Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

If your kids are anything like mine, they love cookies! Heck, who am I kidding…I LOVE cookies, however my waistline doesn’t share this love with me.

The other day I tried my hand at this recipe and must have messed up somewhere, so I decided to give it another go tonight.

I am so happy I did, cause these turned out really good. (My prior batch tasted good too, they were just a little dry.)

I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but I did tweak it just a little to add some moisture to the dough by adding some applesauce.

You can also substitute applesauce for the oil if you want to make them even healthier and more waist-line friendly.

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

*If your dough seems a little dry, add 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce before adding the chips like I mentioned I did above.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
  2. Grind oats in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running, add the dry ingredients, beating on low-speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies until firm around the edges and golden on top, about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies ( I used a small ice cream scoop to keep them consistant in size.)

I hope you enjoy these as much as my family did. My kids LOVE cookies and it’s nice to know I have a whole-grain, lower sugar recipe that I can now bake for them, in place of the store-bought ones.


blog sig

Black Bean Tacos with Roasted Peppers and Onions

Tacos are a favorite food of mine. I love the flavors, textures and all of the colors once they are topped with fresh chopped veggies and a sprinkle of cheese.

As I prepare for this 30 day cleanse, I was nervous about this favorite menu staple of mine and I am thankful I found this recipe. As a matter of fact, it was so yummy I may not go back to meat filling, even though I will still have to make it for the kids.

*Please note: The photo is not of my actual dish. It is from the recipe site – I was so hungry, I forgot to take a photo of my dish.

Black Bean Tacos with Roasted Peppers and Onions
(Recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Times) Serves 8

Ingredients:

Roasted Peppers and Onions

  • 3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

Tacos

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced organic fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 16 organic corn taco shells, warmed

Toppings

  • 3 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 16-oz. container prepared salsa
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced (2 cups)
  • 2 avocados, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. To make Roasted Peppers and Onions: Toss peppers and onion with oil on large baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes, stir, and roast 15 minutes more, or until vegetables   are tender and peppers are beginning   to blacken. Transfer to small bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, make Tacos: Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more, or until fragrant. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce and 1 cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Mash beans until filling is thickened, but chunky, and most beans remain intact. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Transfer to serving bowl. Pass taco shells, filling, roasted peppers and onions and toppings around the table.

I actually didn’t have mine in a shell tonight. Instead I made a taco salad and crunched up some baked Tostitos over the top.

blog sig

GMOs…are you in the know?

We’re used to seeing labels such as Organic or USDA Approved on our grocery products, but we have yet to see a product labeled as Genetically Modified. Since there is no labeling, it must mean we have been eating only natural fruits and veggies, right?

Think again. Currently genetically modified foods do not have to be labeled for consumers in the American market. As a result, you have probably eaten your fair share of genetically modified items in the form of corn, soy, canola and cottonseed (oil) since these items are mostly used in processed foods and fed to animals. The GM sugar beet is also around, but on hold in a court case. (There were some on the market before the injunction.)

To date, the FDA has also approved production of GM varieties of plums, cantaloupe, Hawaiian papaya, squash, radicchio, tomatoes, and potatoes.  *Note: sweet corn – the kind you eat off the cob – is not on the list.

Here’s the basic scoop about GMOs: Genetically modified organisms — also called genetically engineered organisms are plants or animals where portions of the DNA from one organism are introduced into and made part of the DNA of another. There are a number of GMO crops currently grown in the U.S. as stated above. GMO crops grown today may be insect-resistant (they grow their own insecticides) or herbicide-resistant (they withstand spraying by commercial herbicides).

So are GMOs good, or are they bad? It seems the debate has raged for almost a decade and still policy makers have not come to an agreement. This is actually a topic that I had not heard of before last week. I had no idea that “super seeds” were being created by a company named Monsanto. It wasn’t until I watch a documentary called “Food Inc.” that I learned of this practice. I then went on a spree of documentary watching (Fed Up!, Deconstructing Supper, The World According to Monsanto) and web searching to find out more about these GMOs.

According to the FDA, as much as 75 percent of processed food in the United States may contain components from genetically modified crops. In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the nations in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, due to environmental impact and concerns about GMO safety.

So what about average people like us? Don’t you think it would be nice if we could decide at the grocery store whether or not we want to buy a natural item or a genetically modified one?

I think it would be nice and that it should be our right. Unfortunately, even labeling of the products has turned into a debate. There are people like myself, who feel that consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing and in turn ingesting. Then there are the corporate and political backers as well as the creators of these GMOs, like Monsanto’s, who feel that people will think GMOs are unhealthy and will avoid purchasing them if they are labeled.

To me, the real question here is “Are these GMO items safe?”. I don’t think enough testing has been done before thrusting them into our lives. These companies have turned us into walking experiments and lab rats. Because there is not a lot of research on the side effects or long term effects of consuming these GMOs I feel there should be labeling so we can make our own decisions.

Consumers already know that processed products high in fat, hydrogenated oils and sugar are not good for them, yet those are some of the highest purchased items in markets today. Consumers also know that non-organic produce has a lot of pesticides and chemicals on them, yet they are still the most commonly purchased produce in the our society. Yes, some consumers may choose not to purchase products that contain GMOs, but that is a decision that should be left to the individual, not the food industry.

I have read that PLU stickers are in place for GM produce, although I have never seen them. Here is what I found regarding these:

  • PLU stickers that have 4 digits and begin with a “3″ or “4″: produce is conventionally grown. This means that this produce was sprayed with weed killers and chemical pesticides.

 

  • PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with “8″: produce was genetically engineered (man intervened by manipulating the genes to produce a larger or brighter colored food). This produce may have been chemically treated.
  • PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with “9″: produce was raised organically. You can be sure that this produce was not treated with any chemicals.

Until more information is released about the GMOs and the long term safety of them, I will be sticking to local, organic produce and whole foods. To find a local, organic farm near you click here.

In case we are ever allowed to make our own decisions concerning GMOs, here are a few websites representing each side of the debate, so you can make your own educated decision.

GMO Compass

GMO Food for Thought

The Institute for Responsible Technology

Non-GMO Project

The True Food Network

Monsanto According to Monsanto

I hope you will take some time to review the websites above as well as the documentaries. It is time that we take our nutrition into our hands and make educated decisions about what we put into our bodies.

blog sig


**Even if approved, the GM varieties may not be in your supermarket in whole form. GM varieties are primarily used as feed for animals and used in processed foods, especially in the form of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup.)

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Tonight was a another vegetarian recipe success!

I am a big fan of stuffed peppers and usually fill them ground beef and rice. When I saw this recipe I was more than willing to try it, as it contains many ingredients that I already like and well, everything tastes better when baked in a pepper.

I did change the recipe up a little. I did not add the pepper jack cheese into the filling as directed. As a matter of fact, I never even purchased the pepper jack and ended up topping the peppers with a little shredded sharp cheddar I happened to have in the fridge. I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes to the filling while cooking to give it that little kick you would have received from the cheese.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
(courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (I soaked dry beans instead of using canned)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 3 large carrots, grated (11/2 cups)
  • 11/2 cups grated reduced-fat pepper Jack cheese, divided
  • 4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

Directions:

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Calories: 279 Protein: 14g Total Fat: 10g  (if prepared according to recipe)

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. As always, if you make a variation of this dish I would love to hear about it.
blog sig

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Tonight, was another first for me. I had managed in my 34 years on this planet to avoid brussels sprout at all costs.

Over the weekend, while shopping I saw a package of the little green orbs and decided….why not!

I stared at them in my cart during the whole shopping trip trying to think of a reason NOT to purchase them. I came up with nothing, so they came home with me. I put them in my fridge and we engaged in a visual stand-off for 4 days.

Finally, I decided today was the day! I would cook the little orbs and taste them. If I didn’t like them, it would be ok….at least I could say I tried them. If I liked them…score! A new food to add to my rotation, like the sweet potato which I had also avoided for 34 years. (No, I don’t live under a rock. I just have the eating habits of a 4yr-old when it comes to trying new things.)

Turns out….the little green orbs are really good roasted! They looked appetizing, unlike the boiled, buttered things most people think of when you say brussels sprouts. If you haven’t tried them roasted, I highly suggest it!

Tonights menu was: Teriyaki Chicken, Mashed Sweet Potato and Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts.

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts
(courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cauliflower, quartered, cored and cut into 1-inch florets
  • 2 cups (1 pint) Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced as thin as possible
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. dried, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse salt

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, combine cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Drizzle oil on top. Add garlic, rosemary and pepper and toss well. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spread vegetables in single layer on large baking sheet with sides. Sprinkle with salt. Roast until vegetables are crisp-tender and beginning to brown at edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

For the mashed sweet potatoes, I just put them in the oven to roast with the chicken (which was marinated in pre-made bottle sauce I had on hand by Lawry’s)  for an hour at 350 degrees. I then removed the skin, mashed them with a fork and added some cinnamon while mashing. They were wonderful and creamy on their own with no added butter or milk.

If you are a fan of brussels sprouts, I’d love to hear how you like them prepared!

blog sig

The Re-Invention of Nikki

Over the past few weeks I have been taking a deeper look at nutrition.

I have always known that I needed to eat clean, but I wasn’t ready to completely commit.

A few weeks ago, I started reading Tony Horton’s book, “Bring It!”. In the book there is a section on nutrition and a 30 Day Cleanse. I was toying with the idea of trying the cleanse, but once again I wasn’t ready to commit. Thankfully, a friend on twitter said that they were starting the cleanse on the 1st and was looking for others to join him. Accountability partner? Score!

The cleanse is pretty basic. It’s a gradual elimination of 5 “toxic” substances: caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods, gluten and animal products.

At first I was a little nervous about the caffeine and animal product part. I LOVE my morning cup of coffee and I have a thing for cheeseburgers. (Can you say Five Guys?) The gluten-free part had me a little leery as well, until I went to the grocery store and saw how many gluten-free products they offer now.

I don’t plan on going gradual with this either. I have basically phased out caffeine and animal products aren’t a big deal for me so I’m going to dive in and take advantage of a full 30 days with this.

Coincidentally, while planning this, I began speaking to a friend about “plant-based” Eastern diets AND I found the world of documentaries using my Netflix on-demand.

The documentaries truly opened my about our food industry and it made me realize I am moving the right direction with my nutrition by doing this. (I will go into more detail in another blog about the documentaries at a later date. If I forget….remind me…although I doubt that is possible.)

To prepare for this new chapter in my health and fitness journey, I picked up a few magazines and started surfing the net for recipes.

I am not a big fan of oatmeal, however I LOVE me some Quaker Oatmeal To-Go bars. The problem with this is that they are full of sugar and hygrogenated oils. Eww! So, one of my first priorities was to find a healthy, homemade recipe for them. If you are interested in the recipe I found and the variations I made click here.

Next up, was finding gluten-free bread and pasta. I went to my local Wegman’s and began poking around in the organic section. A friend had told me about “Food For Life” brand breads and I found a sprouted Ezkeil 4:9 loaf that she had mentioned. I know that it is not gluten-free but I wanted to try it anyway since Tony mentioned sprouted breads in his book. I’m really enjoying it so far and plan on picking up a gluten-free loaf before the 1st. (If you look for this item, don’t check the shelves. You’ll find it in the freezer section.) I also picked up some gluten-free rotini pasta for a recipe I found on my friends blog for “Fusilli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce”

Tonight, I made a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times for a Vegetable Pie. It was very tasty and will definitely be making it into my recipe rotation for the cleanse and beyond. If you are interested in this recipe click here.

Overall, this “re-invention of me” will focus on clean, healthy, organic eating. For now, I will be focused on the clean part of that and will be picking up everything I can get in the organic variety. Come spring, when the farmers markets open again around here, that will become much easier for me. I already have a list of local organic markets in my area and I found a local farm with grass-fed animal products which made me very happy.

What can you expect from me over the next 30-days? Lots of firsts and loads of recipes! I have a ton of recipes printed out and I plan on sharing with everyone as I try them. I also purchased brussels sprouts and tofu for the first time….ever! These types of things can make for interesting blogs….so stay tuned!
blog sig

Vegetable Pie

I found this recipe while searching on-line at Vegetarian Times.

It was very simple to make and everyone really enjoyed it.

Technically, I shouldn’t eat this while doing the cleanse because it contains eggs, ricotta cheese and milk, which are all animal products, but it was really yummy and overall I don’t plan on taking those items out of my daily diet forever.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (4 cups)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp. dried basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Transfer mushroom mixture to prepared dish.
  3. In medium bowl, beat eggs to blend, then stir in ricotta and milk. Add to mushroom mixture in dish along with broccoli, tomatoes and basil. Mix well.
  4. Bake until filling is set, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Cut into quarters and serve warm.

Makes 4 servings. Approx. 180 calories, 9g fat, 16g carbs, 5g fiber

blog sig