Treat Day

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to work in a place where the staff rotates bringing in treats every Tuesday for ‘Treat Day’.  I bet you wish that you were.  Tomorrow is my day, and so I spent today in the kitchen making a bunch of dips and desserts to bring to work.  I made SO many things and figured I could spread them out a bit across the blog.  This was the most complicated of all the recipes.  I’ve made Whoopie Pies one time in the past.  They tasted wonderful but didn’t look so pretty.

 

I got this book as a gift and I’ve been eager to try making the S’mores recipe.  What’s fun about this book is that it breaks down the flavors into cakes and fillings and you can mix and match them.

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I decided to make the graham cakes and the marshmallow filling. I thought I could add some chocolate chips to round out the S’mores.  The first problem I came across while I was shopping today….I couldn’t find graham flour anywhere. I know you can buy it online, but I didn’t have time.  Instead, I crushed up some graham crackers and substituted 1/2 cup graham crumbs and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

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I combined all my dry ingredients.

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Then I creamed the butter, sugar, and shortening.

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After adding the eggs and buttermilk, the next step involved combining milk, vinegar, and baking soda.  I’ve never seen this before and I am not sure if it is for taste or for texture.  I combined the ingredients and got a white bubbly mixture.

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I added the white mixture and the dry ingredients.

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Then beat everything until just combined.  I added vanilla and beat until fluffy.  The dough smelled a lot like graham crackers, so I think my substitution worked out well.

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The next step is actually making the pies.  After my first attempt at Whoopie Pies, I found this fabulous pan at Crate and Barrel. I was super excited to try it out and it worked great.  The pies grew a bit in the oven, but over all they looked good.

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After the pies cooled, it was time to make the filling.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had marshmallow fluff…probably college when we used to mix it with peanut butter.  It’s sweeter than I remember, but still tastes delicious with peanut butter.

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I combined all the filling ingredients and beat until fluffy.  The author of the book says that she sets her mixer and then leaves the room.  Since mine is a hand held mixer, I had to hold onto it, but I tried to make the frosting as fluffy as possible (despite all the sticky ingredients).

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I set up a little assembly line to make my pies.  Then I rolled them in mini chocolate chips. I was surprised at how cute they turned out.

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The pies are very rich tasting and perfect with a glass of milk!

Stay tuned for this recipe and more ‘Treat Day’ recipes!

Cranberry Bars

I love a good deal, especially at the grocery store.  I found this HUGE bag of Craisins at Costco for not much more than the tiny bag I usually get at the grocery store (plus I had a coupon).  Now that I have a years worth of dried cranberries, the fun thing is determining what to do with them, besides making trail mix and adding them to salads.

I know everyone talks about the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks, but I have never tried them. However, I accidentally came across the recipe and knew I had to make them for an upcoming work party.

I started by blending my butter and sugar.

Then adding eggs and vanilla, blending well.

Combine dry ingredients.

Then add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well blended.

The next step is stirring in the ginger, cranberries, and white chocolate.  I found candied ginger at whole foods and bought the 365 white chocolate chunks.  I chopped everything up and added it in.

I always take a lick off the spoon while I’m cleaning up and the dough tastes promising!

Bake the bars for 25 minutes and then cool before frosting.

The cream cheese frosting is simple to make.  Just beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla.  The frosting was delicious and I will use that recipe again for sure!

I frosted the bars with a thin layer and melted white chocolate to spread across the top, then sprinkled with dried cranberries.

I was so excited to try them that I had to cut a tiny triangle for myself.  Unfortunately white frosting doesn’t photo well on a white plate, but the bars tasted fabulous.  The candied ginger is the perfect addition.  Next time, I might add some on top of the frosting as well.  I’m looking forward to serving them at the party  today!

Find the full recipe on the Mr. Breakfast Website

Stay posted for more exciting cranberry recipes!

Soupy Saturday

As everyone knows, I love soup in this cold, wet weather. I don’t usually make cream based soups (they are not my favorite and they are not as healthy) but I know the BOY loves Broccoli Cheddar soup.  Historically, Broccoli Cheddar is not the healthiest soup option, so I was surprised to find this recipe in my new Points Plus Weight Watchers Recipe Book.  Although the BOY claims to check in on my blog, he actually doesn’t, so I figured I could serve this to him without sharing that it was a healthy recipe.  I used frozen steamed broccoli for ease and the recipe was simple to follow.  Please excuse my pictures…I had trouble with lighting in this gloomy weather.

I started sautéing 1 onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.

Add low sodium chicken broth, water, and sliced potato.  Bring to a boil.

During this time, I microwaved 2 bags of broccoli.  Add broccoli and return to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon, remove some broccoli mixture and set aside.  You’re probably not surprised to find that I used my immersion blender to mash-up the rest of my soup.  It turned into a big bowl of green and I was getting worried as to where the Cheddar would fit in and whether the BOY would try a green-colored ‘cheese’ soup.

I returned the broccoli to the bigger mixture and added salt, pepper, and half and half.

I added the ½ cup of 2% sharp Cheddar to the mix.  I like that this soup showcases the broccoli instead of the cheese.  I also like that you can add more cheese to the top as needed which will add more cheesy taste with less cheesy calories.  The BOY walked in just as I was finishing up.  He said that the soup looked and smelled great.  We’ll see what he says when he tastes it!

 

 

Broccoli-Potato Soup with Sharp Cheddar

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small baking potato, peeled and chopped

1 (14.5 oz) can reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

1 (1 pound) bunch broccoli, cut into 2-inch floret and stems sliced

1/4 cup fat-free half and half

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

 

Directions

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add potato, broth, and water; bring to boil.  Add broccoli; return to boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 5 minutes.  Remove 1/2 cup broccoli florets with slotted spoon; set aside.  Simmer until potato is tender, about 5 minutes longer.

3.  Pour soup, in batches, into blender and puree.  Return soup to saucepan and reserved broccoli florets, half-and-half, salt, and pepper.  Cook over low heat until hot, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; add Cheddar, stirring until melted.

 

Nutrition for 1 generous cup (321 g): 3 points plus value

Calories: 129

Fat: 3 g

Sodium: 303 mg

Carbs: 18 g

Fiber: 3 g

Protein: 9 g

Crockpot Breakfast Porridge

Many people claim that they don’t have time for a healthy breakfast in the morning.  My solution for this is usually to make breakfast ahead of time.  I found this recipe on the Eat Clean website and had to try it.  It makes a large amount of porridge which is perfect for sharing with a family or for freezing.  I’ve shared it with a few friends, who love the recipe and made it a winter staple.  It is an easy way to start your day with a healthy breakfast since your crockpot does all the work.

 

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First step is collecting all the ingredients. I find the bulk bins at Whole Foods to be very helpful. Add all the ingredients to your crockpot. I combined some dried cranberries in with the raisins this time, but any dried fruit will work.

 

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Then add 6 1/2 cups of water, milk, soy or almond milk.  I used water.  The recipe recommends just adding a dash of nutmeg.  The first time I made it, I thought it tasted a little bland and ended up adding more spices when I reheated it.  This time around, I added ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

 

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Stir everything together and set your crock pot for its longest setting.  After about 4 hours, I found that the sides of the porridge started to brown.  I ended up adding 2 more cups of water and although you’re not supposed to open the crockpot lid, I had to check it out and stir in order to keep everything heated evenly.  So, keep a close eye on your crock pot and stir as needed. 

 

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This might be different if you use milk. It ended up cooking for a total of ~5 hours (even though my crock pot was set at 10 hours). Even though I didn’t use milk, the porridge comes out creamy and the added spices tasted great, especially the ground cloves!

 

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I ended up with 10 cups of porridge.  It keeps nicely in the fridge and can easily freeze individually as well.  When reheated, you can add milk, pumpkin, applesauce or top it with fruit.  I love this fancy, hearty breakfast fresh out of the crock pot and reheated at work after a morning workout. 

 

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Crockpot Breakfast Porridge

From The Eat Clean Diet

Ingredients

• ½ cup / 120 ml cracked wheat

• 1½ cups / 335 ml steel cut oats

• ½ cup / 120 ml rye flakes

• ½ cup / 120 ml brown rice

• ¼ cup / 60 ml wheat germ

• 6½ cups / 1.5 L water or any combination of liquids including water, rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, goats milk and/or water equal to 6½ cups

• ½ cup / 120 ml raisins

• ½ cup / 120 ml chopped dates

• 1½ tbsp / 22 ml best-quality vanilla

• Pinch nutmeg

 

Preparation

    Place all ingredients in a 3-quart-or-greater crock-pot. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Cover.

    Set on lowest cooking temperature and cook overnight. If your crock-pot cooking time is set by length of cooking time, set for the longest cooking time and lowest heat.

    Spoon into cereal bowls in the morning and serve piping hot!

     

    Tip: Add any dried fruit you may like to this dish; it is very forgiving.

    Game Day

    Da’ Bears!  I am dressed and ready for the game.  I’ve got my jersey on and Chicken Tortilla Soup in the crock pot.

    As you might have noticed, I don’t have many original recipes.  I went looking for a healthy and low-sodium recipe one day and instead put a few ideas together to create this soup.  Luckily, I wrote it down and added it to my recipe book for the next time.  So here is my version of a healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup.

    Start by gathering ingredients.

    Start by chopping 1 onion and 1 green pepper.  Saute with garlic until soft and fragrant 5-7 minutes.  Stir in chili powder (about 1 tablespoon).

    Meanwhile, season 1 pound of chicken breast with salt and pepper.  Heat in pan over medium heat until both sides are cooked (about 5 minutes on each side) before placing the chicken in the crock pot sprayed with Pam.

    Add ingredients to crock pot…

    4 cups low sodium chicken broth

    1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

    Onion and pepper mixture

    1 bag of steamed corn

    1 can of low sodium diced tomatoes

    1 can diced mild green chilis (can substitute spicier chilis per taste)

    1 jar of salsa

    Taco seasoning

    Stir everything together and set per crock pot instructions.

    Dinner will be ready in just a few hours.  I like to serve my soup with cheese, chips, and avocado.  Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating a BEARS victory.  Enjoy!

     

    PS. I got so excited about my football game that I totally forgot to add…about an hour before the soup is done, shred the chicken with two forks, return to crock pot, and cook another hour or so!  Now you can enjoy!

    Not My Typical Dinner

    So a friend and his wife came over to hang out and he pointed out that my BOY might be less likely to hit up fast food on his way home from work if there were options other than black bean burgers and parsnip chips at home.  He also made some quote about two unhappy parties reaching compromise….which got me thinking about my recent menu selections.  Definitely a lot of vegetarian dishes for dinner.  With that being said, I decided to try a new approach to dinner. I saw this recipe in Clean Eating Magazine. I thought it looked fabulous and I loved the idea of a hearty casserole to warm up this wintery weather.

     

    First step is making the pasta.  I couldn’t find farro at a few stores, so I went with whole-wheat farfalle.

     

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    While that was cooking, I started by chopping and sautéing my vegetables.

     

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    Then I added 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth.

     

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    I brought the broth to a boil and then let it simmer.  I used half the veggie and 3/4 of the liquid mixtures in my food processor with a cloth over the top to keep the steam from escaping.  I had to guess on my portions and then added sour cream and the other ingredients.  Then, I returned the sour cream mixture to the pot, along with the pasta, chicken, and peas.

     

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    I stirred everything together and poured the casserole into my greased baking dish, topping the casserole with the rest of the cheese.  FYI,  I had trouble finding graded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but the nice people at Whole Foods made some for me.

     

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    I pulled it out of the oven after 25 minutes. It looked good and smelled incredible!

     

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    We had a few house guests who were snowed in at our house and stayed for dinner.  Everyone enjoyed the meal (even the side of veggies).  Plus we had some extra Pumpkin Blondies for dessert!

     

     

    Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole

    Ingredients

    Olive oil cooking spray

    1/2 lb (8 oz) whole-wheat or farro short pasta

    1 Tbsp olive oil

    6 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

    1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion

    1 medium carrot, peeled, halved length-wise and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

    1/2 Tsp sea salt

    2 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth

    1/3 cup low-fat sour cream

    3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

    1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely graded (about 1/3 cup), divided

    2 Tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon

    1/2 Tsp finely grated lemon zest

    1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

    5 oz roasted chicken breast, torn into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)

    3/4 cup frozen peas

    1/4 cup roughly chopped raw almonds, optional

     

    ONE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly mist an 11-cup (2.6 L) casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside.

    TWO: Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, drain, rinse under cold running water and drain again; set aside.

    THREE: Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over high heat.  Add mushrooms, onion and carrot and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Add salt and continue to cook, stirring until mushrooms are golden brown and carrot has softened, about 4 minutes.  Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer gently until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer three quarters of broth and half of vegetable mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.  Add sour cream, parsley, half of Parmigiano-Reggiano, terragon, lemon zest and juice and pulse blender until mixed.  Return pureed mixture to skillet and toss with pasta, chicken, and peas.  Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle remaining half of cheese and almonds if desired over the top.  Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

    MAKE AHEAD: Casserole can be assembled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

     

    Nutrition (per 1 1/2 cup serving including almonds)

    Calories: 269, Total fat: 7 g, Carbs: 36 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 4 g, Protein: 16 g, Sodium: 226 mg, Cholesterol: 27 mg

    Pumpkin Blondies

    We had company over for Fiesta night, and I wanted to try making a new dessert. I found these while cruising the internet recently and thought they looked amazing.  There are tons of great pumpkin recipes out there, and this one is from My Baking Addiction.

     

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    I started combining my spices and dry ingredients.

     

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    The next step calls for creaming the butter and sugars.

     

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    This is a common step in many baking recipes.  Since one of my goals when I started this blog was to improve my baking technique,  I did a little research on ‘creaming’.  I read that this process should actually take 8 minutes (as opposed to the 2-3 minutes I usually do).  So I set the timer on my oven to see if there was a difference.  Since I have a hand mixer, it was a little extra work and obviously with one hand on the mixer and one on the bowl, it was tough to take pictures.

     

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    After 2-3 minutes, I was ready to stop.  By 4 minutes, my arm was quite tired but I continued.  After 8 minutes, the mix really looked ‘light and fluffy’.  It definitely looked different from my usual creamed butter and sugar.  I was eager to see if it would make a difference in the final product.

     

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    I added my pumpkin (1 full can) and although it did look curdled, per the author’s instructions, I did not fret.

     

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    I combined the dry with the wet ingredients.

     

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    And folded in the chocolate chips and nuts. I had a few pecans and few walnuts left over so I mixed both.

     

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    I baked the blondies in my glass Pyrex and didn’t use the parchment paper.

     

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    They came out beautiful and easily slid out of the pan.  The texture was very light as well.

     

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    My guests loved them!  I sent them home with leftovers and the recipe!

    Enjoy!

     

     

    Pumpkin Blondies

    From My Baking Addiction

     

    Ingredients:

    2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

    1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

    3/4 cup granulated sugar

    3/4 cup dark brown sugar

    1 large egg

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree

    2 cups dark chocolate chips

    3/4 cup pecans; roughly chopped

     

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Grease with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

    3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree. If the mixture looks curdled, do not fret.

    4. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.

    5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

     

    Notes: Store the pumpkin blondies in a single layer inside an airtight container for up to three days.