Friday, April 29, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars (and a ROYAL fail)

I am not really all that interested in the royal wedding. My neighbor/friend/day care provider, however, is obsessed. She did us a HUGE favor today and watched Finley on an off day starting at 6:15am - such a trooper! At first I felt really bad about asking her to get up so early but when I found out she would be up to watch the wedding anyway I guessed it wasn't that much of an inconvenience.

Out of appreciation, I wanted to make her a special thank you treat. I had been looking for the occasion to make these sugar cookie bars from Annie's Eats and I thought this would be perfect. I had these grand plans of piping royal crowns and "Will+Kate" on the cookie bars. Until I realized my piping skills mimic a 2 year old's....

Needless to say I just ended up putting sprinkles on the rest and calling it a day!

I did not intentionally health-i-fy these cookies. I did, however use unsweetened applesauce in place of the eggs since I somehow ran out of eggs. I also cut the recipe in half so I could use a 9x13 pan instead of a 13x18 pan.

These were super tasty! The frosting is especially delicious. Good for you - no. Good for your taste buds - yes.

Sugar Cookie Bars

For the cookie bars:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or 2 large eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
zest from 1/2 a lemon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

For the frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 1/2 Tbsp milk
food coloring (optional)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan with butter. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the applesauce (or eggs). Blend in the vanilla, seeds from the vanilla bean, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir together with a fork to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Mix in the milk. Tint with desired food coloring. Spread over cookie in the pan, cut into bars and serve.

Makes 24 bars. Per bar:
188 calories 7.8 g fat 28.6 g carbohydrate 0.4 g fiber 1.5 g protein

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baked Tortilla Chips - 2 ways

So Megan at Muncher Cruncher pretty much has the same affinity (dependence) on La Tortilla Factory Tortillas as I do. I mean, seriously, how can you not love a little tortilla that is only 50 calories, 10 carbs, 7 g fiber and 5 g protein? But Megan kicked it up a notch by making an awesome snack with them.

Check out Megan's post here to see how she created baked tortilla chips out of La Tortilla Factory Tortillas.

Want a sweet treat instead? I sprinkled some with cinnamon sugar before baking and served it with vanilla low fat yogurt. Pretty much awesome...

Enjoy your snacking :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

P.B. Banana Dream

Apparently I'm on a banana dessert kick because that's what I have for you again today! Actually, at work we are doing a fruit and veggie challenge. We are challenging all of our clients to get at least five servings of fruits and/or veggies each day. Afterall, that's the minimum recommended amount of fruits and veggies you should eat a day. But do most people get that? No. Do you???

So I've been a little more aware of my fruit and vegetable intake each day. I do a pretty good job of getting at least 5 servings in each day but THE MORE THE BETTER! So lately when I've been craving something sweet, I'm reaching for a piece of fruit instead of thinking about making cookies.

This recipe is a variation of a recipe that is in one of the weight loss programs I administer in groups with my clients. It's always raved about by the clients so I thought I should give it a try. It is pretty tasty! I don't typically like vanilla yogurt but I found that I prefer Dannon brand over Yoplait. You could also try Greek yogurt for a little extra protein.

P.B. Banana Dream

2 small bananas, sliced in half lengthwise
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 oz container fat free light vanilla yogurt

On a microwave safe plate, spread banana slices thinly with peanut butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover with a paper towel. Microwave for 15 to 45 seconds, until banana is cooked and peanut butter is melted.

Top with vanilla yogurt and serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings. Per serving:
240.8 calories
8.7 g fat
37.2 g carbohydrate
4.0 g fiber
7.6 g protein

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Banana Soft Serve

It was a hot summer when I was pregnant last year. I swear it was in the 90's every day - at least it felt like it to me. One way that I found effective to cool off was to eat ice cream (every night). Needless to say, this did not help with my pregnancy weight gain. Even though I have all the nutrition training I could possibly need, I still over-indulged a little while pregnant.

Thankfully, after I had Finley I dropped the daily ice cream habit. I saw a post on Muncher Cruncher a few weeks ago on making Banana Soft Serve. I admit, I was a little skeptical. Really??? Its going to be like soft serve ice cream just by sticking a frozen banana in the blender? Right....

Well I tried it. And it worked! I did find that trying to make a single serving with just one banana didn't blend up too well. So I added a second banana and shared with my husband. It was the perfect evening sweet treat. DELICIOUS :) I also added a tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder to almost make it like chocolate soft serve.

I decided to compare it to another Chocolate/Banana ice cream. Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream provides the following per serving:

300 calories
18 g fat
30 g carbohydrate
1 g fiber
5 g protein

This provides
110 kcal
0.7 g fat
28.2 g carbohydrate
3.1 g fiber
1.3 g protein
Not a bad trade....

So what do you do?

Stick two frozen peeled bananas in your blender. Begin blending. Add 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (if desired). Blend until smooth and creamy. Divide into two servings and ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Impossibly Easy Vegetable Pie

I forgot to take a picture, this is from the original recipe

Every other Sunday night we have a small group Bible study at the home of one of the families in our church. It is supposed to be potluck style but I noticed more and more bags of chips, 2 liters of soda and packages of store bought cookies appearing and less and less main dish options or foods of any nutritional value. I don't know why, but I always get irritated when someone regularly brings one of these easy-way-out foods to a potluck. Is that just me?

Anyway, I try to make something a little more substantial and a little bit more healthy each time we go. This week I had a drawer full of produce begging to be used up and I had to come up with a recipe that used them all. I also had a bunch of eggs so I figured there had to be some kind of Bisquick recipe that would work for my needs.

I found this recipe on Bisquick's recipe site. It got pretty good reviews and looked like something I could easily cut into small portions for a crowd. As originally posted, this recipe provides:

170 calories
10 g fat
11 g carbohydrate
1 g fiber
10 g protein

I decided to used the Heart Smart version of Bisquick, skim milk, 2% cheese and substitute one of the eggs with 2 egg whites. I also added in a cup of chopped spinach and upped some of the veggie portions. It was delicious! There wasn't a big turn out at small group and we had plenty leftover for lunch the next day - Bonus for me!

Impossibly Easy Vegetable Pie - BETTER

2 cups chopped frozen broccoli
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup raw spinach, chopped
1 cup shredded 2% Cheddar
1/2 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
1 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 whole egg
2 egg whites

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with nonstick spray. Eat frozen broccoli in the microwave until no longer frozen (it doesn't have to be pipping hot).

Layer broccoli, green onions, peppers, and spinach in pie plate. Sprinkle cheddar on top. In a separate bowl, mix together bisquick, milk, salt, pepper, egg and egg whites in a bowl with a wisk. Pour over veggies in pie plate.

Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes. Allow to set for 5-10 minutes before slices.

Makes 6 servings

Per serving:
119 calories
3.1 g fat
13.4 g carbohydrate
1.5 g fiber
10.3 g protein

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lean Mean Green Spud

As a coach's wife, I am often left to defend for myself for dinner with late evening practices, weekend meets, etc. I don't like making big meals but I also don't want to just stick with pizza rolls either. Enter the loaded up baked potato....

Tonight I made this beauty....

That, my friends, is a baked potato loaded up with 1/4 cup 2% cheddar cheese, 1 cup fresh spinach, 3/4 cup steamed broccoli, 1 green onion chopped and 2 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream. I top it all off with a little black pepper and garlic powder.

Then I mash it all together and it looks like this....

But the beauty of it all is that this is like taking a multi-vitamin in a single meal. Here's the nutrition stats:

200 calories
4.3 g fat
30.1 g carbohydrate
5.0 g fiber
12.8 g protein

80% Vitamin A, 124% Vitamin C, 21% Calcium, 38% Folate

Not bad, huh?

What are your favorite baked potato toppings?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How does your garden grow?

Almost one year ago we moved into our "long term home". The home that we built to how we want and where we hope to live for our child-rearing years. One of the major benefits of our home is that we live on the same cul-de-sac as 3 families that we are friends with. We call it the college dorm life for adults. Another benefit is that (at least in my mind) it is out in the country. I have cornfields in my back yard (although its just a 1 mile jog to reach town). But, with the balance of country and suburbia we are able to have a nice size yard for a development.

When we moved it I was all gung-ho about growing a vegetable garden but the 100 other projects that had to be done plus being in my 2nd trimester kind of put my vegetable garden on the back burner. This year, however, we have time! I decided to do a raised bed as there are many benefits such as soil quality, less weeds, higher temp of soil, etc. We built a 4 x 16 foot raised bed in our back yard but started the little seeds indoors a few weeks ago. I have been using the Farmers' Almanac as my reference guide. Apparently in Michigan my last chance of frost is May 5th so I can't really plant outdoors until then but we have our own little greenhouse growing in master bathroom window.

Here are our seedlings a week ago...

Here they are when we came back from CA....

Our seedlings are tomatoes, green/red/purple/yellow/orange peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce. We will additionally be planting carrots, snap peas and green beans straight to the ground. If all goes well this year, I plan to add an additional raised bed next year with fruits and berries and maybe a couple pear or apple trees (??)

So whats the point in growing your own produce?

Aside from the fact that I like to do things homemade, the faster your produce goes from the ground to the table, the more nutrients you are eating. The longer the transit for your produce, the more nutrient losses you will incur. For example, here in Michigan I try to buy at Farmers' Market or local produce as much as possible from about May - October. In the winter months I know that any "fresh" produce found in the grocery store was actually shipped from Guatamala or who knows where and likely was picked under-riped, artificially ripened by chemicals and lost a ton of nutrients in transit. For this reason, I often choose frozen vegetables in the winter since they are typically picked at the peak of their ripeness and flash-frozen, thereby retaining most of their nutrients.

I also enjoy canning fresh produce. In the past I have canned local peaches, homegrown tomatoes and made homemade applesauce and apple butter. This year I hope to venture into canning my own green beans, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc.

Do you grow anything in your garden?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm Baaaack

I'm back from a 5 day trip to California. My husband took one of his athletes to the Mt. SAC relays to compete in the heptathlon and Finley and I came along for the ride.

It was a nice week of nice weather but no cooking on my part :( So no new recipes... I am making up my grocery list now so I'll plan out a few new recipes for everyone to try.

On the way home, we were sitting in Cinnabon in LAX. My husband ordered a bun and said "This is the best 880 calories I've eaten all week." I said, "Make that 860 calories and give me a bite." Just as I was doing that, I looked up and noticed skinnyrunner sitting behind us! Check out her post of the same place / same time. You can see my husband's head in the one picture ;)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chicken Tacos

The Pioneer Woman is one of those blogger empires... she cooks... she photographs...she homeschools and somehow manages to blog about all of them. I'm not quite sure how it all gets done! All of her recipes look delicious. She uses the real deal ingredients and makes no excuses for how to make a recipe taste awesome. Unfortunately, some her recipes look incredibly sinful!

Although I'm not aspiring to become an awesome photographer and I don't plan on homeschooling my kids, I figured I can still try to healthify her recipe, right? This recipe for Her Brother's Chicken Tacos looked like the perfect specimen. I didn't know how to figure out the nutrition facts since they are deep fried. How do you calculate the amount of oil absorbed by the taco? One thing is for sure... I'm pretty sure they are awesome tasting...but not awesome for you.

I made a couple changes. First I didn't deep fry them. Second, I used La Tortilla Factory High Fiber/Low Carb tortillas (the 50 calorie size). Lastly, I used reduced fat cheese, sour cream and spinach instead of lettuce. They turned out great. My husband asked for a repeat performance - which is an awesome sign.

Chicken Tacos - BETTER

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
6 La Tortilla Factory High Fiber/Low Carb tortillas (50 calorie size)
1/2 cup 2% cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped spinach
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 425. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat in skillet. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. Add salsa and taco seasoning, stir well.

Brush remaining olive oil onto a cookie sheet. Put equal amounts of chicken filling in each tortilla. Fold tortilla in half (like a taco) and place one side down on oiled sheet. Brush the up-sides of tortillas with oil. Bake for 13 minutes until tortilla begins to brown. Add remaining ingredients and enjoy!

Makes 3 servings of two tacos each.
Per serving:
346 calories
17.8 g fat
26.1 g carbohydrate
15.1 g fiber
33.6 g protein

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why you should always help out those who need it...

They make you a cake in the middle of the night!

My brother-in-law has been living with us this semester to help him out. When we built our house a year ago we actually built a bigger house with the thought of if any of our friends or family members ever needed a place to stay that we would be able to offer them a room. So it has worked out well!

Anyway, my birthday was on Friday and when I came downstairs this morning this beautiful cake was waiting for me on our island. Daniel had baked it in the middle of the night for me.

It was the perfect treat after my ridiculously hot and insanely windy run :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tortellini with Zucchini Meatsauce

As I've said before, I'm not pretending that my recipes the most 100% healthy thing you've ever seen. But they're real. Its what I make for my real life husband and me. We're busy, we're hungry and we don't want food to rule our lives.

I say this because not every recipe I am going to post is the most awesome thing for you ever BUT I hope they are examples how small changes in your diet can make a big difference in your total health picture.

In this recipe, I simply made tortellini and meat sauce but made a few changes to health-i-fy it. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. This saved me almost 160 calories and 19 grams of fat per serving. I also added in zucchini into the sauce. Every little extra serving helps!

Here is a pretty good list of substitutions you can try. You don't need to revamp every meal you've ever made but maybe one or two small changes can make a big difference in your family's eating habits!

Tortellini with Zucchini Meat Sauce

3 cups cheese filled frozen tortellini
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 pound ground turkey
2 small zucchini, sliced

Start a pot of water boiling for tortellini.

Brown ground turkey in a pan. Once cooked, push to side of pan and add zucchini. Cook zucchini until lightly sauted in turkey juices but still with a bite to it. Add spaghetti sauce and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add tortellini to boiling water. Cook according to package directions (traditionally 2-3 minutes). Drain tortellini and plate. Top with prepared meat sauce.

Makes 4 servings, per serving:
522 calories
19.3 g fat
50.4 g carbohydrate
4.2 g fiber
35.4 g protein

Monday, April 4, 2011

Whole Crock Pot Chicken

Sometimes people make traditional meals that I never have made before. I want to try them but I'm afraid. I've never made a pot roast or a turkey or a whole chicken. I decided to break that up by trying a whole chicken when my sister-in-law and her husband were coming up for Sunday dinner.

I found a recipe here for a whole chicken in the crockpot. I thought this looked good since you skinned the chicken first and wouldn't have all that extra fat floating around in the pot.

I have to admit, I'm a little squeamish when it comes to raw chicken. After I gagged about 5 times while ripping the skin off the chicken in the sink, I became mesmerized by the anatomy of the chicken. I kept pointing out things to my husband. "Look at this tendon structure....". Anyway, I got over the gross-ness of it and proceeded on.

The chicken didn't come out how I expected it, but it was delicious anyway. I thought I would be able to pull it out of the crock pot and carve it. Nope. It pretty much fell apart when it was done. So it was almost shredded chicken but it was awesome.

I forgot to take pictures of it on the night it was served but the leftovers made awesome chicken on top of a salad ;)

Rotisserie Style Whole Chicken

1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds), skinned
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 whole garlic cloves
1 yellow onion, quartered

Skin the chicken and make sure the cavity is empty. Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

In a bowl, combine all the dried spices. Rub the spice mixture all over the bird, inside and out. Put the whole garlic cloves and quartered onion inside the bird. Put the bird breast side DOWN in a 6 qt crock pot.


Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours (I did low for 8 hours and that was plenty!!!). The meat is done when it is fully cooked and has reached desired tenderness. The longer you cook it, the more tender the meat.