Monday, 10 March 2014

Goin' Vegan...For Breakfast

While I am far from vegan or vegetarian, I find myself eating less and less meat, sometimes even forgoing a carnivorous meal for days on end. Typically, I eat oatmeal for breakfast, have salads or a vegetarian dish for lunch and dinner could be a split pea soup or a tofu stir-fry. I have become more used to having vegetables as the forefront of my meal rather than a side and I like it that way.   

Although I'm not opposed to eating meat, I have shifted towards a more plant-based diet. Not only is it generally healthier but it's usually cheaper too.  I also find that it allows me to get creative and try new ingredients to cook with. I most recently tried tempeh which is an excellent source of protein and fiber (and it's vegan).  

I came across this recipe recently and it looked too good to pass up (I also was getting very tired of my daily oatmeal + peanut butter mix).  This recipe initially contained dairy and egg but I decided to do some experimenting and create a vegan version of this breakfast.  These mini cakes are great to prepare over the weekend, keep them in the freezer and have them warmed up and ready in under a minute on a hectic weekday morning.  See the recipe below!

Mini Blueberry Oatmeal Cakes 
makes 12 mini cakes, serving size is 2 cakes


2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk
1 Tbsp flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water 
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup blueberries


1.  Mix together the oats and the milk, cover and place in the fridge to let sit for around 8-12 hours until the oats soak up almost all the liquid 

2. Preheat the over to 375 F and either spray the muffin tin with cooking spray or use  muffin liners.  

3. Combine all the other ingredients except the blueberries into the oats until well incorporated.  Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cups (around 1/4 cup per muffin cup) and top with 1 Tbsp blueberries

4. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes until they are springy to the touch.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing and eating warm.  

*If planning on freezing, allow the cakes to cool completely then placing in a freeze-safe bag. To warm up, reheat in the microwave for around 45 seconds.
* To make this non-vegan, simply switch out the soy milk for a low-fat milk and the flax seed for 1 egg lightly beaten.  


Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Healthy Heart

In honor of American Heart Month, I wanted to showcase THE most heart-healthy sandwich I think I have ever eaten. Monounsaturated fat from the avocado, lycopene in the tomatoes and soluble fiber from many of the vegetables, all which can aid in heart health. This sandwich was amazingly tasty and left me feeling good after eating it. 

While cardiovascular disease is currently the #1 cause of death in the United States, it is preventable and there are many ways to keep your heart healthy through what you eat.  Here is a list of a few tips to help support your heart!

-To help lower cholesterol, focus on consuming foods high in soluble fiber, which can help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the blood.  Soluble fiber is found in foods like oatmeal, apples, beans, carrots, barley and citrus fruits.  

-Reduce the intake of high saturated fat foods such as fatty red meats and full-fat dairy.  Instead, make the switch over to 1% or skim milk and yogurt, use olive oil over butter and choose leaner cuts of beef (ie sirloin, tenderloin).  Other healthier protein options include chicken breast, tofu, egg whites and fish.

-Eat more omega-3's! These are fatty acids that can help increase the good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing triglycerides (fat in the blood) and lowering blood pressure.  Many omega-3 sources come from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, whitefish and halibut.  If fish isn't your thing, you can get your omega-3 fix from foods like olive oil, walnuts, and flax seed however it isn't absorbed as easily as omega-3's from fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week. 

-Consuming more unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) can also help to improve cholesterol levels.  Most oils with these fats will be liquid at room temperature (olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil). Other great sources include all nuts, seeds and avocados.

-No more trans fat! While NYC has been off trans fat for a number of years, there are still many areas across the country that support its use.  Mostly, trans fat is man-made and created to help increase the shelf life of products. Consuming this type of fat has been shown to lower the good cholesterol (HDL) while raising the bad (LDL). It also has been associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes. No good all around!   

These are just a few of the ways to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  Along with diet, focusing overall on a healthy lifestyle is key. Reducing alcohol intake, minimizing stress and not smoking also are impactful on health.  Know your cholesterol numbers and see a doctor and a registered dietitan to help make your heart health a priority!


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Me Want Cookies

Last week, my Professor in my Food and Finance class asked the students: if they could choose their "last meal", what would it be?  While people dreamt of grand meals full of expensive wines and foie gras, the first thing that came to my mind was warm chocolate chip cookies.  And prosciutto (of course).

The chocolate chip cookie is an amazing thing. It can be slightly crispy yet chewy, a little salty and sweet. It's perfect. I decided to make these cookies for a co-worker on her birthday. It was also a really good excuse to have freshly baked cookies on a Thursday evening. 

While I'm not an advocate for the consumption of excessive sweets, I think eating something you really love is so worthwhile.  When it comes to higher calories meals or desserts, I always try and focus on "mindful eating." This practice attempts to bring the focus back to the food itself by removing distractions during eating (TV, internet, etc), taking smaller bites and really tasting the flavors and complexities of the food.  

Studies have shown that practicing mindful eating can help aid in weight loss and allows for higher appreciation of the food.  By putting the focus back into what you are eating and eating more slowly, it can help increase satisfaction with a meal and hopefully reduce cravings and overeating of high calorie foods.  

With that said, everyone should enjoy a really great cookie once in awhile and I guarantee this one is worth eating! 

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie 

This recipe can vary in how many cookies it can make depending on the size of the cookie.  I made around 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted 

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with oil. 

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set to the side. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well incorporated.

3. Beat the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk into the sugar/butter mix until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand or with a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) at a time onto the baking sheets. Space the cookies around 3 inches apart as they spread while baking.  

5. OPTIONAL STEP: If desired, refrigerate cookie dough for an hour or more (can leave it for more than 3 days but who can be that patient?) Refrigeration helps the dough develop flavors and gain a better texture. This of course, is not mandatory, but certainly makes for a delish cookie.  

5a. OPTIONAL AGAIN: another addition to the cookie would be to add a really flaky sea salt like Maldon to the top of the cookie after it's baked and cooled slightly. Seriously, who doesn't love a salty-sweet combo? 

6. Bake the cookies off for around 15 minutes (that was my sweet spot) but I recommend checking around the 10 minute mark for smaller cookies and around 18 minutes for VERY large cookies. 

7. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely a few minutes after they're removed from the oven.

8. Enjoy with a nice cold glass of milk!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

2 countries, 3 cities, 3 days

This past weekend I took a nice long trip upstate to visit my sister at her college in Plattsburgh.  To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for the food scene upstate. I guessed there were just a ton of chain restaurants and a sub shop here and there.  I was pleasantly surprised and very wrong!

We ventured to a wine tasting shop, a food co-op and had Himalayan food! A rarity even for NYC dwellers. The Himalayan dishes below were fantastic.  They were spice-filled and super flavorful.  None of the food on the menu used butter and minimal oil was used when possible, which was a bonus.  The food of this region is very hearty and comforting which is perfect while upstate in 10 degree weather.    

While Plattsburgh was fun, we decided to cross the border into Canada to have the ever famous poutine. Essentially poutine is fries covered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.  The one below has an addition of different types of sausages and hot dogs which is also very popular with those Canadians. While this is certainly an amazing late night food, I wouldn't go back for seconds in the day time. 

Lastly we came to Burlington, Vermont.  While driving down the road we passed people ice fishing and saw beautiful landscapes which I could imagine look even better in the summertime.  Of course I had to try some Ben and Jerry's (just a little) at one of the shops on Church Street.  While we didn't go to the factory, this stuff still did the trick.  
After that we headed to the Magic Hat Brewery.  Who knew it was in VT?? There were a number of VT-only brews on tap which I got to try. Steve's Sour was my favorite--an IPA with passion fruit.  A plus at this place is that the tour of the brewery is free and it comes with 4 beer tastings (also free).  I highly recommend coming if you are a fan of Magic Hat.  

Seeing all these unique cities and trying their own specialties was a lot of fun and I can't wait for my next trip to see what interesting treats I can find!

Keep avidly eating. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Who Needs Takeout?

When you find an Asian chicken recipe as good as this one, there is no need to call in for an unhealthy takeout meal again. Seriously, it's that good.  

I've been a fan of this recipe for quite some time, typically using it for an easy but impressive entree for a small dinner party or halving it for a dinner for 2. 

The steps are simple and by using skinless chicken drumsticks you get a leaner dish that still maintains a lot of flavor and juiciness from the use of dark meat.

Here it is!

Healthy Asian Glazed Drumsticks (serves 4)

8 chicken drumsticks, skinless
Cooking oil spray
1 cup water
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Honey
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 Tbsp Scallions
2 tsp sesame seeds

Heat a large pan on high, spray with oil and brown the chicken for around 4 minutes, turning once (this gets the browning and flavor in). 

Mix together all other ingredients except the scallions and sesame seeds and add to the chicken in the pan.  Continue cooking on high till the liquid comes to a boil 

Reduce the heat to low, cover the dish and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.  After this, remove the lid, bringing the liquid to high heat once more, allowing the sauce to reduce.  This should take approximately 10 minutes.  Every minute or two, chicken should be turned. Watch the sauce closely as it thickens-it does have the ability to burn!

Plate the chicken, spoon the sauce over it and top with scallions and sesame seeds.  I like to serve this dish over a bed of broccoli but some brown rice would also do well to soak up some of the amazing sauce from this dish.  

Enjoy and be healthy.  If you make it, tell me what you think!


Recipe originally found on 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Mexican Zucchini

Ever since going to this amazing little Mexican restaurant downtown, I have been obsessed with the way they prepare their corn.  

The corn is char grilled, lightly coated in maya then rolled in cotija cheese (hard cheese, nice salty flavor). If desired, it can be topped with chili power and a squeeze of lime (yes please). 

The flavor combination is amazing and it seriously is one of my favorite things to eat.  I decided to go a slightly different (and lower carb) route with this recipe, swapping out the corn for zucchini.  Its a great way to get in your vegetables with little prep work and a really pretty presentation!

Recipe (serves 2)

2 large zucchini
Olive oil spray
Red pepper flakes 

1/4 cup low-fat mayo 
1/2 cup cotija cheese (grated/crumbled)
1 lime
Ancho Chili Powder

Slice the zucchini lengthwise and scoop at the bottom half of the zucchini with a spoon to make a little crevice for the topping.  

Spray olive oil on the cut side of the zucchini and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)

Heat up a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, place the zucchini cut side down to get it charred. Usually 3-5 minutes.  Another way to char the zucchini is to place under the broiler for the same amount of time but this route failed for me.

While the zucchini is cooking, mix together the mayo and cheese. Spoon mixture into zucchini and squeeze the lime over the top. Sprinkle with chili power (again, spice level can be varied)

Its as simple as that! This dish has certainly become a favorite of mine and hope you will like it too!

Eat healthy, be happy.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Asparagus Love

While it isn't necessarily asparagus season (spring), I still manage to get my hands on some good, thin stalks during the colder winter months.  Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies--you can eat them hot, cold, raw, cooked. You can even wrap them in prosciutto!  I mean, come on, they're great.

Asparagus is very versatile and quite a healthy food at that.  These thin green stalks are rich in vitamin K, iron and fiber among a number of other vitamins and minerals.  Another big plus is that they are filling and very low in calories (1 cup of asparagus is only 27 calories!)

When looking for asparagus, make sure the tips are tight and compact and the green color is nice and bright.  Many times the bottom of the asparagus can be a bit woody and difficult to chew.  To remedy this, simply snap off the bottom of the asparagus and use it for something else like an asparagus soup!  The bottom part will break off at a natural point so let the veg take charge.

My favorite way to prepare asparagus is quite simple.  Roast with some olive oil, a touch of salt and pepper for about 15-20 minutes at 400 F until they get a little crispy and the flavors mellow out.  I'll sometimes throw some balsamic over the whole thing when I'm done.  I tend to look for thinner stalks because they get crispier in oven.

Whatever way you choose to enjoy this vegetable, you can't go wrong.  Enjoy healthy eating every day.

-The Avid Eater