Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year.... New You?

Happy New Year Everyone!

What are your new years resolutions this year?  Will 2013 bring big changes to your health and fitness?  Do you want to lose weight?  Eat healthier?  Get in shape?  Be more active?

Well... whatever your resolution or goal is for the new year, there are plenty of free resources out there to help you accomplish them.  Here are a few of my favorite free online resources for diet, health and fitness: is a free online weight loss program and community dedicated to helping people live healthier, happier lives.  The site is complete with fitness and food trackers, articles, sections to help you eat better - recipes, diet, nutrition information, feel better - health and wellness information, and look better - fitness, beauty, and style information.  For the serious dieter, offers personalized weight loss programs (with a calorie counter and meal-program), personalized fitness programs, mobile apps and trackers, and articles, videos, etc. to help you reach your weight-loss goal.

Hal Higdon Training Programs

This site contains free running/walking training programs and running advice from Runners World magazine writer, Hal Higdon. You can download and print free training plans for 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons from beginner level to advanced level (I use these plans for my half marathon training). No matter what you are training for or what fitness level you are at, there is a plan to help you achieve your goals! The site also offers interactive apps, virtual training and online discussion forums. is the leading online community for people who want to discover, learn about, share, and register for activities they are passionate about. This site allows you to search and register online for races, team sports and recreational activities; interact with others who have similar interests; start online training programs; and access nutrition, fitness and training tips.
  • Search and Register for Events and Activities - hosts the world's largest directory of sports and recreational activities, facilities, venues and classes, which includes races, leagues, tournaments, camps and other recreational listings in over 80 sports and 5,000 cities! From 5K runs and marathons to cycling races, triathlons, baseball leagues, soccer camps, cheer leading clinics and more, finding activities to do is easy!  And you can register online! 
  • E-Newsletters - sends out a weekly and monthly newsletters offering local event information, featured stories, tips and drills, and gear reviews for a multitude of sports and interests.
  • Online Communities -'s thriving online community features original content and lively message boards with thousands of topics of interest to active individuals. Additionally, members can create personal profiles, share videos, post comments, ratings and more.
  • Active Trainer Online Tools and Plans - To help participants prepare for their sports activities, also offers a range of online training tools and plans from fitness coaches and world renowned athletes. Participants can log and track workouts, select from plans for all athletic abilities and receive daily reminders.
  • Active Articles - also has a lifestyle section that contains a large database of articles, information, and advice on 'all things active' from the health and fitness experts.

It's great to know there is such an abundance of free diet, health, and fitness information out there... and that it's only a 'click' away.  I hope one of these online resources that are dedicated that are to making you healthier, happier, and more active can help you in achieving your health and fitness goals in the new year!

Cheers to 2013!!  Let's do this.

- Janel

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eggnog Rice Pudding

Well my friends, the holidays come and gone once again.  I have to admit I am a little sad, especially since every year they seem to fly by faster than the year before!  It's now time to take down the Christmas tree, put away the decorations... and use up the last of the holiday eggnog before our New Years diets begin!

Over the last couple of weeks I have enough Christmas cakes, cookies, and candy to last me a lifetime, so using my leftover eggnog in a bread or cookie was simply out of the question!  I decided I wanted to make something a little more on the savory side, so I searched for a recipe for Eggnog Rice Pudding.  With a few changes to the original recipe, I was able to create a quick and easy, delicious and savory holiday dessert (something other than Christmas cookies... yay)!

Eggnog Rice Pudding
  • 2 cups cooked rice (I used Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Whole Grain Brown.  If you like your rice softer and less on-the-crunchy-side, use white rice)
  • 2 1/2 cup light or low-fat eggnog
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place 2 cups eggnog in a heavy saucepan. Combine cornstarch and remaining eggnog until smooth; add to pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in rice, cranberries, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Spoon into dishes. Chill for 2-3 hours.

Yield: 6 servings.
Nutritional Info. (per serving):
Calories - 247, Fat - 4.75g, Carb - 46g
Next time, I might try using a tablespon less cornstarch and 1/3 cup less cranberries to make the rice pudding a bit lower in calories (and a little more waist-line friendly)!  Also, I'd add a pinch of nutmeg to the top of the pudding before serving.  But overall, I was very happy with the recipe and it was nice to have a holiday dessert that was different from the standard Christmas baked good. :)

If you like eggnog... and rice pudding... then Eggnog Rice Pudding is a great way to use up the last of your holiday nog!  If you don't want the extra calories from the rice pudding, you could just substitute eggnog for creamer in your morning coffee until it's gone, lol.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts

The holidays at my parent's home consists of lots of food and treats. As Janel already posted, for Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a lovely Swedish meal (homecooked by my mom). For Christmas day dinner, we decided to do something a bit different. So, we grilled up some yummy steaks and my mother made some amazing double-baked shrimp potatoes (recipe to come). My sister, Janel, and I volunteered to do the side dishes. On the menu, grilled asparagus and roasted brussel sprouts.
When I was a child, I hated brussel sprouts. But they say your taste buds change every 7 years, and sure enough, brussel sprouts are now one of my favorite vegetables! They have such great texture and there are a ton of great recipes out there for them. I decided to go with a simple, basic recipe since I have never actually made them before. They turned out great and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

original recipe found at



2 cups fresh brussel sprouts, halved with the outer leaf removed on each
Drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste



  • Rinse the brussel sprouts. Peel off the outer leaves.

  • Cut off the bottom of each brussel sprout, then slice in half.

  • Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Roast in oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

These turn out crispy and caramelized. They are very tasty. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Almond Roca

The holidays always bring on a seemingly endless wave of sweets.  Although Christmas was a few days ago, chances are that your home or office is still full of an assortment of holiday treats like cakes, cookies, candies, chocolates, and breads (oh my)!!

To me, nothing says 'the holidays' like Almond Roca, also known as almond buttercrunch toffee. Almond Roca is a sweet, buttery, crunchy, toffee candy with a chewy, chocolatey, and nutty coating.  My aunt brought some of her homemade Almond Roca to our family Christmas Day celebration... and it was so delicious I literally couldn't stop eating it.  Knowing I would ask, my aunt had printed a copy of the recipe and had it ready for me... that's one good fellow foodie!  Maybe it's too late to make your own Almond Roca for this holiday season... but who says you can't have it anytime of the year!?

Homemade Almond Roca

1 lb. butter (my Aunt says the key is to use GOOD butter, Land 'o' Lakes, etc)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped almonds
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips

Combine butter, sugar, water, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil to 240 degrees (using a candy thermometer). 
Add 2 cups almonds.  Boil to 290 degrees.
Add baking soda, remove from heat, pour into greased pans.
Spread into 1/4 inch thick layer.
Cover with chocolate chips, spread evenly when chips have melted.
Chop and spread remaining almonds on top of candy. (this is optional)
Once cooled, crack and break candy into small pieces.

Thanks for the recipe Aunt Julie... and for allowing me to share it with our readers! ;)


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Julbord: Our Swedish Christmas Eve Dinner

The holidays are all about family traditions.  What makes the holidays so special is the fact that no family has the same traditions, every household is different and unique!  My family has many holiday traditions; some have been passed down through generations and others have been created in just the last few years. 

Julbord: Our Swedish Christmas Eve Dinner

My favorite family Christmas tradition involves food (of course!) and also celebrates my mother's Swedish background and heritage.  Every Christmas Eve my mother prepares a special type of Swedish smörgåsbord called the julbord, which is the standard Christmas dinner in Sweden.  Like the Sweds, we all gather together and feast on ham, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, lingonberry jam, green peas, pickled herring, and limpa bread... while sipping on glasses of glögg.

family trip to Stockholm, Sweden in 2008

Unless you are familiar with Swedish food, you are probably scratching your head at some terms and components of this holiday meal. Here is a quick reference guide:

Smörgåsbord - a type of meal served buffet-style with multiple cold and hot dishes of various foods on a table, originating in Sweden.  The Julbord is the Christmas version of this type of meal.

Swedish meatballs - a classic Swedish dish. Swedish meatballs are made from a mixture of beef and pork, flavored with nutmeg and allspice and served with a rich beef and sour cream sauce.

Lingonberry Jam - a staple food in Scandinavian cuisine. A jam (only berries, sugar, and a small amount of water) made from lingonberries, a berry plentiful in Scandinavia. Similar to a cranberry.

Pickled Herring - yup, it's just that. Pickled, sweetened herring, called inlagd sill, is the most traditional of Swedish appetizers.

Limpa - Limpa bread is a Swedish rye bread flavored with molasses, anise, and orange peel.

Glögg - Mulled, spiced wine (served warm).

Authentic Swedish meatball plate in Stockholm, Sweden

My mother spends a good part of the month of December in the kitchen, cooking and baking (the main reason why the holidays are brutal on my waist-line!). One of the most time-consuming baking projects she takes on is the limpa bread for our julbord, or Swedish Christmas Eve dinner.  She's been using the same recipe for years... but little did I know that one batch of the bread takes her a few DAYS to complete!  I had no idea!  That seems like a lot of work for bread... but the end result is worth all the effort. ;)  Limpa is a dark, sweet rye bread... hearty, flavorful, and aromatic.  If you're not having a julbord or smörgåsbord, limpa is a great bread to use for toast or dessert.  Just warm up a slice and spread on some butter, cream cheese, or jam!

loaves of Swedish limpa

Swedish Limpa Bread

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 to 1 cup light light molasses
4 cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each finely crushed or ground caraway seed, fennel seed and anise seed
grated peel of 1 orange
1 cup uncooked rolled oats, regular or old-fashioned
2 cups light or medium rye flour
9 to 10 cups bread flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour
warm molasses to brush hot loaves 

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Stir in the molasses (according to amount of sweetness desired), milk, oil, brown sugar to taste, salt, spices, and orange peel. 

Mix in rolled oats and rye flour; beat well.  Slowly stir in as much bread flour as possible to make a stiff dough.  There should be no "dry" flour remaining in the bowl, but dough will be lumpy.

In cold climates, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.  During this time, the dough will rise to the top of the bowl.  In warm climates, or in summertime, let stand 3 to 4 hours in a cool place.

Sprinkle top of dough with about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.  With spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth.  If the batch is too big to handle, divide the dough into two parts and knead each separately.  Knead 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and satiny.  Grease 4 (my mom uses 3) 9x5 inch loaf pans (my mom uses 9 inch pie plates).  Divide dough into 4 (or 3) equal parts.  Shape each into an oblong loaf (or circle).  Place in pans with smooth sides up.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from pans onto cooling racks.  Brush hot loaves with warm molasses.

Note: Limpa freezes well, which is ideal since this recipe makes 4 9-inch loaves or 3 large 12-inch round loaves of bread.

While you are enjoying the holidays with your family, take note of all the wonderful traditions you've created through the years.... they are yours, and yours alone. It's quite a beautiful thing.

Merry Christmas all!  Skol!!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Easy Potluck Crowd-Pleasers!

'Tis the season for....... potlucks!  In case you live under a rock and are not familiar with the term, a potluck "is a gathering of people where each person or group of people may contribute a dish of food prepared by the person or the group of people, to be shared among the group". Um, thanks Wikipedia?  Or simply, everyone brings a dish of food to share and then you eat! 

Today was our work holiday potluck and overall we had a great spread of food (oh man, I ate wayyyyy too much).  The best potlucks are the ones that have a good balance of appetizers, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts... both hot and cold, both healthy and indulgent.  There were some definite potluck hits and misses today, but luckily mine was one of the hits!  No leftovers. :)

My potluck contribution was BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders, which I chose to make since I could just put the chicken in a crock pot that morning at work and let it cook until it was time to eat!  Seriously, this is the easiest potluck dish ever... and a crowd-pleaser too!


1 (3 lb) bag boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 bottles BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 or 2 dozen pre-cut sweet Hawaiian rolls

Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a crock pot and then pour BBQ sauce over top.  Cover the crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours.  Add brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce about halfway through cooking process, stir.  Skim any fat off the top of the BBQ sauce with a spoon, then shred cooked chicken breasts using 2 forks.  Serve shredded chicken on Hawaiian rolls.

My co-worker (and fellow food and fitness lover) made a Buffalo Chicken Dip that was definitely the hit of the potluck.  She used a recipe from the Frank's Red Hot Sauce bottle, but modified it and turned it into a crock pot dip.  WOW... if you like buffalo chicken, you will go crazy over this cheesy-creamy-chickeny-buffalo saucey-dip stuff!  She made a double batch of the recipe, and still the bowl was almost scraped clean.

original recipe from
Owner/Copyright: RBI 2008

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup FRANK'S® REDHOT® Buffalo Wing Sauce  
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place all ingredients, except the cheddar cheese, in a crock pot and heat on low until dip is warm.  Stir occasionally.  Once dip is warm, top with cheddar cheese.  Serve dip with tortilla chips or crackers.

So easy!  And so YUMMY! :)


What do you like to bring to your potlucks?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Low-fat Peppermint Fudge Brownies

Like my sister, Janel, I also have quite a sweet tooth. Sometimes, I just need something small to knip the craving. I bought a box of Pillsbury Sugar Free Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix and I've been anxious to try it. While I had some stew in the slow cooker today, I decided to go ahead and make the brownies. Since it's the holiday season, I wanted to put a holiday spin on them. I added peppermint to the recipe. Yum.

Low-fat Peppermint Fudge Brownies


Sugar Free Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix (12.35 oz)
1 egg or egg subsititute (I used 3 tablespoons of eggs whites = 1 egg)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
3 candy canes


1.  Set your oven to 350 degree farenheint for metal or glass pan. For dark-coated pan, set your oven to 325 F. Grease bottom of 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch pan or spray with no-stick cooking spray.

2.  Finely chop candy canes in food processor.

3. Combine brownie mix, oil, water and egg in large bowl. Stir until blended.
4.  Spread in greased pan until even. Then, sprinkle on crushed candy canes on top.
5.  Follow baking instructions on box.
6.  Cut and serve when completely cooled. Store covered.
7. Enjoy!

I recommend the 8x8 pan so that the brownies aren't too thin. These taste yummy though! They have a little crunch due to the peppermint, and I like that.  Hope you also enjoy!
Happy Holidays!


Rainy Day Beef Stew

Finally.... winter has come to San Diego! Nothing like a little rain to put me in the baking and cooking mood. Since it's the holiday season and I am busy like everyone else, I decided to use my slow cooker today to save some time. I can just throw in the ingredients and run out the door. This particular stew hit the spot tonight on such a chilly night. (Yes, I know "chilly" is a relative term in San Diego.)

I was able to use one of my cooking tricks with this recipe. I do not like onions, but I love the flavor. So, instead of finely chopping the onions, I just sliced the onion in half and put in the bottom of the slow cooker. When the stew was done, it was easy to remove. So, I enjoyed the flavor without having to deal with the fine onion pieces.

Rainy Day Beef Stew

adapted from a recipe found at


1 medium-size onion, finely chopped or cut in half (as discussed above)
2 medium-size carrots, cut into 1/2' thick slanting slices
1/2 stalk of celery, cut into 1/4' thick slanting slices
1 1/2 pound small thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters (I used small gold potatoes)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 to 2 1/4 pounds beef stew meat (pre-cut for convenience)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry thyme
1 can (about 14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine or beef broth
1 package (about 10 oz.) frozen peas, thawed



1.  In a 3 1/2-quart or larger electric slow cooker, combine onion, potatoes, and mushrooms.

2.  Coat beef cubes with flour, then add to slow cooker and sprinkle with thyme.
3.  Add tomatoes and wine. Cover and cook at low setting until beef is very tender when pierced (8 to 10 hours).

4. While the beef and potatoes are cooking, pre-cut the vegetables.
5.  When there is 1.5 hours left on the slow cooker, add in the carrots and celery.
5.  When cooking is complete, stir in peas. Increase cooker heat setting to high; cover and cook until peas are heated through (10 to 15 more minutes).

6.  Season to taste with salt.

7. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Peanut Butter, Honey, and Chocolate Popcorn

I don't know about you, but I just can't get enough of that delicious gourmet popcorn that comes around (usually in a very ugly tin!) during the holidays.  I get going on one of those tins of popcorn and before I know it, half of it has disappeared... and I am left with orange-stained fingers!  Gourmet popcorn is just SO GOOD.

Tonight I decided to create a recipe for an easy, lower-calorie gourmet popcorn.  What I ended up with is a sweet and salty... crunchy and chewy... peanut buttery and chocolatey... better-than-gourmet popcorn!  Seriously, all I have to say is 'YUM'... this popcorn has it all.  Not to mention, it only took me 5 minutes and 4 ingredients to make... so quick and easy.  You could enjoy this popcorn as an indulgent little snack, light dessert, or even give it away as a holiday gift! 

Peanut Butter, Honey, and Chocolate Popcorn
makes 2 servings

1 (1.2 oz) mini bag, microwavable popcorn (100 calorie, 94% fat-free)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips


Prepare popcorn in microwave as directed on bag, then pour popcorn into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, pour honey and peanut butter.  Place in microwave and heat for 20-30 seconds, then stir until ingredients are well combined.  If peanut butter is not melted completely, place back in microwave and heat in 5 second intervals.

Pour peanut butter/honey mixture over popcorn.

Add mini chocolate chips and stir until popcorn is coated well.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then enjoy!!!

There will definitely be more variations of this recipe coming soon.... :)


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spinach Muffins... Two Ways! Savory vs. Sweet

Did you know Spinach Is One of the Most Nutritious Foods Available?

"Low in calories and high in vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence, according to One cup of the leafy green vegetable contains far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and vitamin A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and nearly 40 percent of your magnesium requirement. It is a good, very good or excellent source of more than 20 different measurable nutrients, including dietary fiber, calcium and protein."
Read more: Go to article

Health Benenfits of Spinach:
Supports Diet - One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
Anti-Cancer - Flavonoids -- a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach -- have been shown to slow down cell division in human stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.
Anti-Inflammatory - Neoxanthin and violaxanthin are two anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls that play an important role in regulation of inflammation and are present in unusual amounts in spinach.
Antioxidants -
The vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
Lowers Blood Pressure - By inhibiting the angiotensin I-converting enzyme, peptides within spinach have been shown to effectively lower blood pressure.
Supports Vision - Both antioxidants
lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Supports Immune System - One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens "entry points" into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of lymphocytes (or white blood cells) that fight infection.
Promotes Healthy Skin - The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, keratinization, acne and even wrinkles.
Supports Bones - One cup of boiled spinach provides over 1000% of the RDA of vitamin K that can prevent excess activation of osteoclasts (the cells that break down bones), as well as promote the synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein that is essential for maintaining the strength and density of our bones.
Heart Healthy -
Vitamin K is a crucial component of the process called carboxylation, which produces the matrix Gla protein that directly prevents calcium from forming in tissue. Eating one cup of spinach contributes to this process that fights atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Supports Brain and Nervous Function - The abundance of vitamin K in spinach contributes greatly to a healthy nervous system and brain function by providing an essential part for the synthesis of sphingolipids, the crucial fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around our nerves.


A large and untouched bag of nutrient-rich baby spinach has been laying at the bottom of the vegetable drawer since my last grocery shop... looking more and more sad every day. I try to avoid throwing anything away, so I incorporate perishables into a recipe (or two) before they can go bad! I know this spinach's days are numbered... it's time for it to be transformed into something delicious before it becomes a slimey, smelly, un-edible mess.

I wanted to try a muffin recipe using the 'super-food' spinach, but couldn't decide between a savory or sweet version... so I made both! And since both versions are packed with lots of nutrients from the spinach (Vitamin K, Vitamin A, dietary fiber), both muffins would be great for a healthy grab-and-go breakfast!

Spinach, Bacon, & Cheese Egg Muffins (Gluten Free)
original recipe from

6 eggs/12 egg whites
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. onion, finely diced (I use 1/2 tsp. onion powder)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbs. bacon bits
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tbs. non fat plain greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. pepper (or to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a pan, heat olive oil.
3. Add onion & garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
4. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2-3 more minutes.
5. Mix in the bacon bits & set aside.
6. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs/egg whites, greek yogurt, & cheese. Season with the salt and pepper.
7. Add the spinach and bacon mixture and stir until well-combined.
8. Either use a silicone muffin pan or lightly spray some muffin liners in a muffin pan with non-stick spray.
9. Evenly distribute the egg mixture amongst each muffin tin, fill each about ¾ of the way full.
10. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tops of the muffins have turned a very light golden brown.

Other Ingredient Options:
Mushrooms, Red or Green Peppers, Red pepper flakes

The great part about these muffins is that you could use so many different fillings in them... and you can make them in advance to grab on the go! Just warm a couple muffins up in the microwave for about 30 seconds and you’ll have a delicious, light and healthy breakfast to start your day.  These savory spinach muffins taste just as delicious as they look... you'd never know you were eating a nutrient-rich, low-carb, high-protein muffin! Good way to start the day :)

Here is the sweet spinach muffin recipe....

Spinach Cake Muffins
original recipe from

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh spinach, packed
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor and puree.
3. Place the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and combine.
4. Pour the spinach puree in a large mixing bowl.
5. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
6. Scoop batter into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup 2/3 of the way.
7. Bake for 20 minutes.

These muffins should be called 'Grinch Muffins"... they turn out a fun, bright green color! But..... (yes, there's a but) I'm not sure how I feel about the taste. I do like them... however, I think they can be improved.  Maybe they need some more sugar?  A dash of nutmeg? Add some dried cranberries? I'm definitely going to have to play with this recipe some more!  On the up-side, these spinach muffins are light, fluffy, and cake-like. The texture is perfect!  You could eat one as a quick, nutrient-rich breakfast or dessert... they are a healthier option to satisfy a baked-good craving (I can't be the only one who has those?!).  I really like the idea of using spinach in a sweet bread... so PLEASE try this recipe, come back and comment with your thoughts, changes and possible ways to improve it.  I'd love thee feedback!

These are some muffins that would make Pop-Eye proud. ;)

Cheers to Superfood Spinach!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smoked Sausage, Mashed Potato, and Veggie Casserole

Confessions of a One-Dish Diva:  Don't judge me.  I love casseroles, bakes, slow-cooker and one-dish meals... not only are they warm and comforting, they are easy and can be pre-made or cooked on the weekend so I have leftovers to re-heat and eat during the week.  I'm just one of those people who doesn't mind eating leftovers (I know everyone does not feel the same).  In fact, I think some dishes actually taste better after they are re-heated!  While I truly love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, it is a lot of work to prepare and cook an entire meal for just myself EVERY night.  Some nights I come home from work famished... and I just want to be able to put a plate of home-cooked, delicious (and nutritious) food in the microwave and have dinner 2 minutes later.  So, there it is everyone... I re-heat, eat leftovers, and use a microwave.  I'm not in full-blown Betty Crocker-mode every night.  But let's face it... it takes someone like Betty Crocker (or my mom) to keep that up!

Whew, now that I have that off my chest here is my latest one-dish creation... Smoked Sausage, Mashed Potato, and Veggie Casserole.  This casserole recipe calls for one of my all-time favorite side dishes, MASHED POTATOES!  It's been a few weeks since we had Thanksgiving dinner (seriously? I can't believe it's almost Christmas)... but this would have been a good recipe to use left-over Thanksgiving mashed potatoes in.  I am in love with the mixture of smokey turkey sausage, creamy mashed potatoes, veggies, and cheesy-goodness.  This casserole is a hearty, warm and comforting dish.... packed with veggies!  It's a perfect one-dish meal right out of the oven... and microwave. ;)
Smoked Sausage, Mashed Potato, and Veggie Casserole
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Half and Half or milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (14 oz.) Smoked Turkey Sausage link, cut into slices
  • 1 (10 oz.) package fresh cut broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn, frozen
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Wash, peel, and cut potatoes into 2 inch pieces. Place in a medium pot on the stove, cover with water and add a dash of salt. Turn heat to high, cover pot and bring potatoes to a boil. Boil 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain water from pot. Add butter and half and half, then mash potatoes with fork until all ingredients are blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You just made mashed potatoes, lol... so you could use leftover mashed potatoes for this recipe too). Place mashed potatoes in bottom of 9x9 or 9 inch round casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large saucepan, place sliced smoked sausage and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low-medium. Simmer sausage for 8 minutes. Add frozen corn, fresh broccoli and cauliflower and place lid over saucepan. Allow mixture to simmer for another 4 minutes, covered. Drain water from pan. Add cooked sausage and veggies to mashed potatoes in casserole dish. Add 1/4 cup shredded cheese to dish then stir all ingredients together.
When mashed potatoes, sausage, veggies, and cheese are mixed together, top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before diggin' in!
Makes about 6 servings.

Yum, dinner for me for a few days... oh and this one-dish meal DOES taste even better when it's re-heated. ;)  I might even add in some frozen peas and some a little more cheese next time I make it.  Ok, I promise no more casseroles for awhile...

Stay tuned for an easy Baked Chicken Parmesan recipe later this week!
Your One-Dish Diva (ssssh... our secret)