Friday Favorites: Salad Spinner

31 12 2010

It’s such a simple concept, the salad spinner. Wash your cut greens in its bowl, strain it in the built in strainer, and then spin, spin, spin to get a clean and dry salad in no time. 41-0gHcr6CL__SL500_AA300_

My particular salad spinner is nothing special. It was less than $10 from Amazon, but I just love it.

I get lots of cut greens from my CSA, and after I forgot to put away some mustard greens last summer and they were ruined, it was time to stop the insanity and figure out a better way.

The simple salad spinner is a better way, and, once your greens are clean and dry, they can be stored in the strainer bowl  inside the spinner for a longer shelf life in the fridge. Genius!

2Chili and I are off skiing it up today, and wish you a happy New Year’s Eve. Please be safe out there!


Banana Cream Pie Blender Ice Cream

30 12 2010


When I think of banana cream pie, I am instantly transported back to 1991 and my high school cafeteria.

Banana cream pie day was usually on Wednesdays, and I don’t think I’ve had a slice since those days, because I realized what went into the pie to make it “cream.” I  have  pretty much have stayed away since.

Fast forward 20 years, and I devised a pretty easy banana cream pie fix that isn’t too bad for you and is an easy treat. The best part is you only need two ingredients.

I pretty much always have frozen bananas on hand, and for some reason one day, I decided to add light coconut milk to my grocery order. It turns out, the two marry well when blended at high speeds. I hope you enjoy this idea!  

Test Kitchen Tuesday’s Banana Cream Pie Ice Cream

Downloadable Word Document Recipe

Time Required: 5 minutes

Skill Level (out of 5): Plate 

Makes: 2 Servings


  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 frozen bananas, chopped into halves or quarters


  • Pour coconut milk into high speed blender
  • Add halved bananas into blender
  • Blend on medium-high until the mixture reaches a soft serve consistency
  • For hard ice cream, freeze for about 4 hours or overnight


  • Calories: 195
  • Total Fat: 8.4g
  • Saturated Fat: 6.1g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 25.2mg
  • Carb: 29g
  • Fiber: 3.1g
  • Sugars: 16.4g
  • Protein: 1.3g

Homemade Veggie Burgers

29 12 2010

It’s like they say, the 12th time’s the charm. Oh, they don’t say that? Well, I guess I am taking some liberty with the saying, then.

Back when I started No Meat November, I set off on a mission to find a reasonable replacement for beef burgers. I used to like Gardenburgers in college, but have since learned to steer clear of pretty much any processed vegetarian fare, as it has more salt than a square acre in the Bonneville Salt Flats. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. Processed food = salty.

Here is the nutrition panel for your standard issue Gardenburger, along with the ingredients list. On the surface, it looks pretty good, but 400 mg of sodium for something that only has 100 calories is kinda out of whack. Considering you will likely put in on a bun, and bread products are pretty high in sodium, it’s a one-way ticket to high blood pressure and water retention.The ingredients list is long and involved, and, while most things are pronounceable, some are definitely questionable.  But, I digress. Getting back on track…  image image

For this week’s Test Kitchen Tuesday, 2Chili provided the recipe he wanted. I was completely shocked that it was a veggie burger, because the boy has suffered through quite a few disastrous veggie burgers.

We’ve tried multiple black bean burgers, lentil burgers till the cows come home (ironic choice of wording, huh?), and the one I thought was the best, a TVP (textured vegetable protein) burger. For what it’s worth, 2Chili  thought the TVP burger was the worst. We couldn’t be more different.

Last week, he handed me a magazine that our realtor sends out called “American Lifestyle.” It was opened to a recipe for Red Lentil Veggie Burgers, garlicky yam fries and spicy mango ketchup. Of course, for 2Chili, yam fries and spicy mango ketchup were not contenders, but he suggested the lentil burger. imageI happened to have all the ingredients required on hand, and even had lentils and bulgur prepared. It was veggie burger destiny.

The burgers are chock-full of chopped veggies, and thus take a bit of prep time, so this is a good make ahead on the weekend project, which is what I did. Last night, all I had to do was heat them up and add some mashed potatoes on the side.

I had very low expectations for these burgers, as I am used to the disappointment of providing what I think is a good veggie burger only to get two thumbs down. But, amazingly, he had his dinner eaten before I even finished assembling mine, and I didn’t hear any rumbling in the other room. In 2Chili land, that means something was a hit!


Veggie Burgers

Downloadable Word Document Recipe

Original Recipe Inspiration: The recipe is a modification of “Red Lentil Veggie Burgers” from a magazine called American Lifestyle.

Time Required:

  • 15 minutes to chop veggies
  • 10 minutes to sauté veggies
  • 1 hour to chill patties
  • 10 minutes to sear patties
  • 12 minutes to bake patties

Skill Level (out of 5): PlatePlatePlate 

2Chili’s Taster Rating (out of 5):StarStarStarStar

The Cook’s Taster Rating (out of 5): StarStarStarStar

Makes: 8 patties


  • 1 cup cooked bulgur or brown rice (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced (1/c cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Canola, olive, or grapeseed oil spray
  • 5 ounces broccoli, florets and stems finely chopped (1.5 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and grated (1 cup) and squeezed to remove excess liquid
  • 3 ounces shitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 ounces fresh or defrosted frozen shelled edamame beans, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons yellow curry powder (if you don’t like curry powder, perhaps replace with Worcestershire sauce)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook bulgur and lentils according to package directions
  • Chop all vegetables
  • Spray a large skillet with oil, and heat over medium heat
  • Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until translucent and fragrant but not brown, about 3 minutes
  • Add the broccoli, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and edamame beans and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are fragrant but still crunchy, about 2 minutes
  • Add the curry powder, and cook, stirring for 30 seconds
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt and pepper
  • Let cool slightly
  • Transfer the lentils, bulgur, and vegetable mixture to a large bowl, add egg, and mix until well combined
  • Scoop out ½ cup of the mixture, and with wet hands, pack it firmly into a tight ball as if forming a meatball
  • For the ball into a 3-inch patty about 1 inch thick
  • Place the patty on a sprayed baking sheet and repeat to make 8 burgers
  • Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Preheat oven to 400 F
  • Spray a large skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking
  • Place the burgers in the pan without crowding (work in batches) and sear until they are light golden on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side
  • Transfer the burgers to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes to warm through completely


For one patty made with no added salt. Click to enlarge.

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The Verdict: 2Chili said this is the best at-home veggie burger he has had yet. These were somewhat laborious due to all the chopping, but, the end result really was good. The original recipe didn’t call for an egg, but after trying to get them to hold together somewhat unsuccessfully, I added the egg and that seemed to do the trick., as they held together pretty well. 2Chili thought they were good because all the veggies gave them a bit of a crunch, instead how he described previous veggie burgers, “pasty.” Since there are  only two of us, I froze 6 patties, so we’re set on veggie burgers for a while. Gotta love healthy convenience foods!

Butternut Squash Orzo

28 12 2010

31pV5xaXUGL__SS280_If you’ve followed TKT for a while, you may know that my love and admiration for the butternut squash is bested only by my love and admiration for the sweet potato.

It honestly can’t  be repeated enough. Winter squash is wonderfully diverse, and useful for just about any occasion from soup to smoothies. I like to roast up a couple varieties at a time, cut them into cubes, and freeze them for convenient access any time inspiration strikes. Acorn and delicata are two other really good varieties, in addition to the effervescent pumpkin, of course.

The idea for this recipe came from a successful attempt to make a risotto-like orzo a few weeks ago. For some reason, I had a hankering for risotto but all we had was orzo. Turns out, you can cook orzo in vegetable broth to a creamy consistency without all that stirring.

Last night, when I wanted something with orzo, I was thinking more along the lines of a soup, but ended up with a nice pasta dish. I started with orzo and veggie broth, and picked a few items from the crisper to complement them. As it turned out, I didn’t have quite enough broth for a soup and am glad! It was serendipity, you might say.

While I didn’t serve this to 2Chili, after having it myself, I’m confident this is something he would like. It’s going to be on the leftover rotation for him (mwa-ha-hah). This is super easy and fast, and provides a hearty and satisfying dinner. Served with a mixed greens salad, it was really perfect for a cold and wet night (which, let’s be honest, is every night in winter in the Northwest).


Butternut Squash Orzo

Downloadable Word Document Recipe

Time Required: 20 minutes

Skill Level: PlatePlate

Makes: 3 Servings


  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cups cubed and roasted (or otherwise cooked) butternut squash
  • 1 cup green chard, center stalk removed and chopped or cut into ribbons (you could substitute any number of greens, including spinach, if you don’t have chard)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Add orzo and vegetable broth to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil
  • Boil for 12 minutes until pasta is cooked; While boiling, stir occasionally to prevent orzo from sticking to pan, removing pan from heat to stir
  • After about 6 minutes of boiling, add zucchini and butternut squash cubes
  • With about 2-3 minutes to go in boiling time, add the chopped green chard
  • Once pasta is cooked, reduce heat to a simmer and occasionally stir until most of the vegetable broth is absorbed by the pasta, about 5-10 minutes; The squash should be mostly dissolved into the mixture with a few little chunks remaning
  • While orzo is simmering, season with salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t add any)
  • Remove from heat and serve immediately


image image

Sweet Potato Oat Muffins

27 12 2010

Did you survive the holidays? Or perhaps a more appropriate question is, do your pants still button? I did, and mine do, so I guess that is what we’d call a holiday victory indeed!

I am kind of surprised to be sharing another muffin recipe with you this week. Honestly, I usually shy away from muffins, because they usually have lots of calories, too much sugar, sodium, and fat, and if I’m going to splurge, I’d rather have many other things besides a muffin. (Donuts come to mind…)

Have you ever looked at the nutrition of your favorite store-bought or coffeehouse muffin? If you haven’t and decide to, better put on some kneepads ahead of time, because I’m pretty sure you’ll be so shocked you’ll hit your knees. While technically not a muffin, I used to think the Starbucks reduced fat banana chocolate chip coffeecake was a pretty decent “muffin-like” selection. Uh, yeah, not so much.

Sure, it doesn’t have much fat, but holy Chiquita bananas, it has almost 13 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4 off your daily allowance in sodium! The day I looked this up (after having a piece), I spent an extra hour on the treadmill trying to undo my mistake.


Those nutrient-dense cranberry quinoa muffins from last week got my mind churning. If instead of a sugar delivery system, muffins were more of a nutrient delivery system, how awesome would that be? And, if I found a way to make that nutritious muffin, with oh, I don’t know, sweet potatoes, how much even more awesome would that be? With the holidays (and holiday treats) now solidly in the past, it seemed apropos to develop a truly healthy and hearty muffin that seems a bit like a splurge, but isn’t.

Alas, I present you with a Test Kitchen Tuesday original, straight from my noggin to your table, the sweet potato muffin.

These muffins are a good source of vitamin A (190% DV!!), Fiber (7g), are relatively low in sugar for a muffin (18g) and have a decent amount of protein (8.2g). I did my best on the sodium front, and a jumbo muffin netted out at 387mg. The pesky sodium sneaks in because you have to add something to make them rise a bit (in this case, baking soda).

A final note about sugar. I only added the bare minimum in the way of sugar. I like to add a schmear of almond butter or reduced fat cream cheese to mine. You may feel you need to add more sugar, in which case, I would suggest that you try to only go up to 1/3 cup of brown sugar or 1/2 cup tops. Or better yet, keep with the bare minimum first, and see how it goes. Please, for me. And, since we are bloggy BFFs, I know you’ll listen, right?!

sweet potato muffin

Sweet Potato Oat Muffins

Downloadable Word Document Recipe

Time Required:

  • 10 minutes to prepare batter
  • 35-40 minutes to bake

Skill Level (out of 5): PlatePlate

Makes: 6 jumbo muffins or 12 regular muffins


  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans (or nut of your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 medium (5”) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes


  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Liberally spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray (or, use a spray mister as I do)
  • Add about cubed sweet potatoes to a microwave safe bowl with about ½ cup water and microwave for 3 minutes
  • Meanwhile, mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  • When the potatoes are soft from microwaving, drain water and add them to a blender or food processor with 1 cup of milk and puree until smooth.
  • Pour sweet potato puree and honey/agave into the dry ingredients and stir until just-mixed. Do not over stir
  • Pour mixed batter into muffin tin and bake for 35-40 minutes for jumbo muffins, or 25-30 minutes for regular muffins, until the a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean




For jumbo muffins. Split data in half for regular muffins.

(Click to enlarge)

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Friday Favorites, Guest Edition: Sugar Cookies

24 12 2010

This post could also be called, the ugliest plate of sugar cookies, ever, but that didn’t have the best ring to it!

Considering today is Christmas Eve, and most people don’t really want to hear about healthy eating right before they hit friends and family’s homes for holiday dining, I thought I would have a guest Friday Favorite. You see, I am not much into holiday food (I know, just call me the Grinch). But, 2Chili is more like normal people in this area, as he does enjoy his holiday dining traditions.

imageFor today’s Friday Favorite, I asked him what his favorite holiday treat is, and why. His answer surprised me, as I expected to hear “canned cranberry sauce with the ridges.”


He said his absolute favorite thing is frosted sugar cookies, preferably in the shape of snowmen. His “why” was simply, “because they’re awesome.” We have been together 10 years and I did not know this! I make cookies maybe twice a year, at best, so I figured I could make a few sugar cookies as a treat and used this recipe. It’s a good thing my specialty is in the healthy foods area, because  I definitely do not have a future in the fine art of cookie or cake decorating. They had promise going in, as witnessed below:



The wheels fell off at the frosting!

My cookies look like a 3rd grader decorated them, but they taste pretty good!

Ah well, much like the dog biscuits I made a while back for Pipa, 2Chili doesn’t care how they look, he just cares how they taste. Good thing, too, cause I would be kicked off Iron Chef in 2 seconds with a sorry plate of cookies like these!

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday, and sending warm season’s greetings!

Berry Blender Soft Serve

23 12 2010

When I was young, my grandmother made the absolute best homemade strawberry ice cream. It was a big production that involved an old fashioned ice cream maker, rock salt, and I honestly don’t know what else besides strawberries – and, I probably don’t want to know. There must have been heavy cream somewhere, because that ice cream was the most delicious, creamy, sugary concoction ever.  In the  heart of Texas summer, it tasted like heaven. To this day, my favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry, but, I hardly ever have it.

We don’t eat enough ice cream to justify buying it by the half gallon, nor do we need to eat that much ice cream. But every so often, even in Seattle in winter, I crave a little ice cream treat. That’s where my Ninja Professional blender comes in. This blender is honestly my favorite kitchen item, and I came this close to not buying it. For shame!

Aside being able to blend the stuffing out of just about anything I want, I can make up a very reasonable ice cream facsimile in less than one minute. No rock salt needed. That’s just plain awesome. In case you are a little odd like me and I like a cold treat on a cold day, here is my berry soft serve creation. Enjoy!

blender ice cream

Test Kitchen Tuesday’s Berry Blender Soft Serve
Downloadable Word Document Recipe

Note: You’ll need a high-powered blender like a Ninja, Blendtec, or Vita-mix to pull this off.

Serves 2


  • 1 cup skim milk (or, almond, soy, etc.)
  • 1 frozen banana (I have started freezing them in halves instead of small chunks; the blender can take it and it’s just easier!)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (or just strawberries)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Optional: Whey protein powder with either a berry or plain flavor


  • Add all the ingredients into your high-powered blender in the order listed and blend for about a minute until the mixture is soft serve consistency. You may have to scrape down the sides once to make sure everything is fully incorporated. The longer you blend, the thicker it will get.
  • Serve and enjoy!
  • I have found the easiest way to scoop the goodness out of my Ninja jar is to use a rice server/spatula thingy. Works great and doesn’t scratch the blender jar.
  • You can also freeze it for a couple hours to get a more frozen ice cream consistency.


Honestly, there is no ice cream you can buy that has this good of a nutritional profile. With just three ingredients, it’s about as good as it gets!

For one serving without protein powder or sugar. (Click to enlarge.)