Simple Salsa!

Sometimes you just need a little fresh salsa in your life! I threw this recipe together on a busy Monday night and it couldn’t have been easier. Another bonus: you can eat this with just about anything. I first served this fresh goodness on top of a grilled steak and then the next morning over my egg frittata. Yum!

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Simple Salsa

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit for several minutes before serving so the flavors blend and get happy! Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

img_4376Simple Salsa: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! I love making my own salsa. You can’t mess it up! This is a very basic recipe which is nice because you can use it as a base and add as many other ingredients as you like – sweet peppers, black beans, mango, or pineapple! Salsa is also a low-calorie and nutritious snack option (just be careful of what you choose to eat it with)! How do you like to make your own salsa?

Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins

I recently tried Kodiak Cakes pancake mix (Power Cakes, Protein Packed) and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I’ll make pancakes for breakfast once in a blue moon, but this mix boasts 14g of protein for 3, 4-inch pancakes…so I wanted to give it a try. I prepared the batter with milk (which brought the protein up to about 18 g) and a little cinnamon and they came out great! A healthier alternative if you enjoy a classic pancake breakfast every once and a while.

I decided to make muffins using what was left of the pancake mix and added my own fall flare to the recipe listed on the box. Here’s my recipe:


Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes flapjack mix
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup non-fat or 1% milk (I used 0% fat fairlife milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Grease muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with muffin batter. Bake for about 14-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

power-pumpkin-muffinNutrition Information: 1 muffin – Calories: 139 cal  Total fat: 5g  Saturated fat: 3g  Sodium: 148mg Carbohydrates: 19g  Dietary fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 6g – calculated via MyFitnessPal

Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara, family, and friends approved! At the request of a colleague of mine, I made these muffins without banana and used pumpkin instead. The flavor worked well with the cinnamon and created a moist texture in the muffin. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of the Power Cake mix, but I was running low and decided to use old fashioned oats to make up the difference. If you are after a lighter, more airy muffin, you might want to use regular or whole grain flour. I am happy with how these came out and look forward to experimenting with different variations and recipes! Dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and peanut butter anyone??

Get Pumped(kin) for Breakfast!

It’s that time of year again – you can’t go anywhere without seeing an advertisement for something pumpkin-flavored or “pumpkin-spice something” featured on a menu. Why settle for pumpkin flavoring when you can go full-throttle and use the real stuff?! Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A as well as fiber – a great choice for keeping you full and energized all morning long. Here are two ways you can use that can of pumping puree to start your day off right:

Crunchy Pumpkin Yogurt Bowlimage2

  • 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal
  • 1/2 oz almonds
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Drizzle of honey

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy! This is a very tasty and filling meal – whether you have it for breakfast or lunch. Opt for plain Greek yogurt to save on excess sugar, and sweeten it up own your own with a little bit of honey.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1/2 cup of oat flour (I used our Ninja blender to grind up old fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking sodaimage3
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or more if you really like it!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Using a whisk or a fork, mix all of the ingredients together until a smooth batter forms. Grease a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low – medium heat. Drop the batter onto the skillet into evenly shaped circles and cook until brown on both sides (you know they are ready to flip when you start to see little bubbles form). Serve up these pumpkin pancakes on a cool fall morning with maple syrup, chopped pecans, or Greek yogurt.

Pumped(kin) Up Breakfasts: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! Both of these meals are great ways to use up some of that canned pumpkin you have in your pantry. Try both of these recipes this weekend and you won’t have to worry about wasting a half-used can of pumpkin! I love throwing pumpkin into my yogurt – especially when I choose plain Greek yogurt because it adds a subtle sweetness so I don’t feel the need to overdo it with the honey. The pumpkin pancakes are very hearty and filling, a great breakfast (or dinner) after a tough workout or a long day of raking leaves in the yard. What are some of your favorite ways to use pumpkin at breakfast?

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Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins

I must overestimate my banana consumption because it always seems like I’m left with a few overripe bananas on the kitchen counter! This time, I decided to use those mushy bananas to make some banana blueberry muffins for breakfast this week. I had some leftover apple crisp topping that I decided to sprinkle on top of these muffins for a little added flare. These will disappear in no time…

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Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 370 F and line a muffin tin with paper cups. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until mushy. To the bananas, add the sugar and melted butter; mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the bananas and stir. Gently fold in the blueberries. Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way full. Top with streusel topping if desired. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

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Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara and roomies approved! These muffins are SO good! The banana/blueberry combination is delicious and keeps these muffins nice and moist. I thought that using whole wheat flour might make these muffins a little dense or grainy, but I can hardly tell the difference! Plus, you can feel good about these muffins being a source of whole grains. 😉 The topping I used was a combination of white cake mix, melted butter, oats, and chopped walnuts – the crumbles on top add a little sweetness and crunch. If you’re tired of making banana bread with your brown bananas, give these muffins a try! You won’t be disappointed.

Nutritional Information (per muffin, without topping) Calories: 225 kcal Total fat: 5.5 g Saturated fat: 3.3 g Sodium: 362.1 mg Carbohydrate: 44.2 g Dietary fiber: 3 g Sugar: 29.4 Protein: 2.5 g

Back in Action with Overnight Oats!

After a summer hiatus, I’m back in action! The past few months have been extremely busy with fun summer excursions and a cross-country move to Missouri. I am now settled in Springfield, completing my dietetic internship through Missouri State University and happy to be back in action on Tara Tested!

I have heard a lot about overnight oats lately but was hesitate to try. Cold oatmeal? Morning mush? I just wasn’t sure about it. Anyway, I went ahead and bought all of the ingredients the other weekend and set out to try Peanut Butter Pumpkin Banana Overnight Oats. I had a few near-empty peanut butter jars, so I decided to assemble everything in one of those so that no peanut butter went to waste! It can’t get any easier, toss everything in the jar, put the lid on, set it in the fridge, let the magic happen overnight, and voila! A delicious, hearty, no-hassel, breakfast waiting for you in the morning.

photo 1Peanut Butter Pumpkin Banana Overnight Oats

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup yogurt (I used Greek vanilla)
  • 1/3 milk
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1-2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter

Tara Tested, Tara Approved: I’ve loved having this breakfast ready for me after getting back from an early morning run! The perfect meal for busy mornings when you don’t have much time to cook or need to take something on the go. The opportunities for different flavors and varieties are endless! I’m excited to experiment with berries and different fruits, even adding nuts or granola. YUM!

Blueberry-Orange Campfire Muffins

This year marked another successful Memorial Day weekend camping trip with my family – complete with a little bit of rain, a little more wine, and even more laughs. As the main meal planner for the trip, I decided to experiment with a few new “menu” items. I had been looking up campfire-friendly meals and stumbled upon a recipe for muffins baked in orange peels right in the fire. This caught my eye right away, who wouldn’t want a warm muffin hot off the coals early in the morning?!

Blueberry-Orange Campfire Muffins:

  • 1 box of blueberry muffin mix (I used Jiffy, it made just the right amount of batter for 4 muffins) + any ingredients required for muffin batter!
  • 4 large navel oranges (or more depending on how many muffins you want to make)
  • Aluminum foil

Start out by preparing the muffin mix according to the directions on the box and set aside. Then cut the oranges in half horizontally. I used a large spoon to dig around the fruit of each orange half and scooped it out of the peel (save the inside of the oranges for healthy snacking)! Once I had all of the peels emptied I ladled the batter into each orange half, covered it with the matching peel and wrapped them up tight in aluminum foil. My dad packed the oranges in the cooler before we left Saturday morning and they kept their form until it was time to bake them Sunday morning! We placed the foil balls right on the hot coals of the fire and after about 10 minutes I took a peek at one of the oranges – it wasn’t nearly done, back on the coals it went. We found that placing the orange on top of coals and underneath a hot log was the best way to get fast, even cooking. The finished product was a success: a perfectly cooked blueberry muffin with a hint of orange flavor. We dug into these muffins with a spoon and ate them right out of the peel!

Blueberry-Orange Campfire Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara and Family approved! I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous about how these were going to turn out! A few of the orange peels ended up with holes in them from the gutting process, but the foil kept the batter from completely leaking out. The actual baking time was a little longer than I expected but all we had to do was sit by the fire, so waiting was not a big deal – it made the final product that much sweeter! The muffins themselves tasted great and I loved the hint of orange flavor from the peel. You could play with a few variations of this recipe…using different flavors of muffin mix or even baking pre-made cinnamon roll dough in the peels – definitely a possibility for breakfast next year! 🙂

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Christmas Strata

It has become tradition in my family for me to make Christmas breakfast! I enjoy finding new recipes that are festive, healthy, and delicious. This year I found a gem of a strata recipe from SELF that everyone loved! Depending on the recipe you may be able to make your strata ahead of time, so that come Christmas morning all you have to do is pop it in the oven. I made this particular strata on Christmas morning without much trouble or fuss, my Dad probably wished that I had woken up a little earlier – he was hungry!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Strata

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for greasing pan
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I used non-fat)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 8 oz whole-wheat baguette, preferable day-old, but into 1-inch cubes (I couldn’t find a whole-wheat baguette, but a regular French baguette worked perfectly!)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Grease a casserole dish (9″ x 13″) with oil. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, parmesan cheese and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Add bread, toss until the bread is coated, pour into dish and let sit. Heat oven to 400 F. In a large nonstick pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, thyme and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and sauté until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Top the egg and bread mixture evenly with peppers and onions, sprinkle with goat cheese. Bake until the eggs mixture is firmed and the topping has  browned, 25 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Christmas breakfast

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Strata: Tara Tested, Tara and Family approved!

This breakfast was a hit, as you can see in the picture it didn’t take long for my family to put a dent in the dish! The goat cheese provided a nice mild flavor that went nicely with the sweet peppers and onion. You can’t go wrong with a breakfast casserole like this!