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This week has been sort of a lull compared to my normal schedule. On a whim, I joined my mom and sister at a new spin class on Monday night. As I normally (yet unintentionally) do, I started out too hard and have rendered myself useless these past few days. I’m sore everywhere. I had to cut my run short on Tuesday because my quads were screaming at me and my poor, limping form was causing more harm than good. The four flights of stairs that I take every morning to get to my office have just about killed me. I’ve resorted to living room core work and dining room spinning. On the plus side, these seemingly quicker workouts have actually allowed me more time to cook real dinners.

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I’m not much of a meat eater – I only eat meat once or twice a week – but when I do eat meat, it’s usually chicken. I love the versatility of chicken. You can bake it, fry it, grill it, cook it in a crock-pot. You can shred it, serve it cold, eat it with vegetables, top it with marinara, dip it in bread crumbs.

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Chicken is so easy to cook and it’s so easy to switch up. I especially love popcorn chicken – or chicken with a crunch – but I’m not a big fan of fried foods, and neither is my body! But…you can have your chicken and eat it too. This chicken isn’t fried, it’s baked, and it’s still crunchy! I also serve it over a bed of spinach with some other healthy and crunchy veggies.

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This recipe makes roughly 4 servings (4 salads), depending on how much chicken you like in your salad.

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Baked Cajun Chicken and Spinach Salad

yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 4 chicken tenders (about 1 large chicken breast, sliced lengthwise into quarters)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • spinach
  • shredded carrots
  • cucumber, sliced
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the egg and milk together in one bowl. In a second bowl, mix the panko and Cajun seasoning.
  3. Cut your chicken tenders into small nugget-sized piece. (About 1-2 inches in diameter.) First dip the chicken into the egg mixture, then coat with the panko mixture. Place coated chicken on the baking sheet.
  4. Cook the chicken nuggets for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. While waiting for the chicken to cook, prepare your salad. Assemble spinach, carrots, cucumber slices and feta cheese in a bowl. Add in extra ingredients if desired. Top with cooked chicken.
  6. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar on to each salad serving.

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

This morning I participated in the Rev3 (SheJAMs) Olympic Triathlon in Old Orchard Beach. (I’ll post the race report in the next few days.) When I got home after noon, I was starving. I wolfed down a sandwich and come 5:00, I was famished again. So I decided that I wanted to make a “recovery” meal that would have lots of healthy vegetables and fill me up!

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

Normally, I don’t post one-off recipes to this blog. I prefer to test them out a few times before posting them for the world to see, but this dinner was delicious. It was so easy to make – perfect because I was exhausted from a 4:00am wake-up and swim. I pretty much just threw whatever ingredients I had into it – and I’d actually encourage you to do the same. Don’t bother going out and buying every specific vegetable that I list. The point of this recipe is just to use pantry items that you have laying around! I’ll post some suggestions for substitutions afterwards, if you’re at a loss!

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

sesame vegetable and bean stir-fry

yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rice (I used Jasmine Rice)
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • a bunch of kale
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Prepare all of your vegetables by cutting/chopping/dicing/mincing them.
  2. Cook rice according to the instructions on the box or bag. As a general rule of thumb, I use a 2:1 water to rice ratio. I cook the rice until it comes to a boil, turn the heat down on the burner, and allow it to simmer (stirring occasionally) until all of the water is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. This usually takes 10-15 minutes.
  3. Put 1 Tbsp. coconut oil into a sauté pan or skillet. Add the sweet potato and carrot slices and cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally.
  4. After 3-4 minutes, add the onions and garlic, along with another 1 Tbsp. coconut oil and the sesame oil. Cook the vegetables down until the sweet potato chunks are softened.
  5. Add the frozen peas, kale and black beans to the pan – and the remaining 1 Tbsp. coconut oil. Stir in, then cover to allow the kale to wilt.
  6. Once the kale is cooked down, add the salt, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and rice to the pan. Stir until well combined.
  7. Serve while warm.

Substitutions:

  • Instead of rice, you can use: farro, quinoa, couscous, pasta.
  • You can also choose to add in these ingredients for a delicious twist: corn, edamame, salsa, spinach, eggs, chicken, sausage, tofu

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Energy balls have become a classic. They’re so easy to make and yet so delicious. They’re the perfect balance between sweet and salty which makes them really easy to eat – and they’ve got so many healthy ingredients that you can snack guilt-free.

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

I make these oatmeal balls before every hike I go on. Depending on the length of the hike, I often find myself getting hungry on the way to the top. Not wanting to stop for too long, I grab an energy ball out of my pack and continue on while munching. One or two of these can sustain me for quite a while!

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

These oatmeal balls aren’t just for hiking, though. I make up a small batch at the beginning of the week and bring a few to work each day. They’re a perfect 10:30am pick-me-up and they also go great with coffee. I was recently talking to a close friend of mine about these and she informed me that her ultrarunner boyfriend brings something similar to eat while running his ultramarathons.

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Oatmeal Energy Balls

yields: 18-20 oatmeal balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir well, making sure to mix the dry ingredients with the wet until the peanut butter and honey coat the oats.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the mixture into little balls using your (clean) hands.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. They also keep well at room temperature.

Farro Salad with Pesto, Peas, Cucumbers and Mozzarella  | Spice & Dice

It’s been getting steadily warmer these past few weeks and I’m ready for summer. I’m already craving fruit skewers, cold drinks (iced coffee, anyone?), kayaking and grilling. This weekend, I decided that it was time make a cold salad.

Here’s the kicker. I’m on a self-imposed strict budget now. I’ll be moving in 7 days (!!) which will involve a few mandatory expenses. So this salad had to be budget-friendly. Like anyone on a budget, I skipped my usual supermarket and went straight to Trader Joe’s.

Farro Salad with Pesto, Peas, Cucumbers and Mozzarella  | Spice & Dice

There, I spotted the 10-minute farro. A few weeks earlier, a close friend of mine had served some of TJ’s 10-minute farro with dinner and I made a mental note to pick some up because it was delicious. So the idea for the cold salad was born.

The idea was to eat this every day for lunch and with dinner…but then the weekend came and my plans changed. Determined to eat every bit of this salad, I put the remainder of the salad in the freezer and it’s kept just fine! I’ll probably pull it out sometime this week and eat it as a side with a grilled chicken breast.

Farro Salad with Pesto, Peas, Cucumbers and Mozzarella  | Spice & Dice

Farro Salad with Pesto, Peas, Cucumbers and Mozzarella

yields: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. 10-minute farro
  • 16 oz. sweet frozen peas
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 6 oz. fresh pesto
  • 8 oz. mozzarella log
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the farro according to the instructions on the bag. Set aside and let cool.
  2. Pour the frozen peas with a cup of water into a pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the peas are all broken apart. Don’t overcook or they will become mushy. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Chop the cucumber into small dime-sized pieces.
  4. Chop the mozzarella log into similar dime-sized pieces.
  5. Combine the farro, peas, cucumbers and mozzarella in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the pesto, sea salt and pepper. If your pesto is rather dry (mine didn’t have very much olive oil floating on top), add in up to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Refrigerate and serve. The salad stays good refrigerated for up to a week in a closed container.

bulk love

03 26 2014.

It took a long time for me to get used to purchasing from the bulk section of my grocery store. It’s easy to forget that it exists, especially because it sits in the produce department of my local store. When I think “nuts” I usually go to the nut aisle. They’re expensive though! A small jar of cashews can cost upwards of $5!

I recently rediscovered the bulk section one evening when I was looking for hazelnuts for a recipe of mine. I wasn’t in a hurry so I did a few laps around the dispensers – examining what was available. Then I took a look a the price. Compared to the cost of the canned nuts, these were a steal! So I stocked up. Then I made granola bars.

And I had leftovers. The nuts sat on my shelf for a week or two until last night when I realized that I was short a midday snack for work…so I made a trail mix! This isn’t exactly a recipe, but it’s more of a reminder to use up those leftover nuts in a protein-packed snack form!

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My trail mix included: cashews, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pepitas, dried cranberries and mini chocolate chips.

Savory Stovetop Popcorn - Spice and Dice

I have a confession to make. I’m a popcorn fanatic. Popcorn is my go-to snack, and I will admit, I sometimes eat popcorn for meals.

Let me clarify for a second about what I mean by popcorn. I don’t mean the bagged popcorn you get from the grocery store and heat up in the microwave. I mean the kernels you buy in a bag and pop in some oil on your stove. That’s real popcorn.

I’m very particular about my popcorn: the type of oil I use, the length of time I let it sit on the stove, the number of times I swish or “agitate” the kernels while they’re heating up and the seasonings. I believe I’ve perfected the technique and I want to share (possibly the easiest and most delicious) recipe you’ll ever find on my blog.

Savory Stovetop Popcorn - Spice and Dice

Savory Stovetop Popcorn

yields: 5 cups popped corn

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil*
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

*You can use any oil you’d like, but I’ve found canola oil to be the best tasting!

Instructions:

  1. Pour the kernels and oil in a large pot. Cover. Turn your burner on high.
  2. While the oil heats up (should only take 1-2 minutes), using potholders, I pick up the pot and swirl the popcorn kernels and oil around in the pan every 15 seconds or so. This is the kind of recipe that requires you to watch over it at all times to avoid burning the popcorn. Agitating the kernels allows them to heat evenly and also gives you something to do while waiting!
  3. Once your first kernel pops, start swirling the kernels every 7-8 seconds or so.
  4. Remove the popcorn from the burner after 25 seconds or so, but continue to agitate. Place the pot on a different burner and wait until the popping stops. Note that these times are accurate for the 1/3 cup of kernels used. If you use more or fewer, your times will vary.
  5. Pour the popcorn into a fairly large bowl. Pour half of the seasonings on top. Stir well. Pour the second half on. Stir again. Eat, enjoy and never look back.