Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

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Each time a new year rolls around people make resolutions to lose weight. I’ve done this before, and last year actually had some real success. The secret to losing weight isn’t that difficult, more calories out than in. You don’t have to make huge dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Just get off the couch and do something that is going to elevate your heart rate, and eat less. For many of us that just means eating smaller portions. Also, don’t swear off any food. Eating several slices of pizza everyday isn’t good for you, if you have a slice on a Friday night it won’t derail your weight loss hopes. Sometimes you need to give into your cravings, in a controlled manner of course. For example, if you crave something salty, have some popcorn instead of a whole bag of potato chips.  If you crave something sweet, have one of these delicious cookies.

When I first tasted these cookies I was impressed with myself. You can taste the cranberries and the oats. You also can taste the orange, ginger and a hint of vanilla. All the ingredients stand out and work so well together. These cookies are sweet and delicious, and with only 92 calories per cookie, you won’t have to spend hours in the gym burning off those calories.  If you are concerned about those calories, my friend Jessie has 20 great ways to burn them off.

*If you are not concerned about calorie content, I would recommend adding some white chocolate chips to the dough. I haven’t tried it yet, but when I first took a bite I thought white chocolate chips would be really good in this cookie.

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OATMEAL CRANBERRY COOKIES
Yield: 18 cookies

1 1/4 c oats
3/4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
6 T smart balance, softened
2 egg whites
1/2 c brown sugar
2 T honey
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange peel grated
1/2 T squeezed orange juice
3/4 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a separate bowl mix together oatmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger, set aside. In your mixer cream together Smart Balance and brown sugar until mixed uniformly. Add egg whites,  honey, vanilla, orange peel and orange juice. Slowly mix in dry ingredients. Take your bowl off the mixer and stir in the dried cranberries by hand. Drop about 1 1/2 T of cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies look golden and crispy at the edges. ENJOY!

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Focaccia Bread

As the weather gets cooler I begin to crave hearty foods, like homemade soups and breads. Awhile back I made Old-Time Beef Stew and with it I served some homemade focaccia bread. Sasha, now 2 1/2 loves to help in the kitchen, and I thought this focaccia would be the perfect opportunity for her to help.

I used Michael Chiarello’s Potato Foccacia recipe for the dough, and instead of topping it with potatoes I used dried thyme, rosemary and cheddar cheese. It was great for dunking into our stew.

For the Dough:

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt, preferably gray salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, and milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir well, cover with a towel, and let rest in a warm place for 25 minutes.

Mix in the olive oil, salt, and 1 cup of flour, until well incorporated. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough adheres to the hook. It should remain soft and slightly sticky. Continue mixing for about 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove from the bowl, shape the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, and put into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and put in a warm place for about 1 hour, to let the dough rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet.

Lightly flour the dough and punch it down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 10 inches. Brush off any excess flour and transfer to the oiled baking sheet. Brush the dough with olive oil and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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Dimple the dough by poking your fingers into it. Add dried herbs and cheese.

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Please don’t lick your fingers until you are completely done dimpling the dough!

Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and the bread is crisp on the bottom. Let cool in the pan to room temperature. Cut into squares, “fingers,” or triangles to serve.

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Here Sasha is enjoying all her hard work.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

I picked up a pint of blueberry muffins at the Farmer’s Market last week; last night I turned them into the most delicious blueberry muffins. These are the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had; and as a bonus they are low in calories! Truly a delicious breakfast (or snack) without the guilt. Each muffin contains 169 calories, so don’t feel bad about reaching for seconds. I found the original recipe on Cooking Light’s website, but due to the availability of ingredients in the pantry I needed to adapt it to fit my needs. Below is my adaptation. ENJOY!

THE BEST BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Yield: 16 large muffins
Serving size: 1 muffin
160 calories (45 from fat)

1 2/3 c quick-cooking oats
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c AP flour
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 c fat-free sour cream
1/2 c skim milk
1/4 c canola oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large eggs
2 c fresh blueberries
2 T granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place oats in a food processor; pulse until oats resemble coarse meal. Place in a large bowl, add flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to oats in bowl; stir well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.

Combine sour cream and skim milk, stir to thin out sour cream. Add oil add eggs; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in lemon juice. Gently fold in blueberries until just combined.

Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle batter with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Bake at 400° for 18-20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.

Remove from pans immediately. Place on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*If using frozen berries, toss with 2 T flour to coat.

Pineapple Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Pineapple carrot cake, sounds tasty doesn’t it? These cupcakes are a low calorie delight. My friend Jessie, from Little Calorie recommended these. These cupcakes are so flavorful and moist; you even get the cream cheese frosting. Best part is, you don’t have to feel guilty after eating one because they are almost half the calories of your traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

I made these cupcakes yesterday with Sasha; she is really into helping me out.

The cupcakes are really dense, without being dry. I used only the pineapple, and left out the raisins and walnuts. The original recipe can be found here http://www.fitnessandfreebies.com/local/carrotcake.html I adapted it with the ingredients that I had on hand. The cake part was delicious, however the frosting was mediocre. I may have added too much pineapple juice to it, because it was a little runnier than I would expect frosting to be. I will most certainly make the cake recipe again, but figure out a new and better recipe for the frosting.

My husband took this photo.

PINEAPPLE CARROT CUPCAKES
(makes 12 cupcakes)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I didn’t have any so I added a dash of ground ginger, ground cloves and ground allspice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 c crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve 3 tablespoons juice for topping)
2 eggs
1/4 cup Wesson vegetable oil
1 cup shredded carrots (I used minced baby carrots)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray spray 12 cupcake liners with nonstick, vegetable cooking spray, place into muffin-tins. Dust lightly with all-purpose flour. Set aside.

Combine all cake ingredients except carrots in large mixing bowl. Beat at low speed of electric mixer just until combined. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Fold in carrots. Pour batter so liners are 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

LOW CALORIE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
4 oz. American Neufchatel Cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (used a dash of ground ginger, ground cloves and ground allspice)
3 T reserved pineapple juice

In small mixing bowl, combine cheese and sugar. Mix until combined. Slowly add pineapple juice. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until smooth. Spread topping on cooled cake. Sprinkle with additional shredded carrot, if desired.

Recipe Redo

I subscribe to the magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray. I love her quick and easy recipes. In the April 2008 issue, Rachael has redone some of our favorite comfort food recipes, making them more figure friendly. One recipe Rachael redid was Shepherd’s Pie that had 311 calories per serving, compared to the 622 it had before. I redid Rachael’s redo with my own even lower calorie and just as tasty Turkey Shepherd’s Pie. I will include Rachael’s recipe and my own. Enjoy!

SHEPHERD’S PIE
(from Every Day with Rachael Ray April 08)
311 Calories/ serving
Serves 8

2 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
10 oz cremini mushroom slices
2 carrots, cut into 1 in pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1 in pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 lb 93 % lean ground beef
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c beef broth
1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
3/4 c 2 % milk
1 1/2 lb baby spinach

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes with enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot, cover.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 T olive oil over high heat, add the mushrooms and cook stirring until browned, about 5 minutes. Arrange in a greased 9×13 baking dish in an even layer.

In same skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the carrots, parsnips, and onions. Cook until crisp-tender, 6-7 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the beef broth and tomatoes, and simmer, stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Ladle the meat mixture over the mushrooms.

position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400. Add the milk to the potatoes and mash. Season with salt and pepper.

In the reserved skillet, bring 1 c water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, turning until wilted, about 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a colander, press to extract any liquid.

Arrange the spinach over the meat mixture, then spoon the potatoes over top. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 T olive oil. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

MY TURKEY SHEPHERD’S PIE
242 Calories/ Serving
Serves 8

2 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 c carrots, cut into 1 in pieces
1 c celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 lb 93 % lean ground turkey
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
3/4 c skim milk
1 1/2 lb baby spinach

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes with enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot, cover.

In same skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions. Cook until crisp-tender, 6-7 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the broth and tomatoes, and simmer, stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Ladle the meat mixture into greased 9×13 pan.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400. Add the milk to the potatoes and mash. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the potatoes over top. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 T olive oil. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

I love you with all my heart cake!

Lately it seems like I have the best intentions of writing, I just never follow through with them. Ugh! My goal is to post something more often. I have so many recipes and photos of different food that I haven’t posted yet. This weekend I was really ambitious, I made homemade doughnuts, that is going to be another post, however.

I made this heart cake for Alex on Valentine’s Day. It was delicious! Target had heart shaped silicone pans on sale for $2.50 after Christmas, so I picked one up and stashed it away until Valentine’s day. I have to apologize, I was going to make a cake from scratch. I was determined to make a beautiful made from scratch heart shaped cake, I even bought cake flour at the store. But… that didn’t happen. I was so busy on Valentine’s day, running around trying to make sure everything was just perfect, that I resorted to the fail-safe boxed cake mix. I did take the time to make my own buttercream frosting!

I baked the cake according to package directions. It was my first time cooking with a silicone pan so I was a little unsure of how long it would take to bake. Heads up –it took 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Once the cake came out of the oven I let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before working with it. Once the cake was completely cooled, I sliced it in half. I then took a generous amount of buttercream frosting and spread it on top of the bottom layer, replaced the lid and completely covered the cake with the remaining frosting. I garnished the cake with chocolate covered strawberries. It was a beautiful and tasty dessert.

I got the buttercream frosting recipe from Wilton.

Buttercream Recipe
(Medium Consistency)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Bars

I love chocolate and I love pecans, and cookies aren’t so bad either. These cookie bars are simply delicious. My sister had a friend whose mother made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies, she used a package of pudding in the batter to give the cookies a soft, moist texture. I took that idea and applied it to my bars. The result was a cookie bar that was soft and moist and gone in an instant. These cookies can be easily adapted. I think they would be delicious with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

2 sticks butter, soften
3/4 c dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c white sugar
1 package french vanilla instant pudding
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 c sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 c chocolate chips –I used bittersweet baking chips
1 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In mixer beat on medium speed butter, sugars, pudding and vanilla until blended. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour and soda in small batches until all incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans by hand. Press into a well greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely. Cut into 24 bars and ENJOY!

*** For cookies *** Drop dough onto cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 minutes, or until golden brown in color. Cool on a wire rack. ENJOY!