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!

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.

Quick-Fix Angel Food Cake

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Do you every just want an easy dessert? A quick dessert? And ideally, a healthy dessert?

I can help.

I’ve introduced you to my Instant Brownie Trick.This one’s similar, but features angel food cake. I love angel food cake because it’s one of the few packaged cake mixes you can find in stores that isn’t made with hydrogenated oils. I tell people to avoid these modified fats at all costs. Yes, I would like this dessert trick so much better if it was less refined, too, but in moderation–and for the sake of being easy–I like it just fine.SAM_4956

So here’s how easy it is to make: Pick a safe, trans-fat free cake mix (make sure it says 0g Trans Fats AND no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list), determine an appropriate portions size, divide and portion accordingly, prepare as directed, only reducing bake times and temperatures if necessary.

So for example, if a box of angel food cake gives 12 servings, determine how many ounces are in each serving by dividing the ounces written on the front of the package by 12. Use a measuring cup or spoon that lists ounces on side, if possible. Likewise, if the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of water, you would divide that by 12, too, making it so that you need only give 1 T of water instead of 12 (16 T = 1 cup).SAM_4958

Okay, to do this you obviously need some knowledge (or research skills) to figure out conversions. This could thwart the purpose of quick and easy baking, yes, but every good baker knows his or her conversion rates. I recommend learning them. It can only help, right? And if you like math, it’s kind of fun.

You can bake in the oven as directed, but I’d recommend dropping the baking temperature a few degrees and, of course, cut the baking time down by at least a third of the usual time. I actually made mine in the microwave, believe it or not. Just like my instant brownie, the finished product won’t be as moist as possible, but a minute and a half on high will make it as fast as possible, and it’ll still taste so sweet.

I topped mine with some fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of stevia. I’d love to hear other topping ideas though!

Sweet-On-You Valentine’s Fruit Skewers

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So you can put any kind of fruit on any kind of skewer, chill it, and it will add a lovely, bright touch to any potluck.SAM_4897

Or you can bring out your inner-Martha side and pick fruits you can shape. Melons are great for this.

As you can see, I had a Valentine’s Day potluck for my writing center. Wanting to deliver a healthy treat, I picked the reds (no, not wine, strawberries!!) and used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to shape the pinks (watermelon, not kisses).

They were pretty adorable.SAM_4893

And they must have been good because I didn’t even get to try one. They were gone in a flash, and that just proves my theory on presentation and my theory on healthy choices. On presentation, that’s 50% of a good dish. On healthy choices, I don’t care when anyone grumbles, they always reach for it and appreciate it.SAM_4896

Strawberry-Vanilla Heart Scone

I’m not much of a coffee-shop fly. This may be because I don’t drink coffee. I was never part of the cool, “I-can-not-function-without-my-morning-latte” crowd.

First world problems, right?

But what I do find interesting about coffee shops is the baked goods section. I love the fanciful displays of bagels, and muffins, and fresh scones.

But I know, and you probably do, too, that the way these beautiful baked goods are prepared is anything but pretty. The ugly truth is they’re probably loaded with preservatives, refined sugars, and hydrogenated oils. Sigh.

I’m not the type to give up and wallow in self-pity. I’ll just find a better way.

I made up this scone recipe one Saturday morning, and I’m going to drop the modesty curtain for a minute and just say what I’m thinking: This scone is good!

For a bit of a drier scone, use oil instead of yogurt and reduce to 2/3 t. For a very, very moist one, opt for the vanilla yogurt.

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour

1 T stevia

3/4 T canola oil or organic vanilla yogurt

1/2 t instant yeast

1/2 cup warm (but not burning hot) water

splash of pure vanilla extract

1 medium-sized strawberry, diced

Directions

Mix all dry ingredients, except toppings, and then blend in oil/yogurt and water. Knead for a few minutes, and then let rest for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Once dough has rested, pick it up again and easily knead a bit, adding in a few more t warm water if it has dried out too much.

Roll dough into ball and set aside.

Pick up the dough ball and use your thumbs to gently work in chopped strawberries. Mold into a heart shape, and once ready, place the scone on cookie sheet and bake for about 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Sweetheart Strawberry Pastry Pie

Have someone you love? Want to make them something special this Valentine’s Day?

That’s very nice. And while you do that, make something sweet for yourself, like this delicious sweetheart pastry.

To make one big heart pastry, simply follow my beloved healthy pastry dough recipe. But of course, form into two heart shapes. Top one with filling (1 medium-sized strawberry, chopped and blended with 1 t cream cheese frosting or 1 t organic vanilla yogurt). Lay the second heart over the top and press the edges closed with a fork.

Delicious is that easy. It only takes a few minutes, and it tastes so much better than anything you’d buy from the grocery store. Homemade baked goods always taste better.

Recipe For Pastry Dough:

  • 1 T + 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking stevia
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 t plain Chobani Greek Yogurt
  • 1.5 t vegan butter, diced at refrigerator temp.
  • 1.5  T non-dairy milk
Directions:
  1. In a mixer combine flours, Stevia, and salt.
  2. Slowly add in milk and Chobani
  3. Beat in butter until thick. (You may have to add more flour if your butter is warm)
  4. Roll up dough and wrap it with plastic wrap.
  5. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  6. After all the fillings are prepared take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out into a thin crust. Cut into 2x2in squares. Before you stack the dough make sure to sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.
  7. Lay a sheet of wax paper onto a baking sheet and spray with Pam. Lay twelve of the dough sheets onto the pan. Add the fillings on top.
  8. Take the tips of the fork and press down the edges. Working with this dough is kind of like working with clay. The score marks will help the sides stick.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Remove when the pastries are golden brown.

Cake Cups + Filling Ideas

This is more of a great idea (or two) than it is a new recipe.

Cake cups!

Like cupcakes, but reversed.

In a cake cup, you add in something you love. For me, it was my healthified fro-yo fix, which you can make simply by taking your favorite yogurt and freezing it for about an hour. Garnish with some sweet fresh berries and voila! A dessert that does a body good.

To make, simply follow any one of my single-serving cupcake recipes. But instead of filling the muffin tin slot as you normally would, gently press the dough up the sides of the slot. Bake for about 5-6 minutes (less time is needed because the dough is spread more thinly). Let cool and add in your favorite filling.

I’ll copy and paste the sweet-pink strawberry dough recipe I used below, but get creative!

I also did something similar with my super-moist chocolate blueberry cupcake recipe, but I made the cups smaller by dividing into two, scraped out the sides, and filled with a one-part peanut butter and one-part cream cheese frosting filling.

Yes, I was proud of this secondary cake cup, too. It tasted just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, only cakier!

And in case you’re wondering, no you can not taste the blueberry, but you will be amazed at how moist the fruit puree makes the cake.

Strawberry Dough Ingredients

3 T flour ( I used spelt)

a pinch of baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla

1 heaping T milk

1 T stevia

.5 t vegan butter

1/5 egg (mixed, or flax egg)

.5 t maple syrup or agave

1 t strawberry preserves

1 medium to large strawberry (ripe, pureed or well smashed)

Directions

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

-Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl; push to one side. On the other side, mix all wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry thoroughly. It’s okay if there are some chunks of fruit in the batter, but too many or too large of a chunk will bake into a gummy texture you won’t like.

-To form cookies, roll into small balls. If you’d like, however, to make doughnuts, you can simply shape a doughnut round by using a specialized pan, or doing as I do, which is using the rim of a muffin tin slot to shape an O. You could also use a cookie cutter that’s shaped like an O, but if you do this make sure the dough is thick enough–consider layering two or three Os.

-Bake for about 6-7 minutes.

Chocolate Blueberry Dough Ingredients

2.6 T whole-wheat flour

2 t cocoa powder

pinch of baking powder, baking soda, (scant) salt, and vanilla

1.5 t stevia

1 T and 1 t vanilla yogurt

1.5 t applesauce or coconut oil

1 T and 1 t almond milk

1 T and 1 t blueberries

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet or prepare with a cupcake liner.

-Puree blueberries or mash with a fork. Then mix in vanilla, oil, and milk. Set aside.

-In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Transfer these to the wet ingredients, mixing in slowly. Be sure not to overmix.

-Spoon batter into cupcake tin and bake for about 11-13 minutes.

These toppings could be really fun. You could go more muffin like, as I did, with fresh coconut cream and blueberries. Or you could add icing because, essentially, this muffin could pass as a cupcake, too!

Let the sweetness last as long as you can :)

PB&J Cupcake

Peanut-butter-jelly time!

The song is a little annoying, but this recipe won’t be.

Unless you have a hard time fighting temptation. Then it might.

PB&J sandwiches really are like a dessert break in middle of the day–otherwise known as lunch. Think about it: sweet fruit, savory nut spread, topped on soft bread. Sounds almost like a sweet-savory cake, doesn’t it?

Let’s just go there already. We need a real PB&J dessert. A cupcake. Ever seen the ones in many cupcake emporiums? I always thought they looked less appetizing next to their chocolate and vanilla counterparts.

But try this very rich recipe, and you’ll change your mind.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp spelt flour (30g) (or ww)
  • .5 T stevia
  • dash of baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon
  • 1/2 an egg or 1/2 flax egg (.5 T ground flax mixed with 1/2 T water)
  • 1 T all-natural, salt-free peanut butter
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 T organic vanilla yogurt
  • .5 T nondairy milk

For icing: Mix another 1/2 T peanut butter with either another 1/2 T vanilla yogurt or 1/2 T Neufchatel cream cheese. Top with your favorite preserves.

Directions

Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin or a single silicone cup. Set aside. (Note: You can microwave for 1-1.5 minutes for a quicker muffin, but it will probably turn out less moist.)

Mix dry ingredients; then blend in wet ’til combined, but don’t overmix.

Bake for about 13-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let cool. Spread with the peanut butter frosting and preserves.

Strawberries-n-Cream Cupcake

Surprise!

Look what just rolled off the berry patch. A scrumptious little cupcake for one.

I love this recipe because the baked in fruit keeps the dough super moist and scrumptious. Plus, I’ve adapted Chocolate-Covered Katie’s shortcake recipe with some vanilla yogurt. This, I think, makes the texture of the cupcake super smooth, creamy, and soft. Her coconut-oil version also tastes great because the oil adds a very rich flavor, but I like the creamy smoothness of this one.

Ingredients

-3 T spelt flour

-2 t stevia

-tiny dash of baking powder and salt

-1 T vanilla yogurt of choice

-1 T + 1 t non-dairy milk

– 1-2 strawberries, chopped

Directions

-Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Place paper liner in a muffin tin and set aside. Alternatively, if you’d like to microwave, do so on high for about 1 minute and 15 seconds, placing dough in side a coffee mug. But know that the cupcake won’t turn out as soft and moist.

-Mix dry ingredients, then blend in wet. Then, delicately, fold in chopped strawberry bits.

-Transfer dough to paper liner and bake for about 10-12 minutes.

Serve warm with fresh berries and cream (if you have those on hand).