Chicken Pozole Verde


The first time I had pozole was on a Texan ranch with my grandma. 

It was a cold, windy day in March. My grandma and I were spending the afternoon at George Ranch in Richmond, Texas. We didn’t expect the cool temperatures and overcast skies, so we walked around the ranch quickly in hopes of warming up a bit. We had plans for lunch – a chuckwagon lunch in true southern cowboy form.

When the men behind the steaming pots of food uttered the word “pozole” I was a little confused. I had no idea what that meant, or what hominy was for that matter. If you know me at all, you know my foodie heart began to flutter at the very thought of trying something new.

And then I fell in love.

Hominy is tender and chewy with a subtle flavor. It’s dried corn that’s been soaked through an alkaline process. It’s often used in Mexican dishes and is ground to make tortillas (masa), grits, and tamales. Hominy is perfect in soups and stews because it adds starchy substance and a bit of corny sweetness.


Hominy is great, but it’s the tomatillo sauce (the “verde” in this dish) that really makes me swoon.

Tomatillos are now quite easy to find in your regular super market. Once you take them home and remove the papery husk, you’ll uncover a green gem that favors an underripe tomato.



Unlike a tomato, however, tomatillos are not juicy and they have a much different flavor profile. They pack a bit more sweetness and a unique tangy bite. Blended with smoky heat from peppers, sweet layers of caramelized onions and garlic, and freshness from cilantro, the tomatillo sauce is the perfect base to this dish bringing together an irresistible combination of flavors that will warm and wow your tastebuds, especially on these cool October nights.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the tomatillo sauce

8-10 medium to large tomatillos

1 serrano pepper, halved with seeds and ribs removed

2 jalepeño peppers, only top stem removed

1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt

1 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 cup of fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt

For the pozole

1 pound of skinless chicken breast (about 2 large breasts) 

4 cups of organic chicken stock

2 cups of water

2 dried bay leaves

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 whole yellow onion, peeled and quartered

 2 (25 ounce) cans of Mexican hominy (I used Juanita’s brand), drained and rinsed

1 (7 ounce) can of chopped green chilis 

1 tablespoon of coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

Juice from 1 lime

Remove coating from the tomatillos and rinse them well. Add them to a medium sized pot with the poblano pepper, jalepeños, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil.


Once the pot is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic cloves to the hot oil and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes while the tomatillos are simmering.


Add the tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic to a blender with the cilantro and salt. Don’t add any water from the pot. Allow the contents to cool for 5 minutes before blending. Once cooled, blend until mostly smooth.


Add the chicken, stock, water, bay leaves, garlic, onion, hominy, green chilis, salt, pepper, cumin, and tomatillo sauce to a crock pot. Stir everything together. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 3-5 hours. I experimented with both bone-in and boneless chicken breast. I think bone adds a little more flavor, so bone-in, skinless chicken breast would be my preference for this dish, but it’s completely fine to use boneless. 

Before serving, remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Remove any bones if necessary. Also remove the onion quarters, garlic cloves, and bay leaves, and discard. Add the shredded chicken back to the crock pot and stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired.


Serve the pozole hot with optional garnishes such as diced avocado, fresh cilantro, sliced radishes, plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, queso fresco, or corn tortilla chips.


This recipe makes a big batch of pozole. I kept half in the fridge for the week and froze the other half. It will keep for about 6 months in the freezer.


Enjoy, and live well!


Grain-Free Cinnamon Bun Protein Muffins


Have you ever walked through the mall and experienced the irresistible smells coming from the Cinnabon counter?

I swear it follows me while I’m shopping. Just when I think I’m of clear distance from the food court, my nose catches the smell once more. I can’t escape it. The smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls drowning in icing has a way of tempting even those with the strongest of will power. Is this smell patented or something? Seriously, can it be bottled up and sold as perfume or bath soap?

You may be asking, “If you like the smell so much, why don’t you marry it just eat a Cinnabon?” Valid point, however, my body would not really appreciate all the sugar, fat, and unnecessary calories/carbs. I’ll stick with the smells.

When I made these muffins, I was doing nothing more than a spontaneous Saturday afternoon experiment in the kitchen while my husband watched football. I wasn’t even planning on blogging this recipe because I was skeptical to how everything would turn out on my first try. Let me just say, I was pleasantly surprised by two things:

1. These muffins were ridiculously delicious, and they actually tasted like a cinnamon bun.

2. My kitchen smelled JUST like the beloved Cinnabon counter at the mall.

I’d say this is a win-win situation if you ask me. You know what makes it a win-win-win situation, though? The fact that these muffins are grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, AND have tons of added protein to keep you fueled and energized throughout the day.

Next time you nearly get knocked off your feet at the mall by the sinful scent of Cinnabon, resist the urge to indulge with a smile on your face because now you can enjoy the sweet cinnamon goodness in a way that makes your body happy :)


Here’s what you’ll need:


1/2 cup of unsweetened, plain almond milk

1/4 cup of organic, virgin coconut oil (melted)

2 eggs

12-15 drops of vanilla cream liquid stevia

1 1/2 cup of almond flour

1/2 cup (about 2 scoops) of vanilla protein powder

1/2 cup of flax meal

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda


2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons of organic, virgin coconut oil (melted)

1 tablespoon of ghee (melted) (*or vegan butter to make this dairy free)

1/8 teaspoon of salt

5-6 drops of vanilla cream liquid stevia

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod


Preheat your oven to 310 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond milk, coconut oil, eggs, and stevia. Fold in the almond flour, protein powder, flax meal, salt, and baking soda with a wooden spoon or spatula. If you don’t have flax meal, finely grind flaxseeds in a blender or food processor.

Fill 8 cupcake liners halfway with batter. Spoon about a teaspoon of topping over the center of each muffin, pushing the spoon in a bit to set the filling mainly in the center of the muffin.

Spoon another scoop of batter over each muffin until the liners are almost full. Evenly distribute the remaining topping over each muffin. Use a toothpick to swirl the topping throughout the muffin batter.

Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.


Store these muffins for about a week in your fridge or freeze them for up to 2 months.

Enjoy and live well!



Fried Egg over Carrot Kale Hash


I used to be a bowl of cereal kind of gal. 

I loved the convenience of waking up in the morning, grabbing a box of cereal, dumping it in a bowl with some milk, and there you have it – breakfast is served!

Sounds great, right? Maybe for about an hour.

I became all too familiar with the strike of mid-morning hunger. You know…when you can’t focus on work because your stomach is grumbling and anything within plain sight looks good enough to gobble down in a fit of ravenous desperation. That box of doughnuts in the break room? You just can’t say no. The candy jar mocking you from across the room? Yeah that thing is toast.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my situation, if I didn’t give in to my mid-morning hunger attack, I would make up for it at lunch – big time. One sandwich just wasn’t enough, so I would then load up with tons of carbs and sweets thinking I could be satisfied.

I’m not saying I never eat cereal. Heck, I have two boxes of Kashi on top of my fridge right now. All I’m saying is if you want to avoid the hangries before lunch, you might want to consider changing up your breakfast routine from empty carbs (i.e. cereal) to something that’s actually going to nourish you and keep your body satisfied for a prolonged period of time (i.e. protein and veggies).

Vegetables for breakfast…say what?? Yeah, you heard me.

Who doesn’t love a good old country breakfast of hashbrowns and eggs? Let’s nix the starchy white potatoes and replace them with a little something that your body will thank you for – enter carrots and kale.

Now for the runny yolk.

Have you been brainwashed into thinking egg whites are the only way to go if you want a flat tummy and fit body? Time to change your mind! Whole eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, high quality proteins, and good fats. Don’t cheat yourself by skipping out on the yolky goodness. It’s honestly what makes eggs one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

Not a fan of runny yolks? We can’t be friends. Just kidding (kind of).

You can easily change this dish up according to your personal preferences. Whether you top the hash with eggs that are scrambled, poached, hard boiled, or baked, I have a feeling you’ll really enjoy this nutrient-rich breakfast that will keep you satisfied and energized for much longer than your go-to bowl of cereal.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 teaspoons of coconut oil 

1/4 of a small yellow onion, diced

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

2/3 cup of kale, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper for taste

1-2 large eggs (depending on how many you want)

1 green onion (optional for garnish)

In a skillet, heat one teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat.

Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion. Sauté for 2 minutes using a spatula to move the onion around the pan.

Next, add the shredded carrots. Sauté for 3-4 minutes then add the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the kale begins to wilt. Remove from the heat.



In a small skillet, heat the other teaspoon of coconut oil over medium heat. carefully crack the egg(s) in the pan and cook for a few minutes until the whites and yolks are cooked to your desired preference. I like my yolks really runny, so I leave the eggs in the pan for about 2-3 minutes. If you want them a little less runny, cover the skillet for a minute or two to trap some of the heat in the pan.

Top the veggie hash with the fried egg(s). Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and chopped green onion.


Are you a member of the runny yolk club? If not, how do you prefer your eggs?


Enjoy, and live well!


Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake


Fall puts me in the best mood. 

The other morning I walked outside and had to run back in to grab a sweater. I wish you could have seen the smile on my face.

Fall in North Carolina is really a blessing from the summer heat. The leaves are just starting to show the slightest hints of orange and burgundy and the air has a crisp coolness to it. Is it just me or does the fall breeze actually have a distinct smell? I love mid-afternoon when the sun has warmed everything up just enough to feel comfortable being outdoors without breaking a sweat. Ahh…I wish it could stay like this year round.

With the very first hints of fall come my overwhelming desire for fall flavors. What are fall flavors you ask? Think pumpkin, cinnamon spice, warm apples, nutmeg, ginger, maple, butternut squash, cloves, and turmeric. I recently made a trip to the Yankee Candle store to stock up on my fall candles. Some of those scents smell good enough to eat!

If you know me well, or honestly if you know me at all, you know cheesecake is my absolute favorite dessert. A few months ago, however, I made a lifestyle change and my diet has been pretty free of sugar. New healthy lifestyle = no more cheesecake? Heck no! This stuff is just as good as the real thing and you won’t feel guilty about eating a slice…or two.

The sweetness in this dessert comes from a little bit of pure maple syrup and my favorite sugar substitute, liquid stevia. Stevia is calorie-free and is derived from a plant. It’s 200 times sweeter than sugar and has no glycemic index. I love using the liquid drops to sweeten up my yogurt, coffee, and even baked goods.

This cheesecake is super rich and creamy thanks to greek yogurt! I use a little coconut flour to thicken it up and plenty of fall spices in addition to organic pumpkin to achieve the perfect pumpkiny goodness.

Lastly, the crust. It’s probably my favorite part of this entire cheesecake. I use almond meal, which is a little coarser in texture than almond flour. Using coconut oil instead of butter to bind it all together results in a healthy, moist crust with solid substance to support the cheesecake filling.

Whether you’re trying to eat healthier or just wanting to get in the spirit of fall, this cheesecake will put a smile on your face!

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the filling

1 cup of organic pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 1/2 cup of plain, full-fat greek yogurt 

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground clove

1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

3 droppers of liquid vanilla cream stevia 

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of coconut flour

For the crust

2 cups of almond meal

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons of organic, virgin coconut oil (melted) (*Plus extra for greasing)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 droppers of liquid vanilla cream stevia

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a springform pan or large ramekins with coconut oil.

Whisk all of the filling ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.



In a separate bowl, combine the crust ingredients until it has reached the consistency of damp sand.



Press the crust onto the bottom of the springform pan, or divide among four large ramekins. I have made this cheesecake both in my 10 inch springform pan and in ramekins. The 10 inch pan made a bit of a thinner cheesecake, but it was still delicious. The ramekins result in a thicker cheesecake and take just a little longer to bake. 


Pour the filling on top of the crust and bake for about 30 minutes in a 10 inch springform pan, or 40-45 minutes in ramekins. The cheesecake should be firm in the center when shaken.

Allow the cheesecake to cool in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. I think it tastes best when it sits overnight, but who am I kidding…this stuff is pretty hard to resist once it comes out of the oven.



Serve with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Enjoy, happy fall, and live well!


Ballpark Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole


Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd!

If you know my husband well, you know he lives and breathes baseball. I’m pretty sure he knew I was “the one” on our first date when he learned I’m a baseball lover, but I’m pretty positive I quickly broke his heart when I told him I’m a Yankees fan.

I met my husband during college – I was a sophomore and he was a senior. He stayed at Wake Forest to complete his masters degree, which gave us an extra year together at the same school. We spent two spring break vacations in Florida attending a handful of the spring training baseball games. Those trips and the countless games we attended are some of my most treasured memories together. It was hilarious seeing this patient, reserved, southern gentleman, who I still didn’t know extremely well, completely go bonkers when the ump made a questionable call or when the Cards hit a grand slam. It was even funnier (and more enjoyable) watching his reaction when the Yankees beat the Cardinals…but I’ll leave that story for later.

We haven’t been back to Florida in a couple years (thanks adulthood, you’re so great), and spring training is an experience we miss terribly every March. In an attempt to make up for this, I gave Gray tickets to see the Washington Nationals play for our first wedding anniversary. We went to the game last month and loved every minute, especially since we were able to spend a weekend with our sweet friends Tim and Mary Scott who live in DC. Time with them is seriously golden.

We decided to eat dinner at the game, and let’s just say for a health food blogger and wellness enthusiast, ballpark food is slim pickins’. While Gray made a bee line for the classic hotdog with fries, I made circles around the stadium for a few innings of the game. I was desperately searching for something semi-healthy or even semi-NON processed and junky. Uhg. I struggled for real.

I ended up settling for a $12 grilled chicken sandwich (sans bun) with lettuce (iceberg – blah), tomato, and lots of yellow mustard. As I reluctantly ate my previously frozen “chicken,” I couldn’t help but notice the countless fans indulging in Italian sausage dogs with grilled peppers and onions. They sure did smell good, and I was kind of jealous I didn’t get one for myself. So that’s why I made this dish. Not only as a way to diminish my ballpark dinner choice envy, but to also make a classic favorite into a healthier dinner option that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 small spaghetti squash

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning

2 large links of sweet Italian chicken sausage (I like Al Fresco All Natural; you can also use hot if preferred)

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

5 sweet mini bell peppers, or 1 large bell pepper

2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 small or 1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced (optional)

1 heaping cup of tuscan kale, chopped (large stems removed)

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Juice from 1/2 small lemon

1/2 cup of provolone or pepper jack cheese, shredded

Fresh basil for garnish 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the squash by carefully cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Lightly brush with oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Bake cut side down for 30-45 minutes.

While the squash is baking, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and brown while crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula.


Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Return the empty pan to medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add the onions and peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the tomatoes (if using) and kale. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes and then add the cooked sausage and lemon juice. Stir and remove from the heat.




Once the squash is cooked, use a fork to pull the squash away from the skin into an oven safe baking dish. Stir the sausage and veggie mixture in with the squash. Sprinkle with cheese and bake on broil setting for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown.


Garnish with fresh basil and serve!


This is a fun, flavorful dish that’s easy to make and filled with nutritious veggies. I love all the colors, too :)


Enjoy, live well, and play ball!


Pumpkin Spice Latte


 This morning I gave in to the PSL.

Yes, it’s still 90-something degrees outside, and no, the leaves are not quite changing, but for now, I’m just going to pretend summer is over and fall is here to stay for a while.

I’m not going to pretend a Stabucks or Dunkin’ PSL is a-okay…because it’s not. With 50 grams of sugar per cup, I’m saying “no way, not ever” to this trendy beverage. That’s more than a king size Snickers bar, and more sugar than you should ever have in a single day! Forget about the 300+ calories in the drink, it’s sugar that makes us sluggish, sick, and fat. The seasonal face is also loaded up with artificial colorings, flavorings, and chemicals which only do your body harm.

Try making your own mug of pumpkiny goodness at home! Your body will thank you…and so will your wallet!

Here’s how I get my PSL fix:

10 oz freshly brewed organic (naturally flavored) pumpkin spice coffee *I buy mine from the Fresh Market

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of ground clove

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

3-4 drops of liquid vanilla cream stevia *I order this from Vitacost

4 oz of streamed or foamed unsweetened, plain almond milk

Stir the hot coffee and spices together in a mug.

Pour the steamed/foamed milk on top and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

Enjoy, and live well!


Basil and Mint Zucchini Over Goat Cheese Crostini


There is something about fresh herbs from the garden. 

Some of you may know about the garden I planted this past spring. It’s been a fun adventure tending to and keeping it thriving through the incredibly hot summer days here in NC. A few of my potted herbs bit the dust (adios dill and cilantro!) while others have grown like weeds. ‘Tis the season for tomatoes! I’m currently glancing outside my kitchen window counting 17 shiny green tomatoes. That will be a fun harvest!

Although I did not grow zucchini this year, I seem to always have it on hand. It’s just one of those kitchen staples that I never get sick of. A few weeks ago I wanted to get a little creative with the excess of basil and mint that was sitting in a vase of water on my kitchen counter. I thought, what better way to bring out the summery freshness of zucchini than with vibrant herbs?

I love the combo of basil and mint. Many Vietnamese and other Asian cultures include these herbs together in their cuisine. Basil actually belongs to the mint family, so it makes sense that they compliment each other so well.

I started this dish by crisping up zucchini slices in a pan with a small amount of oil. Then I mellowed out the herby flavors with sweet sun-dried tomatoes, garlicy goodness, and a splash of vinegar. Crusty bread, a generous smear of tangy goat cheese, and toasted walnuts bring all of the components together to make for perfect handheld tapas or appetizers that pair best with a nice glass of wine and good conversation. You could even forget about the bread and goat cheese to effortlessly transform this recipe into a delectable side dish that all will enjoy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2-3 medium zucchini, sliced on the bias about 1/2 inch in thickness

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

5 fresh mint leaves

2 large fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes 

1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of toasted walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest

Goat cheese and your favorite bread (optional, for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.


Add the zucchini slices in batches to not overcrowd the pan. Leave the zucchini slices to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.


Remove the zucchini slices from the pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Continue this process until all of the zucchini and crisped and golden brown.


In the meantime, use a sharp knife to finely mince together the garlic, mint, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes.


Once all the zucchini are cooked and drained, add them back to the hot pan with the garlic herb tomato mixture. Toss with a spatula and add vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.


Serve over your favorite toasted bread smeared with goat cheese. Garnish with toasted walnuts and lemon zest.


Ricotta or cottage cheese would work well as a substitute for goat cheese if you desire.


You could also serve this as a side dish without the goat cheese and crostini. It’s super yummy with my lemon rosemary pan seared salmon!


Enjoy, and live well!