Aug 292014

I have a lot of things to celebrate/mourn this week:
Labor day weekend! Yay! End of Summer. Boo.
My Birthday! Yay! Getting old and realizing these lines on my forehead are there for good. Boo.
Tiny Peanut Butter-Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches that are also healthy! Yay! Nope, no downside to that one.
The combination of flavors in this recipe simply cannot be beat. Peanut butter and banana on its own is something special. Add some salty pretzels and a dark chocolate drizzle and it’s just a whole new level. Best part about it is that the ice cream is vegan, has a whopping 2 ingredients, and takes about 2 minutes to make without requiring an ice cream maker. As I’ve mentioned approximately a thousand time on this blog, I love mini things (who doesn’t) so making these into tiny ice cream sandwiches using two pretzel thins was and pretty life changing discovery. You can make a big batch to store in the freezer for whenever your sweet too strikes—and believe me, it will strike.
More good news for the lazy chef—If you can’t handle waiting to make these into mini sandwiches (and I don’t blame you), you can simply make an epic sundae topped with crushed pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate.
Nutritional Highlights: I know, it’s hard to believe that I’m about to tell you this is healthy, since these pictures look like something a future dietitian should be staying clear of. But, like I mentioned before, this ice cream only has two ingredients- frozen bananas and natural peanut butter (and a splash of soy/almond milk if your blender needs a little help)- but is still super creamy and satisfying. Bananas are packed with potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber and the peanut butter adds protein and healthy, monounsaturated fats. By making these into mini pretzel ice cream sandwiches, it becomes the perfect little bite to satisfy your sweet tooth, because I’ve learned that if you totally deny your sweet tooth, it will lash out and bad things will happen. It’s OK to treat yourself in moderation, and especially with a (mostly) guilt free treat like this one.
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Mini Peanut-Butter & Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches
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What’s in it:

For the ice cream:
3 large ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
Optional: 1 tablespoon of soy or almond milk to make blending easier

For the sandwiches/sundaes:
Pretzel Thins
Roughly chopped peanuts
Dark chocolate, melted for drizzling

How to make it:
1) To make the banana ice cream, combine frozen bananas and peanut butter in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy and fully mixed. If you are having trouble blending, add a splash of soy or almond milk to thin it out slightly. Transfer ice cream to the freezer to firm up (at least an hour if you are making ice cream sandwiches).
2) For the Sundae eaters:
a. Top a few scoops of the banana peanut butter ice cream with broken pretzel thins, peanuts, and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.
b. Top with a banana slice to make it pretty and remind you that it’s really pretty darn healthy!
3) For the Sandwich makers:
a. After your ice cream has set for an hour, set up your sandwich making station. Lay out half of the pretzel thins top down.
b. Top each pretzel with about a tablespoon of ice cream and top with another pretzel thin, this time top up. Put the ice cream sandwiches back in the freezer so there isn’t too much melting.
c. Melt your dark chocolate by microwaving in 30 second intervals, being careful not to burn. I like to add a tiny bit of coconut oil to help it stay smooth.
d. Chop peanuts for topping and set aside.
e. Take the ice cream sandwiches back out of the freezer, quickly drizzle with melted chocolate and top with crushed peanuts. Return to the freezer and enjoy these little guys whenever you want!

Jun 302014

If you’re anything like me, there’s really no such thing as summer “vacation” anymore. If your summer has been as busy as mine has been, and you’re looking for literally the easiest possible festive 4th of July treat, here it is. There is no culinary skill needed here, just some delicious red and blue fruit, skewers, and if you want to get fancy, a drizzle of honeyed greek yogurt and a sprinkling of roasted coconut chips.
Every 4th of July BBQ or picnic needs some fruit, and this recipe takes your average fruit salad or mundane watermelon wedges to the next level. You can get creative by cutting the fruit into different shapes and it could even be a fun activity for your kids (hey, if you have kids, why not put them to work, right?).
Nutritional Highlights: Berries are in their peak season right now, which means they have the highest level of vitamins. Berries get their bright color from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which also decreases inflammation. Another antioxidant in berries, quercetin, may help slow age-related memory-loss and also reduces inflammation, especially in the joints. Vitamin C is another big highlight of berries powerhouse nutritional profile, which is also a strong antioxidant and has many powerful effects in the body. Basically, fruit is good for you! Crazy idea, I know. This is a great way to make fruit a little bit more fun, so everyone will enjoy it this 4th of July.
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Patriotic Fruit Kebabs with Honey-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
– Red and Blue fruit of your choice!
blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and watermelon all work well for this!
– Mini wooden skewers
– 6 oz plain greek yogurt
– 1 tablespoon honey or agave
– Toasted coconut or roasted coconut chips for garnish

How to make it:
1. Cut your strawberries and watermelon into the shapes of your choosing. Leave small berries whole. Skewer in different patterns onto your wooden skewers.
2. Mix the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon or tiny bit of vanilla extra if you’d like.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the yogurt into a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny tiny piece off of the bottom corner. Use this to squeeze a drizzle of the yogurt over the fruit kebabs.
4. Sprinkle with coconut chips and serve along side the remaining yogurt dip.
5. Oh say can you see…how easy that recipe is?
Here’s to a happy and healthy 4th!

May 042014

Mexican food is probably my all time favorite genre of food. I know it is a bold statement, but Mexican food has so much going for it. First of all, avocados can be involved in just about every dish, and this is a great thing. Plus, there’s always a great mix of bold flavors, colors, textures, and ideally an aggressive kick. Obviously, with Cinco de Mayo approaching, I was not going to miss an opportunity to make something fiesta-worthy. After wandering the isles of whole foods with absolutely no game plan, somehow I ended up making these absurdly delicious spicy baked plantain chips with tropical fruit and avocado salsa.
The plantain chips were very simple, seasoned with olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. The salsa was also simple and fresh–a mix of avocado, mango, strawberries, serrano chile, red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is the perfect appetizer for your Cinco de Mayo party. Or really any of the days of Mayo. Or Junio or Julio o Agosto. You get it.
I had never worked with plantains before, but you should know that even though they look like a green banana, they are really more like a potato in flavor and texture. They have a slight sweetness but are very starchy, which is why they make an excellent and super crunchy chip. They don’t peel as easily as a banana, but if you just run a knife down one side through just the skin, you can peel it off relatively easily.
Nutritional Highlights: This app is definitely a big health improvement from your regular chips and guac. Instead of fried tortilla chips, these are baked with only a little bit of oil. Plantains are high in fiber, vitamin B, A, and C, and potassium. The salsa is also super healthy–with tons of vitamins and antioxidants from mango and salsa, and healthy fat from the avocado. Your favorite guac and salsa at a mexican restaurant may be loaded with salt and leave you bloated and thirsty, but I didn’t even have to add any salt to this salsa, since it was so flavorful on it’s own! Added bonus–this recipe is gluten free and vegan!
Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
For the chips:
2 green plantains
2 T olive oil
1 T chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the salsa:
1/2 large mango, chopped
6 strawberries, chopped
1/2 avocado, cubed (or the whole avocado if it’s small)
1 small serrano chile, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped cilantro
Juice from 1/2 lime (or more to taste)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using a paring knife, cut a slit down one side of the plantain, just through the skin. Use your fingers to peel off the skin. Slice as thinly as possible on a diagonal, or use a mandolin to make thin chips.
2. Toss the sliced plantains with olive oil and spices. Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and spread the plantains in a single layer. Spray a little additional oil spray on top to help them get crispy and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the chips after 8 minutes and watching carefully toward the end as they can easily burn. Once they are browned and crispy, you are good to go!
3. While the chips are baking, make the salsa by simply combining all the ingredients. You can also make this in advance and refrigerate.
4. Let the chips cool and serve along with the salsa. Enjoy!

Note: these are best eaten right away but can be saved a day or two (although they will lose some of their crispiness).
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)

Feb 092014

How can you let someone know that you love them this valentines day? Option A: Chocolate. Never fails. Option B: Make them something super healthy to let them know you want them to be around for a while. Well this granola bar recipe does both!
I’ve had a few failed granola bar attempts–some were too crumbly and fell apart, others were too sweet, but these were really perfect to me. They were a great soft consistency but still held together really well. They are so much tastier and better for you than store bought granola bars, and you can make them with any variety of dried fruits and nuts you like or have on hand. These were not too sweet, but just sweet enough to satisfy my daily afternoon cravings.
Nutritional Highlights: A lot of granola bars at the store seem healthy but really are packed with sugar, ingredients you can’t pronounce, and other things that you wouldn’t want in your “heathy” snack. These bars are sweetened only with dried fruit (dates and cherries), coconut, and dark chocolate. There is tons of fiber in here, from the chia seeds and oats, and lots of protein from the variety of nuts and seeds. Extra bonus…these are gluten free (as long as you use GF oats) and vegan.
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Dark Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars
makes about 12-15 granola bars
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What’s in it:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed pitted dates, quartered
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup creamy almond butter
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds (I used roasted unsalted)
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 (or maybe a little more :) cup roughly chopped dark chocolate (or use chips/chunks)
1/4 tspn sea salt

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast the oats for about 10-15 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant. Let cool. Reduce oven temp to 325.
2. Soak dates in water for about 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
3. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients excluding the oats (seeds, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, sea salt).
4. In a small food processor, blend half of the oats (3/4 cup) into flour. Add the oat flour and remaining whole oats into the dry mixture.
5. Add the dates/water and almond butter into the food processor and blend until smooth. Mix into the dry mixture.
6. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment. Press the granola bar mixture in the pan into a 1/4 to 1/2 in thick, even layer. Press it in very firmly for a few minutes, this will help keep them from falling apart. My batch only filled half of my sheet pan.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and slightly brown. Allow to cool completely and then cut them into bars (or other fun shapes).
8. Enjoy and share with someone you love!

You can wrap these individually and keep them in the freezer if you have left overs…although I doubt they will last that long!
These will definitely make you and your valentine a little bit happier and healthier this year. Valentineless this year? Lucky you…you don’t have to share :)

Jan 292014

As a person who is pretty ambivalent about the sport of football, you might be surprised to hear that I LOVE the Super Bowl. It’s not because of the commercials or even the halftime show (although these both beat the main attraction in my eyes). It’s about the excuse to eat as much junk food as you want to for approximately 5 hours straight. I know, I know, this is not what a future nutritionist should be saying, but you have to admit it’s pretty fun. Still, even more fun is making healthier versions that feel like junk food, like these UNREAL Buffalo Quinoa Bites. Approved by football and non-football fans alike.
Nutritional Highlights: Americans consume more calories on the Superbowl than any other day, INCLUDING Thanksgiving. I guess it makes sense, since at least on Thanksgiving you might eat A vegetable. One superbowl staple, buffalo wings, has over 200 calories in just 3 little wings (and let’s be honest you’re going to eat a lot more than 3). This version is not only vegetarian, and packs a ton of protein and fiber from the quinoa and white beans to make you too full to eat the rest of the bad stuff. Instead of blue cheese dressing which usually has a high fat mayo or sour cream base, mine is mostly greek yogurt. Best of all, I found these totally addictive and didn’t miss the chicken or deep fried-ness at all…and neither did my initially very skeptical finance.
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Buffalo Quinoa Bites with Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce
makes 24 quinoa bites
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For the bites:
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cannellini bean mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, finley chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hot sauce (ie franks), + a bit more for topping
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup low fat shredded cheese, + a bit more for topping
Serve with: additional chopped scallions, blue cheese yogurt dressing, and carrot/celery sticks

How to make them:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients
3. Add a spoonful of the buffalo quinoa to each mini muffin cup and press down firmly.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, adding the extra cheese for the last 5 minutes. Remove and cool for a few minutes before removing.
5. Top with a few extra scallions and an extra hit of hot sauce if you’re crazy like me. Serve warm with the blue cheese dressing and enjoy!
*Any leftovers? I have been putting these in salads all week for lunch at work and it’s pretty life changing. Just saying.

For the Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce:
1 6oz container nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely crumbled blue cheese (I actually used gorgonzola because I prefer it and it was great)
½ tspn garlic powder
½ tspn onion powder
salt and black pepper to taste

How to make it: Mix all those things. The end.
Here’s to Super Bowling without Super Sizing 😀

Dec 222013

Around the holidays, everything is better covered in chocolate and peppermint. This is a fact. I was looking for a festive treat that wouldn’t take hours to make, and would feel decadent without putting me in a full blown sugar coma. So I came up with this Peppermint-Chocolate Popcorn (aka: christmas crack). IMG_7225 Nutritional Highlights: I popped my popcorn in a very small amount of oil in a pot, which is already WAY better than butter-loaded movie theater popcorn. Plus, it doesn’t have any of the weird chemicals in some of the bagged popcorns out there. Sure, I proceeded to drizzle it with white and dark chocolate and sprinkled it with crushed candy canes, but at least the base is natural, high fiber popcorn, right? One thing to keep in mind in general, is that fiber will slow your blood sugar spikes, so you won’t have quite a steep rise and crash as you would if fiber wasn’t in the picture. And we know that Santa needs to watch his blood sugar. IMG_7216
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Chocolate-Peppermint Popcorn (aka: Christmas Crack)
makes about 8-10 cups
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What’s in it:

1/2 cup popcorn kernals
2-3 tablespoons oil (coconut or vegetable oil work well)
sea salt to taste
1 6-oz bar of dark chocolate
1 6-oz bar of white chocolate
3 full sized candy canes, crushed (I put mine into a large plastic bag and used my rolling pin to let out some aggression)

How to make it:

1. Pop the popcorn: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add popcorn kernels and cover. Shake the pot occasionally so the kernels don’t burn. After a few minutes, the kernels will start a-poppin. Shake the pot often until the popping slows or stops.
2. Spread popped corn into an even layer on a large baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with plenty of sea salt.
3. In 2 small microwave safe containers, melt the white and dark chocolate separately, stirring every 30 seconds until it is melted.
4. Drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. You’ll want to work relatively quickly so the chocolate doesn’t fully harden before you sprinkle the candy canes.
5. Allow chocolate to harden at room temperature for at least a few hour or overnight (you can cover with tinfoil once it’s cool).
6. Break the popcorn into chunks and enjoy!

IMG_7227 Let me tell you, Santa will be extra generous this year if you leave some of this out by the chimney.

Oct 232013

I never realized how many things you can make “fries” out of.  Obviously I’ve tried potatoes, sweet potatoes (both baked of course), and even zucchini.  Lately I’ve even seen some really crazy ones at restaurants like avocado, watermelon, and polenta fries.  I wasn’t quite daring enough to try one of those, so I decided to go with eggplant.  These non-fried, non-potato fries were probably my favorite yet, and are the perfect healthy(ish) snack, side dish, or game day munchie.  Disclaimer: you do not actually have to watch the game to enjoy these.
Nutritional Highlights:  Compared to regular fries, we’re already winning big by swapping out the starchy, high-cal potatoes for low cal eggplant.  Plus, we’re not frying them so there goes a lot of the fat.  These do have a little panko-parmesan-herb coating that adds a few of those calories back in, but it’s well worth it.  They’re a pretty low guilt  snack, that is if you can resist eating the whole tray.  Best of luck to you, my friend.
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Baked Eggplant Fries
adapted from Closet Cooking
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What’s in it:
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch thick ‘fries’ (*removing the skin is optional, it can be slightly bitter but I like it)
1 egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (whole wheat if possible)
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
optional: red pepper flakes, cuz I put them in almost everything
marinara sauce for dipping

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 425 and spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.
2. Set up an assembly line with the egg in one shallow dish and the remaining ingredients (panko-parm-herb mixture) in another.
3. Dip the eggplant fries in the egg and then into the panko-parmesan mixture.
4. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet and spray the tops with olive oil spray.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
6. Serve with marinara dip and enjoy!
And a last comment about this recipe…my boyfriend, who adamantly hates eggplant, tried these not knowing the main ingredient and LOVED them.  Score: Eggplant 1, Jeff 0.