Friday, December 21, 2012

Homemade Sugar Body Scrub

Here is another gift idea for this holiday season. You can find most of these ingredients in your pantry without having to run to the store. I used a combination of roasted almond oil, sugar and almond extract. I have listed a few other combinations as well. Rub this sugar scrub on your body in the shower and rinse away the dry skin. The oil will leave your skin feeling extra smooth. Enjoy!!!

Homemade Sugar Body Scrub 

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4- 1/2 cup oil (olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil)
1 tsp almond extract (you can also use vanilla extract or any essential oil's you prefer)

1. Mix together white sugar and brown sugar in a bowl. Place sugar into jar (that can hold 2 cups).

2. Pour oil over top of sugar one tablespoon at a time. Let the sugar absorb the oil slowly. Let each tablespoon seep into sugar before adding more oil.

3. Once you added all the oil and it seeps halfway down the jar, add in extract.

4. Pour all contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix together until fully combined and moistened.

5. Repack the jar with the sugar mixture and seal tightly with a lid. Decorate with fabric, ribbon and homemade label.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Here is a great quick gift idea for this holiday season. I saw this recipe on the show Best Thing I Ever Made. Ted Allen was sharing his recipe for "Real Maraschino Cherries" and I immediately knew I wanted to give this a try.

Fresh sour cherries are only available for a limited time in the summer but you can use canned or jarred sour or tart cherries any time of year. If they come in a heavy syrup, make sure to rinse them off before starting the recipe.

These cherries aren't going to look or taste like the fluorescent red cherries you buy in the jar. These are soaked in Maraschino Liquor, (a sweet cherry liquor) and go perfect with any cocktail that calls for a cherry.

You can find similar packaging at Michael's Craft Store in the Martha Stewart packaging section. I also decided to hand write and paint the labels but you can print them online as well.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes 3


  • 1 cup maraschino liqueur
  • 1 pint sour cherries, stemmed and pitted  (you can buy a jar of sour cherries in light syrup, and drain the syrup)
  • **I used 2 cups of liquor for two 15oz cans of pitted sour cherries. That amount made 3 small jars (around 8oz jars)
1. Bring the liqueur to a simmer, and then turn off the heat. Add the cherries, stir, let cool, and then pour into jars. Refrigerate. Cherries will be tasty for months.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Now that the horrible case of Pneumonia is leaving my system, I am ready to start posting some more great recipes. It's cookie season and most home bakers will be very busy this week. I am sharing this recipe that I tried during Thanksgiving for Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache filling. I really loved the taste and texture of these cookies and will definitely be making them for my family and friends this Christmas.

This recipe comes from cookbook Flour: spectacular recipes from Bostons Flour Bakery and Cafe by Joanne Chang. Everything I have tried so far in this book has come out amazing. The recipes are easy enough to do at home, but come out very professional.

These cookies gave me a tiny bit of trouble but with an easy solution. I found the cookies to spread a little thin. What I decided to do was to take them out of the oven closer to 20 minutes and cut them with a round biscuit or cookie cutter to make perfect circles. An important step with these cookies is to let them cool COMPLETELY on the cookie sheet before transferring them. I am ALWAYS impatient at this point and have ruined many cookies by not waiting. This time I will force myself to wait until they are cooled before I move them.
 ***These cookies are naturally gluten free.

Almond Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache Filling
Makes about 20 sandwiches
Almond Macaroons shown in 2nd and 4th row

3 1/4 cups blanched whole almonds (I couldn't find whole, so I used slivered)
2 2/3 cups sugar
6 egg whites
2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate-chopped
1 cup heavy cream

1. Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or sil-mat.

2. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until ground into fine powder. (Stop grinding once they reach a powder to prevent making paste) Remove 1 cup and set aside. Add in sugar to the almonds left in the food processor and pulse for 10-15 seconds. Add in egg whites and continue to process for 30 seconds or until well combined.

3. Transfer almond paste in a medium bowl and fold in reserved ground almonds. Fold in extract and salt.

4. Using your hands (dampen with cold water) or using a small spoon, make walnut sized rounds of batter and place them 2" apart on baking sheet. You should have about 40.

5. Bake cookies 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges. Let cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack.

6. To make the ganache: While the cookies are cooling place the chocolate in a medium-heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, scald the cream (bubbles start to form around the edges of pan but do not boil). Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit 30 seconds. Slowly whisk together until the chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature (or cooler in the refrigerator) at least 1 hour until ganache is thick and spreadable. (This can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)

7. Remove the cookies from parchment paper. Spread about 1 tbsp of chocolate ganache on flat side of cookie. Top with second cookie and repeat until all cookies are sandwiched together.

Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baby Accessories-Sophia Grace Designs

I most likely will not be posting many recipes this week. I have a bad flu and honestly cannot look at, think about or write about food right now.

In the meantime, please check out a friends new website for handmade baby accessories for special occasions, photo shoots or everyday wear. These make great gifts for the holidays. Check out her new website and don't forget to "like" the Sophia Grace Designs facebook page

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole

At the moment I have an abundance of spinach in my refrigerator and I was looking for different ways to use it for dinner. I came across this side dish while googling recipes for butternut squash and spinach. This recipe looked like it had all the components of a delicious dish, so I gave it a try. It came out really great and this is a recipe worth holding onto. One reason I love this dish is because you can prepare it anytime throughout the day (even the day before) and bake it right before dinner.

It was only the three of us eating dinner that night, so I decided to half the recipe. Half of this recipe is a perfect serving for 4 people. As I write this I am eating some of the leftovers, still delicious!

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole (adapted from recipe on
Serves 4

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices 
8 oz fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced 
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp fresh thyme,minced
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted (I used GF bread)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup pecans, toasted (optional) 
1 1/4 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 8 x8 inch baking dish or 2-quart casserole.

2. Place water in a large stockpot (about 2/3 full ) and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the squash to the water, return to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add spinach to squash and boil one more minute. Drain squash and spinach and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in the stockpot and add the oil. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent and soft, about 8 minutes, stirring to prevent browning. Add the warm squash/spinach and the milk, egg, thyme, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp coarsely chopped pecans and 1 cup cheese. Blend with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients are well combined.

4. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp pecans and 1/4 cup cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry

If you're in the mood for Chinese take out try this recipe. This meal will probably get on your table faster and is significantly healthier for you. The original recipe comes from the cookbook Cook Yourself Thin. I have added a few ingredients, I will include them as options in the recipe below.

Serve this stir fry with brown rice. One serving without rice is 290 calories and 1 serving with rice brings it to 465 calories. Enjoy!!

Sweet and Sour Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry 
Serves 4

1 tbsp dry sherry
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (or GF soy sauce)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 lb boneless pork chops-cut into 1" cubes
1 small can of diced pineapple
1 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 red onion-cut into 1" cubes
2 peppers (red or green)-cut into 1" cubes
1 cup snap peas- cut in half or thirds (I added in this ingredient)

Brown Rice:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups chicken stock

1. Combine sherry, pepper, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar in a medium bowl. Add the cubes of pork and toss to coat. Let marinate in the refrigerator.

2. Stir together 2 tbsp of pineapple juice from can, ketchup, vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and remaining 1 tsp of sugar in a small bowl.

3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add in onion and cook until slightly soft;3-5 minutes (stirring to prevent burning).  Transfer too a dish and set aside.

4. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and in the peppers and snap peas; cook stirring occansionally until slightly soft and browned; about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to same dish as onions.

5. Heat remaining tbsp of oil over med-high heat. Add in pork cubes, arranging in single layer. Cook until browned on all sides; about 3-5 minutes. Add the vegetables back to the pan.

6. Add in the diced pineapple from the can (discard any remaining liquid) to the pork and vegetables. Add the sauce to the pan and stir to coat everything. Cook 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.

7. Divide rice among dishes and add the pork and vegetables on top. Drizzle with extra sauce and serve immediately.

To make rice: Bring chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and add rice. Cover with lid and let simmer for 20-30 mins. Using a fork, fluff the rice and serve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to make different Christmas bows

This really has nothing to do with food or cooking but I thought I would share this tutorial on making different types of Christmas bows to use on wreaths, garland or gift. Enjoy!!

How to make bows for a Christmas wreath

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis

Comfort food can mean different things to different people. To me, it is all american meals that I grew up eating. Meatloaf, although I don't love it's name, is one of those comfort foods to me.

This recipe is very family friendly, your toddler or kids will definitely gobble this one up. It's super moist and filled with fresh herbs and melted cheddar cheese. Although meatloaf may not be considered the healthiest, this recipe comes from Cooking Light and they have lightened up this classic dish. Another great thing about this recipe is that it takes only 25-30 minutes to cook. By making these into "mini" meat loaves you cut the cooking time down in half. Serving this with potatoes is a must.

**I love to use my food processor to prepare most of this meal. You can make the fresh bread crumbs, dice the onion and garlic, grate the Parmesan cheese and chop the parsley and only have to clean up one item. Just make sure to chop each item separately (with an exception of onion and garlic which can be chopped together)

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis (adapted from cooking light)
Serves 6 (serving size one meat loaf) If you have big eaters in the family, I would serve 2 per person.

Layla's Plate :) 

1/2 cup (1 oz) fresh breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 cup onion-chopped
2 garlic cloves-minced (Optional)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp fresh parsley-chopped
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp prepared horse radish
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 oz white cheddar cheese, diced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large egg, slightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Heat a skillet over med-high heat. Add bread crumbs and cook 3 minutes until toasted, stirring frequently. Set aside in a large bowl.

3. To the same skillet, coat with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic, saute 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add onion mixture to bread crumbs.

4. Add to breadcrumb/onion mixture 1/8 cup ketchup. 1/8 cup tomato sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Mix well.

5. Shape 6 (4" x 2") loaves on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray (if you don't have a broiler pan, coat a wire cooling rack with spray and use that) Combine the remaining ketchup and tomato sauce and distribute evenly, spreading over each mini.

6. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, or until down. The sauce on top should be slightly browned.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I really love making muffins and trying new recipes. I tend to make at least one batch a week and freeze them for Tom's breakfasts during the week. That kind of makes me sound like a stepford wife, but I enjoy baking too much to consider that title.

This recipe often makes a frequent appearance our kitchen during the autumn months. The recipe comes from the cook book Best Muffins and Quick Bread from Pillsbury. Each standard size muffin has only 190 calories. These muffins are kid friendly as well, just make sure to chop the apples very small if young children will be snacking on them. 

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Makes 12 regular size or 6 large 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 egg slightly beaten

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp finely chopped nuts
1/4 tsp cinnamon 

**The picture on this post is shown with a topping of coarse sugar and cinnamon instead of topping above

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. 

2. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour and apples; stir until apples are coated

3. In a large bowl, combine remaining 1 cup of flour, whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon; mix well. Add apples and all remaining muffin ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. 

4. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; sprinkle about 2 tsp over each muffin cup. 

5. Bake are 400 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (larger muffins will take longer to cook) Remove from oven, cool on wire rack and serve warm. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Spice Cookies (Basler Brunsli)

"Once in a lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want to hold" -Judith Olney

This is the first recipe I am going to share from this past Thanksgiving. These cookies taste of the holiday season. They are chewy and chocolaty with a hint of cinnamon and clove.

I stumbled upon this recipe in one of my many cookbooks. This recipe comes from Great Cookies by Carol Walter. The title of the book speaks for itself. Every cookie I have made from this book are exactly that...GREAT cookies. The official name for these cookies are Basler Brunsli, a specialty of northern Switzerland (aka. Swiss Brownies)

I decided to make these because the recipe is naturally gluten free. It calls for almond flour (which is available in most grocery stores). I would definitely suggest making these cookies for any holiday party, especially if you love the flavors of autumn as much as I do.
***These cookies can also be made without the spices.
***Kirschwasser is a cherry brandy and is found in any liquor store

Chocolate Spice Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
Photo of chocolate spice cookies (maple leaf shape) and Almond Macaroons


8 oz fine-quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (Ghiradelli or Lindt), Coarsly chopped
6 Tbsp strained Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup super fine sugar
3 tbsp Kitschwasser
3/4 pound almond flour (3 cups lightly packed and leveled)
1/4 sugar-for rolling
2 tbsp coarse ground sugar or sparkling sugar for garnish

1. In a bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade, combine chopped chocolate, cocoa powder and spices. Process for 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is very finely ground, stopping occasionally to scrape bottom and edges. Remove chocolate mixture and set aside.

2. In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar one tablespoon at a time, taking about 2 minutes to form meringue. Transfer meringue to a large bowl.

3. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the Kirschwasser, then fold in chocolate mixtures and finally fold in almond flour.

4. Shape dough into 2 rectangles, wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Shaping Dough:

5. Dab the corners of cookie sheets with butter and line with parchment paper.

6. Lightly coat a flat surface with 2 tbsp granulated sugar. Working with one rectangle at a time, place on surface and turn 2-3 times to coat with sugar. Roll out dough to 3/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter, no larger than 2 inches and place then on a piece of wax paper. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

7. Place cookies on the pans and let air dry for 1 hour before baking.

Bake the cookies:

8. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds. Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Bake cookies 9-10 minutes, or until just set on top. To ensure even browning, toward the end of the cook time rotate pans top to bottom and front to back. DO NOT OVER BAKE. The cookies will firm as they cool. Let rest on the pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooking racks.

To store cookies: Store in air tight container layered between wax paper for up to 3 weeks. These cookies may be frozen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Greek Yogurt Parfait

I am planning on sharing a bunch of recipes I made over the Thanksgiving holiday, such as sausage and herb stuffing, perfect pound cake, chocolate spice cookies, and almond macaroons. In the meantime, enjoy this recipe for an extremely healthy breakfast or lunch, perfect for detoxing after a long weekend of indulgence.

I eat a variation of this for lunch all the time. It may not look like a satisfying meal, but between the 18 grams of protein in the greek yogurt plus the protein in the quinoa or flax cereal and the fruit, it will definitely fill you up. This time of year I LOVE to buy pomegranates and add the seeds to my yogurt. It is one of my absolute favorite things to eat.

I came across these two products in the gluten free isle. These are healthy choices even if you don't have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. Pop Quin is 100%  puffed quinoa. It has a nutty flavor and is full of protein. Enjoy Life, Perky's Crunchy Flax cereal tastes more like standard plain cereal, it contains no preservatives and is vitamin fortified.

Greek Yogurt Parfait
1 Serving

6oz plain greek yogurt
2 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey (add more to taste)
Fruit of choice (oranges, berries, pomegranate seeds etc...)
1/3- 1/2 cup popquin or crunchy flax cereal
Chopped Nuts-optional

Mix yogurt and sweetener of choice together. Layer the ingredients starting with yogurt, cereal, nuts then fruit. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes

Here are some previous blog posts of recipes that would be great for this coming Thanksgiving. I have made each of these recipes many times and they always come out great. I hope you have a great holiday!

Slow cooker Artichoke Dip: This recipe is great for a crowd because it involves very little work on your part and it doesn't take up oven or stove top space.

Side Dishes:
Honey Roasted Root Vegetables: The ingredients in the side dish are all in season this time of year.
Baked Onions with Gruyere Cheese: This is a favorite among all my family and friends. If you have a lot going on in your oven,  I would suggest baking this early in the day (it takes 2 hours) and adding the cheese and reheating before dinner.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake: If you love the combination of sweet and tart this is a perfect dessert for you.
Rum Raisin Rice Pudding: An amazing take on rice pudding. It's perfect for a crowd because you can make this the day ahead of time. The warm apple compote makes this a very "Thanksgiving" dessert.

Also, take a look at these different ideas on dessert platters and presentation:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Artichoke Crostini

A great appetizer to make for the holidays. Each component can be made ahead of time and assembled right before serving. This recipe comes from a new cookbook I recently purchased Rocco Dispirito Now Eat This Italian. The recipes are classic Italian dishes "lightened" up for a healthier alternative. If you are on a gluten free diet this cookbook has many GF recipes, including pasta dishes that work better with GF pasta.

A "fun" fact (written in the book): In 16th century, eating an artichoke was reserved only for men. Women were denied the pleasure because artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac and were thought to enhance sexual power....we sure have come a long way, so ladies eat as many artichokes as you want.

Using artichokes packed in water versus oil will save you around 120 calories and 10 grams of fat. Making two of these crostini (good size) 111 calories.

Artichoke Crostini
Makes 10-15 slices depending on size of bread

1 (10oz) jar whole baby artichokes, packed in water, drained
2 tbsp minced celery, leaves removed, chopped and set aside
4 tbsp jarred green peperoncini. sliced thin
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
8-10 slices from a baguette

Preheat broiler

Cut artichokes into 1/8 and place in medium bowl with celrey, peperoncini, parley, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Toss together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast under broiler until crisp and lightly brown on both sides; about 1 minute per side.

Place crostini on platter and top each with equal amounts of salad mixture. Scatter celery leaves on top .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Molten Chocolate Souffle Cakes

This recipe is quick and easy and makes a perfect dessert any night of the week. It tastes somewhere in between a molten chocolate cake and a warm brownie that is slightly under cooked. What makes this recipe so great is that you can prepare the cakes ahead of time, refrigerate, and bake them right before you are ready to serve. I have served this with both whipped cream and ice cream, either one is delicious. An added bonus for me, its naturally gluten free!

The unbaked cakes can be refrigerated in ramekins, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator. The cold cakes may take slightly longer to bake 10-15 minutes. 

Molten Chocolate Souffle Cakes (Recipe adapted from Sweet and Skinny cookbook)
Serves 6-8

Non stick spray
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 egg, lightly beaten or 2 tbsp egg substitute
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
3 egg whites, from large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1/3 cup sugar
Whipped cream or ice cream-optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and position rack in center of the oven. Coat 6-8 4 ounce ramekins with non stick spray and space evenly on a baking sheet.

Combine the chocolate chips, butter and 2 tbsp water in a double boiler or microwavable bowl. Heat until you can stir the mixture smooth. Let cool for a few minutes then whisk in cocoa powder, egg, vanilla and salt. Set aside in warm spot.

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment beat the egg whites on high until they are foamy. Add in the cream of tarter and with motor still running gradually add in sugar a few teaspoons at a time. Continue to beat until soft peaks form (You can also use a hand help mixer for this step)

Fold the chocolate mixture into the white just until there is no more visible white streaks.

Spoon mixture into prepared ramekins and bake 6-8 minutes, until the tops a slightly puffed, the edges are set and the center jiggles when you gently shake. (I found that the cake took a little longer in the oven, just make sure to check them after 8 minutes and continue to cook until they are set) 

The unbaked cakes can be refrigerated in ramekins, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator. The cold cakes may take slightly longer to bake 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Healthy Snacking for children and recipe for Whole Wheat Carrot Raisin Muffins

Here are some healthy snack ideas for children ages 15 months to 3 years. I have also included a healthy whole wheat carrot/raisin muffin recipe below. Layla loves to eat 1-2 of these mini muffins as a nutritious afternoon snack. I made a large batch and wrapped individual muffins with plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer. I take 1-2 muffins out of the freezer and reheat in the microwave for 15 seconds. These also make a great healthy breakfast for adults. Make a combination of mini muffins for baby and regular sized for yourself.

For calcium:
- Half a mini bagel with tomato sauce and cheese; toasted under broiler
-Single serving of cottage cheese or yogurt topped with fresh fruit, such as blueberries or peaches
(serving size 1/4-1/2 cup)
-Small bowl of whole grain cereal with chopped raisins and milk
-Small bowl of ricotta cheese (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) with cinnamon and sugar or fruit puree
-Applesauce mixed with cottage cheese

For Protein:
-Thin slices of ham or turkey breast tucked into whole grain pita bread
-Whole wheat crackers with peanut, almond, or soy nut butter (for older children)
-Half a warm wheat tortilla, spread with spoonful of mashed beans, sprinkled with shredded cheese, rolled up
-Hard boiled eggs (sprinkle with mild curry powder or paprika)

For Produce:
-Sliced apples or ripe pears with sliced cheddar cheese
-Ripe banana dipped in strawberry yogurt
-Toasted slices or zucchini or banana bread with cream cheese
-Roasted red and yellow peppers with hummus
-Veggies such as cooked carrot sticks, broccoli with black bean or spinach dips

**Snack ideas from The baby and toddler cookbook

Whole Wheat Carrot Raisin Muffins (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
Makes 36 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins


Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg
1/3 cup skim milk
3-4 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium ripe banana, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt until there are no lumps. Stir in oats and raisins. Add oil, egg, milk, carrots, and banana and stir until blended.

3.Fill each muffin cup 2/3 way full with batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, check mini muffins between 10-15 minutes (depending on oven) and 23 to 25 minutes for regular sized muffins. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. Freeze extras.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu

Over the summer I watched an episode of Anne Burrell’s show on the food network, she happened to be cooking a gluten free meal. I knew immediately that I wanted to try the butternut squash lasagna recipe, it looked amazing. At the time squash wasn’t in season so I saved the recipe and waited for a better time to try it.

After hurricane Sandy hit us and left us without power for a week, I was really looking forward to cooking and baking as soon as we got our power back. This recipe was perfect for my first night back in the kitchen for two reasons: my mother-in-law offered me fresh picked butternut squash from their garden and it served enough people to allow me to invite my extended family over for a meal to thank them for all the hot showers and dinners over the past week. (They happened to have hot water and a gas stove top, but no power)

I was so happy with how this recipe came out; I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. I would categorize this recipe under intermediate, unless you have a child under 2 years old, then I was put this under the extremely difficult category. At the very least make this recipe during nap time. Layla tore apart the kitchen as I cooked and when I turned around all my tea bags were opened. I was left with a baby covered in blueberry tea leaves!

My suggestion would be to make the pork ragu (which is amazing on its own) ahead of time or the day before. Then you can finish the other components of the lasagna and assemble in less time. You can prepare the entire recipe the day of but it is just a little time consuming…BUT WELL WORTH IT!! I am definitely going to make this again and again and I would feel very confident serving this dish to any crowd of people that make their way into my dining room.

Please don’t think this recipe is for gluten free eating only. It will impress anyone who loves lasagna. I really hope you try this one out. Enjoy!!!!!

Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu (Recipe from Anne Burrell-
Serves 8-10
Butternut Squash Lasanga with Pork Ragu


Pork Ragu:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups pureed canned tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 fresh thyme bundle

3 butternut squash, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, or any kind you like, stemmed and sliced
2 pounds washed baby spinach (I used a mixture of baby spinach and frozen)
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 cups grated Parmesan

For the pork ragu:
1. Place the garlic, celery, onions and fennel in a food processor and puree to a coarse paste.

2. Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and toss in the pureed veggies. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and season generously with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook the veggies until they start to get brown and form a crust on the bottom of the pan; (be patient...this will take a little time.) Scrape the crud off the bottom of the pan and let it re-form. Stay with it and DO NOT let it burn.

3.Add the ground pork, sprinkle with salt and repeat this process. This takes patience...accept it and move on. THIS is where BIG flavors are formed.

4. When the meat is nice and brown, add in the tomato paste, stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Toss in the pureed tomatoes, bay, cinnamon stick, thyme and 2 cups water. Taste and season with salt if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, add more water and reduce again. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Turn off the heat and use immediately or store for future use.

For the lasagna: 

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Working in batches, toss the butternut squash slices with olive oil and salt. Lay the squash slices on sheet trays and bake until the squash is tender but still holds its shape, about 20 minutes. Repeat until all the squash is roasted.

2.Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, toss in 2 of the garlic cloves and a pinch of crushed red pepper and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. When the garlic is golden and very aromatic, remove it and toss it in the "thank you for coming bowl". Add half of the mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and cook until they are soft and wilted. Remove from the pan and reserve. Repeat this whole process--starting with the oil and garlic--with the remaining mushrooms, followed by the spinach in 2 batches. Drain and cool the cooked spinach in a colander or mesh strainer.

3. In a large bowl combine the ricotta and parsley.

4. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place a ladleful of the pork ragu in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread it around to LIGHTLY cover the bottom of the dish.

5. Arrange an even layer of the roasted squash on top of the ragu; be sure the squash completely covers the surface of the baking dish--this acts as the "pasta". Cover the squash layer generously with more ragu. Spoon 1-tablespoon scoops of the ricotta mixture over the ragu. Arrange an even layer of spinach and mushrooms over the ricotta. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Lay another layer of squash over the Parmesan and repeat the process until the baking dish is full, ending with a top layer of squash topped with a little ragu and Parmesan.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil, place on a sheet tray and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Muffins (Pumpkin Nutella Muffins)

I call these Hurricane Sandy muffins because I made a big batch in preparation for the storm. Muffins are a great breakfast/snack that don't need to be refrigerated or frozen. I stumbled upon this recipe on Pintrest and put it on my "Recipes I want to Try" list. A major reason I wanted to try this recipe is to use up the jar of Nutella in my pantry that is slowly expanding my waistline. Unfortunately, for my skinny jeans there is still 1/3 of the jar left. Enjoy, this recipe is a keeper.

Pumpkin Nutella Muffins (Recipe from
Makes 12 muffins


1 cup pumpkin puree (canned, not pie filling)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1-3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-count standard or 6 count large muffin pan with baking cups.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, eggs, oil, water, and vanilla until well-combined.

3.In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into the baking cups, filling about 2/3-3/4 full.

5. Put the Nutella into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds or until it thins out just enough to swirl.

6. Using a teaspoon, drop a spoonful or two of Nutella onto the top of each muffin and swirl with a knife.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. You can eat these at room temperature but they are best served warm. Reheat in microwave for 10- 20 seconds.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Slow Cooked Balsamic Chicken with Swiss Chard and Polenta

I am always looking for a slow cooker recipe that is different from the usual stew or soup recipe. Sometimes you just need an easy recipe to throw together during the week. No fuss, no mess, just let the slow cooker do the work and come back at dinner time.

What I really like about this recipe is that you do not have to brown the chicken ahead of time. There is very little cooking involved for this meal. All you have to prepare is the sauce, which really only consists of sauteing some onions and adding in the rest of the ingredients.

As in most slow cooked meals, the left overs are just as good the next day, if not better. I am already looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch.

I served this with polenta. I have never made it before and I wanted to give it a try. I loved it! It is a great side dish to this meal to soak up all the delicious sauce. My daughter Layla loved the polenta too. She ate her entire serving with no hesitation. I will definitely be making polenta as a side dish more often. A major plus, it's gluten free and it reminds me of pastina, which I am no longer able to eat.

Definitely give this meal a try the next time you feel like making your slow cooker do all the work.

***If you make this dish with bone-in chicken as recommended, be careful of bones while eating. 

Slow Cooked Balsamic Chicken with Swiss Chard and Polenta
Serves 4-6  Adapted from: America's Test Kichen Slow Cooker Revolution

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp all-purpose flour (I used all purpose GF flour)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
10-12 (6 oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed (I used bone in-skinless chicken breasts and thighs)
1 bunch (6 oz.) Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced 1/2 in. thick
Garnish with basil leaves and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

1.  Heat oil in medium size skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5-8 minutes. Add in thyme, tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook additional 5-8 minutes until onions are very soft and lightly brown. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute more.

2.  Slowly whisk in vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps.  Cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

3.  To the slow cooker, stir in diced tomatoes, broth, wine, and bay leaves.

4.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into sauce in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

5.  30 minutes before serving, gently stir in Swiss chard leaves, cover, and cook on high until tender, 20-30 minutes.

6.  Transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with foil.  Let braising liquid settle 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface using large spoon.  Discard bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with sauce spooned over each chicken piece.

To make polenta: (Makes 4 servings)
Place 3 cups of water and 1/4 tsp salt or low-sodium chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to boil. Whisking constantly, slowly add in 3/4 cup polenta in an even stream. Continue to whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and pulls away from side of the pan; about 7-10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. (If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little more water or stock to loosen)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread

I knew the second I read this recipe in Cooking Light magazine that I wanted to make it for Tom's breakfast. It just sounds sooo good...chocolate hazelnut banana bread..yummm. How bad could anything with Nutella be?

I called Tom at work and asked him how it came out. He said it was "sooo goood" and that I should make this a regular for breakfast. Next mission is making a gluten free version for myself to eat :)

This recipe is a "lighter" version of banana bread but I think you could apply the chocolate hazelnut part to any banana bread recipe. I like to keep things "lighter" for breakfast but maybe if I made this for a crowd I would use my favorite banana bread recipe (full fat version :) This recipe is definitely worth picking up a jar of Nutella and giving a try. Enjoy!!!

Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread
Makes one 9" x 5" loaf


5 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole buttermilk
Cooking Spray or Crisco to grease pan
1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (Optional)
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan and dust with flour (I like to line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Combine chocolate-hazelnut spread and 1 teaspoon oil in a microwave-safe dish; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted. Stir and set aside.

3. Combine 3 tablespoons oil, butter, brown sugar, and banana in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.

4. Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch and top with chocolate-hazelnut spread mixture. Spread remaining batter over chocolate mixture. Using a wooden pick, swirl batter. Sprinkle batter with hazelnuts.

4. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread; cool on wire rack.

5. Place bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe dish; microwave at high for 30 seconds. Drizzle bread with chocolate; let stand until set.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Teri-Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Here is a great healthy recipe for a party appetizer. My husband, who usually won't touch anything with ground turkey likes these meatballs and ate 10 or more of them the other night. I lost count. These turkey meatballs are very moist and have a great balance of salty from the soy sauce and sweet from the honey.

You can either make these as regular meatballs or turn them into yakitori by shaping them into football shapes and inserting a 6" bamboo skewer to each mealball. This is a nice idea for serving a crowd.

This recipe freezes well, so it is a good make ahead appetizer. To freeze, shape the raw meatballs and place them into ziplock bags and freeze. When you are ready to cook them, defrost them in the refrigerator and proceed with cooking instructions.

You can easily make these gluten free by just using gluten free soy sauce in place of regular soy sauce and gluten free bread crumbs. I find the best bread crumbs come from using the ends of frozen gluten free sandwich bread (such as Udi's), just pulse in a food processor to create crumbs.

Teri-Glazed Turkey Meatballs (Recipe from Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai)
Makes 24 meatballs

1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 large egg
1 pound of lean ground turkey
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
16 scallions-finely chopped (I used closer to 10 scallions)
4 garlic cloves-finely minced (I did not add garlic)
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Make the glaze by whisking together honey, soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside a few tablespoons of glaze to drizzle at the end.

2. If you are making yakitori: soak twenty four 6" bamboo skewers in warm water for 20 minutes.

3. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant and nutty; 1-2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a small plate to cool and set aside.

4. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl. Add in turkey meat, bread crumbs, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, salt and pepper, mix together well.

5. Form mixture into 24 meatballs or for yakitori: football shaped torpedoes with skewers inserted into each ball.

6. Heat a large non-stick pan to medium-high and spray pan with cooking spray or coat with canola oil. Add the meatballs in batches making sure not to over crowd the pan. Cook on one side about 3-4 minutes, turn the meatballs and brush with glaze on the cooked side. Cook the second side 3-4 minutes and continue to brush each side with glaze until the meat is cooked through. Continue until all the meatballs are cooked. (I like to put my meatballs in a 350 degree oven to keep warm and finish cooking while you finish the batches of meatballs)

7. To serve, drizzle with reserved glaze.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bela's Puppy Peanut Butter Cupcakes

In honor of our dog Bela's 3rd birthday, here is a recipe for Puppy Peanut Butter Cupcakes. Bela loves anything with peanut butter flavor so I always make these for her birthday. Some may say I am crazy but she is as much a part of the family as anyone else!

These freeze well, just wrap them in plastic wrap or ziplock bags and place in the freezer and your pup can enjoy a treat at anytime.

Puppy Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Makes 10-12 cupcakes

1 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded carrots (3-4 medium carrots)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffins pan with 10-12 cupcake liners.

2.Mix together flour and baking soda. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Scoop into liners and bake for 15-20 minutes until done.
You can frost these cupcakes with low fat cottage cheese and decorate with carrot pieces. Store in refrigerator. or freezer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quinoa Pilaf with Dried Cranberries and Almonds

This must be the week for healthy side dishes. Here is another way to dress up quinoa for a quick side to accompany any meal. Anything with dried cranberries and almonds scores big points with me. In my opinion, if you add in balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, two of my other favorites and you have the makings of a great dish. I served this dish with peach and soy marinated chicken breasts and butternut squash and leek gratins. Overall, a great and super healthy dinner.

Quinoa Pilaf with dried cranberries and almonds (from cookbook: Pretty Delicious) 
Serves 6

12 oz quinoa (about 2 cups)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sliced almonds -roasted on baking sheet in 350 degree oven 6-8 minutes until golden and fragrant

1. Place quinoa in a large bowl, cover with cold water and then drain though mesh strainer.

2. Place rinsed quinoa, chicken broth and 2 cups of water in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until quinoa is tender and has absorbed liquid;12-15 minutes. Scrape quinoa into a large bowl.

3. Whisk together balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper and add to the quinoa. Toss to coat.

4. Add in the cranberries, almonds and basil leaves and serve warm.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Honey Roasted Root Vegetables

I absolutely love this recipe for roasted root vegetables. It's easy to prepare, healthy and delicious. I see myself making this side dish the entire fall and winter season, over and over and over. The whole family devoured these vegetable and were looking for more when the bowl was empty. I am already craving another serving, maybe I will have to make them again this weekend.

The original recipe comes from the cookbook Cooking Light: Cooking through the seasons. The book is broken down into 4 chapters for each season. When I was looking for some recipes for the week I decided to look though the book under the autumn chapter and came across the recipe. My only wish is that I discovered this recipe before so I could have been eating this all along.

The recipe you will find below is my adaptation of the dish. I omitted the garlic but you could easily add in a few gloves of garlic with the other vegetables. I hope you will try this recipe and enjoy it this autumn when all the vegetables are in season.

Honey Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4

1 small butternut squash, peel and diced (or 1/2 a large squash)
1 small fennel bulb-sliced
2 medium sized parsnips-diced
2 medium sized carrots-diced
1 large red skin potato-diced
3 large shallots-peeled and quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Cooking spray
1-2 tbsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine all the diced vegetables (try to keep around the same size to ensure even cooking). Add in the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat evenly.

3. Arrange the vegetable mixture in a single layer on baking sheet.

4. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until vegetables are browned and tender.

5. Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add honey and cider vinegar to vegetables, and toss well. You can add more honey or vinegar to taste.