Monthly Archives: October 2013

Whole Wheat ABC Bread

Whole Wheat ABC (Apple, Banana, Carrot) Bread. ABalancedLifeCooks.comThere are some recipes I cook, nail, and share with you as soon as I can. Other times I work at a recipe week after week until I get it just right. This is one of those recipes. It’s been awesome since the very first time I made it, but I’ve been working to create a healthier version while still keeping it absolutely delicious.

And you know what? This final recipe, which uses plain yogurt and very little oil happened to be better than all of the others. The flavors of the whole ingredients (especially the apples and bananas) are more apparent and it’s the moistest (ewwwwwww hate.that.word) banana bread I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

Naming this light, yet hearty breakfasty bread was no easy task. It’s made with whole wheat flour, apples, bananas, carrots – hence Whole Wheat ABC Bread. Another contender: 1-2-3 bread since it contains 1 apple, 2 carrots, and 3 mashed bananas.

Whatever you like to call it, it’s quickly becoming this year’s version of my apple cake since I’ve been making it nearly every week. Now that I’ve nailed down a recipe that delivers the healthiest and the yummiest results there’s no signs of stopping now!

Whole Wheat ABC (Apple Banana Carrot) Bread.

Whole Wheat ABC Bread

Makes 1 loaf


  • 3 ripe banana
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground numeg
  • 1 apple (any kind) peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, mash the bananas. Add the sugar, canola oil, yogurt, eggs, and grated carrots. Mix to combine. Remove bowl from electric mixer.

In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until combined. Add chopped apple and chopped walnuts. Mix until distributed evenly throughout.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Add batter. Bake 65-75 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Roasted Salmon with Mushrooms and Potatoes

Roasted Salmon with Mushrooms and Potatoes. ABalancedLifeCooks.comToday’s post is more a public service announcement than a recipe (though there is a recipe so please keep reading!) Did you know you can cook fish that’s completely frozen? Like hard as a brick, slightly encrusted in ice frozen? YOU CAN! And it’s kind of life-changing. Because, if you’re like me, there have been times where you forgot to take the frozen fish out of the freezer in time to thaw for dinner. Then you’re kind of stuck and delivery pizza is sounding really enticing.

After a quick search on the website Cook It Frozen I found roasted salmon, which was my plan all along. (You can also broil, grill, poach, and saute frozen fish.) I just tweaked their recipe to fit what I previously had in mind. Here’s how it goes down: Remove the fish from any packaging. Rinse under cold water to melt any ice, pat dry with a paper towel, and brush with some olive oil. Cook it in a hot, 450-degree oven. About 4-5 minutes into cooking the fish is thawed enough for seasonings to adhere so add some salt and pepper or whatever you like. Pop it back into the oven and finish cooking for a total of about 15 minutes. Yep — it doesn’t even take longer than when the fish is already thawed.

See what I mean? Life-changing. So the next time you see frozen wild salmon, cod, or halibut on sale, don’t hesitate to stock up. Because even if you forget to thaw it, dinner will always be served. We ate our salmon alongside some roasted mushrooms and potatoes, arugula, and a yummy honey vinaigrette that we drizzled over everything on our plate.

Roasted Salmon with Mushrooms and Potatoes.

Roasted Salmon with Mushrooms and Potatoes

**Instructions are for non-frozen salmon. If it’s frozen follow the instructions above.**


  • 1 pound small new potatoes (ours came in a variety of colors including purple), cut into quarters
  • 16 oz button mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon filet (either one big filet or have it cut into individual 6-oz pieces)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard (such as dijon, stone-ground, or whole-grain)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Parsley, chopped, for garnish
  • Greens, such as arugula (optional)


Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a baking sheet, combine the potatoes and mushrooms. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast about 20 minutes. Toss. Keep it in the oven to continue roasting.

Place salmon on a separate, foil-lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes until salmon is cooked through. Remove salmon and vegetables from oven. (So vegetables have cooked about 35 minutes total.)

In a bowl, make the vinaigrette: whisk together the mustard, vinegar, honey, and about 2 Tbsp olive oil.

To serve: Place a salmon filet, some potatoes and mushrooms on a plate. Garnish with chopped parsley. Add some greens, such as arugula, if desired. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salmon, vegetables, and greens.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple

Maple Walnut Granola

Maple-Walnut Granola. ABalancedLifeCooks.comHappy Friday friends. We made it! Robert and I are flying to Kansas City tomorrow morning to celebrate our final wedding of 2013. But first, I wanted to leave you with this recipe in case you plan to spend some time in your kitchen this weekend: Maple walnut granola. It’s my absolute favorite this time of year. I make one to two batches each week and eat it every single morning for breakfast. I add it on top of plain Greek yogurt with some sliced strawberries. I’ve also been known to pour some in a little bowl and snack on it for dessert.

Sure, you could easily buy granola in the store, but this is so simple to make and so worth it. All of the sweetness comes from the natural sugars in maple syrup (just 1/2 cup for the whole thing) and you get healthy, filling fats from olive oil and lots of chopped walnuts. There’s also a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a hit of nutmeg that makes it totally season-appropriate. A generous bowl of this stuff can keep me full from about 8am to 1pm.

After some trail and error, I finally discovered the secret to getting those big clumps of granola. When you pull the granola out of the oven, let it sit on the baking sheet without touching it until it’s cooled — about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll get those giant mounds that make it difficult to put away before you’ve munched on half the batch.

Maple-Walnut Granola.

Maple Walnut Granola

About 6-8 servings


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt (such as sea salt or Kosher salt)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a big bowl, combine oats, coconut flakes, and walnuts. In a separate, smaller bowl add the olive oil and maple syrup (note: if you give the 1/2 cup measuring cup a quick spritz with cooking spray before adding the maple syrup it pours out much easier). Stir together the oil and maple syrup and pour on the oat mixture. Using a spatula, mix until oat mixture is totally coated. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix again until everything is coated.

Spread it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake (no need to stir) for 50-60 minutes until evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 20-30 minutes, until cool and dry to the touch before breaking up with your hands or a spatula. Store in an airtight container.

Lean Bison Vegetable Soup

Lean bison vegetable soup. ABalancedLIfeCooks.comOne of my absolute favorite things is when readers make a recipe from my blog. It still boggles my mind that that’s even possible. I have no idea how often it happens, but my heart does flips when I receive a text or email from a friend or relative saying they made one of these dishes. I love my little corner of the Interwebs here so much. It’s my deepest hope that maybe, just maybe, if you cook one of these recipes it will make your day a little brighter/tastier/easier/happier.

The reason I mention cooking recipes from this site is because I do it all the time! I recently updated one of my all-time favorite meals, vegetable beef soup with this winner right here. It still checks all of my meat and veggies soup must-haves (chunks of meat, frozen veggies, silky potato and tomatoey red wine broth), but I streamlined the instructions and lightened it up by using bison instead of beef. Oh my is it good. Bonus: it’s completely weeknight doable.

If you ever happen to make something from here (even if we’ve never met!) and then happen to share it online I would be so touched if you tagged it with the hashtag #abalancedlifecooks. I always do!

Lean bison vegetable soup.

Lean Bison Vegetable Soup

Serves 6-8


  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 pound bison stew meat, trimmed of any fat
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 32 oz container low-sodium beef broth
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, keep skin on & slice into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • Salt & pepper


Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add bison in batches (be sure not to crowd) and brown on each side. Once browned, transfer to a plate and add another batch to the pot. (It took me 3 batches to brown all of the meat). Set plate aside.

To the pot, add onion and celery and sautee until onion becomes translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, frozen vegetables, potatoes, and wine to the pot. Return meat to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Apple Spice Cake

Apple Spice Cake ABalancedLifeCooks.comIf there’s one food that defines fall for me it’s apple spice cake. About five years ago when I was living in Colchester, Vermont there was one fall when I made an apple spice cake every single week. So when we returned from Michigan with bags full of freshly picked apples this was one of the very first things I made.

I’ve never met a cake that’s even close to apple spice. It’s truly one of a kind. And as much as I adore it, I’d never consider making it any other time of the year except right now. (But you can, I promise!) That’s just one of the things that makes it extra special. Although it’s not completely necessary, there’s something about the bundt pan shape that makes apple spice cake what it is. The outside gets just the slightest bit crisp and almost caramelized while the inside stays light and fluffy with tiny bits of apples, chopped walnuts (totally optional for those who prefer their sweets sans nuts), and a punch of warm spices including cinnamon and nutmeg.

The best part? It’s a completely acceptable breakfast (duh, it has fruit!) and also makes a satisfying dessert. Heat up a slice in the microwave, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, pour yourself a cup of tea, and I promise time will stand still for just a few moments. In other words, it’s the surest way to make this time of year last just a little bit longer. Apple Spice Cake.

Apple Spice Cake


  • 4 apples (any kind)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and chop apples into tiny, 1/2-inch sized pieces and set aside.

Into a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs. Mix on high until it turns a bright yellow color. Add vanilla, mix until incorporated.

With the mixer set at medium speed, gradually add dry ingredients in about 3 separate additions and mix until just incorporated–be careful not to overmix. Add apples and nuts, and mix until just combined.

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake about 75 to 90 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Ground Turkey & Peppers Over Quinoa


I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the older I get the more aware I become of the different seasons of life. We’re coming off one of the busiest times in our life ever. The funny thing about being busy, I’ve recently learned, is that it becomes even easier to stay busy and to take on more and more commitments that keep you busy.

Don’t get me wrong–it has been awesome. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. During it all, I was totally aware that we were in this harried phase of life and I just rolled with it. I will always look back at the last six months with so much love, gratitude, and awe. I’m so proud of and humbled by everything we’ve accomplished and created this year.

But now…now I am so ready for rest; for things to slow down; to back off; to let go. Conveniently, we’re heading into a time of year that makes this so much easier to do. Soon, I’ll share more about how I plan to do this. You can rest assured it’ll include lots of cooking (and posting here), hot mugs of tea, and quality time by the fireplace. If that doesn’t sound like a dream I don’t know what does!

Over the next few weeks, I also plan to share some recipes that I turned to time and again (like, weekly) to help us through this busy season of our lives. We didn’t let our jam-packed schedules cause us to eat out or order in any more than usual. Instead, I created some super simple, healthy, quick, and clean recipes to power us through. So if you find yourself in a busy time of your life right now, I hope they’ll help you, too.

First up is one that I made consistently throughout the summer: Ground turkey and peppers over quinoa. You just brown the turkey and add some spices (chili powder and cumin), saute some peppers and onions, and serve atop fluffy quinoa. Top with chopped cilantro, a generous heap of guacamole, a few spoonfuls of salsa, and shredded cheese (if you like). It’s somewhere between deconstructed chili and fajitas, but completely its own thing.

I didn’t even take the time to make the guac. I used Trader Joe’s Avocado’s Number Guacamole, which cost about $4. You get two big packages of the stuff, and it only contains five ingredients: avocados, jalapeno, onion, salt, and garlic. Whether you find yourself in a season of busyness or a reason of rest, it totally hits the spot–along with everything else in this dish!


Ground Turkey and Peppers Over Quinoa

Serves 4


  • Quinoa
  • Olive oil
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 bell peppers, such as one red, yellow, and orange, seeds removed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • For toppers: Cilantro, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese


Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ground turkey. Let it cook, without stirring, until it begins to brown. Add chili powder, cumin, and some salt. Use a spatula to break the turkey up, and flip it over so the other side browns. Once cooked through, remove the turkey to a plate and set aside. Add the peppers and onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the turkey back to the pan and cook until heated through again.

Serve turkey and peppers over quinoa and top with your toppings of choice.

Wedding Wednesday: Photo Preview

Christmas came early! Tim and Bethany recently sent us a few preview photos and I’m so excited to share them with you. It may still be a few months before we see the rest of them, but these will definitely hold us over until then. While these photos are just of me and Robert, I’m so excited to see those with our bridal party, family, ceremony, friends, dancing, and more. Today, I offer a sneak peak of our happiest day.

Our first look. Like literally, the very first look.

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My blooms!


FowlerPreview-7243 FowlerPreview-8624FowlerPreview-8875


Remember those ballerina fantasies I had during planning? On our wedding day I couldn’t stop twirling in my dress! FowlerPreview-7434

FowlerPreview-7456Before Tim and Bethany were about to leave for the night we ran outside to capture a few shots. And when I say ran, I mean ran! We didn’t want to miss a second of the party on the dance floor. At the same time, I’m so grateful for these moments. It gave us a chance to step away from the magic that was happening inside and really let it set in that we were married and AT our wedding. It was the best.


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Sweet Potato, Arugula, Bacon & Caramelized Onion Quiche

DSCN2525First things first….a new blog design! It’s still super basic and will likely undergo several more changes, but the old one was so dark I really needed a change ASAP. As I mentioned earlier this year, I have some big plans in store for this little blog. More to come in the future, but for now it’s a little upgrade to make things lighter and brighter around here. There’s also an updated “About” section and an Instagram feed to the right. I feel better already!

Now on to the really important stuff: I’m finally back with a recipe! Ohhhh and it’s a really good one, too. Sweet potato, arugula, bacon and caramelized onion quiche. All in a flaky (albeit store bought) crust. One day, I’ll venture into the world of homemade pie crust, but for now I was perfectly happy to reach into the fridge and unroll the prepared piece of dough.

I combined two awesome recipes from two of my favorite blogs–this frittata from Big Girls Small Kitchen and this quiche from Gimme Some Oven. What I loved, too, were the instructions for cooking the sweet potato and caramelized onion the night before from the BGSK recipe–it’s not necessary, but I had the time Friday evening and it made a big difference Saturday morning. By the way, if you’re not feeling like spending an hour caramelizing onions it’s totally cool. In the instructions below I offer a delicious time-saving alternative.

It was a perfect weekend breakfast that totally captured the flavors of fall. I served it with a frothy homemade latte (thanks to my new Nespresso machine that I’m totally in love with) and a sliced Michigan green apple. It was exactly the boost I needed to dive into a lengthy weekend To-Do list. What’s not to love?


Sweet Potato, Arugula, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Quiche 

Serves 6


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 storebought pie crust
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 big handfuls of arugula or baby spinach


For the onions, coat the bottom of a big pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Give them a stir so they’re evenly spread across the pan. Turn the heat to low and allow the onions to cook, untouched, for 10 minutes. Stir and allow them to cook again, untouched, for 10 minutes more. Continue with these 10 minute increments until they’ve cooked about 40-50 minutes and are browned. Sprinkle with salt. Either set aside or, if making ahead, allow onions to cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Note: If you don’t have time to caramelize the onion, see note below. 

While the onions cook, roast the sweet potato. Preheat oven to 400. Peel potato and cut in half. Then cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Toss in a bowl with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast 25-30 minutes until they just start to brown. Either set aside or, if making ahead, allow potato to cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

When ready to make the quiche, preheat oven to 350.

Place pie crust in an ungreased pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes. Set aside.

Cook bacon in a pan until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Note: if not caramelizing the onion, saute chopped onion in some of the bacon drippings until softened, about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the milk, flour, baking powder, and some salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Stir in onions, sweet potato, and arugula. Crumble bacon into pieces and add to bowl. Stir until combined.

Pour quiche filling into crust. Bake 45-55 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow quiche to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Our Honeymoon Video!

Hello, friends! We did it…we got married! Everything about the entire wedding weekend was magical. It exceeded every dream I had for what the day would be like. I’ve never felt more love and happiness in one room than I did on our wedding day. I get teary and goosebumpy just thinking about it. Much more to come about our big day later on (probably when we receive our photos.) To say that my heart is bursting with love and gratitude would be the understatement of the century. I’m still processing the immense joy I felt and continue to feel today.

A sneak peak from our photographers

A sneak peak from our photographers

Best of all, I got to marry the very best man and best friend I have ever known (a line from my vows!) You can just call me Mrs. Paige Fowler now : )

Robert took this on his Galaxy (I had no idea he was taking it!)

Robert took this on his Galaxy (I had no idea he was taking it!)

On to the honeymoon! The Monday after our wedding Robert and I drove up to Northern Michigan for a week of R&R. It was, in a word, perfect. It was the ideal combination of relaxation and adventure. I rode a horse for the first time! We biked 8 miles around Mackinac Island! We went apple picking in a downpour! Even on our honeymoon, I found the opportunity to cook (hey, cooking in a stranger’s kitchen is totally an adventure) and I made one of our absolute favorite meals: Spaghetti with meat sauce. You can find the recipe here. We watched movies. We drank wine. Lots of wine. We went to sleep early and woke up late. We snuck into the resort’s hot tub and pool on a cold, rainy evening with no one around. (All of this you’ll see in the video.)

I hope to expand more on this in the future, but I’m so happy we went to Michigan. I realize it doesn’t sound like the most typical place for a honeymoon, but it was exactly what we needed. Plus, now that we own a house in Chicago and plan to be rooted for the foreseeable future, I now feel slightly more connected to my midwest home since exploring an area of the region I’d never seen before.

So without further ado, I present our honeymoon video! Keep in mind that we’re both total amateurs – we took these videos on my iPhone on a whim, not even sure it would ever lead to anything. We taught ourselves how to use iMovie in a few hours. Still, I know we’ll treasure this 8 minute video that captures the very first week of our marriage for countless years to come. (Click “Paige & Robert Fowler in Northern Michigan” to view in full-screen mode on Vimeo.)