorite fall spice.  This is where you’ll add in the canned pumpkin.  Stir until the pumpkin completely mixes in and then add in your cheese and stir until melted.  Finally add in the cooked noodles and roasted veggies.


Incredibly creamy and the “orange” of the pumpkin makes you feel like you’re eating Velveeta Mac and Cheese.  Except this one is a whole lot healthier.



Smashed Chickpea Salad Toast

Happy Friday and September!  The birthday celebrations continue this evening but today I’m spending lots of time prepping for the ECU tailgate tomorrow.  Hopefully this weekend and into next week I’ll be able to cross off a few final bucket list items before having to say “farewell” to the Summer of 2017 on Wednesday (I’m lucky that I’m able to take a couple of days off from teaching so that I can enjoy the time that Big Guy has off work).

This recipe is one that I honestly didn’t think I would share with you – I whipped it up simply because I had all the ingredients on hand and I needed a quick dinner on Thursday night after working out with a client.  However, immediately after digging in, I knew I had to share the recipe.  Y’all – this smashed chickpea salad toast is awesome.  It reminds me a lot of chicken salad and egg salad but I loved the texture from the crunchy celery and the sour pickles gave the entire batch of salad so much flavor.  The salad is not overly mayo-y thanks to lemon juice and I anticipate this becoming a lunch time meal that I keep on rotation.  You could also top a salad with the chickpea mixture or you could simply use crackers to scoop instead of using bread.


I hope you all have a wonderful looonnngggg weekend and if I disappear at the beginning of the week, don’t be alarmed.  Cheers!

Sesame-Ginger-Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

If you’re in a dinner rut you must try these stuffed sweet potatoes.  So many flavors and textures.  This recipe was in a recent issue of Cooking Light in a section that focused on the use of “tahini,” a rich sesame seed “butter” that can be used in everything from savory soups to desserts.  I’ve found that Trader Joes has the best tahini for the price but you can find it at Harris Teeter and some other local grocery stores.

The most time consuming part of the recipe is baking the sweet potatoes but once their in the oven, you can forget about them for an hour.  Pierce the potatoes with a knife or fork and rub with a little oil before baking at 400 degrees.

Once the potatoes are baked, remove from the oven and let them rest (and cool!) a little bit.  Now it’s time to roast your chickpeas.  Rinse and drain the beans before tossing with sesame oil, garlic powder, ground ginger, and salt.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

While the chickpeas roasted, prep your sauces.  The tahini sauce is made with tahini (make sure to stir it really well), spicy fresh ginger, garlic and rice vinegar.  It is thinned out a bit with the addition of warm water.  Whisk until creamy and smooth.  The other “sauce” is simply Sriracha mixed with a little water.

To serve, halve the potatoes and score with a knife.  Top with the tahini sauce and a sprinkle of salt.  Add the roasted chickpeas and then top with a little more tahini and some of the spicy Sriracha mixture.


Incredibly delicious.  Incredibly healthy.  Incredible filling.  This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and perfect for any night of the week.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Since we have a looooong weekend on the horizon, I thought you might need an appetizer for a party or get together.  Whether there are 2 of you or 20 of you, this dip is a winner.  The best part, there’s NO mayo involved so you can let it sit out longer without going bad.  Another awesome part, you can make this up to two days in advance.  #winning

I know, “no mayo in an artichoke and spinach dip?”  It’s true.  This healthier spin on the classic hot dip is fresh and bright and totally dippable.  You can simply serve this dip with veggies and crackers like I did or you can add it to a platter of cheese, meats and other yummy bites.

To start, sauté the well drained artichokes (I used canned) in butter and then add in the garlic.  Let this cool for 20 minutes.  Next whirl the green onions and spinach in a food processor until finely chopped.  Place in a bowl.  Now add the artichokes, shredded parmesan, and pecans (!!!) to the food processor and whirl.  Add that mixture to bowl with the spinach mixture along with EVOO, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.


What are your plans for Memorial Day Weekend?

I think you should add “making this dip” to your plans.

Chickpeas with Spiced Carrots, Dates and Pistachios

Let me introduce you to my new favorite refrigerator staple:  Chickpeas with Spiced Carrots, Dates and Pistachios.


This salad comes together in no more than 10 minutes and it’s the perfect lunch or light dinner.  In fact, I cannot wait to eat leftovers for lunch today.  Prep this salad on Sunday and you’ll be able to eat on it all week long.

This no-cook salad involves one bowl and a simple list of ingredients.

The “dressing” is a quick mix of EVOO, cumin, cinnamon (!!!) and a little salt.  The powerhouse ingredients include canned chickpeas (if you use dried, more power to you), shredded carrots, chopped dates, cilantro and pistachios.  I served the salad on a bed of lettuce last night and an extra sprinkle of flaky salt.

It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it’s savory, it’s salty and it’s full of good-for you stuff.




Mushroom and Charred Corn Tacos with Guacamole

While I won’t be celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a fiesta and a margarita due to a meeting, I highly suggest you whip up some tacos or guacamole tomorrow.  Last week we enjoyed these tacos and even though they are meatless, they are full of flavor.  Big Guy’s favorite component was the chipotle crema.

The taco filling is a mixture of charred corn, sautéed poblano and mushrooms and garlic.  The mushrooms give the taco a little “meatiness” and the corn adds a fantastic texture.  But the real flavor comes from the quick guacamole and the chipotle crema.  To make the guac, simple mash an avocado with fresh chopped cilantro, diced red onion, lime juice and a good sprinkle of salt (the key to any good guac!).  You could add jalapeño if you’re a fan of heat but I love the smokiness of chipotle so I didn’t want to mask that flavor.

Like I said, one of the best parts of these tacos is the crema – and it’s honestly only two ingredients:  adobo sauce (from a can/jar of chipotle peppers) and Greek yogurt.  That’s it!

To make the tacos, spread some guac on a corn tortilla, top with the mushrooms-corn mixture and then drizzle on some crema. Finally, top with a sprinkle of salty feta.  Fold and devour.


So many flavors.

Guacamole makes anything a party.

So does a margarita.

Wasabi-Ginger Deviled Eggs

I’m super-duper homesick.  I guess that’s what an amazing weekend with family does to you.  I hope you all had the same kind of amazingness this past Easter weekend.  We spent Friday night with Big Guy’s parents where we were in charge of dinner.  It was wonderful to spend time with them and catch up.  Saturday we were up early and went on a walk before heading to OIB to see my family.  Everyone was in town and we had a blast.  All the Bell siblings grabbed drinks together and then it was time for Easter dinner.  Big Guy and I decided to make a berry-glazed ham, a golden beet salad and wasabi-ginger deviled eggs.  I didn’t think that the wasabi-ginger deviled eggs would disappear so fast!

You either love deviled eggs or you hate ’em.  I have always loved them and Big Guy just started liking them a couple of years ago.  To make these Asian-Inspired eggs, boil a dozen eggs and let them cool slightly.  Once cooled, peel and divide in half.  With the yolks, combine may0 (only Duke’s), chopped cilantro, ginger, wasabi paste, and lime juice.  Place in a ziplock bag and cut off the end so that it’s easy to pipe into the egg halves.  Top with some sesame seeds and you’re ready to serve to your guests.

I prepped everything in advance and simply piped the mixture into the eggs right before we ate.  A great make-ahead appetizer and/or side dish.


These will definitely happen again next Easter – but this time I’ll make three dozen.

I actually ended up making them again last night because Big Guy and I had to split one on Saturday and he wanted more.

Deviled eggs:  love ’em or hate ’em?