Chocolate Cranberry Milkshake

Chocolate Cranberry Milkshake (No sugar!)

Like any self-respecting locavore, I aim to feature seasonal farmers market produce whenever possible. But alas, my penny-pinching food budget has the final say, which is why I tend to avoid picking up groceries until every scrap of food in the cupboard has been eaten.

That brings me to this chocolate cranberry milkshake. More indulgent than fresh fruit, but more nourishing than a chocolate milkshake, this cocoa-cranberry beverage is the perfect balance of nutritious and delicious. Cranberries may not be popular this time of year, but if they’re in my freezer, they’re fair game. Eating healthy need not be expensive; so if you’re out of fresh fruit, don’t hesitate to use up what you have on hand (frozen fruit, dried fruit, or fruit canned in water or juice). Par for the course with my other milkshake recipes, this one is sweetened with fruit alone, meaning you don’t have to worry about nutrient-empty added sugars.

Chocolate Cranberry Milkshake (Healthy! No sugar!)

Cranberry Chocolate Milkshake

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup frozen cranberries (unsweetened)
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen
  • 1 date, pitted and chopped (or 1 Tbsp date paste)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used organic nonfat milk)

Method: Add all ingredients to blender, and blend to combine.

Chocolate Cranberry Milkshake (Secretly healthy! No added sugar!)

Nutrition: 280 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 59g carbohydrates (9g fiber, 43g sugar*), 9g protein, 4mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 8% Iron, 26% Calcium, 10% Vitamin A, 29% Vitamin C

*none of these sugars are the dangerous added sugars – all are naturally occurring

– Kelly

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Move over, baklava! Sugar-kissed nuts and cinnamon have found a new home.

In this Mediterranean-inspired quinoa recipe, I let dried fruit and cinnamon contribute all of the sweet taste — no added sugars needed. Dried figs are startlingly sugary, and when joined with Turkish apricots, raw walnuts, and cinnamon, this breakfast cereal is given a decidedly Mediterranean flair. Oatmeal is usually my go-to breakfast grain, but warm summer mornings call for cold cereal, and this quinoa fits the bill.

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

^^Dried fruit (apricots left, figs right) and nuts make this recipe easy to enjoy year-round

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

^^New to quinoa? You can tell that it’s done cooking when a little white tail separates from the grain

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained (any color – I used red)
  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 4 extra large dried figs (or 8 smaller dried figs)
  • 8 dried apricot halves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups milk (I used organic skim milk)

Method:

  1. Bring water and quinoa to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes. (The outside coat of the grain will separate into a curly tail when done cooking.)
  2. While the quinoa is simmering, chop the figs, apricots, and walnuts into small, bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add the chopped fruit and nuts and cinnamon to a large bowl.
  4. When the quinoa is done cooking, add to the bowl and toss with the fruit and nut mixture until combined.
  5. How to serve: Divide the quinoa mixture among 4 mason jars, and add ½ milk to each jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (This allows the fruit to soften a bit, and also allows the flavors to mingle more freely.) Alternatively, you can also keep the quinoa mixture in a covered container in the fridge. Then, when you’re ready to eat, simply scoop about 1 cup quinoa mixture into a bowl, top with ½ cup milk, and eat like regular cold cereal.

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

Nutrition per serving (including milk): 290 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 47g carbohydrates (5g fiber, 16g sugar*), 12g protein, 60mg sodium, 10% Vitamin A, 1% Vitamin C, 21% Calcium, 15% Iron

*All sugars are naturally occurring – none are added sugars

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa with Walnuts, Figs and Apricots

– Kelly

Lightly Sweetened Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

One of my recent work projects has involved gathering healthy dessert recipes, so I’ve been immersed in a world of cookbooks that feature fruits, nuts, and whole grains in any manner of clever combinations. (Tough job, but somebody has to do it ;)) While combing through these creations, I was inspired to get a little more creative with dessert than my ritual dark chocolate squares, and try my hand at a healthy, protein-packed cheesecake.

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt!

Greek yogurt cheesecake might seem like a contemporary twist, but this dessert is actually adapted from a recipe that is over 40 years old. Indeed, one of my heroes (and former employers), Frances Moore Lappé, published her recipe for “The Thinking Person’s Cheesecake” in her seminal 1971 classic, Diet for a Small Planet (albeit, with regular yogurt, not Greek). My version stays pretty true to the original, resulting in a treat that’s both delectable and refreshing.

A stark contrast to the rich, cumbrous cheesecakes served at chain restaurants across the nation, the texture of this confection is airy and light (a good indicator of how you’re going to feel afterwards). But do be warned… when I say “lightly sweetened,” I mean it! Unlike the granola-laced crust, the sweetening in the actual cheesecake is very subtle (teetering towards undetectable), letting the fresh fruit topping shine against the creamy, tangy backdrop. That being said, for those looking to loosen their dependency on added sugars, I highly recommend that you give the recipe a try as written. Organic blueberries were on sale when I made this, but any fruit will do. And don’t hesitate to load it on – the fruit contributes a welcome, sugary zing.

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

Lightly Sweetened Greek Yogurt Cheesecake (adapted from Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet)

Serves 8

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup granola (I look for granola with less than 10g sugar per 50-56g serving)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3-4 tablespoons water

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta (about 13 oz)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used nonfat organic)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 oz blueberries (1 small carton, about 1 1/4 cups)

 Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Add granola, walnuts, and ginger to food processor, and pulse into crumbs. Then add the water, and continue pulsing, until ingredients are combined.
  3. Evenly press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan to form a crust, and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. While crust is pre-baking, prepare the filling. Add all filling ingredients except blueberries to a large bowl, and mix until combined.
  5. When crust is done pre-baking, remove from oven and evenly pour the filling into the crust.
  6. Put the cheesecake in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until center is firm.
  7. Immediately after removing the cheesecake from the oven, top the cheesecake with blueberries, pressing them gently onto the top of the cake.
  8. Let cake chill in refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight) before serving. (Store covered in refrigerator.)

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

Nutrition per serving: 310 calories, 16g fat (4g saturated fat), 26g carbohydrates (3g fiber, 15g sugar*), 15g protein, 16g cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 9% Iron, 19% Calcium, 4% Vitamin A, 11% Vitamin C

*About 10g added sugars (from honey and granola)

A note on nutrition: I based the nutrition data on 8 standard-sized slices, because I know very few people that would only eat 1/12 of a cheesecake this size. For fewer calories, feel free to serve the cheesecake in smaller portions. For example, if the pie was cut into 10 slices, (instead of 8), each slice would have about 240 calories. If cut into 12 slices, each slice would only have about 200 calories.

– Kelly

Basil Smoothie

Basil Smoothie

My basil smoothie post on Instagram last week prompted several inquiries, so today I’m sharing a full recipe post. Since I’m now the proud owner of an organic basil plant (thanks, Ashley!), this smoothie has been on heavy rotation during the beautiful, 80 degree days we’ve been blessed with in Boston lately. The Sweet Basil Smoothie recipe from my Giada at Home cookbook inspired this recipe, but to add creaminess (and cut the added sugars), I omitted the sugary simple syrup in favor of a frozen banana. Sophisticated, yet unfussy, this 3-ingredient masterpiece is the ultimate warm weather refresher!

Basil Smoothie

Basil Smoothie (inspired by Giada de Laurentiis)

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana, frozen in chunks
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Method: Add all ingredients to blender and blend until combined.

Nutrition per serving: 180 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated fat), 32g carbohydrates (3g fiber, 19g sugar*), 14g protein, 50mg sodium, 8% Vitamin A, 19% Vitamin C, 16% Calcium, 3% Iron

*All sugars are natural. None are the dangerous added sugars. 

– Kelly

Ingredient to Master: Radishes

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^^ Goal: To be drawn to radishes for reasons other than the vibrant pink color

I make a serious effort to try foods that I’m not really crazy about, because I know that it can take multiple exposures to a new food before one begins to acquire a taste for it. And life is just so more enjoyable when you aren’t picking around your plate, and can appreciate the subtle complexities of a varied diet. The current ingredient that I’m learning to love like tolerate is radishes.

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^^ First attempt: Radishes + Buttered Toast (when in doubt, start with butter)

Apparently, I have overestimated the rapid malleability of my taste buds. Because despite my numerous attempts to appreciate the distinctly peppery bite of this gorgeous, spring hued vegetable, I can’t seem to get past a meager acceptance of the flavor.

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^^ Second attempt: Radishes + PB (because PB improves everything)

It’s time to change my approach. Rather than letting the radishes steal the show, I’m seeking out recipes where radishes play more of a supporting role, or have their sharp flavor mellowed through the oven. Below I’ve rounded up a few recipes from across the web (thank you, Pinterest) that look like a good place to start…

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Spring Rotisserie Sandwiches with Radishes, Avocado, and Buttermilk Dressing from Whole Foods Market

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Lentil Tacos with Tomato Radish Salsa from Chez Us

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Watermelon Radish, Cara Cara Orange, and Goat Cheese Salad from Alexandra’s Kitchen

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Radish Toasts with Edamame Spread from Vanilla & Spice

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Roasted Radishes with Rosemary from Olive and Herb

What is your favorite way to enjoy radishes?

– Kelly

Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan

Simple Spinach Salad

(pictured with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata)

Simple Spinach Salad

Everyone has a go-to, simple salad that they love to throw together, and this one is brought to you courtesy of Ashley Higgs. Last month Ashley had some guests over for a pasta-making party, and she served this exquisite, unfussy salad on the side.

Since this is a simple dish, a high quality cheese goes a long way. In other words, this would not be the time to pull out the green shaker of grated parm (not that there ever is). Additionally, I highly recommend a good balsamic vinegar (made with grape must), rather than a cheap, imitation variety. At home, I paired this leafy masterpiece with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata, but the mellow flavors of the salad compliment just about any dish.

Simple Spinach Salad

Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan (Recipe by Ashley Higgs)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 2 green apples (I used Granny Smith), chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Method: Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl, and toss until mixed. Serves 4 as a generous side salad.

Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 14g carbohyrates (3g fiber, 10g sugar), 3g protein, 110mg sodium, 68% Vitamin A, 24% Vitamin C, 10% Calcium, 6% Iron

– Kelly

Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

One-pot meals (like soups or stews) have long been favored recipes in my kitchen, but lately I’ve been experimenting with a global twist on this genre: peanut soups. This West African culinary tradition has yet to reach mainstream food culture in the US, but it’s only a matter of time. After all, Americans are always looking for a new delivery vehicle for jelly’s better half.

Hearty butternut squash soup serves as the perfect base for the classic, nutty spread, while the pureed chickpeas add a velvety texture, and a familiar, satisfying flavor (think hummus – another snack dip obsession). If you enjoyed my white bean soup, then you’ll love this creamy, earthy creation, inspired by a recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too cookbook.

 Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Spicy Peanut-Squash Soup

Serves 8 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)
  • 1 ½ pounds chopped butternut squash, fresh or frozen (I used frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (double if you prefer a spicier soup)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (add more if you prefer a thinner texture)
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (no added oils or sugars)
  • Optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, green onions, roasted peanuts, lime wedges

Method:

  1. If using dried chickpeas, put them in a large bowl, cover with water, and let them soak overnight. Then, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to a pot of fresh water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours. When chickpeas are tender, remove from heat, drain, and rinse. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally for one minute. Then add the butternut squash, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, water, and drained chickpeas and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the peanut butter. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion or handheld blender, blend the soup into a pureed texture. If the soup seems too thick, feel free to add more water.
  6. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups of soup into serving bowls, and add garnishes (like peanuts, cilantro, lime wedges, and/or green onions), if using.

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Nutrition per serving: 320 calories, 19g fat (2g saturated fat), 31g carbohydrates (8g fiber, 6g sugar), 13g protein, 345mg sodium, 195% Vitamin A, 34% Vitamin C, 9% Calcium, 15% Iron

Nutrition analysis does not include optional garnishes

– Kelly

Recipes on My Radar: Healthier Desserts

I may be a dietitian, but I, too, have an active sweet tooth that needs to be tamed on a regular (if not daily) basis. Rather than deprive myself of treats entirely, or settle onto the couch with a nightly pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I try to make dessert recipes that feature healthy ingredients, like whole grains, fruit, and nuts, and are naturally sweetened as much as possible. That way, sweets aren’t a total nutritional loss.

These first two cookie recipes I’m sharing have tahini, which is a creamy paste of ground up sesame seeds (you might know it as the other ingredient in hummus, besides chickpeas). Nut butters and seeds are used in desserts all the time (peanut butter and chocolate, anyone?) so I thought I would get a little more creative with my tahini and give some whole grain cookies a nutrition boost. That being said, I don’t bake often. So the last recipe I’m leaving you with is the dessert I end up making at least once per week (#guilty). Curious? Read on!

Almond Butter Tahini Blueberry cookies

Almond Butter Blueberry Cookies from Green Kitchen Stories // These cookies certainly aren’t “light” or “low cal,” but they are filled with wholesome ingredients like nut butter, whole grains, and fruit. I subbed whole wheat flour for the buckwheat flour in this recipe, but kept everything else the same. The combination of blueberries and maple is reminiscent of a blueberry pancake, making these vegan cookies the perfect morning snack. It is a rare treat to feel nourished, rather than lousy, after eating a cookie (or two…) but these definitely do the trick!

Whole Grain Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whole Wheat Tahini Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Food Fanatic // These delightful chocolate chunk cookies aren’t quite as superfood-packed as the recipe above, but I highly recommend this creative, healthier take on my all-time favorite dessert. I subbed canola oil for vegetable oil, but followed the rest of this recipe to a T. If you’re looking for a way to sneak some whole grains into the cookie jar, then look no further!

Dark Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal (inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie) // There is no chocolate craving that this decadent porridge recipe can’t take care of. I know that not everyone is as oatmeal obsessed as I am, but this dish is a great gateway into the wonderful world of oats. When heated, the banana beautifully melts into the oatmeal, so all it takes is a good stir to get the sweetness to distribute evenly throughout (no other sweeteners are necessary). This recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, but I use a HEAPING 2 tablespoons, in addition to some ground flaxseed and a generous splash of milk.

– Kelly

 

Slow Cooker Red Beans and (Brown) Rice

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Having started my elementary school years at a Catholic school in Louisiana, there is something about the Lenten season that makes me crave Cajun foods. From steamy gumbo to crispy catfish, my mouth starts watering for these comforting, Creole morsels before the last bite of King Cake has been finished. Today I’m sharing a recipe for a meatless, budget-friendly (and diet-friendly) recipe that is perfect for Fridays during Lent, and just about everyday in between!

This Red Beans and (Brown) Rice dish requires a bit of prep work and advanced planning (the beans have to soak and boil briefly before you toss them into the slow cooker), but I can assure you that this recipe is still incredibly simple!

Now, you may be asking, why bother to boil the beans? After all, isn’t the point of a slow cooker to eliminate that pesky step?

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Brown Rice

Indeed, most dry beans can be tossed in a slow cooker and cook beautifully, but red kidney beans are a special case. Undercooked red beans contain a toxin, so you must boil them for at least 10 minutes before you put them in the slow cooker. Note: this is a prime example of why it’s important to get recipes from reputable sources that have been trained in food safety (such as yours truly)!

Once your beans have gotten a head start on the stove, the slow cooker will soften the beans and develop the flavors of the dish. The familiar southern aroma comes not only from the seasoning, but also from the onion, celery, and green bell peppers (the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun cuisine).

Rice is a namesake component of Red Beans and Rice, but feel free to get creative with your grain base. Personally, I think a combination of different whole grains (like barley, quinoa, and farro) would go really well with this recipe. In fact, I was planning to use barley (hulled, not pearled), but my local Whole Foods was out. This hearty, rib-sticking bowl is best served alongside a dark green vegetable, such as kale chips (like I used) or collard greens.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Brown Rice 

Slow Cooker Red Beans and (Brown) Rice

adapted from MyRecipes.com

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry red kidney beans
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning (I use 3 tbsp, but if cooking for young children, I recommend 2 tbsp)
  • Optional: 7 oz Andouille sausage, sliced (I didn’t use sausage in the recipe today, to keep it budget-friendly and Lent-friendly, but I have used it in the past and it was delicious!)
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice (or other whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, or farro) for serving. This will make about 6 cups of cooked rice, which is enough for about eight ¾ cup servings.

Method

  1. Soak the dry beans in a pot of water for five hours. Then, drain the soaking water and add fresh water to the bean pot. Bring to a full boil, and boil for at least 10 minutes. NOTE: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. RED KIDNEY BEANS CAN BE TOXIC IF UNDERCOOKED.
  2. Drain the boiling water from the beans. Then add beans and all other ingredients (including sausage, if using) to a slightly oiled slow cooker.
  3. Cook on high for 6 hours. Then remove the lid and cook on high for an additional 30 minutes. This will help it thicken up a bit.
  4. Before serving, prepare rice (or other whole grains, if using) according to package instructions. Two cups of uncooked brown rice will yield about six cups of rice, which is enough for eight 3/4 cup servings. 
  5. Portion about ¾ cup red beans over about ¾ cup brown rice in a bowl.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Brown Rice

Nutrition per serving (3/4 cup red beans over 3/4 cup brown rice, not including sausage): 390 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated fat), 18g protein, 76g carbohydrates (17g fiber, 3g sugar), 140mg sodium, 3% Vitamin A, 28% Vitamin C, 11% Calcium, 31% Iron

– Kelly

Citrus + Avocado: The Perfect Winter Salad Companions

Citrus, Avocado, & Radicchio salad

Few things are more satisfying than biting into a sweet, juicy fruit on a hot summer day, so many are surprised to learn that citrus is actually seasonal to winter. And given the general sparseness of produce this time of year, anything remotely fresh is certainly a welcome ingredient! Additionally, while creamy Mexican avocados are available steadily year-round, the California avocado crop actually arrives in February. Together, these ingredients can create some show-stopping winter salads.

I recently enjoyed my own spin on this dish–a citrus, avocado, and radicchio salad, drizzled lightly with olive oil and champagne vinegar, and finished with a sprinkle of salt and pepper (pictured above, inspired by Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express). It was the perfect accompaniment to homemade black bean soup (also from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express).

After perusing the web, I came across several other variations of winter salads that incorporate both citrus and avocados. Check out the recipe round-up below!

Kale-Avocado-Tangerine-and-Sesame-Salad-4-e1417403296778

Kale, Avocado, Tangerine, and Sesame Salad from Joy the Baker

Grapefruit, Salmon, Avocado Salad

Grapefruit, Salmon, and Avocado Salad from Martha Stewart Living (from the new ‘Clean Slate’ cookbook)

Pomegranate-Citrus-Quinoa-Salad-Diethood

Pomegranate and Citrus Quinoa Salad from Diethood

Kale-Salad-with-Citrus-Avocado-and-Feta-8

Kale Salad with Citrus, Avocado, and Feta from Two Peas and Their Pod

For more winter salad inspiration, check out my Fall & Winter Salads Pinterest Page. What’s your favorite winter salad combo?

– Kelly