Monday, February 2, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Salad

As many of you may know, I LOVE buffalo sauce. I put it on eggs, sandwiches, salads and pretty much everything else in between. Sadly, I had never made a buffalo chicken pasta salad. Boy, was I missing out! This dish has a little bit of crunch (thanks to the carrots and celery) and is perfect for a lighter meal during these winter months. It will stand apart from the more traditional pasta salads at the next party or dinner table. The spiciness can be adjusted based on your taste preferences. Best of all it is quick and easy to make and can be made the day before. If you are super short on time you can use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling or baking your own. 

Most pasta salads are laden with mayonnaise or dressings and end up being a high fat choice. I lightened this one up by using a small amount of light mayo and some olive oil, and relying mostly on buffalo sauce for the flavor. Sprinkling blue cheese crumbles on top gives it a lot of flavor without adding a heavy blue cheese dressing. Using whole wheat or high fiber white pasta gives this dish the fiber power to keep you feeling full.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
Makes 12 servings

1 pound whole wheat pasta (some favorites: elbows, penne, spirals)
½ cup Frank’s Buffalo Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup canola or light mayonnaise
1 cup diced carrots
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cups cooked and diced chicken breast
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
Black pepper, to taste


  1. Cook pasta as directed. Drain and run under cold water.
  2. Mix in a small bowl: the hot sauce, garlic and onion powder, olive oil, and light mayonnaise and set aside.
  3. Combine the pasta, carrots, celery and chicken in a large bowl. Pour hot sauce mixture over the top and stir well.
  4. Sprinkle blue cheese on top and chill for at least 20 minutes. Serve cold.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (~1 cup)

260 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated), 31 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 17 g protein, 450 mg sodium




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moroccan Tagine

Over the holidays I had some homemade Lebanese food that was to die for. The combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors was well balanced and extremely healthy. I realized that even though I love most spices and foods, that I really haven’t tried many classic dishes from around the world and that was something I wanted to change.

The first on my list was to make a Moroccan dish. Tagine is a popular dish, so I decided to give it a shot. Traditionally this dish is slowly cooked over coals and is served as a stew with meats, vegetables, olives, and dried fruits with a wonderfully rich and spicy sauce. I made a large batch for a company party and I was surprised how easy and delicious it was. I will definitely be making this again!


Moroccan Beef Tagine

Makes 6 servings



  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1.5 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated

Garlic Couscous

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides of the meat (you may need to do in a few batches), about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate and set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, carrot, and garlic to pan. Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add spices; stir 1 minute. Add broth, olives, raisins, garbanzo beans, and half of the cilantro; bring to boil. Simmer until juices thicken, about 5 minutes. Add beef and any accumulated juices and lemon peel to pan. Stir to warm through and serve.
  4. Cook couscous as directed (bring 2 cups water to a boil with olive oil then turn off heat add couscous and give a quick stir, cover and let sit 5-10 minutes). Add garlic powder, salt/pepper and fluff with fork before serving. 
  5. Top couscous with beef stew mixture and sprinkle with remaining cilantro


Nutrition Facts: ¾ cup couscous with 1 1/3 cups stew

540 calories, 21 g fat (3 g saturated), 56 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 32 g protein, 640 mg sodium

Monday, December 29, 2014

Turtle Cheesecake

I served this cheesecake on Christmas and it was quite the hit. It starts with a chocolate crust, then a creamy cheesecake filling and topped with a caramel sauce and ganache drizzle. It is a decadent dessert, perfect for entertaining, but is super easy to make! Using a springform pan will make your cheesecake easy to cook and serve. 


If you are short on time, or prefer not to make the caramel or ganache, sundae caramel sauce and hot fudge will do the trick as well! I had extra of both sauce, but use as liberally as you feel necessary! 


Turtle cheesecake



1 cup chopped pecans



1.5 sleeves of chocolate graham crackers

6 Tbsp butter, melted



4 packages of cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract



8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used chips)

1/2 cup heavy cream 


Caramel sauce:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 Tbsp butter 

1 Tbsp vanilla extract



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 4-5 minutes, until aromatic
2. Break chocolate graham crackers into small pieces and toss in food processor (1 package at a time). Pulse until they are small, uniform crumbs
3. In a large bowl, add the melted butter to the graham crumbs and mix well. 
4. Pat mixture into the bottom of a 9-10” springform pan and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove crust from oven and decrease heat to 325 degrees
5. Meanwhile, in a large pan, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, add the sugar and continue to beat. 
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition, mix in the vanilla extract.
7. Sprinkle ½ cup of the toasted pecans on top of the pre-baked crust and drizzle caramel over the nuts. 
8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust and bake for 55 minutes at 325degrees. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then release spring in pan to continue cooling. 
9. For the ganache: It can be done on the stove or microwave. For the stove you need to make a double boiler (with a heat resistant bowl over a boiling saucepan of water) and combine the cream and chocolate and mix well. For the microwave: Place heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 2 minutes, add choc chips and stir until combined.
10. For the caramel sauce: Mix the sugar, cream, and butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, whisking regularly. Add the vanilla, cook an additional minute. 
11. To decorate: Allow both sauces to slightly cool and pour into pastry bags or sandwich bags with the corner snipped off (about ½” from the corner).  Drizzle sauces over the top of the cheesecake and sprinkle remaining pecans on top. 
12. Chill in the refrigerator, covered for at least 4 hours. 



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Get Familiar with Fermented Foods

Fermented foods have been in the spotlight as a power food for some time now, mostly for their probiotic properties and gut health. Our guts do more than metabolize foods, it is a huge immune system that contains millions of bacteria. Certain foods, mainly probiotics, help feed the beneficial bacteria. Perhaps the most popular and widely recognized fermented food is yogurt and cheese, but there are so many others that deserve some attention! Fermentation is not a new fad though, it is one of the oldest forms of food preservation and has been used over centuries to increase the shelf life of perishable foods. Not all cultured or fermented foods are created equal though, as many are full of added sugars and can be high in sodium and many are pasteurized so they no longer contain live and active cultures. 

Benefits of Fermented Foods
You may be wondering why you would start encorporating these foods into your diet. Fermented foods provide good bacteria (probiotics) that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract needs to counteract. Research on our microbiome (the microorganisms and bacteria in our bodies) is growing and initial research shows a close involvement in immune function, nutritional status, and potential to affect chronic diseases and cancers!The process also enhances the digestibility of the food and studies suggest that probiotics may be beneficial in diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating a diet high in dietary fiber (from whole grains, fruits,vegetables, legumes, and nuts) will provide Prebiotics (food for the probiotics) to ensure that the probiotics function properly. Adults should aim for 25g of fiber every day.
Here are 5 fermented foods that I love to enjoy!

Select Greek or low fat yogurts that are low in sugar and contain live cultures. The lowest sugar varieties will be plain yogurts and you can add your own fruit or sweetener (I like stevia) to adjust the sweetness. Try blending yogurt into smoothies or enjoy as a meal or snack. Consider using plain Greek yogurt in your cooking as well (can work as a substitute for mayo, sour cream, or added to soups to give a creamy texture. It is a great source of protein (Greek contains about 2x protein of regular yogurt), calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Lactose intolerance? Because the yogurt making process partially digests the lactose it is usually well tolerated, especially in small amounts. Lactose free varieties are available as well for those that are highly sensitive. 


Kefir is a cultured beverage that comes in two varieties, milk or water. Milk kefir is more widely available (found at your local co-op, whole foods etc and in most grocery stores in the natural foods section) most brands contain large amounts of several types of live cultures! It is a thick and creamy texture with somewhat of a tangy flavor. As with yogurt, look for lower sugar varieties. If you don't care for the texture on its own, try blending plain kefir with fruits into a smoothie. Most brands are 99% lactose-free and a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. 


Kombucha is a lightly carbonated, fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast that contains several strains of beneficial bacteria. It comes in a variety of flavors and most are low in sugar. I must be honest; the first time I tried kombucha I really didn't care for it. I had never had anything like it and was more acidic than expected. I finished it because I knew it was good for me, but didn't try it again for a year or so. Over the next few times I actually liked it and now it is a regular purchase for me. 


Sauerkraut and kimchee
Both of these fermented foods are popular around the world and are made with cabbage. Kimchee is a Korean fermented cabbage with chili, some varieties are spicier than others.  Cooking or pasturizing these foods will destroy the beneficial bacteria so be sure to find those that are raw and contain live cultures. Enjoy with meats, cheeses, on sandwiches, or served as a side. 

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that originated in Indonesia. Soy foods can help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease. If you are concerned about GMO soy, select organic or GMO-free certified products. Tempeh is much fimer than tofu and can be seasoned and added to stirfies, salads, or sandwiches. Tempeh is a complete protein (20 g per 4 oz) and high in calcium, manganese, and iron! Since it is already fermented the vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed. Depending on the brand and variety it can be a source of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats as well. The variety pictured below has 11 g fiber per serving!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coconut Chicken Wings

Chicken wings, chips/dip, nachos and pizza often Sunday Football around the country. While these foods can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, indulging in a buffet of these foods every week does not do the body well! When dining out chicken wings are typically fried and served tossed in a sauce (maybe buffalo/butter or a sweet BBQ). Making them on your own (baking or pan-fried) will help reduce the amount of fat and calories in them, while still being able to enjoy them.

Whip up a batch of these chicken wings for next football Sunday or get together. The flavors are Thai-inspired, slightly sweet and mildly spicy! Each wing =75 calories vs. 110 calories (for tradional friend wings, without sauce/dressing!)

Spicy Coconut Chicken Wings

Makes 1 dozen wings



1 Tbsp canola oil or coconut oil

12 chicken wings

1/3 cup coconut milk

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 tsp lime juice

2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce

¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Sriracha sauce, for dipping.



1.       Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken wings and cook for 5 minutes per side.

2.       Add the coconut milk, lime juice, ginger, garlic and Sriracha and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes until fully cooked (internal temperature 160 degrees)

3.       Remove from heat and sprinkle coconut flakes on top. Serve hot with additional Sriracha for dipping!
Nutrition Facts: 2 wings
150 calories, 13 g fat (7 g saturated), 1 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 180 mg sodium