Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chocolately Goodness

It seemed like J had been talking about brownies on a daily basis for the last couple of weeks. With all the talk of brownies in the house, the thought of eating them was beginning to stick with me, too.

Part of the reason it took so long to actually make brownies since first having the idea is because we've been trying to avoid making sweets at home. Yes, I realize that homemade goodies are better than the store bought or commercially made alterntives, but I get (and eat) too many cookies and desserts at work. Many of these sugary goods end up coming home with me, so J's belly gets more than its fair share, too.

Brownies were lingering in our minds for days. Finally, J made some...
It was worth it.

These brownies are super moist. Not so much cakey brownies, but not dry and not very dense, either. It's hard to describe them, except by calling them banana-y, chocolate-y, and delicious!

Super Moist Banana Brownies

Dry Ingredients
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips
Handful of walnuts

Wet Ingredients
1/2 c plain soymilk
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips and walnuts. Make a well in the dry mixture, the add the wet ingredients and mix well. When the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together, add the chocolate chips and give one more stir.

Pour brownie mixture into a 9 x 9-inch square pan and sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake brownies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes or until done.

As you can see, we only put nuts of half of the brownies (because that's the only way we could agree on it).

Note: Instead of chocolate chips, we actually used half of a bar of vegan dark chocolate that was crushed into small pieces. The dark chocolate was fantastic in the brownie; the pieces melted enough to incorporate into the brownie while giving a bit of resistance that was nice to bite into. The flavor of the dark chocolate also contrasted nicely with the sweeter brownie batter. Whether you use chocolate chips or a crushed chocolate bar, I do recommend using dark chocolate for this added yumminess!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Linguine and Zucchini

I love leftovers. But even better than plain old leftovers is being able to use leftovers to come up with a completely new creation.

Over the past week, I had been craving pasta, which is basically a staple of my diet. The craving was not helped by going out for Italian food on Wednesday night, and only eating a salad and some risotto. As delicious they were, I left wishing that I had ordered something else.

Luckily, pasta is something incredibly easy to make at home and I was able to finally satisfy the craving this evening. Conveniently, I had some leftovers laying around that I was able to use to create a fabulous pasta dinner.

The Leftovers
*Zucchini is something I did not truly enjoy on or with pasta until the summer of 2005. I spent that summer living in Verona and was exposed to many new tastes that have stuck with me long since leaving. I had some zucchini leftover from Tuesday's dinner that did not look very exciting sitting in the fridge in a container and alone. Luckily for the zucchini and for me, I remembered that it would be a great addition to the night's pasta creation. I chopped it into more convenient bite-sized pieces, and it was ready to go!
*A few days ago, J had opened up a jar of marinara sauce that needed to be finished. I hear that pasta sauce actually shouldn't be kept very long once it's opened, so I was eager to use it up. The only addition made to this sauce was some garlic powder for extra kick.
*We also had some stravecchio cheese left from the Macaroni and Cheese we made on New Year's Eve. This is one of my new favorite cheese. It is hard, pungent, and versatile. I think it is a great cheese for snacking alongside sweet fruit, using in savory dishes, or simply for nibbling alone. J and I were both surprised that the stravecchio had lasted this long (both in terms of us not eating it and in terms of it not being taken over by mold growth) and decided it needed to be consumed without further delay.

The Dish
Whole wheat linguine, with zucchini, a basic tomato sauce, and sprinkled with grated stravecchio cheese. Simple, easy to make, and absolutely satisfying! This is how I like to eat.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hearty Stew

Soup is one food that I love and don't make as frequently as I'd like. I love thick and creamy soups as well as flavorful broths and refreshingly cool Summer gazpachos and belly-warming Winter stews. In my opinion, some of the best soups are ones that are healthy enough to be a complete meal. My specialty is lentil soup, which actually is more of a "hearty stew". My lentil soup is thick, chunky, low-fat, and made with heart-healthy veggies, hence the name.

Not only is this Hearty Stew super easy to make, another great thing about it is that you can improvise with whatever ingredients you have on hand. Substitute split peas for lentils. Add whatever veggies you need to use up. Skip the garlic if you don't have it.

Here are the ingredients I used this time:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • celery
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • lentils
  • veggie broth/water

Usually I add ginger and don't use have the celery or veggie broth on hand. You can add potatoes or other veggies, too. See how flexible this recipe can be!

To make Hearty Stew, chop up the veggies you want to use, and sweat the aromatics, then add remaining veggies, liquid, & legumes and cook for 30 minutes or longer, depending on how mushy you like it. If you desire, you can stick it in the blender, but I like the chunks of vegetables. You'll see there is no added fat, so this is a great dish to satisfy any appetite while keeping it healthy.

And a tip for soup-lovers cooking for only one or two: Make a big batch anyway-- then freeze this soup in individual portions. It freezes well, and is a much healthier ready-meal than frozen dinners from the store! You will be happy that you can just reach in your freezer and heat up this soup when you're craving it and won't have to spend time chopping veggies first.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ants on a Log

I feel sorry for those adults who didn't learn to eat their veggies as children. This does not mean that I think we all can't dislike some vegetables or must blindly eat whatever is in front of us. Rather, I believe that children who are exposed to a wider variety of foods, especially vegetables, are more likely to build healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.

One healthy snack that I discovered working as a summer camp counselor is Ants on a Log. Though many children [think they] don't like celery, I hardly encountered a child who wouldn't try it served with peanut butter and ants err, raisins. The sweetness from the dried fruit complements the savory peanut butter well, and they work as a great team to help children and adults to better enjoy celery.

I had leftover celery from making soup, so I thought I would reminisce on my summer camp days (and all that sunshine, which we haven't seen much of lately).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Black Beans and Rice

When I got home from work, it was a nice surprise to find dinner already made! J made a delicious and satisfying version of Black Beans and Rice with Tofurky brand Italian Sausage. The rice was very flavorful, while the beans and sausage added a nice contrast of flavors. Many of my favorite meals and simple ones like this. It's always a bonus when something that tastes as good as this isn't terribly unhealthy, either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I like to think of this creation as a treat that is not *completely* unhealthy. Though, I wouldn't go as far to calling it a health food, by any means. It's a great way to use up old bananas or to solve a sweet tooth's craving. If you don't want to eat them all at once (or you want to make a double batch), these muffins freeze and re-heat pretty decently. I just microwave them for a few seconds, and then pretend they just came out of the oven!

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. cane sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 overripe bananas
1/2 T. vanilla
1/2 c. soymilk
2-3 T. canola oil or non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance or Soy Garden)
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Mix dry ingredients, mash in bananas, then add wet ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Fill muffin pan 2/3 full, and bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for about twenty minutes, or until golden.
Makes about 12 muffins or 6 jumbo muffins.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


J and I have been experimenting with homemade pizza periodically. Our main challenge is trying to create a pizza dough that we like as much as restaurant-dough. We're not really fussy about how it turns out as long as it tastes good! One would think that it would be easy to find a good dough to make homemade pizza for people who aren't too picky about their pizza, but we've had no such luck!

Our attempts at pizza-making have not been terrible, but the pizza we've made just hasn't been as addictive as restaurant pizza tends to be. I fear that yummy pizza is synonymous for unhealthy & fattening. Next time, I think we'll try all white flour (rather than whole wheat) and see if that turns out any differently from using only whole wheat flour or various mixtures of white and whole wheat.

Spinach and sundried tomato pizza.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yummy Propaganda!

This is my favorite (newly discovered) propaganda. It appears to have a goal of getting kids to eat their veggies. And I can't stop listening to it. Seriously. So yummy, so yummy!

Watch this video to be inspired (or perhaps threatened by mild guilt) into eating those veggies that you don't love. Or just to have a laugh and get into the groove.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lazy Shepherd's Pie

Everybody has his own way of making Shepherd's Pie. Some say it must be made with lamb; others forbid particular vegetables from, lest their pie be tainted and and be something other than a Shepherd's Pie. And others again say it's not a Shepherd's Pie unless it contains those same vegetables in question.
In my opinion, real Shepherd's Pie does not just have a potato "topping", but has a complete "crust" made out of potatoes. [It's not apple pie, if the crust is only on top!] This satisfying dish is easy to make and perfect for cold winter nights when you want to snuggle up under a blanket in front of a fire. And if for some reason you need more convincing to go make a Pie of your own, remember that you can use up some of those leftovers in your fridge to make something new and exciting! Those leftover veggies will thank you for giving them a makeover!

Here is my quick and dirty way of making Shepherd's Pie. It's great for fulfilling cravings for comfort food that is both filling and healthy.


12 medium potatoes
1/2 cup plain soymilk
16 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables (must include peas & carrots--must not include broccoli or cauliflower)
12 oz Boca Ground Burger or "ground meat" of your choice
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/8 cup ketchup
Soy Garden or olive oil

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Add soy milk, dash of salt, and buttery substance of your choosing, then mash until fluffy. Spread out potatoes and pack into a layer on the bottom of a 9x9 inch casserole dish. Build mashed potatoes into a "crust" up sides of dish.

In a separate pan, sautee onions and garlic. When onions are golden, add Boca Ground burger and vegetables, and take off heat. Add tomato ketchup and stir until frozen clumps are broken up. This is the filling.

When no frozen chunks remain and the filling is mixed well, add to pie. Use the remaining mashed potatoes to top the Pie. Pat down potatoes and brush with Soy Garden or olive oil to help a crust form while baking.

Cook in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until top is desired crispiness.
Leftover mashed potatoes or vegetables will work just as well! Experiment with your fillings until you find something that calls to you.

Layer of Veggies+Boca Filling, pre-baking.

Crispy! Fresh from the oven!

Ran out of potatoes, so the "pie crust" was a little short.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Tribute to the General

General Tso's is a top favorite Chinese dish of both J and mine. I actually have several favorites, but it is a very rare occasion when J does not order General Tso's when we get Chinese food. Because of our love for the dish, we thought it was about time to try to make it ourselves.

We had a lot of the ingredients that I wanted to use, but did have to buy the chili and ginger. I decided that we'd try it without the red pepper and onions this time to make it more simple and to concentrate on the flavors of the sauce.

Though it didn't turn out tasting as much like General Tso's Tofu from a restaurant as I wanted, it was still yummy! I think for next time, a little less soy sauce is needed as well as a little more sugar, chili, and vinegar. With this disclaimer, here is the recipe I created (with changes to use for my next attempt!):

2 pounds of firm tofu
1 red pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
4 thinly sliced green onions
4 Thai chili peppers
Cornstarch for dipping
Canola oil for frying

Ingredients for Marinade:
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Thai chili peppers, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Slice and drain tofu. Freeze at least overnight.

Mix all ingredients for marinade except cornstarch. Defrost tofu chunks and let soak in marinade for at least 30 minutes. Once ready, drain tofu from marinade and set aside the liquids for sauce.

Dip tofu in cornstarch to lightly coat. Heat Canola oil in a pan and gently place tofu pieces. Fry until crispy.

In a separate pan, gently fry slices of red pepper with minced garlic and ginger. Add marinade mixture, chilies, and half of the green onions. Mix cornstarch with equal amount of cold water and add to marinade, stirring well.Bring to a boil and keep stirring over low heat till sauce thickens.

When tofu is crispy, serve with rice and broccoli. Top with sauce and remaining green onions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

This Ain't Your Grandma's Porridge

Berry Blue Oatmeal

This delicious concoction of J's reminded me of those delicious blueberry muffins that are soo bad for you. I used to eat them all the time when I was little, and am thrilled at how much the oatmeal tasted just like it. Now there's a healthy way to deal with a craving for something sweet and unhealthy!


Add following ingredients to a saucepan and bring to boil:

2 cups rolled oats

3 cups plain soymilk
1 cup water
Dash of salt

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cover. Stir periodically if desired.

After about 30 minutes on the stove, add:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dried blueberries

Stir and keep on heat for 10 more minutes. Your oats are now ready for enjoyment!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Eve Feast

Though we've both said that we want to reduce our dairy consumption, our New Year's Eve feast consisted of an extremely rich and tasty Five Cheese "Macaroni and Cheese." We used whole wheat fusilli mixed with a blend of Australian Cheddar, Fontina val Deosta, Aged Provolone, Grana Padano and topped with crumbled bread and Antigo Stravecchio. Sinfully delicious!

Happy New Year to all! May good food, good friends, and good health be yours in 2008!



1 lb fusilli or pasta of choice
1/2 lb grated Australian Cheddar
1/4 lb grated Aged Provolone
1/4 lb grated Grano Padano
1/4 lb grated Fontina val Deosta

For Sauce:
2 T butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. plain soymilk
1 T. mustard powder
1 T. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper

For Topping:
3 slices of bread
1/4 lb grated Antigo Stravecchio

Start by boiling the pasta and grating your cheese.
Next, use the butter and flour to begin a roux. Add the soymilk and desired seasonings and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

When pasta is almost al dente, drain and spread into a 3 qt. casserole dish, and add the sauce and first four cheeses. Mix together well. Finally, crumble the bread and sprinkle with the Antigo Stravecchio. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until topping is crisp and brown. Enjoy!