Category Archives: Grains

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

I’ve never been a huge fan of raisins in food. I like them OK right out of the little boxes. I’m pretty sure I was scarred when I bit into what I thought was a chocolate chip cookie only to find out there were raisins in it instead. Oh the shock and disappointment! That incident sealed my prejudice over raisins for at least a decade or two. I’m about ready to get over myself, though. I’m ready to forgive raisins for their innocent charade only because I may have developed a teeny addiction to breakfast muffins. Said addiction started with the pumpkin quinoa muffins but gained traction with these oatmeal raisin muffins.

I love dense, chewy food and these muffins totally fit the bill. This recipe also helps me stay true to my kitchen/food goals. Since I baked these using whole wheat flour (which I recently purchased for the first time *ever*), these muffins are less processed, low-fat and healthy, too. Plus, they’re portable and can be eaten anywhere…even in the car on the way to work.

I can’t say I’m ready to declare my love for raisins but it’s not their fault they resemble chocolate chips, now is it?


  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients; mix well.
  3. Crack the egg into a two-cup measuring cup and beat the egg with a fork. Add the milk and beat again. Add the water and oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry ones and stir until loosely mixed. Add the raisins and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter equally into prepared muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Immediately remove from tin. Cool completely and store in a gallon size plastic bag.
Yields 12 muffins
Nutritional value:

Calories 170.9  Total Fat 5.8 g  Cholesterol 17.7 mg  Sodium 271.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 26.9 g  Protein 4.2 g


Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Breakfast, Grains, Low fat, Scratch cooking


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Caramelized Onion, Rice and Lentil Pilaf

Garnish with flat leaf parsley or scallions

Last month I committed to provide some menu items for my Vegetarian Sister (VS) while she was in town visiting. She and I had discussed how some vegetarian dishes (created by carnivore-types) are just lazy variations of non-veg dishes that omit the meat or are overly cheesy to make up for the lack of meat. My goal was to find new recipes she would enjoy that we could cook together; thus creating some sister bonding time and expanding both our culinary horizons.

Score one for Kat! This dish was so good that everyone at the dinner table, including the meat eaters, raved over it. Seriously, though, what is not to love about any recipe that features onions slow roasted until their natural sugars caramelize? Sadly, that means this dish does take a bit of time and forethought to put it together. I prepared it in stages, though, so the last warming-through came together in a snap.

The biggest time commitment of this dish is caramelizing the onions. It pays to take the time to do this properly. Fortunately, although onions take an hour or more to do their thing, caramelizing them is mainly unattended. In my “go big or go home” mentality I believe that if you’re going to devote the time it takes, you should caramelize as many onions as possible. I sliced and cooked the four pounds I had in my cupboard at the time which was more than we needed for this dish. Cooked onions store nicely in the fridge and can also be frozen.

It’s typical of this Middle Eastern dish (called Mujadarra) to be served with a side of plain yogurt or hummus and pita wedges. We served it along side my mother’s roasted pork. I thought it was a combination made in heaven. Of course, my sister passed on the pork but she was happy nonetheless!


  • 3 pounds of onions, caramelized (see Kat’s tip below if you’re unfamiliar with how to do this).
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice (I prefer brown)
  • 1.5 cups cooked lentils (use brown or green lentils; not the French ones)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flat leaf parsley or minced scallions for garnish


  1. Caramelize the onions
  2. Cook rice on stove top or in rice cooker
  3. Cook lentils separately by bringing three to four cups of water in a pan to a boil. Add lentils and cook about 30 minutes until they are chewy but not falling apart.
  4. Drain lentils. Return pan to oven and melt butter over medium heat. Add olive oil and spices. Stir until fragrant.
  5. Add lentils, rice and half of onion mixture back to the same pan. Stir until combined and heated thoroughly.
  6. Garnish with remaining caramelized onions and diced greens (either parsley or green onions).

Kat’s tip: How to caramelize onions

Onions after 15 minutes

I once tried to caramelize onions in the oven. We’ll just chalk it up to an epic failure. Not only did the onions never brown (even after 3 hours in the oven at 400°) but I burned myself twice in the process. Ouch! I’m forevermore sold on the stove top method using a non stick pan.

  • Remove root ends and thinly slice 3 to 5 pounds of onions. I use my Pampered Chef Ultimate Mandolin to make uniform slices so the onions cook evenly. Sprinkle sliced onions liberally with about one tablespoon of salt and toss to coat.
  • Coat the bottom of a large non-stick skillet with equal parts of butter and olive oil (about one teaspoon per onion.)
  • Cook onions on medium heat stirring about every ten minutes.
  • After about 15 to 30 minutes the onions will start to turn color
  • Continue cooking on medium to medium low for another 15 to 30 minutes until they reach a nice brown color. Monitor them a little closer in the end and be careful not to let them burn.

Yield: This dish makes a hearty amount. We had 9 at the table last night. VS ate her fill as a main meal and the rest of us had it as a side dish and there were still leftovers.

Inspiration: Mujadara

Tutorial: Caramelizing Onions


Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Bean Mausoleum, Brown rice, Grains, Low fat, Vegetarian


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Hot Pumpkin Breakfast Quinoa from The Wanna Be Chef

A pumpkin soufflé of sorts

Readers who know me personally will know that I have a slight streak of OCD in me (actually I’m pretty sure it runs in throughout my whole family). Once I get an idea in my head, it stays there until I thoroughly investigate it, experiment with it and pontificate on it. And then, with the snap of a finger, I’m done with said topic and its gone.

That said, I can either blame my current infatuation on all things pumpkin (especially when paired with quinoa) on my little OCD problem – or – the fact that pumpkins are in season and they’re everywhere. I’m going with the latter so literally it can’t really be my fault that I’m fixated.

Last week I whipped up pumpkin quinoa muffins. Today, its hot breakfast in a cup. My pictures aren’t as pretty as The Wanna Be Chef’s but it cooked up quick and it was hot, delicious and healthy. Its also perfect for a pre or post workout meal because its loaded with protein.

Note: The original recipe calls for a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the option of maple syrup. I very may well have mis-measured but I found the salt overpowering. Adding the maple syrup tempered this a bit. If you’re foregoing the maple syrup try this without the salt (or just measure more carefully than I did).


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cooked quinoa*
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter (I use unsalted almond butter from Sprouts)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped nuts
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)


  1. Crack two eggs into a small bowl and whisk with a fork
  2. Add quinoa, pumpkin, salt and spices
  3. Pour into a small ramekin or microwave safe bowl
  4. Cook on high for 3 minutes
  5. Allow to cool slightly and top with nut butter and nuts

If you’re fresh out of pumpkin and not weirded about by quinoa, you can substitute a mashed banana with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg in place of the pumpkin pie spice. Again I left out the salt and the results were amazing (although I think there’s a bit of egg mist on the ceiling of my microwave). I added a bit of maple syrup and nearly swooned.

Kat’s Tip: Make your own pumpkin pie spice by combining 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon *each* allspice and nutmeg.

Kat’s Second Tip: I buy quinoa in bulk at Sprouts. It cooks up just like rice; one part quinoa to two parts water. I use my rice cooker but you could do it on the stove top as well. Quinoa has a bitter coating which washes away with water so make sure you rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before cooking.

Serves one

Nutritional information (including nut butter and nuts):

Calories 404.0  Total Fat 26.4 g  Cholesterol 370.0 mg  Sodium 152.4 mg  Potassium 458.3 mg  Total Carbohydrate 26.4 g  Protein 19.4 g



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Pumpkin Quinoa Fitness Muffins

Perfect for pre-workout or breakfast on the go

I can already hear the groans. “Fitness muffins, yuck…and what the heck is quinoa anyway??”

Quinoa is a grain-like seed that cooks up much like rice. Originating from Peru, where it was revered by the ancient Incas as the “mother of all grains,” quinoa contains the essential amino acids necessary to make it a complete protein.

So, there you have it. Quinoa is a complete protein which makes it the perfect ingredient for a pre-workout muffin. Said muffins BTW have the same calorie count as my homemade energy bars but are moist and satiate my need for fall flavors. These muffins will not disappoint. As a matter of fact, aside from a slight crunchiness imparted from the quinoa, you won’t even know its there. But, your body will!


  • 1 1/4 cup flour, preferably whole wheat
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, cooked and drained**
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit (I used dried cranberries)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°
  2. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin with either non-stick spray or paper liners
  3. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  4. Add the quinoa, pumpkin, milk, eggs, butter and vanilla
  5. Mix well
  6. Add dried fruit and mix until incorporated
  7. Measure evenly into muffin cups
  8. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Kat’s Tip: Make your own pumpkin pie spice by combining 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon *each* allspice and nutmeg.

Kat’s Second Tip: I buy quinoa in bulk at Sprouts. It cooks up just like rice; one part quinoa to two parts water. I use my rice cooker but you could do it on the stove top as well. Quinoa has a bitter outer layer which washes away with water so make sure you rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before cooking.

Nutritional information:

Calories 177.6  Total Fat 5.3 g  Cholesterol 42.0 mg  Sodium 53.6 mg  Potassium 173.7 mg  Carbohydrate 32.6 g  Protein 4.0 g

Inspiration: Bob’s Red Mill – I cut the sugar down to reduce the calorie count a bit.


Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Breakfast, Low fat, NaBloPoMo, Quinoa, Weight Loss Wars


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A Month’s Worth of Lunches

Variety is very important to me. But being the quintessential Libra that I am, my variety has to be balanced. You know; Libra, sign of the scales, etc. The same traits that rule my star sign shine through in my food planning too. Mentally picking one from Column A, one from Column B and one from Column C, I choose my recipes based on a nice array of vegetables, grains and my proteins. On a side note, I can’t stand the combination of fruits and vegetables in the same dish. There will be no fruit in my salads, no pineapple on my pizzas, no raisins in anything but trail mix and especially no fruity salsas or chutneys. For the record, that is precisely why there is no Column D.

In a perfect world, I would reserve a Saturday and pick five recipes to cook once a month. Each recipe would give me four portions (packaged, it goes without saying, in matching plastic containers). For purposes of this blog post, that means twenty lunches. Keep one portion of each in the fridge and freeze the rest. Straight from the freezer to the microwave. Reheat for five minutes on power level 5. Hot food at the ready!

Back on topic, my meal planning resembles someting like this:

Column A – Bread Column B – Protein Column C – Veggie
Barley Chicken Broccoli
Beans Turkey Tomatoes
Rice Pork / Sausage Bell Peppers
Wheatberries Fish Mushrooms
Pasta Shellfish Spinach
Quinoa Beef Squash

 So, here is what is on my meal plan for this week.

If you’re like me, the ratio of five recipes for a month works great for lunch because you’re probably only feeding yourself (say, at work). If you’re intrigued by the idea of true bulk cooking and need it on a larger scale because you’ve got a spouse and/or kids to feed, check out I am in total awe of the program that blogger Tricia Callahan and her team of contributing writers has put together. They’ve got meal plans, shopping lists, cooking plans and labels (I think I am in love).

Photo credit: kiwikewlio on Flickr. CC Licensed. So creative 🙂


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Limoncello Shrimp and Cous Cous

Scampi-style shrimp with mushrooms and Limoncello sauce over a bed of couscous

I make my own limoncello and am always looking for interesting ways to use it. Years ago I cut this recipe out of the circular for our local grocery store, Basha’s. Credit should go to David Larsen of Scottsdale who won a contest with this recipe. I’ve scoured the internet and didn’t find anything else like it.

I was originally fearful that the combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and Limoncello was going to be overpowering. Cooking the Limoncello actually burns off the alcohol which mellows out the flavor. In fact, I was underwhelmed by the flavors in general. I did skip the “flaming” option in lieu of not burning my fingers which may have made a difference. The dish, as published, was a little bland so I made some adjustments.


  • 1 1/3 cups dried couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quarter cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pound shrimp, deshelled with tail off
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms (I prefer baby bellas)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello or vodka
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring the water to boil in a medium pan. Stir in the couscous, mixed veggies and cilantro. Bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Remove the shells and tails from the shrimp. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. Heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Saute for several minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the shrimp and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and Limoncello or vodka.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the shrimp is cooked/heated through.
  7. Place the couscous on a platter and spoon the shrimp and sauce in the middle. Sprinkle with aged cheese. Garnish with additional cilantro and lemon wedges, if desired.

Kat’s tip: Because shrimp cooks up fairly quickly, you can use raw shrimp or pre-cooked shrimp with equal results. If using frozen, it should be thawed first.

Kat’s second tip: If you’re really daring you can try flaming the shrimp after you pour the Limoncello in the pan; this will burn off the alcohol and leave with you a pleasantly sweet lemon flavor. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t find my grill lighter and I was afraid of burning my fingers using a regular Bic lighter. If you opt to flame the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully light the pan to flame the shrimp and wait until the flame has burned out before returning the pan to heat. Make sure there is nothing above or around the pan that could catch fire.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 471.9 Total Fat 8.6g Cholesterol 209.9mg Sodium 544.6mg Potassium 631.9mg Total Carbohydrate 61.9g  Protein 32.5g

Inspiration: Basha’s Fresh is Best circa 2007 – my compliments to David Larsen of Scottsdale

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Adult beverages, Grains


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A Summer of Salads

A summer's worth of salads

An endless variety of ingredients to keep you satisfied all summer long

There’s something about 100+ degrees that makes me want to avoid the kitchen altogether. Alas, a gal has to eat. So, when summer hits I start getting creative with salads. Salads are healthy, cheap to make and can be quite filling.

Variety is the spice of life. You’ll often find me in the kitchen re-creating flavors and food combinations from cold-weather dishes into cool combos for summer salads. If it works in a soup or stew, it’ll work in a salad. Adding protein in the form of eggs, meat, poultry, fish or beans to your salad can change it from a side dish to main dish in a flash. Adding grains like wheatberries, barley or rice means you have a complete meal in a bowl that will sustain you for hours. Bon Appétit!

Here are some salads that are easy to pull together to help you get started:

Black & bleu salad
Steak strips
Bleu cheese crumbles
Red onion
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Blue cheese dressing
Greek salad
Canned tuna – white beans
Feta cheese
Artichoke hearts
Sundried tomatoes
Caesar dressing
Honey mustard chicken salad
Chicken breast strips
Cheddar cheese
Crispy bacon
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Honey mustard dressing
Mexican salad
Taco chicken
Tortilla chips
Beans – red or black
Ranch dressing
Grilled Shrimp and Spinach
Grilled shrimp
Hard boiled egg
Red onion
Warm bacon dressing
Mediterranean Salmon
Wheat berries
Artichoke hearts / red peppers / grape tomatoes
Feta cheese
Italian Dressing

Photo credit: Fotoosvanrobin on Flickr. CC Licensed. A much better picture than I could ever take!


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