Healthier Hummingbird Muffins

There’s this divine, mouth-watering cupcake place not too far from my office that first turned me onto “hummingbird” baked goods. Their scrumptious hummingbird cupcakes are filled with fresh banana, pineapple chunks, and vanilla – three of my favorite flavors. For the sake of my skinny jeans, I only allow myself to pass through this cupcake place very rarely and let myself have a hummingbird cupcake as a treat. So when I saw a recipe for hummingbird muffins in one of my running magazines, I jumped at the opportunity of making a more figure-friendly version of one of my favorite indulgences (in fact, I went to the grocery store at 7:00 a.m. the next morning to get a couple ingredients I didn’t have just so I could make them that day).

These hummingbird muffins absolutely fill the craving for a sweet, delicious treat without any of the guilt. I swap sugar for Splenda in this recipe, and I top them with oats and nuts instead of frosting like their cupcake counterparts. Healthier honey and fruits ratchet the sweetness factor up many notches, so it’s an easy swap for a tempting donut or danish. Plus, baking these in cupcake tins makes this the perfect breakfast to go. Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee and get your morning off to a delicious, healthy start!

Delicious, sweet, and much better for you than any donut!

Delicious, sweet, and much better for you than any donut!

What you’ll need:

For the muffins:

  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup crushed, drained pineapple
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the crumble:

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (not instant)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon margarine, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and honey in a large bowl, microwave at 50% power for about 45 seconds and then stir.

This is what your honey-sugar mixture should look like after it's heated and combined.

This is what your honey-sugar mixture should look like after it’s heated and combined.

Whisk in eggs one at a time until smooth. Add oil and applesauce and whisk. Add fruits and vanilla and whisk again. The mixture should be mostly smooth with only small chunks of banana and pineapple. Set this mixture aside.

In another mixing bowl, combing flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and pecans.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly.

In a separate bowl, combine all the crumble ingredients and set aside.

This is what your crumble should look like.

This is what your crumble should look like.

Prep two cupcake trays with nonstick spray or liners (I used liners). Lesson learned when I made these – they’re really sticky so if you decide to go the spray route, make sure you spray the pan really well! Fill each cup about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.

I like cooking these in cupcake tins so that I can have 1, or even 2 if I'm extra hungry, without feeling guilty.

I like cooking these in cupcake tins so that I can have 1, or even 2 if I’m extra hungry, without feeling guilty.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


**Need to do something else with those steel-cut oats? Try out my Perfect Oatmeal or my Overnight Oatmeal with Bananas and Coconut Milk.

Mom’s Crazy Chili

Nothing sounds better on a freezing cold night than a big bowl of chili. It’s warm, hearty, delicious comfort food – but it can be healthy comfort food! The best thing about chili is that you can pretty much add whatever ingredients you want as long as you have the basics: meat, beans, beer, and the right spices (that’s right: beer).

I may be biased, but I believe my mom makes the best chili. When I called her to ask her for the recipe (for about the 15th time), she replied, “Well, I just add a little of this and a little of that.” I asked, “Well do you know how much chili powder or cumin you add?” She answered, “I add enough to make it taste good.” So I improvised. That’s why I call it my mom’s crazy chili recipe – there really isn’t any set recipe. But those basics I mentioned are in there, and that’s the key. I also truly believe that beer is the secret ingredient to setting this one over the top.

I’m going to break down necessary ingredients and optional ingredients. I’ll also give you healthy and indulgent options. Lastly, you can make this either on the stove or in the crock pot, so I’ll give you both options there, too. However, there is one area where you don’t have an option: you cannot make just a little bit of chili. You have to make a giant pot. But that’s a good problem to have because chili makes the best leftovers!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it’s delicious.

What you’ll need:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1.25 pounds ground meat – use ground turkey for a healthier option, but I love the taste of ground beef.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic – not necessary to have fresh garlic, but garlic in general is necessary. Use more garlic powder if you don’t use fresh garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder – garlic powder is necessary, even if you use fresh garlic. If you don’t use fresh garlic, too, then triple the garlic powder.
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer – ales, nut browns, stouts, or porters are the best. In a pinch, you can use a light beer, but stay away from IPAs.
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

Optional ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, chopped – I like green because it adds color; I use 2 bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper – adjust the amount to make it more or less spicy; I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • Celery, chopped – it adds a nice crunch to the chili, just use however much you have in the fridge
  • Carrots, chopped – it adds a little sweetness to the chili, again, use however much you have in the fridge
  • Bacon, crumbled – either turkey bacon or regular bacon is delicious, turkey bacon is healthier
  • Rice – it’s traditional in my family to serve chili over rice
  • Cheddar cheese – I love topping my chili with cheese!

What you’ll need to do:

Brown your meat in the two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re going to use a crock pot, use a large pan. If you’re going to make the chili in a pot on the stove, just brown the meat in the pot. As the meat is browning, constantly break it apart with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be smaller crumbles instead of large chunks.

Or, as an alternative, cook the bacon in the pan first. Cut or tear the bacon into smaller pieces and put them in the pan so that they cook faster and so you don’t have to crumble it later. If you’re cooking turkey bacon, cook the turkey bacon in the olive oil. If you’re cooking regular bacon, don’t put any oil in the pan. Then brown your meat in the same pan with the bacon drippings.

When the meat has browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic or bell peppers, add those at this time, too. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion has turned translucent. Add all your dry spices, except the bay leaves, and stir with the spoon until the spices thoroughly coat the meat and veggies.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

If you’re cooking in a crock pot, transfer the meat and veggies into the crock pot. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beer, and bay leaves, either in the crock pot or big pot on the stove. Stir to mix.

Cover and let cook for many hours. If you’re using the crock pot, set on low heat for at least 6 hours – you can let this cook all day if you’re making it on a work day. If you’re cooking on the stove, turn the heat to low and let simmer for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili generally tastes better the longer you let it cook.

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

In the last hour of cooking, add your kidney beans. You can also add celery or carrots at this time if you’re using them. Stir and cover.

I love serving my chili over rice and topping it with cheddar cheese. In my family, we’ve also been known to put chili over tamales, but that may be a Southern California thing. Of course, chili is also delicious on hot dogs, fries, or other ballpark food. I’ve also heard of people putting chili over noodles. If you want to make it healthier, chili would also be good over quinoa. But you don’t have to pair it with anything at all – this chili is also delicious all by itself.


Thanksgiving: The Gravy

If you read my Sourdough Bread Stuffing recipe, you know I’m not the biggest fan of cooking inside the bird. Sorry if I offend anyone, but it grosses me out. The same goes for gravy. I like other, non-inside-the-bird ingredients in my gravy, too. More than anything, I think it tastes better.

Plus, then you can make either the stuffing or the gravy even if you’re not making turkey. It is packed full of flavor from garlic, rosemary, thyme, and shallots without tasting like the inside of bird. This gravy would be delicious over chicken or potatoes, on a sandwich, or even over beef. Added bonus: it only takes about 10 minutes to make, so it’s easy to pop on the stove while you’re cooking everything else.

What you’ll need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 sprig thyme leaves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

**Tip: Fresh herbs are better, but you can raid your spice cabinet if you don’t want to make the trip to the market. If you use dried herbs, double the amounts.

What you’ll need to do:

Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Add the minced shallot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook until the shallot is tender, or about 3 minutes.

The smell of this is incredible. I can't imagine making gravy any other way!

The smell of this is incredible. I can’t imagine making gravy any other way!

While the shallot mixture cooks, make a paste with the butter and flour in a small bowl.

**Tip: The flour is going to be what thickens the gravy, and it’s really important to make this paste separately – do not add the flour straight into your gravy or you’ll get little lumps. Whenever you’re making a roux, always make a paste with the flour before your add it into your gravy or sauce.

Add the broth to the shallot mixture and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Boil until sauce thickens to make a gravy, or about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.


Sourdough Bread Stuffing

One thing I love about hosting and cooking the entire Thanksgiving menu is that I can choose what dishes I want on my table. Traditionally, we have had stuffing that was cooked inside the turkey and came out (in my opinion) soggy, colorless, and boring – it was definitely not my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. Since I have cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner and had complete control over the menu for the past few years, I have been making a new Sourdough Bread Stuffing that’s packed with flavor, has a nice crispy texture on top, and has definitely become a favorite on the menu.

Perhaps it’s the Californian in me, but I love sourdough bread. It adds so much more flavor to the stuffing than regular white bread. Fresh thyme and sage make this taste like an expensive, gourmet dish. And since the stuffing is baked in a casserole dish instead of inside a bird, it gets a golden-brown crisp on top that gives the dish a nice texture.

I was excited to share this new tradition with my family when they came out to visit for Thanksgiving this year. Of course, my mom thought I was insane for changing a Thanksgiving tradition, but I insisted on making my sourdough stuffing anyway. My brothers, however, couldn’t be more delighted. It was the first time I remember seeing them get seconds of stuffing at Thanksgiving! And sure enough, I converted my mom into an outside-the-bird-stuffing lover, too.

The sourdough bread is what makes this dish so special!

The sourdough bread is what makes this dish so special!

What you’ll need:
1 pound loaf sourdough bread
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
10 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch cubes and spread it evenly on a baking sheet. I recommend cutting instead of tearing the bread, because tearing sourdough bread can also tear apart your fingers. Toast the bread in the oven until completely dry and beginning to crisp and brown, or for about 20 minutes.

These don't have to be perfect cubes, just cut them roughly. I think it makes the dish a little more rustic anyway!

These don’t have to be perfect cubes, just cut them roughly. I think it makes the dish a little more rustic anyway!

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add your onion and thyme. Stir frequently until the onion has turned clear, or about 5 minutes. Add the sage and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. After the butter has melted, add the chicken broth and celery and stir to combine.

Transfer the toasted bread to a large mixing bowl. Pour the chicken broth mixture over the bread crumbs and toss to combine until the bread cubes absorb the liquid. Pour the mixture into your baking dish and sprinkle with parsley.

This is one dish that will make your house smell AMAZING while cooking.

This is one dish that will make your house smell amazing while it’s cooking.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow the stuffing to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.


Sandy’s Sweet Potatoes in Orange Cups

Every Thanksgiving, there is one dish I look forward to more than anything else because I only get it once a year on Thanksgiving Day: Aunt Sandy’s sweet potatoes in orange cups. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel back to California for Thanksgiving for the past few years so I haven’t been able to enjoy the dish from Aunt Sandy herself. So, I begged her for the recipe so I could make them myself.

I love these sweet potatoes because they’re different than the traditional heaps of sugary, one-note sweet potato casserole. These come in little individual servings inside hollowed out orange peels, which is not only convenient but also gives the sweet potatoes a little citrusy kick. I love the citrus in these because it cuts the over-the-top sweetness. Don’t worry, I still add marshmallows and this could still pass as a dessert. But the orange adds another layer of flavor to an otherwise simply sweet dish.

This delicious side dish comes in individual servings and tastes like candy. Yum!

This delicious side dish comes in individual servings and tastes like candy. Yum!

What you’ll need:
8 sweet potatoes
1 stick of butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
12 oranges
4 eggs, beaten

What you’ll need to do:

Start by boiling the sweet potatoes in their jackets in a large pot of water for about 45 minutes. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork to check tenderness.

While the potatoes boil, cut your oranges in half, juice them, and then scoop out the flesh. This is by far the most time-consuming part of the job – luckily I had my Mom here to help me this year! Be very careful of scooping out the flesh because you don’t want to tear the orange cups. Save the juice because you’ll need it later. Arrange the hollowed out orange cups in a casserole dish.

When the sweet potatoes are soft, peel the skin from them and mash. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer. Add the eggs. Next, add the sugar and spices. Add 1/4 cup orange juice from your reserves to the mixture – the rest of the fresh-squeezed orange juice is a treat for the chef! Mix the potato mixture thoroughly.

Scoop the sweet potato mixture into the orange cups. Cook for 40 minutes on 350 degrees.

You can even make these ahead of time and freeze them!

You can even make these ahead of time and freeze them!

When you have about 10 minutes left in cooking, top the sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pop them back in the oven.


Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin

White potatoes don’t have to be super sinful, and Thanksgiving is bad enough with all the other starches and sweets. So this year I wanted to take a healthy twist on the traditional Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. And since I was already making a version of mashed sweet potatoes, I wanted to change it up with scalloped potatoes. I found this healthy recipe on another cooking blog I follow, and it looked so tasty I had to try it.

Potatoes are my ultimate comfort food, and these are dripping with gooey sharp cheddar cheese and spiced with fresh thyme. You would never guess that it’s on the lighter side of the menu! This potato dish is sure to become a Thanksgiving staple in my family.

Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.

Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.

What you’ll need:

6 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup fat free milk
1 bay leaf
pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an 11×7″ baking dish with cooking spray.

Peel your potatoes, then slice them as thinly as you can get them – aim for 1/8 inch thick.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, butter, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Use a large sharp knife to cut the potatoes. If you have a good mandolin, you can use that instead to make thin slices.

Use a large sharp knife to cut the potatoes. If you have a good mandolin, you can use that instead to make thin slices.

Arrange half of the potato slices in the baking dish, then top with 1/3 cup cheese. Add the remaining potatoes.

In a small saucepan, bring milk, thyme, bay leaf, and nutmeg to a boil. Pour over potatoes. Top the potatoes with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Potatoes drenched in milk mixture before I added the cheese.

Potatoes drenched in milk mixture before I added the cheese.


Thanksgiving: The Feast

The Feast.

Thanksgiving is a cook’s Super Bowl. It’s an opportunity to break out all the favorite dishes and go nuts. Rather than a typical meal with one or two side dishes, Thanksgiving calls for at least five – and that doesn’t include dessert. It’s also an opportunity to cheat a little on the healthier options I usually cook and add a little butter. Besides, there is nothing more relaxing to me than cooking all day.

I’ve had the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a couple years now, but this year was my best yet. My whole family flew out to Chicago to celebrate and SeaJetCook in action (get it?!). This year, my lineup included a beautiful turkey with gravy, sourdough bread stuffing, a tangy cranberry pear sauce, sweet potatoes in orange cups, a skinny scalloped potato gratin, steamed green beans, fluffy biscuits, and two kinds of pie: the obligatory pecan and pumpkin.

I’m going to do this series of posts a little differently than normal. This post won’t actually include any recipes. Instead, it’ll be a play-by-play of how I organized the day. Don’t worry, I’ll include links to all the recipes, too. But the most daunting part of planning Thanksgiving is figuring out how to make everything by yourself in one oven. So here’s my game plan. Enjoy, everyone!

A Few Days Before the Big Day

Get all your groceries, including the turkey. You can also get all your veggies and keep them in the crisper in the fridge. Only potatoes and onions need to stay out on the counter.

I generally like getting  a fresh turkey instead of frozen. But if you do buy frozen, put it in your refrigerator to defrost over the next few days – it generally takes 24 hours for every 5lbs to defrost. If you’re in a hurry to defrost, you can put the turkey in a big pot of cold water (like my chicken recipe). It takes about 30 minutes for every pound to defrost in water.

The Night Before the Big Day

Double check that you have all your ingredients for the next day. There’s nothing worse than running to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day while juggling 5 side dishes because you forgot something.

Clean the turkey. Remove everything from the cavity (giblets, neck, and plastic bag) and discard. Place the turkey in the sink and thoroughly rinse the inside cavity and skin with cool water. This helps remove any bacteria within the cavity or on the skin.

Brine the turkey in a large pot. This takes about an hour to prepare the brine, so don’t do it too late! Store in the refrigerator overnight. I’m all about brining these days. It’s makes the turkey perfectly moist and seasoned. Brine the turkey no matter how you cook it!

The Morning of the Big Day

8:00 A.M. Wake up and make a good breakfast for the family. Our tradition is Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

  • While the cinnamon rolls are cooking, start preparing the pumpkin for pie. Cut the pumpkin from the skin and steam for about 15 minutes. If you want to use canned pumpkin, skip this step.
9:00 A.M.Start making the pumpkin and pecan pies – this takes about 15 minutes. Make sure both are ready to go in the oven at the same time.
  • Start with the pumpkin pie. It takes 15 minutes on 425 degrees before you turn down the head to 350.
  • When you turn the heat down to 350, pop the pecan pie in. Both pies cook at 350 for an hour.
  • While the pies cook, peel and prepare the potatoes for the skinny scalloped potato gratin. Have the gratin ready to go in the oven as soon as the pies are done.
  • If you have extra time, skip ahead and start getting the sweet potatoes ready – these take a long time!
9:30 A.M.The pies should done. Take them out of the oven and set them aside to cool. Crank the temperature back up to 425 degrees and bake the Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin for 45 minutes.
10:30 A.M.(with a little time buffer) Your gratin should be done, and the sweet potatoes and the stuffing should be prepared. Turn the temperature on the oven back down to 350 degrees. Put the sweet potatoes and the stuffing in the oven for 40 minutes.
  • Do some dishes, then go relax! You deserve it!
11:20 A.M.Pull the sweet potatoes and stuffing out of the oven and set aside to cool. Get the turkey out of the fridge and start getting it ready for the oven.
  • Place the turkey on a roasting pan and season with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and melted butter.
  • Chop up some leftover veggies and fill the cavity of the turkey (I used 4 stalks of celery and 2 small onions). This adds flavor and moisture to the turkey, even if you’re not going to be eating those veggies.
11:30 A.M.Put the turkey in the oven at 325 degrees. Here’s a timetable for roasting the turkey from the USDA:
  • 8 to 12 lbs: 2 3/4 to 3 hrs
  • 12 to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 3/4 hrs
  • 14 to 18 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hrs
  • 18 to 20 lbs: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hrs
  • 20 to 24 lbs: 4 1/2 to 5 hrs
  • Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
The Afternoon of the Big Day
11:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.Relax! Play board games with the family. Have a glass (or two) of wine. Put your feet up. Every couple hours check on the turkey and baste with more melted butter.
3:30 P.M.Check the turkey. If it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it rest so the juices can redistribute in the meat.
  • Turn the temperature up to 350 degrees and pop in some Pillsbury rolls. I know I cheated a little bit here, but those are so delicious and easy! They take 15 minutes to make. I don’t have a recipe for this one, so don’t forget them at the store.
  • While the rolls cook, get the gravy and the cranberry sauce on the stove. Both are easy to make and only take about 15 minutes.
  • After the gravy and cranberry sauce are simmering on the stove, prepare your green beans.
4:00 P.M.FEAST! Break open a couple bottles of wine, set the table, and dig in.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and can use my guide for next year. Until then, enjoy all the components by themselves! Turkeys are on sale now, so I already bought a couple small ones and stuck them in my freezer. Sometimes in January I’ll pull one of them out and have a feast, part two.

The Feast on my plate!

Mango Chutney

Costco gets me every time with their tempting, inexpensive produce in gigantic quantities. Do I need 4 pounds of blueberries? Absolutely! And a crate of 20 oranges? Sure! So when I walked by this beautiful crate of mangoes that was way cheaper than the regular grocery store, I couldn’t resist. I love mangoes. They remind me of sitting outside on a patio in Hawaii, eating a Belgian waffle slathered with mangoes, papayas, and whipped cream.

But with my Costco-sized crate of mangoes, I knew I needed to do more than eat waffles every day. So I began thinking of every other way I love to eat mangoes, and mango chutney came to the top of my list. Mango chutney is sweet, gooey, and slightly tangy – it’s a perfect topping to my basic chicken. Serve that with a side of steamable veggies and you have yourself a delicious meal.

This mango chutney was inspired from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
1 mango
1/2 tablespoon margarine
1/4 medium onion
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (I used Truvia)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

What you’ll need to do:

Start by peeling your mango. Then use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit – don’t worry if it’s a little sloppy, you’ll be putting it in a pot and cooking it anyway. Once your mango is free of the pit, chop it into chunks and save for later. Then, chop your onion into small pieces.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter then add the onions. Saute for two minutes. Add the mango, then saute for another two minutes.

Add the vinegar and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the water. It’s very important to whisk the cornstarch and water separately before they’re added to the mango mixture, otherwise you’ll end up with little pebbles of cornstarch in your chutney. Once the cornstarch/water is mixed, stir the slurry into the mango mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil, and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.

You can see the big chunks of mango in there, delicious!

Top your chicken with the chutney and enjoy!

Turkey Meatballs: Part 1

Welcome to my 4-part turkey meatball series! For the next few posts, I’m going to try something new. First, I’ll give you a basic item – in this case, a turkey meatball recipe. Then, I’ll take that basic item and build on it for the next few posts to show different ways to use it in your cooking. This is a great way to do a brunt of the work on the weekend so you’ll have quick, healthy meals ready to assemble for the rest of the week.

Turkey meatballs are a great way to start. They’re really tasty with tons of flavor from the garlic, onion, and oregano. But they’re also incredibly healthy because I’ve substituted brown rice for bread crumbs, leaving the calorie count at 162 per serving with 21.4 grams of protein, 7.2 carbs, and very low sodium. And they don’t take too long to make – only about 30-45 minutes depending if you’ve already made rice or not. Not to mention, you’ll already find a lot of these ingredients in your kitchen staples. These babies are a great staple that the whole family will love.

Let’s get started with my basic turkey meatball recipe.

These are great to use in a variety of recipes, but they’re also pretty tasty to snack on, too 🙂

What you’ll need (serving size is 4 meatballs, this makes about 28 total):
1.25 pounds ground turkey – I like Jennie-O Extra Lean Ground Turkey Breast
1/2 medium white onion
5 tablespoons chopped or minced garlic
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
Dash of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

What you’ll need to do:

Start by cooking your brown rice. You can instant brown rice or regular brown rice, cooked over the stove or in a rice cooker. Whatever the method, you’ll want 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup of water. If you cook it over the stove, start with both the rice and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

After the rice is done, prep your space. Have a cutting board and medium mixing bowl out, a large pan on the stove, and a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. As I roll my turkey meatballs, I put them on the baking sheet covered with aluminum foil so I can pop them in the pan at the same time – the aluminum foil helps save me from washing the dish.

Crack your egg into the medium mixing bowl and scramble. Chop your onion very fine; you want the pieces small so that they mix in well with the ground turkey and other ingredients. Add it to the egg in the medium mixing bowl along with the brown rice, garlic, oregano, S & P. Then, add the ground turkey.

Okay so I didn’t scramble my egg first in this case. Trust me, it’s better and easier if you do. I just wanted to show you what the mass of ingredients looks like.

Use your fingers to combine all the ingredients. This way, I find that you combine the ingredients more thoroughly, and (let’s face it) it’s kinda fun. Besides, your hands will be messy anyway because you must roll out your turkey meatballs with you hands.

After the ingredients are combined, tear off a small piece of the mixture and roll into a 1-inch ball in your hands. Place on the baking sheet as you go, and keep rolling the meatballs until they’re done.

Put on good music or an entertaining TV show to watch while you roll these guys. They don’t take long, but you will be standing there for a few minutes.

Turn your pan on medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Once the pan is heated, add as many meatballs as will fit in the pan. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, constantly turning and rotating to brown all sides – if you’re unsure if the meatballs are done, select the largest one and break open to see if it’s cooked through. If it’s done, feel free to enjoy a small snack. I figure it’s the chef’s prerogative to sample as he/she goes anyway! Work in batches if your pan isn’t large enough to hold all the meatballs.

These smell so good when you cook them. The garlic and onion really pop.

Enjoy! Make one of the upcoming recipes right away, or pack ’em up in a Tupperware and refrigerate to use for the rest of the week.

These would be delicious over regular or whole-wheat pasta, but I want to give you a few extra twists on a classic. So stay tuned for the following recipes:

Spring Peas with Dates and Walnuts

First, can I just say “Yum?!” This is super delicious, surprisingly healthy, and a constant special occasion request of Clinton’s. I made this most recently for Easter, but it’d be great for any holiday meal or any time you want to really wow a dinner party. The three different types of peas have such a fresh pop of flavor, the dates add a bit of sweetness, and a hint of cayenne pepper adds a bit of a kick that takes this side to the next level.

This super tasty, surprisingly healthy side dish is always a crowd pleaser.

What you’ll need:
10 ounce bag of frozen peas, thawed
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped dates (fresh or dried work fine)
Pinch of cayenne pepper

What you’ll need to do:

The most important part of making this dish happen is the prep. Since there’s a lot of moving parts once you get going, having everything thawed, trimmed, and chopped before you begin will make the whole process go a lot more smoothly. Just make sure that as you prep each ingredient, you keep everything segregated because they each go in at different times in the process.

Start by thawing your peas. If it’s a steamable bag of frozen peas (like the kind I’m so fond of), cook slightly less than the package recommends. Or, just leave them in the refrigerator all day. You don’t want them to be too cooked, but you don’t want them to be frozen either.

Then get to work on trimming your peas. For both the sugar snap peas and the snow peas, cut off both ends of the peas (just a little bit!). Set the sugar snap peas aside, and then slice the snow peas very thinly. You can either go horizontally or vertically across the peas – I thick slicing vertically is prettier.

This is bout how much you want to take off the ends of your sugar snap peas.

Lastly, dice your shallot into medium-fine pieces. Chop your walnuts (or buy them already chopped) and chop your dates.

Now it’s time to cook. Simultaneously, get a large pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil heating over medium heat, a medium pot of salted water boiling on your stove, and a large bowl of ice water ready on your counter. After your pan is heated and your water is boiling, we’re going to get both shallot cooking in the pan and the peas cooking in the pot all at the same time. This is why it’s so important to prep first!

Starting with the shallot, throw the shallot in your pan and cook until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the walnuts, dates, and cayenne pepper and cook until the walnuts are toasted (about 1 more minute). After this is done, turn off the heat. Because you’re doing everything simultaneously, the peas will be done and it’s time to add them to the pan.

The amount of flavor in the combination is out of this world. It feels so luxurious and indulgent without adding a ton of fat, sugar, or carbs like you'd find in a typical holiday side.

Now about those peas… While your shallot is cooking, your water should be boiling. Add the snap peas and cook until green (about 2 minutes, or right after you add the walnuts, dates, and cayenne pepper to your pan). Then, add your snow peas for about 30 seconds. Immediately turn off the heat, drain your peas, and plunge them into your bowl of ice water. This shocks the peas and helps them keep their green color and crispy texture. After they’ve cooled, drain.

Your shallot, walnut, date, and cayenne mixture should be coming a finish at about the same time as your peas (remember, those thawed peas have been sitting there ready to go, so we really haven’t had anything to do with them yet). If your timing is a little off, no big deal at all. This isn’t supposed to be a hot dish, so your shallot, walnut, date, and cayenne mixture can sit in the pan (with the heat off) for as long as you need to catch up. In any case, when both mixture are ready, add all your peas (including the thawed peas) to the large pan with the shallot, walnuts, dates, and cayenne. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and mix together.

Serve slightly warm from the pan or at room temperature. And while this dish requires a bit of a balancing act, it only takes about 30 minutes to make. Yum, yum, yum…