Strawberry Lemon Yogurt Cake     

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Happy June! Summer is almost here, which means… it’s strawberry season! During my visit to the farmer’s market this weekend I bought a quart of fresh strawberries and decided to use it to in my baking. This cake is the perfect dessert to celebrate summer, bursting with fresh lemon and strawberry flavors. The addition of Greek yogurt and applesauce makes this cake extra moist. It is ideal for spring and summer time when you are looking for a healthy and light treat!

Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour + 3 tablespoons, divided
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup of Greek vanilla yogurt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of diced strawberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Spray cooking spray around the edges of a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the two flours, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and applesauce.
  4. Slowly whisk the dry flour mixture into the yogurt mixture and mix until well incorporated.
  5. Toss strawberries in 3 tablespoons of flour and add into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes, until a toothpick is placed in the center and it comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool before serving!

Happy Baking,

Joanna

Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Carrots

Lentils are a pantry essential in my kitchen and my favorite vegetarian and vegan-friendly source of protein. They are very versatile and can be incorporated into soups, salads, burgers, meatballs, and chilis. Do not underestimate these tiny legumes for they are loaded with fiber, protein, folate, and iron. One cup of boiled lentils packs on 18 grams of protein and a whopping 16 grams of fiber! When combined with my favorite roasted vegetables, lentils complete this dish for a hearty and healthy meal.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pounds brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 5 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup of dry green lentils
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease the bottom of a sheet pan with cooking spray. Spread brussels sprouts and carrots evenly on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast until tender and browned, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the vegetables are roasting, combine lentils with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Check up on it after 20 minutes and continue to add water as needed to make sure the lentils are covered.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting and the lentils are cooking, toast the sliced almonds.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and spread the almonds out. Stir the pan frequently until almonds are lightly browned. Set aside.
  5. To make the dressing, whisk the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil together in a bowl.
  6. After draining the lentils, toss the dressing in and stir until the lentils are well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When the vegetables are done roasting, toss them with the lentils, season with salt and pepper, and top with toasted almonds. Serve immediately while it’s still warm!

Happy Cooking,

Joanna

Chicken Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

Leafy greens are a refreshing alternative to a wrap or a bun. These chicken quinoa lettuce wraps are easy to make and can be served as a main course or as a starter. They are also a great portable lunch option- you can pack the filling and lettuce leaves separately and assemble the wraps at work. The lettuce leaves add a nice crisp and refreshing taste and go great with the warm and flavorful chicken filling. I also chose to add in some quinoa for a nutrient boost. Half a cup of dry quinoa packs in 14g of protein, 4g of fiber, and also magnesium, potassium, and iron! Quinoa works great in these wraps because they are small enough to be mixed well into the chicken mixture and also adds a chewy texture to the filling.

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Serves 4-5 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • Iceberg or Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • Canola oil or cooking spray
  • 1 pound of ground chicken
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushroom, diced
  • 6 stalks of scallions, sliced

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the quinoa (this will help get rid of its bitter coating) and bring 1/2 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil. Reduce heat and let cook for 15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside and let it stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray or a drizzle of canola oil. Add chicken and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and combine well. Add the soy sauce mixture and continue stirring the ingredients until well incorporated. Add the mushroom and white scallions. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked quinoa and half of the green onions to the pan and mix together.
  6. To serve, fill each lettuce leaf with several spoonfuls of the chicken mixture and top with remaining green onions. You can also place a pile of lettuce leaves on a plate along with the chicken mixture in a bowl so guests can serve themselves. 

Happy cooking,

Joanna

Easy Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad

This salad is one my favorites to prepare and pack for work because it is just so easy to put together! Many tuna salads call for spoonfuls of mayonnaise but this one uses dill, balsamic vinegar, and honey to add flavor to the tuna and beans. The cannellini beans and tuna both contain protein to keep you full and the tuna packs in those heart-healthy omega-3s. Served over a bed of greens, this easy salad makes for a satisfying and filling lunch.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 five ounce can of chunk light tuna in water, drained well
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine tuna, beans, bell peppers, and dill. Fold together until well combined.
  3. Drizzle dressing over the tuna mixture and toss gently to combine well. 
  4. Serve over your favorite greens!

 

Staying Healthy When Dining Out

Going out to eat at a restaurant does not mean you have to give up your healthy habits to enjoy your meal. With the many temptations and smells surrounding you in a restaurant, it can get difficult trying to stick to your plan. Here are some ways to help you stay on track with those health goals when you dine out.

1) Prepare ahead of time

Reading over the menu before going to the restaurant gives you an idea of what you are going to be faced with so when you arrive, you have a plan. Looking through it will give you more time to carefully explore your options and to choose a couple of healthy items you may order when you get there. Most chain restaurants will even have their nutrition information on their website.

2) Know your menu lingo

When reading the menu, look for the words baked, grilled, roasted, light, boiled, steamed, poached. These are usually items that are not cooked in a lot of oil or butter. Steer clear of the words fried, buttered, pan fried, au gratin, creamed, crispy. These items are usually prepared with a lot of fat. 

3) Ask your server for some options

When you arrive at the restaurant, you already have an idea of what you may order because you looked it over ahead of time. However, you can always ask servers for their recommendation. You can say something along the lines of, “What would you recommend if I am looking for something lighter?” or “What are some of the healthier items on your menu?”

If your entree comes with sides, do not be afraid to ask the server if you can swap the fries for baked potato, steamed or roasted vegetables, or a side salad. In some cases, they may even be able to double the vegetables and replace the potatoes altogether.

When ordering items that come with sauces or dressings, ask for them on the side so you can control how much you want to add.

4) Be the first to order

You have your healthy choice in your head now that you have spent quite some time to plan ahead. However, your friend orders first and orders the crispy chicken and then it’s your turn. Do you reconsider your meal choice or stick with it? Your eating behaviors are highly influenced by those around you so to avoid the temptation, place your order first!

5) Hold the bread basket

Ask the server to hold the bread basket. If you want something to munch on while you wait, start with a salad to share to fill up on leafy greens before the main course arrives.

6) Choose one treat for the night

Pick only one treat to indulge in. Whether it is an appetizer, the bread basket, a drink, or dessert, truly savor every bite of your treat. However, remember to only stick with one treat, so be choosy!

Next time you are out, try these tips to make healthier choices and don’t let eating out sabotage your efforts for staying healthy!

Happy Dining out,

Joanna

Turkey Spinach Meatballs

After a long day, all I wish for is a yummy, quick, and easy recipe to whip up in the kitchen. This hearty recipe is not only delicious (yay for comfort food) but also will be ready in minutes! Because these meatballs are baked, it saves a lot of time. While they were baking, I was cleaning up and ta-da all done! I was ready to sit down and enjoy my meal. I wasn’t sure if spinach would be acceptable in a meatball but I gave it a try and my taste testers loved them! I served these with marinara sauce over whole wheat pasta (I didn’t have any spaghetti at home but penne worked just fine) and sprinkled the meatballs with parmesan cheese.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 stalks green onion, finely sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions 

  1. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat and cook the spinach until wilted. Set aside and let cool. After it is cooled down, use paper towels and squeeze the spinach until all the excess water has been drained out.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, parsley, oregano, turkey, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, green onion, and egg. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out the mixture and form into balls (you should have about 24).
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet, leaving a little space in between each meatball.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven and serve with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce.

Happy cooking,

Joanna

Banana Bread

One of my favorite desserts is a warm slice of banana bread. Not only does it smell amazing when it is baking in the oven, but also is super easy to make! Here is my lighter version of this classic. I made this during the holidays and it was a crowd pleaser!

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Serves 10

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional chopped nuts or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time until well combined. Then add the bananas and applesauce, beat until incorporated well.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the two flours, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture into the banana mixture. Stir on low, add vanilla and any optional additions (nuts or chocolate chips) you decide to use.  
  5. Stir on low until just combined together. 
  6. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, cut into slices and enjoy!

Happy baking,

Joanna