Rosemary & Thyme Mashed Potatoes

Dairy-free Thanksgiving mashed potatoes

As probably the biggest fan favorite and most notorious side, good mashed potatoes are an extremely important key to a successful Thanksgiving meal. They must be creamy but not too mushy, have texture but not too lumpy, and most of all, flavorful. While mashed potatoes may get a bad rep on the “healthy” scale, since most act as a canvas for unnecessary filling ingredients (hello, heavy cream, I’m looking at you), this recipe focuses on making the actual potatoes the star of the show. Plus, it is dairy free for all you non-lactose lovers out there and is garlic and onion free for anyone following low FODMAP.

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Gluten Free Stuffing

Gluten free stuffing side for Thanksgiving

Without a doubt, my favorite dish on a Thanksgiving spread has always been the stuffing. The thing I love most about this side, besides the fact that it is basically just carbs moistened (yep, I said it) with flavor of other ingredients and chicken broth, is that every family makes theirs differently. No two houses make their stuffing the same; some (me) feel passionately that no stuffing is complete without sausage, some dice the bread so small it is a somewhat carb filled mush, and some throw some things in there that honestly boggle my mind. No matter the recipe, stuffing should be included on every single forkful of turkey eaten during the Thanksgiving meal. In our house, the stuffing has always included the same key ingredients: sausage, pecans, apples, and celery. Each bite includes the perfect mix of sweet and savory with also the somehow crunchy and also moist bread. While most stuffing dishes are an absolute no-go for anyone avoiding gluten, this version features my favorite gluten free bread, Canyon Bakehouse, making it an approved dish for all types of celiac relationships.

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Autumn in a Bowl: Kale Salad w/ Roasted Butternut Squash & Brussel Sprouts, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

Delicious fall themed salad with roasted vegetables, pecans, and goat cheese, in a honey mustard dressing

As soon as the summer ends and the leaves begin to change colors, my taste buds immediately start screaming, “FALL.” While I can happily have every cinnamon/apple/pumpkin filled breakfast or dessert, I also crave certain fall themed vegetables; butternut squash being one of them. As I continue my journey to put an end to SDL (sad desk lunch), I found myself determined to create a meal the combined some of my favorite fall ingredients. People who complain about salads clearly aren’t using the right ingredients because this salad is anything but sad. Plus, if you’re really feeling crazy, it is even more decadent when topped with a perfectly cooked steak. (Yes, in fact I did bring a salad with steak to my desk and, yes, I like my steak rare; get at me!)

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@_littlemissfoodie’s Guide to the Penn Station Area

If you are from the great state of New Jersey (okay fine, or Long Island), you are well aware of the god forsaken awful place that is Penn Station. Yes, it provides (so called) “easy” transportation in and out of NYC from your home in NJ and makes it feasible to simply hop on a train into the city for dinner and drinks and then back home, but it is unfortunately not located in the best of areas. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked “I need to grab dinner by Penn Station, any good recommendations?” Restaurateurs are finally starting to notice this area as a total outlier on the supply/demand table and opening some great new spots, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Luckily, there are still some gems in the area, and I am fortunate to have a good friend, Lara from @_littlemissfoodie, to tell me where to go. As a fellow NJ resident, and knower of all great places near Penn Station, it was an absolute no brainer to have her featured on the Freckled Foodie & Friend’s Favorites to help everyone commuting find a great meal before they hop on the train (and pray NJT actually runs on schedule). Continue reading “@_littlemissfoodie’s Guide to the Penn Station Area”

Healthier Layered Nachos

I freaking love bar food. No matter how health conscious I may be and aware of what these types of meals will do to my stomach / make me feel afterwards, there is simply something about a plate towered with nachos that I cannot resist. As a kid, my go-to “homework snack” was a plate of Tostitos doused with cheddar cheese that I would microwave for the exact perfect time so that the cheese had just melted but the chips hadn’t turned soggy yet. Fifteen years later, I’d like to say my taste buds have matured, but there is something so inviting and irresistible about nachos. They are all inclusive and a communal meal. Have a table of 5+ people at a bar and everyone’s getting hungry? Order a plate of nachos and watch everyone dive in and pretend to not care which specific chip they get but actually search the entire tray for the perfect chip / meat / cheese / bean combination (because what’s worse than a naked chip on a plate of nachos). For that exact reason, I love cooking and preparing nachos on a cookie sheet and letting everyone get their fair share of perfectly rationed and scattered toppings. Not to say I still won’t enjoy an order at the bar while watching a football game, but here is a way to make this delicious snack (or meal…) healthier and more food-hangover friendly. I promise, guests won’t be able to tell the difference.

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Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins

Gluten and dairy free dark chocolate banana muffins

Is there any better start to a morning than enjoying a banana baked good with a warm cup of coffee? I honestly cannot think of one. Whether it is banana bread, muffins, cakes, donuts, or pies, anything baked that contains banana is a guaranteed way to my heart. But, let’s be honest for a second here, some banana breads and muffins sold in today’s world as a “breakfast food” are really just cake in a different form. When I was finally old and wise enough to come to this realization, it slightly broke my heart. I love banana bread. I mean lovvvveeeee. The aroma of a fresh cooked loaf makes my heart swell and immediately feel all things comfort. So, instead of giving up on this love affair, with my new-found baking ability and determination to create new recipes, plus a kitchen filled with browned bananas after clicking too many times on last week’s instacart order, I decided to make my own healthified version. These dark chocolate banana muffins are sweet enough to fill that dessert void while also including approved ingredients making it an acceptable breakfast (yes, dark chocolate if purchased in the right form is acceptable in the mornings in my book). Plus, I used Kite Hill’s new unsweetened drinkable yogurt to make these muffins extra moist. Yea, I said it, MOIST. The word that everyone hates using or hearing until a person uses it to describe something you baked and you immediately jump with joy. Behold, the way to my coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family’s hearts.

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Meat Chili

An extremely easy, healthy, comforting, and filling meat chili

When the temperature starts to drop, my kitchen immediately transforms into a vessel for comforting, warm, rib lining meals that you want to have encompass you in a big open armed bear hug. That is how I feel about chili. When I enjoy a good bowl of chili my mind goes to a winter day on a comfy couch by a fireplace wrapped in a cozy blanket watching a football game. If that doesn’t sound like an extremely glorious Sunday to you, then we have different ideas of relaxation and comfort. Not only does this chili provide the ability to suddenly transport you to a different place, much better than the desk you may be eating this at for lunch, but it is extremely easy to make. And I’m not just saying that; this meal is sincerely stupid easy. I would stretch to even say it is the easiest thing that has ever been, or ever will be, featured on my blog. If you have an instant pot or slow cooker meal you are in luck because this baby is a dump and cook meal that requires the simple effort of pushing a button. It is a serious crowd pleaser and one of my Sunday meal prep staples as I am able to put everything in the machine, push a button, and get on with cooking my other meals. Plus, in my honest opinion, chili is one of the few foods that actually tastes better the next day once all of the flavors have combined and the sauce has thickened.

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Coconut Salmon Skillet with Broccoli and Cashews

Skillet dinner with charred broccoli, toasted cashews, hints of coconut oil and lemon, and the perfect seared salmon

Although it feels like I just got back, it has somehow already been a month since my trip to Iceland. The trip was filled with an insane amount of breathtaking views (waterfalls, geysirs, glaciers, hikes, hot springs, etc), plenty of glasses of Viking beer, and some (insanely expensive) great dinners. As a lover of all things seafood, I was incredibly excited for all of the fish filled menus I was sure to see, and this meal did not disappoint. I have dreamt of this last dinner in Iceland, from a restaurant called Messin, since we returned home. The second they placed a cast iron skillet on our table I knew I was going to fall in love with this dish. The charred broccoli mixed with the toasted cashews and the perfect salmon with that seared exterior and rare interior had my stomach craving this meal the moment I walked out the door of the restaurant. As soon as we arrived home, I knew what the next experiment was going to be in my kitchen: recreating this meal. I am happy to say that is just as good, and about an eighth of the price, when made at home. This is most definitely a new quick and easy weeknight dinner staple; plus, it only involves one dish for both cooking and eating out of.

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Healthy Mustard Chicken Fingers

A healthy, gluten-free, version of every kid’s favorite meal: chicken fingers.

 

Growing up chicken fingers are a staple in every child’s diet. Back in the 90s these things were served at every sleepover, birthday party, post game tailgate, or restaurant table. It is the only thing every single kid enjoyed eating and a food that parent’s could guarantee their child would finish. Now that I have grown older and more focused on what ingredients are going into my body, I cannot remember the last time I ordered chicken fingers. While chicken is still a staple in my diet, there is no need for the excess batter and fried oil that comes along with this order. It wasn’t until my Whole30 experience, where I actively was restricting all fried food, that I realized I kind of missed them. You always want what you can’t have, right? It wasn’t even necessarily the grease aspect, but mainly the crunchy and crisped factor that encases the chicken and the option to dip them in delicious sauces. With the evolution of my taste palette steering away from fried foods, as I got older I also fell in love with an ingredient that I grew up despising: mustard. As a kid, I used to hate when my mom would spread mustard on a Philly pretzel at a sports game and now I would do just about anything for that combination. I mean it, in my kitchen, mustard goes on everything. Not only is mustard a great dipping option for these healthified (making up words) chicken fingers, it is also a main ingredient in the batter to make sure every bite has that spicy and tangy taste.

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Apple Pie Muffins

Healthy and easy gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, apple pie muffins

I have always found baking extremely intimidating. I am someone who enjoys cooking because there are no rules. Want to add some of this spice? Go ahead. Want some more vegetables in that dish? Throw them in. While cooking is an art, baking is a science. There are rules to follow, recipes to read, and instructions to stick to. Because of these restrictions, and the fact that one quarter cup of an ingredient can automatically ruin your recipe, I have always steered clear of baking. Then, my friend Lara of @_littlemissfoodie kept posting all these insanely decadent baking photographs and encouraging and inspiring me to finally take the plunge. So as the notorious muffin (wo)man she is, I decided to tackle this baked good first. While I was contemplating what muffins to make, simultaneously my next-door neighbor’s 3-year-old daughter knocked on my door and told me she was having a farmer’s market with all of the apples she harvested at her house outside the city. As she handed me over a bushel of massive beautifully bruised and imperfect apples, I knew exactly what I was going to thank her with: a batch of homemade apple pie muffins. I put my big girl pants on and got to work in my kitchen and after a few test runs can proudly say I have officially created a recipe that revolves around baking. These will definitely be on repeat in my kitchen throughout the fall and they should be in yours also!

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