Channa Masala – India’s Gateway Cuisine


I believe Channa Masala [also known as Chole] is the gateway dish to Indian cuisine.  It’s the starter curry for those skeptical of venturing into this “exotic” Indian cuisine.

Channa Masala is the gateway curry because it uses a familiar bean, garbanzo beans [found on most salad bars across the States], it tends to be mild in spice, and has a warm cozy feel to it when eaten, similar to the way chicken noodle soup makes most people feel loved and comforted as a child.

[Please excuse the unappetizing channa masala photos but Indian food is rather difficult to photograph and my photography skills are still a work-in-progress. If you want to see beautiful channa masala photos, take a look here.]

I love channa masala for all of the above reasons but I also enjoy it because it has a subtle hint of cinnamon and clove that enhances the overall flavor of the dish.  It elevates the coziness, creates depth, and if you are unfamiliar with Indian food, it leaves you wondering “What is that?”  The flavor is so familiar yet hard to pinpoint as cinnamon and clove, since their unexpected in such a savory dish.


In grad school, my friend Puja originally taught me how to make channa masala.  I loved her version but it was never quite the same as when I experienced channa in a restaurant – there was always something missing that I couldn’t quite pin down.  After investigating channa masala recipes online, I learned that the missing flavor was the cinnamon-clove combination!

Traveling to India this past Fall, I experienced “real” channa masala, made at home by my soon to be Mami [M<3’s Mother’s sister-in-law aka: my Aunt in-law].  Before we arrived, M<3 raved about Mami’s cooking, declaring her one of the best cooks in his family and when I tasted her channa masala, I knew he was right.  Her channa had the comforting yet not over-powering cinnamon-clove taste I love with a hearty spiciness and a beautiful rich, brown color that made it appetizing even to the eyes.

Of course, before leaving India I requested the recipe and Mami sent me back to the States with the exact spices she used to make her channa and instructions on how to recreate the recipe at home. Mami has more of a “cook by taste” approach and this was the recipe I was given:

Boil channa two katories by putting a little salt garam masala and oil
Heat oil on pan, put ginger garlic paste roast then put one fourth spoon kala salt,one fourth spoon amchoor powder,one fourth spoon anrdana half spoon channa powder two spoons tomato purée roast and add boiled channa with a little water simmer for five minutes and ready for serving

Reading the recipe 10 times over, I was left more and more confused each time – what’s a katori; when she says spoon does that mean table, tea, soup or a regular ol’ spoon? I knew her recipe used dried beans but how long was I to boil them?  I’ve never heard of boiling dry beans with oil.  How much oil do I use?  What was the measurement for garlic and ginger?


Obviously, this was not quite the recipe I was expecting in order to recreate the wonderful, rich channa masala I had experienced at Mami’s house.  After some more Google searching to understand what a “katori” measurement was [it’s a bowl used for sambar FYI] I was able to take my current channa masala knowledge and it’s basic taste profiles to recreate Mami’s recipe in more specific measurements and developed what I consider to be an authentic, spicy channa masala. [It’s been <3M and Punit approved as well!]

Below is my version on Channa Masala – it’s a recipe I know I will make over and over again – savoring the warm cozy feelings this dish brings and thinking back to the first tasted Mami’s channa during my first trip to India.

Channa Masala


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic [or 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic paste]
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ginger paste
  • 3/4 cup red onion, finely diced [about 1 medium onion]
  • 1 large tomato, pureed [about 1 cup, puree raw tomato in a food processor]
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kala salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons amchoor powder [also known as mango powder]
  • 1 teaspoon anrdana powder*
  • 2 teaspoons channa powder*
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans**
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water


In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat.  Add in the garlic, ginger, and red onion.  Cook until the onions begin to sweat and are slightly translucent [about 5 minutes].

Add in the tomato puree and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring as not to burn.  Add in all spices [kala salt, amchoor powder, anrdana powder*, channa powder*, cumin, cinnamon, & clove].  Allow these flavors for develop, cooking on medium-low for another 5 minutes, stirring as needed so the mixture doesn’t burn.

Add in the garbanzo beans and allow the beans to cook with the onion-tomato-spice mixture on medium-low for another 3-5 minutes, stirring as needed to keep the ingredients from burning.  At this time, add in the water [1 1/2 to 2 cups or until the beans are slightly covered].

After adding water, bring the curry to a boil, continuing the boil for up to 5 minutes.  Keep an eye on the pot so it doesn’t boil over.  Afterwards, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow the curry to thicken for at least 20 minutes.

Serve with rice, cilantro, and yogurt. [I prefer brown rice for an added fiber boost].

*Note:  If you can’t tolerate a lot of spice in your food, add in only 1/2 a teaspoon of anradana powder and 1 teaspoon of channa masala powder initially.  Before serving, taste the curry for spice level and adjust as needed – adding addition anradana and channa powder in 1/2 teaspoon increments.

**Note: I switch between using canned beans and cooking dried beans from scratch, depending on how much time I have or if I’ve planned ahead.  If using dry, be sure to prep the beans the morning of or night before.  Use 1 1/4 cups dry beans and follow these instructions – this should yield roughly 3 cups of cooked beans

Puppy Love on Valentine’s Day


DogsI healthify a lot of recipes for M<3 and I but in our house, our pet[s] – depending on if we have a foster boxer that day or not – are our babies. Since we want them to be at the top of their health, I like to give them healthy, whole food treats that include some of their favorite eats!

When I say whole food treats, I mean food that isn’t processed or filled with chemicals to help “preserve freshness or flavor.”  Our pups don’t get table scraps, litterings of crackers, or stray pieces of cereal that have fallen to the floor.  Stella doesn’t eat “people food” and instead is treated with whole, unprocessed food – ensuring that she keeps a clean diet and maintains her health. <3M & I have also worked to keep Stella away from any wheat products as Boxers tend to do better on a wheat-free diet.


When it comes to whole foods, Stella’s heart flutters for all things peanut butter, carrot, and banana.  You can find her sitting at my feet any time I’m making a salad [which is most days] or begging for a bite of my banana and lick peanut butter as I make oatmeal each morning.  

Since she 
is our princess, I decided to make her some special Valentine’s Day treats that include all her favorite foods – treats that I knew our other foster pup would enjoy as well!

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  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium banana mashed
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter [remember, you’re going for no added chemicals or processing]
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats, ground + 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, whole
  • 1/2 cup ground flax meal
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots [I’ve also used carrot pulp from juicing in place of shredded carrots]


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper [trust me, this will make your life easier during clean-up]

In a food processor, grind 3/4 cup oats until it reaches a course grind and set aside.

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In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the banana, egg, and peanut butter. Add in ground oats, remaining whole oats, and ground flax seed.  Mix until thoroughly combined then fold in shredded carrots.

Using a small cookie scoop, scoop batter onto the parchment lined cookie sheets, flattening each into a small 1 1/2 inch disc. There won’t be much need to leave room between each flattened disc as these treats do not expand while baking.

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The treats are done when they are slightly pliable & light golden brown in colorOnce both baking sheets contain flattened treats, place both sheets in the oven [one on the top rack, one on the bottom] and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove trays from ovens, flip each treat over and switch the top baking sheet to the bottom oven rack and the bottom sheet to the top oven rack.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes – checking at the 20 minute mark for browning.


The treats will harden more as they cool.  Be sure to cool the treats completely before sharing with your pups.

They can be stored at room temperature for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months for later use.

Makes about 40 treats


Crazy about Tacos


Living in Austin, I no longer have to endure extreme cold weather.  Anything below 30 is considered extreme here, and we Austinites begin to curse Mother Nature if it lasts too long.  Sadly, this year, it’s lasted too long and this past month has been brutal with ice and below 30 temps. But even when Mother Nature’s cruel, she does treat us on the occasion with a warm, sunny weekend – giving us a little short burst of sunshine to remind us how wonderful the hot, Austin summers can be.

FishTacoToday was one of those days when Mother Nature gave Austin a little dose of warmth. It’s these days that I want to keep forever. I want to soak up every last bit of it and reminisce about the hot July & August to come.  The best way to bring summer back for the evening is by indulging in a summer classic – tacos.  Living in Austin, I eat a lot of tacos but fish tacos are by far my favorite.

And on a hot Austin evening, nothing taste better than fish tacos.

The only problem is, most fish tacos are fried, smothered with a creamy slaw and served with a side of lard-infested refried beans & white rice colored orange from paprika. Most tacos are then washed down with a heaping glass of frozen margarita.  Some how, this meal in concept seems so healthy because it’s fish, and fish is healthy, right?  Wrong.  It’s only healthy if you cook it properly and because fish tacos are fried and smother in creamy slaw this “healthy” fish taco just became a huge fat and calorie bomb.


But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Fried fish and mayo-based coleslaw aren’t required for flavorful, crunchy fish tacos.  I have yet to find a classic fish taco here in Austin that meets my health standards. There’s plenty of salmon or ceviche or tuna tacos but these aren’t the traditional fish tacos I’m  looking for.  Unable to find that classic, healthier fish taco, I  created my own, healthified fish taco at home.


My fish tacos use blackened seasoning for a smoky, spicy flavor and are paired with fresh ingredients like cilantro, lime, & jalapeño. I top them with a zesty chipotle slaw made with greek yogurt in place of mayo and a dollop of avocado creama!

Combined, these ingredients give the tacos a hit of fresh flavor, a ton of crunchy texture, and a touch of spice. Served on corn tortillas and rounded out with more slaw and a smokey, Mexican street corn salad on the side for added veggie power, this meal is perfect on a hot Austin night [or for that rare winter evening when Mother Nature teases us with hopes of summer].

Before reading the recipes, I have to say, it seems like a lot of components for one dinner but the truth is, with Mexican food, a lot of the same ingredients are carried over from one dish to another.  For timing’s sake – it’s best to prep all ingredients first [cilantro, jalapeño, lime, red onion & garlic] then begin making each of the components – beginning with the corn salad & coleslaw as these need at least 30 minutes to sit for their flavors to truly develop.


Trust me, if you do the prep work ahead of time, assembling the meal afterwards really is a breeze – and well worth the effort!  These tacos can also be made with chicken if you aren’t a fish fanatic! Below’s the recipe I use when making the tacos for <3M [chicken] and I [fish].  There’s always plenty of leftovers the next day too, which go great atop a salad or stuffed again into some more corn tortillas.


Mexican Street Corn Salad

  • 2 cups frozen corn, cooked in the microwave, drained & cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons light or fat free mayo
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat feta (used in place of traditional, Mexican cotija cheese)
  • salt &pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, lime juice, garlic, cumin & smoked paprika.
In a separate bowl gently combine corn, cilantro, red onion, jalapeño, and feta.
Add mayo-spice mixture to corn and combine, adding salt & pepper to taste.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Chipotle Slaw

  • 1 bag traditional coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup plain, greek yogurt  (I use 0%)
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2  chipotle chiles packed in adobe sauce, finely diced OR 1 1/2 tablespoons chipotle-adobe salsa
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together greek yogurt, lime juice, chipotles, and garlic.
Add in cabbage mix, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Stir to combine and salt to taste.
Let marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to serving so flavors fully develop.

**Note: The slaw may seem a tad dry prior to refrigerating but the salt allows moisture from the cabbage to be drawn out and a creamier texture will develop before serving.

Avocado Crema

  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 tablespoons plain, greek yogurt (I use 0%)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the back of a spoon until creamy. [A cocktail muddler also works well].
Mix yogurt  and lime juice with mashed avocado then stir in remaining ingredients.
Salt to taste.

Fish Tacos 

  • 2 mahi-mahi fillets
  • 1 chicken breast, butterflied & pounded flat
  • 3-4 teaspoons blackened seasoning
  • 4  corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

After butterflying & slightly flattening out the chicken breast, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of blackened seasoning on each side.
Do the same for the mahi-mahi (about 1/2 teaspoon per side, per fillet, no needed for pound out the fish though!).

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken & fish in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

Once cooked, remove from pan and using two forks, shred the chicken and fish into pieces.

Assembling the Tacos:

Prior to serving, warm tortillas on a dry frying pan or in a microwave with a damp cloth [to keep the tortillas from drying out].  Place the shredded chicken or fish in center of the warm tortillas, top with chipotle slaw and a spoonful of avocado cream.  Serve with additional slaw and Mexican Street Corn salad on the side.

And as for that calorie heavy margarita that pairs so well with tacos, may I suggest Skinny Girl Margarita mix with an extra splash of both tequila & lime!

Let’s talk about cupcakes


Molly Ron, Berry, Cake BatterMy friends think I’m obsessed with cupcakes and when you consider  all the facts, I can see how they’ve come to that conclusion..

Let’s start at the beginning —

While  pursuing my MBA in Marketing at RIT, I was drawn to a certain, strong entrepreneurial cupcake shop owner, turned frosting extrordinaire, Heather “Cupcakes” Saffer.  As a final grad school project, a team and I created a marketing plan for her bakery, at the time – The Cupcake Dreamery.

Over the course of our project work, Heather and I became friends.  Afterwards, I helped her with a few cupcake-oriented PR needs & basic social media setup [now, Ms. Cupcakes could write a book on social media marketing!].

I spent a lot of time in her cupcake bubble and even worked an afternoon shift at her second bakery, Dollop Gourmet, oncewhen she was short staffed.  Having the chance to decorate cupcakes and watching customers smile as they received their treats was one of my favorite food service experiences!

During my final year in Rochester, I made many visits to the Dollop bakery to chat cupcakes with Heather and sample her newest creation.  This was my weekly mental break from everyday life.

Molly Peach Cobbler

I believe this time spent at Dollop opened the door into the magical, sprinkle-sparkled world of cupcakes.

After moving to Austin, I had a short stint of unemployment where I kept myself busy working behind the counter at Delish, an ATX cupcakery [now full-on bakery].  When I found out Delish wouldn’t let me frost the cupcakes without going through “training” I realized they were oblivious to my intrinsic baking talents and ditched Delish venturing back into the corporate world to pursue a traditional career.

A whirlwind trip later, I’m in New York City and Heather Cupcakes comes to visit me.  I plan out an entire day where she and I venture from NYC cupcakery to cupcakery reviewing bakery creations & concepts  while eating ourselves into a sugar coma. Her motivation was purely research oriented while my purpose was to find “The Best Ever Cupcake” [Mission accomplished].

There’s been a few other random cupcake acts in-between as well, such as draggin’ M<3 to a cupcake festival where I willingly paid to launch cupcakes at a guy dressed in a pig costume.

And for the record, I hit him right in where it counts!


I’ve also been featured multiple times on the famous cupcake blog Cupcakes Take the Cake, obsessively DVR Cupcake Wars (reruns included), will predictably show up at social gatherings with a plate of cupcakes in tow, excitedly attended any and all cupcake-themed events, and I consider it completely normal behavior for my friends to meet me at a new cupcakery to catch up rather than meeting for coffee or a cocktail elsewhere.

Lastly, let’s not forget, I got engaged at a cupcakery here in Austin.

Considering my above history with cupcakes,  I’d say I’m obsessed too!

But what you don’t know, is that I don’t actually like cake.

[I’ll pause while you gasp]

Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of cake and 10 times out of 10, I will choose a cookie, brownie, or ice cream over cake any day [unless of course it’s ice cream cake…]


Don’t believe me? Then ask the people who actually see me eat the cupcakes. They’ve seen me implement my Bite Rule….Basically, I go all Cupcake Wars on those little cakes….

Bite 1: Taste the Frosting
Bite 2: Taste the Cake
Bite 3: Taste the Filling  [No filling? That’s a shame…Proceed to Bite 4]
Bite 4: All together now! [Frosting, Cake, Filling]

Four bites max.  That’s all I need.  I can tell right then whether or not it’s a great cupcake and I don’t need anymore.  <3M knows, he’s eaten many deconstructed cupcakes after I’ve torn my way through them to inspect and carefully evaluate every element. After I make my official tasting decision, I move on to the next cupcake in line or pass the remaining goods to anyone nearby.


Still think I’m obsessed? Maybe you’re right. I am but it’s not with eating them…

I like cupcakes because they’re just plain cute!

They’re pretty to look at, portion controlled desserts that offer unlimited flavor combinations with cake flavors, fillings, frostings, & toppings.

I especially enjoy mini cupcakes because I have less wasted cake and can still enjoy tasting each of the elements.  Plus, mini cupcakes are much more fun – everything’s cuter when it’s tiny!  [Baked By Melissa knows a thing or two about minis!]

I also truly enjoy baking and decorating cupcakes.  I love that cupcakes require multiple steps from assembling the batter and making the frosting to filling the piping bag and the intricacy that can go into decorating each one separately.

But even after all that, my favorite thing about cupcakes is that they make people smile.  Have you ever given someone a cupcake and watch their face light up?  They get a huge smile and it’s a wonderful feeling knowing you made that something, that’s so small, so pretty and so delicious that it brings happiness to another person.

baked by melissa

That’s the real reason why I love cupcakes – because I love watching other people smile when they receive one!

“Cupcakes are for sharing” – Baked by Melissa

hopdoddy: you secretly disappoint me


I have this group of constant girlfriends here in my life in Austin.  And luckily, all of our guys get along rather well too! Maybe it’s due to their shared obsession with an Austin-based burger bar – hopdoddy.  So obsessed with the joint’s beefy “goodness” that they were willing to subject themselves to the torture of hopdoddy’s hottest, spiciest burger  to date – the ghostland burger.

For my own entertainment, I was sure to record their spicy venture into manhood.

So, even though they clearly didn’t enjoy the ghost burger, after this feat, their obsession with hopdoddy only grew. Part of their obsession is spelled out in its name itself.
Let me break it down for you….

hop: handcrafted beer [since they only serve local, craft beer]
doddy: the nickname given to the Scottish cow [aka beef]

Therefore, hopdodddy = beer & beef

beer burgerhopdoddy consider burgers & beer to be the perfect culinary merger and they consider themselves the creator of THE perfect burger-beerr union.  Now, it definitely makes sense that the guys in my life would be drawn to a burger-beer place on a regular basis but what doesn’t make sense is why they’re drawn to hopdoddy over any other burger place in Austin.  Personally, I’ve only been left disappointed or frustrated during my visits and I’ve been dragged there often enough that I’m entitled to an opinion.

I realize I have a bit of a bias since I’m a “veggie loving hippie” but even if they served the world’s greatest veggie burger, I’m not sure I would ever visit hopdoddy solo without the friends-social aspect to persuade me.

So here’s my ode to hopdoddy, venting my frustrations.
Hopefully they hear me, and if anything, maybe they’ll take a suggestion or two….

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1. You make me stand in a line outside the restaurant only to get inside and stand in another line (for drinks) followed by a third line to order my food.
WHY AM I STANDING IN THREE DIFFERENT LINES?! I thought I was standing in the first line to order food. Alas, I was wrong, the first line was the line to get into the AC / heat (whatever be the season).  The second line is to mosey past the bar and out of boredom order a cocktail [the hopdoddy moneymaker line]. The third line is the line I thought I was waiting in all along – the line to order food [queue angels singing here].


2. When I’m about to about to step up and order my food, you hit pause and let other people move forward in front of me.
I get it, I came with 5 friends and you don’t have a table available to accommodate the 6 of us but it’s just plain sad that after I spent an hour and 8 minutes waiting in both of your lines, you push me to the side and force me to watch the 2-party patrons place their orders and wander to their seats. Couldn’t you at least let me and my friends get a soda or have a server get me a refill on my cocktail I paid $12 for?  I’m parched from standing in all three lines for so long and need something to entertain me while I continue to wait on the sideline – why not another drink or some pickles to pass the time!

3. Your drinks are weak and overpriced.
I know you aren’t in the business of mixing cocktails – you’re in the business of tapping beer and “spanking your patties because they like it” but that doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to pour a decent cocktail.
lil prickAt least your Lil Prick cocktail with tequila and prickly pear juice lives up to its name with only a little bit of tequila!  No worries though, its excessive use of hot pink prickly pear juice sure does make  up for that lack of alcohol!  [That color’s all natural too, right?  Just like you advertise all your other ingredients to be?]

4. Your  burgers fall apart when I pick them up.
How can I eat a burger in a bun when I pick it up and it crumbles to the the table?

I’m not talking about JUST the veggie burgers [though those have it the worst!].  Your spanked patties are overstuffed into your “made fresh daily” buns and any normal eating practices must be abandoned in order to consume the burger.  I’ve watched countless times as my own veggie burger crumbled apart and my friend’s burgers become a deconstructed burger salad. [That is a culinary trend these days, maybe that’s what you’re going for here?]

Could you at least start serving your burgers with a fork? That way we have something to eat it with when it falls apart?

Or better yet, here’s a suggestion  put those crumbly patties in a wrapper!
They work marvelously at holding things together. I bet you can even get compostable wrappers provided by a local vendor so it fits into your whole recycle, be green, get local theme you not so casually market throughout your entire restaurant and website.  [Yes, hopdoddy even have signs telling us which color straws are recyclable and which aren’t – make sure to get  each in its proper bucket after enjoying a milkshake]

5. Your specials don’t make me feel special.
Again, I get it, you’re a BURGER place and by tradition, burger means beef.  But if you’re going to offer a special, let’s offer a special every now and again that appeals to your veggie lovers because as I mentioned, we vegetarians are being dragged to hopdoddy by our beef loving, burger eating friends and family.

And for the record, that one time in December, when you offered the Janis Joplin as a vegetarian burger special,  doesn’t count because that used to be on your menu before you traded it out for that other veggie burger. [Both fall apart]

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[I agree, this Janis Joplin burger looks tasty – but not when you end up eating it in pieces off your tray as a  brown rice, avocado, bready mess]

Here’s my veggie burger suggestion for you, hopdoddy: Revisit your Janis Joplin veggie burger recipe, add in extra binder to hold it all together [a little egg white might help!] and pair it with some goat cheese, arugula, caramelized onions, sautéed roasted mushrooms and the truffle aioli you’ve already got goin’ on.  #Winning

6. Your servers are only allowed to bring little cups of pickles.
You know, for being so big on “living green” you would think that if your patrons want a boatload of pickles, you’d rather have your servers put it in the big queso cups.  This would reduce waste and make your servers more efficient because they wouldn’t be running back and forth to the kitchen for more pickles every time they revisit my table.

Do the math: Big Cups of Pickles = Less Waste = More Efficient Servers = Happy Customers. Sounds simple to me. [And here’s where I compliment you hopdoddy –  you do pickles right which is why the big cups are a necessity, especially for your vegetarian diners]

Image7. Your salads are pathetic and will never constitute as a meal.
Before I tell you why your salads are pathetic, I do want to applaud you for at least attempting to put a salad on the menu at a burger joint!  But let’s be honest, these are more like oversized garnishes with a few hidden treasures. Your salads are nothing more than a bed of greens, with a dusting of cheese, and a sprinkling of “salad accents.”

The “salad accents” are so sparse that they get lost in the greens. To make your salad a bit more filling – why don’t you be a bit more heavy handed on the accents, include a denser vegetarian protein, and a toasted bun on the side.

By the looks of your salad, it seems you think salad is synonymous with anorexic but you’re wrong.  If I order a salad at a burger restaurant, I still want it to be filling WITHOUT having to add a burger, chicken, tuna or veggie patty on top.
salad Here’s my salad suggestion for you, hopdoddy: Go Greek.  You have all the basic ingredients already – start with your spinach & arugula base, add in some goat cheese, kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas, hardboiled egg and a side of tzatziki or hummus (which can serve dual purpose by adding it to your current Greek burger or a future veggie burger special).  Toast up half a wheat roll cut into triangles sprinkled with paprika and you’ll have an all-star salad. #Winning…Again.


Again, hopdoddy, I don’t hate you I’m just disappointed and tired of leaving frustrated and unfulfilled.  Granted, we all know I’ll be back, dragged there by my fiance or group a friends.  You’ll know it’s me, because I’l be the one making all the modifications.

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I lied when I said I didn’t like cheesecake


DSC01131It’s true.  I tell everyone that I don’t like cheesecake but the truth is…I do like it and for some reason, cheesecake seems to be a favorite dessert of most people I know. Americans in general are crazy about it.  Heck, there’s even  a restaurant named after it!  I specifically remember my college roommate declaring her love for cheesecake, stating that she’d be having cheesecake as her wedding cake — years before she knew who she’d be marrying.

[And for the record, she had cheesecake.  Darn good cheesecake at that.  Some how, she mixed my two least favorite desserts, cheesecake & red velvet cake (I’ll talk about that another day), into a wedding cake and it tasted amazing!]

Unfortunately, with the exception of my college roommate’s wedding cake, I don’t tend to go as gaga as most over cheesecake.  Not because I dislike the flavor or taste of cheesecake but mostly due to the fact that the texture is lacking and it’s a rather  a calorie dense dessert — from crust to filling to the traditional cherry topping.

Let me break it down for you —


This is basically cookies [they try to trick you by calling them crackers, but they’re cookies] mixed with butter and baked to make another cookie to use as the crust.  Simply put, you just made cookies with butter and more cookies.

  • Graham Crackers: Simple enough, not really all that indulgent as long as traditional grahams are being used rather than the cinnamon-sugar topped crackers
  • Butter:  Butter isn’t actually horrible for you. But 9 out of 10 doctors don’t recommend drenching cookies in butter.


Cream Cheese Filling: 

This is simply fat-added, sugar sweetened, emulsified milk.

  • Cream Cheese: This is usually full-fat cows milk mixed with emulsifiers to lend firmness, stabilizing the cream and lengthening the cheese’s shelf-life.  [Have you ever looked at the expiration date on unopened cream cheese?  It’s at least 3 months.  Doesn’t that freak you out?]
  • Cream: Yep, more cream because the cream from the cheese just isn’t enough.
  • Sugar: This is totally acceptable, this is a dessert.



  • Cherry Pie Filling [from a can]: Yes, I’m specifically stating it’s from a can because the likelihood of someone actually making their own cherry topping is slim to none.  America is all about short cuts and there’s nothing easier than “open & dump” when it comes to can goods.This canned pie filling is unnatural and overly sweet.  The red filling sure is pretty against the white creamy cheesecake base but doesn’t it look a tad artificial to you?  Have you ever seen cherries that hue of red? No?

    Me either. That’s because it’s fake.  And those cherries, they’ve been soaking in that thick, sugary syrup for god knows how long. They’re basically artificially flavored sugar bombs.

Now, usually, cheesecake – and most cakes at that – are served in oversized portions making that fatty, sugary dessert sitting on your plate that much more of an indulgence.  And if that’s what your intention is, to completely indulge, then pick up your fork and savor every bite!


But for those of us that want to enjoy cheesecake without guilt as a regular weekday dessert – I went about healthifying my version of cheesecake, creating Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Bites!

They’re portion controlled bites that have a bit of added cocoa powder, chocolate chips and almonds to make for a flavorful, decadent weeknight dessert without the calorie and sugar bomb splurge of traditional cheesecake.  The almonds also add a dose of healthy fat, give the crust a bit of extra crunch and the mini chocolate chips add some texture and a touch of bittersweetness to the filling!


Makes 24 bites


  • 5 sheets reduced fat graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup whole, unsalted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted


  • 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened*
  • 6 ounces nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup egg whites **
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.  Line a mini-muffin pan with 24 foil liners and set aside.

Make the Crust:

In a food processor, process graham crackers until they reach a crumb-like consistency.  Place in  a small bowl and set aside.  In the same processor, grind almonds  into an almond-meal consistency and mix with graham cracker crumbs.

Combine graham cracker-almond crumbs with the melted butter until just coated, it will still be slightly course in texture.  Distribute mixture evenly into cupcake liners and firmly press crumbs together to form a tight crust.  Bake 7 minutes or until set.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while making the filling.

Make the Filling:

In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese for 2 minutes.  This is mandatory as it helps give the filling a light texture by incorporating air.  Beat in the yogurt, egg whites, sugar, cocoa powder, and flour until smooth [about 2-3 minutes].  Add in the lemon juice and the vanilla & almond extracts until just combined.  Remove from mixer and fold in chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the filling into each cupcake liner, filling about 3/4 of the way full**.  Bake for 16 – 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Finish cooling by placing the pan in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.  Serve after being well chilled.



* If you forgot to let your cream cheese soften, remove the paper packaging and place it on top of the pre-heating oven while you make the crust.  It should be just soft enough once you finish.

** Either store bough egg-whites or traditional egg whites may be used – simply measure out a 1/4 cup of either.

*** Depending on how light & fluffy you mixed your filling – you may have some remaining.  Place it in an oven safe bowl, lightly coated with non-stick spary and bake along side the mini cheesecake bites for a crustless treat.

DSC01127– – – – – 

And just for comparison – let’s take a look at how my healthified chocolate almond cheesecake bites [left] compare to something similar – like the Cheesecake Factory’s Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Cheesecake [right, source].

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Bite Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 4.31.10 PM

I’m not sure about the rest of you but 500 calories is almost 1/3 of my daily calorie intake (roughly 1 meal) and 30 grams of fat maxes out my average fat intake for the day. Plus, this doesn’t even account for the whipped cream and adorning chocolate syrup that accompanies the cheesecake to your table.

I know in my case, I’m much safer enjoying my portion controlled cheesecake bite with a glass of red wine on the side while not having to stress about burning the extra calories at the gym in the morning.


It’s been 6 months


So here’s the truth – I haven’t gone missing.  I’ve literally just dived into life and a lot has happen in the last 6 months, making life much too fun to break for anything – including this blog!

But now that 2014 has rolled into town, life has slowed a tad, at least momentarily.  And to bring you up to speed, here’s the cliff notes version of what I’ve been up to the past 6 months!


I got engaged! There were cupcakes, champagne AND a ring!

Engagement Ring1004488_1000998459066_282462180_n


I took a trip to New York, vacationed in Montauk (the Hamptons people, yeah, I’m that girl) and watched my best friend & college roommate marry her prince charming – also another great friend from college.

Biking in the HamptonsMary, Alison & Lys


Autumn rolled into town, the Texas heat became moderately tolerable and people actually wanted to visit us! This month, M<3 and I had a few New Yorkers visit and we played tour guides as we toted them around the great ATX.

We had to hit up obvious Austin activities – hanging on Town Lake and drinking Mexican Martinis.

Jon & Lys Paddleboarding

Mallory, Lys & Martinis


This month I pushed wedding planning into high gear  –

  • Venue – CHECK
  • Cater – CHECK
  • DJ – CHECK
  • Photographer – CHECK

Basically, I’ve been knocking this wedding planning thing outta the park.

BTW –  did I mention, I’m having two weddings.  One in India and one in Austin.

The one in India is thankfully being planned by my future in-laws, whom I met for the first time, along with the rest of my soon-to-be-family, during our October trip to India!  This trip was to not only meet the family and celebrate our engagement but to also honor M<3’s parents’ 30th wedding anniversary!

Family - India 30th Wedding Party Lys & M India Gate


It’s 2 months until the close of 2013 and M<3 & I believe we need to up our karma for the before twenty-thirteen becomes a thing of the past, so we decide to take in a foster dog from Austin Boxer Rescue.  Meet Jack (aka Sean in the ABR world). He was a rock star and luckily we found him his forever home after just 3 short weeks.

Sean - Jack

This month also marked my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Since we’re not avid turkey fans, we went the non-traditional route and I roasted a whole chicken instead.  I also made a delicious homemade spread of cornbread stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce (NOT from a can, thank you very much). And you can bet these were all healtified but delicious none the less.

TDay - Potatoes T-Day Chicken TDay Sprouts


Winter came into full swing and I went on a baking spree – gingerbread cutouts [and houses], a plethora of cupcakes, donuts, muffins, and a dozen different flavors of cookies.

Gingerbread HouseGingerbread Cut Outs

Peppermint Mocha CupcakesPeppermint Crackles

Thank goodness I have a slew of coworkers and friends whom are more than delighted to indulge in my baking obsession!











December also brought my parents to town! For the first time they took the trip South to visit M<3 and I in Austin. We were also able to celebrate Christmas together for the first time in 3 years, they met Stella, checked out some Austin wedding related items [I bought THE
dress] and of course, they enjoyed some BBQ and tacos.

Driskill Xmas Tree

Dad & M


As midnight struck on January 1st, 2014, M<3 and I welcomed in the new year with a group of amazing friends, champagne, and of course – more cupcakes.

1545989_10102019259310053_52543549_n 1538782_10100186779469406_1111138059_n







M<3 and I have also taken on another foster dog from ABR [whom sadly just gnawed on one of the dining room chair seats as I was writing this post].  Other than that little issue, Jefferson has been great so far and Stella enjoys have a friend around to beat up.


This month I’ve also continued rocking the wedding planning thing and we’re gearing up for our next trip to India at the end of February for our first wedding on February 28th.


So that about sums up my past 6 months – which you can see has been a whirlwind of fun, excitement, and filled with amazing memories.

I’m looking forward to the next 6 months and hope to once again begin posting regularly.  Except, with the encouragement of my friends & family, this blog will be changing a tad.

Content here will have  less of an emphasis on my daily life and a little heavier emphasis on recipes that showcase how I balance my enjoyment for food with my obsession for health aka Healthified Recipes!

But no worries, some daily shenanigans and of course wedding related items will be sprinkled about when it feels right – because let’s face it, it’s hard not to talk about wedding planning and life here in Austin is just too amazing to not share with you all!

What all have you been up to while I was MIA?

Any recipes you want me to healthify? Just leave a link here and I’ll get to work recreating a healthier, tastier version!



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6 Months Later




It’s been six months since we’ve returned to Austin and every day I’m positive we made the right choice.

As soon as we returned, M<3 and I fell back into your what felt like an old [but new] routine.  Somehow returning to Austin meant a return to “us” – a return to normal.


To drive again & listen to the radio.
A renewed love for baking.
Date nights.
Conversations that no longer center around work.
Sunday Fundays!
A growing group of friends.
Time to enjoy the sunshine, warm weather, and fresh air.
Seeing a real future together in Austin.
Genuine happiness that radiates in eyes, voice and smile.

Returning to Austin meant a return to LIFE


Five on Friday


Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just watch the minutes on the clock tick by?  It’s not because work is boring – you have tasks to complete and deadlines to meet but for some reason the clock just creeps and all you can think is “C’mon five o’clock Friday!”

That was my week. Tick…Tick…Tick…. 

Even though my week dragged, I still had some amazing highlights that made me smile… Here’s my top 5

1. Fitting in a noontime workout at CYC Fitness.  There’s nothing better than getting in a great sweat session in the middle of the day to help break up the normal 9-5.  The bummer…not having time to shower after class.  (Umm, yeah, that’s the truth & I hate to admit).


2. <3M and I finally made it back to our “traditional” Wednesday Glass Night at The Flying Saucer.  There’s just something about the Saucer that screams relaxation. <3M and I have re-named it “Our Bar” We enjoyed a drink, collected our glass, and socialized Stella.  


3. My kickball team won.  Finally.  After 6 weeks of losing (OK – 1 Tie & 5 Losses).  And we didn’t just squeak by with a win, we killed it, winning 7-2.  One week left then playoffs! Maybe we have another win in us before the season is over?


 4. These cookies.  Yes, they’re a fussy, labor-intensive batch to make but your tastebuds will thank you.  So will all your friends because you’ll have to give them away in order to save yourself from inhaling the entire batch.  Simply put, these cookies are Snickerdoodles on steroids.  All the classic Snickerdoodle flavors with a surprise chewy, caramel center.  Totally worth the effort. Make them.  Now.


5. This hasn’t happened yet but it’s my light at the end of the tunnel.  My making it through the week grand prize is floating the river on Saturday with good friends, cold beer (possibly tequila), and lots of sunshine.  Is there any better way to relax than enjoying a naturemade lazy river?