Deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipes

deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipesIt’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.
deliciously light (and easy) fall apple recipes

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)!

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Entertaining: appetizer and dessert kabobs

app dessert kabobOne 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.
app dessert kabob

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Lightened-up lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

lightened-up lemon blueberry cheesecake barsI’ve never met a cheesecake I didn’t like. You name it — chocolate, cherry, strawberry, blueberry…the decadent creaminess is something that I crave every so often. That being said, I’m SO happy that lightened-up cheesecake exists (mostly thanks to Greek yogurt)! Since blueberries are in season and we had a few cartons in the fridge, I decided to try out a lemon-blueberry version of these cheesecake bars. They turned out AMAZING and they were a huge hit with the hubby (and his best man)!

lightened-up lemon blueberry cheesecake barsI used coconut oil to make the graham cracker crust, which gave the bars a very subtle coconut flavor. The thick layer of cheesecake filling is densely sweet, tart and ridiculously creamy with little bursts of lemon zest and blueberries in each bite. Let me tell you, these taste exactly like the real thing but you’ll never miss the fat and calories! The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for them to chill for 3 hours, so plan ahead!

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Citrusy Mexican-style Quinoa

citrusy mexican-style quinoa | Lighten UpQuinoa may be my new favorite go-to side dish for a number of reasons:
1. It’s super easy to make — just like pasta, all you need to do is boil water!
2. It’s called a “superfood” for a reason. Quinoa is a seed that is actually a complete protein because it includes all 9 essential amino acids. As if that wasn’t good enough, it’s also cholesterol-free and gluten-free!
3. It takes on whatever flavors you put into it…that means endless possibilities for quinoa recipes!
4. It can be used a million different ways and is a perfect make-ahead meal. Cook up a big batch and have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I love bulking up my salads with quinoa for lunch!

I was hosting dinner for some friends and knew this would be a tasty side dish — it’s so refreshing thanks to the fresh fruit and veggies and has a deliciously Mexican spin because of the cilantro and lime. If you’re looking for a quinoa-based main course, check out the original recipe here. Because I wanted to serve this as a side dish, I swapped out the chicken and added more veggies. The oranges and red pepper add the right amount of sweetness and the avocado is the perfect amount of creaminess. One key element to flavorful quinoa is the “dressing.” I loved the citrusy flavor of the dressing, which is just lime and orange juice mixed with olive oil, honey and cilantro. If you’re not a cilantro fan, just leave it out — you’ll still get the bold citrusy flavors from the dressing. The quinoa was light and refreshing, and because it keeps so well in the fridge, we had plenty of leftovers for the week (aka quinoa salad, see pic below!)
citrusy mexican-style quinoa | Lighten Up

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Skinny red, white & blue parfait

skinny red white and blue parfaitIt’s hard to believe that the fourth of July is right around the corner…the summer is flying by! We’re trying to enjoy every second by hitting the pool and beach, going to our favorite outdoor bar, and eating outside as often as we can. With July 4th coming up quickly, I wanted to create a “skinnier” dessert that was still patriotic, so I made my lightened-up seltzer cake and layered it with fruit and whipped cream…so easy and perfect for your Independence Day BBQ! About 1/16th of the cake itself clocks in around 140 calories — super reasonable for dessert, even when you add in the fruit and lite whipped topping!

This recipe is great with light-colored cake (white, yellow, butter, or funfetti) to add to the red, white and blue theme. I listed out the filling ingredients to create one parfait, but keep in mind that the cake will make enough to fill multiple mason jars or parfait glasses (likely 6-8, or more depending on how much cake you use in each). I added a tropical twist to the recipe by adding sweetened coconut flakes, because they make everything taste like summer! If coconut is not your favorite flavor, simply leave them out. The sweet cake combined with the creamy lite whipped topping and tart fresh fruit is the perfect combination for a summer dessert — fresh and light with enough sweetness to satisfy any sugar craving! Happy 4th of July!

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Grilled Peaches with Cream Cheese & Cookie Topping

grilled peaches with cream cheese and cookie topping | Lighten Up!BBQs, after-work frozen yogurt runs, toes painted with neon polish, and the freshest fruit — oh, how I love summertime! Peaches will be in season soon and popping them on the grill makes for an unexpected and elegant dessert. While we have access to an outdoor grill, I find that it’s much easier to use a grill pan indoors (especially if it’s raining!) Grilling the peaches brings out their natural sweetness and those beautiful grill marks make this an impressive dish to serve to guests. The peaches stay on the grill for about 5-7 minutes, until those grill marks start to appear. The filling is quick to whip up and adds the perfect amount of sweetness, creaminess and crunch to satisfy your sweet tooth. This dessert feels indulgent but since we’re really just jazzing up amazing piece of fruit, it’s light on calories!

I happened to have leftover sweetened cream cheese and sugar cookies, so this dessert took no time to whip up. I mixed cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla to sweeten it up, then put a dollop in the center of each peach half (where the pit used to be), plus a crumble of cookie on top. If you’re gluten-free, just substitute a gluten-free cookie and you’re good to go! To make this dish even more figure-friendly, you could swap out the cream cheese for Greek yogurt mixed with honey as the filling. So refreshing and delicious, my hubby (the fruit-for-dessert-guy) asked for seconds! Happy summer entertaining season!

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