Blueberry Almond Bran Muffins

 

My great-grandmother passed down the BEST bran muffin recipe. Moist and sweet with lots of yummy raisins…so delicious. My mom has now taken the responsibility of making these muffins and they are phenomenal; every time I visit her she gives me a bunch to take home. However, I decided to challenge myself to make them a little healthier, since they are traditionally made with lots of sugar and sour cream. So I substituted honey, whole-wheat flour, coconut oil, and plain Greek yogurt. I also used fresh blueberries because they are delicious and gooey when baked. I also decided to add Blue Diamond Blueberry almonds to the top of the muffins for an added crunch and extra flavor. While not exactly the same as my great-grandmother’s, these muffins are pretty darn delicious in their own right.

Also a big thank you to my Aunt Diane and Aunt Rita for supplying me with loads of new baking dishes and tools – I’m sure you’ll recognize many items in these pictures and in pictures to come! 🙂

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Blueberry Almond Bran Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups bran flakes
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds

Directions:

1.) Add boiling water to blueberries in a small bowl and set aside. Beat 1 egg in a medium sized mixing bowl and add honey, coconut oil, milk, and yogurt. Whisk together.

2.) Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Finally, add in the blueberries with the water included. Cover mix and let stand in refrigerator overnight. Will keep for months (never tested this myself though!)

3.) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F. Chop almonds into small pieces. Pour batter into greased muffin tin – I filled the wells about 3/4 of the way; fill to the top if you want bigger muffins. Top with chopped almonds and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

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Skinny Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I consider these snowy, frigid weeks we’ve been having to be “soup weather.” There’s just something about having a hot bowl of soup on a cold night that makes you feel better (not as much as a sunny beach does, but I’ll take what I can get). I usually love to make my crock pot chili in the winter, and probably will be whipping up another batch of that soon, but I wanted to try something new. I looooove Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup (in a bread bowl…) but I know that since it’s creamy and cheesy it’s also pretty high in calories.

Luckily, I just started getting Cooking Light magazine and they happened to have a lightened-up version of broccoli cheddar soup! The base for this one is actually pureed brown instant rice. Now before you say “ew” and stop reading, hear me out: there’s still tons of cheesy flavor to make this allllmost as good as the original. The rice just gives it a slightly different taste and actually makes it a lot more filling, but it still is full of cheese and broccoli, I promise! I actually thought it tasted a lot like chicken divan in soup form (without the chicken). So maybe that’s what I should be calling it. And maybe I should try it with chicken next time. But for now, here’s the recipe! At only about 300 calories a bowl, there’s still plenty of room for a side salad, a slice of bread, or fruit to go with it too. Enjoy!

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Skinny Broccoli Cheddar Soup


Adapted From: Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock/broth
  • 1/2 cup uncooked instant brown rice
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 lbs broccoli florets, chopped (about 4 cups once stems are removed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used half sharp and half sharp white)

Directions:

1.) Combine 2 cups stock/broth and rice in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally (mine kept trying to boil over). Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

2.) Place rice mixture and milk in a blender or food processor (this was a little messy in my food processor) and blend until smooth.

3.) Heat a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil. Add onions and saute until soft, then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add in broccoli and salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add remaining 2 cups stock/broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Add rice mixture and simmer about 2 minutes while stirring.

4.) Take 2 cups of soup and put into blender/food processor. Blend until smooth and add back to pan. Add pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Divide soup among 4 bowls and top each with 1/8 cup cheese.

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 309
Fat 19 g (9 g saturated)
Fiber 4 g
Carbs 22 g
Sodium 647 mg
Protein 17 g

Skinny Chicken Enchiladas

So once again, we started off the week snowed in! We are running out of places to put it all, so I’m ready for it to stop any time now. I’m also getting tired of shoveling and my car sliding all over the place. Is it summer yet? At least it’s given me some time to whip up some new recipes!

Yet again I looked to The Skinnytaste Cookbook for inspiration, and once I saw these enchiladas I looked no further. Yummy Mexican food…but better for you…need I say more? These were delicious and the recipe made 8 enchiladas, so I froze half to enjoy another time – win win! I made a side of Mexican rice to go with them and it was the perfect meal.

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Skinny Chicken Enchiladas

Adapted From: The Skinnytaste Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato or marinara sauce
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 10-12 oz chicken breast tenderloins, cooked and shredded
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 whole-wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese
  • Fat-free plain Greek yogurt, guacamole, or other toppings (optional)

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat olive oil over low heat in a skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, stirring frequently.

2.) Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, cooked chicken, 1/4 cup of cilantro, seasonings, and salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes and remove from heat.

3.) Spray a 13×9 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Put about 1/3 cup of chicken mixture into each tortilla, roll them up, and place seam side down in baking dish.

4.) Pour enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve enchiladas with a side of Mexican rice (recipe below) and top with Greek yogurt, guacamole, avocado, etc. and enjoy!

Nutrition Info (Per enchilada, without toppings, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 302
Fat 12 g (2 g saturated)
Fiber 5 g
Carbs 31 g
Sodium 785 mg
Protein 20 g

Mexican Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 1 cup frozen corn (I used roasted corn from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

1.) Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Serve warm as a side for the enchiladas!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 141
Fat 2 g (0 g saturated)
Fiber 3 g
Carbs 29 g
Sodium 0 mg
Protein 4 g

Lightened-up Chicken Parm with Spaghetti Squash

I love chicken parm, and this recipe from Skinnytaste was perfect! Another win for the Skinnytaste Cookbook 🙂 The whole wheat bread crumbs add great flavor, as well as all the benefits of whole grains, and since it’s baked and not fried you save a ton of calories! I decided to serve it with spaghetti squash to keep the calories low. Enjoy!

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Lightened-up Chicken Parm with Spaghetti Squash

Adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 12 chicken tenderloins (about 27 oz)
  • 2/3 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 2 medium spaghetti squash
  • Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1.) Cook squash (see oven instructions here). I like to cook the squash a day ahead, if I have time, and let it sit in a baking dish with paper towel overnight to soak up moisture. I didn’t have time to do that this time, so I just baked the squash before cooking the chicken!

2.) Preheat oven to 450 F and spray a baking sheet. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan in a small bowl. In another small bowl, melt the butter, then add olive oil.

3.) Brush butter and oil on both sides of chicken tenderloins, then dredge chicken in bread crumb mixture. Put tenderloins on greased baking sheet. Lightly spray top of chicken. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning over halfway through.

4.) Heat up marinara sauce on the stove or in the microwave.

5.) For each serving, top about 2 cups spaghetti squash with 2 tenderloins. Serve with marinara and mozzarella cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 347
Fat 12 g
Fiber 6 g
Carbs 28 g
Sodium 910 mg
Protein 37 g

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper

I suppose I should start by saying, yes, I am alive…I haven’t posted in almost a month! Life has been crazy with work and school and all sorts of other things, so cooking new recipes has fallen on the backburner. I’ve been making lots of easy dishes that I’ve already posted on here, just because I haven’t had time to be adventurous. But this week I found time!

A few weeks ago I purchased the Skinnytaste Cookbook, which was written by Gina Homolka, the genius behind the Skinnytaste blog. I’ve always loved her recipes because she lightens up meals but still makes them taste amazing! She also makes a lot of Italian food lighter, which is a favorite of mine. You should definitely pick up her cookbook; everything looks mouth-wateringly good and there are appetizers, entrees, desserts, the whole 9 yards! I’ve been meaning to start making some of her recipes but hadn’t had time, so this week I found one that was quick and easy but looked delicious (and it was). Here it is!

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Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper

Adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 oz (6 links) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 6 cups baby kale**
  • 13.25 oz (1 box) whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (to taste)

Directions:

1.) Bring large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

2.) Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Heat olive oil, then add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until soft, then add the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Cook until sausage is lightly browned.

3.) Add in baby kale and cover the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook until kale is wilted.

**Use baby kale or cut the “stem” off regular kale! I had never cooked with kale before and I just used regular kale without cutting it, and the stem tastes bitter. So don’t make my mistake!

4.) Add cooked pasta to the skillet (or use a big pot if the skillet isn’t big enough). Turn to medium-high heat. Mix everything together and add 1/3 of the pasta water and stir. Add more water if it seems dry.

5.) Add parmesan, salt, pepper, and red paper, to taste, mixing everything together. Serve and top with a sprinkle of cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 418
Fat 8 g (1 g saturated)
Fiber 7 g
Carbs 59 g
Sodium 858 mg
Protein 30 g

Lightened-up Chicken Divan!

This is yet another recipe that I’m shocked I haven’t posted, since it’s easy and delicious and a favorite of mine. It’s actually the first recipe my friend Laura taught me to make when I moved out on my own (and now I live with her!) She taught me to make it, from start to finish, and it was awesome. Over time I have tweaked it a bit to make it healthier and even easier; I love a meal that I can make quickly when I get home and am starving and in need of something in my belly RIGHT NOW. I also love a good combo of chicken, cheese, and broccoli (better get it out of my system before I start eating Paleo…) I make this whole thing in my Dutch oven so I can go right  from stove top to oven with much less clean up!

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Lightened-up Chicken Divan

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 bag frozen, steamable broccoli (about 12 oz.)
  • 4 cups brown rice
  • about 2 cups shredded cheese (any kind! I used Mozzarella and Pepper Jack)
  • about 1 cup milk (I use almond)
  • about 2 tbsp. organic butter
  • about 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make a roux by melting the butter over medium heat on the stove top, then start adding flour until it gets to a cookie dough-like consistency.

2.) Add a little of the milk and cheese, stirring. Keep adding milk and cheese until you have your desired amount of sauce, making sure to crush up the “clumps” of flour/butter from the roux. The sauce should be sort of thick, because it will thin a bit when you bake. Make as much sauce as you’d like by adding more milk and cheese (I always say you can’t have too much sauce!) Take off heat.

2.) While you’re making the cheese sauce, put the bag of broccoli in the microwave and steam per package instructions. If you are using fresh broccoli, steam until soft.

3.) Add the broccoli and raw chicken to the cheese sauce and stir together. Add salt and pepper to season. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is done and sauce is bubbly.

4.) While the dish is baking, cook four cups of brown rice according to package directions. Serve the cheesy chicken and broccoli mixture over the rice and enjoy!

**Note: I realize that this is still a very cheesy dish, so it may not be the most lightened-up, healthiest recipe that I’ve ever made. However, it’s a good “indulgence” meal that I have lightened-up significantly from the original version. I’m sure it can be toned down even more, but this version I have found to taste great while still being somewhat good for your waistline. But tips for making it even better are welcome!

Two Recipes with Zucchini and Squash “Noodles”

Happy Monday everyone (if there is such a thing)! I had a great weekend with family and friends enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Grad school classes start next Wednesday for me…I can’t believe September is almost here!

I recently picked up the Veggetti (mentioned in my post here), so I wanted to try making squash and zucchini “noodles” and see how they came out. I decided to make a couple “pasta” salads to bring to the beach this weekend, so I grabbed a couple summer squash and a zucchini and tried the Veggetti. It was SO EASY; you literally just twist the veggies into it and they come out in long, spiralized noodle form. I literally turned around and my boyfriend had already turned an entire squash into noodles. Then you just chop them a bit so they aren’t so long, add your favorite ingredients, and a healthy salad is born. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

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I decided to make two salads this weekend; one with pesto and feta and the other with Italian dressing and parmesan. Both were a huge hit with my parents and friends; everyone was surprised they were zucchini and squash noodles!  I left the noodles raw in each recipe rather than saute them, since I was serving them cold. I think I will try sauteeing them in olive oil when I make a hot main dish with the “noodles”! For each recipe, add however much of each ingredient you like, mix together, and enjoy!

Zucchini and Summer Squash Noodle Pesto Salad

Ingredients: zucchini and summer squash “noodles”, pesto, Feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, salt and pepper

Zucchini and Summer Squash Noodle Italian Salad

Ingredients: zucchini and summer squash “noodles”, Italian dressing, parmesan cheese, cucumbers, red peppers, salt and pepper

Anyone have any other recipe tips for using the zucchini and squash noodles? I would love to hear any new ideas!