Guilt Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

chocolate smoothieLast night, about 10 pm, all I could think about was pizza. Ordering pizza was the last thing I needed to do at that hour — it would blow a weeks diet and probably make me sick in the end.

After fighting the urge until 11 pm I finally opted for a homemade smoothie and that actually did the trick.

The vegetable smoothie and the fruit smoothie are a staple in my diet, but trying to concoct a gourmet sweet drink without the calories took a little thought — but thankfully not much effort. Here’s my chocolate peanut butter smoothie recipe!

Guilt Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie
Recipe Type: Smoothie
Author: Mary Sage
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
This is a quick, no guilt craving killer.
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tbsp natual peanut butter
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  1. Combine everything in the blender or Ninja IQ 1100. Blend on high until smooth.
  2. Makes 2 servings — but that’s only if you really want to share.

This basic recipe can be altered easily by substituting coconut milk (get the canned version) for the almond milk and leaving out the peanut butter for a wonderful chocolate coconut treat.

Another version of this smoothie is a double chocolate.  Elminiate the peanut butter and substitute 1/4 cup of mini chocolate morsals or sugar free chocolate flavored syrup.

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The top 5 best kitchen knives to buy now

Save $5 on $50 or more + FREE Shipping at CHEFS CatalogIf you’re serious about cooking, it’s time to upgrade your knives. The  Chefs Catalog summer sale is going on through July 13th and includes deals on kitchen knives, including what we consider the 5 best knives to buy this year.  Every order ships free during this sale!

When you decide that you deserve quality knives, you realize that those old dull blades are far more dangerous than they are efficient.  Sharp knives made of single-forged steel blades will give you years of service and dramatically enhance the cooking experience.

When choosing the right knives, consider if they are well balanced and weighted.  Are the handles comfortable and a good fit. Are the blades made of quality grade steel and durable.  Will these knives last?

Here’s our list of the 5 best kitchen knives to buy right now , in the order that you should buy them.

[table id=5 /]

Our list includes the 5 best kitchen knives based on their multi-tasking and usefulness in the home kitchen.  But if you can only afford to buy one knife this year, the most valuable knife is one of our multi-tasking favorites.

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Cuisinart GR-300WS Griddler Elite Grill Review

A professional series Panini Maker and more

A professional series Panini Maker and more

This Cuisinart GR-300WS indoor grill turns out professional sandwiches, burgers and so much more!

Like last year’s GR-4N, this new GR-300WS grill replaces many pans and becomes the convienient weekdate indoor grill options.  They’ve made big improvements on the original design–adding digital temperature gauge, top and bottom sear options at 500 degrees, and more interchangeable plates.

As much as I like the new features, they come with a pretty hefty price increase.  The GR-4N cost right around $100.00.  The Cuisinart GR-300WS starts at just under $200.00 normally and Amazon currently has a $20.00 off coupon currently.  My experience with this grill is that the $199.00 price tag is still a good value.  But not every home chef needs these limitless features for everyday cooking.

The Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler and the new Cuisinart GR-300WS both have these features in common:

  • Ability to do multiple jobs inthe kitchen (not just a sandwich maker but a grill or flat griddle when opened flat).
  • On board controls for top and bottom grill — although the WS-300 now boasts a more accurate digital temperature guide that goes all the way from 250 – 500 degrees.  The older model would only heat to 450 degrees.
  • Easy clean – both units have removable non-stick plates that are dish washer safe.
  • Compact and easy to store.
  • The new adjustable hinge has six preset widths to accommodate foods of varying thickness.
  • 240 square inches of grilling surface when laid out flat.
  • Time function plus auto shut-off after two hours (huge improvement).
  • Brushed stainless steel with cast-aluminum cooking plates.

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Mashed Cauliflower – carb and gluten free sides

0624151101cTime to celebrate meat and potato lovers, there’s finally a decent substitute to those high calorie mashed potatoes.   The figure-friendly cauliflower can be dressed up as a substitute and save you a lot of calories.

The problem with mashed potatoes isn’t the potato itself, but the amount of dairy that gets added to standard mashed potatoes that drives up the calorie count to more than 200 per 1-cup serving.  This version of garlic mashed cauliflower adds only 50 calories per cup!

Mashed Cauliflower – carb and gluten free side
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Mary sage
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and steam until cooked, approximately 12 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower steams, warm the olive oil in a small pan with the garlic.
  3. Puree about 1/3 of the cauliflower in a food processor with the olive oil and garlic until smooth. Addi another 1/3 of the cauliflower to the processed mixture with the parmesan. Finally add the last 1/3 installment with the cream cheese and process until soft and creamy.
  4. Salt to taste and serve warm.
Serving size: 1/2 cup Calories: 50 Fat: 3.2 Saturated fat: 1.6 Unsaturated fat: 1.4 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 2.8 Sugar: 0 Sodium: 878 Fiber: 1.1 Protein: 2.9 Cholesterol: 6.5

I made these two nights ago and while it’s not your Grandma’s mashed potato taste, it passes.  Considering the calorie saving, it’s worth the sacrifice.

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Chicken Fajitas – My Weekly Healthy Spicey Pleasure

Here’s the belovfajitased classic chicken fajitas recipe you can make at home.  It’s tasty and the entire family will love it.  It’s healthy (depending on the toppings you choose to add).  It’s economical.  So a a weekly chicken fajitas night is a win-win for everyone. 

The key to making great fajitas at home is a good grill pan and mixing the spices from your pantry ingredients.  I know that sounds crazy with all the packet seasonings on the market, but mixing your own spices is the only way to control the ingredients and, most important, the sodium content.  Most prepackaged spice packets rely on salt as the first ingredient to add taste and flavor.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my recipe.  That can be expensive if you’re not planning and shopping for deals.  I get my chicken from Zaycon Fresh (the company that delivers farm to table fresh meat in bulk quantities) but you can get a great deal at the grocery store just by watching your weekly fliers.

Chicken Fajitas – My Weekly Healthy Spicey Pleasure
Recipe Type: Dinner
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Author: Mary Sage – Kitchen Spice Girls
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 use
  • The Spice Mixture
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (don’t use the mexican chili powder as it will be far too hot)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic power
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inche strips
  • 2 bell peppers (stem and core removed) sliced
  • 1 large onion (sliced)
  • 8 small tortillas (optional)
  • 2 cups brown rice (optional)
  • black beans mixed with 1/2 tsp of above spice mixture
  1. Mix all the dry spices: chili powder, cumin paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small vessel. (I usually double this recipe and store it in a 1/2 pint canning jar).
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and allow it to sear to one minute. Sprinkle 2/3 of the fajita spice mix over the top. Mix and saute until cooked, approximately 6-10 minutes.
  3. In a second pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers and onions and the remaining fajita spice mix. Cook until vegetables are soft, approximately 8 minutes. (I use a mixture of bell peppers, jalapeno pepper and Anaheim peppers. Use your good judgement based on your family’s own heat tolerance. I prefer to allow the peppers to control the additional spiciness rather than add additional dry seasonings.
  4. While the vegatables are cooking, wrap a stack of tortillas in tin foil and warm in a pre-heated 250 degree oven.
  5. If you wish to eliminate the tortillas for a gluten free option, use corn tortillas or serve over brown rice. I sometimes will serve with a side a spicy black beans or a cool mexican corn salad.
Serving size: 1/4 cup Calories: 123.2 Fat: 4.8 Saturated fat: .7 Unsaturated fat: 3.7 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 16 Sugar: 0 Sodium: 321.3 Fiber: 3.1 Protein: 5.3 Cholesterol: 8.3

My household is also gluten free at the moment, so I serve these spicy fajitas most nights with rice and spicey black beans, but you can use corn or flour tortillas (not gluten free).   If you choose to serve over rice, it’s nice to sprinkle with a little chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


[comparezon uskws=”grill pan, spice jars, electric skillet” tplid=”2″ ]

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George Foreman 4-Serving Grill / Panini Maker Review

The George Foreman Removable Plate Grill (model GRP1060B) is a fantastic basic grill, but if you’re looking for a unit that will do double-duty as a panini maker, seek out another model.  At under $30, this is an entry level countertop grill with limited features but it retains the quality of the original Foreman products.  The small countertop footprint is easy to store even in the smallest kitchen.  It still provides a generous 60-inch grill surface that easily accommodates 4 burgers or two (basic) sandwiches.

Price at

The feature that separates this George Foreman grill from previous models is the easy clean up from the removable grill plate.  The old models had to cleaned by hand and when foods stuck to the grill ridges, it could be tricky to get them clean because there was no way to soak the plates.  That issue is now solved.  You can wipe the outside areas clean of grease easily and the pop-off clips allow the grill plates to be soaked or run through the dishwasher effortlessly.

True to other George Foreman Grills, the 4-serving grill has a tough non-stick coating that eliminates the need to use grease, oil or butter to keep foods from sticking.  You will want to add butter to the outside of some grilled sandwiches for flavor and browning, but it isn’t necessary.  The advanced heating element allows both plates to heat quickly and evenly.

One drawback–and it’s a serious one–is the non-hinged lid.  This model (GRP1060B) accommodates about a 1″ thick burger or a standard bread sandwich. This model is not going to satisfy the home cook who wants a panini maker for building gourmet sandwiches using focaccia or baguettes.

  • Cooks up to 4 servings at one time
  • Cooks most sandwiches and burgers in less than 10 minutes — from plug-in to table
  • 2x more durable coating for non-stick on grill plates
  • Easy clean dishwasher-safe plates
  • compact and easy to store
  • Economical — less than $30.00

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Cuisinart GR-4N Panini Grill Review

Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler

This Cuisinart Panini Grill has turned family sandwich night into a gourmet experience!  The countop grill replaces almost any pan in my cupboard and pushed our culinary standards for a simple sandwich to new heights!

My mother had a Sunbeam multi-griddle sandwich maker in the 1950s and at least once a week our family had “sandwich night”.  Back then that usually mean grilled cheese (the standard white bread with processed American cheese in between). But thankfully we’ve jazzed up the grilled sandwich with vegetables, a var
iety of breads and grilling methods (anyone heard of the inside out sandwich?) and now every well-equipped kitchen needs a panini grill or a multi-function sandwich press.

This is a great sandwich press for less than $100.00.  But price aside, the best grills are flexible with interchangeable plates, easy clean up (some can even go in the dishwasher) and have the right weight to grill a great sandwich without smashing it. This meets all those criteria and more.

The Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler gets our Best Panini Sandwich Maker approval because it meets these criteria:

  • Ability to do multiple jobs inthe kitchen (not just a sandwich maker but a panini grill or waffle iron, too.)
  • On board controls for top and bottom grills
  • Easy clean
  • Adjusts for thin or thick fillings
  • compact and easy to store
  • Economical — less than $100.00

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Halloween themes: Easy Individual Dirt Cakes

dirt_cakeYou don’t have to be a great baker to have fun with the holidays.  I’m starting to get into the Halloween Spirit.  This isn’t my favorite holiday, but I have plenty of ghastly friends who adore donning costumes, breaking out the dry ice and decorating with spiders and witches!  For them this is the ideal dessert — and it is wickedly good.

The tombstone is made by decorating a Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie.

Halloween themes: how to build Dirt Cakes
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: Party
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 16
The basis of any spooky dessert is chocolate — it’s dark brown goodness lends itself perfectly to ghosts and goblins. These individual Dirt Cakes become the perfect plot for planning ghosts, goblins and jack-o-lanterns. Let your imagine take you to the dark side.
  • 1 20 ounce package of chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 packages of instant pudding mix (choose your flavor, but chocolate works best for visual impact)
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 frozen whipped topping tub, thawed
  • 16 8 ounce plastic see-through cups
  1. Put the chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor pulse until they become fine crumbs. Set aside for later use (this is the dirt).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butter or margarine, cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla flavoring. Beat on low speed until combined, then beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the pudding mix and milk to the bowl. Beat on low speed to combine.
  3. Fold the whipped topping into the pudding mixture with a rubber spatula.
  4. In each clear plastic cup, assemble in layers as follows: first layer, 1/3 cookie crumbs; second layer, 1/2 pudding mixture; third layer, 1/3 cookie crumbs; fifth layer, 1/3 cookie crumbs.


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Asian Salmon – Ina Garten’s

Suddenly my tastes have all run to the Asian culture.  My family always told me they don’t like salmon.  I’ve tried many recipes to get them to eat more of the oily fish, and I’ve failed each time because usually it’s too “fishy”.  I wonder if people in other cultures have the same complaint or if the “too fishy” adjective is unique to the American palate.  In any case, we finally hit on a winner last night.

I love the Barefoot Contessa and I own every one of her cookbooks.  In the Barefoot Contessa Parties she features this Asian Grilled Salmon on page 124.  It turned out beautifully and I followed the directions exactly and grilled it on my stove top grill pan.  Hallelujah we finally have fish for everyone in the family!

Asian Salmon – Ina Garten’s
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Ina Garten – the Barefoot Contessa
This is the easiest salmon recipe I’ve ever made. It takes no time at all to put it together, and it’s perfect every time. The whole family loved it!
  • 2 pounds salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  1. Place the salmon on a cutting board skin-side down and cut into 6 even pieces.
  2. Place your salmon in a shallow dish.
  3. Combined Dijon mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and mix until thickened. Spoon 1/2 mixture over the fish and let it marinate for 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat your outdoor grill or a stove top grill pan to medium
  5. Place the fish, skin-side down, on the grill pan for 4-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn once with a wide spatula and grill an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove the fish to a plate and spoon over the remaining marinade. Let the fish rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the skin from the back and serve warm.


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Poached Eggs: The best of way to poach and serve eggs

The perfect cooked egg is the most difficult task in the kitchen and most necessary.  An under cooked egg is not appetizing.  An over cooked egg — scrambled or otherwise — is inedible.

poached eggs nothing fancy

Basic Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are an elegant breakfast or dinner.  When I was a kid our Sunday suppers often centered around eggs, and most of the time it was poached eggs on toast.  My Mother was gifted at creating dinner where bread was the basis — canned asparagus, stewed tomatoes, creamed corn and the lowly egg over toast made for an economical and filling meal. But poached eggs were my favorite.  They were, and remain, the perfect topper for toast, waffles, salads and English Muffins (aka their fancy cousin cuisine of Eggs Benedict).

Poaching eggs is easy and doesn’t have to require special pans.  In fact, my favorite method utilizes just a sauce pan and a slotted spoon.

What you’ll need:

A medium sauce pan
a slotted spoon

Fill the pan with water.  You’ll need at least 3 inches of water or liquid in the pan.  Bring the water to boiling.

Add the vinegar to the boiling water.  Vinegar acts as a binding agent to hold the egg white together.  If you don’t add the vinegar the boiling water will break the egg apart.

Reduce heat to medium low and allow the boiling to reduce to just a soft roll to simmer.

Crack the egg and gently lower it into the water then release it from the shell.  In the beginning you might find it easier to break the egg into a custard cup or very small bowl and lower it gently into the water.

Gently swirl the water around the egg to form it into a round.  Then leave it alone for 2-3 minutes.  As you can guess, the longer you leave it in the water the more firm the yolk becomes.

Use the slotted spoon to lift the egg from the water and roll it onto the paper towel.  Blot off excess moisture and then roll it onto toast, a plate, salad, or muffin.

Other tools to poach an egg.

This pan was a staple in our kitchen during the 60’s and 70’s.  If you aren’t comfortable dropping your eggs into the boiling water and getting them to form up, or if you just want a more processed look, this is a great way to achieve the perfect poached egg.

You can buy an egg poaching pan at the hardware store for about $15.00.  This CHEFS Hard Anodized Egg Poacher Pan – 4-cupis a multi-tasking beauty as a 4-cup braising chef’s pan, sauce pan, or with these non-stick cup inserts for poaching.  I’ve used the egg cups also to freeze stocks and individual gelatin molds.   It’s quite useful for $59.95.

You pay NO shipping costs from now until December 31st–that right —FREE SHIPPING on any Order at CHEFS Catalog through New Year’s Eve.

What to do with a poached egg?

poached eggs on toast

Classic Poached Eggs on Toast

There is nothing better than a classic. These poached eggs are served up the traditional way. A little seasoning — basic salt and pepper — and resting on plain old bread.






Poached eggs dressed up

Dress up the bread on your poached eggs and add some vegetables as garnish


If you want to enhance a classic poached egg, try changing up the bread. Rest your perfectly poached eggs on a baguette, sliced grain breads, croissant or English muffin. Just remember that the calories and the fat content are changed dramatically based on your choice of breads and accompaniments.






Hard boiled or poached, eggs are welcome addition for lunch.

Hard boiled or poached, eggs are welcome addition for lunch.


The poached egg added to this luncheon salad really dresses up the presentation as well as the nutritional value. The poached egg, replacing the more traditional hard boiled eggs, makes this salad dressier for a special occasion.






Eggs Benedict

Classic eggs benedict


Eggs Benedict is an American classic. The original is an English muffin with a piece of Canadian ham topped with a perfect poached egg and spoonful of hollandaise. It was first served at New York’s Waldorf Hotel.





Healthier Eggs Benedict

Eggs “Benedict” for the new millennium


It’s almost a sin to mess with the basic eggs benedict, but I do prefer this modern updated poached egg sandwich by The Weekend Gourmande.  This uses replaces the hollandaise with cheddar cheese and adds sautéed spinach and sliced tomato.


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