Mini Veggie Strata Muffins

Mini Veggie Strata Muffins

Have you ever been tasked with making a meal for someone through Meal Train or another request? If you’re not familiar with MealTrain.com (official site) – Organize Meal Support in Minutes, it’s a free platform to solicit volunteers to bring meals to friends, families, neighbors, etc. in a ‘thyme’ of need.

I’m the official “Main Dish” person at my church which means when someone has a new baby, has undergone surgery, or is unable to cook for themselves for whatever reason, I’m asked to get the train moving. Meal Train is a great way to do this.

Dietitian Brain

As a dietitian, I love to get these requests. I typically put on my “assessment” hat and ask about food allergies, preferences, cultural requests, likes and dislikes. There’s nothing worse than sending over a meat-laden dish to a family of vegans. It’s also not a bad idea to ask what they already had. A week of tacos might be great for some, but most people enjoy a variety of dishes.

Recently, my husband’s friend’s wife (I know, that’s a mouthful), had back surgery. Everyone rallied around them and made casseroles, chicken and rice, and other delicious dishes. While he was grateful for the food, he mentioned to my husband that they would love some breakfast items.

Challenge accepted! I’m a simple breakfast person and don’t delve into hard-core recipes by nature. I’m happy with peanut butter on toast with fruit or Greek yogurt and fruit with chopped nuts. But I couldn’t show up with a giant bowl of oatmeal here. I needed something a little fancier.

I decided that a breakfast strata would be good but found out that their daughter was vegetarian. I knew my husband’s friend was a bacon fan but opted to make half of the muffins with meat and the other half without. I included veggies in both, of course! They add color, flavor, texture and nutrition. Spinach and peppers are my go-to. I made sure to ask which veggies his daughter liked. Thankfully, she liked all of them.

Mushrooms, onions, or zucchini are also great to include at breakfast. These strata muffins can be frozen and eaten for up to 3 months. Total prep and cook time is 45 minutes. I served this with a seasonal fruit salad. My husband added his famous sourdough bread. These would be great for brunch, or dinner, too!

Here’s the recipe:

Mini Veggie Strata Muffins


8 large eggs

1/4 cup 1% or 2% milk

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. salt

1 slice sourdough bread, ripped into small pieces

1 bell pepper, diced

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup raw spinach, chopped

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

non-stick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oregano, and salt.
  3. Add the ripped bread, diced peppers, onions, spinach, and mozzarella cheese.
  4. Using non-stick spray, coat a muffin tin.
  5. Pour the strata mixture into each muffin cup filling it about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Makes 12 muffins. Nutrition facts per serving: 270 calories, 18 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 22 grams protein, 4.6 grams carbs, .3 grams fiber, 630 mg cholesterol, 272 mg sodium

Things to consider when making meals for others:

  • Ask about food allergies. The most common are eggs, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish, sesame,
  • Inquire about cultural foods. Does the receiver follow a Kosher or Halal diet?
  • Consider food preferences. Are there certain foods the person does not eat for some reason? Ask about meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grains, and fats.
  • Ask about any dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, low-fat, or lactose-free.
  • Label your dish so the receiver knows what you’ve made.
  • Be sure the person is home to receive the food. Ask about delivery time window.
  • If the person isn’t home, be sure the food is kept cold if it’s going to sit for a long time. Ask the receiver to leave a cooler on their porch with cooler packs inside.
  • Use recyclable Zip lock bags or plastic containers for cold foods.
  • Provide heating instructions if needed.
  • Dessert is optional but usually appreciated.



Pomegranate cherry quinoa with almonds

Pomegranate cherry quinoa with almonds

I always seem to have a bag of quinoa on hand. It’s a great grain to use for cooking demos since it’s high in fiber and gluten-free. I see it typically used in savory salads or side dishes, but it actually makes a delicious breakfast!

I got a ‘nudge’ from POM Wonderful – 100% Pomegranate Juice about their annual Pom cookoff contest. Pom Wonderful supports Diversify Dietetics, a non-profit group whose mission is: To increase racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering nutrition leaders of color. They provide a community for students, professionals, and educators dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession.

As a member and past chair of the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatrightohio.org) DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) group, I wholeheartedly support more diversity in the dietetics profession. We can’t serve our cultural and ethnically diverse population of patients and clients without more diverse practitioners. A diverse group of mentors, advocates and educators in the field of dietetics are needed to support patients, clients and the field at large.

For each recipe submission, Pom Wonderful gives $100.00 to Diversify Dietetics. I look forward to this recipe contest every year. I love their products and mission in giving back.



Massaged Kale in Lemon Vinaigrette with Grilled Chicken

Massaged Kale in Lemon Vinaigrette with Grilled Chicken

I can’t help but grab a bunch of kale when I’m in the grocery store or at a farmer’s market. I fully realize it’s the blue cheese of vegetables (you either love it or hate it). It’s totally polarizing. But it’s so inexpensive, versatile, and nutritious, I can’t help myself.

Kale is known as a “superfood” for good reason. A cup of curly, chopped kale has just over 7 calories but provides a hefty dose of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and beta-carotene. Kale also gives you fiber as well as vitamin K- a nutrient needed for good bone health. The older I get, the more important my bones become to me!

The trick to making kale taste good lies in improving the texture. Kale is a hearty green and it needs to be massaged to soften it up. If you’re adding it to soup or sauteeing it, this might not matter. For salads, it’s best to give that kale a good rub down.

I made this recipe by the seat of my pants the other night. In search of a side veggie for dinner, I used up the remnants in my fridge including a part of an onion, half of a lemon, shredded Asiago cheese, and some Dijon mustard.

Making your own salad dressing is ridiculously easy and makes your salad so much tastier. All you need is oil (avocado, canola, corn, olive) and some form of acid (apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar) or citrus (lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges). Add honey, maple syrup or agave syrup for sweetness or mustard for something tangy.

I had a handful of cherry tomatoes and added those along with the grilled chicken. The chicken was marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and a dash of paprika and salt. The salad really hit the spot! Below is the recipe.


4 cups chopped, cleaned kale.

¼ onion, diced

1 Tbsp. canola or corn oil

Juice from ½ of a lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

¼ cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

2 grilled (3 oz) chicken breasts, sliced into strips


  1. Place cleaned kale in a medium size bowl. Massage the kale by rubbing it for 3 to 5 minutes or until it looks shiny. Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium skillet and add canola oil. Sautee the diced onions until they’re translucent. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and cooked onions. Whisk together to make a dressing.
  4. Add the halved tomatoes and shredded cheese to the salad and toss to coat.
  5. Place the grilled chicken on top of the salad and serve.

Makes 2 salads. Nutrition information per serving: 315 calories, 20.8 grams fat, 29.7 grams protein, 4.1 grams carbohydrates, 2.3grams fiber, 97 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium

If you like this recipe and want to see more, sign up for my monthly blog. I also provide cooking demonstrations for small groups including corporate and non-profits. Message me for dates and fees. Cheese and thanks!

Wonderful Pistachio and Oatmeal Bars

Wonderful Pistachio and Oatmeal Bars

If you’re looking for a snack or sweet treat that’s not too high in sugar, look no further! I made these pistachio oatmeal bars with Wonderful Pistachios and a handful of other ingredients. I love working with Wonderful pistachios because they’re versatile, delicious and nutritious.

Did you know that pistachios are the only nut that’s a complete protein? They’re also the only nuts that provide over 10% of the daily value for protein in one serving. Not too shabby!

Adding pistachios to your diet is also a great way to reduce your risk for heart disease. Studies suggest that eating just 1 ½ ounces of nuts (including pistachios) daily may reduce your risk of heart disease. It’s time to get crackin’!

In addition to heart health benefits, pistachios may make you a more mindful snacker. In-shell pistachios will slow you down since you have to crack each nut open to eat it. The shells serve as a gentle reminder that you’re almost done with your snack. Wonderful calls this the “pistachio principle”. A ½ cup serving of in-shell pistachios provides 160 calories.

Below is the simple recipe I made using rolled oats and Wonderful pistachios. I used part butter and part oil to keep the saturated fat content reasonable. Wonderful pistachios come in multiple flavors in-shell and without shells. I used lightly salted pistachios to keep the sodium content minimal. These bars freeze well and make a great between-meal treat with a glass of your favorite milk!


¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats (not instant)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

6 Tbsp. softened butter

2 Tbsp. canola oil

2 eggs

1 tsp. orange extract

½ cup Wonderful, shelled lightly salted pistachios, chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan using non-stick cooking spray
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  4. Add the butter and oil and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs and orange extract to the batter and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until combined.
  6. Stir in the pistachios.
  7. Pour the batter into the baking pan making sure the layer is even.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 17 to 22 minutes until the middle comes out clean when checked.

Makes 16 bars. Nutrition facts per serving: 167 calories, 9.7 grams fat, 3.4 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3.2 grams protein, 1.5 grams fiber, 35 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium.

#sponsored #ad #samples #wonderfulpistachios #getcrackin #pistachios #hearthealth

This recipe was featured on WCPO Cincy Lifestyle Feb 16, 2023

Simple Air-fried Chicken Nuggets

Simple Air-fried Chicken Nuggets

When you hear the word “nuggets”, you likely picture the pre-formed type that you buy frozen or get from a pickup window at a popular fast-food chain. Whether you have kids that want chicken nuggets, or you want them for yourself, I’ve got a healthier, cheaper alternative.

Despite my girls being older, they still like chicken nuggets. I think they have fond memories of eating them when we’d go out to dinner or a quick road trip meal. We’re not a big “fast food” family but you can’t always avoid it entirely. Don’t judge me. Dietitians aren’t perfect.

Why Air Fry?

I’ll admit- I was a late adopter to the air fryer. It’s a heavy, bulky appliance that takes up a lot of real estate on your kitchen counter. We store ours in the basement but I’m developing nice biceps from bringing it back and forth to the kitchen.

I picked one up at a discount home store in Cincinnati. It’s a decent brand that may or may not have been refurbished. Either way- I use the thing for all sorts of food!

What I like about the air fryer is the minimal ingredients and ‘thyme’ that I need to make delicious food. I love roasted veggies, for example. But roasting broccoli or carrots takes a good 30 minutes in the oven. They only take about 8 minutes in an air fryer.

In addition, because food is cooked via convection heat, you use less (or no) oil or other fat to cook things. Recipes are much lower in fat and calories this way. Some of my favorites include air fried Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and French fries.

I decided to try my hand at chicken nuggets after a friend used frozen ones in his air fryer. The frozen type are convenient but are also higher in fat and sodium. Not to mention- expensive. When you cook at home, you control the ingredients and know exactly what’s in the mix. Below is my easy recipe:


1-pound skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ pieces

3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 tsp. paprika (optional)

Non-stick cooking spray


  1. Pre-heat the air fryer for 3 minutes on 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs with paprika.
  3. While the air fryer heats, roll the chicken pieces in the breadcrumb mixture and set aside.
  4. Once the fryer is heated, spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray and place the nuggets in the fryer. Try not to have them overlap.
  5. Close the fryer drawer and set the timer for 8 minutes. Check the nuggets after 8 minutes and continue to cook if not done for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (optional).

Makes 4 servings (4-5 nuggets each): 222 calories, 4.23 grams fat, 28.6 grams protein, 15.4 grams carbs, 1.1 grams fiber, 83 mg cholesterol, 446 mg sodium.

Share is caring! If you have an air fryer recipe you’d like to share, send it to me with a clear image. I’ll analyze it and share it on my blog for others to enjoy.


Classic Italian Pasta Fagioli

Classic Italian Pasta Fagioli

I could never pronounce it but always loved pasta fagioli (pronounced fah jol), Fagioli in Italian means beans, in case you didn’t know. I just started learning Italian on Duo Lingo and am really enjoying my grandparents’ native language. I wish I could say this was their recipe but I never met them.

But, on to the soup! My mother used to make this on cold winter days in Youngstown, Ohio. What I love about this dish is that I always have the ingredients on hand. Wintertime means comfort food- AKA soup. I’m usually stocked up on celery, onions, carrots and of course, canned beans this time of year. You can use cannellini, Great Northern or Navy beans for the soup.

In addition to the veggies, pasta fagioli also has tomato sauce and a generous helping of paprika, which gives it that savory taste and beautiful color. If you’ve got any kale or spinach in your fridge, feel free to chop it up and add it to the soup! This adds more vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium to the recipe.

From a nutritional standpoint, you can’t beat this recipe! It boasts 10 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber per serving with under 250 calories. The soup is also a good source of potassium. It’s filling but doesn’t leave you feeling “heavy” as the fat in the recipe is from olive oil and a smattering of cheese if you add some. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 white or yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 (15 ounce) can low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern or Navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup whole wheat ditalini or elbow pasta

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and sautee for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the paprika and oregano and toss to coat the vegetables.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth and beans and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot and cook on low-medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
  5. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Makes 6 servings. Nutrition information per serving: 237 calories, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 10 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 832 mg sodium


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