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

 

Cranberry Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

Cranberry Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

Don’t let the name of this recipe fool you. Tart from the cranberries, sweet from the apple cider, and warm and gooey from the slow-cooked steel cut oats, this oatmeal tastes remarkably like cherry cobbler. Don’t ask how I got from cran-apple to cherry (sweet and tart, remember???), just go with it.

Even though this is naturally sweetened steel cut oatmeal we’re talking about, it may even be too rich for breakfast. (But don’t worry, I won’t tell!) I mean, I really can’t overstate the uncanny resemblance between this dish and cherry cobbler.

Regardless of when your hunger strikes, this deliciously fruity porridge will go perfectly with a cold glass of milk, a creamy latte, or a sizeable scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’ll leave the choice up to you!

Cranberry Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

Cranberry Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 cup whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups unsweetened Apple Cider (0r apple juice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used organic nonfat milk)
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Method:

  1. Lightly coat the inside of a programmable slow cooker with oil or cooking spray.
  2. Pour all ingredients into the slow cooker, then stir to combine.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 4.5 to 5 hours. I use a programmable slow cooker so that I can get more than five hours of sleep and still wake up to warm oatmeal. (Once the oatmeal is done cooking the programmed amount of time, the slow cooker automatically switches to a ‘warm’ setting and holds the food warm.)
  4. Divide into 4 bowls and serve immediately, or put leftover servings into the fridge for later. To reheat individual servings, simply microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.

Nutrition per serving: 300 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 51g carbohydrates (9g fiber, 15g sugar), 10g protein, 20mg sodium, 1% Vitamin A, 6% Vitamin C, 12% Iron, 8% Calcium

Cranberry Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)

– Kelly

Recipes on my Radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Winter tomatoes are forgettable at best, but oven roasting these greenhouse-grown rubies can help bring out the sweet flavor that we remember from sunny August days. And naturally, there is no better way to use roasted tomatoes in January than to make tomato soup.

To ease myself back into the Boston tundra (goodbye, 70 degree Houston weather), I made a Roasted Tomato Soup with Sole and Monkfish and paired it with Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

For the soup, I used the Roasted Tomato Soup with Halibut recipe from Giada’s Feel Good Food (this recipe, without the pasta) and replaced the halibut with sole and monkfish, which is what I had on hand. For the sandwich, I used this recipe from How Sweet Eats.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

A grilled cheese sandwich isn’t exactly a health food, but simple swaps in ingredients can make a HUGE difference in nutrition. Hear me out…

A study actually compared the metabolism of a cheese sandwich with whole grain bread and real cheese (Sargento medium Cheddar slices) to a cheese sandwich with white bread and a processed cheese product (Kraft Singles). Scientists found that people expended 50% more energy metabolizing the whole foods version, even though both sandwiches had the same amount of calories and the same ratio of bread to cheese.

Not only does this grilled cheese sandwich boast 100% whole grain bread and real, organic cheese, but it even has green vegetables on the inside! Paired with a nutritious tomato and fish soup, I’ll chalk that up as a sensible dinner.

Recipes on my radar: Roasted Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

What are you cooking this week?

– Kelly

10 Healthy Breakfasts in Under 10 Minutes

People often ask me for healthy breakfast ideas. Even though I eat the same thing nearly every day (see Kelly’s daily oatmeal), the good news is that there are plenty of nutritious options for the morning meal.

1.     Classic oatmeal

Daily Oatmeal

Nine times out of ten, I start my day with old fashioned oatmeal topped with raisins and almonds (see this post for details). Porridge is an ideal breakfast because it’s filling, quick to prepare, and helps keep your cholesterol levels in check and your microbiome happy. (And whether you go for steel-cut or instant, all oats are whole grains.) Plus, oatmeal can be customized to fit just about any flavor profile. If you’re ready to branch out the classic combo pictured above, try adding bananas, blueberries, honey, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, cocoa powder, or chia seeds. The sky is the limit! See one of my favorite blogs, The Oatmeal Artist, for more ideas.

2.     Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

One of the easiest breakfasts just got easier. Instead of preparing your oatmeal morning of, you just throw the ingredients in a jar and let the oats soften overnight. See my Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal blog post for a step-by-step tutorial. Once you get the ratio down, feel free to experiment. Some of my favorite overnight oatmeal recipes are Skinny Pumpkin Overnight Oats,  Tiramisu Overnight Oatmeal, Applesauce Overnight Oatmeal, and Overnight Grapefruit Coconut Oatmeal.

3.     Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Shake

Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes -  No sugar

Because some mornings call for chocolate. Right? Right. Just blend 1 frozen banana with 1 Tbsp PB, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. With protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fats, this shake has all major nutrients needed to start your day off right. For more details, and to see an equally healthy Dark Chocolate Mocha Milkshake recipe, check out this post.

4.     Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

While the obnoxious whir of a blender is not what I want to hear first thing every morning, green smoothies are a great choice for many reasons. They’re portable, nutritious, quick, and easily customizable. Note that I said smoothies, NOT juices. My favorite green smoothie recipe is a fresh banana, 1 cup frozen strawberries, a large handful of fresh spinach leaves, and 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt. (I don’t use ice because of the frozen berries). I also highly recommend this “Stripped Green Smoothie,” which I make when I have the ingredients on hand.

5.     Whole Wheat Bagel Half with Avocado & Tomatoes, plus Fruit

Half Whole Wheat Bagel with Avocado and Tomatoes, Pear on the Side

Toast half of a whole wheat bagel, then spread with avocado, and top with tomato slices and cracked black pepper. Serve with a pear (or any fruit) on the side. The healthy way to enjoy a bagel is to pick a whole wheat bagel, only eat half, and top it with something nutritious. Yes, avocado has fat, but not the artery-clogging saturated fat that cream cheese is made of. And by only having half of the bagel, the portion size is much more appropriate.

6.     Leftover Veggies & an Egg with Toast

Leftover Veggies + Egg + Toast

Got leftover roasted vegetables? Nuke ’em in the microwave, then top with 1 egg, any way (or scramble them with the egg). Serve with a slice of 100% whole grain toast.

7.     Granola with fruit and yogurt

Healthy Granola

Granola parfaits can be a total calorie bomb, but not if you do it right. The key to keeping this healthy is to use an unsweetened yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farms Organic Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt) and using a lightly sweetened granola (the wheat-free classic granola from Whole Foods Market is totally #dietitianapproved!). Bananas and figs go great with yogurt and granola, but any fruit will do!

8.     English Muffin with Peanut Butter and Bananas

Whole Wheat English Muffin with PB and Bananas

English Muffins are perfectly portioned, which is why I prefer them to regular bread slices or bagels. Just make sure to get a whole grain variety. And when shopping for peanut butter (or almond butter), make sure that the only ingredients are nuts and salt, with no added sugars or oils.

9.     Fruit with Ricotta

Baked Fruit with Ricotta

Top chopped fruit with a generous dollop of part-skim ricotta and cinnamon. This tastes best with leftover baked fruit (I used a mixture of apples, pears, peaches, and pineapples), but fresh fruit will work as well. I have also microwaved a soft pear and achieved similar results. Don’t have ricotta? Cottage cheese is another great substitution. This dish (which was inspired by a Giada recipe) also makes a delicious dessert!

10. Make-ahead Breakfast Bake

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Want a sure-fire way to guarantee a nutritious breakfast? Make it the night before! This Baked Blueberry Oatmeal is my very favorite breakfast bake (and bedtime snack!), but healthy muffins or quick breads are also great make-ahead meals to tackle on weeknights, rather than weekday mornings.

What is your go-to healthy breakfast?

– Kelly

Whole Grain Pasta Salad: An Easy, Healthy Make Ahead Lunch

As a kid, I always avoided pasta salad at potlucks and parties. Too vinegary for my taste, and undoubtedly loaded with child-repelling olives. But then in college I got hooked on pasta primavera, the gateway pasta, and before you know it, I was whipping up portable penne salads in my own home.

When packing my lunch for work, I like to choose meals that don’t require too much assembly in the crowded office kitchen. But they still have to be tasty enough for me to look forward to eating, filling enough to last me till dinner, and healthy enough for me to feel nourished and happy with my choice. Pasta salad fits the bill. It also makes great picnic food, which I verified this weekend at the Arnold Arboretum while soaking up the unseasonably warm weather.

This makes a great pantry clean out recipe (read: inexpensive), because like most salads, it’s super adaptable. I start with whole grain pasta (any shape will do, but the whole grains are mandatory), and then add whatever vegetables I have on hand (cherry tomatoes are a favorite when they’re in season). For protein, I like to toss in canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. (Chickpeas and pasta are a highly underrated combination, as I learned from a college classmate who would sprinkle them onto spaghetti like little meatballs.) Lastly, I finish with olive oil or pesto, and sprinkle with cheese or fresh herbs if I have them on hand. Easy peasy.

The more vegetables you can add in, the healthier it will be. Looking for ideas? See below for two pasta salads that I’ve made recently.

 Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chickpeas, Feta, and Olive Oil

Whole grain farfalle (bow-ties) with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Artichoke Pesto

Whole grain shells with cherry tomatoes, fresh corn, chickpeas, and artichoke parsley pesto (inspired by this recipe)

Next up, I’d love to try a pasta salad with butternut squash, cannellini beans, and kale pesto. What are your favorite add-ins? Share in the comments!

– Kelly

Easy 100% Whole Grain Bread

Easy 100% Whole Grain Bread

Recently, my friend Ashley invited me over to teach me how to bake bread. Her recipe is 100% whole grain (using both whole wheat flour and quick oats), so I was worried that the resulting product would be as dense as a brick, and as dry as cardboard. However, as her little Allston apartment filled with the heavenly aroma of fresh baked bread (a must, if you have never experienced this smell), I knew I was in for a treat. This recipe is the softest, fluffiest whole grain bread I have ever tasted! The sugar (we used agave) is necessary to feed the yeast and create an airy texture, while the olive oil provides a moist texture and a rich flavor. And best of all, the recipe couldn’t be simpler.

100% Whole Grain Bread

100% Whole Grain Bread (Recipe by Ashley Higgs)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ½ tbsp. agave syrup (or 3 tbsp honey)

Method:

  1. Allow all dry ingredients to come to room temperature.  In large bowl, stir all dry ingredients together for 1 minute.
  2. Add the olive oil, agave (or honey), and about 1 cup of water.
  3. Stir till mixed then knead for 6-8 minutes.  You may have to add more water, but do so carefully – different flours respond to moisture differently.  If you add too much water, that’s okay!  Just add more flour in small increments.  Add small amounts of water or flour as necessary.  By the end of the kneading, the consistency of the dough will change and should feel moist but not sticky or dry.
  4. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and leave the dough to rise for 30 minutes.  Dough should approximately double in size. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  5. Punch the dough and knead again for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Shape dough and place in oiled (or nonstick) bread pan (or on a cookie sheet). Allow it to rise a second time for 30 minutes (or more if you like).
  7. Bake dough for 30 minutes.
  8. When finished baking, take bread out of bread pan immediately and put on a cooling rack.  Enjoy! (Store in airtight container or bag and in the fridge if not eaten within 3 days).

100% Whole Grain Bread with Stawberry Rhubarb Jam

I topped my bread with Strawberry Rhubarb jam  from the farmers market.

Bread Baking Lesson

THANKS ASHLEY!

– Kelly

Worried about arsenic in rice? Substitute one of these healthy grains!

In light of recent arsenic scares, the Consumers Union recommends no more than 1/4 cup rice (dry) two times per week for adults, and 1.25 times per week for children. (This recommendation applies both to brown rice and white rice.) Do you rely on rice as a dietary staple? If so, this is the perfect time to branch out and try other grains. Out of all of the grains available, I find that farro, barley, and quinoa are the most “rice-like” and work best as rice substitutes.

Ancient Grains

Farro: Farro is an ancient strain of wheat (meaning it’s not gluten-free, for any allergy folks out there) and the grains are a tad larger than rice. Farro has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice, but turned up a few notches. Because of this unique flavor, farro works well as a stand alone side (fish served on a bed of farro, chicken with a side of farro, etc). Also, farro’s texture lends itself well to grain salads. It stays chewy when served cold, unlike rice, which becomes dry and stale. At the grocery store, look for whole farro (rather than pearled farro) to be sure you’re getting a whole grain.

Barley: Barley (wheat free, but not gluten free) is a bit smaller than rice. It has a neutral flavor, so it works great in mixed dishes (such as stir frys). It is also great in soup (think beef with barley!) and works well with beans. Like rice, it is best served warm. Look for whole barley or hulled barley at the grocery store. While pearled barley is more nutrient dense than a fully refined grain, it is not technically a whole grain because part of the bran has been removed.

Quinoa: Quinoa is like the chambray shirt of ancient grains… it goes with everything! Even though quinoa is actually not very “rice-like” compared to farro and barley, this tiny, gluten free pseudograin can be substituted for rice in many recipes. Warm or cold, sweet or savory, quinoa can be whatever you want it be!

When experimenting with a new ingredient, it is often helpful to start with a recipe. Below are some recipe ideas to get you started:

What is your favorite grain to substitute for rice?

– Kelly