October 16, 2018by Cook Learn Live0

Most Americans get enough protein in their diets, but there are some people for whom additional protein is needed or who might have to work a little bit harder to meet their daily and weekly needs. For some, it may be difficult to consume enough protein due to a decreased appetite or interest in eating, while others choose to increase their intake specifically to encourage growth and development.  Some lifestyles and dietary patterns also require more creativity in meal planning and cooking to make sure protein needs are met.

Who can benefit from additional protein?

Children who are underweight are in need of a nutrient-rich diet. Allowing them to consume empty calories from less healthy foods will help with weight gain, but will not give them the proper nutrients needed to keep them healthy during growth. Healthy sources of protein can aid in both growth and muscle development.

Bodybuilders or those performing resistance training or strenuous endurance exercises also need more protein. The protein is used to help repair and rebuild the muscles that have been damaged during a workout. Without enough protein, the muscles will not have the building blocks necessary for recovery and growth.

Older individuals require more protein as well. Beyond age 14, the Recommended Dietary Allowances for protein remain the same, and therefore do not reflect the increased protein need of older individuals. However, it is known that as individuals age muscle loss increases and muscle growth decreases. This muscle loss is known as sarcopenia and begins around the age of 50. The rate of muscle loss can be slowed by incorporating good quality protein accompanied by physical activity.

Vegetarians and/or Vegans need to plan their meals carefully to make sure that they get enough protein.  Without the concentrated proteins found in animal products, those following vegetarian diets need to make sure that they are having enough of the plant-based proteins they rely on to meet their needs.

So how can you get more protein into your meals?  Look for as many ways as possible to add it in creatively to every meal, including dessert.   Adding protein to desserts will increase the overall protein content of your food, helping you meet your daily goal. It also means you don’t have to worry about relying on protein-heavy main courses because your dessert will be just as satisfying. The protein added to your desserts will also help replace some of the processed sugars and flour commonly used. This will cut down those extra calories, and keep you feeling great by satisfying your cravings in a more nutritious way.

Three great ways to add protein to desserts are with the use of tofu, beans, and Greek yogurt.

Tofu is made from soybeans and is a great complete protein source, containing all 9 essential amino acids. It is an excellent source of calcium and iron. Tofu comes in multiple textures (extra firm, firm, and soft) and the different textures have varied uses. The extra firm and firm tofu can be used in a stir fry, baked, grilled, fried, or crumbled. Soft tofu has a creamier texture that is easy to blend, making it a great substitution for higher fat dairy products. Silken tofu stars in these recipes for Mexican Chocolate Pudding (recipe below) and Mind-Blowing Vegan Chocolate Pie from the blog Pinch of Yum for a great dairy-free alternative with a lower saturated fat content.

Beans such as chickpeas and black beans are as healthy as they are economical. They contain protein, fiber, B vitamins, folate, and antioxidants. These rich Black Bean Brownies from the Chocolate-Covered Katie blog and my Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookie Dough Bites (recipe below) are a must-try!

Plain Greek yogurt contains less sugar and about two times more protein than regular yogurt. It is also packed with probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut that help out your digestive system. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt can be swapped for high-fat ingredients in recipes, such as cream cheese, sour cream, or mayonnaise. This will not only cut calories, but it will reduce the saturated fat content as well, while adding a significant amount of protein. Check out my mother’s recipe for rich Greek Yogurt Cheesecake and Cook Learn Live’s delicious Yogurt Blueberry Fool, both made with nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  Both recipes are below.

Enjoy these satisfying and delicious protein-packed treats. I find that the best feeling is to eat something that tastes amazing, and is also nutritionally good for you. Warning: These recipes may end up replacing your classic dessert recipes. Feel free to try substituting these ingredients into your favorite recipes to see what dessert variations you can come up with!

Guest Author Yocheved Millman, MS, is a dietetic intern at Hunter College School of Public Health. She loves experimenting with healthy cooking and baking in her spare time.


Mexican Chocolate (Tofu) Pudding

Rich, dark chocolate. Very little sugar. A pinch of chili powder. Easy to make in the blender when chocolate cravings strike. Oh, and dairy free thanks to silken tofu.
Servings 5 servings
Calories 295 kcal


  • 1/2 cup sugar OR 1/3 cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1 # low fat silken tofu
  • 8 oz high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder or more to taste
  • Chocolate shavings optional


  1. If using the sugar combine it in a small pot with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. Skip this step if you are using the agave nectar or honey.
  2. Put the chocolate in a glass or plastic microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 1 minute on high power, then remove the bowl and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted. It may be necessary to return the bowl to the microwave and cook for an additional 15 to 30 seconds at a time to help speed the melting.
  3. Put the tofu, sweetener, vanilla, spices, and melted chocolate into a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 individual ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. If you like, garnish with chocolate shavings before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Mexican Chocolate (Tofu) Pudding
Amount Per Serving
Calories 295 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Sodium 34mg1%
Potassium 292mg8%
Carbohydrates 43g14%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 39g43%
Protein 7g14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookie Dough Bites

This recipe is a delicious treat that is packed with a variety of healthy nutrients and contains no flour, eggs, or oil. The chickpeas and nut butters provide a great source of fiber and protein, and the flaxseeds provide heart-healthy omega-3’s. The batter bakes up nicely into rounded cookie bites with gooey centers, or just eat it by the spoonful!
Course Dessert, Snack
Keyword chickpeas, chocolate chips, cookie dough, dairy free, egg free, flax, gluten free, nuts, protein
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 15 (2 Cookie Dough Bites or 2 Tbsp. Dough)
Calories 173 kcal


  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal ground flaxseeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend/pulse until well combined. Use a spatula to scrape the sides down and blend for another minute, checking the batter to make sure that there are no chunks or pieces of bean skin visible. The finished dough should be very soft and sticky.
  2. Transfer the dough to a bowl, fold in the chocolate chips, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  The dough can be eaten as is or shaped into balls for baking or freezing.

  3. To bake, preheat oven to 350 ˚F. Use a 2-inch scoop or a tablespoon to portion the cookie dough. Drop the dough onto a parchment lined sheet pant, rolling the dough into balls if desired. Place cookie sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. The cooke bites should be slightly firm on the outside but still soft to the touch. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookie bites cool on the tray.
  4. To freeze, shape the dough into balls as for baking and place on a lined sheet pan. Place the tray in the freezer until the dough is firm. The dough balls can then be stored in a zip top bag or airtight container. Frozen dough balls can be eaten as is or baked directly from the freezer following the baking instructions above.

Recipe Notes

  • Make mini cookie bites by using a 1-inch scoop or a heaping, rounded teaspoonful of dough.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  • For a stronger peanut flavor, feel free to substitute some or all of the almond butter with peanut butter.
  • For a lower fat option, 3 tablespoons powdered peanut butter with 1.5 tablespoons of water works well in place of the regular peanut butter.
  • The honey can be substituted with equal amounts of other sweeteners such as maple syrup or stevia.
Nutrition Facts
Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookie Dough Bites
Amount Per Serving (2 bites (or 2 Tbsp. dough))
Calories 173 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Sodium 21mg1%
Potassium 229mg7%
Carbohydrates 25g8%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin C 1.7mg2%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Greek Yogurt Cheesecake Bites

These light and creamy cheesecake bites are the perfect size for dessert. You would never guess, but these bites are packed with protein from Greek yogurt with absolutely no compromise on taste or texture. This recipe is made with a heart-healthy nut crust, making it gluten free, as well as a great addition to your Passover menu!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 15 Cheesecake Bites
Calories 174 kcal
Author Malka Millman



  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ½ cups ground pecans
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  • 1 8 oz package reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch or arrowroot


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 ℉. Using two standard muffin tins pans, line 15 cups with paper cupcake liners. Spray the insides with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the egg white until stiff. Fold in the ground nuts and sugar. Press a spoonful of the nut mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake for 10 minutes, then take the muffin tins out of the oven to cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, beating in one at a time, and the vanilla and make sure all is well combined. In a smaller bowl, combine the potato starch or arrowroot with the milk and mix until dissolved to prevent lumps. Add the milk mixture to the mixing bowl and beat until completely smooth.
  4. Distribute the filling into the prepared crusts in the cupcake pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the centers are mostly set. It is ok if they are still a little bit soft at the very center when the pan is removed from the oven. They will harden as they cool.
  5. Allow the cheesecake bites to cool off completely in the muffin tin, then refrigerate until served.

Recipe Notes

Feel free to substitute any other nuts for the ground pecans in the nut crust. Try walnuts or almonds.

For those with a nut allergy, or for an even lower fat option, the nut crust can be omitted completely.

Feel free to decorate the top of the cheesecake bites with berries, fruit, or nuts for a decorative look.

This recipe also works well as a whole cheesecake. For a 9-inch round pan, double the recipe and increase the baking time to 1 hour.

Nutrition Facts
Greek Yogurt Cheesecake Bites
Amount Per Serving
Calories 174 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 31mg10%
Sodium 93mg4%
Potassium 138mg4%
Carbohydrates 15g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 130IU3%
Vitamin C 0.1mg0%
Calcium 64mg6%
Iron 0.4mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Yogurt Blueberry Fool

This is a simple and delicious dessert made with lightly sweetened blueberries combined with a whipped cream and high-protein yogurt base. It’s also a great way to get in an extra serving of antioxidant-rich fruit, while limiting added sugars. Serve in individual stemmed glasses with some fresh berries and a spoonful of lemon curd on top for a fast, elegant dessert presentation—or feel free to make it all in one glass bowl and serve family style!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 229 kcal
Author Cook Learn Live


  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream


  1. Combine the blueberries, water, and honey to a small saucepan. Warm over low heat, then simmer until just starting to soften and burst, about three to five minutes. Crush the berries roughly with a fork, leaving some whole, and allow to cool.
  2. When the blueberry mixture has cooled, combine it with the Greek yogurt in a bowl.
  3. Beat the cream with an electric mixer until peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the berry and yogurt mixture, leaving noticeable swirls. Separate into four single-serve dishes. Serve immediately or allow to set in the refrigerator for 1 hour before eating.

Recipe Notes

Feel free to substitute other fresh berries as available, or to combine the blueberries with strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries to taste.

Fresh berries not in season?  Substitute frozen berries in equal amounts, but omit the added water in the first step.

Nutrition Facts
Yogurt Blueberry Fool
Amount Per Serving
Calories 229 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 57mg19%
Sodium 37mg2%
Potassium 170mg5%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 625IU13%
Vitamin C 7.4mg9%
Calcium 95mg10%
Iron 0.2mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


August 10, 2018by Cook Learn Live0

I am obsessed with savory yogurt and vegetable parfaits.  There, I said it.  Phew, its off my chest.

This obsession goes way beyond simple recipe development.  It has become an almost daily ritual to come up with new savory breakfast and lunch (and sometimes even dinner) combinations of veggies and seasonings to top off my plain Greek-style yogurt.

Yogurt is a great source of the healthy bacteria that colonize our bodies, helping to boost our immune functions and metabolism.  Greek-style yogurt – yogurt that has been drained of most of its liquid whey – is not only thick and creamy, but is also a great source of protein.  For everyday consumption, I stick with a 1% or 2% milk fat yogurt, although we do occasionally splurge on a whole milk option. I make my own yogurt pretty often (it’s really easy) but feel free to buy your favorite supermarket brand of yogurt.  Look for brands that specifically state that they include live cultures, and check ingredients lists for gums and fillers such as cellulose and pectin, trying to stay as close as possible to a list limited to just milk and cultures.

I’ve cooked with Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream for years, so the idea of using it as an ingredient in a savory dip or spread wasn’t new.  We are big tzatziki and raita fans here – used to mixing garlic, herbs, and veggies into yogurt as a cooling sauce.  One of my daughter’s favorite recipes is Yotam Ottolenghi’s sautéed chard dish topped with a dollop of yogurt mixed with olive oil and salt.  But my obsession with using yogurt and savory ingredients in parfait-style arrangements that have changed how I compose a meal.

I often lightly sweetened my plain yogurt with honey, agave or maple syrup and used it to top a bowl of fruit, but that got boring and sometimes felt too sweet for breakfast.  My veggie yogurt parfaits are high in fiber and protein, lower in carbohydrates, and honestly give me a lot more interesting flavors to enjoy.

It all started a few weeks ago when my daughter and I sampled Sohha’s savory yogurt and mix-ins at the Mamaroneck Farmers’ Market.  Not only do they make an outstanding, rich, creamy yogurt with just a touch of sea salt, they also sell a number of olive oil-based seasoning blends to add to the yogurt.  We tasted them all, and although the Za’atar blend was really good, we opted for the Everything Bagel blend of sesame, poppy, toasted garlic, caraway seed and salt. At home, I mixed a little of the seasoning with a container of their low-fat yogurt and used it as a dressing for a salad of shredded kohlrabi and apples with crumbled blue cheese over baby arugula.  So delicious!

The door was open and I was not going back.  The next day I breakfasted on a bowl of chopped raw red and yellow peppers, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and parsley topped with plain yogurt and a drizzle of the Everything blend.  When we ran out of the premade blend I began making up my own combinations, raiding my spice cabinet and crisper drawer for new ideas.  Paprika and chopped garlic?  Check! Cumin, coriander and chili powder? Yup.  Then we hit the spice blends.  The same combination of chopped vegetables tossed with a little lemon juice – basically a quick Israeli salad – was topped with a dollop of plain yogurt, drizzled with a teaspoon of good olive oil, and then sprinkled with Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture featuring sesame seeds, hyssop, and ground sumac.  Dukkah, a north African spice mixture featuring toasted, ground hazelnuts got subbed in the next day and the combination of the creamy yogurt, vegetal olive oil, and rich hazelnuts was mind blowing.

On Monday night, my “to go” dinner for a late meeting was a bowl of baby spinach topped with red and yellow peppers sautéed in roasted garlic oil, cubes of toasted multigrain sourdough bread, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and za’atar.  Today’s lunch is a bowl of left over roasted vegetables – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and fennel – topped with yogurt and some leftover pesto sauce.  I layer the ingredients in the bowl parfait-style and then dig through the layers with a spoon, getting a slightly different combination of flavors with each mouthful.  Next up on the list to try is a bowl of rainbow quinoa and chopped raw veggies topped with yogurt and dukkah.

Try opening up your spice cabinet and treating your next bowl of yogurt to some of your favorites and adding some raw or cooked veggies to the mix.  Maybe you will become obsessed, too!

Interested in making your own yogurt?  It’s really easy to do.  Try Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe.  No special equipment is needed—just a pot and a warm location!  Email for my tips and tricks for making great yogurt at home.


August 10, 2018by Cook Learn Live0

We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and its true that apples are generally good for us.  An average medium size apple has 95 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and provides 14% of our daily requirement of vitamin C.  The soluble fiber and antioxidants in apples have been shown to have a positive impact on lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), reducing inflammation, and lowering the risk of heart disease.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, what do you do when you have too many apples?

My family belongs to a CSA — a community supported agriculture program where we pay in advance for a weekly share of seasonal produce from a local farm.  We generally love the vegetables and fruits that we get from Stoneledge Farm, but every fall we find ourselves falling behind (no pun intended) the weekly onslaught of apples that come in our fruit share.  This year we didn’t even do our annual apple picking trip, and we still have a huge bowlful on the counter.

So, what do we do with all of those apples?  Desserts are the obvious choice, but not always the healthiest one.  Of course, there are plenty of recipes out there for unsweetened applesauce, baked apples, crumbles, crisps and pies with limited amounts of sweeteners and saturated fats, but they all relegate apples to the dessert end of the spectrum.

I love to find uses for apples in savory dishes.  The key is to use them in recipes where their crisp natural sweetness, gentle acidity, and crunch can play well with the other ingredients.  Salads are the easy answer, especially those featuring dark, flavorful greens such as spinach and kale.  Diced or shredded apples add a nice sweetness to ribbons of Italian Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale dressed with a vinaigrette of cider vinegar whisked with olive oil and grainy or Dijon mustard.  Try adding shredded apples to shredded cabbage for a sweet turn on coleslaw, or mix with shredded carrots, beets, jicama or kohlrabi for a great, crisp salad — made even better with the addition of toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds on top.  Apples can also add sweet magic to vegetable and grain dishes.  Try sautéing apple slices with shredded cabbage or roasting apple chunks with sweet potatoes, or toss raw or roasted apples into cooked grains.

Apples work great as a naturally sweet counterpoint to chicken, turkey and pork.  I love serving apples simply sautéed in a little olive oil — with or without onions or shallots — and a sprinkling of thyme or rosemary with grilled chicken, lean pork chops, and pork or turkey tenderloin. (If you haven’t yet discovered turkey tenderloins, search them out!)  Try Eating Well’s recipe for Chicken & Spiced Apples— a fan favorite!  For a great all-in-one autumn dinner, my recipe for Maple Glazed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Squash, Apples, and Onions is below.  Hmm, that looks like a good use for you, oh growing pile of butternut squash, also from the CSA!

So, go forth confidently into the Fall knowing that when life gives you lots and lots of apples you can make so much more than just pie and applesauce.  Take a walk on the savory side and that pile of apples will soon dwindle.  Let me know what you come up with — I can always use more inspiration in the kitchen!

Maple Glazed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Squash, Apples & Onions

The best flavors of fall - squash, apples, onions, and maple syrup - are incorporated into this healthy chicken dish chock full of Vitamins A and C. Marinating skinless chicken thighs infuses the meat with flavor and roasting the squash and apples brings out their rich caramel notes. Serve with simple sautéed or steamed greens such as spinach, kale, or chard, or crisply cooked green beans to balance the sweetness of the dish.
Servings 6 servings


  • 3 cups 1/2 in cubed peeled butternut squash 1 1/2 lbs
  • 3 medium onions cut into thin wedges with root end intact
  • 2 medium crisp apples cored, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 and ½ tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 tsp. salt divided
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ # boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • ¼ cup sherry or cider vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine the maple syrup, vinegar, remaining olive oil, and remaining salt and pepper in a non-reactive bowl or lidded container. Stir to combine, add the chicken and coat well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine squash, onions, apples, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ tsp salt, ½ teaspoon ground pepper, and thyme. Toss well to coat. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet or large baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once, or until squash is cooked through and all vegetables are nicely caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserving the marinade) and place into the skillet, making sure that pieces do not touch or overlap. Brown the chicken evenly on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, remove the chicken and keep warm. Pour the remaining marinade into the pan; bring to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and cook down until reduced by half. Remove from the heat. Place the chicken pieces into the pan of roasted vegetables and pour the marinade over everything, gently mixing to coat well. Return the pan to a 350° oven for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to glaze and ensure that the chicken is fully cooked.

Recipe Notes

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cook rather quickly while remaining juicy. All poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F to ensure that it is safe to eat.