Essentials for Impromptu Entertaining

Guests on the way but little time to prep? That’s the story of my life. Whether it’s holiday guests or friends stopping by to visit the new baby, I love having people over, so I try to keep a few things on hand for “impromptu” entertaining. These items include champagne, salty and sweet nibbles, cheese and crackers, good quality tea and (gasp!) premium baking mix. Check out the video for my reasons why!

Always have champagne on hand—it creates an instantly festive mood!

Always have champagne on hand—it creates an instantly festive mood!

Get Skinny Oatmeal and Egg White Pancakes—Episode 20

Want to eat like a fitness model? This week I’m sharing my recipe for a Get Skinny Oatmeal Pancake, which is adapted from a dish my best friend Amina made when she was training for a fitness bikini competition a few years back. I eat this dish for breakfast/snack for a few days when I’m trying to “lean out” before a big event or after indulging too much during, say, the holidays. 

For getting lean, you can’t beat “clean” ingredients like oatmeal and egg whites. Combining them together—with a smattering of delicious (and naturally low-carb) berries and a dash of cinnamon and sugar—yields a protein-packed pancake that’s hearty, tasty and great for the waistline.  The flavor and texture of the pancake kind of reminds me of matzoh brie, the fried matzoh version of French toast that is served during Passover.  Bon appetit!

Get Skinny Oatmeal Pancake

This delicious oatmeal pancake is protein-packed with egg whites.

This delicious oatmeal pancake is protein-packed with egg whites.

  • 4 Egg Whites
  • ½ cup regular rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
  • ½ cup fresh berries such as blueberries/strawberries
  • Dash Cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add oatmeal and cinnamon. Pour mixture into pan coated with cooking spray, over medium heat. When bottom of pancake begins to brown, place 1/2 of berries onto pancake (reserve the remaining half to top the finished pancake). Flip pancake and cook until both sides are golden brown.

Photo: Kevin Borke 

Two Ingredient Nutella Ice Cream—Episode 17

When I want a treat, I tend to go for the real thing, not a lower-calorie substitution. But this two-ingredient recipe for Nutella banana “ice cream” is just so nifty and delicious, I just had to share it with you! Basically all you need is a frozen banana, a food processor, and a heaping spoonful of Nutella (or another tasty spread). You can also make this recipe your own by adding coconut, vanilla extract, or other frozen fruits.

Nutella Banana “Ice Cream”Nutella Banana Ice Cream

One frozen banana (slice into 1/2 inch disks before freezing)

1-2 Tablespoons Nutella hazelnut spread

Place frozen banana in mini food processor. Pulse until it begins to form a creamy paste, then add Nutella and continue pulsing until just blended. Spoon into a “scoop” shape and serve. That’s it!


Photo: Kevin Borke

Stacii Jae’s Pecan Fruit Salad with Tangerine Gravy —Episode 12

Wondering what to do with all that delicious summer fruit you have these days? In this episode my friend, actress and radio host Stacii Jae Johnson, is serving up her signature fruit salad, which is topped with a special sauce (tangerine “gravy”) and pecans. The recipe hails from Stacii’s roots growing up in Tennessee, where she says her grandmother smothered everything in gravy. You don’t need to worry about cutting up the fruit in any special, pretty way. As Stacii jokes, “I’m single. I have no kids, no man—unless you have one you want to introduce me to.”

I met Stacii Jae a few years ago when she was Director of Special Events for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. She’s starred on tv shows including Martin and ER and movies like How to Be a Player. As a political fundraiser, she’s raised tens of thousands for President Obama, and she now hosts Black Girls Radio on Atlanta’s WAEC. You can learn more about her background and fun career tips (“Act Like You Own the Room”) in an interview we did for Go-Getter Girls.

Back to the recipe, what I loved most about this fruit salad is that it tastes even better the next day, after the tangerine and other fruit juices have had time to meld together.

Tangerine gravy and pecans make this fruit salad extra special.

Tangerine gravy and pecans make this fruit salad extra special.

Stacii Jae’s Fruit Salad

Green apples
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, excluding orange, tangerines and pecans.
  2. Slice one orange and 1-2 tangerines in half, squeeze juice over salad and stir.
  3. Top with pecans.
  4. For bonus points on presentation, serve in a scooped out watermelon or cantaloupe half.


Photo: Kofi Oliver

My top: Michael Stars

How to Store Strawberries in the Fridge—A Deb’s Kitchen Nibble

You just bought a beautiful box of strawberries at the store or farmers market—what’s the best way to store them? First, resist the urge to wash them right away. I’ve found that with berries (and grapes, too), they keep much better if you wash as you use them; when they’re wet they have a tendency to spoil faster in the fridge. Instead, just place the dry strawberries in a colander (or shallow dish) so that air can circulate around them and pop it in the refrigerator. The berries should keep for about a week! 

Strawberry Arugula Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette and Amy’s Frozen Dinners–Episode 2

Hello my name is Debra, and I serve my family frozen dinners. In Episode 2 you see how I jazz up two frozen entrees of Amy’s macaroni and cheese and lasagna by adding a bit of fresh grated cheese, and prepare a strawberry arugula salad and homemade balsamic vinaigrette to serve alongside them. First, let me share the ingredients for the salad and dressing, then I’ll talk more about the frozen dinners!

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Arugula goes well with sweet fruits like strawberries.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

(Serves 2)

4 large handfuls of pre-washed Arugula

2-3 large Strawberries, sliced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss.

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette 

3 Tablespoons Light Olive Oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Combine ingredients in a mini Tupperware-type container that has a spill-proof lid. Shake vigorously to mix. Drizzle over salad.

I think what “makes” a dressing this simple is the quality of the balsamic; try to find one that’s rich, dark, viscous-y, and a touch sweet. You can also replace the balsamic with different styles of vinegar, or try lemon or lime juice instead for a refreshing flavor.

Now, lest you think frozen dinners are simply too much of a cheat in the semi-homemade vein, here are three reasons why I love frozen dinners, particularly the ones made by Amy’s Kitchen.

  1. They’re quick. This is the leading reason I choose frozen meals, in moderation. Having a stack of these in the freezer means a few nights a week, we don’t even have to think or plan what we’re having–and that’s very helpful (necessary, even) given our busy schedules. We just decide “Let’s do Amy’s” and go to the freezer well and pick whatever flavors we’re in the mood for. It’s simple, and clean-up is a breeze. 
  2. They’re portion-controlled. If I were to cook a pan of, say, lasagna, I would definitely eat more than the amount I’m supposed to eat (don’t we all?!). Let’s be honest: Over the course of a few days, I would probably polish off the WHOLE PAN eating it for lunch, dinner, and snacks (this might have happened to a certain bechamel lasagna we’ve made with each of my pregnancies). Seeing as that I like my jeans to fit, I sometimes prefer knowing an indulgent meal like lasagna or macaroni and cheese ends with a single serving. Buying individual frozen entrees, I know I’m eating a max of 380 or 420 calories, respectively.
  3. They’re tasty. Amy’s Kitchen Organic is one of my favorite brands of frozen meals (and other packaged foods). I like that they’re organic and have a good selection of low-sodium and ethnic flavors. Some of our favorite varieties include the low-sodium Vegetable Lasagna and Macaroni and Cheese seen in the show, Enchilada Meal, Cheese Tamale, Paneer Tikka, Palak Paneer, Mattar Paneer, Broccoli and Cheddar Bowl (this one’s gluten free). I also LOVE the eggplant parmesan by Trader Joe’s. On the average night, I don’t have time to cook any of these–unless we’re talking about heating an already cooked version in the oven.

P.S. I know it takes longer, but I do like to cook my frozen dinners in the oven. I think it tastes so much better than in the microwave!

Are you a frozen dinner fan? I’d love know your faves!

Photo: Lauren Hunter