Apple Carrot Breakfast Cake

apple-carrot-cake-blogCake for breakfast? Why not…muffins are just naked cupcakes. This moist cake is made with whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce and grated carrots. Most muffin/cake recipes call for a cup or more of sugar. This cake gets most of its sweetness from the applesauce and carrots, so there is only 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Feel free to substitute honey for the brown sugar. I used vanilla Greek yogurt for frosting, but butter, almond butter, or apple butter would be delicious on top as well. Don’t limit this cake for breakfast time either.. it would make a scrumptious dessert, especially if served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9″ round cake pan.

In a large bowl whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In a small bowl mix the applesauce, eggs, oil, and vanilla together.

Combine the applesauce mixture with the dry ingredients. Fold in the grated carrot and nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm or let cool and top with vanilla Greek yogurt.

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Pineapple Sweet Potato Teriyaki Chicken and Rice

pineapple-sweet-potato-teriyaki-chicken

I love fresh pineapple! Sprouts had some on sale for $1 last weekend. When I buy fresh pineapple it is usually green and under-ripe. In order to determine if the pineapple is ripe, some people recommend pulling a leaf from the center of the pineapple. If the leaf comes out easily, the fruit is ripe. I’ve never really found that technique helpful. When I select a pineapple, I pick one that feels heavy for its size. Pick up several pineapples and compare them in weight. Next, look at the bottom of the pineapple. If you see mold (fuzzy white stuff) on the bottom in the center of the fruit, avoid it. The fruit will taste funny. If the pineapple is still pretty green when you buy it, take it home and leave it on your counter for a few days. It may take up to a week to ripen. You will know it is ripe when the skin has turned a brownish gold color and the fruit smells sweet. It is hard to wait for those golden delicious beauties to ripen, but trust me, the fruit will be so much sweeter!

When it is time to cut the pineapple, I start by placing the fruit upright on a cutting board. With my left hand, I hold the pineapple at the top at the base of the leaves. Starting from the top, I trim off the skin in big chunks, trying to leave as much fruit as possible but cutting out the prickly eyes. Don’t worry if you don’t all of the eyes, you can cut those out later. When the skin is off, I turn the pineapple on to its side and trim off the bottom. Finally, I decide whether I want to slice the pineapple into rings or spears. (If you want the fibrous center of the pineapple removed, cut it in spears.) If you slice the pineapple into rings, leave the top of the pineapple on and slice the pineapple horizontally into rings. If you slice the pineapple into spears, trim the top off first. Then return the fruit to a vertical position. Locate the fibrous center of the pineapple. Cutting as close to the center as possible, run your knife from top to bottom, creating a rectangular shaped cut. Turn the pineapple 90 degrees and cut again. Do this until you have 4 rectangular slices of pineapple, and only the pineapple core remains. Discard the core. Slice the rectangular pineapple pieces into spears.

Whatever you do, don’t throw those pineapple skins away!!! One day I thought, “Man, I wish there was a way to use these pineapple skins.” Even if you trim the pineapple as close to the skin as you can, you lose some fruit. I was making a pan of chicken teriyaki that night, and I had this great idea. I lay the pineapple skins fruit side down over the chicken before baking. While the chicken baked, the juices left in the pineapple skins oozed out tenderizing and sweetening the chicken. Oh, my! I will never throw those pineapple skins away again!

Today I share my recipe for Pineapple Sweet Potato Teriyaki Chicken and Rice. Unlike most teriyaki chicken recipes, this one derives its sweetness from the pineapple juice and sweet potatoes instead of a cup of sugar. Serve this over brown rice for a yummy meal. Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, but the flavor and juices from the dark meat of chicken thighs really adds depth to the dish.

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3lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger or fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. sriracha (optional, but it only adds a little heat)
1 fresh, ripe pineapple, cut into chunks, skins reserved
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
2 cups uncooked brown rice (I like short grain brown rice, but long grain is good too.)

Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.While the rice cooks, prepare the chicken.

Place the chicken thighs on the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sriracha. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Add the cubed sweet potatoes and pineapple chunks to the pan. Arrange the pineapple skins, fruit side down, over the chicken. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft. Serve over the brown rice.

*This recipe can be prepared the night before, refrigerated, and baked the next day. The chicken will really soak up the flavor of the marinade.

Pumpkin Cornbread

pumpkin-cornbread

Cornbread…chili’s perfect companion. If you haven’t learned this already, I think that pumpkin makes almost everything better, and cornbread is no exception! I love this cornbread because it is made with whole grains, low in sugar, and low in fat. This moist cornbread goes great with a pat of butter, some of Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, or some homemade maple butter.

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk (or milk of choice with 1 TBSP lemon juice added)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 cup pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square baking pan.
2. In a small bowl combine cornmeal and buttermilk. Let the cornmeal soak for at least 10 minutes, even longer is better. Sometimes I will mix the cornmeal and buttermilk together in the morning and put it in the fridge until I am ready to bake the cornbread at dinner time.
3. In a large bowl whisk together whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt.
4. To the cornmeal mixture add eggs, oil and pumpkin. Stir until well combined.
5. Add the cornmeal/pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
7. Let the bread cool for 5-10 minutes (if you can wait that long) before cutting.

Pumpkin Chili

pupmkin-chili

Fall is here, and that means pumpkin is flavoring everything! To say that I am a fan of pumpkin is an understatement! When I was at Sprouts last week I discovered they had pumpkin spice chicken sausage. What???? I was quite curious, and I am a sucker for anything pumpkin, so I bought 2 links. When I got home and looked on the internet for recipes using pumpkin chicken sausage the first Google results were all about how the pumpkin craze has gone too far. Delish had an article called “13 Pumpkin Spice Abominations That Will Make You Gag!” I have to admit that I was scared to try the pumpkin sausage after that, but I am not one to waste things, and I hadn’t even tried the stuff. I decided to use it in place of ground turkey in one of my favorite pumpkin chili recipes. You know what? It was delicious!!! The flavor of the sausage was mild. It was the perfect addition to the chili.

Today I share my favorite chili recipe with you. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, is full of veggies, low in fat, and full of flavor. The recipe is mild enough that kids like it, but you can easily spice it up by adding more chili powder or a chopped jalapeno. If you don’t feel like trying the pumpkin spice chicken sausage, use ground turkey. If you are craving a bowl of hearty chili, this recipe will not disappoint!

Ingredients:

1 TBSP olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or 1 pound pumpkin spiced chicken sausage (with casing removed)
1 green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (or just plaine diced tomatoes to reduce the spiciness)
1 can pumpkin puree or 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Add the tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat. Add the ground turkey or sausage (Squeeze the sausage out of the casing directly into the pot). Add green pepper and onion. Cook until the meat is browned and the veggies are slightly softened. Add minced garlic and cook for one more minute.

Next add beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, and spices. Give it a good stir and let the chili simmer until it is nice and thick (about 15-20 minutes).

Top with green onions and sour cream, if desired.

Serve with Pumpkin Cornbread.

 

Weekly Sales, October 5-11

Albertsons

Mini Carrots $0.99
Avocados $0.89 each
Cabbage $0.49/lb
Russet Potatoes, 10lb bag $0.99 (limit 2)

USDA Choice Beef Bottom Round Roast or Top Round London Broil $2.99
93% Lean Ground Beef $3.99/lb (must buy 3 lbs or more)
Signature Farms Chicken Drumsticks, Thighs, or Leg Quarters

Mountain High Dairy Yogurt 2/$5
Balance, Clif Trial Mix, Warrior Chia, Larabar or Zone Perfect Nutrition Bars $0.89
Bob’s Red Mill Line 25% off
Hall’s Cough Drops 3/$5

Buy 4, save $2 sale (prices below reflect the discount if bought in multiples of 4) Continue reading

Grocery Sales, September 28-October 4

There aren’t very many good sales this week. This is the perfect time to use up a few things in your freezer and pantry.

King Soopers

Boneless Chuck Roasts $2.99/lb
Hormel Natural Choice Bacon $3.99 (with digital coupon)
Jennie-O Ground Turkey $3.99/lb

Peaches $0.99/lb
Honeycrisp or SweeTango Apples $1.88/lb
Pie Pumpkins 2/$3
Iceberg Lettuce $0.99
Winter Squash $0.79/lb
Organic Whole Carrots $1.49 for a 2 pound bag
Seedless Mandarins $3.99, 3 pound bag

Continue reading

Perfect Pasta

pasta

I grew up on pasta. My blood is probably red from all of the spaghetti sauce I’ve eaten in my time. Noodles have been a staple for centuries, and many cultures around the world have their own version-German Spaetzle, Greek Orzo, Chinese Ramen, or Polish Pierogies.  Lately, pasta has gotten a bad rap. First from the anti-carbohydrate crusade and then from the gluten-free craze. Like any starch, pasta raises blood sugar, but I believe it can still be part of a healthy diet. Pasta is a relatively inexpensive starch. It is a great item to have in your food storage. Each serving has 7-8 grams of protein, and you can buy some really yummy whole grain versions.

Here are some tips for incorporating pasta into a healthy and budget friendly diet.

1. Choose the right pasta. The best pasta is made with 100% durum wheat semolina. Costco sells a great brand of organic spaghetti called Garofalo, and it costs around $1.26 per 1 pound package.garofalo

I also I like Ronzoni Healthy Harvest. This brand will go on sale for $0.50/box about 2 times a year at King Soopers. When it goes on sale I stock up! It has a mild flavor and great texture compared to some of the other whole wheat pastas I’ve tried.rz_healthy_harvest_spaghetti_right

2. Choose the right noodle. Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Orrechette…the list goes on and on. According to wonderopolis.org, there are about 350 different shapes of pasta in the world, and about 4 times that many different names for those shapes! To choose the right shape, just follow this simple rule: the thicker/creamier the sauce, the flatter the noodle you want. That is why creamy alfredo sauce is often served over Fettuccine. Thinner pastas like angel hair are best for olive oil sauces or thin tomato sauce. Also, the more ridges a pasta has, the more it will soak up the sauce, so use tubular shaped pastas like ziti or rigatoni for thick tomato/ragu style sauces. Small shapes are best for soups or salads. Bon Appetite has a great overview of how to choose pasta here.

3. Cook it Right. If you are not watching your sodium intake, add about a tablespoon of salt to the cooking water before you add your pasta. This is the only way to add flavor to the pasta itself. Cook the pasta according to package directions. The key is to test the pasta frequently to avoid the noodles turning into mush. When you can bite all the way through the noodle, but it is still firm, the pasta is done. This is referred to as “al dente.”

*Some studies have shown that when you eat your pasta “al dente” you feel satisfied sooner than if the pasta is overcooked and soft.

Drain the pasta immediately after it is cooked, but reserve a cup full of the starchy cooking water before you drain the pasta (keep this in case you need to add some additional moisture to your pasta later). If you leave the pasta in the water, it will continue cooking and turn to mush.

If you are not serving the immediately, or if you have leftover pasta, you can add a little bit of olive oil to the pasta to keep the noodles from sticking. However, the oil will also decrease the amount of sauce that will stick to the noodles.

4. Don’t sauce until you serve! Ever make a big pot of spaghetti, dump the sauce on top, and mix it all together? That is fine if you are going to eat all of the pasta in one sitting, but what happens if you put the leftovers into the refrigerator? That spaghetti loses its flavor and dries out by the next day. I’ve found that if you keep the leftover sauce and noodles separate until you serve, the sauce stays on top of the noodle making it easier for your taste buds to pick up the flavor. Plus, you will use less sauce. You will use about 25-50% less sauce if you wait to add the sauce. Cha-Ching!

5. Freeze the leftovers. Did you know that you can freeze pasta? The trick is keeping the noodles as firm as possible before they are frozen because when they are reheated, they will get softer. Also, freeze the sauce and the noodles separately if possible. Here is a great tutorial on freezing pasta.

All of this talk about pasta is making me hungry! Growing up my mom would let us choose what we wanted her to make for our birthday dinner. My choice was almost always some type of pasta, from mom’s prize winning lasagna, to spaghetti, or fettuccine alfredo with chicken, tomatoes, and green onions. When we would visit my Italian grandparents there was almost always a pot of spaghetti to go with Grandma’s chicken cacciatorre. My cousin, Jill, introduced me to the beauty of eating plain spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese. Today my children love bowtie noodles (farfalle) with alfredo sauce and peas. A couple of years ago my family started a tradition of making homemade ravioli for Christmas Eve dinner. I don’t think I’ve met a noodle that I didn’t like. What is your favorite way to eat pasta?