Healthy Apple Dessert or Between Meal Snack

Dessert doesn’t have to be made of ingredients that are bad for your diet!

You can take something healthy, like an apple and add some sweet or salty ingredients and it can feel like the most decadent treat without throwing you off of your diet track.

Large Granny Smith or Fuji Apple

Peanut butter (or Nutella, any other nut, seed, or soy butter/spread)

Granola or peanuts (or other favorite nuts, coconut, or seeds)

Dried cranberries (or raisins, dried cherries, apricots, dates or other dried fruit)

  1. Core the apple with an apple corer or melon baller. 
  2. Lay the apple on its side and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. 
  3. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the slices. 
  4. Top with a few chocolate chips, a few peanuts, and a few dried cranberries. 
  5. Drizzle with thin lines of caramel or chocolate ice cream topping if desired.
  6. Enjoy without any guilt!

 

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Green Tea: Good For The Brain & So Much More

Back and forth the news goes seemingly daily with the benefits or risks of one food, drink or other thing we put into our bodies.

Today it’s about green tea.  Most articles say the stomach, brain and the heart all benefit from drinking green tea, but it does so much more!


Looks like it’s well beyond time to make green tea part of the daily routine!

If you’re on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: my favorite recipes, drinks, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Upside Down Banana Bread

udbb1Since this New Year’s Day is “Upside Down,” you know, all of the official festivities happening on Monday, January 2, what better way to kick-off (no pun intended) our entire day of parade and football watching than with this upside down take on my favorite overripe fruit concoction?

Our whole holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has been spent at home, except for an escape on Wednesday for my birthday dinner WITH a 102°F temperature, so I did no baking, we did no entertaining, and I’ve really done nothing but sleep and drink hot tea.  I’m trying to rally, despite being sick, and make some kind of effort for tomorrow, yet another day of being sick at home, but at least there will be something I might want to eat.

My husband (he who is Twitter challenged) managed to send this Buzzfeed video to me in a message a couple of months ago as a hint, then I saw it again last night.  It looks easy enough so why not?  I’ll give it a try.

Upside Down Banana Bread

4-5 ripe bananas
3 eggs
½ cup oil
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups flour
½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2-3 bananas, sliced
Vanilla ice cream

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • In a large bowl, mash the ripe bananas.
  • Add the eggs, oil, sugar, and cinnamon, mixing until evenly incorporated.
  • Add the flour and mix until the batter has no large pockets of flour. Set aside.
  • In a pot over low heat, melt the butter, then mix in the brown sugar until dissolved.
  • Bring up the heat to medium, cooking until the mixture starts bubbling.
  • Remove the caramel from heat and pour into a greased 9×9 baking pan.
  • Lay the banana slices evenly on top of the caramel.
  • Spread the banana bread batter on top.
  • Bake 40-50 minutes.
  • Cool until the bottom is barely warm.
  • Use a knife to loosen the edges from the pan.
  • Place a plate upside-down on top of the pan, then invert the pan, flipping the banana bread onto the plate.
  • Slice, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

TIP**  It’s important to make sure you are using a 9 x 9 pan.  If you use an 8 x 8 pan, like I did my first try, you need to increase the baking time by about 10 minutes and be prepared, you’ll be cleaning up the brown sugar that will bubble up and spill over the sides and burn onto the bottom of your oven.  Trust me, the smoke alarms blaring, dogs running around barking and the cleanup weren’t worth not following the exact directions.  UG!

It’s very sweet, so you might want to start with a small square and go back for seconds. Who am I kidding?  Put it in a bowl and pile the ice cream on!  And, before you ask, “Yes, I do intend to start my day with glorified cake and ice cream!”  #TheDietStartsTuesday 

If you’re on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: my favorite recipes, drinks, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

It’s Fall Cider Time!

can-apple-cider-vinegar-help-goutWe are approaching mid-October and still seeing daytime temperatures over 90°F in Southern California.  I’m not a cold weather lover, but I do like to have 4 separate seasons and I do appreciate it greatly when we dip into the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s so I can wear my boots, jeans and sweaters and start cooking hearty soups, stews and sip warm drinks by the fire!

Having spent the weekend sweating and getting a sunburn, it was so exciting to wake up today to a gloomy, overcast morning.  I turned off the air conditioner, opened up all the windows to let the cool outside air in and grabbed a sweatshirt.  Then, even better, I remembered that I have a bowl of apples on the kitchen counter.  It’s Cider Time!

Spicy Pressure Cooker Apple Cider

  • 12 Apples (I use a mixture of Granny Smith and Fuji)
  • 1-2 Navel Oranges
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 6-8 Whole Cloves
  • 1+ 1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom (or 2 Pods)
  • 8 Cups Water

Preparation:

  1. Core the Apples
  2. Cut the Apples and Oranges into Quarters
  3. Place Fruit into the Inner Pot of Pressure Cookercider2
  4. Add the Spices
  5. Cover with Water
  6. Close the Pressure Cooker, set to High Pressure and Cook for a 10 minute cycle
  7. Quick Release the Pressure and Mash Up the Fruit at the end of the cycle. I use my 3 sided steel meat tenderizer and get after it to make sure the oils from the skin of the apples get agitated and the oils release from the orange skins
  8. Reclose the Pressure Cooker, set to High Pressure and Cook for an additional 10 minute cycle.
  9. When cooking is complete, unplug the Pressure Cooker and allow to come back to cider1natural pressure on its own.
  10. Strain cider through a fine mesh sieve (I use the back of a ladle to push as much out of the solids as I can) into a large bowl or pitcher.  You can transfer to a tea kettle on the stove, your crock pot, or a pan to keep warm if you are planning to drink the cider immediately.
  11. Serve with a thin slice of apple or orange and a cinnamon stick if desired.
  12. You can also add cider to bourbon, champagne, or make a fun fall martini with it

Cheers!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Time For Pumpkin Spice Everything

We are well into September and with the month coming into it’s final week, another season begins.  I’m not talking about Fall, I’m talking about Pumpkin Spice Season!

ddpumpkinSoon recipes for everything imaginable made with pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, or any combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger will be popping up on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and menus at nearly every restaurant you visit.  Today I had a pumpkin plain cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts that was unbelievably good!

pslatteAs a girl who adds nothing to her coffee but a bit of skim milk, I’ve never understood it, but people lose their minds when Starbuck’s announces that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back!  In case you wondered, there are 380 calories in a Grande (i.e. Medium sized) Pumpkin Spice Latte.  That’s a lot of calories to commit to a cup of coffee and it doesn’t even have any pumpkin in it!

You can save money, calories and actually include some pumpkin if you use Kitchn’s recipe to make it at home.

Makes 2 drinks

Ingredients
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (add a bit at a time)
2 cups whole milk (You can substitute skim milk)
1 to 2 shots espresso, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped until firm peaks form

  1. Heat the pumpkin and spices: In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the pumpkin with the pumpkin pie spice and a generous helping of black pepper for 2 minutes or until it’s hot and smells cooked. Stir constantly.
  2. Stir in the sugar: Add the sugar and stir until the mixture looks like a bubbly thick syrup.
  3. Warm the milk: Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Warm gently over medium heat, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  4. Blend the milk: Carefully process the milk mixture with a hand blender or in a traditional blender (hold the lid down tightly with a thick wad of towels!) until frothy and blended.
  5. Mix the drinks: Make the espresso or coffee and divide between two mugs and add the frothed milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, or nutmeg if desired.

Substitutions

  • Vanilla: Yes, this recipe calls for two tablespoons (not teaspoons) of vanilla. This sounds like a lot, but it does more than anything else to mimic the intense, even artificial, taste of the syrups used in coffee shops. But feel free to start with less and bump it up as needed.
  • Milk Fat: This recipe is most satisfying when made with whole milk, but 2% and skim can be substituted.
  • Canned Pumpkin Substitution: You can substitute 1 teaspoon Torani Pumpkin Spice Syrup for the canned pumpkin if you have it on hand.
  • Sugar Substitute: You can use a sugar substitute in place of the sugar if desired. Add to taste.
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice Substitute: No pumpkin pie spice? No problem — use our recipe to make it out of cinnamon, ginger, and other spices: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
  • Espresso Substitute: If you don’t have espresso on hand, you can use strong brewed coffee instead. Increase amount to 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Recipe Notes

homemadepslatteMake a big batch of pumpkin spice mix-in: If you like, you can make a big batch of the pumpkin spice base, and refrigerate. To make 8 full servings , cook 1/2 cup pureed or canned pumpkin with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice , 1/2 teaspoon black pepper , and 1/2 cup sugar . Stir in 1/2 cup vanilla extract . Refrigerate for up to 1 week and use as desired. To serve, blend 1/3 cup pumpkin spice mix-in with milk until frothy, and add 1 or 2 shots of espresso. Top with whipped cream and serve.

On a side note, I found out some very distressing news about canned pumpkin today.  Shape Magazine says most canned pumpkin isn’t really pumpkinSAY IT ISN’T SO!  “According to a report by Epicurious, the majority of canned “pumpkin” on the market is actually an entirely different variety of fruit. 85% of the canned pumpkin in the world is sold by Libby’s, and they grow their own tan-skinned pumpkin cousin, Dickinson squash, to help meet the demand. The kicker: This squash is more similar to a butternut squash than the bright orange pumpkins you’ll be carving up this fall.”  Not only did the FDA approve this way back in 1938, it’s a common practice among most of the brands.  Hmph!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Do You Eat Breakfast Every Day?

fruitandoatsSince we were young we’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Turns out that Mom wasn’t just trying to keep us from shoving candy and junk food into our pie holes by making us eat breakfast.

It really is important to eat breakfast for some very good reasons:

  • Breakfast influences how we perform physically and mentally throughout the day.  According to John L. Ivy, PhD University of Texas at Austin, “Breakfast immediately raises the body’s energy level and restores the blood glucose level to normal after an overnight fast.”
  • Kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier throughout the day
  • Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless and irritable
  • Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar helps boost attention span, concentration, and memory
  • People who don’t eat breakfast tend to overeat later in the day and are more likely to be overweight
  • If you are trying to lose weight, breakfast kicks your metabolism into gear and helps get your body into calorie burning mode for the day.
  • Eating a good breakfast lowers levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, lowers chances of getting diabetes, heart disease and being overweight (per WebMD.com)

Eating the right foods for breakfast is also important:

  • Oatmeal – Steel cut with fruit, almonds and sweetened (if desired) with honey.  Another healthy option, the one that Barry Jay, Co-Founder of Barry’s Boot Camp, prefers, is to add a tablespoon or two of natural almond or peanut butter.  Avoid pre-packaged oatmeal that’s high in sugar and low in fiber.
  • Cheerios – Top with a sliced banana, and serve with non-fat milk and a hard boiled egg.
  • Greek Yogurt – A great “Grab and Go” option. High in protein, just add a pinch of cinnamon and a handful of blueberries or raspberries to sweeten.
  • Vegetable omelet or scramble made with 3 egg whites + 1 egg yolk (which provides protein, vitamin A, choline and B vitamins) a handful of fresh spinach, chopped tomato, a few chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets and, if you desire, a bit of feta cheese.
  • Bananas, Apples, Berries – Easily Digestible fiber that will keep you fuller longer
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake – chocolate whey protein powder, natural unsalted peanut (or almond) butter, ice, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, cinnamon, and water.
  • Whole Grain Bread Toasted – Topped with either: natural almond or peanut butter and a sliced banana; or a scrambled egg, atop a slice of cheese, a few leaves of raw spinach and a slice of tomato

Any of these choices are hearty enough to keep you full until at least 10:00- 10:30 when you should have a mid-morning snack to keep you going.  Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day helps keep your energy levels and attention up during the school day or work day, which is especially important if you are someone who operates heavy equipment or drives for a living.  I’d want to be at my very best if that’s what I did!

If you’re dieting it’s important to eat small amounts between your main meals for the same reason.  When blood sugar crashes we are at our most vulnerable and most likely to reach for the nearest food to satisfy our hunger, which often isn’t the healthiest choice: drive-thru, pre-packaged snacks, etc.

quest-bar-cheat-clean

In my case, I always try (I don’t always succeed) to choose:  a piece of fruit with a cutiesjuiceindividually packaged cheese stick;  a low net carbohydrate protein bar (I like Quest Bars); or a hard boiled egg and a glass of fresh sqeezed or whole fruit (no sugar added) juice like Cuties Tangerine Juice.

If you’re like me, you do more in a day than most people and do for yourself last.  I, for one, am slowing down to take care of my health because if I don’t, the rest of the people around me will surely fall apart.  Moms are the grease that keep the squeaky wheel of the family turning and we need to start taking care of ourselves today.  Yesterday is gone, we can’t change that, but we can change tomorrow.

That change starts with breakfast, even if it’s just a glass of juice (or an apple or banana) and a hard boiled egg that’s been pre-made and peeled to grab and go on the way out the door.

One way to make sure to have quick mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack on hand at work is to at least prepare your grab and go snacks on Sunday:

  • If you have a small to medium lunch or grocery type bag you can leave in the refrigerator that’s ideal.
  • Boil a dozen eggs; peel once they are cool enough to touch (I plunge mine in ice water to stop the cooking); put 5 into a zip bag and then into the lunch bag.  Put the other 7 into a second zip bag and put into the snack / deli drawer in your refrigerator.
  • Fill 5 snack sized zip bags with 1-2 TBLS each natural (no sugar added) almond or peanut butter and put into lunch bag.
  • Put 5 medium sized Apples and 5 individually wrapped low-fat cheese sticks into the lunch bag and put into the refrigerator.
  • Make a note for yourself and put it with your car keys so you don’t leave without your snack bag.

It takes a very small effort to eat breakfast when it’s something as simple as a banana and a hard boiled egg that you can grab on the way out the door to work.  Even if you regularly eat out for lunch, you will likely eat less (and better) and will get through your day with more energy and clarity if you have your snacks on hand to get you through the mid-morning and mid-afternoon danger zones.  Who knows, you might even lose a few pounds. 😉

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood