Strawberry & Pecan quinoa oats

I’ve never been a fan of oatmeal.

Unlike my brother, who, growing up consumed (and enjoyed) bowl after bowl of oatmeal and cream of wheat hot cereal. 

When I was around the age of 13 or 14, I discovered this:

My mom had purchased a variety box of these Fruit & Cream pouches while we were staying for a week at a beach house we had rented for the week at Indian Rocks. And although I was hesitant, I decided to try it one morning when my mom said we were “on our own” for breakfast. 

It was love at first taste. The creamy oats, the little artificial squares of dried “fruit.” It was all so delicious!

Of course now as an adult I don’t buy this stuff anymore. And while I loved oatmeal back then, I once again lost the desire to whip up batches for breakfast. Truth be told I have more of a savory tooth in the morning and usually run from sweet things for breakfast (which is why I don’t do the whole smoothie/shake for breakfast thing anymore. I tried, really I did!).

A few weeks ago while traveling for work in Virginia, my co-worker and I stopped for breakfast before our training session began. It was cold- bitterly cold (temps in the teens!)-and I just could not get warm. I was craving hot coffee, hot eggs and bacon, hot ANYTHING. I ordered a breakfast sandwich, but then something on the menu caught my eye- quinoa oatmeal. 

I was intrigued. I love quinoa and I *used* to love oatmeal, so would I like this? I decided to give it a try. If I didn’t like it, at least it was hot and hearty! 

Well it was pretty damn delicious. Steel cut oats, creamy quinoa, sliced almonds, cinnamon and honey. Good stuff!

Today, as I was thinking about that trip, an oatmeal craving hit me for the first time in probably 20 years. 

And lucky for me, I had all of the necessary ingredients AND some delicious toppings- hello Florida strawberries!

Chances are you may have the ingredients on hand too! If so, here’s how you can whip up this bowl of strawberry & pecan quinoa oats! If you don’t like strawberries, you can make this with blueberries, apples, bananas or even peaches! (Just like the box) 😉

Strawberry & Pecan quinoa oats
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  1. 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  2. 1/2 cup quinoa
  3. 1/2 cup half and half cream
  4. 2 tbsp. coconut sugar or honey
  5. 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
  6. 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  7. 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  8. 3-4 sliced strawberries (hulled)
  9. 2 tbsp. chopped pecans
  1. Follow the directions to prepare the oats and the quinoa on the corresponding packages.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup hot cooked oats with a 1/2 cup hot cooked quinoa in a bowl.
  3. Stir in half and half cream, coconut sugar (or honey), cinnamon, ginger and sea salt. (add extra cream if you like your oatmeal a bit creamier).
  4. Top with chopped pecans, strawberry slices and a drizzle of honey.


Nashville Hot Chicken

A few weeks ago I was in Nashville for work. We are currently supporting 13 rural districts in Western Tennessee as they develop a beginning teacher mentoring program in conjunction with the University of Tennessee Martin. 

Martin, TN is about 2.5 hours from Nashville, so my co-worker and I typically fly into Nashville, rent a car and drive to Martin the day before our first day of presenting to the mentors. We will stay in Martin for two days, then drive back to Nashville after the 2nd day of professional development. Because we end around 4pm, by the time we make the drive back to Nashville, it’s usually too late to catch a flight back home so we’ll stay the night and fly early the next morning.

The best thing about staying that extra evening in Nashville? The food, of course! Nashville has become so much more than music city these days. Nashville is a foodie’s dream! From places like Pinewood Social (get the meatloaf, trust me!) and Husk (sit at the bar and order a drink!), to The Pharmacy (best burger of my LIFE) and The Family Wash (breakfast? Order the Montre-ya’ll and a custom coffee from their coffee bar!) 

The Montre-ya’ll from The Family Wash!

The Meatloaf from Pinewood Social!

And then, there’s what Nashville is probably BEST known for: Nashville Hot Chicken! 

There’s a LOT of debate as to just WHO has the best hot chicken in Nashville. Some will say Prince’s, while others prefer Hattie B’s. Well being in Nashville I just HAD to have my first taste of hot chicken, and because I’m the self-proclaimed chicken lady, I just had to visit the ever-so-cutely decorated Hattie B’s

OMG ya’ll. <3 <3 <3 

Of course I loved the decor, but the chicken was just, well, TO DIE FOR. Hot, spicy, and SO flavorful. My first hot chicken experience did NOT disappoint! 

While I’m sure I could find some variation of Nashville Hot chicken here in Tampa, I decided to whip up my own version of this after an intense craving hit me this weekend. I just HAD to have it! After doing a little research, I was able to lock down a variation that did the trick.

My version has a light and crispy coating made with a combination of coconut flour, almond flour and brown rice flour (making this a great gluten free option!). And instead of using traditional brown sugar in the hot sauce, I’ve used a little bit of coconut sugar! Here is the recipe! 

Nashville Fried Chicken
Serves 6
A healthier spin on Nashville Hot Chicken!
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  1. For the chicken
  2. 1 cup brown rice flour
  3. 1/4 cup coconut flour
  4. 1/4 cup almond flour
  5. 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  6. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  7. 1 tsp. paprika
  8. 1 tsp. sea salt
  9. 1 tsp. black pepper
  10. 2 cups buttermilk
  11. 2 eggs, whisked
  12. 2lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  13. oil for shallow frying (coconut, palm, canola, avocado- I used 1/4 coconut 3/4 canola)
  14. Salt for seasoning after frying
For the hot sauce
  1. 3/4 cup oil (avocado works well)
  2. 3 tbsp. smoked paprika
  3. 1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it!)
  4. 1 tbsp. coconut sugar
  5. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  6. 1 tsp. sea salt
  7. 1 tsp. black pepper
  1. Soak the chicken in buttermilk for 1-2 hours.
  2. In a bowl, combine the rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
  3. Heat the oil to 325 degrees in a deep skillet (medium high heat).
  4. Set up a dredging station: 1 dish with whisked eggs, 1 dish with the flour mixture.
  5. Dredge chicken in this order: flour, egg, flour.
  6. Fry until gold brown, 4-5 minutes on each side. Set onto a rack or paper towel and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  7. While the chicken is frying, prepare the sauce: in a small sauce pan whisk oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, coconut sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat until it just begins to simmer, whisking a few times as it simmers. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. Before serving, spoon hot sauce onto the pieces of chicken. You can also dip the entire piece of chicken in the sauce! Serve with slices of dill pickles! Enjoy!


Healthy cooking for beginners

Out of all the searches that drive readers to my blog, the top search phrase has always been “healthy cooking for beginners”. I get a LOT of questions about how to meal plan, how to shop and how to cook. I’ve had people tell me that their eating habits are horrible because they “can’t cook”, and resort to pre-packaged foods, fast food and dining out. I’ve heard this on the blog, social media and even in person. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that healthy cooking is EASY. No seriously, I promise! Here are my tips for getting started in a healthy meal prep routine… and making a habit of it! 

PicMonkey Collagecooking

First things first
What does it mean to “eat healthy”? For me, it’s eating whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, beans, dairy products, nuts, honey, butter, etc. Yes, I eat full fat items. Typically foods labeled “fat free” come with a price: high sugar content, calories, preservatives, etc. Keep it clean, fresh and natural. Think about how your grandparents and great grandparents ate… yes, this includes “real” fats like butter, olive oil and coconut oil. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of eating fats like our grandparents did, read this

Before we begin, let me say this: I don’t cook everyday. It may seem like that on social media (if you stalk me), however, I don’t. I cook at least 4-5 days a week, but we go out on the weekends for dinner, and breakfast out on Sundays. And honestly, some of those weekdays involve eating leftovers.  I do all of my shopping and meal prep on Sundays, but if Sundays don’t work for you, find a day that does. You don’t need to shop AND prep on the same day, so divide the time into two separate days if necessary. 

But before you dive into the world of shopping and prepping, consider the following:

  • What is in your fridge and pantry right NOW? If your goal is to eat and cook healthier meals, start with a purge of your current food supply. Typically packaged foods that have more than 5 ingredients in a label are purge worthy. Anything that contains MSG, high fructose corn syrup and/or giant words that Siri wouldn’t even be able to pronounce shouldn’t be going into your nor your family’s bodies. Take a look at your spice cabinet as well and look for the same kinds of words on those labels. If you’re feeling guilty about throwing those items away, consider donating them to a food pantry or soup kitchen. 
  • What are some of your (and your family’s) favorite foods? If you live alone, think about what you enjoy eating. Make a list and cross off the items that are prepackaged, processed crap. Focus on what’s left behind and keep your list handy when planning meals. Have children or a spouse? Consider giving them the same survey and collecting info about what their favorites are. Are “chocolate chip cookies” making an appearance on your list? So what. You can totally make those from scratch with whole ingredients easily. It’s not about restricting what you’re eating, it’s about rethinking what you’re eating. 
  • What tools do you have in your kitchen? Keep it simple. All you really need for healthy prep and cooking is a sharp cutting knife, cutting board, vegetable peeler, can opener, saute pan, baking sheet/jelly roll pan, food processor OR blender, a simple slow cooker (think $20 at Target), a somewhat deep pot, your oven (of course), a spatula and a wooden spoon.
  • What’s your weekly grocery budget? This is a big one, as healthy eating always comes with a higher price tag. Consider shopping at a local farmer’s market or joining a co-op to save money on your fresh produce. Look for BOGO deals and other sales on meat at local supermarkets and stock up (if you have the space) when you find a good deal. Join a rewards club (like Winn Dixie’s gas points) or a bulk store membership (like Sam’s). Plan meals that are heavier on vegetables and beans (like chili) that will stretch your dollar further. 

Meal planning
Whether you’re completely new to cooking or cook regularly, plan to prepare 2-3 healthy meals each week to start. You can easily double most recipes, giving you leftovers that you can freeze, take to lunch or serve for another dinner option that week. Most recipes can be used in other ways as well (think slow cooker pork loin and black beans becomes pork tacos another meal). 

Before you start your weekly meal plan, think about what you currently KNOW how to do. 

  • Can you grill? Think grilled chicken, steaks, burgers, veggies (wrapped in foil with salt, pepper and a bit of oil)
  • Can you roast? Think roasted veggies and roast chicken or turkey cutlets. 
  • Can you saute? Think sauteed chunks of chicken and veggies for stir fry, mushrooms and onions for burger, steak and chicken toppings, fish filets with a little butter, lemon and fresh herbs, ground meats like chicken and beef for tacos, lettuce wraps and meat sauces over veggie noodles (like thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini). 
  • Can you bake? Think baked whole chickens stuffed with lemon wedges, fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, homemade meatballs lined up in a dish and baked until golden brown, and homemade fritattas with eggs and veggies like spinach, onions and fresh herbs, for breakfast options. 
  • Can you turn ON a slow cooker? Think slow roasted pork loin, brisket, chili, soups, shredded bbq chicken, chowder. 
  • Can you boil? Think boiled sweet potatoes topped with ground beef, veggies and shredded cheese, thinly sliced ribbons of squash or zucchini (as a pasta replacement), hard boiled eggs to add in salads, and cauliflower, rutabaga or parsnips boiled then mashed with milk and cream cheese. 

Think about what you CAN do and build on those strengths. Sure, there will be times when you might try a recipe that’s a no-go (I’ve done it PLENTY of times), but it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Cooking is a science. It’s all about exploring and testing different flavor combinations that work and please you and your family. Don’t be scared to play around. And, try being a little adventurous during each trip to the market! I like to try and purchase 1 new item at the market each time I visit. Maybe it’s a new vegetable, or a fish I’ve never tried. This keeps things interesting in the kitchen, and teaches me to learn to like new things (and not be scared to cook them!). 

Once you’ve established what you know how to do as far as technique goes, grab a pen and pad and get to work on a list. I try to never complete a big grocery trip without a list. If you’re thinking about going grain free and low sugar (like me), feel free to use and print the list I’ve made with compliant foods that you can find in your local market. You can find the list here. If you just can’t seem to give up grains, consider trying quinoa as a rice or pasta replacement. You can click on this link to learn all about purchasing and preparing this ancient seed. You can also try using cauliflower as a rice replacement! It’s delicious! Here is a recipe for cauliflower “rice”. Squash, zucchini, and spaghetti squash also make a great pasta replacement. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe for zucchini noodles, this recipe for spaghetti squash and sausage bake (think baked ziti!) and my recipe for unpasta lasagna with squash and eggplant instead of noodles! 

Before you create a shopping list, start with your meals. Here are some “norms” that show up in our house each week:

  • Breakfast: Try blending fruit and milk with your favorite protein shake. Not into morning shakes? How about mini fritattas and crust-less quiches? I make them ahead of time, freeze or refrigerate them, then warm them up throughout the week for breakfast. You can add your family’s favorite veggies, cheeses and meats. They’re easy, portable, healthy and delicious! I also like to chop up fresh fruit and place them in baggies, plain yogurt with honey and walnuts (buy a big container and use small Tupperwares to divide). Greek yogurt pancakes are also an easy make ahead breakfast item that you can refrigerate or freeze, then warm up when ready. Want to make them grain free? Try almond flour instead of regular flour and use plain yogurt (sweeten with honey or pure maple syrup). 
  • Lunch: I pack my lunch most days, and usually they consist of dinner leftovers. We try to grill out on Sunday evenings, giving me an opportunity to grill up extra chicken (breasts or boneless/skinless thighs) and burgers then pack those for lunch (think grilled chicken salads and burger salads.) To go along with lunch I prep bags of carrot and celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and cucumber slices to dip into guacamole or homemade avocado ranch
  • Snacks/Dessert: I love munching on apple slices with peanut or almond butter (ingredients should just be nuts+salt),energy balls, cheese cubes, dried fruits (like figs and apple chips), unsweetened apple sauce, hummus, fresh salsa (in the produce section or make it yourself!), raw nuts (like walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds), 85% or higher dark chocolate and fresh whipped heavy cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with fresh berries. I also like to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for hard-boiled egg snacks, or to toss into salads. 
  • Dinner: I plan on grilling once a week (grilled chicken, burgers, steaks, fish wrapped in foil with veggies). Once a week I make a roast in my slow cooker (pork loin, brisket). Sometimes I’ll bake a whole chicken  (great for chicken salad with the leftovers!). I’ll use leftover grilled chicken or homemade meatballs paired with one of the pasta alternatives mentioned above. Big pots of chili or soup are also great go-to dinners that make for delicious leftover lunches. Some of my favorite sides are mashed cauliflower or rutabaga, butternut squash, roasted veggies, and sweet potatoes.
  • Beverages: Water with lemon or lime and fresh mint, coffee with half and half and cinnamon powder. I love to flavor water with berries, citrus, and fresh herbs like basil and mint. My latest craze is sparkling water (Think LaCroix!). It’s such a satisfying treat! 


This is just a sample of what my week looks like as far as meal planning goes. Remember, build on your strengths in the kitchen, and food likes to help create your own family favorites that are healthy, and you can feel good about cooking each week! 

When you head to the market, stick to your list. Try to shop the perimeter of the store (produce, meat/poultry/fish and dairy. Head to the center aisles only for things like nuts, healthy oils (coconut, olive oil), dried fruits and seasonings. And never shop on a hungry stomach. Let your list guide you, not your brain! 

Prepping and cooking
Plan to dedicate time to prep everything when you get home from the market. Two hours on a Sunday afternoon will save you TONS of time during the week. Wash and chop all of your veggies ahead of time (keep in mind things like apples and pears will brown if pre-cut). Utilize gallon and sandwich/snack sized bags for cut veggies for roasting and snacks. Pre-wash greens and fresh herbs, then keep them dry and long lasting by wrapping them in paper towels before placing them into Ziploc bags. Do not freeze fresh greens, however, a great idea for herbs is to chop them, then freeze them in ice cube trays filled with chicken or vegetable broth. They are an easy way to add flavor to soups, slow cooker recipes and so much more. Pre-season roasts and meats, then place them into gallon sized bags to marinate (they can be easily frozen in the marinade), then defrosted the night before you plan to cook them. Post a list of everything you plan on preparing that week for dinner as a reminder of things like what to take out of the freezer ahead of time (and of course, to keep you motivated and organized!) 😉

Want to save even more time? If you find that you have extra time on those weekend prep days, consider roasting veggies, baking sweet potatoes and steaming cauliflower for sides! Store them in containers, refrigerate or freeze then warm up when needed throughout the week, that way you’ll only need to focus on cooking your protein on busy weekday evenings. Stews, chilis, cooked beans and soups also freeze well ahead of time, so when you have the time, whip up these dishes in advance and store them in your freezer for when you’re in a pinch and are dangerously close to hitting the drive thru. Get into the habit of labeling containers and Ziploc baggies before you store them away in the freezer. When times get really crazy, you’ll be glad you did! 

I’d love to feature some of YOUR tips for healthy meal planning, prepping and cooking! Comment with your great idea below and I’ll add it into the post, with a link to your blog (if you blog!). 🙂



Friendsgiving brunch with my favorite chicas

As you know, I have a sweet love and appreciation for Thanksgiving- a time that is strictly about family and friends, traditions, togetherness, and of course, the star of the show… food.

On Thursday, a big group of my family and friends will be coming together share our Thanksgiving meal. But I wanted to carve out some time with my nearest and dearest girlfriends before the big day to share a meal, and give thanks for the deep friendships and bonds we have formed through the years. 15181257_10154803736137474_2165906126094205104_n Continue reading


Delicious baking & snacking with Simple Mills! #Giveaway

#Brought to you through a partnership with Simple Mills and Orangespoken. I was provided compensation in the form of product for this post and giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

A few months ago I was wander the aisles of my local Fresh Market when something caught my eye in the baking mixes section. B0176XXD8E_LEFT_jpg_1024x1024

Almond flour cake mix? Made with just 6 simple Paleo-friendly, gluten-free ingredients including coconut sugar? 

It was too good to be true.  Continue reading


Light and fresh shrimp salad

Yesterday I attended two parties.

Right? Party animal, right here. 😉

The first was a bridal shower for my cousin Jake’s lovely fiance Michelle and the second was an engagement party for the same happy couple. Aren’t they the cutest? I used to babysit Jake back-in-the-day and cannot believe he’s about to tie the knot! Where does the time go? 10255808_10205521843789353_4478302339785795183_n Continue reading


Tiramisu truffles

It seems like everywhere you go on social media people are posting quick cooking videos. 

I know you know what I’m talking about- those aerial shot videos that are usually less than 30 seconds, that websites and social pages like “Tasty” and “Buzzfeed food” have started  posting. They are literally EVERYWHERE. If you haven’t seen them, then you must not be on social media. 😉 Continue reading