MAKE: Gluten-Free Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

The concept of gluten-free diets has been a hot topic for years now, but I’ve never never needed to pay attention to it until recently. See, I’m a firm believer in the fact that going gluten-free is only something one needs to do out of medical necessity. It isn’t a weight-loss diet, so I’ve never seen the need to wade into the gluten-free waters. Besides, I’ve eaten pretty much the same way for at least the past 10 years.

But when my husband started eating gluten-free about a month ago in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, the cook in the family — i.e. me — had to change her wheat-loving ways — and quickly.  Read more »

Make: Grilled Pear and Chicken Salad With Blue Cheese 

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

I’ve had many burgers, I’ve had many beers, and there’s still half a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips plaguing me in my pantry. Two people today told me they were ready for summer to end so they could get “back to routine,” and though my vote is for never-ending summer, I agree that my diet needs to get back on track — and quickly.

Salads and soups are my go-tos when I need to lighten up. And I know, grilled chicken and baby spinach are totally standard but with the simple additions of sweet pears and perfectly tangy blue cheese, this salad becomes a weeknight meal that literally brings a grin to my face all through dinner. This would work equally well for lunch as it does for dinner, or for company or for a simple party of two. And it’s the perfect meal to clean up your diet though it tastes like you’re still enjoying a summertime splurge.

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Make: Lighter Frozen Peach Margaritas

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

Moderate alcohol intake can absolutely be a part of healthy lifestyle — and thank goodness for that, because summer barbeques wouldn’t be the same without a cold drink in hand. A light beer or a glass of wine is generally your best bet, whereas blended fruit cocktails can be loaded with sugar, clocking in upwards of 400 calories. But they’re also delicious. Can we keep the frozen fruit concoction but lose the guilt? I daresay we can.

This drink is bright, fresh, and comes just in time for summer peach season. With a small amount of honey, it’s just sweet enough, and while it is still on the sugary side, the calorie count isn’t out the roof. So give your blender a break from smoothies and get the party started — with a big dose of vitamin C to boot!

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Make: Asparagus and Mozzarella Orzo Salad

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

The colors of this recipe are like Christmas in July but the flavors are pure summertime. And with herb gardens generously yielding their bounty thanks to the buckets of rain we’ve been getting, jazzing up this basic pasta salad is a cinch.

Though this would be perfect as a side with basic grilled chicken or sausage, it’s high enough in protein (thanks to the cheese and beans) that you can bring the leftovers to work for a stand-alone lunch. And if you have a problem with gluten, not to worry: You can easily try this recipe with quinoa or brown rice instead of orzo. It’s highly customizable! Last thing before I get to the recipe: I’d like to apologize for mentioning Christmas — fear not, we’ve got tons of summertime left!

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Make: Creamy Zucchini and Basil Soup

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

You might see this title and say to yourself, “Soup … in July?” But the amazing thing about cooking with seasonal produce is that the temperature doesn’t really matter. Whether you eat this soup hot or at room temperature, it’s simply bursting with the fresh, summery flavors of tender zucchini and fragrant basil. The lime juice lends a bit of interest and zip (not to mention lessens the need for salt), and as I poured myself a second bowl I secretly hoped my kids would turn up their little noses at the green color so I could save it all for my weekday lunches.

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Make: 10-Minute Oven-Roasted Fish with Browned Butter-Lime Sauce

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

A healthy home cook such as you is probably pretty comfortable cooking salmon. Your skills have been honed by practice because the notion of salmon as a superfood has been sufficiently pounded into your head. And though salmon is one of the healthiest ocean edibles, we shouldn’t overlook its fellow swimmers. White fish is high in healthy fat and protein and very low in calories. It’s also milder in flavor, which makes it a great choice for kids.

In the ten to fifteen minutes it takes your fish to cook, make this sauce on the stovetop; it’s amazingly flavorful and really perks up the simple, light fare. I’ve used this on both salmon and white fish and it’s equally delicious on both, though I suspect I’d enjoy just about anything bathed in it. It’s that good.

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Make: Easy Brown Sugar and Sriracha Pork Kebabs

Photo by Becca Boyd.

Photo by Becca Boyd

When I plan meals during the spring and summer months I feel like there is a unspoken but expected subtext: Recipes must take less than 20 minutes, yield less than one dish to be washed, and bonus points for use of the grill. I’ve just waited too long for these warm, sunshiny days and by the time I’m ready to make dinner (which is usually around the time my family is complaining of hunger), time is most certainly of the essence.

Cue these pork kebabs. They’re simultaneously sweet and fiery hot and their tenderness is unparalleled. They can be prepped ahead and held in the fridge for several hours which makes them great for entertaining. (I’ve found that the standard hamburgers and hot dogs ends up being more work than I initially think.) I’d serve these kebobs with a fresh cole slaw and summer sweet corn for a meal that will keep you outside with your guests — and out of the kitchen — for as much time as possible.

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Make: Chocolate Cupcake Bites You Won’t Feel Bad About Eating

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

The cupcake has been enjoying quite the season in the sun, from game shows to bakeries that sell nothing but the personal-sized treat. But you know who was miles ahead of the trend and will probably be enjoying them long after they’re no longer a “thing”? Kids. Kids love cupcakes, trendy or not.

And for good reason: They’re portion controlled, wrapped in pretty paper and have an excellent cake-to-icing ratio. The downside is what they do to your hip-to-waist ratio. I’ve made and tasted more than my share of “lightened-up” treats, and it’s rare that one will measure up in both flavor and texture, but believe me when I tell you, these fruit-enriched, deep chocolate cupcakes are honestly every bit as good as the real thing. And for way less calories! My three-year-old (who can sniff out hidden health with the best of them) didn’t have a clue.

So whip these up and enjoy — and don’t you dare feel bad about it. They’re sweetened with dates, after all. Read more »

Make This Tonight: One-Dish Lemony Chicken, Artichoke and Potato Bake

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

On beautifully warm, breezy and fragrant spring evenings, “What’s for dinner?” is literally the last thing on my mind. But we all know that to eat healthy you need to spend more time in your kitchen and less time dining out so, during this time of  year, I’m constantly on the lookout for meals that not only come together quickly, but yield very little cleanup. Interested in an easy one-dish meal that tastes great and keeps on you on track for bathing suit season? That’s what I thought. Read more »

The Perfect Weekend Brunch Recipe: Lemon-Poppy Seed Pancakes with Blueberry Cream

pancakes

Photo by Becca Boyd

Brunch is one of my favorite meals, but going out for bunch can be a big ol’ pain. Two words: the lines. Because I’m not one to wait an hour or more for a table, I’m happiest having an at-home brunch. Besides, whipping up my own pancakes or French toast means I can control what goes in it and on it — a much safer bet in terms of fat and calories than restaurant food.

This week’s recipe is the perfect example of exactly that. The lemon-poppy seed pancakes are totally something you’d find on a brunch menu, but I’m putting a healthier twist on this brunch staple with whole-wheat flour and a creamy blueberry topping made with Greek yogurt. I’d call that a win-win.  Read more »

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