Oct 302013
 

Happy Halloween! And I must say, I have a lot to be happy about this year:
1. This time last year was Hurricane Sandy and things got pretty dark (literally). And cold. This year it’s not!
2. My sister Jenna will be getting married in exactly 10 days!
3. On Halloween last year, my other sister Brea brought my nephew Owen into the world. Tomorrow he will be the coolest 1 year old ever!
4. And finally, these dark chocolate-peanut butter-banana-truffles that look like spiders. Nuff said.
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These truffles have a whopping 5 ingredients, were quick to make, and were SO tasty. Trying a “healthy” truffle recipe made me a little nervous, because usually when you’re eating truffles, healthy isn’t exactly the goal. But these were actually AMAZING. Not surprising, since the idea came from my friend Erica Sweet Tooth. I made mine into little spiders by adding pretzel legs and jelly bean eyes, but the possibilities are endless for these. Maybe orange white chocolate to make pumpkins? Or just make them without any Halloween costume and they’re still just awesome and healthy truffles. Highly recommended!!!
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Nutritional Highlights: The secret ingredient in these is high fiber cereal. Who woulda thought! I used natural peanut butter which is high in protein and healthy fat, and banana for natural sugars and vitamins. Dark chocolate has some antioxidant benefits, but mostly it’s just delicious and a little bit won’t hurt anyone. This is a perfectly portioned, sweet/salty dessert that is way better for you than any other Halloween candy out there.
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Healthy Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Truffles
adapted from Erica Sweet Tooth
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What’s in them:
1 cup fiber cereal, finely ground (I used Go Lean but Fiber One, Nature’s Path Flax Plus Flakes, or another favorite are fine)
3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 ripe banana
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons agave or honey (if you’re using unsweetened, natural peanut butter you may want to add a little but I left it out and they were still delicious)
6 oz dark chocolate
Decorations: for the spiders I used thin broken pretzels and halved jelly beans

How to make them:
In a food processor, grind the cereal into fine crumbs. Add the agave/honey, peanut butter, and banana and pulse for a few times until the dough comes together.
Roll the dough into balls and place them on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Transfer to the fridge for about an hour.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler (for me this was a glass bowl on top of a sauce pan with simmering water) and submerge each truffle in the chocolate, using a spoon to scoop out each truffle and tapping the spoon side of the dish to get off any excess chocolate. Transfer dipped truffles to a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and decorate by sticking in the pretzel legs and pressing on the jelly bean eyes.
Store in the fridge to allow chocolate to set completely and serve within a few days for best results. Enjoy and Boo!
And since I think you deserve another treat, here’s a shoutout to my nephew Owen who turns 1 tomorrow. Can’t believe how big this little pumpkin is now!!
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And since I think you deserve another treat, here’s a shoutout to my nephew Owen who turns 1 tomorrow. Can’t believe how big this little pumpkin is now!!
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Oct 132013
 

Has anyone else noticed a recent flood of facebook and instagram photos of friends at the apple orchard?  Maybe with a nice “low-fi” filter, or an artistic close-up of an apple hanging from the branch? It’s OK, I’m guilty of it too.  Since everyones homes are now overflowing with these amazing freshly picked apples, I thought I’d share a creative new way to use them.  I’m pretty much obsessed with this breakfast and sad that it’s already gone…no idea how that happened (insert guilty face here).  Luckily there are more apples where that came from, so a second batch, hopefully with proper rationing this time, is definitely in my future.
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Nutritional Highlights:  Not only is this easy to make (mix everything and throw it in the oven), it’s also incredibly healthy.  Apples are in their peak season right now, which also means they are at their peak nutrient potential.  Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant).  In addition, this recipe has fiber packed oats and chia seeds that will keep you full until lunch time.  This recipe does not have a ton of added sugar like some oatmeal recipes do, and the sweetness comes only from the apples, dried fruit, and a tiny bit of maple syrup.  Finally, pecans add a little bit of protein, healthy fat, and crunch.
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Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
makes 6 servings
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What’s in it:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, or a mixutre)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups diced apple (probably about 2-3 apples)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (skim milk works too)
  • 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons mpale syrup

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the first 8 ingredients (through the apple).
  3. In another bowl, whisk the remaining wet ingredients (milk, egg, egg white, vanilla, apple sauce, and maple syrup). Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, add the apples, and mix until combined
  4. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking pan and bake for about 50 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Slice into 6 portions and enjoy hot or cold!

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I packed this up in tupperware all week and reheated it in the microwave for a minute at work.  Seriously the perfect fall breakfast! For a minute you might even forget that you’re at work on Monday morning as you savor this apple cinnamon deliciousness.  But then you’ll remember.  Sorry.
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Sep 212013
 

Brussel Sprouts + Figs + Toasted Almonds + Manchego + Dijon Vinaigrette. Need I say more?
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I’m pretty excited about this salad. It’s the perfect fall salad with just the right mix of textures and flavors (crunchy, soft, sweet, savory). It’s pretty easy to make too since there is no cooking involved. Only on disclaimer–if you’re like me and don’t have a mandolin to shred the sprouts, this may be slightly less fun of a process for you.
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Nutritional Highlights: Since it looks like a teeny tiny cabbage, it’s not surprising that they’re in the same cruciferous veggie fam as cabbage. Within this powerful group, which also includes kale, cauliflower, mustard greens, and broccoli, brussel sprouts actually have THE MOST glucosinolates which are powerful cancer fighting antioxidants. By serving them raw in this salad, you preserve all these nutrients and ensure none of them are lost in the cooking process. Figs make this salad even healthier, by adding fiber and potassium. Almonds add some protein and healthy fat. And Manchego, oh well cheese is just delicious who cares if it’s healthy.
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Shaved Brussel Sprout and Fig Salad with Toasted Almonds and Manchego
serves about 4
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What’s in it:
Salad:
4 cups Brussels sprouts (use larger sprouts if possible)
1/3 cup shaved or shredded manchego (can also substitute pecorino romano)
8-10 fresh figs, quartered
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds, toasted and salted

Dressing:
Juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil

How to make it:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
2. Trim the Brussels sprouts, cutting off the hard root end. Using a mandoline, shave the sprouts one at a time. If you don’t have a mandolin, halve them and slice as thinly as possible. When you’re done, use your fingers to separate the leaves so that the shredded sprouts are like a fine slaw.
3. Put the sprouts in a serving bowl toss gently with the dressing (you may not need it all). Fold in the shredded cheese and top with figs and almonds. Taste and adjust seasonings and dressing if necessary. Enjoy!

Note: I think it’s even better if you toss the sprouts only with the dressing about an hour before serving so they soften a bit. Then add in the other ingredients right before serving.

Jul 252013
 
When I was a little kid (a chubby little kid, to be specific), I used to think a burger was just a greasy beef patty between a smushy white bun that usually came out of a little box with a toy and some french fries. Sometimes it even had a yellow piece of “cheese” (I use that word lightly) and some ketchup if you were lucky.Oh, how much I have learned since then. Burgers are now one of my favorite meals because they are so versatile and allow you to play with flavors, ingredients and toppings. Plus, they can be pretty healthy if you stick with veggie, chicken, or turkey burgers. This one was a great twist on buffalo chicken, with plenty of hot sauce, cool yogurt-blue cheese sauce, and a crisp carrot-celery slaw all on a whole grain bun. That’s a happier meal if I do say so myself.

There were a few different components to prepare for this meal, but they come together so well that the effort was worth it.  First I made the slaw with carrots, onion, celery, cilantro, vinegar, and honey and let that slawify for a while.  Then I put together the burgers, which got their flavor and moisture from grated carrot, celery, onion, and hot sauce.  Then I whipped up the blue cheese dressing, which was just greek yogurt with blue cheese chunks, lemon juice, and spices.  Once you put it all together is when the magic happens…the slaw is crunch and slightly sweet, the blue-cheese sauce is tangy and cool, and the burgers are spicy and hearty. 

Instead of fries or chips, I served the burgers with a big summer chopped salad, packed with awesome ingredients like tomatoes, chickpeas, basil, avocado, and charred corn.  The key is the charred corn. So good.

Nutritional Highlights:  Buffalo chicken can get a bad rep…usually fried chicken, a creamy high-fat dressing, and a sauce that’s actually butter with a splash of hot sauce.  This version preserves the flavors but without all that fat.  I used lean ground chicken breast, non-fat greek yogurt as the base for the sauce, and a butter free buffalo sauce.  Since a serving of meat is only 3 ounces, try to keep the burgers to about 1/4 (4 oz) to 1/3 (5 oz) pound each to keep the portion in control.  Also, always choose a whole wheat bun or just go naked if you’re watching your carbs (the burger, not you).  Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot-Celery Slaw

For the Burgers (makes 3-4):


Ingredients

• 1 pounds ground chicken breast (turkey would work too, no one will know)

• 2 tablespoons finely grated carrots

• 1 tablespoon finely grated celery

• 2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced

• 1/8 to 1/4 cup buffalo hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it), plus a little on the side to baste with

• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

• salt and pepper to taste

• 3 or 4 whole wheat buns

• Serve with carrot-celery slaw and yogurt-blue cheese sauce (recipe to follow)

Directions

1. Mix the chicken, grated carrot, celery, onion, hot sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper and form into 4 patties.

2. Heat your grill to medium high, and oil or spray the grill. Grill your patties, about 4-5 minutes per side, painting with more hot sauce when they’re almost done. Serve the buffalo chicken burgers in the buns along with the slaw and blue cheese sauce.

For the Carrot-Celery Slaw:

Ingredients

• 3 large carrots, roughly grated or cut into matchsticks

• 3 celery stalks cut into matchsticks

• ¼ red onion, thinly sliced

• 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

• 3 tablespoons vinegar (I used rice vinegar but other types should work too, but not balsamic)

• 2 teaspoons honey

• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine vinegar and honey. Add the rest of the ingredients and taste (add more vinegar if it needs more acidity, more honey if it needs sweetness). Refrigerate, stirring occasionally for a few hours. Serve on top of your buffalo chicken burgers.



For the Yogurt Blue-Cheese Sauce:

Ingredients:

½ cup non-fat Greek Yogurt

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (very fine crumbles so the flavor is dispersed)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil (to thin it slightly)

Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste


Directions: Combine all ingredients. Stir. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Put it on your burgers and enjoy!



Jun 192013
 
I have a new theory:  The most dangerous time when you’re trying to be healthy is snack time.  Meals are more straightforward for me—am I eating a lot of produce, whole grains and protein?  Did it not come from a drive through window or a delivery man who remembers my name because I’ve been calling so much?  Then I’m probably doing pretty well.  But snack time is another story.  When you’re on the go or busy at work and you need a snack, it the options can be limited.  Most vending machines are filled with chips and cookies and even if you have a granola bar on hand, that may be secretly packed with sugar and processed ingredients.  So, one of my new favorite go-to snacks are roasted chickpeas.  You can make savory and spicy varieties or you can make sweet versions like these Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Chickpeas.  Either way, they are portable, healthy, easy to make, and won’t leave you with a guilty snack food hangover afterward. 



 I stole this recipe from my friend Kori at Paint and Tofu and it was such a yummy and easy one.  I’ve only tried savory roasted chickpeas in the past (because I am usually a salty over sweet craver, although I try not to discriminate).  It’s a great substitute if you love candied nuts, because it still gives you that sweet crunchiness but without all the fat and thick sugary coating that they often have.
Nutritional Highlights:  This is a great vegan and gluten free snack option.  As you all probably know, chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans) are packed with protein and fiber so this snack will keep you full longer.  I have to confess that there is still some sugar in this recipe, but only a small amount.  If you’re watching out for sugar, try a savory version like chili powder, lime, and garlic powder. 

 



Roasted Cinnamon-Sugar Chickpeas
Recipe Adapted from Paint and Tofu

Ingredients:

• 1 can (15oz) chickpeas

• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

• 2 teaspoons cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
Instructions:
• Drain the chick peas and dry them well on a paper towel. Drying is very important to crispify (it’s a word) the chickpeas properly so don’t ignore this step! You can peel the skins off if you’d like…I have found that it makes them crispier but it’s also a pain in the tush so I’ve given up on it.

• In a small bowl, whisk together oil, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Add chickpeas to bowl and stir until evenly coated.

• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bake for 25-30 minutes on 375 degrees.

• Shake the chickpeas around, and drizzle with agave or honey.

• Bake for another 15 minutes and let cool.


Jun 012013
 

Guys, I know what you’re thinking.  That looks very vegan and healthy.  Well you’re right.  It does and it is.  BUT it’s also one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a while.  The peanut sauce on this kale salad is seriously addictive and the marinade for the tofu is the perfect mix of sweet and spicy.  And all foods are better with grill marks, it’s a fact.  This is the perfect summer meal and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.  


I’ve been trying this new thing where I’m almost completely vegan on weekdays (unless of course someone brings baked goods to work, then all deals are off), but eat whatever I want on the weekends.  That way I’m lowering my animal product consumption a lot but not being that girl at restaurants who can’t eat anything…win win.  I’ve been surprised how easy (and tasty) it has been to cut out meat and dairy during the week.  You start to really appreciate other things like great produce, creating flavor with spices and sauces, and for me, peanut butter.  I eat it every day.  I was excited about this recipe because it used it in a savory dish, and I gotta say I would put this sauce on everything if I could.  


Nutritional Highlights:  If you’re wondering what’s the big deal with being vegan, watch this “meatless monday” video  .  It just give a little insight into the impact meat farming has on the world.  Plus, chronic disease risk is lower for those who eat less animal products.  Interesting huh?  I’m not saying cut it out entirely, cuz I certainly would not want to live a life without cheese in it, but moderation and portion control with animal products is something we should all try.  This recipe has tons of fresh veggies like kale (total super food), carrots, cucumber, onions, healthy fats like peanuts and sesame oil, and plenty of protein from the grilled tofu.  This would be just as tasty without the tofu as well.  This recipe is gluten free as well as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce!


Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad
adapted from Happy.Healthy.Life

Makes about 3-4 servings

For the salad:
2 large bunches of kale (or 3 small)
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned cucumber
1/3 cup peanuts for garnish

Spicy Ginger Peanut Sauce:
2 Tbsp creamy salted peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled/chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar 
2 tsp agave syrup
5 dashes cayenne
fine black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Place a large soup pot over med-high heat on your stove top. Add all the sauce ingredients and stir briskly until they melt and blend together. Reduce heat to medium and simmer/stir for about two minutes. Turn heat to low.

2. Pull the leaves in bits from the thick stalks of your kale. Wash if needed. Add the kale leaves (toss thick stems) – add kale to the pot until filled to the brim. Fold the kale into the hot sauce. Fold well. The hot sauce will wilt the kale.

3. Turn off heat and add the remaining amount of kale. Also add in the carrots, red onion, peanuts, and cucumber and combine. Eat warm or, my preference, chill and eat cold.  Kale salads are great because they can last a few days without getting wilted like other greens.

4. Serve warm or place in fridge – covered – to chill and serve cold. Will keep well for up to a few days.


Spicy Grilled Tofu
adapted from Food.com

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 8 slices
    • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1/3 cup agave nectar
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced ( about 1 tablespoon)
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the tofu slices on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally with your hands to squeeze out the water.
  2. Place the tofu in a single layer in the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup, tamari, chile paste, garlic, and pepper.
  4. Pour mixture over the tofu, stirring to coat all the slices.
  5. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. When the tofu is marinated and ready to cook: Spray grill rack or pan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat.
  7. Place tofu slices on the grill. Reserve the marinade.
  8. Grill tofu 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until the outside is browned and crisp.
  9. Return tofu to the baking dish and toss the slices with the reserved marinade.
  10. Serve immediately on it’s own or with the Spicy Peanut-Ginger Kale Salad!
Apr 302013
 

My weekend was spent celebrating the bachelorette party and bridal shower of one of my best friends in the world (and also a blogger celeb…see ericasweettooth.com and be amazed).  Here is what I learned about bachelorette parties.  They are great for: bonding with friends, seeing how many party accessories come in inappropriate shapes, and discovering an amazing array of photos on your phone the next day.  They are NOT great for: my liver and my ability to fit into that bridesmaid dress in a month.  Oops.  After a weekend of sustaining pretty much on bagels, candy, and adult beverages, my body was pretty much crying for some produce.  So, I made this super health (and also delicious) Green Monster Smoothie.  


I promise it looks a lot greener than it tastes.  Does that make sense?  Well, it does to me.  It really just tastes like a regular fruit smoothie but has extra health benefits from the greens.  Smoothies are great because they are so versatile and easy to make.  This one has almond milk, banana, green apple, kale and spinach, and frozen fruit (I used mango and strawberries but anything will work). 


Nutritional highlights:  This smoothie is a great way to get an extra serving of veggies into your day and really not taste it at all.  It is a perfect breakfast or snack and is great for vegans and gluten-free-ers.  The greens add vitamins like A, K, folate, iron, calcium, and also a good dose of fiber.  


Green Monster Smoothie
adapted from Table for Two

makes 2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

– 1.5 cups frozen fruit (I used strawberries and mango but you can use any you like)
– 1/2 green apple, cut into pieces
– 1 banana, broken into pieces
– 1 1/2 cup almond milk
– 1 to 2 large handfuls of spinach, kale, or other dark greens
 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Throw everything in the blender and blend until a smooth consistency. If it gets stuck, turn it off, and use a spatula to break it up and start it again.