Butternut Squash & Kale Pita Pizza

It’s kind of funny looking, isn’t it? This Butternut Squash & Kale Pita Pizza looks more like a work of art than it does food. You have to admit though, it does appear quite intriguing. The harvest orange of the squash and the fresh green of the kale compliment one another beautifully. But those gorgeous colors aren’t all this “pizza” has to offer; it’s delicious too. I know it seems a bit out of the ordinary, but once you take a bite, you’ll realize how beneficial it is to branch out every now and then.

I love the sweetness that oven-roasting induces, so the first thing I did when preparing this colorful meal was roast the squash and garlic up good. I added the kale during the last couple of minutes, which wilted it down and crisped it up slightly like kale chips. Then I pureed the squash and garlic with just a few drops of olive oil until smooth and creamy. Think mashed potatoes, but with squash. I had to stop myself from just eating the sweet roasted garlic and squash puree all on its own.

Once I got myself under control, I spread the puree onto a pita, topped it with light mozzarella cheese, and baked it until the pita was golden brown and the cheese was good and melted. The crowning touch was a handful of the crisp kale. Then I sliced it up and happily devoured the whole thing. But I had not an ounce of guilt since this is so darn good for me between the squash, the kale, and the whole-wheat pita.

Open up your mind to this pita pizza and experience the guilt-free bliss induced by the harmonious flavors and textures. Sweet, creamy squash with roasted garlic, crisp kale, and melted cheese all aboard a convenient handheld crust. How could you go wrong? Don’t hesitate another moment; make this pita pizza for yourself and be utterly amazed by the total tantalizing experience.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Don’t like squash? Sweet potatoes would work just as well.
  2. Double, triple, etc. the recipe as necessary to feed a family. This is a great weeknight meal.
  3. Parmesan cheese works equally well in place of the mozzarella.

Butternut Squash & Kale Pita Pizza
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash (the smaller you chop, the quicker it’ll roast)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 1 generous cup fresh kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole wheat 60-calorie pita (like Joseph’s)
  • 1-2 tsp. olive oil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 light mozzarella cheese stick (like Sargento) OR 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil & spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Spread the squash and garlic out in an even layer. Lightly spray the squash with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Roast for 10 minutes then stir and add the kale. Roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until kale is wilted and squash is tender. Leave oven on.
  3. Meanwhile, pull the cheese into strings. Chop until it resembles the size of shredded cheese. Set aside.
  4. Let veggies cool for 5 minutes and separate kale from the squash and garlic. Add the squash and garlic to a food processor. Pulse until pureed and smooth. Stream in the olive oil while pureeing, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches desired smoothness.
  5. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the pita on the tray and spread the butternut squash puree on top in an even layer. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper flakes then bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Top with kale and enjoy.


Munch on This: Spicy Italian Kale Chips

You know that Lay’s Potato Chip challenge: “Betcha can’t eat just one“?

It’s legit.

I vividly remember coming home from school as a child and wolfing down half a bag of Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips in one sitting. I’m not proud. Nowadays, I don’t even buy the stuff because I know what a danger it is for me. But Lay’s wasn’t kidding; there is definitely something about a chip that physically prevents you from just putting the bag down and walking away.

Is it an addiction? Perhaps. Luckily, most addictions can be cured with the proper procedures. When smokers decide to quit, one common way to combat cravings is with a faux cigarette, a placebo if you will. The trick lies in tricking yourself. You’ve got to make your brain think it’s getting what it wants.

The same idea can be applied to those dastardly potato chips. You’re stronger than they are. All you need is a replacement, something to curb those salty, crunchy cravings when they come at you full-force. This, my little cookies, is where my Spicy Italian Kale Chips come in.

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Kale Greens w/ Brown Butter Sauce

Life is all about balance.

If you stuff your face with gallons of ice cream, you run an extra mile the next day.
If you eat some spicy hot wings, you cool ’em down with blue cheese.
If you forget your friend’s birthday, you buy them something really awesome to make up for it.
If you spend a whole night partying, you spend the next morning studying.

Haha I’m totally kidding about the last one. But the others hold true. As humans, we are constantly partaking in a complicated balancing act. We hover between one extreme and the other, and when we fall too far one way, we dive head first into the other to bring us back. Just as our daily lives require balance between things like having fun and working hard or being selfless and taking care of ourselves, food requires the same kind of  equilibrium.

Take sweet and salty food for example. You start with something supremely salty like nuts then balance them out with something sweet like chocolate. It might be hard to believe that balancing your life with a little bit of partying and a little bit of work could be better than just doing a whole lot of partying, but it’s clearly evident how beneficial the art of balance is when you look at food. Whether you’re talking texture, taste, or color, harmony is the key to deliciousness.

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Healthy Cookie: Sauteed Cannellini Beans and Kale

I know; I’ve been going kale crazy lately. But can you blame me? It’s so good!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kale is the king of greens. It is chock full of nutrients and plain old delicious. It’s the tastiest of all greens in my humble opinion. With all that good stuff in such a natural, untouched form, kale is truly a bundle of benefits given as a gracious gift from Nature itself. In today’s day and age (especially as Americans), we’ve been trained to love foods that are processed, chemically enhanced, and filled with preservatives. Because of this, foods like kale can be confounding. Kale is untouched, a product of Mother Nature only. And yet, it is so delicious and nutritious.

Okay, so nature is pretty awesome sometimes.

Now, there is but one flaw when it comes to kale: it doesn’t have a significant amount of protein. So how do you balance out the meal? With beans, of course!

I love me some beans. Protein-packed, hearty, and plain old delicious, beans are a super food (much like kale). Therefore, they’re the perfect addition to a kale dish. Put beans and kale together, and what to you get? Sauteed Cannellini Beans and Kale.

This dish hits all the right marks:

Delicious? Check.
Nutritious? Check.
Protein-packed? Check.
Flavorful? Double check!

Talk about well-rounded!

Fresh kale and tender, creamy cannellini beans get sauteed with veggie stock, garlic, onions, and of course some spicy red pepper flakes to create a sizzling dish with a myriad of textures and flavors. The whole thing is topped off with reduced-fat mozzarella cheese for that little touch of indulgence that even a nutritious meal needs.

The best part is that this delicious meal is crazy low-cal, so you can stuff your face without having to stuff your bulging belly into jeans that no longer fit tomorrow morning. That’s the best kind of meal!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Not a fan of cannellini beans? Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) would be a delicious substitute.
  2. Craving meat? Add some strips of white meat chicken to the mix.
  3. This meal is super fast, perfect for a weeknight dinner.
  4. This would be delicious with some whole wheat pasta!

Sauteed Cannellini Beans and Kale
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 generous cups roughly chopped fresh kale
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 reduced-fat or light mozzarella string cheese stick (like Sargento)

Directions:

  1. Bring a medium skillet filled with 1/4 cup of veggie stock to medium heat. Add the garlic and onions. Saute until aromatic and translucent, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and cover. Let simmer for 5 minutes or until kale begins to wilt.
  3. Meanwhile, pull the cheese stick into strings then roughly chop. Set aside.
  4. Once the kale begins to wilt, add the beans, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir. Add up to another 1/4 cup of veggie stock if the kale is too dry for your like. Continue to cook uncovered until beans are hot.
  5. Turn off the heat, but keep the pan over the burner. Immediately sprinkle the cheese over the top then cover until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Grab yourself a bowl and enjoy!


Healthy Cookie: Kale and Bean Soup

Let’s be honest: we all get bored with our food sometimes. If we could eat whatever we wanted without gaining a single pound, seeing a spike in our cholesterol level, or having to actually make the food ourselves, then that would be a different story. But that’s not the case. We’re limited by time, money, and the number of notches in our belts.

Eating healthy can seem repetitive at times. Eating vegetarian and healthy can be even worse. I get into these periodic ruts where I eat the same three or four meals for a couple of weeks until, eventually, I cannot take anymore. It comes down to two options: think of something new and delicious to make, or die.

Alright, that’s a little extreme, but isn’t that what it feels like sometimes? Luckily, I was able to brush some dust off the ol’ idea light bulb and come up with something good: Kale and Bean Soup.

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