Jun
24

There’s something about pizza that’s irresistible.

Who can just stop at one slice? Especially kids! Seriously, put a large pizza in front of two kids and it will be gone in approximately 5 minutes… then they’ll want cupcakes immediately after. How do they do it?! Bottomless stomachs.

I’d love to go back to that carefree world and eat a whole pizza for breakfast.

I’m being serious here.

I ate bagel bites alllll the time when I was a kid. Cute, delicious little pizza bagels is what they were. And let’s not forget about stuffed crust pizza! Too good. But please NEVER eat a pizza crust stuffed with hot dogs… that’s just disturbing.

As perfect as pizza can be, in any shape or form, I’ve never been a huge fan pepperoni; however, I made a spicy pepperoni tomato sauce, spooned it on top of skillet chicken, and topped it with mozzarella cheese. MIND BLOWING is what it is.

WHAT? The sauce is DAMN good. Quite possibly now the love of my life. No big deal though, I’ll walk you through the deliciousness so you can experience it for yourself in less than 30 minutes!

First we start with the best ingredients for the best sauce: roasted garlic pasta sauce (any type of tomato sauce would work such as marinara), fresh minced garlic, pepperoni, oregano, and fresh basil.

Saute pepperoni and fresh garlic for a few minutes. Savor the smells.

Note: I used turkey pepperoni; it tastes the same but has half the fat and calories of regular pepperoni. You can usually find it at your local grocery store.

 

Next, add your pasta sauce to the pan and add oregano.

Look at that steam rising!

Add red pepper flakes if you desire to make the sauce spicy, otherwise you can leave them out.

But please do add them. My motto: Spice up your food, spice up your life!

Now we add in the million dollar basil. Stir, and get a little obsessed.

Set the sauce aside. Sprinkle chicken with black pepper and cook in a skillet until golden brown and juices run clear.

Once chicken is cooked, spoon the pepperoni sauce on top. Resist the urge to just eat the sauce by the spoonful. I have no willpower sometimes.

Add cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for two minutes.

Remove and garnish fresh basil leaves, extra cheese, and/or extra red pepper flakes!

Even though I’m not a parent, I know that it can be difficult to find healthy meals that kids will enjoy. Just trust me on this: put something in front of them that tastes like pizza, and you’re golden. Using reduced-fat cheese and turkey pepperoni makes it even better for them and you!

Of course there are endless possibilities with this: Throw it on top of pasta or stuff it in a whole wheat pita (pita pizza)!

It’s a truly simple, healthy weeknight dinner that can be whipped together in a flash. I’m all about that.

 

Something else I’m all about? That Magic Mike movie. Drool.

 

Skillet Chicken with Spicy Pepperoni-Tomato Sauce

Cooking spray

2 cloves of garlic, minced

20 slices pepperoni (I used turkey), coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups healthy tomato pasta sauce*

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.
  3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes and cook until chicken juices run clear. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Notes

  • *Use any pasta sauce you like, I recommend healthy low-sodium marinara sauce or a roasted garlic
  • Adapted from Cooking Light
  • Leave out red pepper flakes if cooking for kids, or if you don’t enjoy spicy food

Jun
12

Hey you! Yes, YOU! I like you… a lot. You brighten my day.

I feel so lucky to have such incredible readers; readers who make me feel amazing and inspired every single day. Many of you have been tweeting with me or posting on my Facebook page letting me know which recipes you’re loving, or what’s inspiring you to cook. Some of you have even sent me an email saying how my recipes have encouraged you to eat healthier. You are all so sweet and I’m OVERJOYED that this blog has inspired you.

I don’t know what to say other than… THANK YOU! It’s appreciated more than you know!

Now, let’s talk about quesadillas.

I love them. Adore them. Salivite over them! Yeah, I’m pretty weird but you’re probably okay with that by now if you’re still reading this.

Quesadillas are a traditional mexican dish that usually involves cheese and a savory mixture of vegetables and/or meat. They’re one of my favorite meals to put together at the last-minute because it involves throwing delicious combinations in a tortilla and toasting or frying it until crispy and golden brown. These days the traditional quesadillas have evolved into something wonderful: breakfast (or dessert) quesadillas!

It’s as simple as this: I am obsessed with the peanut butter and banana combo. Typically when I’m in a rush I put the duo on an english muffin and barely remember inhaling my breakfast, but I was getting a little bored with that. So instead of the usual, I thought I’d make it interesting by making peanut butter and banana quesadillas and adding in seasonal, ripe strawberries for a sort of PB&J twist.

My mind was BLOWN AWAY after one bite. In all seriousness, yours probably will be too.

If you’ve never experienced the peanut butter, strawberry, and banana combo–prepare to be amazed!

First of all–the strawberries in the quesadilla! They almost taste like they were roasted–exploding with flavor and juicyness from the heat. It reminds me of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, except with a fresh, more interesting appeal. The crunch of the tortilla and the warm, creamy peanut butter makes me wish I could go back to grade school and demand ask nicely for this in my lunchbox.

When making quesadillas I always use whole wheat-low carb tortillas because I love the nutty flavor of them, plus whole grains keep you fuller, longer. I recommend using Joesph’s Tortillas, but any whole grain tortilla would work well. This also would be an optimal pre or post-workout snack or meal because of the good carbs and healthy fats.

Additionally I HIGHLY recommend trying this for dessert. It’s pretty guilt-free, perfect for sharing, and kids will even love them. Plus they are vegan, and you could certainly make them gluten-free by using GF tortillas.

The possibilities are endless! Think about it.

Wouldn’t replacing nutella for peanut butter be dreamy? Or perhaps sprinkling in a few mini chocolate chips? What about dipping them in a warm chocolate sauce?

THAT could be like tasting a little bite of heaven. But those are just suggestions, feel free to get creative!

As requested, nutritional information is included.

Just please note that after this quesadilla, you’ll never want to settle for a traditional PB&J again. If you try them, be sure to let me know what you think.

Peanut Butter, Strawberry, & Banana Quesadillas
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: 1/2 quesadilla
  • Calories: 263
  • Fat: 11g
  • Carbohydrates: 36g
  • Sugar: 9g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 8g
Recipe type: Breakfast, On the Go, Healthy, Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Delicious breakfast quesadilla stuffed with peanut butter, bananas and fresh strawberries. A great on the go breakfast.
Ingredients
  • Cooking spray or butter
  • 2 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 whole grain tortillas
  • 1 large ripe banana, sliced
  • 4-5 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and spray pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter evenly over each tortilla. Arrange both the banana and strawberry slices over one tortilla, sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon, and top with the remaining tortilla, peanut butter side down. Press gently to help them stick together.
  3. When the skillet is hot, add the quesadilla, flipping once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Cut each quesadilla into halves or quarters.
  4. Serves 2-4.
Notes
For a dessert version try adding 1 teaspoon of mini chocolate chips in
Serve with honey, maple syrup, vanilla greek yogurt, or chocolate sauce
Try with different nut butters, nutella or almond butter would be good
The nutritional information below is based on using a flour tortilla. Using a low carb, whole grain tortilla would lower the calories and carb count. It would also increase the fiber.

Jun
10

How was your weekend?

I was really hoping to catch Snowwhite & the Huntsman, but didn’t get around to it. Have you seen it? Charlize Theron looks unbelievable in the previews. I hope I look that good when I’m 35. If I keep running like I have been I might get there.

On Friday my friend and I were supposed to get up at 6am for a 6-mile run. We’re attempting to train for a marathon… or just run really long distances as I haven’t decided if I’ll actually do it. Anyway neither of us could get out of bed so we opted for an evening run instead… which was awful. Miserable even! I thought I was going to die; the sun was beating on my face and I was literally sweating waterfalls. It was 90 degrees out and instead of 6 miles, we decided to run 9. I thought someone was going to have to scoop me off from the pavement and put an IV in my arm. But we made it!

Even though at times running can be torture, I always feel great afterwards; like I could run another 9 miles… or at least bake some pretty unbelievable banana muffins like these.

Baking muffins seems like the only appropriate thing to do with all the leftover ripe bananas just sitting on the kitchen counter. It happens on a weekly basis. Probably because they’re only 19 cents at Trader Joe’s — and I’m never one to pass up a good deal (especially when you grocery shop as much as I do). It’s why I make an obscene amount of banana bread, banana cupcakes… oh, and my new favorite? Banana Ice Cream. Baking things with bananas just makes my heart beat.

I first made these a month ago when visiting my grandparents. I wanted to bake something special for my grandpa–who happens to LOVE everything banana. I mean, we’re obviously related.

He’s also had a couple of heart attacks so I didn’t want to give him something unhealthy (like the bacon and muffins-the-size-of-my-head my grandma makes him EVERY MORNING). I’ve included the nutritional information for these at the bottom of this post.

Seriously even healthy banana muffins never disappoint.

I don’t know about you, but some mornings I want to enjoy a baked good and not feel guilty about it. These better-for-you banana muffins make that happen with simple swaps to cut fat and calories.

Using very ripe bananas provide natural sweetness for the muffins (meaning you don’t need to use as much sugar). Dark brown sugar is also slighty sweeter compared regular brown sugar, so I opted for that. I swapped out the butter for non-fat greek yogurt (mega protein), which makes the muffins moist and deliciously appealing. Adding egg whites vs. whole eggs reduces the fat and calories.

A brown sugar-walnut crumble was completely necessary though. The walnuts add a touch of good fats and the crumbly topping… DIVINE!

My grandpa gobbled them up in less than two days and my competitor grandma even asked me for the recipe. That says something since she makes everything delicious from scratch.

I don’t think I need to tell you that these are especially good for midnight snacking. Warm them up and spread with creamy peanut butter. Muffin heaven!

But then again, when isn’t a muffin good?

Better-For-You Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar-Walnut Crumble

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 large ripe bananas, mashed

2 tablespoons butter, melted*

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt

2 1/2 tablespoons milk of choice (skim, soy, almond, coconut, etc)

For walnut crumb topping:

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper cups or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl combine bananas, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, non-fat greek yogurt, egg whites and melted butter. Stir banana mixture into the flour mixture just until combined and add milk. Batter will be thick. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full.
  3. In a small bowl mix brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, walnuts and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon of butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the muffins. Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.

Notes

  • *Instead of butter, you can use a vegan friendly alternative, or a healthy oil such as coconut
  • Muffins freeze well, simply wrap individually in plastic wrap and stick in freezer
  • You can also sub 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour in for the regular flour, just add another tablespoon of milk

 

Nutrition Information

Servings Size: 12 Servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 177 Calories from Fat 37 (21%)

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 4g

6%

Saturated Fat 2g

6%

Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 6mg

2%

Sodium 228mg

10%

Potassium 222mg

6%

Total Carbohydrate 29g

10%

Dietary Fiber 1g

6%

Sugars 13g
Protein 7g

14%

 


Apr
29

Mmmm banana pancakes. With quinoa.

Oh yes I did.

Quinoa is one of my favorite grains. I mean what’s not to love? It’s versatile, gluten-free, protein packed, and the nutty flavor delivers every single time. Remember my lemon blueberry quinoa pancakes?  They’re my absolute favorite. I devour them in 5.6 seconds everytime I make them. Can you tell I’m a fan? I could be the quinoa spokeswoman.

Quinoa queen?

Nevermind.

I wish I would have had these pancakes today before I did three hours worth of yoga this morning. I was aching for these through every downward dog and warrior two.

Then guess what happened? I got pulled over (for the first time ever) after leaving class. Apparently I went through a red light. Seems I was distracted with the thought of delicious quinoa pancakes in my belly. Thankfully the police officer didn’t give me a ticket. He was surprisingly nice – I’m guessing because I looked like a hot sweaty mess who was about to eat her own arm.

Once I got home and I devored these like I was a contestant on the biggest loser who hadn’t eaten in weeks. A little absurd. I even paired each pancake with different flavor toppings because who doesn’t love a little variety? One had maple syrup and bananas (classic), another had raspberry jam and toasted coconut (so so so goooood), and finally my favorite: mini chocolate chips with peanut butter (love the banana, chocolate, and peanut butter combo). I recommend trying out some different toppings.

But SERIOUSLY, these pancakes are actually good for you. If you’re trying to eat more whole grains, or if you are looking for a healthier breakfast, then I think you should give these a try. I love making pancakes and then throwing them in the freezer. They’re incredibly easy to heat up in the microwave and take to go. Just spread with a little healthy topping and devour!

Okay… one last bit of news! I’ve decided to restructure my blog a little bit. I will now be focusing on healthy, creative recipes. Of course you’ll see the occasional cupcake and brownie, but generally less sweets and more good eats. In my own life, I try to eat healthy and balanced and love sharing my passion for health with others.

Now let’s eat!

Whole Wheat Banana Quinoa Pancakes
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Pancakes, Breakfast, Brunch, Healthy, Whole Grain
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 large egg whites or 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of milk of your choice (skim, soy, almond, coconut)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (you could also use honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large very ripe bananas, pureed
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, yogurt, milk, vanilla, and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Add pureed bananas and mix until just combined.
  2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter or cooking spray and heat over medium. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter.
  3. Makes about 10 pancakes. Top with peanut butter, maple syrup, fruit, or chocolate chips.
Notes
Adapted from Martha Stewart's quinoa pancakes
If pancakes are too thick, add 1 tablespoon of milk to the batter. If pancakes are too thin, add 1 tablespoon of flour to the batter
Sub gluten free flour for whole wheat if you'd like
Adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to batter would make great chocolate banana pancakes

Apr
11

I have some very important information to share with you.

I’m on a no pie diet. The importance of that statement can’t be questioned.

Does this mean you won’t see sweet recipes? Nope, it just means I’m going to bake and eat brownies, cookies, and homemade pop-tarts instead. Pie baking is saved for special occasions only (otherwise my thighs would hate me). Wait, my half-birthday is coming up! That’s a special occasion… right? More pie please!

Focus Monique. Obviously we’re not taking about anything sweet here. What we are talking about is a Sweet Potato & Chicken Mexican Stir-Fry that you’ll want every day for the rest of your life. Facts only.

Read more.


Feb
21

I have been wanting to bake chocolate chip cookies that taste like pure luxury, and while I’ve tested many, I have never quite perfected my own recipe… until now!

I knew I wanted to create a cookie that would make anyone want to savor that exact moment when they first bit into it. They had to be a little unique too! I don’t know about you but my perfect chocolate chip cookie is a little crisp on the outside but still chewy and moist in the middle. It’s not overly chocolatey, and certainly not too sweet.

Through trial and error, spoonfuls of cookie dough, and scribbled recipes, I’ve finally created a cookie that I’m proud to share with you. These brown butter & sea salt chocolate chip cookies are now my go-to cookie.

In fact, I’m actually considering them to be one of life’s essentials. You should too.

Read more.


Nov
17

Thanksgiving comes with family chaos and a ton of laughter.

The end result is learning that no family is perfect.  You’re not either.  Yep, we’ve got some pretty funky quirks! It’s all apart of Thanksgiving though – The crazy aunts. Drunk uncles. Awkward cousins.  Happy bellys. Warm pumpkin pie. Catching up.

What were you thankful for last Thanksgiving? Chances are this year is different. You’ve had 365 more days. Things have changed for you and me, big time! Did you get a new job? Did you meet someone special? Did you have a baby? Did you live through a tragedy? Did you reach a goal?

Write it down! Savor it. Close your eyes, reflect and smile for just a moment.

The truth is, you’ve got to appreciate it all. Cherish it even. This is your history; these will be your memories forever. Celebrate with turkey, wine, and good pie!  Drink and eat for your accomplishments and other’s ambitions! Don’t forget to take plenty of snapshots. Be sure to remember it.

These moments will never come again. Maybe that’s what makes them so beautiful.

Read more.


Aug
28

Pancakes in the morning. Ice Cream every other Sunday from Dairy Queen. Animal humane society visits. After school reading. Nature walks. Kite flying. Watching scary movies together. Poking fun at Grandma. Doing math homework. Making sandwiches. Watching America’s Most Wanted. Cooking fried chicken. Going to the State Fair.

Those are some of my favorite memories with my Dad.

He was special. No, actually he was more than that…  He was extraordinary.

One of my favorite pictures, my Dad and I at the Minnesota State Fair

 

My Dad had bright blue eyes, a big smile, and a voice that could fill any room.

He was the type of person who loved getting up early in the morning, just so he could enjoy the day longer.  The type of person who knew to enjoy the sunlight and appreciate every hour, every moment.

In my eyes, he could do anything.  He could fix my brakes, paint my room, bake the best yellow cake, give advice on life, and even make me laugh in my worst moments.

 

Four years ago on August 29th, 2007, I lost my Dad.  A day that I never knew was coming until I got a phone call.  I’ll never forget it.

But, I’ll also never forget how much he influenced me and made me the person I am today.   How much he is still present in my life.

I think of him often and miss him.  I wish he could have seen me graduate college, begin my career, and even this blog.  I know he would have been proud.

And so I bake.  I bake for the memories. I bake for joy.  I bake to soothe my soul.

I bake for you Dad.

 

Dad always loved a classic yellow cake with chocolate.

Bake these. Say I love you with them. Say Happy Birthday with them. Say thank you with them.

They’re extraordinary cupcakes, for something or someone extraordinary.

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Dad's Extraordinary Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Cupcake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A yellow cupcake made special by my Dad.
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh coffee
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners. You can also double the recipe to make a 9 x 13 pan cake or 24 cupcakes.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Put aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
  4. Next add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into cupcake liners, do not fill more than halfway. You may have extra mix left over.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 23-27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out nearly all the way clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes about 12 cupcakes.
  6. For the ganache: put the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and coffee in a microwavable bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time until melted. Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache.

 
 
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