pumpkin streusel bread

Pumpkin bread is a favorite this time of year. I love it. but always felt guilty eating it. The typical holiday loaves are loaded with sugar and oils, and very little of anything good, like the bread's namesake fruit. Then, I discovered this recipe.

This is a Cooking Light recipe, made even healthier with a swap of whole-wheat pastry flour. Yes, that's right - it's whole wheat, people. Oh yeah, and most of the oil is replaced with yogurt and the majority of the refined sugar is replaced with honey. And no one will ever know the difference. This is a company-worthy recipe. It also freezes well, not that you'll have any left over.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! (Oh, and with the leftover pumpkin, make this seasonally spicy baked pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast.)

Pumpkin Streusel Bread
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (can use half whole wheat, half all purpose for an even more tender loaf)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries (I skip this)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare topping, combine first four ingredients until crumbly. Set the mixture aside.
  3. To prepare bread, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next seven ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.
  4. Combine the pumpkin and next five ingredients (pumpkin through eggs) in a bowl as shown above; add to flour mixture. Stir just until moist.
  5. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° for one hour (it make take up to 15 minutes longer) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.


garlic-ginger marinated chicken thighs

This super-fast recipe is a great tailgate food if you have a grill available. Start marinating the chicken in a zip-top bag the night before the game and throw the whole thing in a cooler on the way out the door. Practically instant lunch! Great with just about anything, this is a yummy and versatile marinade.

Also, for the record: the jury is still out on whether white meat is better for you than dark meat. The former has slightly less calories and fat (an ounce of boneless, skinless breast meat contains about 46 calories and one gram of fat, compared with roughly 50 calories and two grams of fat for an ounce of boneless, skinless thigh), but dark meat has more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and B vitamins. No wonder I always reached for the drumsticks!

Garlic-Ginger Marinated Chicken Thighs
  • 2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed (or any dark-meat cut of chicken)
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp, minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp, fresh chopped ginger
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/4 orange juice
  • Black pepper
Combine the above ingredients in a small bowl and then pour over chicken in a zip-top bag. Squish around to ensure even distribution and place in the fridge for one hour, or as long as overnight. Grill and serve!


baked pumpkin oatmeal

A healthy, fall-inspired weekend breakfast, this baked oatmeal is good enough to come back for seconds. Change it up however you like, as shown below, or come up with new creations. No matter what, you'll have an easy weekend breakfast that reheats during the week in just a few seconds. It's one gift that keeps on giving ... (Oh, and with the leftover pumpkin, make this homemade, healthy pumpkin streusel bread. You won't be disappointed.)

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or maple syrup or honey) - try using a little less
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (or raisins)
  • 1/3 walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (or applesauce)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 banana, sliced (or shredded apple, peach slices, or berries) - optional
  1. Combine oatmeal through salt in a medium bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Combine the milk, pumpkin, butter, vanilla and egg, and whisk until incorporated. Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well.
  3. Pour half of the oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add a layer of sliced bananas, then top with the remaining oatmeal mixture.
  4. Bake at 375° for 18-20* minutes. Serve warm. 
*Note: For more moist oatmeal, cook it for a shorter amount of time; for a firmer more cake-like oatmeal, cook it for a little longer.


tart cranberry-orange muffins

Yes, people. I am well aware that I have an obsession with muffins. I guess I could make more loaves or scones, but I just like the neatness of a muffin. It's like a snack-sized little treat that's ready when you are. Plus, they're kinda cute.

I've actually made these muffins before, but they were too sweet the first time around for me. A bag of fresh cranberries in my organic produce box led to another attempt, this time with less sugar. Bingo - we have a winner. These are tart and citrusy, rather than sugary and sticky. But the crunch of raw sugar on top makes it feel like a sweet treat, even though it's packed with whole-wheat flour, antioxidant-rich fruits and heart-healthy oil. Good stuff can come in pretty packages!

Tart Cranberry-Orange Muffins
  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used unprocessed cane sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (about one large orange)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
  3. Combine rind, juice, oil, vanilla, and egg in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
  4. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with raw sugar. Bake at 400° for ~18 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Run a knife or spatula around outer edge of each muffin cup. Carefully remove each muffin; place on a wire rack.
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white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies

The credit for these really goes to my sister-in-law. Her husband (the coconut-hater), adores these cookies and so do I. The key to these is to use a really good quality white chocolate. They taste like butter and white chocolate - probably because there is so much of both in them - and are sinfully good. Make these when you have company so you're not forced to eat them all by yourself, or stick half of the baked cookies or batter in the freezer for another time. These are a splurge, so enjoy in moderation.

White Chip Macadamia Cookies
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups macadamia pieces, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium-size bowl, beat butter with brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating at low speed until combined. Add vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to creamed mixture, and fold until combined. Fold in chips and macadamia pieces.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake ~10 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to set 3-4 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
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feel-better chicken noodle soup

I have a cold. A sore throat, oh-so attractive cough and nasal congestion have left me craving a tried-and-true recipe, inspired by my mom: chicken noodle soup. But not just any soup, this one is made from scratch down to the broth and home-grown herbs. The only thing not homemade about it was the dainty orzo pasta, which is what my mom traditionally used in hers. To make this soup takes a bit of planning, but it's so, so worth it. It makes Campbell's canned soup taste like dog food.

It's all about the broth. I made the broth, which is my mom's recipe (and her mom's before that), weeks ago from the leftovers of a roasted chicken and stuck two-cup portions in the freezer. Homemade broth isn't like any bland, salty store-bought kind. Actually, it's so different, the first time I made it I thought I did something wrong. That's because homemade broth turns gelatanous when it's cooled - it actually jiggles, like Jell-o! But the minute it's heated up, it smooths out into a rich, flavorful and nutrition-packed powerhouse food.

Don't stop at making soup with the broth, though. Use it in recipes - everything from rice and risottos, to sauces and more - and keep your freezer stocked with it (each recipe makes nine to 10 cups). Once you build up a supply of it, it's easy to whip it out and use it as needed, just like I did today for the soup.

We roasted a whole chicken earlier this week on a bed of carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and celery. A yummy meal on it's own account, it also provided a hefty amount of leftovers which came together nicely in this soup (and now I'll be tucking away extra soup in the freezer!). Here's how to make it, start to finish.

Feel-Better Chicken Noodle Soup
Make it in advance and tuck away in the freezer until you're ready to use it.
  • Chicken bones, skin and meat - whatever you have
  • 3 tbsp. white vinegar (this pulls the minerals from the bones)
  • 4-5 tbsp salt
  • Water
  • Optional: leftover root vegetables
  1. Add bones to a large pot and cover with water. Add the vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer, continually adding water when it gets low, for at least eight hours. The longer the better. Some people do this for a full day!
  2. When the broth has been made, strain it through fine mesh into another large pot to separate the bones, fat and skin from the liquid. Cover and place in the refrigerator until cool, which should take several hours. (I usually just leave it overnight and continue with the last step the next day.)
  3. Once cooled, the fat will rise to the surface and the broth should become gelatanous. Skim the fat from the top and portion the broth into containers for later use. (You may need to warm it slightly to measure it out if it's very gelatanous.) Yield: 9-10 cups

Chicken Noodle Soup
This took ~15 minutes because the broth was already made. Perfect "sick food."
  • 9-10 c chicken broth
  • 4 c shredded, cooked chicken
  • 2-4 c chopped garlic, onions, celery, carrots (add any raw or cooked veggies you like)
  • 1 c uncooked orzo (or other pasta)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp each dried thyme and rosemary
  • Optional: fresh, chopped parsley when served
  1. If starting with raw veggies, saute them together in soup pot with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When tender, add the broth and chicken, herbs and pasta.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a very low simmer until you're ready to serve.


turkey burgers with avocado and manchego

I normally prefer a medium-rare beef burger piled high with sauteed mushroom and onions, but not today. A lighter option, this lean turkey burger is filled with moisture-giving, fiber-packed mushrooms and onions, and then punched up with chopped sage and garlic, avocado and manchego cheese. Yes, please. You won't even notice that's it's on a toasty, crunchy whole-wheat English muffin instead of a bun. Talk about portion control.

Turkey Burgers with Avocado and Manchego

  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallot or onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 thin slices manchego or white cheddar cheese
  • 4 whole-wheat English muffins, split
  • Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and sliced avocado, for topping
Use a spoon to scrape out the gills from the underside of the mushroom cap. Cut the cap into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a food processor. Add the shallot and parsley and pulse until chopped.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a large bowl. Add the turkey, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; gently mix with your hands until just combined. Divide into four balls, then lightly press into four-inch-wide, one-inch-thick patties. Put on a large plate, cover and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat a grill to medium. Brush the grates with olive oil. Grill the patties, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, four to five minutes. Give the patties a quarter turn and cook until marked again, four to five more minutes. Flip the patties and grill until cooked through, six to seven more minutes; top each with two slices cheese during the last three minutes of cooking and cover with a disposable aluminum pan to melt.
Toast the English muffins on the grill, then spread with mustard and mayonnaise. Serve the patties on the English muffins; top with avocado.

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coconutty granola bars

Yes, I admit it. I adore coconut. It's sweet and flaky, and just so ... tropical. Love it.

And I fell in love with these granola bars in part because of it. But I also love that granola bars test better when they're homemade, not to mention they're better for you and cheaper. What's not to love?!

Make these when you want to work with your hands - it's the best way to mix all the ingredients together. Enjoy!

Coconutty Granola Bars
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (depending on how sweet you like them)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates*
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots*
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300.
  4. Place the oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least two to three hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
*Use whatever dried fruit you have on hand.

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mama mia! homemade turkey meatballs

Best. Meatballs. Ever. Protein and flavor packed, you won't have any reason to feel guilty over these. They start with lean turkey mixed and are mixed with fresh herbs, cheese and breadcrumbs, and an egg to hold them together. Just like my imaginary Italian grandmother would have made them!

The trick to these is to make sure you have lots and lots of sauce. They simmer in the sauce just before serving time and in doing so they soak up some of it. So, make sure to make a little extra so your pasta gets its share, as well.

Also, the pasta sauce shown was a roasted-roma one that took several hours to make ... and then it wasn't that mind-blowing. I'm still experimenting with the best homemade sauce from fresh, whole tomatoes (my usual starts with a jar and is seriously doctored up). I'd love ideas if anyone has them, especially bold, not-so-sweet sauces.

Mama Mia! Homemade Turkey Meatballs
Serve this with your favorite pasta and sauce.
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread, crusts removed, pulsed into crumbs (or a shot glass full of bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the turkey with all other ingredients in a large work bowl. Form into 2 1/2 -inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned and almost entirely cooked through.
  2. Add the meatballs to prepared, warmed sauce, cover, and cook additional 10 minutes, or until sauce has slightly thickened and meatballs have absorbed some of the sauce. While the meatballs are cooking, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and meatballs, toss and heat through over medium heat. Divide evenly among four pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and one tablespoon grated Parmesan.
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