Category Archives: Chocolate

Je-diet Mind Tricks

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelette

Hi, friends. It’s the weekend. Woo hoo! Finally some time to catch my breath. It’s been a busy week. Let me catch you up in a hurry. Oh, and the photo at the top is a teaser. I’ll tell you about it in a minute. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve just finished 10 days of level of one Jillian’s notorious 30 day shred workouts. So far so good. I’m trying to shock my body a bit with some new tricks in my weekly routine, so I’m replacing 20 minutes of my usual cardio with 20 minutes of shredding. I’m still working out with my trainer, and I’m not shredding on those days. I haven’t worked out without resting days in between in a long time, and I’m only planning to do it for a few weeks. I’m not out to create any overuse injuries, but I am trying to shake things up a bit. So far, I feel stronger and I have more energy. The workouts are tough, but I like a challenge. Have you shredded?? What did you think?
  • I just finished the second week of participation in a stair climbing contest at work. One of my favorite co-workers organized us into teams of five, and, each week, we compete to be the team to log the most flights (only ascending flights count). Prizes are awarded weekly. Last week, my team won the contest with nearly 700 flights!! This week, I wasn’t a very useful team member since I was out for training on Thursday and Friday, but I’m sure my team rocked it again this week anyway! They are awesome. Getting a little exercise throughout the day has given me a real boost. It has also made me realize how easy it is to park in front of the computer for hours at a time without moving. Honestly, I’ve also realized that it’s pretty easy to get up and move around too. I hope I can keep it up when the contest is over.ย 
  • Last Sunday, I went to the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show here in D.C. I attended Tyler’s Ultimate Food and Wine pairing, and had some very tasty nibbles.

The Stage is Set

TylerOk. So, Tyler wasn’t a nibble, but he is rather tasty. Yes? We were also treated to a visit by another Food Network favorite…

SamplingTyler has started making wine, and he was giving Paula a little sample of his wares. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I had a great time at the show, and I sampled a ton of stuff at the expo too. I’m definitely going to try to go again next year!

Now that I’ve given you the quick catch up, I want to talk a bit about the title of this post “Je-diet Mind Tricks.” Over the past few years, I’ve looked for ways to make my food more enjoyable without piling on lots of extra calories. I’ve learned a number of tricks. For example, I’d always heard that serving your food on a smaller plate or in a smaller bowl would make you think you were having more. I’m sure I’d read that in magazines in the past and dismissed it with an “Oh please!! I’m way too smart for that” kind of attitude. The thing is, it does work. I have lots of small bowls, and I use them often. I like eating smaller meals off of smaller plates, and I tend to eat ice cream out of tiny little heart shaped bowls I picked up at Crate & Barrel.

My Heart is Empty?One fourth of ย a cup of ice cream really does look like a lot more when it fills up my small bowl than it would if it were sitting in a little blob in the middle of one of my big oat bran bowls.ย These bowls are also great for little nibbles of granola, trail mix, almonds and that sort of thing. I’m a fan!

Another trick I’ve learned comes into play in my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelettes. I could just call them muffins, but they are much sweeter and more like cake. Truth in advertising, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ Have you ever made a lightened up recipe involving chocolate chips? Often, these just seem to involve using a smaller portion of the chips you might use in a regular recipe. That’s not a bad strategy, but it can lead to a treasure hunt type scenario for the three little chips that might have made their way into your muffin. There is an easy solution to this, and I think it makes a huge difference with regard to the satisfaction factor– mini-chips!

Mini YummiesLook inside this muffin. See all those brown specks?

Chocolate Bonanza!Those are the mini-chocolate chips. There are several bits of chocolate in each bite, and a great deal of satisfaction. Employing another je-diet mind trick, I also used turbinado sugar in the topping because the crystals are bigger and add a nice crunch. I’ve made this with granulated sugar in the topping, and it doesn’t maintain its character nearly as well. It certainly seems like a bigger treat when I see the sweet little crystals and feel them crunch in my teeth. Tricky? You bet!!

I started with a recipe I’ve used for a long time, and I gave it some pretty significant tweaks. I love remaking an old favorite. The cinnamon and chocolate combo gives it a slightly Viennese twist, and the pumpkin just tastes like fall. Here’s the recipe:

YUM!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelettes

Ingredients:

Dry Team:

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup teff flour (or 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour)ย 

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Wet Team:

1/2 cup egg beaters (or two eggs, beaten)

8 ounces (1 3/4 cups) of canned pumpkin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. canola oil

Team Chocolate:

1/2 cup semi-sweet mini-morsels

Topping:

1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 12 unit muffin tin with cooking spray.ย 

In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients in the “dry team.” Make a well in the center.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the ingredients in the “wet team.” Pour the wet mixture into the well in the center of the dry mixture, and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups.ย 

Mix the turbinado sugar and cinnamon together to form the topping, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Based on my calculations, these come out just below 150 calories a piece. Not bad for a sweet treat in my opinion!

You could bake the batter in a 9×9 inch baking pan for 20-25 minutes if you would prefer to serve it like a cake. I kind of like the built in portion control I get by using a muffin pan, but I’ve made this as a cake many times. I’m also positive that cream cheese icing would be great on top if you were feeling more decadent or serving these to a festive crowd.ย 

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? Do you love pumpkin as much as I do? ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, it’s time for me to take my first run at doing level two of Jillian’s shred. Wish me luck! I may need it!! Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, cooking, D.C., Fitness, Food, Pumpkin, Recipes, Squash, Uncategorized, Weight Loss Success Story

Sweetie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Sweetie's Chocolate Zucchini CakeHi, sweetie pies! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. Mine has been pretty laid back, but nice, so far. We have had a very mild summer up until now, and I think the month of August is going to be a hot one. I’ve been kicking it with the A/C as much as possible and laying low. It has been a perfect opportunity for me to spend some time in the kitchen.

My mom and I were talking on the phone the other day, and she mentioned that my dad had brought in a few “baseball bats” from the garden patch. The meaning of that statement was immediately clear– baseball bats are oversize summertime zucchinis! She was trying to figure out to do with them, and we laughed about one of our favorite ways to enjoy zucchini– in chocolate cake. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is an old zucchini cake recipe that we used to enjoy that was pretty decadent. I started to wonder if I could get the same yummy result with a few tweaks. I love revamping an old recipe to fit the way I prefer to cook now. I am especially happy when I get a result that I deem to be just as good as the original. I’m happy to report that such was the case with this recipe. Mom, here you go– If you make it, let me know what you think!

Mmmm...Sweetie’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup apple sauce

1/4 cup egg beaters (or 1 egg)

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup grated zucchini

2 1/2 Tbsp. chopped pecans (or other nuts)

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chips, but any chips would work just fine. The minis just go further.)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Add the applesauce, Greek yogurt, and egg beaters and continue to beat the mixture until the ingredients are thoroughly combined (about two minutes). You can’t overwork this part of the mixture so don’t worry about just letting the mixer run for a bit.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture looks smooth.ย 

Using a spatula, fold in the grated zucchini. I used the small holes on my grater to make finer shreds of zucchini. Pour the batter into the baking pan.

Sprinkle the nuts and the chocolate chips on top of the mixture, and bake for 40-45 minutes. When it is done, the center should spring back when you touch it with your finger. Just be careful, and don’t try to touch your finger to the hot, melted chocolate chips. Not that I did that myself. Nope. I would never do something silly like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

This makes 9 to 12 servings, depending on how hungry you are for cake!ย 

Being the farmer’s market junkie that I am, I was so excited to see a new vendor a couple of weeks ago. They had whole wheat flour for sale. Of course, I had to support my local economy by buying a bag. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Local GoldI’m happy to have this bag of beautiful flour in the fridge. The Greek yogurt and the zucchini in this cake came from the market as well. My zucchini was on the plump side, but it was no baseball bat!

Zuke. E. KneeThe zucchini adds a lovely moistness to this cake, and it becomes virtually invisible (unless you know to look for a few flecks of green) in the finished product.

I swear, it's in there!See… it’s in there!

Sprinkles of GreenI substituted applesauce for the oil called for in my original recipe, and I will admit that the applesauce sub was the switch that concerned me the most. I feel like I’ve tried that trick before only to end up with overly dense and sort of gummy baked goods. That is no bueno in my book. I don’t know if the Greek yogurt somehow balanced it out (which wouldn’t be surprising since GY is my kitchen superstar), but I didn’t find this cake to be overly dense at all. In fact, it had nice crumbs, was lovely and moist but was rather light and fluffy as well. Just the way I like it! Check out the side view. Do you see any green (aside from the plate)? Subtle, right?

YUM!When I woke up this morning, I realized that the thing I really wanted for breakfast was… yes… you guessed it… a piece of this cake! It seemed perfect for a Sunday morning, and I savored it along with my yummy cup of coffee. Maybe I should make some in muffin form…? They would certainly be similar to the cake like muffins for sale at Starbucks.

I’m finding that one of the amazing things about intuitive eating is the fact that, if I have what I really want, it often doesn’t take a lot of it to satisfy me. If I’m satisfied, I’m not going to go rooting through the kitchen looking for something more (or trying my hardest NOT to do that). For example, I’ve realized that I prefer my morning coffee to have a little bit of half and half mixed with unsweetened almond breeze. The flavor is so rich and satisfying that I’m completely satisfied with one cup.ย I’m really learning a lot from this new approach to eating, and it gets a bit better each day. I’m not just eating cake all day long, but it’s nice to enjoy my cake without feeling guilty and like I’m cheating on my plan.ย 

Speaking of the cake, I made this cake last night, and shared it with a friend, Mr. T, who came over for dinner. The dinner I made last night was not enormous, but I was very happy at the end of the meal because the ingredients were good quality, very fresh and cooked the way I liked them.ย In addition to testing out this new version of the cake recipe, we also tried out Emeril’s Steak Rub. I received a package in the mail the other day, from the Foodbuzz tastemaker program, and it had several of Emeril’s products for me to try out. So far, I’ve used a couple of them, but I’m planning to tell you about all of them in one big Emerilicious post. Stay tuned for that! I already have plans for the other two items, so I expect to post about them very soon. By the way, Mr. T seemed to enjoy the cake. Good thing since I sent a big chunk home with him. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

Now, I’m going to brave a Sunday afternoon trip to Trader Joe’s. I haven’t been in awhile, and I can’t wait to see what I find. Unlike Whole Foods, Safeway and Giant, I have to actually drive to Trader Joe’s. As a result, I probably only go to Trader Joe’s once every couple of months. That may seem funny, since it is probably only a ten minute drive, but I love living in a place where I can walk to do errands, and I try to stick to that as much as possible. I love getting a little bit of bonus exercise, and I know that leaving my car at home is better for the environment too. Can you walk/bike to run errands where you live? Do you?

Growing up in the country with no sidewalks and not a lot of stores, walking or biking to run errands wasn’t much of an option. We often hopped in the car to go “to town” to get groceries at Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Save-a-lot and, later on, the Wal-mart supercenter. The post office was really about the only thing within walking distance. Walking to run errands is one of my favorite things about the place I live now. TJ’s is always super crowded on Sunday, but the fun stuff I find usually makes getting in the car a worthwhile venture. Wish me luck!

Ciao for now, sweeties and I hope you all have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Intuitive Eating, Recipes, Weight Loss Success Story, Zucchini

I’ve Gone Bananas!

Hello to you, and here’s hoping that your Tuesday was more like a Tuesday than a Monday. Mine? It was Monday all the way. Ugh! I had a busy day, and it spilled over into my evening. I’m going to make this quick so I can get to bed and be ready to tackle tomorrow!

I have one more set of photos from my vacation that I want to share from our zipline adventure in Ketchikan, but I don’t quite have them ready. I have so many photos to sort through, it’s taking awhile! Instead of me in crazy zipping gear, here’s a quick mountain scene of the calming and majestic variety:

Beautiful!My vacation was so relaxing, and that photo is a nice reminder of the calm. That’s just the kind of scene I need after my hectic day!

Blue is known as a calming color, so keeping with that theme, here’s one more glacier photo too from my helicopter glacier adventure:

Calming BlueI was so taken with the blue water that I have a ton of photos just like this one. The glacier really amazed me. I do promise you some zipline photos soon (hopefully tomorrow), and then I think my vacation recap will be done. I missed y’all while I was gone, and I’m glad I’ve been able to show you some of the cool sights I saw while I was away!

Now, on to today’s menu! I put four servings of steel cut oats (1 cup dry) in the slow cooker last night with about 5 cups of water. I set it on medium low and left it all night. When I woke up, I had lovely, creamy oats ready to go into my bowl with some Jay Robb’s, raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. I love this classic combo!

Steel Cut LoveI have oats ready to go for the next three mornings, and they will only need a quick zap in the micro. I love a little morning time saver like that! Speaking of time savers, I realized one of the benefits of keeping my little camera in my purse when I decided to buy some dried cherries out of the bulk bin at Whole Foods on Monday. Instead of searching for a scrap of paper in my purse and then scribbling down the nutrition info, I have this:

Paper SaverI’m glad I remembered the camera, and I’ll be using this trick from now on for sure!! Ok, back to today’s eats…

For lunch, I had a big salad full of crispy veggies (lettuce, celery, cucumbers, scallions and grape tomatoes) topped with a hardboiled egg, two slices of crumbled turkey bacon, an ounce of goat cheese and some Italian dressing.

Lunchie LunchI typically just prefer vinegar on my salad so the dressing is a bit unusual for me. I recently found these little packets on sale and decided they might not be a bad thing to keep in the desk drawer stash. It was nice to have something different, and it was great not to have a vinegar spillage incident in my lunch bag. I’ve had that before, and it was NOT pleasant. This isn’t really my favorite dressing, but, for 25 calories, it was pretty good!ย 

I also had the Wallaby nonfat Pineapple and Coconut yogurt that you see in the photo. This was a new flavor for me, and it was pina colada-esque, as I expected. I could tell that it was nonfat yogurt, unlike my favorite Wallaby– the Dulce de Leche species, and I definitely think I prefer a little fat in my yogurt. Still, I liked the flavor, and I’d buy it again!

My snacks this afternoon were pretty typical. I had some cherries (nom nom nom!!!) Such a treat!!

Sweet Cherries!I decided to follow those up with a salty snack even though I had a hankering for something sweet. This popcorn seemed to do the trick, and the sugar craving went away. Yay!!

PopcornLater on, I wanted some peanut butter. I realized that I often eat extra foods just because I think something needs to go with the peanut butter– vanilla wafers, crackers, celery, whatever. Sometimes, a spoon is the best accessory! I had a few prunes on the side, but I ate this like two separate snacks.

PB and PrunesI have a smarty pants camera, and it made me laugh today. I took the photo of the PB and prunes, and my camera highlighted one of the prunes and said “Did someone blink?” Maybe my camera saw intelligent life in the prunes? Oh well. I ate him so we will never know! ๐Ÿ™‚

I had one last snack this afternoon. Can you find it in this photo? It’s hiding!

Search for the SnackI love recycling these pretty metal tea boxes by using them to hold my writing utensils. You can see one holding plastic eating utensils in the background too. I don’t usually keep string cheese in there, but I needed to have a little goofiness break. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I got home, I grilled up a zucchini on the Griddler, made a quick micro baked sweet potato, and reheated one of yesterday’s salmon cakes. It was a very tasty dinner indeed!

Din DinI followed my dinner up with a bowl of the new gelato living in my freezer and topped it with some rescued broken graham cracker crust. Yum!!

GelatoliciousFinally, I tried one of the ginger chocolate covered bananas I made yesterday. I love the ginger!! I can report that this is a winning combination. The crystallized ginger pieces are nice and a little bit chewy, and they go well with the chocolate and the banana. I’m loving these bananas! I hated bananas as a kid because of the texture, and I wonder if I would have liked them frozen. It seems possible. I certainly like them now. Yummy!!

Ginger Chockie NannerI just finished my workout for the evening, and I’m looking forward to having Wednesday off from the gym. I’ve had some good workouts over the last week, and it has actually been nice to get back into the gym after my week away. Even so, I’ll be happy to relax tomorrow night, and I can tell you that my body will appreciate a break too! Now, it’s time for me to make a cup of tea and head to bed. I have another doozy of a day to look forward to tomorrow, and I definitely need my rest. Ciao for now! I’ll catch you later! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, diet, Fitness, Food, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Snapshots, Salmon Cakes and Sweet Frozen Bananas

Hi friends! Happy Monday! As promised, I have a few pics to share from my trip again today. After that, I have a new recipe for you so stay tuned. First….

Iceberg!!

Iceberg! Dead ahead!! We got to see glaciers “calving” on several occasions. Calving is when big chunks of glacier fall into the water following an amazingly thunderous noise. It was definitely a sight (and sound) to behold! That, my friends, is the recipe for an iceberg. The water was so beautiful, but I was certainly not tempted to go for a swim!

Here’s a silly photo. While in Anchorage, I was petted by a bear!!

DSCN3264_2I can’t resist silly tourist type photo ops. Further evidence from Anchorage:

Cheese!Those pants are a bit big on me even though this was the end of a week of constant eating! Awesome!ย Have you ever given in and done the touristy photo op thing? Come on! Fess up! Sweetie wants to know!ย I hope my friend, Miss M, won’t mind appearing here with her pickaxe. ๐Ÿ™‚ I just couldn’t get that moose to go any faster. I tried! While you might think these little photo shoots were the highlight of our day in Anchorage, I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that there was actually something even better…

KobukThe Kobuk had a sign in the window promoting their old fashioned style donuts, and, after a long bus ride from Whittier to Anchorage, that sounded like just the ticket!

Old Alaska HospitalityI love the teapot mural on the side of the building. So cute! I had an old fashioned donut topped with chocolate and a peanut butter bar:

SweetsThe bar was not what I expected. I had a nice surprise when I realized that it was like the cornflake cluster candies that my grandmother used to make at Christmastime. I’d say it involved cornflakes, peanut butter, corn syrup and butter. That would be my guess. It was soooo yummy, but the donut, well… drool.

So I didn’t have donuts today, but I did start off with a nice breakfast. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t very interesting to look at:

BrekkieI was in the mood for steel cut oats, and, since I had a day off, I had time for the 30 minute stove top method. I liked them so much that I’m going to put a batch in the slow cooker tonight so I can have more tomorrow. I like their chewy texture, and I usually have some in the pantry. I just don’t think to make them very often since they take longer. I can’t wait for breakfast! Today’s bowl was a classic. It had brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. I also added a little Jay Robb’s for some protein sticking power. Three hours later, I was ready for an apple with some cashew butter. YUM!

Apple Cashew Butter Goodness

The bluebirds kept jumping into every photo today. I don’t know what got into them!

Not long after my apple snack, it was time for lunch. That brings me to the new recipe I promised you. I hope you didn’t think the iceberg recipe was it for the day! ๐Ÿ™‚ As a kid, I did a lot of the cooking. We were on a pretty tight budget so stretching a can of tuna or salmon was definitely a goal. Add that to the fact that I was just learning my way around the kitchen, and the results were often less than stellar. I made countless batches of salmon patties that could probably best be described as gluey, bready, slightly fishy, hockey pucks. Thank goodness for ketchup! I had a can of salmon in the pantry today, and I decided to come up with a healthier and more grown-up version. I was very happy with the end result! Here’s the recipe:

Grown Up Salmon Cake

Sweetie’s” All Grown Up” Salmon Cakes

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 14.5 ounce can of salmon, drained and flaked (if bones are included, do your best to sort of crunch them up while flaking the salmon… no reason to waste that calcium!)

4 ounces of jarred roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped

5 Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers, finely crushed (any crackers should work just fine)

1/4 cup of chopped scallions

2 tsp old bay seasoning

1/4 cup egg beaters

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients (except cooking spray) in a large bowl. Divide into fourths, and form each fourth into a ball. Press the balls out into patty shapes and place in the fridge to chill for ten minutes. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet on high heat and gently place the patties in the pan to brown– about 2 minutes on each side. Here’s a warning: These have very little filler, and very little glue. It may take some patience and some care to keep them from falling apart during this part of the process. If it happens, don’t worry. you can reshape it a bit before it goes into the oven, and no one will no the difference. Believe me. I know. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

Place the browned cakes on the baking sheet, and then spray the tops with more cooking spray for a bit of extra crispness. Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes in order to heat them through.ย 

A little recipe calculator told me that these are 4 points each.

My salmon cake had flavor! It was moist, and did not resemble a hockey puck at all. Success! I’ve had enough good crab cakes since moving to the east coast to know that the less filling there is in a fish type cake the better. That’s why there are only a few crackers and a bit of egg in these. I love the sweetness of the jarred roasted red peppers. If you don’t keep these in your pantry, you might consider giving them a spot on the shelf. I love them in potato salads, pasta salads and all sorts of things– including these cakes. I topped my cake with some raspberry wasabi mustard, and tossed a zucchini on the griddler to have as a side. I loved my lunch!

After lunch, I took one of yesterday’s chocolate covered bananas out of the freezer, and it was even better with the banana actually, um, frozen! It also took a long time to eat, which is a great quality in any dessert.

Chocolate Covered GoodnessI’m so enamored with these that I scoped out the chocolate at Whole Foods today in order to find some to wrap around my two remaining bananas. I found this:

The GoodnessGinger+ Chocolate + Banana? You bet! I made a batch this afternoon, and I can’t wait to try them! I also picked up a new bar that I snacked on after my WF trip:

Raise the BarThis Kashi GoLean Crunchy Chocolate Pretzel bar was ok. I think I like Coffee Cake flavor of this line of bars the best so far out of the ones I’ve tried. Even so, it was pretty good, and I definitely ย liked the pretzel bits. I followed it up with a blueberry Oikos:

Blueberry OikosThe bluebirds approved! These were on sale at WF today, and I picked up several. I love the blueberry Oikos the best of any of the flavored Greek yogurts I’ve tried. I found the Chobani fruit flavored yogurts to be too gloppy and gooey. I think this one is just right. I didn’t even add any crunch!

Close to dinner, I munched on another little treat from my WF trip. I love cherries, and I look forward to their appearance at the farmer’s market and the grocery store each year. They are, hands down, one of my favorite fruits. They are so sweet and juicy, and I also think they are just so darn pretty!

Just a Bowl of CherriesThese are like Sweetie Pie crack. I could eat them all day. So good!!

When it came time for dinner, there was really only one thing I wanted: Breakfast!!

Dinner BrekkieI had two slices of turkey bacon, a fried egg, some berries, and two Van’s 97% fat free waffles topped with a bit of maple syrup. Yum! These waffles are much better than any other frozen waffles I’ve tried. I will be buying them again. This was exactly what I wanted, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Dinner was, of course, followed by dessert. I wanted to swing by the Gelateria up the street today on my way to WF, but since I’m trying to really behave myself post-cruise, I decided to splurge on a container of gelato at WF. That way, I’d know the number of calories and be able to make a wise choice. It wasn’t a sacrifice. Not at all! I picked up a container of Ciao Bella Maple Ginger Snap Gelato. Oh my!! It was delish!ย 

Ciao Bella!I’ve never found a gelato in the U.S. that comes close to the scoops I enjoyed a couple of years ago while in Italy, but maybe it just tastes different when you are in Florence or Rome? ๐Ÿ˜‰ This will definitely do.

There is a bit of a story about the crumbs on top. I bought a ready made reduced fat graham cracker pie crust some time ago, and it fell out of the top of the cabinet and broke into a bunch of pieces. The pieces were nicely protected under the plastic cover, but it was still a broken mess hiding under the lid. I decided to just crunch it all up, put it in a container, and use it to top ice cream, pudding, yogurt and whatever else comes along. I’m sure I could add some butter and make it back into a nice crust shape, but I’m happy with my crumbles. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

That’s it for today’s eats. I’m doing better with my sugar cravings, and I think that’s because I’ve been eating more fruit. Now that there are cherries available, well, that should help matters tremendously!

I had a great workout tonight in the gym, but I’m sorry I didn’t get my bicycle out this afternoon before the rain started. It is collecting dust, and I’m missing feeling the breeze through my bicycle helmet hair. I vow to take advantage of the next nice day that provides the opportunity. Now, I’m off to turn on the slow cooker so my steel cut oats will be nice and creamy in the morning, and then I’m off to bed. Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Salmon, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Alaskan Cupcake Gold, Hungry Animals and the Nats

Get ready for a grab bag of a post! It’s a bit here and there, just like I have been myself!

While walking past an ice cream store in Skagway, Alaska (and considering whether or not to make an ice cream stop…), my friend and I heard this conversation between a mother and child leaving the store. The kiddo had ice cream:

Kiddo: Mom, why didn’t you get ice cream?

Mom: Because I want a cupcake from Sugar Mamas.

What’s that? A cupcake? Yes please! I did what any good cupcake hound would do and tailed them down the block and around the corner. I was rewarded with this sight:

Sugar MamaInside this adorable pink store, my friend and I were treated to a selection of luscious looking cupcakes as well as some fun little treats for sale and a very friendly dog. I believe his name was Carlos. The pup took the time to ask my friend to toss his stick back and forth. I should have snapped his photo, but I have this one for you instead:

Lovely!Look at the icing!! You may be able to read some of tags in the case. There were carrot cake cupcakes, fresh strawberry cupcakes with sprinkles, and several other kinds. It was NOT an easy choice, and I wish I had gotten a few to try later after I realized how great they really were. We both chose the Not So Plain Jane white chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, and it was one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. This icing was buttery and sweet without being overly greasy and heavy (I hate greasy buttercream!!), and the cake was perfectly moist and sweet. I’m so happy that I was eavesdropping at just the right time. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If the carrot cake had been equally as good, which I suspect would have been the case, I might not have gotten back on the boat!!

Now that you’ve had a little dose of Alaska (and you can expect some more for a few days more…), let me tell you about the Saturday I spent playing tourist in my own backyard. Of course, when you live just across the river from NW Washington, D.C., it’s pretty easy to find plenty of things to do.

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. T, got a big new lens for his camera, and he thought the National Zoo would be a good place to try it out. I don’t love the zoo, typically. I especially dislike the apes. The way they stare back gives me the creeps! Primate issues aside, the weather was nice and the idea of walking around with good company for an afternoon sounded pretty good to me. Off I went!ย 

I took a ton of photos, but I’ll just share a few. Since this is a food blog, here are Tian Tian’s eats for the day.ย 

BambooliciousMmm… bamboo. I will spare you a photo of the Magpie’s eats for the day. Watching him chow down on dead mouse was pretty disgusting, but to each his own. Here is an elephant munching on some grindage (points if you remember that movie…) with me in the foreground. I think my diet might closely resemble the elephant’s!

Elephant DinnerThis tiger was just lounging in the shade, which is what I felt like doing after walking around all afternoon!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright...I think these flamingos needed a snack. They seemed to be having some issues, and the vibe was NOT a happy one… Low blood sugar?

Fighting FlamingosIt was such a nice day to be out and about, and I can’t wait to see the photos Mr. T took! I’m sure to be quite jealous of his new gadget!! The weather was so nice that we decided to go and catch a National’s game after the zoo.ย 

NatsThere was a pretty big crowd for a Nats game since the Nats were playing the Baltimore Orioles. There were lots of O’s fans in town for the game, and there was a lot of orange in the stands. Unfortunately, the Nats did not win ๐Ÿ˜ฆ , but we had a great time anyway! I’m not a big sports fan, but I do like going to baseball games. There’s just something about it! Usually, I pack healthy snacks before going to the ballpark, but since it was a spontaneous decision, all I had left in my bag was a little package of dried apple snacks. Those would certainly not do as dinner and wouldn’t even fill me up as a snack. What to eat? Well, here’s what I came up with:

Ben's ChiliBen’s Chili Bowl is a Washington, D.C. institution, and their chili is really great. It’s nice and spicy with lots of juicy beef and plump beans. I have found that chili can be a pretty healthy choice, and it seemed like a better option than many of the other choices at the park. As much as I would have loved a big boat of French fries underneath my chili, I just got mine in a bowl with a bit of nacho cheese sauce and some chopped onions on top. I added a bit of yellow mustard, because I kind of like that in my chili sometimes. Anyone else do that? Is it just me?ย 

Of course, I needed dessert. There were tons of ice cream options, but Cracker Jack seemed like a better choice. It also didn’t hurt that the nutritional information was on the side of the bag so I didn’t have to guess at the number of calories I was about to eat. I appreciate knowing things like that most of the time! This whole bag (3 servings) was 350 calories. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was a happy– and full girl!!

Cracker JackI would have photographed my prize, but it was so LAME! I miss the lick and stick tattoos and the games with tiny plastic ping pong balls in a maze. My prize was disappointing, but at least my Jacks were good. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wanted something else, but managed to settle for a camera shy fountain Coke Zero. I’m not much of a diet soda drinker at all, but I like Coke Zero. Since I rarely see it as a fountain drink option, I decided to go for it. What is your favorite stadium food– healthy or… not? I do love a good hot dog, and the new stadium has Five Guys burgers, which are always an enjoyable treat.ย 

Saturday was such a nice day! I managed to keep my eating on track while staying in motion. I worked out in the gym on Saturday morning, and followed that up with several hours of walking around. It was definitely the sort of active day I needed during my “cruise recovery” program. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย As for my Sunday, well, it has been a pretty laid back day. I still need to go to the grocery store, so I haven’t really done much cooking. I did make a sweet little treat that I wanted to mention: Chocolate covered bananas!

First, I peeled two bananas, sliced them in half, inserted some skewers, and put them on a plate covered with waxed paper:

Pre-FreezeI popped the plate in the freezer to let the bananas firm up for about three hours. Then, I melted 3 ounces of 77% dark chocolate with cocoa nibs (yummy), in the microwave in a small pyrex measuring cup:

Melted ChocolateI used to use the double boiler method whenever I melted chocolate, but, unless I’m making something super fancy, I think the microwave method works just fine! I’d say that you need about 1 1/2 ounces of chocolate per whole banana. Put the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and zap it for 30 seconds. Take it out, stir it, and zap it for 30 seconds more. Repeat this until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then, dip the bananas. I decided I needed to use a rubber spatula to make sure I got the chocolate all over the bananas. After they were coated, I put them all back on the plate and popped them back in the freezer. You can see that the chocolate was already pretty much hardened up even before the second freeze:

Chocolate Covered BananasYou can see the bumpy little nibs too. Yum! Theoretically, these should stay in the freezer for awhile to allow the banana to re-freeze after being dipped in the hot chocolate. Realistically, I decided that 10 minutes was long enough!

Yum!I considered dipping these in nuts right after they took a swim in the chocolate, but the cocoa nibs in this chocolate bar gave it a crunch so I decided I didn’t need anything more. These are so easy, and quick. I’m not sure why I never made my own! I’ve seen some pricey ones in the freezer section at my Whole Foods, and those just seem extra silly now that I know how easy they are to make. Plus, I get to pick the chocolate I want. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

That’s the scoop on my weekend, and I’m so happy to have a bonus day off. I need another day like today to get things back in order after my trip, and I’m happy to be able to sleep late too!

Before I go,ย Christina made a batch of my cabbage nests and topped them with, get this, GRAVY! Genius! I’m so flattered, and so glad that other people are enjoying my recipe. ๐Ÿ™‚ This really is a versatile recipe. Remember my barbecued chicken pizza nests? How about when I topped a nest with a fried egg? I feel like the possibilities are endless!

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, I’m off to bed with a book, Underworld by Don Delillo, that I’ve really been enjoying. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow, I may stay up late with my book. I love when I’m able to do that! Ciao for now, and I hope everyone has a lovely Monday.

Happy Memorial Day!!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, D.C., Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Washington, Weight Loss

Return to Normalcy… and Berries!!

Square MealGood evening, friends! I want to thank you for the comments on yesterday’s post. It’s always nice to be reassured that I’m human, and that everyone has overly eatful days. I’m just trying to find a good balance, and days like yesterday totally throw me for a loop! Hearing the ways that y’all react to bottomless pit days really made me feel better. Hugs to you all!!ย 

Today was back to normal, as I’d hoped. Thank goodness! I started off with a big bowl of five grain cereal, oat bran, smashed banana, vanilla almonds and honey. I’ve been having bananas in my breakfast bowl all week because I’ve been trying to eat things I have on hand rather than restock the fridge in preparation for vacation. As you will see in a second, I caved today. I had bananas in the freezer so it’s been bananas every morning. Tomorrow, I’ll be back to a morning favorite…

I was definitely back in my nut butter groove today after eating less than usual over the last couple of days. I had a little pink lady with some mighty maple as a mid-morning snack:

Snick SnackNut butter is just SO satisfying! There was an interesting bit in the Post about nut butter (and how awesome it is!!) If you are interested, you can check it out here.

For lunch, I had not one– but TWO cabbage nests topped with the rest of the goat cheese from the fridge, some scallions, some chopped up pieces of chicken breast that I tossed on the griddler this morning and a little Country Bob’s sauce. Barbecued chicken cabbage nest pizzas? Cleaning out the fridge is underrated!!

Cabbage Nest LunchingI followed that up with a piece of Chocolate Banana Snack Cake from the bag of baked goods in the freezer. I put a little layer of mighty maple in the middle. PB hit #2 of the day.

Chockie PB LoveRather than just feed on one sweet snack after the other, I decided to try to have a savory snack. I think the sugar monster was a bit out of control yesterday, and I think that might have been part of the issue. I popped a 100 calorie bag of popcorn and topped it with some Kernel Seasons ranch seasoning. I’d seen Kernel Seasons products on-line, and I was shocked when I found some hiding on a bottom shelf at my Safeway. I got several flavors, but I hadn’t actually tried any of them until today. I’m sure that greasier buttery popcorn would do a better job of holding on to the seasoning, but it worked just fine and added a little bit of extra flavah. I approve of Kernel Seasons. Sah-loot! I’m going to have to try this on a baked potato. I have a feeling it’ll be goooood!

The KernelWhile snacking on my popcorn and working on the long draft that occupied much of my day, I heard something. I had to investigate. There’s a fountain down below my balcony, and, as much as I love it, it’s kind of loud– even up here on the 12th floor! Today was the day to turn it on, and the results were interesting. Apparently, it could have used some preliminary cleaning. I’m no fountain expert. I’m just sayin’…

Not So PrettyYuck! I can envision the Addam’s Family with a black fountain, but it isn’t such a great look for my building. I hope it looks better tomorrow. Ewww.

I ย made some iced tea this afternoon that was a much nicer color than the fountain water. This loose melon tea makes great iced tea, and today, in a stroke of sudden inspiration, I figured how to satisfy my love of sweet tea by adding a bit of sugar free French vanilla Torani syrup to this glass. It was so good with the melon flavor. I don’t know why I never thought of it before!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and speaking of French… in case you haven’t noticed based on various pictures in numerous posts, I’m a sucker for cheesy things with French words on them. What can I say? Ooh la la!

TealiciousIf you love tea as much as I do, you should definitely check out this awesome tea giveaway hosted by the Hungry Yogini! Actually, don’t check it out. I want to win!!!

When it came time for another snack, I decided to have a container of my favorite pre-flavored yogurt, the awesome Wallaby Dulce de Leche. On the side, in keeping with my attempts to impose a bit of restraint on the sugar monster, I picked one of the lesser sweet cereals in the pantry– Quaker Essentials Crunchy Corn Bran. A serving of this cereal is huge, and it kept me crunching for a long time. I also think that, since the yogurt is so sweet, the less sweet cereal makes a great pairing. People get jobs doing wine pairings. Do you think I have a future in yogurt/crunch pairing?ย 

Wonderful WallabyI needed a bit of nut butter, so I followed that a bit later with a few little wafers topped with PB #3 of the day. This was Mighty Maple again. Love it!

PB NibblesAfter I logged out of work for the day, I decided to combine a quick run with a trip to Whole Foods. I couldn’t stand the lack of fresh things anymore, and I wanted to buy a few things that would last in the pantry and be ready for me when I return from vacation. Before I headed out, I had this bowl– one of my faves!! Milk chocolate Ghirardelli chips and Galaxy Granola Vanilla Almond Munch. I lurve it!! I figured a few carbs would make for good fuel. ๐Ÿ˜‰

AwesomenessI was planning to do about 20 minutes of running, but it started raining around minute 10. At minute 15, I decided to go ahead and duck into Whole Foods to do my shopping in hopes the rain would stop for my walk home. I went to the gym tonight to finish up my workout as planned anyway, so I just tacked on five more minutes. No biggie! It was nice to run outside a bit, and it was great to just break up the monotony. I didn’t get to kickbox today because something came up around lunchtime that needed my attention. I’m usually able to go to class on my “work at home” days, so I can’t complain too much about missing on occasion. I think I might try to go to the Saturday class. We’ll see.

I picked up some almond breeze, frozen fruit, a new huge container of Jay Robb goodness, oat bran (I was almost out… eek!), some yogurt and egg beaters with June expiration dates, and a few other things that will last just fine in the fridge and be here for me when I get back. I hate coming home from vacation to an empty fridge! I’m usually ready to eat super healthy, after some vacation eating, and I hate when I don’t have good things at my fingertips! I also got some fresh berries, spinach, cucumbers and hummus because I was going crazy without them. I don’t think it will be hard to eat them all up before I leave on Monday morning. I don’t mind that challenge at all!

After I put the groceries away, I had a lovely plate of cold foods along with more iced tea. It was like a picnic! I had some more of the chicken I grilled this morning, some Springtime Market Potato Salad (loving it, by the way…), some fresh cucumber, and my favorite Whole Foods hummus— caramelized onion. This may sound like a bad thing, depending on your taste, but it reminds me of the Lipton onion soup mix and sour cream dip that we used to have a few times a year. I always loved it, and that’s why I’m such a fan of this hummus. Good memories… and good eats!

Blue Plate SpecialI followed that up with some Vanilla Snowflake LaLoo’s goat’s milk ice cream and some strawberries. Oh, how I’ve missed my berries this week. Seriously!! I need that hit of red. I tossed in a few little vanilla wafers too. Yum!ย 

LaLoo- hoooooooo!After that lovely bowl, I went to the gym to finish my workout. Then, I decided it was time for more of my berry loves. It was time for more chocolate chips too. This bowl is like deconstructed chocolate covered strawberries. There’s no way to go wrong with that!! It was yummy, and it really hit the spot.ย 
BerryliciousNow, I need to hustle off to bed if I’m going to tuck myself in by 11:30 I have a lot to do this weekend (including packing for my trip!!!), and I’m hoping that tomorrow flies by! I’ve already mixed up a breakfast cookie to have in the morning, and I’m looking forward to that too. I’ll have sweet dreams knowing it’s waiting in the fridge!ย 

Since everybody loves a Friday, I’m wishing you a speedy day and a great weekend too!! Ciao for now, bloggies. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Filed under Asparagus, Bananas, Chocolate, diet, Fitness, Food, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Derby Day Brownies and Last Chance for the Giveaway!

Hi, and happy Friday!! I’ve had a certain little recipe in mind all afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to come home and play in my kitchen. I’ll tell you about it in a bit. Here’s a little sneak preview…

Mmm....

It was so terrible when I had to lick the bowl! My life is so hard. ๐Ÿ™‚

I started the day off with a little bit of chocolate too, but nothing like what’s in my mixer bowl. I made a smoothie with a packet of chocolate weight watchers smoothie mix, a cup of almond milk, 1/4 cup of canned mandarin oranges, and a bit of ice. I’m so happy with the magic bullet. Making a quick smoothie really couldn’t be easier! Just like yesterday, I also had a toasted banana wheat bran scone topped with PB2 and pomegranate jelly and a cup of un-pictured coconut coffee.ย 

BrekkieI got busy this morning, and, when I finally got back to my desk, it was time for serious lunch. Let me tell you what you are looking at here. This, my friends, is what I like to call “Potato Island Chili.” Giving it a clever name made it more entertaining. I might be a bit like a toddler sometimes. The big thing hiding under all of the melted cheese is the other half of the potato I microbaked a couple of nights ago. It’s floating in the rest of the Trader Joe’s turkey chili from the can I opened up last night. A little island of potato goodness in a sea of spice really did the trick and soothed the hunger beast in a hurry.ย 

Potato Island ChiliAfter that, I had my very favorite lowfat yogurt, Wallaby Dulce De Leche (seriously love it!!) with some fiber one and a little Cadbury Crunchie. This little collection made me so happy!ย 

Dessert!Eventually, I made it around to my pink lady and PB snack. I didn’t have time for it this morning. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It was good, as it always is.ย 

The UsualSometime after that, I decided to play with my food, and I created a quick little highlighter snack garden. The centers are little vanilla wafer/pb/prune nibblies. If you aren’t someone who plays with your food, you should give it a try!! I had fun plucking the centers out of the flowers and chomping away.

SnackgardenI mentioned yesterday that there were no more instant oatmeal packets in my desk drawer stash. How would I feed my new afternoon oatmeal habit? There was nearly a crisis (ok, not really, just indulge my oatmeal related dramatic flair…), but I found a packet of instant cream of wheat in the pantry this morning and tossed it in my lunch bag. I fixed up a little container with brown sugar, vanilla almonds and a few dried cherries and tossed that in the bag too since the cream of wheat was the plain variety. I should have dried cherries more often. They really made this bowl pop!

Afternoon Cereal SnackWhen I got home, I wanted to eat my last turkey burger, but I didn’t want it in burger form so I put it on top of a big pile of spinach with some goat cheese, mandarin oranges and a few pumpkin seeds. I then drizzled it with a bit of balsamic vinegar. The cilantro in the burgers went well with the little bit of citrus, and the goat cheese made it all a little bit creamy. With the warmer weather, you should expect to see lots of salads like this one. It’s my summertime go to meal for sure!

Serious SaladAfter that, I couldn’t decide what I wanted. I think I often have my eats all planned out, but I’m trying to figure out what I’m really in the mood for before I start nibbling. I figure that is a good way to make more satisfying choices. It turned out that I was really in the mood for some Peanut Butter Puffins and Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. I love letting the chips melt in my mouth. ๐Ÿ™‚

Chockie PB FixLater, I realized that I hadn’t had my evening ice cream. I’m out of LaLoo’s vanilla snowflake, so I had a So Delicious neapolitan mini-sandwich. These are so good!! The strawberry end of the sandwich is my favorite, so I always start with the chocolate and save the pink stuff for last.

Mini-LoveThe other thing I had this evening was a Derby Day Brownie, still warm from the oven!!

Derby Day BrownieThe Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, and I’ll be going to hang out with some friends (and my favorite puppy dog) for mint juleps, horses and… brownies! Inspired by the julep, I wanted to make a brownie that included both mint and bourbon. I made a few tweaks to this recipe for Junior Mint Brownies from Cooking Light. Since I just tweaked it a little (including the title), I thought I’d just provide the link.ย 

In case you didn’t notice, there was a box of Junior Mints in the freezer jungle. I like mine frozen!! I used most of the box, so that’s one more thing out of the jungle. Woo hoo!ย These are some of the best brownies I’ve ever made, and I’ve made plenty of brownies! Seriously, this won’t be the last time I make these! Here are my little changes:

1. As usual, I substituted 1/4 cup of sturdier flour (tonight I used whole wheat flour) for 1/4 cup of all purpose flour. That means I used 1/4 cup of ww flour and 3/4 cups of all purpose flour.

2. I subbed 1/4 cup egg beaters for the eggs.

3. I added 2 teaspoons of bourbon to the egg/cocoa/sugar mixture. If I hadn’t seen myself put the bourbon in, I wouldn’t really know it was there. Honestly, there might be a subtle bourbon flavor, but I wouldn’t bother to add it if I made these again.ย 

Just look at this:

How Could This Be Bad?Holy moly! The batter was so thick, it reminded me of fudge.ย 

Before the BakeYou should be able to tell how thick the batter was based on the fact that the brownies retained the little lumps and bumps on the surface after baking.

After the BakeThese are fudgy, minty and they exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. Cooking Light rarely steers me wrong!! Plus, my calorie calculator says that 1/16 of the pan (with my tweaks) is 117 calories. Not bad. Not bad at all!! I can’t wait to take these over to share with my friends tomorrow, and to share a few more with myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that I’m sufficiently “chocolated” for the evening, I need to do a few things around the apartment and then get to bed. I’ll be getting up in the morning to go to the farmer’s market, and I’m hoping to go for a run outside too if the weather is good. I’m trying to get out of the gym as much as possible and into the fresh air!

Do you watch the Derby? Do you wear a funny hat or drink a mint julep while you are cheering for your favorite horse? I have a big blue hat that just might need to make an appearance. We’ll see.

Remember, you only have two more hours to enter my giveaway! I’m planning to choose a winner (and hopefully post the results… ) tomorrow.Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you have a good one! Ciao for now bloggies, and try these brownies. Seriously!

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Filed under Baking, Bananas, Chocolate, cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Food, Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story