Friday, January 30, 2015

Green power smoothie (to share with your dog!)

Love your dogs? Then share this kale, spinach, peanut butter and banana green power smoothie with them for breakfast.

green power smoothie with peanut butter you can share with your dog

Yesssssss! I'm so excited to share this smoothie post with you because I assume that you, like me, are a crazy dog person. In a good way. Meaning you love dogs. So much so that you may have been known to cook for them.

Chicken jerky, sweet potato chips, doggie meatloaf -- all part of my cook-for-dogs-repertoire. But now I've got a doggie breakfast specialty as well, to round out Smoothie Week: a kale and spinach peanut butter smoothie that is not only for them, it's also for you!

This easy-to-make smoothie is loaded with healthy ingredients that are good for you but also good (and perfectly safe) for your favorite poochie. And the slightly larger portion size accommodates you both: pour a little bit (start with 1/4 cup for a medium-sized dog) into a bowl for your pal and save the rest for yourself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oatmeal breakfast smoothie

Swap your favorite morning oatmeal for a delicious, filling oatmeal breakfast smoothie, loaded with fruit and naturally sweetened.

healthy oatmeal breakfast smoothie

Smoothie Week continues with this super-filling and delicious oatmeal breakfast smoothie.

Earlier this week, I got you prepped with all my best tips and tricks. Did you make some nut milk? And then turn it into ice? Freeze some bananas? Great: You're all set to whip up one of the yummiest, healthiest smoothies around.

If you're like me, breakfast can get to be a little boring after a while. It's tough to keep it creative every single morning, isn't it? And as much as I love love LOVE my morning oatmeal (especially when it cooks overnight in the slow cooker), I need to change things up so I don't get into a rut and grow weary of my faves.

Which is why I love that this oatmeal breakfast smoothie. It's basically my favorite morning oatmeal -- complete with a whole heap of good-for-you fruits, some natural protein and no refined sugar -- in a delicious, drinkable form.

Perhaps the best thing about this oatmeal breakfast smoothie is that it is incredibly filling. When I have one for breakfast, I never get the eleven o'clock munchies; it keeps me full and energized until it's time for lunch.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nut milk ice (plus 5 more smoothie tips and tricks)

Learn how to turn nut milk into ice and get other time- and money-saving tips and tricks for making the best smoothies ever.

how to make nut milk ice for smoothies

Welcome to Smoothie Week!

During this year's Detox January, I've been making a lot of smoothies -- and not all of them are green! I know I'm late to the smoothie party (I seem to be late to every party lately), but I'm loving having them for breakfast.

One of the reasons I never entirely jumped on the smoothie-a-day bandwagon was because I don't like to clean the blender. SERIOUSLY! I mean, how lazy can you get, right? Last year I discovered (again, apparently this was only news to ME) the mason jar blender trick, which helped a lot; using mason jars means I only have to wash the blender blade -- the jars can go right in the dishwasher.


Another reason I wasn't fully embracing smoothies? Smoothie prep. I never seemed to have the right ingredients on hand when I really wanted a smoothie -- namely because they always seem to call for milk or yogurt or some other dairy product I didn't have in the fridge.

So one of my new favorite tips for making smoothies easier is nutmilk ice. (Again, if this is not news to anyone but me, keep it to yourself and let me have my little moment of glee, mmmmkay?) By freezing my favorite nutmilks into ice, I kill two birds with one stone -- nutmilk ice makes the perfect substitute for ice and/or milk in my favorite smoothies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Slow cooker chicken and white bean soup

This easy, slow cooker chicken and white bean soup is loaded with two types of protein, fresh herbs and healthy veggies: a perfect warming weeknight dinner.

easy slow cooker chicken and white bean soup

How has the weather been in your area lately? Cold? Snowy? If so, I bet you've been thinking a lot about soup, chili and other warming winter dinners.

I know I have.

But no wussy soups for me this time of year. Nosirreebob. The Ninj craves a hearty, filling soup, with protein and veggies, that makes a whole meal in and of itself.

(Largely this is because I'm lazy and don't want to have to make a salad to go with my soup, but let's just keep that between us, mmmmkay?)

Speaking of lazy, I'm a huge fan of soups made in the slow cooker because ... well, I just said it ... I'm lazy and the crockpot is the lazy cook's best friend. Hey, using the slow cooker is pretty much the only way I get out of cooking every once in a while. (Back when we first got married, I tried assigning Mr. Ninj a cooking night once a week to give me a break -- he missed the point about "cooking" and just ordered Chinese every week, so I gave up.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gluten-free chocolate peanut butter chip cookies

Quick-and-easy double chocolate peanut butter chip cookies: gluten-free, dairy-free and added refined sugar-free -- with a little salty crunch.

Gluten-free chocolate peanut butter chip cookies

Sometimes you just need a cookie. Am I right? Can I get an amen?

But -- SIGH -- it is still Detox January, so I'm resisting the urge to go mental and make Moonpie cookies or something. I'm trying to keep my healthy-ish hat on.

Behold: double chocolate peanut butter chip cookies -- which just so happen to be gluten-free, dairy-free and added-refined-sugar-free.


I don't need to eat gluten-free, thank goodness, but I've been finding that I enjoy many of the substitutes that make recipes gluten-free. For instance, this recipe uses almond meal (read: pulverized almonds) instead of traditional flour. I love me some nuttiness and I certainly don't care about the flour, as long as the cookie tastes great.

Which is does. Dark cocoa powder gets a double chocolately boost from bittersweet chocolate chips, both of which are made more completely awesome by the peanut butter chips. And the whole thing is goes to 11 with the addition of crunchy salt: given that the cookies don't really spread and change their consistency as flour-and-butter-based cookies do, the salt stays crystallized. Which means you can really taste it -- and it crunches! (You know how The Ninj feels about salted cookies, right? ERMERGAHD. Tip: If you, too, are a salted cookie junkie, use Maldon sea salt flakes in place of the kosher salt for even more crunch.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Baked ranch tofu 'chicken' nuggets

Healthy baked ranch tofu nuggets have all the meatiness and flavor of a traditional chicken nugget. A meatless entree or appetizer that even the pickiest eater will love!

baked ranch tofu "chicken" nuggets

So, if you knew me 20 years ago, you're probably laughing hysterically at the fact that I'm posting about tofu. Suffice it to say, I have not always been a healthy eater (I lived on Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies and Cool Ranch Doritos in college). In fact, I was pretty reliant on processed and packaged foods until I started reading more about where my food came from and making the effort to read and decode food package ingredient labels.

Even as a healthy eater, espousing The Way of Better Eating, I'm pretty new to tofu, not being vegetarian or vegan (remember -- I have been known to call myself The Meatasaurus). But I've been giving tofu more of a chance lately as a way to enjoy meatless meals during the week.

If you've seen but never tried a tofu nugget recipe before, you're not alone. I was super skeptical, especially of the ones that claimed to have a meaty texture. How the freak could jiggly tofu ever seem meaty? But Cheryl of 40 Aprons did a pretty good job of convincing me, once she revealed the secret: Freeze the tofu.

Yes! It's totally freakish but it works! Something all science-y about the freezing and thawing process changes the tofu's texture so that it's meaty. Seriously: meaty. I kid you not. Even Mr. Ninj, who gave me his you-haven't-hidden-some-nasty-pureed-vegetables-in-this-have-you sideways-stink-eye, gobbled them up and praised the meaty, genuinely nugget-ish texture.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Caramel chai tea latte

While I have been compensated for this caramel chai tea latte recipe by #CollectiveBias and its advertisers, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #SweetWarmUp 

caramel chai tea latte

If you're trying to cut back on caffeine and refined sugar this year, swap your pricey coffee shop latte for this easy, rich and delicious DIY caramel chai tea latte.

A question for you to consider: How long have you been habitually and automatically drinking coffee to get yourself going in the morning? For me, it began when I was 17 (we won't talk about how long ago that was), a freshman in college ... and I wound up with a schedule of early-morning classes every day. But a few years ago, I spent a week at a British-run resort and started drinking tea every morning instead. I realized I preferred the flavor to coffee, and black tea had enough caffeine (half as much as coffee) to give me the little morning kickstart I needed without giving me the jitters. I never looked back.

Now, another question: Do you only think of tea, if you drink it at all, as an afternoon bevvie or a before-bed herbal relaxer? (I think I see a lot of hands going up.)

Well, peeps, it's time to wake up and smell the caramel chai latte, because tea is a great way to help you embrace The Way of Better Eating by cutting back on the amount of caffeine you consume while still giving you that little kickstart you (think you) need. Plus, thanks to the folks at Truvia, you can make even more positive choices and reduce your refined sugar intake by sweetening your latte with their natural, zero-calorie, stevia-plant-based sweetener.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Light mac and cheese with greens: gluten-free or not

Enjoy this lightened yet rich and creamy mac and cheese, loaded with good-for-you collard greens, two ways: gluten-free or not.

light mac and cheese with collard greens -- gluten-free or not

Eating lighter and adding veggies to your diet doesn't have to mean giving up the foods you love. Case in point: mac and cheese.

Regular readers know I'm pretty much addicted to pasta. Even though I know the carb-loading is doing nothing for my waistline, I'm powerless against the pull of cheesy, filling comfort food (seriously: I may need a support group). To make my addiction slightly less bad for me, I've been embracing healthier styles of pasta, like whole wheat pasta and brown rice pastas.

The good thing about brown rice pasta is that it's also gluten-free, which I know is an important recipe element to many of you. So, whenever I can, I like to share recipes that can be made gluten-free if needed but don't exclude those who don't eat gluten-free.

You've got a love a pasta recipe where everybody wins. So you're definitely going to love this win-win lightened mac and cheese with collard greens.

Collard greens, I hate to say, are terribly misunderstood. If you're one of those people who has only ever tried them braised (I think praising them for their "liquor" is rubbish), with the life cooked out of them so that they're a nasty, sickly green color, I won't blame you if you say you hate them. I hate them cooked that way, too.

But you've got to give them another try. Hey, I used to claim to hate pork chops, too, because the only way I ever ate them was the way my mother cooked them: dried out to the point of being inedible unless immersed in a side of applesauce because 1970s cooks worried that pinkish, juicy pork would give us worms ... or worse.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chai spiced slow cooker steel cut oats

While I have been compensated for this chai spiced slow cooker steel cut oats recipe by #CollectiveBias and Quaker, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #MyOatsCreation

chai spiced overnight slow cooker steel cut oats

Easy overnight chai spiced slow cooker steel cut oats: an individually sized, ready-when-you-are breakfast, hearty enough to keep you satisfied until lunch and away from mid-morning snacks.

I love steel cut oats. While regular rolled oats are a staple in my pantry for recipes like baked oatmeal and peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins, I prefer the heartier and chewier steel cut oats, with their slightly nutty flavor, for my hot cereal breakfasts. But steel cut oats can take extra time to cook than quick oats -- and, if you're like me, you don't have a lot of extra time when you're trying to get up and out the door in the morning.

So when Quaker asked me to develop a recipe using steel cut oats to inspire you to consider oatmeal in a whole new way for 2015, I jumped at the chance and created this chai spiced slow cooker steel cut oat hot cereal. By using your slow cooker while you sleep, you can start enjoying a better-for-you breakfast of steel cut oats easily and without any extra effort -- in fact, with almost no effort at all.

The beauty of this whole grain oat breakfast recipe is that it is so easy. Firstly, there are only four ingredients and all of them are readily available at your local Target (as if you need an excuse to shop at Target, right?). Secondly, the recipe is super easy to prep and to cook, as it cooks itself in the slow cooker while you sleep! And thirdly, having a better-for-you whole-grain breakfast waiting for you when you get up is a real morning time-saver. No more excuses for not eating healthier breakfasts in 2015!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pear and pecan spice muffins

You'll love the cardamom in these pear and pecan spice muffins, studded with bits of candied ginger. Enjoy the muffins for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

skinny pear and pecan spice muffins, studded with candied ginger bits

HOLLA: It's Detox January again! 

Regular readers know that Mr. Ninj and I engage in what we call Detox January every year. It's not as bad as it sounds; it's just a way to get back on track with the Way of Better Eating after the excesses of the holidays (yeah, I have no one to blame but myself for those Moonpie cookies). And I encourage you to play along at home.

Detox January is not some overly ambitious resolution that you know you won't be able to keep (new gym membership, anyone?); it's more like a short-term, mini resolution that you know you can achieve.

The rules are simple. For the entire month of January,

  • Abstain from all alcohol (but if a recipe calls for a little bit, that's OK) -- we'll be drinking things like virgin marys rather than gimlets for cocktail hour to avoid all the extra calories
  • Eat a bit healthier every day (I don't expect you to get all cray cray here -- just try to eat more veggies than cookies and keep your recipes more Cooking Light than Julia Child) 
  • Exercise more than you did in December.
That's it. Simple, right?

And to show you that Detox January isn't some kind of scary juice cleanse or anything, I annually serve up a yummy baked good as the first recipe of the year. This year, it's lightened pear and pecan spice muffins, scented with cardamom and studded with bits of candied ginger.

Yes, a "detox" that involves muffins ... 'cause that's how The Ninj rolls.