Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm sorry to do this to you, I really am.  

These aren't the least bit healthy.  I wish I could say that reduced-fat cream cheese or light butter was substituted for the fatty good stuff, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Sometimes you just gotta indulge.  Smartly, of course.  I mean, it's not like you would ever over-eat on cupcakes... they're put into individual serving cups for a reason...portion control?

My mom makes these cupcakes a lot, and they are always, undoubtedly a hit with crowds, family, friends, pets, etc, etc...  I dare you to eat just one.  Yep.

Coconut Cupcakes
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 C. Sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachments, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.
Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with the batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
lb cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 lb (3 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 1/2 lbs confectioners' sugar, sifted
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle atachments, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with remaining coconut.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup

What's up with the warm spell lately?  I mean, here I am living in Provo, Utah- an icebox compared to my hometown of Mesa, Arizona and the highs have been in the upper 80's the past couple of weeks!

Isn't it fall now? The trees are on track with the gradually-fading greens to burnt oranges and browns, and the morning air definitely has a crisp chill to it- but then mid-day is somewhat, really warm!  Not that I'm complaining, it could definitely be worse- could be 100 degrees in Mesa, or the alternative, it could already be freezing, like last year.

So, I think for now I will just be content with the weather.  Because I know that any day now, the temperature will randomly drop 20 degrees and then I'll be begging for the warmth I knew in a "distant past."

Anyway, I'm excited it's officially autumn.  So long fresh peaches, strawberries, burgers, and corn on the cob.  Hello apples, pumpkin pie, winter squash, and delicious ham & potato soup.  This will warm your soul, even if it's still warm outside.  Seriously, this was one of the best potato soups I've had.

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup
Yield: 8 servings

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. ground white or black pepper, or to taste
5 Tbsp. buter
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot.  Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.
In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute.  Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added.  Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through.  Serve immediately.

Nutrition per serving:  195 calories, 10.5g fat, 30mg cholesterol, 394mg sodium, 19.5g carbs, 1.9g fiber, 6.1g protein

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honey Glazed Carrots

My first memory of steamed/cooked/soft, yummy carrots is of my mom's weekly Sunday roast dinner.  Ever since I can remember, a juicy rump roast with potatoes and carrots aromatically simmered in the crock pot all Sunday morning and into the afternoon when we returned from church.  

The simple crock-pot meal is still today a family favorite. I mean, it's just pure comfort food!

These carrots reminded me a tad of the large cooked carrot halves my mom threw in with the roast; soft and tender and juicy.  Dare I say, however, that these glazed carrots are even better??

They are SO simple to whip up in five minutes and are a great way to jazz up your daily vegetable intake.  YUM!

Honey Glazed Carrots
1/4 cup water
3 cups chopped carrots (or baby carrots)
1 tsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
nutmeg to taste

In medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook, covered, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the carrots are tender.  Drain.  Add the honey and butter to the hot saucepan, and stir until they are melted together.  Add the carrots and gently toss.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  

*Carrots can also be cooked in the microwave.  Cooking times will vary.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Creamy Grape Dessert

So I will admit... I have a thing for dessert.  We go way back, dessert and I, back to the good old times when I could inhale oreos by the sleeve in a single sitting and then run around for an hour or two afterward.

I miss those days.

Well, since then my love of oreos or anything with chocolate, peanut butter, frosting or fat for that matter has not changed one bit.  But, admittedly, my self-control has.  Thank goodness.

Yes, you CAN have your dessert and eat it too, if you are smart about it!  There are plenty of after-dinner snacks that are guilt-free and fabulous.  I think I might make a post about some of my favorites in the near future.

This yummy grape dessert is one idea- not too hard to make at all, and- TRUST ME- it's a lot better than it looks AND sounds! I know the picture is really suffering (after I make something I get really antsy to try it and, in all the excitement, I nearly forget to take a picture- thus the lack of quality photography skills on my blog- which I am working on!), but just take my word for it:  this is one recipe you've got to try!  The recipe is originally from but i found it on Gina's Weight Watcher Skinny Recipes blog- a fabulous blog, by the way.

Creamy Grape Dessert
from Skinnytaste
Serves 8

  • 1 lb green seedless grapes, washed and dried well
  • 1 lb red seedless grapes, washed and dried well
  • 8 oz fat free Chiobani Greek yogurt
  • 4 oz light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
Cut grapes in half and set aside.

Mix yogurt, cream cheese, agave and vanilla until blended well. Stir grapes into mixture, and pour in large serving dish.

Combine brown sugar and crushed walnuts. Sprinkle over top of grapes to cover completely. Chill until ready to serve.

Nutrition per serving: 171.2 calories, 7.9g fat, 5.3g protein, 33.8g carbohydrate, 1.6g fiber

Monday, September 13, 2010

Carbs 101

There seems to be a lot of carb confusion nowadays in the media and in the everyday American household.  Carbs seem to get a bad rap because of "low-carb" dieting hype.  But are carbs really bad for you?  Will eating a piece of bread cause you to blow up like a balloon?

The answer is no; unfortunately there is frequent misunderstanding about the effect carbohydrates have on our bodies- complex, high-carbohydrate foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes & whole-grains) are necessary for health because not only do they provide ENERGY but they provide essential nutrients that our bodies need. Carbs should constitute more than half of the calories we eat every day!

Some carb facts:

  • Carbs are the MAIN source of energy for our bodies; and adults need about 130g carbs per day to provide enough energy to function
  • People have a misconception about carbs; when they think carbs, they think: "breads, pasta, baked goods, sugar, potatoes,  and other foods that are high in fat and sugar"  YES these are carbs, but not the ones we should be bulking up on.  Ironically, North Americans get half of their energy from processed carbohydrates (good) but from white bread, soft drinks, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, sugars, syrups, jams, and potatoes (bad).

  • Low-carb diets like Atkins or South Beach DO make you lose weight fast- but its WATER WEIGHT and will come back once you stop dieting.
  • Fiber is an element of complex carbohydrates that is essential for a healthy digestive system, decreasing cholesterol, and helping us to feel fuller longer
  • Alternative sweeteners ( Splenda, Stevia, etc.) have been proved safe for consumption and the daily limit is higher than one person could ever consume in one day
So what should we do?
  1. Have balanced eating habits that include nutritious carbohydrates including fruits, veggies, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  2. Choose fiber-rich foods (see picture below!)

  1. Eat less highly-refined/processed carbs
  2. Sugar-free is better than added, caloric sugars (natural sugars are the best though)
  3. Don't deprive yourself; if you want a brownie- have one. Food is to be ENJOYED! But, control your portions and fuel your body each and everyday with the nutrients it needs so that a little splurge doesn't turn into a lifestyle habit!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Deep-Dish Taco Squares

Please forgive these photos for their lack of beauty.  Because this was sure delicious.

This was made quite a while ago, and by quite a while I mean only a month or two ago, but I never forgot about this meal and its lasting impression upon my taste-buds and memory.

This is another classic Betty Crocker recipe and I quite approve of its quality.  The crust/bottom is made from Bisquick- fancy that!- and topped with beef, onion, tomatoes, chilies, cheese and sour cream, then baked to as-healthy-as-you-can-get Mexican perfection.



Deep-Dish Taco Squares

1/2lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1/4cup chopped onion (1 small)
2tablespoons Old El Paso® taco seasoning mix (from 1-oz package)
1cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/4cup cold water
1/2cup sour cream
1/3cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (2 oz)
1medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1can (4.5 oz) Old El Paso® chopped green chiles

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 8-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix until blended.
  2. In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix and water until soft dough forms. Using fingers dipped in Bisquick mix, pat dough in bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of baking dish.
  3. In same bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese until blended. Layer beef mixture, tomato and chiles over dough; spoon sour cream mixture over top.
  4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until edges of dough are light golden brown.

Nutrition:  330 calories, 23g fat, 50mg cholesterol, 820mg sodium, 11g protein
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