Sunday, July 31, 2011


What can you whip up with only 10 ingredients and 30 minutes? A fabulous, faux-tomato bisque- that's what! This dairy-free soup is delightfully silky even without the typical addition of heavy cream. Grill up a cheese sandwich and take a trip down memory lane with this grown up version of a childhood favorite!

28oz can of tomato puree
15oz can of white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs. onions, small diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2-3 tbs. grated parmesan cheese (optional)
extra virgin olive oil

-Warm 1 tbs. olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.
-Add garlic and onion and cook until soft and transparent (about 5-7 minutes).
-Puree beans and broth in a blender until smooth.
-Add bean puree to garlic and onions and pour in tomato sauce.
-Add in salt, basil, oregano, pepper, and cheese.
-Cook soup until warmed through.
-Serve alone, or with a grilled cheese sandwich, and enjoy!

This soup was inspired by Bodega in Columbus, Ohio and their Monday night special: $2 for a grilled cheese and delicious tomato bisque!

-Try the soup with fresh basil. Substitute dried basil for 1 tbs. of chopped, fresh basil.
-Instead of serving alongside a grilled cheese, try topping the soup with cheesy croutons or even Goldfish Crackers!
-Add in some extra protein with some shredded chicken.
-Increase the healthy benefits by mixing in some sauteed mushrooms or zucchini.

Monday, July 25, 2011


WARNING! These brownies are only for the adventurous! Black Bean Brownies are a delightfully fudgy treat that give you just the chocolate fix you need. Plus- they actually satisfy your hunger with the added protein from the beans. It may sound like a crazy recipe, but you won't be a believer until you try it!

1 box of [18oz] brownie mix
15oz can of black beans
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup grated zucchini (optional)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

-Drain and rinse black beans.
-Place beans in a blender, and add water. Blend until smooth.
-In a large mixing bowl, mix together the brownie mix, pureed beans, vanilla, zucchini, and walnuts (mixture will be thick!).
-Pour brownie mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.
-Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.
-Let cool, cut, and enjoy!

I'd been hearing about these brownies for a while, and finally tried and love them. This is my own version of the [less] guilty brownie!

-When cutting the brownies, dip a sharp knife into water before each slice. The brownies cut MUCH easier!
-Try these mix ins: chocolate chips, mint chips, butterscotch chips, dried fruit, marshmallows, peanut butter, assorted nuts, and/or candy pieces.
-If the brownies won't be eaten in one sitting, store them in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


This sauce is almost as easy as opening a store-bought jar, but the taste and health benefits are way better! My everyday tomato sauce can top your spaghetti, layer in your lasagna, cover your pizza, or be the perfect dip for garlic bread and mozzarella sticks. This recipe is one EVERYBODY should know, and the best part- it's easy enough for everybody to learn!

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, small diced (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
28 oz. can unseasoned, crushed or pureed tomatoes
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbs. parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
meat (optional- see below)

-in a medium sized sauce pan, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium-low/low heat
-add garlic and onion and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-add in crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, cheese, and basil
-stir and let cook on low until warmed through
-serve and enjoy!

This sauce was the start of my cooking passion. I would watch my Italian grandmother make sauce and learned at a young age to make my own. Though my sauce is good- it never tastes quite as good as hers did (like all grandma recipes!)

-To make a meat sauce, add your choice of the following into the sauce once all ingredients are combined: cooked ground beef, ground pork, crumbled sweet or hot Italian sausage, meatloaf mix, pulled pork, ground turkey, or ground veal (or use a combination of any of these! My favorite is a mixture of beef, pork, and veal- or a meatloaf mix) You can also add in some cooked, store bought or homemade meatballs into the sauce too!
-When cooking the garlic and onions, render/cook down some chopped pieces of bacon or pancetta with it.
-Add in your own favorite blend of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, and/or sage along with the basil.
-You can use dried herbs too (just remember: use about 1/3 of the amount of dried herbs as you would fresh- they are more concentrated with flavor!).
-Make it a blush sauce and add a splash of heavy cream or a large pad of cream cheese or goat cheese.
-Make it an arrabiata sauce (spicy!) by adding in some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
-Leave out the garlic or onion if you don't like them. Try adding in some garlic or onion powder for a less intense flavor.
-Try adding a few cloves of roasted garlic for a more mellow, sweet garlic flavor.
-Make a BIG batch of sauce, and freeze single/family sized portions. Thaw for a quick dinner anytime!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Eggplant Parmesan has been a favorite of mine for years. This meaty vegetable is a perfect meatless-meal that everyone will enjoy. I would always egg it, bread it, fry it, and bake it until I realized I could SKIP the frying process and it would still taste just as great! This slims down the meal quite a bit, plus you get to skip the cleaning of the greasy pans- 2 big wins in my book! Try my eggplant parm bake tonight, but make extra because you and your family are going to want seconds!

2 medium or 4-5 small eggplants
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs
2 tbs salt
3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
a side of pasta (optional)

-Peel eggplants with a vegetable peeler.
-Cut off both ends of the eggplant, then cut the eggplants into 1/2" thick rounds.
-Lay the eggplant on a clean counter in a single layer and sprinkle with salt on both sides.
-After about 20 minutes, eggplants will have released some liquid. Pat the eggplants dry with some paper towels.
-Beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water in a medium sized, shallow bowl.
-In a larger, shallow bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1 tbs. of the parmesan cheese.
-Dip the eggplant into the egg, letting the excess drip off.
-Place the eggplant into the breading, shaking off excess. Place breaded eggplant onto a baking sheet.
-Continue to egg and bread each piece of eggplant. When finished, spray or drizzle a little bit of olive oil on each piece.
-Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant rounds half way through.
-Cover the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish with 1/4 cup of tomato sauce.
-Layer the bottom of the dish with a single layer of eggplant.
-Cover each eggplant with about 2 tbs. of tomato sauce and 1 tbs. of shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle some parmesan on top of the layer.
-Continue to layer in this fashion until all the eggplant pieces are used up. Make sure the top layer is sauce then cheese!
-Cook in the 375 degree oven for an additional 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggplant parm bake is hot and bubbly.
-Let cool, serve with a side of pasta (if you wish!) and enjoy!

This recipe goes out to my Grandpa- eggplant is one of his favorites! And my grandma who taught my how to peel and salt the eggplant.

-Use seasoned breadcrumbs for a super simple dish. If you only have unseasoned bread crumbs, season it up yourself! Add a 1/2 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasonings and 1/4 tsp. of pepper and paprika.
-Make the dish delightfully creamy and add some ricotta cheese in between each layer of eggplant.
-This is a GREAT make-ahead meal. Follow all steps except the second baking of the layered casserole. Cover and keep in fridge for up to 24 hours. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and the dish is hot and bubbly. If you'd like to freeze the dish, cover WELL with plastic wrap and foil and place in freezer up to a few months. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours. Remove plastic wrap and foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
-Eggplants are best in the summer. Try cooking it with other tasty summer vegetables- layer the dish with thinly sliced tomatoes and fresh chopped basil!
-Add more veggies! Slice 1/4" rounds of zucchini and/or summer squash and egg, bread, and cook just as the eggplant.

-Why sprinkle with salt? Eggplants can sometimes taste slightly bitter. The salt draw out the liquid that causes the bitterness. Salting also helps cut down on the fat that can be absorbed into the vegetable.
-To select a tasty eggplant, look for moderately sized eggplant (not too big, not too small). Skin should be smooth, shiny, and be firm to the touch. Make sure it has a green stem attached.
-There are many different types of eggplants. They range in color from purple to green to white, solid colored and striped, short and fat, or long and thin. All are tasty, I'd advice you to try a variety!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Cut the fat tonight with this low carb, high protein fajita taco bake! It has all the yummy insides of a taco and fajita and only some of the crunchy outside. Lay it on a bed of shredded lettuce and add a couple of crunched up corn chips on top, and you'll have a satisfying Mexican meal that you can have a second helping of- guilt free!

15 oz can of refried beans
15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb ground turkey, beef, or chicken
taco seasonings
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup cooked brown rice (measure 1/2 cup uncooked rice, and follow package instructions)
1 poblano pepper, cut into 1" slices
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of half a lime
3/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup of crushed corn chips or taco shells
2 cups of shredded lettuce (optional)
vegetable or canola oil

-Cook meat and add taco seasonings. Set aside.
-In the same pan, warm 1 tablespoon of oil over medium low heat.
-Add peppers, onion, and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes until onion starts to become transparent.
-Add lime juice to pepper mixture.
-Spread the refried beans in a 9x13 casserole dish.
-Spread a thin layer of sour cream on top of the refried beans.
-Layer on black beans, meat, and pepper mixture.
-Layer on rice, tomatoes, and cilantro.
-Cover casserole with grated cheese.
-Place in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.
-Sprinkle on crushed corn chips.
-Serve over lettuce and with other optional taco toppings such as avocado/guacamole, sliced olives, and/or hot sauce and enjoy!

I came up with this dish trying to use up broken taco shells- and everyone loved it! (Including my Granny who is typically picky about eating Mexican!)

-Skip the cilantro and tomatoes and spread on some salsa!
-Make it vegetarian. Leave the meat out and add extra veggies like corn, grated zucchini, and diced bell peppers.
-For homemade taco seasoning mix together: 1 tbs chili powder, 1 tbs coriander, 1 tbs cumin, 2 tsp paprika, 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt, 1/2 tsp pepper.
-Instead of crunching up the chips and putting them on top of the bake, use the corn chips to scoop up and eat the bake!
-Make it spicy! Add in some diced jalapenos, diced chilis, or cayenne pepper.
-Make the dish the night before, cover and put in the refrigerator, and cook the next day for a quick dinner.
-Don't like cilantro, use parsley instead.
-No poblano pepper? Use a cubanelle or red or yellow bell pepper.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Looking for a new burger to try at your next grill out? Well leave the beef in the fridge and grab a can of beans! That's right- go vegetarian tonight! Get a boost of veggies and protein with a mixture of rice, beans, corn, and bell peppers and a hit a flavor with a blend of zesty seasonings. These burgers are easy to make and even easier to eat!

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup red bell pepper (about 1/2 a pepper), diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup corn
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
extra virgin olive oil
buns, cheese, condiments, and other burger fixins'

-Cook brown rice according to package instructions. Set aside.
-warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium low heat.
-Add red bell pepper, onion, and garlic to pan and cooked 5-7 minutes until onions start to become transparent.
-In a large bowl, mash the beans with a potato masher until pasty.
-To the beans, add the red pepper mixture, corn, cooked rice, parsley, seasonings, breadcrumbs, and egg.
-Mix ingredients until combined.
-Take a 1/2 cup measuring cup to measure out the burgers.
-Mold into burger shape. Makes 6 burgers.
-Let the burger patties sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes up to 24 hours before cooking.
-Heat the grill to about 400 degrees and grill burgers approximately 10 minutes per side.
-Serve on a bun with select condiments, and enjoy!

SHOUT OUTS:These burgers are my own version of the delicious veggie burger I always get just down the road at Pub Bricco.

-Try the burger with black beans too!
-Mix in some grated zucchini or squash with the burger mixture for added health benefits
-Like your bean burgers spicy? Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, a diced jalapeno, a splash of your favorite hot sauce.
-Weather not cooperating? Forget the grill and cook the burgers on the stove.
-If your afraid of your burgers sticking, lightly spray the grill with a non-stick spray or grease it down with a paper towel dipped in olive oil.
-Freeze an uncooked burger and save for a later date! Just make sure to separate each patty with wax paper or cling wrap before freezing. Defrost and heat on the grill or stove.
-Can't eat eggs? Use 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce instead!
-Make the burgers quicker by using a microwavable package of brown rice like Minute Rice Cups or Uncle Ben's Rice Bags.

Friday, July 8, 2011


If you're like me- you're a sucker for a hearty Sunday breakfast. And there's no better satisfying meal than pancakes! Putting sweet potatoes into your batter not only adds health benefits, but your pancakes become indulgent and perfectly sweet. The next time you feel like firing up the griddle, slip this little surprise into your pancakes, and it'll be a sure hit!

1 batch of pancake mix; mixed with eggs, milk, oil, etc. (whatever the package calls for)
1/3 cup mashed sweet potatoes (use fresh, canned, or leftover sweet potatoes!)syrup and butter for serving

-mix all pancake ingredients together, including the mashed sweet potatoes
-pour 1/4 cup of pancake mixture in a greased pan (medium-low heat) or griddle (set at 375 degrees)
-cook on one side until bubbles start to form on the pancake, then flip and cook for an additional minute or two
-serve with butter and syrup (if you wish!) and enjoy!

These pancakes are a remake of a delicious meal served at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Ashville, North Carolina.

-Try this recipe with mashed up bananas, cooked apples, or pumpkin puree instead of sweet potatoes.
-Add a little extra flavor by adding a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla extract in the batter.
-Really want to impress the hungry crowd- serve with candied pecans on top!
-Leftovers? Place cooled pancakes in a freezer zip-lock bag and keep in the freezer. When you're ready to eat, defrost and warm up in the toaster oven.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Combining 2 long time favorites- bacon and hotdogs. What's not to like? Though it may not be the most figure-friendly meal, it's a lot of fun to eat. Great dish for a group gathering-- build your own hotdog party!

1 hotdog
1 piece of bacon
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1/4 cup refried beans
extra virgin olive oil
condiments of your choice

(These ingredients are for one dog. Multiply accordingly per extra dogs.)

-saute onions in 1 tsp. olive oil until they are transparent and slightly start to brown
-remove onions from pan and set aside
-wrap raw bacon around the length of a hotdog
-cook the dog in the same pan over medium heat, turning it frequently, until the bacon is cooked on all sides
-toast hot dog bun
-warm up refried beans until easy to spread
-spread beans on bun
-place dog on bun
-top with tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and your choice of condiments

This recipe was inspired from brother Bobby and Man Vs. Food.

-use whatever type of hotdog you like: all beef, turkey, even tofu
-condiment suggestions: mayo, mustard, BBQ, ranch
-instead of using refried beans use whole pinto beans or even try refried black beans or whole black beans
-instead of fresh jalapeno, try a can of diced jalapenos or a spicy relish