Thursday, November 29, 2012

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Mug Cake!

The other night I was scouring the cupboards for ANY kind of after dinner treat... and couldn't even find a semi-sweet chocolate chip morsel (my go-to desperation sweet)!  I panicked... What do I do?!?  I must have dessert!  I remembered seeing these things called "mug cakes" on Pinterest.com.  They claim to be an easy, one-serving cake that can be baked in a mug in the microwave in 2 minutes.  Well, that sounded like my kind of dessert!  I decided to see if these "mug cakes" could live up to their hype... and satisfy my raging sweet tooth!

Ok, I'm a believer!  It IS possible to bake a cake... in a mug... in the microwave... in 2 minutes!  And the cake is moist, fluffy, and really does taste like cake.  I decided I wanted to make the original recipe healthier, so I've been experimenting (and eating a lot of mug cake) and I think I came up with a delicious, lower calorie version of this quick and easy treat!  And since it's the holidays, I created my very own mug cake recipe... for Peppermint Chocolate Chip Mug Cake.




PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE CHIP MUG CAKE
based on recipe by WendySeeWendyDo.com
Makes enough for 2 servings (if you want to share)

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon or 6 packets of Stevia (or other zero-calorie sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons vanilla soy milk or fat-free milk
1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
a dash or two of peppermint extract
2 tablespoons miniature chocolate chips
1 teaspoons of Christmas colored sprinkles

Directions:

In a large mug, mix together all dry ingredients. Add soy milk, applesauce and peppermint extract. Be careful with peppermint extract... it's very strong and too much will ruin your cake!  Then stir in mini chocolate chips and sprinkles.

Bake in microwave for 2 minutes. If the cake is not completely done then continue cooking in 15 seconds intervals until it is cooked through. Eat straight out the mug. Enjoy!


I added a few extra mini chips and sprinkles to the top!

Eat straight out the mug. Enjoy!



Nutritional Info:
1 mug cake (recipe makes enough for 2! you can half the recipe to lower calories)
calories - 187.5, fat - 2.9g, carb - 33.8g, sugar - 9.8g, protein - 5.5g


There are so many variations of this mug cake recipe I can't wait to try!  Funfetti, Chocolate, Red Velvet...

Oh Mug Cake... you had me at '2 minutes'.  I just love anything quick and easy... and sweet. :)  Mug cakes are my new go-to dessert, but I half the recipe so it's a 100 calorie treat instead!

Xo,
Janel

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken (or leftover Turkey!), Rice, and Broccoli Bake

I hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I think it's a little sad how quickly Thanksgiving day comes and goes... seeing as how countless hours are spent planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning up Thanksgiving dinner.  But I hope you are at least still enjoying some delicious turkey and cranberry sandwiches or some leftover pumpkin pie?  I thought I might be able to make a couple recipes using Thanksgiving leftovers... but we didn't have any food left over.  Seriously! 


Even with a plump, 25 lb. turkey, I came up empty-handed in the 'leftover' department!  This year we had a bigger than normal crowd around the dinner table... with a bigger than normal appetite apparently! ;)  Leftovers or no leftovers, Thanksgiving was a really special and memorable day this year... full of laughter, happiness, and family (and even extended family!). 

Here is a recipe I would have used leftover turkey in if I had some!  The recipe is a cross between a good ole' Chicken and Rice Bake and a Chicken Divan.  This is basic one-dish, healthy comfort food at it's best!

Chicken, Rice, and Broccoli Bake

cups (12 oz. bag) broccoli florets, cooked 
2 cups cubed chicken, cooked (or leftover Thanksgiving turkey)
1 can (10.75 oz.) cream of chicken soup, 98% fat-free
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice or wild rice
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 
pinch of paprika

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, reduced fat
tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted (or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, light)

How to Make It:

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place the cooked broccoli and chicken into a 9x9 or 9 inch round baking dish.

I used broccoli and cauliflower

Stir the soup, water, rice and black pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the soup and rice mixture over the broccoli and chicken.  Sprinkle with paprika, then with the cheese. 



Stir the bread crumbs and butter in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the cheese.  Cover baking dish.


Bake for 40 minutes (removing the cover for the last 5 minutes) or until the chicken mixture is hot and bubbling.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.




YUM.  So whether you're using chicken or (leftover Thanksgiving) turkey, a Chicken, Rice, and Broccoli Bake is a healthy and easy one-dish meal. :)  I like that this is a very basic and versatile recipe too... you could add different vegetables to the bake like carrots, peas, or corn.  You could also change the cheese!  Tonight I used broccoli and added cauliflower... and used mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar (since that's all I had in the fridge).  Chicken (or turkey), rice, veggies, and cheese all come together is such harmony... you can have fun and mix it up!

Note: this dish could be a great Make-Ahead meal too... just put it in the freezer instead of the oven!  Defrost and heat later.


I suppose it's time to start my holiday baking.... Christmas will be here before we know it!  Eeek

Xo,
Janel







Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Morning Scones

Thanksgiving is this week!  Gobble, gobble...


Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives... and celebrate with good food, family, friends, and football.  I love everything about Thanksgiving!  Every year my mom takes on the huge task of cooking and baking Thanksgiving dinner for our family all by herself... and she does an amazing job!  In an effort to help out a little this year, I offered to bring the baked goods for Thanksgiving morning (we start our celebrating with food early in the day!).

All I could think about baking was SCONES!  Maybe because last week I made my first attempt at a batch of scones, Zucchini-Date Scones.  And while I was very happy with the results, I was set on making them again and improving my scone-baking skills!  So I found TWO different scone recipes that called for similar base ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, half-and-half, baking powder) and decided I would bake both.  I figured one of the batches of scones would turn out... and I would be able to take them for my Thanksgiving Day baked good contribution!

HERE IS THE FIRST BATCH...


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones
original recipe Starbucks Pumpkin Scones
makes 12 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1 large egg
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Spiced Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

To make the scones -

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife, fork, or food processor, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half-and-half, and egg.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Fold in mini chocolate chips.  Form the dough into a ball, do not overwork the dough or it will result in tough scones.

Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough once through the width, making two equal portions. Cut those two slices into 6 triangles each, so that you have 12 triangular slices of dough altogether. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 14½-16 minutes. Scones should begin to turn light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

As the scones cool, make the Spiced Glaze -

Combine the ingredients for the spiced glaze together. Drizzle the glaze over each scone and allow the glaze to dry before serving (at least 1 hour).  A squirt bottle works great for this, or you can drizzle with a whisk.


AND THE SECOND BATCH...


Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze
original recipe Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze
makes 12 scones

Blueberry Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup half-and-half

Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. Make a well in the center and pour in the half-and-half.  Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.

Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle (about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide). Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough once through the width, making two equal portions. Cut those two slices into 6 triangles each, so that you have 12 triangular slices of dough altogether. Place on prepared baking sheet

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Glaze -
Mix the lemon juice and lemon zest with the confectioners' sugar until dissolved.  Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.




I am happy to report that BOTH batches of scones turned out beautiful and delicious.  I was lucky enough to have a house full of taste-testers and amazing cooks to advise me on my scone-baking while I was making them.... it was truly a group effort!  These scones are moist and light, not sugary but just sweet enough, and buttery but not too rich.  They will make a great Thanksgiving morning treat!  :)

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Xo,
Janel



Sunday, November 18, 2012

'Good Food' Prep Sunday!

In my family I am known as the "Grazer".  I don't eat 3 big meals a day... I eat about 7 small meals or snacks and 1 small dinner a day.  Since I work out in the morning, I am always hungry and constantly "grazing" during the day.  So for me, keeping healthy food on-hand and readily available is very important!  I use my Sundays as a 'good food' and snack prep day... I spend part of the day washing, drying, cutting, chopping, boiling, baking, and packaging healthy snack food to take with me to work during the week.


TRUTH!  The more prepared fresh fruits, veggies, and protein you have on-hand, the better you will eat during the week.  If you keep unhealthy food in your fridge, you will eat unhealthy! 

Some healthy foods I prepare on Sundays to have readily available during the week (to be eaten as a snack or used in a recipe) include:

1)  Hard-Boiled Eggs
These can be eaten whole, cut up and used on a salad, or made into Egg Salad.

2)  Shredded Chicken
Use on a salad, in pasta, in a quesadilla, make Chicken Salad, put in a soup... the possibilities for pre-made shredded chicken are endless!

3)  Melon and Pineapple
Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple can be pre-cut and placed in tupperware in refrigerator. See How To Properly Cut Pineapple

4)  Berries
Wash (and cut) berries and store in the fridge so they are ready to be eaten.  I place a paper towel in the bottom of the tupperware I am storing the berries in, as it sucks up some of the moisture so the berries last longer.

5)  Grapes
Wash grapes and place in zip-lock bag, wrapped in paper towel.  Store in refrigerator.  You can also take the grapes off the vine, place in zip-lock bag and put in the freezer.... FROZEN grapes are great for dessert!

6)  Cucumbers
Peel and slice cucumbers, place in tupperware.  Add 2 parts cold water, 1 part apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of ground black pepper.  Store in refrigerator.  These cucumbers are delicious eaten on their own!  They can also be used in a salad.

7)  Celery
Wash and cut celery into 2 inch pieces.  Place cut celery in tupperware and fill with water.  Store in refrigerator.  Use celery to dip in peanut butter or light ranch dip, chop up and mix into Chicken or Tuna Salad, or use on a salad.

8)  Healthy Muffins or other baked good
Muffins are great for a quick breakfast on the go or to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Zucchini-Date Scones
Banana Muffins
Low-Cal Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins


Other quick and healthy snack ideas that don't require any prep time:

Fresh Fruit - apples, oranges, bananas, pears
Fresh Veggies - baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, avocados

Keep these in the fridge!
Greek yogurt
Cottage cheese
Light string cheese
Reduced fat salami
Hummus
Whole wheat tortillas

Keep these in the pantry!
Raw almonds
Pretzels (unsalted)
High protein cereal (such as Kashi Go-Lean)
Protein bars
Freeze dried fruits and vegetables
Microwave popcorn (mini-bags, 100 calorie-94% fat free)
Canned tuna

For a list of some other snack ideas, see 30 Healthy Snacks from Self.com.  Or check out a list of smart food choices for all meals of the day at Health.com




Take the time to prep 'good food' in advance, so during the week you will make better food choices and "graze" or snack healthy... and happy! :)

Xo,
Janel












Thursday, November 15, 2012

Zucchini-Date Scones

Today was an experiment-in-the-kitchen type of day.  It was cold and cloudy and I had the day off work... plus I had a kitchen full of ingredients!  On my last shopping trip, I had picked up a big bag full of zucchini (probably because it was on sale) but didn't have a plan of what to make with it.... so it's been sitting at the bottom of the vegetable bin patiently awaiting it's turn in the kitchen.  I felt bad for the poor, neglected zucchini so I decided today would be this veggie's day to shine! 


Maybe it's the weather or the time of year... but once again I ended up deciding to bake something.  I considered using the zucchini in a muffin recipe I have used before, but figured since I had the time I would try something new!  Zucchini cake... zucchini bread... zucchini brownies... ehhhhhhh none of these were screaming "bake me", so I raked my brain for some more baked good ideas.  Then it hit me, I could use the zucchini in a SCONE... and since I had never baked a scone before, this would be the perfect kitchen adventure for the day! 

I found an easy scone recipe to follow Zucchini Chocolate Chip Scones... modified it... and here is what I came up with:

Zucchini-Date Scones
Makes 12

2 cups white flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced in 1/2 inch pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar **
2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup fat-free milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup pitted dates, corsely chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In large bowl mix dry ingredients together then cut in the butter and set aside (should be the texture of crumbs).


Whisk egg and sugar together in small bowl and then add zucchini, milk, vanilla and lemon juice.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and gradually pour in wet ingredients.


Mix all together, but do not over stir. Spread mixture out on floured surface (the mixture will be a little gooey). Carefully knead mixture while adding chopped dates in handfuls at a time. 


You will only need to "press" mixture together for about 3 or 4 times. If you do this too much it will result in tough scones.

Drop the mixture (in 12 large spoonfuls) onto a 13x9 greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.


** Note - if you want sweeter scones, change the sugar to 1/2 cup.  I cut the sugar to 1/4 cup because of the natural sweetness of the dates.


OMG. I freakin' love scones.  Especially warm, right out of the oven.  And for a first time attempt at baking scones (completely changing the original recipe too), I think they turned out pretty darn good!!!  These scones are moister than a normal scone due to the amount of zucchini in them, but I think it's perfect... I prefer my baked goods on the gooey-er, moister side. 


Nicely done, Zucchini. 

Remember to eat your veggies... and not just in baked goods! ;)

Xo,
Janel

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keep Calm and Run On: Temecula Half Marathon!

I've finally gotten around to writing about my recent half marathon experience!  Seems like so long ago already...

Sunday, November 4th, I participated in the 2nd Annual Temecula Half Marathon.  Located in beautiful wine country, the 13.1 mile course took us through the scenic back roads and vineyards of Temecula, Ca. Learn more here

What a beautiful location for a run!!  At the start of the half marathon, dozens of hot air balloons littered the clear blue November sky.  It was quite a sight!

I started off the 13.1 miles feeling strong... but quickly realized this race course was going to be tougher than I anticipated.  The hills during the first 3 miles (and last 3 miles) were massive!  I had trained on hills, but nothing that steep.  Running slowed to almost walking just to get over them.  I finally hit my stride around mile 4 (when the elevation evened out)... and was pleasantly surprised to find I had a personal cheering section at mile 5!  My parents and Amy had set up camp at the pit stop at mile 5... they had hand-made signs, were cheering and applauding, and were helping out the race volunteers by pouring waters, etc.  It was such a touching sight, I almost burst into tears.  I couldn't believe my family had gone to that much effort for me.  As I ran by them, my heart swelled with love and gratitude... and I ran faster!  At the turnaround at mile 6.5, I was feeling good and keeping a steady pace (despite the unshaded dirt roads and heat).  I was excited to be able to run past the pit stop again, knowing my cheerleaders would be there.  They didn't disappoint... more cheering and encouragement at mile 8... I even managed to crack a smile. 

 @ Mile 5/8 Pit Stop

The final couple of miles were non-eventful and went by pretty fast.  I was in "the zone".  And knowing you are close to the end seems to make the miles go faster! haha.  It was starting to get really hot out and I had to deal with the steep hills again, but I knew my cheering section would be at the end waiting for me so I just kept going.  I concentrated on Dave Matthews Band blasting into my earphones and before I knew it I was running past my family again at mile 12.5 (seriously, they are the best)... on my way to the finish line! 

Nothing is better than the feeling of crossing the finish line!  My official time was 2:32.


Since we were in wine county and all, the post-race festivities included beer and wine tasting from local Temecula wineries!  All proceeds from beer/wine tasting and raffles was donated to Temecula Valley Slow Food for their local school garden project.  Everyone made sure to do their part and drink lots of wine... to help get some more educational edible gardens for the kids in Temecula!

All in all, the Temecula Half Marathon was very challenging.  It was hilly and hot and portions of the course were on dirt back roads, with no shade.  But I'm really glad I ran it and I had a great time.  In fact, I will probably run it again next year!  Note to self:  Bring water and chapstick... and my personal cheering section again. :)

Thanks for the support everyone!

Xo,
Janel

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fall Treat: Apple, Pear, and Cranberry Crisp

It was a beautiful San Diego fall day today.... cool and clear.  The perfect kind of day for football, laundry and housework... and baked goods!  Doing chores around the house is always more enjoyable when I can smell something delicious baking in the oven. :)

Since my fridge is stocked with seasonal fruits right now (apples and pears), I searched the internet for a quick and easy recipe to use them in.  It was like I hit the 'seasonal fruit jackpot' when I came across a recipe for an Apple, Pear, and Cranberry Crisp!  I love apple crisps because they are so warm and comforting... and very quick and easy to make.     

After making a few changes to the original recipe, I popped my version of the seasonal fruit crisp into the oven and set about my housework.  OH MY GOODNESS it smelled so good while it was baking... I couldn't wait to stick my spoon in and try it!  




Apple, Pear, and Cranberry Crisp
based on a recipe via allrecipes.com
(makes 8 servings)

Ingredients:
2 red apples - peeled, cored, and cubed  (I used 1 Braburn apple and 1 Jonagold apple)
2 pears - peeled, cored, and cubed (I used 2 Bartlett pears)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup butter (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8 inch baking dish.

Mix the apples, pears, cranberries, 1 tablespoon flour, honey, cinnamon and lemon juice in the prepared dish.


In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour, brown sugar, oats, and butter to the consistency of coarse crumbs.


Sprinkle loosely over the fruit mixture.


Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until brown and crisp on top.


Serve warm!


Wow, I'm seriously in love with this crisp.  Now if only I had some vanilla ice cream or cool whip to top it with...

Apple, Pear, and Cranberry Crisp is a fantastic fall dessert... and it even tastes like fall!  The blend of warm seasonal fruit and cinnamon topped with a crispy, buttery topping is comfort-food, fall-dessert perfection.  It will leave your house smelling AMAZING.  Oh and the best part.... it's made with mostly fresh fruits and oats, so it's on the healthier side (as far as desserts go!).

Enjoy :)

Xo,
Janel

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How To Cook a Butternut Squash.... whole!

In case you were holding your breath for an update.... Yes, I did finish my half marathon on Sunday!  And in a time I can be really proud of too!  But more on my half marathon experience tomorrow...

Today, I want to talk about..... BUTTERNUT SQUASH!

I am a huge fan of butternut squash... it's low-fat, high in fiber, full of vitamin A, and delicious!  There are so many recipes you can use butternut squash in, however it can be time-consuming to prep as it needs to be peeled, de-seeded, and then cut into cubes before it can be used.  So I found a way to cook the butternut squash WHOLE... without any prep!  All you have to do is put the squash in the oven for an hour or so... and when it's done you just slice it open, remove the seeds, and scoop out the cooked squash!  It's so easy and there is little clean-up.  You can then use the cooked squash in all sorts of recipes... freeze it to use later... or just eat it right out of the oven (it's delicious all on it's own)! 


  
 
How To Cook a Butternut Squash (Whole) 
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash the squash.
  3. Lay the squash on a cookie sheet.
  4. Poke a few holes over the surface of the squash with a fork.
  5. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes, depending on size (60 min. for smaller size squash, 90 min. for larger).
When the squash is cooked, let cool for 10 minutes on cookie sheet.  When cooled, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Scrape the cooked squash away from the peel (if fully cooked, the peel should easily fall away from the squash).  Use squash in a recipe, refrigerate/freeze, or eat!
 
 
 
 
My favorite recipe to make with the cooked squash is Butternut Squash Soup.  The recipe super easy, healthy, and only requires a few ingredients!
 
Butternut Squash Soup
based on a recipe from allrecipes.com
 
2 tbsp. butter (or 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter')
1 small onion or 1 tsp. onion powder
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large potato, cubed
1 medium butternut squash, cooked **see instructions above
2 (14 oz) cans low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
salt and ground pepper, to taste
 
1.  Cook the butternut squash (whole) at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes. ** see instructions above
2.  Remove cooked squash from oven.  While the squash is cooling, melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. 


3.  Slice the butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and then add cooked squash to saucepan by spoonfuls.


4.  Pour chicken broth over the vegetables in saucepan and bring to a boil.


5.  Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 40 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
6.  Transfer the soup to a blender, add cinnamon and nutmeg.  Blend until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


7.  Blend again, then return to saucepan to keep warm.

This butternut squash soup is thick, smooth, AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS, and so healthy too!  Ahhhh, just another one of the great 'tastes of fall'.

Xo,
Janel