Pesto Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Paleo Friendly)

I eat a fair amount of chicken, in fact, it is a go-to in my diet. When eating chicken, I really only eat the breast because it is lower in calories and fat, but very high in protein. However, I do go through phases where chicken does not sound appealing because I have eaten too much of it. So, I decided I needed a change.

My second go-to meat is always lean ground turkey. I love it’s versatility and protein content. I personally buy 99% lean, because I tend to add healthy fats (like olive oil and coconut oil) to my cooking and do not need the extra fat from meat. However, for some, 99% lean is way too dry. If this is you, I suggest trying 90% lean! With that being said, I couldn’t decide how I wanted to cook it up. I wasn’t in the mood for tacos or burgers…then I realized something I haven’t had in awhile…MEATBALLS!

Now, this brings up a fun fact. For my friends that know me, you know I love Jersey Shore. So, I thought why not make some versatile, Italian flavored meatbawls, in honor of Jersey Shore Family Vacation finally airing and being so successful! I am a huge fan of a few shows on MTV, but Jersey Shore is literally the reason I pay for a Hulu account. I just love a good reality tv show!

My first step was to think about the flavors that I like most in Italian cooking. My number one is always basil! I love how it can make a meal taste fresh and so flavorful while also being a leafy green (that counts right?) But what’s better than just basil? Pesto. I had a jar of pesto from Trader Joe’s that I have been using in various ways, but this seemed like a great way to add flavor to my meatballs. I also love dried oregano, minced garlic, and to my father’s disapproval, dried parsley. These flavors can easily be used in many ways and with many sauces, pastas, and salads.

Now, normally meatballs call for breadcrumbs. However, I am gluten-free (if you haven’t noticed). I decided to try to make them with almond flour instead of any type of bread crumb. This also eliminated any high carbs or extra/unneeded starches. If you have a nut allergy, I am sure rice flour would work as well, but like I said, I didn’t want the extra carbs. The use of almond flour also made my meatballs paleo friendly, so enjoy babes!

Pesto Turkey Meatballs Recipe

I was able to make 13 large meatballs, but if you wanted to make more, you could just use less meat in each ball. PS: these are better enjoyed while watching Snooki and Deena day drink and dance their hearts out (;

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line a baking sheet with foil. This creates easier clean up for you! IMG_7045
  2. In a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, parsley, oregano, pesto, salt, and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. You can enjoy them on pasta, add them to my Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto or how I decided to enjoy them tonight, with some veggies and homemade tzatziki! Just because they are Italian meatballs, it doesn’t mean they can’t go well with Greek (;

All Natural, Low Carb Cookie Dough Balls (Vegan, Dairy-free, and Gluten-free)

What if I told you that just because you are trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to give up cookie dough? I’m not talking about eating cookie dough in moderation (although this is absolutely okay too.) I am talking about getting some healthy fats, protein, and satisfaction from cookie dough that you can eat everyday. Sounds crazy, right? My friend Ryan thought so too after I told him what I was eating as a late night sweet treat that would not harm my body.

IMG_6587If you learn to cook with ingredients that do not harm your body, you can create a variety of different recipes that satisfy certain cravings. We all diet or eat healthy for different reasons. Some are trying to lose weight, some are trying to gain healthy weight, some are trying maintain their weight, some are trying to gain muscle, some just want to be healthy, and if you’re like me, you are trying to fight a chronic condition naturally (to learn more about mine, click here.) All of these reasons are absolutely valid, and you deserve to still indulge, but if you can have an indulging treat that actually had benefits, wouldn’t you take that? I know I would, and I do! So, what are some of these ingredients that are used to make cookie dough balls that have benefits?

  • Coconut Oil: Yes, coconut oil is high in fat, but the fat it is high in is healthy! It actually has the power to turn bad cholesterol into good cholesterol helping aid in digestion, weightless, and curbing your appetite. It is also a powerful brain food that improves memory and brain function. And my favorite benefit? It actually helps fight off unwanted bacteria via lauric acid. Lauric acid is great at killing bacteria and viruses both internally and externally. I once had poison oak, and I was told if I put coconut oil on the spots, it would improve the condition quickly. I actually woke up the next morning and it was almost gone! I personally use Vita Coco Coconut Oil that runs for about $8 at Target…and it is sometimes on sale for only $6! I find it to have the best flavor and scent.
  • Almond Flour: As my readers know by now, I am gluten-free. Almond flour has been a great way for me to be gluten-free without the extra carbs that come from rice and corn flour. Almond flour is actually paleo friendly as well! Not to mention, the high amounts of protein that are in the flour itself. In just 1/4 cup, you can find up to 6 grams of protein! I buy a large bag (3lbs) for $10 at Costco. You can find it elsewhere, but this is a great price!
  • 100% Pure Maple Syrup (all natural and organic): This is not the same as Mrs. Butterworth, or even Sugar-Free Syrup. Pure Maple Syrup is a perfect alternative to sugar. It is lower on the glycemic score, and effects your blood sugar way less drastically than regular cane sugar. It also contains natural antioxidants and vitamins, helps fight inflammation, and improves your digestion. Maple Syrup, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation. However, it is a perfect sweetener to start using in your baking! You can buy an expensive brand, but the one I use is actually from Target for only about $4!

So, have I convinced you to look at my Cookie Dough Ball recipe yet? I made them chocolate chip flavor for this recipe, but in the past I have also made Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter, and Double-Chocolate Chip. If you’d like the recipe to these flavors as well, let me know in the comments below!

All Natural, Low Carb Cookie Dough Balls Recipe

This recipe yields 8-10 balls depending on the size. Now you can share them, or you can store leftovers in the fridge…or consume all at once. Remember, no judgement here (;

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup (honey is a great alternative as well)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • optional: 2 tablespoons 100% pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine your coconut oil, almond or coconut milk, vanilla, and maple syrup.
  2. Slowly add your almond flour and mix well by hand.
  3. Gently fold in your dark chocolate chips.
  4. Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll into balls. Place on a plate or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes until solid.
  6. Enjoy!

IMG_6581Not pictured: the two cookie dough balls I instantly consumed to make sure this recipe was delicious x2. Sometimes recipe testing does that to you (; And yes, I used a plate because my fridge has limited room! This clearly works just as well as a cookie sheet!

 

Green Monster Pizza

IMG_5750Finally, I am back to getting some time for recipe testing. The past few weeks have been very busy, but I am glad to be writing again. I will have a lot more content soon. My recipe today was inspired by my love and wanting for pizza, but not wanting something greasy or loaded with cheese. I am trying to be really good to my body for wellness and health reasons, but I do not deprive myself. I am traveling this weekend, so I know there will be plenty of times to indulge then, so I did not want to indulge today. I was pretty excited with the outcome of this pizza, and shocked that it fulfilled my craving and that I got so many nutrients in! Also, this pizza traveled well (I had it for dinner at work and it held together great!)

You might be questioning the recipe when looking at the ingredients. There are no tomatoes, no pepperoni, and a lot of greens! As my wonderful friend Ryan would say, this pizza is on the Emilee diet (putting kale in EVERYTHING!) So what did I do to make it taste more like pizza and less like salad on bread? I incorporated some of my favorite pizza flavors, olives, basil, and crushed red pepper. This gave me some pizza flavor without overloading on greasy or unhealthy toppings. Not that tomatoes are unhealthy, but they are higher in sugar, carbs and acid. I also wanted to experiment with a sauce different than the usual pizza sauce…and wow, I am glad I did!

Green Monster Pizza Recipe

This recipe yields enough ingredients for one 8-inch pizza. You can adjust for your pizza size needs! I also want to note, you can use any kind of dough that you please. Mine is a frozen, corn-based crust because I am gluten-free, but you can choose your own crust adventure (maybe zucchini crust for even more greens!!)

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup your favorite herb (I used basil, but parsley would work great too!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Toppings

  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a fiesta blend because it’s what I had, but any cheese works great, including vegan!)
  • 1/2 cup steamed broccoli
  • 1/2 cup steamed kale
  • 1/4 various bell peppers, steamed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to the appropriate temperature for your pizza crust. Mine was 425 °F, but times will vary.
  2. Place your crust on parchment paper on a baking sheet. This calls for easy clean up!
  3. In a blender or food processor, combine sauce ingredients. The water will help the kale and herbs get incorporated with the avocado.
  4. Spread your sauce all over your pizza crust.
  5. Time to add your cheese! Sprinkle the desired amount (I won’t judge you if 3/4 cup is not enough!)
  6. Next, take your steamed broccoli and kale and arrange on the pizza.
  7. Now comes for those bell pepper slices and black olives.
  8. Drizzle with olive oil for an extra crispness on the veggies.
  9. Cook to the time recommended for your crust. Mine was 12-15 minutes.
  10. Take your pizza out of the oven and let sit for 2-5 minutes.
  11. Enjoy!!

 

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup

IMG_5089.JPGI have a confession...I love soup. I love making it, I love eating it, and I love how many vitamins I can shove into one bowl. My family has been feeling sick on and off and I work with children/families, so I am exposed to a lot of germs. I need as many vitamins as I can get! Sometimes I make enough soup to share and freeze leftovers, but lately I’ve been making a fresh bowl of soup daily. It does not have to be complicated or simmer for a lengthy time to be delicious, especially when it’s a vegan soup! Meat tends to need more time in the pot, but herbs and veggies breakdown a lot easier. I also do not always need complex, flavor-building soup. Sometimes you need something simple, quick, and easy! I like to use as fresh of ingredients as possible, but if you prefer dried herbs or pastes, use what is best for you! Now, let’s talk about the benefits from this recipe!

Kale: this low calorie, non-fat, fiber rich, leafy green helps aid digestion, and helps promote iron absorption (hello vitamins B and C!) It is also a great source of vitamins K,  A, B1, B2, B3, B6,  and E. All the nutrients, and a great alternative to spinach or collard greens. If you are an avid reader on my blog, you know that I eat around 3-4 cups of kale a day, so I am personally a huge fan.

Garlic/Onions: Ah, the Allium family. Garlic, shallots, chives, leeks, onions..oh my! I love the flavors of all alliums, but garlic and onions are by far used most in my daily life. They help with cold and flu relief, as well as provide great anti-inflammatory benefits due to the vitamin C and manganese content. While you can get heartburn from both of these ingredients (my grandmother could not stand garlic), when eaten in moderation, you should be okay. I typically do not have side effects, so I eat a lot of garlic! Again, modify for yourself.

Ginger: I’ve been a fan of ginger for quite sometime now. I love ginger tea, ginger chews, and fresh ginger in soup. Ginger is typically known for its relation to relieving stomach pain. Whether it be motion sickness, nausea, morning sickness, or just an upset stomach, ginger is a great option to try! It is also known to help relieve cold and flu symptoms, as well as help reduce inflammation.

Lemon: Fresh lemon juice has so many great benefits. Again, a great source of vitamin C (do you see the theme here?), but lemon juice also promotes weight loss, aids digestion, and can help promote hydration. When making soup, add your lemon juice in when serving. Just like with all vegetables and fruit, it is best to consume them in the rawest form possible (if safe) so you can really get the nutrients than can be cooked out.

Kale and Lemon Immune Boosting Soup Recipe

I made a single serving for this soup, so feel free to double, triple, or make as much as you want! It’s easy to digest, low calorie, non-fat, vegan, gluten-free, and filled with immune boosting goodness!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ginger, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pour water into a medium sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil and continue to let it boil for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium low for 10-15 minutes covered.
  2. Remove ginger if you do not want to eat it in your soup. Personally, I do remove it at this point, but if you want to consume the pieces, go for it! Remember to remove the skin before cooking if eating.
  3. Add your kale. Let the kale cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour your soup into a bowl. Pour lemon juice into the soup and give it a stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Enjoy and try to keep the germs away!

Spaghetti Squash with Protein Sauce

IMG_4957I have an obsession with squash, but more importantly spaghetti squash. I am gluten-free, and as much as I love gluten-free pasta options, I still hate how many carbs are in a single cup. My parents used to serve us spaghetti squash as a treat when we were kids, and all three of us would gobble it up. In college, I rediscovered how cheap and easy it was to have a squash fill you up and be just as tasty as actual spaghetti. You can replace spaghetti squash in any of your favorite pasta dishes, or simply enjoy with olive oil and seasoning. There are virtually endless possible ways to consume this yummy squash.

Even if you aren’t gluten-free or on a low carb diet, this is an easy way to get a ton of vitamins in your diet. Spaghetti squash is high in fiber, vitamin B, potassium, and omega-3 fats. It also contains the essential minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. With all the benefits, spaghetti squash can help aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, and help regulate your blood sugar. Who knew you could replace regular spaghetti with something so nutritious!?

For this recipe, I decided to make a meat sauce with ground turkey, garlic, olive oil, and fresh tomato and basil. I’m sure a meat substitute, such as lentils, would work fine (I was a vegetarian once, I get it!) or even without the meat substance at all. This is how I chose to fuel my body, and I have no regrets!

Spaghetti Squash with Protein Sauce Recipe

This recipe includes how to prepare a whole spaghetti squash, so there will be enough for leftovers. I made enough sauce for a single serving, but feel free to double or triple it to serve your whole family! Sorry, I do single girl servings!

Ingredients

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 a cup ground turkey
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For spice, you could add crushed red peppers, but I didn’t have any on hand!

Directions

  1. Start by cooking the spaghetti squash. To do this, preheat your oven to 450 ℉. Pierce your squash with a fork so it can steam. Put your squash on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. This allows the squash to soften making it easier to cut. Cut the squash in half (I cut mine long ways, but the choice is yours) and remove all seeds. Evenly distribute olive oil and seasoning on the squash. Place the halves back on the baking sheet with the inside facing down. This helps the squash steam and not burn. Cook for about 10-15 more minutes. Take out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before trying to touch. With a fork, carefully scrape your squash and create long strings. Boom. Spaghetti in squash form.
  2. For the sauce, start by cooking your protein. I put the ground turkey in a skillet on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil, flavored with salt and pepper, and occasionally stirred until it was fully cooked.
  3. Next, turn down the heat down to medium. Add your tomato and garlic to your protein. Cook and stir until the tomatoes have softened.
  4. Slowly incorporate the basil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the rest of the sauce.
  5. In a bowl, portion yourself a serving of spaghetti squash (I eat about 1 1/2 cups at a time) and add your sauce on top. Top with salt and pepper for added taste.
  6. Enjoy!

February Trader Joe’s Wine Picks

Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places to shop. Their snacks are cheap, they have great all-natural options, and a lot of their food is gluten-free. Another huge perk is their IMG_4791_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-34-03alcohol selection. From brews to barrels, there are options for every budget and every taste bud. In college, I drank a lot of Two Buck Chucks (aka Charles Shaw) and occasionally would splurge on a $3.99 option. Now that I have a better hold on life, I buy wines ranging anywhere from $3-$12, but I still buy them from Trader Joe’s. Not only do they switch it up monthly, but there are some great options from around the world and it still fits in my budget. I thought I would go ahead and share with you the wines on my wine rack for February and why I recommend any (or all) of the four.**

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First up, Sara Bee Moscato. This sweet white wine is a product of Italy and has been on my top list for a couple of years now. It is a regular at TJ’s, and it is perfect for a sunny day. This golden hewed wine is sweet with notes of pear and lychee, as well as floral with aromas of elderflower. There is a slight honey-citrus zing as an after note. This is a richer Moscato, but does not have a fake, sugary sweetness. Instead the sweetness comes from the fruity flavors embedded in the wine. I personally like Italian wines because the naturally sweet flavors are a constant theme. I like Moscatos, but they are not my favorite because of how overwhelming the flavors can be. However, I find this wine to be refreshing and a nice way to end a warm, sunny day. Costing only $5.99 for one bottle, the price is even sweeter than the wine.

IMG_4792_Facetune_09-02-2018-16-09-15.JPG

Next, Kidia Sauvignon Blanc. This wine pours at a nice yellow-green color and smells clean, but intense. With hints of white currant, green apple, fresh herbs, and lime, this wine is fruity, elegant, and bold. It is a stronger wine with an alcohol level of 13.0%, but not overly powering. I will say I am a little bias as Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite type of wine and Chilean wine is my absolute favorite. I find wine from Chile to be refreshing, clean, and a bit on the citrus flavored side (which I am found of in white wine.) Kidia has the flavors I crave constantly, and is strong enough to enjoy a single glass to relax with dinner. I like wines that I can pair with creamy cheeses and a nice salad, and Kidia goes great with an arugula salad topped with goat cheese and dried cranberries (hmm maybe a recipe?) This wine is one of the most I have read that this wine can be sold for up to $15 a bottle, but at TJ’s I found it for just $5.99.

Blue Fin Riesling. Another classic from my college days. Riesling is similar to Moscato inIMG_4796_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-44-46 the sense it is easier for me to drink, but can get to the point where it is way too sweet. Thankfully, this wine is medium in body and acidity, creating a nice balance with flavors of lemons, pears, tropical fruits, citrus, and a hint of mint. Although this wine smells very sweet when the cork comes out, it has a slight tartness that makes this Riesling lighter. It has a crisp aftertaste, and unlike most sweet wines, it didn’t leave my mouth with the taste of alcohol. I once used Blue Fin as a base for Sangria. I made mine peach based with some citrus flavors, and it turned out really nice. I served this with a spicy chicken dish and salad tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I highly recommend this combination as it pairs very nicely and enhances the Riesling’s flavors. Although you could pay closer to $10 for better Riesling, Blue Fin is $4.49 at TJ’s and great for a cheap wine!

IMG_4795_Facetune_09-02-2018-15-51-27Finally, Mbali Chenin Blanc Viognier. I have very little experience with Chenin Blanc or Viognier (I’m not even sure I can pronounce those correctly..sorry dad), but what I do have experience with is South African wine. The interesting part about this wine is that South Africa produces Chenin Blanc in a dry style, and Viognier is a very full-bodied wine similar to Chardonnay. Mbali’s blend is 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier. Surprisingly, Mbali is a bright and light wine that is very easy to drink despite the slight buttery notes. Flavors of melon, peach, pear, apple, and kiwi add enough sweetness and body without too much acidity within the after taste. What I like the most about this wine is how different it is from a basic Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio that I would order when I wanted a fuller wine. I would compare this to Sauvignon Blanc but with notes of honey and possibly vanilla. I like that it has a mix of rich flavors but isn’t too complex or heavy. I would pair Mbali with lighter dishes and fresh herbs. Plus, it was only $4.99, so I think it’s a great way to introduce yourself to new types of wines and blends!

**Disclaimer: I am NOT a wine expert. My father is, but I do not have the extensive knowledge or refined palate like he does. I am a vino, and a college graduate, so I like to find cheap wines that won’t taste like fermented sadness. Feel free to disagree with my tastes, but remember all taste buds are different and deserve to be respected!