Category Archives: Baking

Banana Wheat Bran Scones and a New Favorite Eatery!

Good morning and happy Monday! I’m awake earlier than usual for some reason, so I decided to go ahead and tell you about my Sunday. My blogging seems to be running a bit behind my life this weekend, and maybe this will get me back on track! 

I had such an enjoyable Sunday! The temperature has gotten up around 90 here for the past few days, which came sort of out of nowhere. It’s as if the summertime switch has been flipped. I wasn’t hungry for a hot breakfast yesterday at all, so I just had a little bowl of strawberry frosted mini-wheats cereal. I also had a little bit of peanut butter on bread. I definitely feel less hungry when the weather warms up, but I was also trying to eat light since I had a birthday brunch to attend. 

I met up with my friends yesterday at a great neighborhood brunch spot, but there was an hour and a half wait for a table. Too hungry to wait that long, we went in search of an alternative. We decided to go to the Le Pain Quotidien that had just recently opened. I’m SO glad we did! I started off with a hibiscus tea sweetened with organic agave. Isn’t it pretty?

Hibiscus TeaI sat down, opened up my menu and nearly fell out of my chair. The menu was full of amazing choices and… it included the calorie counts for most of the foods!! Holy moly!! This was a dream come true right on my doorstep. The kinds of food available at LPQ are right up my alley. The boulangerie and patisserie selections alone could keep me entertained for a long time. For my lunch, I decided on the tartine with ricotta, mission figs, diced tomatoes, black pepper and organic acacia honey:

TartinesIt was so fresh and amazing! The ricotta was smooth and creamy and went so well with the figs and honey. In case you can’t tell, a tartine is kind of like an open faced sandwich, and mine was made on some amazing whole wheat bread. BLISS! I also got a massive bowl of fruit to go along with it:

FruitifullThis was the perfect amount of food for me, and it was all so very fresh and bright. Speaking of fresh and bright, check out my friend’s gazpacho!

GazpachoWhat a lovely lunch!! On the way out, I couldn’t resist picking up a jar of their praline spread and getting one of my favorites for the road:

Chocolate Croissant to GoI had my first chocolate croissant while I was studying abroad, and I’ve been a sucker for them ever since. This one did not disappoint! Happy Birthday to my friend… and happy new eatery to me. 🙂 

It was pretty late in the afternoon when I got back home after stopping to run a few errands on the way, and I spent some time putting my new plants into pots. I’ll take some photos of my little balcony garden soon so that you can see what I’ve been up to. It’s always nice to look out and see some living and growing things after a winter of staring at empty pots. 

When dinnertime rolled around, I decided to have some more of yesterday’s Buitoni creation along with my own little version of the salad I’d had at Art and Soul. 

Din DinYes, it really was that color! I topped some of the pretty lettuce I got at the farmer’s market with some goat cheese and almonds. That’s always a good start! Then, I got out my new magic bullet. Oh yeah. Magic bullet action! I put in a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a Tablespoon of fig infused balsamic vinegar and three blackberries with the tiniest whisper of salt and gave it a whir. Three little blackberries made for all of that color and gave the dressing an awesome texture and flavor. If only I’d had some watermelon pickles! I think this might be a good alternative to my usual mustard and vinegar dressing mixes.

After dinner, I had a few little snacks that I didn’t photograph including a So Delicious mini-neapolitan ice cream bar. It was a 90 calorie treat that really packed a lot of goodness into a small package. YUM! After my icy treat, I headed off to the Sunday session with my trainer (plus cardio… 572 calories crushed). Yay!!

When I got back to the apartment,  I decided to use up some more of the bananas out of the freezer and make a batch of scones with what I had on hand. In case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of using up what’s on hand, and that’s why I put so many little options in the recipe. I’ve learned that substitutions are fine in many cases, and there’s no reason to run to the store unless it’s really necessary!  By the way, my recipe is an adaptation of this one from Cooking Light with some of my usual tweaks.

Banana Wheat Bran SconesBanana Wheat Bran Scones

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup teff flour (or whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup wheat bran (or oat bran)

2 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cut into little pieces

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup mashed ripe (or thawed overripe!!) banana

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (or regular nonfat yogurt)

1 1/2 tsp. almond milk (or skim milk)

1 1/2 tsp. turbinado sugar (or regular granulated sugar)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Combine the bananas and the brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and allow to stand for five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the first eight ingredients, AP flour through cinnamon, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the flour mixture and the yogurt to the banana mixture, alternatively adding some of the flour and then some of the yogurt until the ingredients are completely incorporated, and stir until moistened. 

Using a rubber spatula “knead” the dough right in the bowl by pressing it down to really work in the butter pieces and then scraping the sides of the bowl. Continue to repeat that action for about 1 1/2 minutes. Alternatively, you could also turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for a minute or so, but the bowl method is less messy and works just fine.

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Press into a 6″ circle using the back of the rubber spatula. Use a sharp knife to cut into but not through the circle of dough, dividing it into eight wedges. Brush with the almond milk and sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. It should be browned and should spring back somewhat when pressed on the top. Cool on a wire rack, cut the wedges all the way through and enjoy!

This makes 8 scones at less than 130 calories each according to the recipe calculator I used. Not bad!

[Late breaking edit: Please see this post for a review of the scones. They didn’t turn out to be my favorite thing and, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to give you my thoughts in case you are considering whipping up a batch! If you are trying to find something to do with overripe bananas, you might check out this post for a chocolate banana snack cake recipe that I adore!!]

Photos from the process:

The Dry Team

Coarse Crumbs

Kneading in the Bowl

Before Baking

Oven FreshThese were super quick and easy, and I think you could certainly add all sorts of things to this recipe to suit your taste. I’m thinking that some chocolate chips would be a good addition next time. 🙂 Chocolate!

Now, I’ve got to get ready and get to work. I hope you all have a good Monday, and don’t forget to enter my 100th post giveaway!! By the way, a special welcome to you if you are checking out my blog for the first time! Make yourself at home!! 🙂 

Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Baking, Bananas, Bread, Chocolate, cooking, D.C., diet, Fitness, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Chocolate Banana Snack Cake and A Lovely Day of Eats

Hi! Sorry to be posting so late, but I just got home. If you are reading this on Friday morning: TGIF! If you are up late on Thursday, happy almost TGIF! I had a couple of birthday gatherings to attend this evening, so I’m up a little past my bedtime. Even so, I wanted to give you the scoop on my grub for the day as well as a new and tasty recipe that I made. First things first, here’s a re-run for you:

"Tropical Pineapple Right Side Up Breakfast Cookie"I have enough pineapple for one more “Tropical Pineapple Right Side Up Breakfast Cookie.” I’ll be having it a few hours from now, and I’m looking forward to it already. I’m a little bit hungry, but hopefully I will make it until then! I had this morning’s cookie along with a cup of blueberry tea mixed with skim milk and unsweetened vanilla almond breeze. I’m loving this breakfast SO much! 

Today was a work from home day, and I usually go to noontime kickboxing when I’m working at home. Since I’ve been a bit more sore than usual this week, I decided to just do a more laid back cardio workout in the gym this evening. I still scorched about 600 calories, but I think my muscles were probably glad not to be subjected to a kickboxing workout today. I usually have a pre-kickboxing snack, and I decided to uphold the tradition– despite the lack of actual kickboxing. 🙂 I snacked on a Sunshiny Blueberry Muffin from the freezer. Remember those? I did, once I found a couple in the freezer. It was still perfect once I gave it a very quick zap in the micro. I guess I can add “freezes well” to their list of attributes. 

Sunshiny Blueberry MuffinI love these little muffins, and can’t wait until I have some bona fide Virginia berries from the farmer’s market to use in them. YUM! Eventually, lunchtime rolled around. My lunch looks very similar to last night’s dinner with two exceptions: skewer #1 and skewer #2.

I wanted to reheat my fries, and I was hoping to make them crispy. What’s a girl with no toaster oven to do? Well, make French fry kabobs in the pop up toaster! What else?!  Seriously!

Toaster Fries

 

Lunchy LunchI’m glad I thought of this, although I was a bit skeptical of the idea at first. I envisioned having potato bits trapped in my toaster forever or pulling flaming skewers from the toaster with my tongs in a blaze of glory, but it worked just fine. My fries crisped up, and I didn’t set anything on fire. Perfect! Plus, I got to eat my fries on a stick. 🙂 There should be more foods on sticks! The leftover burger from last night was great along with some leftover steamed veggies and Country Bob’s sauce. I do love my leftovers! 

Milk and CookiesFor dessert number one, I had a Brent & Sam’s Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie with some almond breeze on the side. I like to buy these cookies from time to time because they come individually wrapped. That’s perfect for me since it could take me months to eat a package of cookies! After that, I was still craving a little something.

PB WafersI had two vanilla wafers with a smear of Mighty Maple PB. I just had three more, although you won’t see any photos of my late night snack. Sorry. 😦 Dessert number two was followed up sometime later by my afternoon snacks. I had a bowl of Greek yogurt from the Blue Ridge Dairy folks topped with some Bees ‘n Blossoms pomegranate honey jelly and some Zoe’s cinnamon raisin granola. I love how the jelly looks like a jewel sitting on top. This bowl was yummy and satisfying. I should mention that the bowl itself is one of my favorites. It’s jadeite, and it spent years holding bacon grease in my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s contents have changed somewhat, but the beautiful color is just the same. 

Awesome in a bowlI also had a Pink Lady apple with some cashew butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon before I went to the gym. The apple was so crisp, and that’s just the way I like them. I hate mealy apples! Red delicious apples are NOT delicious, in my opinion.

One Nutty LadyBefore I hopped into the shower after my time in the gym, I mixed up a quick snack cake recipe that I found on the Cooking Light website. I was, once again, trying to use up some of the frozen bananas in my freezer jungle, and this cake looked too easy and good to pass up. I’ll give you the link if you want to check it out: LINK. I, of course, tweaked my version based on what I had on hand, and my desire to knock the calories back a tiny bit. Here were my changes to the recipe I linked to above:

Chocolate Banana Snack Cake

  • I used 3/4 cup of sugar instead of 1 cup. I thought it was sweet enough, and the chocolate really rocked!
  • I used 3/4 cup of all purpose flour and 1/4 cup of teff flour.
  • I only had a little cup of Mott’s unsweetened pomegranate plus applesauce, and that worked just fine for the applesauce requirement.
  • I used instant espresso powder since that’s the only “instant coffee” in my cupboard.
  • I did not bake it on parchment paper, but rather in a 9×9 glass baking dish coated in cooking spray.
  • I cut mine into 12 instead of 16 because… I like bigger pieces. 🙂

I’m sure that it would be fabulous if you just followed the recipe, but I thought I’d mention my little changes just in case you were curious. I can also think of about a zillion add ins that would be amazing! Peanut butter chips are at the top of that list! I do love Cooking Light, and I like that they provide the nutritional information for all of their recipes. When you start tweaking, you have to do some recalculating on your own, but it does provide you with a nice general idea, which I find to be very helpful.

Mmm.... Cake...This cake is similar to a cakey brownie. I like that the edges crisped up. I put mine in a bowl so that I could add…

The Perfect Pair… a bit of ice cream on the side, of course! Instead of having my fake cake this evening, I had the real deal. It was goooood! I have to recommend this recipe! I wrapped some pieces up and put them into the freezer. If I made them to clean out the freezer, but then put them back in, is this progress? Methinks the answer is yes. I’d rather find a bag of this chocolate banana cake in the freezer than a bag of gooey bananas any day. 

Oh gosh! I just remembered that I totally forgot to tell you about dinner. I was too excited about dessert! No surprise there, right? My dinner was quick since I had parties to attend. I heated up a container of Boca chili (one more thing out of the freezer), with a corn vita top (another thing out of the frozen jungle) and a piece of light string cheese. Quick and easy– which was perfect since I was in a bit of a hurry. I really did eat this before I had my cake and ice cream. Really. I did. 🙂

Quick Din DinNow, I need to mix up my breakfast cookie, finish putting clean sheets on my bed, and then put myself to bed! Is it just me, or are clean sheets THE BEST?!

If you had to choose between “milk and cookies” or “cake and ice cream,” which would you pick? I’d have a hard time, but I think I’d probably have to go with cake and ice cream. Especially if the cake had frosting on it. Mmm… frosting!

Before I go:

Karen at To Be The Whole Package is hosting an Honest Foods giveaway that I would love to win, but you should enter it too. 🙂

Kelly at Happy Texans is having an awesome bagel giveaway, but you only have until tomorrow to enter so hurry!

There is a Barney Butter giveaway going on at Meloncauliflower’s site. Check out her recent Barney Butter fiasco. This post cracked me up. If you travel and are a foodie, you can likely relate!

Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Cookies, cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Fitness, Food, Pineapple, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Cookies and Blooms

Cherry BlossomsIt could not have been a more gorgeous day to see the cherry blossoms. It was sunny, yesterday’s crazy wind had blown out of town, and the temperature was just right! I decided to make the 10+ mile roundtrip jaunt by foot (walking and running) to see the cherry blossoms rather than fighting the crowds on the metro, and I got a good workout during my day of playing tourist in my own back yard. It was quite a day. 

I fueled my excursion with this chocolate breakfast cookie:

Chocolate Breakfast CookieI was hoping it would taste like a “no bake” cookie. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, we used to make cookies with chocolate, peanut butter, oats, tons of butter and tons of sugar that didn’t require baking. Have you had them? Did you call them something else? Anyway, this was good, but not as much like my old “no bake” cookie as I’d hoped. I used some chopped roasted peanuts, reduced fat Jif, Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, and a spoonful of cocoa powder. I’m having fun experimenting with the b’fast cookies, but I have to say that yesterday’s is my favorite so far. 

For lunch, I had some more of the soup I made yesterday along with one of my favorite little sandwiches:

LunchyI had some Alexia breads in the freezer, and decided it was time to get them out and bake them up. I had one piece of ciabatta left, which is what you see above. I topped it with some Trader Joe’s Bruschetta topping, smoked mozzarella and avocado. I hit upon this combination last summer, and it has become one of my favorites! This little sandwich packs a ton of yum! The soup was even better the second day. I love when that happens!

Before I struck out on my trek, I decided to use some more things from the freezer and make a batch of cookies. I was looking for a recipe involving banana, because goodness knows I have plenty of frozen bananas. I also used some of my coconut stockpile and some of the walnuts I keep in the freezer. I’m making progress! I got invited to a cookout later in the afternoon, and was happy to have a batch of cookies just waiting for an outing. I found a recipe on Cooking Light and changed it just a bit. The recipe made me laugh when I saw it. One of the ingredients is light mayonnaise. I think that any good southern cook who has taken foods to a church potluck probably has a chocolate cake recipe in the arsenal that involves mayo. I’d never seen it in a cookie recipe, and, of course, I had to try it! The original recipe is here. This is my version:

Coconut Banana and Apricot Cookies

Coconut Banana and Apricot Cookies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 medium sized banana, mashed (I used an 80 gram banana from the freezer)

1/2 cup reduced fat mayo (I used Hellman’s light mayo)

1 tsp. rum (I couldn’t tell it was in there so I’d just skip it and use coconut or vanilla extract the next time)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

8 Tbsp. (90 grams) of flaked sweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped dried apricot

1 ounce of chopped walnuts

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

a dash of ginger

a grate or seven of nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

This made about two dozen cookies.

I have eaten SEVERAL of these today. I really like them a lot. My friends helped to make a dent in them, but I like them so much that the leftovers are either going to work tomorrow or into the freezer ASAP! In case you are wondering, I did use the sparkpeople recipe calculator to figure out the calories, and I’m counting them. I just figure that woman can’t live on cookies alone, and I’d be tempted to try it with these! 🙂 

Ok, so back to the cherry blossoms. Here are a few more photos from my afternoon:

The JeffersonSee all the people on the steps of the Jefferson? It was really crowded, but I’m happy that so many people got to enjoy the day.

Close upThese were ready for their close-up! Here’s one more of the Washington Monument:

The Washington MonumentI was in the shade for the photos of the Jefferson and the Washington, and you can definitely tell a difference in the colors. It was a beautiful and busy day, and it ended nicely with dinner at my friends’ house. I had grilled chicken breast with Stubb’s BBQ sauce, corn on the cob (also grilled), potatoes and salad. Yum and yum. It was so good! My friends are always great at hosting, and I always love seeing them and their awesome dog. 

After all of my walking and running, it is definitely time for me to hit the hay. I do long jaunts like that when the weather is nice, but I can tell that I haven’t done it in awhile. I was tired by the time I got home. I’m going to go and mix up a breakfast cookie, and then I’m calling it a night. 

Here’s wishing you all an excellent week!! Ciao for now!

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Filed under Baking, Cookies, cooking, Cooking Light, D.C., diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Loafing Around

Plays Well with Peanut Butter!Going back to work after a lazy weekend is always tough. It makes it a bit better when you have yummy eats to look forward to all day. Another thing that can vastly improve a Monday is finding out that you are the winner of the past week’s BSI contest! I was so excited and honored when I found out that my Very Strawberry Almond Butter Bars were declared the winning recipe this week. I know that the competition was tough. Thanks so much for hosting, Laura, and thanks for choosing my little bars!! Thanks to all of you for the positive comments on the post as well. I’m really enjoying the bars, and, if you decide to make up a batch, I hope you will enjoy them too! Don’t forget to check out Christina’s site, Dinner at Christina’s, to find out about the BSI for this week’s contest. I already peeked, and she chose a good one!

I had a yummy bar this morning, bulgur chili in my lunch, and I had last night’s loaf of bread waiting at home as an incentive to make it through the day. I love cooking all weekend long. It makes for a week of good eats!! I saved room to have a couple of slices of the bread after dinner with, well, what else?? Peanut butter! Last night I had the deconstructed PB&J you see above. Tonight, I had one slice with regular peanut butter and another with PB&Co Dark Chocolate Dreams. I just love having fresh bread, and this is an interesting loaf. As I mentioned, I’m trying to bump up the protein in my diet. I decided to make a simplification of a recipe from the same book I used for my “Big Batch” Bran Bread: Martha Rose Shulman’s Great Breads. This recipe is great because it has a ton of cottage cheese in it, and that gives it a little protein boost! The end result is a loaf with a nice crisp crust and a very moist interior.

PBs!!

The original recipe was for an herbed version of this bread. I’m sure it would be good, but I didn’t really want to be wedded to dill for an entire loaf, so I decided to leave out a few things and just make the basic bread. Here’s the recipe:
Yum!
     

Cottage Cheese Bread

adapted from Great Breads by Martha Rose Shulman

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

1 3/4 cups 1% lowfat cottage cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup egg beaters, at room temperature

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup all purpose flour (plus extra if you are kneading by hand)

1/4 cup teff flour (you could use another flour or just use more all purpose flour if you don’t have teff)

nonstick cooking spray

 Directions:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl (the mixing bowl if you are using a mixer), and stir in the agave nectar or honey. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until creamy.

Press the cottage cheese through a sieve or give it a zip in the food processor. Stir it into the yeast mixture. Beat in the egg beaters, olive oil and baking soda. 

Combine the flours and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add all at once to the yeast mixture. Use a spoon to stir the flour into the liquids until the dry ingredients are moistened. Place the mixing bowl on the mixer stand, and, using the dough hook, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Then increase to medium speed and mix for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be sticky. After kneading it in the mixer, it should be fairly smooth and elastic and should spring back when indented with the fingers.

If you choose to knead the dough by hand rather than with the mixer, you should incorporate the flour and then knead on a floured work surface for 10 minutes adding extra all purpose flour as needed, up to 1/2 a cup. If you are a points counter, you may want to keep track of the additional flour and refigure the points using the recipe builder.

Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl and onto a lightly floured surface or a nonstick mat coated in nonstick cooking spray. Knead for a minute or so by hand. I sprayed my hands with cooking spray as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Form the dough into a loaf by flattening it into a rectangular shape and then folding it like a business letter, pinching the seems to seal. Tuck the ends toward the center and pinch to seal those seams as well. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make a loaf. 

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Place the loaf in the pan with the seam side down. I placed the loaf pan over my bread and then flipped the baking mat over rather than trying to lift the loaf off of the mat. Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray.

Cover with a towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until the top of the loaf curves above the side of the pan. 

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle.

Bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, until it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

This makes 12 unofficial 2 point slices or 24 unofficial 1 point slices (when made using teff flour and no additional all purpose flour)

I decided that I’d rather use a sieve for the cottage cheese than dirty up my food processor. It didn’t take me too long to press every last bit of this through the mesh.

Cottage Cheese in a SieveI can never resist taking a photo of the dry ingredients. I think they are so pretty. The darkest part is the teff flour. I bought a bag the other day, and I’m having fun mixing it in to all sorts of things. As I said above, you could just use 3/4 of a cup of all purpose flour instead of the AP flour and teff flour combo if you don’t have teff flour on hand. 
The Dry Team
I love using my dough hook, but kneading by hand obviously works well too. I’ve certainly made my share of bread without the luxury of a dough hook. A benefit of the mixer is that you don’t need to add as much extra flour in order to work with the dough. Extra flour adds calories, but also makes for a heavier bread in some cases. As you can see, this is a pretty sticky dough, and I’d rather let the mixer do the work than get my hands stuck in the middle of it.
You don't "knead" the mixer, but it makes it easier!
This bread is a bit easier than some because it only has to rise one time. I can never resist buying old pyrex with funky designs like the one on this loaf pan when I spot one at Goodwill. I just think they are fun! Here’s how it looks before it rises:
Before the Rising
 Here’s how it looks after it rises and right before it goes into the oven:
After the RisingOops! That one was a little blurry, but you get the point. Finally… here is the finished loaf!
Loafing Around
My workout was great last night, and it was nice to come home to a loaf of fresh bread and the aroma of baking. I think that there’s nothing like it! I see a lot of peanut butter toast in my near future, and I’m planning on making a special sandwich filler for tomorrow. That will have to wait for now… 
What would be on your ideal slice of toast??? Sweetie Pie wants to know!

Now that I’ve posted two bread recipes, I can honestly say that I think the bread recipes are the hardest to write. If you have any questions or find anything to be absolutely confusing, please let me know. 

Before I go, I want to tell you to check out Missy’s awesome granola giveaway at Missy Maintains in celebration of her new domain name. Check it out! 
Also, there is a fun British bar giveaway over at Thinspired. Happy Blogaversary!

I’m shooting for an early bedtime this evening, and I need to fix some of this bread up for the freezer before I crash so I guess I’d better get to it. Have a great evening, and don’t forget to check out this week’s BSI over at Dinner at Christina’s. Ciao!!

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Filed under Baking, Bread, BSI, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Very Strawberry Almond Butter Snack Bars

Berry LusciousHappy Saturday evening! After last night’s evening out, I’m enjoying a quiet evening at home! I had fun at my friend’s birthday soiree, and, I have to say that the club offered some of the best people watching opportunities I’ve had in a long time. I’m certainly not the fashion police, but, let me just tell you that there were some sights to behold at the K Street Lounge. Wow! Men, is a BMW belt buckle really necessary? It may not send the message you’re hoping to send. 

Since I’m staying in tonight, I decided it was time to come up with my entry for this week’s BSI contest. BSI: Strawberry is being hosted by Laura at Hey What’s For Dinner Mom? I don’t know how I will fare in this week’s contest, but I think I came up with a winner nonetheless. I had several things in mind. First, I needed to use strawberries. That’s not a problem! I love them. Second, I’ve seen some amazing looking homemade almond butters on several websites lately, and I thought it might be fun to find a way to incorporate that as well. While catching up on some blogs this morning, I ran across a recipe for a tahini breakfast bar on Limes and Lycopene. I used the basic idea, but not the same ingredients. Here’s my recipe!

Very Strawberry Almond Butter Snack BarVery Strawberry Almond Butter Snack Bars

Ingredients:

The Goo

1/2 cup chopped dried dates

1/2 cup water

The Honey Berry Almond Butter

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted

6 strawberries

2 Tbsp. Honey

The Dry Team

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup teff flour (or whole wheat flour)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (not in the shell)

1/2 cup dried fruit (I used a berry mix that had blueberries, cherries, cranberries and strawberries)

1 ounce dried strawberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Date Goo

Place the dates and water in a small pan. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Strawberry Honey Almond Butter

Place toasted almonds in a food processor, and process until they become smooth and creamy. It only took about 3 minutes for this small amount in my machine, but it may take longer depending on your equipment. Be patient! It will eventually turn into a butter. After the almonds have become smooth and creamy, blend in the strawberries and honey. Add the cooled date goo and blend well.

The Final Mix

Combine the dry items in a medium sized bowl. Add the almond mixture and stir well making sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Press into the 9×9 inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the pan.

This makes 12 unofficial 3 point bars. 

The date goo isn’t pretty, but it makes good glue!

Date Goo

The almond butter looked so good with the honey and strawberries that it was hard not to abandon the project and go in search of a loaf of bread. Seriously. I’m going to have to mix up a batch of this to eat on its own. Who needs jam when you can blend the berries right in with the nut butter?

dscn2022Here’s what it looks like when date goo marries honey berry almond butter:

Date Goo + ButterOf course, I had to lick the food processor bowl, and I can attest that this would have been awesome on some bread too. Even so, I charged onward and mixed up my dry ingredients.

The Dry TeamI often have dried strawberries on my morning cereal, and when I was thinking of a way to get more berries into this bar, the dried version seemed like the perfect choice. Here’s the kind I used:

Just StrawberriesI love when berries smile! These really bumped up the berry in the bars, and gave them a nice splash of color too! After the dry ingredients were combined well, I added the almond butter goo mixture and stirred it all up.

The MixI pressed it in the pan and then popped it in the oven.

Pressed and ReadyThe bar you saw in the picture at the top of the recipe was consumed warm. After being taunted by the gorgeous ingredients, I was too impatient to let it cool! I can say that is was moist and chewy in its warm state, and I’m sure it would have come out of the pan more nicely if not for the steam coming out of it. Hee hee. I’ll probably check out a cool bar after I finish tonight’s post. 🙂 I must! It’s for science or… something. Anyway, I can say that the strawberry flavor really comes on strong with the mixture of fresh and dried berries. The pumpkin seeds add a nice pop of color and a pleasing little crunch. The nutty goo holds everything together nicely and is sweet, but not toooo sweet. I’m really happy with the way these turned out! I have a feeling that this is another of those basic recipes that I will be making with a number of variations in the days to come. 

I had a nice long workout this morning, and then took a stroll to Whole Foods to pick up a few little items. I used one of the coupons for free Oikos Greek yogurt that I received from the nice folks at Stonyfield Farm. I’m planning to try it tomorrow, and I’ll let you know how it goes. I also picked up a jalapeno pepper. I’m pondering this week’s big batch recipe, and I think that the jalapeno is going to play a role. We’ll see. Tomorrow should be a day full of yumminess! Right now, I hear a cool bar calling my name, and I need to go and silence it with my teeth!! 🙂

I don’t usually make my own bars (although… after this batch…I may start…), but I do enjoy a number of different types that I pick up at the store. What’s your fave? 

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!! 

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Filed under Baking, BSI, diet, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

All Set For You!I had such an awesome day today full of great weather, amazing friends and… fabulous soup! A couple of very good friends came over for a laid back lunch. I haven’t seen either of them in a while, and we had some serious catching up to do! It was great spending some time with them, and it reminds me that I should have people over more often. It’s so much fun to cook for someone other than just myself!

Today’s Menu

Garden Salad topped with Smoked Paprika Hummus, Lemon Juice and Greek Yogurt Dressing with Toasted Chickpeas and Pumpkin Seeds

Toasted Bran Bread with Assorted Jams

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Fresh Pineapple

Bittersweet Chocolate Oat Bran Cookies

Lunch is Ready!

This was a very simple lunch, but it was perfect for catching up with old friends. The soup recipe I came up with turned out so well, and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers in my lunches this week! After making bread last weekend, I froze half of it and was happy that it toasted up so nicely under the broiler today. The smoked paprika hummus is a new flavor to me, and the dressing had a bit of a Thousand Island taste to it. I think I might add a bit of sweet pickle relish the next time. That was the only flavor missing from the Thousand Island experience, and it might just be a good “special sauce” for a Boca burger. 

This soup recipe came about because I had some cauliflower and wanted to make a soup. The end result tastes more like the beans than the cauliflower, but I’m not complaining! It was rich and creamy and satisfying while costing a mere 2 points for a huge bowl. Plus, it is vegetarian friendly, which was perfect since one friend is a long time vegetarian. I’m already thinking about making more, and I know it is going to be a staple recipe next winter! Here’s my recipe:

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Ingredients:

nonstick cooking spray

1 medium sized head of cauliflower, broken into florets

1 cup chopped onion

1 medium sized carrot, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

4 cups of broth (chicken or veggie)

2 cups of water

juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp)

1 19 ounce can of Cannellini Beans with the liquid (I used the Progresso brand in calculating points)

1 cup of 1% lowfat cottage cheese

Salt to taste

Fresh dill for garnish 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the cauliflower on the baking sheet and spray the cauliflower with cooking spray. Roast in the 475 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Spray a large pot with cooking spray and heat on medium high. When the pot is hot, add the onions, garlic and carrot. Saute for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped dill and saute for an additional minute. Add the broth, cauliflower, water, lemon juice and beans (with the bean liquid) to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes. 

Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or food processor incorporating half of the cottage cheese in the first batch and the other half in the second. Continue processing the soup until it has all been pureed. Return the processed soup to the pot, stir well and heat through (about a minute). Add salt to taste. I added 3/4 tsp., but the broth I used was reduced sodium. The bean juice adds some salt too, so I’d just give it a little taste and adjust it to your liking. Garnish each bowl with a sprig of fresh dill if desired.

This makes 6 unofficial 2 point servings or 8 unofficial 1 point servings.

Soup's On!I was so pleased with this soup. The carrot gives it a little sweetness and color. Roasting the cauliflower beforehand adds some nice caramel bits as well. The beans and cottage cheese work together to make the soup creamy and give it a punch of protein, and the lemon and dill give it a few bright notes. I honestly have to say that this may be my favorite of the soup recipes I’ve concocted this winter. I’m so happy to know that I’ll be having some more tomorrow! 

After lunch, I headed downtown to a very cool bowling alley, Lucky Strike, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I got to catch up with a few more friends while I was there, and it was just nice to be out and about on a very springlike day. If my friend is reading this, Happy Birthday to you!! I got there a bit late, so I didn’t actually bowl, but I had a great time watching everyone else and just hanging out. After the bowling, I headed home for my Sunday night cardio session followed by strength training with my trainer.

It was a full but fun day. Now, I’m going to try to get on track with the changes to the clock, so I’m headed to bed with a cup of tea and Pasta Queen’s book. I finished Dietgirl’s book, and I loved it so much. I think when I weighed over 300 pounds, I sometimes felt like I was the only girl in the world suffering through the experience. It’s so nice to read the words of someone who has walked in the same sensible and comfortable shoes as me, and who has endured so many of the same things. It’s also nice because her story has a happy ending. I’m a sucker for a happy ending!! As a bonus, Shauna has a stellar sense of humor, and I think we’d be fast friends. I highly recommend it!

Tonight’s workout was pretty great. I just find that I have so much more energy when the weather is favorable. I’m like a bear when it is cold. I’d rather just stay in my cave and hibernate! So, my question to you is this: What is your favorite thing about spring?

I wish you all sweet dreams in the wake of the time change! G’night… hopefully…! 🙂

 

 

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Cookies, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

My Saturday Cookie Experiment

 

Chocolate Chip Oat Bran Cookies

Happy weekend! I’m so excited that the weather is warm. I have the door to my balcony open as I’m typing, and it is so nice to air things out a bit. I started my day off with a bonus class with my trainer that involved 30 minutes of cardio and core intervals. I was pretty pooped after the class, but it was too nice not to get outside so I followed it up with a 30 minute run. I crushed over 700 calories today, got some fresh air and had a good time doing it!!

To celebrate my great workout and replenish a few of those tiny little calories, I decided to make a batch of cookies. I’ve been sort of obsessed with oat bran lately, and, of course, I wanted to see if I could incorporate it into a cookie. There was a recipe for an oat bran raisin cookie on the side of my oat bran box, but I wanted chocolate chips! I also wanted about one fourth of the number of cookies that the recipe would make, as usual, so I pared the recipe down and made a few other changes based on my goal of making a dozen one point cookies. It may seem weird to start with a points goal and work backwards when creating a recipe, but it works pretty well for me most of the time. 

The cookies that I made are good. I will say that they are pretty small, and have a definite oat bran nuttiness to them. Having said that, I enjoyed the two that I ate. I got that nice baked goods experience but with a little more fiber and a little less fat. Plus, did I mention… there was chocolate! I liked these enough to go ahead and post the recipe ( I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong…), but stay tuned! I’m going to be trying some variations on this theme. I’ll keep you updated. For now, this is my recipe:

Chocolate Cutie

Bittersweet Chocolate Oat Bran Cookies

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter

3 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed

1 Tbsp. egg beaters

2 Tbsp. skim milk

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

60 grams of oat bran (this is about 1/3 cup plus 2 1/2 Tbsp.)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 pinch of salt

25 grams of Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips (about 27 chips)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in the mixer at medium speed. Add the egg beaters, milk and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. 

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, oat bran, baking powder and salt) in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well. The dough will be stiff and somewhat dry. 

Incorporate the chocolate chips. Divide the dough into 12 portions and place on a baking sheet. 

Bake for five minutes. Remove from the oven, and press the tops of each cookie down with the back of a fork. This will flatten the cookies while spreading the chocolate around on top. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for an additional five minutes. Cool the finished cookies on a wire rack.

This makes 12 unofficial 1 point cookies.

The dough was definitely more stiff and dry than most cookie batters I’ve made, but it was sticky enough.

BatterThe balls of dough looked like this on the way into the oven:

Ready for the Oven The finished product:

Done!

As I mentioned, this was a bit of an experiment. I wasn’t planning to flatten the cookies out halfway through, but they weren’t spreading out much so I decided to go for it. I didn’t realize that the added bonus would be the way the chocolate spread around on the top. This seems perfect to me since there aren’t a ton of chocolate chips in these cookies. This made a little bit of chocolate go a longer way, and I think the cookies look prettier with their chocolatey tops. 

Rack 'em up!

I’m having a couple of friends over for lunch tomorrow, and I’m happy that they are the kind of friends who won’t turn up their noses at my healthy cookies! After that, I have a bowling birthday party to attend followed by another workout with my trainer. Tomorrow has potential to be a very busy day. Today has been pretty lazy, aside from my workout, so that seems like a pretty good balance. I like to have some time to myself on the weekends, but, of course, I like to have some time with my friends too!

I’m planning to make a yummy vegetarian friendly soup for my friends, and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. I’m concocting the recipe in my head right this second. Have a great Saturday night, and a great Sunday too. 🙂

Oh, and the lovely Abbie is having an amazing giveaway to celebrate her new site at Foods That Fit. Definitely check it out!! This is an awesome giveaway, and I always love to read what Abbie has to say.

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Filed under Baking, Cookies, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers