Healthier Banana Split

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Happy Monday! The day that follows the best day of the week, in my opinion, Sunday, when we recognize the importance of relaxation. No work is to be had on Sunday. I wish I could say I was better about obeying that commandment, but I’m not.CC Pics 035

What I am good at doing on Sundays is caring for myself however I see fit. Usually, this means some time spent talking to my higher power in church or alone, watching 60 minutes, relaxing before the week to come, and spoiling myself with something really delicious for dinner and dessert.

People like the cute “Sundaes on Sunday” idea. Me, too. But I like mine wholesome and nutritious. I’m not saying that’s for everyone, but let me send a little divinely delicious inspiration your way.

You’ve probably heard by now that frozen banana chunks are so sweet and smooth it’s like biting into ice cream. If you follow this blog, you’ve read about my successful experimentation with this and with freezing yogurt for homemade froyo. Both have major yum factor.

So I started putting them together.

With some fresh strawberries, of course–and in another instance, dark chocolate chips–and just made an all frozen, holistic banana split I like quite well.

IngredientsCC Pics 037

1 banana

2-3 T chopped strawberries

1/4 cup yogurt of choice ( I like vanilla coconut)

optional: chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

Directions

Slice the banana to your likely. For a split classic, I split mine down the middle and then in halves to fit in my dish. You might also chop or chunk them and layer your yogurt on top.

Next comes the yogurt. Top or drop as you like on your banana split slices or chunks.

Last is the berries. Sprinkle as desired.

 

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Appetizer Idea: Shortcake Bites

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With this post, the challenge to think of as many creative ways as possible to use wonton/ eggroll wrappers…CC Pics 008

Continues.

It started with those zesty Mini Fajita Bowls. It may have spiraled out of control. But just maybe. Because now we’re moving into desserts.

The things my brain comes up with. I’m not clever, but I’ve got an unusual resourcefulness (I’m also quite cheap or “thrifty”) and an unwavering interest in trying new culinary creations.

I like this one. The wonton wrapper forms the base of shortcake and gives it an interesting contrast in flavor. I still can’t quite explain it. Not quite a slight of saltiness, but something along those lines.

And of course, who doesn’t love some fresh chopped strawberries and a little whipped cream?CC Pics 004

No, I don’t do Cool Whip. Those sugars and preservatives aren’t kosher with me (or my stomach), but in small does my tummy can handle this wonderful product called “Tru Whip.” I love it. Pick it up in your health food section or store next time you’re ready to call it quites on a recipe that calls for Cool Whip and offers no alternatives.

Sweet with a little cream and crunch. Perfect.

1 serving (Of course, you can make many more if you have company.)

Ingredients

1 egg roll wrapper

2 T diced strawberries

1-2 T Tru WhipCC Pics 007

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Set aside.

Using a cookie cutter you like, cut as many shapes out of the egg roll wrapper as you can. I got four with a a small flower cutter, but a slightly larger one would have been perfect. Circles and other shapes would work great, too.

Tuck wrapper gently into each tin slot. Bake until crispy and golden brown, only about 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and let cool.

Once cool, spoon even amounts of strawberries into each and finish off with a pretty dollop of Tru Whip. Enjoy the sweet crunch!

Cool Cantaloupe Pops

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There’s a bad apple in every bunch. And there’s often a lot of bad bunches of produce. It’s especially true these days. It can be so hard to find a bunch, bushel, or bag of fruit that’s not bad. As someone who eats an exorbitant amount of fresh produce on the regular, I know this to be true. I sometimes wonder if producers know that American markets know nothing about picking ripe, fresh produce. I’m no expert, by any means, but for all the time I’ve spent picking out produce, I’ve come to question this.CC Pics 024

The positive is that I’ve also learned a few how-to’s along the way. Sometimes when I’ve had one too many bad picks–pale, tasteless grapefruit and old, flavorless spaghetti squash being the biggest repeat offenders–I look online for tips. Other times, I look to whoever is standing close to me and looks like they know what they’re doing.

So when I was standing at Hy-Vee contemplating cantaloupe, I asked the woman to my right, who was also thumbing through, thumping, and smelling every melon in the bin. And let me tell you, she knew what she was doing. In an all-business tone, she let me know that a nice golden rind is going to be the freshest, juiciest, most flavorful pick. She was also frustrated that we couldn’t smell them. I knew about the smelling-for-sweetness trick, but what she told me next surprised me: If they wash them well, you can’t smell them for ripeness; the smell gets scrubbed off.CC Pics 025

Did I pick a winner?

You bet. It was good. Plus I let it sit on my warm kitchen countertop in my anti-AC apartment for a few days to ripen up a bit more. Oh, my sweetness! It was…

And then I turned 1/4 of that Candy Cantaloupe into this: Pops! You know I’m a popsicle fiend, especially during these hot summer days. So while I resist faux coolant, I find a pleasurable defense in popsicles. And these ones are good! I know I say that often, but seriously, the cantaloupe, a little stevia for sweetness, and a little yo for smoothness makes this recipe better than any Dreamsicle I’ve had. Cross my heart and have my cantaloupe if I’d steer you wrong. Try it!

Makes 4 medium-sized popsicles or six small ones.CC Pics 026

Ingredients

1 cup cantaloupe chunks

spritz of lemon

splash of vanilla

1 T stevia

1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (dairy-free coconut is the best!)

Directions

Cover of Pops! by Krystina Castella whom I interviewed for a summer 2011 feature in the Kansas City Star. Click the image to link to that story.

Cover of Pops! by Krystina Castella whom I interviewed for a summer 2011 feature in the Kansas City Star. Click the image to link to that story.

So easy. Place your fruit and all other ingredients in blender. Blend ’til smooth.

If you like, drop a few more thin slices of cantaloupe (or other pretty fruit, like orange slices without the rind) down the sides of your pop molds and then distribute your blended concoction evenly between the molds. Freeze for 3-4 hours or until solid.

Satisfying Salads: Garden of Eden

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Welcome back to a satisfying salads: Garden of Eden Edition! Like the Sesame Steak Salad I crafted in June, this salad has plenty of protein to keep you full and feeling satisfied. No skimpy salads to be had.image

A cheesy introduction for a salad that isn’t cheesy in the hokey sense, but is in a Gorgonzola-and-fruit pairing fantastic one. On a trip to KC earlier this summer, I was pleasantly reunited with my favorite salad, ever. I realize I’m speaking in hyperboles beyond reason, but forgive those and believe that the Garden of Eden Salad from The Mixx restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri is special. If you like savory-sweet combinations, you’re sure to love the savory-sweet ingredients tossed in this one. We’re talking cheeses, fresh apples, pecans, grilled chicken, and a champagne-honey vinaigrette that can’t be matched.

The downside for those wanting to try this recipe at home? I’ve yet to find a recipe or substitute dressing that stands up to the deliciousness of The Mixx’s. As you’ll see in the pictures, I saved a little cup from The Mixx and brought it back home with me.

The good news is that the most comparable dressing I’ve found can be bought at Trader Joe’s, TJ’s Champagne-Pear Dressing. Very good, that one, and it comes with small chunks of bleu cheese I believe. So your cheese and nut selections for this one can range. The Mixx uses Gorgonzola and candied pecans. For my slightly less sugary version, I used slivered almonds and chopped garlic-herb cheese. I also used a fresh Fuji apple, but a Granny Smith would do, and a Pink Lady would be equally delightful.image

So simple, but just in case you need it…

Ingredients

2 cups spring greens mix or Romaine lettuce

1/2 apple, sliced into matchsticks or very thin wedges

1 T nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

1 oz. cheese (Gorgonzola, bleu, etc.)

3 oz. grilled chicken

1 oz. dressing–whatever champagne-based one you can locateimage

sprinkle of black pepper

Directions

Toss all ingredients until dressing and cheese coat the salad leaves. Or if you’re like me and prefer layers in your salad instead of a mix, start with salad base, and then top with nuts, cheese, chicken, apples, pepper, and finally drizzle dressing on top.

Strawberry-Lemonade Pops

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Cover of

Cover of Pops!: Icy Treats for Everyone

Ever since I interviewed Pops! author Krystina Castella in 2011 for the Kansas City Star, I’ve begun to associate the coming of summer with the coming of fruity, sweet popsicles. I’m sort of anti-AC, so a cold sweet pop on a sticky hot day tastes like heaven.

Plus, after you chat with a pro-popsicle innovator about how much thought can go into one simple pop, you gain a new appreciation for these simple sweets. I look forward to blending, pouring, and freezing new flavors to try and it’s made all the easier when you know exactly what makes for a tasty, easy-to-remove, attractive looking popsicle. If you’re interested, read my 2011 story by clicking here.

Castella is actually a college professor with a background in structural design. At the time, she was teaching and writing the book–when I talked to at least–and so she put a lot of thought into what makes for a beautiful structure, form that follows flavor, and entertaining on a purpose. Very smart and savvy, that one.

These pops, they aren’t particularly smart or savvy.

But they are good. And easy to make. Everybody loves strawberry lemonade in the summer, myself included, so I put it in pop form.

Makes 4 medium-sized popsicles or six small ones.photo (10)

Ingredients

1/2 grapefruit, sliced up

10 medium-sized strawberries, sliced

a few lemon slices

splash of vanilla

1 T steviaphoto (11)

8 oz. VitaminWater Zero – Lemonade

Directions

So easy. Place your grapefruit and almost all the strawberries in the blender. Blend ’til smooth. Squeeze a few lemon slices over the top, and then add in vanilla extract, stevia, and VZ0 Lemonade. Blend again until perfectly smooth.

Drop a few slices down the sides of your pop molds and then distribute your blended concoction evenly between the molds. Freeze for 3-4 hours or until solid.

Mandarin-Edamame Salad

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You always know it is potluck season when you see me posting recipes for groups. This could be easily made into single-serving recipe though, just cut everything back. Use your best judgment.SAM_5482

I was reading around on a bunch of foodie sites I found on Pinterest.com about edamame salads. I still have a lot of shelled edamame leftover from my nutrition study, and wanted to incorporate it into this group recipe.

The funny thing was that I gave up. With salads, you can follow an exact recipe or—as anyone can read in my culinary philosophies & such—you can do a little guess work and create something you like even better. Don’t get caught up in the tiny differences. Just go with your gut. Trust what you know about flavor pairings and you’ll surprise yourself.

That’s what I did this time. I knew ginger and sesame flavors are often paired with mandarin oranges or edamame. You don’t see both together often. Overwhelming?photo (1)

Hardly. My co-workers didn’t think so either. They raved about how much they liked my salad. Part of me wonders if it was the bright contrasts in colors. I’m still a firm believer that eating is 50% visual.

But part of me thinks it was the surprise of the beans with the fruit. Americans don’t see that much, but I think edamame can be bland and so the mandarins perked it up, plus some crunch red onions and sweet red peppers for pizazz.

Hope you like it as much as my co-workers did!

Ingredients

1 large or 3 small heads of romaine lettuce

½ cup red onion, sliced into strips

½ cup fresh mandarin oranges

½ cup shelled edamame

½ red pepper, sliced into strips

Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Dressing

Optional: sprinkling of sesame seedsSAM_5479

Directions

Prepare lettuce as you normally would and place in large glass bowl.

Around the rim of the bowl, sprinkle the onions and the red peppers evenly.

In the center, add the edamame and then the oranges.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you’re using those. And at this point you can drizzle the dressing on, but I wanted to be kind to fellow potluckers like myself who hate with salads are drenched in dressing. That’s gross and inconsiderate, not to mention unnecessary, really. So I left it off and let them add as they liked. I know some people, like my step-dad, like their salads drenched, while others, like myself, do not. I always let guests choose because if I go light on the dressing, I know I’ll leave some wanting more.

You can toss the salad once you’re there, but again, presentation is key. I waited, was the first one to serve and so I tossed in front of them. Maintaining the pretty contrast in colors only heightened the experience, I’m sure.

Easy, Fast Apple Pie Snacks

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You know me. I love fun food. If it’s even a tad creative, then I have to try it.SAM_5304

This one had been sitting on my Pinterest.com CC To-Do List board for quite some time. And once the semester had ended–my tortilla overload still under way–I decided to adapt the recipe I’d found online from Better Cookiesreplacing regular dough with, you guessd it, whole-wheat tortillas.

Ain’t nothing punnier, or truer than what I’m about to write: This quick and easy snack is now the apple of my eye. I’m not kidding. I say at this at the risk of not sounding very “American,” but the truth is that I kind of hate apple pie. Hold your fire. Be sympathetic. But I like my apples cool and crisp, not baked and spicy.SAM_5306

Not sure why I enjoyed this recipe so much, not yet at least. It could be that I left the apples a bit thicker in terms of slicing. It could be that I wasn’t overloaded with apple mush, like most apple pies. Or it could just be that it was so easy to make and kind of fun. How can you go wrong?

Ingredients
1/2 an apple
1 whole-wheat tortillaSAM_5286
1 t cinnamon
dash of stevia or 1 T honey

Directions
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.SAM_5298 -Prepare apple by slicing lengthwise. You can make your slices as thin as you like for more, or thicker for fewer. Know too that if you go thicker, your apple pie snacks will come out less warm and gooey like apple pie, more crisp and fresh (just how I wanted mine).
-Next, prep apples in seasonings. If you’re using the cinnamon-stevia blend, mix those two together and toss apple slices in those until coated. If you’re going the honey route, then still toss slices in cinnamon and then drizzle honey over the top.
-Cut tortilla into strips. Roll one or more strips around each apple slice. Tuck ends of strip on bottom side or into the side of the wrap so they don’t unfurl.
-Transfer to prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle a little more seasoning or honey if desired and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and somewhat soft.
-Serve warm, right out of the oven, and with my healthified cream cheese dip, if you like.SAM_5306

Enjoy!

Yogurt & Oat Pancakes

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Sweet breakfasts can be so good. Berry-filled crepes, French toast, pastry tarts. All of which can be healthy. All of which I’ve posted on this blog.

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But what I dislike about sweet breakfasts (only slightly…) is that they aren’t the most filling. Normally, I have to add a little peanut butter for protein and lots of fruit for fiber.

This recipe, however, is a sweet but stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast. The Greek yogurt and the hearty oats that can be mixed in make it very filling, enough to power you through any morning.

Ingredients

1/4 cup + 1 t whole-wheat flourSAM_4851

1 T rolled or steel-cut oats

1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (sub for coconut or almond varieties if you like)

2 T water (more or less depending on how runny/ thin you like your cakes)

1 t stevia

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powderSAM_4841

splash of vanilla

Directions

Heat your griddle to med-low setting. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Allow to warm.

-In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients well. Then slowly add in yogurt, then vanilla, and then water as you like. For thicker cakes, use less water. For a few more cakes that are thinner, add more water.

-Pour pancake batter on griddle to the size of pancake you like. They will probably spread a bit. At this point, if you’d like to add in other ingredients, such as berries or chocolate chips, you can drop them on top while the bottom side of the cakes cook.SAM_4849

-When the edges begin to firm up a bit and bubbles are popping up through the top side, the cakes should be solid enough to flip. Do so carefully. They should be golden brown on each side.

Topping Ideas?

Yes, I always have lots of these! For this recipe, I mixed 1 T all-natural peanut butter with 1 T yogurt and a dash of honey. Fresh apples were chopped and added, too. Berries and honey would also be delicious.SAM_4847

Enjoy!

Key Lime Cake with Whipped Yogurt Frosting

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I’ve written about how I’m not crazy about cake mixes. They usually have hydrogenated oils, but sometimes I get lucky and find one that doesn’t.SAM_4933

Or if I’m really lucky, one that uses whole, unrefined sugars and flours. But that’s rare.

But people like those cake mixes so much! It’s hard to please a crowd with unrefined tastebuds.

So here’s a compromise I made for a very special someone’s birthday. He likes key lime pie, a lot. Now he likes key lime cake, too.

IngredientsSAM_4921

1 box of angel food cake

1 large lime or two small

1 container of key-lime-flavored yogurt

1/3 cup healthy whipped topping (try a soy type or Troo Whip)

DirectionsSAM_4931

-Prepare the angel food cake as directed, but add in some fresh lime zest and a little squeeze of juice at the end. The cake should still taste light and fluffy with just a hint of lime flavor, most of which comes from the topping

-Let cake cool, of course. But once it cools completely, you can begin making the whipped yogurt topping. It’s as simple as mixign the yogurt and whipped topping together, drizzling all over the cake, serving chilled, and if you like, sprinkling with fresh zest or coconut shreds.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

Chocolate-Covered Pomegranate Clusters

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This past Valentine’s Day was spent making…SAM_4978

Wait for it! You’ll never guess what.

Making desserts, of course!

You know me too well by now. I recommend, however, getting to know this incredibly easy recipe for chocolate-covered pomegranate candies. Normally melting chocolate and waiting for it to harden is a cooking task I avoid. I don’t like the mess and the fast-moving pace of melted chocolate, but this one is so easy. It’s almost too good to be true. SAM_4989

Ingredients

1 cup pomegranate arils

6 oz. dark chocolate

Directions

Lay a dry paper towel across a ceramic plate (light-colored plastic ones may stain due to the dark color of the pomegranate juice). Spread arils across this and let them “dry off” for an hour or so.SAM_4987

Once they’re dry enough–and let them be as dry as possible because moisture causes chocolate to seize, leading to ugly candies, uglier messes–start working on the chocolate.

To prepare the chocolate, you can try a double-broiler technique. I’m always in a hurry, though, so what I did was break the chocolate into smaller pieces.

Microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Stir. Microwave another 15-20 seconds. You’ll know the chocolate is melted enough when there are a few chunks left that can be stirred out. This is a good consistency to achieve since chocolate that melts entirely in the microwave may start to burn.

Now you have to move fast! In the chocolate bowl, gently fold in arils until mostly covered. Take a spoon and begin scooping them out in clusters and transferring to a wax-paper-covered cookie sheet. When all the arils have been scooped out. I recommend transferring them to the freezer for about fifteen minutes.

I like them served chilled, but gnosh on this dripping-in-chocolate delicious fruit candy however you please.