Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mandarin Orange - Cottage Cheese Salad

Okay, so this recipe SOUNDS disgusting, LOOKS disgusting when you're making it, but it TASTES amazing!! :) Just trust me!
I have had this salad a few times at potlucks but have never been able to figure out what was all in it. I just knew that it tasted so good ... but then I always forget about it. Well the other day I was talking to my mom about it and she said her mom used to make that salad and she was pretty sure it was just a few ingredients mixed together. So, I googled it ... and amazingly enough I found it. I know, should have just done that from the beginning, right?! Anyways, memory served my mom correctly - it was just as simple as mixing a few ingredients together ... and voila - you have a delicious and nutritious salad!
As I said, I know that it looks and sounds gross - but if you can just get past that and try it, it's actually really good! We are having ours today for lunch ... can't wait! Enjoy!!

Mandarin Orange - Cottage Cheese Salad
1 small box sugar free orange jello
1 - 24oz container low fat cottage cheese
1 - 15oz can mandarin oranges, drained
1 - 8oz tub fat free cool whip, thawed

Place the cottage cheese into a large bowl. Pour in jello powder. Mix thoroughly. Add in can of drained mandarin oranges and stir together. Fold in tub of thawed cool whip. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

*My Notes*

This is the healthy version of this recipe. If you are not concerned with the nutritional value of the salad you can use the regular version of the items instead, they both taste great!

Frozen Peanut Butter Fluff Cups

Peanut Butter. My third favorite dessert right behind caramel and chocolate! I have always been so thankful that I am not one of the millions of people that have a peanut allergy! I guess if I had been born with it, I would never know what I was missing ... but besides that, it is just rough to have a peanut allergy. Almost everything comes in contact with peanuts. I like to read the back of labels on things and it amazes how many times I see something that could be dangerous for someone with a peanut allergy. Yes, I am very thankful!
I love peanut butter on almost anything ... it's just a great ingredient to bake with! I love how it starts off all smooth and creamy and then gets even smoother and creamier as it melts! I love 'melty' peanut butter. mmm.
This is a recipe I found a couple of years ago when I first started doing Weight Watchers. My family enjoys having a dessert after dinner and we were looking for some low point but tasty desserts. I really enjoy this one in the summer because it is nice and refreshing on those hot days ... but I'm finding it works pretty well in the fall too. Well, if you can even call this fall!!! It is almost October and we're still having temperatures in the 80's ... it's annoying! ha ha Regardless, my mom and sister requested this dessert yesterday while I was in my baking mood because it is a family favorite!!
If you like cold treats with a creamy peanut butter taste ... this recipe is for you! Enjoy!!

Frozen Peanut Butter Fluff Cups
4 1/2 sheets of graham crackers, crumbled
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie tub margarine, melted
2 cups reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 small box reduced-calorie instant vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie strawberry spread (optional) (I don't use this when I make them)

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. (or you could use 24 mini cups)
In small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and melted margarine. Press about 1 tablespoon of mixture into bottom of each cup. Top each 'crust' with about 2 teaspoons of whipped topping.
In a large mixing bowl combine milk and peanut butter. Blend with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
Add pudding mix; beat until blended, about 1 minute. Fold in remaining whipped topping.
Distribute evenly among muffin cups. Top with 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry spread, if desired.
Freeze several hours or overnight.
To serve, allow cups to be at room temperature about 1 minute. Peel off muffin liner and let stand at room temperature about 5 minutes to soften slightly. Enjoy!

*My Notes*

The first couple of times I made this recipe I used a 12 slot muffin pan ... but this time I chose to use a 24 slot mini muffin pan. Everything worked just the same, you just have to distribute the whipped topping and peanut butter fluff into more cups. I thought it might be a little difficult using a small muffin cup, but it actually wasn't very hard at all. We eat ours frozen, so using the mini muffin cup helped with it not melting so much before you can eat it!
When I make these I do not use the strawberry spread because I like the peanut butter by itself. I have never tried using the spread, so I cannot comment on how it tastes. My family enjoys eating them frozen because they are easier to pick up. You can let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes though and eat them with a spoon. It is just a matter of preference!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Death By Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate. The best thing known to mankind! Most people I know LOVE chocolate. Really, what's not to love about it? I mean, yeah, okay - it isn't exactly 'healthy' but it kind of is. It can make you feel better, you just have to eat the right kind and the right amount so it doesn't become 'unhealthy'. However, that is NOT what this post is about! This is about that moment when all you can think about is how delicious and satisfying that amazing chocolate flavor is when it's coating the inside of your mouth ... hungry for chocolate now, aren't you?
Well I love chocolate. In almost every way, shape, and form. It is a girl's best friend! ha ha
A couple of years ago I became really interested in some recipes I had found by Hungry Girl ... for those of you who have never heard of her, I highly recommend doing a little Google search! She has AMAZING recipes ... and she makes them guilt-free so you can enjoy them! I have almost all of her cookbooks and I watch her show regularly on television (she has my DREAM kitchen!!). I have made tons of recipes and have loved them! She has all sorts of amazing swaps and tricks and tips to make the food you enjoy eating but without the guilt of the calories and fat that add up so quickly! If you enjoy cooking and eating, you need to check out her website!
Well this morning I was sitting on the couch thinking about how I wanted to bake something ... and then I decided I wanted it to be chocolate! So I went to my stash of cookbooks and pulled out my Hungry Girl books because they have yummy and healthy recipes. I flipped through the first two and didn't see anything that was 'hitting the spot' ... but when I got to the third one, I found it! There at the top of the page were the most amazing words I had ever read ... DEATH. BY. CHOCOLATE. CUPCAKES. ... wow, music to my ears (or eyes)!
I headed off to Walmart and Fareway to pick up what I didn't have here at the house. I gathered up all my ingredients and supplies, and my camera so I could blog about it, and away I went. I have already had one of the cupcakes and mmmmmm was it delicious!!
So the next time you are craving a moist chocolate cupcake without the guilt ... here is a great recipe to try! Enjoy!!

Death By Chocolate Cupcakes
1 box sugar free chocolate cake mix
4 packets diet hot cocoa mix
1 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
4 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
2 teaspoons no calorie sweetener
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups boiling water

Place contents of cocoa packets and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Add boiling water and stir until chips and cocoa have dissolved. Place in freezer to chill for about 25 minutes. Remove from freezer and stir.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 12-cup muffin pans with nonstick spray or line with baking cups.
In large mixing bowl place cake mix, sweetener, salt, and egg substitute. Add liquid cocoa mixture. Whip batter with a whisk or fork for 2 minutes. Batter will be thin.
Fill 24 muffin liners with batter and place in oven. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Tops will look shiny when done. Let cool 3-4 minutes then remove from pan.

*My Notes*
I ate my cupcake just plain, they are super moist and super chocolaty. If you feel the need for frosting, I would suggest using cool whip or drizzling marshmallow creme ... frosting would probably be too rich on these cupcakes.

Yogurt Parfait

I've been doing a lot of searching lately for healthy recipes for breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day ya know! I pack my own breakfast and lunch almost every day when I go to work, and I get bored very quickly if I start eating the same stuff. When I start out eating on Monday, I'm really into it ... but by Friday, I can barely stand to eat it one more time!
I also need my meals to be quickly prepared and still edible if not quickly eaten. Working in child care can really put a damper on your meal choices. I don't know how many times I have thought of something great to eat for breakfast/lunch only to make it and then only get a bite or two in before I have to stop and perform work-related tasks. Of course, 10 - 15 - or 20 minutes later when you finally get back to it; it doesn't taste very good anymore! So frustrating!
I am not one of those people that likes to get up 2 hours before I have to go to work so I can spend 30+ minutes making my meals for the day. I like my sleep. I like to savor every last second I can curled up in bed. So ideally, my meals are something I can throw together the night before so all I have to do is grab my containers and go. Having all of these 'rules' for my meals really limits me on what I can make and enjoy.
Then I thought of yogurt. Really, how perfect?! It comes in a million different flavors so I shouldn't get bored with taste ... it's already prepackaged and easy to throw in my lunchbox so that makes it super fast to prepare ... and it stays cold for quite a little bit so if I have to stop while eating it, it's not awful to go back to. Problem solved, right? ... WRONG! Yogurt can be expensive and believe it or not - I got bored! Turns out when you can't stand all those chunks of raunchy 'fruit' in your yogurt, you're limited to just a few flavors. Bummer. So I went on to eat other things for breakfast ... eggs, waffles, cereal, bagels ... but it just wasn't working for me. I wanted to go back to yogurt.
Then I was introduced to a new way of eating yogurt ... making your own! It's delicious, it's cheap, it's so easy to change the flavor to anything you want, and it keeps me feeling full ... it's perfect! So now I eat a cup of yogurt every morning for breakfast and I love it.
Another thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn't TASTE like traditional yogurt! My mom doesn't like yogurt but she eats this for breakfast as well!
I thought I would share my recipe so that others, who feel the way I do about breakfast, can have a go-to recipe for a great start to your day! I make a batch of this on the weekend and it gets me through the entire week. Hope you enjoy!!

Yogurt Parfait
1 - 32oz container light Vanilla yogurt
1 - 8oz container fat free cool whip, thawed
1 small box sugar free instant White Chocolate pudding
1/2 - 3/4 cup Orange Juice
honey to taste
your choice of fruit, fresh or frozen
granola - I use the Kashi Go Lean Crisp toasted berry crumble or the honey almond flax

Pour pudding powder into large mixing bowl. Add orange juice and whisk until it starts to thicken. Drizzle honey over the mixture and whisk again until combined. Empty contents of yogurt container into pudding mixture and stir with spoon until combined. Gently fold in container of thawed cool whip. Refrigerate. When ready to serve add yogurt to your choice of fruit and top with granola. Enjoy!

*My Notes*

This is a recipe that could be changed a thousand different ways! I like the vanilla yogurt and white chocolate pudding but you could use any combination of yogurt and pudding mix that you wanted ... and there are TONS of different types of granola that you can buy. You can change the flavors of the ingredients to suit your own tastes. Fresh fruit tastes delicious in this recipe when it is in season. I use frozen fruit a lot, which is also quite delicious ... and some mornings, I don't use any fruit at all! There are so many things you can do with this recipe, so I never get bored with it and it's fun to play with different combinations of flavoring!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This last week has been a pretty rough one. It seems as if nothing is going my way. Everything I try to do right, turns out wrong. Every time I try to take the right turn, I go down the wrong path. I've been stuck in a vicious cycle of tears, anger, and pity for several days. I can't sleep, but I'm tired. I feel as if my whole world is changing and I can't make it stop. It's been awful. So what does a girl do when her heart is breaking - she cooks! Well, at least I do! There is something calming about being in the kitchen for me. It's where I do my best work. When I take out a recipe and put it all together and the end result tastes and looks just right, I feel good about myself. I feel worthy. I crank the radio up, set out all my ingredients and supplies and just lose myself in my cooking. It works, most of the time.
 So, on Saturday I decided that in order to try and improve my week I needed to bake something. The weather here has been trying to change to fall the last couple of days, and the mornings have been nice and crisp. It puts me in the mood to pull out a good fall recipe. I turned to a recipe I was given last year about this time. I was visiting my Aunt in Colorado and her sister-in-law made the most amazing cookies I had ever tasted. Being the 'betty' that I am, I just HAD to have the recipe. She was generous enough to share it with me. I haven't made them yet this year and when the recipe popped into my head I knew I had to make them.
I laid out all the ingredients in the order they needed to be added, along with the supplies I would need. I popped my CD into the player and turned the volume all the way up. When Christina Perri's voice started singing my new go-to-song Jar Of Hearts, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and opened my eyes and started my baking. I measured, scooped, poured, cracked, and sprinkled my way through the recipe while I sang along to the song. (paying special attention to the chorus: Who do you think you are running 'round leaving scars - collecting your jar of hearts and tearing love apart - you're gonna catch a cold, from the ice inside your soul - so don't come back for me, don't come back at all.) I was a little nervous that my bad week would turn into a bad recipe, but I showed myself that that was a silly worry. It was a perfect song and a  perfect recipe and the result was a batch of perfect cookies. I felt better afterwards, and that was the point. Now I have some delicious cookies to enjoy and share with my family and friends. Another therapeutic session in the kitchen!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies:

4c flour
2c sugar
1tsp baking soda
2tsp baking powder
2tsp cinnamon or pumpkin spice
1tsp salt
1 10oz can pure pumpkin
2tbsp milk
1c oil
1tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 large package milk chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Makes 4 - 5 dozen cookies.

*my notes*
If you are looking to make them a little healthier you can use 1/2c oil and 1/2c unsweetened applesauce in placement of the 1c oil. Also, 1c sugar and 1c sugar substitute (like Stevia) in placement of the 2c sugar can be used. That is how I made mine today and they taste the same to me as they did when I made them the original way. I also use just a regular bag of milk chocolate chips in an attempt to make them a little healthier. I can only find a 15oz can of pumpkin and I just use the whole thing - if you do not like a strong pumpkin flavor I would just use 3/4 of the can. In my oven 10 minutes is all that is needed for a perfect cookie. They can get really dry if you cook them too long. Happy Baking!! :)