Hoppy Healthy Easter!

DSC_0230I can’t believe Easter is this Sunday! I feel completely unprepared, as the month of March has flown by!

The typical Easter treats are filled with artificial food coloring, artificial flavorings, sugar and fat. While I’ll let my kids indulge in some of these treats in moderation (what’s Easter without Bunny Big Ears?) I also like to make healthier alternatives that taste just as good as they look.

Yesterday I made my own trail mix bars shaped like Easter bunnies, which was a special surprise for my kids as they celebrated their last day of school before Spring Break!

 

 

 

 

 

These bars contain a variety of ingredients I found in my pantry, including whole-grain oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and dried apples. You can vary the ingredients based on what you have lying around. These bars are a great way to use up the leftover bits and pieces of ingredients you have to clean out your

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pantry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • handful dried apples, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Better ‘n Peanut Butter

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350

2. Mix together all of the dry ingredients.

3. Melt the honey and Better ‘n Peanut Butter in a bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds.

4. Pour honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. Add egg and vanilla extract.

5. Pour mixture into 15X10X1 jelly roll pan or into a Bunny Whoopie Pie Pan (available via Wilton)DSC_0223

6. Bake for 20 minutes (if jelly roll pan) less if you are using a smaller whoopie pie pan

7. Cut into bars and freeze.

8. Decorate the frozen bars if you’d like or just serve plain! You can make your own healthy cool whip. There is a great recipe on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. Simply combine 1 cup milk, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp xanthan gum. Mix in a mixer on high for two minutes. Spread over the bars and decorate as you’d like.

 

This is a much healthier alternative to store-bought bars or the typical Easter treats!

Just one serving of jelly beans (35 pieces) has 140 calories and 28 grams of sugar, which is more than the entire Recommended Daily Value of sugar. Peeps may be fat-free, but one serving has a whopping 34 grams of sugar! More disturbing than the sugar is the ingredients in Starburst Jely Beans (obrained from www.foodfacts.com) includes: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Food Starch Modified Apple(s) Juice from Concentrate, Citric Acid, Confectioner’s Glaze, Acacia Gum, Natural and Artificial Coloring (Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1)

Do you make your own healthier Easter treats? What are your favorite Easter indulgences?

Guilt-free maple roasted banana ice cream: dairy, gluten and fat free!

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I love ice cream. I could literally eat an entire half gallon of Edy’s Girl Scout Cookie Samoas Ice Cream. Ice cream is one of my “trigger foods” and I can’t keep it in the house because it will call my name until it’s gone.

 

Luckily I’ve created a healthier alternative using only four ingredients! Bananas, real maple syrup, vanilla extract and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

 

I was happy to see that Oxygen Magazineactually featured a banana ice cream in the March edition. They actually have a Mocha Banana Ice Cream which I’m also going to try. I made my roasted banana ice cream last week and was pleasantly surprised at the creamy, rich flavor. The bonus is that this recipe is dairy, gluten and fat free! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized bananas
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400.
  • Peel and slice the bananas. I actually peel, slice and freeze my bananas in advance because I love to have frozen banans on hand (they are a delicious snack on their own).
  • Throw the bananas in a glass baking dish, pour maple syrup on top and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool (i can neither confirm nor deny eating a few bananas covered in maple syrup straight from the pan)
  • Scoop the roasted bananas, almond milk and vanilla extract into a food processort and pulse until combined. Chill for at least two hours.
  • Dump into your ice cream maker and make per manufacturer’s instructions.

Yum-o!

Let me know if you try it and like it!

Healthy Girl Scout Samoas with NO added sugar, flour or dairy

DSC_0134I love Girl Scout Cookies. I’ve loved them since I was a little brownie pushing boxes of coco-nutty Samoas®, peanut buttery tagalongs and minty thin mints. Now I’m the leader of my own little Daisy’s troop, which means that I’m surrounded by their deliciousness and I MUST buy a box (or 100)

Which call my name.

As much as I love Girl Scout cookies, I can’t eat them everyday. I wanted to come up with a sugar-free version of my absolute favorite: Samoa.

Can’t be done?

After experimenting in the kitchen, I re-created a version that delivers all the chocolate and coconutty goodness without a drop of added sugar.

How did I do it? I’m about to tell you the secret.

First, I had read about combining processed chickpeas and dates soaked overnight in the Chocolate Covered Katie Blog. She has some amazing recipes, so I encourage you to check her out. When I first read about the chocolate chip cookie dough dip with beans and dates, I thought it sounded disgusting! But I was too curious, so I gave it a shot and I PROMISE you, it is delicious! It got me thinking of other ways I could incoporate this technique.

So I came up with these healthy samoas. They are vegan, and contain no added sugar, flour, oil, food dyes or preservatives.

DSC_0156Stacy’s Sugar-Free Samoas

  • 1 1/4 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (do not use canned! they have a different flavor and won’t turn out a swell. Soak your chickpeas overnight in water, then cook the entire next day in the slow cooker. Refridgerate overnight and then you can puree them in this recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cups soaked dates with liquid (soak 1 1/4 cups of dates in 1/4 cup water overnight)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Artisana Cocoa Bliss Organic Raw Coconut Butter
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free coconut flakes (I bought mine at Earth Fare, but you can also find at Whole Foods and on Amazon)

Using your food processor or Vitamix, puree the chickpeas completely. Add the dates with water to the mixture and puree for a full minute. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and oats. Process until combined. Add only as much almond milk as you need to reach the desired consistency. I added 2 Tbsp., you may need a bit more or less. Remove from processor and stir in coconut flakes. Sprinkle with coconut and serve! These taste best after they’ve been refriderated for a few hours to harden.

Voila! Girl Scout Samoa cookies with NO added sugar, NO added oil, NO flour and they’re are good for you! They are also super easy to make and require NO cooking! What more could you ask for?

If you are looking for more sugar-free, flour-free recipes, check out my recipe for my oatmeal cookies. They are delish and don’t contain an ounce of added sugar!

Please try them and let me know what you think!

Sugar-Free Flour-Free Artificial Sweetner-Free Oatmeal Cookies

I’m trying to cut back on the added sugar and flour in my diet, but it has been extremely difficult. Did you know that manufacturer’s sneak sugar in practically everything? There is sugar in ketchup, peanut butter, salad dressing and even some dried fruit. I went three weeks with NO added sugar and NO flour and I lost weight, but I was miserable. I scoured every label and couldn’t find one brand of salad dressing that didn’t have some form of added sugar. Also, be careful of peanut butter labeled “Natural” because I noticed that many “Natural” peanut butters still had sugar and oil. I had to go to Earth Fare to buy a sugar-free ketchup that didn’t have artificial sweetner added. The problem with going completely sugar-free is that it became an obsession to find sugar-free products.

I’m now trying to find a happy balance.

I love sweets, but obviously it is quite a challenge to satisfy a sweet tooth without sugar. I adapted this delicious recipe for sugar-free, flour-free and artificial sweetner free oatmeal cookies from Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook. I was leary how cookies would turn out if they didn’t have sugar, but they are excellent! You would never know that they don’t have a drop of oil or sugar in them.

They are so healthy that you can eat them for breakfast or dessert. Give them a try and let me know what you think:

Sugar-Free, Flour-Free, Artifical Sweetner-Free Oatmeal Cookies

  • 3 bananas
  • 2 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c almonds
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mash the bananas well with a potato masher. Mix in the oats, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

 

Fresh Strawberry Cake

There is something special about picking a plump, juicy red strawberry off the vine and popping it in your mouth right in the strawberry fields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m lucky to have fresh strawberry fields right across from my neighborhood that allows customers to “Pick-your-own” strawberries. I bring my kids every year because I think it is important for them to understand where food comes from. Real food, food that is nutritious for our bodies, doesn’t come in a box.

We picked strawberries last weekend and made a fresh strawberry cake.

 

 

 

 

I’m a big believer that it is OK to indulge in treats occasionally, especially if you prepare something from scratch with fresh ingredients, is much better than eating pre-made, chemical-filled “faux food.” We hear messages that “butter is bad” or “don’t eat carbs,” and manufacturer’s force so-called “healthy” snacks on us like low-carb cookies, sugar-filled energy bars and low-fat chips. They are all filled with chemicals to replace the carbohydrates, sugar and fat, which does more damage to our bodies than a little butter. According to the Centers for Disease Control obesity rates are two times higher today than in the 1970s. What’s interesting is that today we have more “fat-free,” “low-fat,” “low-carb,” “gluten-free” foods than ever, but we are geting fatter. Back in the 1970s cooking with butter was common, but so were homemade meals.

Get back to the basics by making this delicious, fresh strawberry cake for your family. I modified this recipe, which was in the April issue of Southern Living Magazine.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

This is a three part cake, so it take a bit of time to make. First, you will want to make the cake layers.

Cake Layer:

  • 1 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 1/4 cup sugar
  • 7 egg whites
  • 3 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Mix the Greek yogurt with the sugar first, then add the egg whites, beating well with an electric mixter after each egg white. Mix the flour and baking powder seperately, then add to the wet mixture. Add one cup of water and almond extracts. Mix well, then pour into four 8-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes.

While your cakes are cooking, prepare the strawberry mousse.

Strawberry Mousse

  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup water in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a food processor, combine strawberries and sugar. Transfer strawberry mixture to a small pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir well, then cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until blended well. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
While the mousse is chilling, prepare the strawberry frosting.
Strawberry Frosting
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cups strawberries (finely chopped)
Cream butter and powdered sugar together in an electric mixter. Add strawberries and beat at a low speed until just combined.
Now it’s time to bring it all together!
When the cake layers are cooled, spread a layer of strawberry mousse over each layer and stack four cakes high. C
over and chill for three hours, or until mousse is set.
Remove from fridge and spread frosting on the top and sides of the cake.
This cake takes a while to make, but is incredibly delicious!

How to make delicious cupcakes that are actually GOOD for you!

This year for St. Patrick’s Day I volunteered to bring in green cupcakes to my daughter’s class. I love making fun food for kids, but I don’t love the negative side effects of food dye on children’s behavior. Many studies have shown that children are particularly susceptible to the effects of food dyes, especially those with ADHD and ADD. Add white sugar, white flour and food dye to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.It seems that the United States is behind on the issue of elminating artificial food dye in packaged foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest group recently posted an article about the actions that the British and European government have taken on ending the use of food dyes throughout Europe. Evident to this change is the difference between the Kellog’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars made in the United States compared to the same exact product in Britain. The bars made in United States contain red number 40, yellow number 6 and blue number 1 dyes. The bars produced in Britain use beetroot red, annatto and paprika extract to color the bars.

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to implement a ban on several food dyes. Review this list from NPR to see the food dyes under scrutiny.

I love my daughter’s teachers too much to subject them to a room full of hyper kids for the day, so I made natural green cupcakes, using spinach to dye the cupcakes green. By using whole-wheat flour, applesauce and spinach to make these cupcakes, I transformed a recipe for diaster into a fairly healthy mid-day treat.

I asked the teachers to let me know how the kids liked them, and everyone of the kids gobbled them up! They had no clue that they were getting a serving of healthy veggies in their treat. Make these for your kids and let me know if they like them. If you would like more guilt-free, vegan, low-calorie or healthy cupcakes, check out my NEW book, Guilt-Free Cupcakes: Indulge without the bulge that is available now! It just hit Amazon today and it is available in print or on the Kindle.

Top of the morning to ya Spinach Cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 cups baby spinach
Frosting
  • 1 small package neufchatel cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. King Arthur Green Natural Food Color

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line mini-muffin tin with mini liners.

2.Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3.Puree the applesauce and spinach in a food processor and pulse until combined. Make in batches to ensure the spinach is completely pureed.

4. Mix  spinach mixture and vanilla into the flour mixture by hand. Place spoonful of batter in each muffin tin.

5.Bake for 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile make frosting by combining neufchatel cheese with powdered sugar, natural food color and vanilla extract in a food processor.

7. Let them cool completely, then frost.

The secret for creating a delicious low-calorie dessert

What if I told you that you could eat a decadent tasting pie that was not only low in calories, but loaded with fiber, antioxidants, potassium and folate?

 

It may sound too good to be true, but the butternut squash pie that I made this week was delicious and healthy. I was craving something sweet and the Girl Scout cookies I had in my pantry were calling my name. As much as I would like to sit down and eat the entire box of Samoas, bathing suit season is coming up.

 

I scavenged my pantry, looking for something to satisfy my sweet tooth to no avail. I did however see a box of Fiber One Caramel Squares cereal and a frozen block of butternut squash, so I decided to get creative. The secret to losing weight and keeping it off is to create delicious, decadent foods that satisfy you without making you feel deprived. No one can stick to a diet if they feel deprived.

 

Butternut squash is a staple in my house. After reading every Hungry Girl book, I’m no stranger to the miracle of butternut squash.

 

Butternut squash has 10,630 IU vitamin A per 100 grams, which is 354 percent of our recommended daily value (RDA.) Butternut squash is also filled with poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds, which are powerful antioxidants. Butternut squash is also loaded with vitamin C, E, K, B6, folate and thiamin. Even though butternut squash as no fat, it has more than 30 micrograms of omega-3 fatty acids and over 22 mcg of omega-6 fatty acids. Butternut squash is an excellent weight loss food because of the high fiber content and low calories.

 

I used frozen Bird’s Eye Butternut Squash in this recipe, which is great because it is available year-round and it is already pureed for you. Simply heat it up in the microwave for five minutes and you have the perfectlyu pureed butternut squash. Try out this healthy butternut squash pie recipe that I made up and let me know what you think.

 

Stacy’s Healthy Butternut Squash Pie

 

Filling Ingredients

  • One 12-ounce box Birds Eye Cooked Winter Squash
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ¾ cup Splenda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

 

Crust Ingredients

Directions

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine cereal, butter, applesauce and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until combined.

 

Spray 9-inch pie pan with nonfat cooking spray and press crust mixture in pan.

 

Combine filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Pour into pie crust and bake for 45 minutes. Allow pie to cool completely and refrigerate for several hours. Serve with a dollop of fat-free whipped topping.

 

Let me know if you try out the recipe! For more low-calorie recipes, check out my new book Culinary Duct Tape: Greek Yogurt: Just as versatile, not as tacky, available now on Amazon!

Lose weight and have better skin with pumpkin!

High in fiber. Low in calories. Packed with vitamin A, antioxidants, flavonoids, leutin, xanthin and carotenes. Pumpkin is one of the most underrated foods in the vegetable family.

Pumpkin is a great “eye food” as it contains 246 percent of RDA for vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant required by the body for vision. Pumpkin is also a great source of zeaxanthin, which is a natural antioxidant which protects against age related macular disease (ARMD.)

Pumpkin is also an excellent weight loss food, due to its’ high fiber content. Numerous studies have shown that a diet high in fiber is directly correlated with weight loss. Pumpkin is also rich in potassium, which has been shown to aid in weight loss also.

Want younger looking skin? Put down that expensive bottle of cream and eat pumpkin instead. Pumpkin is loaded with retinol which improves skin cell renewal and production of collagen. With a diet regular in retinol, you can see a reduction in facial lines by up to 75 percent in only two weeks!

I’m having a Christmas Eve party tomorrow night and am making my famous pumpkin pie dip! Shhh…don’t tell my friends and family that I make this with greek yogurt and stevia instead of cream cheese and sugar. This rich dip is so good for you, but tastes like a guilty indulgence. You can serve it inside of a mini pumpkin and surround it with gingerbread cookies and apple slices to make it look festive.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Light Pumpkin Dip

  • 1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 packets stevia
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 container fat-free cool whip

Mix the pumpkin with the yogurt, vanilla, stevia and spices. Gently fold in fat-free cool whip. Refrigerate for at least one hour and serve inside a scooped out pumpkin.

 

Light Mickey Mouse Gingerbread Cookies

We made Gingerbread cookies and of course we did it in complete Disney style with Mickey Mouse gingerbread cookies. You know my theory, everything thing tastes better when shaped like the mouse.

Christmas is a time for spending time with the family and baking. What better way to combine both by baking cookies with your kids. I have a few tips for making the process go as smoothly as possible when bringing kids in the kitchen.

Wash hands first and frequently!

 

I always tell my kids that the number one rule in the kitchen is to make sure you wash your hands before you do anything. Kitchen safety is important and I’ve engrained in my kids that the sink is the first stop they must take before doing anything with food.

Pre-measure

I sent my kids to the playroom while I pre-measured everything and put into little bowls. This ensured that they still got to pour and mix, but without the mess and confusion of measuring ingredients.

Assign jobs

To lessen the chance of fighting and to make sure everyone is included, I assign jobs for mixing, pouring, rolling and cutting. Inevitablly my kisd will fight over who gets to add the flour or who gets to man the mixer, so I divvy up jobs in the beginning to ward off fights.

Set up stations

Their favorite part of making cookies is cutting out the shapes and decorating, but workstations can get crowded fast and fights can ensue over who got to use the cookie cutter last (notice a theme with fighting?) I give each kid a cutting board, rolling pin and set of cookie cutters so they can each roll out their own dough and cut out shapes.

Know your place

Make sure you stand nearby during the process and handle all use of the oven and appliances. Safety comes first in the kitchen and while your child may think he’s grown up enough to put the pan in the oven, it is best to leave the hot stuff to the parents.

Try out this recipe for light gingerbread cookies and let me know how they turn out. I’d love to hear what you think! As always, for more light sweet treats, check out my book Guilt-Free Cupcakes: Indulge without the Bulge now available on iBooks, Kindle, Nook and e-books.

Light Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

  • ¾ cup light butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar Splenda
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses stirring well. In a separate bowl, mix flours with spices and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet, being careful not to overmix. Roll dough out to ¼-inch thickness and use cookie cutters to cut out the dough. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Mickey Mouse Cupcakes – Guilt-Free

I love Disney, but since I can’t live at the most magical place on earth 365 days a year, I try to re-create Disney magic in my kitchen. I made these delicious Mickey Mouse cupcakes with all of the flavor, but half the fat and calories than an average cupcake.

The cupcake hiding under the cute mouse veneer is red velvet, a delicious blend of cocoa and vanilla. Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are one of my favorite desserts. In this recipe I replaced the butter with kefir, which is a drinkable yogurt. Kefir is filled with probiotic bacteria, which promotes a healthy gut, vitamins, minerals and protein. The thick texture of kefir makes it a perfect fat replacement.

This is just one of the many delicious and LOW-CALORIE, LOW-FAT cupcakes in my newest book, Guilt-Free Cupcakes: Indulge without the bulge. Consider buying my book, which is now available for purchase as an e-book, on the Kindle, Nook and iBooks. I’d love to hear what you think!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

•2 1/2 cups cake flour

•3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

•1 tsp baking soda

•1 tsp baking powder

•1 1/2 cups sugar

•6 Tbsp butter

•1 1/2 tsp vinegar

•1 1/4 cups plain kefir

•2 eggs

•1 tsp salt

•1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

•2 Tbsp red food coloring

•Cream Cheese Frosting

•Two Oreo’s, two M&Ms, one peanut and licorice whips cut into strips

 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin with liners. Coat with nonfat cooking spray.
  • Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and mix.
  • Beat sugar and butter in an electric mixer until creamed. Add eggs, kefir and flour, mixing until combined. Add vinegar, vanilla and food coloring, beating well.
  • Spoon mixture into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Cool completely and frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.
  • Decorate with two Oreo’s for the ears, two M&Ms for the eyes, one peanut for the nose and six small strips of cut licorice whips for the whiskers.