Jul 272011
Summer is the season of bar-b-ques, pool parties, pot lucks, happy hours, and all sorts of other festivities.  You never want to show up empty handed.  Instead of showing up with something overdone like chips and salsa, or something super unhealthy like store bought pasta salad, or something straight up boring like a veggie tray, bring something like this.  Marinated mushroom caps stuffed with quinoa, goat cheese, and veggies.

You can really mix any vegetables into these, but this time I used sundried tomatoes, corn, and fresh basil because it seemed like a summery combo.  Beneath the quinoa was a little bit of goat cheese (amazing little surprise don’t you think?).  Gotta admit these do take a few steps…marinating the mushrooms, cooking them, and then filling with the mixture.  But it’s totally worth it and will impress whoever you serve them to.

Nutritional highlights:  I was surprised to find out that a few of my work friends who I served these to had never tried Quinoa.  They were totally missing out on all the fun!  Quinoa is a great source of protein and it’s so versatile.  Great way to have a high protein, vegetarian meal option.  Goat cheese adds a little calcium and the vegetables add vitamins, texture, and color.  If I were to make these again, I’d use big portobello mushroom caps to make it a main course instead of an app.  SO good.

Marinated Mushroom Caps

This recipe can be used for portobello burgers, or minis or full sized shrooms for stuffing
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 small or 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (either parsley, oregano, rosemary, basil, or a combo)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 large or 24 baby portobellos
Prepare mushrooms by remove stems and scooping out the gills with a spoon.  Whisk above ingredients and pour over prepared mushroom in a dish or ziplock bag.  Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.  If planning to stuff, pre bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until soft. Try to pour off any excess liquid that has accumulated from the mushrooms. If making burgers, simply put on the grill and cook until softened and browned.  

For the quinoa filling: Cook quinoa according to instructions on the box.  I usually use vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor.  Mix in vegetables of choice.  I used frozen corn, chopped sundried tomatoes, and basil but you could use any combination you can think of.  Put a little goat cheese into each pre baked mushroom cap.  Top with as much of the quinoa filling as you can.  Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top (optional) and put under the broiler until the cheese melts.  Enjoy these hot or cold for a main course or an app!

Jul 192011
When it get’s this hot, the kind of hot where you have to swim through the air it’s so humid, the last thing you want to do is cook.  Or at least any kind of cooking that requires additional heat.  That’s when cool, fresh summer salads can save you from relying on eating out all summer.  This one is a personal favorite because it’s so simple but the flavors are just perfecto together.

The key is the watermelon.  Possibly my favorite summer food (tied with peaches and corn on the cob).  Cube the watermelon and combine with peppery arugula, reduced fat feta, thinly sliced red onion (optional), and almonds.  Toss with a simple vinaigrette and dinner is ready.  You’re happy because you’re not sweating for the first time all day, and that’s cool. Literally.

Nutritional Highlights:  Watermelon is a great source of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene).  It also is, as the name suggests, filled with water so it’ll fill you up and keep you hydrated.  The almonds and feta give this salad protein and texture.  When summer gives us such an incredible variety of fresh produce, give your oven/stove a break!

Watermelon Arugula Salad with Feta, Almonds, and Red Onion

  • Watermelon, cubed
  • reduced fat feta, crumbled
  • dry roasted almonds (or any other type of nut you like)
  • thinly sliced red onion (can omit if you’re not an onion fan)
  • baby arugula
  • simple red wine vinaigrette: 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey, salt and pepper
1.  It’s almost hard for me to write this recipe because it’s so easy!  Whisk the dressing.  Toss with all ingredients except the watermelon ( we don’t want to start breaking it down).  When ready to serve, gently toss in the watermelon chunks.
2.  Enjoy a nice cool (vegetarian) meal or side this summer!

Jul 122011

You may have noticed based on the decreasing frequency at which I’m posting recipes, but my life has gotten pretty busy. Suddenly it’s like I’m back in high school, trying to build a resume to get into college. Except instead of student council and choir, now it’s a full-time job, part-time graduate school, an A Cappella group, weekly volunteer work, some babysitting, and oh yeah, tush cook. So not only am I posting a little less often, I’m also in search of some quick, easy, healthy meals. And this one can be on the table in less than half an hour and uses ingredients that you almost certainly have in your pantry.

Chicken breasts are pan seared and then a tasty sauce is made with just a few ingredients in the same pan. Not bad, right? And if you want to make it seem fancy without much extra work, cook up some whole wheat cous cous and mix in some fresh basil, grape tomatoes, and mozzarella. With the balsamic chicken on top, it’s a revamped Caprese salad with some added protein.

Nutritional Highlights:  Lean protein, lycopene rich tomatoes, fiber filled whole wheat cous cous come together for a nice balance meal.  I don’t usually like having cheese and meat in the same meal (usually try to pick one or the other to limit my intake of animal products) but it’s OK if there’s portion control.  This meal takes as long to put together as it would take you to go pick up the take out you were considering having…but it’s more delicious and a ton better for you!

Honey Garlic Balsamic Chicken
adapted from myrecipes.com
  • (6-oz.) skinned and boned chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey


  • 1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • 2. Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken, and cook 6 to 7 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken, and keep warm.
  • 3. Add chicken broth and next 4 ingredients to skillet, and cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Serve chicken with sauce. (Note: I would consider doubling the last 5 ingredients to get more sauce, because it was AWESOME and I wanted there to be more of it).
For the cous cous:  Prepare whole wheat cous cous according to the instructions.  Once cooked, stir in some halved grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, small chunks of fresh mozzarella and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic.  Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go!  
Jul 052011
I’m apologizing in advance for posting two not-so-healthy desserts in a row, but this USA day favorite just had to be shared today!

As long as I can remember, the “fruit cookie” has been a staple in my family on the 4th of July.  My mom was known for her beautiful creations, and everyone was always impressed and awed by it.  Sorry, Mom, to let the fireworks out of the bag, but this is one of the easiest desserts out there…but it sure makes a bang.  Oh man I’m cheesier than ever. 

It starts with a roll of sugar cookie dough baked into a giant cookie, and then is topped with a cool-whip-cream-cheese frosting, and decorated with any fresh fruit you like.  I can’t say it’s the healthiest dessert possible, but hey, you’re getting antioxidant rich berries and as long as you eat it in moderation it’s not the worst thing you’ll encounter at your 4th of July BBQ.

My Mom’s famous Fruit Cookie
You can make this any time of they year!  For the superbowl, we do a football shaped cookie topped with all different colored fruits.  Get creative and have fun!

  • 1 roll sugar cookie dough, frozen
  • 4 oz light cream cheese
  • 1/2 tub of frozen whipped topping (like coolwhip), thawed
  • Assorted fruit:  Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are what I used here, but you can also add kiwi, mango, peach, pineapple, or anything else you can think of!


Cut frozen roll of cookie dough into quarter inch rounds and create the cookie cake by starting with one cookie in the center and overlap each cookie slightly, creating a spiral.  This part doesn’t have to be perfect, it will spread out and create a nice even cookie.  Bake in the oven for about 18 minutes, or until cookie is lightly browned but not too well done (we like a nice soft, almost underdone center).  

While cookie cools, make the topping.  Soften the cream-cheese by microwaving for 10-15 seconds.  Stir the cream-cheese and then add the cool whip and stir until combined.  Top the cooled cookie with the topping.  Decorate cookie with fruit and chill until you’re ready to serve and enjoy.

Oh say can you see how happy everyone you feed this to will be!