How many times have you heard people say that they can’t afford to eat healthy? Sure, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is cheap but there’s a lot of other good deals out there. A great place to shop for produce is the Reading Terminal Market. I think a lot of people associate the market with a tourist attraction and a fun place to go sampling with friends but I associate it with bargain shopping. The same conventionally grown tomatoes selling for $2.99/lb at Whole Foods are here for .79 cents! That price differential holds for most items including potatoes, apples, and mushrooms.

@ Iovine Brothers Produce

Aside from produce, I also heart the 12th street Cantina: Handcrafted Mexican Food. The 5 years my boyfriend spent in LA have messed with his taco shell standards and since tacos are an easy week night meal 12th street Cantina offers a great option. 10 hand made corn tortillas for $1.50.

12th Street Cantina

The tomatoes and corn tortillas led to a 20 minute, market to table meal. My boyfriend makes the ground turkey with taco seasoning while I prepare a plate with fillings: guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and shredded cheeses. Very easy, filling, and the corn tortillas give it an authentic taste.

Market to Table to Belly

Does anyone know of any other great deals in Philly – shopping or eating out?

Is collecting recipes a hobby? An obsession? I’m constantly bookmarking webpages, tearing pages out of magazine, ordering cookbooks, and drooling over tastespotting postings. At this point I’ve got enough recipes in que for the next 1000 meals, give or take a few. Disappointingly many recipes are forgotten as soon as they are marked and some just don’t get the buy-in from those who have to eat my cooking/baking.

The gratin featured in this post is different from the forgotten recipes though. This root vegetable wonder has been in the front of my mind for over a year and yet I never made this easy and delicious meal. Something about the cooking time of over 1.5 hours and the use of a mandolin  created a roadblock. But, for the small dinner party I hosted on Saturday, the gratin was finally featured.

We started with a few cheeses from the beautiful Di Bruno’s located in the Italian Market.

Several bottles of wine later, the gratin, which bakes in chicken broth for an hour, and then in cream for half an hour, was finally ready to be served.

Root Vegatable Gratin – instead of using 2lbs of rutabaga, I added a parsnip to the mix, and instead of heavy cream, used light cream. Calories were reduced and taste was unaffected.

Look at those beautiful layers! If you love root vegetables, this is a winner. How else do you get to have butternut squash, sweet potato, rutabaga, and turnips all in one meal? As a plus, all the vegetables were purchased from small vendors at the Italian Market.

The gratin recipe was from Food & Wine so in maintaining the theme, I also chose a salad from Food & Wine: Asian Pear and Arugala Salad with Goat Cheese. The mandolin to make the gratin was on loan and it was also used for the pears in the salad. The pumpkin seeds in the salad were just the right addition to the citrusy lemon dressing and pears. Seeds were purchased at The Spice Corner.

I’m really excited to have checked this root vegetable gratin off my recipe list. Are there any recipes you’ve been thinking about but haven’t executed?

This is one of my week night favorites, about 20 minutes from fridge to table, and so good you want to lick the bowl clean…which I might do if no one is around.

My recipe for Chicken Pad Thai is adapted from the Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. I bought this cookbook when I was in a vegan phase and some of the sauces are outstanding. You could use chicken, shrimp, tofu, or just veggies in this pad thai, it really doesn’t matter because the peanut butter sauce is the star.


  • 6 ounces of rice noodles or wide Lo-Mein noodles may be easier to find
  • 1/2 tbsp for cooking
  • 2 chicken breast (~12 ounces)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into slivers
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)


  1. Mix together ingredients of your sauce and boil the water for the noodles.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan, and add chicken. Flavor with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.
  3. When chicken is almost done, add all veggies. The veggies should be on the crunchy side so after 3 minutes add the peanut butter sauce mixture.
  4. Turn the heat on high and help the peanut butter melt into the mixture. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain your noodles, add to the chicken, veggies, and sauce.
  6. DONE!

Makes approximately 4 servings, 330 calories.

One of my very favorite bloggers, steph chows, is hosting a cookie exchange. Steph’s baking is fantastically creative and if there’s any trick to removing butter and sugar without sacrificing taste, she’s using it. Almost 30 people decided to participate in Steph’s first cookie exchange and I received the daunting task of baking for Steph herself. Intimidating? Definetly.

I knew I wanted to continue down the path towards making the perfect healthy cookie and since I probably wasn’t going to blow Steph away on taste, she’d at least appreciate the attempt to try a few new replacement tricks. With toffee as the splurge ingredient, I attempted to create two versions of healthy cookies, both under 100 calories.

#1 Toffee Sugar Cookie

My curiosity was peaked by this recipe because it uses water. Cookies with water? There’s also no eggs and a minimal amount of water. I made one additional healthful tweak, and subbed half the flour for whole wheat.

#1 Toffee Sugar Cookies

Adapted from a Taste of Home, found on

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (split in half btw all purpose and whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup crushed heath bar candy (2 bars)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in the water, oil and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets; flatten with the bottom of a small glass. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove to wire racks. Yield: 4 dozen. About 90 calories per cookie.

Taste Review – they grow hard quickly, but the texture is that of a cookie. I haven’t used butter in baking for so long I was actually caught of guard by the texture. I think the batter works, the whole wheat flour isn’t noticeable and adds some fiber. However, I think the batter would work better with a more flavorful cookie, more spice, cranberries, crystallized ginger; the toffee just doesn’t give it enough. Improvements to this recipe will continue…there’s hope.

#2 Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

Unlike baking with butter, I am no stranger to baking with oats and applesauce. Including prep and baking, these literally take 20 minutes and almost every ingredient adds a healthful benefit.

Adapted from Shortbread Bakery

  • 3/4 cup plain quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup crushed Heath bar (1 bar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar substitute of your choice (I used splenda b/c I know Steph likes, but I would have used brown sugar or agave if it was just for me)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Microwave Peanut Butter for 1 minute until smooth. Meanwhile, combine quick cooking rolled oats, wheat germ, egg whites, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, chocolate chips and applesauce in a large bowl. Mix then add in to the sauce pan with the Peanut butter. Drop onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool and ENJOY! Makes about 14 cookies, about 9o calories per cookie.

Taste Review if I had just left these in the oven for another 3 minutes they would have been better, a bit gooey they sadly ended up. Please forgive me Steph, I was running to a class at the gym and had to pull them out. BUT, I really like these cookies. The toffee adds such a sinful flavor and texture and everything else is healthy ingredient that gives lasting energy.


What other baking tricks can I use to cut down on butter?

I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s on the whole, but I recently picked something up at TJ’s and now there is a I-need-a-handful-every-time-I-pass-by-the-kitchen problem. Let me present to you the culprit:

They seem innocent enough – 15 cookies for 110 calories and low in fat. But, 15 cats (I mean cookies) can become 30 or 45 pretty easily and it seems pretty silly to waste that many calories on something that provides no nutritional value.

I think this is a common occurrence for snacks. The serving size just doesn’t equal the amount you need to be satisfied – think about pita chips, M&M’s, etc. Rather than throwing away the tub, I am controlling the behavior by:

  • No handfuls – take a small cup or plastic bag and count out 15 cookies
  • Limit myself to one serving size a day

Does anyone else have advice for a snack that is addicting? Or would you just throw the tub away?


From the sound of the title, I probably sound like a sports fan. I’m not. I know nothing about football, baseball, or basketball. I am incredibly annoying when sports are on TV because I either a) fidget b) ask questions. So when a friend of mine decided to host a game day party, I offered to prepare the food (much more entertaining). The idea of making game day food healthy is a side project that I am interested in (which unfortunately is on hold, but learn more here and here). It was a good deal on both ends- my friend had the equivalent of a caterer and I got to use the guests as guinea pigs. As many of you already know, sometimes healthyfying a recipe works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you need a little butter or cream to make something work and its a matter of figuring out how little will still bring a yummy result. So here we have Game Day Appetizers.

#1 Butternut Squash Dip

I loosely followed the recipe found at Framed. I kept the quantity of butternut squash, onions, and garlic the same and I sprayed with olive oil spray. Once I was working in the food processor, I did not add any additional olive oil and I substituted 3 tbsp of sour cream for about 1/2 cup of non-fat greek yogurt. I used a tiny bit of cayenne, some cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and was pretty generous with the salt. The key is to keep tasting as you puree so you don’t go to heavy on the salt.

The dip was a success. Most people love squash and this dip was a unique way to eat squash. I would recommend making this for any party.

#2 Cheeseburger-in-one-bite Skewers

Well, they are adorable. I’ll give them that much credit. And, they have potential. But this is an example of when cutting out too much fat goes wrong. I used about 2lbs of 0% fat ground turkey and mixed that with about 1/3 cup of bbq sauce and an array of meat/poultry spices because I knew from past experience the flavor had to come from somewhere and it wasn’t going to be the turkey itself. After kneading the meat, I broke it into quarter sized meatballs and to grill them used cooking spray. Pretty disastrous. There just wasn’t enough fat for the meat not to glue itself to the pan. I cooked them about 80% of the way and then stuck in the oven on broil. After about 2 minutes on each side, I topped each meatball with a small slice of cheese (again using 0% fat cheddar). After the meat and cheese cooled, I stuck on a toothpick with red onion, half a cheery tomato, and a pickle. I personally think these would have been significantly better with 93% turkey, but despite my disappointment, all 45 skewers were eaten. Moral of the story – make these, they are cute, use some fat.

#3 Mushroom and Thyme Phyllo Wraps

I love working with Phyllo dough and a variety of mushrooms seasoned with 1 thyme and rosemary is delicious, so the two came together. To make this chop up a variety of mushrooms, spray with olive oil, and on medium heat, cook mushrooms (about 5 cups) with salt (to taste), thyme (1 tsp), and rosemary (1/2 tsp) until everything is soft and fragrant. Drain the mushrooms using a strainer to avoid getting the phyllo dough soaked through. Take 4 phyllo sheets per roll and spray lightly with olive oil between each sheet. Take about 1/4 of mixture and lay at the bottom of the sheet. Roll up the mixture and cut into 4 to 5 pieces per roll. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until phyllo starts to golden.

Delicious! If you are ok with adding a little more calories sprinkle mixture with Parmesan cheese before baking. You could make this dish with anything wrapped inside: artichoke and spinach, chicken and sundried tomatoes, etc.

#4 Mexican Phyllo Tarts

Did I mention I liked working with Phyllo? Another super easy recipe. 1 can of black beans and 1 can of corn (low sodium and strained with water). Mix with 1/2 can of medium salsa, 3 tbsp chopped cilantro, and 1/2 red onion finely chopped. Drain for extra liquid to avoid soaking through phyllo cups. Take mixture and fill phyllo cups (they are so easy to work with, the day you are going to use them you take them out of the freezer, and 3 hours later they are ready to use). Just like the rolls above, you could fill these with anything. I chose the mexican filling to replace the typically unhealthy nachos you find on game day.

#5 BBQ Chicken Pizza

This healthy version of BBQ pizza is so good that you get the taste you want out of pizza with none of the unhealthy fat. One person commented that if there was a way to get this pizza in a NYC pizzeria, he would be getting it everyday. Recipe can be found at my on-hold-project.

Please share any ideas you have for healthy appetizers. I’m already looking for something new!

Week nights are busy. By the time I finish work, commute, go to the gym, run errands, and just deal with life, I don’t have time for an elaborate dinner. What I do have time for is something quick, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and tasty. And, lets be honest weekends tend to be splurg-y so weekdays are a good time to be healthy so it all balances out. Here’s my weeknight dinners from last week complete with shopping list, ingredients, and directions. Not that you even need the directions, its that easy…

Italian Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms, and Whole Wheat Pasta

sausage and pasta

This is a simple one dish recipe that takes about 20 minutes. Its got tons of flavor and is perfect for a colder, rainy day b/c of its heartiness. Here’s the short ingredient list:

  • TJ’s chicken and roasted red pepper sausage, peel off casing and break into chunks (used 3 for 2 people)
  • 2 cups mushrooms (presliced to save time)
  • bag of spinach (prewashed to save time)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • garlic and italian spices
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat pasta.

Boil water and add pasta. Use a little olive oil and garlic to get things fragrant, add mushrooms and when they are almost done add in chicken sausage, spinach, and spices of your choice. When everything is done mix in tomato sauce to add liquid. I will definitely make this again.

Chicken, Mixed Veggies and Brown Rice

chicken and veggies

This took 20 minutes from start to finish and I had help from my good friend, Trader Joe’s. All 4 ingredients were picked up at TJs and throw into a one pan wonder:

  • grilled chicken
  • frozen mixed veggie bag
  • sesame soy ginger vinaigrette
  • brown rice

Chop the chicken into chunks, grill it until almost done, throw in veggies, when everything is almost done, add about 1/2 cup of marinate. Pop already prepared rice into microwave for 60 seconds. DONE. I enjoyed the marinade, the dish had flavor and was filling, but I’m not sure I would make this very often – its just not very exciting 😦

Shrimp tacos and Lettuce Cups

shrimp and veggies

Mexican food is the best solution to a quick dinner. So easy.

  • whole wheat wraps
  • shrimp
  • salsa
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • lettuce leaves

Chop up all veggies (or buy prechopped), mix in with salsa. Grill shrimp using a spice that has a kick. I used cooking spray and then sprinkled taco seasoning. Broil wraps, throw it all in and your are good to go. To save on calories, I usually eat one real deal taco and then switch to wrapping the veggies and protein in a lettuce wrap. I would also make this again.

Next week for Easy Weeknight Dinners:

  • Orange Glazed Salmon with Red Bliss Potatoes and Spinach
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash

During my West Coast adventure, I got to do something new in the kitchen. Homemade Pasta! I’ve never had access to a pasta maker and making pasta sounds intimidating. Luckily, my friend’s boyfriend is boy wonder in the kitchen and offered to guide me through the process.Surprisingly, there’s nothing terrible difficult about making pasta, its just time consuming (about 2 hours from start to finish).



  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Super Fine “OO” Wheat Flourflour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt

Step-by-Step Guide: Butternut Squash Ravioli

1. In a large bowl, mix the 2 flours together. Push flour to the sides and create a hollow space in the center.

flour and eggs

2. Break the eggs into the hollow center and use fork to scramble yolk and egg whites. Then start to pull flour into the liquid until there is no more liquid to absorb flour. At this point, get your hands dirty and start kneading the dough. You may need to add water for additional moisture. We ended up having to add almost 1/4 cup of water.

3. Eventually you will have a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 40 minutes.


4. While dough is resting, you need to roast the butternut squash. Peel skin and cut into 1 in squares, pop in the oven for about 30 minutes, remove when you can pierce squash with a fork. In a food processor, break up 1 tbsp of butter (room temperature), 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt, and the roasted butternut cubes. Blend until you have a semi-chunky puree.

5. Unwrap ball of dough and break into 4 parts. Sprinkle surface with flour, and use a rolling pin to roll out each part; keep the other parts in plastic wrap so they do not dry out. After rolling out a piece, set the pasta maker on the first (widest) setting – 1.

6. Run flattened dough through the machine. Fold in half, and run through again (kind of like feeding an old school fax machine). Change setting to 2 (slightly thinner). Run dough through, fold in half, run through again. Repeat these steps until you run through the 5th setting. The dough will be thin and long at this point. Repeat this with all 4 parts of dough.

dough machine

7. With all 4 pieces of dough laying on countertop, take 2 pieces and cut off ends to make them equal in size.

8. On one of the sheets space out teaspoon sized dallops of butternut squash mixture (you will have a lot of mixture left over, but its delicious and you can some for the sauce and save the rest for a dip with pita chips). Leave enough room between each dallop that you will be able to have edges on each ravioli. We were able to fit 8 to 10 on each sheet.


9. Cover with other sheet, and press together. Then take butt of a knife and draw lines for each ravioli. Then cut.

raviolis10. Boil huge pot of salted water and drop your 18-20 raviolis into the boiling water. Should take less than 10 minutes to cook.

11. Meanwhile, in a small pot, take 2 tbsp of butter and fry sage. You will end up with a sage infused butter, but remove the leaves. Add 3/4 cup of the butternut squash mixture and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat until it becomes a liquid.


12. Drain the ravioli and you are done! Serve 3 to 5 raviolis per plate and drip with sage butternut squash cream. Serve with a light salad: field greens with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Yummy…



A little pumpkin butter with my pumpkin pie muffins? Don’t mind if I do. I love all things fall, so when the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Muffins came up on Ellie in My Belly I was pretty stoked. This muffin recipe is extremely easy. I like that there’s no butter, a reasonable amount of sugar, its high in Vitamin A, and less than 200 calories per muffin (nutrition label after recipe). I don’t like that its low in fiber which guarantees I’ll be hungry in less than 2 hours. Next time I make these I’ll add ground flax or something else to boost the nutritional benefits. Overall though, they are delicious. After eating two muffins in one day, I had to distribute the muffins at the office (unanimously liked).  Thank you Oddball Oven Mitt for picking a yummy fall recipe and for hosting this week.

pumpkin pie


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – increased to 2 teaspoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg used 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses didn’t have so replaced with part maple syrup, part agave
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk used 3/4 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds sprinkled with cranberries


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

nutrition facts

People find it hard to eat healthy at the office. Here’s are some recent survey results released by Women’s Health Magazine:

  • 63% think eating healthily at work is a challenge
  • 35% say their company provides access to candy
  • 28% are satisfied with the healthy snack options at work

I don’t know the specifics of the survey, i.e. sample size, geography, age, etc. Even without seeing the details though, I do know that staying healthy at the office is a challenge because I see it everyday. There’s always baked goods and chocolate, its always someone’s birthday, meetings are catered with unhealthy options, and the cafeteria makes it unclear how much oil or heavy cream are at play. And, of course there is the 3pm slump that makes you head in the direction of the soda and vending machines that are readily available.

So, I am not here to preach, but rather to make recommendations of what I have found to be helpful for staying healthy at the office and avoiding all the tempting unhealthy stuff.

Desk Drawer

What you see here is my desk drawer! Needless to say I have no idea where the vending machine at my work is located. Why would I need it, when I have everything I could possibly want?

Healthy Office Snacks in my Desk Drawer

  • Agave Syrup (sweeter than honey and lower glycemic index)– add to my oatmeal or yogurt
  • Truvia – add to my coffee, I don’t know if this is the best alternative, but Splenda scares me
  • Wasa Rye Crackers (2 crackers 60 calories) – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Cocoa Powder – love to mix this in my oatmeal or granola for a dessert feel
  • Chopped Dates – running to meeting, grab a quick handful, 1/3 cup 120 calories, 0g fat
  • Canned Tuna – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Veggie Booty – afternoon salty craving, portioned perfectly to 130 calories
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans – sometimes you need chocolate and energy in one
  • Apple – perfect snack, I buy 4 on Monday and eat one a day
  • Pumpkin Butter – spread on Wasa
  • Low Fat Rocky Road Cookies – special treat with a cup of tea on a non-hectic afternoon
  • Mixed Nuts – handful if I’m working out right after work OR sprinkle in yogurt

It must look like a lot of food. I also keep a few things in the fridge – yogurt, hummus, salsa, cut up veggies. But, honest, I don’t sit around and eat all day. I have yogurt in the morning and I add whatever I have on hand. There’s always an apple, and usually one other snack. The key to eating healthy at the office though is being prepared. Sunday I cut up the veggies and on the way to work Monday I get apples, yogurt, and whatever gaps need to be filled.

What are your tips for staying healthy at the office?

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