Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Muffins - revised

I made these muffins last Christmas. I made them again this morning for Thanksgiving dinner. I made a couple changes.

The basic recipe comes from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, New Edition (2005), from their Blueberry Muffins recipe on page 67. I made some substitutions based on a recipe I followed years ago and cannot recall where I got it (maybe an older Betty Crocker Cookbook).


3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped*
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts, if desired


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease or spray the bottoms of the cups with some kind of shortening.

Mix orange juice, vegetable oil,  egg, and agave nectar well in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until ingredients are moistened. Fold in the remaining ingredients. Divide batter among muffin cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins

*I have found a hand cranked nut chopper works quite well for chopping fresh cranberries quickly. While I have left cranberries whole or have cut them in half with no issues, I get more cranberries by chopping them.

This is a most excellent recipe for baking in a toaster oven, baking 6 muffins at a time. I laid out all the paper muffin liners and divided up the batter among the cups to ensure it was distributed evenly before baking.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Clean Zucchini-Eggplant Muffins

A Fun part of my job (direct care) is to help the clients cook. Yesterday, some really odd vegetables had appeared in the kitchen, likely from the weekly farm share they get. It took some thought, but I identified orange zucchini; skinny, curved eggplant, and purple okra. Cooking the okra will be a challenge, since I’ve heard from Southerners that it’s quite delicious and not slimy if cooked correctly. I’m wondering if I can coat it and bake it, to avoid all the fat from frying it, and still make it come out good.

We made muffins out of some of the zucchini and eggplant. It was sort of an invention, and I took a quick peek online to see if eggplant bread had ever been done: it had. I didn’t look for a zucchini-eggplant combination – I didn’t want to know if it had been done before, so we could think it was our own invention. And since most recipes use white sugar and white flour, I’m sure ours was different.

I put this recipe through an online nutrition calculator. At 180+ calories per muffin, it’s not low calorie, but if you leave out the optional add-ins, you’ll reduce the calorie count. Each muffin, with the add-ins, has 3.2 grams of fiber, though.


3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini (summer squash should work, also)
1 ½ cups shredded eggplant
1 ½ cups agave nectar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract (use the real thing for the cleanest muffins)
4 large eggs
½ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit (chop larger fruit into raisin-sized pieces) – optional
½ cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or other nuts – optional
½ cup chocolate chips (use real chocolate for the cleanest muffins) – optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 24 muffin cups (four 6-cup tins or two 12-cup tins), either with paper liners or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, mix the zucchini, eggplant, agave nectar, olive oil, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the remainder of ingredients, if using.

Divide batter among the muffin tins. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.

This should also make a good bread, using 2 bread loaf pans and cooking about 40-50 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aunt Sybil’s Coleslaw – Cleaned Up

I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from her Aunt Sybil. I don’t know where Aunt Sybil got it. My mom said Aunt Sybil chopped the cabbage by hand, with a knife. It would make your life easier to use a food processor. Or better yet, get the pre-chopped coleslaw mix sold in the produce section of stores. I like the prepackaged coleslaw mixes that have a variety of cabbages and even carrots, sometimes. If you don’t find the prepackaged stuff, you can always add your own carrots and other stuff. It’s a good time to be creative and try chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower. There is even a pre-shredded broccoli slaw mix in some stores. Look in the salad section of the produce section for the available options. I’ve seen similar coleslaws in restaurants that add craisins (dried cranberries) or other stuff.

It’s easy to chop parsley using kitchen shears (scissors). You can use dried parsley (don’t use as much as you would fresh), but I don’t think it tastes as good. (Sometimes, you can find frozen parsley in the freezer section. I have made my own frozen parsley by cutting up fresh parsley with scissors and storing it in a plastic container in the freezer. I can then take out as much as I need for a recipe. It keeps much longer than fresh does in the refrigerator and I don’t think taste is compromised. Maybe the most discerning palates can still tell the difference.)

I’m sure Aunt Sybil used vegetable oil, cider vinegar, and white sugar. I’ve made a few changes to make it my own!

This will make about 6-8 servings.


1 package (14 oz.) cole slaw or broccoli slaw
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped onion
3 Tablespoons agave nectar
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

How to assemble

Mix everything together. Make it ahead of time, so the salad can set for a while and the flavors can blend. This will keep a long time in the refrigerator (maybe not weeks or months, but at least a few days).

You can adjust any of the ingredients to taste, and this recipe doubles or triples, etc., well to make for pot luck suppers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Bake Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Remember those chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal no-bake cookies when you were a kid? They were easy to make and oh-so-tasty to eat. And I don’t think we ever thought about the calories in them.

I found several versions of the no-bake cookies online. Most called for ½ cup butter, 2 cups sugar, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup cocoa powder, ½ cup peanut butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 3 cups quick-cooking oats. Not all the ingredients are “bad,” but added together, they make 230 calories a serving, if you can stop at two cookies (and who can stop at just two?). You’ll also get 14 milligrams of cholesterol. Who needs that, these days?

I have found a couple different versions of another no-bake cookie. These cookies don’t even need to be cooked at all, making them ideal for kids to make and for summertime, when no one wants to cook, anyway. They leave a lot of room for substitution, so you can add your favorite ingredients. And if you stop at just two cookies (as if!), you add only 162 calories to your daily intake (though this number will change, depending on what ingredients you actually use). You’ll also get about 5 grams of protein and no cholesterol.

Here is the basic recipe:


½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup soy protein (any brand, any flavor – it will determine the flavor of the cookie)
2 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds (I find these at Whole Foods) (Chia seeds or any other seeds work well, also)
½ cup slivered almonds (any nut can be used)
½ cup chocolate chips (though any flavor chip can be used or use dried fruit)
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup natural peanut butter (or any natural nut butter)


In a large bowl, mix everything together. It’s easier to mix if you use your hands. Shape into about 36 balls. Store in the refrigerator for about a week.

Makes 36 cookies.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast

I worked Saturday, and a client and I “invented” PB&J French Toast. It has probably been done 1,000 times before, but we thought we were really onto something. Since peanut butters and jellies differ greatly, this recipe can be as clean* as you want to make it.

Makes 6 servings


6 slices bread – whole grain makes the meal more healthful
6 eggs
1 cup milk – anything, regular, skim, almond milk, soy milk…whatever you would normally use
Peanut butter – or any nut butter…or any other PB substitute
Jelly – or jam…or preserves…any flavor
1 T or so of vegetable oil (or any cooking oil)


Whisk the eggs and milk. Make PB and J sandwiches. Heat the oil in a skillet or griddle. Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture and then fry until golden brown on both sides.

WAIT! There’s more! Instead of a sugary syrup, I made a fruit sauce to go on top of the French toast. It’s like applesauce, only I used several fruits, whatever we had on hand.



2 apples
2 oranges
2 bananas
8 strawberries
Agave nectar (or any sweetener…when I’m not being clean, I’ll choose brown sugar)


Peel and chop the fruits. Put into a medium saucepan. Add a little water, about ¼ cup (you can always add more, if needed). Heat and stir until the fruits are mushy – this can take 20 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on the fruits you choose. Add agave nectar and cinnamon to taste.

Eat warm or cold or use to top French toast, waffles, pancakes….

*”Clean” being preservative- and other extra junk-free.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to pull a party out of thin air

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I do direct care. I work in a group home, with adults with developmental disabilities. I help them live as normal a life as possible, so they can enjoy the things you and I enjoy. Parties are no exception, except at their parties, no adult beverages are served.

I’ve helped throw many parties, and I enjoy it almost as much as the clients do. However, sometimes I find myself in situations in which I have to create enough food for 10 or 15 people, and no one in the house has had a chance to do the grocery shopping before the big day.

Here is what I have done in such a situation:

I take stock of what food is in the house. Four or five potatoes. A box of macaroni. A few carrots. An onion or two. Several cans of beans. A smattering of other vegetables.

Salad! I’ll make salad! Salad is easy, and it’s a popular party food.

Some people ask me for my recipes. I don’t use any. I make it up as I go along, with whatever is available in the house. After you get over the initial panic, it’s quite easy to accomplish.

All you really need for potato salad are the potatoes. Chopped onion, celery, peppers, etc., are nice to throw in, too. Hard cook a few eggs, if available, and chop and toss them into the salad. For dressing, I use mayo and a little mustard. That’s my secret – really. But everyone loves my potato salad. And if I think of it, I’ll add a little of whatever McCormick herb blend is available.

For macaroni salad, I add a little of the onion, celery, peppers, carrots…whatever I add to the potato salad, I can add to the macaroni salad. And I use mayo and an herb blend as a dressing. Or I’ll change it up and use Italian salad dressing.

I make 3-bean salad (or 4-bean salad…or 5-bean salad…) out of the cans of beans. I use chick peas, garbanzo beans, whatever is available. And also toss in a can of green beans. I use either an Italian salad dressing or I’ll use oil, vinegar, and herbs as a dressing.

If there is cabbage, I’ll shred some of that with carrots and onion and add a little balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (or whatever vinegar and oil are available) and an herb blend (if there are enough herb blend varieties on hand, I chose a different one for each type of salad).

For some reason, I just can’t make salads wrong. I think some people think of me as the crazy salad lady.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fast food comes clean


Easy and delicious. A great alternative to fast food. I found the original recipe here, then tweaked it based on what was on hand.


2 slices whole wheat bread (or use 1 cup commercial Italian bread crumbs and omit the herb blend)
1 tsp. Italian herb blend (or another herb blend)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ cup butter, melted (next time, I’ll try extra virgin olive oil)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

Toast the bread and process into crumbs using a food processor or Magic Bullet. Blend Italian herb blend and Parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs. Place this mixture into a 1-quart storage bag.

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, about ½ inch cubes. Stir into melted butter. Add to bag with the bread crumb mixture. Close the bag and shake until chicken is coated. Spread chicken pieces in a single layer onto baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked.


Easy to make!


Red or white potatoes – allow 1 or 2 potatoes for each person
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Commercial herb blend (you can use salt instead, but the herb blends add flavor without the sodium; of course, you can also make your own blend)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Wash the potatoes and cut into “shoestrings,” the length of the potato and ¼ inch on the sides. Place into a bowl. Add a splash of EVOO and a teaspoon or so of herb blend. Toss well. Spread out onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked.