Top 11 Recipes for 2011 and Happy New Year!

The last day of 2011 has arrived, and quite quickly I must say! It seems like the past six months have flown by…yet I feel like I say this every year ūüôā

2011 has been a wonderful twelve months for me — this¬†year has been one of ups and downs, many surprises, new adventures (blogging included), discovering more about myself and embracing who I am all while striving to be a better wife, daughter, friend and colleague…and blogger!

Thank you my lovely readers, for stopping in and allowing me to share my kitchen creations with you. ¬†I’m still amazed at all the people who drop by and read what I have to say on my humble little space. ¬†Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Here’s to a blessed new year in 2012! I was emailed the following and just had to share ūüôā Wishing you a….

Fantastic JANUARY
Love able FEBRUARY
Marvelous MARCH
Fool less APRIL
Enjoyable MAY
Successful JUNE
Wonderful JULY
Independent AUGUST
Tastiest OCTOBER
Beautiful NOVEMBER

Now to count down the “Top 11 Recipes from 2011” ūüôā

11. Flourless Chunky Monkey Chip Cookies

10. Caramelized Onion, Butternut and Goat Cheese Pizza with a Grain-Free Crust

9. Cinnamon Apple Breakfast Bake

8. Turkey Stuffed Peppers

7. Banana Bread Quinoa Flake Bake

6. Banana Split for Breakfast

5. Baked Beet Chips

4. Southwest Quinoa Patties with Avocado Sauce

3. Roasted Fajita-Spiced Chickpeas

2. Banana Buddy Shake

And the number one recipe for the year is….
1. Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli

Love, hugs and health to you all!

Nora ūüôā


7 Ingredients for a Healthy Holiday Season

The holiday season is all about giving, family and close friends and of course, food. This time of year is full of rich, delicious meals that are both comforting and frequent at parties and on our dinner tables. Incorporating certain foods into your feast can benefit you long after your New Year’s resolution.
I received a monthly newsletter from registered dietitian Adrien Paczosa noting the following top seven foods to incorporate during your holiday and I wanted to pass along!
1. Pomegranates: A pomegranate a day can keep the doctor away. The old adage uses apples, but during the holidays, we say pomegranates are the way to go. This delicious fruit is bursting with Vitamin C which keeps the free radicals at bay and is believed to prevent some types of cancer. So add a splash of pomegranate juice to a cup of hot tea and enjoy OR add some pomegranate arils to these stuffed endive and goat cheese appetizers for some added nutrition with a festive flare!
2. Nuts:¬†Nuts contain both poly- and mono unsaturated fatty acids. ¬†These are healthy fats that can lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of¬†heart disease by lowering the amount of inflammation of the arteries. Nuts¬†are also a good source of protein and fiber that can help keep you full.¬†This can keep you from over indulging and keeping the holiday pounds in¬†check. Finally, nuts are a rich source of vitamin E which is good for the¬†skin. Who doesn’t need a little holiday glow?
As you may have guessed, I am 100% on board with this ingredient! A few ways to incorporate more nuts:
For snacks, whip up a batch of honey roasted snack mix or protein nut butter balls
If you’re in the mood for a savory main dish try turkey chili with almond butter or healthy kung pao chicken or tofu
Is dessert calling your name? Try flour less chunky monkey cookies or vegan maple almond spice biscotti
3. Chocolate: Nothing is more comforting on a cold winter day than a cup of hot chocolate. If you make that a cup of dark hot chocolate you could be enjoying more than just guilty pleasure. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids and polyphenols. These are antioxidants that can help prevent arterial damage from cholesterol as well as lower your blood pressure over time. So join the kids for a cup of my (dairy-free) hot cocoa and drink to your health.
This is good news for us chocolate lovers, but eat in moderation of course! You can also make your own chocolate bark/fudge ūüôā
4. Olives: Extend the olive branch through the season and reap the nutritional benefits. Olives are a low calorie way to get in your healthy monounsaturated fats. Using extra-virgin olive oil to create your culinary masterpieces during the holidays can lead to an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. You can use the olives to add a little salt to your meals, just be sure to watch your sodium intake. 10 small green olives have about 451 mg of sodium. *According to new recommendations by The American Heart Association sodium intake should be limited to 1500 mg or below per day.
*Although I mention olives, unfortunately I am not a fan (I should give them another chance) — do as I say not as a do because they do have nutrition! For a delicious recipe using olives, hop on over to The Healthy Foodie for Sonia’s green bean and goat cheese salad ūüôā
Photo courtesy of The Healthy Foodie
5. Cinnamon: The smell of cinnamon in the air is a sure sign that the holidays are near. This time of year is a time for giving and also a time for indulgence. When we over indulge on rich foods it can leave us feeling a little out of the holiday spirit. Adding cinnamon to your holiday treats can help curb the effects of overindulgence by reducing heartburn and bloating. Studies have also found that 1 tsp a day of cinnamon can help better manage insulin and blood sugar levels.
Add a dash of cinnamon to your morning coffee, cup of oatmeal, or for an extra nutrient packed snack serve plain non fat Greek yogurt with dried cranberries, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon. Try some spiced pumpkin dip or cherry walnut oat muffins as well!
6. Peppermint: Candy canes are a signature of the holiday season.  Sometimes used for decorating the trees or enjoyed in tea or hot chocolate. This holiday treat can soothe heart burn and nausea. It also kills bacteria in the mouth that leads to bad breath. This will come in handy when meeting under the mistletoe.
Add peppermint oil to this rich and creamy hot cocoa, indulge in dairy-free mint chocolate ice cream¬†or treat yourself to a small candy cane ūüôā
7. Cranberries: The holiday spread would not be complete without cranberry dressing or our favorite cranberry oatmeal cookies! Cranberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. They also provide antioxidants which help prevent some types of cancer and promote the formation of visualpurple pigment which is essential in color as well as night vision.
Bonus – try my fruit-sweetened cranberry yum bars and you have two of the top seven ingredients listed – nuts and cranberries! I give you permission to dig in ūüôā
I¬†can’t believe there are only FOUR days left before Christmas! Love to all and I hope you are enjoying this holiday season so far : )

Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”

Have you cooked or tasted amaranth? In case you are not familiar with this tasty gluten free ancient grain, I thought I’d share some info that might encourage you to do so ūüôā

According to and Teri Gruss, “the word amaranth means “everlasting” in Greek…this tiny seed has endured the ages, as an important food source for ancient civilizations in South America and Mexico, to its current resurgence as a highly nutritious gluten-free grain.”

Top 10 reasons to incorporate amaranth into your diet:

1. Amaranth contains more protein than any other gluten-free grain-and more protein than wheat. One cup of raw amaranth contains 28.1  grams of protein. Oats are a close second with 26.3 grams of protein.

2. Amaranth is an excellent source of lysine, an important amino acid (protein). Grains are notorious for low lysine content, which decreases the quality of their proteins. The high lysine content in amaranth sets it apart from other grains. Food scientists consider the protein content of amaranth of high “biological value”, similar in fact, to the proteins found in milk. This means that amaranth contains an excellent combination of essential amino acids and is well absorbed in the intestinal tract.

3. Another advantage of the protein content of amaranth is that the primary proteins in amaranth are “albumins” and “globulins”. In comparison, the major proteins in wheat are called “prolamins”, which are considered less soluble and less digestible than are albumins and globulin proteins. Bottom line- the amount, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins.

4. Amaranth is second only to teff in calcium content.1 cup of raw teff contains 347 milligrams of calicum, amaranth 298 milligrams. In comparison, 1 cup of white rice contains 52 milligrams.

5. Amaranth contains more magnesium than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 519 milligrams of magnesium, followed by buckwheat with 393 milligrams and sorghum with 365 milligrams. In comparison, an equal amount of white rice contains 46 milligrams of magnesium.

6. Amaranth contains more iron than other gluten-free grains. 1 cup of raw amaranth contains 15 milligrams of iron. Teff is a close second with 14.7 milligrams of iron. In comparison, white rice contains 1.5 milligrams of iron.

7. Amaranth contains more fiber than other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 18 grams of fiber- buckwheat and millet contain 17 grams. In comparison, white rice contains 2.4 grams of fiber.

8. Amaranth is slightly lower in carbohydrate content compared to other gluten-free grains.1 cup of raw amaranth contains 129 grams of carbohyrates, white rice 148 grams, brown rice and sorghum 143 grams  and teff 141 grams of carbohyrdates. Oats contain 103 grams of carbohyrates, making them the lowest carb gluten free grain.

9. Amaranth is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids(as are most whole grains) and it contains vitamin E in similar amounts to olive oil.

10. When you add amaranth in amounts up to 25% of total flour used in gluten-free recipes you improve the nutritional value, the taste and texture of gluten free baked goods. Additionally, amaranth is an exceptional thickener for roux, white sauces, soups and stews.

You may be thinking….if amaranth is such a nutritional powerhouse, why not use it exclusively in gluten-free baking?

Amaranth, by nature, absorbs water very easily. That’s what gives it great emulsifying properties. But if amaranth is used solely in gluten-free baking recipes, baked goods become too dense. Breads will not rise properly and pancakes and cookies become too heavy.¬†The key is¬†combining a variety of gluten free flours and starches to create a blend that mimics the properties of gluten.

Go on and add amaranth to gluten-free flour blends, sauces, soups and stews to significantly improve the nutritional quality of your gluten-free diet.

Here’s a simple recipe for amaranth in a couscous style – lightly studded with creamy goat cheese, flavor-packed sun dried tomatoes and crunchy walnuts. The tangy cheese and dried tomatoes compliment the nuttiness of the cooked grain while the walnuts add great texture – couldn’t be more simple!

Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Amaranth “Couscous”


1 cup uncooked amaranth
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (dried or oil-packed)
2-3 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled (feta cheese or other could also be used)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts
drizzle of olive oil, optional


Rice Cooker Method:

1. Add amaranth and broth/water to your rice cooker. Set on rice cooking mode until cooked. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
2. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

Stovetop Method:

1. Add amaranth and broth/water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir and lower heat to simmer for 18-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grains are cooked.
2. Let stand for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Note that amaranth will not fluff as much as traditional couscous)
3. Add chopped tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!

***On my to do list:¬†Create a cake or quick bread¬†using amaranth flour….to¬†come! Anyone have a flavor suggestion?

A few other ways to enjoy amaranth: 

  • To make an amaranth porridge, cook amaranth in a ratio of 1:3 with water. Add sliced apples, chopped almonds or walnuts and a touch of cinnamon, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
  • Heat amaranth in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Serve with almond or coconut milk and fresh berries for a healthy breakfast.
  • Mix popped amaranth seeds with honey or molasses to make a treat known as “alegria” or “joy” in Mexico
  • Or try my amaranth grits with my tomato-sauce poached eggs

Improving Sleep

When I have a lot on my mind and things are hectic, the quality of my sleep really diminishes. In today’s world, it seems like everyone is on-the-go and can’t get enough sleep each night…I try to get about 7 hours of sleep a night on a weekday and on the weekend, I usually sleep for about 8 hours or so.

Photo from

In college, I ran on fumes with little to no sleep most nights…bad idea! After researching the importance of sleep and how it affects so many aspects of my health, I have made it a point to get more shut-eye. Not only are we recharging our batteries for the next day, sleep replenishes the body, helps to repair tissue, eases the mind, and sleep helps with weight loss.

I don’t have a recipe for you today but if you have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, here are 12 tips I came across to help¬†achieve a better¬†night’s rest.

12) Skip the water or fluids before bed

Guilty as charged! I don’t drink enough water throughout the day¬†when I am busy so I try and make up for it in the evening…resulting in several runs¬†to the bathroom during the night.
What you can do to help: It is best is to stop drinking water or fluids a couple hours before your bedtime to decrease the chances of sleep disturbances from potty breaks.
Tips: If you always have a large glass of water before bed, maybe cut the amount in half and drink more early in the evening (and throughout the day!!)

11) Keep the morning roasters for the morning
I am not a coffee drinker but I do enjoy a warm cup of hot tea, particularly when it’s chilly in the morning! I try and buy decaffeinated teas and avoid caffeine in drinks¬†(unless we are talking about chocolate…guilty again). Caffeine is a stimulant that is produced to keep us alert and function.
What you can do to help: If you crave coffee in the afternoon, switch it up to decaf.  Caffeine stays in the body for a long time, and can keep you awake long past your set time for bed if you drink it in the afternoon.
Tips:  Keep your caffeine intake to the morning, and switch to decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon, or avoid caffeinated beverages all together.

10) Create your ‚Äúschedule‚ÄĚ
I¬†love this tip, as I am a “creature of habit” and can abide by this rule!¬†Getting yourself on the right schedule will allow your body to keep your its natural sleep cycle on schedule. My hubby Chris has got this one down, it’s like clockwork – he is tired around 9-10 every evening (he wakes up at 5 am for his job). I tend to push the envelope when it comes to the weekend…
What you can do to help:  Just like work, try to get into the habit of setting an early time for you to go to bed, and a time for you to wake up.   Your body will get used to the routine, and if you have gotten the right amount of uninterrupted sleep, your body may be able to wake you up without the aid of an alarm.
Tips:  If you are finding that you are unable to get up without the use of an alarm, or you find yourself hitting the snooze more than once, then it might be time to rethink your bed time.   Set an earlier time for bed, which will allow your body enough time to sleep and recover.
9) Get your body moving
We all know the importance of exercise on the body (decreased fat mass, increase muscle mass and energy).  Exercise can also can lead to better quality of sleep by doing regular aerobic exercise.
What you can do to help:  Try to maintain an active exercise schedule that involves plenty of cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, and flexibility work.  This will alleviate stress levels and leave your body relaxed, nourished, and healthy
Tips:  Since exercise stimulates the system and gives you extra energy, avoid exercising right before sleep unless you do not want to sleep.  Try to exercise in early afternoon or morning to help ensure you get a great night’s sleep

8 ) Say No, No, No….to Nicotine
Nicotine, which is commonly found in tobacco and smokeless tobacco products, has a stimulating effect on the body.
What you can do to help:  If you can, take the steps to quit.  That is the first and best step in helping you to avoid nicotine.  If you are unable to, or do not want to, then avoid smoking or using smokeless tobacco before bed.
Tips:  Remember that nicotine is a stimulant to the body.  Even though the initial phase may relax you, the body is still stimulated which might make it harder to fall asleep.

7) Wanted: Intimate moments and sleep…ONLY!
The bed should only be used for sleeping and intimate moments to prevent added anxiety that might be associated with bedtime.
What can you do to help:  Avoid doing work and discussing emotional/serious topics in your bed.  This can lead to added stress or anxiety when trying to fall asleep.   Even days after tough conversations happen when you lay in bed, the stress and anxiety can still last for long periods of time, adding to a restless night’s sleep.
Tips:  Keep work and emotional conversations out of the bed and bedroom to help ease anxiety, and help you sleep more like a baby.
6)  Quiet the mind
The longer you stay in bed, the more anxious and frustrated you are going to get, which will lead to a later night, which might alter your normal sleep patterns.
What you can do to help:  If you are having a hard time getting to sleep, get out of bed and grab a good book and sit in your favorite chair.  Avoid turning on a bright light, which will only ruin your sleep cycle.  Instead, use a low-watt bulb, and find a relaxing spot.   During this time you can read or try meditation exercises to help lull you back to sleep.
Tips:  Staying in bed adds extra stress which prevents you from falling asleep.  Get up out of bed and do some relaxing exercises, or something that will relax you enough to allow for a more restful sleep.
5) Disconnect from being connected
Extra light can interfere with our normal sleeping patterns.  Looking at the TV, a computer monitor, or even your cellphone, stimulates the mind, making it harder to fall asleep.
What you can do to help:  Avoid watching TV, using your laptop for work, and leave your cellphone away from your bed.
Tips: If you find it hard to fall asleep after using one of these devices in bed, refer back to #6 for ways to relax the mind and prepare you for sleep.
4)¬† Live in a ‚Äúcave‚ÄĚ
Using lights in the room will stimulate the body to believing that it is daytime, disrupting your cycle.
What you can do to help:  Not really like a caveman, but keep as much light out of the room as possible.  Get light-shielding blinds and keep the room dark and comfortable.
Tips:  Even the smallest light can disturb your sleep.  Try to avoid as much light as possible to ensure a good night’s sleep.

3) Write it and Forget it
Stress throughout the day can translate to bad dreams or inhibit sleep.
What you can do to help:  Keep a journal by the side of the bed so, if you do wake up for something related to the stress of life, you can write it down.  This allows you to write it and forget it, allowing your body not to get overstimulated and keeping you up longer than you need to be.
Tips:  Keep a pen and a notebook by the bed to jot down those ideas that you have during your sleep, so you are not constantly thinking about them.

2)  Feed the beast
Going to bed hungry has the same effects that going to bed on a full stomach can do.  Not only will you stay hungry, but you might end up getting up anyhow and filling your stomach with calorie-dense foods that are bad for your health and will ultimately disrupt your sleep.
What you can do to help: Try not to go to bed hungry by replacing high-calorie meals with smaller-calorie meals to keep your belly feeling full and satisfied.
Tips:  Eat a small nutritious snack before bed to ease you into dreamland.
According to Wendy Travis at, the best bedtime snacks combine a food containing tryptophan with a carbohydrate that will help the tryptophan to function more efficiently. Dr. Sears recommends a healthy bedtime snack that includes complex carbohydrates, some protein and a bit of calcium for good measure.
Slumber foods might include:
-Lowfat milk or cheese
-Seafood, meat or poultry
-Whole grains, such as a bowl of cereal with skim milk
-Scrambled eggs
-A peanut butter sandwich
-Yogurt with granola sprinkled on top (try my superfood buckwheat granola)
-A sliced apple with one ounce of cheese

1) Let the cat do the napping
Taking long naps during the day may prevent you from getting to sleep at night, or keeping you asleep throughout the night.
What you can do to help:  Now there is nothing wrong with napping during the day.  Taking a nap 8 hours after you wake up has been shown to be beneficial to your health. Disrupting your natural sleep cycle can be detrimental to a good night’s sleep, though.  Avoid naps during the day if you can; if not, try to keep the naps to a shorter period of time.  Sometimes napping is important to catch your body up and help recover from the sleep debt.
Tips:  If you do need to nap, try to keep the nap to only 15 to 20 minutes to avoid disturbing your sleep at night.

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. If you are unable to sleep or are still experiencing restless sleeping, make sure to follow up with your doctor to rule out any more serious health problems that you might be experiencing.

A good night’s sleep can leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to face any challenge that might come your way.  Sleep can also be your little secret to the fountain of youth, helping in the anti-aging process. Incorporate these tips to help you finally catch some of those Z’s that you have been after!

Sweet dreams ūüôā