New year = new goals! My food goals for the year include eating more ‘whole’ foods and less sugar (says the girl with the serious sweet tooth). I’m starting off 2015 right by eating less processed foods and if you have a similar goal, this is a great recipe to start with! Since the hubby and I were home over the holidays, I knew we would be snacking more than usual but I didn’t want us to snack on junk food. I came across a recipe for homemade granola bites and turned them into granola bars, which were SUPER fast to whip up (like 10 mins fast) AND they were just sweet enough to satisfy any sugar cravings! Simply change up the “mix-ins” to totally transform these soft and chewy bars made with oats, melted peanut butter and honey as a base. These are the perfect snacks for gluten-free and dairy-free diets, just be sure to use gluten-free oats and mix-ins that fit in your diet. I used dried cranberries and whole peanuts for some extra crunch, and here are some other ideas:
Chopped dried apricots
Chopped dried dates — try using less honey since dates are naturally sweet!
Mini chocolate chips — a little goes a long way!
And some delicious combinations to try:
Tropical — chopped dried mango + coconut flakes
Decadent — mini chocolate chips+ chopped peanuts
Classic — raisins + chopped nuts
Sweet ‘n Tart — white chocolate chips + dried cranberries
So it’s officially holiday entertaining season and you know what that means…scouring the internet for appetizer, entrée and dessert recipes. It’s always a personal challenge of mine to out-do myself when it comes to entertaining. No one expects it, but there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that this year’s menu was better than last year’s AND that my guests loved it just as much as I loved Pinterest-ing for two weeks to find the perfect recipes. Call me Miss Type-A.
Entertaining this holiday season and in need of a dessert recipe? I’ve seen this one all over Pinterest and I had to try it based on my love for the never-fail cheese ball and red velvet…well, anything. Think of this as a sweet version of a cheese platter, a “dessert appetizer” to make up a completely new menu category. The red velvet chocolate chip cheese ball is creamy, sweet and decadent thanks to the layer of mini chocolate chips which add the perfect amount of crunch. Made with red velvet cake mix, cream cheese, butter and sugar, the sweet cheese ball is definitely a treat but it’s SO worth it (just like the 15 Christmas cookies I ate in one sitting at my work holiday party…oops!) I served this with vanilla wafer cookies, but animal crackers or graham crackers would also pair well. I (of course) lightened up the recipe a bit by using 1/3 less fat cream cheese and margarine instead of butter. The best part: it took 10 minutes to make PLUS the red color is super festive!
Yes, I am one of “those” girls when it comes to pumpkin season. My coffee of choice? Dunkin Pumpkin k-cups. Pumpkin cream cheese on my pumpkin bagel, please. Pumpkin cocktails for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin for dinner like this pumpkin pasta bake I’m dying to try. The list goes on and on, but hey, pumpkin season is a limited time offer, so I have to get it while I can!
My list of “pumpkin everything” recipes is pretty long, but this one came to mind first since I was short on time on a weeknight (shocking, I know). I’ve made these super easy fall-favorite cookies before, but never for an unbiased audience (aka not the hubby), so I wasn’t sure how they’d go over for my work potluck luncheon. Let me tell you, they were such a hit that I made another batch for the office a week later! The soft cake-like texture topped with sweet cream cheese frosting and a dusting of warm cinnamon creates the most delicious pumpkin cookies ever. The cookies themselves are not overly sweet, so the frosting provides the perfect touch of creamy sweetness. Oh, and they’re really not terrible for you since there’s no oil, no butter, and no eggs. My co-workers helped themselves to seconds (and thirds).
These cookies would be a hit at Thanksgiving, holiday parties, cookie exchanges, you name it. With a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes, you can have these babies ready to go! This recipe is also extremely versatile – I use it to make pumpkin bread in a loaf pan, and it would be great as pumpkin muffins or as pumpkin whoopie pies (just sandwich two cookies together with cream filling)!
It’s just about boot and sweater weather in the northeast, and since we didn’t have time last year because of our wedding, (I was too busy dealing with seating arrangements and hotel giftbags) we took FULL advantage of apple picking this season. While I made it my apple-picking-mission to find a few of each type of apple from the endless rows of apple trees, the hubby decided to taste-test one from every category. Win-win! While the apple hunting was entertaining, there’s really nothing better than the check-out line at the local apple orchard – there’s always an abundance of hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, and fresh apple…well, anything. After bringing home a whopping 8 pounds of apples, I could only imagine the endless apple recipes I could make!
My go-to fall dessert last year was Skinnytaste’s apple cranberry crumble and this is just one of those recipes that stands the test of time. The tart cranberries combined with sweet apples and crumbly oat topping is always a crowd-pleaser and it’s one of those desserts that the hubby always asks for (and he always has a second helping). I make a few modifications to make the recipe dairy-free and gluten-free like swapping out butter for coconut oil, using coconut palm sugar, and cornstarch instead of flour to thicken up the sauce. Serve it right out of the oven for a warm treat on a cool night.
I also found a fantastic crockpot apple sauce recipe to put the rest of the apples to good use (see pic on top left). We had picked a combination of red delicious, gala and Cortland apples and I used all three variations in the recipe. If you have a lot of apples on hand, make a double batch and freeze the leftovers (if there are any!). This super easy recipe from the Frugal Girls has only a handful of ingredients and will make your house smell amazing! I added a sprinkle of nutmeg which added a warmer, ‘spiced’ flavor to the applesauce, almost like apple butter. Happy apple picking (and apple baking)!
If eating your veggies is so important, does it matter HOW you eat them? I’ve heard about parents sneaking fruits and vegetables into their children’s food without them knowing, just to make sure they’re getting their allotment of nutrients. Apparently the same concept works for adults, although hopefully there’s a lot less “sneaking” going on! Take zucchini for example. Definitely not my number 1 pick – (unless they’re in “zoodle” form, aka zucchini noodles, and that’s a whole different story). Zucchini in my dessert, however, has a very different ring to it! Eat dessert and get my daily dose of veggies too? I’ll take it!
Zucchini bread is not something I grew up on, but with the influx of zucchini recipes flying around Pinterest lately, I totally felt peer-pressured (in a good way) to bake something with zucchini while it’s still in season. Still have plenty of zucchini taking up space in your refrigerator? This is a totally non-zoodles way to use them up. This zucchini bread is made with your typical cake ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, but it’s lightened up with Greek yogurt (what else?) and the end result is a deliciously moist, sweet-but-not-too-sweet loaf cake with little specks of green zucchini peeking out from each slice. I changed up the recipe slightly by using less vegetable oil, egg whites, and vanilla. Slice up the zucchini bread for breakfast, snack or dessert. We love to reheat slices in the microwave, but leftovers are great cold too! The hubby went crazy over it, and don’t worry, he was well aware of the zucchini 🙂
Craving s’mores but don’t have a campfire or firepit or wooden sticks? No problem! My sister and I figured out a long time ago that the microwave does an awesome job of melting marshmallows to the perfect gooey consistency for s’mores (minus the burnt parts)! We would stand in front of the microwave, watching the marshmallows swell up until they were just warm and gooey enough to melt the chocolate and squish between two graham crackers. S’mores are quite possibly THE universally loved dessert, so much so that Buzzfeed published “39 S’mores Hacks That Will Change Your Life.” I’ll take one of each!
Indoor s’mores are so easy that they’re done in 10 seconds flat! I decided to change it up a bit and use peanut butter instead of chocolate…a little more protein = a little healthier (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). The combination of peanut butter and marshmallow has that amazingly delicious salty/sweet thing going for it and believe me, you won’t be able to stop at just one! These are great for kids, parties, BBQs…tonight’s dessert…anytime you need a little something sweet.
One of my favorite treats as a kid was a corn dog on a stick, and for good reason. There was something amazing about the hot dog wrapped in sweet corn batter that was just plain delicious, but the fact that it was on a stick made it that much more fun to eat. Apparently, the “food on a stick” concept still applies because these appetizer and dessert kabobs were a hit at our last BBQ! The possibilities are endless (and involve minimal to zero cooking/baking), so use your imagination to create your own delicious kabob combination. I’ve listed a few of my ideas for some inspiration and all are super easy and quick to put together!
The appetizer kabobs are basically a cheese plate on a stick — sweet fruit paired with tangy cheese. I used grapes, strawberries, cheddar and colby jack on 10″ bamboo skewers (about $1 at the grocery store). The cheddar was a little crumbly going onto the skewers, so I would stick with softer cheeses (mozzarella would be great)! These would be great as an “antipasto” skewer, maybe with prosciutto or pepperoni and pitted olives.