Pandemic Baking Hacks

Pandemic Baking Hacks

If you’re spending more ‘thyme’ in the kitchen these days, you’re not alone! While everyone was grabbing toilet paper, my husband and I were going for unbleached flour and packets of yeast. If it’s the end of days, we’re going to live it up with bread and cookies! Kidding (sort of).

Being the frugal dietitian that I am, I have discovered that you can use smaller amounts of ingredients in certain recipes and still have your cake, and eat it, too. While we’re not making too much cake these days (we save that for birthdays), a batch of cookies is a great way to procrastibake an afternoon or morning away.

Last night, my girls requested cookies. In the past, I’d make the batch and my husband would bring some to work or we’d give some to neighbors. Well, things have changed a bit. Social distancing has put a damper on sharing. In addition, I’d rather not use up all my ingredients and have to make another trip to the store or Click list order.

Here are a few hacks to spare ingredients and calories when baking.

  1. Cut the recipe in half. If your cookies, brownies or other baked item has an even number of eggs, make half the recipe. This leave eggs for something else (such as breakfast or tuna salad) and you’re not stuck with dessert that you can’t share with office mates or neighbors.
  2. Reduce the sugar in your cookie recipe by 1/2 cup. Most drop cookie recipes call for 1 1/2 cups of sugar (3/4 cup brown, 3/4 cup granular). Use 1/2 cup each and you’ll never notice the difference.
  3. Use less butter. I like the texture of cookies better when I used less butter. Most recipes have a full stick of butter for a full recipe. I use 1 1/2 sticks instead and the texture is crispier and less greasy. If you’re using a half recipe, you’ll need just 6 Tbsp. butter.
  4. Add 1 cup of rolled oats in place of a cup of flour. This boosts the fiber content in your recipe and gives the cookies a chewier texture.
  5. Use mini semi-sweet chips. You’ll get more chocolate flavor with mini chips because they can cover more surface area of your cookies.
  6. Freeze your extra dough or cookies. There’s no rule that you have to bake all of the dough in one session. Keep dough in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Freezing cookies keeps you from eating them all at once or having them sit on your counter and get stale.
  7. Add orange, almond, cinnamon or other flavors. Change the flavor or your dough and you’ve got a whole new cookie! I’m a fan of using orange and cinnamon together or almond flavoring in place of vanilla. Use full amount of original recipe for this one. A little extra vanilla never hurts!
  8. Substitute dried fruit for half of the chocolate chips. Raisins, dried cranberries or cherries add a chewy texture to your cookies and reduce the fat in the recipe when used in place of chocolate.
  9. Try baby food prunes in place of butter in brownie recipes. Prunes enhance the chocolate flavor and give the brownies more of a cake-like texture.
  10. Add some zest! Orange or lemon zest is particularly delicious in oatmeal cookies or in blueberry muffins.

                                                                Half Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies:


6 Tbsp. butter (softened)

1/4 cup granular sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup & 2 Tbsp. white flour

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Place softened butter, white sugar and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix by hand or use a stand mixer to cream ingredients together.
  3. Add egg, salt, baking soda, and vanilla and beat until blended.
  4. Stir in flour to make a soft dough.
  5. Add in chocolate chips and mix into the dough.
  6. Place 1 tsp. cookie dough on a greased cookie sheet or baking mat in rows of 3.
  7. Bake for 9 minutes or until lightly brown

Makes 16 to 18 cookies.

If you’re a baker or need a fun gift for one, check out my Whiskin’ it all gifts:

Whiskin’ it all Eco Tote Bag

Spring spinach salad with berries

Spring spinach salad with berries

Despite not being at the grocery, you’ve likely been able to get some beautiful berries through Instacart or Click list. Personally, I miss picking out my own produce, but in the age of COVID19, I am fine to stay home and let someone else do the shopping. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my produce.

Strawberries are one of my favorite seasonal fruits and I will eat them daily until August when the season is more or less over. I’ve always been a huge fan of adding fruit to salad and this spinach salad is a keeper.

The combo of spinach and strawberries is a nutritional powerhouse. Both contain a heavy dose of vitamin C (good for your immune system these days), as well as fiber, antioxidants such as lutein (good for your eyes) and anthocyanin (good for your heart). I like to toss in either blue cheese or feta cheese and drizzle a sweet dressing over it such as honey mustard or poppy seed. Poppy seed dressing also goes well over kale salad as it tends to be more biter and the sweetness balances it well. I added a few chunks of leftover grilled chicken, which made the salad more satisfying.


2 cups cleaned spinach leaves

4-5 large strawberries, cleaned and cut in half

1 Tbsp. feta or blue cheese

1 Tbsp. poppy seed dressing


1.Place greens in a bowl and add strawberries and cheese. Drizzle poppy seed dressing over salad and toss.

Earth Day Breakfast Recipe

Earth Day Breakfast Recipe

It’s Earth Day! ‘Thyme’ to celebrate your mother and reduce the carbon footprint.

As a dietitian, it’s part of my DNA to avoid food waste as much as possible. You’ve likely heard the statistics that 40% of American’s food ends up in a landfill while 1 in 8 go hungry. This is nonsense! I really hate tossing food out- especially now when my income has been nearly cut in half due to COVID19 cancellations and trips to the grocery store are much less frequent. If you’d like to see my review of click list VS Instacart, check out my blog post here: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/grocery-shopping-in-the-age-of-covid19/

I always try to use what’s in my frig, but don’t always want to eat the same dishes. Leftover beans become soup, too much rice is transformed into stir fry, grilled chicken makes great chicken salad.

Today I discovered a partial can of diced tomatoes with green chiles left from weekend tacos. Knowing my daughter hates spicy food, adding this to soup or chili would be met with resistance. So instead, I added them to my eggs! Salsa would be a great substitute here, too.

Adding veggies to any dish is a great way to reuse them. You reduce food waste while adding color, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and texture to your meal. I doused my eggs with oregano and cheese, which made a delicious omelet.

Here’s the recipe:


1 egg with 1 tsp. water, scrambled in a small bowl

1 tsp. shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup diced tomatoes with green chilies (or salsa)

Dusting of oregano


  1. Heat a small skillet and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add scrambled egg to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the egg, then add diced tomatoes.
  4. Add oregano over the eggs (as much as desired).
  5. Fold egg over in pan to make an omelet.

Serve with toast or fruit. Enjoy!

Pandemic tuna salad on toast

Pandemic tuna salad on toast

Maybe you’ve got a few extra hard cooked eggs from Easter and a can of tuna sitting dormant in your pantry. And, then again, maybe you don’t! We didn’t boil eggs this year. It didn’t exactly feel like a holiday last week, sadly.

Nonetheless, you might be craving simple comfort food like I am right now. My dad used to make tuna salad after Easter, and honestly, about once a month in our house. I found myself craving it this week when his birthday passed on Tuesday. He would have been 92 this year. RIP dad.

This is a simple recipe using ingredients you probably have on hand. I used dried dill and chopped green onions, but chopped white, purple or yellow onions or chopped celery (or any of them) work to add flavor, color and texture to your salad. I also like to add dried dill for flavor. Dad used to add black olives, but I didn’t have any in the house.

My dad always ate his tuna on rye toast, which remains my favorite. It’s also great on any other whole grain bread, stuffed into a pita or served with tomatoes in a big green salad. Thank you Dad for this fond memory meal. I miss you.


One egg

One (5 oz) can tuna packed in water

3 Tbsp. light mayonnaise

1 tsp. dried dill

1 green onion, minced


  1. Boil egg for 15 minutes, then rinse under very cold water to cool.
  2. Drain tuna and place in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  3. Using a fork, break up the tuna into smaller pieces.
  4. Add mayonnaise, dried dill, green onions and peeled egg.
  5. Using a fork, mash up the egg and blend it in with the tuna and other ingredients.
  6. Serve tuna salad on your favorite bread or with crackers or add to salad.

Makes 4 servings. 


Smoky beans and turkey sausage

Smoky beans and turkey sausage

Desperate for something different to eat during this COVID19 mess, we grilled some turkey kielbasa Saturday night and served it with sauerkraut, potatoes and salad. And like every meal we make, we ended up with leftovers.

On Sunday, I decided to try something different with the kielbasa. Typically, we’d reheat it and enjoy the same meal twice. But with more thyme (haha) on my hands, I thought I’d try something new.

This recipe could be made with andouille sausage, kielbasa or kept meatless if desired. The sausage adds a savory taste as well as protein. Normally I would add diced tomatoes or diced tomatoes with green chilis, but one of my daughters hates cooked tomatoes. I subbed a can of tomato sauce and it worked out well.

This dish was made in my Instant Pot, but it could easily be made on the stove. Chipotle chili powder adds a smoky taste, but regular chili powder or liquid smoke could be used, too.


1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

1/2 white or yellow onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder or liquid smoke

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

3-4 oz. turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 (30 oz.) can pinto or red beans, drained and rinsed


  1. Set your Instant Pot on sautee function and add the oil, onions and garlic.
  2. Sautee with the lid open for ~3 minutes until onions become translucent.
  3. Add the Cajun seasoning and chipotle chili powder and sautee another minute until onions and garlic are coated.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, turkey kielbasa, and beans and stir.
  5. Close the lid to the pot and change setting on Instant Pot to “beans or chili”.
  6. Place the release valve to airtight and allow to cook 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Release steam when done and serve over rice or quinoa.

Makes 6 servings. 


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