Summer’s End

I figured this kind of sentiment was in order after my last post.  Saying hello to wonderful things like pears and pumpkins means saying goodbye to equally wonderful things like peaches and corn.  Of course in the global world we live in today we can get all of them all year round, but the mouth-watering freshness can sadly not be duplicated.  We have been getting some AMAZING fresh peaches from the farmstand by our house and I really can’t get enough of them.

August 2013 049

This isn’t a recipe so much as it is an ode to my favorite summer snack.  The basic premise is plain Greek Yogurt topped with fresh fresh fruit topped with just a touch of Nature’s Path Granola (I am currently loving the new Coconut Chia–have you tried it yet??).  Early summer the fruit is Spooner’s amazing strawberries, then raspberries, then blackberries, and now this delicious peach.  Frozen blueberries are a nice alternative for the long rainy season here in the northwest.

As pictured the nutrition is: Calories 244 / Carb 33 / Fat 6 / Protein 16 / Sugar 17

It seems so much easier to eat healthy in the summer with all the produce.  We were having salads every day when our lettuce was at its peak!  How do you keep up a healthy lifestyle instead of hibernating?  What are your favorite summer snacks?

peach ice cream

If you want another great way to enjoy some “peaches and cream” just toss in the Vitamix:

4 peaches
2 cups Greek Yogurt
Sweetener to taste (numbers below are with 1 TBSP Agave)

Then pour in your ice cream maker and voila!  Some super yummy super easy super healthy frozen yogurt.

Calories for 4 servings: 124 / Carb 19 / Fat 0 / Protein 13 / Sugar 16

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Yes I Have a Sweet Tooth

And quite frankly I don’t understand how people can’t!  I wish I could understand that.  When Aaron and I first started dating, I remember him telling me that he didn’t really like a lot of sweet things and I wondered at that point how this relationship was possibly going to work.

Of course I am always trying to find ways to curb it (impossible?) or satisfy more wholesomely, which you can see from this blog.  I have been sharing so many treats that I promise I will post some more real food soon.  In the meantime, I had to share a yummy recipe that I pinned forever ago and finally had the occasion to make.

The occasion was finding 70% dark chocolate Scharffen Berger bars for $3 each at Wal-Mart!!  Yum yum yum.  Apparently they are now owned by Hershey, but they thankfully don’t taste a thing like Hershey bars.  If you haven’t tried this chocolate before, you should definitely find your own occasion to do so.

If the thought of Wal-Mart is too much for you, I have also seen it at QFC.  Or I also love the Endangered Species dark chocolate they sell at Fred Meyer.  Anyone have other favorite kinds of chocolate I should try?  My mom said this one was the best part of the cookie…so she wasn’t a huge fan of the cookie…but don’t let that deter you from making it.

Unless you don’t like bananas.  That would probably deter you from it because these have a STRONG banana taste.  These are a vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free cookie that uses the banana to replace the sugar and the eggs, and some of the butter.  So you could play around if you have a banana hatred (which I know some of you do) and replace some of the banana with more coconut oil/applesauce/eggs.

Personally I thought they were delicious and can’t wait to try some more recipes from 101 Cookbooks.  I will say though that traditionally I lean toward an underdone gooey cookie, but these tasted better with a little crispy edge to them.  So if you are in doubt when deciding to take them out, go ahead and give them another minute.

Nikki’s Healthy Cookie Recipe

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 – 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.

Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes.

Dessert Dates

Remember how I used to be a blogger??  Yeah, I almost can’t!  It’s seriously been a long time.  Isn’t that what I was saying in my last post?  This is getting to be like my personal journal–every time I make a new entry I have to apologize for a long absence.  I have three whole weeks at home before heading out yet again, so maybe I will have time to do a little catch-up.

Yet my desire to post here is low, as my desire to eat unhealthy foods is high!  Yes, it happens to the best of us.  Hence the need for a dessert post to at least get my foot in the door so to speak.

I know what you are thinking.  Becca, that doesn’t look like dessert.  That looks disgusting.  This is my attempt to capture in photo how easy this was to make.  It’s one of those fabulous, dump everything in the food processer and it turns into food recipes. 

This is a recipe that I got from my sister who called it the best treat on earth, so I’m not really sure it’s real name.  But since she made it, you can rest assured that it adheres to the Paleo Diet, which I am sure you were concerned about.  It is also gluten, dairy, and sugar (added mind you, dates are FULL of sugar) free, which is why I made it since this was at the time of Aaron’s allergen-free days.  I am SOOOOOO glad those days are over, though I do wish there did turn out to be some end to Aaron’s skin issues

I thought they tasted pretty good, a LOT like a Lara Bar, if you like those.  If you don’t like those, maybe stay away from this one.  But if you need a guilt free treat and just plain fruit isn’t cutting it for you anymore, give it a try!  Costco has some super yummy dates right now.

You notice that I only dipped half mine in coconut, because personally I am not a fan and Aaron is a big one.  Turns out though that I thought these tasted better both ways, so you can experiment.

“Best Treat on Earth”

20 pitted Medjool dates (juicy ones preferred)
1/2 cup almond butter
1 TBSP cinnamon
2 TBSP cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut flour (you can use reg whole wheat flour if you aren’t concerned about gluten-free

Blend all in food processor until smooth.  Roll into balls and dip into unsweetened coconut flakes.  Personally I flattened some and rolled some.  Taste wise obviously it’s the same, I guess it just depends on if you want to pretend like you are eating a cookie or a truffle…your choice!

And YES, that IS a rose from my own backyard.  It is a miracle that I have not yet managed to kill ALL my plants. 

 

The Best Use for Strawberries?

Typically I am not a big fan of chain restaurants.  I picked that snobbery up while living in Seattle, where it always seemed you could go out every night and never go to the same place twice.  You want Chinese?  Got it.  Thai?  No problem.  Sit on the floor for some Moroccan?  Sure, and it comes with a side of belly dancers too.  Ethiopian?  Russian?  Brazilian?  Check, check check.  Yet, with all of that, I still can’t overcome my love of the Cheesecake Factory.  I hate it.  It is always crowded, the nutritional stats are off the charts ridiculously unhealthy, and now it is 45 minutes away.   Thank goodness for that!

According to their website, their Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake has been their #1 seller for 30 years.  No doubt because of its deliciousness, not for its 733 calories per slice and 32 grams of fat per slice!!!  That is why I got sick the time I tried to eat one by myself.  If you have the craving for a little cheesecake, Eating for Life has a super healthy, protein packed one.  You can see from it’s picture that it is definitely smaller than the piece from cheesecake, which of course makes it less calories, but I promise you won’t miss them!

Eating For Life – Strawberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

1 c. Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
3 Tbsp Splenda
12 oz Fat Free Cream Cheese, softened at room temp.
1 c. Egg Substitute
1 Keebler Ready Crust – Reduced Fat Graham Cracker Crust
1/2 c. Fat Free Sour Cream
2 tsp Splenda
1 c. Strawberries, sliced
Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Spoon cottage cheese into blender and blend until smooth (about 30 seconds). Add vanilla extract & Splenda; blend for about 15 more seconds.

Add the softened cream cheese and blend for about 30 seconds, scraping down sides as needed. While blending, gradually add the egg substitute and continue to blend until smooth (about 45 seconds).

Pour cheese filling into Ready Crust and bake until set, about 35 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven and cool for about 15 minutes. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prior to serving, in a small mixing bowl, combine sour cream & 2 tsp of remaining Splenda.

Slice cheesecake into 8 portions, top with sliced strawberries and sour cream.

NUTRITION: Calories 208 / Fat 4 g / Carbs 24 / Protein 15 g / Fiber 2 g

 

If you are searching for something a little in between these two extremes of health and taste, I made Cooking Light’s version for my niece’s birthday to rave reviews.  I even substituted blended for one of the blocks of cream chese for a little extra protein (not include3d in nutrition info) and it still passed her picky standards!

Vanilla Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • Crust:
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • Filling:
  • 3 (8-ounce) blocks fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton fat-free sour cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare crust, combine first 3 ingredients, tossing with a fork. Add 2 teaspoons water; toss with a fork until moist and crumbly. Gently press mixture into bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

To prepare filling, beat cheeses with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Combine 1 cup sugar, flour, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Add to cheese mixture; beat well. Add sour cream; beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds into cheese mixture, reserving bean halves.

Pour cheese mixture into prepared pan; bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around outside edge. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

NUTRITION: Calories 324 / Fat 11 g / Carbs 43 / Protein 12 g / Fiber 1 g

The Making of an Addiction

I have tried a few times in my life to count calories, while seeking skinniness.  But in the end I usually give up on that, because calories are NOT the only things that matter when seeking to truly improve our health.  Take nuts for example…just because they are high in calories and fat doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat them!

These yummy almonds have been shown to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar & blood pressure, fight cancer, reduce risk of heart disease and birth defects, boost energy, and improve brain power.  So why not buy a big bag at Costco, roast em up, give em a whirl and make them into almond butter?  That’s what I do every week.

Making almond butter is actually SUPER easy if you have a food processor or a Vitamix and it tastes a million times better than the Maranatha brand that they also sell at Costco.  I’m not saying this to toot my own horn because really, it’s  all the machines that do the work.

Just take 2 cups of almonds and roast them at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let them cool for a bit, dump them in your food processor for about 10 minutes, and voila!  It will take those almonds from whole to crumbs ready for deliciously unhealthy English toffee, to almond flour ready for gluten free baking, to a huge ball of almond paste bouncing around noisily inside…then finally butter.

Deliciously creamy, fresh, and ready to slather on toast, sandwiches, carrots, celery, apples, basically anywhere you would put peanut butter and wherever else you can imagine.

Or better still, you can use in these “healthy” gluten-free, dairy-free cookies.  Again, certainly not low calorie, but a whole food approach to dessert with no refined flour or sugar.  Like the protein pancakes you will look at the recipe and wonder how it’s possible to be good; you will even shape the dough into cookies and wonder how it will work, but let me tell you it DOES!!

Let me know how it goes if you try it out!