Monday, September 29, 2014

All things Pumpkin

This morning - in about an hour, on Good Day Columbus (Ch 28 FOX) I'll be talking about the health benefits of eating pumpkin, the pitfalls of eating pumpkin and what to make with pumpkin...all in 4 minutes or less.

I'd like my own food show.  I mean, pumpkin deserves more than 4 minutes, don't you think?

Pumpkin Energy Nuggets

Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds*
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds*
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
     *I "toast" this small amount of seeds in a non-stick skillet over medium to med-low heat for a few minutes - watch carefully and stir often.

In the bowl of a food processor to high powered blender (Vitamix!) combine:
1 cup dates
3-4 cup pumpkin (unsweetened puree from a can or fresh that's been cooked and mashed)
1/4 cup agave syrup
You may have to stop the processor and scrape down the sides.  This is where a smaller processor would be really handy...I should get one!

Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined completely.  You'll need a little patience here - think of massaging the ingredients with your spoon to get it all to come together.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll into balls - I use my 1 oz ice cream scooper and then my hands.  If the mixture is too crumbly, add more pumpkin.

I like to store my balls in the freezer.

Pumpkin Pudding and tarts
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 cups milk
1 large egg
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (canned unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
pinch of nutmeg

Set 4 small ramekins out on counter, or small shortbread tart shells, or both! (I found these in the baking isle at my local grocery store).  I put mine on a small sheet pan to make transferring from the counter to the fridge easier.

In a medium heavy saucepan whisk sugar and corn starch.

In a medium bowl whisk together egg and milk.

In yet another bowl, combine pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, alt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Slowly whisk together the milk mixture into the sugar mixture.  Over medium heat and whisking almost constantly (as soon as you are tempted to turn away this is the exact moment when the mixture will thicken and boil:)) until boiling.  Stir and let boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Add pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.  Return pan to low heat and stir for 1-2 minutes more until the mixture is evenly warm.  At this point pour the mixture into the ramekins and tart shells.  Cover in placates and refrigerate.  I have to admit that I really like the pudding when it is warm, so do as you please, eat immediately, or chilled.

Top with what you like.  I like toasted and or candied pecans and whipped cream.

Quick Candied Pecans
1/2 cup pecans
2 Tablespoons sugar
Flake sea salt (optional)

Get a sheet pan ready with either a silicone sheet or AL foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Place ingredients in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  When the sugar begins to melt, stir to coat the nuts.  When the sugar turns a golden brown, remove the pan from the heat.  Spread nuts on prepared pan** and cool completely.  **This is the time to sprinkle with sea salt if desired.

Whipped Cream 
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
vanilla extract (optional)

In a stand mixer or bowl if you are using a hand held mixer, whip ingredients on med-high until desired consistency.  I like a loose whipped cream that forms pillows rather than stiff mounds.  Top pudding and serve.  This holds well in the fridge; just re-whip or stir vigorously to regain desired consistency.

Pumpkin Pie Spice You can make this to suit your taste.  If you don't like cloves, leave them out completely!  A little cayenne adds some kick.

3 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Whisk together in a small bowl.  Keep in an air tight container.  Use to dress-up oatmeal or yogurt.  Try this on toast for pumpkin pie toast in the morning.  Use this blend in your pancake and waffle mix and in the egg mixture for French toast.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

The topic of my latest appearance on Good Day Columbus (Monday, August 18, 2014 ) was healthy ingredient substitutions. The objective: create healthier options of popular foods and see if the anchors could guess which was which...and which they preferred...I love taste tests and playing what's that ingredient with my family, so this kind of segment is right up my alley!

As you saw, or will see, we had a lot of taste tests (read: too many). A fun segment, except that I sorta forgot that , although the reactions of Marshall and Shawn were fun, I really ought to give some more details. So read on and find recipes and the whys and wherefores of substituting some healthy ingredients. First ingredient: Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream, mayo, oil (you can also use in baked goods like banana bread, but make sure to add some baking soda to dry ingredients, e.g. 1-2 teaspoons baking soda to each 1 cup flour). Yogurt, especially Greek adds protein, can reduce the calories in the finished product and replaces the saturated fat found in sour cream.

Jenny's Ranch Dressing
1 cup Plain Greek yogurt (I prefer at least 2% fat) 1/2 cup + more to taste, low fat buttermilk (I
                                  typically make my own with 1 cup milk + 1 Tablespoon vinegar)
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh herbs like tarragon, parsley, chives, basil, etc. (I use tarragon        
                                  without exception, parsley and chives. Add basil for a distantly different, but
                                  yummy flavor change) splash of Worcestershire sauce, sriracha or lemon juice
1 teaspoon (or to taste) Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Shake all ingredients in a tightly closed jar until combined.  Keep in fridge.

For the show I simply made dip with a Lipton Onion soup package. I prefer the dip with some mayonnaise as well, so I used 1/4 cup mayo and the rest of what the package called for in sour cream, I subbed Greek yogurt. If you like the taste of straight yogurt - do that!

Second ingredient: avocado instead of butter/oil in cookies. I'm a HUGE chocolate chip cookie fan. Avocado is a good fat, i.e. monounsaturated; butter is saturated fat - the bad kind that can mess-up your blood flow. Use 1/2 cup mashed, ripe avocado instead of 1 stick of butter.

Chocolate chip cookie 
Cream together: 1/2 cup avocado 1/2 cup salted butter
Add until well combined:
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar (try organic sometime - yum!)
Add: 2 eggs, one at a time until well combined
Add: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat on med-high speed in a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together:
2 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined.
Fold in: 1-2 cups chocolate chips (my very favorite is Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chips) and 1 cup nuts if you'd like (When I use nuts; it's always unsalted roasted pecans or walnuts)
Drop cookies by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for approx 9-11 minutes.

Third ingredient: flax meal instead of egg. Prepare 1 Tablespoon flax meal + 3 Tablespoons water, let sit 5 minutes before using in recipe. I used this ingredient sub in a Ghirardelli brownie mix instead of the egg the package called for and added approximately 10 minutes to the baking time. I also tried the flax meal in the above chocolate chip cookie recipe. The brownies were delicious, but the cookies clearly had something altered - still tasty, but for me it's hard to make a cookie healthy and not give up some of the satisfaction of eating them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! I'd love to hear about healthy subs you make at home - so please comment.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lighten Up the Cookout

It's cookout season, which means lots of yummy food that can have lots of hidden calories.. Good Housekeeping has a great article about what typical cookout menus GDC asked me to lighten it up a bit so this is what I came up with: Grilled chicken breast Classic Mustard Potato Salad Rainbow Slaw Berries and Cream You'll find all these recipes on my Pinterest page Photos will be posted soon!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whole Grain Mix - multiple uses!

I love having this whole grain toasty mix on-hand to make mini yogurt pies, granola, granola bars, to sprinkle on yogurt, cereal and oatmeal and add to muffins and other baked foods.

Roasting the grains brings out their amazing flavors and gives them a crisp that makes them pop when you eat them.

You can mix and match grains of your choosing - follow your intuition with cooking time, checking and stirring the first 10 minutes, then every 5 minutes thereafter.  This will ensure you won't over bake the grains giving them a charred taste.

Jenny's Whole Grain Mix
1 cup oatmeal (I love Bob's Red Mill thick cut)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of any or all of the following, raw and unsalted grains/seeds/rice: quinoa (red or white), steel cut oats, pepitas, chia seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds (make sure they are FRESH!)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  (350 degrees if you are willing to keep a close watch!)

Spread all ingredients on a large rimmed baking sheet and place in preheated oven.  After 10 minutes stir grains to ensure even roasting and place back in oven.  Repeat the stirring of ingredients every 5 minutes until you can smell the grains and the oatmeal is slightly golden.  This takes about 15-20 minutes.

Recently I made mini yogurt and berry pies:

Yogurt parfaits:

Nut-Free granola and granola bars:

 In Berry Crepes for Breakfast:
The possibilities are endless - let me know how you use it!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Vegetable Bits and Pieces

After a long week of work and school, I have random pieces of this and that in my fridge - nothing large enough to make a sizable dish on its own.  I took everything out of the vegetable bins - pitched a couple unidentifiable slimers found in tiny tupperware and baggies - and surveyed the fresh bits and pieces waiting for inspiration.

Earlier this morning I sat beside a nice couple at my son's basketball game.  They were having a conversation about preparing healthy meals for the next 30 days.  I couldn't help myself and joined in their conversation.  Before too long I was sharing a recipe and they were telling me about preparing a delicious kale salad.  With a few stalks of kale on the counter in front of me, my mind was made up - chopped vegetable salad for lunch!

Chopped Vegetable Salad
A couple stalks of curly kale (I had intended to sauté or make chips with them, but we ended up giving the guinea pigs half the bunch during the week), 1/2 a bunch of parsley (I love tabouli, so all of that went in), 1/8 of a small head of red cabbage, 1/4 orange bell pepper, 1 "vine-ripened" tomato, 1 tablespoon of sweet onion, beets, 1/2 a medium zucchini, and a lime that really needed to be used.  I minced the onion and parsley, chopped everything else (excluding the lime) fairly small and tossed everything together in a large bowl.  I had small amounts of 2 vinaigrettes - just basic vinaigrettes - one made with balsamic vinegar and one with apple cider vinegar and fresh thyme.  Together they made a terrific dressing for the chopped salad.

Those bits and pieces made A LOT - too much for lunch - I used about 1/3 of the chopped vegetables for the salad.  What to do with the rest was easy…save it.

Save your bits and pieces - advice from my own mama.  When I was growing up my mother always kept a Cool Whip container (the Cool Whip had long since been eaten) in the freezer.  Every time we had a spoonful of vegetables leftover from dinner - usually too small for a decent portion, Mom would throw them in the Cool Whip Container and place it back in the freezer.  When the container became full, it was time to work her magic - homemade vegetable soup; sometimes homemade beef vegetable soup.

That soup - either kind - was delicious and I can remember how proud I was for wanting more vegetable soup - how healthy I was!  As I grew, my preferences changed and I can remember crushing crackers in the soup at times and very often during my teens dumping loads of cheddar cheese on top; my mom's homemade croutons were also a delicious addition.

The Cool Whip-vegetable soup tradition continues in my home, minus the Cool Whip container.  Currently I'm using a 2-quart plastic tub you can purchase at the grocery store beside the resealable bags.  I put tiny vegetable leftovers in there, the last splash of stock, a dab of tomato sauce, the liquid left after steaming vegetables, etc.

1/3 of the chopped salad (minus the dressing) went in the soup container

The last 1/3 went into a container in the fridge - I'll probably sauté it and use it in an omelet tomorrow morning.

My vegetable bins are clean and ready for a new supply this weekend, my soup container is almost full, lunch was spectacular and I'm looking forward to that omelet.  Not bad for the bottom of the vegetable bin!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I talked about some of the benefits of juicing on Good Day Columbus on January 15, 2014!

A great source of concentrated nutrients, juice can provide much of our daily 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables.

Extracting the flavor from fruit and vegetable leaves important fiber to waste.  Fiber helps to keep one's digestive tract healthy and can lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease (think heart attack and stroke), some cancer, obesity and can lower total cholesterol levels as well as help manage blood sugar levels.

Ahhhh, sugar! Juice a couple cups of fruit and quickly you will have a glass full of sugar*.

To keep the great taste of juice and the benefit of fiber use a blender instead of a juicer.  It does have to be a good blender, one that can pulverize apple skins, orange pulp and hard vegetables like carrots.  I use a Vitamix, but there are several blenders that are marketed to handle the toughest of jobs. Check out Real Simple Magazine's ratings of blenders here:

Recipes for juices are handy and are in abundance on the web.  They gave me a place to start experimenting with combinations of flavors and textures and proportions.  When choosing a recipe go for one that has a combination of whole fruits and vegetables, not just fruit, and keep your serving size to 1-1 1/2 cups.  What I've come up with is a basic recipe that you can fit to your taste and has about 7-15 grams of sugar or 28-60 calories from sugar.

Basic Juice Recipe
1/2 cup water or coconut water (more if thinner consistency is desired)
1 cup fruit of your choice
1/2-1 cup vegetable of your choice
flavorings like fresh basil or mint, cinnamon, garlic, Mrs. Dash, vanilla extract, lemon juice, lime juice, etc.

Put all ingredients in a blender with a secure lid.  Blend until desired consistency.  Pour and enjoy!

* The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams/96 calories) added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams/144 calories) for men of added sugar daily.  The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10% of daily calories should come from added sugar.  That means that a person on a 2000 calorie diet should consume no more than 50 grams (about 12 teaspoons).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Avocados are a staple in our house.  Bought in semi-bulk (4-6 per bag) they are about $1.25 a piece or less at Whole Foods Market and Costco.  They are so versatile - we use them at any meal.  At breakfast a very ripe avocado is delicious smashed and spread on whole grain toast, served with or without something else!

One of our favorite recipes for times when we have several ripe avocados is Avocado Crème.  I like the recipe because you don't have to be exact in measuring or particular about what ingredients are included - a dump cook's dream!

Nutrition: Avocados are a source of monounsaturated fat (good fat), fiber, potassium and a source of lutein, an antioxidant that may protect eye health.

Good Ideas: use to replace fat in a cookie recipe, butter on toast, mayo on sandwiches or in dips, banana in smoothies, sprinkle with salt, pepper and hot sauce and eat right out of the shell with a spoon or corn chip.

More on avocados at another time, but here is the recipe I made that accompanied easy chicken enchiladas last night and creamy scrambled eggs this morning:

Avocado Crème

1-2 cups chicken broth (I used my own as I made chicken pot pie last Sunday and had extra broth)
1-2 garlic cloves (optional)
1/2 small onion (optional)
1/2-1 cup Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage brand 2%, but I had some fat free and some 2% on-hand)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
red pepper sauce (taco sauce) of your liking and to your taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
kosher salt or salt seasoning to taste (I used Tastefully Simple seasoning salt - love it!)
2-3 avocados
1 jar green salsa (I use a smallish jar from Trader Joe)
Lime juice to taste

Reserve 1/2 of the chicken broth you think you need and put all other ingredients into a blender/food processor (of course I used my new Vitamix!!).  Blend until smooth adding more chicken broth if necessary to reach the consistency you like.  I make mine so it barely flows in the Vitamix, which makes a consistency of a thick sauce for enchiladas and dip for corn chips (Garden of Eatin' Blue Corn Chips).