Asian Chicken Stir Fry

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Sometimes I feel like no matter what age we are, we are always looking forward. As children, we look forward to that mysterious land of “high school,” where you can drive a car, stay out late, and presumably have the exact same social life as the cast members of Saved by the Bell. As teenagers, we look forward to “college” where curfews don’t exist and we possess that coveted “independence” we always longed for. And as adults, you’re always thinking of the next phase…marriage, buying a house, having kids, advancing your careers, and finally…retirement. It’s hard to “enjoy the moment” when we are constantly looking forward. The funny thing about me is, I never seemed to look forward to the same periods of life as my peers. As a child, I don’t remember longing for high school or college like most of my friends did. Instead, I always remember thinking that the first few years of marriage would be the happiest time in my life. This is undoubtedly a strange thing for a 13 year old to think…but oddly enough, the current time in my life is something I always looked forward to. But this current phase didn’t quite pan out exactly the way 13 year old me thought it would. Because, believe it or not… it is way better. I’m happier right now than I ever thought was possible. Because coming home to my very best friend every night is truly the best. So rather than spending my time over planning for the future..I’m focusing on enjoying this incredible, wonderful season of life. And one of my favorite things about this phase in life is cooking simple dinners at home. As much as Eric would be perfectly happy eating grilled chicken or pizza every night, I love coming up with different  ideas to mix up our weekday dinners. And this was a recent creation that turned out to be quite the hit. It’s very simple to make, and far cheaper and healthier than hitting up the Chinese takeout place down the street. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used a “stir fry blend” of broccoli, carrots, green beans & cauliflower)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Preparation:

  1. Place raw chicken breasts (thinly sliced) into a large ziploc bag, and cover with next four ingredients (soy sauce through olive oil). Let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat
  3. After chicken has marinated, pour entire contents of the bag into the saucepan.
  4. Cook until chicken has cooked through, and add frozen vegetables
  5. Continue to stir until vegetables are heated through
  6. To serve, place cooked brown rice on a plate, and top with chicken stir fry mixture. Top with sunflower seeds

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Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

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It always seems like summer is completely filled to the brim with fun events and outings. Whether it’s a quick vacation or local festival, I have something planned nearly every weekend through the end of August. But as much fun as beer festivals, vacations Up North and constant dinners with friends are, the summer habit of eating out more often has left me feeling a little less than healthy. So to make up for our weekend fun, I’ve been trying to eat as healthfully as possible during the week days. I find it gives me a lot more energy, and stops the awful stomach-aches I often get from too many meals away from home. But even in a healthy diet, I think it’s important to leave room for dessert. And it just so happens that I found a recipe that is both nutritious and decadent at the same time. These chocolate banana muffins taste more like fudge brownies than your run of the mill banana bread, yet they are healthy enough to eat for breakfast. They contain no butter, oil, eggs or added sugar, and with the use of gluten free oats, can be made completely gluten free. But again…they taste like fudge brownies. In my book, you can’t get much better than that.

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

  • 1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 medium to large ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Place oats in a food processor and pulse until oats are ground up and resemble flour, set aside
  2. Place oat “flour”, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl
  3. In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, vanilla extract and honey. Use an electric mixer to blend wet ingredients until just combined
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips
  5. Place paper muffin liners in a muffin pan and lightly spray with cooking spray. Pour batter into 12 prepared muffin cups and bake at 350 for 10 minutes

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Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

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Anyone living in the Midwest or Northeast is probably well aware of the crazy winter weather we’ve been experiencing. The weather men have even banded together to name this winter storm Hercules.  And seeing as we received a little over a foot of snow in 24 hours, I think that name fits this storm just right. And these chilly winter temps typically makes us all want to stay inside, warm and cozy, wrapped in a blanket or two. Or maybe that’s just me. Yesterday, while I was watching all of those big white snow flakes float gently to the ground, I had the urge to whip up some old fashioned comfort food. However, I’m not a fan of cooking up a meal that is heavy enough to weigh you down. So I went in search for a recipe that satisfied that craving for comfort food while still feeling a little light. And this recipe does the trick. It has all the flavor you expect from classic chicken pot pie but is much lighter and healthier than those pies you find in the frozen food aisle. And with a little help from Pillsbury Crescent rolls, you can enjoy a small taste of that delightful pot pie crust with almost zero work.

Ingredients: Makes 3 individual pot pies, Adapted slightly from MarthaStewart

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon herbs de provence
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Crescent roll dough, 1 individual roll per pot pie

Preparation:

  1. To prepare chicken, place chicken breasts and chicken broth in a slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred. ( I cooked 6 chicken breasts, and used 2 whole chicken breasts for this recipe and saved the remaining chicken to use in recipes throughout the week.)
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add chopped carrots, onions, thyme and herbs de provence and cook until carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes)
  4. Add flour and stir until well incorporated
  5. Slowly stir in milk until mixture is thick and creamy
  6. Stir in peas, lemon juice and shredded chicken
  7. Once mixture is well combined, scoop 1 to 1 1/2 cups of mixture into greased ramekins (the amount of pot pie mixture you use per serving will vary based on how large your ramekins are)
  8. Place the dough from 1 crescent roll over the top of each pot pie
  9. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes, are until crescent roll mixture is lightly browned

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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Almond Bread

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Before I started my massive cookbook collection and before food blogs stormed the internet, my main source of recipes was Cooking Light Magazine. I used to carefully scour page after page of this monthly magazine and rip out recipes even when I was in grade school. I remember making their marshmallow peanut butter brownies for my 4th grade birthday treat (with a little help from my mom, of course). And here we are,15 years later and I am still a huge fan of Cooking Light. From easy dinner recipes to decadent (but healthy!) desserts, I am pretty much a lifelong fan. And this recipe for Almond Quick Bread is yet another Cooking Light Recipe. The bread tastes rich and decadent and is full of almond flavor, yet it is low in sugar, fat and calories. That’s a win-win in my book. I recently made this bread for “my big girlfriend” Alexandra, because she just had her adorable new baby, Alex…who by the way, is pretty much the cutest baby in the world. This recipe is great to give as a gift and a perfect feature at a Sunday Brunch. So next time, skip the decadent bakery bread and try out this recipe- you definitely will not regret it. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Recipe from Cooking Light

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 7oz package of almond paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine first 3 ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, place cream sugar, butter and canola oil together until just combined
  3. Add almond paste to sugar mixture and beat until well combined (about 3 minutes)
  4. Beat in egg, one at a time
  5. Beat in vanilla extract
  6. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk into sugar mixture, beating well after each addition
  7. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle with slivered almonds
  8. Bake at 350 for 50 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