Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please Eat! My New Book is on Amazon

It's official.....I am a published author/illustrator!!! A 15 year dream of mine to publish a book has finally become a reality!! I am thrilled to pieces to see my story and pictures in print.

I wrote Please Eat! for the preschool/kindergarten crowd (although my big boys still love looking at it and reading it to their little sis).  I was inspired to write this book many years ago out of frustration...the frustration that ensued when my boys were going through the "I-won't-eat-anything-on-my-plate-no-matter-how-hard-you-worked-to-cook-this" phase. Oh that was an awful time for this foodie mama!!! Over the years I have realized that almost every parent has dealt with a picky eater at one time or's a bonding thing, actually. We all can sit around and lament over our children's finicky eating habits.

Thankfully, my children are now, for the most part, good, healthy eaters. And two out of three of them love trying new foods. My picture book encourages young children to try healthy foods with fun, catchy rhymes and silly, playful drawings. I hope to show kids that food is fun and a healthy, balanced diet can and should taste good.

You can buy my book on Amazon. Please Eat! makes a great gift for young children and grandchildren, teachers, nutritionists that work in schools or with kids, etc, etc. Please check it out!!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie (Healthy Make-Over!)

I'm sure many of you have made or eaten Betty Crocker's Impossibly Easy Cheesburger Pie's a classic! Well, I was recently talking to my gym-buddy, Meredith, about this meal. She shared with me that she packs it full with spinach and veggies. She then said her children love it and beg for more every time she makes it. So, of course I had to try it out for my own family.

As I looked at the original recipe online, I noticed that there wasn't much too it (I mean ingredient-wise)....I also noticed there wasn't much nutrition-wise either (ground beef, onions, cheese, milk, eggs, Bisquick) wonder Meredith adds veggies to her recipe!  This basic recipe was just dying for a Wooden Spoon Diaries healthy make-over!

The spinach was a gives the pie some color (not to mention fiber) and it's flavor is easily masked by the rest of the ingredients (great for picky kids). I thought I would try a grated sweet potato, as well. When I think of a cheeseburger, I think of french, instead of a white starchy potato, I used a vitamin C packed sweet potato. And then of course, the sliced tomatoes on top, just like you would top a regular cheeseburger. The flavors all blended perfectly!! This dish was a family hit!!! My husband ate three pieces!! YAY!!!!! Hope you like it as much as we did!!

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 small sweet potato, peeled and grated on a cheese grater (approx 1 cup)
2 heaping handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1 large tomato, thinly sliced (optional) 
1/2 cup original Bisquick
1 cup low-fat milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400F

Add oil to a large oven-safe skillet on medium heat. Add diced onions to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey. As turkey cooks, use a Mix n Chop (my FAVE kitchen tool) or the back of a spatula to break the meat into tiny pieces. Once turkey is cooked, add salt and the Worcestershire sauce; stir to combine. Add the grated sweet potato; stir to combine. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chopped spinach to the top of the turkey mixture. Let that cook, untouched, for a couple minutes. Once the spinach has wilted, stir to combine with the other ingredients. Remove skillet from heat. **If you do not have an oven-safe skillet, you can put the turkey mixture into a 9 inch pie pan. The proceed with the rest of the directions.

Sprinkle shredded cheddar evenly on the top of the turkey mixture. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, if using.

Whisk Bisquick, milk and eggs together until smooth. Pour evenly over the top of the cheese and tomatoes.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. A knife inserted into the pie should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-7 minutes before serving (if you don't let it cool a bit, the slices won't hold together). Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The BEST Raw Energy Bites

When I tell you these are the BEST raw energy bites I have ever made, I mean it!!! I make these for myself all the time and I find them to be just delicious and totally satisfying to any sweet cravings I have.  I often eat them post-work out or in the morning if I don't have time for breakfast. I even eat them for dessert. They are great little snacks to have on hand. With the exception of the small amount of chocolate I put in them (and by the way, you can totally omit the chocolate if you want to), their only source of sugar is from the dried dates. The dates give these bites the perfect hint of sweetness. If you want them to be less sweet, add fewer dates. Sweeter? Add a few more dates. Customize them to your tastes. Give these yummy energy bites a try - I know you will enjoy them!!!

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds
2 Tbl wheat germ
2 Tbl ground flax seed
10 dried, pitted dates
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I use vanilla paste)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (you can use a high quality dark chocolate here, too - or omit the chocolate)
1/4 cup water

Put the oats, almonds, wheat germ and flax seed into a food processor. Process till the ingredients are completely ground down and combined. Add dates and vanilla; process till combined.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and the water. Process until everything is combined and the mixture starts to pull to one side in a ball (the chocolate chips may not fully grind down). If it is not holding together enough, add a tsp or two more water. Do not add too much water or the mixture will become super sticky.

Next use a cookie scooper to scoop the mixture into little balls. I like using the cookie scoop so I don't have to touch them and get my hands sticky and messy. Place balls directly into a Tupperware container with a tight fitting lid.  I usually get around 15 energy bites out of each batch. There really isn't much need to get too fussy or precise over these- they are just going to get gobbled up anyway- you don't need to worry about presentation here folks. I keep my energy bites in the refrigerator. These hold together MUCH better when they are chilled.  Store in the fridge for a week. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure how long they would store....mine have never lasted more than a five days - tops! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Easter Egg Candies

You know what's really awesome? When you have a neighbor who has annual family traditions that include making homemade candies. You know what's even more awesome? When said neighbor shares her annual traditions with your family! It wasn't too long ago that we finished our scrumptious bag of Irish Potatoes (I'll have to blog that recipe next St. Patty's Day) this morning we are given yet another giant bag of treats- this time Peanut Butter Easter Eggs!! Thank you, Kathleen!! They were delicious (please notice "were"- they are gone- I have one son who hoarded half the bag- he's a peanut butter fiend)! Kathleen graciously shared her recipe with me so I can share with you! Make these this Easter for your family, friends and neighbors!! Who knows, they may become an annual tradition in your home.

*This recipe makes 120 - 180 Peanut Butter Easter Eggs, depending on how big or small you shape them. These eggs are meant to share!! If you desire fewer, cut the recipe in half.

2- 1 lb boxes confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature/softened completely
1 8oz cream cheese, room temperature/softened completely
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter  (you can add more for a deeper peanut-buttery taste)
3- 12oz bags of cocoa flavored candy melts (you can buy these at Michael's and Joann's)

Combine confectioner's sugar thru peanut butter in a standing mixer; mix until thoroughly combined.  Chill dough at least one hour before rolling into "eggs".  Put the "eggs" back in fridge for at least another hour. You may chill up to 24 hours.

Melt candy melts over a double boiler or in the microwave. If using a microwave, make sure you place the candy melts in a large microwave-safe bowl (alternatively, you may choose to melt in batches- for example, one bag at a time). Microwave on a low setting for one minute. Remove from microwave and give the candy melts a good stir. Return bowl to microwave for 30 seconds, then stir again. Repeat until candy melts are melted and smooth.  This step might require some patience....don't rush the melting process or you could burn your melts.

Dip chilled peanut butter "eggs" in the melted candy melts (a fork might come in handy here). Place the "eggs" on cookie sheets lined with wax paper to cool. Then transfer to the refrigerator till chocolate has set or "hardened". Once chocolate has set you may eat and enjoy! Consider bagging the eggs in a cute cellophane Easter bag with pastel-colored Hershey Kisses and a pretty ribbon. My neighbor gave these bagged yummy eggs out to all her children's teachers today. Such a fun idea! Thanks, Kathleen!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Citrus Poppyseed Tea Cake

If you frequent my blog, you already know how much I LOVE the blog Cafe Sucre Farine. This woman makes the most delectable salads, soups, baked goods, you name it! I have never tried anything that I don't just love!! This super delicious tea cake is no exception. The steps are a bit involved (so, don't try to make this if you have little time)....but, the results yield a moist, tangy tea cake that is perfect for breakfast or dessert.

*Note- this recipe makes two tea cakes. You could easily half it to make only one. I debated halfing it....but, I'm SO glad I didn't because it was so incredibly delicious I shared it with my sons' teachers, my husband's co-workers and my friends!! 

If you don't already follow the Cafe Sucre Farine, you should! Here is her recipe verbatim:
  • finely grated zest, from 1 large lemon
  • finely grated zest, from 1 medium lime
  • finely grated zest, from 1 medium orange
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 8 ounces butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons juice mixture
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray 2 – 8½ x 4 inch loaf pans with baking spray. Line the pans with parchment paper so that paper extends an inch or two over the top long edges of the pans.
  2. Combine all three types of zest in a small bowl and mix lightly with the tines of a fork. Combine lemon, lime and orange juice in a small bowl. Place 5 tablespoons of this juice mixture in a small sauce pan (for the syrup glaze) and another 3 tablespoons in a medium size bowl (for the icing glaze). The remaining 4 tablespoons will go into the bread itself.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and poppy seeds in a medium size bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
  4. Combine yogurt, milk and remaining 4 tablespoons of juice. Stir or whisk together. Set aside.
  5. Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Add zest and stir to combine. Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Place pans on a sheet pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until skewer or toothpick insert in the center of the loaves comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool slightly while preparing syrup. To the ½ cup of juice in the saucepan, add ⅓ cup sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Stir till sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat. Poke the top of the loaves all over with a skewer or toothpick. Slowly drizzle syrup over cake, allowing it to sink in before adding more. Use up all the syrup between the two loaves. Allow cakes to cool completely in pans, then remove with the overhanging parchment paper.
  8. For icing glaze, combine remaining juice and 1½ cups of powdered sugar. Whisk together till smooth. Add more powdered sugar to make a thick, yet drizzle-able icing. Drizzle back and forth over tops of loaves allowing icing to drip down the sides. Garnish with a bit more zest, if desired. Delicious served at room temperature with coffee, tea or ice cold milk.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Raw Zucchini Noodles with Cannellini Beans & Hearts of Palm

Okay, as promised, here is another wonderful zucchini pasta recipe I made using my incredible spiralizer. I hope my last post peaked your interest in spiralizing zucchini into "pasta". I actually think this recipe, by yours truly, is even more tasty and was even easier to put together than my last. Seriously, if you are debating buying a spiralizer, just go ahead and do it.  It is a very light piece of equipment that takes up very little cupboard space. At $36 it is relatively inexpensive and is super easy to clean (I wish I could say the same about my juicer!!).

Click here to view the spiralizer I purchased on Amazon.

2 Tbl olive oil
Juice from two lemons
1 1/2 tsp white sugar

2 zucchinis
2 Tbl chopped fresh dill
1 15oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
3 or 4 hearts of palm from a can of hearts of palm, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Crumbled feta cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine olive oil, lemon juice and sugar in a small container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine.

Use your spiralizer to turn both zucchinis into "noodles".

Place "noodles" in a large salad bowl. Add the dill, cannellini beans, hearts of palm and almonds. Pour dressing on top. Gently toss with a pair of tongs. Divide between two plates. Top with feta cheese and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy with a nice piece of crusty bread (or two pieces- after all, you are saving gobs of calories by not eating real pasta).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Raw Zucchini Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Pistachio Pesto

A new (delicious) world of health has just opened up for me....and the gadget that's taking me there is called a "spiralizer" - this amazing tool has just rocked my world!!! It turns a humble zucchini into a giant pile of "noodles". Zucchini noodles have an extremely mild flavor with a bit of a crunch. Because zucchini noodles are so mild, they pair well with any type of sauce, pesto or dressing you can cover them in.  This recipe is very refreshing, yummy, and left me feeling satisfied, but not one bit "full" or "heavy." You do not need to cook the zucchini noodles, so, not only are you saving gobs of calories by replacing them for regular pasta, but, you are also reaping the health benefits of eating this enzyme-laden veggie raw (oh! and let's not forget the time saved - no waiting on the water to boil and the pasta to cook)!!

I am starting a new category on my blog called "Spiralized" - I plan on trying many more recipes using my spiralizer, so, keep checking back for more!!

If you are considering buying a spiralizer, click here to view the one I purchased. This piece of equipment was inexpensive, extremely easy to use, and the clean up was a complete breeze!!

The following recipe comes straight from the blog Shared Appetite:
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Summer Squash <I did not use summer squash; I used two zucchinis instead>
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling cherry tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • <I also added about 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan>

Using a spiralizer, create your spaghetti strands from the zucchini and summer squash <I only used zucchini>. Alternatively, lay a box grater on its side, with the biggest holes facing up. Move your zucchini and summer squash lengthwise across the box grater to create long ribbons. 

Preheat oven to 400°F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes have wrinkled and collapsed slightly. 

In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, parsley, garlic, and roasted pistachios until coarsely chopped. Drizzle in olive oil and process until fully combined. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If the pesto is too thick, add a little more olive oil <I added about a tsp of lemon juice> until the desired consistency is reached. 

In a bowl, combine the zucchini spaghetti, roasted tomatoes (and any juice that may have spilled out onto the baking sheet during the roasting process), and pistachio pesto. Garnish with extra chopped pistachio and/or basil if desired. <I added freshly shredded Parmesan>