Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

This is my first recipe featuring vanilla bean paste, and I have to say, it’s something I’ve been dying to cook with.  I didn’t even bother looking in stores for it because, when it comes to specialty foods, Amazon always has the products I’m looking for.  This is the kind I bought.  Vanilla bean paste is a blend of vanilla beans, vanilla extract, water, and sugar.  Vanilla bean is one of my top 3 favorite dessert flavors (along with lemon and chocolate). 

I like this paste for several reasons.  First, it’s cheaper than buying vanilla bean pods.  Vanilla bean pods are about $6 a piece.  You get about 50 times that many pods’ worth in one 4 ounce jar, and a whole jar is only $15.  Vanilla bean paste has a longer shelf life than vanilla bean pods.  Plus having it in a jar, as opposed to in beans, makes it way easier to use, so I have a reason to put that intense vanilla flavor into everything. 

From here out, expect many recipes using vanilla bean paste!  I just got my first Bundt pan, and I’m planning a vanilla bean and something (to be determined) flavored Bundt cake with vanilla bean glaze.  Doesn’t that sound good? 

For these oatmeal cups, you can substitute out any or all of the coconut flavors if you like, but I love coconut.  The recipe I adapted this from uses canola oil, regular milk, regular sugar, etc.  So you can do that in equal proportions if you like. 

I made these using reusable silicone muffin cups.  I like these because I think they’re cute, they’re reusable, and they won’t ever rip and leave paper in the muffin or cupcake.  Whether you use these or paper liners, muffin liners are a must for this recipe.

You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, and just heat them up for 30 seconds to 1 minute before eating.  If you like, add a little extra milk when serving to thin it out (I always like to do this). 


Total Time:  1 hour and 15 minutesgood

Yield:  18 Muffins

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 eggs

¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup unrefined coconut sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste 

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

3 cups old fashioned oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ sweetened flaked coconut

½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for topping



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line your muffin tin with 18 muffin liners.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to break the yolks apart.
  4. Add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and coconut sugar. Whisk together until the sugar has broken apart and dissolved.
  5. Add the applesauce, coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, salt, cinnamon, and ground flax. Whisk until combined.
  6. Add the oats, baking powder, flaked coconut, and slivered almond. Use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine.
  7. Add ¼ cup of the oatmeal mixture to each muffin cup.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from The Wholesome Dish)




Cranberry Almond Granola Squares

Cranberry Almond  Granola Squares

Granola bars are one of those things I never thought about actually making myself until about 2 years ago.  But it’s pretty easy, and it’s kind of neat to customize the flavors to something you could not find in a grocery store.

My favorite kind of granola bars (or cereal bars) are Fiber One Oats and Chocolate.  I eat at least one a day, and I’m going to post a homemade version at some point.  But I decided to try out the cranberry-almond-cardamom combo this time.

One of my favorite breakfast cereals in Post Cranberry Almond Crunch, and these bars were inspired by that cereal.

You can use regular sweetened dried cranberries for this.  I like to use reduced sugar Craisins because not only do they have fewer calories and less sugar, but they also have added fiber.  You can also use cinnamon instead of cardamom if that’s what you have.  I just thought it would be interesting to change it up a little.  Cardamom is similar to cinnamon, but a little more complex and a little spicier.  There is not much in here, but a little is all you need.


Total Time:  1 hour and 45 minutesa

Makes: 16 bars

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 cup chopped raw almonds

1 cup no sugar added Craisins

1 ¾ cup oats

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup almond butter

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Let it fit in with enough extra room for you to pull it out later.  This will keep the granola from sticking to your pan. **see note
  2. Spread the chopped almonds out evenly on a small sheet pan. Toast until just starting to brown (3-5 minutes depending on your toaster oven).  Watch them closely so they don’t burn.
  3. Add the almonds to a large mixing bowl. To that, add the Craisins, oats, cardamom, and salt.  Toss the ingredients together with a spoon, and set aside.
  4. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, add the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract. Whisk once or twice.
  5. Microwave the almond butter mixture in 30 second increments until runny. (Mine took 1 minute.)
  6. Drizzle the almond butter mixture over the oats. Toss together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until it’s completely incorporated.
  7. Pour the granola evenly into the pan, and spread it out with your spoon or spatula.
  8. To finish spreading it out, use a flat-bottomed drinking glass (or something similar). Alternately, you can also use your fingers with a sheet of parchment paper between you and the granola.
  9. Cover the granola, and chill in the fridge for at least 90 minutes.
  10. Slice into bars, and enjoy. ***see note

**Note:  If you can, weigh down the parchment paper with a second pan of the same size.  This will help it stay put better when you’re spreading out the granola.

***Note:  You can also individually wrap these in plastic wrap to take on the go.

(inspired by Cookie and Kate)


Vegan Southwestern Zucchini Sauté + 5 Lightened Up Super Bowl Recipes

Vegan Southwestern Zucchini Sauté + 5 Lighter Super Bowl Recipes

I have been making my Vegan Eggplant Sauté on and off for over 10 years, and it never occurred to me to change it around.  Then all the sudden I think how I can keep myself from getting bored by changing around the flavors.  This recipe is just as simple as the Vegan Eggplant Saute, but I’ve swapped around all the flavors.

Following the recipe, you’ll see a list of 5 lightened up, but still Super Bowl-worthy, recipes for game day.  I have never cared one way or another about the football, but I do like watching the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and I like the Super Bowl foods.  The rest is just background noise to me.


Southwestern Zucchini Sauté  (vegan, gluten free)

Total Time:  15 minutes

Serves:  1

Difficulty Level:  Easy



Cooking spray

1 large zucchini, medium diced

1 Original Vegan Boca Burger

1 pinch salt

1 pinch garlic powder

1 pinch chipotle powder or ground cumin

1 ice cube

½ cup salsa

Freshly chopped cilantro



  1. Add a quick spray of cooking spray to a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the zucchini, salt, garlic, and chipotle or cumin.  Sauté for a minute or so.  Add the ice cube, and cover.  Let it steam for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the Boca Burger until warm, about 1 minute. Dice into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Remove the zucchini from heat. Add the Boca Burger and salsa.  Mix together.
  5. Top with freshly chopped cilantro.



5 Lighter Super Bowl Eats

  1.  Skinny Taste:  Slow Cooker Paleo Jalapeno Popper  Chicken Chili.  This is a mouthful!  I like all kinds of chili, vegetarian included.  I was going to list a vegetarian option, but I think a Super Bowl chili needs some kind of meat.  This one is a good middle ground and will make dieters and non-dieters happy.  Here are some of my other favorite chilis.  SlowCookerPaleoJalapenoPopperChickenChili-550x825.jpg


2.  The Mediterranean Dish:  Avocado Hummus and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Verde.  Another classic Super Bowl food is guacamole.  Here’s a lightened up version that you could serve with both chips and raw veggies.Avocado-Hummus-with-Salsa-Verde-Recipe-11.jpg


3.  A Beautiful Plate:  Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas.  I love roasted chickpeas!  The first time I had them was in this salad.  They are a great substitute for salty nuts, and you can switch up the flavor combinations in endless ways.salt-and-vinegar-roasted-chickpeas-1-11.jpg


4.  Dashing Dish:  Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers.  This is on my “must try” list, and of all the recipes I’ve seen for buffalo cauliflower, this one looks like a dead ringer for wings.  So, maybe you can’t forgo wings on Super Bowl Sunday in favor of cauliflower.  But maybe you can have both?IMG_4599.jpg

5.  BS In the Kitchen:  Paloma.  Tequila is my favorite kind of liquor, and the only kind I’ll ever have around the house.  The Paloma is similar to a margarita, but with grapefruit.  This version contains hardly any sugar, but relies mostly on the tart grapefruit and lime for flavor (plus tequila really has a great flavor too).  Each drink only has one teaspoon of sugar, but you could substitute stevia, or you could leave it out altogether.the-paloma-6




Greek Spaghetti Pie

Greek Spaghetti Pie

Katie Lee posted a video of a spaghetti pie on Instagram during the holidays, and I thought I’m going to make that.  In fact, as soon as I saw the video, I sent it to Jon and told him I was going to make it.  I changed it up and used bucatini, and it was really good.  Then the holidays happened, and now it’s January.  Now I don’t want bucatini, and I don’t want extra cheese, and I don’t want anything more than to feel as good as I do in the warmer months, when I live on watermelon and chopped salads and white wine. 

So I changed it up again, both with the flavors and the base.  I want it to feel indulgent, but not cost you a day’s worth of calories.  If you follow my recipe exactly and cut the pie into 10 slices, one slice has about 467 calories.  For this pie, I measured everything very carefully, plugged it into My Fitness Pal recipes, and divided it up. 

I love love love cinnamon in spaghetti.  It’s a Greek thing (I’m not Greek), and if you’ve never had it, you have to try it just once!  I started putting cinnamon in spaghetti and chili last year, and now I always do it.  It sounds weird, but it tastes delicious.


Total Time:  90 minutes


one of my favorite pictures so far!

Serves:  10

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 box whole wheat spaghetti (about 1 pound)

Olive oil

½ large yellow onion

1 pound lean ground chicken

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

36 ounces marinara sauce, plus more for serving

1 15-ounce container part skim ricotta

5 ounces freshly grated parmesan, divided in half

2 eggs, lightly beaten and at room temperature

8 ounces freshly grated part skim mozzarella

Dried parsley

Fresh basil



  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain, and set aside.
  2. Add a few tablespoons of olive to a saute pan over medium heat. When the oil heats up, add the onion, and saute until translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the ground chicken, oregano, and cinnamon. Cook the ground chicken over medium heat until it’s no long pink.
  4. Take the meat mixture off the heat, add the 36 ounces of marinara sauce, and stir to combine.
  5. Add the spaghetti to a large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and 2-3 ounces of the parmesan on top, and the cover it with the sauce.  Let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to cool down. (**see note)
  6. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Toss the eggs, pasta, sauce, and cheese together with tongs until thoroughly mixed together.
  8. Spray a 9-inch spring form pan with nonstick spray, make sure it’s latched, and put it on a baking sheet. (***see note)
  9. Add the pasta mixture to the spring form pan and spread it out evenly.
  10. Add the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and spread them out evenly. Make sure it’s around the sides so you get a crunchy crust.
  11. Top with some dried parsley for color.
  12. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.
  13. Remove from the oven, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  14. Serve with extra marinara, fresh basil, and crushed red pepper flakes.


**Note:  Using room temperature ingredients and eggs ensures that the eggs won’t scramble when you add them to the pasta mixture.

***Note:  I always put casseroles, lasagnas, pies, and most other baked dishes on a sheet pan just to make it easier to get in and out of the oven, and to make sure nothing bubbles over and spills in the oven.

Vegan Italian Eggplant Sauté + My Favorite Fast Meals Under 200 Calories

Vegan Italian Eggplant Sauté + My Favorite Fast Meals Under 200 Calories

I’m doing a quick post to share my current favorite recipe, plus a few extras that are barely recipes, but great if you (like me) are fighting stubborn Christmas pounds off.  The older I get, the less I can eat and still be thin.  Living with 4 hungry kids and a 6 foot tall, 200 pound husband leaves me feeling a little left out sometimes.  They can all literally eat whatever they want and stay thin.  Tonight, they’re eating a pasta dish I made earlier, and I’ll be eating an Anything Scramble.  It is what it is, but I refuse to give in to the scale, so here are a few of my super low calories meals and snacks I’ve been eating to get back to my goal.

Vegan Eggplant Sauté (pictured):  You’ll need cooking spray; ½ a medium sized eggplant, diced; a pinch each of cinnamon and dried oregano; 1 ice cube (just wait); 1 Original Vegan Boca Burger; ½ cup marinara sauce; and fresh basil.

  1. Add a quick spray of cooking spray to a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the eggplant, cinnamon, and oregano.  Sauté for a minute or so.  Add the ice cube, and cover.  Let it steam for 6-8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the Boca Burger until warm, about 1 minute. Dice into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Remove the eggplant from heat. Add the Boca Burger and marinara sauce.  Mix together.
  5. Serve with fresh basil.
  • Notes: The ice cube sounds weird, but it helps to steam the eggplant, which cooks it without adding extra fat and calories.  This entire dish has 180 calories, 3 grams of fat, 17 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fiber (that’s half a day’s worth).  It’s also vegan and gluten free.


The rest of these aren’t really recipes, but they’re quick, easy, filling, and perfect for weight loss:

  • Anything Scramble: With 1 whole egg plus 3 whites and your choice of veggies, it’s has less than 200 calories.  It also has 22 grams of protein and virtually no carbs.
  • Whitefish Over Greens with Vinaigrette: Toss the greens (I like baby spinach) with a light vinaigrette.  My favorite is sesame ginger.  5 ounces of cod only has 115 calories and 25 grams of protein, and most whitefish are about the same.  Steam the whitefish using this method.
  • Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding: This has about 250 calories, and it may seem like a lot for a small pudding.  But you’re getting 9 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber.  This is essentially a homemade meal replacement shake.  If you want it to be drinkable, use 2 tablespoons of chia instead of 3.  This will leave you at 200 calories 6 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber (still enough for a small meal).
  • Whole Grain Egg McMuffin: Use Thomas Multigrain English Muffins because they have only 100 calories, and 8 grams of fiber.  I make a microwave scrambled egg to go on this.  All you do is spray a small bowl with cooking spray.  Add one egg, salt, and pepper.  Whisk lightly with a fork.  Microwave for 1-2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds for doneness.  The egg will slide right out and fit the sliced English muffin for a little sandwich.  I like topping the egg with a tomato slice to brighten it up.  This meal has 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 8 grams of fiber, and 11.5 grams of protein.
  • I also love snacking on pickles because they’re almost calorie free, and vinegar actually curbs your appetite. I eat at least one Oats and Chocolate Fiber One Bar per day—usually 2.  I’ll have one as my breakfast, and I’ll eat one after dinner if I need something sweet.  Each bar has 9 grams of fiber and tricks me into thinking I’m having a chocolate chip cookie.  Pears are my go-to fruit in the winter because 1 small pear has 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber, much more than most fruit.  In the summer, I go for watermelon because it’s very filling, but very low calorie.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

This recipe is a take on Ina’s Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup.  When you eat this soup, it feels like eating a big cozy bowl of chicken noodle soup or mashed potatoes.  It’s full of vitamins, especially Vitamin A, which is good for your skin, hair, and nails.  It’s seriously low in fat and high in fiber.  You can easily make this vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  It’s also gluten free and elimination diet friendly.

I love making a big batch of this and eating it throughout the week.  It freezes well, too.  I don’t give a specific amount of the chicken broth because I think it’s best to add it gradually until it’s the consistency you like.

Ina always recommends making your own chicken stock, but I have never done that.  I don’t want to say never, but I don’t really see myself doing that.  I always buy chicken base—similar to bouillon, but it’s a powder.  For this soup, I put water in my tea kettle.  I put the ratio of 2 teaspoons of powdered base per cup of water.  When the water boils, I pour it over the base into a glass measuring cup.  That way the base dissolves completely, and you can mix hot broth with hot vegetables.  

Total Time:  90 minutes15966111_412154012456574_7851803339849164156_n.jpg

Serves:  6-8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 large butternut squash

2 sweet potatoes

1 pound of carrots

Olive oil spray

Salt and pepper

8 cups of chicken broth


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel, seed, and dice the butternut squash into bite sized pieces. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes and carrots (all about 1 inch dice).
  3. Spray sheet pans with olive oil spray. Arrange the vegetables on the tray.  Spray with more olive oil, and sprinkle with salt in pepper.
  4. Cook the vegetables in batches. For each batch cook for 40-50 minutes.  Take them out and turn them halfway through.
  5. Add the vegetables in batches to a food processor. Puree the vegetables on their own for a minute or two so the broth won’t splash up when you add it.  Add chicken broth, and puree until you reach the desired consistency.
  6. Serve on its own, or with croutons or crusty bread and a dash of olive oil and cracked pepper.

(inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe)


2017 Food Goals

2017 Food Goals

One of my favorite things about this blog is that it challenges me creatively.  I think everyone has a creative side, and we have to find out where we can express ourselves and get that satisfaction.  Crafts don’t do it for me, but they do it for some people, but it can be anything.  My “thing” is definitely food and being in the kitchen.  Blogging about my adventures in the kitchen keeps me motivated because I can see my progress, and I can constantly find new ways to cook with old ingredients and everyday uses for uncommon ingredients.  I did a few posts on resolutions already, but those were more generic:  budgets and diets.  My specific resolutions for this year are going to be exploring and mastering -ok maybe not mastering- but getting familiar and more confident with new types of food or ingredients.  I don’t know how I landed on 8 as a good number, but it works for my Pretty Things posts, so I’ll stick with 8 for the food goals.

1.   Marshmallows:  Until I saw Ina Garten do it a 5 or 10 years ago, I never realized that marshmallows could be homemade.  It was pretty naive of me, because of course every packaged item is derived from something homemade, right?  I’ve seen so many beautiful iterations of marshmallows out there on the internet that I’m determined to make a few this year.  Probably not as fancy as Baker’s Royale, but I already have a some ideas for summer s’mores and hot cocoa later this year (so stay tuned!).



image found on Local Milk


2.  Cheesecake:  Cheesecake has always seemed daunting, and I’ve had a couple of springform pans collecting dust in a cabinet for years now.  I used one to make a baked pasta pie (post for that is still in the works), but I feel like I should use it to make a really good cheesecake.  I’m thinking lemon, ricotta, or vanilla bean…


image found on Baking a Moment


3.  Aioli:  I put this on a pretty things list already, but I have to mention it again.  It’s such a simple, but flavorful dipping sauce, and I can’t wait to dip some buttery artichokes into it.


image found on Epicurious


4.  Waffles:  I used our new waffle iron for the first time today!  It was a snow day, so we had a long morning.  I’m working my way towards making a real Liege waffle once I get my hands on some pearl sugar.  We hosted an exchange student from Belgium a few years back, and Jon still talks about the waffles her parents sent us.


image found on Food and Wine


5.  Bread in a Le Creuset French Oven: This is so cool!  I actually bought my first Le Creuset as a factory second at Marshall’s for about 40% of the retail price, and there is a teeny knick that’s hardly visible.  I started looking around for interesting ways to use it, and who would have thought you could make bread in it?  I’m so in.


image found on Le Creuset


6.  Turmeric Latte:  I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple years now, and I finally bought a big canister of turmeric.  Jon wants to use it to whiten his teeth, I want it for face masks and turmeric lattes.  I’m excited to share what I come up with (and if the teeth whitening thing works, I’ll let you know).


image found on Elle UK

7.  Bee Pollen:  Bee pollen as a spur of the moment purchase, yes.  I saw it in Goop Clean Beauty and decided to try it out.  I’m thinking smoothie bowls, oatmeal topping, possibly in some granola.  Again, I’ll be sharing any successes here.


image found on Sed Bona


8.  The Spiralizer:  This was my first New Year Food Resolution.  Everyone’s been so spiralizing for years, and I finally broke down because it just looks fun.  I bought the one most recommended, and I want to spiralize everything from cucumbers to apples to sweet potatoes.  Again, tons of ideas!


image found on Haute and Healthy Living