Simple & Cheap: 3 Course Meal

We had an awesome time last night learning how to cook new concoctions on a budget. We had over 20 people come with us to learn easy, effective ways to incorporate healthy ingredients into some of our favorite dishes. If you came and enjoyed the class or want to know what you missed out on, keep reading.

classssAs the class started we got to choose our seats surrounding the demonstration area. We were all welcomed to help with the process and take a closer look at the appliances they used. We began using healthy ingredients right away.  

Starting with a sweet potato hummus, the ingredients in the picture were an combined in the food processor to make a sweet and spicy hummus spread.  This is perfect for an easy appetizer that you can feel good about.

Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus

Below is one large, cooked sweet potato, 2 cups canned chickpeas, and a little bit of tahini, olive oil minced garlic, cumin, sriracha, lemon to squeeze, and then alt and pepper added to taste. Combining these items into the food processor is the key to the quick and easy hummus.


Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Continuing with the Simple and Quick 3 course meal, we moved on to the main entree. This portion of the class was particularly interesting to me because of how informative it was. Because so many people are adapting to different diets, it is always fun to try some of the alternatives to the typical recipes we are accustomed to.  For instance, we made vegan Parmesan cheese spread instead of the typical cheese we used on pasta and in salads.  This cheese was easy and fast to throw together with minimal effort. To make vegan Parmesan cheese, just combine 3/4 cup of raw cashews, 3 tbsp nutritional yeast, 3/4 tsp sea salt and a little garlic powder in a food processor and process until the texture of it mocks regular Parmesan cheese.


Of course, some of us were not used to the taste and stuck to regular grated cheese, but the vegan cheese held its own.  It still had a similar texture and the nutritional yeast did an amazing job making the cashews extra savory and even healthier.

Spaghetti Squash with Pasta Sauces

Since we were making a healthy version of a pasta dish, we needed some tomato sauce. We had a great time learning how to make delicious veggie pasta sauce and tomato sauce with lean beef!  Instead of using the food processor for this component of our meal, they instructed us to stick with the stove top for both sauces. This gives it a better consistency and takes little time. If you are making sauce with ground beef, fully cook the meat before mixing the ingredients in.

Lastly, for the actually pasta, we feasted on both regular pasta and spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is a smart way to decrease how much carbohydrates you are consuming, without sacrificing the flavor.  Mixing the two is a good way to get your veggies in and still enjoy your noodles.


To the right is a picture of the spaghetti squash right after cooking it. You can either make spaghetti squash in an oven with some salt, pepper and olive oil or opt for the microwave squash.  Using the microwave definitely saves a significant amount of time, it depends which you prefer. Be sure to remove all the seeds after carefully cutting the squash in half. After about 50 minutes in the oven or 7 minutes in the microwave, the squash should be ready to serve. Our instructor used a fork to remove the inside of the squash. Then mix it in with your pasta that you prepared on the stove top.

After enjoying our pasta, we moved on to the most important part; dessert. Using simple ingredients, we made S’mores pizza. This surpassed most pizzas because it was covered in chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows.

S’mores Pizza

The only other thinfileg you need to make this pizza is a refrigerated pizza crust in a can. There are many options at every grocery store that would work well with this recipe. As if that sounds too simple, the cooking part is even easier.

While you are heating up your dough in the oven, for about five minutes, prep your toppings. This pizza had 6 crushed graham crackers, 6 Hershey chocolate bars and a bag of marshmallows. Once your dough is ready, assort your toppings and place it back in the oven until the top of the marshmallows are a light brown.

Overall, this class reminded us how easy it can be to make dfile-1elicious food without breaking the bank or consuming precious study time. We hope you learned something from the demonstration and you give some of these recipes a try.


Peace, love & DDP,






Christmas Cookies, Chanukah Cookies and More Cookies

When I think of the Holiday’s I think of all the delicious cookies I am going to bake. I usually deliver plates to my neighbors, cousins across town, my best friend and of course, to my brother in his room. For the past few years, I have been wondering ways to make the cookies still taste good but maybe a little healthier. Adding 4 sticks of butter to a cookie gets pretty disgusting after awhile of baking.

This year I will make my cookies healthier and have chosen the following 4 recipes that I will try. There are flavors and tastes for all so at least one should catch your sweet tooth.

  • Almond Coconut Macaroons
  • Vegan Thin Mints
  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • Thumbprint Cookies

Almond Coconut Macaroons

These cookies are the easiest to make out of the 4 and have a blast of coconut flavor. These are also a perfect dessert cookie for Passover.

What you need:

2/3 cup sugar

2 large egg whites

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cups whole almonds

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon lemon zest to make it kosher for Passover)

You can find the directions on how to make and bake the cookies here.

Vegan Thin Mints

This recipe is vegan and gluten-free. This cookie reminds me of Girl Scout Thin Mints but even better because gluten-free and vegans can enjoy them too.

What you need:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour

1 cup vegan sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup arrowroot

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup melted refined coconut oil or canola oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup vegan gluten-free chocolate chips

3 tablespoons mint extract

You can find the directions on how to make and bake the cookies here.

Gingerbread Cookies

What are the holidays without gingerbread? This recipe has less butter, eggs and sugar than traditional gingerbread recipes.

What you need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1 cup granulated sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature

3/4 cup dark molasses

1 large egg, at room temperature

You can find the directions on how to make and bake the cookies here.

Thumbprint Cookies

These are my absolute favorite holiday cookies to make and I am excited that there is a healthier version especially knowing how much butter goes into them. This recipe is for vegan thumbprint cookies.

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What you need:

1 cup pecans

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup safflower or canola oil

1/2 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons fruit juice sweetened jam

You can find the directions on how to make and bake the cookies here.

I hope you have found at least one healthy cookie recipe in this list that you will bake this holiday season. Happy Holidays from JM(takecareof)U to you.

Peace, Love and DDP,


Friendsgiving The Healthy Way

In five short days we will be heading home for the anticipated Thanksgiving break, nine days of relaxation, delicious food, family time and visiting friends from home. These last few days before break may be swamped but there is no better way to get your mind off of things and take a little break with food and friends. Friendsgiving is a fun way to celebrate with those you love here at school before we leave for the holiday break. Thanksgiving food is filling and delicious but not always healthy. Take this opportunity to celebrate in a healthier fashion with your friends before stuffing your face with the Thanksgiving comfort foods we know and love when you get home. Below are a few alternative options for those classic Thanksgiving dishes that you can try out and enjoy with the company of friends. Of course you don’t have to make your entire friendsgiving healthy, this is of course the time of year where it is fine to indulge in those unhealthy options, but switching a few dishes for the healthy version can help you from feeling so sluggish after eating. Cook these for your friends then show off your new skills and recipes at home on Thanksgiving for your families.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes with butter and garlic can be full of carbs and fat, an easy and delicious alternative you can use is cauliflower as your mashed potatoes. It will look almost identical so you can really trick your brain into thinking that you are eating the real thing. You can get the low carb “fauxtato” recipe here.


 Stuffing from a package or made from white bread can be full of processed ingredients that do nothing but bad things for your body. Opt for whole grain bread or for the gluten intolerant choose gluten free bread. This recipe uses many different fresh produce as ingredients for a tasty herb and apple stuffing. You can get the recipe here.

Rolls and Bread

 Croissants, rolls and biscuits whatever form it comes in bread is delicious, it is also chock full of carbs and lets face it, you are not skipping out on the butter either. An alternative to those filling breads can be flatbread. Flatbread is an even better alternative because it allows you to add more flavors to your meal by adding different spreads and dip including your choice of hummus or different salsas. Switching to flatbread is a win-win situation for your meal you get to cut calories while adding delectable and healthy dips.

Sweet Potato Casserole

 This might not be a universal Thanksgiving dish but those who eat it love it. Sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, butter and cinnamon it does not get much better than that and this is a dish with dinner not even the dessert. This dish is full of sugar, but a healthy alternative to this without losing the sweet flavors is this roasted sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon. Still just as delicious with less sugar and you can find this recipe here.

Green Bean Casserole

 Some love it; others hate it as for me it is what I look forward to most during Thanksgiving. Green beans in a creamy soup sauce with fried onions on top, delectable but not quite nutritious other than the green beans, but of course that all gets cancelled out by the cream and fried counterparts. For those that get as excited for this dish as I, do no fear, I have the healthy recipe here. Still creamy, crunchy and still flavorful thanks to using Greek yogurt and grilled shallots as a substitute for the fried onions and canned or packaged ingredients.


 Arguably the best part about the meal. Anything you do not like you can drown in gravy and it will taste good. It goes on just about every part of the meal except for the dessert. Unfortunately it is full of unhealthy fats. Check out this recipe for half the fat but all of the flavor for your gravy.

Pumpkin Pie

No matter how much you eat, you always have room for dessert. Nothing is wrong with treating yourself especially during this time of the year. But, to save calories and yourself from cursing the world on the couch because you ate so much, try out this recipe for pumpkin pie bites. These are a smaller version of the staple dessert dish of the season. Whether or not you stick to eating just one or two is up to you, but hey, at least you tried right?

Tis the season for friends, family and of course, food, try out one or all of these healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving food recipes for your friendsgiving before you go home for the break. Impress your family with your nutritious but delicious meals and who knows, your dish could become the next family favorite.


Peace, Love and DDP, from my friendsgiving family to yours,


Fall Break is approaching… that means turkey

Fall break is less than ten days away. This is the first time that some Dukes are going home since they arrived for Frog Week this summer. This is the first time, for me at least that I’m going home. Home for me is in Northern New Jersey. Jersey means that there are warm, delicious bagels and any type of pizza that you can think of. With me going home for fall break means consuming all of these foods multiple days in a row. And I can’t forget that at the end of fall break is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving brings me pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and most importantly, turkey. With all of these heavy, delicious foods, comes another thing to think about: calories.


This fall break I am going to try not to make all my early morning gym trips to UREC and eating healthy go to waste. Here are five tips that I have researched that will help you enjoy Thanksgiving without overindulging in the calories.

  1. Stick to healthy portions.
  2. Eat before you indulge.
  3. Substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones.
  4. Drink lots of water and take a walk after eating.
  5. Avoid snacking throughout the day.

Stick to healthy portions.

Do you really think you need more than one plate of all of that sodium filled food that is on the menu for Thanksgiving? Definitely not. I challenge you to only eat one serving of the mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and if you are still hungry after your first serving, go back and get some vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, beets, etc. Fill your first plate of food with a half a plate of vegetables and one roll, a quarter of it with mashed or sweet potatoes and a quarter of it with turkey or ham. Amanda Chan from says, “If you fill up on those lower caloric density and higher nutrition things, you’re going to feel full, but not bloated and tired, because it’s a lighter fare.” So if you are still hungry after that first plate, then go back for vegetables to fill you up but not feel bloated. As for dessert, I know that my family always has at least five different pies on our table. Try and pick a fruit or pumpkin instead of chocolate or pecan. They tend to have fewer calories but you can still get a taste of Thanksgiving without the overload on sugar.

Eat before you indulge.

A lot of people think that not eating at all the day of Thanksgiving is saving room for the dinner feast. I know that my brothers and I have that mentality every year. In reality, you just end up overeating at dinner because you have been starving yourself all day. Try and eat a snack or breakfast on Thanksgiving so you don’t overeat at dinner.

Substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones.

If you have any say in how Thanksgiving dinner is cooked, maybe you can recommend some alternative ingredients to put into some of your favorite foods to cut out excess calories. For mashed potatoes substitute butter with chicken broth or roasted garlic. My Aunt Karen adds roasted garlic instead of butter and you can’t even tell the difference. It still tastes just as starchy. This next alternative can cut a lot of calories; you just need a little will power to resist it. Don’t eat the skin on the turkey. It is basically just pieces of fat.

Drink lots of water and take a walk after eating.

These are two tips in one that I do every year. According to the article by Amanda Chan, “Many times when people think they are hungry, they are actually just thirsty. By drinking lots of water throughout the day, you’ll lower the risk of overeating.” The second tip is to take a walk after eating. After dinner and before dessert I take a walk with my aunt and her two dogs. We walk around the neighborhood in the crisp, fall weather and try to digest out food before eating a piece of pumpkin pie.

Avoid snacking throughout the day.

If you are trying to avoid overeating by having breakfast or one snack before dinner that is one thing, but constantly snacking on cheese and crackers or chips and dip before dinner contributes to overeating and not being able to keep track of how much you have eaten. Try to have one small meal or one snack in the late morning or early afternoon to hold you over until dinner. Avoid the mindless munching when you are conversing with your relatives.

I hope these 5 tips help you cut down on those excess calories over fall break. Remember, Halloween was the start of the holiday season and with every holiday comes delicious food with lots of calories. It is your choice if you want to make those trips to the gym count or if you want to eat it all away over break. The choice is yours fellow Dukes.

Peace, Love and DDP,


Why Should You Put Down The Cereal?

When I was a freshman, one of my holy grail foods was cereal.  I never ever went a day without having a box in my dorm room. Boxed cereal is an extremely convenient and easy breakfast and snack, that I would literally eat several times a day because I assumed it was healthy and I was doing good for my body. Cereals have so many claims all over the boxes making it extremely misleading that there is an abundant amount of hidden sugars. Breakfast cereal is basically made just from processed grain.  All of the added sugar is the culprit to so many people unable to figure out why they aren’t loosing weight or why they’re gaining weight.


Not only is cereal the only culprit but it is all processed foods of that sort, such as granola bars such as Belvittas. These may be tasty and quick but I am here to tell you that there are other options.


Now that Halloween is over, I’m sure most of you are looking for a new sweet alternative. Have no fear! I am here with a recipe that will blow your mind.  It is so sweet and is guaranteed to satisfy all of your cravings.  It is also extremely healthy and will give you energy to go about your day.  I make this all the time at school and eat them as dessert, breakfast, and just a snack when I need to a boost through out the day.  Put down the three musketeers and pick up these amazing muffins!

Muffins are an easy, portable breakfast choice that is great when you are on the run to class. Don’t be tempted to get a coffee cake muffin from Dunkin that is packed with sugar and oils. Put down the sugary cereals that you think are healthy for you. If you have morning classes like me, and are nothing but cranky when you wake up than you need these mood boosters. Make these muffins to get you’re through a crazy week of school! This is my healthy oatmeal muffin recipe! I’ve tried a ton of different recipes and concocted my own that I hope you love as much as I do! Try this recipe as a convenient and nutritious option to bring into your every day routine.

It may seem like we are making a protein bar, but don’t be alarmed these are as sweet as can be and ridiculously healthy. The next best thing about this recipie is that you can add whatever you want in it.  Sometimes I put chocolate chips in, blueberries, and other fruits to sweeten it up!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

One thing I’ve learned when it comes to eating healthy, is that foods with ingredients you know how to pronounce.  Look at your fruity cereal and try to figure out what half of those ingredients mean. The ingredients for my muffins include:

  • 2 ½ oats: when you place this in your food processor the oats become finely milled to give it an almost “flour-like” texture
  • 1-3 over ripe bananas: keep the muffins moist instead of using butter or oil
  • 2/3 cup honey: Substitute from sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Walnuts: add a crunch
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup walnuts


  • While gathering your ingredients, preheat your over to 350 degrees. Place your oats in a food processor to finely grind them up as small as they can get.
  • This step is great for getting anger out anger! Mash up the bananas with a fork until you simply cannot mash them up anymore.
  • Add all of your ingredients together and mix them up until they are a perfect consistency.
  • Place them in your muffin tin, and drizzle walnuts, and chocolate chips on top of the muffins. Bake for about 25 minutes and enjoy!

I hope you all take the time to try my healthy muffins out. They’re quick and easy and can be made in the same amount of time you can watch an episode of Friends.  Take the healthier step by not buy processed foods; just make them yourself!

Peace, Love and DDP,

Paige Epstein


Happy (Healthy) Halloween

Halloween is upon us. Along with the carved pumpkins, spooky decorations and clever costumes comes a desire to eat all the candy your heart desires. I don’t blame you. The candy is the very reason I love Halloween. I usually use the day as an excuse to eat just about anything (and everything) I want. Needless to say, I hit the gym hard on the first day of November.

This year I found myself wondering if there was a way to pig out on Halloween and not feel guilty afterwards. Turns out, Business Insider has done research on the 10 most and least healthy Halloween candies.

Here is what they found:



Although I’m bummed to see 3 Musketeers on the list of least healthy Halloween candies, I love seeing that I can feel (semi) good about eating Reese’s Pumpkins because what’s better than spirited chocolate and peanut butter?

I hope these lists help you tomorrow. Try putting down the Kit Kat for a Take5 to feel healthier this Halloween.

Happy Halloween, and Happy (Healthy) Eating!

Peace, Love & DDP


How To: Eat Well On A College Budget

Eating well on a campus like JMU is hard enough as it is with all of the decadent options.  From Auntie Ann’s being ON campus, to Chick-Fil-A being right on the quad.  Its hard to choose the healthy options.  Another reason why I personally had so much trouble getting into the healthy swing of things through college is because it’s certainly not cheap.  Buying organic foods, and fresh produce can really add up and make a casual grocery trip turn into a very expensive quest. I’m here to tell you that is it very possible to eat well on a tight college budget.

Buy in Bulk:

Costco, Costco and more Costco.  Make this place your best friend.  I know it can seem very expensive, but when you add up the numbers, if you buy things in bulk you can end up saving a lot of money.  My favorite things that I get at Costco every trip include: Frozen Chicken Tenderloins (boneless, skinless). This giant package comes with 6 pound of chicken. That’s A LOT of chicken.  I have had this package since moving in August 22nd and still have plenty left. Keep in mind I am an avid chicken eater. While at $17.00, it may seem expensive but it is much cheaper to get these rather than buying a small pack of these at Martins every other week. K-Cups are very expensive to say the least. If you are like me and need that cup of coffee in the morning than getting a 72 count of K-Cups from Costco is the way to go.  It may be intimidating to drop 40 bucks on coffee but I can promise you, it is cheaper than buying 16 counts for 12 dollars at Walmart. Now that I live off campus, I have started to make my coffee an even cheaper way using ground coffee from Costco.  These things come in a huge container and it is so easy to do! The other benefit to this is that you’re not just limited to an 8oz cup of coffee.  You can make it as big as you want, and for only 10 dollars at Costco! The last thing that I am dependent on at buying at Costco are Cliff bars.  These things are super expensive as well but buying them in bulk makes the most sense! They are protein packed bars that literally get me through my crazy long Tuesday, Thursday days.


I’ve learned to make this meal delicious and affordable from the comfort of my off-campus house.  A 12 pack of eggs can be as cheap as $1.23 at Walmart.  Pairing that with an English muffin and a banana is a healthy, delicious and cheap way to get your protein in before tackling a hard day of classes.  Another go to breakfast for me is oatmeal.  I’m not talking about the sugary apple cinnamon flavored oatmeal that comes in little packages.  I get the Old Fashioned Quaker Oats in a 42 oz barrel that are not sweetened. This comes out to be just 4 dollars. Making it yourself saves you money and gives you the opportunity to be healthier.  I flavor mine with ground cinnamon, a dash of maple syrup and either a banana or blueberries.  It takes about 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave and gives me the energy I need to conquer each day. My final tip for breakfast, is to stop buying sugary cereals. They are not good for you, and can be very expensive.



I usually eat lunch on campus because I have a meal plan that gives me 5 punches a week.  For tips on healthy eating on campus check out my other article about the best dining hall options!

Snacks: On those days that you know you are going to be on campus from 8am-8pm, you may find yourself needed a snack. I recommend bringing a cliff bar or making a sandwich.  A simple nut butter and jelly sandwich can satisfy you and give you healthy proteins you need. I also like to pack a bag full of carrots.  Another thing that I always keep in my backpack to keep me from going to the vending machines in carrier are chickpea snacks. These are super healthy and help with my salty cravings. The bags are big to serve as a snack for weeks and are only about 3 dollars.


This can be a challenging meal for me because it is always tempting to make a big bowl of pasta after a long day of classes, which isn’t always a bad thing! Pasta is very cheap and keeps you full! I like to make my pasta with steamed broccoli and season everything with some garlic salt. Its important to save money on food where you can, so you can buy all the produce you want.  I am a huge fan of broccoli, mainly because I can just season it with garlic and find it delicious.  Pick a couple staple produce items that are a necessity in your diet and make sure on your grocery trip that you have enough money for it. If that means cutting out the tortilla chips and salsa, then do it.  The healthy veggies packed with fiber will keep you so full that you don’t even reach for the snacks.  I love making chicken in a fry pan and throwing some vegetables in and making a side of rice. Rice and Mexican beans can be a very filling meal on a low budget as well. I also recommend soups that are super filling.  Amy’s Soup, found at Martins can be slightly expensive but when I tell you it completely fills me up for dinner, it really does. So to me it is worth the money!


Don’t be intimidated by eating healthy because of a limited budget.  It is very possible to eat healthy for cheap and to actually enjoy the meals you’re eating! Eating out is way more expensive than cooking a meal yourself, so skip those chipotle runs three times a week and you will have plenty of money to spend on produce at the grocery store!

Peace, Love and DDP,

Paige Epstein