Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mixed Berry Pancakes and Updates

So I think I'm finally back to posting after having a whirlwind of a summer! The internship is going well and I've actually been offered an extension through September so I'm thrilled about that :) I've been exposed to so many different areas of "nutrition" and it has been a great and refreshing experience.

Mike and I finally moved into our new apartment at the beginning of July and absolutely love it. We're located in the heart of Lincoln Park right near the Zoo and are just a short walk to the water. With both of us being so busy this summer- me with my internship and him starting a new position at Bank of America, and both of us moving and traveling- we haven't really had time to enjoy the city together yet. But it's been so nice to just "be" together and not have to travel back and forth from Baltimore to Chicago every few weeks. 

Today has been a nice lazy one so far, starting out with a visit to Chicago's Green City Market.

It was great to get out to a farmer's market again and see all the fresh local produce and goods available! We only got a few things this trip (10 year aged cheddar, bread and butter pickles, nectarines, raspberries, kale) but there is so much more that we'll be trying in the coming months! 

When we got home I started on brunch for the two of us. I feel like I haven't cooked in so long and it's a shame since we have such a beautiful kitchen :) I'm totally in love with it!

I used my Magic Bullet to grind up some fresh coffee and got to work making some whole wheat berry pancakes:
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (I used light soy)
  • 1T honey
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites, whipped until white and frothy (I used egg whites)
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (can be frozen and thawed or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup raspberries (can be frozen and thawed or fresh)
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in another minus the egg whites.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl in batches until just combined. Fold in egg whites gently. 

Heat heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into pan (as many as will fit) and top each cake with blueberries and raspberries. Once bubbling on top flip over and cook until golden brown. 

Serve with extra berries, jam, honey, maple syrup or your other favorite toppings!

Off now to get ready for a bbq with some friends downtown :) 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Here's to a New Beginning

I woke up early, around 7:30, after promising myself that I would sleep in after such a busy couple weeks. Well, if you add in the time change (about an hour) and the fact that I've been waking up between 5:30 and 6am this IS sleeping in, so I shouldn't be too upset with myself. The truth is, I woke up and started to panic a bit. I had done it. I had moved back to the Midwest after two years. The past three weeks have been a whirlwind and I haven't really had time to absorb it until this morning while lying in bed. But here I am, after making the decision to take on a nutrition communications internship that I'm so excited about, leaving a fantastic job that I really did love and friends that had become my family in a city that I initially knew nothing about but grew comfortable in, coming to a new city that I once swore up and down that I would never move to, and am now near the guy that I love with all my heart along with my family and best friends. It has been a big three weeks and I'm tired. And nervous. And happy. And scared. And excited. All the emotions that accompany change I suppose.

I had to get up and get out. I needed to clear my head and calm down. I put on my good ol' MSU long sleeved T-shirt (it really does feel good to be back in the Midwest) and tied my shoes and stepped out into my new city for a nice long morning walk. The air was cold, the sky was gray, a welcome contrast to the 90+ degree weather we were having in Baltimore when I left.

I started walking around our current neighborhood in the Gold Coast district and was surprised at the activity going on. Usually when I would go out early on a Saturday morning in Baltimore the streets were quiet, peaceful with very few people out and about but here, this was a different kind of peaceful. It was a nice sort of busy. Couples and individuals were already out walking their dogs, grabbing coffee at the already half full coffee shops and restaurants, riding their bikes and enjoying the morning air. I stumbled across an early morning farmers market just a couple blocks down on Division filled with delicious goodies and hand-crafted items that was filled with people. Families were out taking walks and having breakfast. I walked by a couple already working on their garden out front of their beautiful stone walk-up. I had several friendly faces nod and tell me good morning. All of this before 9am.

I loved it. I loved the feel of the city, the energy, the things to do, the people, all of it. This morning was just what I needed to get myself back on track. Chicago, I know we're going to get along just fine. I know we'll have our ups and downs especially until we get settled into our new location in Lincoln Park but I welcome this. I'm so happy to be here, in my new life with MB. I'm grateful to be back in this wonderful Midwest city near people I love. I'm looking forward to all of our adventures to come. I can't wait to explore my new location and see all that Chicago has to offer. I can't wait to start my internship and begin my path to a career I know I'm going to enjoy. I'm open to this change and love my new life already :) More updates to come!
My "welcome to Chicago" flowers :)

Indulging in some crab dip with the crew before I left Baltimore.

One last Baltimore crab cake (for now anyway)!

My beet salad during my first Chicago dinner as a resident :)

Pretzels with beer cheese and whole grain honey mustard.

My life...packed into this little unit...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Super Quick Egg Sandwich!

Hey all, so I've been super busy packing for the past week since I'm moving to CHICAGO so soon!! I can't wait to be completing my foodie updates from our new apartment in Lincoln Park :) So many new things to do, see and eat! I can't wait!

With that being said, I haven't been to the grocery store and have been trying to exist off of what I bought about....2-3 weeks ago :/ Plus I've been going out to dinner quite a bit with friends and my family that came to visit so there's been no need to shop.

I peered into my fridge tonight prior to continuing to pack up clothes, odds and ends...and found...a half loaf of wheat bread, about 4 eggs (no pan since they're packed), and a few wedges of laughing cow cheese. Oh! and a small amount of Real Bacon Bits! hmmm...what can I do with this? Thinking back to my childhood when my grandfather was in charge of making us meals, our go-to was always a simple egg sandwich. Eggs prepared in the microwave for a quick easy dish. Yessss! Dinner will not consist of dry cereal :)

So here's what I did: sprayed a small microwave safe dish with nonstick spray, crack 1 egg (you can use egg whites or substitute if you time may vary) into dish and microwave about 45 seconds until just cooked through. Be careful, if you cook it even a few seconds too long it may explode! Spread your favorite Laughing Cow cheese onto 1 slice of whole grain toast (I used Queso Fresco Light), top with egg and another piece of toast and you've got a very quick sandwich! I paired it with one of the two apples I have left. Easy, super fast and yummy. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Semi {Healthy} Comfort Meal

I really wanted some comfort food tonight...and I was about to cave and get takeout from my neighboring restaurants here in Little Italy, I really really was. I restrained myself to keep a hold on my calories as well as my wallet and went to the freezer where I have been building my stores :)

I realized I had some frozen whole wheat tortellini, reduced fat pesto and Italian sausage. Perfect! However, just because something is whole grain and "reduced fat" does not mean the calorie content is low or it is necessarily "good" for you. You still need to keep your portions in check and not go overboard. I made a few modifications (mainly the portions) and was still left satisfied with a comforting choice.

Here's what I used:
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat tortellini, cheese filled, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 Italian sausage link, sliced into about 1/4-1/2 inch rounds
  • 1T reduced-fat pesto (such as Buitoni)
Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat, spray with nonstick spray and add sausage rounds. Cook until done tossing occasionally. Add in cooked tortellini and pesto and mix. Heat through. 

This amount is filling, tasty and provides you with only 443 calories. If you were to use the "serving size" listed on the package of pasta (1 full cup) and pesto (1/4 cup) you would add on an additional 289 calories. If you were to use a full serving of regular pesto you would add 225 calories (on top of the 115 calories from the extra pasta)! All you need is a small spoonful to get that full basil-garlic-olive oil flavor! Pair this smaller version with a nice green salad and a drizzle of your favorite dressing and you have a better-for-you comfort meal. For an even better version you could swap the sausage for Jennie-O turkey sausage or a chicken breast (this will cut out another 100 calories).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick & {Healthy} Sweet & Sour Chicken

I initially started this with the motivation to make my own sauce...but then saw a bottle of sweet & sour sauce when I was grabbing some produce at WF and I caved. Especially since I'm not making dinner until 8pm! I saw this as an opportunity to make something even faster, easier for families and individuals on the go and healthy to boot. 

What I used:
  • 2 large chicken breasts, skinless and trimmed of extra fat, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1tsp onion powder
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 1/2 Cup prepared sweet & sour sauce (I used Kikoman) 
I pretty much prepared my recipe using the same as what was suggested on the bottle, but I modified it by using chicken breast (pork would be a lean white meat option too), removing the corn starch and halving the amount of sauce used (really, you don't need all of that). 

Heat large skillet over medium heat, spray with nonstick cooking spray or a little olive oil. Add chicken, onion powder and soy sauce, browning on all sides. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occassionally. Add vegetables, pineapple and sweet & sour sauce, mix well, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 5-7 minutes until heated through and sauce has reduced a little.

Serve with some 90 second Ready Rice and you're set for a healthy quick meal in about 30 minutes! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

{Healthy} Peanut Butter Brownies!

If you're like me, you always need to have a little somethin' sweet after dinner :) So I've been trying to buy and make more healthy dessert options, keeping the sweet treats around 150 calories or less. With that said, I also like to try to be all natural if possible and avoid anything processed or artificial. Some of my new favorites have been Diana's Bananas (chocolate dipped frozen bananas!) and Almond Dream Lil' Dreamers.

On my quest for an easy and healthy brownie I came across quite a few good options...calorie-wise...but many contained artificial sweeteners or had too many ingredients that I just know I would only use a pinch of and not have any use for the rest! I don't really LOVE to bake so for me, the easier the better. Then I hit the Hungry Girl website and found a perfect recipe for me! The only thing I didn't have on hand was the box of cake mix! After my grocery shopping trip to WF here's the adapted recipe I made, with yummy results:

  • 1 box organic chocolate cake mix (Such as Dr. Oetker)
  • 2T cocoa powder
  • 1 can (15oz) pumpkin (Libby's)
  • 1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3T light soy milk
Mix together the cake mix, cocoa powder and pumpkin well (batter will be thick). Spread into a greased 9x13inch cake pan. Mix together peanut butter and soy milk and pour on top of brownie mixture. Swirl together. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Make sure not to overbake these! Allow to cool and cut into 16 pieces. 

Each brownie: ~150 calories, 2.6gm fat, 3gm fiber, 3gm protein and cholesterol free!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lots of Loves!

So many new things I LOVE this week!

First, I got a new phone. After years of swearing against it, I broke down and bought a smart phone. I won't lie....I LOVE it. So many fun apps and games! I can check my email anytime, find restaurants, shops, etc. Texting is better, call quality seems better...but what am I talking about? Everyone has one now so I'm sure you all know this :)

My favorite thing though has so far been the MyFitnessPal application. It helps you figure out your calorie goals based on the amount of weight you want to lose or weight you want to maintain, factors in your daily activity along with any additional exercise, and tracks your calories. It has thousands of food items including top brand names. It will even calculate out your recipes that you make! You can save your favorite foods, recipes and exercises and it graphs your progress. So far, I'm in LOVE.

Second, my new favorite snacks...Emerald Breakfast on the Go (180-200 calories/pack)! Mini Babybel Light cheeses (50 calories per round)! Diana's Banana Babies (delicious chocolate covered half bananas for only 130 calories)!

Third, my red wine spritzer! To keep my glass of wine around 90 calories while still feeling more satisfied here's what I did: Measure out 4 oz red wine (I used a sweeter red called House Jam that I had opened over the weekend) and add 4oz seltzer (I used a raspberry flavor). Its nice and light yet a lot more volume, while still keeping your calorie and alcohol intake in check.
And finally...this beautiful Baltimore weather! Honestly, this week has been perfect and I've been trying to enjoy it as much as possible! Low 70s and sunny?? I'll take it! I've been walking for at least an hour every night this week and I feel SO good!

Lots of LOVES this week as I said :) Let it continue...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Surprisingly {Healthy} Pizza

Yep you read that right. Healthy. Pizza. It can be done!

I love pizza every which way...deep dish, thin crust, meat lovers, veggie lovers, stuffed crust, Chicago style, New York style...any style! If it's pizza, I love it. But it can be a high calorie, high fat, artery clogging indulgence if you don't watch out.

Here are my tips on making your pizza a nutritious, good-for-you-and-your-family meal:

  • Go with thin crust whenever possible. It really will cut down on calories while giving you just the right amount of carbohydrates in your meal. Choosing thin crust over original can cut out approximately 80 calories per slice! 
  • Try whole grain pizza dough when making your pizza. It will bump up your intake of whole grains which gives you more vitamins, minerals and fiber while reducing your glycemic load. Check out Eating Well for a good recipe. 
  • Veggies, veggies, veggies!!! Top your pizza with all your favorite vegetables (and fruit!) to make your pie healthy and delicious. I love broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, onion, olives, tomatoes and more on my pizza. I also love adding some pineapple for a sweet and savory combo. 
  • Use lean meats. Try out turkey pepperoni, turkey sausage, chicken breast, lean ham or canadian bacon or even veggie-meat alternatives like Smart Deli Pepperoni
  • Top with a low fat shredded cheese like a part skim mozzarella or your favorite reduced-fat variety. Remember to go easy on the cheese and only use a light sprinkle. A 1/4 cup is still around 70 calories! 
  • Boost flavor by adding seasonings. Try Italian seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes, etc to really increase the taste without piling on fat and calories.
I used a large ball of pizza dough bought from my local pizza shop (such an easy way to make homemade pizza...the dough usually comes out perfect!). I know it isn't whole grain but i did stretch it out to be as thin as possible using a large cookie sheet sprayed with a bit of nonstick cooking spray. I then used my new oil mister to spray a thin layer of olive oil (about 1tsp) on top of the crust before I put on my toppings.

After mixing the pizza sauce with some fresh minced garlic and spreading evenly over the dough (don't use too much or the crust will get soggy), I layered spinach and mushrooms along with reduced fat monterey jack cheese over my crust. To top it off I sprinkled on a healthy dose of Italian seasoning and some crushed red pepper. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10-12 minutes until golden and bubbly. Yum!

How do you like your pizza?? What tips do you have for making it healthy?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Whew it has been a busy and fantastic week! My birthday is April 11 and I have such a wonderful group of friends, family and an amazing boyfriend that spoiled me so much!

Tigers/Orioles baseball game during opening week on Thursday!

Birthday Dinner Friday!

(That's vegan gnocchi with herb sauce and a side of roasted garlic green beans and mushrooms)
(Almond Joy, Cinnabon, and S'more cupcakes!)

Philadelphia Saturday!

(Philly Cheesesteaks!)

(Independence Hall!)

It was my first time indulging in a Philly Cheesesteak! We waited in line for about 20 minutes before finally reaching the counter and ordering them plain, one with Whiz and one with American ;) We proceeded to split both of them and decided, that while both were delicious, the whiz won out! Philly cheesesteak with extra whiz from Jim's Steaks on South Street is a must if you ever visit! Next time I'll load mine up with onions and peppers I think!

Sunday consisted of relaxing, watching sports (Redwings and the Masters!) along with a homemade dinner by moi. On the menu: Pork milanese (I used whipped egg whites to dip the chops in along with whole wheat bread crumb to pump up the nutrients and reduce the fat/calories) and a side of whole grain angel hair with a simple sauce: vegan butter, olive oil, capers, lemon juice. Simple, delicious!

Some great gifts from MB! (He knows me too well...and due to the fact that I didn't have a Tiger's shirt for the baseball game and was on the verge of wearing an O's t-shirt to the game I got this great vintage henley from Mitchell & Ness!)

And with my gift card from his parents to Williams Sonoma (that I spent the day after I got it! haha) I bought some more cooking gadgets...a microplane, veggie peelers and an oil mister. <3

Loved loved loved my birthday!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Attempt at Homemade Nut Butters...

I think peanut butter has to be one of my all time favorite foods. I can seriously eat it by the spoonful. Add a bit of honey and I'm in heaven! My favorite I had found at a grocery store back in the Midwest and sadly I can't find it anywhere here in Maryland, but it really is to die for! Check out the honey roasted peanut butter at Parkers Farm...and if you can find it in your local grocery store you need to buy it!

Some of my favorite food bloggers have been writing all about their homemade nut butters and I've been wanting to try out a cashew butter for some time now but haven't had the time. I got to travel to Chicago last weekend to visit MB and my lovely mother and stepfather where we definitely at our way through the Windy City again :) Lunches at Tavern on Rush and Portillo's for a true Chicago-style hotdog with amazing dinners at Prairie Fire and Chicago Q!

I was able to stock up on groceries last weekend at Wegmans (My trips there will be getting pretty limited soon...I decided to give up my car next week since my lease is ending. I'm going to try the "green" route and opt for public transit from now on...I'll let you  know how this experience goes!) and hit the bulk bins for some roasted cashews.

From what I read, all you have to do is process nuts with possibly a little oil and it's supposed to blend smoothly. I didn't have such amazing luck :( I attempted to make this in my Magic Bullet but I don't think the little guy was up to the challenge. It took quite a while to get the nuts chopped and blended and in that time my Bullet started to overheat! I did finally get it to a point where it was spreadable but still a little chunky. I think next time I'll breakdown and pull out the full sized food processor that I have.

I used about 2 cups of roasted cashews and 2 tablespoons of honey, blended until smooth.

It tastes good but a little too thick/chunky for my taste. I'll try again with some almonds and a regular food processor and hopefully some better luck :)

For some great nut butter recipes check out Oh She Glows! They look amazing! And after re-reading I think I just need to process for quite a bit longer...Let me know if you have any tips for me! 

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are really not something I've made a lot. I have experimented with other vegetarian versions with beans (using black beans and fiesta rice with lots of cheese...yum) as well as turkey stuffed peppers and I've also had, but not personally made ones with ground beef. I don't quite know why since I know my mother had definitely made them a few times growing up but they just really haven't been my go-to. Really though, these make such a fantastic easy and healthy family meal!

You get at least 2 servings of vegetables in a pepper with more if you add a veggie to the stuffing itself. Add in some lean protein like ground white meat turkey, lean ground beef or vegetarian protein like beans or tofu along with a whole grain like brown rice, whole wheat couscous or quinoa and voila! A complete, tasty and healthy dinner packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It can also be a fun way to get kids to eat their veggies with the fun, untraditional presentation ;)

This time I decided to try a mediterranean theme using garbanzo beans, feta cheese, dill and some lemon for flavoring.

Here's what I used:

  • 4 medium Red Bell Peppers, tops sliced off and ribs/seeds removed
  • 8oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups whole grain rice (I used Uncle Bens Ready Rice Whole Grain Medley in a don't want me to even try to make homemade rice...really!)
  • 1/2 small yellow cooking onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1T olive oil
  • Dill, to taste (I used about a tablespoon I think)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until cooked down, then add in your garlic. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add in your cooked rice and saute until combined and heated through. Season with dill, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir in cheese. Fill pepper shells with mixture and place in a greased baking dish, cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes or until peppers are soft.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Semi-Homemade Mac 'n Cheese

Now this is just an idea of mine that sounded easy and delicious to me. It's also good for families who want to make a kid-friendly food that is also somewhat good for them. At one of my favorite Italian restaurants they make a dish with tortellini, alfredo sauce, ham and die for! I had a craving for it the other night and looked in the cabinet to see what I could come up with to satisfy that craving without going overboard on calories and fat.

I was excited when I remembered that when I was doing my gluten-free shopping I bought Annie's Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese! Now, you can use whatever brand you like but try for something more natural and/or whole grain if possible. I made this according to package directions (using skim milk and NO added butter).

Simply saute 2-3 thin slices of bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta until crisp. Drain well onto paper towel and crumble into pieces. Lean ham or canadian bacon would also be a good low fat option or you could use real bacon bits/pieces, turkey bacon...whatever you like! Just remember to use the meat sparingly and drain off as much fat as's just for flavor :)

Thaw 1 cup of frozen peas or vegetable of choice (steamed broccoli cut into small pieces is also good, or you could puree cauliflower or butternut squash and mix that in as well to be more "sneaky"). Mix vegetable and meat together with the mac and cheese and heat until warmed through.
Adding the vegetable increases the amount so you can cut down on calories while adding good-for-you fiber and vitamins and also stretch that dollar just a bit more too! I think I could easily get 4 servings from this (whereas a typical box of mac and cheese serves about 2).

For about 1/4 of the recipe or about 1 cup is 140 calories. 

Comfort-style Cauliflower

You know when you just want something to make you go mmmmm? But you also want it to be healthy? Well this side dish is something that I've been working on for a while and I've had the idea since MB and I went to Girl and the Goat in Chicago last summer. We had the cauliflower side dish that really wowed me with it's parmesan and hot peppers! I experimented with the frozen cauliflower I had in my freezer a couple weeks ago and think I got it just about right! You can use more mild peppers if you don't like things as spicy but I just loved this side dish. Home run if I do say so myself :)

  • 1 large bag frozen cauliflower (3-4 cups)
  • About 3 small peppers (I used 1 each of a jalepeno, banana pepper and a fresno pepper), sliced with seeds and ribs removed
  • 1T EVOO
  • 1T tub margarine or vegan butter
  • Drizzle of honey (maybe 1-2tsp)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2T parmesan cheese, ground/grated

Melt EVOO and butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Add peppers and saute for about 2 minutes until slightly soft. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add cauliflower along with a tablespoon of water and cover. Let steam for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to mix. Uncover and add honey. Mix. Allow cauliflower to brown lightly, stirring to make sure everything is cooked through. Add parmesan cheese and stir to coat. Cook until just heated through and cheese is lightly cooked (about 30 seconds-1 minute). Serve immediately!

Makes about 4 side servings (or maybe 1-2 servings if you love it as much as I do!). Calories 100/serving, Fat 6.5g/serving, Protein 3g/serving