Monthly Archives

June 2011

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers for One (or more)

June 23, 2011

Thank you, truly, for all your sweet comments, Tweets, and e-mails about my meltdown! I’m so blessed to be able to share this little space on the web with you all and Espresso and Cream is a blessing to me even on my less than wonderful days.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make an effort to reduce food waste at my house. More often than not, I find myself bringing home new groceries only to throw away produce that didn’t get eaten the previous week. And boy do I hate that.

Working on reducing food waste has helped me create more interesting meals on the weeknights, throwing together a random assortment of fruits, veggies and grains, and also results in Joey looking into my fridge and telling me there’s nothing to eat.

Wednesday’s nights dinner was a product of project no-food-left-behind. With one sweet pepper on its last leg, a small spear of cheese and a half-empty bottle or marinara sauce waiting to be used up, I knew I needed to come up with something fast.

And while I was wary of these peppers as I sat down to dinner (I’m not usually a stuffed pepper or tomato person), I was immediately sucked in upon first bite. The flavors were spot-on and the hefty dose of protein from the tofu and quinoa was just what I needed after a long run that morning. Bonus: these could easily be adapted for more people, and non vegetarians, too, by doubling or tripling the recipe and swapping ground beef or turkey in for the tofu. Take your pick!

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers for One (or more)

*1 red, yellow or orange sweet pepper, top cut off and seeded 
*1 (3.5-ounce) block of pre-baked tofu (I get mine at Trader Joe’s) or 1/2 cup ground beef, if making for someone who prefers a non-vegetarian meal (cough cough Joey)
*1/3 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice
*3 Tablespoons marinara sauce
*1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
*2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

*In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water to boiling. Add the sweet pepper and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from water and dry the inside with a paper towel.
*Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, combine the tofu, cooked quinoa or rice, marinara sauce, salt, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and shredded cheddar cheese. Spoon into the center of the pepper. Top with the grated Parmesan cheese.
*Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven to 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and filling is hot. Serve immediately, or cool, cover with plastic wrap and re-heat in the microwave when ready to eat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Happy Cooking!

Bean and Quinoa Enchiladas

June 21, 2011

There are a number of things I could have titled this post. The most appropriate one being “The week my computer decided it was just as tired as I am and quit working.” Or perhaps “That time I walked out of the mall crying, with my mascara running all over my face while I had a wedding meltdown.”

Both would be true, but neither very fun to talk about. Thank goodness I had a batch of these in the freezer to save me from having to make dinner last night because I just didn’t have it in me.

The requests and e-mails just keep rolling in asking for more easy dinner ideas that can be prepared quickly or made ahead of time and frozen. To those of you wanting more dinner recipes, I have great news because these enchiladas fit the bill. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been known to stock a freezer that contains its fair share of Trader Joe’s frozen bean and cheese burritos. They’re easy to pop in the microwave and relatively healthy, plus Joey ate one for dinner the other night and didn’t even miss the meat. Major win-win.

My one complaint, however, is that they aren’t made with whole wheat tortillas, which is typically a deal-breaker for me. That and the fact that they are more expensive to buy than make at home.

So when I sat out to make some of my own, I knew I wanted them to be healthier and heartier. Mission accomplished. Inside the whole wheat tortillas is a combination of fat-free refried beans, shredded cheese and, here’s my favorite addition, cooked quinoa in place of rice. Not that I have anything against rice, it’s just that I had quinoa on hand and it’s absolutely packed with high-quality protein not normally found in other foods.

Plus, when wrapped up with beans and cheese, picky eaters will never notice it’s not rice. That goes for future husbands, too. 🙂

Bean and Quinoa Enchiladas
*1 cup uncooked quinoa 
*4 whole wheat tortillas
*3/4 to 1 cup fat-free refried beans (vegetarian if you follow a veg diet) 
*1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
*1/4 to 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
*Additional shredded cheese

*Preheat oven to 375°F. 
*Bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa to the saucepan. Reduce heat to low (simmer) and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat and toss lightly with butter.
*In the center of each tortilla, spread some of the refried beans and Mexican cheese blend. Spoon some of the quinoa into the center, atop the cheese (you will have leftover quinoa).
*Fold in the shorter ends of each tortilla first, then roll lengthwise to form tortilla ‘pockets’. Place in a large baking dish. Top with the enchilada sauce and some additional shredded cheese.
*Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until mixture on top is bubbly and cheese is melted.
*Make Ahead Tip: You can make these ahead of time. Just fill the tortillas as directed and place each tortilla in a zip-top bag. When you are ready to eat, top with the enchilada sauce and cheese and bake at 375°F until heated through, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Happy Cooking!


Heathier Recipe 1: Banana Muffins

June 17, 2011
Since I had three very ripe bananas sitting atop my fridge, I decided to jump right in on this request to make banana muffins healthier. Banana bread is one of my favorite breakfast treats and an extremely easy food to make healthier because the ripe bananas naturally provide moisture and sweetness to the recipe.
Upon first looking at the original recipe, I noticed a few things. First, it contained sour cream; great for adding moisture and flavor but not so hot nutritionally. Second, they were made with all-purpose flour. Not the end of the world but something that could benefit from a healthy face lift. There was also a full stick of butter in these muffins and a hefty dose of sugar.
So what’s a girl to do? For starters, I stirred in vanilla yogurt for the sour cream to cut down on fat and calories and used a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour for a dose of whole grains and fiber. I also cut back on the amount of sugar used, since I find most recipes are a little heavy on the sweetness. And I cut back on the butter by a few tablespoons and used a little unsweetened applesauce in its place. 
The calorie comparison (calculated using between the original and my new, healthier version are pretty impressive: 

Original Recipe: 205 calories, 11 g fat (6 g sat. fat), 60 mg chol., 25 g carb, 14 g sugar, 3 g protein.
New Recipe: 154 calories, 6 g fat (4 g sat. fat), 15 mg chol., 24 g carb., 12 g sugar, 2 g protein.

Banana Muffins 
Recipe adapted from
*1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*3/4 cup whole wheat flour
*1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon baking soda
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*2 very ripe bananas, mashed
*6 ounces light vanilla yogurt (such as Dannon Light and Fit)
*1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*1/2 cup sugar
*6 tablespoons butter, softened
*2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce 
*1 large egg
*1 large egg yolk 
*Preheat oven to 350°F. 
*In a bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
*In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, yogurt, vanilla extract, sugar, butter, applesauce and eggs until well combined. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until just combined. 
*Line 12 muffin cups with paper baking liners. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. 
Happy Baking!

Unda-Style Avocado Quesadillas

June 16, 2011
Thank you all so much for your enthusiastic response to the ‘healthified’ recipe project! Between your comments and e-mails, I now have a full list of recipes to choose from. My plan is to slowly work through the recipes over the next couple months, but bear with me if I’m a little slow at getting to your recipe or suggestion. Things are a little crazy over here.
While I’m 100% over the moon about getting married, I’ve started to realize that it takes significantly more work to prepare dinner in a mixed veg-carnivore home. Because it takes a little more planning, and because we don’t have a single, combined kitchen right now, Joey and I have defaulted to going out to eat on the weekends more times than I’d like to admit.
I’m not entirely sure what that has to do with these Unda-Style Avocado Quesadillas, inspired heavily by 101 Cookbooks. I guess it’s just the fact that I’m now constantly thinking about how I would make the meals I eat into something Joey could get excited about, too. 
Take, for example, these quesadillas. Unda-style is a term used for when you cook an egg on one side of your flatbread, quesadilla, crepe…you name it. Basically it’s code for pure flavor nirvana. I guess you could say it’s the vegetarian’s quivalent to an egg atop a juicy burger. 
My man-adaptation for this recipe would probably include a little bit of shredded chicken in between the layers of tortilla and egg, or perhaps a bit of ground beef tossed with some cumin and coriander for an extra kick of flavor. And if I were feeling ambitious, some flaked white fish would make a light and fresh addition. 
For me, they were perfect on their own. No addition of meat necessary. 
Those of you who are married or dating: Did you find it difficult to combine your eating style with your significant others’?
Unda-Style Avocado Quesadillas 
*1 large egg + 1 egg white
*Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
*1 whole wheat tortilla
*1/4 cup crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
*1/2 avocado, mashed
*1/3 cup marinara sauce or salsa 
*In a small bowl, beat together the egg and egg white until very well combined. Sprinkle with salt and stir to combine. 
*Heat a small amount of butter or oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add egg to skillet and cook 2 minutes, until egg is set on the bottom but still soft on top. Place the whole wheat tortilla atop the soft egg in pan. Flip the egg and tortilla so the tortilla is on the bottom. 
*Fill with crumbled cheese and mashed avocado on one half of the egg. Fold in half. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.
*Top with the marinara sauce or salsa and additional salt and black pepper, if desired. 
Happy Cooking!

Send Me Your Family Faves

June 14, 2011

Family-favorite recipes. We’ve all got them, some healthier than others. These biscuits, pictured above, were a staple of my childhood. Warm, flakey, buttery, and typically served with a piping hot bowl of beef stew. My mother is a fabulous cook.

When I first started seriously reading food magazines in high school, one of my favorite columns was the section in Cooking Light where they take a classic recipe and make it healthier with a few small tweaks and substitutions. Mac and cheese with half the calories? Sign me up!

So I have a request for you all. Do you have a favorite family recipe that needs a healthy makeover? Perhaps it’s a dish of cheesy potatoes, or maybe a casserole of some sorts. Heck, it could even be a cookie. Whatever it is, send it my way. It can be a complete recipe. In that case, e-mail it to me ( or just a type of dish, in which case you can just leave a comment below!

My plan is to feature healthier versions of your family favorites over the next few months. And as a thank you for sending me recipes to rework, I’ll be sending along some blog loving, too, so don’t be shy to post links in the comments section!