Monday, December 5, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

I'm in love. With a cookie. But what's new, you ask? This recipe is seriously incredible. Usually I'm a "this needs chocolate" type of girl, but these snickerdoodles were just as delicious (if not more) the next day as they were warm on Thanksgiving night. Please make these, they are totally worth it! The warm flavors of the pumpkin and cinnamon really shine through, but what is truly special is the fluffy yet dense texture. It was so amazing I can't do it justice with words.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
modified from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 sticks butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare cookie sheets with foil or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. 

In another bowl (use stand mixer if you have one), cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar (brown and white) until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, then pumpkin puree and beat until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.

Stir together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp cinnamon in a shallow bowl for rolling dough. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough in mixture and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking time, until cookies are just browning at the edges and the center is soft and puffy. Let cool about 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack. 

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups

This is a recipe from Skinny Taste, one of my favorite blogs for healthy recipes. I modified it just a bit to up the flavor and downsize the servings and it turned out really great! I added mushrooms because I had some I needed to use up. I don't actually like mushrooms at all - but I chop them up really small and put them in recipes where I won't notice them, just because they are so good for you.

I'll definitely be making these again.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups
serves 3 (one roll-up per serving)

3 lasagna noodles, cooked
3-4 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
2 mushrooms, diced finely
5 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp Egg Beaters
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning 
1/2 cup favorite pasta sauce (mine is Classico's Roasted Garlic)
3 Tbsp shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay out pre-cooked lasagna noodles onto wax paper - make sure they are completely dry. Prepare baking dish by spreading just enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom, reserve the rest for later.

Mix together thawed spinach, diced mushrooms, ricotta, Egg Beaters, Parmesan, garlic, and Italian seasoning until well combined. Take large spoonfuls and spread mixture evenly across the length of each lasagna noodle. Roll noodles up carefully and place seam-side down in baking dish. Top with remaining pasta sauce and 1 Tbsp mozzarella per roll.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Cheese should be bubbly! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cookies Stuffed with Stuff

Please forgive the bad picture quality - both of these baking sessions were impromptu and I didn't have the leisure to make them pretty.

First-off, S'more-Stuffed Cookies. I had a girlfriend come over for a late-night treat session after a hard day. These did the trick! I'm on a baking-with-marshmallows kick lately...they make everything so much chewier and gooier!

Basically just make your favorite cookie dough recipe, then make a small s'more and wrap enough dough around to cover it. Easy enough, right? And delicious.

Also...Oreo-Stuffed Cookies! If you haven't seen these already, then you must never look at food blogs or Pinterest. They're all the rage. And with my love of both chocolate chip cookies and Oreos, I can't believe it took me this long to make them.

I used the original recipe from Picky Palate, and I must say it was a huge hit. The cookie dough is just salty enough to offset the sweetness of the Oreos. LOVED them. Try it at least once! They're a fun and delicious treat for a day when you're not worried about calories.

Sorry about not posting for so long, by the way - if you don't already follow my personal blog, my excuse is a few terrible months of suffering from mono. But I'm on my way back to the top, so hopefully I can post some of the recipes I've been meaning to soon.

By the way, Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Broccoli-Quinoa Bake

This is a different take on the usual cheesy broccoli-rice casserole that we all know and love. I got the idea/recipe from a great blog, Eating Well, Living Thin. I modified it a bit according to what I had and what might add more complex flavors. It is a great healthy side dish, but since quinoa is a complete protein it also makes for a wonderful main dish. You could add some shredded chicken, or use a different vegetable-based "Cream of..." soup if you wanted to make it completely vegetarian (I couldn't find a cream of broccoli soup at my grocery store). I used pretty much all fat-free products except the cheese and it turned out really well, but you can use low/full fat mayo and sour cream if desired.

Broccoli-Quinoa Bake
modified from here

1 10-oz can 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I did half mozzarella, half cheddar blend)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
dash of nutmeg
2 cups cooked broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking dish with cooking spray (9x13 or 8x8 pans work, depending on if you are using it as a side or main dish).

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (through nutmeg) and stir well. Add broccoli and cooked quinoa* and mix until combined. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and golden around the edges - check at about 30 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.

Makes 4 generous 1-cup servings, or 8 1/2-cup servings.

*To cook quinoa, measure out 3/4 cup uncooked and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear. Combine in a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and a helping of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 18-20 minutes until the white ring is visible and all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and use.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Turkey-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Another low-carb recipe that I love! I haven't had this for years, but my mom made these occasionally (with ground beef and lots more cheese) when I was a kid. Along with tuna boats and jello salad, these are a comfort food dish for me. 

I used the recipe from Skinny Taste as a guide, and it turned out absolutely delicious, although for this recipe I've decreased the cooking time so next go-around my zucchini won't be as soft.

Turkey-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
modified slightly from here

2 medium zucchini
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3-4 cloves garlic
10 oz lean ground turkey
1 large egg white, or 2 Tbsp Egg Beaters
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut zucchinis in half lengthwise and using a spoon, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4" thick. Arrange halves in a baking dish. Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini in small pieces. Set aside on a paper towel to absorb the moisture.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil
and add onion and garlic. Cook on a medium-low flame for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add chopped zucchini and season with a pinch of salt, cook about 2-3 minutes. Add ground turkey and season with salt and pepper, cooking until turkey is white, breaking up in smaller pieces. Add paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, marjoram and basil. Mix well and cook another minute.

turkey meat in a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool. When cooled, add parmesan cheese and egg white, mixing well. Using a spoon, fill hollowed zucchinis with stuffing, pressing firmly and top with shredded cheese. Pour chicken broth in bottom of the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Serves 2 (2 halves each).


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ugly Stuffed Chicken

Guess what? I don't even care that this turned out to be ugly. It was delicious. In the course of my low-carb meal search, I realized that stuffed chicken is a no-brainer. No, not extremely original (see this recipe), but I was proud of myself nonetheless. And it's super easy. I will be trying countless varieties with different sauces and veggies in the future.

Ugly Stuffed Chicken

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (About 4-5 oz each)
1/2 cup chopped cooked broccoli (or other vegetable)
2 Laughing Cow light swiss cheese wedges
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp alfredo sauce (I used Classico)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pound chicken breasts between wax paper until about a 1/2 inch thick, then salt and pepper both sides. Set aside.

In a small bowl, microwave cheese wedges with alfredo sauce in 20-second intervals, stirring until combined. Add garlic, salt and pepper, and chopped broccoli and mix well.

Spoon broccoli mixture evenly onto one side of chicken breasts, then wrap the breast around. Using toothpicks, secure the seams of the chicken together. Place stuffed chicken breasts on a prepared cooking sheet lined with foil and cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. 

Serves 4. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Low-carb Veggie and Beef Lasagna

So there are those of you out there who may think I'm crazy, since it's obvious from what I post that I LOVE carbs. But the past two weeks I've been on a low-carb kick, eliminating refined sugars and starches from my diet and focusing on lean protein and vegetable-based meals. I still get a reasonable amount of carbs from fruit and a bit of dairy each day, but overall I cut out pasta, breads, rice, and all treats. My go-to dessert was sugar-free Jello. The verdict? I feel great, and lost a few of those pesky pounds lingering from the cruise. I was rarely hungry and actually didn't crave junk food. Unless, of course, I got onto Pinterest and looked at all the desserts I want to make with the onslaught of pumpkin season. 

But back to low-carb. It was fun because it forced me to get creative again with my meal planning. This is just like most other lasagnas you might make, I just subbed the pasta with a layer of spinach and zucchini. With the richness of the ricotta and ground beef, I didn't even miss the pasta!

Low-carb Veggie Lasagna

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
6 oz lean ground beef
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh spinach
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/2 cup pasta sauce of choice
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook onions for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute before adding the ground beef. Cook until the pink is gone (drain the beef if desired to reduce fat content). Season with basil, oregano, parsley (or Italian seasoning), and salt and pepper to taste.

In a small baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, layer a spoonful of pasta sauce (just enough to lightly coat). Spread zucchini slices evenly on bottom, then layer the ground beef mixture, spinach, ricotta, and more pasta sauce. Top with sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese.

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Enjoy!

Serves 2 generously.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Food Fact Friday: 20 years ago...

The pictures below show servings sizes of 20 years ago on the left, compared to the serving sizes of today on the right. Can you believe the difference?

Every single one of these foods has doubled or almost tripled in the past two decades. Along with them, from 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children.

No wonder 1/3 of adult Americans are considered obese. In 2010, Utah had a percentage of 22.5% of obese people - and let's remember that these statistics don't include the huge number of people considered over healthy weights. 

Scary, huh? It might be a good idea to consider this the next time you go out to eat - it certainly changed the way I look at a bagel...

Split your muffins! Or better yet, make them yourself!

pictures and specific calorie counts for above foods can be found here
read more about America's obesity rates here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dessert of Death

Don't freak out. I'm not suicidal.

I only planned on making this once in my lifetime.

And then I tasted it. And realized that it was love in a pan. So I very well may be making this again at some point, but only when I can pawn it off to enough people so I only eat one bar. I actually cheated and used a cookie mix and a low-fat brownie mix, and made it without the hot fudge. I also topped it all with chocolate chips. Next time (because now I know I'll live after eating it) I might just add a scant layer of chopped Reeses' peanut butter cups so I have absolutely everything I love in there.

Prepare yourself...

Dessert of Death (and goodness)
also known as the "Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar" from here

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 pkg Double Stuffed Oreos
1 Family Size (9×13) Brownie mix
1/4 cup hot fudge topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and both sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well to thoroughly combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, then slowly incorporate into the mixer until the flour is just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish that’s been lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Top with a layer of Oreos. Mix together brownie mix, adding an optional 1/4 cup of hot fudge topping to the mix. Pour the brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

To halve this recipe for an 8×8 brownie mix, just halve the chocolate chip cookie dough ingredients. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

Build a better salad...fruit with healthy greens

This is super simple, but I've found lately that I really love adding fruit to my salads. And I used to HATE fruit in salads before. Luckily I saw the light when I first had my sister's strawberry spinach salad. 

Last week I threw together a very easy salad which filled me right up, and hit the spot for a sweet and savory lunch!

2 cups fresh spinach/spring salad mix
2 Tbsp reduced-fat feta cheese
1/2 thinly-sliced apple of choice (I love Fuji the best)
1/4 cup halved grapes
4 oz cooked chicken breast (I seasoned mine with a lemon pepper rub and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil)
Dressing of choice

Toss ingredients together. Enjoy!

Serves 1.

The wonderful thing about salads like this is that there are endless combinations, and they will fill you up pretty easily while getting a lot of nutrients. Many times I'll use different kinds of berries, and I almost always use feta because it adds a lot of flavor and goes well with fruit. Make sure you have a protein component, but keep dressing to a minimum and you've got a wonderful, quick, and healthy lunch.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ok, if you have expectations that this is going to taste like a dish from the Bombay House, you'll be disappointed. It is much healthier - no butter or cream - and therefore not quite as delicious. However, when you're trying to take off some lingering cruise weight and craving Indian food, this will probably hit the spot for much fewer calories.

This recipe is supposed to only serve 2, but I came out of it with 4 servings when I added brown rice and steamed vegetables on the side. It will fill you up pretty quickly, and the taste of the spices is strong. I'm glad I took the leap and bought some Garam Masala at the store a few weeks ago. It's always fun to try something totally new.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted slightly from here

1 tsp canola oil or butter
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup milk
1/4-1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt, to taste
8 oz uncooked boneless skinless chicken, cubed

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the crushed ginger, stir for a few minutes then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt; mix well until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, yogurt and milk. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice or with naan.

Serves 2-4.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Whole Grains

September is Whole Grains Month! Obviously whole grains are good for you – you’ve heard it all before. But I know from experience that it’s not easy to transition when refined grains are more convenient, readily available, and simply more familiar.

Nevertheless, there are tons of really wonderful grains that it won’t hurt to try, and it will give you the opportunity to branch out with recipes.

For more information on whole grains, you can look through the Whole Grains Council website.

What exactly are whole grains?

Whole grains contain three parts -- the germ, endosperm and bran. When grains are processed, the germ and bran are stripped away, leaving just the endosperm. The germ is packed with protein, iron, vitamins and antioxidants, and the bran contains valuable minerals and vitamins, as well as insoluble fiber. The endosperm is the least nutrient dense part of the grain. When you eat whole grains, you are consuming all three parts of the grain, including the most nutritious parts.

What are some whole grains?
  • Wheat (including spelt, farro, bulgur, cracked wheat, wheatberries)
  • Corn *
  • Rice (brown and colored)*
  • Oats **
  • Barley
  • Quinoa *
  • Sorghum *
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Amaranth *
  • Buckwheat *
  • Millet *
  • Montina *
  • Teff *
  • Wild Rice *
* Gluten Free Grains

Amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat are not true whole grains, but their nutritional profile, preparation and use are similar.
Q&A session with Karen Mansur, Program Manager for Oldways and the Whole Grains Council.
·      What are the biggest benefits of including whole grains in your everyday diet?
By adding whole grains to your diet, you can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, such as stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

·      What would you suggest as the easiest way to start introducing whole grains into the daily diet?
Start by looking in your pantry.  You might be pleasantly surprised to see just how many whole grains you already eat, like popcorn, whole corn tortilla chips and oatmeal-based granola bars.  When you’re ready to go to the next step, look for versions of your favorite foods that are made with a mix of whole and refined grains, to start your tastebuds enjoying the fuller, nuttier taste of whole grains.

·      What is the recommended daily consumption of whole grains for adults and children?
The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend all of us make half or more of our grains whole, with adults getting at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains every day. A serving size is about an ounce, which is one slice of bread or a bowl of cereal.

·      When buying whole grain breads and pastas, what’s the best way to tell which products are the best for you?
Food labels can be very confusing and that’s why we developed the Whole Grain Stamp program. If there isn’t a stamp, check the ingredients list and make sure you see “whole [name of grain)” – such as whole wheat four – near the top of the ingredient list.

 Q&A and list from here

some of my favorite recipes that include whole grains, 
not including whole-wheat flour and pasta:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Fact Friday: What you're really drinking

Bottled Water

The bottled water industry doesn't want you to know that its product isn't any better than the water that comes from your tap, which has passed strict state, federal, and local guidelines. Not to mention, it's free. Sure, bottled water is convenient, trendy, and may well be just as pure as what comes out of your tap, but it's hardly a smart investment for your pocketbook, your body, or our planet. With  Dasani, a Coca-Cola product, the water is simply purified tap water that's had minerals added back in. In fact, about 40 percent of all bottled water is taken from municipal water sources, including Pepsi's Aquafina. What's more, in a 4-year review that included testing 1,000 bottles of water, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that "about one-third of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits." So fill up at home rather than buying into the hype.  


The dairy industry doesn't want you to know that the hormone rbST has been linked to cancer. See, rbST, recombinant bovine somatotropin (also known as rBGH, recombinant bovine growth hormone), is a hormone given to cows to increase their milk output by 10 to 25 percent. The concern with rbST is that it produces milk with higher-than-normal levels of the insulin-like growth factor IGF-1. Studies have shown that high levels of IGF-1 increases the risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal. Other studies contradict these findings, but we recommend playing it safe. Especially when so many big players—Starbucks, Kroger, and Wal-Mart among them—have agreed to sell only hormone-free milk.


The diet soda industry doesn't want you to know that artificial sweeteners can make you fat. Sure, diet sodas are a step up from regular sodas, but here's where things get thorny: Although it's essentially calorie free, diet soda can drive your appetite and push you to overconsume calories. One theory put forth by researchers is that giving the body a rush of sugar with no calories might push it to actively seek out sources of energy. And how does your body do that? By switching your appetite into overdrive.

Those aluminum cans are also lined with a toxic plastic. Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is a chemical found in plastics that has been idenitifed as a threat to your health. One study found that low doses of BPA can suppress a hormone that protects against diabetes and obesity in human tissue. Another study discovered that BPA disrupts brain function and leads to mood disorder in monkeys. Further evidence has show it to lower sperm counts, up your risk of heart disease, and increase the risk of breast, prostate, and testicular cancers. Products containing BPA are everywhere, but do your best to avoid them.


Juice companies don't want you to know what goes into 100 percent juice. Thanks to lax FDA regulations, industrial juicers have more than a little wiggle room when it comes to labeling their bottles. One loop-hole they love to exploit is the one that allows the claim "100 percent juice" to be used out of context with the other claims on the label, which is how they slap inexpensive sounding names onto cheap juice blends. You might think your bottle contains 100 percent blueberry or pomegranate, but really it's just as likely to be a blend of inexpensive sucrose-loaded fillers tinged with a mere splash of what you really want. 

Ocean Spray doesn't want you to know that its line of cranberry juice blends contains more sugar than fruit.  You might be surprised to learn that many of them contain as little as 20 percent real juice. What's more, none of Ocean Spray's stable of hybrid "juices" earns few than 73 percent of its calories from added sugar, and most have sugar loads closer to 85 percent. That amounts to about as much sugar as two scoops of ice cream stuffed into each 8-ounce cup of juice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata

Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata
Servings:  8

4-5 slices light whole wheat bread  
1/2 cup onion(s), diced  
1 cup asparagus, fresh, or frozen and thawed, cut into 1-inch pieces  
4 slices turkey bacon (I used the Jennie-O extra lean), diced  
3/4 cup fat-free skim milk  
2 tsp Dijon mustard  
4 large whole eggs
5 large egg whites
1/2 tsp table salt  
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground  
1 cup shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a round baking dish with cooking spray and arrange bread slices tightly in the bottom.

In a large bowl, toss asparagus pieces, chopped onion, and finely diced bacon pieces together. Layer evenly over bread pieces. Sprinkle with ½ tablespoon Parmesan cheese and half cup of shredded cheese of your choice.

In the same large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard, salt and pepper; pour over bread, veggies, and cheeses, allowing milk mixture to soak in for a minute. Top with remaining cheeses.

Bake for about 40 minutes until cheeses are bubbling and slightly browned and the eggs are cooked through. Slice into 8 servings and enjoy!

This is such a great way to use up leftover veggies – you could use squash, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, you name it! It makes for really good leftovers, too.  I enjoyed it because it is a warm, filling breakfast, but much fewer calories (not to mention full of good stuff for you – namely fiber, lean protein, etc) than a bowl of cereal!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Greek Lentil Salad

I have never tried cooking lentils myself - they have been another one of those seemingly scary ingredients to me. But since they are so dang good for you, and this recipe looked so dang delicious to me, I took a leap of faith. And it all worked out. Thankfully. 

Greek Lentil Salad
modified from here

1 cup lentils
1/4 cup chopped onion
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 Tbsp capers
¼ cup diced cucumbers
¼ cup red bell peppers
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (divided)
salt and pepper to taste


Before washing lentils you should spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for and remove small stones or debris. After this process, place the lentils in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water. Place in a large bowl and soak for 1-2 hours to reduce cooking time.

To boil lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover, approximately 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, heat 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet.  Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and tender. Stir in cooked lentils and lemon zest and remove from heat.

Add the tomatoes, feta, bell peppers, and capers. Stir until well combined.

Next, add the lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least an hour, add cucumbers and serve.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pasta Alfredo with Kale

Here's another simple weeknight dinner that I throw together. It takes a few dishes to make, but overall is hard to mess up and very healthy (assuming your Alfredo sauce isn't loaded with calories). I think kale can be hard to incorporate into recipes because it can be very tough and sometimes bitter, but cooking it down and saucing it up is a great way to include it into your diet. 

Pasta Alfredo with Kale

3-4 oz whole-wheat pasta
2 cups chopped fresh kale
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup store-bought (I like Classico's Light Alfredo) or homemade alfredo sauce

Put about an inch of water in a small saucepan with chopped kale and put over low-medium heat. Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes, checking periodically. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. If you time it right, the pasta will come out just shortly before the kale is done. 

On a third burner, saute onions and garlic (with a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired) until fragrant. Pour alfredo sauce and stir until heated through.

When kale is finished (it will still be slightly chewy, but more tender), drain well. Toss pasta and kale in alfredo sauce. Enjoy!

Serves 2.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Food Fact Friday: the best sources of...

Bananas are the best source of potassium and oranges are the best source of vitamin C...or are they?

Your body uses potassium to keep your nerves and muscles firing efficiently, and an adequate intake can blunt sodium’s effect on blood pressure. One 2009 study found that a 2:1 ratio of potassium to sodium could halve your risk of heart disease, and since the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, your goal should be 6,800 milligrams of daily potassium. You’re extremely unlikely to ever reach that mark—and never with bananas alone. One medium banana has 422 milligrams and 105 calories. Here are the sources that earn you roughly the same amount of potassium in fewer calories:     
Potato, half a medium spud, 80 calories     
Apricots, 5 whole fruit, 80 calories    
Cantaloupe, 1 cup cubes, 55 calories     
Broccoli, 1 full stalk, 50 calories     
Sun-dried tomatoes, a quarter cup, 35 calories

Far more than a simple immune booster, vitamin C is an antioxidant that plays a host of important roles in your body. It strengthens skin by helping to build collagen, improves mood by increasing the flow of norepinephrine, and bolsters metabolic efficiency by helping transport fat cells into the body’s energy-burning mitochondria. But since your body can neither store nor create the wonder vitamin, you need to provide a constant supply. An orange is the most famous vitamin-C food, and although it’s a good source, it’s by no means the best. For 70 calories, one orange gives you about 70 micrograms of vitamin C. Here are five sources with just as much vitamin C and even fewer calories:     
Papaya, ¾ cup, 50 calories     
Brussel’s sprouts, 1 cup, 40 calories     
Strawberries, 7 large fruit, 40 calories     
Broccoli, ½ stalk, 25 calories     
Red Bell Pepper, ½ medium pepper, 20 calories

photo from here
info from here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Steak Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

My favorite meal (among a slue of delicious choices) over my recent trip to Europe was a pork gyro in Corfu, Greece. Everything about it was perfection - no joke. I will never forget that gyro.

Interesting sidenote: the Grecians put potato wedges/fries right into the gyros. Genius.

I don't know that my version was quite as good as my Corfu experience, but it was pretty tasty (and probably MUCH healthier). Not too hard, either, especially if you have pre-cooked meat.

I found these pitas at Dan's one day and they looked so soft and inviting I had to buy a package. Talk about impulse shopping - there are times I can resist a pair of cute shoes, but rarely can I resist big, soft pitas (and don't get me started on naan). 

I also cheated and used some Tyson steak strips rather than marinating and cooking my own. Traditionally gyros are made with a slow-cooked lamb, but I'm not a fan, so I went with beef (and interestingly enough, I didn't once see a lamb gyro on a Greek menu - pork seemed to be pretty popular). 

Steak Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

2 whole-wheat pitas
6 oz cooked steak strips
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 cup Tzatziki sauce (recipe below)

Heat your oven to about 200 degrees. Place pita bread inside to get warm and slightly toasted while you prep everything else. (you could skip this and just microwave it for a bit). Place meat in a skillet over medium heat until heated through. Remove pita from oven and fill with steak strips, desired amount of onion and tomato slices, and 1/4 cup of Tzatziki. Enjoy!

Makes 2 gyros.

Tzatziki Sauce
modified from here

6 oz fat free Greek yogurt
2/3 cup grated and drained cucumber
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper

Strain the yogurt using a metal strainer or cheesecloth for a few hours to remove as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

Scoop seeds out of the cucumber with a small spoon. Place cucumber in a mini food processor or grate with a box cheese grater. Drain the liquid from the cucumber in a metal strainer and sprinkle with a little salt (this helps release the liquid). You may want to use the back of a spoon to help squeeze out any excess liquid.

Combine strained cucumber, garlic, yogurt, salt, pepper, lemon juice, dill, parsley and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Makes about 1 cup, or 4 servings. Store in refrigerator for about a week.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Butternut Squash Pizza

I have not always been successful with butternut squash. In fact, 2 out of the 3 dishes I've ever had to completely trash have been butternut squash recipes. 

This, however, was a complete triumph. I really loved it. So much that I called my mom to tell her about it. I knew even if she thought I was crazy for being so excited over a squash that she still had to love me.

Part of the problem with the large squash varieties is that for a lot of recipes you have to peel, seed, and roast for up to an hour, then puree them - in addition to the rest of the prep for the dish. My favorite mac and cheese recipe took me at least 3 hours to make the first time around (it got faster the next time, since I knew what I was doing).

This is a great way to do it because after the initial ten minutes of peeling, seeding, and slicing, it's not a huge time killer. I put it all in a tupperware and just cooked what I needed as I wanted it.

You know how much I love pizza - especially homemade pizza. This is no exception - possibly one of the best pizzas I've ever made!

Butternut Squash Pizza

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 small onion, red or white variety, sliced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Mozzarella cheese or Ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss slices of butternut squash and onion with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and spread out evenly. Season with salt and pepper, then roast for about 10-12 minutes until tender (check at about 8 minutes to make sure they're not burning). Remove from oven and set aside, then turn oven heat up to 450 degrees.

Roll your pizza dough out to desired shape and place on a baking sheet (pizza stones are best). Sprinkle thyme and rosemary to taste (I don't love thyme, but it was worth putting a sprinkle or so to complement the squash) over the dough. Spread the cooked squash and onions over the top, then cover with desired amount of cheeses (if using ricotta just drop small spoonfuls around the pizza and cook as is).

Bake in oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until dough is cooked through and cheese is slightly browned and bubbly. Enjoy!

*I make personal pizzas one at a time, which is my preferred method so it's cooked freshly rather than reheating pizza slices later. The dough recipe will usually make 6-8 good-sized slices of pizza, or 6 personal size pizzas.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Which milk is best?

I am a huge milk lover. Always have loved it, and more recently I've appreciated it for its nutrients and protein content. Particularly since osteoporosis runs in my family, I make a real effort to get in all my daily servings. But lately I've become curious about different kinds of milk. I have a sister who avoids dairy altogether, a sister who only buys organic, and another sister who had to give it up when her baby was having issues with reflux and tried all kinds of alternatives.

I came across this article and thought that it was a great run-down on milk options and the array of health benefits. Read the whole thing for even more info.

Cow's milk
Pro: Hands down, cow's milk has the most calcium, and almost double the protein of any other type of milk. And because it comes in several types — whole, 2 percent, 1 percent or skim — that nutrition is accessible no matter which option is chosen.
Con: Lactose intolerance affects a substantial number of Americans, causing abdominal pain, gas, bloating or diarrhea. But the condition doesn't mean it's necessary to go lactose-free. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, those with lactose intolerance can typically drink up to four ounces of milk several times a day without experiencing symptoms.

Soy milk
Pro: Made by soaking soybeans and grinding them with water, soy milk is rich in protein and calcium and has no saturated fat. It also scores low in calories and comes in many flavors.
Con: Soy products can inhibit protein and mineral absorption, offsetting its health benefits.
Studies investigating soy’s role in breast cancer have yielded mixed results. Some findings suggest a substance in soy acts as a hormone in breast cells, fueling increased cancer risk.

Almond milk
Pro: Made from ground almonds mixed with water and sweetener, almond milk has become quite popular in the last several years.  It shares several properties of dairy milk: Both have a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and a comparable fat content. Almond milk also has a rich, nutty taste and comes in several flavors, making it an attractive alternative for those allergic to dairy or soy.
Con: Protein is sparse in almond milk, with only 1 gram per cup, compared with 7 and 8 grams for soy and cow's milk, respectively. It's not suitable for those with nut allergies and lacks the B vitamins in cow's milk. Some almond milk has substantial amounts of sugar added, making it worth a peek at each brand's ingredient list.

Rice milk
Pro: Made from ground rice, this type of milk is very low in fat and calories. It also comes in plain or vanilla flavors and is lactose- and soy-free.
Con: Nutritionally, rice milk falls short compared with other varieties. It lacks Vitamins A and C, and contains very little protein. It should rarely be chosen thinking it's going to provide some superior nutritional health benefit, because it's not.

Organic milk
Pro: Passionate supporters of organic food and products appreciate that it was produced without growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
Con: The cost of organic milk is about double that of nonorganic milk because of its perceived health benefits. But in actuality, it's not significantly healthier than typical milk, if at all.