Jun 262011
I’m all about healthy eating most of the time, but when it’s your best friend’s birthday, you’re not going to make a her a nice salad with a candle in it to show her you care.  So for Katie’s birthday, I made the tastiest, moisest carrot cupcakes EVER.

There’s nothing I can really say in health-defense of the maple cream cheese frosting on these babies, but I can say that in the 24 cupcakes I made, in went an entire pound of shredded carrots, a cup of chopped pineapple, and some chopped pecans.  So they basically count as a serving of fruits and veggies, right?  Maybe not quite, but at least you’re not eating something totally and completely nutritionally void.  But if you are, who cares, it’s your birthday.  

Anyway, I dwelled on which recipe to choose for a while, and in the end went with Ina Garten’s recipe and it did not disappoint.  I included a few easy healthy substitutions that you can try or just follow the recipe as is.  Enjoy!

My new favorite Carrot Cake recipe

adapted from Ina Garten


  • 2 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar)
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil (I used 2/3 cup oil, 2/3 cup apple sauce for secret healthy swap)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (I used 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup raisins (optional…I left them out because I think it makes them seem like more of a muffin than a cupcake…personal preference)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans and only added to half of the batter to please nutters and non-nutters alike)
  • 1 pound carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.  (Or as I did, fill 2 cupcake trays with liners)

For the cake:

Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts (if using) with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (about 25 minutes for cupcakes), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

And don’t think I forgot about the frosting!
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious

  • 10 ounces cream cheese (such as Philadelphia), room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 30 minutes.

    May 252011
    I spend a lot of time trying to dream up inventive dishes for this blog, and I think I do a pretty good job representing a lot of different types of food (except for maybe red meat/pork…I swear I’ll try to expand my horizons into that portion of the farmyard one day).  But, I realized recently I’ve been completely neglecting one very important food group–sandwiches!  Yes, it’s a food group.  How could I have been so disrespectful as to completely ignore and take for granted something I eat almost every day.  So here it is, a cook tush original Tuna Salad Sandwich. 
    I always loved tuna salad growing up, and didn’t realize until later in life how it can be secretly really terrible for you…sneaky chicken of the sea.  This version replaces almost all of the mayo with plain yogurt to keep the creaminess without adding the fat and a little lemon juice keeps it from being “fishy” and brings out all the other flavors.  I wanted to make mine a “harvest” tuna salad so I added chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, apple chunks (but you could easily stay traditional and do onion/celery type tuna).  
    Nutritional Highlights:  This tuna salad sandwich literally fills every food group–protein from the tuna and walnuts, fruit from the apples and cranberries, vegetables from the fresh greens, healthy whole grains in the bread, and a tiny bit of dairy from the yogurt.  A lot of us don’t get the 2 weekly servings of fish that we need and this is a great way to get it.  Although water-packed tuna doesn’t have quite as many Omega 3’s as a fresh pieces of salmon, it’s still a great source (and might be preferred to people who don’t consider themselves “fish” eaters).   

    Healthy Harvest Tuna Salad Sandwich

    • 1 – 6 oz can of tuna
    • half of a green apple, diced
    • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
    • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
    • juice from 1/4 lemon
    • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
    • 1 teaspoon low-fat or fat-free mayo
    Directions:  Mix all of the above ingredients and season with a little salt and pepper.  Add additional yogurt or mayo if you reallllly need it to be more moist.  Make sandwich with lots of greens and toasted whole wheat bread.  Enjoy your guiltless tuna!!

    May 082011
    I consider myself pretty athletic (cough, for a girl)–I’ve always been able to throw a ball, can sink some surprising shots in a game of horse, and can swim like nobody’s business–but I’ve just never been able to call myself a “runner”.  I really admire runners, and the kind of fitness it requires, so this spring, I’ve decided I’m going to try to become one of them.  Nothing crazy, no marathons in my future, but I’d just like to be able to run 5+ miles without stopping (or passing out).  And with every new goal, comes a new snack…at least that’s how it works in my world.  So I made these quinoa energy bars as a perfect pre or post run snack (or even a high energy breakfast for any day of the week).  

    Nutritional Highlights:  These bars are great fuel for a runner: plenty of protein from the quinoa, healthy fat from energy-dense nuts and seeds, and carbohydrates (the body’s preferred source of energy) from the oats, flour, and sugars in the dried fruit.  When you make an energy bar yourself, you know exactly what’s going into it…no crazy preservatives you can’t pronounce, no corn-syrup, just good natural ingredients.  This recipe is also incredibly versatile to fit your tastes–switch up the dried fruit and nuts to include your favorites.  

    Quinoa-Nut Power Bars
    adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
    makes 15 bars
    2 cups oats, rolled, quick cooking
    1/2 cup quinoa
    1/4 cup flaxseed meal
    1/2 cup soy protein powder (optional…I’m kind of afraid of protein powder, plus I’m not trying to beef up so much)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1 cup raw nuts:  combination of walnuts, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds (or any other nut you have/like)
    1/2 cup dried fruit: I used a mixture of dried blueberries and cranberries but any combination would work
    1/2 cup sweetened coconut, shredded  (if you don’t like coconut, just use more dried fruit)
    1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (I didn’t know what this was, so I used 1/4 cup honey instead)
    1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/4 cup oil (can also replace with applesauce or mashed banana for a lower fat version)
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    Instructions: Cook dry quinoa according to directions. While this is cooking, combine oats, flax, protein powder, baking soda, evaporated cane juice, flour, walnuts, seeds, cranberries, coconut and sea salt in a large bowl.
    Once quinoa is cooked, add to the pan the oil, vanilla and water. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together.
    Spread mixture into greased 9 x 13-inch pan, pressing down with hands to fit into pan. Dough may seem slightly dry, but this is okay. Bake for 20 minutes at 350ºF. Allow to cool and cut into pieces.  Freeze extras that you won’t eat within 1 week.  

    Enjoy your bars and your jog!!

    And sorry for my lack of posting lately…finals in my grad classes this week!  I’ll be back in full force next weekend…likely, with a cocktail recipe :)
    Apr 042011
    I have to admit, I’m guilty of overcomplicated-recipe

     making.  Recipes that require you to go out and buy random, expensive ingredients like bulgar, forbidden rice, or tahini to name a few.  Sometimes you just want something basic, versatile, quick, and cheap.  Well, if you have some chicken breasts and a well stocked spice rack then you’re all set for this recipe.  I know, crazy.  
    The flavorful blackening mixture is paprika, thyme, cumin, oregano, garlic powder (or fresh garlic), onion powders, salt, black and cayenne pepper.  Or you can buy a prefab blackening spice mix–I don’t judge.  

    Rub that mixture all over your chicken breasts and spray a very hot grill with olive oil spray.  That’s literally all the fat added to this chicken.  Not bad.

    And let it grill.  Try not to move your chicken breasts until they’re ready to be flipped for maximum grill linage.

    You can also create this fancy criss-cross design if you want to be really fancy.  

    Now that you have perfect spicy blackened chicken, you can do almost anything with it!  I made a salad with some mango and avocado slices.  You could also use it in sandwiches, wraps, or just eat it straight up with some veggies or rice.  When you start with something really simple, you can be creative with how to use it.  

    Nutritional highlights:  I know I’ve been putting up a lot of vegetarian recipes lately, but I think lean protein like organic chicken breasts are great in moderation.  This chicken has a spice rub rather than a marinade so you cut out a ton of fat that would usually be in your marinade.  I can’t promise it’s true, but I’ve read that spicy food helps speed up the metabolism and help you burn more calories.  Also, remember that a serving of meat is 3 oz (about the size of a deck of cards) so just because an 8 oz chicken breast looks like “1” item, you aren’t required to eat it all at once :)

    Blackened Chicken Breasts


    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1/2 teaspoon each: paprika, dried thyme, cumin, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper
    • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper depending on how much hot you can handle

    Mix all your spices together and coat your chicken breasts with the mixture (just so you have a light coating, you don’t have to use it all).  Heat a grill pan on high.  Spray with olive oil or cooking spray and put chicken breasts on at a diagonal.  After about 2-3 minutes, turn chicken (not flip) to the opposite diagonal to create the X pattern on my chicken and let sit another 2-3 minutes.  Spray the top of the chicken breasts and flip.  Repeat on the other side until chicken has had about 10 minutes of cooking time.  Time varies based on the size of your chicken–you know it’s done when you press the thickest portion and it feels pretty solid (or you can cut into it).  

    Enjoy your versatile chicken in salads, sandwiches, or any other way you can think to use um!

    Mar 292011

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve had whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana…but something about it was just better this morning…