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!

banana-bread

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

 

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Winter Wellness

Now that it’s getting chilly outside, it is easy to stay in bed in cozy pajamas with a warm cup of hot chocolate and hibernate.  I have lived in the Northeast my whole life and winter is still my least favorite season. I rarely get sick but when I do, it is always around this time of the year. Even though it may be tempting to hibernate indoors and be a couch potato all day, this is the time when our bodies need us to take care of them the most.

Don’t let the winter blues keep you from your sticking to your goals of staying healthy year-round. Not only do our immune systems take a hit during the winter (hello flu season), but we also tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, which also affects our physical and mental health.

Staying Active 

It can be tempting to take a break from exercising during the winter months but it is important to remember that getting used to skipping workouts can lead to some even harder changes when spring comes and you are trying to get back into shape.

While getting up to go to the gym may sound like the last thing you want to do on a cold winter day, there here are some ways you can still stay active.

  • Next time you meet up with friends, you can suggest a fun outing such as bowling, rock climbing or ice skating which involves some physical activity.
  • During the work day, you can take opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you need to do your holiday shopping, you can also get some steps in by walking around the mall.
  • If you’re inside your home, it’s the perfect time to get those household chores done. Remember that vacuuming, scrubbing, cleaning all involve some work!

Also, keep in mind that regular exercise is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, which is crucial during this time of the year. 

Eating Well

Getting sick during the holidays is not fun! Eating well can help maintain a healthy immune system, making it easier to fight off these yucky germs. Be sure to include foods in your day that are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc such as pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, oranges, peppers, strawberries, chicken, beans, fortified cereals, and whole grains. With the lack of sunlight during winter, we miss out on our sunshine vitamin! Less sunlight means less vitamin D, which means we need to be more diligent in supplementing or trying to get outside when the sun is out (more motivation for going outside in the cold!).

Have a happy and healthy holidays,

Joanna

Pecan Crusted Maple Dijon Salmon

During my recent trip to New Orleans, I found pecans almost everywhere I went, from pie to pralines and even on top of fish! After trying Commander’s Palace‘s classic (and delicious) pecan crusted gulf fish, I was inspired to whip up something of my own with a pecan crust on top. Pecans are rich in antioxidants and contain heart-healthy fat, fiber, protein, and magnesium. The contrast between the sweetness from the maple syrup, the tanginess from the mustard, and the crunchiness from the panko breadcrumbs makes it one of my favorite ways to eat salmon. This pecan crusted maple dijon salmon is bursting with flavor and only takes 12-15 minutes to cook in the oven!

pecan-crusted-salmon-2Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh salmon
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, maple syrup, and olive oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, pecans, and thyme.
  4. Cut salmon into 4 portions (4 ounces each). Pat dry with paper towel and season each fillet with salt and pepper.
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet and spread the maple-dijon mustard mixture on top of each piece of salmon. 
  6. Press the panko pecan mixture on top of each fillet.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes in the oven. You will know when it is ready if it flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy! 

Happy cooking,

Joanna

Fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin is another fall favorite of mine. It has a beautiful bright orange color (just like butternut squash!) thanks to the antioxidant beta carotene, important for immunity, and skin and eye health. It is also loaded with fiber and potassium. For this Thanksgiving, I whipped up some healthy fluffy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my family and they loved it! If you like soft, chewy cake-like cookies, this is the recipe for you!

pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies

Makes 16 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup chocolate chips, some more for sprinkling on top
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. Using a mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, greek yogurt, applesauce and pumpkin puree and beat until well mixed together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer. After cookie dough is well mixed, stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with additional chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly browned around the edges.
  7. Remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy!

Happy baking,

Joanna

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Happy fall and happy squash season! I look forward to the delicious sweet and nutty taste of butternut squash every year. This squash season I decided to put a twist on one of my favorite comfort foods, mac and cheese. Butternut squash is loaded with beta carotene (say hello to pretty hair and skin), vitamin C (to support a healthy immune system), and fiber (to get things moving along). Give your mac and cheese a nutritional boost by incorporating some butternut squash into it!
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Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces of whole wheat or regular elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound of butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup smoked gouda, shredded (you can use some cheddar or any cheese you like)
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add squash chunks. Reduce to a low simmer and cook until squash is soft, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the butternut squash is cooking, bring another pot of water to boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook until al dente, drain and set aside.
  3. When the butternut squash is done cooking, drain the water and mash squash with a potato masher or a fork.
  4. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and toast by stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Place a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and onions and cook for 2 minutes until softened. Add 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour, combine well together and slowly whisk in the chicken stock, squash puree, and then milk. Slowly stir in grated cheeses and season with cracked black pepper.
  6. Gently fold in the cooked elbow macaroni into the pan with the cheese sauce and toss to combine well. Top with toasted panko breadcrumbs, divide, and dig in!

Happy fall,

Joanna

Parmesan Cauliflower Patties

I’ve always been a huge fan of cauliflower and my love for it grew over the years as I discovered more and more ways to prepare it. I was playing around in the kitchen and figured I would give these cauliflower patties a try, which are similar to my zucchini patties from last year. Thankfully, they turned out pretty well! Great when served over a bed of greens or as an appetizer!

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Makes 12 patties
Ingredients
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
 Scallion Yogurt sauce
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
 Directions
  1.  Bring about 1/4 inch of water to a boil in a large pan. Add cauliflower and cover and steam for 8-10 minutes until soft.
  2. Dump the cauliflower into a towel and squeeze as much water as you can of out it.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher.
  4. Mix in eggs, scallions, parsley, parmesan cheese, garlic, the two flours, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and drop about 1/4 cup of the cauliflower mixture, press them flat and cook for 2-3 minutes each side.
  6. To make scallion yogurt sauce, combine greek yogurt, parsley, scallions, and garlic.
  7. Top patties with a dollop yogurt sauce and serve patties over a bed of greens or as an appetizer!
Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. It can be prepared in many different ways, from curries to soups to patties!
Happy cooking,
Joanna

Berry Greek Yogurt Popsicles

Happy summer!! All I can think about in this summer heat is cooling off with a creamy refreshing treat in my hand. Here is a recipe for my new favorite summer treat 🙂 These protein-packed berry greek yogurt popsicles will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also keep you cool on a hot summer day. They are the perfect healthy treat and also super easy to make!

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Berry Greek Yogurt Popsicles

Makes 6 popsicles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)
  • honey 
  • 1 cup of plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of milk

Directions

  1. Combine the berries and a drizzle of  honey in a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth, leaving small chunks of fruit behind.
  2. Whisk together yogurt and milk and a drizzle of honey for some sweetness. Look to make sure that the consistency of the yogurt is thin enough to be pourable.
  3. Spoon 1 teaspoon of yogurt at the bottom of each popsicle mold. Then add a scoop of the berry mixture and continue alternating until the molds are filled. Insert popsicle sticks into each mold and place them in the freezer. Freeze until solid and enjoy on a hot summer day!

Tip: Run popsicle molds under hot running water for a few seconds to easily remove them from their molds!

Happy Summer,

Joanna