Game Day Chili

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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 .

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!


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

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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 ( 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!


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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Heart Healthy Southwestern Egg White Omelet

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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.


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

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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!


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

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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.


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

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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


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

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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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How to survive (and still enjoy) the Minnesota State Fair

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Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the Minnesota State Fair.  As a Minnesotan who was living in Chicago for the past 2 ½ years, I have been missing the Minnesota State Fair every time August rolls around.  People that are from other states may not understand the amazing thing that is the Minnesota State Fair.  It is more than just a farm show for 4H’ers; it is as the tag line goes, “The Great Minnesota Get Together”.  I love the ambience of the fair, walking through the state fairgrounds viewing all the different animals while enjoying a tasty snack on a stick.

Although I am super excited to return to the state fair since I haven’t been able to go since 2009, I am also worried that one day at the fair may make me gain back the weight that I have just lost.  So I have come up with some relatively healthy food ideas for when you are at the state fair.  They are obviously still not the healthiest food you could be eating, but come on it’s the state fair!  You need to reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve been doing.


carmel apples

carmel apples (Photo credit: HeatherHeatherHeather)

Caramel Apples: These are a smart state fair food choice that is low fat and filling.  The apple is a healthy snack and the caramel adds sugar but it is overall a better snack than any other sweet snack you may find at the fair.  Just skip on the nuts or chocolate, as these will add up the calories quickly.


The Corn

The Corn (Photo credit: Smaku)

Corn on the cob: Nothing says the Minnesota State Fair more than strolling through the fairgrounds eating a roasted ear of corn.  The sweet juiciness of the corn just can’t be beat.  Corn on the cob is a healthy choice as long as you skip on the butter.  Having your corn dunked in butter adds tons of extra calories that really aren’t needed as the corn itself is just divine.  Instead sprinkle some seasoning on top and save those extra calories for a different snack later on.


English: Pink Cotton candy. Deutsch: Rosa Zuck...

English: Pink Cotton candy. Deutsch: Rosa Zuckerwatte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cotton Candy: While I am not a cotton candy fan myself, it’s a good choice if you are looking for something to satisfy that sweet tooth while you are at the fair.  A normal sized serving of cotton candy on a stick is about 110 calories, not bad huh?  It is also fat free which beats any deep-fried candy bar or funnel cake that you might have been eyeing.

State Fair foods to avoid:  This may be rather obvious but anything that is battered and deep-fried is probably not your best option for staying on track with your healthy eating.  Here are some of the worst offenders:

English: Cheese curds covered in beer batter a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheese Curds: Who doesn’t love cheese curds?  They’re fried to a perfect crisp on the outside and have the wonderful melted center of cheese.  I love them but being lactose intolerant I’ve had to give them up.  I must admit it was for the best.  A serving of state fair cheese curds is 759 calories.  So if you must have them, plan the rest of your food accordingly.  Source: CBS Minnesota

Giant Turkey Leg: I bet you’re thinking, what’s that turkey leg doing in the “foods to avoid” section?  It’s a lean protein right?  Well it is but it also is giving you 1136 calories.  Yes, you read that right.  Over a thousand calories!  My goodness, how did they pack that many calories in? How the calories got in there is neither here nor there; the bottom line is that the giant turkey leg is NOT a good choice.  Source: CBS Minnesota

Deep Fried Cookie Dough: Need I say anymore?  You don’t need me telling you to steer away from this one!  Although I’m sure it is sinfully delicious, is it worth the 1200 calories?  You can decide for yourself.  Source: CBS Minnesota


In-N-Out Burger - Chocolate Shake

In-N-Out Burger – Chocolate Shake (Photo credit: frozenfoodjournal)






Chocolate Shake:  That chocolate shake that’s calling to you from the Dairy Barn?  Skip it, unless you are okay with using up 747 of your day’s calories on it.  If you have to have it, share it with a friend or two.  Source: CBS Minnesota

Okay Food Choices: These food items are fine to have as a treat, just don’t mindlessly eat 3 or 4 as you are looking at the cute piglets in the Baby Barn!

Pronto Pups

Pronto Pups (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pronto Pup:  This is just the quintessential food of the state fair isn’t it?  Generations of Minnesotans have enjoyed the state fair with one of these in their hands.  They aren’t too bad of an option at 350 calories per Pronto Pup, so enjoy one as you take in the sights and sounds of the Minnesota State Fair!  Source: CBS Minnesota

A salad platter.

A salad platter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Salads:  I know when you hear the word salad, you probably automatically think to yourself, “that’s what I’ll have it can’t be unhealthy since it’s a salad”.  Salads are healthy to begin with but if you’re loading it up with cheese, fried chicken, or high fat dressings, it becomes as unhealthy as any of the other options at the fair.  So if you’re ordering a salad, try to limit the cheese, fried meats, sour cream etc… and instead make sure it is full of filling veggies and fruit.  Also ask for the dressing on the side if possible, and pick a fat free dressing if one is available.

The Bottom Line: The Minnesota State Fair is one of the highlights of the summer and is meant to be enjoyed, not a source of anxiety for those who are watching their weight.  Just plan ahead before you go and get a good idea of what you want to eat there so you won’t be swayed by the smell of those cheese curds as you are walking by.  That being said, if there is a fried food that is your guilty pleasure and you have to have; enjoy it, just plan the rest of your day wisely.  It’s a good idea to eat something before you go to the Fair so you are not starving when you arrive.  Also pack some healthy snacks like cherries, carrots, or an apple that you can munch on when that pizza on a stick is beckoning.  Bringing your own water to help you stay hydrated is a must on those hot August days and will prevent you from wasting your calories on high calorie beverages like pop and lemonade.

I will be going to the Minnesota State Fair on Friday and am so excited!  Hopefully I will be able to successfully navigate through all the fried foods at the fair and still enjoy my day.  Do you know of any state fair foods that won’t add too many extra pounds?  What is your must-have state fair food?



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Zucchini Mini Muffins

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Welcome to thesweethealthylife, a blog about healthy living with the occasional sweet to see you through! As a girl with a real sweet tooth, I am embarking on a journey to a healthier (and slimmer) me but there are those things that I just can’t live without! About once a week I am seized by the urge to bake,   inevitably I find myself in the kitchen baking up something delicious. My husband doesn’t share my sweet tooth; sure he will have a cookie or one mini muffin (who can have only one?) but he doesn’t crave sweets like I do. If I make cookies I have to lock them away somewhere where I won’t eat them all by the next morning.

This Zucchini Mini Muffin recipe is from my Betty Crocker cookbook which I just love and think it is a great basic cookbook. My mom has a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1970’s which I used to bake from all the time in high school, so I love baking this recipe as it reminds me of all the great times I have had baking with her.

I love this time of year when you can find zucchini everywhere. I am so jealous of everyone who has a garden and can grow it themselves.  We live in an apartment in Plymouth, Minnesota so we don’t have room for a vegetable garden but hopefully sometime in the future!  I like to make this recipe because for one thing they are delicious, and they also won’t undo your whole day of healthy eating.  So instead of going for that stash of candy or goodies you’ve got hidden away grab 1 or 2 of these!  At 2 Weight Watchers Points Plus per muffin, they won’t make you feel too guilty about have a sweet treat.


3 Cups grated zucchini (about 2-3 medium)

1 2/3 Cups sugar

2/3 Cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

3 Cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 2 mini muffin pans with Pam.  Stir together grated zucchini, sugar, canola oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.  Sift together dry ingredients and stir into zucchini batter.  Pour batter into muffin pans.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool and enjoy!

This recipe could also be used to make 2 loaves of zucchini bread or regular sized muffins.  Or you could go crazy and make a combination of all 3!



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