Just Cookies — Go ahead — Enjoy… #ChocolateChipCookies

Chocolate Chip cookies arrived on my doorstep in dry ice. Well, the cookie dough, that is. Frozen/solid, I thawed them in the fridge and later that evening I scooped them out onto my Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Lucky for me they arrived just in time, I had a pre-Thanksgiving potluck and had been so busy this week, I hadn’t even thought about what to bring.

No butter. No eggs. Yet, the cookie dough tasted very familiar. Yes, I used to love to nibble on cookie dough. Usually an hour before the game, my friend and I used to nibble on ready-made chocolate chip cookie dough, before setting out to perform on the dance team squad — Oh those undergrad years!

I baked the cookies an extra minute to keep them crisp. Some people like them chewy, but I prefer a crisper texture. And I couldn’t resist taking that first bite right out of the oven. No butter, remember, yet they tasted rich and ‘buttery. They held together well, even without any eggs. Tasted just like the chocolate chip cookies I remember from childhood (and well, on occasion when the urge to enjoy a traditional chocolate chip cookie arises). And just look at the golden brown coloring. Mmmm….

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So here they are for your virtual taste. My friends will be enjoying these tomorrow.

Craving some cookies? Try Hampton Creeks – Just Cookie. You won’t miss the butter or eggs, heck you  won’t even know they are missing. :O)

And BTW, if you’d like the Nutrition Facts, just ask me (comment below – I’ve got the label).

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I wasn’t paid to write this piece, however I did receive this generous sample of Hampton Creek – Just Cookie Dough — Chocolate Chip for my review (makes 39 cookies – although I made mine with a slightly larger scoop, yielding 36). 

 

Cranberry Blogging is Fun! [Cran Fun Facts + a Delicious Recipe!]

Can you believe Thanksgving is around the corner?! Already.
(No Thanksgiving meal is complete without CRANBERRIES!)

The good news is that there are quite a few recipes that keep cooking to a minimum, while keeping flavor to the fullest – like this turkey stuffing I just made. Yep, sometimes it’s good to go ahead and start testing recipes for your holiday meal. And today, I received my Cranberry package so it was very easy to start.

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Here is the Yummy Cranberry & Turkey Stuffing Casserole I was able to prepare with the kit I received from the Cranberry Institute. As a Cranberry Blogger, I receive ideas, tidbits and recipes courtesy of The Cranberry Institute and it’s sister organization, the Cranberry Marketing Committee. Last month I prepared a delightful Cranberry Chicken Salad.

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Before I share this delicious Cran-stuffing  recipe, here are some fun-facts about the Cranberry and it’s benefits:

 

Tips: Four Tasty Tidbits about the Tiny, Tart Cranberry

 

·         All forms of cranberries contain proanthocyanidins or PACs, so whether you like them dried, fresh, frozen, in juice or in sauce, just eat them!

·         PACs are flavonoids that are unique to cranberries because they have a different structure than PACs found in other fruits. PACs prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from sticking to the cell walls.

·         Research has shown the cranberry may improve blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and the incidence of certain infections.

·         Cranberries are one of three commonly cultivated fruits native to North America. U.S.-grown cranberries are grown predominantly in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island.

Now for the recipe.

Okay, I have to admit, I didn’t have celery so I used parsley flakes and extra onions. And well, I’m not actually going to buy turkey until the actual holiday so I used Chicken thigh, boiled. And I used the resulting homemade chicken broth to make my own easy homemade gravy using olive oil, oat flour, sea salt, parsley flakes and poultry seasoning. So now that you know my adjustments, here’s the recipe courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee. And BTW: I halved it so it fit perfectly in my Ukonserve Glass Rectangle with Silicon Sleeve – a great kitchen tool because it’s goes from the oven to the table as it is an attractive serving dish as well.

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Cranberry & Turkey Stuffing Casserole

Yield: 6 – 1 cup servings

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

¾ cup minced yellow onion

¾ cup minced celery

½ tsp. poultry seasoning

⅛ tsp. ground black pepper

¾ cup low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth

3 cups whole grain bread (approx. 6 ounces), cut into 1-in. pieces

12 oz. cooked, diced turkey

1 cup prepared turkey gravy

1 ½ cups cranberry sauce

Directions

1.       In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions and celery and cook 2 minutes. Mix in poultry seasoning and pepper and continue to cook 30 seconds. Pour in hot broth and heat through.

2.       Stir in bread pieces and mix to combine. Cook until stuffing mixture is moist and heated through. Remove from heat and hold.

3.       Combine turkey and gravy and spread evenly in the bottom of a 2-qt casserole dish. Next, spoon half of the cranberry sauce (¾ cup) on top of the turkey-gravy layer. Gently spread the reserved stuffing mixture evenly on top of cranberry sauce.

4.       Bake in a 350°F oven for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and firm. Top will be slightly crunchy.

5.       Scoop a 1-cup portion of casserole onto a plate and serve with an additional 2 Tbsp. of cranberry sauce on the side.

 

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 320, Calories from Fat 45, Saturated Fat 1g, Trans Fat 0g, Total Fat 5g, Cholesterol 45mg, Sodium 460mg, Total Carbohydrate 43g, Sugars 26g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 22g, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 8%, Iron 8%

 

Recipe courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee, uscranberries.com

 

Lunch Box Builders: PART 2 (and great food storage ideas for the home & on-the-go)

You want your kids to eat healthy. And you try your best. But along the way you find your child’s lunchbox has remained un-opened (food UN-eaten!) and Instead he/she has been eating from the school cafeteria. Where did you go wrong? Or better yet, what made the cafeteria so appealing?

First of all – if your child has just started school, this is new, and exciting. Just the idea of selecting their food from the counter. Secondly, have you noticed how everything is so neatly packaged into small, easy to open containers. ***[Light Bulb]: the packaging! Kids enjoy opening containers – in various sizes, shapes, textures. A package is fun to open. So give it a try. Select some durable, easy-to-open containers to divide their lunch box  items. Think bento or a variety of separate “packages” to contain their healthy, yummy options.

And speaking of packing: How do you pack your kids food items? (Do you have any small, medium and varied shaped containers – that SEAL well?) If your preparation is great, then why did it end up soggy by the time your kid sat down for lunch? Well perhaps it wasn’t sealed well and in a container that is too large or not accommodating. And likely your child has dragged his/her backpack up and down the hallways, turned or dropped it sideways and thus, what do you know — the nicely packed lunch you thought it was – becomes a sack of mush. (The same is true for your on-the-go snack/meal options – you want your food to stay fresh and remain appealing).

Don’t feel you have to pack everything in. Better to keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm. As long as you a food item: one of each category PVFV. Many lunch containers keep things within reasonable portions. Remember you can always serve up a healthy snack to get in more healthy nutrients.

If you haven’t read Lunch Box Builders: Part 1, you can read it here.

Check out some of my favorite containers for packing in their lunch boxes and storing meals/snacks for the week ahead. Some great Ukonserve products are available at www.kidskonserve.com

Ukonserve is a brand I can trust:

• Seals tightly for freshness

• Attractive containers – both in metal (kid-friendly) and glass storage – even suitable for serving

• Comes in kid-friendly sizes

• Convenient tupperware for food prep/storage – love this Glass rectangular with Silicon sleeve.

ukon small rounds

These tight-sealing, leak-proof containers are great for packing fresh fruit, veggies, dips, yogurt, side salads, crackers & cheese!

 

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This butternut squash salad fits nicely into any size Ukonserve container, whether it is a snack size portion or a dish for a party (choose from small rounds snack/lunch tote-able sizes to square/rectangular metal or glass).

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One of the many items I’ve packed in the small metal rounds Ukonserves for myself on-the-go and my kids lunch boxes.

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Wanna tip for cutting up kiwi (although you really can eat the skin): Simply use a spoon to scoop out of skin and then chop as desired.

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This is a great container for storing salads, stews or even sweet treats such as these homemade spiced muffins (8 fit nicely).

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This square metal, tight-sealing containing is also great for storing hearty kale salads (the leaves are strong enough not to wilt or degrade overnight – in fact some kale salads are much better the next day as they absorb all the great marinade) and showcasing them at the dinner table!!

Skinny 5-Layer-Dip (well, actually 6, but somehow the odd numbers sound better)

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Need something quick and easy (and healthy) to bring to a party?! Your answer is here. Try this “Skinny 5-layer Dip” — it’s great with toasted Pita chips (and while it’s satisfying and tasty, it won’t add to your waistline). Here are the layers:

Bean Layer:

  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup salsa, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  White Layer:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, non-fat (+ ½ cup whipped cream cheese optional)

  Salsa Layer:

  • 1 cup salsa, low sodium

  Guacamole Layer:

  • 3 medium avocados, pitted & skin removed
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • lemon juice
  • sea salt

  Lettuce & Cheese layer:

  • 3 cups Romaine lettuce, finely shredded or chopped well
  • 1 cup low fat (Jack or Cheddar) cheese shredded

Directions

  • Bean layer: Mash beans with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Spread into 8 x 11 baking dish (or use x Ukonserve glass square Tupperware)
  • Spread Yogurt Layer over the beans then add the Salsa Layer
  • Guacamole layer: Smash avocados with a fork and add remaining ingredients. Mix and spread on top of Salsa Layer.

Layer Chopped Romaine over Guacamole Layer and top with the cheese. Tip: Ukonserve containers keep it fresh for travel — easy portability. I’d choose the clear rectangular one with the silicon, not only stores it fresh, seals tightly, but will make a nice presentation. Serve with your favorite baked Tortilla chips or Pita chips (or make them yourself).

Cranberry Bog tips and a Delightful Chicken Salad recipe

More on Cranberries!

I was lucky enough to receive yet another assignment from The Cranberry Institute. They provided me with useful, healthful cranberry tips and a delicious new recipe to try out (and even some ingredients to get me started.) The following recipe is based on a combo created by the Cranberry Marketing Committee and it sounds delish. However, because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, I adjusted the recipe slightly and it came out delish. I’ve also included a link to their recipe (at the bottom). Both heart-healthy with plenty of greens and a tasty chicken salad base.

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The following tips are courtesy of the Cranberry Institute:

Tips: Four Tidbits about the Tiny, Tart Cranberry

 

1.       Cranberries naturally contain the flavonoid proanthocyanidins (PACs). The unique structure of the PACs found in cranberries offer properties that prevent bacteria from sticking to cell walls.

2.       The PACs in cranberries may help prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract, such as E. coli associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs).

3.       MyPlate suggests trying dried fruits, including dried cranberries, as a snack because they are easy-to-carry and store well. Perfectly portioned single-serve packs of dried cranberries are an easy grab-and-go snack!

4.       Cranberries are naturally fat-free, have little sodium and align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations.

Here’s a Cranberry Chicken Salad recipe I put together, inspired by the Cranberry Marketing Committee:

Based on their Favorite Recipe Right Now!

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Cranberry Chicken Salad In a Pita

Makes 8 servings

Portion: ½ cup chicken salad 1/2 Whole Grain Pita

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup 100% cranberry juice, unsweetened
  • 2/3 cup Nutri-Savvy’s Yogurt-based Poppyseed Dressing
  • 8 oz. grilled white chicken meat, diced
  • 1 cup sliced celery (or shredded cabbage – can buy Dole shredded cabbage package or use a proper Food Processor blade to shred fresh cabbage)
  • ¾ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 cups Mixed Greens
  • 4 Whole Wheat Pita’s, halved

Directions

1. Heat cranberries and cranberry juice. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature. Allow cranberries to absorb all liquid. Set asisde.

2. Stir in Nutri-Savvy’s Yogurt-based Poppyseed Dressing, diced chicken, celery and scallions. Toss well to coat. Stir in cranberries and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

3. To Serve: For each serving, place ¼ cup  mixed greens in 1/2 of a pita and portion ½ cup of the chicken cranberry salad on top.

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Origional Recipe courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee, uscranberries.com

Adjusted recipe (detailed here) courtesy of moi, Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN of Nutri-Savvy Health & Wellness.

Sweet n Tangy “coleslaw” dressing (made with yogurt)

 Recipe by Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN

Creamy %22coleslaw%22 dressingSalad Dressing can certainly make a salad tasty. But you don’t want all the fat and calories. Take for instance coleslaw — it can be made with a lot of mayo  (and thus a lot of fat coating the good-for-you greens (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc).  So I came up with a coleslaw dressing that uses less Mayo, yet still has creaminess and good flavor of a traditional coleslaw.

This is a pre-packed chopped salad mix I bought. It’s got two kinds of cabbage and some carrots (I added some cranberries and sliced almonds, but not too much). Be it cabbage, broccoli and cucumber (or whatever blend of crunchy veggies you choose – kale is a good choice, too) can be processed into strands in a food processor with the right blade.

Creamy poppyseed dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Strained Greek Yogurt, plain, non fat (I used Fage 0%)
  • 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp or to taste Seasoned Rice Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1-2 tsp poppy seeds (or chia)

Mix all ingredients until blended well, should be creamy and yet thin enough to mix into a “coleslaw”-like salad. Since strained yogurt is pretty thick, adding in the rice vinegar helps to thin it out while maintaining creamy consistency. The mayonnaise adds to the pleasant mouthfeel and consistency and the honey helps balance with a little sweetness. Note: the rice vinegar adds a bit of sweetness, too.

 

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Q: What is your favorite salad dressing? 

Need me to help you lighten it up? Send me your dressing choice and I’ll take on the challenge. :)

Add a Little Sweat Leaf® to your Fall Treats #Review

Although I received a sample of SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener for review. These opinions are expressly my own.

REVIEW

stevia drops

When Sweet Leaf® Stevia Peppermint Mocha Stevia drops arrived on my doorstep, I thought about making a Peppermint Mocha Smoothie. (Yep, it’s still hot and sunny in So Cal even though Halloween is practically around the corner). But I wanted to be a little more creative.  While I pondered over a Peppermint Mocha baked treat, I enjoyed some drops in my morning coffee (and I assure you the added flavor made it special).

I’m delighted to share with you my newest Fall treats, but first I want to share why this product is so useful.

Here’s what I love about this product:

  • It’s sugar-free (NO artificial/chemical NO sugar-alcohols)
  • It’s easy to dispense and control with a dropper (so while the drops may vary – so little comes out at a time, so it’s easier enough to control.
  • It doesn’t have a strange aftertaste
  • While it certainly can take the place of sugar, depending on the recipe, it can also enhance a recipe in a similar way that Vanilla extract does (not only adding flavor, but just the right touch of sweetness without overpowering – because you can easily control it “to taste”). You can halve (use half) the sugar in a recipe and add a little of this to make your treat just right — in terms of both taste AND sugar-control.

The first thing I made was my 5-ingredient Homemade Granola using raw oats, Peppermint Mocha SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener (instead of my go-to Vanilla extract and an unflavored packet of stevia), pistachios, applesauce and nut butter. Well I have to admit – being sugar-free (no added sugars), it was certainly sweet enough, but the peppermint mocha flavor didn’t come through possibly due to too much competition from the other flavors including the nut butter and oats ratio. Next time I’ll use a little more. But it certainly was crunchy and the Stevia did add enough sweetness.

Pistachio Peppermint Mocha Granola

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So I decided to try it out with a version of a Grain-Free cake made with Coconut Flour. This time the Mocha and Peppermint flavors came through. And it was absolutely delish.

Peppermint Mocha Cake – moist, gluten-free and delish!

Here’s a close up so you can see the pleasing texture:

GF Peppermint Mocha Cake

Yummy!
My husband, a great cook and my “pastry chef extraordinary”, absolutely loved it. This one’s staying in my files. : )

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup, pure
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp (a pinch) sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 dried plums
  • 2 dropper-fuls Stevia Peppermint Mocha flavoring
  • 1/2 cup Smart Balance Light, softened (but not melted)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix maple syrup and shredded carrots. Place in Tupperware and refrigerate for an hour. Preheat oven to 325º F. In a food processor, combine carrot/maple mixture, dried plums and Stevia Peppermint Mocha until well blended, but not completely smooth (texture is good). Pour into a bowl and mix in eggs. In a  separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (coconut flour, baking soda, sea salt). Pour dry ingredients into carrot/maple/plum mixture and blend well. Mix in walnuts and chocolate chips. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from  oven and let cool. Optional: Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into 11 equal slices.

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Have a slice and a sweet rest of the week.

GF Peppermint Mocha Cake 2