Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vegetable Lasagna

A couple weeks ago I lead a workshop on healthy eating. With only a half an hour to present, I knew I had to present a simple idea that would stay with my participants. What I came up with was this catch phrase: "Eat the Colors of the Rainbow." Basically this means that we should include more fruits and vegetables into our diet that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple (the colors of the rainbow) because, with food, the rule is: the brighter the color the healthier it is. After sharing this idea with my workshop participants, we brainstormed colorful fruits and vegetables and how to enjoy them. I ended up bringing up this Vegetable Lasagna when someone asked me for some ideas of how to cook eggplant. This recipe immediately came to mind because it contains zucchini, squash, carrots, and EGGPLANT! (the vegetable of the hour)

Now to be fair, this lasagna is actually the brainchild of my roommate Susan, who is an excellent cook. Susan told me that she would occasionally make meatless dishes for the health benefits. Well, this colorful lasagna is certainly healthy as a result of all of the vegetables but I also lightened it up by opting for low-fat ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Plus, I learned from The Abs Diet Nutrition Handbook that ricotta contains tons of whey-protein, so this lasagna may be “meatless” but it's still hearty and satisfying. Enjoy!


  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 small Yellow Squash
  • 2 small Zucchinis
  • 4 Carrots (approx 15 baby carrots)
  • 1 medium Eggplant
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Boxes Barilla No Boil Lasagna Noodles
  • 1 Jar Store-Bought Marinara Sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 32 oz Container Low-Fat (part-skim) Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 8oz Package Shredded Low-Fat (part-skim) Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese (a little for sprinkling on top)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Cayenne Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop the ends off of the zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Slice the zucchini and squash in half lengthwise, lay the 2 pieces flat and thinly slice into half moon pieces. Next, cut the eggplant into quarters and thinly slice it as well. Then, slice the carrots, and chop the onion and garlic.

In a large pot, heat your olive oil until it’s almost smoking. Add the carrots and onions, and once they begin to soften, add garlic, and a little salt and pepper. After sautéing for 5 minutes or so, add the zucchini and squash and sauté for another 5 minutes. Then, add the eggplant, a bit more salt & pepper, 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (This is for some heat. Remember, a little goes a long way!). Stir to combine. Once the eggplant has just began to soften, add almost all of the marinara sauce, reserving about a half cup. Bring the entire mixture to a boil, and then remove the pot from the heat.

In a bowl, beat 2 eggs, stir in the ricotta cheese and season with salt and pepper. Now you are ready to build the lasagna. Cover the bottom of your lasagna pan with 3-4 lasagna noodles (you
may have to break 1 sheet up lengthwise to completely cover the pan). Then spread a layer of the veggies, cover with a layer of the ricotta, and then sprinkle a couple handfuls of mozzarella over the ricotta. Cover the mozzarella with another layer of lasagna noodles and then repeat the layers one more time, veggies, then ricotta, then mozzarella. Place one more layer of lasagna noodles on top, spread the reserved marinara sauce on top of the noodles and cover the sauce with a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Then, finish by sprinkling a bit of parmesan cheese and Italian Seasoning on top.

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 mins, remove foil, and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven, and allow the lasagna to sit for 15 minutes before cutting. (makes 12 servings)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake with a Boozy Twist

Since the beginning of time, chocolate has always been the quintessential Valentine’s Day dessert. But what if you (or your Valentine) hate chocolate or you are just in the mood for something different? Well feel free to leave the chocolates in the box and consider another food perfect for V-Day: STRAWBERRIES! America’s favorite fruit cannot be more perfect for Valentines Day because, let’s be honest, they look like little red hearts! And there’s no other dessert that puts strawberries center stage like Strawberry Shortcake.

This version has three components: pound cake, strawberries, and whipped cream. However, the twist is that oranges, which are actually in season right now, are used to give the pound cake a delicious citrus flavor and Grand Marnier, an orange liquor, is infused into the strawberries and whipped cream to give the them a boozy punch.

Now before you “non-bakers” freak out, just know that the base of this pound cake is a store-bought cake mix which makes this recipe impossible to screw up. It is sure to sweeten up your Valentines Day!


Orange Pound Cake

Non-Stick Cooking Spray

1 plain white cake mix

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1-cup whole milk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (plus 3-4 drops for whipped cream)

2 navel oranges

Grand Marnier Infused Strawberries & Whipped Cream

1 pt. strawberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tbsp Grand Marnier (divided)

½ pint heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

To Make the Pound Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl add the cake mix, butter, milk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Using a handheld mixer, beat ingredients until well combined, about 3 minutes. Next, using a Microplane, grate the outer surface of two of the oranges to remove the zest. Be sure to use only the orange part and not the white pith, which can be very bitter. Add the zest of the two oranges into the mixing bowl and then add the juice from 1 orange into the mixture as well (in order to avoid seeds in your cake mix, you can use a juicer, sifter, or use your fingers to catch the seeds). Mix the batter for another 1 minute to incorporate juice and zest.

Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and then pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees until you can insert a knife into the middle of the cake and it comes out clean. The time will vary depending on the shape and size of your loaf pan, but on average it takes about 35-45 minutes. Once done, allow the cake to cool in the pan on the stove for 10 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To Make the Strawberries:

While the cake is baking, or as early as a day in advanced, rinse your strawberries. Then using a small pairing knife, slice your strawberries into small rounds, discarding the green leaves. In a bowl, add the strawberries, 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, the juice from ½ of one orange, 3 tbsp Grand Marnier and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Tip: the longer this mixture sits, the sweeter and boozier the strawberries get)

To Make the Whipped Cream:

Pour the heavy whipping cream into a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix until stiff peaks begin to form. Then, stop the mixer and add the confectioner’s sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, and 3 tbsp. Gran Marnier. Turn mixer back on for about a minute but avoid over mixing the cream. Once stiff peaks form again, turn off mixer, cover bowl with saran and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Tip: For better results place your mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before you whip your cream)

To Build the Strawberry Short Cake:

Place a slice of pound cake on a plate, top with 2 spoonfuls of strawberries and 2 spoonfuls of whipped cream. You may stop here OR repeat with another layer of cake, strawberries, and cream. Also, feel free to use orange curls or zest as a garnish. (see picture at top)

PORTION CONTROL! This recipe will make enough whipped cream and strawberries for two generous servings. However, after you make your two desserts, there will be a lot of cake leftover. Ladies, if you are watching your weight in the New Year, don’t keep the leftover cake around to nibble on and ruin your diet. After you have sliced off a few pieces of cake for your Valentine’s Day dessert, wrap the rest of the cake in cellophane, tie it with a red ribbon and give it to your Valentine to take home. Cake is always a great present!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Valentine's Day Recipes on!

Just in case you missed the emails, tweets and Facebook postings, my Valentine's Day recipes were posted on! In the Lifestyle Section, Ebony featured my recipe for Pineapples and Bananas Dipped in Chocolate & my recipe for Strawberry Shortcake with a Boozy Twist! The recipes were under the headline "Sweets for Your Sweetie."

Both of these recipes (and pictures) can be found right here on this blog but click on the link below to check them out on I thank you all for your support because without it, I wouldn't have made this next step in my "culinary career." :)

Ebony also posted it on Facebook too!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pineapples and Bananas Dipped in Chocolate

Many of you have probably incorporated chocolate covered strawberries in your Feb. 14th festivities making them common and overdone. If you really want to impress your Valentine, try dipping pineapples and bananas in chocolate. It’s something different and simple that you can make at home. (And homemade always gets more points than store-bought)

Another bonus is you probably already have some of the ingredients on hand. Most people keep bananas around for breakfast and you may have chocolate chips leftover from a batch of cookies. The rest of the ingredients you can get in quick, cheap grocery store run.

Once you have all of the ingredients, all you have to do is take a toothpick, add fruit, dip in chocolate, and roll it in a complementary topping. Such a simple process but the result is a sexy Valentine's Day dessert. Enjoy hearts!


2 bananas

1 pineapple

6 oz. semi-sweet choc chips (half a bag)

3-4 tbsp Heavy Cream (at room temperature)

1 small bag peanuts (salted or unsalted)

1 small bag coconut shavings



First prep the fruit by peeling the bananas and slicing them into 2-3 inch chunks. Then, chop the top and bottom off of the pineapple, stand it up and cut the skin off in strips. Then cut the pineapple flesh into quarters and chop off the core at an angle. Next, cut the flesh into 2-3 inch square chunks.

Prep the toppings by putting 1-cup peanuts into a plastic zip lock bag, squeeze the air out, and then close the bag. Using a rolling pin or large heavy can, crush the peanuts and spread them in an even layer on a plate. Also pour 1-cup coconut shavings on a plate and set aside.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on 50% power for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue this process until the chocolate is almost melted. Then add 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir until the chocolate is smooth.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Then, place a piece of pineapple on a toothpick, dip it into the chocolate and roll it in the coconut shavings. Place pineapple on the cookie sheet, leaving the toothpick in and repeat this process until all of the pineapple has been dipped and rolled. Then put the bananas on toothpicks, dip in the chocolate, and roll in the peanuts and add to the cookie sheet.

Once all of the fruit has been dipped and rolled, put the cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Lastly, move the fruit into the refrigerator until ready to serve. To serve, simply arrange the chocolate dipped fruit on a platter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Steak Salad (HFC)

When you think of a steak dinner, you usually think "SPLURGE."

Whether you are thinking it's a financial splurge or a calorie splurge, let's be honest, a steak dinner is usually eaten when you want to indulge. This is mostly because the stereotypical steak dinner is eaten at a fancy steakhouse, costs at least a C-note, and consists of steak, buttery sauce, and rich side dishes like creamed spinach and loaded baked potatoes. Though we justify the large bill and and calories because this type of steak dinner just TASTES. SO. GOOD.

But I asked myself, is there a way to have a delicious steak dinner without the guilt and huge price tag? The answer is YES! If you have a taste for a delicious steak but want to watch your calories, try this healthy, fast, and cheap (HFC) Steak Salad.

It's healthy because I use a lean cut of beef (flank steak has less than 10g of fat) and I don't add any oil or fat. I also eliminated the carbs in this meal and paired the steak with a delicious, colorful salad. Also this meal is done in 30 minutes; making it fast. Lastly, this recipe is cheap because flank steak is relatively inexpensive and so are the vegetables. (Plus you can use the leftover veggies in another dish, like an omelet!)

The only special tool you will need is a grill pan. They sell them relatively cheap and I think they are a "must have" kitchen tool for anyone looking to make healthy, fast, and cheap meals. The non-stick Calphalon is my favorite brand and you can check them out here.

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
1-1.5 lb flank steak
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Bag of Salad (I like mixed greens w/ carrots already in it)
Handful of Grape Tomatoes (halved)
1 small cucumber (sliced)
1/2 of small red bell pepper (diced)
1/4 cup red onion (diced)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed in the microwave)
1 avocado (diced)
Low-Fat Salad Dressing of Your Choice

Note: These are the salad toppings I like and the ones I felt matched the Mexican flavor of the steak, but feel free to omit the salad toppings you do not like and add the ones that you do.


Remove the flank steak from the fridge, unwrap it, and place on a large plate. Then, in a little bowl, add the seasonings (chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) and mix to combine. Then, rub half the seasoning mixture into one side of the steak, flip the steak over and rub the rest of the seasoning into the other side. Make sure you wash your hands and set the steak aside to come to room temperature while you fix the salad and heat the pan.

In a large salad bowl, empty the bag of salad greens. Then, halve your grape tomatoes, slice your cucumber and dice your red onion and red bell pepper. Add all of these things to the salad bowl. Next put your frozen corn kernels in a microwavable safe bowl and heat on high for approx. 4 minutes or until thawed, drain and add them to the salad bowl. (I found that heating the kernels kept them crunchier than defrosting them. But feel free to use your preferred method)

Next, heat the grill pan over high heat to grill the steak (Now would be a good time to turn your stove fan on as well). You want the grill pan to be screaming hot so as soon as you begin to see smoke, that's when you can put the steak on. For a medium steak (warm pink center) cook for 7 minutes on the 1st side and 6 minutes on the second then let the steak rest under tin foil for another 6-10 minutes. (Letting the steak rest is VERY important! All of the juices will run out of the steak if you cut right into it)

To serve, toss the greens with all of the salad toppings and divide the salad among 4 plates. Then dice the avocado and divide among the 4 plates as well. Top the salad with your favorite (light) salad dressing. Then on a large cutting board, thinly slice the steak at an angle. Divide it
into 4 portions and put it over the salad or to the side (your choice). Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Game Day Chicken Kabobs w/ Greek Yogurt Dip

If you're like me, you're watching your weight in the new year, so you may be looking for something to serve on Super Bowl Sunday that won't completely ruin your diet. This Chicken Kabob appetizer is perfect. It's made with low-fat chicken tenders and the base of the dip is Greek yogurt which has so many health benefits. It's the kind of dip you can pile on your plate and not feel guilty because it's actually good for you.

The chicken is also healthy but packed with flavor. You may notice that some of the spices for the chicken marinade are a bit exotic but using all of these ingredients is what makes this chicken so good. Though if you don't have them on hand or have time to pick them up, you could sub in 3 tablespoons of curry powder to replace the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon.

Either way I hope you give this a try! Your taste buds and waistline will thank you!


1/4 cup Vegetable Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lbs. Chicken Tenders
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Coriander
1 tablespoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Oregano (or Italian Seasoning)
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Coarse Black Pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt (low-fat or non-fat)
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 garlic clove
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken:

This chicken is best when marinated overnight but if you can't, I suggest making it at least 3-4 hours in advance. If you are using wooden skewers, you also want to soak them in water at least 3-4 hours in advance to prevent burning. Small skewers work best, but I used large and they were fine.

In a large bowl add the oil, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to mix the spices with the oil; it will become a thick paste. Add the chicken to the bowl and using a large spoon, thoroughly mix the chicken with spice mixture until all the chicken is covered. (You may be tempted to use your hands here, but tamarind will stain your nails! I learned the hard way.) Next, cover the bowl with saran wrap and marinate in the refrigerator.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to cook the chicken, take the bowl out the refrigerator to let the tenders come to room temperature. Then, thread each tender onto the top of a skewer. (see picture>>>)

Now you can cook these using a grill pan (preferred method) or broiler. Either way you want to make sure the broiler or the grill pan is preheated; broiler should be set to high and the grill pan should be on very high heat so that it's almost smoking. Then cook the tenders for 6 minutes on 1 side and 5 minutes on the other side. You can serve immediately with the Greek Yogurt Dip, but these kabobs are tasty even at room temperature.

For the Greek Yogurt Dip:

Just like the chicken, this dip gets better the longer it sits, so feel free to make it as early as a day in advanced.

In a small bowl, add the yogurt, chopped mint, and lemon juice. Using a Microplane, grate in one clove of garlic and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with the chicken.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Game Day Guacamole

I decided to make guacamole because avocados have alot of great health benefits. After I posted a pic of my finished product, a few people requested my recipe. I figured I would just put it on the blog because guacamole is a must have on Super Bowl Sunday which is in 2 days! My "semi-homemade" version is full proof and ready in minutes.


2 Ripe* Hass Avocados
1 Lime
1/4 cup Store Bought FRESH Salsa (in the refrigerator in the produce section)
Salt and Pepper

*A ripe avocado is dark green and soft to the touch when you squeeze it gently. If your avocados are bright green and hard, they will need 2-3 days to ripen by simply leaving them out on the kitchen counter.


Grip the avocado gently on one side with one hand. With a large, sharp knife in the other hand, cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Open the two halves to expose the pit. (SEE PICTURES BELOW) Remove the seed by scooping it out with spoon or using a knife to cut into the seed and twisting it out. Then, using a spoon, scoop the flesh of the avocado out into a small bowl. Roll the lime on the kitchen counter to release it's juices, cut the lime in half and squeeze all of the juice onto the avocados. Next, mash the avocado using the spoon until it is smooth (you can leave some chunks if you like). Lastly, add the salsa, salt and pepper to taste. Give it a final mix and serve immediately. If you cannot serve immediately you will need to keep adding lime juice to keep the guacamole from browning until you are ready to serve.

For even more flavor: Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro and/or grate in a small clove of garlic.

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