College Cooking Class!

Lynn Dugan, MS, RD

Calling all college students who want to learn to cook!  Please join me next week, Thursday, July 16th from 6:30-8:30p, at Marcel’s in Glen Ellyn for a cooking class no college student should leave home without! Make college cooking life easier and more affordable while learning tips and techniques that you will be able to use for the rest of your life. This hands-on class will show you how to make three deliciously easy chicken dishes that will help you avoid costly take-out (and it’s sure to be tastier, too)! On the menu: Spicy Orange Chicken Thighs & Rice, Perfect Chicken Parmesan & Creamy Polenta, and Mediterranean Chicken with Potatoes, with Monster Cookies for dessert.  Click here to register and for more information!

Please note:  this class is back by popular demand with fresh ideas and recipes so that any returning students will receive new information and taste new dishes!

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Cakes with Chipotle Sauce

Black Bean Cakes

I recently made these Black Bean Cakes for family dinner and served them on slider rolls.  YUM!  My meat-loving son enjoyed them, too!

Black Bean Cakes with Chipotle Yogurt Sauce (makes 10 small cakes)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced sweet onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1 teaspoon each: cumin, chili powder

1/2 cup grated sweet potato

1- 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

Chopped cilantro, as garnish

Chipotle yogurt sauce: 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt, 1-2 chopped Chipotle peppers, 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, 1/4 teaspoon cumin. Mix ingredients thoroughly and chill.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Heat oil in a medium skillet and sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic for 3 minutes, until onion is translucent. Stir in cumin, chili powder and sweet potato. Heat until spices are fragrant. Remove from heat.

Place beans in a bowl and roughly mash with a large fork or potato masher. Stir in contents of skillet and combine. Sprinkle in bread crumbs and pour in milk. Stir again to combine. Divide mixture in half and make 5 equal cakes from each half. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Spritz top of cakes with oil. Place in middle of oven and bake for 5 minutes until cake tops begin to crisp. Flip and bake 2-3 minutes more (when second side gets crispy). Serve on a platter with a dollop of Chipotle Yogurt Sauce and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

Black Bean Cakes were adapted from Simple Gourmet

Meatless Monday: Sweet Butternut Squash and Chick Pea Curry

Sweet Butternut Squash and Chick Pea CurryYou’ll enjoy the heartiness of this meatless recipe with its slightly sweet and savory flavor.  The sweetness in this curry dish originates from a small butternut squash and a pinch of cinnamon. Prep time and cook time both require 15-20 minutes.  You can save some prep time by purchasing squash that is already peeled and diced (only 12-16 ounces needed).  You may just need to adjust the dice to make smaller.  Enjoy this delicious dinner!

Sweet Butternut Squash and Chick Pea Curry (serves 6)

1-1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced (1/2 inch)

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

1-14 ounce can ‘lite’ coconut milk (unsweetened)

1 medium sweet onion, diced (about 1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1- 15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup sweet green peas (fresh or frozen)

Basmati rice or Naan bread

In a large skillet, heat oil and sauté onion, ginger and garlic for about 3 minutes until onion becomes translucent. Add coconut milk, curry, tomato paste, and cinnamon. When mixture boils, add squash and sweet green peas. Cover and simmer on low until squash is tender, 10-15 minutes. Uncover skillet and add chick peas. Heat through and taste. Adjust flavor with a sprinkle of curry powder, salt, and/or a pinch of sugar. Serve on a platter surrounded by triangles of toasted naan bread or over basmati rice. Enjoy!

My 10 Reasons to Love Dairy!

June_Dairy_Month_LogoJune is Dairy Month. What makes 2015 so special is the 100th year celebration of the National Dairy Council. It isn’t a surprise that we use a dairy term every time we want others to smile… “CHEESE!”. Today, I want to make you smile as I share my 10 reasons to love dairy.

Love dairy for its taste:

1.  Dairy is a great ‘grab and go’ food. Simply grab a cheese stick, a glass of milk or a container of your favorite yogurt. In our busy lives, this makes getting the nutrition we need super easy!

2.  Creamy yogurt is in my diet daily.  I enjoy pairing it with fruit or granola, or enjoy it plain. Everyday!

3.  Milk is yummy in my morning coffee or oatmeal and I use it to dip my graham crackers when I snack.

4.  Cheese adds a perfect addition to any sandwich, salad, pasta, taco and egg dish.

5.  Dairy is a key ingredient in many of my favorite recipes including Roasted Asparagus with Yogurt Ranch DressingCheddar Chicken and Potato PacketsCreamy Avocado Soup, and Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Love dairy for its source:

6.  It takes less than 48 hours for fresh milk to get from the farm to the grocer’s dairy case…now that’s farm to table!

7.  Milk is produced by farmers who care about their animals and their land.  I have had the unique privilege to meet many dairy farmers in the Midwest and I am awed by their commitment to produce safe, wholesome milk.

Love dairy for its nutrition:

8.  Dairy has a unique nutritional profile with 9 essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

9.  Delicious chocolate milk has just the right balance of carbohydrates and proteins for muscle recovery and makes a fantastic post work-out drink.

10.  Smoothies made with milk or yogurt are a perfect snack or light meal for my active kids. Some of our favorites are: Chocolate Monkey, Strawberrylicious, and Dreamsicle smoothies.

Celebrate milk because it is one of a kind: it is often imitated but it’s hard to duplicate with its taste, source, and nutritional profile.  The reasons to love dairy don’t end here. Check out more from Midwest Dairy Council and SMILE!

Fresh Herbs Create Fresh Flavors


Whether in your garden or from a farmer’s market or grocer, fresh herbs can create fresh flavors in your kitchen.  Fresh herbs can be added as a finish to green salads, sautéed vegetables, bruschetta, pizzas, dips, salsas and dressings…. the possibilities are endless.  And if you are substituting fresh herbs for dried in a recipe, use a 3:1 ratio.

Here are some tips to help with the use and storage of fresh herbs:

  1. Pick herbs frequently if home grown. Snip chives often for a sturdy plant with frequent new leaves. Parsley and cilantro, whose new growth comes from the middle, should be picked working from the outside, in. Basil should be picked from top. Scissors are best to trim herbs.
  2. Wash herbs gently. Fill a salad spinner with cold water and swirl the herbs gently loosen any dirt. Drain the water and spin the herbs dry.
  3. Store Sturdy Herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, chives) by arranging them in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel.  Loosely roll up the paper towel and transfer to a plastic zipper lock bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator, 2-3 weeks.
  4. Store Tender Herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, tarragon) by snipping off the bases of the stems. Transfer them to a large jar with an inch of water in the bottom. Seal the jar by covering it with a plastic bag sealed with a rubber band. Store in the refrigerator 2-3 weeks.
  5. Store Basil by snipping off the bases of water at the bottom. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Avoid direct sunlight.

And here is a yummy triple herb pesto that can be used with pasta, as a sandwich spread, or in my Portobello Pesto Egg Bake and Pesto Tortellini Salad. It’s HERBILICIOUS!  Enjoy!!

Basil-Mint-Parsley Pesto (makes 1 cup)

1-1/2 cup basil

½ cup mint

¼ cup parsley

½ cup hazelnuts or pine nuts, toasted

4 cloves garlic

½ cup parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

1/4 cup EVOO

In a food processor, blend garlic and nuts.  Add basil, mint, parsley and cheese.  Occasionally scrape down sides to blend evenly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil to blend.  Adjust oil amount, as needed, for proper consistency.

Go for Color!

Go for Color!

The color we see around us in the springtime should remind us of the colors we need to regularly eat as fruits and vegetables: green, orange, yellow, red, and purple. Color is an indicator of the nutritional content, specifically, the phytonutrients that are unique to plant foods.  Phytonutrients offer a variety of health benefits including protection from heart disease and cancer.  Many of these phytonutrients work as antioxidants in the body, protecting cells from damage.

The USDA’s ChooseMyPlate recommends we fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables everyday. Finding easy ways to color our diet is key and having the right ingredients on hand can make a significant nutritional impact. Here are a few tips for adding quick color to your plate (PLEASE NOTE: Colors from artificially colored breakfast cereals, ‘fruit’ gummies, and sports drinks do not count!):

Shredded carrots- Purchase ready-made or shred whole carrots in a food processor and store in the fridge. These add crunch and sweetness to salads, wraps, skillet dishes and tacos.

Baby spinach- These tender leaves are easy to add fresh to any salad, sandwich, and wrap. Throw in a handful at the end of cooking a stir-fry, soup, or egg dish.

Bell peppers- Choose yellow, red, orange or green, cut into strips and store in the fridge. Munch on at snack time, add to a wrap, and use for any stir fry, skillet or salad.

Sugar snap peas- Slice for salads, steam for a side, or enjoy ‘as is’ for snack time. Their crunchy sweetness is hard to resist.

Red and purple grapes- Use in green salads, grain salads and chicken salads. Freeze a bunch to enjoy as a warm weather snack.

Broccoli slaw- Find this slightly nutty and crunchy slaw in a grocer’s salad section. Enjoy the flavor and texture it adds to salads and wraps. Try it on its own with a light dressing as a yummy side.

This list of ideas can continue!  Please share your favorite, easy ways to ‘Go for Color’ with fruits and vegetables.

Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Yogurt Ranch

Springtime means asparagus is in season.  My family always enjoys roasted asparagus for a quick side dish.  We eat it right from the oven or drizzled with balsamic glaze.  And now, thanks to Midwest Dairy, we are also enjoying our roasted asparagus topped with delicious Chive Yogurt Ranch Dressing.   This dressing is very versatile.  Just last night, we enjoyed it in a cucumber and tomato salad (Combine 1 peeled and sliced cucumber with 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Top with desired amount of dressing.)

Back to asparagus…here is the recipe!

Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Yogurt Ranch Dressing (serves 4-6)


3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

Combine yogurt with garlic and onion powder, ground pepper, and salt in a medium bowl.  With a whisk, slowly blend in buttermilk.  Mix in chives.  Chill or use immediately.


1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed and cleaned

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss asparagus spears with olive oil and place on baking sheet.  Grind salt and pepper over the spears and roast for 5-7 minutes until the spears are bright green and tender crisp.  Remove immediately from oven and allow to cool.

When asparagus has cooled to warm or room temperature, serve the asparagus on a platter topped with the desired amount of dressing.  Enjoy!

Light Lime Cheesecake Squares

Key Lime Cheesecake Squares

Happy Friday!! I have a dessert recipe for you!!!!  It was inspired by one from Clean Eating magazine. This recipe boasts big flavor, creamy texture, and lower calories than a typical cheesecake dessert. Because it makes a large 9×13 pan, it can be enjoyed by a crowd…. just in time for the party and cookout season.  You’ll make everyone happy!

Light Lime Cheesecake Squares (15 to 20 servings)

11 rectangular sheets graham crackers

5 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter), melted

12 ounces non-fat cream cheese

1-1/2 cups 2% fat Greek yogurt

3/4 cups sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons lime zest (about 4 limes)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. In a food processor, process graham crackers into crumbs. Pour melted Earth Balance through feed tube and process until just combined. Transfer mixture to baking dish. Press into bottom to form an even layer. Bake until edges are very light brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a baking rack to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In clean food processor bowl, add cream cheese and yogurt. Process until smooth. Add sugar, lime juice and zest. Pulse to combine, scraping sides of bowl, as needed. Add egg and pulse until just combined. Pour mixture to evenly cover graham cracker crust. Bake until edges are slightly brown and center is set, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

When cool, squares can be cut and served. Or, to enjoy the next day, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Mother’s Day Menu


This is my mom and me teaching a class together, ‘Cooking with Mom’ this week.

Here is a Myplate2yours Mother’s Day menu.  Three easy recipes that either the seasoned chef or annual ‘Mother’s Day’ cook can follow.  It is always a treat when mom can take a break from menu planning and prep…but she may be up for helping, if asked!

Enjoy your day!

Here it is:

White Gazpacho Soup

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Lemon Panna Cotta

Portobello Pesto Egg Bake

Portobello Pesto Egg Bake

My husband is a big Costco shopper.  And I have learned to enjoy creating a meal from the new items he brings home.  This was a yummy dinner we had this week… all of these ingredients came from Costco!  Who knew?!

This recipe works for breakfast & brunch, lunch or a light dinner.  

Portobello Pesto Egg Bake (serves 4)

4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stem removed

1/4 cup pesto (try my pesto recipe!)

4 eggs

1 cup baby spinach

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

2 green onions, sliced

4 slices provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush caps lightly with olive oil.  Place cap side down on a baking sheet.  Spread a tablespoon of pesto on the gills of each mushroom.  Bake 10 minutes.  Crack egg on top of mushrooms.  With the raw egg on top, carefully return to oven for 5 minutes for soft yolk or 10 minutes for solid yolk. (For the egg to rest on top of the mushroom, the surface of the mushroom needs to be concave and at least 4 inches wide.  Another option to is to crack each egg into a non-stick fry pan and cook to desired doneness and add to mushroom cap after a total of 15-20 minutes in oven). When the mushroom and egg are cooked, add 1/4 cup spinach to each and top with a slice of cheese.  Return to oven for 2-3 minutes, until cheese melts and spinach wilts.  Serve immediately garnished with grape tomatoes and scallions.  Enjoy!