Archive for the ‘Healthy/Kind of Healthy’ Category


Hazelnut-Fig Quick Bread

November 29, 2013

I clipped this recipe out of a Cooking Light magazine in March 1999 and finally made it in November 2013. I don’t know why this one took so long to get to, but I’m glad I held on to the recipe. The combination of figs and orange (orange juice + zest) make this especially delicious for breakfast.

hazlenut quick bread

Unlike a lot of quick breads, the nuts are on top rather than mixed in. It’s nice to get a few really nutty bites along with some no-nut bites.

hazlenut quick bread

It took a while to get to this recipe, but I won’t wait 14 years to make it again!

I baked this in two mini loaf pans (5.75 x 3″) rather than in one pan. You can find the recipe here on My Recipes.


Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

November 26, 2013

An upside-down cake may sound daunting, but this is one is easy to make. The few extra minutes it takes to melt the brown sugar and layer the bananas on the bottom of the pan is more than made up for by the simple mix-by-hand cake batter.

Banana Upside-Down Cake

Surprisingly, this cake is low fat. I’m not going to call it health food, but I bake enough to know that 2 Tablespoons of butter, 1 1/2 eggs, and 1/2 cup of low-fat sour cream means that this is a heck of a lot less sinful than a lot of other cakes. But with caramelized bananas on top and chocolate chips throughout, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. If you’re a banana lover, this is a must-try recipe!

Recipe notes:

  • You can find the recipe here on David Lebovitz’s website.
  • For the topping, he gives an option of water or butter – I used water.
  • For the cake, he gives an option of regular or low-fat sour cream – I used low fat.
  • There’s also an option for chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. I used regular-size chocolate chips. I don’t recommend using mini-chips or tiny pieces of chopped chocolate though  – a substantial bite of chocolate really adds something to the texture and taste of the cake.
  • I made the cake the day before and served it at room temperature. The recipe suggests serving it warm and adding whipped cream or ice cream, all of which sound wonderful.

Green Goddess Dressing (CEIMB)

October 28, 2011

This dressing and I are going places. It was delicious on salad (as dressing should be), and was so good on a wrap sandwich with turkey and arugula. Next, I want to try it as a vegetable dip, and I bet it would be oh-so-good as a mayonnaise replacement in egg salad.

I don’t make dressing often, but every time I do, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. This dressing is quick, easy, and delicious. Buttermilk and avocado make it smooth and creamy; tarragon is the dominant flavor. What if you don’t like tarragon or don’t have any handy? Basil and chives sound like great candidates for this recipe. I will definitely be trying this recipe with other herbs that are on hand or are growing in my garden.

You can find the recipe in The Food You Crave, or here on the Food Network’s website.

The Craving Ellie In My Belly (CEIMB) group posts recipes on Fridays; check out the site to see what others made this week!


Pasta with Escarole, White Beans, and Chicken Sausage (CEIMB)

October 8, 2011

Sausage has never been a favorite of mine, but after my recent trip to France, I had a change of heart. The friends we stayed with are big fans of Jamie Oliver, and one of the dinners we had was Proper Blokes’ Sausage Fusilli, from the Cook with Jamie cookbook. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. When I was back from the trip and looking for healthy recipes to cook, I came across Pasta with Escarole, White Beans, and Chicken Sausage in Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave. Perfect. I could try a sausage pasta recipe in a healthier version.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, though I used dried sage instead of fresh. The combination of sausage, white beans, and escarole gave this dish a nice texture and flavor contrast. I’ve probably had escarole in salad blends before, but I had never bought a head of it or cooked with it. It’s crunchy and just a little bitter, and we enjoyed the leftover escarole in salads.

The pasta reheated nicely too. When I was scooping out some leftovers I thought “how did a peanut get in there?” and then realized it was a white bean!

This was really delicious, and definitely something I’ll make again. The only thing I’d change would be to use a little less pasta (maybe 8oz instead of 12 oz). This made a large quantity of food, and there was a lot of pasta in proportion to the other ingredients.

You can find this recipe in The Food You Crave, or here on the Food Network’s website.

The Craving Ellie In My Belly (CEIMB) group is now a “freedom of choice” group, meaning that you can cook whatever Ellie recipe you want. Each Friday, the CEIMB site will have a post where everyone can link to their recipes. I’ve made several of Ellie’s recipes and have liked them, so I hope that this group will inspire me to try more of her recipes and to use my cookbook a little more often!


Baked Potato Skins with Spinach and Vegetable Samosas in Phyllo

January 2, 2011

Happy new year! Here are a couple of delicious recipes I made for our new year’s eve at home. They’re both on the lighter side of things: the samosas are baked rather than deep-fried, and the potato skins are filled with spinach rather than melted cheese. Keep these healthy snack ideas in mind for your next gathering, or do what I did and serve them as the main dish for dinner. As an added bonus, if you make both of these at the same time, the potato that you scoop out of the skins can be used in the filling for the samosas.

The recipe for the potato skins is here on the Weight Watchers site.These were really good, though I agree with many of the reviews that suggest adding a little onion or garlic, nutmeg or hot pepper. There’s a whole lot of spinach going on here!

  • This recipe makes a ton of spinach filling. 20 oz is two boxes of frozen chopped spinach. The Yukon Gold potatoes I used were pretty small, and it took six of them (12 halves) to hold all of the filling.
  • I added about 1/2 teaspoon of paprika to the filling.
  • I used real bacon rather than turkey bacon, purely because I went for the convenience of precooked bacon. With a tiny bit of bacon on each potato half, I don’t think it makes a huge impact. Turkey or veggie bacon would be good, or you could skip it all together.
  • OK, one more not-as-healthy change: these were really good with a little bit of sour cream (I used light) on top. Again, just a dab will do, and it adds nice flavor and moisture, as well as making it look more attractive.

The recipe for samosas is from Cooking Light and you can find the recipe here. The phyllo bakes up nice and crunchy with just a brush of oil. Inside is a soft filling of potatoes, peas, and carrots, with fragrant Indian spices.

  • I did not make the mint chutney; instead I made a dipping sauce from the New Moosewood Cookbook (recipe below). Mint chutney doesn’t sound like my kind of thing, and I’d made the dipping sauce before and knew that I liked it. As a side note, Moosewood’s recipe for samosas is also really good, but I love the addition of carrots in the Cooking Light recipe.
  • Once you get the hang of folding the samosas, it’s not hard to do. I won’t tell you how long it took me to get the hang of it, though!

Dipping Sauce for Samosas
From the New Moosewood Cookbook

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 small glove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat to boiling, then simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. It will reduce slightly, but this is a thin sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature with hot samosas. I suggest giving each person a small bowl of the dipping sauce so they can double-dip!


Nectarine Frozen Yogurt

September 3, 2010

I bought the cutest basket of nectarines at Trader Joe’s; six of them tucked into a plastic container covered with netting and a tag that said “ripen in the fruit bowl.” They did ripen nicely, but of course they were all ready to eat at the same time. I ate one and wanted to take advantage of the rest while they were fresh without feeling like I had to cram them down and force my husband to help me eat them. The solution? Nectarine frozen yogurt. It’s summer in a bowl; fresh and delicious with no worrying over rapidly ripening fruit.

This is adapted from the Peach Frozen Yogurt recipe in David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, which is a fantastic book. I used nectarines instead of peaches and fat-free yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt. I also used an immersion blender to puree the fruit – so much easier than transferring it to a blender or food processor. No ice cream maker? Check out David Lebovitz’s method for making ice cream without a machine. I have not tried this myself, but have read many good reviews of this technique.

Nectarine Frozen Yogurt

adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 1/2 pounds (675 g) ripe nectarines (about 5 large nectarines)
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 cup (240 g) plain fat-free yogurt (I used Dannon All-Natural Plain Nonfat yogurt)
A few drops fresh lemon juice

Peel the nectarines with a vegetable peeler or knife. Slice them in half, remove the pits, and cut them into chunks. In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, cook the nectarines and water over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar until it dissolves, and thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. (I recommend chilling it overnight.)

When the nectarines are cool, add the yogurt and puree with an immersion blender until it is almost smooth but still has some chunks. If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Greek Barley Salad

August 4, 2010

Just the other day, I realized that it’s August and I should be making some summer salads. In fact, for dinner tonight we’re having salmon and Whole Grain Salad, which is one of my favorites. As much as I like that salad, how about some variety? Enter Greek Barley Salad!

Barley, veggies, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and a touch of lemon. Opa!


  • I found this recipe in Cooking Light magazine. You can find it here, under the name Greek Chicken and Barley Salad.
  • I made one major change, which was omitting the chicken. I opted to make grilled chicken and have this salad on the side. (Subtract the chicken-related ingredients if you’re making my version.)
  • In the interest of clearing out my freezer, I cooked the barley in chicken broth, but it would be easy to make a vegetarian version with vegetable broth.
  • I used quick-cooking barley instead of pearl barley.

The Kitchen Reader: Some recipes from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters

June 30, 2010

This month’s book for The Kitchen Reader is Food Matters, by Mark Bittman, which was selected by Elizabeth of Spike Bakes. The first 100 or so pages of the book are full of facts and figures designed to convince the reader that we should be eating less meat and processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables, because it’s better for your body and for the environment. The rest of the book is full of recipes that support his theory of eating. I’m not all that keen on facts and figures, and I didn’t need a lot of convincing, so I skimmed through the first part and then dove into the recipes. While this wasn’t my favorite book to read, I found a number of recipes that sounded great.

The first recipe I tried was Tabbouleh. I’ve made it before but it’s been a while, and I don’t know what recipe I used in the past. The first thing I thought was – where are the cucumbers? Isn’t that a staple in this salad? Then I thought – peas? What the heck is he thinking putting peas in there? I decided to have faith and I mostly followed the recipe and it was awesome! Especially the peas!

I was planning to eat this for lunch all week, but my husband tried it and declared “I like things like this a lot,” so I had to share. The recipe is at the bottom of the post. Give it a try! By the way, I’ve always called this Tabouli, but Bittman calls it Tabbouleh…I think it’s the same salad regardless of the spelling.

Next up was Vegetable Spread. This is a really loose recipe that you can customize according to what you have and what you like. Basically, you cook 2 pounds of vegetables and then puree them with olive oil. I roasted onion, carrots, red bell pepper, broccoli, and cauliflower with a little olive oil, then put them in the food processor with a little more olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Roasted vegetables are so flavorful, and after pureeing, this spread was a lovely mosaic of colors. My veggie-loving husband was really looking forward to this after he saw the roasted vegetables and asked what I was doing with them.

We ate this with this cracker bread; it would be great with any kind of crackers or bread. The roasted flavor and the combination of vegetables was so delicious! Another keeper that I’ll make again and again. Scroll down for the recipe. I wish I would have measured the amount of spread that the recipe made. Two pounds of vegetables sounds like a lot, but they shrink when roasted, and by the time they’re pureed, the amount doesn’t seem so huge.

Mark Bittman’s Tabbouleh

From Food Matters, also published online here My notes are in (red)

1/2 cup fine-grind (#1) or medium-grind (#2) bulgur (I bought some from the bulk section at my grocery store; I don’t know what size it was)
1/3 cup olive oil, or more as needed (I used 1/4 c, and would start with less next time)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped (omitted)
1 cup peas or fava beans (frozen are fine; run them under cold water to thaw) (used peas)
6 or 7 radishes, chopped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
about 6 black olives, pitted and chopped, or more to taste (optional) (not optional! They’re great!)

Soak the bulgur in 1¼ cups boiling water to cover until tender, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the grind. If any water remains when the bulgur is done, put the bulgur in a fine strainer and press down on it, or squeeze it in a cloth (be sure to squeeze as much water out as you can). Toss the bulgur with the oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (You can make the bulgur up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before proceeding.) Just before you’re ready to eat, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently; taste, adjust the seasoning, adding more oil or lemon juice as needed. Serves four.

Mark Bittman’s Vegetable Spread

From Food Matters, also published online here

• About 2 pounds any vegetables, trimmed and cooked until tender by any method
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the veggies, any cooking method will work: Steam, boil, sauté, grill, or roast — though grilling and roasting concentrate flavors and make the spread more complex. Just make sure everything is quite tender.  Make sure the vegetables are relatively dry before starting. If you need to drain them, reserve the cooking liquid. To puree the vegetables, put them in a blender or food processor with the olive oil and as much of the cooking liquid (or water or more olive oil) as you need to get the machine going; or run the vegetables through a food mill. In many cases, you can simply mash the vegetables with a large fork or potato masher, adding the olive oil and cooking liquid as needed to reach the consistency you want.
Taste, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and taste again. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature. It will keep in the fridge for several days.

Veggie variations:

Eggplant spread
Eggplant, trimmed and cooked until tender
Flavor with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley

Beet spread
Beets, trimmed and cooked until tender
Flavor with walnuts and dill, serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt

Butternut squash spread
Butternut squash, cooked until tender
Flavor with fresh ginger, orange zest, and cilantro

Broccoli Spread
Broccoli, trimmed and cooked until tender
Flavor with Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil

Flavoring veggie spreads:
* Add up to 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, basil or other mild herb leaves before pureeing.
* Add up to a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, oregano, or thyme leaves before pureeing.
* Squeeze some citrus juice — lemon, lime, or orange — into the puree.
* Include a few coins of peeled fresh ginger or a garlic clove or two with the vegetables as they puree.
* Puree the vegetable mixture with fresh (or reconstituted dried) chiles to taste, or add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.
* When you add salt, add a pinch of ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds or nutmeg.
* Add chili powder along with the olive oil.
* Instead of the olive oil, use peanut oil or coconut milk, and season with curry powder.
* Instead of the olive oil, use a combination of sesame and peanut oil, and season with five-spice powder.


Tilapia Tostadas

February 26, 2010

Hola amigos! I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, and we had some delicious fish tacos at one of the resort’s restaurants. Back home in the cold winter weather, I found this recipe in a Cooking Light’s August 2009 issue. The cornmeal-coated tilapia is delicious and certainly more healthy than the restaurant version.


  • The first time I made this, I broiled the tortillas as directed in the recipe. It worked fine, but they were hard to eat. The next time, I brushed them with oil and warmed them in a pan on the stove; they were easier to eat this way.
  • My grocery store didn’t have angel hair slaw, so I used regular.
  • My avocado was brown and mushy when I cut it open, so I had to go without. Boo!
  • I used defrosted frozen corn.

I don’t have any photos of the fish tacos, but here are a few from the trip.

Sunny skies and blue water

Have a fruity drink!

Have another fruity drink!

There was no shortage of fancy desserts

I need a chocolate fountain at home!

Mayan ruins at Coba. A few trips up and down will work off some calories!


Whole Grain Salad

September 18, 2009

I would pick this salad over pasta salad any day. I got the recipe several years ago when I subscribed to a newsletter from the American Institute for Cancer Research. The newsletter stopped coming, but this recipe was a keeper! It’s colorful, tasty, and healthy.

Whole Grain Salad


  • For the mozzarella, I’ve used shredded and diced. I highly recommend diced; it’s much more satisfying to get a little cube of cheese in a bite than it is to get a couple of shreds.
  • You can, of course, switch the veggies to what you like and what you have on hand. The ones listed in the recipe make a really good combination though.
  • This is the first time I used quinoa in this salad; in the past I always used couscous. It’s delicious either way, and I’m sure the other grains are delicious too. (8/6/10 correction: I just found out that what I thought was quinoa is not! I think it’s actually Israeli couscous; I have yet to try it with quinoa, but I think it will be good.)
  • Instead of mint, cilantro, or chervil, I used chives and basil because that’s what I have growing in my herb garden.
  • The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit, like  apricots, raisins, dates, figs or currants. I omitted that because as much as I love dried fruit, I don’t always love it in savory dishes.

Whole Grain Salad

1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 tomato, seeded, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped radish
2 scallions, green and white parts, or  1/4 cup chopped red or Bermuda onion
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts, sesame seeds,  or sunflower seeds, or chopped  almonds, walnuts, or pecans
3-4 oz. diced low fat mozzarella cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to  taste, if desired
3 cups cooked (and cooled) brown rice, or whole-grain pasta, or couscous,  bulgur, or quinoa
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh (or 2 tsp. dried) chives or flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. finely chopped (or 2 tsp. dried) fresh mint, cilantro, or chervil

In a large bowl place the bell pepper, tomato, radish, scallions or onion,  nuts or seeds and cheese.  Mix lightly.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fluff the cooled grain with a fork and season it to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the grain to the bowl of salad ingredients and mix it in lightly with a fork.

In another bowl whisk together the lime juice, oil and herbs.  Drizzle over the salad and mix in lightly.  Serve or refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days.

Makes 6 cups.

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