Dec 9, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Cookies

In need of a new cookie tradition in your family? Going to a holiday party and want to impress the crowd? Try one of these recipes -- you won't be disappointed!

1) Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Even if you're not a huge fan of ginger snaps or molasses cookies, you'll like these! And to boot, they're as healthy as a good cookie can get.

2) Popcorn Balls
1 10-oz bag marshmallows

1 tbsp butter

3 tbsp peanut butter

1/2 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
10-12 cups popcorn (unsalted & unbuttered)

Melt butter, peanut butter, and marshmallows together in a pot over low heat on the stove. Stir constantly so the mixture doesnt't burn. When melted & smooth, remove from heat and pour in popcorn, nuts & raisins. Quickly form into about 12 balls.

3) Sugar Cookies with Candy Cane Frosting
First, make these old-fashioned sugar cookies:
Then, make this frosting:
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 cup crushed candy canes (or other peppermint candies)
  1. In a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk together sugar and egg whites until sugar is dissolved and mixture is very warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat on medium speed until completely cooled and stiff peaks have formed, about 10 minutes.
  2. With mixer on medium speed, add butter a few tablespoons at a time until completely combined. Add peppermint extract. Beat on low speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Fold in candy cane pieces.
  3. Frost cookies once they are completely cool.
4) Coconut Biscotti After these cool completely, dip half of them into melted dark chocolate and place on wax paper to harden. (For the dip I just melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, in 20 second intervals -- takes less than 1 min -- then stir til smooth)

5) Grandma Dixie's Homemade Oreos
These are my grandma's invention, so when you take them to a party and get rave reviews (believe me, you will) please share that they're from Grandma Dixie :)

2 packages Devil's Food cake mix (18 oz each)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 8-oz package low-fat cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (sifted, or whisked to get rid of lumps)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Beat eggs, cake mix, and oil. Roll into small balls, and place on
ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with fingers and bake 8-10 min.

Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. When consistency is like a fluffy frosting, its done. Spread a hefty spoonful on the bottom of one cookie and place another similar-sized cookie on top.

Note: this makes a LOT of cookies!

Nov 26, 2008

Surviving Thanksgiving!

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is stuffing yourself a little. However, some of us merely begin stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving....and continue to do so through New Years when we finally make a resolution to deprive ourselves of yummy food. So instead, here's what I recommend: enjoy Thanksgiving food to whatever degree you want to, just make sure you

1) EXERCISE before you dig in. Do an intense cardio workout if you can, for at least 45 minutes. If this isn't in the cards, go for a long brisk walk. Exercising before you eat will make you more likely to eat reasonably, and will counteract some of the calories you take in during the day.

2) Drink plenty of water. If you're dehydrated while you're eating, you're likely to overeat even more than normal. And if you'll be drinking alcohol on the holiday, drink extra water.

3) Exercise AGAIN after you eat. You'll be full, so just get up & move around a bit...a walk is usually a good call for post-Thanksgiving feasts. Then on Friday, get moving again with a really good workout.

4) DO NOT let Thanksgiving be the first day of a 30 day binge. Instead, wake up on Friday and get back to normal. There will be plenty of times to indulge this holiday season, so insert as many healthy days as you can between now & January. This way, you won't have to set some horrible resolution because you won't have gained any weight!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Oct 30, 2008

CA Proposition 2

I won't make a habit of posting political propaganda, but because this coming election includes a proposition relevant to food & nutrition, I feel I must make my opinion known...and that is,


More and more, farm animals are being raised in conditions that would horrify even the most ardent carnivore: Egg-laying chickens spending their only 1-2 years of life in small cages with 12 other chickens; calves living in stalls where they have no room to turn around or even shift their weight; pigs living in stalls where they have no access to the outdoors -- just to name a few.

Prop 2 is a small step in the direction of a more sustainable food system, because it sets limits on the harm big factory farms can impose on animals just to guarantee the lowest price for consumers. It is a sign that Californians want to move toward sustainable farming, where family farms who treat their animals well are the norm, rather than the exception. Prop 2 would make it harder for new factory farms to emerge, which has a positive effect not only on animals (and the consumers who eat these animals), but also on farm employees and neighboring communities who will experience a better quality of life.

For more information, visit:

If you don't live in California, you won't be voting on Prop 2, but you can still make a difference by encouraging your friends and family members who are CA residents to vote yes on this important piece of legislation.

Email me with any specific questions, I'd be happy to tell you more about this important legislation!

Sep 17, 2008

Superfood or Monster From the Deep?

Published: September 16, 2008

OFF the coast of Peru swim billions of sardines and anchovies: oily, smelly little fish, rich in nutritious omega-3 fatty acids. Their spot on the food chain is low; many will be caught, ground up, and fed as fishmeal to bigger animals

MIXING IT UP Food companies have been extracting nutrients from one food (like tomatoes, broccoli, green tea, pomegranates) and processing them into other foods (like breakfast cereal, chocolate, coffee and ginger ale).

But a few have a more exalted destiny: to be transported, purified and served at North American breakfast tables in the form of Tropicana Healthy Heart orange juice and Wonder Headstart bread. These new products promise to deliver the health benefits of fish oil without the smell and the taste — without, in fact, the fish.

The possible benefits of eating omega-3s include cardiovascular protection and improved neural development in children.

However, “People just aren’t eating salmon or sardines twice a day,” said Ellie Halevy, director for marketing of Tropicana, which is owned by PepsiCo. “But they will drink two glasses of orange juice, if it has no fishy taste and all the benefits.”..............

For the full article, click on the link below:

Aug 14, 2008

An amazing salad

At the beginning of this summer, I had one of the best salads of my life at American Flatbread in Los Alamos, CA.

It was an heirloom tomato salad with freshly shelled fava beans, baby lettuces, burrata cheese, and some flavorful herb oil. It is something I will forever try to recreate!

Make a simpler, yet similar, salad at home this summer using heirloom tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella & fresh basil leaves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and good quality balsamic vinegar. Finish off with some freshly ground black pepper. YUM.

Aug 7, 2008

Summertime Snacks

When most of us think of snacks, we think of chips, cookies, crackers, and other processed foods. But fruits & vegetables can make delicious snacks as well, and especially in the summer there are endless options. One of my favorites is blueberries, which you can pop in your mouth like M&M's minus the guilt. Blueberries are among the most low-calorie & high-fiber fruits....and they are jam packed with beneficial nutrients. So next time you have a snack attack, reach for some locally grown blueberries, which are in peak season this month. Yum!

Aug 1, 2008

Something to fill your Calorie Jar

When you're ready for a splurge, make these!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
1 stick butter (or try Earth Balance sticks - more heart-healthy!) at room temp
1/2 cup peanut butter - any kind at room temp
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp honey or molasses
2 eggs at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (if using unsalted PB then use 1/2 tsp)
2 cups oats
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/4 cup sugar (for exterior of cookies)

Preheat oven to 350. In an electric mixer, beat butter & peanut butter together. Add sugars & vanilla and beat until creamed together. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg incorporates into the batter. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Slowly beat flour mixture into wet mixture, scraping down sides with a spatula if necessary to make sure mixture is fully combined. With a wooden spoon, mix in oats, chocolate chips, and raisins (if using).

Put extra sugar on a small plate or in a bowl. Scoop balls of dough from the bowl and roll in the sugar so the outside of the cookie will be coated in sugar. Place sugared balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes. Let cool on pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack or paper towels to cool completely.

Note: Sometimes I set the timer for 5 min, then press the cookies down a bit with a fork so they turn out to be a better shape & texture.
**image taken from

Jul 20, 2008

It'll make you think twice...

I'm a huge fan of treats, and would never eliminate them from my life. But I still love my Great Aunt LaVerne's cookie jar!

Jul 18, 2008

My favorite recipe of the moment

I've made this at least 3 times in the last two weeks. It's a light, yet extremely flavorful dinner!

Jul 3, 2008

Mastering Quick Easy Meals

Think you have no time to cook? Does looking in your cupboard stress you out? Are dinners often fast food or take out because you haven't gone to the grocery store? If the answer to these questions is Yes, read on.

Quick healthy meals are not as hard as you may think. As long as you have some basic ingredients on hand, you'll be prepared to whip up a meal for your family, or even surprise impromtu guests with some delicious apps.

So what should you routinely have "on hand"? Well, this will vary based on your culture, habits, and taste. The items I personally keep around are listed to your right -- Must-haves for the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Of course I am out of some of these at any given point, but if I stock my small kitchen with many of these items, I can prep yummy meals in very little time.

Here are a few tips to help you stock your kitchen & make quick meals:

1) Don't worry about using a recipe.
Just put things together that you think will "go." For example, if you have chicken breasts, canned tomatoes, some fresh herb, and a type of have an entree! If this is too far out of your comfort zone, then at least don't worry about following a recipe exactly. If you don't have something, especially an herb or fruit or veggie, you can just substitute with something that you do have. For example, let's say a recipe calls for parsely, and you only have basil, then just use the basil. No one will know the difference and it will still taste fine.

2) Only buy a few fresh things at a time.
People are always telling me how it's so expensive to cook with fruits & vegetables. Not true. What's expensive is when you buy the entire produce department and then let it all rot in your fridge. To avoid this, just buy 1-2 veggies, 1-2 fruits, and 1 kind of herb, and cook with these things the whole week. It may sound boring or repetitive, but when you add these ingredients to items from your pantry & freezer (frozen veggies, meats, pastas, beans, rice) -- you can make all sorts of different meals with the same fresh produce.

3) Prep fresh ingredients on weekends (or when you have a little time).
Wash lettuce, carrots, celery, apples, etc. when you have a moment, then wrap them in thin kitchen towels & store them in your produce drawers. When its time to make a quick salad or sautee some veggies -- all you'll have to do is a little chopping. A few things shouldn't be washed ahead of time: like berries, tomatoes, & mushrooms.

4) Don't forget to season, and err on the side of undercooking, not overcooking.
One of the reasons many restaurant meals taste so good is because chefs add plenty of salt & pepper to their food, and they make sure not to overcook it. There's nothing worse than a bland baked chicken breast with a side of flavorless, mushy steamed veggies. But for some people, this is what cooking at home means! So don't be afraid to salt your food (within reason) during the cooking process. And when it comes to cooking times, aim for a little less rather than a little can always cook something longer, but you can't uncook something.

5) Make enough for leftovers.
This doesn't mean you have to eat the same thing every night for a week. But if you make extra of a dish & store it in containers in the freezer, a few weeks down the line you'll have a ready-made dinner. Your family or friends will have forgotten it by then & the only thing you'll have to do is reheat and serve.

6) Keep presentation in mind.
"We eat with our eyes first" as they say. So even when you're making a quick home meal, don't just plop tupperware in front of your family or forgo serving platters. Sure it might mean another dish or two, but making a pretty dinner is the first step to enjoying the cooking process, and making sure that the people you're cooking for are happy recipients.

Apr 24, 2008

Welcome to the Healthy Meels blog!

I have been flattered by the positive feedback you've given me about the Healthy Meels Newsletter. To be able to cover more turf, I started this blog, where I will try my best to answer your questions, provide cooking & nutritional tips, and offer healthy recipes on a more regular basis.

Before I go any further, let me explain the name Healthy Meels. "Meels" has been my nickname for as long as I can remember. And since "meals" are my passion, the Healthy Meels name just seemed to fit. To some it may appear that I'm just a bad speller...hopefully they'll catch on ;)

Soon, you will be able to access links to video clips that will aide you in making the Healthy Meels recipes at home. I'll let you know when that feature is available.

In honor of Earth Day, I have posted an earth-friendly recipe below. (It's earth-friendly because it primarily uses in-season, local ingredients. If these ingredients aren't yet available in your area, they will be soon. Until then, improvise with what is can make a salad out of just about anything!)

Healthy Meels Earth Day Recipe:

Farmer's Market Spring Salad
1/2 bunch asparagus spears, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts (or other nut of choice)
1/4 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
A few big handfuls of field greens (or whatever lettuce is available at the farmer's market)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
ground pepper to taste

1) Wash all your produce.
2) Bring a little pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt & asparagus pieces. Boil for exactly 2 minutes, no longer.
3) Drain asparagus and set aside.
4) In the bottom of a big salad bowl, mix together the vinegar, oil, honey, mustard, and pepper using a whisk.
5) Add the greens to the salad bowl and gently toss.
6) Top greens with asparagus, strawberries, walnuts, and goat cheese.
7) Gently toss whole salad together to coat the other ingredients. Serve.

Tips: Only toss the greens in the dressing right before serving. You can make this salad up to 2 hours before, just place all ingredients on top of the dressing & toss it only when ready to serve. If serving to guests, place salad bowl on table before you toss together -- you want them to see your beautiful creation before it gets messed up!

Amelia (a.k.a. Meels)