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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  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 http://lobsterandfishsticks.com/

  • 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?

Its been exactly a month since my last post.

After my appendix surgery, I wasn’t able to work out for several weeks, my appetite was screwy at best, and I was taking painkillers. For someone that defines themselves by terms such as “workout junky”, “health food nut”, and “I-will-only-take-advil-if-dying”, this was a hellish several weeks. I lost my identity. I felt false, like things I said weren’t true anymore. It made writing about leading a healthy lifestyle too frustrating. By the time the stream of holidays came around, I was eating cookies and toasting champagne with the rest of the world and feeling, big surprise, even more unhealthy.

But, its a new year. And, I, like everyone else, I get to regroup and make and meet goals.

I stumbled back to the gym last week, surrounded by the eager New Years Resolutioners, and feeling like a stranger myself. The treadmill looked so daunting, have I ever been able to run? By the third workout, I started to remember “the workout high” and by the fifth workout, I got on the treadmill. It was a pathetic showing at best, as my endurance is non-existent, but its ok.

Its a fresh start.

Happy belated New Year everyone.

Its been exactly a week after my appendix surgery. For the first few days I had no hunger cues like tummy rumblings or headaches because of the medication, and this was followed by my stomach shrinking and my meals becoming smaller. However, all things level out, right? Yesterday my appetite was back in full force. In fact, I felt like getting full was an unachievable feat. Lets do a little recap:

First came breakfast:

  • 1 5.3 ounce container of Oikos Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of grapes
  • 1/2 cup of Nature’s Path Flakes
  • handful of Fiber One
  • 2 crushed walnuts
  • And a sprinkle of Agave

That’s a complete breakfast in my mind! Apparently, it wasn’t in my stomach’s because about 2.5 hours later I was crazy hungry. I thought I could do the trick with a few of TJ’s everything crackers and a blob of hummus

but I was wrong. My stomach accepted that as a 30 minute peace offering before getting down to the business of lunch. My fridge has a funny assortment of remains so don’t laugh at the compilation of food…I need to go shopping pronto.

  • 1 whole wheat toast with light laughing cow – pressed in george forman grill
  • 6 pretzels
  • Blob of Guacamole
  • Blob of Hummus
  • Veggies

After eating this hodge-podge, I wanted more. I had a huge granny smith apple and made myself take a nap (watch Las Vegas) to escape the appetite.

I did finally make it to the grocery store and they were having a sale on Fage yogurt – $1 per 5.3 ounce container. Awesome, that’s like 50% off so I picked up 10!

Around 4pm, I was hungry. Again. Starting to see a pattern? I created what may be the most delicious thing ever: took half of a very ripe banana and microwaved it until it caramelized (got the idea here) and spread the banana on a whole wheat waffle and sprinkled with walnuts. YUMMY. Its the kind of snack that would be hard to make at work, but great for at home.

Later in the evening I went out to dinner with my boyfriend. Its the first time I’ve done my hair and makeup since the surgery and it was to feel attractive, and like a girl.  Our dinner was, in short, amazing, but unfortunately, my camera did not make it to dinner.  We went to a wonderful BYOB Cyprus restaurant. I enjoyed a few chunks of homemade rye bread with tahini, fried halloumi cheese with tabbouleh, and then a whole durado fish. The fish was stuffed with thyme twigs and lemon. Heavenly.  Oh, and I drank half a bottle of wine.

I guess I’ve recovered and well enough to go to work on Monday. Thank goodness I get to enjoy a weekend without being laid up in bed.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!


Whether its cold weather, an illness, or you are just having a down sort of day, comfort food has a way of making things better. Since I’ve been recovering from the appendix surgery and its been cold, not to mention I lay around all day, I crave comfort food all day. However, as I mentioned, most of my day is spent laying,  so if I gave in to all my cravings, I would probably have to go back to work wearing my pajama’s since that would be the only outfit that fit.

I’ve been trying to find ways to satisfy my comfort food cravings without having the real thing. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Ice Cream – non-fat greek yogurt with agave syrup drizzled on top. Must serve in a fancy glass and eat slowly as if it is luxurious, fatty ice cream.

Pizza – its really the warm cheesy bite mixed with carbs that I’m craving, so I’ve been making lots of little whole wheat pita pizzas

Chocolate Chip Cookies – I’m not sure why this works so well, but whole-wheat waffles spread with Nutella make me feel like I’ve gotten to eat quite a few cookies. Waffles is one of the things that I’ve never really eaten before this surgery, and now I crave them for breakfast and dinner.

Here’s a few other replacement ideas that I mean to act on in the next few days:

Potato Chips – Popcorn sprinkled with Sea Salt

French Fries – Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Creamy Soup – Opt for creamy tomato instead of something like a New England Clam Chowder

Mashed Potatoes – I say go for it, but use low fat milk and something like Brummel’s Yogurt Butter and enjoy a reasonable portion guilt free. Personally, I prefer a sweet potato mashed and naked.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich – whole wheat toast with a low fat Laughing Cow Cheese spread between, and pressed in a George Forman or panini press

And last, but not least, I have found that one of my true comfort foods is Animal Crackers. When I don’t want to eat anything, but know I really need to, my animal crackers have really come through.

Does anyone have any other comfort food replacement ideas?

After the appendix surgery, food was a distant concern. The pain medication keeps you from feeling pain, which includes hunger. With no headache or stomach pain to signal hunger, I went quite a while without eating. Eventually, I started feeling so nauseous that I remembered food! There’s no rules about eating solids vs. liquids, so its pretty much about listening to your cravings. Pretty nice huh?

On Saturday morning, my body said PANCAKES! My wonderful caretaker used Steph’s recipe for perfect, fluffy whole wheat pancakes. I had one plain one with nutella spread on it, and another one with blueberries added to the batter and maple syrup on top. The pancakes were indeed fluffy, and I loved them. My tummy shrank quite a bit, so I was only able to eat half of what is pictured. I enjoyed every bite.

Nutella and Maple Syrup make friends with my Pancakes

So Fluffy!

After breakfast/lunch, I did more of what I do all day. Sleep. When I am awake, my mind is pretty fuzzy, so I need to read something simple and with lots of pictures. I’m slowly going through every girly magazine that exists.

I think I am slowly getting dumber...

It snowed all day long, so in between the naps and magazine reading, I watched the first snow of the year settle in.

With the pain medication that I take every 4 hours, its important to eat something or the nausea kicks in. Animal crackers have been my go to because they’re just such a simple food. Plus, I see them as a comfort food and when you are sick that’s what you’re really after. Later in the day, I enjoyed a whole-wheat hoagie with hummus and grilled veggies.

Soft and warm - that's comfort food

Its incredibly frustrating to know that I can’t work out for weeks, and even then, I’m going to have to take it easy. Its frustrating to lay around all day and have little clarity and to constantly be falling asleep. UGH.

Any advice on staying positive?

Wednesday evening I was writing a post about how much I missed having almond butter while I did the no / low fat experiment. While writing this post I had sharp pains in my right side, which I tried to ignore. This pain didn’t subside  and between the hours of midnight and 3am I tried to convince myself to go to the Emergency Room.  I was so worried that the ER would think I was a silly girl with indigestion while there were people with serious problems. On the bright side, no one laughed at me, but on the down side I had acute appendicitis. My surgery was schedule for 1030 the following morning and everything has been a blur since then. Lots of pain killers, nausea, and pain.

Just wanted to post a quick update that I was home and recovering and that I wasn’t not posting because I quit my experiment!

Sorry for any grammatical errors – the morphine makes me loopy.

Its the infamous month of holiday parties, cocktails, and cookies. Appropriately so, its December 1st,  and today was my first holiday party. Rather than tell you what I ate today, let me start with what I did not eat:

There were bacon wrapped scallops, spanakopita, asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, and a peanut butter chocolate ice cream cake. Those are just the highlights! Its no wonder people gain weight during the holiday season. My strategy was to eat a few skewers of grilled chicken, a few pieces of lox, 1 glass of wine, and then to put gum in my mouth.

Other than the beautiful food at this party, my eats were uneventful. Greek yogurt with grapes and cereal for breakfast, sans the almonds, and I felt like I got hungrier earlier than usual with no fat in my breakfast. The rest of the day followed the fat free plan. It was weight training day – no impact from the lack of fat…yet? Lunch and Dinner were about as exciting as this:

I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but I can eat the same thing for lunch and dinner…is that weird?

How do you handle all the temptations of holiday parties?

I don’t eat a lot of full-fat but as  I was sprinkling Parmesan cheese over my veggies and shrimp dinner, my boyfriend pointed out to me  that I’m attempting to do no fat, not a low amount of fat. Oops! I guess I didn’t take myself as seriously as I should have because in recording the eats for my first day – there’s fat sprinkled into most of my eats. Its not exactly an experiment if you cheat. I want the full experience of my body noticing that fat is missing (or lack of that feeling). Maybe we don’t need fat other than fatty foods taste good?

I started the morning with about 6oz. of non-fat greek yogurt, half a cup of grapes, a teaspoon of almonds, and 1/2 cup of Nature’s Path heritage flakes. I learned that 3/4 cup of cereal is 2 points, and 1/2 cup is 1 point. Since I get 20 points a day this seemed like a good way to save. However, it doesn’t really make sense to me why the difference over 1/4 of a cup – does anyone know why? I was also surprised that 1 teaspoon of almonds was 1 point, the same as my 1/2 cup of cereal!

Before the gym, I had a piece of ww toast with a teaspoon of jelly. This usually would have been almond butter, but I can’t say that my lunch workout suffered. I did a high-power cardio workout with no affect/hunger.

Aren’t the slices of this 40 calorie tiny?

Lunch was a non-fat feast – I managed to avoid any nut butter or other slips.

  • 1 cup of Trader Joe’s Black bean soup
  • TJs’  ww quesadillas stuffed with non-fat cheese, left over turkey, and salsa
  • Veggies and non-fat honey mustard dressing as dip

Lunch kept me full for a long time and I was very surprised about this. I usually think that if there isn’t any fat at all you get hungrier faster.

For a before dinner snack I had my beloved Veggie Booty – and they have 5 grams of fat. Hm…I guess I wasn’t as prepared as I thought for a non-fat life.

And finally for dinner, I enjoyed one of my favorite pasta dishes only this time I didn’t include olives due to fat. And, I didn’t have any pasta because I’m just not a huge fan of carbs at night. But, the bf thinks a meal isn’t complete without carbs and protein, so here’s the his and hers version:

Yes, his looks better.

For tomorrow – I’m going to be more conscious about the normal items I eat that have fat. Sadly, I always have almonds in my yogurt so I’m missing them already.