Month: March 2023

Creamy Ricotta Pasta with Veggies and Pine nuts

Our family likes mac and cheese. But there’s a limit to how many nights in a row that I can make that blue box! I like this recipe because it requires minimal and simple ingredients, plus it changes up the usual tomato sauce that we have in regular rotation. You may only need to pick up 3 or 4 items – like lemon or ricotta, pasta or broccoli for a quick crowd pleasing creamy pasta. Also play around with the vegetables that you include to use up what you have on hand. It’s a great recipe to put in the rotation for meatless Mondays or any day of the week. It’s just one of those dishes that is good any time of year.

Let me know if you try it!

Ingredients and substitutions for this creamy ricotta sauce and pasta recipe

  • Broccoli florets – break down a whole head of broccoli into small florets or use pre cut and cleaned veggies.
  • Fresh lemon – we’re using both the zest and the juice in this recipe so go with fresh
  • Pasta – I like short pasta with a shape that will catch the sauce. We’ve had it with rotini and pasta shells and it was great! It will also work with whole grain, brown rice or quinoa pasta. Use whichever your family likes.
  • Ricotta cheese – I’m suggesting a part skim ricotta cheese to help limit saturated fat, which also helps reduce total calories. You could absolutely use a whole milk ricotta for a richer and creamer dish. I like ricotta cheese because it adds a bit of protein too.
  • Salt and pepper – use these to season your pasta and sauce as you cook. The final result will be bland if you don’t!
  • Handful of basil – I love using fresh if I have it, but you could also use frozen and mix it in with the ricotta for a herby version!
  • Optional – chili flakes, parmesan cheese and pine nuts. If you don’t have them, don’t worry. If you do have them, use these to top the finial dishes before serving. You could even used up crumbled bacon and frozen peas for a traditional combo.

How to make creamy ricotta pasta step by step

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Then zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions for al dente. Two minutes before it’s al dente, add the broccoli and let cook for last two minutes.  
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water when you drain the pasta and broccoli.  
  4. Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 cup ricotta cheese. You can use a food processor or just mix really well with a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
  5. When the pasta reaches 2 minutes less than al dente, add the broccoli florets and cook for the remaining 2 minutes. 
  6. Return the hot pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add the ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir, adding more pasta water as needed, until the sauce coats and clings to the pasta. Taste and season with black pepper and Parmesan cheese, basil and red pepper flakes and pine nuts if desired.

The best part is you can also substitute any other vegetables you have on hand. Even leftover roasted cauliflower, and carrots could mix in well here.  

What to serve with creamy ricotta pasta

The nice thing is you really don’t need to serve anything else, but if you wanted to go the extra step here are a few ideas.

  • simple side salad
  • roasted chickpeas
  • roasted chicken or pork chops
  • sautéed greens
  • fresh diced tomatoes

How to store creamy ricotta pasta

If we have leftovers I like to store them in quart containers and then reheat in a pan with a little chicken broth or water to revive the sauce. Once the pasta comes down to room temperature, store it in an airtight container for up to three days.

Nutrition and macros

I make this recipe with brown rice pasta or traditional wheat pasta. But you could use the sauce over palm noodles or zucchini spirals if you needed to follow a low carb or lower calorie diet.

337calories

5g Fat 62g Carb 11g Pro 3g Fiber

creamy ricotta pasta

Creamy Ricotta Pasta

Super fast and nearly one pot meal for any day of the week
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 337 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 large pot
  • 1 food processor or large bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 each lemon zest and juice
  • 1 pound pasta any kind you like
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • red pepper flakes, parmesan and pine nuts optional

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Then zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water.  Two minutes before it’s al dente, add the broccoli and let cook for last two minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water when you drain the pasta and broccoli.  
  • Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 cup ricotta cheese.  You can use a food processor  or just mix really well with a wooden spoon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
  • When the pasta reaches 2 minutes less than al dente, add the broccoli florets and cook for the remaining 2 minutes. 
  • Return the pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add the ricotta mixture and 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir, adding more pasta water as needed, until the sauce coats and clings to the pasta. Taste and season with black pepper and Parmesan cheese, basil and red pepper flakes and pine nuts if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 337kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

How to grate carrots without a grater – there’s always a way

If you want to make a carrot cake but find that you don’t have pre-shredded carrots, and you don’t have a traditional box grater either – there are a few things you can do to get the job done. Keep reading for the best way to grate carrots in a pinch. No one will ever know!

Tools you could use to make grated carrots

There are all different types of graters so, although you may not have a box grater or hand grater, there are a lot of things you can do to get your carrots down to the right size for your recipe. You may be surprised the simple kitchen equipment you need is already on hand! Thin slices of carrots for your carrot kale muffins or your other carrot favorite recipes are just minutes away!

  • vegetable peeler
  • cheese grater or micro plane grater
  • julienne peeler
  • shredding blade on mandolin
  • small food processor with shredding disc accessory
  • a sharp knife

How to make grated carrots

My first choice would be to use a mini food processor with a grating plate, because this is probably the easiest way. I try to use this kitchen appliance any chance I get, because it always gets the job done with minimal effort. All you need to do is add your carrots through the top shoot of the processor and let the plate do its job while you hit the pulse button. It will shred carrots for you!

If that’s not an option – I’d go for my vegetable peeler. Over a cutting board, run the peeler in a downward motion starting at the larger end of the carrot and ending at the pointed end of the carrot. Just like you would if you were going to peel it. It will make long thin strips. Then you can run your knife over them and cut them down to small thin pieces. It’s a great way to break your carrot down into small pieces with limited equipment!

The next method you could try is your microplane. This is a hand held grater that has small holes, similar to the large holes of the box grater. The main difference with with this tool is that your carrots will come out very fine, possibly mushy, so proceed with caution.

A julienne peeler will shred your large carrots into thin strips which means with a little bit of effort from your knife, you can chop them down to smaller pieces and get similar results to your box grater.

The best method will come down to which tools you have at home because there are truly a bunch of different ways to shred fresh carrots.

Use carrot shred immediately, but extra can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. Try using them in muffins, breads, scones, meatloaf or quiche.

If whole carrots are more your thing – try these vegan carrot dogs! They’re excellent!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Keep Your Nespresso Vertuo Machine Fresh: Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide 

If you’re like me, you’re reading this because you’ve never cleaned your Nespresso coffee machine!

Since starting the FASTer Way to Fat Loss, with intermittent fasting, my morning coffee time has been more important than ever. I wake up early when the rest of the house is asleep, make my coffee and catch up on reading, or writing in total quiet! I love resetting my day like this, but was truthfully stumped when I realized that I never thought to clean my machine! If you follow me on IG, you know I post my coffee in stories almost every day!

I realized my fatal mistake when having coffee with coworkers. A friend mentioned how much she love her Nespresso coffee maker and that cleaning it on a regular basis wasn’t so bad… when my mouth dropped! I’ll admit it, I have never run the descaling process on my Breville Nespresso Vertuo model. But I have to give myself grace – my machine didn’t have an unpleasant smell, my morning coffee tasted the same as always and I didn’t have a warning light!

To my credit, I have wiped the outside with a damp cloth and have always kept the water and discard bins clean – but regular cleaning was not in my rotation. Oops!

Jump to Recipe

Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to get a clean Breville Nespresso Vertuo machine.

We’ll talk through removing obvious dirt like old coffee grounds, how to turn on the descaling mode and what you should use to clean a dirty machine to keep your coffee tasting delicious! In addition to improving the taste of your coffee it will extend the life of your machine, keeping it in good condition.

How Often Should You Clean Your Machine? 

This is my machine here.

The general rule for all espresso machines is to clean them every few months, or when you notice that the indicator light color has changed from green to orange. If you use your Nespresso Vertuo every day, then cleaning it once every two months should suffice. Just make a note of your cleaning schedule if you have the Breville model because you won’t get an indicator light.

Jump to Recipe

Clean the Used Capsule and Water Reservoir

Clean the outside of these containers with a clean microfiber cloth. You can use lemon juice or white vinegar with water as a quick and effective solution. Use dish soap and water to remove any mineral deposits in the water reservoir, especially if you have hard water. The used coffee pod container may have a bit more build up from coffee residue, but can easily be removed with the cleaning process. Let both air dry before returning to the machine.

Cleaning the Drip Tray 

Next you’ll want to start by removing the drip tray from beneath your machine and emptying any residual water into the sink. Then, wash and rinse it with warm water and a mild detergent. Let it air dry before returning it to the machine. Make sure to empty and clean the drip tray after each use. 

Jump to Recipe
Cheers to excellent coffee.

Descaling Cycle 

The Nespresso website recommends that you descale your machine regularly. About every three months or every 300 pods, whichever comes first. It’s an important step to remove build-up of coffee oils that can build up over a long time.

(Most) Nespresso Vertuo have an automatic descaling system that will alert you when they need attention—the orange indicator light comes on when this happens. The descaling cycle can be activated in just a few steps: first, fill up the water tank with fresh tap water (though filtered or bottled water is recommended – not soapy water). Next, open the capsule container lid at the top of your machine and press the button for “descale” until you hear a beep; at this point, close the lid and press start. Once finished, discard any remaining water in the container and run two more cycles without adding any additional ingredients or capsules—this will ensure that all residue is removed from inside your machine.  

The Breville cleaning system is just a bit different. There’s no colored indicator light, and there’s no button inside the top of the machine. Instead, start by by filling the water reservoir with clean water. Then place a 20oz container under the spout. Close the capsule container lid at the top of the machine and press the button 3 times within 2 seconds to initiate the cleaning cycle. Keep your container in place for up to 5 minutes as water runs through the system. Once finished, discard any remaining water in the container and run two more cycles without adding additional ingredients or capsules.

Do You Need Special Cleaning Products? 

No! You don’t need special cleaners or chemicals when cleaning your Nespresso Vertuo; plain old soap and water will do just fine! However, if you do want to use special cleaning products made specifically for espresso machines, make sure they are non-abrasive so as not to damage any internal components of your device. Also note that some detergents contain chlorine which could leave behind an unpleasant taste in your coffee – so only use these products if necessary!  

With just a few simple steps every couple of months, you can keep your Nespresso in top shape and enjoy delicious cups of coffee for years to come! Cleaning does more than just improve flavor; regular maintenance helps extend the life of your appliance too! So take some time out today to give your machine some TLC – you’ll be glad you did!

Tips for cleaning your coffee maker

  • Create a phone reminder or jot your next cleaning on the calendar
  • Tip: note how many pods your case holds and make a judgement based on that, for example, you may have to run through it twice before cleaning.
  • Have a 20oz container, or large glass handy when it’s time to clean.
  • When it comes time to clean, just refill the reservoir and run the cycle after you’ve made your morning coffee. It’s automatic and hands off, so no reason to dread!
  • Rinse the drip tray and clean visible debris from the side containers weekly or as often as needed.

How I take my coffee

It took me a few weeks to get used to my Nespresso, but I truly enjoy my coffee so much that just one cup in the morning is enough. And I look forward to it every day!

The pod is key. I go back and forth with the melozio pods and the odacio pods, but I think odacio is my favorite. (They’re the turquoise ones). I keep it simple by adding 2 pumps of sugar free vanilla or hazlenut with 1/4 cup of foamed 1% milk. I don’t stray to far from this. If I try to make a 2nd cup, the satisfaction value just isn’t there. With one cup the calories stay under 50, I keep my fasted state and can stay on track with intermittent fasting!

If you like to take your coffee up a notch, try this Vegan Cold Creme recipe. Add a dolop

Cheers to excellent coffee.

How to clean your Nespresso Machine

Learn how to clean your Nespresso when it's missing an indicator light.
Prep Time2 minutes
Active Time5 minutes
Total Time7 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 Nespresso Machine
  • 1 20 oz container

Materials

  • 20 oz water

Instructions

  • Remove and clean both the water reservoir and the used pod container with warm soapy water. Let air dry before returning to the machine.
  • Fill the water reservoir with at least 20oz of bottled water.
  • Press the on button 3 times within 2 seconds to initiate the clean cycle. Be sure your 20oz container is under the spout.
  • It can take up to 2 minutes for the process to start. Leave container under the spout for the entire time. About 5 minutes.
  • Remove the drained water. Repeat if necessary.
Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Unbelievably easy Yogurt marinade for chicken skewers

I came across this recipe a few years ago in one of my cookbooks and it’s been a staple ever since. I make it often during summer grilling season and it’s so easy to remember that I can make it while away on vacation! The marinade time is relatively low making it a good option for weeknight meals too. It’s one of my favorite chicken recipes because it requires very little prep work and they have so much flavor!

Jump to Recipe

What you need to make these chicken kabobs

Ingredients

  • Chicken pieces – I like to use boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in to 1-inch pieces. Boneless skinless chicken thighs also work well. If you don’t want to make kabobs, you can use your favorite cut of chicken and bake or roast until 165F.
  • Greek yogurt – The original recipe calls for full fat greek yogurt. I’ve made it with fat free Greek and plain yogurt and it also worked well.
  • Red curry paste – This is the secret ingredient. It’s where maximum flavor and color comes in. I prefer the Thai Kitchen brand. If you can’t find it, try a mix of tomato paste, garlic and fresh ginger, red chili powder and lemon zest.
  • Kosher salt and olive oil

Other equipment

  • Wooden skewers or metal skewers
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Outdoor grill, gas grill or indoor grill pan
  • Baking sheet to place raw chicken skewers
  • Plastic wrap
  • Plastic gloves

How to make yogurt curry chicken skewers

First, combine the plain greek yogurt, curry paste, salt and oil in a large bowl. Mix well and set marinade ingredients aside.

Next, cut your chicken into one inch pieces if necessary.

Place pieces of chicken into marinade. Once coated, place chicken onto skewers, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

For best results, preheat your grill to ensure grill grates are hot.

Place skewers onto prepared grill and let cook for about 25 minutes, turning once half way through. Skewers should be golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 165F when done. Discard extra marinade.

Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

Jump to Recipe

Why does yogurt make a good marinade?

Yogurt is a good source of healthy bacteria for your gut. That same live active bacteria also happens to be what makes it a good marinade, tenderizing your chicken within a short amount of time.

What to serve with these easy chicken skewers

Serve cooked skewers with…

  • Roasted red onions and broccoli
  • Warm pita bread
  • Traditional Greek salad with tomato, olives and feta
  • Small side salad
  • Roasted potatoes and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Sliced cucumber and tzatziki
  • Hummus and stuffed grape leaves

Nutritional information and macros

This grilled chicken is versatile for regular macro and low carb days. This recipe makes 6, 5 oz cooked portions with the following macros. If you need other macro friendly recipes check out my chicken fajitas, egg roll in a bowl or pulled chicken recipes! All super easy and macro friendly.

Calories: 221

Fat: 7g

Carbohydrate 1g

Protein 35g

Yogurt Curry Chicken Skewers

This recipe couldn't be faster to throw together, and it's a complete crowd pleaser.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 6
Calories 221 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pounds chicken breast skinless, boneless

Instructions
 

  • Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes if necessary. Then add to yogurt mixture.
  • Let chicken sit in marinade for 20 minutes in the fridge.
  • Grill over medium high heat until internal temperature reads 165F. About 25 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 221kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

I’m making the case for jarred garlic – really!

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. It’s funny because, I can vividly remember chatting with a girlfriend – pre marriage, and babies – when I explicitly said “if you have any respect for yourself and cooking – you should never use jarred garlic.” She called me fancy pants and that was the end of that! Anthony Bourdain has been quoted as saying something similar too.

Jarred pre-minced garlic will never replace fresh cloves (that is where you get the best flavor). But if peeling and slicing garlic is a step of cooking that is getting in the way of YOU cooking meals at home, I say use the jarred garlic. And don’t feel guilty about it! As you start to cook more, or circumstances change, you may have more time to give to the cooking process, and your choice of garlic may change too!

But now that I’m in another phase of life, I see (both garlic and cooking) differently. I just don’t have the same time to enjoy the art and process of cooking at every meal. Instead, home cooked family meals are a way to be sure my husband and I and the children are eating health(ier) food instead of fast food or takeout alternatives. They’re a way to be sure we’re eating enough fruits and vegetables, and a way to save money on expensive takeout.

Since culinary school I’ve practiced the technique of mise en place. I would choose an elaborate recipe based purely on flavor or presentation, purchase ingredients in the most fresh and unprocessed form and then prepare everything according to the ingredients list. So if a recipe called for sliced garlic. I would buy garlic bulbs at the local grocery store, break off the fresh garlic cloves, peel and slice until I had enough for the recipe. Then I’d move onto the next ingredient.

Today, it’s a different story. I am open to any and all grocery store shortcuts or new products, anything that will save me time and money and help get a home cooked meal on the table – VERY QUICKLY.

Types of garlic and garlic products

  • Raw whole bulb garlic can be found in the produce aisle. They’re covered in a white papery skin and last for quite some time at home when stored in a cool dry place. Not the refrigerator. These will have a stronger flavor than other “processed” garlic options.
  • Elephant garlic is a favorite of mine because 1 clove is equal to at least 2-3 normal cloves so it’s less labor to peel and easier to slice.
  • Black garlic is more earthy and not the same as traditional white garlic.

Aside from the traditional raw forms of garlic, you can also find other garlic products. Experiment with using different sources of garlic next time you make a pasta sauce or salad dressing. Then use wha you prefer.

  • Pre-peeled whole cloves of garlic can be found in produce sections. Caution with these because once you open the package, they will need to be used within a week or so. So unless you need a lot of garlic, buying these large bags may not be the money and time saving solution for you.
  • Garlic paste is usually in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but has more additives.
  • Chopped garlic in small jars in the produce section of your grocery store, usually they’re sold in water or olive oil.
  • Frozen garlic cubes are great because one cube is equal to one clove of garlic which makes easy measuring.
  • Dried garlic in the spice aisle in the form of dehydrated garlic cloves or garlic powder. These are best for dry rubs.
  • Garlic salt is a mixture of garlic powder and salt.
harvesting garlic

What is in jarred garlic?

The main ingredients are garlic, water and citric acid which is used as a preservative to prevent oxidation and browning.

Converting teaspoons to cloves

Half a teaspoon of jarred garlic is equal to one clove of fresh garlic. Jarred is not as strong as the fresh stuff, so you can get away with using a little bit more.

If you ask me, there’s no such thing as too much garlic.

Benefits of jarred garlic

  • Convenient option for last minute meals – think stir fry, garlic bread, soup, salad dressing or marinade starter.
  • It has a longer shelf life than other garlic products such as garlic paste or pre-peeled cloves
  • No need for a garlic press
  • Time saver when you don’t have time to mince garlic
  • It can remove the mental hurdle of needing to peel and slice garlic which can be tedious
  • No smelly hands

Negatives of jarred garlic

  • You won’t get the same quality aroma filling your home – you need fresh for that!
  • Nutritionally, jarred garlic doesn’t have the same health benefits because it has been pasteurized or heated during the packaging process.
  • It loses it loses it’s antibacterial properties and has lower levels of allicin, a compound which may prevent certain types of cancers.1
  • The garlicky flavor is not as strong as fresh raw garlic.
  • It has a stigma, and your foodie friends will always hold against you.
  • It can develop an off putting odor and flavor after it’s been open for too long – so be sure to keep an eye on the expiration date.

What are signs of spoilage?

If your jarred garlic started to have an off odor or becomes discolored it’s time to toss it. It can last several weeks in the refrigerator, especially when it’s sealed and stored properly. When using garlic, be sure the spoon being used is clean to avoid cross contamination from other foods.

The bottom line

Jarred pre-minced garlic will never replace fresh cloves (that is where you get the best flavor). And some dishes are not a good fit for jarred garlic – like anything you’d eat raw. But if peeling and slicing garlic is a step of cooking that is getting in the way of YOU cooking meals at home, I say use the jarred garlic. And don’t feel guilty about it! As you start to cook more, or circumstances change, you may have more time to give to the cooking process, and your choice of garlic may change too!

Recipes you can use jarred garlic in

1
Egg Roll meal prep
Egg Roll In A Bowl
Easy weeknight recipe that comes together with basic pantry staples and 2-3 fresh ingredients from the store!
Check out this recipe
2
Three Cheese Baked Ziti
Crowd pleasing pasta that's full of flavor and less fat than your standard version!
Check out this recipe
3
Easy red lentil soup
Easy Split Red Lentil Soup
This super fast, protein packed recipe can be made any night of the week in under an hour!!
Check out this recipe

Resources

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf8000907
Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Baked Salad should be a staple winter recipe for you – a dietitian explains

When I heard baked salads were trending on TikTok, I was intrigued and as a dietitian, pleasantly surprised. Baked salad is simply a variety of roasted vegetables that are eaten as a warm salad – which is perfect for winter eating! To me, baked salad recipes are the 2.0 of sheet pan meals. They’re an ideal way to increase your servings of vegetables and they’re very easy to make. I tested

This recipe is inspired by the version made by Justine Doiron, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, soft and crunchy. Her’s used chili oil, which I didn’t have on hand, so simplified a bit, either way, I really enjoyed it when I made it for the first time. It even reheated will as leftovers too! Just think of it as a roasted vegetable salad with fun crunchy bits on top. Let me know if you try this cozy dish and happy baked salad season!

I tested this concept as part of my work for Dole Food Company, but all opinions are my own!

Ingredients and substitutions

baked salad with salmon
  • cabbage – Not only is cabbage inexpensive, they’re a cruciferous vegetable, loaded with nutrients. Brussels sprouts or pre cut slaw mix would work well here too, if you don’t have cabbage.
  • kale– Kale is a hearty green that stands up to the heat of roasting. Collard greens are a good substitute if necessary.
  • red onion – This recipe called for red onion within the dressing, a yellow or white onion could also be used here. If you want to skip the warm dressing agrodolce all together, just use your favorite oil based salad dressing instead.
  • quinoa – I used a red quinoa, but white quinoa could also be used. If you don’t have quinoa, you can create breadcrumb mixtures that will provide the same texture as crispy quinoa. Sourdough croutons, crispy chickpeas or pumpkin seeds would also work well!
  • honey – maple syrup or agave could be used instead.
  • herbs such as sage and rosemary sprig.
  • red wine vinegar – A rose vinegar or a white vinegar would also work well here. I caution using apple cider or balsamic vinegar as their flavors are much stronger.
  • olive oil – since this oil is heated, don’t use extra virgin. Regular olive oil or other neutral oil such as vegetable or avocado oil would be fine.
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Variations and serving suggestions

Experiment making your own version of baked salad with these ideas.

  • Roast sweet potatoes, butternut squash cubes or other winter vegetables for a splash of color and vitamin A.
  • Top with roasted chicken breasts or poached salmon to create a meal that even meat eaters will love.
  • Pan sear goat cheese rounds to create a baked goat cheese salad as a fancy DIY first course at home.
  • Enjoy as a light lunch topped with chickpeas or roasted tofu.
  • Try roasting grapes, tomatoes or peaches for a sweet twist!
  • Which ever combination you choose, you won’t go wrong by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.

How to make baked salad

  • Start by thinly slicing the cabbage and kale. I used a mandolin to slice the cabbage into uniform strips and I took a shortcut with pre cut and pre washed kale.
  • Coat the cabbage and kale with olive oil, and place into a 400 F oven. Bake the kale for 8 minutes or until fork tender, leaving the cabbage in for a total of 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions and then spread onto large baking sheet, spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with pinch of salt and pepper or Seasonello. Bake at 375 until crisp, about 20 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan heat 1teaspoon olive oil with rosemary and then add honey mixture. Let simmer for 2 minutes add vinegar and then pour over sliced red onion in small bowl. Set aside.
  • When quinoa is toasty, layer the salad in one large bowl or divide into 3 or 4 smaller ones for meal preps!

Ingredients not to use

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite things to do to increase flavor without a lot of work. In my opinion, nearly any vegetable can be roasted, but you may just want to watch out for the few below.

  • Delicate leafy greens such as spinach or spring mix. They will not stand up to the heat from the oven!
  • Avocado – While I’ve had success grilling avocado, I don’t suggest roasting it, in this way.
  • Cucumber – They will take longer to roast and will likely need seasoning to enhance the flavor.

If you want to use these items, I would suggest adding them raw just before serving.

Why you should try baked salads

  • They’re delicious.
  • They’re a hands off way to meal prep healthy lunches for the week.
  • This recipe is a good base that plays nicely with other ingredients to create variety.
  • Nine out of 10 Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables – add more to your diet without sacrificing flavor.
  • This is an easy way to enjoy a warm cozy dish outside of salad season.
  • It makes amazing leftovers!
  • It’s a perfect fit if you’re following a low carb or Mediterranean style diet.

Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Slow Cooker Three ingredient BBQ Pulled Chicken Hack

Every mom needs an easy slow cooker recipe that the whole family will love. Bonus points if it can transform from one meal to another without comment from the peanut gallery – this hack will do just that! This cooking method is a great way to result in tender chicken that can be used in a multitude of ways. Think of this as your protein meal prep for the week. In fact, you can cool and freeze half of what you make for a future easy dinner too! It’s easily a week’s worth of chicken for 2-3 people.

Ingredients you need for BBQ Pulled Chicken

chicken, bbq sauce, salt and water
  1. Boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or boneless skinless chicken thighs, plus kosher salt
  2. BBQ sauce – use your favorite barbecue sauce, we like to use Stubb’s.
  3. Water – you can also use a low sodium chicken broth for added flavor here!

Optional ingredients

If you have spices on hand you can enhance the sauce ingredients by adding a tsp of smoked paprika and a tsp of garlic powder or onion powder. If you like heat, you can add a few tablespoons of hot sauce during the cooking process. Another version of this recipe is slow cooker Mexican chicken which is made by swapping bbq sauce for mild or medium salsa.

Step by Step instructions

  • First line your slow cooker for easy clean up. Slow cooker liners are a must for me, they make the entire process including cleanup very hands off.
  • Next add your raw chicken breast and thighs to the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Top with water and bbq sauce
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours
  • When chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F, remove pieces from slow cooker and place in large bowl.
  • I like to shred using two forks, but you can also use a hand mixer to quickly pull apart the cooked chicken. Just be sure to use a low speed!
  • Then ladle 1-2 cups of the liquid from the slow cooker bbq chicken over the pulled chicken, allowing it to reabsorb.
  • The rest of the liquid can be discarded, but if you’re going to re-heat leftover pulled chicken later in the week, you may want to hold onto the extra sauce.
  • Lastly, if you’re feeding a crowd, return the pulled chicken to the slow cooker to keep warm for serving.

Store leftover pulled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Step by step images

Ways to eat your pulled chicken

  1. On whole wheat hamburger buns with pickles and red onion
  2. With potato salad and string beans
  3. Make BBQ chicken sandwiches on a hearty bread
  4. With roasted sweet potato and a side salad
  5. With corn tortillas, sour cream and coleslaw
  6. Stuffed inside a baked potato with black beans and salsa

Macros Breakdown

240 calories

10g fat

5g carbohydrate

29g protein

0 fiber

This is truly the easiest bbq chicken recipe out there. There’s a little prep in just making sure you have chicken pieces and your favorite bbq sauce on hand, but other then that, it’s ideal for busy days!

Check out my review of Dole Sheet Pan Starter Kits for other easy dinner ideas. If you like this recipe, you should also check out my Fast Fajitas.

easy pulled chicken

BBQ Pulled Chicken

Easy protein meal prep that the whole family will love.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 5 minutes
Course Main Course

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds chicken breast boneless and skinless
  • 1 pound chicken thighs boneless and skinless
  • 1 cup bbq sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Place chicken pieces in the bottom of slow cooker.
  • Season with salt and cover with bbq sauce and water.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours.
  • Remove chicken from slow cooker and pull apart with two forks until fully shredded.
  • Pour 1-2 cups of sauce over shredded chicken and allow to absorb.
  • Return chicken to slow cooker to keep warm until serving.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!