Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

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When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind.  So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling.  In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon.  I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
  2. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
  5. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
  7. In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
  8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

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Pumpkin Muffins

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I’ve come to realize that my love of baking is very reflective of my personality. The process of baking is steady, quiet and requires quite a bit of patience. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that the addition of flour and baking soda will make bread rise, and the right amount of sugar will make it sweet. I think it is that steady dependability that has always made me consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Because much like the process of baking, I too am about as careful and calculated as one can get.  Cooking, on the other hand, is much more spontaneous, loud and full of adventure. When cooking, you can throw a bunch of ingredients together on a whim and it often results in a perfectly harmonious dish. Yet with baking, the measuring of ingredients is key, and one must be precise and careful.  And though I love the spontaneity of cooking, time spent baking is when I feel most at home in the kitchen. So when the weather starts to cool down, I jump at any chance to turn on the oven and spend the night whipping up some magic in the kitchen. And while many people my age spend every Friday nights out at the bars, I’m perfectly happy spending Friday evening in front of the oven. And that is just what I did last weekend. And starting off the weekend with a delicious batch of pumpkin muffins is about as good as it gets. I found this recipe over on SkinnyTaste.com and love how decadent these muffins taste despite its healthy ingredient list. They make for a perfect snack any time of day.
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from SkinnyTaste
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  •  1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour though salt)
  2. In a large bowl, place pumpkin, vegetable oil, egg whites and vanilla; Beat with and electric mixer until just combined
  3. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, beating until just combined
  4. Scoop batter into a muffin pan, lined with muffin liners
  5. Bat at 350 for 25-30 minutes

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Healthified Bob Evans Biscuits

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According to Eric, one of the things that he likes about me is that I am not a food snob. Although I certainly don’t mind eating at upscale restaurants when I can, I definitely do not turn my nose up at chain restaurants either.  I love the Asian Chicken Roll Up at Applebees and don’t even get me started on the Cornbread from Boston Market. And yet another one of my other favorite chain restaurant staples are the buttery, flaky biscuits from Bob Evans. And although I love these delicious biscuits, I know they are definitely more of a “now and then” food than something I should eat every weekend. So I was excited to find a lightened up recipe for flaky, homestyle biscuits in my latest issue of Cooking Light. This recipe uses a mixture of butter and canola oil to add moisture, whereas the Bob Evans classics most likely contain butter and *gulp* lard. And seeing as lard is not an ingredient I want to consume regularly, this Cooking Light recipe is a great one to have on hand. The result is a soft, slightly nutty tasting biscuit that is perfect when topped with a swirl of honey or jam. Serve with my Homemade Buffalo Wild Wings Naked Tenders and you’ve got yourself a dinner straight from chain restaurant heaven.

Ingredients: Makes 12 biscuits

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Preparation:

  1. Place dry ingredients (flours through baking soda) in a large bowl and mix until just combined
  2. Place butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, or until butter has melted completely
  3. Add cold buttermilk into hot melted butter and stir until small clumps form
  4. Add canola oil to buttermilk mixture
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined (do NOT overmix, as it will dry out the biscuits)
  6. Drop batter in mounds of 2 tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 11 minutes

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Gluten Free Brownies

As you all may know, I’m all about sweets. Cookies, cupcakes, candy…if it counts as dessert I’m bound to be a huge fan. But it is dense, chocolatey brownies that would really be my weakness. But seeing as I would prefer not to abandon my usually healthy lifestyle, I don’t often make my favorite dessert due to their not so healthy stats. But then I discovered the following recipes. Dark chocolate brownies that satisfy even the most devoted chocoholic’s sweet tooth…without costing you hundreds of calories. These brownies are not only low in fat and calories, but they are also gluten free. A win-win…win. So what is the secret? A rather unusual ingredient that is most often found in burritos. Black beans. But before you roll your eyes and write off this recipe as some crazy health trend, I beg you to just try these babies out. The result is an incredibly moist brownie studded with gooey melted chocolate chips. I even fooled one of my favorite dessert snobs into falling in love with this recipe before I revealed the secret ingredient. And they could not be easier to prepare. Throw all the ingredients in a blender and bake. And just like that you are only 30 minutes away from one of the most decadently healthy desserts out there.

Ingredients: Makes 16 brownies

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  •  1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips

Preparation:

  1. Place black beans in a fine sieve and rinse well, draining excess water
  2. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor
  3. Blend in blender, Scrape sides as needed.
  4. Pour in Lightly Greased 8×8 Pan.
  5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 Minutes

Low Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I learned a couple of things in high school. One being that no matter what that American Eagle sales associate said, that shirt with the attached vest was not cute. (Even if you wear it with a pleated jean skirt. Also not cute.) Another lesson being that if you are a really good kid (aka incredibly boring) that one time you miss curfew may be more amusing to your parents than anger inducing. But ya gotta let your dad think you actually believe he’s mad. Believe me, it makes it more fun that way. Another lesson from highschool was that a girl needs a group of girlfriends. Because even though guy friends are equally important, they just won’t be able to stomach endless chick flicks that you all pretend to hate, guy friends won’t give you good clothing advice (or maybe they’ll ignore your ridiculous vest too) and they will never appreciate the amount of junk food girls can eat at sleepovers.

I found a great group of high school girlfriends freshman year. LT and I were already a well defined unit, but then we met Hollis and Kerri and we eventually became a group of four. Hollis often compares the four of us to similar fictional groups of four from movies and books. Sex and the City. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Desperate Housewives (really, Hol?) If there were four characters, Hollis always tried to convince us that our personalities were exactly like those of the characters. Except Hollis was always the protaganist. And even though her comparisons were ridiculous, it made it all the more funny. But rather than compare us to some fictional group of girls, I think we’re pretty unique. There’s Kerri, who is literally the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. And Hollis, who is one of the funniest people I know. LT is the wildcard of the group, because we honestly never know what crazy thing she’ll say next.  And me? I’m the one who brings the cookies. So when we all got together the other day to catch up and talk about Kerri’s upcoming wedding I whipped up these batch of chocolate chip cookies. It’s funny to think that just a few years ago we were four 15 year olds crowded around the wedding magazine section in Borders discussing our imaginary weddings…and now one of us is actually engaged. When did we suddenly grow up?

These cookies are soft and cake light with a subtle hint of cinnamon. I used some healthier ingredients to make these cookies low in calories and fat, so go ahead and have two. Or three.

Ingredients: Makes 18 cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon), set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, combine margarine, egg yolk & vanilla extract; mix until just combined
  3. In a small bowl, place egg whites and beat with an electric mixer on high until white and foamy
  4. Gradually add sugar to egg white mixture and beat until mixture becomes white and glossy and soft peaks form
  5. Beat agave nectar into egg white mixture
  6. Fold egg yolk mixture into egg white mixture until just combined
  7. Fold egg mixture into dry ingredients until just combined
  8. Stir in chocolate chips
  9. Place dough by the tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet
  10. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes

Vegetarian Linguine

Nothing quite says “indulgence” like a heaping bowl of fresh pasta. Yet those oversized portions that we often find in our favorite Italian eateries don’t always fit very well into healthy lifestyles. So what do we do when we’re craving an oversized bowl of noodles but don’t want to sacrifice our healthy eating? We make this dish. This vegetarian “pasta” dish is bursting with the flavors and textures that will satisfy your pasta craving, yet pasta is actually missing from the ingredient list. I recently discovered Pasta Slim Linguine, which is made from fresh spinach. It has the same texture and flavor of traditional linguine, yet only contains about 30 calories per serving. Add this incredibly healthy “pasta” to a mixture of sauteed vegetables and fresh parmesan cheese and you have yourself a deliciously healthy dinner. So go ahead and have as big a bowl as you’d like.

Ingredients: Makes Four 1 cup servings

  • 2 (7 oz) bags of PastaSlim Spinach Linguine (found at Better Health Stores, but regular linguine works fine as well)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely

Preparation:

  1. Prepare PastaSlim according to package instructions (or substitute regular pasta if desired)
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
  3. Add garlic and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are soft, stirring occasionally
  4. Add cherry tomatoes to pan and saute for 5 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and juicy
  5. Add zucchini and saute for an additional 5 minutes, until zucchini is tender
  6. Stir parmesan and breadcrumbs into vegetable mixture, add an additional 1 tablespoon of oil if desired
  7. Toss pasta into pan and stir until well combined
  8. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve

Strawberry Lime Breakfast Bread

Everyone tells you that you to never skip breakfast. And I wholeheartedly agree. Mostly because I absolutely love breakfast foods and can’t imagine a morning without my daily Greek yogurt or peanut butter on toast.  But not everyone wakes up … Continue reading