Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

You know fall has arrived when pumpkin recipes start popping up everywhere and you get the urge to run to the nearest store, pick up a can of pumpkin and bake a delicious fall treat.  I love pumpkin and can eat it in just about anything.  I also love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate, so these bars definitely hit the spot!

These bars are quick to whip up and are a delicious treat for any fall afternoon.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart http://www.marthastewart.com/336431/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-squares

Ingredients:

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 Cup butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 Cup sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer.  Add vanilla and egg until mixed in.  Add pumpkin and mix until well combined.  The mixture will look lumpy.  Gradually add dry ingredients until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Spread into 9×13 greased pan.  Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool and cut bars after they are cool.

Makes 30 bars.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4

 

 

 

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Game Day Chili

Chili always reminds me of Sunday fall afternoons, watching football and hanging out with friends and family.  Yesterday was the season opener for the Minnesota Vikings and my husband and I had two of our close friends over for the game and lunch.  I made this chili and it was delicious!

This recipe was adapted from http://www.momswhothink.com/easy-recipes/best-chili-recipe.html .

There are lots of different chili recipes out there but I especially liked this one as it has everything: beans, tomatoes, beef, and two special ingredients, beer and cocoa powder!

Ingredients:

3 lb ground beef (I used 85/15)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 Cup chopped onion

8 oz Hunt’s tomato sauce

10 oz can of kidney beans

10 oz can of pinto beans

20 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 Cup water

1 can beer 14oz

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp unsweeted cocoa powder

1/2 tsp hot sauce

Brown ground beef in a large sauce pot, drain fat.  Add chopped onions and garlic, cook until onions are tender.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.  Serve your favorite toppings.

Makes 20 servings

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 6

What is your favorite type of chili?

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Healthy Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Fall is here!  It’s so crazy that all of a sudden we hit September and fall just comes out of nowhere.  Even though it has still been warm here in Minnesota, fall is undeniably here.  The leaves outside our apartment are starting to fall, and that distinctive smell of Fall is in the air.  I love Fall, and it is a beautiful time of year here in Minnesota.  It is such a special season, filled with football, pumpkins, and crisp weather.  Today was the opening day for the Minnesota Vikings (GO VIKINGS) and we had two of our friends over for lunch and the game.  Both the lunch and our game were a success.  The Vikings won in overtime, sweet right?  And our lunch was scrumptious; even now writing this post I am still full…  For lunch we had a great chili (I’ll post that recipe later), hot spinach and artichoke dip, veggies, and zucchini brownies (also a future post).

The hot spinach and artichoke dip was to die for!  I have made other spinach and artichoke dips before but since I am lactose intolerant and trying to be somewhat healthy on game-day, it is sometimes hard to find a recipe that I can have.  I came across this recipe at ACAC (http://www.acac.com/2011/12/22/hot-spinach-and-artichoke-dip/) and thought I’d give it a try.  Let me tell you, it turned out great!  I made a couple of adaptations and it was a big hit with my husband and our friends.

This recipe uses non-fat Greek yogurt, which I love using in cooking and baking.  I also decided to make it in my crockpot so it could stay warm throughout the whole game.  Definitely put this recipe on your game-day list as it is a winner!

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup light Miracle Whipe

1/2 Cup fat free plain Greek yogurt

1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 Cup grated Swiss cheese

1/2 Cup grated white cheddar (or your cheese of choice, lots of recipes use mozzarella, but I can’t eat it, hence the white cheddar)

3 cloves garlic, minced

ground black pepper to taste

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

14 oz artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Mix together all ingredients except for spinach and artichokes in crockpot.  Add spinach and artichokes and mix well.  Sprinkle extra grated Parmesan cheese on top if desired.  Heat on high for 1 hour in crockpot and then keep warm. Serve with veggies, pita chips, or crackers.

Makes 12 servings

If you do not have a crockpot you could bake it in the oven instead 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 3 points per serving

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Freezer Ready Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Chocolate chip cookies are one of life’s greatest things.  They are such a classic cookie and yet they never go out of style.  I love cookies and I never turn down a chocolate chip cookie, which is part of my problem.  I used to whip up a batch of cookies and then I would have to try to not eat the whole batch in two days.  So recently I have started making a batch of cookie dough and baking only the cookies that I want for that day and freezing the rest.  This solves the problem of having too many cookies calling to me from my Tupperware on the counter, but it doesn’t solve the problem of knowing that the delicious cookie dough is lurking in the freezer; but I’ll work on figuring out that problem later.

For this recipe I use the classic Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough recipe, but you could use your own favorite recipe.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 Cup of butter

3/4 Cup brown sugar

3/4 Cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 Cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F.  Sift together dry ingredients in a separate bowl, set aside.  Cream together butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add eggs and beat until well mixed.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

If you want to bake some cookies immediately, place rounded teaspoons of cookie dough onto a sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes.

For Freezing: place bowl of cookie dough into freezer for 40 minutes.  After 40 minutes, remove from freezer and shape cookies with a spoon and place into a freezer Ziploc bag.  Once all the dough is shaped into balls place bag in freezer and use whenever the cookie cravings hit!

* If your dough is dry and not too sticky you can immediately shape it into balls and place in a Ziploc.  Mine is usually too sticky right away so that is why I freeze it for 40 minutes before shaping the dough.

I think it’s great to be able to have a fresh cookie whenever the desire hits you, and it is also very convenient when you have guests over and want to treat them with a home-baked good but don’t want to spend the whole evening in the kitchen.

What other baked goods have you frozen for easy baking later?

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Blackberry Overnight Oats

I recently learned about overnight oats and immediately decided that I needed to give them a try.  So two nights ago I decided to whip up a jar of overnight oats for breakfast the next day.  They were so easy to make and took less than five minutes.  And lo and behold the next morning, all I had to do was take the jar out of the fridge, grab a spoon and enjoy.  It was delicious and was the perfect start to my morning.

This recipe is from Two Peas and their Pod for Overnight Blueberry Almond Oats.  I adjusted it slightly and used blackberries instead of blueberries.  I also omitted the almonds.

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup vanilla non-fat yogurt (you could also use Greek yogurt)

1/3 Cup milk (I used Lactaid as I am lactose-intolerant, but any type of milk or soy/almond milk would work)

1/3 old-fashioned oats

1/2 Cup blackberries

Cinnamon, 1 or 2 dashes sprinkled on top

Mix together yogurt, milk, oats, and berries in a jar or bowl.  I used a mason jar which I liked because you can just screw on the lid and pop it right into the fridge, no clean up necessary!  Sprinkle cinnamon on top of oat mixture.  Put jar or covered bowl in fridge overnight.  Take out of fridge the next morning and enjoy!

This recipe is very versatile and you can feel free to customize it with your favorite berries, nuts, or raisins.  Whatever sounds good to you!  It is also 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus which makes for a delicious filling and healthy breakfast.

What are your favorite overnight oats recipes?

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Heart Healthy Southwestern Egg White Omelet

Omelets are one of those dishes that can be eaten at any time of day.  I love omelets for brunch and also won’t turn one down for dinner or for lunch for that matter.  My favorite omelet has to be the Ham and Swiss Omelet from the Original Pancake House.  If you have ever had an omelet there, you know how amazing their omelets are.  However I can’t eat those omelets very often as they are hundreds and hundreds of calories because they are packed full of ham and mounds of cheese.

Just because you have to forgo the decadent Original Pancake House style omelet does not mean that you have to say goodbye to omelets forever.  In this recipe I use egg whites instead of whole eggs.  I chose egg whites because 3 whole eggs are 6 points plus, whereas 4 egg whites are only 1 points plus.  It’s up to you, but I like the idea of saving 4 or 5 points which I can use for yummy things like cheese or ham (I love ham!!!).

The key to using egg whites in your omelet is to have flavorful ingredients and toppings.  Once I ordered an egg white omelet with only peppers, onions, and ham; let me tell you I had to force that omelet down.  It just didn’t have enough flavor and although I’m sure it was a healthier brunch option, it wasn’t worth it.  I believe that while we should all be eating healthily you need to also enjoy your food because life is too short!

I love to use salsa to top my omelets because it is 0 points and it adds great flavor to the omelet.  It tops the omelet in this recipe and gives it a great Southwestern flavor.

Ingredients:

2 egg whites (you could use more if you would like a larger omelet)

6 slices of deli-sliced low-fat turkey cut into small pieces (I used Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh Shaved Cracked Black Pepper Turkey)

1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup salsa (I used Pace, but you could use whatever is your favorite)

1 tbsp milk

Salt and Pepper, season to taste

Spray frying pan with cooking spray.  Beat together egg whites and milk.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Heat frying pan over medium heat.  Pour egg whites into frying pan. Sprinkle turkey and cheese over egg whites.  Cook until egg whites are no longer runny.  Fold omelet in half and transfer to plate.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over omelet and top with salsa.  Makes 1 omelet.

This recipe is very basic and could be adjusted easily to your favorite omelet ingredients.  Just remember to stuff your omelet with healthy “free” ingredients like bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms and try to keep an eye on how much cheese or sour cream you pile on to your omelet as the points can add up quickly!

What is your favorite heart healthy omelet recipe?

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Chocolate and Butterscotch Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Some people grew up loving butterscotch, I was not one of them.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like butterscotch, I just didn’t have it very often when I was young.  Recently I have been using it more and I love its unique sweet buttery flavor.  These cookies are great and I like the mix of both semi-sweet and butterscotch chips that create a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  I have also attempted to make these cookies a little better for your waistline by using Smart Balance spread and using Splenda sugar and brown sugar blends.  If you want to use the traditional butter and sugars you can.  For the sugar and brown sugar you need to use twice as much as you would for the Splenda blends.  I have put the amounts for real sugar and brown sugar in parentheses.

I love putting oatmeal in my cookies. I think it gives the cookies a great texture and also makes you feel a little bit better about eating that second cookie.  Hey it adds fiber right?  And helps to lower your cholesterol.  Now you are definitely having the second cookie!

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Smart Balance (or you can use butter)

1/4 Cup Splenda sugar blend (or 1/2 cup sugar)

1/4 Cup Splenda brown sugar blend (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Cup of chocolate chips

1 Cup of butterscotch chips

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Cream Smart Balance and sugars in a stand mixer or by hand.  Stir in vanilla and egg until well mixed.  In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir gradually into butter mixture.  Once mixed, fold in chocolate/butterscotch chips and oats.  Spray 2 baking sheets with Pam.  Drop rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets.  Bake for 9 minutes until golden.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Makes 24 cookies.

I hope you will enjoy these cookies as much as my family and I have.  They are also 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus so you can enjoy one without the guilt.

What are some of your favorite butterscotch recipes?

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Chicken Tikka Masala with Quinoa

I don’t know if you have jumped onto the quinoa bandwagon yet, but these days it’s everywhere.  Some of you out there may be saying to yourself, “quinoa?  What’s that?”  Well quinoa is a seed that is high in protein, fiber, and is whole grain and is also gluten-free for those that do not eat gluten.  I started making quinoa recently and I love it.  You can use it in most recipes that you used rice in before.  It is great for people who don’t like brown rice but still want the benefits of eating whole grain.

I love Indian food but often don’t feel adventurous enough to make it.  This recipe makes it easy for you to have quick and tasty Indian food at home with no need for take-out.  The fiber and the protein in the quinoa make for a healthy and filling dinner.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, cubed

1 tsp olive oil

1 tomato diced, or 8 oz of diced tomatoes canned

5 Tbsp of Patak’s chicken Tikka Masala paste

2/3 Cup of non-fat Greek yogurt

1/2 Cup of water

1 Cup of quinoa, rinsed

2 Cups of water for cooking the quinoa

Put cubed chicken breast, yogurt, and tikka masala paste into a large Ziploc bag.  Massage contents of bag in order to mix well together and marinade the chicken.  Place Ziploc bag in fridge for an hour to marinade.  You can also leave it to marinade in the fridge overnight.  To cook the quinoa, heat rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water over medium heat in a pot.  When it begins to boil, turn down to low heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  The quinoa is done when spiral-like threads appear and the quinoa is tender.

In a large pan saute the marinated chicken with olive oil.  Once the chicken is lightly browned, add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes until chicken is tender.  Serve over quinoa and enjoy!  Makes 4 servings.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe like we have and maybe it will give you some new ideas on how to introduce quinoa to your family.  What is your favorite quinoa recipe?

 

 

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Guiltless Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Blondies

Blondies are great right?  That wonderful chewiness and great buttery flavor are just to die for.  I love blondies, which is no surprise as I like pretty much all sweet things, but I can’t make them very often or I would eat them all.  So I have adapted this recipe to make a healthier, guilt-free blondie.  This recipe can help get your sweet fix without all the guilt.

I cut the sugar and fat content in half by using nonfat yogurt and Splenda sugar and brown sugar blends.  This is my first time using the Splenda sugar blends.  I have used the regular Splenda before, but never for baking as I was nervous as how it would turn out.  But these turned out great and I will happily use the Splenda sugar blends again because who can turn down saving half of the calories from sugar?

Recipe adapted from browneyedbaker at http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/08/18/chewy-chunky-blondies/

Ingredients:

2 Cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda                                                                     

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick of butter

1/4 Cup of nonfat vanilla yogurt (plain would also work)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 Cup Splenda sugar blend

3/4 Cup Splenda brown sugar blend

1 Cup chocolate chips

1 Cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Spray or butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.  In a large mixing bowl or in a stand mixer, cream the butter, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar blends together.  Add eggs one by one and mix on medium speed for a minute after each egg.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to batter and stir until well combined.  Stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips.  Spread dough into baking pan with a spatula.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.  This makes about 36 bars.

I hope you will enjoy these blondies as much as I have, and at 3 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving, how can you pass these up?

 

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Healthy Snack Ideas

Snacks have always been my downfall.  I hit 2:30 pm and have to resist the urge to start mindlessly working my way through a bag of chips or several cookies.  I believe the key to snacking and feeling full is not to skip the snack all together but to choose your snacks wisely.  What makes a good snack you may ask?  I think a good snack is one that will keep you full between meals and is also delicious.  In the past most of my snacks were things like granola bars or chips and salsa, which you eat and then 20 minutes later you are hungry again.  Since I have been trying to lead a healthier life and lose some pounds, with the help of Weight Watchers I have learned the importance of fruits and vegetables.  I know that we’ve all heard a thousand times to eat your fruits and vegetables but most of us aren’t eating them like we should be. I have always viewed myself as a healthy eater but I realized when I was hungry and in need of a snack I wasn’t reaching for fresh fruit or vegetables, I was reaching for carbs.  I love carbs as much as the next girl, but my high carb snacks were just giving me empty calories due to their low amount of fiber and I found myself eating more because I wasn’t feeling full.

The solution?  Try snacking on your favorite fruits and vegetables whenever the cravings hit.  Here are some of my favorites:

 

Summer berries.

Summer berries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Berries – I could eat berries all day; they are sweet which helps satisfy your sweet cravings, they are also high in fiber which makes them a sweet snack that’s actually filling!  As an added bonus they are 0 points for those who follow Weight Watchers; even if you don’t it’s helpful to know which foods are basically “free” foods that you can snack on without guilt.

 

 

English: A bunch of carrots (Daucus carota), w...

English: A bunch of carrots (Daucus carota), washed and placed on a wooden cutting board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carrots – I don’t know how anyone can dislike carrots; they’re sweet, crunchy and a great food for snacking.  I usually eat mine just plain since I love them so much but if you need something more to get you into eating vegetables try them with hummus or a low fat dip.  Buy baby carrots for easier snacking, so you don’t have to waste time peeling.

 

 

 

Peaches, nectarines, apples etc. – whatever fruits you love, peel or chop them ahead of time and put them in Tupperware in the fridge for some easy snacking whenever you’re hungry.  It will save time and prevent you from taking the easy way out and grabbing that bag of chips that are sitting on the counter.

 

It’s not easy to turn down those sweet or salty snacks that are calling to you from the cupboard every afternoon but grabbing a bowl of fruit with some Splenda sprinkled on top instead can be a first step towards a healthier you!

 

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