Category Archives: Main Course

{Recipe} Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Thighs

We are a week into the August Clean Eating Accountability and Yoga Challenge and I’m loving it!

I’ve been following a good 80/20 rule with my eating and even that 20% has been full of smarter choices. A new challenge always means new recipes for me, so I hit Pinterest and started searching for Clean Eating and Whole 30 meals that looked good to me…then I put my own spin on them.

The recipe I’m about to share is a combination of two recipes I found on there. One was a stuffed chicken thigh and the other was a bacon wrapped chicken thigh. Both sounded delicious and I couldn’t choose which one sounded better so I decided to merge them together, make a few changes to the stuffing and the results were delish!!

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Thighs

  • bacon wrapped stuffed chicken thighs¼ cup cashews
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • small handful of basil
  • 1 cup baby spinach (kale would work too)
  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Cajun seasoning, to taste (I use Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning)
  • nitrate-free bacon


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a food processor, combine the cashews, onion, garlic, basil and spinach. Pulse until it forms a thick paste with no large chunks in it. (If needed, add a little water or vegetable stock to thin it out so it doesn’t get stuck – but don’t make it runny.)
  3. Open the chicken thighs and lay them out flat. Sprinkle with your seasoning, then spoon some of the mixture into each thigh. Roll it up and then wrap with a slice a bacon. Place each thigh, bacon seam down on your baking pan.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads the proper temperature, between 165- 175 degrees.

These were really easy to make and they tasted amazing! I served them with some roasted sweet potato and zucchini.

As for yoga, I’m REALLY loving this series and I’m so happy I stumbled upon it on YouTube! Having a quick, program that is beginner friendly has been key to me sticking with daily practice.

I’m also happy to report that I have started running again! It felt good to get back out there and while my legs are really sore right now, I didn’t lose that much progress, which was a pleasant surprise.

Have you tried any new recipes since starting the challenge? Please be sure to share them with the rest of the group and if you Instagram or Tweet a photo, use the hashtag #EatCleanWithNikki

If you are hearing about this for the first time, please join us over on Facebook for daily accountability, recipe and snack ideas and of course, the daily yoga video!

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Grilled Ratatouille

The warm weather of spring and summer bring about lots of time spent outdoors. We love to grill in the summer and we also visit farm stands and farmers markets more often. I tend to gravitate towards meals that showcase the great veggies I pick up at these stands or that my neighbors drop off.

I’ve typically always thought of ratatouille as a meal prepared in the oven (as well as a Pixar movie), but I love the spin that this recipe has put on a classic meal.

Grilled Ratatouille


  • This photo is from when I prepared it on the stove, but it's still super tasty!

    This photo is from when I prepared it on the stove, but it’s still super tasty!


  • Pepper
  • Cajun seasoning, to taste
  • 3 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with press or minced
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 large orange or yellow peppers, quartered
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves


  • Prepare your grill for direct grilling on medium-high.
  • In small bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, and garlic.
  • Cut onion crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Trim your zucchini and eggplant, then cut diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices.
  • Brush half of the vinegar mixture on one side of onion, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle with cajun seasoning.
  • Grill tomatoes 6 minutes, zucchini and eggplant for 10 minutes, and peppers & onion for 12 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and charred, turning over once.
  • Transfer vegetables to a cutting board. Cool slightly, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces. (I remove the skin from eggplant at this time)
  • Toss with vegetables with remaining vinegar mixture, parsley, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

You can serve this with pasta (you would toss the pasta along with everything in the last step. Or serve over rice.

I’ve made this on the stove when the weather wasn’t good for grilling and it came out just as good (just a little less char). I also love picking up the pre-marinaded chicken breasts or thighs from Wegman’s to cut up and toss in with this. My current favorite are the Cilantro Lime ones….so yummy!

 What is your favorite way to prepare fresh vegetables in the summer months?

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{Recipe} Healthier Baked Ziti

One of my favorite comfort foods has always been Baked Ziti. There is just something about warm, gooey, melted cheese and pasta that makes me happy. Team that up with some fresh baked Italian bread (preferably from Brooklyn) and I’m on cloud nine!

The problem is, that as I have become healthier over the years, but I still crave that type of meal. My body now rejects high fat foods and processed carbs. I end up feeling sluggish and sick after I eat them, so I knew I needed to find a way to lighten it. As you know it that can be tricky to do when messing with cheese, but I think this turned out pretty good. I even added spinach/kale to the recipe for some vitamins and nutrients.

While this recipe is not the picture of health, it is lighter than your typical Baked Ziti and you can play around with ingredients to match your likes and dislikes. If you are a fan of gluten-free pasta, feel free to use it in this dish!

Healthier Baked Ziti

Healthier Baked Ziti
(serves 8)


  • 12 oz uncooked ziti or penne (preferably whole-grain)
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes (I used Tuttorosso)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed (I didn’t have spinach the last time I made it so I used Kale and it worked great)
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz fat-free ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded part skim mozzarella
  • olive oil cooking spray

Directions:Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with oil spray.

In a large pot, cook pasta according to instructions until al dente. Make sure you salt the water before adding the pasta! Drain and return to pot.

As the pasta cooks, heat a medium saucepan, add olive oil and sauté garlic, being careful not to burn it. Add chopped spinach, salt, pepper and crushed tomatoes. Season with basil, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.

Add sauce to the pasta and gently toss. Add half of the mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and ricotta to the pasta. Carefully mix well, then transfer to your baking pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned. Let it cool 5 minutes, then cut it into about 8 equal portions.

*You can make this a day in advance if you need to. Just be sure it’s stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking according to the directions above.

This meal would be perfect with a nice side salad instead of the bread, however it’s one of the few times I look to eat Italian bread and found a delicious 100% Whole Wheat variety that my local grocery store bakes fresh daily.

Do you have a favorite comfort food? Have you ever attempted to lighten it up?

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A Taste of Summer + Crock Pot Beef Carnitas

The past few days have been simply gorgeous outside! It’s been sunny and in the low 80’s outside, which means it was time to clean up the yard and sit outside.

This year, the yard took quite a beating. Between Super Storm Sandy, snow and a few wind storms, we are missing siding, had more than our fair share of branches and leaves everywhere, and let’s not even talk about the green hue my normally white house has turned.

Since I am still semi sidelined from the plague, my activity has come in the form of clean-up. Lots of raking, bagging, weeding and digging through the shed to find the cushions for the patio set. The one thing the nice weather always makes me crave is grilled food. There is just something about sunshine, fresh air and a warm breeze, that makes me crave a juicy burger, fresh grilled veggies or maybe some kebabs!

I had the grand plans of cleaning up the yard, giving the grill some TLC and making a yummy meal to be enjoyed al fresco. I went to the grocery store with a list in hand, purchased meats and veggies to be prepared over the hot coals, but then never mustered up the energy to actually give the grill that TLC that it desperately needed. Sigh. On the bright side, the yard is clean and we can sit out there, so there is a small victory.

The nice weather still had me craving “warm weather food” so I took to Pinterest and found a recipe to fit my craving.

I have a major love for Mexican foods. Tacos, burritos, guacamole, flautas, you get the idea. So I obviously got super happy when I found a recipe for beef carnitas that I could cook in the crock pot. I normally only use my crock pot in the winter time, but that baby will now be used in the warm weather as well. It really makes sense when you think about it. Most of the time when the weather is nice, you are at the beach, park, pool or just enjoying time outside. It’s hot outside and you don’t want to stop what you are doing to go inside and make the house warm by using the stove or oven. Most people turn to grilling instead, but why not toss your meal in the crockpot before you set out on your summertime adventure, and come home to a meal that just needs a pretty paper plate and some condiments?!

This recipe was super easy to prepare and I love that it required no added oils or fat!

Crock Pot Beef Carnitas Tacos
(original recipe found here, thanks to Pinterest)

My photo isn't nearly as nice as the ones featured on the site where the recipe came from. One day, I'll put more effort into food photos for these posts.

My photo isn’t nearly as nice as the ones featured on the site where the recipe came from. One day, I’ll put more effort into food photos for these posts.


2 lb flank steak
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (remove the seeds and ribs if you prefer less spice)

For the Spice Rub:

2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Optional Serving Items:

corn tortillas
avocado slices (I made a fresh guacamole)
tomato, chopped


Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Rub the spices well all over your flank steak. (Think massage here!) Once the spices are rubbed in, place your steak in the bottom of your crock pot.

Next, cover the flank steak with all of the chopped onions, tri-color peppers and the jalapeno pepper.

Set the crock pot to LOW and cook for 8 hours.

When time is up, remove the flank steak from your crock pot and begin shredding it with a fork. Once shredded, you can put it back into the crock pot and toss it with the juices as well as the peppers and onions, or transfer everything into a serving bowl and toss.

Heat your corn tortillas in a skillet on the stove (or wrap them in a damp paper towel and heat for a few seconds in the microwave). Spoon some carnitas on a tortilla, then top with a squeeze of lime and your favorite toppings.

I served these with some yellow rice as well some corn and black beans. It was super tasty and very easy, which are all major requirements for dinners in this house!

Do you have any warm weather meals that you like to prepare in the crock pot?

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Being Productive Makes Me Happy

This has been a really good week for me!

I’ve stuck with my workouts, been eating much cleaner and tried some new recipes. Two new ones are right here in this post, and the Green Monsters (which are my new obsession) can be found here.


No-Bake Energy Bites – These are so yummy and really satisfy my sweet tooth! They calculated out to about 120 calories each, which isn’t too bad.

Chicken, Quinoa and Summer Squash Casserole – I swapped out the summer squash for zucchini and used Italian seasoning instead of rosemary.


As you’ve probably already seen in yesterdays post…. I also reached my 100-Mile milestone this week! I originally hoped to have reached this on Valentine’s Day, but my hamstrings and Mother Nature didn’t like that plan. The important thing is I reached it and honestly, 500 miles seems pretty easy now. I hate to say it out-loud but as long as I stay healthy and don’t get injured, I think I’ll easily pass my goal! *fingers crossed…..knocks on wood….yeah….I know I probably just jinxed myself…sigh.*



Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

~Tomorrow starts the Road ID Badge Challenge over on FurtherFasterForever! You might recall that a few weeks ago I participated in the Sandy Hook virtual event they put together. I’m really excited about this challenge and I’m curious to see how many badges I can collect from March 1st thru March 14th. I’m a newbie to this and I know most of the people who participate are serious athletes, but I’m a determined newbie and will do my best….everyone starts out somewhere, right?!

How is your week progressing? Anything special you’d care to share? What has made you proud or happy this week?

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{Recipe} Chicken “Bruschetta”

It’s been a while since I’ve tried a new recipe, so I hit the web in search of inspiration for the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I bought on-sale the other day.

Not seeing a particular recipe I liked, I decided to take a little of this and a little of that, from the ones that did catch my eye. The result was pretty tasty so I decided to share it.


Chicken “Bruschetta” served over whole-wheat pasta

Chicken “Bruschetta”


8 ounce bag of spinach
3 Tb chicken stock
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped garlic (use as much or as little as you like)
onion powder
Italian seasoning
2 large tomatos, coursely chopped
1 small onion. chopped
1/4 cup Roasted Peppers (I used frozen ones from Trader Joes)
1/3 C fresh parmesan cheese, grated


1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the spinach in the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking pan.  Drizzle with the chicken stock, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange the chicken on top of the spinach and season well with the salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder and Italian seasoning.  Add the chopped tomato and roasted peppers, then top with the parmesan cheese

2.  Loosely tent the pan with a piece of aluminum foil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Serve immediately.

I made some thin, whole-wheat spaghetti to serve with this and it was very yummy. I liked the ease of this dish and how you can easily change the ingredients to fit your taste-buds.

Have you tried any new recipes lately? Do you have a go-to website to find dinner inspiration?

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Pleasant Surprises + Recipe

The other day when I came home from work, there was a box sitting on my table. At first I thought it was just a holiday present I had ordered and then I took note of the return address on it. It was the prize pack I won a few weeks back from participating in the #PastaFits twitter party! I had completely forgot about it, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

Of course, being the child I am, I had to rip into it to see what I won! The box was filled with all different types of pasta, ranging from gluten-free to veggie, The Carb Lovers Diet pocket guide, a spaghetti spoon and a $25 Visa gift card!

Of course, being the child I am, I had to rip into it to see what I won! The box was filled with all different types of pasta, ranging from gluten-free to veggie, The Carb Lovers Diet pocket guide, a spaghetti spoon and a $25 Visa gift card!

I’m a big fan of pasta, so this prize pack is right up my alley. I was even making pasta for dinner that night! Here is the recipe I prepared. It’s from a cookbook I received for Christmas a few years back, called Preserving Our Italian Heritage. It’s not the healthiest dish in the world, but it’s one of my favorites to have occasionally, in moderation. The light cream can be substituted with half & half to save some fat, of course. You can also use whole wheat, whole grain or gluten-free pasta!

Salsa di Caserta – (Cream Sauce with Sweet Sausage, Green Peppers)Ingredients:

IMG_4003[1]1 lb. sweet sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup light cream
1 tsp. dried marjoram, crushed
1/8 tsp pepper
1 lb. farfalle pasta, or your favorite pasta, cooked al dente
Remove sausage from casing, crumble into a skillet. Stir and cook until sausage is no longer pink. Add onion and garlic, saute until onion is soft and light colored. Drain any excess fat that might be in the pan. Stir in the light cream, parsley, cheese, marjoram, salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer and make sure you do not boil, reduce heat, cook and stir over medium heat 6-8 minutes until thickened. Toss with the pasta and enjoy!
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Chicken Scarpiello with Fusilli

Did you know that this month is National Pasta Month? I certainly didn’t and I almost felt ashamed because I am Italian and I do LOVE me some pasta! I can thank the lovely @ComplicatedMama, @PastaFits and the #PastaFits hashtag over on Twitter, for pointing this out to me. In celebration and to get in the spirit of the #PastaFits Twitter party, I whipped up one of my favorite recipes for dinner:

Chicken Scarpiello with Fusilli

Chicken Scarpiello with Fusilli


  • 1 Large Jar of Roasted Red Peppers
  • 1 Chicken cut into parts (I actually cheat and use chicken tenders cut into chunks)
  • 1 Pound of Sweet Sausage, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups of white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of flour
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups of Chicken Broth
  • 1 cup of homemade tomato sauce or good quality store bought sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley or (1 tablespoon of dried)
  • Fusilli Pasta (or similiar shaped pasta)
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste


  1. Cut the peppers into 1/4 inch strips and set aside.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
  3. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. (Reduce the heat as needed to keep the skillet from burning). Toss in the mushrooms and cook along with the sausage, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the peppers and stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the vinegar, broth and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any juices. Cover and simmer, gently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes (a little less if using the chicken tenders method like I tend to).
  6. While everything simmers, prepare the pasta according to the package directions for Al Dente. Strain and toss with the chicken, sausage and sauce.
  7. Garnish with parsley and parmagiano cheese.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it comes together really quick and easy. I love that this dish makes a lot of left overs for my family and I love most pasta dishes even better the next day.

Do you have a favorite pasta dish? Worried about enjoying pasta while trying to reach your fitness goals? Don’t be! It’s all about portion control and making some simple substitutions to lighten up some of the heavier, more calorie dense recipes out there.

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Baked Ranch Chicken Fingers

Football season means finger foods, chips, salsa and beer! It also means a lazy day in my house, but I don’t like to toss out all of the hard work I’ve accomplished all week, nor do I like to give up all of the foods that I enjoy. I’ve been avoiding the beer and trying to keep the finger foods on the healthier side, which can be tricky, but I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. It’s not picture perfect, but when compared to the deep-fried ones you might normally pull from your freezer and heat up, or order at your local sports bar, they are a gift from heaven. Plus, you can feel like you are cheating without all of the guilt!

Baked Ranch Chicken Fingers
(Makes 6 Servings)

Baked Ranch Chicken Fingers – served with baked sweet potato fries and bbq sauce.

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (sliced into strips) – or a package of chicken tenderloins
1 cup corn flakes (crushed)
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (1 ounce) packet Hidden Valley dry ranch dressing mix
1 cup milk (I use 1%)
1 egg


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray.

In a shallow dish combine crushed corn flakes, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, black pepper, and dry ranch dressing mix.  In a small bowl beat together eggs and milk.

Dip each chicken strip into the egg/milk mixture and then roll in the crushed corn flakes/ranch dressing mixture. Repeat until all of your chicken strips are well coated.

Place chicken onto your coated baking sheet and bake, uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through ( internal temperature 165 degrees).

This recipes is really quick and simple, plus it goes great with some baked sweet potato fries. I have made it a few times already and even my son, who is a VERY picky eater LOVES them!

What are your healthy football snacks?

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

If you are like me, you’re saying cauliflower pizza crust?! What the deuce?!

I saw this for the first time a few months back on Facebook. An old friend of mine made it for her kids who have different food sensitivities. I remember being intrigued by it but life moves so quickly these days that I forgot about it. I then saw it again on Pinterest and instantly pinned it, remembering how it intrigued me a few months prior, but once again, life came along and I forgot about it. Fast forward to the other day when the lovely Jacmarie pinned the same recipe and I once again became intrigued. This time life was NOT going to sidetrack me! While at the grocery store yesterday, I made sure I grabbed a large head of cauliflower and tonight I satisfied my curiosity with the recipe below (making it a little more healthy, of course):

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Makes one 9″ pizza crust

Cauliflower Crust, cooked and ready for toppings.


1 cup cooked, riced cauliflower (directions to follow)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (original recipe called for 1 cup) 
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano (I used basil as I’m not a big fan of oregano)
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil (optional)

pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of toppings*


To Rice the Cauliflower:
Remove the stems and leaves from a large, fresh head of cauliflower. Chop the florets into chunks. Add to food processor and pulse until it looks like grain. Do not over pulse or it will turn into a puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a cheese grater to grate the whole head). Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 8 minutes (You may need to reduce this cooking time if your microwave is super powerful or increase if it’s not as powerful). I’ve seen some recipes call for you to add water but here is no need to add water. The natural moisture in the cauliflower is enough to cook itself.

*One large head of cauliflower should produce about 3 cups of riced cauliflower. You can make additional pizza crusts immediately, or you can store the rice cauliflower in the refrigerator for up to one week.*

To Make the Pizza Crust:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. (If you have one of the Pampered Chef stones, that’s even better!)

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup riced cauliflower, egg and mozzarella. Add oregano, crushed garlic and salt, stir. Transfer to the cookie sheet, and using your hands, pat out into a 9″ round. Be sure that the center isn’t too thick so it cooks all the way through. Optional: Brush olive oil over top of mixture to help with browning (I skipped this step to save the calories and it browned fine without it).

Finished product! I topped mine with tomato sauce, tri colored peppers, chopped onions, spinach, and a 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 450 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

Remove from oven. Top your crust with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese (I only used about 1/4 cup of cheese on mine and a sprinkle of grated parm). Place under a broiler at high heat just until cheese is melted, approximately 3-4 minutes. (I couldn’t use the broiler method since I used a Pampered Chef stone to make mine.)


*Note that toppings need to be precooked since you are only broiling for a few minutes.

Now, I am a complete and total pizza snob so this recipe could NEVER replace actual pizza for me, however, it was really yummy and will satisfy my pizza cravings when I’m trying to stick to clean eating and not looking to have a “cheat day”.  I also like that it is low in carbs and gluten-free so if I’ve gone a little over board in those areas, I can still feel like I’m being bad without the guilt…plus it’s a great way to sneak in another veggie serving!

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