banana-nut crumb muffins

A friend at work brought these babies in to share and I fell in love with them pretty much immediately (I actually ate it on the elevator between two floors ... yeah ... ). One morning this past weekend, two browning bananas were calling my name and I was kicking myself for not having asked her which recipe she used. A quick search gave me the one below, but I quickly modified it to make it heathier. Just as good, but with lots of extra goodies baked inside. Score!

Banana-Nut Crumb Muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 c ground flax
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed (supplement apple sauce if you're short)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar or sucanat (dried cane sugar - a minimally processed, natural sweetener)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 c chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and canola. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and canola. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. 


seared chicken with tomato-balsamic reduction over greens

After a big fat meal for Sunday dinner yesterday, it was time for something light. Not to mention we had a great run tonight that put me in a "healthy" state of mind. (And, have I mentioned I bought a mountain bike? I think a mini-triathlon might be in my future!)

This chicken recipe, another from Ellie (adore!), takes canned tomatoes to a whole new level - the balsamic makes them rich and they are simmered until they are thick and sweet. Served with a side of whole-grain couscous doctored up with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, this is a winner.

Seared Chicken with Tomato-Balsamic Reduction Over Greens
Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Chicken seasoning (or salt and pepper)
  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 8 ounces baby spinach*
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-sodium canned chopped tomatoes with juice
  • Sprinkle of oregano as a garnish
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. Season chicken liberally with chicken seasoning or salt and pepper. Add the chicken and cook about four minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove the chicken and set aside.
  2. To the same pan, add the spinach* and cook just until wilted, about one to two minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook three to five minutes until thick and rich.
I served this with a side of whole-grain couscous, seasoned with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and basil.

*I didn't have spinach, so I used spring mix, simply arranged on a plate. The chicken and sauce made a great topping.


ooey-gooey potatoes au gratin

The hubs wanted steak tonight. (Pull my arm, why don't-cha?) He selected a great-looking porterhouse to sear in a cast-iron skillet with a little butter and garlic, and I set out to determine how to use the four Russets I had sitting on my counter. It is the weekend, after all, so easy mash was out. It was time to pull out the big guns: potatoes au gratin.

I've had this recipe for years, and frequently pull it out for family get-togethers - even though it's lighter than the traditional, buttery version. It's always great and can be modified to fit in with the meal and what you have on hand. Enjoy!
Potatoes au Gratin
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 c 2% milk (in a pinch 2 c skim milk, 1/2 c half-and-half can be used)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots (or yellow onion if you don't have shallots)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 Yukon or Russet potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 1/8 c sliced chives (optional)
  • 1/2 c Gruyere cheese*
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese*
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease an 11x17-inch baking dish.
  2. Combine butter through potatoes in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add the chives, reserving a few pieces for garnish.
  3. Pour potato mixture into the baking dish and top with cheese. Sprinkle with chives. Bake 35 minutes.
  4. Turn on the broiler and broil for three minutes until golden. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve.
*I would also suggest 3/4 c sharp cheddar or swapping in smoked Gruyere cheese.

Need other side dish ideas? Click here.
Still need more ideas? Check out these ideas:


avocado cobb salads with garlicky dijon dressing

"You had me at avocado." That's what I thought about this when I was browsing through one of my beloved Ellie Krieger's cookbooks this weekend looking for healthy lunch ideas. Currently I'm in a mid-day meal rut - I might turn into an Amy's bean and cheddar burrito and I can't take another peanut butter and jelly sandwich - and wanted something fresh. (See bad iPhone photo above for the solution.)

The dressing alone on this is worth saving for other salads. The modified version of Ellie's recipe made enough for two big salads for lunch - with no leftovers.

Avocado Cobb Salads with Garlicky Dijon Dressing
For the Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
  • 1/4 pound Black Forest or other smoked ham, chopped
  • 1/4 pound turkey breast, chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced into quarters
  • 6 cups romaine lettuce (about 6 ounces) coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 avocado, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese  
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.

  2. Assemble the salad ingredients, wrapping the avocado tightly in plastic wrap if not eating immediately. Dress salad before eating.


dark chocolate-cranberry cookies

A recent trip to South Florida to visit my grandfather on his 90th birthday (go, Gramps!) - and advice from my ever-practical mom to "just bake him something" as a gift - had me cooking up a storm after work the night before we left. I found a cute gift basket and stuffed it with a loaf of homemade banana bread and my sister-in-law's favorite white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies. And these dark chocolate-cranberry cookies.

I'll just go ahead and say it: these are good, old-fashioned cookies and, as such, they are made with admirable amounts of butter and refined sugar. So, relax and enjoy in moderation. And if it still bugs you, I hope you can find solace in the dark chocolate and cranberries. Just remember that a happy human sometimes requires foods that simply taste good, regardless of the ingredients. Enjoy.

Dark Chocolate-Cranberry Cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the dark chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.