Banana Blueberry Muffins


Hello from sunny South Florida! My journey has brought me back to the sunshine state, working for an incredible organization, JM Family Enterprises (Southeast Toyota Finance) and living close to family and friends again. Life is good!

I stumbled upon this recipe months ago and as I normally do, altered it a bit, and have since, made these muffins four times now. They are delicious! My first time making them, I used Paleo flour and was short a banana, so added applesauce for additional moisture, and you would never know the difference in the flour. I now add applesauce every time I make them, which is included below. The last couple times, I added chocolate chips, simply because I love chocolate and find it’s a nice addition to the fruit, but you can certainly leave them out.

Recipe adapted from Spend With Pennies.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp. flour to toss with blueberries
  • 1 ½ cups flour (for non-grain, I recommend Bob Mills Paleo https://amzn.to/3zhssFt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup bananas, mashed (about 2 or 3, depending on size)
  • 8 tbsp. (4 oz.) applesauce (I prefer Mott’s cinnamon applesauce https://amzn.to/3Orvbkc)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste (my favorite/only kind I use, Nielsen-Massey https://amzn.to/3ocVAr1)
  • Sugar in the raw, sprinkled (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour, set aside.
  3. Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine bananas, applesauce, sugar, melted butter, egg, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. (don’t overmix)
  5. Gently fold in blueberries (and chocolate chips, if using)
  6. Divide batter evenly over muffin wells (I used two muffin tins with 6 muffin wells each).
  7. Sprinkle raw sugar on top of each muffin/batter (optional).
  8. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.

The nutritional information below does not include the 1 cup of chocolate chips. If added, the additional calories are 74, totaling 263 per serving.

Easy Baked Chicken Wings


Boiled & Baked Chicken Wings

I came across a great recipe for lower-guilt chicken wings back some months ago, and have been making them this way ever since. The fact that these come out crispy, are baked instead of fried, and are super easy to throw together, makes me love ’em even more. I do switch up the sauce at times, using one of my favorites from a wing place back home in Rochester, New York (Country Sweet Chicken and Ribs), and also just regular barbecue sauce and honey. Whether you use the sauce in this recipe, or your favorite, I think you’ll love this cooking method and how great these wings turn out.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken wings (I used wings & drumettes)
  • 1 cup peach jam
  • 2-3 tbsp. chili paste
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° and line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Trim off any extra fat from the chicken wings.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1-2 tablespoons of salt to the water.
  4. Place the chicken wings in the boiling water, and boil for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the wings from the water to a wire cooling rack placed over a baking pan. Let the wings dry for a few minutes before patting them dry with paper towels (the drier the chicken wings are before you begin to bake them, the crispier they will become).
  6. Place the chicken wings on the baking sheet in a single layer.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Flip the wings over, and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  8. In a large bowl, stir together the peach jam, chili paste and lime juice. Reserve half of the mixture in a separate bowl to be used as dipping sauce when you serve the wings.
  9. Place the hot chicken wings in the large bowl with the remaining sauce. Stir and toss to coat the wings completely with the sauce.
  10. Transfer the wings to a plate and serve with the reserved dipping sauce, blue cheese or ranch and some celery sticks, if desired.

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Buffalo Cheese Dip


I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and Happy 2015!! As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I receive a ton of recipes emailed to me on a regular basis from various online sources, and saw one I wanted to try, especially since the big “Game Day” is approaching and I know people are always looking for new dishes to serve up at Super Bowl parties. The great thing about this recipe (by Pillsbury) is there are only five ingredients; well, really four… one is an optional garnish. The one thing I did differently from the original is heating up the dip. I tried it both cold and hot, and in my personal opinion, it’s much better when warmed. You can also add some shredded chicken, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 4-5 oz. crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 cup Yoplait® Greek 100 plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup Buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (optional)

Directions

  1. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and all but 2 tablespoons of the blue cheese with electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds or until combined.
  2. Add yogurt and wing sauce; beat 30 seconds longer.
  3. Transfer to serving bowl. Top with 2 tablespoons reserved blue cheese and green onions. Drizzle with additional wing sauce, if desired.
  4. For the heated version, follow steps 1 & 2, transfer to a greased casserole dish, and cook in a preheated 350° oven for approximately 35 minutes or until hot. Stir, then top with the reserved blue cheese and green onions.
  5. Serve with celery sticks, carrot sticks, cauliflower, broccoli, tortilla chips, or chicken strips.

Yields 16 servings

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Almond Thin Cookies (aka Pain d’amonde)


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Around Christmas time, our office was overflowing with succulent treats from our vendors, which is how I discovered (and fell in love) with small crisp almond thin cookies from Jules Destrooper. I think I might have actually eaten half of the box. At that point, I was on a mad hunt to find these, and had planned on ordering some (okay, a dozen) when I found them. Thankfully, I came to my senses and resisted my urge as I knew the majority of them would remain in my house (and then consumed). Just recently, I started thinking (dreaming) of those delicious thins, and decided to see if I could find the recipe online. I came across two, and after reading the ingredients and directions, I chose to go with this one on David Lebovitz‘s site, which came from Flo Braker. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re not familiar with David or Flo!

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp.  butter, salted or unsalted, cubed
  • 1 1/3 cups coarse crystal golden sugar*
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 1/3 cups  flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched

* You should be able to find course crystal golden sugar in your local grocery store. I used Sugar in the Raw Natural Cane Turbinado Sugar.

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, and water. Stir until the butter just melts but don’t allow to boil: most of the sugar should not be dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the flour, baking soda, and almonds until well mixed.
  3. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap and press the dough into the pan so the top is smooth. Chill until firm.
  4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325°F.
  5. Using a very sharp chef’s knife, slice the dough crosswise, as thin as possible, into rectangles (I cut my rectangles in half). If you can get them as thin as a coin, all the better. The thinner they are, the more delicate and crisp they’ll be.
  6. Space the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cookies feel slightly firm and the undersides are golden brown. Flip the cookies over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are crisp and deep golden-brown on top. The baking times depend on how thin you cut the cookies.
  7. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

For storage: Once baked, the cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to three days. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days, or frozen for up to two months, if well-wrapped.

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Queso Blanco Dip


When I lived in Atlanta, I used to frequent a restaurant called La Fonda, that served a lick-the-bowl-clean queso dip which honestly, is one of the main reasons I would go there. I’ve yet to find a restaurant here in LA that comes remotely close, so I decided to try to duplicate it at home. Since it’s been about ten years since I’ve had that incredible dip, it’s hard for me to compare, but I can tell you this one is truly yummy!

Queso Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. White American cheese, cubed or broken into pieces (can be found behind the deli counter at most grocery stores)
  • 2 tbsp. diced green chiles
  • 1 pickled jalapeño, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño juice
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Pinch of ground cumin, optional

Directions

  1. Toss all ingredients into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring every minute. This will start out watery, but will form into a nice, runny dip. Be careful… the bowl will get hot.
  2. Serve immediately with chips.

Note: Microwave ovens vary, so this may take less or more than four minutes – mine took a little over three. 

Tip: The dip will thicken as it cools, so if you want to maintain the thinner consistency, keep it warm in a small crock pot on low.

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Baked Kale Chips


Baked Kale Chips

In keeping with the theme of my last post, I’m sharing this tasty little snack I made for a second time yesterday. I love that the kale gets crispy like potato chips, yet are so much healthier. There are numerous things you can add to them… lemon juice, paprika, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc., so go ahead and experiment!

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (about 6 oz.) kale
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Kale before baking

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs.
  3. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a bowl then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper for easier clean up).
  5. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until crisp.
  6. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

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Avocado Cilantro Hummus


What can I say about hummus… it’s yummy, healthy and now I know, super easy to make at home. There are so many variations to suit your taste buds, the possibilities are almost endless. Sweet potato, pumpkin, black bean, sun-dried tomato, roasted rep pepper… you get the idea. I think this recipe is great as is, but if you’re more of a lime person, feel free to substitute lime juice instead of lemon.

Avocado Cilantro Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted & roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Tahini
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
  • Ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans, avocado, cilantro, garlic, Tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Process until smooth. 
  2. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube in a slow steady stream, then add water, 1 tbsp. at a time until oil is incorporated and mixture is very creamy.
  3. Add cayenne, if using, and pepper to taste, and stir well.
  4. Serve with pita bread, chips and/or vegetables.

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Spicy Edamame


I’m a HUGE fan of sushi, and always have to order edamame as a starter whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant. One of my favorite sushi restaurants is Sashi in Manhattan Beach, which is where I went for my birthday dinner last year. Naturally, we had to get an order of their edamame, which was not your run-of-the-mill edamame, as it’s served 2 ways; with Indian spices and also, sea salt. The Indian-spiced batch was incredibly tasty, and since that time, I wanted to recreate something similar at home. I came across this spicy edamame recipe using Japanese 7 spice, and can’t begin to tell you how many batches of it I’ve made. Actually, I’m making some more right now! Japanese 7 spice, or Shichimi Togarashi in Japanese, is a blend of spices that contains red chili, seaweed, sansho pepper, orange peel, poppy seeds and white and black sesame seeds. It’s a popular table condiment in Japan, where it’s used to add heat and flavor to lots of different dishes. This is the original recipe I found, but will make a notation as to how I like to prepare it. I also like to dip the edamame in a spicy Japanese mayo, so I’ll include a link to that recipe as well.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb edamame
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp Japanese 7 spice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Japanese spicy mayo

Directions

  1. Cook edamame according to package directions & drain. (I like to add a little garlic and ginger powder to the water.)
  2. Place edamame in a large bowl. Add oil and toss to coat, adding more if needed.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients & mix together well.

For my version of this recipe, I eliminate the cayenne pepper and garlic, and add just a little bit of sugar. I love the combo of sweet & spicy.

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Healthy Snacks


I want to talk about snacks and give you some low-calorie options for when hunger strikes in-between meals. It’s a good idea to have a snack to keep your metabolism going and the ones listed here, are only about 150 calories each! So, whether you’re watching your weight or just need a little something to hold you over ’til lunch or dinner, these are all guilt-free and pretty tasty.

  • 1 oz. healthy nuts (47 pistachios or 24 almonds or peanuts)
  • 2 whole-grain crackers with 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup baby carrots with 1/2 cup hummus
  • 6 oz. nonfat yogurt with 1 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 3 cups popcorn (popped in 2 tsp canola oil)
  • 3/4 cup fresh pineapple with 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese
  • 1 cup fresh fruit with 1 part-skim string cheese
  • 1 cup whole-grain cereal (such as Cheerios) with 1/2 cup skim or 1% milk & 1/2 cup slice strawberries
  • English muffin pizza: 1/2 whole-grain English muffin with 1 tbsp tomato sauce & 1/2 oz low-fat mozzarella cheese (add green pepper and onion slices on top if you’d like)
  • 1 apple with 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal with sliced almonds (about 5) and 1/2 cup skim or 1% milk
  • 1 oz. low-fat cheese with 3 whole-wheat crackers
  • 1/2 small whole-wheat tortilla with 2 slices turkey (or tofurkey), 1 slice tomato and 1 small slice avocado
  • 12 whole-grain corn chips and 1/2 cup salsa
  • Fruit smoothie: 1 cup skim or 1% milk blended with 3/4 cup berries