Nov 102012

Yes, yes, I’m late again…I know.  This week has been absurdly busy.  First there was that whole hurricane thing, then a trip home to meet my new nephew Owen, then an a cappella concert, then a blizzard, then a midterm, and last but not least, a killer cold.  When I woke up today, barely able to breathe, I knew chicken soup was exactly what I needed.  But at the same time I was craving something super spicy–something that would make me feel/taste something again.  I decided there had to be a way to combine the two, and that’s when I stumbled upon this Buffalo Chicken Soup recipe.  Let’s just say I’m feeling better already!

This soup is filling and healthy, and still has all the flavors (and kick) of buffalo chicken.  The other great thing about this recipe is that it literally took a total of 30 minutes to make.  Perfect when you’re sick and lazy.  

Nutritional Highlights:  This buffalo chicken soup will satisfy your cravings without all that fried chicken-wing goodness.  This recipe uses lots of vegetables (onion, carrot, celery), chicken breast chunks, and whole wheat orzo.  Sure, there’s some blue cheese on top, but a little bit won’t hurt and is completely necessary for this recipe.  Not only is this the perfect soup to help kick your cold, but would also be perfect for Sunday night football (or is it monday? it feels like every day these days…).

Buffalo Chicken and Orzo Soup
adapted from Bake Your Day


2/3 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta (or other mini pasta of your choice)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, roughly chopped

3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ranch dressing seasoning mix (like hidden valley)
3 Tbs. fresh cilantro, divided
32 ounces chicken stock
2/3 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
4 ounces low fat shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/jack mix)
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I used grilled chicken strips from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped and divided
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles


Cook orzo according to package directions until about half-way done. Save 1 cup of pasta water, drain remaining water, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large soup pot. Sauté yellow onion, garlic and half of the green onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until the onions are opaque and fragrant. Add carrots, ranch dressing seasoning and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Stir to combine and sauté until the carrots begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.

Add chicken broth, buffalo sauce, and shredded cheese. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender, but still have a slight bite.
Bring the soup to a boil, add the chicken, cup of reserved pasta water, and underdone orzo and stir frequently until orzo is al dente.
Serve with sliced green onions, additional cilantro and blue cheese crumbles.
Oct 312012

Happy Halloween!  If you live any where on the east coast and you’re like me, you may have completely forgotten it was Halloween.  Since Monday night I have been without power, hot water, internet, and cell phone service.  Last night, I had to watch a movie on a laptop shared with 4 other people (gasp!).  I have been surviving on peanut butter and tortilla chips.  I’m certain this is what it must have been liked during the dark ages.  Well, it will be an extra spooky Halloween tonight in the pitch black, wild-wild west village.  Hope yours is a little less dark than mine! 

I made this simple spooky snack about a week ago and almost forgot to post it today.  I can’t think of an easier festive treat than these apple mouthes.  All they are are apple wedges with a slit cut out, filled with melted salted caramel and decorated with peanut or yogurt raisin “teeth”.  It’s also healthier than your average halloween candy bar and a whole lot more creative.  Wish I had time for a longer blog post for you all but internet is sparce around these parts!

Most importantly, my sister is currently in labor with my first little pumpkin of a nephew.  Expect a baby boy themed blog post *hopefully* very soon!!!  Happy Halloween!!

Oct 212012

“Marissa, just so you know, this is the best smelling thing you’ve ever made”.  Actual words spoken by my boyfriend while I was making these pancakes today.  I’d like to think that I’ve made some pretty great-smelling things in my day, so this was a bold statement.  After apple picking last week, I’ve been struggling to settle on a way to use my beautiful apples, and finally settled on a healthy-ish apple pancake recipe.  So here they are: whole wheat apple-cinnamon pancakes with apple pecan topping…that taste just as good as they smell (or maybe even better).  

I have to admit I’ve never actually made pancakes from scratch before.  Usually “homemade” versions of things require a ton of extra time and effort, but that’s luckily not the case for pancakes.  The batter came together so quickly and allow for more freedom and variations than boxed mix.  The sauteed apple-pecan topping for these was key to really bring out the apple flavor and add a little crunch and nuttiness.  

Nutritional Highlights:  The phrase an apple a day keeps the doctor a way is not totally ridiculous.  Apples have phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar and also are a great source of fiber.  These pancakes are made mostly with whole wheat flour to add fiber and healthy whole grains.  I used low fat buttermilk and skim milk to keep the fat low.  The nuts in the topping also add a little bit of protein and healthy fats.  Can’t say anything good about maple syrup though…except for how it tastes on the pancakes.  

whole wheat apple-cinnamon pancakes with apple-pecan topping

adapted from Ellie Krieger


  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey (I used 1 tablespoon brown sugar instead because I was out of honey)
  • 2 medium apple, separated (one small dice, one thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat four
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more for the topping)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • Pure maple syrup for topping


Preheat the oven to 250. Put the diced apple in a microwave-safe bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap; microwave on high until softened, about 1.5-2 minutes.  Carefully uncover and put it in the freezer while you make the batter so it will cool.  
In a large bowl, whisk the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, nonfat milk, eggs and honey, then slowly add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.  Finally, add the cooled apple chunks.  
For the topping: Heat one skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tspn butter or cooking spray and add the thinly sliced apple.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and let saute, stirring occasionally, while you’re working on the pancakes.  
For the pancakes: Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat. Put a little butter or cooking spray on the griddle.  Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until the tops are bubbly and the edges are dry, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown, about 2 more minutes. Keep the pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven while making the rest.
Once the pancakes are done, hopefully the sauteed apples are soft and warm as well.  Toss in the toasted pecans.  
Place 2 pancakes on each plate. Top with the apple-pecan mixture and drizzle with maple syrup.

Oct 112012

Sorry I’m so late on posting this week!  I’ve been called out on my tardiness by at least two of my friends (you know who you are).  It’s been a crazy week at work with a big deadline tonight!  And when things get stressful, two things happen.  1) my blog and TV shows get neglected and 2) I’m craving comforting food to calm my stress.  So, I made this lighter version of Chicken Parm served over spaghetti squash instead of pasta. 

This recipe is not only healthy but also ridiculously easy to prepare.  All you do is make a mixture of breadcrumbs, spices, and parm, dip your chicken breasts in egg white then the bread crumbs, and bake them until they’re crispy and brown and look like this.    

Then, for the last 5 minutes of baking, you add a little sauce and low fat mozzarella cheese and put them under the broiler to get brown and melty.  I was a little worried that this baked, whole wheat, low fat version wasn’t going to live up to my comfort food cravings, but it was really amazing.  The crust was crispy and flavorful, and melted cheese makes everything better.  Fact. 

Nutritional Highlights:  Chicken parmesan can be a deadly food.  Not only is it fried in oil, it’s covered in high fat cheese and served over a huge plate of pasta.  This version uses whole wheat bread crumbs for fiber, low fat mozzarella, and is baked insead of fried.  By serving it over spaghetti squash instead of pasta, you save a ton of calories and carbs and still feel like you’re eating a big bowl of pasta.  Plus you can eat a lot more without feeling guilty.  And when it comes to chicken parm and “pasta”, more is more. 

Baked Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti Squash
adapted from Skinny Taste


  • 4 (8 oz) chicken breast halves, sliced in half to make 8  (I left mine whole)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • Seasonings for breadcrumbs: 1/2 tspn each of any or all (I used all) of the following: garlic powder, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat or part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced
  • 1 cup marinara 
  • Olive oil cooking spray


Preheat oven to 450°. Spray a large baking sheet lightly with spray. 

Combine breadcrumbs, spices, and parmesan cheese in a bowl.  If you have thick pieces of chicken, pound them out so they are 1/2 inch thickness throughout.  Beat eggwhite in a bowl.

Dip the chicken into the egg white, then dip and press into breadcrumb mixture (make sure both sides are covered). Place on oiled baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Lightly spray a little more oil on top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 5 minutes (or until the chicken is done).

Remove from oven, spoon 1 tbsp sauce over each piece of chicken and top each with 1 1/2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese. Switch oven to broil and broil for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Serve over spaghetti squash or whole wheat pasta with lots of marinara.  
(*Note: I cook spaghetti squash in the microwave!  Just stab it many times with a knife so it doesn’t explode and put on a paper plate in the microwave for 10-15 minutes.  When you remove it, you should be able to easily cut it in half, remove the seeds, and use a fork to pull out the “spaghetti”)

Oct 012012

There’s a specialty restaurant or shop in New York for just about everything.  Some of my favorites: Meatball Shop–a restaurant that makes only meatballs (the best ever), S’mac–serving only mac and cheese varieties, and Waffle and Dinges–a truck that only makes waffles with toppings and always has a line down the street.  So I wasn’t surprised that a specialty popcorn store opened right down the street from me.  What I was surprised by, was that one little bag of popcorn was about $10.  So I decided to make my own cool popcorn, for a whole lot cheaper and at least a little bit healthier.  This Maple-Rosemary version is totally addictive and tastes like fall.  

This recipe also inspired me to pop popcorn in a pan for the first time and I was excited about how easy it was.  Once I popped the corn, all I did was make a quick caramel sauce using maple syrup, (cough… butter), salt, baking soda, and rosemary. I poured it over the popcorn and some roughly chopped pecans and baked in the oven so it would get really crispy and dry.  It’s the perfect sweet and savory mix, evidenced by it’s rapid disappearance.  

Nutritional highlights:  This certainly has some butter and sugar (via the maple syrup) in it.  But still, popcorn is a healthy snack, packed with fiber and helps keep you full.  My version of caramel popcorn is way better for you than the average, since it has a light layer rather than a thick coating.  I’m not saying you should eat a bucket of this (which I probably could have), but a few handfuls won’t hurt and will certainly make you happy. 

rosemary caramel popcorn

adapted from the Healthy Green Kitchen who adapted it from December 2010 issue of Living magazine


*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
*1/2 stick organic unsalted butter (the original recipe calls for a whole stick)
*1/2 cup maple syrup
*1 1/2 tablespoon rosemary leaves
*3/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt (I used a smoked sea salt; start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more to taste)
*1/4 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Place corn kernels and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and cover. Once kernels begin to pop, shake pot frequently; when popping slows to about 3 seconds between pops, remove from heat; uncover. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Cook butter and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to turn amber (225 degrees F., if you have a candy thermometer).
4. Remove from heat. Stir in rosemary, salt and baking soda. Pour over popcorn mixture; toss to coat. Spread out onto baking sheet.
5. Bake about 45 minutes or until dried. Allow to cool and then break up into chunks before serving. This popcorn can be stored in an airtight container for about 3 days.
Sep 172012

I went to the Union Square farmers market expecting to be inspired by the first signs of fall-butternut squash, figs, etc.  But instead, I saw cases and cases of local tomatoes, having their last hurrah of the summer.  So, to salute the end of summer and to make sure those tomatoes didn’t feel abandoned, I made a roasted tomato-basil soup with grilled cheese croutons.

There are plenty of recipes out there that use canned tomatoes, but I wanted to make one that used fresh plum tomatoes, roasted to give them and intense sweet flavor.  


It wasn’t even that high maintenance.  I simply laid out the halved tomatoes, onion wedges, and whole garlic cloves on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them.  Then I pureed all of that, and simmered the mixture along with some red wine, balsamic vinegar, and chicken stock.  For the grilled cheese croutons, I just made some good old grilled cheese sandwiches and cut them into bit sized chunks.  Might sound simple, but there’s just something so good about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  Something that shouldn’t be messed with.

Nutritional Highlights:  This soup is incredibly healthy.  While a lot of vegetables and fruits lose nutrients when cooked, tomatoes actually have higher levels of heart-healthy and cancer-preventing phytochemicals.  The problem with tomato soup at restaurants is that they use tons of heavy cream and salt, making it incredibly high in fat and sodium.  My version was cream free (although I added a little bit of half and half to Jeff’s bowl because he insisted on a creamy soup) but I thought it was flavorful and creamy enough without it.  I made my grilled cheese with high-fiber whole wheat bread and low fat cheese.  This is a great, healthy way to use up all those summer tomatoes.  You can even freeze some for the winter!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Serves 4

  • 3-4 lbs plum tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, large dice
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled (4 left whole for roasting and 2 minced for sauteeing)
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (and some extra set aside for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup regular or fat free half-and-half if you want it to be a little creamier

Preheat oven to 375.  Cut plum tomatoes lengthwise and cut the onion into large chunks.  Lay the tomatoes, onions, and 4 garlic cloves onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.  Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 50 min to 1 hour and allow to cool.

Once the roasted tomato/onion/garlic mixture has cooled a bit, transfer it to a blender and puree until smooth.  

In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook about 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. 

Pour in the pureed tomato mixture and cook about 5 minutes. Then add the tomato paste, sugar, chopped basil, red wine, chicken stock and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce to low and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.  

If you feel the soup is still not smooth enough, you can run through the blender again or use and immersion blender.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

For the Grilled Cheese Croutons:
  • 4 pieces whole wheat bread
  • Cheese of you choice: I mixed low fat mozzarella, low fat cheddar, and full fat asiago cheese because that’s what I had in my fridge.
  • Butter or I can’t believe it’s not butter (or olive oil spray)
Spread a very thin layer of butter or butter substitute on both sides of bread.  You could also just use olive oil spray but I’m a grilled cheese purist.  

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the bread in the pan so it can get crispy on one side.  Once brown and slightly crisp on that side, flip the bread and add the cheese to the crispy side.  Allow the cheese to melt while the other side of the bread gets cripsy.  Once cheese is melted, put the slices together to make two sandwiches.  Continue to cook, flipping as needed until the cheese is completely melted and bread is desired amount of crispness.  

Remove sandwiches from pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut the sandwiches into crouton sized pieces and serve along with the hot tomato soup.  Enjoy!  

Sep 102012

I’ve been wanting to try making salmon cakes for a while, and when I saw a recipe from my very favorite restaurant at Duke, Foster’s Market, I had to try it.  They turned out perfectly and both the cakes and the relish were delish, but I felt like the whole process took just a little too many ingredients, a little to expensive to make, and a little too much work, even for me!  But, they were really tasty and a great last hurrah for summer corn, so I wanted to share the recipe.

Nutritional Highlights:  Even though these were a little high maintenance, they were definitely a healthy and creative way to use one of the healthiest fishes out there–salmon.  The salmon has the omega-3 fatty acids that most of us don’t get enough of.   In addition to the salmon, both the cakes and relish have lots of healthy veggies and herbs.  While these aren’t deep fried, they’re still pan fried so that does add a bit of extra fat but it’s also how you achieve an amazing crispy crust so to me it’s worth it!  Pan fry using a healthy oil like olive or grape seed oil to make sure it’s all healthy fat.

Salmon Cakes with Crunchy Corn Relish
adapted from Foster’s Market

For the corn relish (can make ahead): 

Makes about 3 cups relish
  • Kernels from 4 ears fresh corn (2 cups fresh or frozen corn)
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, julienned fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds (coriander is a strong flavor so make sure you like them before adding)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 7 scallions, trimmed and cut into thinly sliced rounds
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the corn, onion, wine, vinegar, ginger, thyme, garlic, coriander, and sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir and cook about 10 minutes, until the seasonings are incorporated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, scallions, and basil in a large bowl and stir to mix.
3. Add the corn mixture to the pepper mixture and stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. 

For the salmon cakes:

  • 2 pounds cooked salmon (poached or grilled)
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayo or low fat mayo
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Texas Pete)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil for pan frying

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Carefully break up the salmon with a fork into large chunks in a large bowl. Add ½ cup of the bread crumbs, the mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, onion, scallions, jalapeño, basil, hot sauce, salt, and pepper and stir just until mixed. Do not overmix; the salmon pieces should be bite-sized chunks, not fine flakes.
3. Form the mixture into twelve 2½-inch cakes about 1½-inches thick. Coat both sides of the cakes lightly with the remaining bread crumbs, shaking off any excess crumbs.
4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, non-stick skillet. Cook 6 to 8 salmon cakes at a time, about 3 minutes per side, turning only once, until light golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Transfer the cooked, drained cakes to a baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm while the remaining cakes cook. Serve immediately with Crunchy Corn Relish.


See what I mean? TONS of ingredients and tons of work, so I probably won’t be in a rush to make these again.  But, Salmon cakes in general are a great idea so I’ll be in the market for a simple yet tasty recipe!