Frozen Banana Bars

monkeybar7

Now that the weather is warming up, my weekly supply of bananas is turning brown faster and faster. Which reconciles them to a bag, quickly filling up, in my freezer. I don’t have anything against brown bananas, per say. In fact I love adding them to a morning smoothie, to create a thick-sweet shake. And when it comes to making banana bread, I say the browner the banana the better! But now that my stock pile of ripe bananas is pushing maximum capacity, I decided it was time to try something new.  Hence this “monkey bar” recipe, and no, I’m not building a jungle gym set. These bars offer a light and healthy alternative to ice cream bars, a classic summer treat. Here’s how to make them.

Monkey Bars
Makes 6

2 ripe bananas (245 grams)
1 ½ tablespoons honey or agave syrup
¼ cup (50 grams) natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons (35 grams) reduced fat Greek yogurt
Scant ½ cup (65 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (12 grams) puffed quinoa cereal
1 tablespoon chocolate covered (or plain) chia seeds

monkeybar
Combine the bananas and honey or agave in a food processor (if using honey, warm slightly to loosen the honey and ensure it incorporates evenly). Puree until smooth. Add in the peanut butter, salt and yogurt, puree until well combined.
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Pour in a pan lined with plastic wrap, about 7″x14″ (about 17cm x 35cm)
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Freeze for at least 6 hours, or until frozen solid. Once frozen, cut the bars into 6 squares.
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Place the bars back in the freezer.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stir frequently to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t burn and melts smoothly. Allow the chocolate to cool until it’s body temperature. The best way to test this is simply by dipping a spoon in the chocolate and pressing the back of the spoon up against your lip. They should be about the same temperature. Once the chocolate is the correct temperature, remove the bars from the freezer. Dip them partially in the dark chocolate, and immediately sprinkle with the puffed quinoa and chia seeds.
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Repeat until all 6 bars are done. Place the bars in a Tupperware container, lined with parchment or wax paper. The bars can be kept frozen for up to a month. Once removed from the freezer, serve immediately so that the bars don’t melt.

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The Superfoods That Belong On Your Grocery List

goji

In the past few years, I’ve found myself often talking about superfoods. I eat them daily. I bake and cook with them in my home, and on TV. I talk about them in my cookbooks, and now here I am writing about them. I’m definitely not the only one. There are currently about 10 million online results if you search for superfoods. The concept of superfoods is a popular one, especially when it comes to food and health. The media is full of reports of ultra-healthy foods, from blueberries and beetroot, to cocoa and amaranth. But what really is a superfood and why are they, well……so super?
The Oxford English dictionary, describes a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Generally speaking, a superfood can be categorized as a food whose nutrient content and health benefits surpasses other foods. But one key ingredient that often puts fruits and vegetables on the path to superfood stardom is antioxidants. I know we’ve all heard of antioxidants. But for those of you who maybe don’t know what they are, or why we should be consuming them, antioxidants simply means Anti-Oxidation.  You might know oxidation by its more common name, rust!  Unlike the tin man, or that bicycle you left parked by the side of your house, our bodies might not be rusting, but they are decaying. What happens is that the free radicals in our bodies expose our cells to oxidation, which leads to decay. In order to fight this we need antioxidants. So before you run out and buy that bottle of WD-40, try my list of the top 10 (antioxidant-rich) superfoods to add to your shopping list!
1.    Amaranth – Amaranth has been cultivated as a grain for 8,000 years. The word amaranth means “everlasting” in Greek. Indeed, this tiny seed has endured the ages. It’s a hearty grain and was a staple food of the Aztecs.  Amaranth is a gluten free grain and contains more protein than any other gluten free grain, with 28 grams per cup! It’s also rich in calcium, magnesium and iron.  You can cook amaranth similarly to rice. Also try baking with amaranth flour, you can even pop the kernels, much like popcorn, and enjoy it as a savory snack, or even add it to your cereal.

2.    Quinoa – Quinoa was originally cultivated high in the Andes, where it is still grown today. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach. In fact, the leaves of the plant can be eaten as well as the grains. Quinoa certainly has come a long way in the last five years! Most people now know it’s pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwin-OH-a. Researchers have recently taken a close look at the protein rich grain to further explore quinoa’s health benefits. Quinoa contains certain antioxidant phytonutrients. Two flavonoids found in quinoa, quercetin and kaempferol, are now known to be provided by quinoa in especially concentrated amounts. In fact, the concentration of these two flavonoids in quinoa can sometimes be greater than their concentration in high-flavonoid berries like cranberry or lingonberry. You can cook quinoa similarly to rice. You can also cook it and serve it like an oatmeal porridge, or even add it raw into granola bars and cereals.

3.    Kale – You’ll want to include kale as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis!  Kale is a great detoxifying food. It’s rich in fiber and sulfur, both of which are great for cleaning out the body and keeping the liver healthy. Kale also packs a nutritional punch, with its rich levels of vitamins A, C, K and iron. Kale also is rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids. You can thinly slice kale and add it raw to salads, or try steaming your kale and drizzling a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice on top.

4.    Blueberries – With only 80 calories and 0 fat, per cup, beautiful blueberries make the perfect snack! Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and manganese (which incidentally helps the body process cholesterol and carbohydrates). They are also low on the glycemic index, meaning that people with blood sugar problems, such as diabetes, can still enjoy this sweet fruit, and its health benefits. Try eating blueberries on top of Greek yogurt as a snack, or add them to your cereal for breakfast. They might even be a good excuse for you to start eating more blueberry pie….well I don’t know if I’d take it that far!

5.    Greek yogurt – According to some physicians, yogurt is considered a superfood for several reasons. One, it has the ability of fat reduction (due to its high protein and calcium content).   It also improves digestion because it’s loaded with good bacteria known as probiotics. The probiotics also aid in a healthy digestive system, decreasing the risks of Colon Cancer. Good bacteria in the digestive system plays a very important role in our health. It can easily be thrown out of balance by stressors found in everyday life, which is when bad bacteria can run rampant. Probiotics help keep harmful bacteria in check. It has also been shown that daily consumption of yogurt improves one’s cholesterol profile, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, while raising HDL (good) cholesterol. Try using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or crème fraiche. Add it to smoothies, try topping it with honey for a sweet treat and even add it (one of my favorite tricks) to baked goods!

6.    Goji berries -Goji berries are classically grown from an evergreen shrub found in China, Mongolia, and in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. Ironically, goji berries come from the nightshade family. Although one doesn’t typically associate nightshade with health and wellness, goji berries are most closely related to the edible nightshade fruits tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. But goji berries are definitely the super hero of the family! Goji berries have all 18 amino acids as well as mega doses of vitamin A (beta carotene), B1, B2, B6 and vitamin E. Goji berries contain lots of vitamin C, and more iron than spinach, not to mention 21 other key trace minerals as well as antioxidants. You can enjoy all the health benefits of goji berries by eating them fresh or dried.  Try adding them to granola, yogurt, and salads.

7.    Baobab fruit – The baobab fruit (pronounced Bay-oh-bab) has been harvested in Africa for centuries. The baobab fruit contains six times as much vitamin C as oranges, twice as much calcium as milk, and plenty of B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and of course, that superfood key ingredient……….. antioxidants! In fact, baobab fruit is richer in antioxidants than blueberries and goji berries! Did I mention it’s also richer in fiber? So much so that it can also be used as a super laxative (just something to keep in mind when you add it to your morning smoothing, sometimes moderation is best!). Outside of Africa it might be difficult to find fresh baobab, but you can easily find it in powder form. Try adding it to smoothies, yogurt, even sauces and dressings (it makes a great thickening agent).

8.    Spinach – Spinach might just be the original superfood. Who remembers watching Popeye as a kid? Whenever he was in trouble, he’d pop a can of spinach and viola, his super strength would appear! Spinach is a great way to improve hair, skin, and bone health. It’s packed with calcium, protein, iron, vitamin A, and folate. Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, weighing in at 839mg per cup (cooked). Compare that to one cup of banana, which has about 539mg of potassium. Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, which is essential for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle, and a healthy immune system. Try adding spinach to your salads, smoothies, and omelets.

9.    Oats – For some reason, as a kid I hated oatmeal. I found those instant packets flavorless and mushy. Luckily my Greek yiayia stepped in and started making it her way, cooked on the stove top, topped with butter, cinnamon, and honey. Now that was something I could dig my spoon into! Thanks to her I now love oatmeal, and oats!  Oats contain a bio-active antioxidant compound called avenanthramide. Researchers have found that it cleans arteries (does that mean I can justify adding a bit of butter to my oatmeal?), prevents fatty buildup, and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Oats are also rich in vitamin B, folic acid, protein (6 grams per cup), manganese, magnesium, as well as other minerals. Try using oats to make homemade granola, make a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, or add oat flour to your baked goods.

10.    Chia Seeds – The word “chia” meant strength to the ancient Mayans, who often used chia seeds as a source of nutritious energy. For a while, at least in the United States, the chia seed was at best a household plant, at worst a bad joke. Yes, that ch-ch-ch-chia plant (sorry! I couldn’t resist) comes from those seeds that we are now gobbling up like Halloween candy. Once again the chia seed is a superfood star.  It’s smaller than, and often compared to, the flax seed. But unlike flaxseeds, the nutrients of the chia seeds are easily absorbed by the body. Chia seeds are filled with two times more protein than most grains, five times more calcium than milk, and one of the highest levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. They are also full of soluble fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. Try adding chia seeds to your granola, yogurt, juices and salad dressing (think poppy seed dressing with a twist!)

Now that you have your grocery list complete, here are a few recipes to help you put all of those superfoods you’re going to bring home to use. Enjoy!

Kale, Avocado & Amaranth Salad
Serves 4
1 bunch Kale, washed and finely sliced
1 large beets, grated
1/2 cup cooked Amaranth or Quinoa
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup blueberries

(Dressing)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon baobab powder or chia seeds
3 tablespoons cashew butter or finely ground cashews
Salt & pepper

Wash the kale and cut into thin strips. Place the kale strips in a large salad bowl. Wash and grate the raw beets into a separate bowl. Dice the avocado. To prepare the salad dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, cashew butter, and baobab powder. Pour the dressing over the kale and massage into the kale. This will help to tenderize the kale leaves. Massage for one minute, then toss in the grated beets, cooked amaranth, avocado, cranberries, and blueberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding
4 servings
235ml unsweetened almond milk
220 grams reduced fat Greek yogurt (I suggested Fage, or any brand with a low water content & thick texture)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or honey)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
37 (about 1/3 cup) grams chia seeds
135 grams (about 1 cup) strawberries, washed and chopped
80 grams goji berry granola

In a medium bowl, gently whisk the almond milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the vanilla and pinch of  salt until just blended. Whisk in the chia seeds; let stand for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture once or twice to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, divide the chia pudding into 4 bowls, top with the berries, and the granola. If you can’t fine goji berry granola. Top with granola and add some dried goji berries.

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Sweet & Skinny Old Fashioned Fudge cake on Home and Family

Frosted Chocolate Cake

Many of you have been emailing me about my appearance on Home & Family. If you missed the episode, you can watch it here. They also have the recipe posted online for my guilt free old fashioned fudge cake. Yum!

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Easy Corn Souffles for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday. If you still haven’t had time to buy dad a new tie, not to worry, I have something better in mind! This easy to make corn souffle is simple to make and absolutely delicious. It’s a great way to show dad you put in a little extra effort this year.

Corn Souffles

(makes about 6 individual souffles, depending on ramekin size)

3 ounces butter, melted

1 cup Greek yogurt, plain

12 ounces fresh corn, cut away from the cob

2 large eggs

1/3 cup green onions, chopped

1 box Jiffy cornmeal mix

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the ramekins, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together all of the ingredients, except for the cheddar cheese. Whisk until well combined. Divide the batter evenly between the six ramekins and sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until puffed and golden brown on top. Remove the souffles from the oven and serve.

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The Talk

For those of you who missed my appearance last week on the CBS show The Talk, not to worry. You can watch the episode online at the link below. The full recipes are also available online via The Talk website. Enjoy!

http://www.cbs.com/shows/the_talk/video/ezm_Bv78iXeQu_SCpKp9Il_k0dYAWE2s/the-talk-3-7-2014/

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Best Gluten Free Brownie Recipe

When it comes to holidays, Valentine’s Day is not a holiday that I tend to embrace. Before you’re quick to judge, let me say that it’s not because I’m unromantic or have had my expectations dashed. Honestly I love romance, really I do! I just think that holidays should mark a specific occasion, like the 4th of July, or Thanksgiving, or Easter.   Chocolates, flowers, or telling someone you love them should (in my opinion) be marked by the heart, not a date on the calendar. That said, a recent survey estimated that 48 million pounds of chocolate are sold annually around Valentine’s Day. Clearly many of you love the holiday.  Far be it for me to rain on the romance parade.  So in honor of the upcoming holiday, and because several of you emailed me asking for this recipe, I am posting my recipe for double chocolate gluten free brownies. Take that Godiva!

You can cut them into squares, or if you are giving them to that someone special, use a heart cookie cutter.  This is a reduced fat recipe.  So if you do cut them into hearts, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating all the scraps yourself.  These fudgy brownies are so delicious and so simple to make. Who knows, you might just find yourself pulling out the recipe next month, letting a little romance waft into your kitchen long after the chocolate boxes from “V Day” have been emptied.

Best Gluten Free Brownies

Makes one 8”pan

1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

5 ounces dark chocolate (70%), chopped

2 large eggs plus 1 egg white

1tsp. vanilla

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa, unsweetened

1/3 cup cornstarch

½ tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8” square pan.

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt the two in the microwave over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once melted, stir to combine. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl combine the cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Set that aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the two eggs and one egg white. Add the vanilla and slowly add the sugar, whisking until well combined. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk. Add the cocoa mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake the brownies for about 25 minutes. Do not overbake. The brownies are done when a knife inserted into the center comes out with a few streaks and crumbs on it. Allow the brownies to cool before cutting. Store leftovers at room temperature for two days.

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Access Hollywood

For those of you that missed me making Sweet & Skinny red velvet cupcakes on Access Hollywood, I am re-posting  the video here. It has some great ideas that I think are perfect for this holiday season: festive red velvet cupcakes, boxes of bacon toffee to give as gifts and colorful French macarons. Happy Holidays!

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

 

Now that the Thanksgiving festivities are behind us, we are all faced with the same dilemma. What is one to do with pounds upon pounds of leftover turkey? Reliving the Thanksgiving meal is fine for a day or two, but turkey and gravy is going to get BORING fast! Here are some great and simple ways to use up your leftover turkey without keeping your meal on rerun for the next week.

Make Cuban sandwiches! Thinly slice the turkey and then combine the turkey with some ham, spread a little honey mustard (or pepper jelly) onto some sourdough bread, add Swiss cheese and banana peppers. Toast the sandwiches in a panini press.

Make Thai coconut-curry soup! Buy some coconut milk, chicken stock, fresh ginger, lemon grass, cilantro and green curry paste. Saute a little onion with the ginger, lemon grass and curry paste. Toss in the coconut milk, chicken stock, and some Shitake mushrooms.Add the turkey and some thin rice noodles. Serve the soup topped with fresh cilantro and a dash of lime juice.

Make a turkey hash for breakfast! Saute some onion, celery, bell pepper, diced potato (par boiled) and turkey in a bit of butter. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Add in a splash of leftover gravy, salt, pepper and some fresh time. Top the hash with a fried egg and serve.

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Homemade Granola Bars

Between the breakfast section in my new Sweet & Skinny cookbook and the Healthy Breakfast competition I am overseeing with Tetra Pak, I have been thinking a lot about ways to make breakfast fun and good for you! One of my favorite recipes is for these simple do it yourself granola bars. They are great because you can add whatever ingredients you want. Personally I like to make mine with flaxseeds (for a dose of Omega3’s) or with puffed quinoa cereal (for extra protein). Usually I add goji berries or apricots for something sweet, but depending on my mood I also sometimes add pineapple (for a dose of vitamin C and Bromelain). If you come up with your own tasty and creative combination please let me know. I’m always looking for new inspiration!

Do it Yourself Granola Bars

Makes 12

1 1/3 cup oats

1/2 cup flax seeds or puffed quinoa cereal

1/3 cup almonds or walnuts, chopped

1 cup dried fruit, such as apricots and goji berries

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup apple juice

2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup sunflower oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

 

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 7×11 pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, set aside.

Spread the oats, flax seeds, and almonds out on a baking tray. Toast the ingredients in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until fragrant and the nuts are golden.

Meanwhile, pour the brown sugar, apple juice, honey, oil, vanilla and salt into a large pot and cook over medium heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, until thick and syrupy.  Remove from the heat and pour the remaining ingredients into the pot and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press it into the pan with a spatula. Work quickly, it will set up fast.  Allow the bars to cool for about 20 minutes. While they are still slightly pliable, cut the bars into 12 pieces and wrap tightly. Store the bars at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

(Photo from Sweet & Skinny with Marisa, taken by Ioanna Rofopoulou)

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Great Recipes for Baking with Stevia

Between wrapping up my new cookbook and all my travels, it’s been a while since I have given Truvia some love. As many of you already know, I am a spokesperson for Truvia and a huge fan of the Stevia based sweetener. Just yesterday I had an email from yet another individual who is diabetic, and struggles with not being able to to bake the way she once used to.  This email from a frustrated person brought Truvia back to the forefront of my mind.

I think Stevia is a good alternative for people that can’t eat sugar. As previously mentioned, I suggest before you start baking with a product that you do a little research. Because there are over 200 varieties of the Stevia plant, the crystal form of Stevia can vary a lot in flavor and quality. So do some research into the Stevia products on the market before making a purchase. Once you have found the best quality Stevia products then you should taste them to see which one you like the most. Last, but not least, test the Stevia out in a recipe. I suggest you start simple, try making a mousse or pie.  From here you can branch out into more complicated recipes, such as cakes, ice creams and cookies. I do suggest you follow a recipe (such as the recipes in my Sweet & Skinny cookbooks!), as Stevia is not a 1-1 swap with sugar, and it perform differently in baking.   To learn more about Stevia, as well as sugar’s role in baking, you can read my Huffington Post article Enjoying the Sweeter Side of Life

Here is a simple lemon yogurt mousse recipe to get you started on your quest for baking with Stevia instead of sugar. Enjoy and good luck!

Lemon Yogurt Mousse with Blueberries and Basil

Serves 4

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plain Greek nonfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons Truvia or other preferred brand of Stevia (quantity can be adjusted according to your personal taste and desired sweetness)
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 fresh basil leaves, rolled up and cut cross-wise into thin ribbons

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the whipped cream while slowly adding in the Stevia. Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Swiftly whisk in the yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.

Divide half of the mousse evenly between four six-ounce dessert glasses. Top with half the berries and half the basil. Spoon the remaining mousse over each and top with the remaining blueberries and basil. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead! The mousse can be refrigerated, tightly covered, up to one day in advance. Prepare the blueberries and basil just before serving.

 

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How to Write and Publish a Cookbook

Last week I just wrapped up my second cookbook, or that is to say, I finished writing it. There will undoubtedly be more rounds of edits and proof reading before final print. From recipe testing to photography, people are always very curious and enthusiastic to learn about what goes into writing a cookbook. This seemed like the perfect time to dedicate a blog post to cookbook writing.

So what does it take to write a cookbook?

First and foremost, you need an idea. You need to find your niche.  You need to figure out what makes you better than every other person that does that same thing you want to do.

Once this has been established, and you know what you want to write about, you need to find an excellent literary agent. While a literary agent isn’t essential to getting published, I do think it makes the odds in your favor much higher. Plus, an excellent agent will hopefully lead to an equally amazing publisher. Once you have both of those covered, the real work begins!
Next comes the recipes. Both of my cookbooks are focused on light and healthy ways to bake.  This means there is a lot of trial and error that happens in the recipe testing and writing process. Both of my cookbooks have 100 recipes, both offer sugar free options with Stevia or agave, and the new book will also have gluten free options. So for me, the inspiration for all these recipes, from chocolate cupcakes to biscuits has come in many forms. First, I have to love and want to eat everything I put into the book.  Next I have to be able to drop the fat and calories by at least 25% while maintaining the flavor.  This is not always so easy. When I was writing the first book I was determined to develop a light and tasty version of kourambiethes (the Greek version of the Mexican wedding cookie). Of course I should have known from the start that creating a tasty butter cookie, without that much butter, was not going to be an easy feat! The first batch went into the trash, the second batch to the dogs, and so on, until finally twelve batches later I finally had a delicious and guilt free cookie. If you multiply those test batches by 100 recipes then you can imagine just how much recipe testing goes into writing a cookbook, especially a Sweet & Skinny cookbook! I have been keeping the neighborhood well fed the past couple of years. There are of course some extra steps in my book writing process, such as testing sugar free/gluten free variations, and running fat/calorie analysis on the recipes. That last part is a real snore fest, but if you put on some good tunes it makes the number crunching a bit more bearable.

Once all the recipes are tested and typed out, then comes my favorite part of the process, the photography. For me the photography is like watching Pinocchio turn into a real live boy. This is the first step where you get to see your recipes finally come to life! Finding the right photographer is a process that you go through with your publisher. You will both need to agree on the photographer. Considering that the photographer is in control of the pictures, which will ultimately dictate how your recipes are presented to the public, it is crucial that you two have a similar vision for the finished product.

After the photography is complete, it is then up to the publisher to take all of the images and recipes and transform them into a sellable book. This step alone typically takes anywhere from 12-16months. During this time they will send you chapters to proof read (yet again), and layout options to sift through. For someone like me, who has never had the virtue of patience, the 1+ year of waiting is enough to drive me mad. I do suggest that you put the downtime to good use.  Keep yourself busy by coming up with some clever ways to promote your book. Aside from just getting the book into the media, you need to get in front of the public.  Coordinate as many book signings as you can and always, always, bring food! Nothing sells a book better than the scents of rich chocolate, or warm cinnamon, wafting through the air.

This is just an overview of the process.  There is a lot more to consider if you want to write a cookbook. But hopefully this answered a few questions and gave you a peek into my Sweet & Skinny recipe world!

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marisa-churchill/writing-a-cookbook_b_3864018.html

For additional info check out:

Will Write for Food

The Recipe Writer’s Handbook

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Sugar Free Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe!

Just in time for the warm days of summer, Diabetes Focus has released my Sweet & Skinny recipe for vanilla ice cream made with Stevia. It’s the perfect summertime treat for the whole family. Be sure to pick up your copy of Diabetes Focus today. Enjoy!

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Tips & Tricks for Baking without Sugar!

Almost every week I get an email from a stranger asking me about sugar substitutes in baking. These people write from all over the world. Their needs vary: a pie recipe for a husband’s 65th birthday, a batch of holiday cookies, a child’s birthday cake. The one thing that all these people have in common is diabetes. Pardon the pun, but they want to have their cake and eat it too. And why shouldn’t they?

But how does one manage to enjoy pie, cookies or birthday cake when he/she is not supposed to eat sugar? I have frequently debated this topic. Some people are of the belief that it’s best to just enjoy sugary treats from time to time, come what may. Others choose to use sugar substitutes. Like Lance Armstrong doping, baking with sugar substitutes is a contentious topic. How do they work? What kind of results will you get? Does cheating really pay off when it comes to baking?

I’m helping to take the guess work out of sugar-free baking, and just in time for summer! Which means that whether you can’t have sugar, or are just trying to watch what you eat in lieu of bikini season, now you can enjoy your sweets without overindulging in sugar.

WHAT IS SUGAR’S ROLE IN BAKING?

First, it’s important to understand that sugar plays many major roles in baking. It does not simply make desserts taste sweet. Sugar is hygroscopic, and therefore adds moisture to brownies and cakes. Sugar caramelizes, giving crisps and pies their lovely brown hue and toasty flavor. Lastly, sugar helps add structure, giving cakes their delicate crumb and cookies their crisp texture. Once you understand all the major roles sugar plays in baking, it’s easier to understand why baking with sugar substitutes isn’t always such a sweet experience.

HOW TO SWAP SUGAR SUBSTITUTES FOR SUGAR WHEN BAKING.

If you decide to bake with Stevia (which I prefer to Aspartame and other sweeteners that are not natural), you should only us half the amount of Stevia as you would sugar. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, and therefore requires that you use much less. There are over 200 varieties of Stevia plants. This also means that quality, flavor and levels of sweetness can vary greatly. My personal favorite Stevia brand is Truvia. In the past few years I have become a spokesperson for them. So, in the name of objectivity, I always encourage bakers to taste and bake with several different brands in order to find the Stevia product that best suits their tastes and needs. Once you have chosen your brand of Stevia, you are ready to start baking! Of course it would all be too easy if you could now just do a simple one to one swap in all our favorite baking recipes. Now it’s time to select the ideal recipes for sugar free baking.

SIMPLE RECIPES FOR MAKING DESSERTS WITHOUT SUGAR.

The easiest way to start playing with Stevia is to begin by making a simple panna cotta or apple pie. In custards like panna cotta, you are able to avoid running into trouble with the above baking laws of sugar. A nice fruit pie is always a great way to go. You can easily leave the sugar out of crust, brush a little egg wash on the pie, and get a nice golden hue. The natural sugars found in the fruit will help to keep the flavors and texture of the inside of the pie the same as it would be if you used refined sugar. Now if you are determined to bake a sugar-free cake, batch of cookies or brownies, then I do suggest that you follow a recipe intended for sugar-free baking. Oh, and did I mention that I have about 30+ sugar-free recipes in my cookbook Sweet & Skinny? Ok, shameless self-promotion aside, below is one of my sugar-free Sweet & Skinny recipes. It will help you get the desired “yellow jersey” results when making sugar-free desserts.
Sugar Free Lemon Yogurt Mousse with Blueberries and Basil

Serves 4
Per serving: 170 calories, 8 grams fat

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plain Greek nonfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons Truvia or other preferred brand of Stevia (quantity can be adjusted according to your personal taste and desired sweetness)
1 cup blueberries
4 fresh basil leaves, rolled up and cut cross-wise into thin ribbons

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the whipped cream while slowly adding in the Stevia. Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Swiftly whisk in the yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.

Divide half of the mousse evenly between four six-ounce dessert glasses. Top with half the berries and half the basil. Spoon the remaining mousse over each and top with the remaining blueberries and basil. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead! The mousse can be refrigerated, tightly covered, up to one day in advance. Prepare the blueberries and basil just before serving.

 

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Vegan Olive Oil Cake

As many of you know this is the week of Greek Easter, which means that it’s a time of Lent. While I am more than happy to partake in the Easter festivities of eating lamb and cracking eggs, I typically don’t participate in the 40 days of fasting and repenting. However this year I decided to become a bit more involved in all the processions surrounding Easter. By “involved” I mean that I decided for one day (hey you gotta start somewhere) not to eat meat, eggs or butter. This also seemed like the perfect opportunity to put myself to a dairy free, egg free baking challenge. The result was this delicious polenta and olive oil cake served with a fruit compote. It was so delicious that it actually has me thinking about going for two days of fasting instead of one next year! Here is the recipe, should any of you need some Lenten baking inspiration. Καλό Πάσχα!

  • Olive Oil & Cornmeal Cake
  • 1 ¼ cup cake flour
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of ½ orange
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp. rosemary, finely chopped
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Fig and Orange Honey Compote
  • 1 pint of fresh figs
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2–4 tsp. fresh lemon juice, to taste

For the cake, preheat oven 350 degrees. Prepare 8” x 2″ round cake pan with parchment circle, oil and a very light dusting of flour.

Sift the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Place sugar, orange and lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary in a food processor and blend a couple of minutes until the mixture is aromatic. Pour mixture into a large bowl and whisk in the oil until smooth. Add the orange juice and blend thoroughly. Gently stir in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until just blended. Do not over-mix.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around edge of cake and invert. Remove parchment paper and flip the cake bake over onto a serving platter. Cool completely.

For the compote, slice the peel and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife. Carve out the orange sections over a bowl to collect all the juice. Cut the figs into quarters and add to the bowl of orange slices. It can be difficult to find figs in May, so if you don’t have figs you can add more oranges, or some dried cherries.

Place the honey and water in a saucepan and warm over low heat until dissolved and blended. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice to taste. Toss the fruit with honey lemon syrup.

Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve with fruit.

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Easy Chocolate Souffle

My Sweet & Skinny chocolate souffle, from my Desserts in a Hurry section of the book is almost too good to be true. First, it has only 110 calories per serving! As if that wasn’t reason enough to head to the kitchen, it only takes 20 minutes to make!!

I recently shared the recipe with the BBC’s Good Food Channel, and now I share the link here for all of you to enjoy too!

http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/655027

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Latest Huffington Post blog

Have you ever had a layover that lasted half a day? Did you wonder what on earth you would do for an entire afternoon in the airport? Why not leave the airport and set out on an adventure? That’s what I recently did when traveling through Paris, and so can you! For the full details see my blog posting on The Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marisa-churchill/french-macarons_b_2424762.html

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The Huffington Post

With 40 million readers the Huffington Post is one of the worlds most popular websites for articles related to current affairs, finance, and food! I frequently read the Huffington Post, and was ecstatic when they recently asked me to become a contributing food writer.  Did you all hear the screams of joy resonating from my house?  Here is my first contribution to the Huffington Post, it’s a posting about my travels in Greece and one of my favorite
Greek desserts, loukoumades. If you are not familiar with loukoumades, read on and learn all about the original donut. Even if you think you know all about loukoumades already, take a look at my article to get the full history and my current favorite shops for enjoying these golden honey balls.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marisa-churchill/loukoumades_b_2346379.html

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Eating Healthy Tips For the Holidays

If you are trying to keep from packing on the pounds this holiday season, Here are some great tips from me and a few other experts, to keep you fit and trim during the seasons festivities.

http://www.blisstree.com/2012/11/19/eat/holiday-diet-healthy-eating-tips-from-experts/

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Shape Magazine Kitchen Gadgets to Make The Holidays Easier

Well I guess Santa must be trying to trim down a bit this year, as Shape magazine has named Sweet & Skinny one of the top kitchen gadgets to have around the house during the holiday season! The book has an entire section dedicated to the holiday season, filled with recipes like chocolate peppermint Buche de Noel, gingerbread cookies, and pumpkin ricotta cheesecake. They are even giving away 30 copies of my cookbook to some lucky readers. For additional information, or to win a copy of Sweet & Skinny, just follow the link below. It looks like Santa might have an easier time getting down the chimney this year! http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/cooking-ideas/kitchen-gadgets-make-holidays-healthier-happier-and-easier?page=25

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Pumpkin Gingerbread Recipe

I love making pumpkin bread and gingerbread in the fall. I recently decided to combine my two favorite treats into one, making a delicious Sweet & Skinny pumpkin-gingerbread, perfect to enjoy for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack. Because pumpkin is so high in vitamin A and antioxidants, and because this bread is actually skinny, you might even want to consider enjoying a slice for breakfast and another one as an afternoon snack!

Pumpkin Gingerbread

Serves 9 to10

Per serving: 210 calories, 5g fat, , carbs 30g, proteins 2.9g, cholesterol 12mg, calcium 27mg. sodium 185mg

Nonstick pan spray

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal, optional

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/8 tsp. clove

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/8 cup oil, such as Canola

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup fat free Greek style yogurt

1/3 cup reduced fat milk

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/8 cup molasses, unsulfured

1 1/4 cups pumpkin purée

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/4 cup Medjool dates, chopped, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 º with the rack in the center position. Grease a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan with pan spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, flax seed meal, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. In a separate bowl whisk together the fresh grated ginger, oil, vanilla, yogurt, milk, sugar, molasses, pumpkin, egg and egg white.

Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour all the contents from the other bowl inside. Whisk thoroughly by hand, or using an electric mixer, until well combined. If adding the dates, fold them into the batter.

Transfer the batter to a loaf pan. Place the bread into the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pumpkin bread from the oven, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the pumpkin bread from the pan and finish cooling on a cooling rack, for at least one hour. Cut into slices and serve the pumpkin bread at room temperature. Store leftovers, tightly wrapped, at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or place leftovers in the freezer for up to 4 weeks, leave at room temperature overnight before serving.

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