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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Creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

We are, without a doubt, “Greek yogurt people.” If there’s one item that’s consistently on my grocery list each week and one item that always fills our refrigerator shelves, it’s Greek yogurt. We can (and have been known to) literally consume it for almost every meal. The hubby brings the flavored single-serve containers to work every day for breakfast, I like the plain variety with honey and berries for breakfast/snack, but my favorite way to use Greek yogurt is in recipes and baking. Who knew that yogurt could replace butter, oil, sour cream, heavy cream, cream cheese, mayo…you name it, you could probably swap it out with Greek yogurt and save yourself the fat and calories…plus get an added protein boost! Seriously, what did we DO before Greek yogurt was invented? The stuff is ridiculously versatile – it lightens up the most decadent of baked goods, it’s amazing on its own or with fruit/granola mixed in, and, in the case of this recipe, it turns everyday sauces into creamy deliciousness.

This is one hearty dish that just happens to be vegetarian! The sweet caramelized onions balance out the meatiness of the mushrooms. Spinach adds protein, calcium, fiber and that deliciously leafy green color. The sauce is just to-die-for…sweet and tart balsamic vinegar and crisp white wine swirled together with a dollop of thick, creamy Greek yogurt. A sauce that’s both creamy AND packed with protein? Winning combination! I was craving a long pasta so I used fettuccine, but you could substitute with your favorite whole wheat or gluten-free pasta (short or long). Another recipe that’s perfect for meatless Monday!

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Lightened-up egg salad

lightened-up egg salad

Sometimes it’s funny how my meal planning skills work (or don’t…). I can have meals planned out perfectly for every day of the week, but by the time Saturday rolls around there’s NOTHING left in the fridge. I admit that weekend lunches are not my strong suit, mainly because I don’t always feel like breakfast food past noon, yet I’m at the point where I just can’t bear to eat another salad…thank you, weekday work lunches. And there lies the conundrum.

I noticed that more often than not, the hubby’s answer to my question “what did you have for lunch today?” was egg salad…something I’ve never actually made myself. After another Saturday of scrounging around for lunch, I decided to try it and I’m so glad I did! Egg salad is pretty simple, it just requires hard-boiled eggs (the hardest part is peeling them) mixed with mayo (usually) and Greek yogurt in this case. This lightened-up version has half the yolks (aka half the cholesterol) and only 2 Tbsp of mayo! The Greek yogurt lends the perfect amount of tang and creaminess, and thanks to this magical ingredient you’ll never miss the calories and fat! Egg salad is great in a sandwich, or try it over greens for a low-carb lunch.
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Creamy tomato pasta with kale & mushrooms

creamy tomato pasta with kale and mushroomsPenne a la vodka used to be one of my all-time favorite Italian restaurant menu items to order. I say “used to” because while it’s so rich, creamy and insanely delicious, it’s also (very unfortunately) insanely high in calories. So, once I found this out, I swore off vodka sauce altogether. Fast forward to the invention of Pinterest…of course I found a creamy tomato pasta recipe reminiscent of penne a la vodka that claimed to get its creaminess from Greek yogurt! Sign me up!

Since we usually have one vegetarian night a week, I thought this would be the perfect sauce for pasta and veggies. I swapped out the penne and shrimp for linguine and dark leafy greens to bump up the “healthy” factor. When you add the protein from the Greek yogurt and whole wheat from the pasta, this is an all-around deliciously good-for-you dish! If you’re gluten-free, just use your favorite packaged gluten-free pasta. The sauce is decadent and creamy, and the hearty veggies add enough bulk and flavor to keep you satisfied, without the meat or fish. Plus, it’s ready in under 30 minutes — another weeknight dinner recipe to add to your collection!
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Molten Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

 

molten chocolate lava mug cakeThis may be my favorite single-serve dessert recipe EVER thanks to the serious ooey-gooey factor of this molten chocolate lava mug cake. I only wished I had more of it, but I guess that’s the magic of single-serve…built-in portion control! I was home on a rainy afternoon and I needed a quick afternoon snack. Okay, maybe this wasn’t the healthiest snack choice, but I just happened to have every ingredient for this recipe in my pantry…I love when that happens! If you don’t feel like having an entire pan of brownies in the house, these mug cakes are the answer. Sweet, gooey, fudgy and I even swapped out some of the ingredients to lighten up the recipe! PLUS, they’re made in the microwave. That means you can have your very own molten chocolate lava mug cake all to yourself in under 5 minutes…now that’s dangerous!

molten chocolate lava mug cakeBecause I’ve been on a coconut oil/coconut sugar kick (see these coconut oil/sugar gluten-free brownies), I swapped out the egg, butter, and granulated sugar for Greek yogurt, coconut oil, and coconut palm sugar. Since there’s no egg in the recipe, you can microwave (aka “bake”) the mug cake as much or as little as you’d like. Less microwaving means more gooeyness in the center. I microwaved mine for about 1 minute 30 seconds, until the edges were set but the middle was a gooey, almost pudding-like consistency. Absolute dessert perfection! Be sure to let the mug cake cool for a few minutes before you dig in to the warm, chocolatey deliciousness!

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Steamed Artichokes with Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce

steamed artichokes with spicy citrus dipping sauceWell, I think it’s finally safe to say that spring has sprung around here! The weather channel is consistently reporting temps in the 60s, meaning I’ve traded in my winter coat for a spring jacket AND I get to wear flats without freezing my feet off! More importantly, my favorite spring veggies are back in season, including fresh artichokes. I cook with artichokes year-round thanks to the magic of the freezer, but fresh artichokes are definitely a treat…especially because they give me an excuse to whip up a deliciously creamy dip to go along with each leaf. The dip-to-artichoke ratio may be extremely skewed in my case…no judging please!

I added some lemon juice and white wine to the steaming liquid for the artichokes, because, really…what’s not better with wine? The dipping sauce is a combination of creamy, spicy, and citrusy thanks to the splash of hot sauce and plenty of lemon juice to balance out the mayo and greek yogurt.

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