Kale Caesar Salad & Raw Chocolate Pudding

Hello! I’m so honored to be the first guest-poster on Cook Like Kayla. As Kayla’s former work twin (no joke- our colleagues would get us confused) it seems fitting that I would be subbing in for her today. I’ve enjoyed watching this blog grow and I’m excited to be sharing with you today my two new favorite comfort foods turned healthy recipes.

As a background note, these recipes came from a place of pure desperation- crawling into my apartment after a long day in the hospital and wanting nothing more than to just stuff my face full of goodies and collapse into bed.  What’s amazing about these recipes is that they not only fill that comfort food craving but are also incredibly healthy and take only about 15 minutes to blend up in your Vitamix or blender. Say hello to your new long day pick me up.

Kale Caesar Salad

If you have any kale skeptics in your life, try this recipe on them. I guarantee they’ll change their minds.


Place 1 garlic clove, 3/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and 2-4 anchovies (optional) into your Vitamix or other high-powered blender. Blend until fully emulsified, about 30 to 45 seconds.

Pour dressing over 1 head of kale, center stalks removed and sliced crosswise into fine ribbons. (Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, works best but any type of kale will do. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 preserved lemon (optional) on top of the salad and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Pudding

I know, avocado and pudding don’t sound like they should even be in the same sentence. Trust me, the avocado gives the pudding its texture, not its taste. Plus, what’s better than healthy chocolate pudding?!  Not too much.


Place 1 avocado (seed and skin removed), 1 ripe banana4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons liquid sweetener (agave, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.), 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/2 cup water1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into your Vitamix or blender. Blend to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add more water as needed for consistency.

Chill until cold (or approximately the amount of time it takes you to eat your salad, if you’re me). If you’re really feeling ambitious, garnish with fresh berries.



Thanksgiving Round-Up

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I feel a little guilty for not posting more Thanksgiving-themed recipes this week. Thanksgiving is like the Olympics of food events and I feel like I’m not doing it justice! I had every intention of sharing something new for your Thanksgiving feast. Last week, I attempted to make pomegranate-glazed Brussels sprouts but failed. It was a good idea in concept, but the finished product was a strange brownish reddish green color and tasted pretty sour. It wasn’t pretty.

To make up for my lack turkey-inspired recipes, here are a few past recipes that would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving dinner. Have a happy turkey day!

Thanksgiving Round-Up

  • Sriracha Kale Chips: Crisp up a head of kale while the turkey is in the oven. These are a great snack to have on hand while everyone is hanging (or helping) out before dinner.
  • Butternut Squash Soup: Try soup instead of mashed butternut squash – this would be a perfect appetizer before the main Thanksgiving meal.
  • Oven-Fried Tomatoes: Not a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving, but sure to be a welcome addition to the table.
  • Simple Apple Pie: A classic turkey day dessert – make sure to save some room!

Simple Apple Pie

The first thing I make after apple picking is apple pie. There’s no better way to fill your kitchen with a warm, apple-y smell.  This isn’t the healthiest recipe, but it’s easy. Only four ingredients stand between you and this simple pie – just apples, white and brown sugar, and pie crust. If you went apple picking recently, give this a try. It showcases the apple’s true flavor so choose your favorite kind!

Simple Apple Pie

Peel and slice 6 cups of apples (approximately 6 medium apples). Mix with ½ cup sugar and put in a strainer over a bowl for half an hour. The natural apple juice will start to drain into the bowl, which will decrease your chances of ending up with soupy pie. While the apples are draining, remove 2 pie crusts from the fridge and let sit on the counter – they are easier to handle when room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a pie pan with one of the pie crusts, centering it over the pan and letting some of the edge hang over. Layer the apples in concentric circles in the pan and arrange so that there’s a mound at the center of the pie.

Take the apple juice from the strainer and combine with 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to bubble. Let it cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and creates a syrup. Drizzle the syrup over the apples.

Top with pie with the other half of pie crust, pressing the top crust into the bottom crust at the edges of the pie pan. Use a knife to cut the excess crust, and pinch the pie crust into any design you’d like. Cut six long lines into the top of the crust to let steam escape. Cover the crust of the pie with strips of tin foil.

Bake for 45 minutes with the foil covering the crust. Remove from oven, take off the foil, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for at least half an hour before serving.

Yield: 6 servings. Per Serving: $1.44, 304 calories, 14g fat, 59g carbs, 2g protein.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies


It’s that time of year where you can find everything in pumpkin flavor… and everyone seems to be obsessed with it. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin muffins… I could go on. I wouldn’t be surprised to see pumpkin flavored toothpaste. To be honest (please don’t judge me) I’m not a huge fan of anything pumpkin flavored.

This recipe is an exception, for the most part because I am a sucker for cream cheese brownies. My Nana made them all the time when I was a kid, artfully swirling the cream cheese into the brownie mixture. I always tried to choose the brownie with the highest cream cheese to brownie ratio (usually, these were the brownies from smack dab in the middle of the pan).

But cream cheese brownies can be extremely fattening, so now I opt for this version, adding pumpkin puree to the cream cheese to give it a seasonal kick. This healthy treat is definitely not a trick – it is truly a healthy brownie recipe. Greek yogurt and Neufchatel cheese replace the heavy cream cheese in the topping, and the fats from the oil and egg in the brownie are eliminated by pumpkin puree. You would never know these are a healthier take on a classic – despite using pumpkin, the brownies are still chocolately and very fudgey.

If you’re celebrating Halloween this week, bring along a pan of these – they’re sure to be a hit! I claimed my 2012 Office Bake-Off victory with this recipe. Let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×13 inch brownie pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 package low-fat brownie mix with half of a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix, read the label carefully!). Combine until smooth and pour into brownie pan. This sounds easier than it is – be patient and just keep stirring.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine 5 ounces plain Greek yogurt and 4 ounces softened Neufchatel cheese (essentially low-fat cream cheese) with the remaining pumpkin puree. Soften the cheese by microwaving it in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth.

Drop the cheese mixture onto the brownie pan by the spoonful. Use a knife to cut swirls into the brownies, lightly combining the cheese and brownie mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour, or until you can stick a knife in the brownies and it comes out clean. Make sure to store these in the fridge, if there are any leftover!

Yield: 16 servings. Per Serving: $0.47, 191 calories, 4g fat, 37g carbs, 3.5g protein.

Caramel Apple Cookies


Apparently victory tastes like… caramel apple cookies! This recipe brought home my third win at my company’s annual bake off. On a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, everyone gathered in our lunch area to taste the treats baked by my very talented coworkers. This year, the desserts ranged from blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin cream cheese bars, and Mexican brownies.  I always submit a dessert for the Healthy Dessert category to prove that even healthy treats can be delicious.

After tasting these, you’ll be surprised that they’re only 81 calories per cookie. In fact, the judges almost didn’t believe that it was truly a healthy dessert! The original recipe came from www.myrecipes.com, but I adapted it by using less sugar and fresh apple. This is a great way to use up a few leftover apples if you’ve recently gone apple picking. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ cups quick cooking oats, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon baking soda. In a separate large bowl or mixer, combine ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, and 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy and then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 egg. Slowly add the flour mixture and fold in 1 ½ cups diced apple and 15 caramels, chopped.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop 2 teaspoons of dough onto the pan and flatten into a cookie. The dough may be loose, but baking will pull it together.

Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks and serve!

Yield: 36 servings. Serving size: 1 cookie. Per Serving: $0.18, 81 calories, 2.5g fat, 14g carbs, 1.5g protein.