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9:50 am - Posted by Gregg

Nutrition guru Joy Bauer has always been someone who inspires me. And lucky for us Just Stoppers, she’s allowed me to feature one of the delicious recipes from her new best selling book, From Junk Food to Joy Food, here. This Frozen Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cups recipe takes all the guilt out of a decadent treat and is a blast to make. And the best part? We don’t have to “go off” of our diets or healthy eating plans to make and enjoy it. Joy also uses all natural ingredients in the recipe, which is always a big plus.

From Junk Food to Joy Food is loaded with these kinds of recipe makeovers — the kind that take everyday favorites (usually loaded with calories, salt, etc.) and swaps them out for brand new, healthier versions of the recipes (each of which guarantees the same amount of flavor and satisfaction — but without the food hangover). And no, this is not a paid endorsement. Although I’d happily bribe Joy for being gracious enough to let me share this recipe.

For more information on From Junk Food to Joy Food, click here. And for more recipes and tips from Joy herself, you can click to her website. In the meantime, if you try the recipe below, please be sure to invite me over!

JOY BAUER’S FROZEN CHOCOLATE–PEANUT BUTTER CUPS
Junk Food version (before): 290 calories
Joy Food version (after): 165 calories

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana
¼ cup creamy nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, sunflower seed, etc.)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup dark chocolate chips, or 3-ounce dark chocolate bar
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together the banana, nut butter, and vanilla. Mash everything together well and set aside.

Place 6 liners in a muffin tin and spray the liners liberally with nonstick oil spray. Silicone muffin liners work best, as it’s easier to remove the chocolate when it’s time to eat. Set the muffin tin aside.

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and almond milk on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Once the chocolate is smooth, add a generous tablespoon of the mixture to the bottom of each muffin liner. Then stick the muffin tin in the freezer to firm up the chocolate (about 10 minutes).

Once the chocolate is firm, distribute the banana filling evenly among the muffin cups and spread the filling out with your fingers. Then split the remaining chocolate among the cups, using your fingers to spread each layer evenly.

Place the tin back in the freezer for at least 4 hours (overnight works best).

When you’re ready to eat, pop each cup out of its liner and serve immediately!

(Makes 6 servings.)

Photo Source: Joy Bauer 

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12:54 pm - Posted by Gregg

Nutrition rockstar Joy Bauer (seen regularly on NBC’s TODAY show) has a brand new book called From Junk Food to Joy Food, which is chock full of recipe makeovers that takes everyday favorites (each loaded with calories, salt, etc.) and swaps them out for brand new, healthier recipes — each of which guarantees the same amount of flavor and satisfaction (but without the food hangover).

From Junk Food to Joy Food (which also happens to feature gorgeous food photography) is based on Joy’s popular ongoing series on NBC’s TODAY show, which transforms fattening favorites — including Barbecue Ribs, Vegetable Lo Mein, Boston Cream Pie, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chocolate Crunch Bars, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and even Devil Dogs — into lightened-up versions that even those trying to lose excess weight can enjoy any time. Says Joy, herself, “People who are tired of restrictive eating plans, juice fasts, and other programs that forbid favorite fare will love this new way of eating.”

Joy has always been someone who inspires me. And lucky for us Just Stoppers, she’s allowed me to feature one of the delicious recipes from her book here. This Apple Cobbler Oatmeal makes for the perfect weekday breakfast — or even a fun brunch idea for friends and family on the weekends. And we don’t have to “go off” of our diets or healthy eating plans to make and enjoy it. Joy also uses all natural ingredients in the recipe, which is a big plus.

JOY BAUER’S APPLE COBBLER OATMEAL
Junk Food version (before): 420 calories
Joy Food version (after): 246 calories

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons whipped butter
1 apple, finely chopped with the skin on
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ¾ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Add the butter to a skillet and place over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped apple and cinnamon. Stir to combine and sauté until they are just cooked but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the oats and almond milk in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the oatmeal reaches your desired consistency. Stir in the vanilla.  Split the oatmeal between 2 bowls and top each with half of the apple-cinnamon mixture. (Makes 2 servings.)

To check out Joy’s latest book, From Junk Food to Joy Food, you can click here.

Photo Source: Joy Bauer

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February 19, 2015

You can take it with you

1:57 pm - Posted by Gregg

Forget that potentially leaky plastic container when transporting your lunch salad to work (or wherever). These days it’s all about pre-making and then taking your salad with you in a handy Mason-style jar. The trick is to keep wet ingredients on the bottom, then stack dry ingredients on the top. You can check out the tasty recipe for the Salad in a Mason Jar pictured here — featuring greens, walnuts, celery, radish, and apple by clicking to EatWithinYourMeans.com.

Want even more ideas for Healthy Salad in a Mason Jar recipes? Check out 18 additional recipes from BuzzFeed Life that I discovered thanks to Pupltastic by clicking here.

Photo Source: Eat Within Your Means

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January 25, 2015

Raising the bar

3:21 pm - Posted by Gregg

Faithful readers of this blog and my books know that I’m not a fan of meal replacement bars. But what I am a fan of is handy and healthy snack foods that we can have available to keep us away from the vending machines full of over-processed snacks that not only add to our waistline, but also confuse our metabolisms with all sorts of unnecessary ingredients. Thankfully, there are some innovative companies like Mediterra Mediterranean Nutrition that are offering us options that turn the average snack bars (even those that claim to be “healthy”) on their ears… Or on their packages anyway.

Gotta love a selection that includes actual savory flavors as well as sweeter varieties. Created to compliment a Mediterranean Diet, these healthy alternatives to junk food can be used with any eating plan or diet (after all, variety is the spice of life… Or something like that). The pre-packaged portions are great for those of us who still have issues with portion control (that still includes me by the way).

What’s more, it’s fun to get inventive with the savory flavors (which include Sundried Tomato & Basil and Black Olive & Walnuts). For example, both make a great — and healthier — alternative to adding croutons to salads or soups. I love crumbling them onto salads for dinner parties. People think I’ve created some sort of super healthy, super delicious concoction and are usually very impressed. Do I admit I simply took the ingredients out of the “clean label” wrappers and that it involved no work at all? Usually. But only after the compliments have died down!

Mediterra’s website (full of interesting articles for anyone interested in investigating the Mediterranean diet) has a bunch of recipes that use their bars in very unique ways (check out the Traditional Mediterranean Green Bean Salad with Sundried Tomato & Basil Bar recipe, below). This is what I love about these bars. They’re not about meal replacement. They’re about meal — and life — enhancement… With real food. (Crazy concept — at least it seems to be to many of today’s traditional food manufacturers.)

And no, none of this is a paid endorsement. I consider it my duty to share ideas for food products that can contribute to our overall health rather than rob us of it.

Recipe: Traditional Mediterranean Green Bean Salad
(made with with Sundried Tomato & Basil Bar)

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 scallions, trimmed and cut into paper-thin rounds
1 small garlic clove, minced
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (preferably Greek)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Greek honey
2 Mediterra Sundried Tomato-Basil bars, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preparation:
1. Steam green beans in a steamer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until al dente.
2. Once the beans have cooked, transfer them into a colander, and run cold water over them immediately. Let the green beans drain well.
3. Place the green beans, scallions, garlic and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper. Pour onto the salad and toss. Garnish with the broken up Mediterra Tomato-Basil bars and serve.

Serves 4-6

Recipe used by permission. For more recipes utilizing Mediterra bars, click here. For anyone wanting to check out the various flavors of Mediterra bars, you can visit their website or even find them at select Target stores. (If you don’t see them at your local Target, ask for them and other healthy snack alternatives! The more available these types of foods are for purchase, they healthier we’ll all be!)

Photo Source: Mediterra

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4:59 pm - Posted by Gregg

Guest Post By JoAnn Takasaki

For some reason, “comfort food” is something I associate with cold winters, cozy fires and flannel. It’s food you eat to warm you from the inside and that reminds you of all the best parts of being a kid. Living in Houston, even the idea of flannel is making me break out into a sweat! But it is October and, based on all the pictures of friends who live in more northerly climes, it’s cool somewhere. So for those of you who get to enjoy the cooler season, here’s a recipe for Chicken Long Rice, excerpted from my collection of family recipes published in Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way.

Wait…what?

I’m sure you’re confused by now. Why am I writing about a so-called “Hawaiian-style” soup, cold winters, and comfort food from Houston? Well, I actually grew up much like Gregg did. In fact, we went to the same high school in Wiesbaden, Germany. His family was military and mine was civil service. My father hails from Honolulu, HI. And though my mother (and co-author) was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she learned how to cook from my dad’s mom, who was also born and raised in Hawai’i. So really, I did eat this as a kid in cold climes like Korea, Colorado, Germany. And even in Hawai’i. Because let’s face it: chicken noodle soup is wonderful no matter what time of year!

What started out as an ad hoc effort of collecting as many recipes as possible from my mom for my own use, resulted in me deciding to organize a few of them in some fashion. And I wasn’t sufficiently motivated by merely capturing the recipes, so I promised her that for all the work we were doing to actually measure her “put in some” or “just a skosh” or “to taste,” that I would publish the recipes. That was eight years ago. I finally made good on my promise in March when I self-published Luau Like a Local.

There is a native Hawaiian cuisine but really it has evolved to include the food of the various ethnic groups: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Spanish, and more. This particular dish is actually Chinese. And while I promise the easy way (you could really just use store bought chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken, shredded), this recipe is how mom makes it. It’s not particularly hard at all. And is perfect for whatever may ail you!

Chicken Long Rice
Chinese-style chicken noodle soup

This is not as soupy as a typical chicken soup. When served, the bowl should be bursting with noodles and chicken.

Prep time: 30 minutes (10 minutes before, 20 minutes during)
Cook time: 1½ hours
Servings: 8 as a side dish (or 2 for dinner, maybe with some leftover for lunch)

Ingredients
½ small chicken
4‒6 cups water or chicken broth
½-inch slice of ginger, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 bundle long rice (also know as bean thread or vermicelli), soaked in warm water to soften
4‒5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
½ 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, julienned
½ small round onion, sliced thin
⅛ cup soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks green onion, sliced 2‒3 inches long diagonally for garnish

Directions
1. Place chicken in large pot with enough water or chicken broth to cover.

2. Add ginger, bay leaves, and five spice.

3. Bring to a boil and simmer about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat falls away from the bones.

4. While chicken is cooking, put long rice in a large bowl with hot water to soften.

5. Prepare the shiitake, bamboo shoots, onion, and green onion for garnish.

6. Remove chicken from broth and pull meat from bones, returning meat to broth. Discard bones.

7. Add long rice noodles, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and onion.

8. Simmer until about half of the broth is absorbed. Season with soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.

9. Garnish with green onions.

Excerpted from “Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way” by JoAnn and Susanna Takasaki. Used with permission.

About Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way:
Within 24 hours, Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way went to #1 on Amazon in Hawaii cookbooks. The reviews have all been 5-stars with praise for the gorgeous photography (by Toman Imagery), humor, and the well thought-out planning guide and shopping lists. “I found the recipes to be very clear, with options for doing things the traditional way or the more practical way for those of us with small kitchens and no access to exotic food markets. The photos are gorgeous and the shopping list at the end was incredibly helpful!” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

About Guest Blogger JoAnn Takasaki:
JoAnn Takasaki (pictured here, right, with her mom) started writing about food with two columns in the new Midtown Paper back in 2003. She decided to make the jump to full time writing in 2004 in hopes of “being paid to eat and get massages around the world.” While she didn’t exactly realize that dream, she did end up writing the Houston destination guide in AirTran’s “Go!” magazine for three years and her restaurant and bar reviews were syndicated out to many hotel and travel sites including AOL and Yahoo! Travel. She gained enough notoriety to catch the eye of then Executive Producer Geoff Roth of FOX26 Houston News and was the first Houston Food Blogger to be featured on the evening news in the popular segment. In 2011, she decided to focus her efforts on growing her Houston-based copywriting and content development agency, GlobalWrites, but she still has a bit of a foodie following on Facebook and Twitter. You can keep up with the latest developments for “Luau Like a Local” on the Facebook page or by searching #LuauLikeALocal.

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