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I am chronically late.  So, in order to get the little one off to swim class with a full belly I looked for healthy and nutritious muffin recipes to make for an easy breakfast.  This recipe for Banana Wheat Bran Muffins from the Weelicious website is great as a grab & go breakfast for on the road to school or work.  I make mine in mini muffin pans so they are toddler sized.  Make sure to use super ripe bananas and you’ll get some naturally sweet and moist muffins!

Banana Wheat Germ Muffins


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Wheat Germ
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
3 Medium Very Ripe Bananas, mashed, plus 1 banana sliced approx. 3/4 inch thick for topping
1/2 Cup Agave
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 Large Egg


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a bowl.
3. In a standing mixer combine the 3 bananas, agave, oil, vanilla and egg. Beat until combined and bananas are mashed.
4. Gently mix in the dry ingredients in 3 stages until just combined. Do not over-mix.
5. Grease or line muffin cups or mini loaf pans and fill 3/4 full with the mixture.
6. Place the slices of banana on top of each filled muffin cup or decoratively over the loaf pan.
7. Bake 15 minutes for mini muffin cups, 20 for regular muffin cups or 25 minutes for mini loaf pans or until a toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool and serve.

When the weather turns a bit cooler I love to make more comforting foods.  What could be more comforting than the smell of fresh baked bread?  Having never attempted to make fresh bread (even in a bread maker) I cruised around the internet for a simple bread recipe.  I found a recipe for “Fabulous Homemade Bread” and tweaked it a little bit.  You could easily add wheat bran or wheat germ for more fiber; I’m going to keep experimenting with it – but this an easy & yummy recipe for a basic sandwich like bread.

Yields 2 loaves


  • 3 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, stir together 3 Tbsp warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp bread flour, and yeast. Let grow for about 5 minutes. It will bubble almost immediately.
  3. Measure oats, wheat flour, salt and honey into a seperate bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups warm water and the oil. Mix into grown sponge on low speed with a dough hook for 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed slightly, and begin adding bread flour 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Humidity determines how much flour you need before the bread pulls away from the edge of the bowl. It is normal for the dough to be sticky.
  4. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Shape loaves, and place in greased 8 x 4 inch with bottom lined with parchment paper. Let rise until dough is 1 inch above rim of pans, usually 1 hour.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C) for 35 minutes, or until tops are browned. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
 Ever wonder what the difference between all purpose flour, cake flour & bread flour is?  Here is an explanation of the different types of flour.

I’m short on time.  Between working on two businesses and chasing my toddler around; making an amazing dinner has become more and more of a chore.  That being said, I am always on the lookout for recipes that are low on prep time, don’t need a lot of fussing over, are healthy, don’t come straight out of a box, and are delicious. Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it?  I’m promising to post whatever I find out there for anyone who is looking for the same.

The first recipe I’d like to share is “Brown Bag Chicken”.  The chicken literally roasts in a brown grocery bag!  The result is a super moist chicken and is no fuss and amazingly easy.  There is no need to add any oil or butter, and you don’t even have to truss it – just throw it in the bag and tie it up!

Brown Bag Chicken (adapted from Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen)


  • 1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) chicken
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dry bouquet garni or 2 tsp dry italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon ground hot Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse chicken, pat dry, and remove any excess fat. Generously season chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Place onion and rosemary (or your choice of dry seasoning) inside cavity; rub skin with paprika & granulated garlic, place garlic cloves under chicken skin.Lay a standard-side brown paper grocery bag on its side; place chicken inside bag and tie bag with kitchen twine to enclose. Place bagged chicken on a rimmed baking sheet; transfer to lower third of oven, making sure there is plenty of room between the bag and the top of the oven. Roast chicken for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Remove chicken from oven and carefully open bag to release steam. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should reach 165 degrees and juices should run clear when thigh is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving; serve warm.

If you are short on time or energy there is nothing like a one pot meal for dinner.  Even better, they are often great recipes to double and freeze.  I’m taking on a new project so my free time is at an even greater minimum, and I was searching the Food Network website for some ideas.  I came across a simple recipe from Giada De Laurentis that only calls for one pot and no extraordinary ingredients.  I omitted a couple of the ingredients from the original recipe, but will post a link to the original recipe at the end.

Chicken Stew


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh Basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts with ribs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)


Heat the oil in a heavy 5 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme and red pepper flakes if you want a little spice. Add the chicken breasts; press to submerge.

Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken breasts over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 35 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken breasts to a work surface and cool for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Discard bones from the chicken breasts. Shred or cut the chicken into bite- size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

This is a versatile, and it would be easy to make variations.  For example, you could omit the basil and add cumin, coriander and fresh corn for a Southwestern spin on it.

Here is the link to the original recipe:

For Thanksgiving this year, we are headed to my in-laws house in the Bay Area. This has been a banner year for babies in the family, and thus a big group is descending to take part in the Thanksgiving gluttony as well as meet and greet the new additions.

A sign up list was sent out for side dishes, desserts etc. Usually, I am really excited to showcase one of my culinary creations, but I have to admit it…I copped out. I signed up for rolls. (I can hear my friends saying “WHAT?! I can’t believe YOU signed up for rolls…” Yes, I know I know…but we are driving up on Wednesday and I don’t want to make any promises I can’t deliver!) And just a few minutes after I sent out the email signing up for rolls, I got a response from my husband’s cousin, Richard via email saying he was certain I would have been making my “famous scalloped potatoes” and if I wasn’t going to make them could he please have the recipe to have a go at it. Needless to say, I had no idea that they were in any way famous and I am hugely pleased and honored they have been given such status.

Truth be told my famous scalloped potatoes are adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse
used on the menu at his Delmonico Steakhouse. Ridiculously rich, they are crisp on top and ooze with yummy cheese. So Richard, just in case I don’t get around to making them this year…here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Marita’s Famous Scalloped Potatoes
makes 6 servings

4 cups half & half (or 2% milk for a reduced calorie version)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tsps. salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 lbs Russet Potatoes, peeled & cut into 1/4 inch slices
8 oz good quality Swiss cheese, grated ( you can also do a mix of white cheddar and swiss for a milder flavor)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish with vegetable oil.

2. Bring half & half (or milk) and garlic cloves to a simmer in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, take care to not scald the half & half. Add salt & pepper and stir well. Add potatoes adding more half & half as necessary to just cover them. Lower the heat to medium -low and simmer until the potatoes are barely fork tender, approx. 10 minutes. Flip potatoes carefully with a spatula or slotted spoon so that all the potatoes are cooked uniformly.

3. Transfer a third of the potatoes with some of the cream to the prepared baking dish, and layer a third of the cheese, alternate until ending with cheese on top.

4. Place the dish on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before serving nice and hot!

Green with Apple

I embarked on the first day of my 3 Day Juice Cleanse hopeful I would be able to tolerate the lack of solid food until Thursday morning and be able to stomach the dreaded green juices which contain vegetables like kale.  I’m not a stranger to juicing fruits and vegetables, but my repertoire has been limited to apples, carrots, citrus, ginger – pretty easy stuff.   The prospect of drinking green sludge was off-putting, but Food & Wine Magazine’s declaration that the  BluePrintCleanse is the “Foodie’s Cleanse” sounded promising.

The BluePrintCleanse offers 3 levels of cleanses: Renovation, Foundation, & Excavation.  Going against my all or nothing nature, I opted to ease into detoxing and chose the level 1 Renovation cleanse.  The beginner cleanse consists of 2 green juices, 3 fruit juices and 1 nut milk.

Menu for Day 1

Warm water with lemon

Carrot, apple spinach, parsley  x’s 2 (not a BluePrintCleanse Recipe)

Blueberry, apple, vanilla

Carrot, apple, ginger

Greens with apple (kale, cucumber, spinach, parsley, lemon & apple)

Raw chocolate milk

The verdict on the taste?  DELICIOUS!  The  green juice I was so afraid of is amazing.  The Greens with Apple Juice  tasted clean and fresh; something I would drink even if I wasn’t on the cleanse!  The Blueberry Apple Vanilla is a smoothie and very satiating, it was perfect for mid-day when my mind started to wander towards burgers and fries.  I was hesitant to try the Raw Chocolate Milk because the base  for this recipe is soaked raw cashews (and I hate cashews).   Didn’t taste like cashews to me…thank goodness!  I was like a dessert.  Although sweet and delicious, my only complaint is the concoction seemed a bit gritty.

I expected to be ravenous while doing the 3 Day Cleanse, especially on the first day.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t dying of hunger.  Don’t get me wrong at around 1 pm and 4 pm I experienced cravings and fleeting moments of hunger, but it wasn’t like I wanted to kill for a bite of something.

I went to bed feeling I had accomplished something!  I exercised my willpower, drank some delicious concoctions, and wasn’t going to bed feeling bloated or starving.  2 more days?  Bring it on!

Click here for more info on: The 3-Day Cleanse: Drink Fresh Juice, Eat Real Food, and Get Back into Your Skinny Jeans

Baby A started eating solid foods last week. We started with an organic brown rice cereal by HAPPY BELLIES , which contains probiotics and DHA.  I bought a wonderful baby food cookbook called The Petit Appetit Cookbook, and have started making purees from organic fruit.  I am deeply concerned about what passes baby’s lips and into her belly; doing research to find the healthiest options.

But what about what passes my lips?  Those starchy garlic fries certainly were tasty enough to make me smack my lips and lick my fingers…and what about that creamy brie?  Good God! that steak and glass of Pinot Noir were deeelish! But I’ve stopped losing the baby weight, I’m swollen, and generally don’t feel tip top.  What I am trying to say is I spend a lot of time worrying about my baby’s health and nutrition and it has inspired me to take a hard look at my health and what I put into my body .

I recently stopped breastfeeding and no longer have excuses to indulge in the extra calorie intake (Cupcake?  That’s okay, I’m breastfeeding… I’ll burn it off !  C’mon you know you’ve had this inner dialogue).   I’ve decided a 3 day juice cleanse is just the ticket to rebooting my tired, bloated, and creaky body.

I’ve been poking around online for a few weeks and found several companies that will overnight their organic pre-made juice to you….but at the tune of $260 I abandoned the shopping cart.  I found a company that also sells DIY book if you were unable to order their juices.  Touted as the “Juice Cleanse for Foodies”, the BluePrintCleanse certainly piqued my interest.  If I can do this cleanse without gagging on sludge, that is what I want to do!

3 Day Cleanse by BluePrintCleanse Founders Zoe Sakoutis & Erica Huss

The 3 Day Cleanse promises amazing benefits, “…you will understand the difference between feeling full and feeling nourished. You’ll weigh less, brim with more energy, and look and feel sexier!”  Damn, if I can have those things after having a baby sign me up!  I’m not only doing this to lose the excess baggage post baby, but for other health reasons.  According to studies sited in the book periodic fasting has amazing health benefits including, decreased inflammation of tissue  and greater mental clarity;  and long term, a decreased likelihood of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  It is recommended to do a 3 day cleanse once a month or even a 1 day cleanse after an evening of overindulgence.

What I like about this cleanse is that it doesn’t appear to be overly strict, setting me up for feelings of disappointment or failure if I don’t follow the program to a T.  I hope this 3 Day Cleanse is as delicious and satiating as it claims so I can stick to it!  More on my progress later!

Summer is here and the June gloom has finally burned off! Weather like this makes me crave really light and fresh flavors. But…my tolerance for staying in a hot kitchen and cleaning up after a tiring day of work & baby is low. You may think I am going to say – Take it outdoors and grill! I have an even simpler idea – cooking en papillote.

Sounds fancy doesn’t it? En papillote is a French term for cooking in parchment paper. It’s very easy, with minimal clean up and super healthy! Sometimes I do a complete meal – halibut & veggies for example or sometimes when I need a side dish and I am feeling lazy I’ll just do veggies this way.

Veggies in parchment

Veggies in parchment

Here is my recipe for cooking halibut en papillote (adapted from Martha Stewart):

  • 8 asparagus spears, cut in half
  • red & yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach, well washed
  • 1 medium leek whites only, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme
  • 2 6-ounce halibut fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • freshly chopped parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using two 12-by-17-inch sheets parchment paper, fold each sheet in half crosswise.
  2. Place 1 sheet of parchment flat on a work surface. Place half of the asparagus, garlic, spinach, leeks, peppers and 2 lemon slices on one side of the crease; season with salt and pepper. Place halibut on top of veggies, season with salt, pepper and thyme top with another lemon slice and drizzle about 2 tsp. of olive oil.   Fold parchment over ingredients. Make small overlapping folds along the edge to seal.
  3. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake until packets have puffed, and fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer packets to individual plates. Serve immediately, opening packets at the table. Garnish with any remaining lemon slices & parsley.

Veggies wrapped up and ready to go!

You can use any combination of veggies….summer squash, baby carrots, shallots, fresh peas the possibilities are endless!  You do want to make sure that veggies will cook uniformly so keep that in mind when you choose & cut your veggies.

I had mentioned in my previous post that I  joined a local CSA.  On my first visit I picked up Chandler strawberries and rhubarb along with some other beautiful produce.   The strawberries were  luscious, bright red  and so sweet!  I had to stop myself from eating them all before getting a chance to make Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.

I’ve made jams before, with and without the aid of adding pectin.  Although you must let the jam cook for longer, I prefer the method without pectin.  The following recipe makes a small amount of jam (maybe 2 cups), but I am sure you can double or triple the recipe.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

recipe adapted from Recession Depression Therapy


2 cups Strawberries, hulled and chopped into quarters

1 cup rhubarb, finely diced (about 2 stalks)

2 cups of sugar


1. Mash strawberries and dice rhubarb.

I used a potato masher for the strawberries to release the juices. Cut rhubarb into a small dice.  The rhubarb will dissolve when boiled, so you won’t find any chunks in the end product.

2. Mix strawberries and rhubarb with the sugar in a medium saucepan.

To avoid a sticky mess, it’s best to use a saucepan a little bit bigger than you think you may need.

3. Cook to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.

Watch your temperature to make sure the mixture does not boil over or burn at the bottom.

4. Once you achieve a rolling boil, reduce temperature to keep the mixture at a slow boil.

Cook for approximately 40 minutes, scraping the sides and checking that the bottom is not sticking as it thickens.

5. Check for sheeting

When the jam thickens and  pulls together, remove from heat.

6. Skim any foam on the top of the jam mixture.

The result:  Jam bursting with sweet berry goodness, with a little twist of tartness from the rhubarb.  Scrumptious on my morning toast!

I make small batches and fresh jam does not last long around here, so I store it in a resealable container.  When I get a bit more ambitious I may start canning!

Sometimes I’m a little slow to jump on ideas I think are fantastic.  I’m not exactly sure why that is…  I like to do my research, mull things over again and again, weigh my options, comparison shop…and then where does that leave me?  Months down the line without pulling the trigger.  Thus is the story of my idea to join a CSA Farm, Community Sponsored Agriculture.

I was first inspired by our friends, John & Liz who told us all about the amazing fruits and veggies they had delivered weekly from a local organic farm.  I had never heard of a CSA, but thought that getting organic  produce direct from the grower sounded great!  I’ve long been a fan of shopping at Farmers Markets to support local farmers and find flavorful, in season produce, and this way I go direct to the farm!  I did  research online at to find out if there were any CSA’s in Orange County, found a farm I was interested in and then… sat on my hands.

Then I read my friend Sarah’s blog OC2Seattle. ( If you haven’t read it – it’s a must she is very witty and loves food as much as I do.)  Sarah had all of these great things to say about how the produce was so much more flavorful than conventionally grown produce you find in supermarkets.  It is true… those tomatoes from Pavilions taste like paper compared to the succulent heirloom varieties you find at your farmers market…and still I waited.

I’m not sure what happened on Saturday, maybe it was the beautiful warm day, extra time on my hands, or the need to get out of my rut, but I decided I would take little A on a drive to San Juan Capistrano to visit South Coast Farms.  I wanted to check out the merchandise before I committed to the rest of the seasons bushels of produce.

Sometimes organic produce can look a little sad…but I was delighted to see vibrant red Chandler strawberries, lush green chard, a few varieties of apples and more.

Succulent Organic Strawberries

It was all so beautiful!  I was inspired – I had to join!  I purchased 3 pints of strawberries, 2 or 3 cucumbers, 3 stalks of rhubarb, and a huge bunch of red swiss chard.  The bill came out to about $20 which isn’t cheap…but the strawberries are some of the best I have ever tasted, they lack that mealy white core and are juicy all the way through.

I’ve chosen to pick up my bushel direct from the farm because it was so refreshing to get out of Newport Beach.  I’m slated to pick up my 1st allotment next week.  Maybe this experience will get me to waste less time before saying yes…

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