South of the Border Sushi Rolls

We all need food that’s fun, colorful, and flavorful, not to mention nutritious.  Since we really do eat with our eyes first, making a simple change to your usual lunch routine can make a big impact in how you preserve something that can become mundane and uninteresting.


Take your basic wrap:

Why not slice it up and you have a fun sushi-like finger food option for lunch? It’s great for kids that do not like sushi, but it also gives them something a new way to look at something they might have gotten used to seeing in their lunch.

And, just because it’s great for kids, doesn’t mean adults can’t make it to0!


I used a tex mex flavored ranch spread, layered on some veggies, with a little guacamole and black beans.

All the ingredients were leftover items from our dinners over the weekend. Nothing fancy here.

Actually it all gets a bit messy, but that happens sometimes.

Especially if you’re like me and always tend to OVER STUFF your tortillas. {Why can’t I learn my lesson? There’s just so much goodness to squeeze into one little wrap?!?


South of the Border Sushi Rolls


Makes: 2 servings


2 tablespoons Greek Yogurt Ranch dressing

2 tablespoons guacamole or 1/4 avocado

8 ounces black beans, drained & rinsed

1 clove garlic, grated

1/4 red onion, minced

1 lime juiced

2 Hola Nola whole wheat tortillas

4 ounces spinach

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced

1/4 bell pepper, thinly sliced


Prepare the Greek Yogurt Tex Mex Ranch dressing {see recipe linked}.

Prepare the black beans by slightly mashing them with the back of a spoon and combining with the red onions and lime juice.

Assemble the wraps by spreading a tablespoon of dressing onto each tortilla. Dollop and spread on a tablespoon of guacamole {or a couple slices of avocado}.

Sprinkle on about 1/4 cup black beans per tortilla.

Layer on a small handful of spinach and couple slices of cucumber and bell pepper onto each tortilla.

Wrap the tortilla and slice it up to resemble sushi rolls when sat upright.



Make gluten free by using whole grain corn tortillas or a whole grain gluten free tortilla like

Make vegan by omitting Greek Yogurt Ranch spread



This is the same recipe I prepared at my cooking demo this month with Whole Foods Market. I just made a few adjustments to make a vegetarian option. You can add as many veggies as you’d like and really swap out the flavor profiles here.

It’s versatile. Just like any recipe I create and share.




Berry Banana Split Cheesecake Kabobs

Our August-themed recipe redux for 2016 is vacation-inspired recipes!

Nothing says vacation more to me than summer time. And not too many things say summer time more than ice cream!

While I completely agree with the motto all things in moderation, there’s no reason you can’t lighten up a delicious treat like a banana split!


Living in NOLA – with family spread across many states – means that our vacations revolve around visiting family. Whether it’s a weekend get-a-way or a long holiday break, you can almost guarantee we’ll be making a trip to Georgia or up north to Illinois.


Surprisingly, with my sweet tooth, I’m not a huge ice cream lover. If it’s in the freezer for the hubster, it’s one of those things I can resist. But when we go home, you can be I’ll be looking forward to our pajama run to DQ for some sort of treat. Banana spits are not usually my go-tos, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the colors & textures and how satisfying and refreshing it would be in these last few days of summer.

I’m kidding, it’s no where near the end of the summer weather for us in the south. Just wishful thinking here. I love summer, but these days are brutal….


But that’s a perfect reason to indulge in these portable, kid friendly, pool-side ready treats!


If you know me at all you know I love a good easy, fast, and versatile recipes that are sure to taste good and please many! And these do not disappoint! You can even make a red, white, and blue edition to your Labor Day festivities coming up!


Berry Banana Split Cheesecake Kabobs

Makes: 10+


2 Tablespoons 2% plain Fage Greek Yogurt

2 Tablespoons Whipped Cream Cheese (or almond milk cheese)

2 Tablespoons Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 drops Sweet Leaf

kabob skewers, halved

1 pint strawberries

1/2 pint raspberries

1 banana, cut into 1-in chunks

1/4 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, melted

2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons whole grain granola, chopped

2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

kabob skewers, halved


In a small mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract and sweet drops and mix well with a fork or spoon.

Thread a piece of each fruit onto the skewers.

Drizzle with the cheesecake mixture and the melted dark chocolate.

Sprinkle with the chopped walnut & granola pieces and coconut flakes.  You can omit some of the toppings, if desired and for personal preference.


I had some leftover ingredients, so this could easily yield more than 10 kabobs. Some of the berries just happened to end up in my mouth…


And, I only had time to make so many before sleeping beauty awoke from her nap.

You can make as many as you’d like.




For a look at more of our recipe redux, check out these other great bloggers | authors | recipe creators:

Mason Jar Salad Party

You probably have seen this pretty & smart meal prepping trend on pinterest.

Simply pack up some greens & salad toppings in a strategic stack to use throughout the week for your lunch needs.

It’s fun, eye-appealing, uniquely delicious, and impeccably nutritious.


Some of us may struggle to get the trend started just because it’s hard to break our usual routine, maybe we don’t know what to do, or maybe we tend to use the same ol’ greens and fixins’?

That’s when you through a Mason Jar Salad party!

I first heard of this while I was back home during vacation. I thought, what a great way to get friends together while being productive and preparing ourselves something healthy to use later?!

We all gather over food. But why not gather over healthy food that also teaches, encourages, and inspires?


So here’s my step by step process to throw a low-key, low stress, successful salad-in-a-jar party!

1- Send out invites to guests.

I used a quick facebook event invite &included when, where, and what to bring.

If it’s hot and humid out, keep it indoors, but if the weather’s nice, make it even easier by hosting at a local park.  As the hostess, I offered to bring the mason jars and dressing, and everyone was asked to bring a container of greens plus two toppings. We didn’t get too detailed into who was bringing what, and it turned out everyone brought a few different options and extra amounts so there was enough to take home for themselves elsewhere.

For fun, I also set up two drinks (unsweet brewed mango green tea + cucumber lemon agua fresca) and made a watermelon salad appetizer. That puts a bit more on your to-do list, but it’s definitely not a must.


2. Prepare the jars and party flow.

I washed the jars and lids and determined the flow for the salad-making process. My “drink & appetizer” station was set on a separate table. Meanwhile, along my counter tops the order went:

empty jars





I used little chalkboards to designate stations and also the order of how to build the salads:

dressing on the bottom

followed by hardy-toppings that won’t absorb much liquid quickly

finished with delicate greens

 Of course, having an 18 month old helper is always useful and highly encouraged. =)


When it was time, I prepared a sample salad to show everyone how to get started.


Here’s some of the toppings we had to share:

options of store bought and make your own dressing

julienne purple cabbage        black beans        shredded cabbage         diced bell peppers

currants       toasted pecans      sunflower seeds        shredded coconut       toasted pistachios

mixed greens           spinach            kale


Here is a favorite combo of mine [actually shared years ago by a friend}:

    bell peppers   currants    pecans    with a basic vinaigrette

And one of LEM’s Godmother suggested this combo {which we all thought sounded deliciously brilliant and just so happens to be the same friend who created my previously mentioned favorite combo- she’s quite the salad connoisseur apparently}:

walnuts    dried pineapple    shredded coconut

But who am I kidding, everything looked great, so I added a little bit of everything to each of mine (ooops)!



It turned out that no one used the “make your own” dressing station I had set out. My advice would just be to provide some versatile but delicious ready-made dressings.  I’d suggest to keep it simple with a quick homemade lemon & honey vinaigrette and a balsalmic vinegar dressing just based on the type of ingredients we had available. The store bought option we had was this low sugar and only 15 calorie per two tablespoon option that everyone used Bella’s Blackberry & Fig.


Our protein source was some black beans, but you could also keep it simple with other no-salt-added canned beans like white beans or chickpeas. Even hard boiled eggs or some tofu would be great. I’m loving this Hemp Crusted Tofu recipe from fellow recipe redux blogger Dixya from her Food, Pleasure, Health blog.


I hope this inspires you to gather with your friends and make these beautiful and healthy salads-to-go!  I hope we get to do this monthly! After all, I’m all about multi-tasking these days!



Whole Grain Chicken Caesar Sandwich

As promised last week, I have a round 2 recipe from the leftover roasted chicken that we first used in our homemade chicken noodle soup.

I first started making these sandwiches when Andrew and I began our vacation road trips back home to Illinois a handful of years ago. They are so good that you’ll want to make an excuse to go on vacation this week!

{Who needs an excuse for a vacation, right?!}


For road trips, we need something portable as well as something I could make ahead of time and still taste good a day or so later.

Of course, I’d love to stop at Panera but I do try to save money when I can. To top if off, you know it’s always going to be healthier even if you make the same thing at home.

That’s why this recipe is perfect. My husband loves Panera Chicken Caesar Sandwiches so when The Barefoot Contessa was making a Chicken Caesar Club on one of my all time favorite cooking shows, I knew I had the perfect recipe to twist and make it more nutritious yet just as delicious.


So how did this recipe get twisted?

Well first, let’s start with the bread. I used 100% whole grain bread, but to keep the cals in check, I chose thin slices. I love the nutty texture of seeds and grains and it helps to add some staying -power to carbs.

For the dressing, I used half Greek yogurt and half mayo than the original recipe and skipped the sun dried tomatoes to preserve the natural Caesar flavor {and because the hubster isn’t a fan of tomatoes}. I also added a bit more flavor with more garlic, freshly ground black pepper, and more anchovy paste.

When roasting the chicken, I also skipped seasoning the skin, because I knew it wouldn’t be used so there was no need to flavor it.


So basically that’s it. A dietitian-approved twisted recipe of a Food Network pro simply by adding fiber and whole grains, decreasing some of the amount of fat from the dressing while amping up the flavor from other ingredients.

Now, a note on the pancetta, I kept it as a splurge but you could definitely substitute it with bacon {preferably no nitrate or nitrite added} or omit it altogether like I did for lunch when I ran out. =)

Because there is a decent bit of sodium coming from the anchovy paste in the dressing and the Parmesan cheese, I would recommend omitting it completely if you have any type of sodium retention, high blood pressure, heart or kidney condition.


I love this sandwich for it’s flavor {first and foremost} but also it’s portability and longevity. Making it a great travel option, but also a great meal prep lunch option that you can assemble as needed throughout the week!

Here’s my full twisted recipe:

Whole Grain Chicken Caesar Sandwich

Serves: 4-6


2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on

4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

freshly ground black pepper

12 slices 100% thin sliced Whole Grain bread

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry

2 Parmesan, shaved


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast the chicken on a sheet tray for 35 to 45 minutes until the skin as browned and the meat is thoroughly cooked. Allow to cool and then remove the skin, and thinly slice the breast meat.

Meanwhile, place a wire rack on a sheet tray, and roast the pancetta for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Prepare the dressing by pulsing the garlic, parsley, anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayo, yogurt, and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper until smooth and well combined.

To assemble the sandwiches, first toast the slices of bread. Spread on about 1/2 tablespoon of dressing on each slice of bread. Top with a few slices of chicken, 1 slice of pancetta, sprinkling of red onion, arugula, Parmesan, and the second slice of bread.

Serve warm or store in airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Thanks for stopping by today! Have a great day!







Chicken, Carrot, & Basil Noodle Soup

The flu or a cold can strike at anytime.

Just because the peak of flu season is sometime between November ’til February doesn’t mean you can’t catch a virus in the heat of summer.

That’s exactly what happened to me. And my mom. A thousand miles apart.


This week we’ve commiserating in discomfort together while grinding away at the work week.

Normally my mom raves of this Chicken Noodle Soup back home at a local Thai restaurant. It’s actually a pho soup with chicken and basil. Since I didn’t have fresh basil on hand {I tend to waste fresh herbs and then when I need them I’m fresh out of luck. I know I should grow them myself, but I tend to forget to water them and they die anyways. It’s a vicious cycle}.


So I made a twisted version of this soup that my mom loves. And I ate it. And I was all better.

Not really, but wouldn’t that be nice? Dang, lovely little germ magnets, called children.


Chicken, Carrot, and Basil Noodle Soup

Serves: 6


1-2 split chicken breasts (skin on, bone in)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 32-ounce containers no salt added chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces (or 1/4 of a one-pound bag) whole wheat spaghetti


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees to roast the chicken for 45 minutes or until the skin has browned and the meat has cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil to medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic. Allow to saute to soften. Begin to add the chicken stock to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the seasoning (dried herbs & spices). Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables become tender (about 30 minutes).

Cook the pasta according to the package directions either in the same soup pot or in a separate pot. Once the chicken has finished, remove the skin, dice the meat and add to the soup.

Serve warm with whole grain grilled cheese croutons. =)



This soup is actually really easy and relatively fast to make. You can make it the night of, even if you’re not feeling the greatest or you can freeze it and have it ready for whenever the ugliness of a cold or flu may strike.

I usually start most recipes with a touch of olive oil, garlic and onions. Add carrots and celery for this recipe with some herbs for seasoning. Finish with chicken and noodles all cooked in a broth and you’re good to go.

Take a short cut and use rotisserie chicken or roast your own and use any extras in my round 2 recipe coming next week. It’s actually a perfect travel option, which will take me right back to vacation mode.


Until then!



Spiralized Grilled Vegetable Salad

I probably don’t need to add fuel to the fire and talk about hot awfully hot it is down here.

Y’all, I’m scorched just being in the sun for a few seconds. And, to be honest, I can’t believe there were even similarly humid days up in Illinois. I know it can get humid there, but there’s usually no comparison to muggy NOLA.

So for me, it’s not necessarily the weather that I love about summer, but I do love some of this season’s aspects, especially the bounty of produce! Which is perfect timing with this month’s Recipe Redux theme of showcasing the bounty of fruits and vegetables and all their shapes, colors, and combinations.


I love a good pasta salad to share for summer festivities. It’s perfect served warm or cold.

It’s comforting and tasty.

It’s versatile.

It’s portable and great for picnics, BBQs, or just sitting by the pool.

But what’s even better than a pasta salad? A healthy vegetable salad minus the heavy carb-dense calories but just as full of flavor. It’s light, yet satisfying and nutrient rich, and has all those great pasta salad qualities.


For this salad, simply grill up some of your favorite produce from your garden or local farmers market, toss it in with some fun zoodles {zucchini noodles}, drizzle on a vinaigrette and you are set.

It’ll last all week as needed or pair perfectly with any BBQ-style meal for a summer gathering.

Spiralized Grilled Vegetable Salad

Serves: 4-6


1 tablespoon oil

1 ear of corn, husked

1 red bell pepper

1 habanero pepper

2 zucchinis, spiralized

1 cup carrots, julienne

1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat a grill pan to medium heat. Brush oil of choice onto the corn and peppers. Place them on the grill until each side has a nice char.

Once cooled, cut the kernels off the corn, slice the bell pepper, and dice the habanero pepper. Combine the grilled veggies into a large bowl with the zucchini noodles, carrots, and lima beans.

In a small mixing bowl or measure cup, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, parsley, and pepper.

Combine the vinaigrette onto the warmed veggies. toss well. Serve warm or allow to chill and marinate in the fridge until needed.


If you follow along with my recipes, you know that I love flexible and versatile recipes.

Add more herbs to the vinaigrette, increase the vinegar amount, use a specific oil of preference- whatever suites your needs and dietary preferences can work here. The veggies are a great medium to take on flavors of any choosing. I just love it and need to go make another batch ASAP.


To preserve more of summers bounty, don’t forget to check out my fellow reduxers recipes as well!

Happy Summer y’all! Stay cool + stay hydrated







Whole Grain Apple Harvest Muffins

As an adult, there’s something about ‘going home’ that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Maybe it’s just me or those emotionally-attached individuals like me.

Maybe it’s that going home is my vacation time. Maybe it’s a glimpse into my older memories or maybe it’s making new memories and sharing this time and place with my new little family.

It’s part relaxing, part fun, part comforting.

Whatever it is, I love it and I truly miss it when it’s time to leave.


Last week we were on vacation. Can you tell? Away from worries and busy-ness regarding work stress, house chores, food prep, etc.

We spent time in my hometown in Illinois and got to see family and friends. It was the first time I had been home for our annual 4th of July celebration called The Petunia Festival {we are the petunia capital of the world, afterall}. We watched fire works, swam in the pool, walked around our neighborhood, shopped, drank some coffee + ate some yummy muffins at my favorite bakery. And all of it was done with my mother and little one by my side. The boys were there too, but they tend to do their own thing. =)


These muffins are one of my newer go-tos for lower sugar, kid & mommy-friendly breakfast or snacks. They are perfect to make ahead and freeze for when you need them, especially when you’re on the road. They are a great baked good for breakfast and a seemingly indulgent afternoon snack.

My mom first introduced me to them around Christmas and LEM and I loved them.

We twisted the ingredients a bit to make them our own but they are full of whole grain fibers from oats, heart healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and sweetness from just a touch of sugar with natural fruit sugars.


Whole Grain Apple Harvest Muffins 


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup carrots, shredded

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 apple, diced

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup honey roasted sesame seeds


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with non stick spray or line with paper cups.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients including the banana, carrots, applesauce, apple, egg, and coconut oil. Stir in the nuts and dried fruit.

Gently mix in the dry flour ingredients to the wet ingredients. Be careful not to overmix, just fold in the dry ingredients until you no longer have large clumps of flour in the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle each muffin with the sesame seeds.

Bake for 20 minutes until the center is clean when using the toothpick test.


We tend to have them with some chocolate PB2 {powdered peanut butter simply mixed with water}.

They are a truly harvest muffin, full of loads of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies! Perfect for any time of year! I’m loving them now for their nostalgia of traveling and being home, but they’d be delicious this fall or winter too!

Pack these little babies up for a picnic or make an extra batch to giveaway as a loving gift!


Do you have any favorite comforting recipes? Are you a fried chicken or mac n’ cheese person, or a baked good person like me?

Thanks for stopping by!