Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Healthy Holiday Apple Cranberry Mini Pie

 Here is my winning healthy holiday pie recipe featured on the Today Shows recipe contest " Too Good to Be Healthy Holiday Pies". I created this recipe while trying to come up with a healthy holiday treat for my family and friends to enjoy!

To make this recipe healthy I used a  low fat cinnamon graham cracker pecan crust instead of pastry crust. In the filling I cut back on the added sugar and used  apples, anti-oxidant rich cranberries and orange zest for great combination of sweet and tart flavor!  To top it all off I added a oatmeal crumb topping for added texture and flavor!

For a fun a healthy twist I used a muffin tin to make the pie recipe into mini pies!  This not only makes for a fun and easy way to enjoy pie but also helps with portion control!  In comparison to 500 calories in an average piece of  pie, these mini pie only contain 180 calories a piece!

 Apple Cranberry Mini Pie

  • 10 cinnamon graham cracker sheets ( ~ 1 ½ cups crushed )
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 2 tablespoons milk, fat-free

  • 3 medium (4 small) apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cranberries, fresh
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons milk, fat-free
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • ½  teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Pre –heat oven to 350 degrees. Fill 12 cup muffin tin with muffin liners.
  2. To make crust. Crumble graham crackers and pecans in food processor, add oil and milk and combine until smooth. Evenly fill muffin tins with ~ 3 tablespoons of crust mixture. Press crust mixture down evenly into muffin cups. Bake crust in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes.
  3. To make filling. Combine apples, cranberries, orange zest and cinnamon. In a separate dish, mix cornstarch with orange juice to dissolve. Pour orange juice mixture and maple syrup over fruit mixture and combine. Evenly fill crusts with fruit mixture.
  4. To make topping. Mix together all topping ingredients and then sprinkle over the top of the fruit mixture.
  5. Bake mini pies in oven for 25-30 minutes.

Servings: Makes 12 individual pies

 Nutrition Facts (per serving):  180 Calories, 6 grams Total Fat, 1 gram Saturated Fat,
0 grams Cholesterol, 68 grams Sodium, 30 grams Total Carbohydrate, 2 grams Dietary Fiber, 2 grams Protein

To see the segment and recipes from the other contestants click the link below

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gluten Free, Is It for You?

          Gluten free diets have become a recent diet trend among celebrities and people alike. With the increasing popularity and availability of gluten free foods I have gotten a lot of questions about the diet like " Should I be following a gluten free diet?" and "Are gluten free foods healthier?".  The answer to both if these questions is not necessarily and here is why....
          People who should be following a gluten free diet have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or have a gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which you have an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in food products containing wheat, barley and rye. This immune reaction causes damage to the lining of the small intestines preventing the absorption of essential nutrients which could lead to malnutrition and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Symptoms usually include abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, and anemia. If you have any of these symptoms, I recommend seeing your primary care physician for further evaluation. Diagnosing Celiac disease includes a series of lab tests and possibly a biopsy of the intestines. If diagnosed, treatment includes strict lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet. People who have suffered symptoms related to Celiac disease often see immediate relief after starting on a gluten free diet. 
           Gluten free grains like rice, potatoes, corn, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat, and amaranth are just as healthy as gluten containing grains, if incorporated into a well balanced diet. So, if you don't have an intolerance, there is no health benefit from restricting gluten from your diet. 
     The take home message is, if you have Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity following a gluten free diet is necessary for health, but if not you should be following a well balanced diet containing gluten and non-gluten containing grains!

For more information on Celiac Disease and Gluten Free Diet please visit

       For those of you who have to follow a gluten free diet, check out this recipe for delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies!

Gluten-Free Whole Grain
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

·         1 ½ cups Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix
·         1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
·         ½ cup brown sugar
·         1 large egg
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

      1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
      2.    Line 2 large un-greased baking sheets with parchment paper.
      3.    Place room temperature butter, brown sugar in mixing bowl. Beat on high until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
      4.    Add the gluten-free flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
5.    Add chocolate chips and beat just until blended.
6.    Use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop cookie dough on prepared baking sheets. Space cookies 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fall Favorite: Pumpkin!

Canned and fresh pumpkin are a staple in my kitchen at this time of year.
Pumpkin not only adds great nutrition and flavor to baked goods but can be
used in many savory dishes. Pumpkin is a nutrient dense, low calorie
food. One serving (~ ½ cup) only contains 25 calories and is a great
source of Vitamin A, antioxidants, B Vitamins, and minerals copper,
potassium, phosphorus and calcium.

Add Pumpkin to:

  • Soups
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Risotto
  • Ravioli
  • Hummus
  • Savory dips
  • Baked goods (cookies, cakes, pies, muffins etc.)
  • Pancakes

Check out some of my favorite pumpkin recipes!...

Creamy Pumpkin Leek Soup

  • 1, 3 pound Sugar Pumpkin-peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 Leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • plain greek yogurt, croutons, and paprika, for serving

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss pumpkin with 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Roast, tossing once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin, 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. In a blender, working in batches, puree the soup until smooth,adjusting the consistency with the remaining broth as necessary. Top the soup with the sour cream, or plain yogurt and croutons and sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Pumpkin Pie Parfait

  • 1/3 cup oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 6 oz.  fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 apple or ½ banana
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • dash of Cinnamon/ Nutmeg
1. In a microwave safe bowl combine 1/3 cup oatmeal, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tsp brown sugar, and sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Mix and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl combine 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, 1 tsp of brown sugar and sprinkle of cinnamon.  Mix.
3. In serving cup for bowl. Use half oatmeal mixture as the bottom layer. Then layer half of the pumpkin puree mixture, then half of the greek yogurt. Sprinkle with cinnamon and ½ of the chopped apple. Repeat layers as desired.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula.  Fold in semi-sweet chocolate chips. They may not stick to the dough because of the melted butter, but do your best to have them evenly dispersed among the dough. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory.
3. Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Roll the dough into balls, about 2 Tablespoons of dough each. Slightly flatten the dough balls. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and under baked. Keeping them in the oven for longer may dry them out.  
5. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.  The longer the cookies cool, the chewier they will be. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Increasing Your Metabolism

What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is a biochemical process by which your body breaks down food and converts food into energy.

3 Factors that determine your metabolic rate or energy needs:
1) Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) [60-75% of needs]: energy needed for basic body functions like breathing, growing/repairing, blood circulation.  BMR is based on age, sex, body size, and amount of lean body mass.
2) Food Processing (Thermogenesis) [10% of needs]: Energy needed to breakdown and digest food.
3) Physical Activity [15-30% of needs]: Energy needed to perform your daily activities and exercise (i.e. walking, running, cleaning the house, etc.).

The 3 keys to increasing your metabolic rate are to increase your lean body mass, increase your daily physical activity and consume a diet adequate in calories and protein. And here is how...

4 Steps to Boost your Metabolism
1. Aerobic Exercise
  • Aerobic exercise works to increase your metabolic rate and is the most efficient way to burn calories.
  • Examples: walking, running, playing tennis/basketball, cycling, etc.
  • Your body not only burns calories while exercising but continues to burn calories for a period of time after exercise.
  •  Higher intensity workouts increase basic metabolic rate more than moderate intensity workouts (e.g.  running vs. jogging).
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week.

2. Strength Training
  • Strength training helps build lean body mass and increases your daily basal metabolic rate.
  • The higher your percentage of lean body mass the more calories your body burns a day. This is because lean body mass burns more calories than fat mass.
  • Exercise examples: Weight Lifting, Push-Ups, Sit-Ups, Pilates, etc.
  • Aim for strength training exercises at least 2-3 times per week.
3. Protein
  • Your body burns more calories digesting protein than fat or carbohydrates. Therefore, diets with a higher percentage of protein have a higher percent of calories burned through thermogenesis.
  • Dietary protein also helps build/maintain lean body mass.
  • How much protein do you need a day?  50% ideal body weight (e.g. Ideal weight: 140 pounds= need ~70 grams protein per day
  • Include protein at each meal/snack
    •  3-4 ounces protein per meal
    •  1-2 ounces protein per snack

 4.  Consume an adequate amount of protein and calories throughout the day!
  • Eat at least 1000 calories per day.
    • Going on a crash diet will cause weight loss, but your metabolic rate and lean body mass will also decrease. 
  • Eat Breakfast!
    • Eating first thing in the morning helps kick your metabolism into gear. 
  • Eating smaller more frequent meals.
    • Eating throughout the day helps keep your metabolism running, allowing your body to burn calories more efficiently.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Apples to Apples

Apple picking is one of my favorite things to do in the fall. There is just nothing like an apple just off the tree!  This year, with my husband and some friends, I spent a gorgeous fall afternoon at a local apple orchard picking apples, eating apples and enjoying some delicious apple cider donuts.

The following day was rainy but perfect for spending in the kitchen, cooking up some of our favorite apple dishes. I decided on two of our favorites: apple crisp and applesauce. I made a few changes to the basic recipes for a healthy, fun twist! 


Only 3 ingredients.. apples, apple cider or water, and cinnamon! The apples themselves are sweet enough, no sugar needed!

Boil apples with apple cider/water for 15 minutes until soft!

  Keeping the skins on during cooking adds color, and nutrients to the applesauce! I used a colander to mash the apples and remove the apple skins and cores after cooking.  If you don't have a colander remove the cores and skins before cooking  and then mash the apples with a potato masher or food processor. 
Once the applesauce is made, add cinnamon for added flavor. Homemade applesauce keeps 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator, or can be frozen to enjoy later.

Applesauce Recipe
  • 6 apples
  • 2 cups of cider, or water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
1. Wash apples then cut apples into quarters (you do not need to peel or core apples).
2. Add cut apples and liquid to large pot. Boil apples on medium high for 15 minutes or until soft.
3. Once apples completely cooked let cool.
4. Add apple mixture to colander and mash apples to remove skins and apple cores.
5. Add cinnamon to applesauce and stir to combine.


For the apple mixture, first cut 4 apples into slices. For added color, flavor and fiber, keep the skins on the apples! Then toss the apple slices with lemon juice, or orange juice, and sugar. As for the topping, mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon.
Cover the apple slices with the oatmeal mixture. Place the apple crisp in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until apples are soft.
Let apple crisp cool slightly, then serve with a scoop of  light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt!



  • 4 medium apples
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbso lemon juice or orange juice
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix apples with sugar and lemon juice then place apple mixture evenly on bottom of 11x7 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray
3. For the topping in a medium size bowl mix together the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Top apples with evenly with oat mixture.
4. Bake crisp for 45 minutes
5. Top with light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Balance is Key to Health

A well balanced diet means getting the right nutrients from foods and beverages to supply enough nutrition and energy to support your bodies normal growth and development and prevention of certain diseases.

There is not just one perfectly balanced diet.  The appropriate amount of energy and nutrients for your body is based on many factors including age, sex, body mass, and physical activity level.

Balancing nutrients and calories all starts with building a healthy plate....
The Food Groups
Fruits: "focus on fruits" (~2 cups)
- Bananas, Oranges, Berries, Melon, Mango etc.
-100% fruit juice
Vegetables: "vary your veggies" (~3 cups)
-Non-Starchy -salad greens, broccoli, zucchini, cucumber, cabbage etc.
Dairy: switch to fat free or non-fat (3 servings)
- milk, cheese, yogurt
- milk substitutes (almond milk, soy milk)
Protein: go-lean with protein
-poultry, 85% or higher ground beef
- tofu, tempeh or other soy based products
- nuts, nut butters, seeds
Grains: make at least half your grains "whole"
- 100% Whole Wheat bread, english muffins, bagels
- Rice, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, quinoa
- Starchy vegetables: potato, sweet potato, corn, peas, squash

Balancing Nutrient Needs

  • Focus on planning 3 meals plus 1- 2 snacks daily
  • Choose at least 3 foods groups at each meal
  • Make the vegetable or fruit the main focus of your meal
  • Limit portions of grains and protein to 1/4 of you plate each.
  • For snacks, include at least 2 food groups one fruit/vegetable plus a protein/dairy.

Balance Energy Needs

  • First calculate your energy needs at, or by using free calorie tracker application like My Fitness Pal or Daily Burn
    • Use your calorie tracker application to monitor your daily calorie intake and physical activity to see if you are meeting your estimated needs!
  • Add in at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise weekly (1.5 hours vigorous-intensity exercise) plus muscle strengthening activity 2 times per week
  • Limit your portions by using smaller plates, bowls and cups
  • Limit yourself to one serving per meal (no going for seconds!)
  • Choose water and other calorie free beverages instead of soda, juice and sweetened energy drinks

Check out this Sample Menu based on an average 2000 Calorie diet for a week of balanced meal ideas!

Of course, there is always room in every healthy diet to include a moderate amount of sweets or what we call "empty calories". These foods tend to be high in sugar, fat and calories and provide very minimal nutrients for health, but on occasion can be enjoyed!