Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Flavor Explosion

The other night I was flipping through an old Cooking Light and I came across this recipe for Chicken Posole.  I figured that I would give it a shot, since the recipe said that it would only take 20 minutes. I adapted a few things, like using fresh tomatillos instead of canned.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!  It is so flavorful and it tastes like a restaurant soup.  The next time that you are looking for a quick and healthy dinner, try this.  You won't be disappointed!

Super Fast Chicken Posole


1 tb olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 garlic cloves minced 
1/2 onion chopped
2 celery stalks chopped 
4 fresh tomatillos chopped
2 (14 oz) cans fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can hominy, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (I used the plain cooked chicken strips from Trader Joe's)
1 tb fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
a few dashes of hot sauce
1/2 ripe avocado, diced
4 radishes thinly sliced
chopped cilantro leaves


1. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add oregano and next 4 ingredients (through onion and celery); saute two minutes.  Stir in tomatillos, cook 1 minute.  Add broth and hominy; cover and bring to a boil.  Uncover and cook for 8 minutes.  Stir in chicken; cook 1 minute, or until heated.  Remove from heat and stir in lime juice, pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.  Divide evenly among 4 bowls.  Top with avocado, cilantro, and sliced radishes.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can Dinner Really Be This Easy?!

For those of you that know me, you won't be surprised that I am once again raving about my crock pot.     It is so easy to make an awesome dinner, with little to no effort or clean up.  I am convinced that you can toss just about anything into this underrated appliance and it will be delicious! The added bonus of cooking your own meals is that you can control what goes into it.  Forget about pre-packaged, processed have all of the tools that you need to start eating better now!

 Tonight I decided to make beef stew and it turned out great!  If you know how to use a knife to cut some vegetables, and if you have some seasonings in your pantry, you can make this recipe.  Serve it with a salad and some Italian bread.  It's the perfect weeknight meal!  Enjoy!  

Crock Pot Beef Stew


1 lb stew meat (I use organic beef)
2-3 celery stalks chopped (leaves included)
3 Idaho potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 oz carton of lower sodium chicken or beef stock (or broth)
1 12 oz can of low sodium V-8
1 tb spicy mustard
1tb Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp hot paprika 
3 bay leaves (remove after cooking)
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste  

Directions:  Place all ingredients into the crock pot, stir to combine.  The liquid should just cover the meat and vegetables.  Turn on low and cook for 4-6 hours.  The meat will shred with a fork when cooking is complete.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Endless Possibilites

My latest obsession is with the acorn squash.  Not long ago, I used to bypass this little gem every time I went to the grocery store because I had no idea what to do with it.  I used it a lot when I was pureeing baby food for the little guy, but until recently I never realized that I could use it to throw together a quick and delicious dinner.  My theory on the acorn squash is similar to what I believe about the crock is almost fool proof!  You can mix together a bunch of ingredients, cook it, and voila! A delicious, healthy dinner, that took little effort.  Try the acorn squash recipe below, or feel free to experiment with your own version.  This will please both the herbivores and carnivores in your family! You won't be disappointed!

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 2


1 acorn squash

3/4 lb of your choice of ground meat (turkey, chicken, ground beef, pork), or you can go meatless

1 package of wild rice, quinoa, barley, couscous (or other grain of choice)

1/4 cup of chopped dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries)

2 T olive oil 

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 T pine nuts, chopped walnuts, or chopped almonds

2 T blue cheese, feta, or any other cheese you prefer


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cook the wild rice (or any other grain of your choice according to package directions), set aside.  (***Note: wild rice takes about 40 minutes to cook, if you are looking for a time saver, use couscous, which cooks in about 5 minutes).

Cook the acorn squash.  First, pierce it a few times with a knife and then microwave it on high for 6 to 8 minutes.  The skin will be soft and a fork or a knife will puncture the skin easily when it is fully cooked.  Let cool for 5 minutes and then cut the squash in half, so that you have two even sides.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard.  

While the squash cooks, heat olive oil in a medium skillet.  Sauté onions and garlic over medium high heat, season with salt, and pepper.  Add the ground meat and cook until the meat is no longer pink (about 5 minutes).  

Combine, the rice, meat mixture, dried fruit, and nuts in a medium bowl.  Stir until everything is evenly mixed.  Fill each half of the acorn squash with a ample amount of the mixture.  Top each half with the crumbled cheese.  Place on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  


Monday, November 26, 2012

Potato Leek Soup

Most potato soups that I come across use milk or cream to thicken the soup.  Obviously it makes the soup taste great, but it also adds a lot of calories.  For those of you who are looking for a healthy, dairy free, and flavorful soup, this is for you!  The secret is pureeing the potatoes with a blender or immersion hand blender.   Many thanks to my Dad (the master of soup making) for this easy and delicious recipe!  

Potato Leek Soup


2 leeks, about a pound                            
6 cups low sodium chick stock                
2 T olive oil                                             
3 C coarsely chopped onion                     
1 C chopped carrot                                  
1 C chopped celery                                  
2 garlic cloves, minced                         
2 C cubed, peeled potatoes or Yukon Gold   
1/2 t black pepper                                   
1/4 t sea salt (or Kosher)                         
Dried pepper flakes if desired


Remove roots, leaves, and green tops from leeks.

Cut leeks lengthwise in half, submerge in cold water.  Swirl, drain.  Slice into 1" slices.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan over med-high heat. 

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Add leek, onion, and next 7 ingredients (thru red pepper flakes).  Partially cover and cook on low for 25 min, stirring occasionally.  

Add hot broth and potatoes to leek mixture, bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat, simmer 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Stir in pepper/salt.

Puree in a blender or with an immersion hand blender.  Return to Dutch oven to reheat.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be Thankful, Be Mindful

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us!  I am sure that many of us will be gathering around the table later enjoying some sort of feast.  It is so easy to overeat on this particular day, so I challenge you to be mindful about what goes into your mouth today.  Try to find balance and not overdo anything.  Sure, that second helping of stuffing looks good now, but how will it make you feel later?  Try to stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full.  Try small samples of all of your favorites, so that you don't feel deprived.  Incorporate some physical activity today as well.  Go for a family walk, a bike ride, a run...just move!

It is easy to get caught up in the buzz of the season and to forget what we are actually celebrating.  We need to remember that it is not about the parties, the parades, or the shopping.  Let's all be thankful for what we have, each and every day.  Treat everyday as if it were Thanksgiving and cherish the moments that you can spend with your loved ones.  Stay tuned for some healthy after-Thanksgiving recipes!  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grandma Over's Baked Corn

I have been eating baked corn at Thanksgiving and Christmas for as long as I can remember.  It is so easy to make and is a nice twist on a very predictable vegetable.  I assume that it is some sort of Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, because when I moved farther east most people had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned baked corn.  This is a recipe that will always remind me of my dear grandmother.  Hopefully when I make it this year it will turn out as good as hers always did.

Baked Corn


3 cans of Cope's corn

3 1/2 cups milk

4 T melted butter

2tsp salt

2tsp pepper

5 beaten eggs


Preheat oven to 375

Drain the 3 cans of corn and mix all of the ingredients together.  Pour into a buttered casserole dish.  Bake 60-75 minutes until set and browned.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sneaky, But Delicious

A few years ago I came across a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  For anyone who has small children, or picky eaters, this book is a must!  Seinfeld does an amazing job at creating meals and snacks with hidden vegetables.  The basis behind this book is the vegetable puree.  As long as you have a blender, making purees is very simple.  This particular recipe uses spinach puree.  I used a bag of baby spinach, a little bit of water and made a puree in the blender.  Any leftovers can be stored in ice-cube trays and used later in another recipe (or even in a smoothie).  My son took this recipe to school for his snack day and his teacher told me that the kids loved it.  The recipe says to cut the bars into 12, but I cut them into smaller squares so they would fit into little hands.  Enjoy!!!

Blueberry Oatmeal Bars (with spinach)


Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup Smart Balance (trans-fat free soft tub spread), chilled

1 cup blueberry preserves

1/2 cup spinach puree


1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat and 8x8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and vanilla, and stir to mix well.

3.  Add the margarine and cut it quickly into the dry ingredients with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal and is no longer powdery.  Do not over-mix, bits of spread will still be visible.

4.  Set aside about half of the oat mixture; press the rest of it firmly into the pan.  Bake until lightly browned at the edges (but not fully baked), 13 to 15 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, mix the preserves with the spinach puree in a small bowl.

6.  Spread the blueberry mixture over the partially baked oat layer, then sprinkle with the reserved oat mixture.  Bake until the topping is slightly browned, 20-25 minutes.  Set the pan on a rack to cool completely before cutting.  Cut into either 12 large bars, or into smaller squares.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthy Habits Start at Home

I am a strong believer when it comes to feeding kids healthy foods.  When I was growing up my parents taught me healthy eating habits, and I feel that this gave me a strong foundation.  I am trying to do the same with my son, so that he can have the best advantage possible.  My son is now almost two and he does not drink juice, and has no concept of what "fast food" is, aside from how fast I can actually get it on his plate. I am not fanatical about restricting his diet; my little guy can still have a few bites of cake at birthday parties, or a treat after dinner here and there.  However, on a daily basis, I try to be mindful of what goes into my family.  Last week we were at BJ's buying our standard staples, when we walked past one of the food "traps".  The women was serving chocolate chip cookies and was practically waving it in front of my son.  She asked if he could have one and I said "no".  She looked at me like I was the meanest parent ever!  In her mind she couldn't understand why I would deny him that cookie.   I feel that it is my job as a parent to set up healthy eating habits for him now, and if that makes the BJ's lady give me a funny look, so be it.  My son can't make his own choices yet, he won't be able to purchase his own food for many years, so as long as I am providing it, I want it to be as nutritious as possible.

Sometimes this becomes a challenge when we go out to eat.  Children's menu's at restaurants typically offer terrible choices, and many of these places should be ashamed of themselves.  When did our society decide that it is acceptable to fill our children full of processed and fried foods?  Children do not need chicken fingers, french fries, macaroni and cheese, pizza, etc.  I know that some will argue that their kids are picky eaters, and I get that, but I don't think that we should throw in the towel when our kids are picky and just allow them to eat junk.  We should continue to offer a variety of foods to try to expand their palates.  When we go out to eat I always make sure that I pack my son some nutritious foods.  It is not hard to pack some steamed vegetables, a cheese stick, and some fruit.  When we arrive at the restaurant, I typically choose something from the menu that we will both like.  Sometimes I even order him a small piece of plain grilled fish, or some grilled chicken.  Most restaurants are very accommodating, you just have to ask.

As parents we also have to think about what our kids are eating when they are away from us.  Many health problems/eating issues can be avoided later in life if children are given the tools to make good decisions, especially when they are on their own. It is sad to say, but the public school system in this country provides some of the unhealthiest food choices for our kids.  Some kids are eating breakfast and lunch at school, and the majority of their daily calories and nutrition are coming from highly processed foods.  Parents think that they are sending their kids to a safe place that focuses on not only their minds, but also their bodies, but sadly this is not the case.  Budget cuts and politics seem to override the focus on nutrition in schools.  Packing a lunch is the best possible solution to this problem. And packing doesn't have to mean that you get stuck in the peanut-butter sandwich rut.  Think outside of the box and try wraps, last night's leftovers, salads, or an english muffin pizza.  Allowing the kids to help and make their own lunch is a fun way to have them be involved in the process.

Bottom line:  It comes down to being diligent about what goes into our kids.  Even our little ones can benefit from a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  

~Stay tuned for some healthy, kid-friendly recipes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Deconstruction: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Halloween always seems to be a busy night around here.  The kids parade that we go to starts right around dinner time, and as soon as we get home the trick or treaters are at the door ready for their sugar fix.  Because of this, I knew that I needed something quick and easy for dinner.  Earlier in the week when I was planning our meals, I took an inventory of the freezer.  The frozen pizza crust was taking up way too much space, so pizza went on the list.   Along with the crust,  I had lots of cherry tomatoes, and an avocado.  These simple ingredients inspired me to take the traditional elements in a Cobb Salad and make a Cobb "Salad" Pizza.  I must admit, it was amazing!!  This recipe can easily be transformed into a vegetarian pizza as well...just eliminate the chicken and bacon, or substitute your favorite soy products.  

Cobb "Salad" Pizza

1 whole wheat thin crust pizza shell (Boboli or Artisan)

2 chicken breasts (slice thin for faster cooking)

Italian dressing

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

3tb tomato sauce

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

2 tb real bacon pieces (I use Hormel or you could saute and crumble 2 slices of bacon)

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

***Marinate chicken in Italian dressing at least 30 minutes prior.  

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  While oven is preheating, saute chicken and dressing in a pan.  When chicken is finished cooking, let cool.  Dice chicken into cubes and set aside.  

2.  Coat the pizza shell with 3 tb of tomato sauce and spread the chicken evenly over the sauce.

3.  Evenly distribute the halved cherry tomatoes and the bacon pieces.

4.  Top with crumbled blue cheese and the mozzarella cheese.  

5.  Place the diced avocado on top and place into the oven.

6.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Vegetarian Crowd Pleasers

With Hurricane Sandy behind us, and power restored (for some), I thought that some of you would actually like to make and serve something that doesn't come out of a can!  I have had some requests for some vegetarian options, and these are two of my favorite recipes.  The first, is a main dish that my family loves.  The second, is a side dish that my dad made for Thanksgiving last year.  Why not try it at your next family get together?

Roasted Eggplant Rolls

from Chef Matthew Franklin
Prevention Magazine

2 tb olive oil

1 eggplant (1.5 lb), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/4" thick.  
1/2 c chopped onion
***16oz diced tomatoes ***see note at bottom
1 cup reduced fat ricotta (don't use fat doesn't taste that good!)
1 cup coarsely chopped spinach
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella 
1 tb dried basil
1 tb dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup tomato sauce

***I like to use tomatoes that come in glass or a tetra-pak.  Tomatoes are very acidic and can absorb the toxins in a standard can.  Cento and Pomi make great brands of diced tomatoes and you can find them in most grocery stores.  

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Brush 1 tb of the olive oil onto the eggplant and roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

2.  Saute the onion in the remaining 1 tb of olive oil until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with juice), and simmer for 15 minutes.  

3.  In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, basil, oregano, garlic, nutmeg, and black pepper.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Spoon the cheese mixture on each slice of the eggplant, and roll up like a jelly roll.  Place the eggplant in the dish and continue until all of the eggplant is used.  

5.  Top with tomato sauce and bake for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Apricots and Bourbon

~from Karen Christie and modified by my dad, Richard Wylie :)

This is a great alternative to the standard sweet potato casseroles that we see during the holidays.  This dish has much less sugar and fat, but still tastes amazing!  

1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
3 pounds red garnet or jewel sweet potatoes (or yams)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla

1.  In a small bowl, pour bourbon over dried apricots.

2. Scrub the sweet potatoes and pierce in several places with a fork.  Place potatoes on an oven rack and bake at 350, until potatoes are soft when pierced (about 1.5 hours).  Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 min.

3.  Peel the sweet potatoes and place into a large bowl.  Add brown sugar, butter, and vanilla to the bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork until the mixture is only slightly chunky.  Stir in the apricots and bourbon.  Spoon into a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish and spread level.

4.  Bake, uncovered, until hot in the center, about 30 minutes.  Serve warm.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chew on This

Sometimes I feel like the majority of my week is spent in the grocery store.  I can never find exactly what I am looking for in just one store, so it leaves me driving around the county in search of the best prices and products.  Price has become even more of a concern now that I am a stay at home mom and we are down to one income.  Often I am faced with the decision of whether to buy organic or just skip it and save money.  In terms of products like organic crackers, or cereals, I usually skip it, but it is a little more confusing when I get to the produce department.  It is hard to pay $4.99 for a half pint of organic raspberries when the conventional ones are only $2.50, but if it makes a health difference maybe it is worth the cost.

This weekend I stumbled across the September issue of Whole Living magazine, and there I found a list of 12 fruits and veggies that according to the Environmental Working Group, have the highest levels of pesticides.  So, the next time you are in the produce section, try to buy organic for the following items.

Note:  (1= best-10 = worst on the contamination scale)

1. Potatoes
2. Blueberries (domestic)
3. Cucumbers
4. Lettuce
5. Spinach
6. Grapes
7. Nectaries (imported)
8. Strawberries
9. Peaches
10. Red Peppers
11. Celery
12. Apples

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe #2: Mexican Chicken Loaf

This recipe is another staple in our house.  It allows you to have the flavors of a Mexican dish, but changes things up a bit if you are bored with the same old taco or fajita recipe.  I found this recipe from Linda Larsen in Your Guide to Busy Cooks.

*The recipe calls for ground chicken, but if you prefer, ground turkey would also work.

Mexican Chicken Loaf


2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup tortilla crumbs (I just put some in a bag and smash them by hand)

3 tbs salsa

2 tb ranch dressing (again, use the real thing...less chemicals and more natural ingredients)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix together eggs, tortilla chip crumbs, salsa, ranch dressing, chili powder, and cumin.  Add chicken and mix gently, but thoroughly.  Place mixture into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 1 hour or until the temperature reaches 175 F.  Top with shredded cheese and cover with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with your favorite toppings (sour cream, salsa, guacamole).

I usually serve this with a salad and a side of steamed vegetables.  Enjoy!!

Balance: A Word With Multiple Meanings

Earlier today I was in a power yoga class, sitting in a puddle of my own sweat (and probably others), and I was thinking about how important the word balance is.  In yoga, it is important to have balance in the poses, so that you don't fall into the person next to you.  In life, it is important to have balance between work/friends/family. Balance even shows up when it comes to our diets.  Many times people get caught up in the world of food and take things to an extreme.  Whether you are an over-eater, or someone who does not eat enough, you are out of balance.

So, how do we become more balanced when it comes to our food choices?  One way is to keep a food journal and be accountable for everything that goes into your mouth.  I like to think that I am a healthy eater, but I must admit there are days where I find myself eating the leftover peanut butter sandwich that my son left on his highchair tray (gross, right?).  Ultimately, finding balance in terms of food is going to be different for everyone.  Take time and think about what you are eating.  Are you really hungry, or are you eating for other reasons?  Is the food you are about to eat made from quality ingredients?  Will it give you energy, or make you tired and sluggish?  Can you pronounce everything in the label?  When we really start to think about what we are eating we tend to make better choices.  A balanced diet is not a diet, it is not an extreme, it allows you to enjoy the things that you love, and it leaves you feeling satisfied and centered.

Goal for the day:  Think about what the word balance means to you.  How can you work on finding your perfect balance?  Start small...even the smallest of changes can lead to big results.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Healthy Recipe # 1 Salmon Cakes

I make this recipe at least once a week and my family loves it (especially the little guy!)  This is a great recipe to make when you haven't been to the store, and need to make something quick in a jam.

Salmon Cakes- Serves 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 cans Wild Alaskan Salmon drained (skinless and boneless)

1/4 cup diced onion

2 even tbsp of mayo (use the real stuff...the light is filled with chemicals)

1 tbsp spicy mustard

A few dashes of hot sauce (to taste)

Black pepper

Parsley (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs divided

Combine all ingredients and form into a cake.  Coat the cake on both sides in the panko.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

I like to serve these with a small side of macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli~ Enjoy!!!

Journey #1: Overcoming Life's Obstacles

In order to get a clear picture of who I am and what I want to do, I think that it is important to share some details of my own journey.  In 2006, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.  Many people struggle with this disease and its symptoms for years, and for me it was a true life changer.  In just two short years, I tried almost every drug on the market, including Remicade, which was my last chance for remission.  Lucky me, I failed that miserably.  So, in May of 2008, weighing just 100 lbs, I was admitted into the hospital for high doses of steroids.  Ten days later I was still not any better, so I had to consider other options.  My surgeon told me that he was going to remove my colon.  I can't even explain what was going through my head at this point.  I was scared, but I knew that I couldn't continue to live in pain like I was doing for the past two years.  I made the decision to go through with it and ultimately got my life back!  Five surgeries later, I am as "normal" as I will ever be...I can enjoy life again!  My recovery was LONG, but with the help of family and friends, I made it through.

I have always been interested in health and fitness, but this experience put everything into perspective for me.  If we don't have our health, what do we have?  It is my goal to take my passion for teaching (I taught high school for 7 years), my love of cooking, and my desire to be healthy and strong, and make it readily available to others.

My plan is to include weekly (maybe even daily) recipe ideas, exercise tips, and just general thoughts that may help to lead someone in a healthier direction.

I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you!