If you ate too much over Thanksgiving, raise your hands. OK, put 'em down (wow, that was a lot of hands). How many of you are now suffering from PHCG? (That's post-holiday calorie guilt in case you were wondering). Lots of hands again (I raised both). Now, how many of us skipped breakfast this morning, thinking it was a perfectly acceptable way to kick-start our Monday-get-back-on-track plans? Or, how many are guzzling sugar-free energy drinks instead? Oh my...way too many hands. Well, we all know the dangers and pitfalls of skipping real meals--research has shown that we usually end up taking in more calories in one sitting than we do by eating more frequent and smaller meals throughout the day. Did you know that there is a definite link between obesity and higher BMIs for those who routinely skip breakfast compared to those that don't? Breakfast is a golden opportunity to get those metabolisms going, and a chance to provide much-needed nutrients. But, life is just too darn complicated sometimes! That is where these super easy, delicious and nutrition-dense breakfast cookies come in. After all those mashed potatoes and pies, I offer up a protein and fiber rich breakfast cookie, full of complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy nuts and fruit, to help jump start the day and get back on track with those health goals. And (oh my goodness), more holiday meals are just around the corner. Bake up a batch of these, pop them in the freezer, and gird your loins against the calorie onslaught that is looming. A perfect grab and go breakfast. Did I mention they were delicious, far more interesting, and definitely better for you than anything you could possibly find in a can?
November 28, 2011
November 20, 2011
Surprises. They keep things interesting, snap us out of boring patterns, and sometimes provide
Take, for instance, what my dogwood is doing this week...
Surely a flowering tree shouldn't be towards the end of November???? Nevertheless, it is blooming away, in bold defiance of the freezing overnight temperatures we've been experiencing off and on for the last few weeks. Surprising!
Also surprising? Well, I'll have to make a couple of confessions here. First, although I love most vegetables, I've never been a huge fan of squash. Early encounters were not good ones, and consisted of bland and mushy concoctions that were frankly hard to get down. The unfortunate name didn't help either...'squash'...surely it sounds more appetizing in another language? Secondly, I'm not a big fan of stuffing either (I know that sounds slightly heretical this time of year). It's just that I find it doughy, overly moist and, well, superfluous. I simply don't get what virtually everyone else waxes rapturous about. It seems to me that stuffing takes up very valuable plate real estate on the big turkey day.
So, taking the dogwood's bold spirit of non-conformity to heart, I embarked on a personal challenge to find a recipe that features something a little more interesting in the squash and stuffing departments. I was more than happily surprised with the results.
November 14, 2011
I.love.fall. Waning sunshine captured by shimmering, colored trees. Cool mornings when your breath is transformed into vanishing clouds that float away in front of your face. Crisp, clear air, sharp with brightness. A shifting carpet of leaves, shaping and reshaping itself in the breeze, crunching beneath your feet. Fall...my favorite season here in the Midwest. And when I think of fall, my mind invariable wanders towards all things spice. Spices help warm the soul and body, and awaken the senses. One of my favorite spices, or ingredients, is ginger. I am crazy about the deep, warm and fruity bite of this delicious rhizome, and often cook and bake with it, especially this time of year. Ginger has so many wonderful health benefits, which increases my affection for it even more (if that could be possible). This gingerbread cake is layered throughout with a kaleidoscope of spices, made deep, dark and dense by the addition of molasses and brown sugar. Gingerbread, another one of my favorite fall things.
November 7, 2011
Even though I knew they were slightly (OK, a lot) out of season, I just couldn't stop myself from grabbing a package of blackberries at the store last week (those darn impulse issues). I usually try to eat produce in season but these looked too darn gorgeous to pass by (I do admit to berry issues as well). I told myself I was willing to lower my expectations in the flavor department this far out of season (addicts start making deals with themselves, no?) Well, no lowering of the standards was required as the fruit was delicious and just bursting with berry-goodness. So, as someone who is always a day late and a dollar short, my planned postings related to all things fall (apples, cranberry, pumpkin, etc.) will have to wait just another week (or two, or...) while I wax nostalgic over summer berries. As a farewell to the end of the flower season as well, a rosewater cream elevates this dessert beyond 'everyday', and is nearly as delicious as the cake itself.
October 10, 2011
Sometimes life gets too darn busy and certain things fall by the wayside. Like, say for instance, blog postings (mea culpa, mea culpa). So when you want to bake something special, but are feeling swamped with too many responsibilities, big and small, a simple and uncomplicated dessert is so very much appreciated. If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, one thing is probably very clear--I don't make too many things that require too much fuss. Of course, there are always special occasions that I am more than happy to spend a little extra time and creativity on. But, for the most part, I love recipes that come together fairly easily and quickly, so long as they are full of flavor. Segue to this decidedly un-fussy yet delicious crumble, just right for the cooler weather, made even better by the addition of oats, nuts and barley flour...practically guilt-free! The sweet nectarines and tart raspberries compliment each other perfectly. The pumpkin seeds in the topping provide a salty, crunchy foil to the tang of the fruit (and I simply adore their gorgeous green color). Unsophisticated? Perhaps, but delectable with some good-for-you-delicious tweaks thrown in because, well, that's how I roll (wink, wink), and oh-so-special to me because it comes together in a flash. In my book, a perfect dessert.
September 24, 2011
I don't know if I'm becoming a reluctant carnivore or if I am just an ambivalent vegetarian at heart, but as the years slip past I find myself leaning more and more towards meatless meals. Not really for any moral or spiritual reasons, but just because I find meat sometimes, well, superfluous. Now, not to say that I don't enjoy a lovely piece of crisp, salty bacon here and there, or a chewy rib from one of the many delightful barbecue restaurants here in K.C., but those adventures are becoming less the norm and more the exception for me. These days, there are many wonderful complex carbohydrate options out there, and this recipe features one of my new favorites--brown jasmine rice. Back in the day, brown rice was for the real hippies, dense and extremely chewy, and took for-ev-er to cook. Nowadays, the brown rice options available on the store shelves should dissolve anyone's reservations. Brown jasmine rice has all the wonderful fragrant and light qualities of regular jasmine rice, but has a lovely, nutty whole grain flavor and texture that I think is so much more interesting. So, whether you are a card-carrying vegetarian, or a reluctant carnivore such as myself, this dish will satisfy all those taste buds, whatever their leanings...with just a little help from some slightly exotic spices to keep things interesting.
September 17, 2011
As I'm looking outside my windows right now, it is gray, chilly and damp, and I'm left wondering who the heck stole August, and when, I ask, are they bringing it back?!! Well, I am already waxing nostalgic for those bright summer days (not too hot, mind you), pleasant breezes and blue skies. Although I love all the yummy dishes that the cooler weather brings to mind, I'm just not quite ready for pumpkin bread, apple crisps, and maple scones...yet (I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow with a totally different mindset).
But for now, I just happened to have three Meyer lemons calling lovingly to me from the fridge. So, as a final adieu to summer (and my final citrus recipe for the season), I thought I would send you all a postcard in the form of a sweet recipe to remind you of those uncomplicated, bright, sunshiny days.
Having a wonderful time...the weather's been lovely...wish you were here...
September 5, 2011
Once upon a time there was a girl who had a heartfelt desire to share her cooking adventures with anyone who might be interested. She had suffered a health wake-up call once in her past that had sparked a reawakening of her life-long interest in nutrition, and so began the ongoing (and thoroughly enjoyable) journey to better health, through better eating. Now, over the years, this girl began tweaking recipes, trying to come up with healthy alternatives to 'regular' recipes, adding whole wheat flour here, taking out butter there, but she was never willing to sacrifice flavor in the name of sanctimonious deprivation because she knew there were no 'bad' foods, just bad amounts. She read and read and read about nutrition, the Mediterranean way of eating, and whatever current nutrition information she could get her hands on. So, after years of cranking out a few losers and even more ("thank goodness" her family says) winners in the 'healthified' recipe department, said girl decided to share what she had learned over the years, and started a blog.
OK, enough of this third person stuff!
I feel very strongly that food needs to be, first, delicious, and then secondly healthy (or healthier), in that order. It is all about the balance, don't you think? If we eat things only because they are good for us, and if friends and family run the other way when you smilingly offer up a plate of something, what's the point, really? Hence, an uncomplicated yet tasty cookie recipe to provide something simple yet special to tuck into your kids' lunches, as an afternoon snack with a cuppa', or just to share with friends, family or neighbors, for no reason at all, except to send some love their way via your hands, mixing bowl and cookie sheets. And, this post is a way for me to share some of my thoughts on how I cook and bake in what I feel is a healthier fashion...what I like to call stealthy healthy. You might have a different opinion or way of cooking healthy which you and your family like, which is great. These are, however, my thoughts on providing a balanced and joyful way of cooking (and eating) that have been tried and tested over the years. Sweet and simple, just like this cookie.
August 27, 2011
I was never a big soap opera fan and never got caught up in any of the story lines or characters of the main shows of the time, but for some reason during my last year of high school (I'm not divulging how long ago that was) I started watching an episode here and there of The Bold and the Beautiful, and got hooked. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with a certain dark-haired, manly, though perfectly coifed, main character with a jaw line you could slice cheese on. There was just something mesmerizing about the show for me, and I was hooked for a year of two (what did he see in her...or her...I mean really!).
So, what do banana nut muffins and a soap opera have in common? Well, for some reason while baking and subsequently admiring these lovelies, that show title came to mind, and it seemed fitting...these banana muffins are definitely bold and beautiful, slightly addictive, somewhat nutty, and a great way to wind down in the afternoon with a cup of tea or coffee. Where the muffins and show part company however is on Good For You Street (muffins good, ongoing daytime soapie emotional drama bad). The muffins are packed with full-on, one might even say bold banana and toasted walnut flavors, carried on a sweet, moist and slightly dense (but not heavy) cloud of whole wheat goodness, and are blessed with a mesmerizing spice aroma and exterior that are, simply, beautiful. However, unlike some other stars out there, these lovelies get their good looks, eh hem, naturally.
August 15, 2011
OK, so that's a pretty bold title, but I think well-deserved. Let me tell you why! I've been making bread for a long time now, and was pretty intrigued when the now famous no-knead bread sensation raced around the Internet a few years ago. I dove in head first thinking, Eureka, here is the answer to my inner-housegoddess prayers...a way to put homemade, fresh-from-the-oven loaves on my family's dinner table while still working a full-time job and without a laundress! Less fussing, less mess. Great! Right? Well, for me...not so much. Was it just me, I wondered, or was there something just not quite right about this legendary loaf? I found the texture, well, strange and slightly unnatural--almost foamy. I just couldn't put my finger on it. It was over-the-top salty as well (I think the first recipe that was circulating called for 3 teaspoons of salt!) I was, frankly, disappointed. The other problem--you actually had to plan ahead, like a whole day, like the day before you want to eat it. I mean, hello, I'm a card carrying member of the
(Organizationally Challenged Full-Time Working Moms Who Try To Cook Real Food)
and the likelihood of me planning ahead for the next day's meal was, well, pretty darn unlikely. That started a whole recipe tweaking adventure that has been a few years in the making...hence, the well-earned recipe title. If you too have been a little disappointed by the famous no-knead bread, and/or would like to put a delicious, warm and very fulfilling and healthy loaf on your table (without the texture and time commitment issues of said other loaf) with very little, and I do mean very little effort, read on!
August 7, 2011
Summer and salads...they just go together. But sometimes I think it is easy to get in a salad rut this time of year (has anyone else out there overdosed on tomatoes yet?) So when you make a salad that is (you think) something special, something different, something that wakes up the taste buds, is cool and refreshing, and just bursting with healthy goodness, well then that really is a salad to sing (or blog) about! The asian flavors in the dressing drench all the colorful and crunchy vegetables in a bright and rich blanket of ginger, citrus, sesame and soy...plus a little bit of heat to keep things interesting. A beautiful salad, in every way!
July 31, 2011
If you haven't figured out by now, I have a bit of a sweet tooth that is just barely reigned in day after day (and on some days not at all). Being health-conscious and having a sweet tooth is generally a tough juggling act. Sort of like being a mini-version of Sybil, minus a few personalities. I am of the opinion though that you should be able to have your dessert, and eat it too...without having to skip dinner for the privilege. My recipe for blackberry goat cheese tarts, which I am oh so happy to share, is a perfect medley of good-for-you and deliciousness...in some very sensible (not to mention kind of endearing) portion sizes. So go ahead and eat dinner for Heaven's sake...and make sure you save just a little room for one or two of these little gems.
July 24, 2011
Have you been over to Jolly Vindaloo yet? If not, I urge you to jump over for a visit. You will find some tasty and imaginative recipes to spice up your cooking repertoire, not to mention gorgeous photography. This month I'm entering the healthy dessert challenge going on there at the moment with a favorite summer, ah heck, anytime recipe. The challenge asks to provide a dessert recipe that can actually be called healthy (hello! right.up.my.alley). I had a hard time trying to narrow down my entry choice (surprise) but decided on this one as it is a universal favorite with everyone who tries it, and it seemed so right for this time of year. It simply gets rave reviews wherever it goes--family, friends' houses, my work, TH's work. The fabulous part about it is that is uses 100% whole wheat flours and has very little saturated fat...only 3 tablespoons of butter. The other ingredients are healthy as well. Where do I start? Olive oil (heart healthy), yogurt (probiotics), citrus (vitamin C), poppy seeds (too many benefits to mention).
July 11, 2011
Don't you love the summer and all the fresh vegetables on offer? I turn into somewhat of a vegetarian every summer just because of all the beautiful produce available at the markets. I can't seem to get enough! Notice I said 'somewhat'...I mean, I live in one of the barbecue capitals of the world and seriously doubt I could ever walk away from barbecued ribs forever. Anyway...this isn't your boring, I-need-something-next-to-the meat side dish. This vegetarian dish effortlessly becomes the main attraction on any plate, delegating meat to a supporting role. This is like the Albert Brooks of side dishes...complex yet approachable, simple but just a tad sassy (although I'll admit there isn't really anything remotely comical about the dish)!
June 20, 2011
Well, I should say almost Flourless Chocolate Torte. This is a recipe I have been serving (and tweaking) over many years. I know some recipes just can't and/or shouldn't be tampered with, but I felt challenged to try to make this one just a tad healthier if possible as the original recipe calls for nearly two sticks of butter. Some attempts didn't turn out too well, but this one is a real keeper! The texture and flavor hold their own next to the traditional version, as I think the photograph above nicely demonstrates...well, at least the texture part. You'll have to take my word for the flavor bit (deep, intense chocolatey wonderfulness). It's also an easy recipe to throw together, although requires a long cooling off in the fridge to firm up, so plan ahead. The end result is one that you can feel good about making, serving and eating. Now you can have your Flourless Chocolate Torte, and eat it too!
June 11, 2011
There are certain blogs I love to visit because they always provide me with inspiration, and Pastry Studio is one of those sites. This post was born after seeing the recipe there for cornmeal cake. If you haven't visited this site yet, you should pop over and marvel at all the wonderful pictures and recipes there. I loved this recipe so much (tweaked ever so slightly), I actually made it twice in one week. One version with mixed berries (which was delicious, and will likely appear in a later post), and this version, which I loved even more, with a fresh pineapple compote.
May 29, 2011
It's no secret I have a wicked sweet tooth which I work hard to control every day, and I love to bake in every way, shape or form. But, since this is a blog about making healthy choices, I figured it was high time that I posted something in the savory department. This is my version of a recipe found in a wonderful cookbook by Robin Asbell, called The New Whole Grains Cookbook. This book is a treasure trove of recipes for those of us wanting to incorporate more whole grains into our diets, but needing a little help and inspiration. This is my riff on her Quick Bean and Vegetable Couscous recipe. It comes together in a flash, which is great for those hectic weeknights, and is delicious. It was a grande hit here at the house. What I love about this recipe is that there are infinite possible variations...Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, just by tweaking the spices and vegetables a little bit.
May 23, 2011
This recipe is dedicated to all those citrus-aholics out there, myself included, who can't get enough of anything lime, lemon, tangerine, and/or orange, especially this time of year. I feel pretty confidant that Patricia at Technicolor Kitchen is a card carrying member as well, and it is to her that I owe my inspiration for this recipe, which has been only slightly modified (I can't help it).I love keeping a stash of citrus in the fridge so that it is always on hand to brighten up any number of dishes. This cake recipe is a cinch to throw together and could easily be made just an hour or two before eating. The citrus flavor choice could be easily changed to accommodate whatever citrus obsession you are feeling at the moment, be it lemon, tangerine or orange.
May 17, 2011
May 9, 2011
Did anyone read the tweet by Lance Armstrong a few months back? I have a new appreciation for the cycling machine (Lance, not the bicycle) now that I know he is just like the rest of us (well, sort of) and apparently likes to strike a balance between his 'work' and play. He stopped at a coffee shop while training in New York and was so enamored of the cinnamon scones on offer there that he tweeted about them. He is, after all, a scone-ologist, so the man should know a good scone when he meets one. I'm sure it was great for their business and I'm sure they were worthy of merit. But, it got me thinking....
May 4, 2011
Just in time for Mother's Day...the Dessert Formerly Known as Sinful. This is my version of cheesecake, without all the guilt but definitely with all of the flavor. I love cheesecake, in all of its many manifestations, but usually feel as if I've ingested an entire cheesecake after just one slice. I am also one of those strange individuals (any compadres out there?) who enjoy the crust almost as much as the creamy topping...I have texture issues. I'm kind of picky about the cheese mixture as well, so I'm not a fan of the super dense, super thick versions that are out there. I prefer nearly a one-to-one ratio of cheese topping to crust. I just think it is a better balance of flavors, not to mention better portion control.
April 24, 2011
For those of you celebrating...Happy Easter, and Christos Anesti! This little cake looks to be sporting some Sunday finery just for the occasion. Although this might actually fall into the better-for-you-delicious, as opposed to the good-for-you-delicious category, I've worked hard to trim out some of the saturated fat while adding back in a nice dose of heart-healthy goodness, without (of course) sacrificing any of the flavor or texture that one expects in a rich, chocolatey dessert. I adapted this from a pound cake recipe, but trimmed out a whole stick of butter (by swapping in some olive oil and yogurt). The result is really more like Devil's Food--moist, dark and tender, but without all the guilt, hence the name. These are perfect for a Sunday get-together, Mother's Day, or just because. As a card-carrying member of Chocoholics Anon, I can vouch for the flavor punch that this recipe delivers.
April 17, 2011
Blue-ti-ful! No? If you've never made blueberry muffins with fresh berries before, this is the recipe that will surely make you a convert. I think nothing says 'spring' better than fresh berries...except maybe 'citrus', so when you combine the two (dare I say it?)... so berry delicious! This is a delectable way to add some color into the diet (think anti-oxidants, vitamin C, fiber). So much more fun than popping that daily supplement.