Salad in a Jar & Boot Camp

Remember that whole boot camp starting this week thing that I mentioned in my last post? Yeah. It started. It’s not called boot camp to just sound cool, it’s intense! Today is the first day that I didn’t make audible noises every time I moved to or from a standing position. Getting up, sitting down, it all hurt. I also left a trail of things everywhere I went that I dropped on the ground of floor. Just today I was able to pick up the bar of soap that I dropped in the shower two days ago. Sorry Starbucks about that pink plastic spoon I dropped on the floor and couldn’t pick up, it just hurt too bad!

I would say it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be, but I won’t lie… It was pretty awful!  Life is good, I don’t feel like I’ve been hit by a truck anymore, and I’m proud of myself! However, my apartment is a wreck because my week consisted of nothing but wake up, Jesus & Starbucks time, work, boot camp, eat something I didn’t have to stand to make, sit until I could convince myself it was better to take a shower at night than in the morning when I’d hurt worse, shower, sleep, rinse and repeat. I don’t remember the last time I went to be before midnight every night in a week. Several nights I went to be before 11!

A few things I learned the first week: Burpees were created by Satan himself. I suck at sprinting. I can sweat way more than I thought I could. My entire body turns red when I work out intensely. I can do a lot more than I thought I could. Weight Watchers gives more Activity Points for doing intense physical activity for a reason! It’s apparently normal to gain weight the first week of starting new, intense work out programs (we all did!). Even when it feels like my heart and lungs are about to leap out of my chest, my body can apparently keep going. Working out with people makes a huge difference! I need to marry a personal trainer so I have a motivator for life.

Now to the food! For me, lunch can be the hardest meal of the day to make healthy choices for. It’s the one meal we usually aren’t home to eat. So today I bring you my all time favorite lunch idea!

A few things you probably already know about me.

  1. I love any make ahead recipe.
  2. I like food prep work A LOT.
  3. I love anything with layers.
  4. I love anything in a mason jar, anything. 
  5. I don’t believe in paying money to eat out for lunch breaks!
  6. I’m not a fan of the whole get up early to pack a lunch thing.
If you share any of these things in common with me. This recipe, which is more of an idea, is for you! I don’t do these every week, I like variety! But it’s one of my go-to make ahead favorite lunch ideas. I love salad! Love it. But before this idea, it was impossible to bring salad to work for lunch without bringing everything and the kitchen sink with me to work. And who wants to be that much of a diva and have a lunch bag bigger than the purse and work bag we already have, or am I the only one who carries three bags to work? If you layer these salads correctly, they can keep in the refrigerator for up to four days! Last week I made two, but I’ve made four before and had them every day for lunch.

First let’s talk a little prep. Prep! It can be so easy with the right tools. So many prep tasks can be done before.

I used to hate carrots in my salads. I liked them dipped in hummus or ranch, but hated them in salads for two reasons. 1. Carrots are hard to cut up into bite sized pieces! Every time I tried little carrot pieces would fling across the room. 2. Stabbing little carrot slices with a fork is equally as hard. Carrots meet mini food processor. It chops carrots in seconds to little crumbly type pieces, about the size of bacon bits. Perfect!

Other prep involves chopping whatever you want in your salad. I usually use whatever I have. For this one my prep involved boiling and chopping eggs, sauteing some pre-cooked frozen chicken pieces, and chopping green onions. That’s it!

Then it’s all about the layering and ingredients. The most important thing is to keep the dressing and lettuce as far away as possible. Keep the wet stuff on bottom and dryer stuff on top. I layered this batch of salad with the following ingredients in the order listed.
  • strawberry balsamic vinaigrette
  • green onions 
  • finely chopped carrots
  • julienne chopped cucumbers
  • quartered grape tomatoes
  • dried cranberries
  • a little sprinkle of mexi-blend cheese (close to expiration date)
  • a little sprinkle of feta cheese (close to expiration date)
  • cooked chicken breast, seasoned with Tony’s, pre-diced
  • a little sprinkle of turkey bacon bits
  • one boiled egg, chopped
  • romaine lettuce (Keep stuffing it, lettuce compacts!)
  • dried french onions (left over from holiday cooking)

Did I mention this recipe can also be used to clean out your fridge/cabinets? If it can be put in a salad, put it in! Be sure to bring a paper plate or large bowl with you to work to pour out the salad. The blog where I found the idea, said to shake it up and eat out of the jar, but that’s never worked for me. Just slowly pour it on a plate or bowl and eat!

I saw a blog that posted weekly pictures of what she brought for lunch, no recipes, just ideas. It was useful to me, and I’d be willing to do that if it would be useful for you! Yes? No? Let me know and I’ll start doing it! 


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Skillet Peach Blueberry Crumble (Sugar Free)

I know, I know. On January 2nd I gave you my list of New Year’s Resolutions, which included a commitment to blog more. Yes, I am aware it’s now January 19th, over 2 weeks later. BUT… I hadn’t forgotten! I was steadily cooking and snapping pictures and fully committed to blog more. I was just also incorporating some of my other resolutions and getting used to adding those into daily life too. I’m 6 for 6 this week with taking intentional time out of my day to not be in my apartment having idle time and to be somewhere else without distractions where I won’t find TV shows to watch, things to clean, or things to eat (aka Starbucks, and another coffee shop once). I’m starting to like being at Starbucks more than being at my apartment… I get a little upset when I walk in and someone is at MY table. I mean don’t they know?! Since Starbucks breeds productivity for me apparently, I decided to try it out for blog stuff too. So productive! In addition to reading, journaling, praying, and listening to my Bible app, I also edited pictures for 3 blog posts, prepped all 3 to go out this week, AND organized all my other pictures into folders labeled with the recipe (or DIY project) and put them all into a BLOG ME folder! Aren’t you proud?! 
First up… Sugar Free Skillet Peach Blueberry Crumble! 

A healthy one to kick off my commitment to blogging! You know I love sugar and am by no means committed to a sugar free lifestyle. I mean I do want to open a bakery the summer of 2014 and buy stock in sugar. However, this is one of the best sugar free things I’ve ever made and/or eaten! One of my RAs made a New Years resolution to not eat sugar. I like a challenge, so I decided to try and make something yummy and sugar free that she could eat and that the rest of us would like. AND I got to use one of my new cast iron skillets to do it!

Don’t be fooled though. I start boot camp next week, so I’ve been taking every last moment to eat unhealthy things while I can. Confession – my first thing to make in a cast iron skillet was donuts. Fried biscuit dough donuts covered in glaze. And I made them twice in two weeks. I also ate Zaxby’s for lunch today. Monday. Monday things are getting serious! I mean it is a competition and one of the winning prizes is a gift certificate to take a class at a cooking school. I’m gonna win, duh! And thus the cast irons will only be used for healthy things until April. They probably would have been mad at me if I didn’t use them to make donuts at least once though right??

Skillet Sugar Free Beach Berry Crumble

Recipe adapted from myrecipes.com.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 bag of frozen blueberries (12 oz)
  • 1 bag of frozen peaches (16 oz)
  • 2/3 cup Splenda (can replace with equal amount of sugar)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar (can replace with brown sugar, increase to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup light butter (I used Brummel and Brown), melted
  • Optional – vanilla ice cream for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 10-inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray. Combine frozen blueberries, frozen peaches, Splenda, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 2/3 cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the peach berry mixture. Gently stir in the lemon zest and reduce heat to low. Continue simmering the fruit, gently stirring, until the juices have thickened and the mixture is more on the clear side than the creamy side. Remove the saucepan from the heat and scoop the mixture into the prepared skillet.

Stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Add the melted light butter, stirring until butter is mixed evenly. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the peach berry filling.

Bake until the topping is nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or eat just like it is!

My personal preference, is to top it with a small scoop of ice cream and let it completely melt until it looks messy and not quite as pretty and picture perfect. I love melted ice cream with berry desserts.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? 


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Single Serving Blueberry Cobbler

It’s officially the weekend. I have a love hate relationship with weekends. I tend to splurge and make unhealthier choices on weekends. You know… watch an entire season of Pretty Little Liars in one day while I don’t shower and stay in my pjs. Just me? This weekend I’m determined to make healthy and wise choices that mostly have nothing to do with eating. But, just in case you feel like splurging this weekend but don’t want to eat an entire pan of brownies while watching an entire season of , I wanted to share this recipe with you! 

A. It’s healthy. B. It’s a single serving! You can eat the entire thing and not feel even a little bit bad. You can also make it your own with any kind of fruit you have on hand. It would be deliciously yummy with frozen or even canned peaches, strawberries, or blackberries. You know.. it would even be food with a 1/2 cup of pumpkin and some pecans. Done! I will be making a pumpkin version of this cobbler this weekend. Oh and sauteed apples! Okay. I’m glad I decided to share this recipe with you because I’m totally experimenting with new flavors this weekend.

Single Serving Blueberry Cobbler

Used the exact recipe from sparkrecipes.com just used blueberries – Cup O’ Cobbler Recipe


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Brummel and Brown yogurt butter
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Splenda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of cinnamon

Directions: 

Mix blueberries and sugar in a small bowl and set aside so the sugar can do it’s juicy job. You can smash your berries a little to help this process along. Prehat oven to 350. Spray a small ramekin with butter flavored cooking spray and then add the butter. Heat the ramekin in the oven until the butter is bubbly. 
Note: Heating the dish with the butter in it makes the recipe great. It makes the cobbler more well… cobbler like! It adds the crispy and chewy components to the crust. 
Mix flour, Splenda, baking powder, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a separate small bowl. Spread the mixture into the hot ramekin. Add the sugared fruit in the center of the batter, leaving a rim of batter around the edges. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the batter is golden brown around the edges and the center looks set. 
Remember those Frozen Yogurt Bites I made? Three of the vanilla ones on this was AMAZING! 

If you count the blueberries in the recipe, it’s 5 points for the whole thing. If you don’t (and sometimes I don’t because fruit is free if you eat it plain!), then it’s 4 points! Plus whatever topping you may or may not add. If you add just a dollop of fat free cool whip or a frozen yogurt bite or two, nothing extra! It’s also perfectly fine with nothing extra at all. 


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Chai Banana Bread Muffins

I love chai. I love it so so much. I call it Christmas in a cup. I love it hot. I love it iced. I love it blended. I love it mixed with pumpkin spice. I LOVE IT! When I saw a Chai Banana Bread recipe, I instantly added it to my list of things to make. However… I’m calling mine Chai Inspired. The original recipe calls for cardamom, which is a chai ingredient, but dang it that stuff is expensive! My bananas were getting too brown before I could justify buying cardamon, so I improvised and they still taste spicy and yummy! I pretty much used her recipe but did a few healthy substitutes using yogurt butter, applesauce and whole wheat flour. I also made have jumbo muffins to break in my jumbo tin I hadn’t used yet and half regular sized. I enjoyed these for breakfast, snack and dessert all week. Or for three days because I ate them too quickly.

Chai Inspired Banana Bread Muffins

Original Recipe from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana, 3-4
  • 1/3 cup fat free Greek yogurt – I used vanilla but you could use plain too, or regular nonfat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons of applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons Brummel and Brown yogurt butter
  • 1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or whole wheat white flour or all purpose flour, I like whole wheat because of the nuttiness it adds and it’s a power food on WW)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add banana, yogurt, apple sauce, butter and egg beaters to a mixing bowl and  beat until blended. I used, as always, my stand mixer. Add brown sugar and white sugar and beat on medium until just blended. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg together. Add dry mixture a little bit at a time to the banana mixture and beat until just combined. Don’t over mix! Pour into lined muffin tins and bake for 45-60 minutes, checking often to see if a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.

For icing, beat butter and cream cheese together with a mixer until smooth. Add vanilla extract and beat. With mixer on low add the powdered sugar a little at a time until thick enough to spread. Top muffins with icing and enjoy! I also froze a few of mine because I was going out of town and they defrosted well too! 


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Pumpkiny Overnight Oats

According to the dictionary, pumpkiny is not a word. However, for the glorious return of the awaited Pumpkin Spice Latte, also know as PSL, Starbucks used this word to describe the glorious goodness of the beverage. It was right there on my local Starbucks door in cute sticker art form. I trust Starbucks and their ability to make something a trend. Therefore, I shall adopt pumpkiny as a legit word despite the red squiggly line that tells me it isn’t (and dictionary.com). What does that red squiggly line know anyway?! It always underlines my name. (No offense red squiggly line, I do love and appreciate how you correct my typos.)

Moving on… I don’t have to tell you again how much I love pumpkin things. I probably also don’t have to tell you again how much I love Overnight Oats. We’ve definitely discussed the heck out of pumpkin, and I know I’ve discussed Overnight Oats a bit too. BUT… PUMPKIN OVERNIGHT OATS?! Yep. I’m even more in love. I went a little crazy and came up with four pumpkin versions of this easy make ahead breakfast.

I used my base recipe for each of these concoctions. 1/2 cup oats (non quick cooking), 1/2 cup skim milk, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt (greek or regular). I bought the 32 ounce container of Dannon Light and Fit from Sam’s this time. It was super cheap for the big container, and I think I liked it a little better than the vanilla greek non fat yogurt.

Base Recipe: 

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (NOT the instant kind)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup non fat vanilla yogurt

Directions: 

Pour yogurt, oats and milk in a pint sized mason jar. Shake it until all ingredients are combined. At this point your jar will be about 3/4ths full.
Add pumpkin combo ingredients (listed below) of choice and stir until combined. Refrigerate overnight. They keep for 4 days.

Each base recipe is 7 points on Weight Watchers. Account for extra points for the different pumpkiny combinations. 

Pumpkin Pie Oats

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of Skinny Pumpkin Fluff (1 package sugar free vanilla pudding, 2 – 8 oz containters of fat free coolwhip, 1 can of pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice – I make this OFTEN to dip apples in. You won’t regret making this to have on hand for healthy snacks.)

Pumpkin Coconut Oats

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons Homemade Marshmallow Cream (I had homemade on hand that I used for S’mores Dip last week. I never have and probably wouldn’t use normal jarred marshmallow fluff, but I just really liked the idea of marshmallow cream (egg whites, corn syrup, powdered sugar) and coconut, like a coconut cake! But you could also sub 2 tablespoons of sugar or Splenda.)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes 

Pumpkin Pecan Oats

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Chocolate Pumpkin Oats

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Nutella
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


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Overnight Oats

You know how I have all those weird seasonal food aversions? No soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, or hot coffee unless it’s cold out. No watermelon, or any melons for that matter, unless it’s hot out. I also kind of feel this way about oatmeal. I LOVE a bowl of warm cozy oatmeal in the fall and winter, but I’m not a huge fan in the summer. 
I kept seeing cold overnight oatmeal on Pinterest. I didn’t buy into it at first because I thought the texture might be weird and most recipes called for chia seeds, which freaked me out a little. Chia pets. Chair seeds. They are the same things. I’m not a picky eater, but that made me hesitant. Since then I’ve discovered it’s normal and okay to eat chia seeds. I’m not scared of them, but still haven’t tried them. Apparently they are really good for pregnant women. One day when/if I get pregnant, I’ll add chia seeds to my oats. For now I’ll save my self a trip to a health food store. 
All that to say, try these! You don’t have to have the fancy chia seeds. My pregnant friend made them first (with chia seeds) and highly recommended them to me. We have similar food likes, so I trusted her recommendation. I’m in love! I got obsessed and game up with EIGHT flavor combinations. I’m gonna work on a pumpkin version next week. This is one thing that will not be a seasonal food. I love them for summer to take the place of hot oatmeal, but I love them so much I will definitely eat them year round. 

Base Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (NOT the instant kind)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup non fat Greek vanilla yogurt

Directions: 

Pour yogurt, oats and milk in a pint sized mason jar. Shake it until all ingredients are combined. At this point your jar will be about 3/4ths full. 

Add your toppings of choice, and shake until mixed. You may have to shake a little extra for some toppings. If it’s not combining well, stir in the toppings to combine all ingredients. 

Refrigerate overnight. I made four at once and they were good up to 4 days. I don’t think I’d go more than 4 or 5 days because fruit and non-fat yogurt can produce excess water.

For pretty presentation you can save out tiny bits of your toppings to garnish the tops. 

Each base recipe is 7 points on Weight Watchers. Extra points for different topping combinations are listed below. 

Peach Melba

  • 2 small nectarines (or peaches) diced
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry jam

Add 2 points for jam.

Peaches and Cream

  • 2 small nectarines (or peaches) diced
  • dash of cinnamon
  • drizzle of honey

Add 1 point for honey.

Strawberry Banana

  • 1 medium banana, diced (I sliced it, halved the slices, then quartered the slices)
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam

Add 2 points for jam.

Banana Nutella

  • 1 medium banana, diced (I sliced it, halved the sliced, then quartered the slices)
  • 1 tablespoon Nutella (one really is enough, Nutella is SWEET)

Add 3 points for Nutella.

Banana Peanut Butter

  • 1 medium banana, diced  (I sliced it, halved the sliced, then quartered the slices)
  • 1 tablespoon reduced calorie peanut butter (2 if you like more)
  • drizzle of honey

Add 2 points for 1 tablespoon of peanut butter + 1/2 teaspoon of honey.

Banana Chocolate (for those who like chocolate, but not Nutella)

  • 1 medium banana, diced  (I sliced it, halved the sliced, then quartered the slices)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 packet of Splenda

No extra points! 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder is zero. According to recipe builder you’d count the points for bananas in recipes, but I say if they’re free as a snack they are free as a topping!

Banana Nut

  • 1 medium banana, diced  (I sliced it, halved the sliced, then quartered the slices)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts
Add 2 points for honey and how every many points for the nuts you choose. 

Apple and Cinnamon

  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Parkay spray butter
Saute diced apple with a little Parkay spray butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar until they loose a tiny bit of their crispness. Add 1 point for brown sugar.

Stir into base recipe. Shake to combine completely. 


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Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

I know I’m a posting maniac in the last two days, BUT I know most of you have the day off today for the holiday! So either you’re cooking and ideas are helpful or your relaxing and have some spare time. What better to do in your spare time than catch up on blog reading and meal plan? Thus you need reading material, ideas, and inspiration. Also… I’m trying to get to my 100th post! On the post I’ll announce changes to the blog and other fun things. This is the 95th in case you were wondering. 🙂 

This recipe has quickly become one of my favorites. You know I don’t repeat recipes often. I usually wait at least 3 months to cycle things back around, unless I absolutely LOVE them. Well this one has been repeated! It’s so stinking easy and soooo good if you like spicy things. Three ingredients! AND you don’t have to thaw anything. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 lb bag of frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 bottle of buffalo sauce (I usually use Frank’s but I got this Texas Pete one for free from an RA and loved it just as much)
  • 1 packet of dry ranch mix

Directions: 

Add chicken to a large crock pot. Sprinkle with ranch seasoning. Pour over hot sauce. Cook on low for 6 – 7 hours. Remove chicken from crock pot, leaving sauce in. Shred chicken with a fork and add back to crock pot. Cook on low for 30 minutes to an hour. 
That’s it! I like to serve mine on some nice rolls or buns. I used onion rolls this time and they were YUMMY! I made a batch of healthy ranch dressing using 1 packet of dry ranch, 1 cup of non fat Greek yogurt, and 1/2 cup of skim milk (1/3 a cup is 2 points and I used much less than that) to spread on the buns. I topped each sandwich with julienned celery, matchstick carrots, and some reduced calorie blue cheese crumbles. 
This makes 8 good sized servings at 4 points per serving, not including bread or toppings. 

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Summer Holiday Foods

Tomorrow is July 4th! I always say I’m not patriotic. Don’t hear me wrong. I’m VERY happy and thankful for my country and freedom, my dad’s a vet! I’m not anti-patriotism at all. I just don’t consider myself patriotic. But somehow… I subconsciously wore red and/or blue yesterday and today! And all I can think about is BBQ and watermelon. 
If you’re like me and only have the one day off in the middle of the week, you might not have made any big plans. Therefore you might not feel BBQing a whole lot of meat (and your grill might be broken like mine). Or maybe you want to eat a healthier holiday meal! I made this meal a couple of weeks ago and when I ate it, it made me think of summer holidays. It was so good and so fresh. So if you haven’t planned what you’ll eat tomorrow yet (or if you just need some meal planning inspiration for any summer day), be inspired! 

Easy! Thaw some frozen tilapia fillets. Spray each fillet with a little olive oil cooking spray. Salt and pepper each side, heavy on the freshly cracked black pepper. Slice a lime or two into rounds and bake with the fish. Squeeze a couple lime halves over the fillets. Bake at 375 for 14-17 minutes. Serve with lime wedges, garnish with some fresh cilantro. An average sized tilapia fillet (4 oz) is 3 points cooked. Lime, seasonings, herbs, and lightly sprayed olive oil cooking spray are all zero. Healthy and so yummy.

So easy. So fancy. So yummy. This would be EVEN better with grilled corn. I roasted mine in the oven since the grill is broken. Butter is not healthy, but corn is! One medium ear of corn is 2 points. And you only need a little pad of compound butter per ear of corn, which I estimate to be about a half of a tablespoon. 1/2 tablespoon of butter is 1 point. So a whole ear is 3, not bad for this treat!

Compound butters can be anything! They are so fun to make and slicing into your compound butter will make you feel like a real chef. Let some butter sit at room temperature. I did less than a 1/2 stick because it was just for me and my leftovers. You can do a whole stick and it keeps for a long time. It can also be frozen. I mixed finely chopped cilantro and scallion, softened butter, a little cracked black pepper, and some lime zest. Place your mixed butter blob onto some plastic wrap. Wrap it up and shape it into a little log. Chill until hardened or until you’re ready to use.

And then this! My very first quinoa experience. I loved it! This was a perfect first dish to try quinoa in. I used her recipe exactly except I used a normal quinoa, not tricolor, I added a chopped avocado, and I used roasted corn instead of raw. Quinoa is a super food! It’s really good for you and actually a grain.

If you’re gonna use paper plates, use happy festive ones! Even if you won’t just be staying cool at home and have a holiday gathering to go to, I promise your friends and family won’t hate you if you come with any of these dishes in hand. Happy 4th! Eat some watermelon and watch some fireworks.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

We all deal with stress differently. Some people sleep. Some exercise. Some avoid. You’ve heard of stress eating right? Well I stress bake. Stress baking is almost as bad for you as stress eating when no RAs are around to feed your baking projects to! Remember that time I ate four blueberry cinnamon rolls for dinner and just that? Oops. I’m gonna need to move back into my apartment soon and have access to my craft box for other means of stress relief!

But seriously, if anything stuck with me from counseling it was the bit about doing mastery and pleasure activities in times of overwhelming sadness or anxiety. Translation… doing things you know you can master, finish and accomplish well and things that bring your soul pleasure. Knowing this is going to help me make it through the difficult times that lie ahead with my dad’s health. Baking definitely meets both of those needs for me. I wish you could have seen my face when I opened the oven to the beautiful creation above. On second thought… I’m kind of glad you couldn’t see me. I’m certain I looked like a super dork. But I was ecstatic! I had been crying for hours, got up, baked, and pulled that out of the oven! I was so happy and proud of my creation. I think I may have even bounced on my heels a little.

I’m claiming this recipe as my own because it really was mostly me. The cinnamon roll recipe was from food.com, but I altered it to be a healthier version using egg beaters, heart healthy mix, and low calorie butter. The blueberry part was inspired by recipes I’ve seen but my combination of ingredients. The glaze was thrown together by me.

Ingredients

Blueberry Filling:

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • Additional 1/2 cup of blueberries

Cinnamon Rolls: 

  • 2 1/2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
  • 1/3 cup of skim milk
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters (or 1 large egg)
  • 2 tablespoons Brummel and Brown yogurt butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons reduced calorie whipped cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • splash of milk
  • Directions 

    Dough: 

    Preheat oven to 375. Mix baking mix, milk, and egg until a soft dough forms, I used my stand mixer dough hook for the first time! Place dough ball onto lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured clean surface. I’m OCD about germs so I always use parchment or wax paper to do dough work. Gently kneed the dough until mostly smooth. Roll dough into a 8 x 10 (ish) rectangle. If your dough is looking more round and not square enough, fold in the ends and keep rolling. Combine cinnamon and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture over buttered dough.

    Filling: 

    Combine 1 cup blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan. Cook on medium low heat until blueberries start to burst. I used a potato smasher to break mine down a bit more and thicken the sauce. When the sauce is a good consistency remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Spread the blueberry sauce on top of the cinnamon and butter topped dough. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup of blueberries.

    Baking:  

    Roll up tightly starting with the long side. Pinch the edges of the dough closed. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut 3/4 to 1 inch slits going almost through the bottom using a sharp knife. Don’t go all the way to the bottom! It should make 8 rolls, 10 smaller ones. Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown. 

    Glaze: 

    Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and a splash of milk in a small bowl or a large measuring cup and stir! I used my immersion blender and it made it a quick and easy job.

  • Just look at it! They are so very good and just pretty! In the words of a coworker I shared one of these cinnamon rolls with, “These things are gourmet!” Easy and impressive. You can never have enough recipes like that. 

    I’m not suggesting that these as “healthy” BUT they are a much healthier version of most cinnamon desserts and cinnamon rolls. According to the Weight Watcher’s Recipe Builder they are 7 points with the glaze. For comparison, a Starbucks Morning Bun (their cinnamon roll) is 10 points with no icing or glaze. A Corner Bakery Cinnamon Roll is 17 points! A Pillsbury Supreme Cinnamon Rolls is 10 points. 7 doesn’t seem bad at all in comparison!

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    Pumpkin French Toast Casserole with Coffee Whipped Topping

    I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin? You? In May? I know, right? I totally broke my pumpkin belongs in the Fall and Winter months rule to make this recipe. And guess what? I loved it. It gave me the same warm and cozy feeling I get when I watch Gilmore Girls and see the red and orange leaved trees. 
    Just like my Gilmore Girls, I’ll still save pumpkin for special moments out of season and bask in it like crazy in season, but I might occasionally break my rule now. I did break it for a good reason. We had one of our potluck breakfast meals at work. A coworker who started post fall, had heard about my Pumpkin French Toast Casserole and then I didn’t have a choice! I like it when people request my food! I just can’t say no. 
    The other factor that pushed me over the edge to saying yes to making a pumpkin dish? Coffee whipped cream. Let’s just start things off right and talk about this! 

    Coffee Whipped Cream 

    Ingredients:

    • 1 package Starbucks Via
    • 1 container fat free cool whip

    Directions: 

    Combine. Stir. Seriously, that’s it. It’s the simplest thing every but oh man is it good. I mean how can you say not to anything topped with Coffee Whipped Cream? My coworkers love to put it in their coffee too. It compliments anything pumpkin flavored magically and also just spoon. It’s the perfect topping for a good old spoon.

    Did I mention it’s also guilt-free? 0 points for 2 tbsp or 1 point for 1/4 cup.

    Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup Brummel and Brown Yogurt Butter
    • 12 slices Sara Lee Delightful 45 Calorie Bread (I’ve used Multigrain and Whole Wheat)
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup – 1 cup canned pumpkin
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 1/4 cups Egg Beaters
    • 1 1/2 cups skim milk

    Directions: 

    Melt Brummel and Brown butter and pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla together. I like to shake in a little extra cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice into the liquid mixture.

    Time to layer. Layer 6 pieces of bread in the pan. Spread a thin layer of pumpkin across the bread. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the bread. Layer the other 6 pieces of bread on top and spread with pumpkin. Pour the liquid mixture over the bread. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar mixture over everything.

    Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, cover the dish with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. It should be golden brown and set.

    Sprinkle with powdered sugar to make it pretty. Serve with syrup, butter, whipped cream OR COFFEE WHIPPED CREAM.

    Yields 12 medium sized servings at 4 points each or 6 large servings at 8 points each.

    If the summer heat is getting to you and you’re missing fall as much as me, I highly recommend this dish now!

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