4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

Stretching is one of the most underrated things you can do for your health. It’s kinda like the broccoli on your plate…everybody knows its good for them, but for some reason we all want to skip it. I can’t tell you how many times I see people hop on the treadmill without so much as a toe-touch. I cringe and wish them luck in my head. But seriously how friggin’ good does it feel to take a deep breath, stretch your arms above your head and just feel your body come alive?! Ahhhhh.

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It’s time to embrace the stretch! Stretching is essential to get blood flowing to your muscles and help your body prep for movement (or just your day). Before a workout its important to practice dynamic stretching, which means your body is moving throughout the stretch as opposed to static stretching, where you hold a stretch without moving.

Dynamic stretching is key for anyone prepping to do any sort of sport that requires intense movement, ie. running, dancing, basketball, shopping (just kidding…but am I?). By making small movements in the stretch you can better prepare your muscles for what you’re about to do….whether it’s a burpee or a reach for a tank top on a high shelf. Dynamic stretching increases your core body temperature, increases range of motion around joints and decreases chance of injury. Basically it’s awesome and you should try it.

So today I’m sharing with you my favorite dynamic stretches! I incorporate these into my dance warm-ups and into my own pre-run routine (and hope the non-stretcher on the treadmill next to me notices).

4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

1. Toe-touch toe lift

Face right leg and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Lift right toe up and down 8x. Repeat left.

2. Flex heeled bend

Face right leg again and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Bend left leg and lengthen body over right leg. Repeat bend 8x. Move to left side a repeat.

3. Knee dip lunge

Move into lunge on right side and dip knee to floor 8x. Repeat on left side.

4. Toe touch heel lift

Bend over right leg and lift left leg, bending at knee. Lift right heel 8x. Repeat on left side.

These stretches are super simple, but can be modified for any flexibility level.

Having trouble touching your toes? Put a chair in front of you to hold onto.

Can’t go down all the way into the lunge? Put your hands on your knee or hold onto a wall.

Basically these stretches are built to help your muscles slowly work into your range of motion and gradually warm up so you’re ready for greater things. Like running a few miles or shopping till you drop 🙂

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5 Things I Learned On My First Cruise

Phew! My life is becoming increasingly busy these days with dance ramping up for the end of the season, work getting crazier than ever and keeping up with blogging and my personal life. That’s why I am SO glad the hubbs and I were able to get away for a few days last week to recharge, unplug and just have fun!

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Back in February, on a cold, blustery, miserable day, we booked a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas, as a way to escape New England winter and just reset for a few days. It was our beacon of light at the end of a very dark, cold tunnel. In October we took our honeymoon in Hawaii, which you can read about here, so our main goal for this trip was for it to be cheap (cause really who can afford two vacations in one year??). Well if you haven’t heard, cruises are pretty affordable these days. Honestly I have always been very skeptical about cruising and have even been known to swear it off all-together, which probably sounded something like this; “I will never go on a cruise, it’s too claustrophobic! People get sick! TITANIC!!!”. Well, I have to admit that I was wrong. Cruises are kind of awesome and here’s why:

1. The boat is your giant playground.

In other words, I was never claustrophobic at all. The whole boat is yours to explore and take advantage of from the mini golf on the top deck, to the casino in the middle and hidden spots to hang out all over the place. Plus the ship stops on beautiful islands that you can get out on and find your adventure on land. We did have a window in our room, which probably helped, but our living space was fine, in fact I’ve been in smaller hotel rooms in Brooklyn! Cross claustrophobia off your worry list now.

IMG_08652. You will be forced to totally check out…and it’s amazing!

You will have zero service at sea to check Insta, Snapchat your day or do any of the other annoying things society thinks we should do to prove we’re having fun. You CAN purchase a plan to get access to social media, but honestly I think that’s stupid. This is your vacation, enjoy the moment, take photos and show people when you get home.

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3. There’s always something to do…which can be overwhelming at times.

We learned this the hard way. Every night they slip a schedule of events for the next day under your door. We tried to hit all the fun, but eventually sun and exhaustion took us down. Naps are highly encouraged between the hours of 4 and 5pm. Then you rally and continue your day with dinner, drinks, shows, dancing, hot tub….etc.

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4. Exercise is built in!

No need to hit the gym, just take the stairs. I think we both left with extremely toned glutes from the dozens of stairs we climbed every day. It was a great way to burn off the lava cake! I did actually hit the treadmill, which was hilarious because the boat sways you back and forth, which made for quite a challenging run!

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(This is the view from my treadmill. Not bad, right?)

5. The food is what dreams are made of.

Quinoa stuffed tomatoe with croquettes in a cream sauce. Molten lava cake. Oysters Rockefeller. Deconstructed ham sandwich appetizer. 24 hour pizza and ice cream. Need I say more? I had heard mixed reviews about Carnival food, but I have to say I was incredibly impressed every night with the creativity and quality of the food.

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So would I cruise again? Absolutely! I think there’s a time and place for boots on ground, map in hand adventure; exploring waterfalls and finding the hidden taqueria, but there’s always something to be said for sitting back, drink in hand, watching the land and sea pass by and letting someone else bring the entertainment to you.

What’s your favorite way to vacation? Land or sea?

Yoga, Rice and Everything Nice at Throwback Brewery

When you hear the word “brewery” your mind does not automatically conjure up images of bending yogis or brown rice. That’s why Throwback Brewery is in a league all its own. Situated in an 1860’s farmhouse, Throwback features an eclectic menu using local ingredients, creates unique craft brews and hosts really cool community events. Basically it’s awesome and if you haven’t been yet, you gotta go…ttttoday junior.

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Yesterday I stopped in with some friends for their $5 yoga, which they offer on Sundays at 11am in the loft of their barn, right above the brewery. Me and about 40 other people piled into the open space to breathe, get centered and count down the minutes until we were enjoying a cold one. Check out their event calendar so you can attend the next one! (P.S. they also have live music, cribbage and book club)

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A typical brewery menu would offer pizza, burgers, fries, etc. which is so 2005. Throwback delights with hearty modern dishes and twists on classics, all using fresh, local ingredients. They even make their own bread using the spent grain from their brewing process. So cool! I enjoyed the Fried Rice Bowl which consisted of brown rice with roasted squash, edamame, bean sprouts, radishes and organic chicken in their spicy sesame sauce topped with a fried egg. Holy-yum. Loved every second of it. I also had a side of fried sweet potato wedges and a few bites of a maple donut.

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The maple donut brings me to the next awesome thing that happened at Throwback yesterday – their Maple Madness festival! Described by my friend Corinne as “the most New Hampshire thing I’ve done all year”, this event was apparently the hottest thing happening on the Seacoast yesterday as we watched hoards of people pile in to get a taste of some maple beer and hear the band. Clearly the cold, dreary weather will not keep us New Englanders away from some good maple syrup.

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Did I mention that Throwback was founded by two women? How awesome is that?! Nothing like a little girl power to create a place that not only feeds your belly, but also feeds your soul.

This photo makes me cold just looking at it…luckily I’m heading to the Bahamas this week to defrost! Further posts make be delayed, but you can follow my trip on Instagram 🙂

What did you do this weekend?

5 Tips For A Vacation-Ready Body

Happy first day of spring! With a foot of snow on the ground and temps hovering in the 30’s it does not feel like spring here one bit! But the calendar tells me it is, so I guess I’ll believe it. It’s all good though because next week the hubbs and I will be sailing into the warm Bahama sunshine 🙂 So I wanted to share some of my tips for shedding your winter-body and becoming the beautiful spring butterfly that has been hiding under all those sweaters for the past 5 months. I am by no means an expert on this, but these are just some of the tricks I find helpful and what I am doing right now! Warm weather here I come!!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

1. Say yes to sweat

This may seem obvious, but you’re gonna have to start working out – hard. Or if you are already working out, it’s time to amp up whatever you’re doing. Here’s some tips on how to do that.

  • Increase mileage/time – If you’re currently running 2 miles every other day, make it 3 miles.
  • Add an extra workout – Even by simply adding one extra exercise day to your week will make a big difference. Sunday evening is my favorite time to get in an extra workout because I usually have extra time. Think of what day you might have just an extra 20 minutes and do your workout, no matter what.
  • Add a walk into your daily routine – Moving throughout the day is just as important as the time you spend at the gym. Commit to a 10 minutes walk during your lunch break, even if it’s cold outside!
  • Stop making time an excuse. Try my 20-minute at-home workout for a quick and easy way to get your sweat on.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

2. Make sleep your best friend

My personal goal for every weekend is to sleep as much as possible. During the week I am go go go and barely have time to breathe, so the weekend is my time to re-charge. That means sleeping in late AND planning a nap in the afternoon. This rest time ensures that I have the brain capability to handle the coming week and it prevents nasty things from happening to my body, like an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. No one wants an increased appetite when they’re trying to fit into their summer clothes…in March. So make sleep your b$tch.

3. Cut the sweets

This one gets me every time. For me, it’s hard to say no to chocolate. But if you’re 2 weeks away from bearing your pasty white body for all to see, you gotta give it up. Reducing your sugar intake will help you reduce unnecessary calorie intake, but it will also help you eat more nutritious and satisfying foods. If you usually reach for a cookie after lunch, reach for some nuts instead. Or if you really need a sweet fix, opt for a snack that still offers protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied – like fruit, a yogurt (low sugar preferred, like Oikos Triple Zero) or a Lara Bar (natural sugar from dates). Shoving a handful of M&M’s into your mouth may temporarily keep you satisfied, but 20 minutes later you will crash and need something real. Skip the extra calories and go straight for the real stuff.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

4. Say no to bread

Cutting bread from your diet helps reduce your carb intake, which helps you burn fat, but it also opens up your eating possibilities. Think of all the super nutritious foods you could be eating instead of bread; like sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, brown rice, coconut flour, etc. Try eating roasted sweet potatoes with your morning eggs, subbing quinoa for pasta or using coconut flour in your baking. Have a serious hankering for some toast? Opt for whole wheat and keep your portions small.

5 tips for a vacation ready body

5. Get your bronze on

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a tropical beach and being the whitest person on the sand…or just blending into the sand completely. You gotta get a little pre-tan happening so that you have the confidence to strip down and frolick into the warm waves. I recommend getting a spray-tan or applying some self-tanner the day before you go. Sun Tan City always has coupons available and Fake Bake is super popular for the DIY sunless tan. No harmful UV rays needed!

5 tips for a vacation ready body

Now I’m not saying that I can stick to this every second of every day, but I’m certainly trying. I mean, nothing makes you want to run that extra mile like knowing you need to fit your winter bum into your summer bikini in t-minus 10 days.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

If you are freaked out by the title of this recipe, you are not alone. The thought of having chickpeas or any kind of beans in my cookies was repulsive to me, until I tried these babies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies are gluten free, grain-less, chock-full of protein, fiber, antioxidants AND they are so tasty, you won’t miss your Mrs. Fields for a second.

Now the main ingredient of these cookies is in fact chickpeas, but I promise you, they are completely unnoticeable. Chickpeas are actually almost tasteless and are super good for you, so why not just try it out? That’s what I did and I was pleasantly surprised.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

The next ingredient is walnut butter, but you can use any nut butter of your choice. I sometimes get sick of everything being peanut butter tasting, so I used this Crazy Go Nuts Oatmeal Cookie Walnut Butter and it really helped give the cookies that classic cookie taste.

Instead of sugar this recipe uses maple syrup, which has more nutritional benefits than regular sugar and is less refined. It provides manganese, zinc and can even help your immune system. The flour is replaced by coconut flour, which you only need a small amount of because it is so incredibly absorbent.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup walnut butter (or peanut or almond butter)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into medium bowl and add chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These cookies are best enjoyed with a tall glass of milk and your favorite rom-com. Dunking is recommended. Or bring them to work for a post-lunch chocolate fix that won’t leave you feeling yucky 🙂

Whatever you do with them, just let people taste them before telling them what’s in it. Because in the case of chickpeas in baked goods, tasting is believing.

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Only 18 more days until Spring! Soon we will be shedding our sweaters, busting out the florals and bearing our legs….oh wait. I’m not ready!!! Anyone else feeling like they need to start prepping for bikini season NOW?

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Here’s some fun news – the hubbs and I just booked a cruise! In just a few weeks we’ll be sailing into some Bahama sunshine. Thank god. So with all this talk of springtime weather and fitting into shorts I thought I would share one of my favorite veggie-loaded, low carb dinner recipes.

pesto chicken zoodles

In this recipe I use Trader Joe’s pesto, but you could use any kind. For the chicken sausage I recommend using Al Fresco Chicken Sausage, which is gluten free, all natural and super delish. This time I went with spinach & feta flavor, which worked perfectly.

pesto chicken zoodles

The only catch for this recipe is that you do need to have some soft of spiralizer. I have the “made for tv” version, aka the Vegetti, which works perfectly fine. No need for expensive equipment. Also, are they serious with that name??

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 5 button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken sausage
  • 1 Tbsp pesto

Directions: Spiralize zucchini into thin noodles and slices mushrooms. In a large saute pan on medium heat cook mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in zucchini spirals and cook for about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat chicken sausage in microwave and slice into discs. Add chicken sausage to pan along with pesto and mix completely to combine.

pesto chicken zoodles

My Pesto Chicken Zoodles recipe (aka zucchini noodles for all the newbs out there) is super quick, easy and totally satisfying. You may or may not feel like you are kickin’ back in a big ‘ol booth at Olive Garden scarfing down pesto primavera and breadsticks. It’s really pretty much the same thing, but with less guilt and self-loathing 🙂

Enjoy!

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Do you know what America’s favorite comfort food is? That’s right, it’s pizza! Anyone else on the same page? I’m not ashamed to say that I regularly daydream about biting into a warm, cheesy slice of pepperoni pizza. They said you should follow your dreams, but if I followed every one of those dreams I would be 800 pounds.

The solution: zucchini crust pizza!

zucchini crust pizza

This recipe is great because it’s low carb and gives you all your veggie needs for the day and then some. Also, let’s be real for a second, everything is better smothered in cheese, especially your veggies.

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I’m using a mozzarella and cheddar cheese blend, but feel free to mix and match your cheeses as you please. I’m also using uncured pepperoni for this recipe. If you’re going to indulge in processed meats, do so responsibly. Friends don’t let friends eat nitrates.

My favorite brand is Hormel Natural Choice Uncured Pepperoni Slices because they don’t have any nasty cancer-causing chemicals and they are super delicious.

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • Pepperoni slices

Directions: In a medium bowl combine grated zucchini with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a nonstick baking pan with nonstick spray and drizzle with olive oil. After the 15 minutes, drain as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. Mix zucchini with parmesan cheese, flour, egg, pepper and oregano. Pour the zucchini batter in the center of the baking page and spread over the surface. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the crust and top with marinara sauce, cheese and pepperoni slices. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice and serve warm.

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I don’t know about you guys, but Friday could not have come any sooner. Now I’m off to a weekend full of sleep, relaxation, dog walks and movies. There will probably be some good eats in there as well of course.

What are you up to this weekend?

Microwave Baked Apples

Happy Tuesday! Wow, I have been SO busy lately. Work is crazy, dance is ramping up for a big show in March and I have some exciting news to share. I will now be guest blogging for Stay, Work, Play! SWP is an organization focused on promoting how awesome it is to stay, work and play in our great state of New Hampshire. I will be representing the Seacoast region and you can find my articles on their blog every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month! Check out my first article, 7 Ways to Embrace Winter on the Seacoast, right now!

microwave baked apples

So since I am so busy this week, I wanted to share with you guys a recipe that is literally the easiest and quickest thing ever. You actually just use the microwave and there are only 4 ingredients involved and one bowl. I kinda wish all recipes were like that! To make this recipe even healthier you could swap the real butter for Earth Balance spread and swap the brown sugar with Truvia. I’m a sucker for real butter, just ask my mom (I ate sticks of butter as a kid) so I like to keep it real.

microwave baked apples

Microwave Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp butter

Directions: Peel and slice apples and place in small microwave safe bowl. Mix in cinnamon, brown sugar and butter and microwave for 2 minutes. Mix again and top with your favorite frozen yogurt or ice cream.

microwave baked apples

This Microwave Baked Apples recipe is great when you need something sweet, hearty and satisfying on a cold winter evening. I like to top it with some vanilla frozen yogurt and enjoy with a good book or some Netflix binging. Speaking of being too busy, I have been meaning to crack this book, Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham for about 3 months now, which I think is hilarious given the title.

Question: What are you reading/watching right now?

 

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

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Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day of celebrating love, I want to talk about something that I love very, very much. This special something can always make me smile, cheers me up when I’m down and is oh-so sweet! It’s rich, intense and always satisfying. You’ve probably guessed it by now, it’s CHOCOLATE.

double dark chocolate brownies

Chocolate is kind of a bad boy. It’s like that guy in high school that broke all the rules, but was secretly super smart, but didn’t want to tell anyone because it would ruin his coolness.

What I’m saying is that chocolate is secretly good for you (in moderation). It’s often exiled from any diet because of its high sugar and fat content, but dark  chocolate can actually provide many health benefits because of it’s high antioxidant content.

double dark chocolate brownies

Studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day can actually help reduce stress, blood pressure, risk of stroke and help with weight loss! Plus we all know it’s a great aphrodisiac…

Check out this Women’s Health article for even more benefits of eating chocolate.

double dark chocolate brownies

Right in time for Valentine’s Day I have the perfect chocolate recipe for you to share (or not) with your special someone.

These Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies are oozing with chocolate flavor. I lightened up the recipe a bit by using yogurt instead of oil and oat flour instead of white flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill whole grain oat flour. You could food process your own oats, but I like that Bob has already done it for me 🙂

The omega-3 and antioxidant content is high because of the walnuts and dark chocolate. I like to use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and chocolate chips, but you could use whatever you like best. So in one brownie recipe you’ve got fiber (oat flour), calcium (yogurt), omega-3’s and antioxidants. Man, you’ve already scored 😉

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine yogurt, sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a medium bowl mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Combine dry ingredients with wet and mix until fully blended. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy.

double dark chocolate brownies

These brownies are definitely on the dessert menu for my Valentine’s Day celebrations. And hey, if you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day I fully support diving into these with a pint of vanilla froyo by your side. That WILL be a good time. No bad boys needed. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Do you love cheese?! Do you love warm, ooey gooey comfort food? If so, then this casserole is for you. This dish resulted from my craving for something warm and hearty. Right now life is pretty cold, everywhere I go. So when hot showers and hot cocoa just don’t cut it anymore, I turn to comfort food.

sweet potato chicken casserole

Oftentimes comfort food leaves you feeling heavy and sleepy, so I wanted to make something that would leave me feeling energized and ready to go. Instead of using pasta or rice as the base, I chose to use sweet potato, which offers lots of great nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamic C, potassium and B vitamins.

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This dish is gluten free, full is healthy veggies and could be easily made vegan by omitting the chicken sausage and subbing the butter and cheese with alternatives like Earth Balance or Daiya Cheese.

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Speaking of chicken sausage, let’s talk about it for a second. It’s one of my favorite go-to’s when I’m in a pinch for a quick, healthy meal. I love to stock up on Trader Joe’s or Al Fresco chicken sausage and freeze it. Then I’ll microwave it for an easy protein solution. Just make sure your chicken sausage is all natural and nitrate free. You don’t want any of those nasty chemicals in your beautiful casserole. I’ll be talking more about chicken sausage in my next post, 6 Healthy Food Swaps For Quick Dinners. So stay tuned for that!

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Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 chicken sausages

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potato, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, slice mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage into bite size pieces. In a medium pot melt butter and mix in flour, salt and pepper. Add in half and half and then melt in half of the cheddar cheese. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage and mix in cheese mixture until everything is fully coated. Pour into baking dish, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

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This dish kinda reminds me of mac & cheese, minus the mac. It gives you that same comforting feeling, but without the guilt!  I don’t know about you, but for me, mac and cheese is always great going down, but pretty uncomfortable after.

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

The last thing I want to say about this recipe is that it’s so friggin’ easy. If you’re like me and have a husband who thinks he’s the only one that can cook a good meal, bring this out when you want to beat him at his own game. Super easy, but impressively delicious. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite comfort food?