a balanced plate with room for dessert

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Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Hello there, muffins! These little lemony bites are a good reminder that spring is right around the corner. It’s just hiding under piles and piles of snow. Piles that keep getting bigger and bigger… but eventually the snow will melt. Until then, keep dreaming of sunshine and happiness and cram your face full of these delicious lemon poppy seed muffins.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins |

They’re whole wheat, but they’re not heavy. And the little sub of applesauce makes them just a teeeensy bit healthier. These are great to share, but they’re also great to keep for yourself. I made a double batch and shared a little and froze the rest. I now have a stash of these bad boys sitting next to my dairy-free cinnamon rolls.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins |

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, slightly cooled
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
3 lemons, zested
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place liners into a muffin tin and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in soy milk, lemon juice, canola oil, coconut oil, applesauce, zest, and vanilla extract. Mix until ingredients are just moistened, being careful not to over-mix.
  3. Fill prepared muffin tin three-quarters full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


recipe slightly adapted from Prevention RD, originally from Vegan Brunch


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Dairy Free Cranberry Pear Crisp

dairy free cranberry pear crisp |

This crisp made its first appearance at Thanksgiving along with my favorite dairy-free iced pumpkin cookies. I’m hoping to make it again for one of the many Christmas meals I’ll be chowing down at. It’s super easy to throw together and it’s kind of pretty to look at. At first, I was a little disappointed that the cranberries didn’t all burst during baking, but it turns out that the whole berries are kind of fun to bite into. And the topping? Well, the coconut oil used in it is a million times better than butter. Trust me.

dairy free cranberry pear crisp |

Dairy-Free Cranberry Pear Crisp

5 cups sliced pears
1 1/2 heaping cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
3 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
5 tablespoons coconut oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with melted coconut oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together pears, cranberries, honey, cinnamon and cornstarch until well combined. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and coconut oil. Mash with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over fruit in the baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

recipe adapted from Gluten Free Goddess

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Shrimp with Mango, Lime and Radish Salsa

I’m happy to say that I survived my first week of work. The best part is that I really, really like my job so far and I think it’s only going to get better!

I am also happy to report that we are 90% moved in. Madison is finally starting to feel like home. We have a bed, our laptops, and most importantly – internet. The hardest part of having two homes is not having access to all of my cooking gadgets all the time. I had a difficult time deciding if I wanted to bring my stand mixer or my hand mixer (hand mixer won, due to space), a blender or a food processor (blender… but I think that I might end up getting the food processor anyway), what pots and pans to bring… I’m still not 100% satisfied with my decisions, but that will eventually get figured out, too.

The downside to this move is I haven’t been cooking a lot. We’ve been living off of sandwiches, salads, and pasta mixed with ground turkey and the tomato sauce I canned last summer. Nothing too exciting. I do have a shrimp dish that I made pre-move, though! The whole time I was eating this I was thinking about Scott Conant, a judge on Chopped, who hates raw onion. If you haven’t seen him on the show before, you will just have to trust me when I say that this man hates raw onion with a passion. He tears apart every.single.chef that uses it in their dish. If you are like Scott and hate raw onion, this dish probably isn’t for you. If you do like raw onions, then continue on!

Shrimp with Mango, Lime and Radish Salsa |

Shrimp with Mango, Lime and Radish Salsa
slightly adapted from Food Network

1 1/2 pounds large uncooked shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, juiced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the salsa:
3 limes
2 mangoes, diced
4 radishes, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp until well combined. Cover and place in the refrigerator and let marinate for 45 minutes. Heat remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until they turn pink, turning once.
  2. Remove segments from the limes by cutting off both ends. Place lime on one cut end and with a small, sharp knife, cut off the pith and peel. When all peel and pith is removed, carefully cut between the membrane to remove the lime segments.
  3. Place lime segments in a large bowl. squeeze juice from the lime membranes into the bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Place cooked shrimp on top and serve immediately.


Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lightened Up Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins |

I’m a cookbook junkie. I have shelves and shelves of cookbooks of all different types. I seriously love them. I honestly love just having them – I don’t cook a lot from them. In fact, most of my cookbooks get looked at once, maybe twice a year. As always, there are exceptions. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking is my most recent purchase and I’m obsessed with it. Every single dish I’ve made from it has been amazing. If you don’t own this book, I beg you – BUY IT!

Now, these muffins… so so good. In fact, I made these about 2 months ago for some friends. They were gobbled up before I even got a chance to take a photo for the blog. Thankfully, these muffins are also very easy to make and really tasty so I didn’t mind having to make these again! In fact, I whipped these up before heading to work on Friday. It only took about 20 minutes of prep time and another 20 for baking. I  made a few adjustments so they would be a bit healthier and I loved how they turned out!

Lightened Up Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins |

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
very slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

3 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (6 – 7 medium – large bananas)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2-12 cup muffin pans with liners or grease with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together bananas, sugar, brown sugar, butter, applesauce,  milk, and eggs.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Fill prepared muffin cups with batter, filling each one 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing the muffins and placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.


Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Spring means rhubarb to me. I’ve been lucky enough to get a fair share of rhubarb from my in-laws and parents over the years to bake with. But, this weekend, things changed!

I was able to take my first cutting off our rhubarb plant! We transplanted it two years ago and the past two years it’s been extremely sad looking and scraggly. I actually thought it had died after it got trampled during our garage re-siding project last summer. It looked dead, that’s for sure.

Then this year, it miraculously grew into beautiful stalks. I got a mere half pound off of it, so it still has a long ways to go, but it’s a great start!

This was originally meant to be a 9×13 pan of coffeecake, but all of my 9×13 pans have disappeared. I really need to keep better track of my bakeware. Thankfully, the muffin pan worked just as well 🙂

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake |

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
makes 1 9×13 cake or 24 individual cakes

for the filling:
1/2 pound fresh rhubarb, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup cornstarch

for the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the topping:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. To make the filling: in a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and cornstach. Bring to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. To make the cake: whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a medium bow, stir beat buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until wellc ombined. Pour into crumb mixture and stir until combined.
  4. To make the crumb topping: melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in flour, sugar, brown sugar, and ginger until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Fill prepared muffin cups half way with batter. Add a heaping tablespoon of filling on top and drop 1 tablespoon of batter on top of filling. Sprinkle with  crumb topping.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before moving a wire rack to cool completely.

recipe adapted from Taste of Home


Lightened Up Lemon Yogurt Cake

I’ve got a storm of baked goods comin’ your way. I would apologize for not posting healthier foods or main dishes, but I’m really not sorry. If you want someone to blame, you can start with Mothers’ Day. And then birthdays. Because all those occasions require baked goods. And when they all fall within a few days of each other… well, I end up pumping out a lot of goodies from my tiny kitchen.

I’ll start off with a lightened up lemon yogurt cake. I loved how light and spring-y this cake was. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I love lemons and their tartness. The next time I make this cake I will bump up the zest to 3 lemons and I’ll consider using a lemon-flavored Greek yogurt as well. I may double the glaze as well – I couldn’t get enough of that stuff! My sister liked it so much that she ate the top off a slice of the cake, leaving behind a sad naked slice. Rude 🙂

lightened up lemon yogurt cake |

Lightened Up Lemon Yogurt Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8.5″ loaf pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir gently to combine. Mix in canola oil until combined.
  4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  6. When cake is done, let cool in pan for 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack over a sheet pan . Using a toothpick, pierce top of cake several times. Pour lemon-sugar syrup over warm cake. Allow cake to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze: in a small bowl combine lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Pour over cake.


Apple Pie Bread

Life is so strange. I work in food service and my days are filled with food, menu planning, nutrition… the list goes on and on. Yet, I never have time to cook. I’ve been living on school food and whatever I scrape up from the fridge at home. I was ready to live this life of school salads and random dinners for a couple months. When I started this job in July, I was told that everything would calm down by October at the latest.

Hmm. Last time I checked, it’s January, and work is still crazy. I have been dutifully taking pictures of the new dishes that I make. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I took the pictures that I honestly cannot remember what the dish was, let alone what was in it! So, I guess I will start with one of the more recent things I’ve made: apple pie bread. I know, I know. I don’t have a lot of time to cook, so I use my precious time making things like… bread? Here’s what happened:

Cravings are a funny thing. I never seem to crave food that I have in the house. Or even food that is easily accessible to me. It’s always something that I can’t have. In this case, it was apple pie bread. More specifically, it was apple pie bread from Breadsmith. The craving hit on a Saturday night. By Sunday I was getting a bit cranky because I didn’t have any. I got ready to make the short drive over to Breadsmith and popped onto their website to make sure they had it.


My world crashed around me. They don’t have apple pie bread on Sundays. They have it almost every other day of the week. But not Sundays. I almost launched my iPad across the room in frustration. I stewed for a few minutes before deciding to make the dang thing myself.

Now, fair warning: this is not a replica of Breadsmith’s bread. It is really good though. Honestly. Mike and I inhaled half the loaf in about 15 minutes. The rest of it was gone before Wednesday.


Apple Pie Bread

For the filling:
3 apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

For the dough:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg

For the streusel:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Combine filling ingredient in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  3. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted.
  4. Whisk  together flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add in water, egg, milk and butter. With the dough hook on your stand mixer, combine all ingredients until dough comes together.
  5. Remove dough from bowl and place on a well floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. If dough is very sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer sticking to the counter or your hands.
  6. Roll dough out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Spread filling over the dough evenly, reserving 1/3 cup of the filling.
  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 4×5″ rectangles. With the loaf pan on it’s side, stack the pieces on top of each other. Set the pan down and, if needed, spread the dough gently to distribute through the pan evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of apple filling on top of the dough.
  9. Combine streusel ingredients together in a bowl until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over dough.
  10. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until bread is golden brown.
  11. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes before running a knife along the edges to loosen. Enjoy!!


Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad is perfect in its simplicity. I’ve been eating it for about 5 days straight now (we got a lot of greens from the CSA!) and I still have a little more to eat up. Not that I mind. I could eat this day after day for a very long time.

I used up some strawberries that my mom had picked in this salad (the rest went into the strawberry rhubarb crisp). It doesn’t get much better than fresh picked mixed greens and strawberries!!

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 bag of mixed greens
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup sliced almonds
4 ounces goat cheese

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast almonds until a light golden brown.
  2. Place greens, strawberries, toasted almonds and goat cheese in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
  3. To make the vinaigrette, combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously until well combined.
  4. Serve immediately.



Strawberry Rhubarb Cast Iron Skillet Crisp

Summers as an adult aren’t quite as fun as summers as a kid. You don’t get 3 months off, you have responsibilities, and days during the summer feel just like days during any other season. Except hotter and less enjoyable to run in. I think this summer might be a less exciting than usual. Instead of just working, I have studying on top of it.

There is one thing that I will always love about summer though – rhubarb. Lots and lots of rhubarb. When Mike and I bought the house last year we transplanted a rhubarb plant. It looked so sad last year. It still looks sad this year. I hope next year it magically comes to life. Until then, I’ll be stealing rhubarb from my in-laws.

When I peeked in our first CSA bag and saw rhubarb, I did a little happy dance. I knew it would be perfect paired with the strawberries my mom had picked and I couldn’t wait to bake something up. The recipe below was a first take on the crisp. I was a little unsure of how  it would turn out, but it was pretty darn tasty!

Strawberry Rhubarb Cast Iron Skillet Crisp

For the filling
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons whole wheat flour

For the topping
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup sugar

  1. Preheat oven 450°F.
  2. In the bottom of a 9 inch cast iron skillet, combine all filling ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together all topping ingredients until well combined and  sprinkle on top of fruit.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
  5. Serve warm.


Fueling the Run with Cranberry Orange Bread

Born to run? Not me. Picked last in gym class? Spent afternoons after school in math club? That’s more like it. So, why did I choose running as my sport? To be quite honest, it’s because it is one of the few sports that don’t involve an object flying at your face. Yeah, I lack hand-eye coordination. Big time.

I was scarred for life when I played soccer in elementary school. Tennis lessons in middle school? Horrifying. To this day, I stay away from soccer, volleyball, tennis, kickball and any other sport that involves a fast-flying ball.

I started to run my junior year in college to prepare for a family vacation to the Boundary Waters. I decided to use the ever so popular Couch to 5K program as my training guide. I’m not going to lie, doing day 1 of week 1 was almost too much for me and I wanted to quit halfway through.  But, I pushed through it. Two days later, I pushed through another workout. Rinse and repeat until I could (gasp!) run for 30 minutes straight. Boundary Waters went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, having nothing to work towards after the trip, I stopped running.

I didn’t start running again until my younger sister talked me into running a 15K with her. I have no idea how she convinced me, but it turns out that my promise would change my life.  I spent that winter painfully, slooooowly running (a more accurate word would probably be shuffling) that winter, gradually working my way up to 1 mile, then 2, 3… when I finally hit 5 miles, I felt like I had conquered the world.

I trained as hard as I could and in November of 2011, I ran my very first race at the age of 24. Completing the 15k was probably one of the most proudest moments of my life. I had done what I thought was impossible: I was a runner. I ran a 5 mile Turkey Trot a few weeks later and knew I was hooked.

My sister (R) and me after the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago

Mike and me after the 5 mile Turkey Trot

I am now looking forward to another 15K in February and then a half marathon in May. I may not be fast, graceful, or have an athlete’s body, but I am a runner.

The best part? Running fueled a new interest in nutrition. I had a degree in dietetics, but never knew what I wanted to do with it until I started running. I realized how I felt after I ate certain foods. I found out my perfect pre-run (Greek yogurt and a small banana) and post-run (most recently cranberry orange bread) foods. Running urged me to continue my schooling, and that’s where I am now – working through a dietetic internship with a new passion for nutrition!

If you made it through this long-winded post (quite possibly my longest ever), I am amazed. As a thank you, I will offer you the recipe to my new favorite post-workout food – cranberry orange bread!

I have made the bread two ways now – one as written on and the other with the changes published below. I prefer the recipe below – it’s a bit denser and not-so-sweet. Adding in whole wheat flour and reducing the amount of butter and sugar are an added health benefit, too!

Cranberry Orange Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large orange, zested (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Stir in cranberries and walnuts. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter, applesauce, and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and orange juice. Stir in flour mixture, mixing until just moistened.
  4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 – 65 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Let stand 15 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from