Sunday, January 27, 2013

Healthy Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

"Cold" does not even begin to describe the weather we've been experiencing here in the northeast. I feel like I'm on Survivor. I'm considering making t-shirts that say "I survived Winter 2013," if I indeed make it through. It's that bad.

Just hearing the weatherman say it "feels like" -14F outside (yes, negative 14F, not just 14F) makes me want to hide under the covers. Like, all day. Unfortunately, we all typically can't enjoy such luxuries. So, naturally, we need something to coax us out of our warm hideaways and face the day. 


And, so, when my friends at Kretschmer Wheat Germ and Stonyfield Oikos Greek Yogurt asked me to give them a try, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to create a nice, hearty and healthy bowl of spicy chili. Packed with tons of nutrients and topped with some of your favorite shredded cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt, this chili is the perfect way to warm your bones.

Did you know that wheat germ is essentially a superfood? Derived from the most nutrient rich part of the wheat kernel, wheat germ is an excellent source of nutrients including vitamin E, the B vitamins, and folic acid. Aiding in everything from muscle function, to red blood cell production, to digestive tract health, wheat germ packs big benefits in a small, 50 calorie package.  Wheat germ even supports a healthy nervous system which can lower anxiety levels and improve mood!

Needless to say, I was shocked to learn about exactly how much value such a seemingly innocent ingredient could bring to a recipe, and decided to incorporate it into the mother of all comfort foods: chili. Along with its long list of nutritional benefits, the wheat germ added another layer of flavor and brought a heartier texture to the chili. And, instead of using a high-in-fat sour cream topper, the Greek yogurt brings the same tanginess, along with tons of protein, calcium and probiotics, too!

I opted out of adding meat to this batch, but if vegetarian isn't up your alley, you can easily add in some ground beef or turkey. From the wheat germ, to the array of veggies, to the healthy Greek yogurt topping, this recipe is loaded with guilt-free flavor. To boot, leftovers travel well to the office for an easy microwavable lunch! 

So, if you're suffering through these bitterly cold days as I am, give this chili a try. I think it might be the only reason I haven't turned into a snowman (er, snow-woman). ;)

Healthy Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium green pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium stalks celery, diced (about ¾ cup)
1 medium carrot, diced (about ¾ cup)
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, not packed in oil (about 15)
1 medium jalapeño, diced (about 1/2 cup) (optional, depending on how spicy you like your food)
1 15oz can low sodium dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can low sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste depending on how spicy you like your food
1 teaspoon paprika
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste depending on how spicy you like your food
½ cup wheat germ
Garnish: freshly grated cheese and Greek yogurt, if desired


Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, celery, and carrots and sauté until soft and onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add in the grape and sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, diced jalapeño, beans, and vegetable broth. Stir to combine.

Mix in salt, oregano, cayenne pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Cover and bring to chili to a bowl and then lower to a medium heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes, uncovered.

Stir in wheat germ and remove from heat.

Serve in bowls garnished with freshly grated cheese and Greek yogurt.

Serves about 8 people.

*While I did receive coupons for complementary Kretschmer Wheat Germ and Stonyfield Oikos Greek Yogurt, these opinions are honest and entirely my own.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Healthy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh. my. gosh.

You guys, these cookies are just too darn delicious to be "healthy." I know what you're thinking. Healthy twists on dessert don't usually present a lot of finger-licking goodness in the taste test department, but these cookies are the ultimate exception.

Can we talk about their gooey texture, packed perfectly with the flavors of nutty oats, walnuts and whole wheat, rich dark chocolate, and bright, fruity craisins? Not to mention, you're experiencing all of this amazingness for about 100 calories per cookie.

No, I'm not kidding.

I know whole wheat flour isn't a standard pantry staple, but you can pick up a bag of it for about the same price as regular all-purpose flour at almost any grocery story. And, just think of all the delectable whole-wheat-flour based treats you can create with your new fancy bag of way-better-for-you flour?! The possibilities are seriously endless.

Or, you could just whip up like a bajillion of these cookies. I wouldn't count that outside the realm of possibility. They're that good.

Seriously. Go pick up some whole wheat flour, warm up your oven, rev your mixer and pour yourself a nice tall glass of milk. Prepare to be astounded by the magic of (gasp! dare I say it...) healthy baking. :)

Healthy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup craisins

Heat oven to 375°. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon. 
In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. 
Blend flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts and craisins. 
Drop 20 dough balls (1 tbsp each) onto 2 ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. 
Bake until golden brown, about 9 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to foil to cool fully.
(~100 calories per cookie, 6g fat (3 g saturated), 11g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g protein)
Recipe adapted from

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Happy New Year, everyone! My deepest apologies for my inexcusably long hiatus from this neck of the woods. Just as I predicted, the holidays struck with a vengeance, and just as quickly as they arrived, they seemed to be gone in a poof of festively cut-out sugar cookies, shreds of wrapping paper, holiday parties and an embarrassing number of viewings of "Elf." I wouldn't have it any other way, though. To me, that's what the holidays are all about. :)

My family and I ended the year on the beautiful beaches of Marco Island, Florida and indulged in all of the joys vacation brings: family time, fabulous food and drink, sun and sand, more amazing food and drink... did I mention we like to eat? The restaurant tour de Southwest Florida left me feeling a little less than in fighting shape upon arriving back in the real world to kick off 2013. So, while a healthy diet and regular exercise have always been an important part of my lifestyle, I vowed to kick things up a notch this year, not only to recover from our indulgent trip, but also to challenge myself to be a better me in 2013.

I know what you're thinking. This is sounding an awful lot like a new year's resolution. I, for one, think that's just a matter of semantics. Anyone at anytime can decide to make a change for the better; we don't need a new year (hence my idea to add sliced almonds to my greek yogurt this morning -- can't believe I've been missing out on this genius addition all this time!). To me, the idea of a "new year's resolution" comes with a whole lot of pressure and tends to bring out the crazy in people. So, instead, I'm just opting for a better balance in all aspects of life for not only this year, but for years to come. Be it nutritional, social, spiritual, physical, professional, mental or personal balance, I'm aiming for a better balanced me in 2013. Now, doesn't that have a nice ring to it? 

And because I'm all about balance these days, that means I'm not ruling anything out -- specifically, including such beautiful and delicious dessert entities as cake. In fact, I might argue that I am as pro-cake as you can get. Especially when there is celebrating to be done. So, naturally, when I was invited to a dinner party in honor of a variety of celebratory occasions last weekend, I knew it was time for a cake. This decision may or may not have also been heavily influenced by the fact that I received a brand new, raspberry colored KitchenAid mixer for Christmas (OMG!), and so of course, I had raspberries and delicious whipped things on the brain.

Behold, my homemade Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream. For us folks suffering through the frigid gray of winter these days, this refreshing and spring-inspired dessert is way cheaper than therapy, or one of those crazy UV lamps that are supposed to recreate the happiness of summer within your living room (not that I've considered purchasing one or anything). And, I'm thinking it's much more enjoyable than any of those anti-winter blues options, too. This cake is moist, yet dense in texture, somewhat like a pound cake. Its buttery flavors are perfectly paired with the sweet and light raspberry buttercream to create a match made in fruity cake heaven. So, dust off your mixer, pick up some fresh lemons and raspberries and prepare for a delicious ray of sunshine to enter your kitchen. I have a feeling you won't regret it. 
And, for all of you new year's resolution dieters still going strong, congratulations! Give yourself a break and celebrate with a sliver of cake. Remember: balance. :)

Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream


For the Lemon Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the Raspberry Buttercream:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or to desired consistency and taste)
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Additional fresh raspberries, for garnish-if desired


For the Lemon Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray an 8 inch cake pan with non stick cooking spray, and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition (batter will look curdled).

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture alternately with the lemon juice, mixing until you have a smooth batter. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Bake about 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cake will be dry.) Place on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then gently remove the cake from the pan. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

For the Raspberry Buttercream:

In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries. 

Place butter, half of the powdered sugar, and raspberry puree into mixing bowl. Beat over low speed until well-blended. Add the other half of the sugar, increase speed to medium. Mix until light and fluffy.

Frost cooled cake with the raspberry buttercream and garnish the cake with fresh raspberries, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Please excuse the iPhoneography in this post. My lovely DSLR promises to make its comeback in the next post. Check back soon!

Pin It button on image hover