Banana-Walnut Cinnamon Toast

The idea for this came from a muffin recipe I found in Women’s Health magazine awhile ago. I’ve made it a couple times, and was craving those muffins this morning, but who has time to make muffins on a Wednesday morning, fah crahin aht lawhd? So I took all my favourite muffin innerds and threw ’em on some toast! Voila, no-bake banana bread! To be honest, I totally impressed myself, cause this is definitely the most bangin’ cinnamon toast I’ve ever tasted. And although I’m usually famished in the morning, and my desire to enjoy chewing consistently wins out over satiation in the stomach region, I actually couldn’t finish both pieces of toast along with my yogurt (pictured above, for a nice round meal) so I saved the second piece for a mid-morning snack!

Something to note: Women’s Health boasts that the combo of walnuts’ magnesium, bananas’ potassium (to sooth muscles,) and the vitamin D & calcium found in yogurt (supposedly “mood stabilizing,” though as far as I know, the effects of the latter have only been observed in patients with severe mood disorders, not just cranky PMSers) are sure to relieve the backlash of Auntie Flo’s lil’ visit. Let me know if it works for you…mad props for the muffins, Women’s Health, but I think the blaring BEEP BEEP BEEP of my bullshit radar actually GAVE me cramps.

2 slices whole-wheat or multi-grain toast
1 medium or large banana
2 TBSP walnut pieces (crush them up for optimal spreadage)
a drizzle of honey or agave
a sprinklin’ of cinnamon
a side of yogurt if you like, for a calcium & protein boost!

I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory…toast bread (you can make one super-stacked slice if you’d like,) slice banana over toast; sprinkle with walnuts & cinnamon and add a drizzle of honey. You won’t believe how delish this is, i promise!

You Decided to Dip, and Now You Wanna Trip

For those of you who are NOT Beyonce fans: you may refer to this dish by its alternate name, “Dilly Cottage Cheese Dip” (but you should also note: we’re not friends anymore.) 

I remember the first time I ever tasted this dip. Here’s how it went down: It was a dark and stormy night. I was in 5th grade. I really, REALLY didn’t want to take a shower before I went to bed, so my mom promised me that when I got out of the shower, I could have a special snack. Obviously, that changed everything, and I made a mad dash for the bathroom. To my grave dismay, however, THIS DIP was waiting from me when I got out. Hello, are you crazy?? Cottage cheese? Thanks, mom, but I’m in 5th grade; I’d rather die than stand here in my towel eating cottage cheese. See you.
Anyway, I remembered this creative creation when I was at the store a few days ago. I picked up a tub of cottage cheese (normally, I’m all for the fat-free dairy, but in the case of cottage cheese, I recommend 2%) and a package of fresh dill, and decided I’d experiment when I got home. Lo and behold, all I had to do was combine the herbs and cottage cheese, sprinkle a little s&p and paprika on top, and I finally understood what my mom was thinking when she tried to serve cottage cheese to her 10-year-old. Mmmm, folks.
1 16-oz. container 2% cottage cheese (fat-free is too yucky)
1/2 cup fresh dill, minced
salt & pepper
your favourite spice(s) for a personal touch
Dice up the dill and toss it into the cottage cheese. Season to taste. Dip homemade pita chips, carrot sticks, or slices of your favourite veggie into this fab dip.

UPDATE: this post has been edited, and offensive language has been removed, following a dual scolding by my parents via text & email. guess not much has changed since 5th grade.

Homemade Pita Chips

Now, I’m sure ya’ll have tried pita chips (I won’t mention brand names; I don’t know what it takes to get a girl sued ’round here…) but my issue with anything you buy at the store, no matter how healthy, is that you can’t control what’s in ’em. Making things from scratch is often out of the question, but pita chips are a glorious exception to that rule. You can buy 100% whole wheat pita at pretty much any grocery store (read the ingredients to make sure they’re not full of preservatives and other long-named ingredients,) and as long as you have a little olive oil, s&p, and your favourite spice handy, you’re good to go! 

1 package whole wheat pita bread (4 whole pitas; 8 servings)
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil (both good for your heart)
fresh-ground salt & pepper
your favourite spices for a-shakin’ (my fave combos: smoked paprika & garlic powder or basil, oregano & parmesan cheese)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice pitas in half, then gently pull apart the two sides. Slice or tear the bread into bite-size pieces.
2. Spread the pita pieces out on baking sheets (you’ll probably need more than one; you can also do multiple batches.) Measure 2 Tbsp. oil (FYI: 2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup.) Despite what you may think by the time you’re through oiling the pita, you DON’T need more than this; keep it heart-and waist-line healthy, ya’ll.
3. Brush oil onto pita pieces, using a pastry brush or your finger. You really only need a dot on each side of the pita pieces. I have an awesome brush with rubber bristles, which comes in handy with this project, because I can really get all the hiding oil out when I mash the bristles down onto the bread surface.
4. Grind salt & pepper, and add whatever other spices you like. Bake for 10 minutes. Voila!

Becca’s Cranberry Almond Kale

My boyfriend’s sister, Becca, is a long-time vegetarian with great intuition when it comes to cooking. She also knows a lot about nutrition. I tried this kale recipe she sent me today and it was absolutely fabulous. Becca says: “This is a good recipe for veggies because kale is high in iron. Iron needs vitamin C for absorption–hence the cranberries. Almonds add a little protein kick without the saturated fat.” A little iron, a little vitamin C, a little protein–giiiirl, could you be any more fabulous? Please.

UPDATE: New photo by Chip Joffe-Halpern, who added some fresh mozz to increase protein, calcium and deliciousness! Thanks, Chip!

Ingredients (makes 2 big sides):
1 small, or 1/2 large bunch kale (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the kale and tear it into bite-size pieces. 
2. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and pop it into the oven (they only need to be in there for a couple minutes, until they start to become brown & aromatic.) Mince the garlic and toss it into a pan with the olive oil and cranberries. Stir the mix ’round until the garlic juuuust starts to brown. 
3. Add the kale, mixing all the ingredients around together. Toss the almonds in. When the kale looks nice and wilty, you’re ready to eat! 

Healthy Girl says: I didn’t have an orange on hand, but citrus and dark leafy greens are best of friends, as are cranberry & orange. Try squeezing an orange slice over the kale and let me know how it turns out!

Mom’s Sunday Morning Pancakes All Week Long!

This is the pancake recipe we ate at my house when I was little. My mom would make us a plate of pancakes in whatever shapes or letters we requested, and then finish off the batter with one large pancake for herself. I learned her pancake-dressing ritual by heart: a smear of warm apple sauce, a big scoop non-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese, a handful of berries and almond slivers, a couple of spoonfuls of wheat germ, and finally, a little drizzle of real maple syrup. By the time she was done, you couldn’t even see the pancake under the mountain of healthy toppings. 

I have two tips for making pancakes an easy, healthy breakfast (or dinner, if you’re so inclined!) all week long. First, load them up like my mom does. This recipe is pretty healthy as far as pancakes go: it’s made with half whole wheat flour, and calls for a pretty minimal amount of oil. If you make low-fat dairy and fruit toppings the main affair, the pancakes will just be an added bonus!
Here’s how to enjoy these pancakes on a busy weekday morning: on Sunday, mix up a big batch of dry ingredients and a couple servings of wet ingredients (keep them separate!!) Store the buttermilk mixture in a jar in the fridge (if you haven’t used it by Tuesday, make a new batch; it doesn’t take long,) and the flour mixture in an airtight container in your pantry. To make, mix a little of each together until the batter has the consistency of a very thick smoothie (try not to overmix.) Fry up a couple pancakes in your non-stick, throw on your toppings (berries are my go-to topping when I’m in a rush since they don’t need to be sliced) and nosh on your power-breakfast treat while you get ready for work.
When you have more time and want to enjoy a leisurely meal, scramble up a couple of eggs or egg whites with mushrooms and peppers and serve it on the side. Boom: the food pyramid is your bitch.
Dry Ingredients (makes a big batch you can store forever in an airtight container):
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Sift together well (ok, I don’t actually have a sifter, and mine came out alright.) 
Wet Ingredients (mix the following for every 2 eaters; store leftovers in a sealed jar in fridge for up to 2 days):
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp canola oil
Measure buttermilk in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl. Add eggs and oil, and whisk until eggs are worked in.
To make pancakes:
Heat lightly oiled griddle or non-stick pan until a drop of water sizzles & dances. 
Reduce heat & spoon pancake batter into pan. 

Greek Goddess Wrap

This has been my lunch of choice lately. It makes a delicious meal without being too heavy. I like to use whole wheat lavash because it’s the easiest to roll, but you can use a regular tortilla if you don’t want to buy an extra item. 
I learned how to roll the perfect wrap when I worked in a little Manhattan vegetarian cafe. The trick is to line up all the ingredients on one end, fold the sides in, and roll from the filled end.  Omit the feta to make this sandwich vegan, or add some grilled chicken for a protein boost. Try serving it with a little greek vinaigrette for dipping!
1 whole wheat lavash
2 Tbsp hummus
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 mini cucumber, or 1/2 medium cucumber
1 cup dark leafy greens, washed & dried
1 roma tomato, or 4 grape tomatoes, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled & shaved
5 olives (kalamata or california,) sliced
Spread hummus evenly over the lavash. Add the ingredients in rows, starting from one end (keeping the other end emptyish will help prevent spillage when you roll.) Fold in the sides and roll, keeping the roll tight. Cut in half on the diagonal.

Greek Yogurt Dressed to the Nines

Ok, so this isn’t a recipe so much as a serving suggestion. Greek yogurt is very high in protein and calcium and makes a spectacular breakfast, snack, or light lunch (make sure to buy fat free or 2%) Adding flax seed gives you a nice healthy dose of omega-3‘s, and fruit adds fibervitamins, and antioxidants. A squeeze of honey or agave adds a touch of sweetness, since greek yogurt is pretty tart. Experiment with toppings and find your favourite combo. Blueberries and strawberries are great, and a sliced fuji apple, a handful of walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon is also fabulous!

1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (like Fage)
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 medium banana, sliced
1 handful raspberries
1 Tbsp honey or agave
Throw everything into a bowl and enjoy!
nutrition facts:
calories 387;  calories from fat 57;  fat 6g;  saturated fat .5 g;  cholesterol 0mg; sodium 86 mg; carbohydrates 35 g;  fiber 9 g;  sugars 27g;  protein 23g;  vitamin A 2%;  vitamin C 27%;  calcium 29%;  iron 5%

Breakfast Quesadilla with Egg Whites, Cheese, Spinach & Tomato

When I’m craving something savory in the morning, this is my go-to recipe. It’s packed with protein, calcium, and fiber; it constitutes two servings of veggies, and it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare–what more could you ask for in a breakfast?

Make no mistake: I’m no LA chick, and I am not afraid of egg yolks. The nineties are over, folks, and whole eggs are back. In a recipe like this, however, there’s enough flavour going on that you don’t miss the yolks, so why not save the fat & calories and enjoy some super-lean protein? Adding a little skim or 1% milk to your eggs makes them nice and creamy, too.
2 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed & dried
3 egg whites
1 tsp milk
1 slice of your favourite reduced-fat cheese
1 whole grain tortilla
1 roma or 4 grape tomatoes, sliced
salt, pepper, & hot sauce if you wish
1. Sautee the spinach in a non-stick pan and set aside. 
2. Whisk together egg whites, milk, salt and pepper. Pour them into the pan and scramble (you can toss in a tsp. of butter first if you wish; I prefer not to use butter in my non-stick to avoid extra fat, though it means I have to be more attentive to keep the eggs from sticking too much and making a big mess.)
3. When the eggs are almost finished scrambling, push them over to one side of the pan, making room to warm the bottom half of the tortilla on the other side (you’ll be folding the top half over the fillings in a minute; for now it can just hang over the side of the pan.)
4. Place cheese, spinach, and tomatoes inside the tortilla. Add eggs when they’re finished scrambling and fold the top half over the fillings. When the cheese has melted a bit, flip the quesadilla over to brown it a bit on the other side. 
5. Slice the quesadilla into four points for easier eatin’, and smother with hot sauce. MMM!
nutrition facts:
calories 265;  calories from fat 70;  total fat 7 g;  saturated fat 3 g;  cholesterol 15 mg;  carbohydrates 31 g;  fiber 7 g;  protein 25 g;  vitamin A 152% RDV;  vitamin C 42%;  calcium 30%;  iron 15%