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Waffle Makeover!

15 Jun

The Carbo-Queen, as my family used to call me, is serious about waffles.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve tried every waffle mix there is, and have made them completely from scratch about a thousand times. There’s just something about achieving that perfect mix of sweet and savory that makes my mouth really, really happy.

But (there’s always a ‘but,’ isn’t there?) I’m supposed to focus on eating protein first at meals. Sure, a side of wheat toast with some eggs and turkey sausage is fine, but a meal of waffles? Probably not the best option for me, although I do treat myself to the occasional plate of French toast or slice of banana bread.

When I want to slay my waffle cravings without trashing my diet and going into a carb-coma, I turn to this recipe. It turns out crisp, light, and super-flavorful protein-filled waffles. You won’t miss the cups of flour, believe me. The secret to making these really delicious? Use full-fat ricotta to keep the insides rich and moist. Fresh-made would be the very best, but hey, there’s not always time for that.

Because I am usually only cooking these for me, this recipe yields a small amount (4 square waffles), so feel free to double or triple it if you’re feeding a crowd.

Pecan Ricotta Waffles

  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour (or brown rice flour, almond meal, rolled oats, buckwheat flour…etc.)
  • 1 tbsp. ground pecans
  • 1 tbsp. sugar, honey, or light brown sugar (or less, if you prefer more savory waffles)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, ground pecans, and a pinch of salt.

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and beat until soft peaks form.

Fold the ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients. The batter will seem very stiff at this point.

Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

Cook in a preheated waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions. In my waffle iron, they take about 2-3 minutes to get nice and golden brown. If they seem slightly soft when you remove them from the waffle iron, just put them in a warm oven or toaster for a minute or two to crisp up the outside. Leftovers freeze pretty well and take about 3-4 minutes in the toaster oven to reheat.

Bust out the maple syrup and enjoy. These are already on the lightly sweet side, so go light on the syrup. I barely used a teaspoon on these and it probably didn’t even need it. They’re also good with peanut butter, bananas, berries, jam, and probably whatever other toppings you can dream up. I personally like something crunchy like more chopped nuts or some chopped, crisp bacon on top.

Seriously, writing this post has already made me hungry for more of them! And at under 100 cal. per waffle, why not? Go to it, friends.

P.S. In case some time goes by and you wonder why you’re not getting your fix of food porn, just FYI Neen’s Notes is going on vacation for a little while.

“Why Neen? WHY would you do such a thing?”

Oh, I’ll be busy marrying my best friend, that’s all.

But don’t worry, I’ll write again in a few weeks…maybe about something tasty inspired by our honeymoon abroad. Until then, “mangia bene!”

Ciao for now,


How to not be grumpy on Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I’ll say it: I like Valentine’s Day.

It’s an easy holiday to loathe. Super-saturated with frilly pink hearts, unreasonable expectations, gender imbalance, and overpriced candy (the horror!), I can understand why it might lead to feelings of grumpiness. But like many things in life, it’s about changing perspective. Eight years ago, my now-fiancé was the first person to ever take me out on what some consider the world’s most frustrating holiday. I didn’t really date much before I met Joe, and so my view of Valentine’s Day developed outside of the narrow frame that greeting card companies would prefer you to acknowledge.

As with Christmas, I feel like you have to strip away the over-commercialization and remember that holidays are just extra reminders to acknowledge and thank the people in your life who make it brighter. Whether it be co-workers that help the workday go a little faster, friends and family that bring you joy, or that special someone who makes you feel like the coolest person in the world, just say “thank you.” Remind someone that he or she makes a difference. Heck, go to CVS and buy some Batman valentines if you want to be silly. It’ll make someone smile.

And isn’t that really one of the best things in life, making people smile?

This time last year, I wrote about being grateful for the people who have impacted my life in a positive way over the last decade. How they made it possible to heal, grow, and accept that while life is never perfect, it is always hopeful. As Mary Oliver writes in my favorite poem, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…”

So if you’re feeling down today and you really need a boost, just say “thank you” and share a smile with someone.

Oh, and make banana bread! (Come on, it wouldn’t be Neen’s Notes without a good recipe). Here’s what I made for some of the great people in my life today. When life hands you overripe bananas and ricotta leftover from making lasagna—but not enough to make another lasagna—make banana bread.

Truly Lovable Banana Bread


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the ricotta, bananas, and extracts and mix just until combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed or by hand just until a batter forms and there are no remaining dry spots.

Spoon the batter into a greased 9×5 or 8×4 1/2 loaf pans and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy, my friends, and a happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Ciao for now,


Battle Zucchini Bread!

7 Mar

It all began with a simple craving: Zucchini Bread.

Using all of my Google-fu, I searched the vast depths of the Internet looking for a whole wheat zucchini bread recipe. I found thousands, but the vast majority had this in common:

1 cup of sugar, raw honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener
1/2 cup of oil

Not okay. I just don’t think that a full cup of sweetener is necessary for one loaf of zucchini bread. At that point, aren’t you just masking the taste of the zucchini rather than accentuating it’s natural sweetness?

The 1/2 cup of oil seemed excessive too. Some recipes replaced part of that with applesauce, but I was out.

Still, I understood the need for a good deal of moisture, especially in a whole-grain bread. I had a small, sweet honeycrisp apple in the fridge and suddenly….it all just came together. Recipe out of nowhere.

Sweet, sweet victory. Moist, fluffy, sweet (but not cloying) and perfect with a dollop of plain yogurt on top. Even if you don’t like zucchini, try this recipe. It’s one of my favorites to date.

Whole Grain Zucchini-Apple Bread


1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1 apple, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup plain non fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1 egg


-Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×4 or 9×5 loaf pan.

-In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

-In a separate bowl whisk together the grated apple, grated zucchini, egg, yogurt, and honey.

-Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold until just combined.

-Spread the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown, 40-45 minutes.

-Yield: 10 slices

Nutritional Information per slice:
112.7 calories
0.8 grams of fat
23 grams of carbohydrates
2.8 grams of fiber
3.7 grams of protein