Tomato Cobbler

A perfect mix between a summer and fall dish, a Tomato Cobbler popped up on my radar this past week and I just had to try it. As soon as I tasted it, I knew that I would love to make a more fall-oriented version of this that would really almost become a chili (it would totally work!). On the other hand, you could also make this more of a ratatouille and use really any vegetables that you like (eggplant and squash would be amazing).

It’s the best kind of dish: a super simple concept that you can really take any direction you want!

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I actually used a combination of two recipes, largely pulling from this one on The Kitchn and then also some of the aspects of this one from Heartbeet Kitchen. My tomato base was more in line with Heartbeet Kitchen’s — with the celery, onion, etc. — but then I did the cornmeal biscuits on top. Also, I did not use any dairy, so left out all cheese and that wasn’t an issue!

The dish actually came out so naturally sweet, it was amazing! It smelled like heaven while it was cooking and then the flavors together were the perfect embodiment of summer πŸ™‚ The cornmeal biscuits worked well, but I would actually say that you should just use whatever cornmeal (or biscuit) recipeΒ  you like best and top with that. It can take it, it’s pretty forgiving!

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This was one of those recipes where I really missed having a backyard garden. I’m sure that at some point this summer, my Dad was wondering what to do with all of his tomatoes (let’s be serious, he canned them), and this would have been perfect!

You can find the full recipes I pulled from here: The Kitchn and Heartbeet Kitchen.

Happy cooking!

xx Jess

 

Farro and Kale Salad

I had an amazing Farro salad the other week (pool-side, thanks to the Labor Day holiday) that really had me craving more. Farro isn’t something I have worked with too often, but I really love it. I’m honestly not much of a salad person, but learning to appreciate those that are so much more than salad dressing (ew, right there) on lettuce (come on). Farro is one of the easy ways that I know I’m more likely to enjoy a salad and not be hungry one hour later.

I found this Kale and Farro Salad from Giada de Laurentiis and set out to make a dairy-free version. I really just left the cheese out, but to be honest, it was missing something. Next time I’ll have to try this with a dairy-free cheese (cashew cheese is supposed to be amazing!) as it was just missing that little kick / bite that you get.

Kale is another thing that has been having its moment in the sun for the past two years or so, but can be a major red flag for some, me included. Often it’s tough, a bit flavorless, and just not that enjoyable to eat. I will say that prepping and slicing it correctly makes a HUGE difference. You have to take out the stem in the center, as that is just too tough, and then I followed a rolling + slicing technique (with a video!) I found from Marin Mama Cooks, which was super helpful, very easy, and honestly fun (and when it comes to salad, that’s saying something). I will say, the kale just keeps growing and growing! Once it was all de-stemmed and sliced, I had a literal mountain of it! There is still some in my fridge…

The other thing I loved about this salad was the dressing. I’m pretty anti pre-prepared / store-bought salad dressing as I have just never found one that I like and that isn’t overbearing. This salad was simply dressed with a combination of citrus fruit juice (lemon and orange) and olive oil. Perfect, light and so fresh.

We ended up eating the salad as a side dish all week-long and it was fantastic. I think due to the hearty kale and the citrus from the dressing, the salad kept its shape and flavor, and almost seemed better the second day when the flavors had seeped into the farro more.

Definitely one I would recommend to try! Also, if you’re subbing in something else for the cheese, let me know so we can try it too!

You can find the full recipe here.

xx Jess

Chicken Piccata

A recurring dish in our kitchen is this fantastic Chicken Piccata from Cooking Light. I’m a huge Cooking Light fan in general, and this is one that just really hits the spot! Fair warning, it is relatively involved (especially for a Cooking Light recipe), but it’s nothing too difficult and is really worth the effort.

I don’t do a lot of meal planning, especially for meals made during the week. Weekdays, it’s all about making something relatively quick while still healthy, and generally only things that I know how to make without a recipe. If I know I’m going to have more time one evening for some reason, I might plan on making something a little more involved, but we’re probably talking a salad here (but I’ll actually follow a recipe and maybe there is some kind of interesting ingredient).

Last week, for whatever reason, the food I was making through the week just lined up perfectly and the leftovers fed into the next meal so well. Earlier in the week I had made a Farro and Kale Salad from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe (love ya, Food Network). I’ll keep those stories for another post, but the leftovers of that salad were amazing and carried us through the week.

So late in the week I made this Chicken Piccata, which was wonderful, and totally fresh. I paired it with the Farro and Kale Salad that we had made earlier in the week, and roasted up a handful of red potatoes and carrots (since you never have too many veggies, right?).

It was practically a little Thanksgiving meal at our house on a weeknight!

I was so impressed, but even better was that I hadn’t slaved away in the kitchen for hours to pull it off. It was honestly really well-placed leftovers πŸ™‚

For the Piccata recipe, there isn’t a thing I would change. This time, I did buy capers (I don’t personally like them, but understand they add a good flavor) and they were worth it. Also, I made the mistake of cutting the thin lemon slices and then trying to de-seed afterwards. Basically that just means you end up with 100 small seed pieces, rather than a handful of big seeds. Lesson kids, is to try to pull the seeds out as you are cutting just to save yourself the aggravation.

Seriously, book mark this one! It’s one of our favs. If you try it out, let me know what you think!

You can find the full recipe here.

xx Jess

 

Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars

These gorgeous Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars popped up on my Instagram feed the other day (one of my favorite ways to find recipes I want to make) and I just had to have them! Gluten and dairy-free, these can also be made nut-free, so lot of options!

I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen to a tee, and while they were fantastic (how can you ever complain about a chocolate chunk bar?!) there were a few things that I would want to change next time around:

  • I used peanut butter instead of the nut butter Smitten Kitchen recommended. And it was a lot. It’s not that the taste was off, but it was a bit strong, and these ended up being a little bit soft, so I would probably try to cut it down to 3/4 cup of the nut butter to see if that is enough to still hold these together.
  • I used the full 1 cup of dark chocolate chips and (again, can’t complain too much) it was also a lot. I would cut this down. You could probably use 1/2 cup if you were putting other things in it too.
  • For the dried fruit portion, I used 1 cup of dried cranberries and just kept it there. Next time, I would LOVE to incorporate some dried dates / figs – I think this would just be such an excellent flavor and since they’re sticky in their own, they might also help hold the bars together if you’re cutting down the nut butter as I mentioned above.

Two things that I did take on advice from the recipe that were great:

  • I bought millet. Not only did I not know what it was, the cashier had no idea how to ring it up. Note to self, write the price on the hand-written tag if you’re scooping your own! The texture and crunch of this in the finished bars was outstanding and honestly stole the show, in my opinion!
  • I also got the shredded coconut. My grocery only had giant bags of it, so I was hesitant, but the shreds / flakes were an excellent texture as well and totally made it. I’m also guessing that these strands did a lot to keep the bars together.

Final note on these, I have finally busted out the Nikon for the food photos! I feel as if I’ve opened a Pandora’s Box of ideas and potential, because now I’m obsessed. I foresee — in the not-so-distant-future — my husband asking my why I have to photograph every piece of food that comes my way / out of our kitchen. Honestly the camera makes a world of difference and I hope you can tell in the images!

If you’re making these as well, let me know what you think and any custom variations you tried!

The full recipe is linked here.

xx Jess

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

3:00pm hits and I need a pick-me-up. I’m not a coffee drinker (trust me, I’ve tried, but just can’t get into the flavor!) and the FREE towers of M&Ms in the office are wayyyy too tempting, but I’ve found these quick and easy Peanut Butter Energy bites that hit the spot. They end up being a combination between a peanut butter snack, and cookie dough (largely because the consistency will remind you of uncooked cookie dough) and they’re just sweet enough and filling enough to keep me from snacking too, too much.

I found this recipe in The Low-FODMAP Diet for Beginners cookbook. For anyone with a sensitive stomach (especially if you’re not sure what foods are really upsetting you), this book is fantastic. Any time I feel like I need a reset / have gotten off track with eating too many things that I shouldn’t, this is a really great place to head for super clean, wholesome, nutritious and also tasty recipes.

There are so many different versions of this recipe, but below is the one that I use from the cookbook. If you’re at all inclined, I highly suggest you snag this book!

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour to chill
Makes 24 energy bites

1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats

1/2 cup peanut butter or other nut butter

1/4 cup maple syrup (it’s honestly worth using the real stuff!)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. LIne a baking sheet with waxed paper
  2. To the bowl of a food processor, add the oats, peanut butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Pulse just until the ingredients are mixed together. Add the chocolate chips and pulse until the chips are pulverized and the mixture has achieved a sticky texture
    • This Jess note: I prefer when the chips are still chunky, but some may like this in a more smooth texture!
  3. Using wet hands, form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Place them on the baking sheet
  4. Refrigerate energy balls for at least 1 hour so they firm up. Then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Modifications:

Feel free to try this recipe with different nut butters, adding whole nuts or seeds. The next time I made these, I think I’ll add some dates (not Low FODMAP approved), but I think that would give this a really nice sweetness.

This Jess rankings:

  • Making it: 10/10 – super easy, and you know I love using the food processor!
  • Eating it: 10/10 – so satisfyingly sweet and salty at the same time
  • Looking at it: 8/10 – they’re peanut butter balls, so can’t ask for too much πŸ™‚

Check out the full book, The Low-FODMAP Diet for Beginners, on Amazon! If you’re already using it, let me know what your favorite recipes are so I can try them too!

Summer Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Pumpkin Pesto

I found an amazing recipe this past week – Summer Pasta Salad w/ Grilled Zucchini, Corn and Cilantro Pesto – and had to make my own version of it. Summer is drawing to a close (really, already??) and I just can’t get enough of the summer veggies, so I’m trying to make the most of every moment! And let’s be honest, grilled corn gets me every time πŸ™‚

I don’t love cilantro, so instead of using the cilantro pesto in the recipe above, I made a Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto and then followed the rest of the summer pasta salad recipe. The result was a super fresh, light, completely vegetarian meal that I would make again and again. As with all my favorite recipes, you could easily add in other vegetables, or use different noodles to give this a different feel or flavor, or even to make a more fall-oriented version of this recipe. I did not add any protein, but you easily could add grilled chicken, or a protein of your choice.

Overall, a very easy recipe to make with some seriously delicious results.

This Jess rankings:

  • Making it: 8/10 – slightly time intensive as you have to make the pesto sauce as well, but the noodles and grilled veggies are very quick and easy
  • Eating it: 10/10 – I would not change a thing, but you easily could add in other flavors to take this in another direction
  • Looking at it: 9/10 – the final product is gorgeous and so fresh. I docked a point as the rice noodles I bought were very fine / thin, and would have been better if they were a little thicker to hold the veggies better

We will be making this again! The full recipe is available here. If you end up trying it with the cilantro pesto, let me know how it is and maybe I’ll have to try that next time!

Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto

I LOVE pasta, pesto, Italian food in general, and one of the hardest parts about being lactose intolerant is that a lot of my favorite Italian foods are off limits (RIP burrata).

I’ve recently realized that vegan recipes (although I have no problem eating meat, eggs, etc.) can be perfect for me. I have to admit that anything labelled as “vegan” (same as with anything gluten-free, etc.) puts up red flags for me. I do not like to cook with substitutes or have to buy special ingredients that you can’t use anywhere else. For example, a recipe for gluten-free bread (it’s bread, come on) or a vegan quiche (really?) sound really off-putting. I do appreciate and try to find recipes that might be naturally gluten-free, or dairy-free, etc. without having to add so many substitute ingredients. I’m sure some will disagree, but I would much rather use real, natural ingredients and make recipes that happen to not have meat, or not have dairy, flour, etc.

To that end, I’m realizing that just because something is “vegan” doesn’t mean that it has substitute ingredients at all, but perhaps just a lack of certain things or the use of one natural ingredient in place of another. It’s a learning process and I’m getting on board πŸ™‚

Case in point, this Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It’s delicious, uses just a handful of great ingredients, and long story short, does not have cheese in it and you wouldn’t even miss it! The pumpkin seeds – apart from being fun to buy – add a bit of a different flavor, and as with all pesto recipes, this one is perfect to freeze in small portions and use for future recipes!

Also, I get to use my current favorite kitchen item: the food processor πŸ™‚ I think this pesto will become a kitchen staple at our house!

This Jess ranking:

  • Making it: 10/10 so easy, you can’t beat it!
  • Eating it: 10/10 great flavor, you don’t even miss the cheese, and you could make this with any oily nut and get a slightly different variation
  • Looking at it: 10/10 gorgeous!

You can find the full recipe here.

FYI, the limes in the picture were used in the dish that I made with this pesto: Summer Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Pumpkin Pesto!