Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31: Healthy Snacks for the Sweet Tooth

Today marks one month of sweet samplings for me.  It's been fun so far - trying out some new recipes, improving on others, and sharing my thoughts.  There have been some late nights spent baking,and some dessert menu changes along the way, but I have enjoyed it tremendously.  Sometimes a little sweet tooth guilt makes its way in and I spend a little extra time at the gym or run a little further, but things are going well!

There are those times when I just don't have time to whip up a batch of cookies or cupcakes, so I decided to create a post each week devoted to quick, store bought healthy sweet snacks. These posts will be titled "Healthy snacks for the sweet tooth". I will recommend foods that I keep stocked in my kitchen as well as new items that I come across to try. Since I love to bake, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen, but I realize that many of you don't have the time or desire to do that.  I hope you will benefit from learning about products that you may not know about or haven't tried, as well as give me a break in the kitchen for a day!!

Today, I would like to introduce Yoplait Frozen Yogurt Bites. I discovered these several months ago, and though I don't eat them regularly, I keep a bag in my freezer for when I want a late night snack after the kids go to bed.  They come in 2 flavors: Vanilla Strawberry and Key Lime.  Both flavors are good, but I prefer the Strawberry. These are little bites of frozen yogurt coated with granola. One serving is 7 bites for 200 calories.  Sometimes I will only eat 3 with a serving of pretzels.  I like to have something salty with my sweet. 

You will find these in the freezer aisle at your local grocery store near the frozen fruit products.  They sell for about $3.50. Hope you enjoy them!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30: National Croissant Day

Happy Monday and National Croissant Day!  It is sunny and beautiful and the perfect day for the dessert I want to share with you today.  You may say croissants are a side bread to go with your steak or chicken, but I am sure that I will convince you otherwise!!

You know those yummy sopapillas that are served at Mexican restuarants?  Not the crunchy, fried tortillas topped with ice cream, honey and chocolate.  They might call them that but that is so wrong!  They are the fried, fluffy pillows of dough heaven that are puffed up and hollow in the middle - the perfect spot to pour a little honey and savor every bite!! So is your mouth watering yet?

I came across this recipe on the internet several years ago and it is so simple yet so delicious. I have served this as a breakfast or a dessert - Sopapilla Cheesecake.  It is a buttery, cinnamon danish type dish with a cheesecake center.  I prefer to eat mine warm, but it can be served cool as well. I actually made these last night for today, and it took all the will power I had to not dig in and eat it last night.  The wait was well worth it!!

Sopapilla Cheesecake
Yield:  18 bars (221 calories each)

  • 1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 (8 oz) packages refrigerated crescent rolls, reduced fat
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with 1 cup sugar and vanilla extract until smooth; set aside.
  3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough.  Place one full sheet of dough on bottom of prepared dish, pressing the seams together.  Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture onto the dough, and then cover with the remaining sheet of dough, pressing seams together.
  4. Pour melted butter over top croissant.  Stir together the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over the top of the dough.
  5. Bake in oven about 30 minutes or until crescent dough puffs and turns golden brown.  Allow to set for 15 minutes before serving.
Note:  When pouring the butter over the top, you will think that it is too much because it just pools on top of the dough.  When it cooks, it will soak into the dough and leave a crust of cinnamon sugary goodness on top.  Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29: Cheesecake Chimichanga

We had a great time at the retreat this weekend. Lots of fun, fellowship, food, and GOD-time!!  I love coming back from these retreats rejuvenated spiritually, yet absolutely exhausted.
We got back in town around lunch time, so we stopped by Taco Bueno to eat lunch. Being so tired, I knew that I would not feel like baking anything, so Thomas and I shared a Cheesecake Chimichanga. They are delicious:  creamy cheesecake in the middle and crispy fried tortilla on the outside. And despite the fried aspect of it, it is only 210 calories.
Can't wait to get back in the gym tomorrow!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 28: Butter Toffee Popcorn

Today, I want to share another easy microwave recipe with you.  I hope you were able to try out the microwave Pecan Brittle recipe that I shared with you on Thursday. This recipe is for Butter Toffee Popcorn.  I prefer the butter toffee flavor over caramel because, of course, it has a more buttery taste whereas caramel almost has a burnt taste to it. This recipe comes together in about 15 minutes, so the next time you plan a movie night, put this together and you will be the star of the show.

Butter Toffee Popcorn (Microwave)
Yield:  11 (2 cup) servings (235 calories per serving)

  • 2 bags Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn (94% fat free)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  1. Pop both bags of popcorn according to directions.  Pour each bag into a large microwave safe bowl (I use 2 large plastic bowls from the Dollar Store.  They are the perfect size for stirring the popcorn and it is easy cleanup because the toffee doesn't stick and harden on it).
  2. In a glass bowl, stir together butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup.  Microwave for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from microwave and immediately stir in the baking soda (mixture will foam a bit).
  4. Pour this mixture split between the 2 bowls of popcorn.  Do not stir.
  5. Microwave each bowl of popcorn, one at a time, for one minute. 
  6. Remove and stir with 2 wooden spoons until all of the popcorn is coated. Return to the microwave and cook 1 more minute.
  7. Remove and stir again.
  8. Pour popcorn onto waxed paper in a single layer until cool.  Enjoy!
This is another great treat that can be gifted easily.  See the finished photo picture below.
Popped popcorn in bowls

Popcorn after pouring caramel on top

A great idea for a goody bag.

Day 27: Welcoming the Weekend!

I don't know about you, but I am glad it is Friday!  This weekend, my family is off to a retreat with my church family.  Looking forward to seeing old friends and just getting away and worshipping and fellowshipping together.

It just so happens that the next 3 days do not have a scheduled dessert holiday, so this will be helpful since I won't be home.  I will still have my dessert and post you an update, but it will be short and sweet. 

Today, my boys and I decided to visit TCBY for an after school snack.  I stuck with my usual favorite, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough frozen yogurt!  FYI, the kids cup is one serving of ice cream.  Only 120 calories for a frozen sweet treat.  That's a pretty good deal on the waistline as well as the pocketbook. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26: National Peanut Brittle Day

Making candy is one of those things that you either love it or hate it.  The ingredient list is usually very short but the act of standing over the stove, stirring and stirring until it reaches just the right temperature is very slow and tedious.  If you over or under cook it by even the slightest temperature difference, the results can be disastrous.  This is most likely why some people leave it to the experts. 

Well, I am here to change your mind.  I have the recipe of "Brittle for dummies" (not that any of you are dummies!!).  It is simple because it is all done in the microwave - yes, you read that right - the microwave!! It doesn't get any simpler than that. I found this recipe in an old church cookbook, and I have been making it for years. I deviated from Peanut Brittle just a little by using pecans instead of peanuts.  I like peanuts but I love pecans!  Here is the recipe:

Pecan Brittle
Yield:  Approx. 12.5 oz (150 calories per oz.)

  • 1 cup (3 oz) pecans, or peanuts or cashews
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda

  1. Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray.
  2. In a large microwave safe dish, combine pecans, syrup, sugar and salt.  Stir to combine.
  3. Microwave for 4 minutes; stir and microwave for 3 more minutes.
  4. Add butter and vanilla; stir and microwave for 1 more minute.
  5. Add baking soda; stir thoroughly and pour quickly onto prepared pan.  Move bowl as you pour to spread the mixture in a thin layer.  DO NOT SPREAD MIXTURE AFTER POURED ONTO BAKING SHEET.
This is so much better than storebought brittle.  I made several batches at Christmas and everyone loved it. It is a great gift for a teacher, boss or that special friend in your life.  My photo shows a cute way to package it.  I hope you will step out and give this a try.  I would love to know how yours turns out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25: S'more Pitas

After dropping the boys off at school, I headed to the gym for my Wednesday morning 5 mile run.  I was dreading this run for one reason - my body was tired and sore (and it didn't help that it was cold and rainy and I just wanted to put on my fleece pj's and crawl into bed!).  Tuesday night's weight training class had been very challenging and I gave it all I had.  It was a great workout, but had left my body spent.  I usually keep track of my pace and what my time is, but this morning's run needed to be a mind and body cleansing. And that is exactly what I did, and it felt good! Even the 3 older gentlemen that walk side by side and block the track couldn't damper my mood!!
Recently, a new restaurant opened up here in town - Pitza 42.  They serve healthier pizza options made on pitas, as well as salads and soups.  They also have a cookie dough dessert pita that is out of this world.  We were eating there one evening, and as we were eating the cookie dough pita, we began to brainstorm various options for dessert pitas.  Immediately, I thought of a S'more Pita. I love the gooey marshmallow combined with the melted chocolate. So, I gathered up my ingredients at home and the S'more Pita came to life!

You only need 3 ingredients:  

  1. Pita bread (I use Hungry Girl Flatout pitas cut in half)
  2. Nutella
  3. Mini marshmallows
Spread 1 tablespoon of Nutella on half of the Hungry Girl flatout pita.  Sprinkle 20 mini marshmallows on top.  Place in a toaster oven and broil until marshmallows are light golden brown.  Slice and enjoy!

The best part about eating this is the crunch on the outside of the marshmallow followed by the gooey center - it is just delicious and only 185 calories!  What kind of topping would you put on your dessert pita?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24: National Peanut Butter Day

Peanut butter - a staple for any pantry, savory or sweet, creamy or crunchy - the possibilities are endless!!  I could think of dozens of recipes to try using peanut butter.  What's a baker to do?!

I chose a recipe by Brown Eyed Baker that I have been wanting to try ever since she posted about it:  Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!  If you like peanut butter cookies - you got it!  Oatmeal Cookies? Check!  Chocolate chip cookies?  A bonus!!  All three in one scrumptious, chewy, big cookie!  It was even better than I imagined.  Most likely you have all the ingredients you need to make these sitting in your pantry, so make these today!!  You will just have to resist not wanting to eat the whole batch.

Note:  These cookies are bigger than the average cookie that I usually make. Therefore, they are a little higher in calories at 237 per cookie.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 23: National Pie Day

For all you pie lovers out there, today is your day! Whether your favorite is a classic apple pie or you prefer a more modern Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, there is something for everyone.  Pies are a classic comfort food that are even more tasty when coming from Grandma's kitchen! It seems that these days, cupcakes have taken over the dessert world and pies have taken a back seat.

I would have to say that Pecan Pie, baked with love from my mom, is my ultimate favorite pie.  I have not eaten a Pecan Pie that matches hers, even the ones that I have made using her recipe.  There's just something about mom's Pecan Pie!

Today, I chose to make a very untraditional pie - you might even say it's not a pie at all - Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie!! I came across this recipe several months ago on the blog, How Sweet It Is.  I've been waiting for the perfect chance to make this and today was the day. 
This recipe caught my attention because I love chocolate chip cookie dough.  This is just like a big, thick, under-baked chocolate chip cookie. Top with vanilla ice cream and you are in high heaven!!  

Without ice cream

With ice cream
Caution - this is definitely not a calorie friendly dessert (sounds like an oxymoron, right?).  1/12th of a slice is 369 calories plus the ice cream calories, if you desire. It is definitely decadent and sweet, so that is really the perfect size slice of pie. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: National Blond Brownie Day

Happy Blond Brownie Day to you!  Blond brownies, also known as blondies, are a brown sugar based dessert bar resembling the traditional chocolate brownie. They may contain chocolate or white chips, and may seem to have a butterscotch taste.
The Neiman Marcus Brownies that I made today actually don't have brown sugar in them, but they are light in color with a cheesecake like topping.  I have had this recipe in my collection for probably 10 years, but haven't made them in a long time.  These are really sweet, so a little bite goes a long way.

Neiman Marcus Brownies
Yield:  32 squares (184 calories each)

1 box butter pecan cake mix
2 sticks butter, softened (divided)
3 eggs (divided)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened (I used light)

1.  Preheat oven to 300 deg. F.  Spray 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.
2.  In a bowl, combine cake mix, 1 stick of melted butter, and 1 egg.  Press into bottom of prepared pan.
3.  In another bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 stick of butter and 2 eggs until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.
4.  Pour over cake mixture.  Bake for 1 hour.  Cool completely before cutting.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 21: National Granola Bar Day

For National Granola Bar Day, I want to share with you a creation that I came up with for a post workout snack.  I call this Honey Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Pita. The picture shows the ingredients that are needed: 

1)  1/2 of a Joseph's Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Lavash Bread (or 1 of the smaller round ones)
2)  1 tbsp. honey peanut butter (once you try this, you will never go back to regular peanut butter - it is addicting)
3)   1/2 of a small banana, thinly sliced
4)  1/2 of a single Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey granola bar, crushed (this is where the crunch comes in)

Spread the peanut butter on the pita, top with sliced bananas, and top with the crushed granola bar.  I like to heat mine in the microwave for about 20 seconds, slice in half and enjoy.  It contains fiber in the pita, protein in the peanut butter, potassium in the banana, and crunch in the granola.  The perfect post workout snack at only 250 calories!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20: National Butter Crunch Day

Today is National Butter Crunch Day.  I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to make for today so I googled butter crunch.  The first thing that came up was a recipe for a popular butter crunch cookie, but it was an old fashioned recipe that seemed rather time consuming so I decided to keep looking.  The next thing I found was a recipe for Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch from King Arthur Flour.  I love just about all recipes from King Arthur Flour.  Their blog was my first baking blog to read and follow, and I love their step by step instructions and photos. Definitely a must for you to check out if you love baking!
The buttercrunch is simply toffee - like a Heath Bar.  I love toffee, so I knew this was the recipe I wanted to try. Find the recipe here, but I will tell you how I changed it up a little.  

  • It calls for chocolate chips on bottom and on top, but I cut back to half of what it called for and only put them on top. I even used a mixture of semi-sweet, milk, and white chocolate chips from several half empty bags in my pantry.  (save a few calories in the process)
  • I completely left off the pecans, for my husband's sake, even though I love them!
  • Mine didn't turn out as thick as theirs appears in the picture, but it could be from not having the chocolate and pecans on bottom to keep the toffee from spreading.
It was so good - buttery, toffee with chocolate!  I think I would actually like it better without the chocolate!  Beware, over consumption is very likely since it is hard to resist nibbling when this is around!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 19: Donuts with the Family

This morning, my family visited the Donut Shop as we do every Thursday morning.  My usual breakfast there is a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.  You might think it strange to get a biscuit at a donut shop, but I am simply not a donut eater.  Don't get me wrong, I like donuts.  And one donut will not break the calorie bank (a glazed donut has around 200 calories).  But, it has no nutritional value, and I am hungry 30 minutes later.  The biscuit has more calories than the donut, but it tides me over until lunch. 

This morning, I decided to step out there and get a cinnamon bun donut.  There is no National dessert to follow today so I decided to get my "sweet" on at breakfast.  According to Krispy Kreme, it has 260 calories.  Not too bad!  It tasted fine. it was very sweet and I was wishing I had the biscuit instead by the time I got to the end.
By mid morning, I was starving, so I ate a banana to get me through to lunch. Thomas and I ate lunch at Panera Bread (delicious!) and wished I had saved my sweet on a chocolate brownie instead!!  Oh well - you live and you learn!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 18: Lofthouse Sugar Cookies

You know those Lofthouse Cookies -  the moist, cake-like sugar cookies with a mound of colored icing and sprinkles?  Well, I do and I really like them!  My kids love them too and want me to buy them, but I only get them on special occasions because if those cookies are in my house, I have a very hard time resisting them. I usually scrape off half of the icing, and then they are perfect.

In my quest to reproduce this cookie, I have tried numerous recipes that claimed to be "Lofthouse-like" cookies. All have failed miserably - until now.  I came across this recipe the other day on the blog Two Peas and Their Pod.  The title caught my attention first and then the picture.  It even looked similar to the real thing!

Since there was not a National dessert for today, I jumped at the chance to make these.  Since today was my day off, it was the perfect opportunity to make these, considering it is a several step process. The anticipation was building, just waiting to find out if this would be "the Cookie".  When the moment of truth arrived, I was pleasantly surprised!  The texture and taste is very close to the real thing.  Maybe just a little more cakey, but still very tasty.  I chose to pipe a swirl of icing on top, so as not to overwhelm the cookie with icing.  It was perfect!  I took them to church and shared with all the kiddos. Overall - a huge success!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 17: Nutella Mallow Pillow Pockets

Today, I am trying a new recipe that I found on the blog, Picky PalateNutella Mallow Pillow Pockets. Recently, I have discovered how much I love Nutella and how versatile it is.  My oldest son, Camdyn, loves my S'more pitas that I created using Nutella (more about that in a later blog post).  So when I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  I mean, really, you can't go wrong with puff pastry, nutella and marshmallows!!  
The recipe makes 8 servings, but I chose to half it and only make 4 (one for each of us) so that I wouldn't be tempted with leftovers.  These are quite possibly the most tastiest, delicious, melt in your mouth delicacy that I have ever tasted!! The pastry is flaky, with melty goodness chocolate, and the marshmallows just melt into it all. In the words of Rachel Ray - it was YUM-O! Of course, something that tastes so good has to have a downside - each one contains 375 calories.  But my goodness, it was worth it!  Besides, drill seargent Heather kicked my booty in weight training tonight so I had a few calories to spare!!
P.S.  The recipe doesn't say anything about spraying the baking pan, but I would recommend it.  I didn't and some of the marshmallow oozes out and they are rather difficult to get off the pan.  Also, my calorie calculation comes from only using 1/2 the amount of Nutella (1 tbsp per pastry).  If you use the correct amount from the recipe, then each would have 475 calories.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 16: National Fig Newton Day

Today is National Fig Newton Day - YUCK!  In my opinion, this is a completely useless waste of calories consumed and I don't know how it even made it onto a National list of desserts!!  I guess buying it in the COOKIE aisle makes it a dessert! One of the reasons I don't like them is because of the small seeds and the texture of the fig. However, in the spirit of the day, I consumed half of a Nabisco Fig Newton Cookie (only 50 calories).  Thankfully, I was able to purchase a small package from the checkout aisle at Kroger which contained 2 cookies - my husband ate one and finished off the rest of mine.  
I googled fig newton just to see what I came up with and I came across this website, For the Love of Fig Newtons from an obsessed fan. He did a taste test of various brands and varieties of Fig Newtons, which was interesting.

Now for an update on the marzipan that I made a few days ago.  I let it sit in the fridge overnight, and by the next day, it was still too sticky to be able to mold into anything. So I placed some between wax paper and rolled it to about 1/4" thickness.  Using a pizza cutter, I sliced the marzipan into rectangles and returned to the fridge to harden.  Meanwhile, I melted some Ghiradelli dipping chocolate then dipped the marzipan.  It was really quite tasty. Thomas thought the texture was similar to a Mounds bar. I don't like coconut, but I could see how the ground almonds resembled the texture of coconut.  All in all, it was a tasty success!  Each piece contains about 100 calories.

P.S.  The only changes that I might make to the recipe next time would be to add 1-1/2 egg whites instead of 2, and use vanilla extract in place of the almond extract.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 15: National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

OK - so what crazy person decided the middle of January was a good time to celebrate strawberry ice cream?! Thankfully, the weather is mild, so snacking on ice cream was a nice little afternoon treat. 

Standing in the frozen food section of the grocery store yesterday, I was looking at all the different brands and types of strawberry ice cream trying to decide what to try.  I like strawberry, but it isn't my favorite flavor of ice cream, so I didn't want to buy a big tub.  So I decided to look in the individual tubs. I discovered 2 brands of strawberry cheesecake ice cream:  Ben & Jerry's and Skinny Cow.  So I decided to have my very own taste testing and report my results to my readers.  According to my 6th grade son, Nick, there are 5 steps to the Scientific Method which I will use to report my experiment.

Step 1: State the question - Can a low fat ice cream possibly taste as good as the full fat version?
Step 2: Hypothesis - I believe the low fat ice cream will be very similar in taste to the full fat version.
Step 3: Research - No research done, just went straight to the taste testing.
Step 4: Experiment - The taste testing was done among 3 of my family members. Each one was given a taste without knowing which one was which.
Step 5: Conclusion - Nick chose the Skinny Cow and Thomas and I were actually undecided over which tasted better.  The Ben & Jerry's had a graham cracker swirl, that the Skinny Cow didn't contain, which brought the flavor to a new level. But other than that, the actual ice cream was similar in taste and flavor.  If I did not have these side by side to taste, I would be pleased with the Skinny Cow ice cream.  Since Nick liked the Skinny Cow, I let him have that and I enjoyed the Ben & Jerry's.  One other thing that I would consider in the future is the calorie count and serving size.  Ben & Jerry's was 220 calories for 3.6 oz, while the Skinny Cow was 150 calories for 5.8 oz.  To me, that's a no brainer!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 14: Peanut Butter Blossom

I had the day to myself today, since Thomas and the boys made a trip to Russellville for the day. My time was spent catching up on housework, grocery shopping and exercising. Some might think this was a crummy way to spend my time alone, but cleaning and exercising are very relaxing activities for me. My family will enjoy coming home to a "less stressed" wife and mom!
I enjoyed my 6 mile run today much more than my run on Wednesday. The temperature was great to run outside, but the wind was a little strong, so I ran at the gym. I am a wimp when it comes to cold and wind! 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon at the gym is like a ghost town, so I didn't have to weave around people on the track.
I decided to take a break from baking today and take a shortcut. I pulled out 4 homemade peanut butter cookie dough balls from the freezer (one for each of us) and baked up some Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies. This is a favorite of mine as well as several of my customers. It was a sweet ending to a great supper at only 130 calories each.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 13: National Peach Melba Day

Traditionally, Peach Melba is a mix of peaches and raspberries in a sauce, topped over vanilla ice cream. I found a recipe for Peach Melba Cupcakes that is similar, but uses angel food cake in place of the ice cream. I just used a box angel food cake mix and baked it in large cupcake liners.  I heated raspberry jam and drizzled over the cake, then topped it with whipped cream and peaches. It was a sweet and tangy flavor, very enjoyable, and only 155 calories.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 12: National Marzipan Day

I look forward to Thursdays for several reasons.
First, my family goes to the donut shop for breakfast.  We started this tradition at the first of the school year, and the boys look forward to it every week.  It's not about the donuts for me, but more about the family time together before we head off in different directions for our day.
Second, my husband, Thomas, works from home so it is the only day of the week that we get to eat lunch together - alone - with no kids!! Today we ate at the Mean Bean Cafe. It is a small cafe with excellent food and fantastic service, AND homemade desserts. We decided to splurge today and split a piece of Peanut Butter Pie - it was delicious!! Peanut butter and chocolate are one of my favorite flavor combinations.

Lastly, if it's Thursday, then it's almost Friday!!!!  Enough said!

The marzipan right after making it.
Now, on to National Marzipan Day.  When I think of Marzipan, I think of those little fruit shapes or decorations made from it.  I have never tasted it.  I thought it was similar to fondant - which isn't very tasty - give me buttercream instead! When I googled Marzipan to find a recipe, I was pleasantly surprised. It only has 5 ingredients which you put into a food processor and Voila! - it's done!  Except, it does have to refrigerate for 24 hours before using. I found this Marzipan recipe on Allrecipes.com.  The almond taste is very powerful, so if you don't like almond extract, you may not like it. Vanilla extract could probably be substituted for it. After it refrigerates for 24 hours, I would like to try rolling into balls and dipping in chocolate - a Marzipan Truffle. I will let you know how it turns out.
(The recipe called for 2 egg whites and several of the users commented that it made the marzipan too sticky.  I started with one but it seemed too dry, so I added another one and it seemed to sticky.  Maybe sitting in the fridge for 24 hours will help.  Also, I used sliced almonds instead of blanched almonds, which will make a difference in the look of the marzipan but won't affect the taste.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 11: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes

Wednesday is my day off - which means a day to myself when the kids are in school and the hubbie is at work.  I started the day off with a run at the gym after dropping the kids off at school.  It was a very difficult run and for no apparent reason.  I have learned to just get through them and look forward to the next one.   In fact, exercise has just been difficult all week.  Monday, I was able to get a run in at the local sports center while Nick had basketball practice.  I am glad I did it, but at the time I was really not in the mood. Tuesday night is my weight training class, but Nick had a basketball game so I had to miss it.  Then, the difficult 5 miles this morning. As I was running, I began to think about some tips that I could offer to any newbie fitness people or anyone who just needs motivation.  The following is what I came up with:
1.  Start small - you have already set yourself up for disappointment if you set your goals too high.  Don't try to run 3 miles the first time you lace up your shoes and step on the track.  You will leave discouraged and never come back.  Each week, build on what you accomplished the previous week and do a little more.
2.  Plan ahead - You will be more likely to skip your workout if you don't schedule it in your day.
3.  Include your family - Now that my kids are older, exercise has become easier because I can leave them at home or bring them with me to the gym to shoot hoops or play racquetball.  If you have small children, run or walk the neighborhood and let them ride their bike beside you.  Play soccer in the yard or shoot hoops in the driveway.
4.  Do something you enjoy - If you don't enjoy what you are doing, you are unlikely to keep doing it for very long.  I have been able to run for the last 5 years because I enjoy it.  Find what works for you and keep it up!

Now, on to the Vanilla Almond Cupcakes.  I made a batch of these and took them to my kids in Bible Class tonight.  I had intended to stir in some mini cherry chips that I discovered a few months ago, but I had already scooped the batter into the pans before I realized what I was doing.  I decided to sprinkle a few chips on top instead.
I came across this recipe from one of the blogs I read-Sweetapolita. This is a very moist cupcake with a light crumb.  Definitely my go to recipe when making white cupcakes.  If you don't like almond extract, just replace with extra vanilla. There are 160 calories in the cupcake without the icing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 10: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

For bittersweet chocolate day, I chose a favorite cookie of my son, Camdyn:  White Chip Chocolate Cookies.  Technically, these really don't have bittersweet chocolate in them, but they do have unsweetened cocoa powder which is close enough.  I had these already made up in the freezer so I set out a few to thaw, baked and enjoyed one.  I found this recipe on www.allrecipes.com, after my sister brought some down over Thanksgiving.  Very chocolatey and chewy!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9: National Apricot Day

Today is National Apricot Day. I honestly can't say that I have ever eaten a fresh apricot.  My experience with them has only been through the dried version.  Though I don't mind eating them raw, I typically prefer using them in my baking, which is exactly where I am going with them today.  The first thing that comes to mind is my mom's recipe for apricot fried pies.  I know, the words "fried" and "fitness" cannot be used in the same sentence, but I can't resist celebrating this day without just one!

Apricot Fried Pies
Yield:  14 pies
(250 calories each)

6 oz. dried apricots
1-3/4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1.  Cut dried apricots in small pieces and place in saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil.  Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.
2.  Add sugar; stir, and cook for 5-10 minutes more.  Let cool while making dough.
3.  Using a pastry cutter, blend shortening, salt, flour, and baking powder.  When mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add water and knead until dough comes together.  Divide dough into 14 equal pieces (approx. 2 tbsp).
4.  Roll each piece of dough into a circle and top with filling mixture (heaping tbsp).  Fold dough and crimp edge with with a fork dipped in flour.
5.  Heat the vegetable oil and fry 2 pies at a time in a 10 inch skillet, turning pie over when brown on bottom.  Drain on paper towels.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 8: National EnglishToffee Day

Today is National English Toffee Day. As I thought about my sweet for the day, I immediately thought about chopped Heath bar sprinkled on frozen yogurt. If you haven't noticed, the business of "serve yourself frozen yogurt topped with any topping imaginable" is booming. These places are T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the person who has little or no self control. The cups that they use are huge so most people start off with multiple servings of "Fro Yo" and then top it off with candy, cookies, brownies and hot fudge. Here are a few of my tried and true tips to help you become a healthier eater:
1. Portion control is the key. No food is off limits IN MODERATION! Always use a small plate or bowl when eating. A small full bowl seems much more satisfying than a large half empty bowl - even though it is the same portion size.
2. Be aware of serving sizes listed on the food packaging. If you don't have a kitchen scale to weigh your food and show your calories, then get one. You would be surprised how different your idea of a serving size is to the actual serving size. (Target carries food scales in various sizes and price ranges)
3. Instead of going to the "Fro Yo" place, make your own at home. I keep frozen yogurt (or light double churn ice cream) in my freezer. Pick out your favorite candy toppings and buy them in the snack size portions. Chop or crush and store in plastic ziplock containers in the freezer. When you're in the mood, scoop a serving of yogurt in a small bowl and top with a tablespoon of topping. (My favorites are Heath bar, Whoppers, Oreos, or Butterfinger.). You then have yourself a sweet treat without overdoing the calories or breaking the bank!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 7: Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookie

Today has been a lazy Saturday!  I had no plans for today, so I started it off by sleeping in until 8:45.  This is late for me - I typically wake up around 7:30.  Spent the morning just lounging around in my PJ's while Thomas started the laundry and washed the dishes.  Anyone who knows me well will realize that is very unlike me - but I allowed him to spoil me a little this morning and enjoyed every minute of it!  In fact, I stayed in my PJ's until I got dressed to go running around 2:00.  It was time to get up and do something!!

In fact, I was feeling so lazy that I really didn't want to make cookies for my sweet treat today, but I made myself do it this evening.  I whipped up a batch of Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies.  I want to stop here and give you a little suggestion. When I am making cookies for a snack at home, I don't need 3 or 4 dozen just sitting around waiting for me to eat them.  I will mix up a normal batch of dough and scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet.  Place the pan in the freezer until frozen, then remove the dough and place in a ziploc bag (qt size).  Label the bag with the type of cookie and the date and place back in the freezer.  You can also label it with the oven temperature and cooking time.  The next time you are in the mood for something sweet, just take out however many cookies you need (or want), allow to thaw for about 10 minutes, bake, and they are ready to eat!!  Better than the "take and bake" from the store and much more cost effective.  I keep several different kinds of dough made up in the freezer for this very reason.

Ok, back to the Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies.  This is a recipe that I came across a couple of years ago and I looked and looked for cinnamon chips with no luck.  Finally, I came across this Hershey's website where you could input your zip code and it would tell you the closest store near you that sold hard to find products (hence Hershey's cinnamon chips).  For you Conway folks, Price Cutter on Harkrider is the only place around here that sells them.  For the cookies I made tonight, I used Cinnamon M&M's instead.  I came across these in Target after Christmas and bought several bags to try in my baking. It was good but for this cookie, I prefer using the chips instead - they are more spread out through the cookie.  The M&M's are rather large, so I placed them on top instead of mixing into the dough.  The cookies spread when baking so you get less cinnamon flavor throughout the cookie.

Here is the recipe from the Hershey's website.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 6: National Shortbread Day

Today is National Shortbread Day. I chose to make a shortbread cookie recipe from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Instead of making individual cookies, I decided to bake it in a tart pan. After baking and cooling the shortbread, I melted some caramels and poured over the top. Then drizzled some melted milk chocolate chips over the top. My creation: Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Tart! The shortbread was light and crumbly, paired with the sweet, gooey caramel - it was divine!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 5: National Whipped Cream Day

Today is National Whipped Cream Day.  Oh my goodness! What is not to love about sweet, fluffy, whipped cream!!  I can remember loving it ever since I was a little kid.  So when I thought about what I wanted to indulge in along side the whipped cream, I reverted back to my childhood.  There was nothing like a bowl of Jello with a very large dollop of whipped cream.  My motto was "whipped cream with a little Jello".  So, tonight after a dinner of homemade potato soup and sweet Jiffy muffins, I indulged in black cherry Jello with a large dollop of whipped cream on top.  It was so yummy - I savored every bite!  Even the hubby and kids enjoyed it!!  :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 4: Crockpot Caramel Apple Crumble

I enjoyed a day off today with the kids back in school. Worked out at the gym first thing: 30 minutes on an elliptical type machine and walked up 85 flights of stairs (1.75 miles) on the stair master. Relaxed and enjoyed the day by cleaning the house and baking in the kitchen. Tried a new recipe for homemade salsa that got rave reviews from Nick. Made 2 dozen cinnamon rolls ordered from a friend for tomorrow morning. Just took them out of the oven and my house smells divine! Having to keep an eye on Thomas so he doesn't get into them. Luckily, I had something else in the crockpot for us. 

There was no National Dessert for today so I chose a recipe I have been dying to try for the last several months - Crockpot Caramel Apple Crumble. I found this recipe on one of the blogs I follow - How Sweet It Is. Very simple to put together, set it and forget it! It was delicious topped with a scoop of frozen yogurt. It was very sweet so a little goes a long way. As for the calories, a serving was 405 calories plus the 90 calories for the yogurt. I will probably scoop smaller servings next time because it was so sweet (saving about 100 calories per serving). Overall, it was a good day!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 3: National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day

Today is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.  I love chocolate and I love fresh cherries, but that nasty "way too sweet" cream that they add to the combination is what brings this sweet to the bottom of my list.  My sweet husband, Thomas, loves them and he gets a box of these in his stocking every Christmas.  So luckily, he still has some left and I ate one to celebrate the day.  I would rather have enjoyed that 75 calories on something I actually enjoyed.  Oh well, there is always tomorrow.

I am spending today with my kids on their last day of Christmas vacation.  Just gonna hang out and enjoy each other's company.  Looking forward to getting them back in school and into our normal routine.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 2: National Cream Puff Day

Today is National Cream Puff Day - what's not to like about cream and puff?!  I thought and thought about what to do for this.  Honestly, my body may be in sugar shock from the overindulgence over the holidays, and today is my official day back to my normal good eating habits.  Anything sweet just doesn't even sound appetizing!!

The easy way would be to buy the bucket of frozen cream puffs from the store, but it is a little more than I want hanging around in my freezer!  So I decided to create my own - Creamy Phyllo Cups with a Kiss!

Start with pre-baked mini Phyllo cups.  Pipe 1 tablespoon of cool whip inside and top with a Hershey's Kiss.  That's all there is to it.  Simple and only 31 calories each!!  
They were a delicious way to end my dinner of Homemade Pizza Meatballs on a sub!  What a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth and still stay on my calorie track!!

As a side note, I ran my first run of 2012 this morning, did some ab and weight work, and played a fun game of Racquetball with my hubby and 2 boys.  This year is off to a great start!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 1: Happy New Year

Today begins the official start of my sweet blogging challenge! There is no official dessert for today so I have chosen a classic - chocolate chip cookies. This post is dedicated to my dad for a couple of reasons.
1)  Chocolate chip cookies are his favorite. Even more so than the cookie, he shared his love for the raw cookie dough with me!! YUM!
2) He was my inspiration for taking on this challenge. My dad told me once, "Life's too short to miss out on the good things in life" (such as chocolate and soda). So this year, I won't be missing out on my love for dessert.
Love you Dad - this cookie is for you!