Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Braided Cheese Bread

Braided Cheese Bread
This recipe is a twist on the Czech Christmas bread that is such a  tradition in my family.  I figured that since that bread always comes out so perfectly delicious, I am sure using the base ingredients and changing it up a little will yield all sorts of new recipe ideas.  I have always been fond of cheese and olive breads that you can buy in a bakery, but being health conscious, I have always been upset that they are almost always made using white flour.  But not this one.  Like the Vánočka, this recipe takes a bit of time, but it is fairly easy and yields an amazingly moist, flavorful and decorative loaf.  I made these over Thanksgiving as a centerpiece for two separate family meals and they were almost completely devoured each time.  If you do happen to have left overs, they are great as a base for a savory sandwich.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Guacamole

Christmas Guacamole
I was not planning on turning this quick Christmas day appetizer into a post on my blog, but after my mom commented that my ingredients all set out on the counter looked so pretty, I thought, why not? Guacamole is not a hard dish to make, but I thought I would share my go to combination because it always seems to be a crowd pleaser.  I was lucky I was able to get any photos of it at all to be honest since it was the one appetizer that got completely devoured on Christmas day.  I don't always add in red pepper, and in the summer I usually add in fresh tomatoes, but I thought the combination of the dark green jalapenos and the bright red bell pepper made it an especially festive addition to our Christmas spread.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day After Christmas Oatmeal

Day After Christmas Oatmeal
After eating to your heart's content on Christmas day and spending time with family late into the night, a quick, easy, healthy, make ahead breakfast is a great way to get back on track the next morning.  This recipe is simple to throw together the night before and can be made using whatever type of fruits and nuts you have on hand. After sitting in the fridge overnight, it is easy to grab while you pour yourself a cup of coffee or head out the door to go back to work! (or shop!)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Vánočka - Czech Christmas Bread


Vánočka - Czech Christmas Bread
This bread is a Christmas tradition in my family and not one year has gone by in my life when I haven't enjoyed it as part of my Christmas morning meal.  In lieu of a big write up here, I will direct you to the bottom of the page where there is a copy of the cover article that I recently wrote for a local magazine highlighting this family tradition. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cranberry Orange Christmas Cake

Cranberry Orange Christmas Cake
This cake is basically a cranberry version of the blueberry muffin recipe that I made last month, cooked into a cake, with pistachios added for color and a glaze added for decoration.  The red cranberries and the green pistachios make it a beautiful, all natural cake perfect for Christmas dessert.  Because it is made with all whole grains, healthy fats and mostly natural fruit sweetness, it is also a fairly healthy alternative to the average Christmas fruit cake.  And the brandy glaze adds a little adult flare to the already intense cranberry and orange flavor.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
These muffins are my daughter's new favorite.  They almost taste like a cookie and with the chocolate chips in them, they taste like more of a treat than they really are.  I came up with the idea simply because I wanted to use up two eggs and some mini chocolate chips before heading out on vacation, and I thought what better combination with chocolate than peanut butter?  I have made many peanut butter cookie recipes and one muffin recipe using bananas:(http://www.poconopabulum.com/2013/10/peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich.html), but never a simple peanut butter muffin.  The ingredients in this recipe are just as healthy as most of my baking, full of whole grains, healthy fats and protein, and fairly low in sugar.  But the result is amazing.  Best when fresh out of the oven, these muffins get almost crunchy on top, while being moist on the inside and half of them were gobbled up right away by my very appreciative family.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Going on Vacation" Stir Fry

"Going on Vacation" Stir Fry

This recipe was started on  the mere fact that I had a medium sized red onion and a head of garlic that I wanted to cook up before heading out of town for Christmas.  I literally started frying them up in a wok before I even knew what else I was going to add to the pan.  With my husband's input (who also put the beer mug in my ingredient photo), we decided on mixed vegetables, black beans and some cooked quinoa and brown rice.  The pan got hot really quickly so I added a bit of water and then some soy sauce to add flavor, along with some fresh grape tomatoes.  For a bit of crunch and extra protein and nutrients, I topped it off with pumpkin seeds, and to be honest, it was one of the most satisfying meals I have had in awhile. (maybe I was just really hungry!!)  Although I am sure I may end up with onion breath later tonight, I cooked the garlic and onion so long that they were definitely more sweet than anything and my husband and I cleaned our plates down to the last morsel of rice. Obviously, the whole point of this meal was to use what I had on hand and what I needed to get rid of before leaving for 10 days, so you could easily change up the vegetables you use, the starch, beans or even the seasoning.  But I had to share this because it came out so unexpectedly delicious.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies
This is a very basic gingerbread recipe passed down from my mom.  I did change a few things, choosing to use all organic whole wheat pastry flour and substituting the 1 egg with soaked chia seeds, but you could easily revert back to the basic original version.  This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so they are perfect for a holiday cookie swap, or for giving away as gifts.  The thing with gingerbread is that it honestly tastes better and better after each passing day, so if the cookies even last that long, they can be enjoyed for days and made ahead for convenience.  This recipe can also be used to make a gingerbread house so long as you have a template to cut the shapes.  A few years ago, my husband, son and I made a gingerbread Alamo using this recipe and if I can find the photos, I will be sure to post them.  This cookie does have a bit of sugar in it (and butter) but it also has a ton of antioxidant rich spices and molasses, a nutrient dense sweetener.  Plus they are just delicious and will make your house smell amazing for days.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

High Protein Banana Pudding

High Protein Banana Pudding
This is definitely another recipe geared towards my gym friends as it is high in protein and full of all sorts of energy boosting ingredients.  If you think of the type of banana pudding that you make layered with vanilla wafers or would serve at a dinner party, this is not exactly the same.  The consistency is a tiny bit slimy due to the combination of fresh bananas and chia seeds, but the flavor is ridiculously good and very satisfying.  So if you are looking for a healthy dessert, or a sweet protein filled snack before bed, this treat is perfect.  I had some last night about an hour before I fell asleep and I felt great this morning at the gym.  And my son even likes this, so it has to be good!  (And it is vegan!)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pumpkin Maple Sugar Cookies (Vegan)

Pumpkin Maple Sugar Cookies
I made these cookies over Thanksgiving vacation and although I was not sure how they would come out, seeing as I completely made the recipe up, I should never have had any doubts. They are honestly my new favorite "healthy cookie".  Completely vegan, full of whole grains and healthful pumpkin, these cookies are perfect with a cup of tea, as a snack, dessert or even breakfast.  I had a bag of them with me on the plane ride back from vacation, and they were exactly what I needed that morning.  So this holiday, instead of the usual sugar cookies filled with butter and plain white sugar, try these nutritious and satisfying delights!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Maple Cream Cocktail

Maple Cream Cocktail
After a long afternoon writing Christmas cards and getting the kids to write some of their own, what better way to unwind with your loved one than over a nice hot cup of steaming maple cream... with whiskey!  We usually don't keep much liquor in the house, but influenced by the holiday season, my husband came home with a bottle of Crown Royal Maple whiskey the other day.  I was sitting at the table with him after he poured himself a glass and every time he took a sip all I could smell was maple syrup, which I love, so I was intrigued.  I tried a few sips straight up, and although delicious, I knew it would make an even better cocktail mixed with milk, cream and pure maple syrup.  And since it is freezing outside, why not make it a warm drink as well?  Trust me, this creation is a delicious way to unwind, relax and taste all the best the season has to offer. Happy sipping!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oatmeal Gingerbread Cookies


Oatmeal Gingerbread Cookies
It is another cold and snowy day here in the Poconos so why not spend the afternoon baking up some holiday cheer with your family?  This is another version of my simple to mix together oatmeal cookies, but with a gingerbread twist. The cookies are sweetened with healthy banana and the nutrient dense sweetness of molasses.  Full of antioxidant rich spices, protein packed almond butter and healthful organic oats, these cookies taste like more of a treat than they really are!  So whip up a batch and snack away!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Vanilla Muffin Cupcakes



Vanilla Cupcake Muffins
Today is my daughter's 5th birthday and being a super picky eater, I knew I had to keep my healthy muffin treat very simple for her.  I am baking her a big birthday cake for a party next weekend, so instead of baking another cake today, I figured "cupcakes" (for breakfast even!!) would be a perfect birthday treat.  This is about as basic a whole grain muffin recipe as you can get, with a little extra vanilla extract for a boost of flavor.  If you choose to use a little white flour it might not be crumbly at all, as this muffin has a bit of a coarse texture when compared to a "regular" cupcake.  But my daughter still ate it up (even the part without Nutella "frosting") and my son and husband liked them as well. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pecan Muffins

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pecan Muffins
This is my version of a cinnamon roll transformed into a healthy muffin.  No, it is not dripping with sugary glaze or melted butter, but it is smells just as good and tastes almost as delicious.  I doubled the amount of cinnamon I usually use in baked goods, and honestly think I may add even more next time so that it is definitely the predominant flavor.  There are a considerable amount of pecans as well so you get a couple of them in each bite which adds a robust richness. The oats and whole wheat flour provide fiber and protein, and the only sweetener is honey (could use brown sugar or maple syrup if you prefer).  It was very easy to throw together and made a delicious and healthy Saturday morning breakfast for me and my family.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chocolate Bread

Chocolate Bread
Yesterday was a snow day here in the Poconos, (second one in a row) so after being out all day at dentist appointments and running errands, I really wanted to bake something.  I had found a recipe similar to this about a month ago when I was looking up chocolate bread muffin ideas and I was very intrigued.  A regular yeast based bread that is chocolate?  How cool!!  I referenced the recipe I had found as well as a couple for plain whole wheat bread, mixed them up a bit and came up with this.  I know it would be even better with some chopped nuts, dried fruit or mini chocolate chips baked in, but for the first time I wanted it plain, to get a real sense of the flavor.

It certainly made the house smell amazing, and even better, both my kids loved it and ate it for breakfast this morning with peanut butter on top.  I used quick rising yeast this time, basically because I didn't get started until almost 6pm and I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to get the bread baked and properly cooled before I headed to bed. The instant yeast did not work as well as I had hoped and next time I will use regular yeast and allow 1 hour of rising time for each of the steps (as opposed to the 1/2 hour I used this time.)  The bread did not actually rise a whole lot until it was baked, but it still came out moist, dense and delicious. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chocolate Pecan Pie Crust

Chocolate Pecan Pie Crust
Everyone knows that pastry is not very good for you.  Even when I have used whole wheat flour, the predominant ingredient is either vegetable shortening or butter.  I wanted to make my delicious dark chocolate protein pudding into a pie for Thanksgiving this year, and so I knew I had to come up with a healthy and high protein crust to go along with it.  So what did I use?  Nuts!!  You could easily use walnuts as well, as I had intended to do, but I found packages of pecans already ground up at the grocery store near my in laws' house in Canada where I was at the time and figured pecans would probably taste even better.  The combination of nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder and a little sugar is a perfect compliment to the creamy chocolate filling.  Although at first I thought the crust was too crumbly, once the pudding is placed inside and soaks into the crust a bit, the slices definitely held together just fine. Unfortunately the availability of ingredients in Canada was slightly different than I am used to, so I had to change up my recipe a little and it did not come out as good as it has when at home.  But I plan to make my regular protein pudding again this Christmas and will certainly update with more photos once I do.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash


This is another fairly simple vegetable side dish that I fell in love with this Thanksgiving.  I have never been a fan of squashes in the past, but I think it was because  I was used to them mashed up with just butter and the texture just hit me the wrong way.  But this, like the cider roasted root vegetables, brings out the natural sweetness with a slight caramelization created during the roasting process.  I used one giant butternut squash that my dedicated and very helpful husband spent a good 45 minutes chopping up into small cubes.  Next time I will definitely look for some pre cut squash and not worry about him hurting himself or getting too bored to continue. Make sure to add in the pinch of cayenne pepper because the combination of spicy and sweet really makes this dish unforgettable. And cayenne pepper is known to increase metabolism, so you will be able to eat more of the rest of the feast as well!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cider Roasted Root Vegetables

Cider Roasted Root Vegetables
If I had been told a few years ago that I would be cooking, eating and writing about parsnips and turnips I may not have believed it.  Growing up, those were definitely not my favorite vegetables and until recently I had never even attempted to cook them.  I think that my aversion was more a factor of cooking style rather than actual taste as this dish is now an absolute favorite of mine.  Al dente and slightly sweet, this recipe is a completely different take on carrots, parsnips and turnips from the one that I remember as a child.

My grandfather was always the main cook at family holidays when I was younger, and although he was quite good at it, his methods were usually very simple:  roasted meats, potatoes of some sort and boiled vegetables. While cooking this dish on Thanksgiving at my in laws house, I was taken aback when walking into the kitchen after having been in another room for a few minutes and realized that the meal I was cooking smelled just like my grandparents' kitchen on Thanksgiving so many years ago.  Although I know for a fact that I never ate the boiled turnips mashed with butter, salt and pepper, the cooking of it smelled the same. And it is true that smell is the biggest trigger for memory because I could have sworn I was back in that warm cozy kitchen once again.  That alone is reason enough to share this amazing, yet simple, recipe.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Green Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Green Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes
This is a very basic stir fry but it is a combination I had never thought to try before.  I love sun dried tomatoes but usually only used them in Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta or occasionally on a salad.  But after watching a guest doctor on the Dr. Oz show talk about sun dried tomatoes being a "new superfood" and how he loves them sauteed with olive oil and broccolette, I figured why not try them with green beans? Instead of the super salty and often high fat green bean casserole that is so popular around the holidays, this dish has all the flavor, but a boat load of nutrients as well.  The sun dried tomatoes give you the salty fix you are looking for and you could even top it with some toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a little crunch if you miss that as well.  Honestly of all the side dishes I prepared, this was by far the simplest, and yet my definite favorite.  And since the next big holiday is Christmas, why not give it a try for that meal?  It is certainly the right colors!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mashed Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes
Every Thanksgiving table needs sweet potatoes and mine was definitely not lacking this year.  I know the traditional "casserole" is some sort of overly sweet concoction with marshmallows on top, and in the name of health, this is obviously not that.  It is better.  Creamy, naturally sweet and full flavored mashed sweet potatoes are topped with a crunchy pecan topping and heated to perfection.  You will not miss the marshmallows at all, I promise!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Vegetable Lasagna Pasta Toss



Vegetable Lasagna Pasta Toss
I had a package of ricotta cheese that needed to get eaten in the next week and being too lazy after a long vacation to cook a lasagna, or bake something with ricotta, I decided to incorporate it in an easy to throw together, use what you have in your pantry kind of dinner.  Basically this includes many of the ingredients in a traditional vegetable lasagna, minus a bit of mozzarella cheese, but it is done on the stove in under 25 minutes.  It is high in fiber due to the whole grain pasta, the beans and the fresh veggies, and high in protein because of the pasta, cheese and beans combined.  So it is a warm, filling, satisfying and healthy way to feed a large family quickly. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Molasses Crinkle Cookies


Molasses Crinkle Cookies
This is a family recipe that I got from my mom that both of us have changed around from it's original version. We used whole wheat flour to add fiber and I also used almond butter in place of some regular butter to add in healthy fats and protein.  Of course like most cookies this has a decent amount of sugar, but it also has healthful spices and is far better for you than anything you could buy in a store.  Plus some of the sugar is molasses which is a nutrient rich sweetener that is high in manganese, copper, iron and calcium, just to name a few.

For more information about the health benefits of molasses, go to:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=118&tname=foodspice

Monday, December 2, 2013

Raspberry Fudge Cookies

Raspberry Fudge Cookies
Best Cookies Ever.  Just saying.  This recipe is adapted from one a friend of mine posted on Facebook awhile back called "Raspberry Cream Cookies." * Since my son is not as big a fan of dark chocolate as I am and that recipe called for white chocolate chips, I thought I would give it a try.  I changed it up with whole grain flour, of course, and they were delicious.  So good in fact that I made another batch to bring in for my son's 9th birthday party at school the following week. But even though I myself actually liked them, I knew that if I added dark chocolate chips instead or made them with cocoa powder baked in they would be even better.

It has been a couple of months since then and I have finally gotten around to trying out my dark chocolate version of the original recipe.  I had a feeling they would be good, but I had NO IDEA how good.  They are certainly not the most healthy dessert I have featured on here, but to their credit, they are made entirely out of whole wheat flour, have high fiber and antioxidant rich raspberries in them, and I replaced some of the butter with coconut oil. They also have dark cocoa and ground flax seed, so while not being a "health food", they are definitely a lot better for you than you would ever think after tasting them.  They are rich, fudgy, chewy, decadent and addictive (be careful!).  I will definitely be making these again soon!  Enjoy!!!

http://www.anecdotesandapples.com/raspberry-cream-cookies-and-36-weeks

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blueberry Steel Cut Oatmeal Scones

Blueberry Steel Cut Oatmeal Scones
On a cold winter morning, nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of creamy oatmeal.  Usually I can eat an enormously large bowl of it all by myself and so can most of my immediate family, but I still often make too much and have a bowl or two left over.  Since left over oatmeal is one of my least favorite foods (reminds me of paste), and I absolutely hate to waste food, I often bake the oatmeal into whatever it is I am making that day.  

The recipe this is based on was actually on the side of a giant box of steel cut oats my father in law bought by accident. He thought he was buying some sort of granola cereal when in fact he had bought a bulk box of the slowest cooking (and healthiest) oatmeal.  So we cooked up a large pot of it, ate it for breakfast and used the left overs to make these amazingly delicious blueberry scones.  They were easy to whip together and can be frozen for weeks in order to provide the nutrition of steel cut oats in an on the go breakfast treat.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Maple Cornmeal Cookies



Maple Cornmeal Cookies
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  I have been busy baking and cooking these last few days while on vacation in Canada and will certainly be posting Thanksgiving dinner recipes that I am working on in the days to follow, but here is an idea for a perfect Thanksgiving day breakfast.  A cross between a corn muffin and a cookie, this treat is hearty, chewy and not too sweet.  Pair it with some fresh fruit and a cup of coffee and get to work cooking up a turkey feast. Happy Hanukkah too!! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Orange Cranberry Sauce with Chia

Orange Cranberry Sauce with Chia
This is a delicious and healthy twist on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner accompaniment.  I got the idea for this recipe simply by seeing some organic cranberries for sale in my local grocery store and being completely obsessed at the moment with chia seeds.  I bought the cranberries thinking I would bake them into muffins or bread or something, but during the drive home, I had an idea.  What if instead of extra sugar in a homemade cranberry sauce, you simply sweetened it with orange juice and a touch of honey and thickened it with "magical" chia seed?  I was planning on having some of my left over Canadian Thanksgiving Casserole for dinner the next night, so cranberry sauce would be a perfect addition and a great way to test out a new recipe for the upcoming American Thanksgiving.

As usual when coming up with a brand new idea, I decided to check the internet to see if anyone else had tried this before.  I assumed someone must have and I just wanted to see what other ingredients they used, the ratio of chia to cranberry to juice, etc. and then planned to make my own version based on what I found.  But I found nothing!  There was one mention of a recipe to be shared in the future and lots of cranberry sauce recipes, but nothing using chia seeds as the main thickening agent.  I was fairly certain that it would work since I had seen recipes using fruit and chia to make jams and jellies, so I decided to just wing it and hope for the best.  Once again, I was lucky (or just talented) because this is honestly one of the best cranberry sauces I have ever had (sorry mom!).  And what is even better is knowing what went into it and that besides a mere two tablespoons of honey, it is sweetened purely with fruit.  And it has chia in it which is of course amazingly good for you! Win win win.  :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mexican Taco Stir Fry with Steak

Mexican Stir Fry with Steak
This meal is basically a traditional beans and rice dish turned into something a bit fancier with a side of good quality organic steak.  I don't like to eat a lot of red meat, but when I do, I get the best kind and eat just a little.  This meal is great because the steak can be cooked separately so the left overs can be completely vegetarian/vegan (like the container I packed up for my meal another night). You can use whatever beans you like best (I couldn't decide so I used three types) and if you have never cooked corn on the stove until it gets brown and caramelized, you have got to try it.  It has the aroma of popcorn and adds a nutty sweetness to the dish.  The seasoning on this recipe is actually fairly mild because I wanted my son to eat it as well and I just added a good helping of spicy jalapeno salsa to my plate before eating.  This dish might take a bit of time to pull together, but it is very easy and provides a plethora of nutritional goodness.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Almond Breakfast Breads

Chocolate Cherry Almond Breakfast Breads
Not all of my recipes come out perfectly, but this blog is about a journey and so because these breads were both delicious and fairly nutritious, I decided to post them regardless of their crumbly imperfections. Although moist and flavorful, these mini breads fell apart a little while attempting to cut them and were a bit messy to eat, especially if you are a 4 year old.  For some reason, I have trouble getting some of my chocolate muffin and cake recipes to stick together well.  I am not sure if it is because I once again used chia seeds instead of eggs, or if the recipe needed more fat or moisture, but although I found them rich, decadent, and not at all dry, my daughter's attempt at breakfast resulted in making my kitchen table look as if a chocolate tornado had passed through.  I definitely plan to try these again and make the changes mentioned below. * If anyone reading this blog wants to attempt making them as well (they really are delicious) please let me know how they turn out. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Trail Mix Bars

Trail Mix Bars


In the effort to eat more protein without eating more meat, I have found myself "eating like a bird" and chowing down on large amounts of seeds and nuts all day long. While I love trail mix and have a large jug of a delicious homemade combination on my counter, it can sometimes be tedious and messy to eat, especially when on the move or in the car.  So what better way to fix that than to turn that mix into a bar!  This combination is a bit sweet, a bit salty and full of flavor.  Still a bit messy on the fingers, it is certainly a lot easier to eat and the extra protein and healthy fats from the almond butter and coconut oil will keep you satisfied all morning or afternoon.  I am planning on adding in soy nuts next time as well to increase the protein content as this recipe is extremely flexible depending on what types of seeds, nuts and dried fruits you prefer.  And it requires no baking so it is super simple!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lemon Chicken Quesadillas

Lemon Chicken Quesadillas

This is a delicious twist on the typical Mexican chicken quesadilla, using low fat cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, which in addition to being delicious, is also high in calcium, protein and low in lactose.  I used left over chicken from my Lemon and Garlic Chicken Pasta so the chicken itself is already full of flavor, but you could easily use any type of cooked chicken, veggie chicken, or even white beans. It is simple to put together, takes mere minutes to cook and tastes ridiculously gourmet.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lemon and Garlic Chicken Pasta

Lemon and Garlic Chicken Pasta


Nothing is easier than throwing a few ingredients into a crock pot, stepping away for an afternoon and having a delicious dinner waiting for you.  I don't often cook meat since I prefer to get my protein from vegetable sources, but I know my meat loving son and husband appreciated this meal.  Two of my favorite flavors are lemon and garlic and this dish is heavy on both, and not much else.  It could easily be served over rice, or with a side of potato or just on top of a salad, minus the sauce.  It makes a lot as well, so unless you have a large family or group to feed, you will definitely have some chicken left over to use in another recipe later in the week. ( http://www.poconopabulum.com/2013/11/lemon-chicken-quesadillas.html )

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blue-Green Smoothie

Blue-Green Smoothie
Nothing fancy here, just my take on the ever popular "green drink." Not too sweet, with a lot of fiber and protein, this drink is my go to favorite when I am too tired or busy to actually eat a snack.  The nutrient rich blueberries and spinach turn this drink into a beautiful blue-green powerhouse that tastes as good as it is for you.  Just remember to add in the cinnamon, because the flavor boost makes all the difference.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry

Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Rice
served over a bed of organic spinach
I love Chinese food.  I love getting takeout or going to a Chinese restaurant with my extended family and ordering a bunch of dishes and eating way too much.  But that usually leaves me with a slightly sick feeling in my stomach and a lot of grease swirling around inside of me.  This recipe is a healthy take on my usual go to favorite at any Asian restaurant.  Although I have rarely seen the meal "Broccoli and Bean Curd in Garlic Sauce" on a menu, I usually have no problem ordering "off the menu" since I know they have all the ingredients on hand.  Unfortunately I never know what exactly is in their "garlic sauce" and rarely can I find brown rice. What to do?  Make my own!

This is a very basic stir fry, but the special secret is the Asian Garlic Sauce recipe I have perfected.  Not too salty, not too sweet... with just the right amount of garlic and heat. During the summer months, my garden provides a much more interesting variety of vegetables to cook with and if I had had any on hand I would have used my favorite bok choy or fresh broccoli, or mushrooms, but I didn't have the time or money to go to the store again this week.  And I did have two bags of frozen broccoli that needed to get eaten right in my own freezer. Of course you can use whatever vegetables you like as well as chicken, pork or beef if you prefer. So the next time you get a craving for Chinese food, don't call out for something not so healthy, make this instead!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Triple Blueberry Muffins (vegan)

Triple Blueberry Muffins
If I have to pick favorites, then I think that these muffins definitely "take the cake" for being my best yet.  Although I love chocolate more than anything, these fruity delights surely took me by surprise as being the most flavorful, moist and light muffins I have ever made.  If you like store bought muffins, but realize how bad most of them are for you, then you will definitely like these.  And the coolest part is that because they are sweetened purely with wild blueberry preserves, the batter and the muffins are actually purply blue in color.  Perfect for kids who like their food to look as cool as it tastes.

The reason I decided to try this recipe (which I adapted from other muffin recipes I have created) is because I had some dried wild blueberries in my pantry that were going to expire soon and because honestly, blueberry muffins have got to be one of the most popular baked goods in this country.  Every bakery seems to sell them, grocery stores sell pre-packaged and frozen varieties,  and kids always seem to love them. And the fact that it isn't blueberry season actually inspired me to attempt making them without having any fresh ones on hand.

By combining the blueberry preserves with pre-soaked dried wild blueberries and frozen organic blueberries (which are often of better quality than anything you can get fresh if you don't actually pick it yourself), these muffins definitely pack a nutrient dense, flavorful punch. Blueberries are considered one of nature's superfoods.  They are a potent source of antioxidants and have been proven to improve brain health and memory function, especially in older adults.  They are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and fiber, while being low on the glycemic index and low in calories.  So bake them into a healthy whole grain muffin today and eat up!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dark Chocolate Protein Pudding

Dark Chocolate Protein Pudding

This is definitely another recipe that is perfect for all of my gym friends.  As a dessert, it has a significant amount of protein and is a delicious way to end a long day.  I first saw a version of this pudding mixture on the Dr. Oz show when guest Alton Brown shared his recipe for a "moo-less chocolate pie."* I was intrigued and so I gave it a try.  I loved it, and have since made many different versions (even one with white chocolate and coconut which is really not very healthy at all).  

This version is my favorite.  It is creamy, decadent and deliciously dark and chocolatey, if that is even a word.  I make it at least once a month and usually don't tell anyone else in the house about it so that it can last me a couple of days.  This batch was made under the watchful eyes of my chocolate loving daughter so consequently I had to share it with her and my husband and we devoured the whole bowl in the course of two evenings.  I honestly think that if you are going to enjoy chocolate, you might as well get a bit of protein and healthy fats in there along with it. I am sure you could easily mix in some protein powder as well and I definitely plan to try that myself in the future.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/moo-less-chocolate-pie-recipe/index.html 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Red Bean and Red Rice Chili

Red Bean and Red Rice Chili
Winter weather has arrived in full force here in the Poconos, complete with a dusting of snow on the ground this morning.  When the weather gets cold, nothing warms me up better than a hot bowl of thick, hearty soup and this red bean and red rice chili is exactly that. Flavorful, but not spicy, hearty and filling without being heavy, this vegan chili is the perfect winter evening meal.  I cooked it during the afternoon and let it simmer on the stove for a couple of hours to let the flavors meld and when I was hungry and ready to feed my family, dinner was ready as well.  It is quick and easy to prepare and the ingredients are not expensive, so it is the perfect dish to serve to a cold and hungry group. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Curried Chickpea and Brown Rice Salad

Curried Chickpea and Brown Rice Salad
served over a bed of organic spinach
Life as a stay at home mom, or a working mom as I now feel like I am, can be very busy and hectic.  Sometimes I give in and just plan to stop somewhere for dinner with the kids and grab an egg sandwich or a chicken wrap to go.  But that costs more money, is usually not nearly as nutritious as something I would make on my own, and definitely not as satisfying.  Perhaps I am influenced by the example that my mother set when I was little. While cheering me on at the sidelines of my softball games, soccer practices and swim meets, she usually would be eating a home cooked meal in a to go container while most other parents either bought something unhealthy from the snack bar or complained about having to wait to eat until they went home.  She usually had a plate all warmed up and ready for my dad as well, and her dedication to providing a nutritious meal not only for her family, but for herself, impresses me to this day.

So this past weekend when I had time to work in the kitchen I took advantage.  Instead of planning to stop at Subway or the grocery store to grab a quick meal during my busy Monday evening rush, I made a large batch of this salad, shared some with my husband for lunch that day and packaged up a big bowl to take for dinner the next night.  Since this meal is vegan, there is no need to keep it constantly refrigerated.  It honestly tastes best when left at room temperature for an hour or two so it was perfect when I took it out to eat while my kids were in dance class last night. And unlike some other parents who I know where complaining about being hungry and having to wait for dinner, I was well fed, and had something to do to keep me busy while my children took their classes. It is definitely delicious, and of course since it is made with all whole grain, all natural, plant based ingredients, it is a nutrient rich powerhouse of a meal as well. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cookies
For all of my workout buddies out there... I am sure most of you have spent time looking at all the labels on the back of protein bars in the grocery store, trying to make sense of the different options and reading all the finely printed ingredient lists.  Usually, when choosing a store bought brand, I stick with good old Clif bars, but I figured there had to be a more natural homemade version out there.  I am sure this recipe could be improved upon for nutritional quality (vitamins & minerals), and if anyone has any suggestions please let me know, but I made it up last spring and it is too yummy not to share.  It tastes like a dense chocolate cookie, but has high quality protein powder baked in, lots of whole grains, and the healthy fats found in nut butter.  You could use whatever brand of protein powder you prefer and like I did the second time around, substitute almond butter for the peanut butter.  It will fill you up without weighing you down and is the perfect before or after workout snack.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Maple Blueberry Corn Cakes (Vegan)


Maple Blueberry Corn Cakes


I don't usually have boxed baking mixes on hand, but a few weeks ago I picked up a corn muffin mix because my son loves cornbread and I thought maybe I could use the mix to make something he would enjoy.  Since I rarely follow anyone else's recipe, never mind the instructions on the back of a box, this recipe is completely my own invention inspired by the fact that I had a bag of frozen blueberries that had been in my freezer for awhile and three bottles of maple syrup filling up a pantry shelf.  These are very much like pancakes, but with the hearty texture of cornmeal, and the built in sweetness from maple syrup.  We served them with more pure maple syrup to pour over top, but they don't even need it.  They are sweet, hearty, moist and definitely a perfect weekend breakfast.  Why not try them tomorrow??

Friday, November 8, 2013

Easy Cheesy Bean Enchiladas


Easy Cheesy Bean Enchiladas
When I had initially bought the package of corn tortillas used in tonight's meal, I had intended to use them to make my family's favorite Mexican Enchilada Lasagna.  But being unable to resist the urge to try something new, I decided to attempt making enchiladas for the very first time.  I know they are nothing elaborate or difficult, but I had never made them, so I looked up a few basic recipes and then came up with this combination using my favorite ingredients.  There is a bit of cheese in this meal (2 cups) and it would definitely work just as well with half that amount if you are trying to cut back on fat and calories.  But other than that, it is full of nutrient and protein rich beans, tomatoes and Greek yogurt.  I also added in the antioxidant powerhouse spice turmeric.  While not adding a whole lot of flavor, it does add a beautiful orange color and the spice itself has been studied in regards to it's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, antibacterial and antiviral properties.  It's consumption has also been linked to lower cases of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and other chronic illnesses.  So whenever I have the chance, I usually add a little bit into many of the meals that I cook. The corn tortillas in this recipe add a distinctive Mexican taste and texture while being naturally high in fiber and magnesium and low in sugar.  (The edges that get all crispy are especially nice!)  This meal could definitely be made using organic chicken or beef, but for this vegetable lover, it was all about the beans.  The enchiladas are great all by themselves, or served as I did with a dollop of Greek yogurt, a spoonful of spicy green jalapeno salsa and some sliced avocados.  Delicious.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Raspberry Fudge Sauce


Raspberry Fudge Sauce
over vanilla Greek frozen yogurt
with fresh raspberries
Chocolate and raspberry is a fabulous combination.  So when I saw the pints of Greek frozen yogurt and organic vanilla ice cream in the back of my freezer left over from the end of the summer, I had an idea.  What if I try to make my own hot fudge, slightly healthier than the usual and have protein rich sundaes for dessert? I knew that a basic hot fudge recipe calls for dark chocolate, sugar, butter and cream, so I used that as my base but changed it around.  The almond butter adds in healthy fats and protein, the maple syrup is a nutrient rich sweetener and the raspberries add tons of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. The sauce is a bit thick, and could certainly be thinned out with a bit of cream or half and half, but I personally enjoyed the texture of not only the chewy chocolate as it hardened, but the raspberry bits as well.  Indulge in this after dinner treat and feel good about dessert!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies


Peanut Butter Cookies
What is there not to love about a good old fashioned peanut butter cookie, except for the fact that it usually isn't very healthy?  This recipe changes all that without sacrificing any of the flavor, sweetness or peanut buttery goodness. By using all whole grains, chia seeds, coconut oil instead of butter, and pure maple syrup instead of sugar, this cookie is high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, while also being vegan and insanely yummy.  For fun and because I still have a lot of Halloween candy left over, I topped a dozen of the cookies with small pieces of Snicker's candy bars: a sure way to make my kids think they are getting a special treat.  And although these cookies taste like dessert, they are more than healthy enough to serve for breakfast, as I did for my kids today.  If only they knew how lucky they are!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Italian Sausage Pizza Casserole

Italian Sausage Pizza Casserole

The smell of this baking is just heavenly.  A cross between pizza, bread and tomato sauce, all mixed up into one delicious aroma of warmth and sustenance. This meal is super easy to assemble and because it takes a little while to bake, it leaves time for other things in between, like helping out with homework and preparing a side salad.  Made of super healthy, easy to find and inexpensive items, it is not only delicious and filling, but packed full of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and protein.

Italian Sausage Pizza Casserole is also extremely versatile and the particular ingredients can be swapped out easily so long as the underlying recipe remains the same.  Don't want to use regular milk? Use plain soy or almond milk.  Prefer a different type of cheese? go ahead! Don't like spinach? Use some cooked broccoli or peppers. Rather use cooked pork sausage, cooked hamburger meat, vegetarian soy crumbles or canned white beans?  All of them could easily be used in place of the organic chicken sausage.  Trust me, I plan to try different variations of this casserole and promise to post the results.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Super Simple Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup
The weather has definitely taken a turn towards winter and nothing warms you up better than a hearty bowl of soup.  One of my favorites has always been black bean soup, but for some reason whenever I am making a bean soup I add in too many other things and it becomes more of a chili or a stew.  So this time I made an effort to keep it very simple and it turned out exactly right.  I can call this my version of a Pantry Soup since literally everything in it came from my cupboards.  You can easily alter the amount of spice you add, or how many chilies or spoonfuls of salsa you garnish it with depending on the level of heat you are looking for. It would be delicious over a plate of brown rice, or with cheese on top inside of a bread bowl.  I served mine with a large scoop of plain Greek yogurt, some fresh tomatoes and avocados and a side of organic blue corn chips.  So simple, so easy and so perfectly delicious.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Apple Butter Biscuits (Vegan)



It's Saturday morning and I have time to bake again for my family but since it is grocery shopping day, the fridge and pantry are a bit more sparse than usual... so what to use and what to make?  If you happened to make my Apple Cider Muffins last week like I did, then you probably have some organic apple butter left over.  I have been looking at the jar of it in my fridge all week, thinking it would be really good on toast or biscuits.  I wanted to make something quick and simple this morning, and of course healthy and delicious, so I started thinking of a way to make whole grain biscuits using the apple butter as both the sweetener and a source of moisture.  So I played around with a basic biscuit recipe and came up with this delightful surprise.  They are flavorful (house smells awesome), moist and very filling.  Perfect for the morning of a day we plan to spend outside raking leaves!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Baked Potato Skins

Baked Potato Skins
with a side spinach salad

Potato skins have long been one of my favorite go to comfort foods. While most people eat the inside of a baked potato first and then pick at the skin, I start with the outside and work my way in.  So when making my Baked Potato Soup a couple of weeks ago, I made it a point to scoop out the insides of the potatoes carefully and save the skins for another meal.  I placed the skins into a tightly sealed freezer bag and stored them in my top freezer for the last two weeks. I really wasn't sure that this recipe was going to work or how good they would turn out, but my family LOVED them and I think we will be doing this a lot in the future.  Granted we used a lot of cheese, and my son would have like me to add bacon (maybe next time) but overall it was a meal that tasted a lot more indulgent than it was.

The skins of the potato are the most nutrient dense part, containing the bulk of the fiber (about 2 grams per ounce), as well as significant amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium.  By baking them instead of deep frying them like most restaurants do and topping them with plain Greek yogurt instead of the usual sour cream, they are nutritious, high in protein and fiber and very satisfying as a meal's main dish.  So save those skins and whip up a game day delight that is sure to be a crowd pleaser!!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Candy Brownies

Brownie Jack-o-Lantern


As a lover of all things healthy, Halloween is definitely my least favorite holiday.  Sure the dressing up is fun, but the amount of candy my kids consume during all their holiday parties and of course the bags of candy they collect drive me crazy.  I usually let them eat whatever they want that first night, within reason, and then portion out the rest to about one or two pieces a day. But sometimes that can last for weeks and I hate feeding them junk and having the candy around to tempt me. One solution?  Use the candy in a slightly healthy brownie recipe that provides a bit of fiber and protein so that you can feel a little better about eating all those sweets.

Some of my favorite combinations are Reese's peanut butter cups or Reese's pieces baked into a peanut butter brownie like the one below, although using mounds candy bars or almond joys with either coconut oil or almond butter in the place of some of the butter would be delicious.  Peppermint patties also make a good brownie mix in as well as good old M & Ms like I used here.  Granted, this is not a health food, but it is slightly better for you and more satisfying than just eating piece after piece of left over candy. For a special Halloween day treat, it can even be fun to frost the brownies with a light cream cheese frosting and decorate with melted chocolate jack-o-lantern shapes.  Happy trick or treating!!!  (Just remember to eat a salad first!!)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cheesy Whole Grain Breadsticks with Spicy Tomato Dipping Sauce


cheesy breadsticks
with spicy tomato dipping sauce
and a side salad

Sometimes even making a pizza seems like too much work.  On nights like that, or for dinners meant to be eaten on the run, I have turned a pizza inside out with these delicious cheese breadsticks.  My kids think it is fun to eat one thing that counts as a whole meal and I like how quick and simple it is.  I have made them in regular shapes, circles, pretzel shapes, whatever makes my kids laugh and interested in dinner.  If your kids don't mind bits of green or red, you could easily mix some of their favorite veggies right into the dough, or just serve a few cut up vegetables on the side.  I have added a recipe for making your own tomato dipping sauce, but your favorite canned pizza or pasta sauce would work as well, and as everyone knows, kids love foods that you can dip.  So get mixing and whip up these kid friendly dinner treats tonight!!


Whole Grain Pizza Dough

pizzas made with love for my kids

I used to think that making my own pizza required spending a couple of hours in the kitchen watching dough rise, or giving in and using store bought dough, but this recipe changes all that.  By using quick rising instant yeast and organic whole wheat flour, you can now make a delicious and nutritious pizza in about 40 minutes, start to finish.  Of course the nutrition content all depends on what you top your pizza with, but that is the fun part about making your own: you can use whatever you like and whatever you happen to have on hand.  And it is a great dinner for kids to help out with.  My daughter is much more likely to eat a pizza that she helped create and you can make them in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I have even experimented with sweet toppings like fruit and ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey.  The possibilities are endless!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Mom's Pantry Soup



My Mom's Pantry Soup
My mom is an amazing cook.  If it were not for her instruction, guidance and enthusiasm about food I have no doubt that I would never be as creative in the kitchen as I am now.  My earliest memories are of happily watching my mom bake cookies, make bread and chop vegetables.  I thought she was amazing, and of course I still do.  This past weekend she was the gracious host to a family reunion gathering that numbered 22 people.  Like a pro, she (over)fed us all and the whole weekend went as smoothly as we could have ever hoped for.  Early on in the planning she asked me what I thought she should serve to this growing group of cousins, and my first thought was soup.  A large pot of soup.  Well, she took my advice, but used the soup for lunch, and went on to also make an elaborate dinner of pasta, salads, baked chicken and roasted vegetables.

When making her soup, however, she kindly took photos so that I could post her original recipe for what she dubbed "my pantry soup". Most of the ingredients came from her cupboard and you can basically make different versions of this soup depending on what canned and fresh vegetables you have on hand.  It almost tastes like a brothy chili, but not at all spicy, and I even added some of the left over baked organic chicken to it as a leftover dinner and it was amazing.  It is simple to put together, quick to cook and feeds a large crowd of people.  And it is incredible filling, flavorful and full of nutrients.