Wednesday, 21 August 2013 15:35

Lifestyle | Conquering Cooking with Scallops

Lifestyle // August 26, 2013

Each month this summer Lindsay Jones of will pick one ingredient that is usually overlooked and share her tips on how to use it. Spice up your dishes and your life by trying something new! Read the other entries here.

When dining out, most of my scallop-loving friends are happier than clams to order an appetizer or entrée made with the marshmallow-looking shellfish, but when it comes to cooking them at home…not so much.

In the summer, scallops are one of my go-to choices when I want to make a light recipe that still displays some panache and pizzazz. The slightly sweet, pale white meat pairs well with a wide variety of flavors and they cook in about 2-3 minutes flat, depending on the size.  Heads up: they’re not the most wallet-friendly ingredients -- fresh scallops can be a bit pricey -- but once in a while, splurging on them is well worth the money.

Scallops are perfect to cook when you’re craving shellfish, but feeling a little lazy. They’re easy to prepare and even easier to eat! No peeling, cracking or laborious picking necessary to indulge in these delicate, tasty treasures that add a level of luxury to many great recipes. Here’s what you need to know to make your at-home scallop prep a breeze:

Scallop School

If you found a scallop in the ocean, it wouldn’t look anything like what you see in the seafood case. Whole scallops are housed in two beautiful, scalloped seashells that are hinged at one end, which is why they are considered bi-valve mollusks. The portion that we most commonly eat is the adductor muscle, which opens and closes the two shells. Scallop lovers generally don’t know that scallops have up to 100 brilliant blue eyes around the edges of their shells.

What To Look For

At your local fish counter, you’ll usually see two types of scallops -- larger sea scallops and smaller bay scallops. The largest, sweetest scallops are known as Diver scallops; if you’re making a recipe where the scallop is the star of the show, Diver scallops are the way to go.  They are also harvested in the most environmentally-friendly method possible. Avoid buying dredged scallops, which is a harvesting method that is harmful to the environment. Bay scallops are a good choice when making soups, salads, pastas or other recipes that include scallops as just one of several other ingredients. They are more affordable, but the meat is still subtly sweet and tender. Bay scallops are VERY easy to overcook, so remember they don’t need more than about 1-3 minutes. Sometimes, you can find scallops still in their shells. These are lovely for baking!

Keep it Natural

There are “dry” scallops and “wet” scallops and you want DRY. Dry scallops are pale pink or light vanilla in color and have not been treated with any type of chemical. This means they will be more flavorful, sear better, and are healthier to eat. Wet scallops have been treated with chemicals and appear bright white. They hold extra water which makes them weigh more, thus five wet scallops can cost you more than five dry scallops. Whole Foods is a good place to look for dry scallops -- or try Santa Monica Seafood if you live in Los Angeles. Trader Joe’s carries a decent frozen option.

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Endless Options

You can serve scallops almost any way you want -- raw, poached, grilled, sautéed, steamed, broiled, baked, marinate or the always fabulous method: frying! Vintage scallop recipes tend to bath scallops in heavy sauces, but these can hide delicate flavor of the sweet, light meat. However you decide to serve your scallops, know this: all scallops cook quickly and if over-cooked, they become chewy and less than awesome. Larger scallops should appear slightly translucent inside, once cooked.  

Scallops Play Well With…

Some of the most popular ingredients and flavors to pair with scallops are: almonds, avocados, bacon, basil, brandy, bread crumbs, capers, caviar, cayenne, gruyere cheese, parmesan, chives, crab, cream, cucumbers, curry, fennel, garlic, ginger, leeks, lemon, lime, mushrooms, mustard, onions, olive oil, pepper, rosemary, sunflower seeds, salt, shallots, thyme, truffles, vanilla, cider vinegar and white wine.

Scrumptious Scallop Recipes

Sugar Seared Scallops with Chimichurri Sauce – This is an easy scallop appetizer to make that will impress both on the plate and the palate! The sugar-seared diver scallops are served in Chinese soup spoons, atop homemade Chimichurri sauce and topped with a tomato fig salsa.

12 Simple Scallop Recipes – This is a great article from the New York Times on how to serve the perfect scallop. It features twelve different recipes and each one highlights the scallop as the main event!

Cheesy Baked Scallops in Shell
  - If you find scallops still in the shell, you can bake them that way. Read this for an easy, cheesy, addicting way to devour scallops from Wiffy on

Pasta with Bay Scallops and Tomatoes – This light pasta dish from is filled with bay scallops and flavored with garlic, lemon juice, tomatoes and white wine. It’s a great weekend pasta dish!

So, the next time you want to cook your way into a seafood lover’s heart -- or just treat yourself to a special meal -- try preparing a scallop recipe and you are sure to see just how easy (and delicious) it can be!

Published in Lifestyle

Lifestyle // July 29, 2013

Each month this summer Lindsay Jones of will pick one ingredient that is usually overlooked and share her tips on how to use it. Spice up your dishes and your life by trying something new! Read the other entries here.

There are basically two camps of people when it comes to eggplant—the uber lovers and the haters with a capital “H.” I’m convinced that the haters have simply never tried eggplant that’s been properly cooked. When well prepared, this versatile gift from Mother Nature becomes a magical ingredient in a multitude of dishes. Before you scoff, let me tell you that I am speaking from experience. For years, my mom (sorry mom) would grill fat slices of eggplant with just a little olive oil and the results were dry, spongy, and bitter—so I declared myself an eggplant hater.

What turned my staunch dislike into burning love? One bite of Eggplant Parmesan in San Francisco’s Little Italy. “Mom, this doesn’t taste anything like your eggplant! It’s so creamy and tender and dare I say delicious?!” Since then, I’ve eaten copious amounts of eggplant and have learned a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to using it in my own kitchen. More than anything, it has become my go-to ingredient when I want to make a meal without meat! Eggplant acts as a great meat replacer. It’s hearty, low calorie, soy-free, and takes on the flavor of whatever seasoning you use. I hope these recipes inspire you to run out and snag some eggplant of your very own.  

Eggplant Education

Most people don’t know it,  but eggplant is a fruit. These bulbous beauties are members of the nightshade family, just like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. In some European countries it’s known as the aubergine … a much more fabulous name.

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Eggplants come in many varieties, with the most common being the larger, deep purple variety you see in most grocery stores. These tend to have a slightly tougher skin and more pronounced “eggplant flavor” so they are great for baking and grilling. Japanese eggplants are longer and thinner in shape, more like a cucumber. Their skin is more tender and the flavor milder and slightly sweeter than the common eggplant. Japanese eggplants are the perfect choice when sautéing but you can also roast or grill them. White eggplant is harder to find, but that is where the fruit got its name because white eggplants look like large eggs! Eggplants can be grilled, sautéed, fried, broiled, braised, and stewed, but I don’t recommended eating them raw, unless you enjoy a bitter flavor and spongy texture.

Eggplant Plays Well With …

Almost anything! Eggplant is like Mother Nature’s tofu. It has very little flavor but a unique texture that ranges from meaty to creamy, depending on your preparation. Because of the sponge-like texture, the fruit takes on the flavor of the ingredients with which you pair it.  My top choices that marry well with eggplant are: agave, bacon, basil, béchamel sauce, bread crumbs, brown sugar, capers, cayenne, cheese, cream, cumin, curry, garlic, lamb, lemon, mint, mushrooms, olive oil, olives, onions, peppers, pesto, rosemary, salt, soy, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, nuts and yogurt.

Tips for Eggplant Excellence

  • Select an eggplant with taught, smooth, unbroken skin that has the slightest give—not rock hard, but not soft.
  • To prep: slice off the top and the very bottom. You can peel off the skin, but it's totally edible. You can cut eggplant into disks, strips, planks, or cubes
  • To salt or not to salt:  Eggplants are sort of “bloated” in that they hold a ton of water. To release this, some will tell you to salt your eggplant after cutting it up, and then leave it in a colander for 2-3 hours. The salt draws out the moisture and bitter flavor. I will tell you that I only salt it to season it, and my eggplant is awesome. So try it with or without. You decide.
  • Storing eggplant: Eggplant fades fast so use it as soon as possible. In the meantime, store it in an open bowl, in a cool, dry place for 1-2 days instead of the refrigerator. You can keep them in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but the skin tends to wilt and the flavor can be altered.

Extraordinary Eggplant Recipes

Simply Roasted Eggplant Slices I make these at least once a week because they are easy and super satisfying. Sometimes they become my entire dinner or I make them as a side dish. And what I love most … you may alter the seasoning to make it match the flavors you’re currently craving. Sweet n’ spicy, savory, or cheesy—whatever your pleasure! Try making these once and I promise, you too will become a lover of this simple roasted eggplant recipe.

12 Ways to Eat Grilled Eggplant This collection of grilled eggplant recipes, written by Mark Bittman for The New York Times, is not only delicious eggplant eye candy, but will give you all the ammunition you need to prepare eggplant outdoors, while soaking up the beautiful summer sun.

Eggplant Parmesan Paula Jones, author of one of my favorite blogs, Bell’alimento knows great Italian food, so I trust her recipes anytime I’m craving a little Italy! If you are skeptical about eggplant, try this recipe, which combines layers of fresh eggplant with savory tomatoes, basil and plenty of parmesan cheese. Baked into a bubbly dish of vegetarian comfort food, this is a MUST TRY!

So, whether you want to call it eggplant or aubergine, know this: it’s only a matter of time before eggplant finds a way into you heart, home and tummy.

Published in Lifestyle

Health // July 29, 2013

Ahh, smoothies. Who doesn’t have a huge Pinterest board dedicated to healthy “belly busting” smoothies? (No, just me?) Smoothies are a great low-fat way to start your day, a delicious pick-me-up after a workout, or a guilt-free treat at the end of the day. I love collecting new recipes, trying different combinations and reading about the benefits of certain ingredients. But how do you get started? What stuff do you pick to put in your smoothies, and what is healthy? If you aren’t a wiz at mixing up perfect drinks, don’t worry. Here are some smoothie tips to get you started:

1. Avoid the Sugar Rush

We all love the sweet taste of Jamba Juice, but be careful. Those smoothies taste so good because they mix in ice cream, frozen yogurt and plenty of other sweeteners, which add a lot calories from sugar. Instead of adding those ingredients, try a mix of frozen and fresh fruit (the riper the better) to add natural sugar and sweetness. If you simply must have some extra sweet in your smoothie, try adding some natural raw honey (which has great added health benefits) or some stevia.

2. Give It A Boost

Any smoothie base can pack an added punch with the addition of veggies. I will often add a few handfuls of spinach or kale, or a mixture of both, to my smoothie along with chia or flax seeds and spirulina to pack in some extra nutrition and a serving of veggies in the morning. These keep me fuller, boost metabolism and cell health and provide added nutrients. Don’t be alarmed at the color: adding spinach, kale and spirulina will turn your smoothie a murky dark green, but I promise it will still taste delicious.

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3. Serve It Up

Keep track of how much you are consuming -- many recipes make enough for 2 two or more servings. I typically have an 8-ounce smoothie in the morning for breakfast. But you can grab a portable water bottle and drink up throughout the day.

Admittedly, I have developed a smoothie formula and pretty much stick to it. It consists of spinach + 2 types of fresh fruit a handful of frozen fruit + almond milk + natural juice +chia + spirulina. Since I have the smoothies for breakfast, the veggies, fruit and protein kickstart my day and keep me plenty full until lunch. But there are so many different recipes out there that can aid in your specific health goals. Here are some of my favorites:

Tropical Paradise Detox Smoothie:

With pineapple, mango and raspberries, this smoothie will make you feel like you’re on vacation! It is also perfect for summer, as the tropical fruits are more plentiful and riper in-store. It’s full of antioxidants, powerful inflammation fighting properties, and coconut water with replenishing electrolytes. The combination is perfect after a workout or at the end of the day. Of course, you can add some chia or flax seeds and have it for breakfast as well.

1 cup ripe pineapple

1 mango

1  cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)

½ cup natural orange juice

1 cup coconut water 

Power Green Smoothie:

This smoothie is one of my absolute favorites and is the basis of most of my smoothies that I make during the week. You can use just about any fruit here, but this recipe has some that will taste great and pack some vitamins to kick off your day. The secret here is the greens. I usually prefer spinach to kale, but I decided to go with a combo here to get all of their added nutrients: Calcium and vitamins A, C, and K and even iron. Add that to the vitamin C-rich fruits kiwis and strawberries, and Vitamin A-rich peaches for a complete nutrient boost. Green tea adds antioxidants without any extra calories, and the almond milk and chia seeds add hunger-fighting protein and much needed Omega-3s. Spirulina, is a natural algae (yes, like that green stuff) and has a lot of amino acids, which help to restore and repair cells.

1 cup spinach

1  cup kale leaves (stems removed)

1 peach

2 kiwis

1 cup strawberries

½ cup almond milk (natural or vanilla if you prefer extra sweetness)

1 cup brewed green tea (chilled)

2-3 tsp chia seeds

1 heaping tsp spirulina powder

Ultimate Energy Power Smoothie:

If you need a little more pep in your smoothie, here’s a recipe that will do the trick. Packed with protein and fiber, this smoothie will keep you full and going strong. This smoothie is also great as a light dinner or after-workout snack.

1 cup strawberries

½ cup rolled oats

½ cup natural almond butter (can use natural peanut butter)

1 Tbsp raw honey

1 cup almond milk

2-3 tsps flax seeds

Antioxidant Supercharge Smoothie:

We all know that antioxidants are good for you, and here’s why: Antioxidants nullify potentially harmful waste products produced by cells known as “free radicals.” These little buggers float around your cells and can potentially cause damage to cellular structures and processes. Antioxidants help eliminate free radicals and have been linked to helping prevent cancer and heart disease. They also have been linked to anti-aging processes and other health benefits. This smoothie is jam packed with antioxidants found in berries, green tea and pomegranates.

1 cup blackberries

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

3/4 cup brewed green tea (chilled)

1-2 Tbsp chia seeds

Power C Smoothie:

Skip pounding the vitamin C supplements when you feel a cold coming on and drink one of these Power C smoothies once a week to keep your immune system going strong. Vitamin C is also linked to lung function (important to note if you live in a smoggy city like LA). Additionally, vitamin C is an antioxidant and is important in the normal functions of the body. Taking a supplement is good, but getting nutrients through food guarantees the maximum amount of absorption by the body. This smoothie is chalk full of vitamin C with kale (one cup has 56% your recommended amount of vitamin C) and some of the highest sources of vitamin C including strawberries, oranges and kiwis. Add some natural orange and guava juice with flax seeds to boost your immune system, metabolism and regulate hydration.

1 cup kale

1 cup strawberries

1 orange

2 kiwis

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup almond milk

2-3 Tbsp flax seeds

These recipes all have great benefits and will supercharge your nutrition. But there are countless other great ingredients and recipes out there including other fruits and vegetables that can meet your specific health needs. Evaluate when and why you want to start drinking smoothies. Is is a meal replacement, to help lose weight, to get extra nutrients, or a quick snack after a workout? Take a look and see what types of foods will serve you best and make your own great-tasting combinations.

What are your favorite smoothies? Tweet us your questions or tips @MadeWomanMag!

Published in Health

Lifestyle // June 17, 2013

Each month this summer Lindsay Jones of will pick one ingredient that is usually overlooked and share her tips on how to use it. Spice up your dishes and your life by trying something new! Read the other entries here.

What exactly is that white and green, bulbous thing sitting on the produce shelf with celeryesque stalks decorated by fine, feathery fronds? Why, it’s FENNEL my friend—a refreshing and delicious vegetable. The flavor is slightly sweet, with notes of mellow black licorice and crisp texture.

I had my first “fennel flirtation” at a cozy little cafe in Laguna Beach. I was sitting at a tiny table in front of an open window facing the ocean, breathing in the damp sea and feeling the cool, salty breeze. I wanted a light snack with bright flavors. Always one to try something new, I ordered the shaved fennel salad with blood orange supremes, cracked black pepper and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. The subtle hints of black licorice from the fennel danced beautifully with the sour lemon, spicy pepper and sweet, juicy orange pieces. I became a fennel fan right then and there. Now I pass along to you some fun fennel facts as well as my three favorite ways to enjoy fennel.

What is Fennel?

Fennel is used frequently in Mediterranean and Italian cooking, but there are endless ways to create edible delights with this member of the Umbelliferae family. Carrots, parsley, dill and coriander are all relatives of this versatile veggie. Some will tell you fennel is also called anise, but it’s not. They are two different plants (though related), and if you need proof, click here.

Eat This With That...

Fennel pairs well with the following: butter, celery root, cheese, chestnuts, citrus, coriander, cream, fruit, garlic, hearts of palm, lemon, mushrooms, olive oil, olives, onions, oranges, pancetta, peppers, Pernod, potatoes, sherry, thyme, tomatoes, truffles, and vinaigrette. The best part? Experimenting with these combinations may produce magical results! Fennel can be served raw, roasted, braised, grilled, deep fried, pureed, sautéed and in soups.

Fennel Facts

The bulb, stalks, and fronds are all edible parts of the fennel plant, but the bulb is the section most commonly used in cooking, while the stalks and fronds are generally used for garnish. To prepare fennel, cut off the stalks and fronds (perhaps save for garnish or stock). If the bulb is large, you might want to peel off the thicker outer layer. Next slice off the root end and shave it, slice it, dice it, cut it into wedges or roast it whole!

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3 Fabulous Fennel Recipes

Shaved Fennel Grapefruit Salad with Pea Shoots and Vodka Citrus Vinaigrette My favorite way to eat fennel is shaved-thin and raw in salads with a perfect amount of sea salt and citrus. This is when I can really taste the licorice flavor that I love!

Scallop Fennel Chowder {By Coconut & Lime} Fennel is delicious is many soups, but this chowder, made with sweet scallops, shallots, and bacon won my heart recently.

Pecorino-Roasted Fennel and Carrots {By Buff Chickpea} Roasting fennel is one rockin’ way to enjoy this unique vegetable. It brings out the sweetness and is an easy side dish to make that still brings a fair amount of flare to the table.

So, the next time you’re shopping, toss a few fennel bulbs in the basket and have fun flirting with this healthy, fabulous food.

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 20 May 2013 04:18

Healthy Recipes | Cooking Gluten Free

Healthy Recipes // May 20, 2013

What happens when a passionate home chef, who prides herself on creating amazing baked goods and meals for her man, discovers that her guy is allergic to gluten?First, panic ensues, to be quite honest. I know, because “she” is me and this became my reality about two years ago.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard the term “gluten-free” recently. In the past four years, there has been a noticeable uptick in people who are allergic to gluten, a protein complex found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), rye, barley, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). There are many opinions as to why so many people have developed gluten allergies in recent years, but right now there isn’t a consensus. Currently, about 1 in 10 people in America are experiencing gluten sensitivities that range from full blown celiac disease to less severe allergic reactions, such as stomach pains and intense bloating.

What makes this allergy incredibly difficult to manage is that gluten lurks in many foods that you would likely not  expect to contain any form of wheat, rye, or barley. From soy sauce and soups to barbecue sauce and salad dressings, wheat derivatives are often added to store-bought products. Some believe going gluten-free is simply “the latest diet trend” but I can assure you that for people who are truly allergic to gluten, eating it makes them miserable.

For about six months, I lived in denial of my boyfriend’s allergy. I wasn’t excited to cook because I felt like he couldn’t eat 90 percent of the recipes I wanted to make. Finally, I started to explore what it meant to cook without gluten, and guess what? Cooking gluten-free (GF) was easier than I expected. By exploring GF blogs and cookbooks, I  learned what foods he could eat and what ingredients I could use as substitutes. Here is a quick and dirty tutorial on how to cook gluten-free without going crazy. You’ll also find a list of my favorite gluten-free products, of which there are plenty of the market today—some are great and some are downright awful, but they are all expensive, so do your research are choose wisely!

Foods to avoid cooking with:
Anything made with wheat, rye or barley or that mentions gluten or wheat in the ingredient list or as an allergen alert on the product. This means bread, pasta, sauces and soups thickened with flour, baked goods, soy sauce, crackers, some chips, cereals, oatmeal (unless it’s gluten-free certified oatmeal), and all alcohol made from grains tend to contain gluten, e.g. beer, vodka, whiskey, some bourbon.

Foods to enjoy cooking with: All vegetables, fruits, and nuts are gluten-free. Most animal proteins are considered gluten-free, but some beef, poultry, etc. might have trace amounts of gluten if the animals were fed wheat or anything containing gluten. Corn, rice and potatoes are gluten-free, as are most dairy products. Sugar, agave and most chocolate are gluten-free. Coffee is gluten-free, but many people who have a gluten allergy are also allergic to a protein that exists in coffee. Wine is gluten-free as are some spirits such as rum or potato vodka and Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Top Recommendations for Gluten-free Products

I am not gluten-free, so I judge all GF products based on whether I think they taste as good or almost as good as the original product made with gluten.

Bread - Rudi’s Multigrain GF is hands down the closest to “regular wheat” bread once you toast it. You do need to toast GF bread for the best results!

Pasta - Bonaturae is fabulous. Some GF pastas fall apart, but this one tastes just like regular pasta! Most GF pastas take a little longer to cook and my advice is don’t rinse them off because they get sticky. Just toss with a bit of olive oil and use as normal. I also like Ancient Harvest quinoa garden pagoda pasta. It’s excellent and has a fun shape!

Snacks and Crackers - Glutino wins this hands down. Their crackers, bagel chips and pretzels are all good.

Cookies - Tate’s Bakeshop wins first place. I eat these instead of other chocolate chip cookies because they are THAT GOOD. WOW comes in as a close second with a great variety of really fluffy, soft cookies and brownies.

Here are some other faves:

These blogs are also great resources when learning to cook gluten-free:

And finally ... here is a great recipe for Gluten-free, Dairy-free Shepherd’s Pie on my blog

Enjoy the journey of learning to cook in this new world that’s getting more gluten-free friendly by the day!

Published in Lifestyle
Friday, 08 March 2013 21:34

Recipes | Easy Party Appetizers

Recipes // March 11, 2013

Whether it’s a girls’ get together, a poolside soiree, or a group of close friends coming over for game night, most of us find ourselves racking our brains for the perfect party appetizers when it’s our turn to host. And while most of us love to impress, we don’t want to spend hours agonizing over food preparation. I’ve come to rely on a few easy snack staples that always seem to please a crowd and allow me to have some fun, too.

Crostini – I love crostini because it is so simple: Just slice up and lightly toast a baguette, then top each piece with almost anything you can imagine. Try any of these combos:

  • Brie, sun dried tomato and artichoke hearts
  • Goat cheese and cranberry jelly
  • Gorgonzola and honey

The options can go on and on. Remember this go-to party snack the next time your girlfriends pick your place for wine night.

Cheese board – This is my favorite party platter because it doesn’t require cooking and most people like to sample different cheeses. Pick at least 3 or 4 good cheeses, and go with a variety. The cheese counter at your local grocer may have some suggestions, but typically it’s best to go with a mix of hard (like cheddar or asiago) and soft cheeses (like brie or bleu). Pair with some dried cranberries or apricots and fresh grapes, along with almonds or crackers for some crunch.

“Sausage en croute” – My husband had one simple request at our wedding: Pigs in a blanket. To class it up, the caterer called it “sausage en croute.” Grab a pack of Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies and a pack of Pillsbury crescent rolls. Cut the crescent roll in half, roll the sausage into it and bake according to Pillsbury package instructions. Serve with a tasty arrangement of dipping sauces, such as spicy mustard or chipotle ketchup. It may not be the healthiest or fanciest snack ever, but it will certainly win over the crowd!

Frozen Baby Quiche – I am not a huge fan of frozen foods, but it’s nice to have small bites on hand that don’t have to be made from scratch. I know quite a few ladies who throw a package of frozen baby quiche into the oven and serve them to guests, and they get snatched right up. Try a few brands, pick your favorite, and be sure to always have your freezer stocked. Easy!

Roasted chickpeas – Have you ever tried this!? If not, just trust me. 

Roasted chickpeas are a unique, easy munchie for a party, and bonus -- they are a relatively healthy option. Toss a can of chickpeas in olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Then roast at about 425 degrees (adjust according to how hot your oven runs) until crispy -- usually around 30 minutes. The result? A savory bite -- a bit crispy and a bit creamy -- that packs a flavorful, satisfying punch. People don’t expect this snack, but they usually love it, so go with this if you’re looking for a twist on classic party snacks.

Pulling together food for a party doesn’t have to cut into half your paycheck or cause a day’s worth of stress. Just select a few easy appetizers that will look good, taste great and appeal to your guests. The easier the food, the more fun you will have as a host. Isn’t that the point of a party, anyway?

Published in Lifestyle

Recipes // January 27, 2013

As we all resolve to live healthier in 2013, many of us are on the hunt for ways to cut calories and bid farewell to our favorite fattening foods. This can be especially difficult during the winter months, when comfort foods seem to be calling your name.  Fortunately when it comes to cooking, there is a long list of methods to reduce fat and caloric intake that don’t require you abandoning all your favorite foods altogether. Here are a few ways I like to lighten up recipes:  

  1. Substitute whole wheat/grains – This is the easiest way to make a meal more wholesome. If you are making a pasta dish or a stir fry, opt for whole wheat pasta, brown rice or quinoa instead of white pasta or rice. It may not reduce the calorie intake, but it adds fiber and other essential nutrients, thus eliminating “empty” calories. Whole wheat also adds a hearty texture to meals.
  2. Use veggies instead of meat or cheese – This is a great technique that I use to increase nutritional value and reduce fat in my recipes. When cooking something like enchiladas, for example, cut the amount of cheese in half and add a colorful assortment of veggies, such as mushrooms, peppers or zucchini, to fill your tortillas. The meal will still offer the same gooey goodness with an extra flavor punch from healthy veggies.
  3. Sauté with broth – I love to sauté meats and vegetables when I’m cooking, typically with a good olive oil. However, a friend recently suggested that I sauté with broth instead of oil. I was skeptical, but I tried it and I love it! Sometimes a little oil is still necessary, but if you just need some extra liquid, reach for a low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. It adds flavor without adding any substantial fat to your dish.
  4. Cut fats in half – Recipes often call for a large amount of meat, cheese, cream or butter. Before using the full amount of fats, think about whether or not they are necessary. If altering the ingredients will compromise the recipe, then stick with the amount called for. But if you can reduce the amount of meat or swap it for a leaner cut, or if you can live without the maximum amount of butter or cheese, your waistline will thank you.
  5. Learn your spices – Some people believe that healthy cooking is bland. Those people have not learned how to use their spice cabinet. The best way to create tasty dishes is to generously season with a rainbow of spices. It’s amazing what cumin, oregano or chili powder can do to chicken, fish, sauces and more. And guess what? Spices have virtually zero calories. Just be careful when seasoning with salt – you don’t want to overcompensate with high sodium intake.

What are some of your favorite recipes? Do you ever try to lighten them up with different techniques or food substitutes? Tell us in the comments below!

Published in Lifestyle

Made Mommy // January 14, 2013

The stick you just peed on confirms that you are pregnant. Congratulations!!! Now, you can eat just as much as you want because you are eating for two, right? Ummm…guess again…

The + on that stick does not give you a hall pass in the kitchen, at the takeout window, or at the froyo-by-weight counter. Now, more than ever, you have to think about what you are eating. You are actually eating for 1.1, not 2. Your growing baby is highly unlikely to exceed 10% of your body weight. I’ll bet that the little person will weigh much less than that at the due date.

So, doubling your daily calories does not make sense. Did you know that during your first trimester, you actually don’t need to eat any more than what you do non-preggers? In your third trimester, which is when you will need to eat more, you won’t need much more than 300-500 extra calories per day.

The quality of the food you eat is far more important than the quantity of food that you eat. This is true all the time but especially now that you are pregnant. The body growing inside of you will extract all the nutrients that it needs from your body if you are not getting enough. For example, if you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, your body will “donate” calcium from your bones (where it is stored) to help develop the skeletal system of the baby you are growing inside of you. And, nobody wants to be at a greater risk for osteoporosis after a pregnancy.

Having just gone through a pregnancy and relatively uneventful labor, I am sharing with you my “power meal go-to menu” that kept my baby and me healthy, lean, strong, and happy (yes, I enjoyed my pregnancy!). Often I was still on-the-go, so these meals were pretty quick to prepare:

Breakfast and snacks

1. Quick-cook oats and frozen berries cooked and drizzled with ½ cup plain almond milk, fortified with calcium and vitamin D
2. Low-fat Greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt made with coconut milk) with a tablespoon of raw honey and slivered almonds
3. Scrambled eggs (scrambled with fortified milk or milk substitute) topped with sliced tomatoes and/or avocado and whole grain toast with a smear of organic unsalted butter
4. Sliced apple or banana with organic peanut butter or almond butter with sea salt
5. Fresh veggies with yogurt dip or white bean hummus

Lunch or dinner

1. Grilled salmon (fish once per week), chicken, or 4 ounces of lean steak over bed of fresh and colorful salad
2. Chicken teriyaki bowl with lots of steamed veggies over brown rice
3. Stir-fried firm tofu (or other lean protein) with tri-color bell peppers and snap peas over egg noodles or brown rice
4. Spicy minestrone soup with a side salad
5. Roasted turkey with sides of sweet potato hash and steamed veggies

Dessert (Of course, a pregnant woman ought not be denied dessert)

!. Berries and/or banana slices with dark chocolate drizzle
2. ½ cup of frozen yogurt with fresh fruit and honey drizzle
3. Baked green apple with caramelized brown sugar (a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is optional)

Sounds good, right? Well, you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy these easy go-to meals. They are healthy and energy-boosting for you regardless of whether or not you are growing a “mini-me” inside of you.

Published in Made Mommy
Monday, 30 January 2012 08:00

Recipes | Healthy Breakfast Cookies

January 30, 2012

If you’re anything like me, breakfast is usually a meal that you’re grabbing as you run out the door. I try to be as healthy as possible, but I don’t always make the healthiest choices in the morning -- especially since my sweet tooth seems to be at its biggest before 10 am! I keep these breakfast cookies on hand because they make for a guilt-free and quick option. They contain no butter, no flour and no sugar! And they are super easy to grab as you head out!

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup coconut flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/4 cup of almond meal
1/2 cup mixed nuts, finely chopped
1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/3 chopped dried dates, 1/3 raisins and 1/3 apricots)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl mix together the rolled oats, coconut flakes, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin spice and almond meal. Add the dried fruit and mix well. (Make sure to keep the fruit from sticking together in big chunks)

In a separate bowl combine the bananas, canola oil and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until well incorporated.

Roll the mix into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Press down the tops of the balls to form a cookie shape and bake for 20 min at 350F or until the sides turn brown.

Bon appetit!

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 05 December 2011 10:58

Recipes | Roasted Chicken Recipe

December 5, 2011

In the fall, a few things happen; leaves turn from green to gold, the air becomes crisp, and Starbucks brings back their beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte.  As November unfolds, the holiday goodies start appearing seemingly everywhere. So … you indulge for a few weeks and three homemade brownies, five holiday cakepops and who-knows-how-many sweet lattes later, you begin to feel sluggish. Too much sugar and too many refined carbohydrates have taken a toll on your awesome energy levels, but you are still craving the comfort food that goes oh so well with cooler weather.

What’s a girl to do? Well, grab your shopping list and listen because it’s time to roast an autumn chicken! In this recipe, the organic, free-range chicken is baked atop a bed of parsnips, (which look like white carrots but taste buttery, slightly spicy, and sweet), new potatoes, red onion, dried cranberries and holiday grapes. Once the bird is golden brown and the vegetables perfectly caramelized with a sweet-tart cranberry-grape glaze, you’ll have a dinner that will tantalize taste buds, while providing a hearty, healthy meal made with whole, seasonal ingredients.


For Vegetables

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into two inch chunks 8 small new potatoes, cut in half lengthwise (purple if you can find them) 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into thick slices 1 1/2 cups red grapes, cut in half (Holiday grapes if you can find them) 3/4 cups dried cranberries 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced 2 teaspoons thyme 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1/3 cup white wine

For Chicken

One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken, organic and free-range is preferable

Salt (preferably Kosher)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh rosemary

1 small orange, halved

1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

1/4 cup canola or olive oil

3 teaspoons thyme


Preheat the oven to 450°F. 

In large roasting pan, place parsnips, potatoes, onions, grapes, and cranberries. Toss with olive oil, brown sugar, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread vegetables into an even layer and pour wine over vegetables. Set aside.

Remove the chicken giblets, any excess fat and leftover pin feathers. Rinse chicken with cold water and pat the outside dry with paper towel. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of chicken. Stuff cavity with rosemary bunch, orange halves, and all of the garlic. Brush outside of chicken with olive oil to coat and sprinkle evenly with more salt, pepper, and the thyme. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. 

Nestle the chicken into the vegetables, breast side down (this keeps the breast meat from drying out) and roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Quickly flip chicken onto back, reduce heat to 425°F and roast for an additional 40 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear.

Place the chicken on a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for about 15 minutes. Keep vegetables warm in the turned-off oven. Before serving, toss vegetables to coat with the cooking juices.

Slice the chicken into serving pieces, then place them in center of large serving platter.  Arrange vegetables around chicken and serve while hot. Indulge in a rich, healthy homemade meal!

Published in Lifestyle
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