Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spiced Banana Bread Pudding

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream." -Julia Childs

Speaking strictly on taste Julia Childs was probably right, but clearly she wasn't considering health or calories! This Spiced Banana Bread Pudding with Raisins recipe is a satisfying, delightfully spiced desert that skips the saturated fat and cholesterol and uses skim milk instead.  The best part is, you don't even notice its absence!

I decided to try this recipe to use up half the loaf of sourdough bread I had leftover from the farmers market earlier that week.  Although I'm always an advocate of whole grains, Molly Katzen advises to use a white bread in this recipe for optimum taste.  The sourdough loaf was a perfect choice, and you can't miss with the combination of banana, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Feeling adventurous? Try topping your bread pudding with a rum sauce. You can find a bunch of different recipes for them on Epicurious.

Spiced Banana Bread Pudding with Raisins (from The New Moosewood Cookbook)
10 minutes to prepare, 35 minutes to bake
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Substitutions: I used 2 full eggs and one egg white, and split the 1/3 cup sugar half brown sugar half white.

Interesting Facts: Did you know that you can test an egg's freshness through its position in a cup of water? Fresh eggs sink, while bad eggs float.  Also, don't despair if your brown sugar is rock hard! It can be softened by sealing in a big with a slice of bread, or microwaving on high for 30 seconds.

3 to 4 packed cups cubed bread (ok if stale or frozen)
3 eggs
3 cups milk (lowfat ok)
1/3 cup sugar (more or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana ripe banana, sliced
1/4 cup raisins
a few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
2) Spread the bread in the pan.
3) Beat together remaining ingredients. Pour this custard over the bread.
4) Bake around 35 minutes, or until firm but not dry. Serve warm or at room temperature.


"14 Ways to Save Money on Groceries." Finacially Fit: Saving Money & Living Well. Yahoo Shine. Web. 24 Feb. 2011. <>.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans

"I like to cook but just don't have the time" [sigh]. "I don't know enough about cooking to do this without totally stressing out" [groan].  "I always end up with too many leftover ingredients since I'm only cooking for myself" [grumble] . If you fall into any of these categories, I have the PERFECT recipe for you: Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans.  In the time it will take you to boil pasta (please tell me you can boil pasta!), you can complete all  prep work for this dish.  No baking, searing, or sauteing action here: a chopping board, knife, and mixing bowl is all you'll need.  The result: a healthy, delicious light pasta salad packed with nutrients that took exactly the same time as the delivery guy. 

One of my favorite things about this dish is the ratio of healthful ingredients to pasta.  Often, a main course of pasta is about 3-4 servings of grains, and not enough veggies and protein.  Did you know that 1 serving of pasta is only 1/2 cup dried? This dish invites you to step away from your traditional pasta & tomato sauce and gain the health benefits of leafy greens, veggies and beans.

Spinach-Pasta Salad with Cannellini Beans (adopted from  Better Homes and Gardens February 2011 Magazine)
I skewed the original recipe's proportions to make 2 servings, but kept the original amount of veggies. I also added roasted red peppers and hot red pepper flakes for an extra burst of flavor.  Only cooking for one? No worries, you'll make two meals out of it!

 1 5- to 6-oz. pckg. fresh baby spinach (look for triple washed organic)
1 10.5 oz. can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup cumbled reduced-fat or fat-free feta cheese
1/4 cup dried tomatoes (not oil packed), snipped
1 7 oz. canned roasted red peppers
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, or 1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. whole wheat pasta
shaved Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

But I don't like...
Spinach: use arugula or broccoli florets
Feta Cheese: asiago and extra shaved Parmesan
Beans: vegetarian sausage (you can always use turkey sausage, chicken or shrimp, but this adds time to cook! If you go for pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage, check the sodium content first.)

1. Cook pasta according to packaged directions.
2. While water is boiling, combine spinach, beans, cheese, dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, onions, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. (Add a few flakes of hot red pepper if you like spice.) Mix thoroughly.
3. Drain pasta, and add it into the large mixing bowl. Toss well with other ingredients. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Avoid the "Dirty Dozen"
Certain foods are conventionally produced with harmful pesticides that leave residue, hence the top 12 being dubbed the "dirty dozen". Spinach is one of them!  Click here for a full breakdown of its suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and developmental or reproductive toxicants (yuck!). Buying organic is a must for this leafy green. Other vegetables in the dirty dozen include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, lettuce, and potatoes. OK to buy conventional: onions, avocado, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya. Pesticide Action Network's "What's in my Food?" website not only allows you to search by product for a complete breakdown of  its pesticide residue, but even has an iphone app to check on-the-go!


"The Dirty Dozen." Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <>.
"Spinach." What's on My Food? Pestiside Action Network. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <>.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Greek Festival Fish

A lot of people are under the misconception that fish is hard to cook, and consequently only order it when they are out at a restaurant. I used to be one of them. However, fish- especially this recipe- can be one of the simplest (and healthiest) dishes to make!  This recipe for Greek Festival Fish is bursting with Mediterranean flavors, and literally consists of throwing a handful of ingredients into a foil-lined pan and sticking it in the oven.  20 minutes later, voilĂ ! You have yourself a light, tasty meal rivaling any restaurant equivalent.

I used mahi mahi, but any white, flaky fish will work well for this dish.  The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.  High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, fish avoids the saturated fats found in other types of animal proteins.  By cooking it yourself, you can avoid the excessive butter and oil potentially used in restaurant preparation. A light sprinkling of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and dill bring out the best of the mahi mahi in this recipe, and goes wonderfully with a full-bodied glass of white wine.

Greek Festival Fish (loosely derived from Greek-Style Mahi Mahi from
I nixed the mayo in this recipe, and substituted lemon juice for the red wine vinegar. Also, I used dried oregano instead of fresh mint.  Most importantly, the only olive oil I used was to lightly coat the bottom of the foil.  The juices that form at the bottom of the pan after the fish is cooked through form a wonderful sauce that can be poured on top afterward.

Ingredients: (makes 2 servings)
-1 medium tomato, diced
- 2 tsp olive oil
-1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 (6-ounces) pieces of mahimahi fillet ( 1 1/2 inches thick)
- 1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta
-2 tsp dried oregano
-2 tsp chopped drill
-4 very thin lemon slices
-salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Toss together tomatoes, lemon juice, feta, oregano, dill, salt, & pepper in a small bowl.
3. Line a small 4-sides sheet pan with foil and lightly oil. Put fish (skin side down if skin is attached) on pan and season with 1/4 tsp salt & pepper.
4. Spread tomato and feta mixture over the top of fish. Put 2 lemon slices (slightly overlapping) on center of each fillet.
5. Broil fish 8 inches from heat until just cooked through, 14 to 16 minutes. If topping browns before fish is cooked, cover loosely with foil.
6. Pour leftover juice in foiled pan over fish before serving.

love, love, love Epicurious is my go-to guide for when I know what I want to cook but need to find a recipe for it.  "Celebrating food for 15 years", this Conde Nast online database hails from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and SELF. It also has an interactive online community where you can create a profile, tag favorite recipes, etc. (and you lucky iphone users get your own epi app!) My favorite thing about the site, however, is the search filters: not only can you search by ingredient, but you can then narrow your search down further by reader ratings, healthy, meal, quick & easy, etc.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Dried Cherries

Happy Valentines Day! 

I sorted through recipes for cakes, tarts, truffles, puddings, and mousses before settling on a tried-and-true chocolate decadence for this holiday: Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Cherries.  I could kvell about chocolate all day long (the darker, the better!), so trust me when I say that this recipe is truly amazing.  Consisting of only three ingredients- semisweet chocolate, pistachios, and dried cherries- this chocolate bark rivals the highest quality brand chocolate.  Also, its chock-full of antioxidants, so I'll give you plenty of reasons to feel guilt-free for eating it! Because I'm not gonna lie, its really hard to stop.

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Cherries: (from
makes about 4 dozen pieces
Active Time: 40 minutes (I did it in about 20)
Total Time: 1 hour

3/4 cup roasted, shelled pistachios (3 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dried cherries, or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, divided

*I need to note that I did not use the orange zest. I'm not a huge fan or orange and chocolate, but if you are, I'd say go for it! However, the pistachios and dried cherries provide enough flavor to enhance the chocolate on their own. Also, I microwaved the chocolate, so don't worry if you don't have a double broiler.


  1. Line the bottom and sides of a jelly-roll pan or baking sheet with foil. (Take care to avoid wrinkles.) Toss pistachios with cherries (or cranberries) in a medium bowl. Divide the mixture in half; stir orange zest into 1 portion.
  2. Melt 18 ounces chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. (Alternatively, microwave on low in 30-second bursts.) Stir often with a rubber spatula so it melts evenly.
  3. Remove the top pan and wipe dry (or remove the bowl from the microwave). Stir in the remaining 6 ounces chocolate, in 2 additions, until thoroughly melted and smooth.
  4. Add the pistachio mixture containing the orange zest to the chocolate; stir to mix well. Working quickly, scrape the chocolate onto the prepared pan, spreading it to an even 1/4-inch thickness with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the remaining pistachio mixture on top; gently press it into the chocolate with your fingertips. Refrigerate, uncovered, just until set, about 20 minutes.
  5. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board. Remove the pan and peel off the foil. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the chocolate lengthwise with 6 parallel lines. Break bark along the score lines. Break the strips of bark into 2- to 3-inch chunks.

Prevent Cancer with Every Bite
Antioxidants promote cell health by inhibiting the free radicals created by oxidation.  Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that are associated with cancer, heart disease and aging.  Pistachios are considered an "antioxidant powerhouse", and the anthocyanin-derived red color in cherries has been linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.  One square of dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa) contains twice as many polyphenols-molecules that slow the growth of cancer cells and limit angiogensis- as a glass of red wine, and almost as much as one cup of green tea.

"Cherries: Antoxidants." Choose Cherries. Web. 12 Feb. 2011. <ttp://>.
"Pistachio Health: Naturally Nutritious." Pistachio Health. Web. 12 Feb. 2011. <>.
Servan-Schreiber, David. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. New York: Viking Penguin, 2009. 140-41. Print.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

A sore throat. Runny nose. Snowy weather. Bad day.  All situations that can be fixed with a good bowl of chicken noodle soup!  This classic chicken noodle soup was a staple of Sunday night dinners at my house in Australia: my five roommates and I swore it could cure any lingering sickness from the week.  The definition of comfort food, this recipe is SO easy and goes perfectly with a crisp salad and slice of toasted bread.  Make a big batch and store some in the freezer so you always have it handy!

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6 as a side, 4 as a main

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 parsnips, thinly sliced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cups reduced sodium, free range chicken broth
1 cup whole wheat pasta
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes (read Check Your Chicken below)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
salt & pepper to taste

1. Coat the bottom of a large nonstick pot with oil on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and parsnips.
2. Cook covered for 8 minutes.  Add celery, and cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Pour in chicken broth and bring pot to a boil.
4. Add in pasta, uncover partially and and reduce heat to medium.  Stir pasta frequently.  6 Minutes before pasta is done cooking according to package directions, add in chicken. (Chicken can be frozen or partially thawed; its easier to cut over the refrigerated temperature.)
5. When pasta is finished cooking, add in a generous sprinkle of salt, pepper, and dill.  Mix throughly and let soup simmer for a few minutes before serving.

Check Your Chicken
To avoid antibiotics, inhumane conditions, hormones, and unnatural genetic engineering, buy grass-fed, pastured, and organic chicken when you can.  Not sure which brands fit these conditions? Whole Foods rates their meat with the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating, using a different colored sticker for each step of sustainable and humanely raised pigs, cattle and chicken.  Aim for step 5, but if you chose step 3, your chicken still had a chance to be outdoors.
For a detailed look into an American poultry processing plant, pick up Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food by Steve Striffler.  You will be shocked by the inhumane treatment of chicken and workers alike, and the lengths conventional corporations will go to cover up conditions in the poultry processing plant are truly horrifying. The book is an excellent eye-opener to the lack of transparency in our industrial food system.

"Pastured Chicken." LocalHarvest. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <>.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Smoked Salmon egg-white frittata with dill

OK, I am the first to admit that this recipe sounds too gourmet to be easy.  But frittatas are one of the easiest brunch foods to whip up- I cooked this one in five minutes flat- and the variety of ingredient combinations you can use will make you look like quite the sophisticated epicurean: see below for more different variations on this dish.  I've cut the directions down to five easy steps!

I use liquid egg whites to make my frittatas/omelets (just to clarify, I make the two interchangeably: technically, a frittata is broiled to finish, while an omelet is folded over the filling in the middle.)  This eliminates the high amount of cholesterol in the yoke, and the protein fills me up despite the low calorie content- 1/4 cup of egg-whites has 30 calories.  I also use fat-free cottage cheese in this recipe to maintain the creamy cheese taste that pairs beautifully with smoked salmon, but again limits the bad fats, cholesterol and cals. Finally, make sure to use cage-free eggs: the simplest way to ensure that the hen responsible for your breakfast lived a humane lifestyle.

Smoked Salmon egg-white frittata with dill (serves 1-2)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 c tomato, diced
1/8 lb (or 2 slices) of smoked salmon, chopped
2 tbsp non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 c liquid egg whites
1 tbsp fresh dill

1. Spray medium-sized nonstick skillet with cooking spray over medium heat.
2. Add scallions and tomato, cook covered for 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour in egg-whites, and  quickly add in smoked salmon and cottage cheese. distribute evenly throughout the liquid egg-whites.
4. Cook covered for 3 minutes.  If the center remains runny, lift edges with a spatula to let uncooked egg run underneath.
5. Sprinkle dill on top.  Move frittata to oven and broil until frittata is puffy and golden for 1 minute, OR fold over and cook covered for 2 more minutes if you want an omelet.

Other ingredient combinations for the egg-white eating gourmand:
(Use non-fat or reduced cheese when you can!)

  • spinach and feta
  • onion, pepper, salsa & cheddar cheese (black beans and cilantro optional)
  • mushroom, sun dried tomato, goat cheese & basil
  • asparagus and parmesan cheese
Pick Cage-Free:
Doesn't it make you feel better knowing that the chickens that produced the eggs in your delicious meal lived a humane life...aka, they got to move?  Believe it or not, most eggs are not cage-free: in other words, the average hen who produced them lived its life in a 67 square inch battery cage.  That is smaller than a letter-sized sheet of paper. This chicken would never even have the chance to spread its wings.

In contrast, cage-free eggs allow chickens to walk around and embrace natural behaviors like laying eggs in nests, perching, and dust-bathing (how birds clean their feathers to remain parasite-free).  Most cage-free hens reside on farms with 3rd-party certification programs to ensure a more humane way of life.

"Cage-Free vs. Battery-Cage Eggs: Comparison of Animal Welfare in Both Methods." The Humane Society of the United States. Web. 6 Feb. 2011. <>.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My favorite falafel recipe comes from Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook, a bible of handwritten recipes for vegetarians and natural-food lovers alike.  This recipe calls for pan-frying the falafel in a small amount of oil; eliminating the calories from the traditional deep-frying method but maintaing that same street-food crispness we all crave. I paired the falafel with whole-wheat pita, a nonfat greek yogurt rita sauce, and diced tomatoes and cucumbers for a complete healthful dinner. Scroll down to Love Your Legumes to learn about the health benefits of chickpeas, falafel's main ingredient.

Preperation time: about 30 minutes, including cooking
Yield: about 24 2-inch felafel. Allow 4 to 6 per serving.

4 cups cooked chickpeas (two 15-oz. cans)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup finely minced onion, or 6 scallions, minced
1/4 cup (packed) minced parsley
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. lemon juice
a few dashes of cayenne
1/3 cup flour (use whole wheat if you can)
oil for frying (falafel balls can also be baked in the oven if you want to eliminate oil completely, spray cooking spray on each side)

1. Rinse the chickpeas, and drain them well.
2. Combine all ingredients except flour in a food processor or a medium-sized bowl and process -or mash- until you have a uniform bater.
3. Add flour, and stir until thoroughly combined. You can cook the Felafel right away, or store the batter in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several days.
4. Heat a heavy skillet and add about 3 Tbs. oil. When it is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb on contact, drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan, flattening each slightly, like a small, thick pancake. Saute for about 10 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Add small amounts of extra oil to the pan as needed throughout the cooking.
5. Place the cooked Felafel on a plate lined with paper towels, and, if necessary, keep warm in a 300 degree F oven until serving time.

Rita Sauce
Per serving, combine 1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt, 1/4 cup grated cucumber, and a dash of salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Other sauces to try with the falafel include tahini, sweet chili sauce, and mango chutney.

Love Your Legumes
Canned beans are the cheapest form of protein you can get: at 28 cents a serving (under $1 a can), you can eliminate the cholesterol associated with animal-based proteins and gain a generous source of fiber, folate, iron, and potassium. Other health benefits include digestive track support, antioxidants, decreased cardiovascular risks, and blood sugar regulation. Also, chickpeas' ability to make you quickly reach food satiety-how full it makes one feel/effectiveness in eliminating sense of hunger and appetite- can help control calorie intake and weight management. Go garbanzos!


Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas)." WH Foods. Web. 5 Feb. 2011. <>.
"Healthy Foods Under $1." American Heart Association. 2 July 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Curried tuna salad with apples and dried cherries

I usually live on salads with fruit in the summer, and this stretch of disgusting New York snow and slush has  me longing for anything I can associate with warm weather.  Last night I threw together a curried tuna salad with apples and dried cherries, and it (temporarily) did the trick!  The combination of spicy from the mustard and horseradish and sweet from the fruits blend nicely together, and throwing in some dill at the end adds a freshness to the dish.  Lastly, using half canola-based light mayo and half plain greek yogurt preserves the traditional creaminess associated with a good tuna salad, but significantly cuts the calories, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Curried tuna salad with apples and dried cherries:
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup green pepper, diced
-1/4 cup cucumber, diced
-1/2 green apple, diced
-2 tbsp dried cherries
- 2 cans white albacore tuna or light skipjack tuna in water*
1 tbsp light canola-oil based mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp non-fat plain greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp mustard
-1/4 tsp horseradish
- juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill
-dash of salt & pepper

In a large bowl, mix scallions, green pepper, cucumber, apple, and cherries together. Drain tuna, and add to bowl.  Add mayo, yogurt, mustard, horseradish, lemon, curry powder, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in dill; toss a few times before serving. 

*The 411 on Canned Tuna
Not all canned tuna is created equal!   Some tuna fisheries use non-sustainable fishing methods that are harmful to both the tuna population and the environment. Try to stick to "troll" and "pole-and-line" caught tuna, which limits bycatch-catching other threatened species of sea life like sea turtles and sharks- rather than wild-caught tuna, which tends to generally have a large amount of bycatch. Albore tuna populations are best from the US and British Columbia, while skipjack tuna is generally healthy worldwide.

Want to know more about sustainable seafood? Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Pocket Guide, designed specifically for you by region. Just click on the area you live in for easy and portable access to the most ocean-friendly fish near you.

"Seafood Watch-Seafood Guide: Tuna (Canned)." Seafood Watch. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Web. 2 Feb. 2011. <>.