Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

When I was little my mother use to make zucchini bread all the time and I thought her bat shit crazy for it. Who puts vegetables in bread?! More to the point, who, of sound mind and their own convictions, would put vegetables in dessert?!?!?! BLASPHEMY! (Yes… I used words like blasphemy when I was seven. Well, not really, but let’s pretend I did so my childhood seems more interesting). None the less, this is the reason I have yet to try carrot cake, though I feel that solid streak of nearly 24 years is coming to an end. Other than the fact that I’ve become more adventurous with my food, came a challenge from my sister-in-law in the form a link to a zucchini cake recipe. “Make this please”. I obliged, despite my deep seeded fear of vegetable based confections, but decided to lighten it up a bit. The resulting cupcakes were a success, if I may say so myself. If I had one complaint it would be that the cupcakes came out of the oven a little too moist, an issue that could probably be fixed with some oven manipulation. So it seems I have been converted. When I have my first piece of carrot cake, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, please enjoy these chocolaty delights!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Makes 24 servings: 172 calories | 29g carbs | 2g protein | 6g fat  (with icing)

145 calories | 25g carbs | 2g protein | 5g far (without icing)

Here’s what you need!

For the cupcakes

2 cups of flour

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used dark chocolate)

4 egg whites

1/2 cup applesauce (I used a no sugar added version)

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups of grated zucchini

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

For the icing

4 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-4 tbsp of water or almond milk

Here’s what you do!

1. Preheat your oven to 350˚. Using a mixer, combine all the ingredients except the zucchini.

2. Fold the zucchini into the batter until completely mixed.

3. Fill your cupcake tins!

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserting in the center comes out clean. I could take a little long… so be patient. Upping the temperature to 375˚ could take care of that… it might also enhance the texture… but I don’t know for sure… I ran out of zucchini. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

For the icing

1. Mix everything together!!!! Use water or almond milk a tablespoon at a time to get the desired consistency. It’s so easy, right?! It almost feels too easy.

Happy noshing!!

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Practice Makes Perfect… or at least better than before

 

THIS JUST IN!!!

If you want to be good at something, do yourself a favor and don’t not do it for a month (unless you have a good excuse). Today I practiced yoga for the first time in about a month and it felt as foreign as it did when I first started.

It seems I’m still having trouble adapting to the humbleness yoga requires, especially if you are a beginner. When I first started yoga in January of this year I thought I would have an edge because of my dancing background. I was horrendously wrong. When it came to dancing I was what many people like to call a “natural”. I just got it. Because of this I safely assumed that anything requiring balance and flexibility would just come to me as though I had been doing all my life. I’m not sure if there are “natural” yogis, but I’ll just say that it was hard for me to admit I wasn’t one. I don’t like be bad at things. In fact, I’d rather not do something at all than try it and be bad. This makes me both an awesome and terrible competitor (depending on my mood, mostly).

But the thing about yoga, and the thing I have to keep reminding myself is that your body will do things when its good and ready to. What you are doing at that very moment, no matter how mangled of a pose you are holding, is exactly where you are supposed to be. All you can do is practice, push yourself and enjoy it when you fall out of half moon pose (which you probably will).

The sad truth I learned today was that since I’m not a natural yogi, if I don’t practice all the progress goes away. A month ago I was working on inversions and today my wrists were crying simply from downward dog.

So two things:

1. Don’t be lazy – you might end up having to redo some of the progress you made.

2. Be patient – progress does not happen over night

Drunken Skinny Strawberry Shortcake

Who says you can’t eat healthy and have booze too? Not my mother, that’s for sure. We made this tasty treat while my family was in town last week! The original recipe from a Woman’s World magazine had 432 calories in it, which I’m sure is lower than what you would find in some restaurants, but why not cut out a little extra if it doesn’t sacrifice taste?!

I have to admit, the idea of a soda cake sorta scared me at first, but after this I’m a believer. The basic idea is that when using a boxed cake mix, you use a can of   soda rather than the oil, eggs and butter that the directions call for; using a diet soda helps to cut the calories of the cake without destroying the integrity of the cake. I promise this recipe won’t disappoint. Plus, the strawberries are soaked in alcohol… so really… how could you go wrong?

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Makes 12 servings: 214 calories | 46g carbs | 2g protein | 4g fat

Here’s what you need!

1 box sugar free yellow cake mix

1 120z can of diet lemon-lime soda (I used Sprite Zero)

6 cups (about 2 pounds) strawberries, sliced

3/4 cup Amaretto

1/3 cup Splenda (or other low calorie sweetener)

1 1/2 cup Cool Whip- Fat Free

Here’s what you do!

1. Preheat your oven to 325°. Combine strawberries, Amaretto and splenda in a bowl and allow to hang out in the fridge for as long as you please

2. Combine cake mix and soda with a whisk, spoon, mixer, or even your fingers (though I don’t recommend this method). Pour into a 13 x 9 inch pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving.

3. Assemble your shortcakes with 1/2 cup of strawberries and 2 tbsp of Cool Whip.

Happy noshing!

Practice Makes Perfect: The Art of Patience

If I were asked to name the one thing my semi-eventful life has taught me I would say patience. Yet, if I were asked what quality I needed to learn the most, I would again say patience. Despite any leaps and bounds I know I’ve made in my ability to not get angry about “the way things are” as compared to “the way I think they should be” I see myself struggling almost daily due to an apparent lack of patience and compassion.

The thing about patience is, you can never have too much of it. That’s not to say you should allow yourself to be walked on by others and call it being “patient” with them. That’s not patience; that’s being a doormat. What I mean by that is that it seems, to me at least, no matter how patient a person you think you are, there is always room for improvement (naturally the same goes for many, if not all other aspects of life… but let’s limit the scope of this blog so I don’t ramble on forever, shall we?).

Accepting that you can not control the entire world

Try as you might, there are only a finite number of things you have control over: inanimate objects (at least most of the time) and yourself. And to a certain degree you only have so much control over yourself because you can not will your body to do things it’s not biologically capable of doing. All you can do is be mindful of your body and your surroundings and nudge yourself in the proper direction.

Accept that there is work to be done

You will never really know how much patience you have until it is tested. The key is to recognize when your patience is being tested, and do your best to find ways to help yourself, rather than putting up a hissy fit. Being a passive observer of one’s life is no good (and certainly no fun) but there is something to be said for the person that can easily realize that they have little if any control over what happens. I have sort of adopted this philosophy that things happen for a reason, and they happen when they are suppose to happen… and not a second sooner. Some call it God’s plan. Some don’t. I call it life…. I don’t really give a shit what you call it, but do your best to accept it. When you find yourself in trying times, it’s important to remember that it is going to get better, and that eventually, if you were paying attention, you will have learned something about yourself, or someone, or the world, or monkeys, or whatever. You wouldn’t be who you are today if not for your past, so don’t regret a bit of it. Be patient with your life’s path and what you have to learn. Learning takes time. You can’t try to skip to the end where you have it all figured out without that long part in the middle where you are trying to figure it all out…. hence the patience thing. So embrace patience, and allow the world to work with you.

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno poppers are one of my most favorite things it the world. They are my go to dive bar food. I get them EVERY time I go to Sonic. I simply can’t get enough. So when I started to watch my diet, I knew right away I wouldn’t last long without these little bites of awesomeness in my mouth. The problem? The traditional jalapeno popper is a calorie laden, deep fried mess. So my mission was to create something as delicious as possible without dunking it oil.

Click here for a printable version!

Makes 8 servings (2 poppers each): 75 calories | 5g carbs | 4g protein | 4g fat

Here’s what you need!

8 jalapeno peppers

4 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese or mexican blend (I used a 2% milk cheese)

1 scallion, minced

4 egg whites

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (you only use about half, but the extra makes coating easier)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp powdered ranch dressing mix

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, ground to bits

Here’s what you do!

1. While wearing gloves, slice the tops of each jalapeno, then slice down the middle so you have two even pieces. Use your fingers to remove the seeds and other random things from the center of the peppers

2. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, shredded cheese and scallion until well mixed. Fill each pepper with the mixture.

3. Combine panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, ranch mix, paprika, chili powder, and crushed red pepper. Add a little salt and pepper if you feel like it… you can never go wrong with some salt and pepper.

4. Roll each popper in the egg white, then in the panko mixture. Be sure to shake up the panko mixture after each popper to break up any clumps and to make sure the spices don’t sink to the bottom.

 5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden brown and filling is hot and bubbly.

Happy noshing!!

Chicken Sausage and Pepper Skewers

Most of the time the world doesn’t allow for elaborate dinner planning and tons of prep work. Some of the time the world barely allows enough time for you to order take out. This is a recipe for those times in between: you might not have a lot of time to cook, but you want to make something that’s a little more special than frozen Marie Callender’s. This is a simple meal, with simple ingredients, that tastes greats. Tossing peppers and onions in olive oil and italian season adds a wonderful depth of flavor whether you do it hours ahead of time or minutes before you plan to eat!

Click here for a printable version!

Makes 4 servings: 176 calories | 7g carbs | 16g protein |10g fat

Here’s what you need!

4 links of your favorite chicken sausage (I used Casual Gourmet’s Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach… the calorie content reflects that)

2 bell peppers (I used green and orange) cut into 16 squares

1/2 of a red onion, cut into 16 squares

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp italian season

4-8 skewers (depending on their size… if you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to cooking)

Here’s what you do!

1. After cutting your peppers and onions into pieces as close to the same size as you care to get them, combine in a bowl with the olive oil and italian seasoning.

2. Slice sausage links into even, bite-sized pieces (I cut mine into eighths)

3. Assemble your skewers by alternating the peppers, onion and sausage. Each serving will consist of 4 slices of each pepper, 4 pieces of onion and one sausage link.

4. Grill or broil your skewers until it looks pretty and peppers and onion start to get tender. Since chicken sausage is usually (maybe always?) pre-cooked, this doesn’t take long, making it a quick meal that still looks and tastes pretty awesome!

Happy noshing!

Exercise- How To Maybe Not Hate It So Much

Working out can be a daunting task. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning the mere idea of getting off the couch to make myself food seems like an insurmountable task; and that’s before I factor in my achy joints that think I’m 40 years older than I really am. I really can’t blame anyone who doesn’t exercise; sometimes it’s really no fun at all. But when you are reaching for a goal sometimes you have to do things you don’t necessary want to do. But how on earth do you get started?

The first step is to actually get started.

It probably won’t be fun… you’ll probably want to punch the instructor of whatever exercise DVD you choose to do (I’m talking to you Jillian Michaels); you’ll probably want to shorten your runs because “you’re just not feeling it today”; you’ll probably want to reward yourself with an extra day off to celebrate the fact that you worked out a few days in a row.

The next step is to not stop working out.

I’ve found that scheduling a day off (I do Sunday’s) is enough of a rest. The only other time I’ll skip a workout is if I’m sick or injured. Don’t let me steer you wrong, it’s not the end of the world to skip a workout providing you can get back in your routine. But if you are just starting out you might benefit from sucking it up and doing your workouts even when you don’t want to. I had to do this for a couple months. The result was that it became such a habit that I began to dread my workouts less and less… it’s just that thing I do in the mornings now… it’s second nature. Now I’m at a point where I have no clue how I ever didn’t work out. I wish this feeling upon everyone on the planet… because it’s awesome. I can’t lie and say I never skipped workouts, but I do it less and less now. In fact I haven’t skipped a work out for over a month now (an accomplishment I am overly proud of).

The art of fine-tuning your workout– listen to your body.

Anyone that tells you that you NEED to work out for hours upon hours a day and burn x amount of calories in order to be fit is, quite frankly, a ding-bat. Part of making a healthy life-style work for you is listening to your body and knowing your limits. If I spent 4 hours a day exercising I’d probably get in shape a lot faster, but I’d probably also be miserable and tired and my DVR would overfloweth with late night melodramas. On the other side of the coin, if someone loves spending time at the gym and working out 4 hours a day, as long as they are properly fueling those workouts there is nothing wrong with that either. You have to find out what works for you and your schedule.

With this idea also comes knowing when you NEED to rest. Are you about to puke? Maybe take a breather there, buddy. Just feeling lazy and want to stop so you can watch Letterman? Get your ass back on that weight bench and quite whining. It’s also important to know the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain. Soreness = good (as long as it’s not lasting FOREVER) pain = bad. It might take a while for you to figure out a routine and schedule that works for you and your body while still allowing for ample DVR time. But once you figure it out everything gets easier.

Push yourself daily

I’m the first to admit there are days where I pull back a little so that I don’t want to die, but can still say I did my workout. But the truth is that in order to improve, you have to push yourself. If you do the same run everyday at the same speed for the same amount of time, all you are going to do is become more efficient and doing that same run everyday at the same speed for the same amount of time. Try running faster. Try running up a hill. Try intervals (this is what I do.. it helps with the feeling that death is coming for me that I get when I run).

The same goes for lifting. Lifting the same amount of weight every workout will only do so much. But increase that weight every few workouts and your muscles will scream.. and screaming is good.. it’s means they are getting stronger.

And most of all…

Have fun! If you are doing something you hate… chances are you are less likely to do it. So find something you enjoy doing so that your workouts become less of a chore. But don’t limit yourself. I use to HATE running. But now… I only slightly dislike it… change can happen, my friends

Cream Cheese Pancake

This recipe came about because I had been eating hard boiled eggs for breakfast for roughly two months. I knew this was tempting fate, but I wanted to keep my breakfast low carb because of my eating habits for the rest of the day. Eventually the inevitable happened… I took a bite of an egg… and it instantly grossed me out. It’s a hard feeling to explain… but it always happens if I have too many eggs. I have the same issue with hotdogs.

Anyway, I was looking up low carb breakfast ideas and I came across this recipe . It sounded delicious enough, but when I tried to make it I found it unfilling and nearly impossible to flip the pancakes.. in fact.. I ended up with some fancy scrambled eggs the first couple tries. So I decided to make this recipe my own! By adding flaxseed meal and a little flour this cream cheese pancake idea becomes a heartier breakfast with some extra protein.. and it tastes pretty good too, if I may say so myself.

 

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Makes 4 servings: 208 calories | 8g carbs | 11g protein | 16g fat

Here’s what you need!

4 oz cream cheese (half a block), softened

4 eggs

4 tsp flour

1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

4 stevia packets (for 4 tsps of your sweetener of choice)

Here’s what you do!

1. In a bowl, whisk everything together feverishly until well combined

2. Heat your griddle, saute pan, or whatever you have to a medium, medium/low heat.

3. Make like a regular pancake!

How easy and awesome was that?!

I top mine with fruit , but I’m thinking about adding some chocolate chips next time!

Happy noshing!