Low Sugar, High Protein Yogurt

overnightyogurt

Pinterest is full of recipes for smoothies and overnight oats.  I love smoothies, but I don’t always have time to get the blender out and going, not to mention drinking my breakfast isn’t nearly as satisfying as chewing, even if the ingredients are the same.  Most of the overnight oats recipes I’ve found have a lot of sugar, and require some milk, which I’m not a huge fan of, cow or otherwise.   Sugar is beginning to be linked to all sorts of health issues, and I am trying to retrain my palate to not crave so much.  The more you eat, the more you want.  That’s why it’s particularly important to try and not start your day with sugary foods, you are just setting yourself up for a day of cravings.  So I came up with my own, low sugar, high protein grab-and-go breakfast that is still delicious and satisfying.  The yogurt is a bit tart, and can take some getting used to if you usually add sweetener or buy presweetened flavored varieties, but I think the fruit and granola adds just the right amount of sweetness without over doing the sugar content.

First, not only am I trying to seriously cut back on sugar, but I’m also trying to eliminate as much plastic from my life as possible.  Ambitious, I know.  Plus, mason jars are everywhere right now and they are just so cute!  They have tons of uses (thanks, Pinterest) and are inexpensive.  However, finding health and environmentally friendly reusable lids was a different story.  The tin ones that come with the jars are not meant to be reused, although I usually get away with it a few times before they start to rust.  Lots of people are swearing by reusable plastic lids, but again, plastic isn’t my jam.  I finally found these cool silicone versions on Amazon.

They are surprisingly leak-proof, considering they press on instead of screwing on.  But best of all, they aren’t leaching chemicals into my food!

In my 8oz jar, I layer:

4oz Chobani plain Greek yogurt (70cal, 4.5g sugar) – Chobani has one of the lowest sugar contents, make sure you read the label if you are using another brand

About 3/4 tablespoon chia seeds (53cal, 0 sugar)

About 1/4 cup (2oz) frozen raspberries – You can of course use any fruit you like, but raspberries have one of the lowest concentrations of sugar, and the granola has blueberries as well (16cal, 1g sugar)

I usually do this the night before, stirring it all together, then refrigerating with the lid on over night. There is enough liquid in the yogurt and fruit to enlarge the chia seeds somewhat, but not to a “chia pudding” like texture.  In the morning, I sprinkle on the granola, about 1/4 cup (90cal, 4g sugar).  Once I get to work I have a breakfast that keeps me satisfied until lunch.

Total Nutrition info: 229 calories, 9.5g sugar, 17g protein

 

Advertisements

NO-jito Popsicles

Pinterest Fail

I became a fan of mojitos when I lived in Florida for five years.  Perfect on a warm day, which was most of the year, refreshing and not too sweet.  I no longer live in a semi-tropical climate, but when I saw these Havana Mojito Popsicles on Pinterest, I was inspired and excited to try them once summer hit.  I even already had the same pop molds, it seemed meant to be…

Alas, it was not.  First, I feel like the picture, while beautiful, is a bit misleading.  You can get away with whole mint leaves possibly, but unpeeled lime slices?  You’re supposed to be able to bite/lick through those?  The recipe itself tells you to blend/slush all of the ingredients, and doesn’t mention adding mint leaves or sliced lime to the molds, so I’m assuming the picture is just for show.

Second, my blender is what I would call small to average, but it’s not like a bullet or anything.  However, once I got the rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and sprite in it, there was little room for ice.  I decided I would have to add the ice one cup at a time, blend, then add another cup.  This is where the mojito hit the fan.  I put the first cup of ice in, put my hand on the lid, hit “start,”… and my blender basically exploded.  I lost about 1/3 of the mixture, which was now a sticky mess all over my cabinets, counter top, floor, and myself.  In hindsight I should have taken a picture, but I was so upset/annoyed that it didn’t occur to me.  I am not blaming the author of this recipe of course, I completely own this fail.  Maybe my blender was too small, maybe the soda, which I opened right before I poured it in, was too fizzy, I don’t know.  Once the mess was cleaned up, I decided to press on, adding some more ice and then the mint leaves to create a “mojito slush.”

Finally I was ready to pour into my molds.  The mint leaves did not evenly distribute at all, they didn’t want to pour, so after I got the molds filled I basically had to spoon some mint on top.  Hence the sad little mint flakes at the bottom of my pictured pop.  Despite losing a good third of the mixture, I still had enough to fill all of my molds, then fill a small pitcher halfway.  In the end, I wasn’t excited about this recipe in liquid or frozen form.  The finished product lacked the visual wow-factor that the original picture had, and the taste, while pleasant, wasn’t really mojito-y.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Strawberry Cake

cakeI had some friends over this past weekend.  One of them has both a dairy and gluten sensitivity, which can make cooking for her a bit challenging.  She is very good about bringing her own food, but I hate inviting someone over with the caveat that they have to feed themselves.  We did a cook-out and our friend was able to eat the burgers and brats (sans cheese and buns, of course), and the salad and veggie sides.  While I know my way around the kitchen, I’m more of a baker than a cook, and I love to try out different desserts.  But all of my go-to recipes have gluten and dairy.  When I asked my friend if she had a dessert recipe she wanted me to try and make, she responded that all the GF/DF desserts she has tried (both homemade and store-bought) aren’t great, so it wasn’t worth it for me to make something and subject the rest of the guests to it.  Being the competitive person I am, I saw this as a challenge.  There had to be something I could make that would be good!

One of my other friends has a daughter who has Celiac disease, and so she has become a gluten-free expert.  I have eaten GF dessert several times at her house, and have always liked the cupcakes, brownies, etc. that she makes.  After consulting her, I learned that her “secret” ingredient when baking GF is pudding.  She said she adds pudding mix to everything, and it helps balance out the “off” texture that many GF desserts can have.  That is a great tip, except that pudding is dairy, so I couldn’t use it.  But I did learn that King Arthur makes a very good GF vanilla cake, the best vanilla mix according to my friend.

Next I turned to my old stand-by, Pinterest.  I came across this recipe for a strawberry upside cake, using a box mix as a base.  I decided to go with it, making these amendments, some of which were suggested by Amanda, the original poster:

-King Arthur gluten free vanilla cake mix.   I prepared according the directions on the box, substituting Earth Balance “butter” and Silk in place of the butter and milk.  The box says you can use water instead of milk, but I was afraid it would further mess with the consistency.  Also, I dumped some vanilla in there, probably about a tablespoon.

-The recipe calls for “crushed” strawberries.  I used fresh, as they are in season.  I wasn’t sure the best (and quickest, to be honest) way to crush them, so I stuck a bunch of berries into my food processor.  I had barely pushed the button and then I had puree.  😦  I went ahead and spread the puree in the bottom of the pan, then chopped up a few more whole berries and scattered the chunks in the puree to give it more texture.

-As Amanda put in her post, I also had large marshmellows instead of minis, so I just cut them up into quarters.

Once it started cooking, I was pretty skeptical.  It looked pretty messy, the marshmellows coming up over the cake in some spots, the cake browning but the whole dish still appearing liquid-y.  Even once the time was up, it didn’t appear like it had set, but somehow my cake tester came out clean.  I cooked this in a 13×9, and again, the top looked messy when I went to serve it, so I tried to flip it over so the strawberries were on top.  Everyone except my DF friend put whipped cream on top.

Now the moment of truth- IT WAS GOOD!  I would never have known it was GF/DF.  In fact, my fiancé is one of the pickiest eaters I know (I didn’t tell him there was anything special about the dessert or he wouldn’t have tried it), and he had seconds!  My GF/DF friend’s husband said this was the first dessert he’d tried that his wife could eat that he liked.

 

Low Sugar, High Protein 3 ingredient Green Smoothie

greensmoothie

As a runner and someone who is concerned with eating a balanced, healthy diet, I have been really watching my sugar intake recently.  Although I’ve generally been eating healthy for quite some time, the amount of sugar I realized I was consuming daily was pretty high.  Using myfitnesspal as a food journal for years to monitor calories, protein, carbs and the like, once I started paying attention to the “sugar” column, I was really surprised!  I have a soda maybe once a month, and I try to only eat desserts/sweets on the weekends or special occasions.  I pretty much exclusively drink black coffee, water, and then a glass of wine or beer every day.  So where was all this sugar coming from?  Turns out, it sneaks in in all kinds of forms.  Dairy products, most things in bottles, including pasta sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, even taco seasoning, as well as in fruit in all of its forms (jams, fruit yogurt, juice, etc.)

Sugar and its ill effects have gotten a lot of attention lately, and it seems like there are two main camps of people:  The first type distinguish between “good” or “natural sugar,” such as those in fruit and milk, and “bad” sugar, anything processed or added to enhance sweetness or flavor.  These people say that it is fine to eat lots of natural sugars, but to limit bad sugars.  The second school of thought does acknowledge that natural sugar is better than processed, but suggests that ALL sugar produces negative effects, and should be consumed in moderation.  After reading a lot about sugar on the internet, I’ve decided to count all of my sugar intake for the day towards my recommended allotment of 45g, but also trying whenever possible to only eat natural sugar, and eliminating processed sugar.

So how has this worked out for me?  I pretty eat the same types of items, but not in the same way.  In the grocery store, I’ve started scrutinizing my “go-to” brands, in many cases switching to those with less sugar.  FYI, “organic” doesn’t always mean less sugar.  I make my own taco seasoning, salad dressing, and stopped buying greek yogurt with fruit already added.  As it (finally!!) warms up in my area, I stop eating oatmeal (another sugar sneaker, even though I thought it was healthy) and start drinking smoothies.  In my small town, there is only one smoothie shop, and they have about 10 varieties on their menu.  EVERY one has at least 40 grams of sugar, with some topping out over 70.  For a SMALL!!  Last summer, my fiancé and I made our own smoothies almost daily.  A lot of times we just threw whatever fruit/yogurt/juice we happened to have in the house in the blender.  As such I never calculated the sugar content, but I’m guessing the OJ, strawberry yogurt, and other high sugar fruits weren’t as virtuous a choice as I thought.

As many people do when they need answers, I turned to google.  I searched for “low sugar smoothie recipes,”  “green smoothie recipes,” “high natural protein smoothies.”  And what did I find?  Lots of high sugar, not so healthy recipes.  So I decided to create my own, and it was surprisingly easy, only 3 ingredients: Naked Kale Blazer, plain greek yogurt, and frozen fruit.  I wanted a juice that was mostly vegetable based, I don’t get enough greens even though I try.  My grocer had plenty of juices, green and not, and so I read the labels of any that sounded good.  Many were quite high in sugar.  I settled on Kale Blazer because it had the highest number of veggies and the lowest grams of sugar.  It also contains a hint of ginger and lemon, which are said to be great for digestion.  I use Chobani plain greek yogurt, again because it has the least amount of sugar, and is a great source of natural protein.  Finally, I scoured my frozen fruit section for a blend that is, you guessed it, low in sugar.  I settled on a package of strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks.  The result?  A not sweet (I mostly taste celery) but still pretty good smoothie.  I like to pair it with some cheddar cheese and a hard-boiled egg for lunch.

 

Low Sugar Green Smoothie (that appears pink) 😉

1/2 cup frozen strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks

1/2 cup Chobani plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup Naked Kale Blazer juice

*optional- I throw in a couple of leaves of mint or basil (whatever I have a lot of) from my herb garden for a little extra flavor

Blend until smooth, blend with ice for a thicker smoothie

Nutritional Info:

150 calories

443 mg Potassium, 2g Fiber

18g Sugar, 13g Protein

A good source of Vitamins A, C, Calcium, and Iron

Merlot Cupcakes

cupcakeAnyone who knows me knows I have a thing for cupcakes.  I like to bake them, eat them, just seeing a cupcake puts a smile on my face!  I try to make at least one batch a month, and I prefer “different” flavors beyond basic chocolate or vanilla.  I like the idea of drunken – or adult – cupcakes, maybe because they combine two of my biggest vices, alcohol and cupcakes!  I’ve made some great margarita ones in the past (bring on the tequila!) that I will most likely make again around Cinco de Mayo.  About a month ago, I was trolling Pinterest (again) and came across this recipe and decided that they would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

I used this organic cake mix and followed the directions on the box for the milk, oil, and eggs, then added in chocolate chips.  You’ll notice I didn’t add wine to the cakes themselves.  I made a batch for a party in January and followed the linked recipe exactly, adding wine in place of the other liquids.  When I tasted the cake, I didn’t taste wine at all.  My partner, who doesn’t really like wine (I know, right?!?!) said he tasted it and didn’t want anything to do with them after that.  So because to me I felt like not tasting the wine sort of “wasted” it (I used good wine in the recipe), and because my partner was disappointed that he tasted it TOO much, I did not add it in the batter this time.  But I do follow the merlot icing recipe because you DO taste the wine, even for someone with quite an immunity such as myself ;), and it is delicious.  I leave the icing off of a few for my partner and he gobbles them up.  Since I made these as a valentine for friends, I topped each one with a conversation heart, which I had plenty left over from my conversation heart vodka. P.S.- Although I am a cupcake addict, I’m not a great decorator, for me flavor trumps presentation, so I will probably never post a beautifully decorated cupcake that I’ve made, please bear with me on the photos.  🙂

A Cheese By Any Other Name Does NOT Smell as Sweet! …. Baked Brie on Baguette

Brie-Cheese-On-Bread-600x450freshmint1371238362044-156028187

 

I lived alone for many years, and while I cooked for myself a lot, sometimes I just liked something simple for dinner at the end of the day. This meant a bowl of cereal, or if I wanted to treat myself, brie on a baguette with fresh mint and strawberry balsamic vinegar. Now that I am shacked up with my man, I can’t get away with this. He requires a full meal, usually consisting of meat, starch, and veggies, followed by dessert. Before you take away my feminist card, know that he cooks for us often as well, or pays for us to go out to eat. However, he does travel frequently, and when he does that’s my chance to eat like a single lady again! This week he’s in New Orleans, so I went to the grocery store and bought a loaf of French bread, and what I thought was brie- on sale! (Score!) I like Ile de France brand, it’s reasonably priced, as brie can get expensive. I got home from work yesterday, got on my warm comfy clothes, and poured myself a glass of red. I cut my thick chunks of bread and turned on the oven. Then I got out my cheese, and saw it was CAMEMBERT! Now this is totally my fault, I was rushing in the grocery store because it was snowing out and I was worried about getting home before the roads got bad. But in my defense, Ile de France has the same packaging for both cheeses, and the word camembert was partially obscured by the sale sticker my grocer put on top. I couldn’t remember having camembert before, and there was no way I was going back out to the store, so I thought, “why not, maybe I’ll find a new favorite cheese.” I sliced a few pieces and piled it on my bread, just like I do with brie, noting that it had a slight smell to it that wasn’t very appealing. Then I put it in the oven. Once the cheese started to get melty, I took it back out, and put some mint from my kitchen garden on, then drizzled my balsamic. I took a bite, and…. YUCK! It tasted like it smelled. I was super disappointed, and also felt like I just wasted some of my precious balsamic, which isn’t cheap. I hate to waste money, and time, so I decided to just pick off as much of the cheese as I could, and then eat the bread with the balsamic and mint. Even still, the smell was on the bread, so I felt like that was all I could taste. Even my dogs wouldn’t eat a piece of the cheese, and they think rabbit poop is a delicacy! So- lesson learned- be more careful when grocery shopping and make sure you’re buying what you think you are. And now, the recipe for BRIE on baguette.

BRIE ON BAGUETTE

Everything is estimated to my taste, feel free to change it up according to your own. This is more a suggestion of food pairings than a recipe.

Brie– Several ounces, I usually have a small wheel of Ile de France brand in the fridge, and for one serving I use about half of it.
Baguette or loaf of French Bread– I go back and forth, sometimes based on what my grocer’s bakery has on sale
Fresh Mint– One large leaf for every slice of cheese, or several small ones per slice
Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice two or three thick (1.5-2 inches) pieces off of your loaf. On a baking sheet, turn them on their sides, so that the center is facing you and the crusty sides are perpendicular to the baking sheet. Pile on the brie. I cut several thin slices and place them on top (see the picture). Put the brie covered bread in the oven, and watch for it to get melty, but not oozing hot. (Usually 4-5 minutes.) Take out the baking sheet, and gently press your mint leaves into the soft brie, taking care not to burn yourself. Drizzle with your balsamic, and enjoy!