Sunday, February 26, 2017


I love breakfast! Give me a baked good or something nice and hot to start my day and I am one happy girl! Here are three of my favorites - and check out the links at the bottom of this post for some other great breakfast ideas!

Quinoa [KEEN-wah] is all the rage these days. It makes an awesome stand-in for rice and a delicious salad. Why not eat it for breakfast? I like to make a big pot at night and then heat and top it in the morning just like you would oatmeal.

Breakfast Quinoa - GF, V

Serves 4
1 c. quinoa
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. pomegranate seeds
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Combine rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 15 min. or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and top a 3/4 c. serving with 1 T. maple syrup, 2 T. pomegranate seeds, 2 T. pecans, and a splash of milk.

This is one of my favorite ways to use up leftover spinach. It adds a nice freshness to this healthier, more portable version of Eggs Benedict.

Spinach, Ham and Egg Sandwich - DF

Serves 1
Cooking spray
1 egg
1 light, multi-grain English muffin
1 T. olive oil mayonnaise
1/4 c. baby spinach
1 slice Canadian bacon
Spray a small skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Crack egg into skillet and cook until yolk is just slightly runny. Meanwhile, split and toast English muffin. Layer sandwich as follows: muffin bottom, mayo, spinach, Canadian bacon, egg, and then muffin top. Eat over your plate and have a napkin ready! :)

If you've followed my previous posts, it should be no surprise that Ellie Krieger is one of my all time favorite chefs. I used to watch her Food Network show Healthy Appetite religiously! These cookies are the perfect on-the-go breakfast. They are filling and they freeze well. I love putting them out in the morning for house guests or bringing them with us when we travel. This smaller size is perfect for kids, but you could also make 12 large cookies, increasing the baking time to 12 min.

Breakfast Cookies (adapted from Ellie Krieger) - V

Makes 28 small cookies
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
2 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 T. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. carrot baby food (small jar)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup oats, rolled or quick
1/2 cup bran flake cereal
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pistachios
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter, oil, and sugars with an electric mixer for 1 min. Add egg, carrot puree, and vanilla and beat 30 sec. Add flour mixture and beat an additional 30 sec.
4. Stir in oats, bran flakes, cranberries, and nuts.
5. Use a small cookie scoop to portion cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten dough balls slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Looking for more breakfast ideas?  Try these:
Banana Bread
Baked Sweet Potato
Donut Holes
French Toast with Plum Syrup
Breakfast Wrap
Banana, Walnut, and Date Smoothie
Multigrain Carrot and Date Muffins
Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Oatmeal with Blueberries, Walnuts, and Bananas

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Three Delicious Dinners

It's been a rough week for cooking around here! I think being house bound is starting to mess with my head a little bit! Among last week's food failures: Kool-Aid-Nothing-Like-Gumdrops gumdrops, Oh-So-Dry-and-Bitter chocolate heart cookies, Momma-Forgot-to-Spray-the-Sheet-Pan oven fries, Not-Supposed-to-Be-Blackened chicken fingers and Little-Brown-Cubes-That-Used-to-Be home fries. I did manage to make three delicious dinners in between all of the culinary carnage. And a new week is beginning. Here's to hoping that the cooking gods decide to put down their middle fingers. :)

I'm crazy for roasted vegetables and the boys are crazy for salmon. This Cooking Light recipe is a match made in heaven for our family. I elected to roast the salmon separately from the squash and wash an extra dish rather than hope everything finishes at the same time. The sweet and salty marinade keeps the salmon moist while the hot oven crisps the edges of the Brussels sprouts and caramelizes the squash. Delish!

Roasted Salmon and Vegetables (adapted from Cooking Light) - GF, DF
Serves 4
Cooking spray
1 1/2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 T. honey
1 T. lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/8 t. ground ginger
4 (5 oz.) salmon filets (I used Aqua Star salmon portions, thawed)
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (look for pre-cut squash to save time)
12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. paprika
1 t. sesame seeds
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 1 baking sheet and 1 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Place salmon in glass baking dish. Combine soy sauce, 1 T. olive oil, honey, lime juice, 1 garlic clove, and ginger and pour over salmon.
3. Put squash and Brussels sprouts on baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Toss to coat and spread out into a single layer. Bake about 25 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring halfway through.
4. Bake salmon for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with vegetables.

Disclaimer: This recipe begins with an entire stick of butter! (It's so good though!) It actually came to mind mid-sip of the last of a bottle of white wine. As luck would have it, I had exactly 1/3 cup left in my glass! So, if you're in the mood to indulge (and you happen to have 1/3 cup of white wine) this is a fast and easy recipe that the whole family will love. And I can even get my 2 year old to eat the shrimp if I cut it up and call it "fish." :)

Shrimp Scampi (adapted from Southern Living's Our Best Easy Weeknight Favorites)
Serves 4
8 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked
1 stick unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 t. pepper
3/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shrimp and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until shrimp are cooked through. Add wine and pepper and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and parsley. Pour over cooked pasta and toss gently.

My picky-eater husband doesn't like soup. I know! It kills me! I could eat soup for every single meal in the fall and winter! At any rate, I can get him to eat this Quiznos-esque recipe without too much protesting - especially if there's lots of sourdough bread for dipping. :)

Serves 4
1 T. + 1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. flour
2 c. half and half
2 c. unsalted chicken broth
1 cup shredded carrots
12 oz. frozen broccoli cuts
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1. Melt 1 T. butter in soup pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until golden. Remove from pot and set aside.
2. Melt 1/2 stick butter in now empty soup pot. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. flour and whisk constantly for 3 minutes. Slowly add half and half and chicken broth while whisking. Simmer 20 min.
3. Add cooked onion, carrots, and frozen broccoli to pot. Simmer 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
4. Pour soup into blender in batches and puree until just slightly chunky.
5. Return soup to pot and add nutmeg and cheese, stirring until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Recipes I Love

I'm not feeling especially Valentine's-y. The boys have been sick and we have been house-bound for over a week now which is making everybody super grumpy. So, I'm turning to recipes I love to lift our spirits. No chocolate. Just easy, yummy, comfort food with a side of hugs and kisses for my runny-nosed little boys. :)

My boys are part monkey. They start almost every day with at least one banana and have been known to take out entire bunches between the two of them. Nevertheless, we regularly end up with bananas past their prime and regularly turn them into delicious banana bread. I have this recipe memorized. It freezes well and is extremely forgiving to distracted moms and little "helping" hands. 
P.S. Not sure why this photo came out so dark... Luckily I will have many more opportunities to snap a better one - this bread is a staple in our house!
P.P.S. A friend of mine made this into mini muffins by reducing the baking time to 18 minutes. :)

Serves 8
Cooking spray
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnut (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with and electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate. In a  medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla and mix to combine. Stir in nuts, if using, and pour into loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

My sweet husband got me cooking classes for my birthday a few years ago and for anyone living in the Reisterstown, MD area, I would highly recommend taking a class with Chef Diane at For the Love of Food. One of our homework assignments was to develop a pan sauce for sauteed chicken breasts. My sauce was inspired by a dish I love at Carrabba's called Pollo Rosa Maria. I like to serve it with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.

Chicken & Mushrooms with Lemon Basil Pan Sauce (adapted from CDKitchen) - GF
Serves 4
2 T. olive oil
4 T. butter, divided
8 chicken cutlets
Salt & pepper
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. dry white wine
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. chopped basil
1. Heat olive oil and 2 T. butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper. When butter starts starts to sizzle, place 2 cutlets in skillet and cook about 3 1/2 min. per side or until done. Set aside and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
2. Add onion and garlic to empty skillet and cook until tender, 2-3 min. Add wine, mushrooms, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t.  pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon to loosen the brown sticky bits on the bottom of the skillet (fond). Cook until mushrooms are tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 min. Stir in remaining 2 T butter, lemon juice and basil. Spoon mushrooms and sauce over chicken.

These lettuce wraps are delicious! I usually use romaine lettuce leaves because they are sturdier and crunchier, but Bibb lettuce looks so pretty. I cut back on the sriracha to make it more kid friendly so you may want to add a little more right before eating. I served these with powdered sugar wontons (recipe below).

Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Ellie Krieger) - GF, DF
Serves 4
2 t. canola oil
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced and greens separated from whites
1 lb. ground turkey
1 1/2 t. sesame oil 
3 T. low-sodium soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. sherry
1/2 T. sriracha
1/4 c. hoisin sauce
8 oz. water chestnuts, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 c. peanuts
Romaine hearts or Bibb lettuce leaves
Heat oil and ginger in large skillet over medium heat. Add scallion whites and cook 2-3 min. Add ground turkey, break up meat with a potato masher, and cook until no long pink, about 5 min. While turkey cooks, stir together sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sherry, sriracha, and hoisin sauce. Add sauce to skillet, stir, and cook 3-4 min. Add water chestnuts and red pepper and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle scallion greens and peanuts over the top and serve with lettuce leaves and additional sriracha.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spice It Up!

Spices are a great way to make food more delicious without adding extra fat or calories. And thinking globally gives us an infinite variety of ways to spice up what we eat. I think we do a disservice to our kids when we assume that they won't eat something just because it is "spicy." I think we should encourage our kids to try all sorts of new foods and help support their taste exploration. So with each of the following recipes, I included some strategies for helping kids to enjoy unfamiliar flavors.

I think my oldest son was eating chili before he was talking! And the secret is... sour cream. We would give him a little bowl of (mild) chili and a little bowl of sour cream and when he started feeling that "spicy" sensation we would have him taste the sour cream to cool his mouth down a bit. You can also use plain yogurt like they do in a lot of Indian cuisine or even a glass of milk. "Spicy" is a new sensation for kids and if you show them how to control how it, they may find that they actually like it!

There are a lot of great chili recipes out there. But for some reason, more often than not I find myself craving the chili from Wendy's. It's nice and basic and easy. You can spice it up however you like and add whatever topping you want. We leave out the beans for my picky-eater husband. (This is a repeat recipe from Super Bowl week 2013.)
Serves 8
2 lb. lean ground beef
1 quart tomato juice
1 (29 oz.) can tomato puree
1 large onion, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 c. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. sugar
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos for serving (optional)
In a large pot, brown the ground beef. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

Strategy #2 - Let kids help prepare food. This is a great recipe with lots of ingredients for kids to smell and taste as they are added to the pot. Older kids can also help cut up the vegetables with a nylon serrated knife like this one from Pampered Chef.  I think kids are more likely to try something they've made themselves. I serve this with Near East Whole Wheat Couscous with Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro stirred in.

Serves 4
2 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 T. minced fresh garlic
2 T. flour
1 1/2 T. curry powder
1 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 c. cauliflower florets
1 c. diced red potatoes
4 c. vegetable broth (I like Pacific)
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. salt
15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. light coconut milk (I like Thai Kitchen)
Lime wedges for serving (optional)
1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add flour and curry powder and cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in butternut squash, cauliflower, and potatoes. Add vegetable broth, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in chickpeas, peas and coconut milk. Season with salt to taste and serve with lime wedges (optional).

Strategy #3 - Everything on the side. When I make this for the boys, everything is separate - noodles, chicken, sauce, and some extra uncooked vegetables. They get to decide what goes in their bowls and what doesn't and we can all enjoy our personalized dinners just the way we like them. This is definitely a simplified recipe, but the flavors are there. Lime juice and brown sugar substitute for tamarind paste, I leave out the eggs, and I don't stir fry the noodles.

Serves 4
8 oz. Pad Thai rice noodles
1/4 c. brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. fish sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
1/2 T. sriracha hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
3 scallions, roughly chopped
1/2 c. peanuts
1 1/2 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 c. cilantro
1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions.
2. In a small bowl, pour 1/4 c. boiling water over brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, and garlic and stir.
3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and stir fry 1 minute. Add sauce and cook, stirring for a few minutes. 
3. In a small food processor, process carrot, scallions. and peanuts until finely chopped. Stir into the sauce and remove from heat.
5. Toss noodles and chicken with sauce and top with cilantro.

Monday, February 6, 2017


One of my all time favorite spices and one of my all time favorite words to make my two year old say - "Cinnamon."

I'm not a huge dessert person. But, when it's cold outside one of my favorite treats to enjoy after the kids go to bed is a steamy cup of hot chocolate. The mixes don't do it for me. Even when you find one without a bunch of junk in it, I still feel like there's a weird saltiness to it. On the other hand, at the end of the night I don't want to go to a lot of trouble for a great cup of hot chocolate. So this is my compromise. Enjoy!

Serves 1
2 T. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 T. + 1 c. milk, any kind you like
2 t. light brown sugar
1 t. cocoa powder
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1. Microwave chocolate chips and 1 T. milk in a microwave-safe mug for 1 minute. Add sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir with a fork until well-combined.
2. Microwave 1 c. milk in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup for 2 minutes. Add hot milk to the mug a little at a time, stirring well with a fork after each addition.

Sweet potatoes for breakfast? Yes, please! This is a modified version of a Week 2 breakfast from my 2013 cleanse and a delicious way to start the day in the fall and winter. I usually bake a bunch of these on an evening when my oven is still hot from dinner. Then I just microwave and top them in the morning.

Serves 1
1 medium sweet potato
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 T. chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potato with a fork and wrap in foil. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Split open with a knife. Sprinkle cinnamon and pecans over potato.

You can thank my husband for this recipe. Our family had dinner at Red Robin over the weekend and my request for a take-home donut tower was denied. Luckily, I'm resourceful...

Makes 24
Canola oil
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. melted butter
1/2 c. milk
Cinnamon and sugar
1. Heat 2 inches of canola in a heavy medium saucepan over medium high heat until a candy thermometer registers 350 degrees.
2. Whisk together the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk together the egg, sugar, butter and milk in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
3. Use a small cookie scoop to portion and drop batter into hot oil, about 6 donuts at a time. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain the oil temperature. Fry donuts until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.
4. While the donuts are still hot, drop them into a bowl with 1/2 c. sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon. Roll the donuts around until they are well coated.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Warm & Toasty

At first glance, this soup's ingredients will make you raise an eyebrow. But trust me on this one - it is totally crave-able! The soup was one of the Week 4 Dinners from my 2013 cleanse and I have made it at least once every year since. Nom nom...

Serves 4
4 c. low sodium chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 minced garlic clove
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (~2 c.)
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 c. smooth almond butter
1 c. collard leaves, coarsely chopped (~3 leaves)
1/2 t. ground ginger
Juice of half a lime (don't skip this -it adds so much flavor!)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1. Combine broth, onion, garlic, and sweet potato in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the chicken. Cover and simmer for 20 min.
2. Add the collard leaves and ground ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 5 min.  In a small bowl, whisk together almond butter and 1/2 c. of the soup mixture into a thick paste. Stir almond butter paste and lime juice into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

This is a repeat recipe from Valentine's Day week 2013, but it is one of my favorites! I will warn you though, it has ruined every other French toast for me. The genius of this recipe is the omission of egg whites which gives the finished product a custard-like interior. Divine. But now I can't eat any other French toast without being overwhelmed by the sulfury flavor of those darn egg whites...

It's hard to improve upon an America's Test Kitchen recipe. However, I do omit the melted butter because I typically cook my French toast on a griddle that has just cooked bacon (oh yeah!).  So, I don't feel the need for extra fat. I also reduce the amount of brown sugar from 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon because honestly, nobody is going to eat French toast without at least a drizzle of something sweet on top.

Speaking of which... I have been super into swapping my syrup for fruit toppings lately. It makes me feel a little bit better about all of the white flour and sugar I'm consuming. :)  My favorite topping on French toast is the plum syrup in the recipe below. But I recently made Cooking Light's blueberry topping for lemon ricotta waffles that was delicious. And for Christmas morning last year I made Ellie Krieger's whole wheat waffles with a yummy strawberry topping that uses maple syrup instead of sugar as the sweetener.

Ok, so I have a lot of thoughts about French toast! And now this song is stuck in my head...

French Toast (adapted from America's Test Kitchen) with Plum Syrup (adapted from Michel Roux) - V
Serves 4
2 T. sugar
1 bay leaf
2 plums, diced with pits removed
8 slices lightly toasted challah bread, ~1/2 in. thick
1 1/2 c. milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 T. vanilla extract
1. Place plums, sugar, bay leaf, and 2 T. of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.
2. Preheat a non-stick electric griddle to 325 degrees and spray with cooking spray. Whisk remaining ingredients together in a large baking dish.
3. Soak toasted bread in milk mixture 20 seconds per side. Using a firm slotted spatula, pick up bread slice and allow excess liquid to drip off. Transfer to griddle and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.
4. Remove bay leaf from plum sauce and serve with French toast.

Fast. Easy. Delicious. 'Nuff said.

Serves 4
1 1/2 pound skirt steak (or any steak you like)
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray
2 T. butter
1 lb. Brussels sprouts
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 t. fresh lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)
1. Cut steak in half and generously season steak with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add steak and cook to desired doneness, about 5 min per side. Transfer to a plate to rest.
2. Meanwhile, halve and then thinly slice Brussels sprouts. Heat empty skillet to medium and add butter to melt. Add Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until crisp-tender, 3-5 min. Remove from heat and stir in almonds and lemon juice.

This was one of the Week 1 dinners from my 2013 cleanse. It works really well as a vegetarian entree, but I also like pairing it with pork tenderloin or a mild white fish.

Servings: 4 sides or 2 main courses
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. Kalamata olives
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle cauliflower and red pepper with 2 T. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden, 18-20 min.
2. Whisk together remaining 2 T. olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over vegetables. Top with olives, almonds, and parsley, if using.