Recipe Makeover–Broccoli Pesto Pasta

I used to make this Broccoli Pesto Pasta all the time before my son was born, and it somehow just fell off of my radar as I’ve searched for new recipes to make each week.  I recently rediscovered it and wanted to make it both kid-friendly and eating plan-friendly. Luckily, the original recipe is amazing and I really didn’t have much work to do!

If you have picky little ones that probably won’t eat pasta covered in green, it would be really easy to cook some frozen broccoli, puree it in the blender or food processor, and add it to your favorite tomato sauce.  You are still give some veggies to your kids, but masking it a little more covertly in the red sauce.

If you are really limiting carbs or want to make sure it’s gluten free, you can use spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini “zoodles” instead of pasta.

I stuck with most of the original recipe, but did make a few changes to fit my needs–a little more nutritious and a little quicker for busy moms!  For the grilled chicken I used frozen chopped grilled chicken that you can reheat in the microwave instead of cooking my own–much faster.

Below is the recipe I ended up with!

Broccoli Pesto Pasta (adapted from Annie’s Eats)

1 lb whole wheat penne pasta

1 small white onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp coconut oil

1 lb bag frozen broccoli, steam-in-bag variety

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Up to 1/2 cup low fat plain greek yogurt (1%-2% fat)

1 lb grilled chicken, shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

Black pepper to taste


Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Once cooked, reserve 1.5 cups of pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta and set aside.  Cook frozen broccoli according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add chopped onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add minced garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently as to not burn the garlic.

Transfer onion mixture to a large blender or food processor.  Add cooked broccoli.  Pulse until mixture is finely chopped.  Add in greek yogurt one or two tablespoons at a time, pulsing until fully incorporated and mixture is creamy. If necessary, add in reserved pasta water (1/2 cup at a time) until sauce reaches desired consistency. (Don’t add the water all at once–if you make it too watery there is no going back!)

Transfer cooked pasta back into the pot or into a serving bowl.  Add chicken, broccoli pesto, and black pepper to taste and mix to combine.


Serves 4 adults, or 2 with leftovers for lunch!



Strawberry Banana Muffins

Breakfast is the hardest meal of the day for me. My Shakeology is easy and delicious, but I need something with it to keep me fueled until lunch. I need something fast, easy, and portable; my morning schedule doesn’t allow for cooking more than 2 or 3 minutes. Keeping a batch of muffins in the freezer helps make my mornings go smoothly, and I’m constantly looking for delicious and healthy recipes for my whole family to enjoy, including Little Man.

This recipe was pretty good. The banana I used wasn’t quite ripe enough, so it really needed more sweetness. The next time I make them, in either going to add in some applesauce or an extra banana to give more moisture and more sweetness.

I used frozen strawberries and increased the cooking time per the recipe notes.

This isn’t something I would have regularly, but it is a nice treat and helps fill me up!


Amy’s Healthy Baking Whole Wheat Strawberry Banana Muffins–

Toddler Eats: Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Feeding a toddler is hard.  It’s so easy to fall into the rut of Cheerios and Goldfish crackers, but I am trying to be really conscious about what I feed my Little Man.  I’ve noticed that he is obsessed with carbs.  OBSESSED.  If he sees something carby, it’s all over.  Whatever else you have for him will be ignored.  Because of this, sometimes he doesn’t get as much protein or veggies as I want him to have. Even when I offer the protein first, it’s very hit and miss.

Look how bored he is with his dried fruit. Oh, geez. We are in for it in a few years!

Look how bored he is with his dried fruit. Oh, geez. We are in for it in a few years!

I needed something that was easy for me to make, easy for him to eat, tasty, and nutritious.  When I found this pin on Pinterest, I knew it would be great!  Little Man loved these meatballs and they were so easy to put together.

Not the greatest picture, but you can see the colorful veggies and pesto! So yummy.

Not the greatest picture, but you can see the colorful veggies and pesto! So yummy.

A couple of notes: I misread the original recipe and grated all the veggies, including the red pepper.  I discovered that grating red pepper results in a pile of mush.  Mince the pepper with a knife and grate the other veggies.  It works so much better! I’ve also made these with lean ground turkey and it was just as tasty.


Chicken Pesto Meatballs

**slightly adapted from Super Healthy Kids

1 lb ground chicken or turkey

1 zucchini, ends cut off and grated

1 large carrot or 4 baby carrots, peeled and grated (**if you use baby carrots, no need to peel)

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

3 tbsp prepared pesto

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Put the grated and minced veggies in a small colander over the sink.  With a few clean paper towels, cover and press veggies to release excess water.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until well combined (this is best done with clean hands, but can be done with a large spoon as well).

Roll meat mixture into a ball, one tablespoon at a time, and place rolled balls onto cookie sheet.

Bake meatballs for about 10-12 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.

Meatballs should be served warm, and keep well in the freezer.

This recipe yields around 20 meatballs.

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was too excited to put them in better lighting!

I was too excited to put them in better lighting!

I love to bake.  The measuring, the mixing, the sweet ingredients, the aroma of the food in the oven: I find it so relaxing and cathartic.  Since starting my journey to a healthier lifestyle, though, my baking has pretty much disappeared.  You can’t bake cakes, cookies, and muffins without stalling or reversing weight loss.  Or, at least I can’t.

Recently, I’ve really been missing baking.  Little Man is getting to the age where he can eat anything I cook up for him, and I have a lot of romanticized visions of making him cookies and pancakes and muffins that he can help me make and eat and enjoy.  Making memories, people.  I’d love it!

So I started a search for healthier, cleaner treats.  I pinned this recipe for sweet potato chocolate chip cookies and thought it sounded interesting.  When I looked at the actual recipe, I realized that it was just a regular cookie recipe with some sweet potato added in.  Not quite the healthier treat I was looking for.  I asked for some help on a healthy baking Facebook group, but didn’t have any of the specialized ingredients to replace the sugar and butter and flour.

So I just made something up.  I took what I knew about cookies and baking–the proportions of dry to wet ingredients, ingredients that would add sweetness, etc–and winged it.

The result is a really, really, really good cookie.  If you’re looking for something that tastes exactly like a traditional chocolate chip cookie, this isn’t it.  It has a doughier texture, even fully cooked, and the flavor is not quite the same because the ingredients are different.  But these cookies are an indulgent treat with a rich, chocolately flavor that satisfied my vision and my sweet tooth.


Sweet Potato Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(**This is an original recipe inspired by the pin, but all I used from the original source was the 3/4 cup sweet potato.)

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats (I used quick-cooking)

3/4 cup mashed sweet potato (1 medium sweet potato, roasted)

1/2 cup natural applesauce

2 tbsp raw honey

1 egg

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted (**Let the oil cool for a few minutes before mixing in so it doesn’t cook the eggs)

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir to combine.

Whisk all the wet ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine until well mixed.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips until distributed throughout batter.

Using a tablespoon measure, drop one spoonful of batter onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, keeping each cookie about an inch apart.

Cook at 350 for about 8 minutes, rotating pans halfway through cooking.  Cookies will be lightly browned on top.

Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to let cool completely.  Keep in airtight container for 3-5 days.

Makes approximately 20 cookies.