Archive | February 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cinnamon Chip Muffins

I woke up craving cookies. Strange? No. A little early for dessert? Yes. So I compromised and made dessert-like muffins for breakfast. Why not, it is Sunday after all! Hands down, my favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin so when I found this recipe, I knew it would be the perfect fit. It’s basically an oatmeal cookie in a muffin form, and it’s healthy. I rarely buy muffins at Dunkin Donut’s or Starbucks, since they’re typically super-sized and full of fat. These muffins will satisfy your sweet tooth, without all that guilt. Oh, and you’ll feel like you’re eating cookies too. Even better!

Oatmeal Raisin Cinnamon Chip Cookie Muffins

makes 12 muffins
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk, divided (I used skim)
½ cup raisins
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

1)Preheat oven to 350. Add oats to a bowl and add 1/2 cup of milk. Let soak for 5-10 minutes, while you prepare the first few steps of the muffins.

soak the oats

2) In a large bowl, combine egg and brown sugar and whisk until smooth and caramel in color.

egg and sugar to whisk

3)Add in vanilla and butter, whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible, there still may be some small butter chunks.

all whisked

4)Add flour, oat mixture, baking soda and cinnamon and mix. Add remaining milk and combine until smooth.

the mix


thick oats n' batter

5)Fold in raisins and cinnamon chips.

cinna chips vs. raisins

6)Line a muffin tin with lines and pour about 1/4 cup batter into each line. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve with butter or margarine, and enjoy!

fill 'em up

sugared up


done...and delicious!

I had a muffin straight out of the oven, and I’m already excited to crumble one on-top of my oatmeal tomorrow. I think I may have a hard time classifying these a breakfast item…I see one in my future for dessert tonight!

I <3 oatmeal


BBQ Beef ‘n Bean Chili

For the last five months, I’ve been making a conscious effort to increase my iron intake (doctor’s orders). Unfortunately, my lab tests seem to indicate that I’ve been doing just the opposite…eating less iron. Although I’m very discouraged that my levels haven’t improved, I’m continuing to follow these orders, and eating the most iron-heavy food out there (at least the one’s that I can stomach), including, but not limited to:

Red Meat
Eggs (the yolks are iron-heavy)
Shellfish (this will be much easier in the summer!)
Leafy Greens
Dried Fruit

I’ve been diligently been cooking/eating red meat at least twice a week, and I’m pretty sure if I eat any more green vegetables I’ll turn into one. Plus, I eat walnuts and raisins in my oatmeal every day. So what, I ask, am I doing wrong? Apparently, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States. Who knew? NOT ME!

Hopefully, by increasing my consumption of iron-heavy foods even more, along with consuming more iron supplements, my iron levels will increase.To be honest, I’m getting sick of plain old hamburgers, I’m tired of tacos, and I don’t crave a big steak very often. My Grandmother’s original Barbeque Beef and Bean Chili has recently been my go-to red meat recipe. It’s full of flavor, simple to assemble, versatile, and only has 6 necessary ingredients. You could easily turn this into a vegetarian recipe by subbing additional types of beans (such as kidney or cannellini) in for the lean meat, or using tofu or another meatless alternative.

BBQ Beef ‘n Bean Chili

1 package lean hamburger meat
½- ¾ container BBQ sauce (I used honey flavored)
1 can Baked Beans ( I used a homestyle blend, 14.5oz)
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (optional)

easy ingredients!

1) Coat skillet with cooking spray.
2) Thoroughly cook hamburger meat on medium heat.

lean beef

3) Once cooked, add BBQ sauce and beans to the mixture.

beans beans

4) Stir thoroughly, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

5) Add molasses (Don’t forget to spray your measure with cooking spray!), Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Stir into the mixture.

a touch of sugary goodness

6) Cover, and turn down heat to low. Simmer the dish for 5-10 minutes, or until it reaches your desired thickness.

thick enough for me!

This is the perfect dish to serve with a side of cornbread, in a whole-wheat sandwich roll, or on top of a salad (spinach for me, of course!). For a heavier barbeque flavor and a thinner consistency, use more sauce. For less flavor and thicker consistency, use less sauce. I typically stick with ½ a container of sauce because I’ve learned that a little barbeque sauce goes a long way!

final product

Tonight, I stuck with good ol’ green vegetables as my side dish: a combination of broccoli, green beans, and brussel sprouts. See Mom, I really am trying!!!!

iron heavy dinner!

 What are your favorite iron-filled foods? Any recipe ideas to share?



Can’t fight the cravings…

Many times, I don’t crave anything in particular for dinner. But this week, I’ve had a hankering for Italian. It might be the cold. Or the smell of my neighborhood. Or the fact that I really miss my Mom’s tomato sauce (and her!). Whatever it is, I had all the ingredients for stuffed shells on hand, so it was meant to be! I’ve saved a lot of money lately by actually assessing the ingredients in my fridge and cupboards and planning a meal, instead of planning a meal before assessing and wasting money! Tonight was another one of those nights. I came sooo close to heading to the store for vegetables in order to make veggie lasagna, but a quick look inside my fridge and thoughts of the arctic temperatures outside changed my mind abruptly!

I headed to my friend Lauren’s blog after briefly recalling her healthy stuffed shells recipe, and voila! I found it! Read her original recipe here. This recipe requires minimal ingredients but is full of flavor and is incredibly simple to construct. While the spinach is sautéing and the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese mix. Then, while the shells bake, wash the dishes like I did! (this prevented me from opening the oven a zillion times). Hey, whatever gets you through the 30 minutes to cheese-heaven!

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ bag frozen spinach (or about 4 cups of fresh spinach)
18 medium pasta shells (or use jumbo and use fewer)
1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning or seasoning of your choice ( I used garlic powder!)1 1/2 cups marinara sauce of choice, divided ( I used a roasted garlic flavor…delish!)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté, about 30 seconds. Add in spinach and stir until wilted down. (If you use frozen spinach like me, dry out the spinach as much as possible before adding it to the pan). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

sauteed spinach

3) Cook pasta shells, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
4) In a mixing bowl, combine the sautéed spinach, ricotta cheese, beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings. Mix well.

the mix

5) Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of a baking dish.
6) Spoon ricotta cheese mixture evenly into the cooked pasta shells; then place stuffed shells side-by-side in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells, and top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.

all aligned


ready for the oven

7) Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

cheesy goodness




I’m now sufficiently stuffed! I also have leftovers to feed a family of 12… seriously! I foresee many nights of stuffed shells in my near future. Fine by me. Now I’m craving garlic bread…. :)


Sugar Cookie Central

It feels like Christmas (it’s as cold, if not colder than December), looks like Christmas (due to the piles upon piles of snow), and smells like Christmas (a result of the aroma of cookies baking!) But it’s not Christmas…it’s Valentines Day! The perfect excuse to make tasty treats if you ask me. When I found out I was responsible for the dessert component of tonight’s dinner, I was
PUMPED! I knew I wanted to make something that I could incorporate pink( my favorite color), red, and white into…so frosting came to mind. My favorite thing to frost is sugar cookies! Plus, my Mom has one of the easiest, tastiest, and somewhat healthiest sugar cookie dough recipes that I’ve ever seen. I say healthiest because this recipe only calls for one stick of butter. Most sugar cookie recipes call for two. If you don’t believe me, look online!

I firmly believe a recipe is a good recipe if you reuse it over and over again. This recipe descended from Grammie Rowden’s cookbook and we still have her original recipe card. It’s that good! Although I’m fully aware sugar cookies can be a tedious task, I was prepared. I made the dough yesterday afternoon, let it chill overnight, and baked the cookies after work today.

chillin' dough

 I made the frosting as they cooled, and split it up into 3 separate batches for 3 different colors.

frosting assembly line

Grammie Rowden’s Sugar Cookies 
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 T milk (I used skim)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tarter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 ½ cups flour ( I used white)


1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place butter and sugar in the bowl, and beat until combined. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk and beat to combine.


2) Sift together flour, baking powder, cream of tarter and salt, and add to liquids. Mix all together.

all together

3) Wrap dough in wax paper and chill for approximately 2 hours (or length desired).

chillin' dough

4) Sprinkle a work surface ( I put wax paper down) and rolling pin with flour and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move dough frequently to prevent it from sticking and add more flour to the work surface and rolling pin as needed. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, (or a paper cookie cutter like me!),cut hearts, re-rolling dough as needed. Place at least 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake until cookies are set but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on the pan slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

ohhh my cookie cutter

into the oven

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 – 2 lbs powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk ( I used low-fat)

Mix butter and powdered sugar together, adding sugar gradually to the mix. Add vanilla. Mix in milk, adding more if needed. Continue to add milk and sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. Add food coloring if desired!

pretty, huh?

love themed!

the whole batch

I’m off to lick the spatulas! Don’t be jealous!

What did you make for Valentine’s Day?

Corn Fritter Cakes

I’ve got a fried food alternative you must try. Have you ever had corn fritters? I hadn’t until a few months ago, when I spotted them on the “small plates” menu at Cheesecake Factory. When I asked what they were…I was basically told I’d be ordering fried balls of corn. SOLD. These little fritters melted in my mouth, and made it very hard to not polish off the entire plate by myself. Thankfully, the others liked them just as much, so I had share!

I visited the Cheesecake Factory again last week, and begged the table to order them as an appetizer. They were just as delicious, but are quite an indulgent appetizer. I wanted to try and recreate a healthier version of these decadent treats. After browsing through my favorite recipe sites, I was sold on one recipe in particular: Corn and Parsnip Cakes. These are simple, nutritious, and delicious, no frying involved! Plus, this one recipe incorporates two vegetables into one side dish…perfection!

Parsnips are one of my favorite vegetables. I refer to them as the carrot’s sister. Similar in look and shape, just paler in color, and sweeter in taste. (kind of sounds like my twin sister Kimmie and I). Haha! The parsnips added additional sweetness to the corn-cake. Due to my massive sweet tooth, I couldn’t help but taste the batter. Don’t judge. A good cook always tastes! Plus, great batter=a great dish. You’ll feel like you’ll indulging…while eating your vegetables.

Corn and Parsnip Cakes

1 cup chopped parsnip
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten ( I used 1 egg, and ¼ cup egg beaters)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives ( I didn’t have chives on hand, so I skipped chives).
1 tablespoon butter, divided
Cooking spray

1)Cook parsnip in boiling water 12 minutes or until very tender; drain. Cool to room temperature.


2) Place corn in a food processor; pulse 3 to 4 times or until chopped. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add parsnip, flour, and next 4 ingredients (flour through eggs). Pulse 3 to 4 times or until combined. Stir in chives(or other spices).

corn in the mini


milk and eggs

corn cake mix

 3)Heat 1 teaspoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls to form 6 cakes. ( I used my mini icecream scooper—totally worth the $6 at T.J. Maxx!) Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Repeat procedure with remaining butter and batter.



 These taste best hot off the frying pan, but I reheated a few cakes the next day at 450 degrees, and they were just as good! After enjoying a few of the cakes, my one wish was that there were more chunks of corn and parsnip in each bite. The next time I make these, I’m going to stick to the directions and only pulse the ingredients 3 to 4 times in the food processor to maintain the chunkiness. I was concerned whether or not everything was blended, so I went over-board with the mixing.

all browned up

The corn and parsnip cakes may taste indulgent, but this is lightened-up comfort food at it’s finest. On that note, I’m going to eat round 2 of the cakes for my dessert…it doesn’t count since they’re vegetables, right?

healthy fritters :)


Taco Tuesday!

It would be more accurate if I called today “Burrito Tuesday”, but it just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it! In an effort to satisfy my Tex-Mex cravings, tonight’s dinner was born. I’ve been craving Mexican foods since last Thursday, when I indulged in a few too many margaritas, chips and dip, empanadas, burritos, and enchiladas at Papagayo’s in South Boston. Naturally it was a blast, but I’m full just reading that!

Tacos are one of my favorite, go-to Mexican meals, but lately I’ve become obsessed with burritos. Steak, chicken, veggie, you name it, I like it! I’m just not the biggest fan of the gi-enormous burritos restaurants serve that are the size of my head, or the loads of rice and refried beans that come along with them. I tend to go overboard on my portions, simply because it’s on the plate in front of me. In an effort to lighten up my Tex-Mex favorite, I turned to my trusted Cooking Light files. Boy is this a great one!

Minimal ingredients, with loads of fiber, flavor, and plenty of leftovers. Plus, if you’d prefer to ditch the wrap and opt for a salad instead, the bean mixture is filling enough to make a salad your main meal, and it’s even better cold! Trust me, I used it for a salad topping all week!

Tex-Mex Bean Burritos
Serves 6

easy ingredients!


1 tablespoon canola oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons refrigerated fresh salsa ( I used black-bean and corn salsa)6 (10-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas (I use Joseph‘s!) 1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Optional Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped plum tomato (about 3)
1 1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
6 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions ( I omitted these)
6 tablespoons light sour cream (I omitted this, I’m not a sour cream fan!)


1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in chile powder and salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/3 cup water and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salsa. Partially mash bean mixture with a fork.

Beans, beans...

Mashing time

2. Warm tortillas according to package directions. ( I warmed mine in the oven at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes. Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture into center of each tortilla. Top each serving with cheese, and any optional ingredients that you so choose.

I prepared sautéed mushrooms and broccoli for my toppings, along with cheese, shredded romaine lettuce, and a large helping of salsa. The beans were just spicy enough, and all together this was a filling yet lighter version of my latest obsession. Tex-Mex success! Now all I need is a margarita!! Who wants to join me??

no-guilt burrito!

Tasty Two Bean Soup


If you live in New England, then you’ve been dealing with this cold and harsh winter too…and it’s only February! Get me out of here! I’m so so tired of the snow. However, one thing that helps me deal with the frigid days and nights is a warm soup…so that’s what I made tonight. It’s a nutrient packed, vegetarian soup, chalk-full of greens, beans, and taste!
Spinach for the iron component-check.
Beans and lentil for the fiber and protein components-check, check.
Spices, red wine vinegar, and parmesan cheese for additional flavor-check, check, check!

I prepared this soup in less than 30 minutes, an instant winner in my book, especially for a weeknight. The hardest part was motivating myself to peel the carrots and parsnips!

tedious task=complete!

At the last minute, I decided to add lentils for additional fiber, and I‘m so happy I did! The lentils added a chewy, dense component to the already-nutritious soup. Customize this soup to your liking…I certainly did. I’m not the biggest fan of celery, so I opted for parsnips. In place of kale (which I love, but my grocery store was out), I opted for spinach. Another substitution of mine included kidney beans in place of black beans. Any sort of bean mixture will do, so you can use what you have on hand. You can find the original recipe here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have seconds! Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped parsnips(I substituted parsnips in place of celery)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, divided
6 cups of spinach (I used spinach in place of kale. My grocery store was out!)
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained ( I used these in place of black beans, either will do!)
½ cup uncooked lentils (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary



1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and cooking spray to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrots, and parsnips, and sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute.


2. Stir in 3 cups vegetable broth, spinach, and lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until spinach is tender.

extra greens

 3. Place half of cannellini beans and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

the best mini invention on earth

4.Add pureed bean mixture, remaining cannellini beans, kidney beans, and pepper to soup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, vinegar, and rosemary.

all together


finished product!

5. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, enjoy!

the first bowl...of three :(

Three bowls later…i’m officially satisfied. What are you waiting for? Go make this…now!!