Lightened-up zucchini bread

lightened-up zucchini bread | Lighten Up!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 🙂

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10-Second microwave peanut butter smores

10-second microwave peanut butter smoresCraving 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.

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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 no-bake chocolate eclair cake

lightened-up no-bake chocolate eclair cakeApparently this no-bake eclair cake recipe has been around for MANY years and has just as many fans, but I must admit that it’s brand new to me! Layers of creamy vanilla custard, graham crackers and chocolate AND it’s completely no-bake…how have I not heard about this dreamy dessert sooner?

I absolutely love this version of the classic eclair cake and it tastes just as amazing with lightened-up ingredients. I used sugar-free fat-free vanilla pudding mix and whipped it up with skim milk and light frozen whipped topping for the custard filling. Low-fat sugar graham crackers work perfectly and they soften up in the refrigerator after the required ‘chill’ time to really resemble the texture of an eclair pastry! My favorite tip for this recipe is to microwave a jar of chocolate frosting and simply pour it over the top, creating the most PERFECT thick layer of chocolate goodness with zero effort.

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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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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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