Tag Archives: Healthy

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

I recently made these frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites from Fabulessly Frugal. I liked the idea that they were a two-bite, healthier dessert option that I could easily store in the freezer. So one Saturday, I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and went to work. Once the little bites were frozen, I popped them off the sheet and put them in a freezer bag for easy storage.

While I don’t think my husband was a huge fan, both my three year old and I loved them! I do recommend letting them sit out for a few minutes before eating them so they thaw just a bit. That way, they’re soft and creamy, just like banana ice cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

3 large bananas
½ cup chocolate chips (either semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
Toppings (optional- peanuts, coconut, etc.)

1. Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

2. Cut up the bananas into ½-inch pieces. Each banana should give you around 6-8 pieces.

3. Heat the peanut butter and chocolate chips in the microwave on high for about a minute. Then stir until smooth.

4. Dip the banana pieces in the chocolate-peanut butter mixture, being sure to coat all sides.

5. Place them evenly on the parchment or wax paper.

6. Top with toppings if desired.

7. Transfer to the freezer for about an hour until hardened. Once frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag or an air-tight container.

All-Natural Coconut Bars

Olivia and I first had these coconut bars at her “best friend’s” birthday party. (Yes, she has a best friend- two actually, and she will tell anyone who will listen that “Addy and Bridget are my best friends.”)

Addy’s mom made these coconut bars for dessert, and I was in heaven! They remind me of the Neapolitan-colored coconut ice candy I used to eat as a kid, only these are all-natural and a lot healthier. Each bar is around 100 calories.

Coconut Bars
From Chocolate-Covered Katie 

Makes 12-14 bars

2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup agave or pure maple syrup
4 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pour into a small casserole dish (I used an 8×8 inch) and refrigerate for an hour before cutting. If you are in a hurry, you can also put them in the freezer for 15 minutes to set before cutting. Bars can be stored in the fridge or freezer for a couple of weeks.

Spring Vegetable Pasta with a Lemon Cream Sauce

Since this little human I am growing has left me utterly exhausted recently, I haven’t been doing much adventurous cooking or trying many new recipes. Now that I’m in my second trimester, both my energy and my cooking are making a comeback.

I recently tried this Spring Vegetable Penne from the most recent issue of Cooking Light and LOVED it. The lemon cream sauce is both comforting and bright at the same time, and the veggies are perfect in it.  The only thing I might do differently next time is grill the asparagus for some extra flavor (and just because I can, since it’s finally nice out).

Spring Vegetable Pasta with a Lemon Cream Sauce

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 (4 oz) package presliced mushrooms
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
½ cup half-and-half
¾ cup frozen green peas
3 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese, divided
½ tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz uncooked penne (I used vegetable pasta, hence the reddish color)
1 pound (1 in) diagonally cut asparagus


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add thyme and garlic; sauté 1 minute.

2. Sprinkle mushroom mixture evenly with flour; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

3. Stir in broth and half-and-half; cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add peas, 2 tablespoons cheese, rind, and next 3 ingredients (through pepper); cook 1 minute or until peas are thoroughly heated.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add asparagus to pot; drain.

5. Add pasta mixture to mushroom mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cheese.


Healthy Snacking Made Easy

A few months ago, I started seeing these boxes showing up in the mail room at work. Then, within a matter of days, a couple of my friends posted pictures of them on Facebook. I was intrigued, so I decided to Google what the heck a “Nature Box” was.

Photo via Naturebox.com

Picture healthy, all natural snacks delivered right to your home or office each month—everything from granola to raspberry bars to pretzel bites—and you have Nature Box. I decided to give it a try because I figured I could use some healthier snack options at work. As it turns out, my entire family wanted in on the goods! And I have no problem with my daughter snacking on any of it because I know it’s made of natural, healthy good stuff.

The boxes start at $19.95 a month, which is the size I signed up for. In my first box, I got Lemon Meringue Waffles, Italian Pretzel Bites, Raspberry Bars, Taj Mahal Snack Mix, and Banana Bread Granola. I was expecting almost sample sizes of each item, but I actually got full-sized packages (about the size you’d expect if you bought the same items at Trader Joe’s). There wasn’t anything we didn’t like in the box, and my husband especially loved the Taj Mahal Snack Mix. The Raspberry Bars (kind of like Fig Newtons) were my fav.

If you’re trying to eat low carb, this might not be your best option. But if you’re just looking for quick, easy, healthy snacks for you and/or your family, then I would give Nature Box a shot. It is actually not a bad deal considering what you get in each box. I know my family will be eagerly awaiting our May box!

Homemade Bran Muffins

My mom used to make these bran muffins all the time when I was little. I can still remember running downstairs to the smell of these in the oven and staring through the glass until they were done. Even though this recipe makes a ton (around 5 ½ dozen), the batter lasts in the refrigerator for up to six weeks, so you don’t have to make them all at once.

Homemade Bran Muffins

1 15 oz pkg wheat bran flakes cereal with raisins (I used FiberOne Raisin Bran Clusters)
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 qt buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line muffin pans with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a very large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

3. Add eggs, buttermilk, and oil; stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. At this point, you can either choose to bake some or all of the muffins, or you can cover the batter and store it in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

4. To bake, spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 12-15 minutes.


How to Make a (Healthy!) Meal for $3 a Person

I am all about trying to stretch a buck. I plan our meals each week and shop only for what I need; I plan around what’s on sale at the grocery store; and I try to get more than one meal out of ingredients when possible (like using roasted veggies for pizza one night and paninis the next).

So when I realized I put together this yummy (and healthy) meal for around $3 a person without even trying, I had to give myself a pat on the back! We can’t all eat at McDonald’s for $3 a person—and this meal is way healthier.

I kept the ingredient list short by keeping the cooking simple. I roasted a pound of brussel sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400° for about 35-40 minutes. After cutting up three large baking potatoes, I tossed them in olive oil and Herbes de Provence, covered them in foil, and baked for 20 minutes. I then removed the foil and continued baking for another 15 minutes.

The real money saver here was the boneless pork chops, which I sprinkled with an herb blend and pan grilled. Pork is a great low-cost alternative to chicken or beef. My grocery store usually has pork chops on sale for around $3 a pound, and you can generally get four pork chops for under two pounds.

Not bad for three bucks, right? That’s less than a Big Mac … and probably less calories!

Must-try Healthy Foods for 2013

New year, new opportunities! Make 2013 the year you jump on the healthy food trend bandwagon and cook outside the box. Here are my favorite healthy foods YOU should be trying this year.

1. Kale
Kale is the superstar of the leafy green family. Not only is it high in antioxidants, it contains important nutrients like Vitamins A and C, iron, fiber, potassium, and calcium. If you’re a beginner, try working kale into a pasta dish (it resembles spinach when it’s sautéed in a little garlic and olive oil). Try this Garlic Lemon Kale Pasta or this Kale and Bacon Risotto. You can also brush kale leaves with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for about 15 minutes at 350° for a crispy, savory snack!

2. Quinoa
This grain is high in fiber and protein and can be substituted for rice and pasta in many dishes for a more nutritional option. And bonus, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa! For maximum flavor, cook quinoa in a vegetable or chicken broth instead of plain water. My favorite quinoa recipe so far is this Southwestern Quinoa dish. So yummy!

3. Lentils
Lentils can be tricky to cook (often turning out either crunchy or mushy), but if you can nail the process, this pantry staple has the same amount of protein as a steak! I love these Mushroom Lentil Burgers I made from Cooking Light (they use precooked lentils!), and I also make this Butternut Squash, Chicken, & Lentil Stew that is simply delicious!

4. Greek Yogurt
There’s one big reason why I prefer Greek Yogurt over regular yogurt—it has about double the protein for the same amount of calories. With so many brands jumping on the Greek Yogurt train, there are lots of options, and there’s almost always one that’s on sale. I love Chobani and Dannon’s Oikos yogurt. And it’s not just for breakfast—plain Greek Yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream!

5. Brussel Sprouts
I have to admit, I used to turn my nose up at brussel sprouts—and without cause, as I had never even had them. But once I tried them, I was hooked! Brussels are packed with vitamins, iron, folate, and fiber, and they happen to be super easy to make. Just cut off the ends, drizzle the brussels with olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and roast at 400° for about 35-40 minutes.

What healthy foods are you looking forward to trying (or eating more of, hopefully!) this year?

Cedar Plank Salmon Salad

Ryan has been on this Omega-3 kick lately, so we’ve been eating more salmon, beans, winter squash, etc. When he suggested a salmon salad for dinner the other night, I decided to try to recreate my favorite salad from Coastal Flats, the Short Smoked Grilled Salmon Salad. Olivia’s not a great salad eater yet, but since this salad has red potatoes and green beans in it, she had a complete meal with the salmon without us having to make a separate dish.

The key to this salad is in the grilling. At Coastal, the salmon has a delicious smoky flavor and is crispy on the outside while buttery and pink on the inside. We tried to replicate some of that smoked flavor by grilling the salmon on cedar planks. It worked like a charm! Just be sure to buy cedar planks specifically for grilling (available at most big box hardware stores, Target, etc.), and soak them in water for at least an hour before grilling.

Cedar Plank Salmon Salad

2 salmon fillets
1 medium onion
5 medium red potatoes
2 cups petite whole green beans
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 (7 oz) bag of sweet butter lettuce or tender salad greens
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch granulated sugar
balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

Cut your potatoes into quarters and boil until they pierce easily with a fork. Drain the potatoes and toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings or herbs you might want to add. Set aside.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Roughly chop your onion and add it to the pan. Cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and continue cooking until the onions are browned and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare your salmon for grilling by rubbing with remaining olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Once your planks are ready, heat them on the grill according to the directions on the plank packaging. Add your salmon to the hot side of the plank and grill for about 12 minutes (no need to flip).

While the salmon is grilling, cook your green beans. I use frozen steam-in-the-bag petite green beans, so it just takes 5 minutes in the microwave. If you use fresh green beans, just steam them until tender or boil for a few minutes and then blanch in cold water.

Split salad greens between two plates and top each with tomatoes, caramelized onions, potatoes, goat cheese, and green beans. Place a salmon fillet on top of each salad and serve with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette if you desire.

Our New Favorite Quinoa Recipe!

I wrote in this post last month that I was trying to incorporate more quinoa (aka the “super grain”) into our diets. I have lived up to my end of the deal by trying all kinds of different variations and recipes, but this one is now the hands down favorite! I started with this recipe from  Allrecipes.com as a base, and then I made my own little tweaks. This dish has so much flavor, and you can even make it spicy if you want by adding more cayenne pepper and diced jalapeños. We ate this as a one-dish meal, but you could leave the chicken out and have it as a side dish.

Southwestern Quinoa

2 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Soak the quinoa in cold water for about 10-15 minutes and then drain the water. (Rinsing the quinoa like this cuts the bitterness.)

While the quinoa is soaking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Use a meat tenderizer to flatten and even out the chicken breasts slightly (to about a half inch thick) before adding them to the pan. Cook the chicken 6-7 minutes on each side or until it’s cooked through. Set the chicken aside to rest before chopping it up.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the vegetable oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender and slightly brown. Add the quinoa to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. This toasts the quinoa a bit and brings out the nutty flavor.

Cover the quinoa with the vegetable broth, and add the cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Dice the chicken while the quinoa is cooking. Once the quinoa is done, add the frozen corn and the chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Finally, stir in the black beans and cilantro and remove from heat.


Mushroom Lentil Burgers

I saw this recipe in the August issue of Cooking Light, and since I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes to add to our menu, I decided to give it a shot. They were really good! As my husband said, you have to like mushrooms because it’s chock-full (though I can’t imagine why you’d make mushroom lentil burgers if you didn’t!).

If I had a con for these burgers, it would be that they’re really, really fragile. I suppose that’s to be expected with veggie burgers, but you have to be very gentle when flipping these—and even then, they may fall apart a tiny bit. Even with that, I managed to make four respectable and delicious burgers!

Mushroom Lentil Burgers
From Cooking Light

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 regular or whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted and divided
6 ounces presliced cremini mushrooms
1 (8-ounce) pouch precooked black beluga lentils (such as Archer Farms)
4 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 tbsp canola mayonnaise
1/2 cup baby arugula

Preheat broiler.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Remove from heat.

Place 1 bun in a food processor; process until coarse crumbs form. Remove breadcrumbs from food processor; set aside.

Combine mushrooms, lentils, 2 teaspoons mustard, and the next 3 ingredients (through salt) in food processor; pulse to combine.

Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs, mushroom mixture, and egg in a large bowl, stirring well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add patties; cook for 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove patties from pan; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle patties evenly with cheese. Place under broiler for 2 minutes or until cheese is softened.

Combine canola mayonnaise and remaining 2 teaspoons mustard in a small bowl. Spread the top half of each of the remaining 4 buns with 2 teaspoons mayonnaise mixture. Top each bottom half of bun with 1 patty. Divide arugula evenly among burgers; top with top half of bun, mayonnaise-coated side down.