Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins- Thank You Sally!

Ok: Apparently I have been living under a rock for the past year or so, but I recently discovered two websites that I am pretty much now obsessed with.  Those would be Pinterest and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Just to clear things up, it’s not that I hadn’t heard of Pinterest, I just didn’t explore it or understand what it’s purpose was exactly.  Maybe I really am getting old, but between blogs, facebook, twitter, and instagram, I didn’t really want to sit and learn how to use another form of social media.

I guess my secret is out, I am obviously 80 years old.

Anyways, I am now not only on Pinterest but constantly on Pinterest.  The website has already inspired two of my meals for later this week, so stay tuned.

Now let’s talk about Sally.  Have you guys visited her blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction?  Holy cow.  Sprinkles, cookies, cupcakes, muffins galore.  Honestly, I don’t even like to bake.  I have always preferred cooking over baking because I feel I am better able to create something unique that I cannot simply purchase by cooking instead of baking. Also, I have always felt it is rather easy to tweak meals and make them healthier but that is much harder to do with baking.  Well, Sally and her blog have pretty much inspired me to bake (or in better terms, follow her recipes step by step).

Ironically, I stumbled upon Sally’s blog during the peak of my “trying to eat super healthy for vacation” phase.  However, while perusing her blog, I noticed one of her most recent posts for ‘skinny double chocolate chip muffins’.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Now, normally I am just as skeptical of ‘skinny’ desserts as the next woman, but for some reason I trusted Sally.  Her plethora of drool-worthy photography and shared love of sprinkles made me think she knew what she was doing.  So, I ventured into the baking world with these delicious, gooey, healthy muffins.

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Sally’s Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction                         Yield: 12 delicious muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites (or 1 large egg)
  • 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or vanilla)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus a few more for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Do not use liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, honey, egg whites, greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Whisk them all together until smooth, with no yogurt lumps remaining.
  3. Sift* the flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Slowly stir in the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Get any dry pockets of flour out. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. The batter will be a little chunky. This is ok.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amount 12 liners – fill them all the way to the top if you can. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. Keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature down to 375 and continue to bake for 13 more minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, bake for only 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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The Verdict?

I absolutely loved these muffins.  I thought they were chocolatey, gooey, moist, and flavorful.  In my opinion, they don’t taste like anything has been sacrificed in making them lighter.  In fact, I have been craving a muffin for about two months now, and I can honestly say that these satisfied that craving.

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But….

I must mention that my boyfriend, for whatever credit this may hold, was not a fan of these muffins.  He doesn’t know why.  He can’t explain it.  He simply felt that there was a taste of sorts he didn’t like.  Luckily, these freeze well.  More for me.

I strongly recommend making these muffins.  They are delicious, health(ier), and super easy to make.  Some fun twists could be using peanut butter chocolate chips instead, or mixing some strawberries in the batter.

Do you guys prefer baking “healthier” recipes or do you subscribe to the notion that baking is meant to be pure fattening deliciousness?  

What are your favorite things to bake?

Do you prefer cooking, baking, or are you awesome at both?

Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

The other night was just one of those days: rainy, cold, and dismal outside.  The weather was perfect for wearing pajamas at 5pm, cuddling with pets &/ significant others, and of course: making soup!

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I noticed on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog a recipe was posted for a healthier creamy tomato orzo soup, and I was immediately intrigued.  Especially because we had 1/2 loaf tomato basil focaccia bread left over that was way past its prime and destined to be made into croutons.

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I made this soup, with only two changes, and I was very impressed.  The creaminess comes from greek yogurt so it is actually a very healthy soup.  I highly encourage anyone who loves creamy tomato soup but hates the idea of slurping up 50% saturated fat in one bowel to try this recipe!

Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

From: Two Peas and Their Pod Blog

Yield: 4 bowls

You Will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-15 ounce cans diced tomatoes *
  • 1-15 ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil *
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we use Chobani)
  • 1 cup cooked Orzo pasta *
  • 1/2 loaf of stale focaccia bread for croutons (my addition, HIGHLY recommended)

* I used no salt added diced tomatoes and added my salt per our taste.  I did need to add a lot of salt to achieve a good flavor, but I still feel I added less than what would be in the regular sodium cans.

* I believe you could up the fresh basil a tad, maybe add in an extra  1 TBS.

* I substituted ALPHABET pasta instead of of orzo.  No, I don’t have a five year old.  I am just a kid at heart and the sight of this in the grocery store pretty much made my day.

Lastly, my own addition that pretty much MADE this soup amazing was the hommemade focaccia croutons.  See below for how to make these.

Now for the recipe:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves.

2. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir in the brown sugar and fresh basil. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, to taste. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup (or blend the soup in a standing blender and return to the pot). Stir in the Greek yogurt until well combined. Stir in the orzo pasta (or alphabets). Serve warm.

And for the highly encouraged, totally worth it, absolutely delicious add in….

Tomato Basil Focaccia Croutons

Like I mentioned, I had an extra 1/2 loaf of focaccia bread left over from making my roasted eggplant and tomato sandwiches, and it was getting very stale.  I made croutons out of the bread by simply cutting it up into thick cubes, combining with 1 TBS + 1 tsp olive oil, and sprinkling with a little salt (about 1/2 tsp).

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I then baked these beauties for about 10 minutes until they were nice and crispy.  I stored them in an air-tight container until dinner time when they met their fate by drowning in a bowel of creamy tomato soup.

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The next time you are craving a creamy, healthy, comforting soup, I definitely recommend you give this recipe a try.  I highly encourage the use of alphabets instead of orzo, because let’s face it: childhood favorite > random pasta that looks like rice ;)

And if you have a little extra time, whip up some homemade croutons for dunking.  You can never go wrong by adding more carbs!

What are your favorite healthy soup recipes?

Baked Eggplant Parmesan- A Very Tasty Use of Leftovers

I made a dish the other night (to be posted for meatless monday) that left me with leftover eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  If that doesn’t scream eggplant parmesan, nothing does!  I knew I wanted to try a baked variety to keep this dish on the healthier side.  (Yes, I realize fresh mozzarella is not necessarily “light”, but that’s all the more reason to not fry the eggplant!)

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I consulted a couple of different recipes and came up with this adapted recipe.  It turned out DELICIOUS, so I wanted to pass the inspiration on to you guys.

Note: the trickiest part in posting this recipe comes with the baking times.  I found mine to require way less baking than suggested, probably because I only made this using the 1/2 eggplant I had leftover (only needed enough to feed two).  I am going to post this as I did it for two people, but if making it for more people just be aware that your baking times will be longer.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan for Two

(Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe and this Whole Foods recipe)

You will need:

  • 1/2 a large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 TBS italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 TBS parmesan cheese, plus 1tsp divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • about 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thick and chopped into chunks (or you can use shredded mozarella, regular or 2%)
  • Salt and pepper (look at how much salt is in your breadcrumbs.. you may not need to add any)
  • Jarred marinara sauce (or homemade), about 1.5-2 cups, divided

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs,  6TBS parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil.  Transfer mixture to a flat surface such as a plate or cutting board.
  2. In a small bowel, combine the egg and 1 tsp water and lightly beat together.
  3. Line a large baking sheet (may require 2) with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  4. One by one, dunk each slice of eggplant into the egg, shake off excess, and then press firmly onto the breadcrumb mixture.  Turn the slice over and press firmly on the other side as well.  Transfer eggplant to lined baking dish.  Repeat for all eggplant slices.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant in the oven on 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them over.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes & remove from oven.  Keep a close eye on them at this point so they don’t burn.  Mine cooked for a total time of 30 minutes and they were perfectly brown.
  6. Line a 9X13 baking dish lightly with some marinara sauce, about 1/4 a cup or so.
  7. Transfer the breaded eggplant to the baking dish and layer with marinara sauce then fresh mozzarella cheese.  Keep repeating the eggplant-sauce-cheese layering process until all of your eggplant and cheese are used up.  Dust the top with a light coating of parmesan cheese, about 1 tsp (optional).

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8.  Bake at 410 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Baking times vary- mine only required 10 minutes.

This recipe was so tasty, I highly encourage you guys to give it a try.  It can be a very healthy and filling meal if you use low fat mozzarella and pair with a nice big salad.  It is delicious enough for a date night in but easy enough for a weeknight meal as well.  This happens to be another one of those versatile recipes that will please kids, adults, vegetarians, and pretty much anyone that likes sauce and mozzarella cheese (i.e. EVERYONE!).

If you are cooking for two such as myself, on Monday I will be posting another great recipe to utilize the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella cheese, so stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Boyfriend-Approved Meatless Monday Recipe: Emeril’s Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

The Challenge: introducing Meatless Monday to a meat-loving boyfriend.

I have recently been loving the idea of Meatless Monday, as it forces me to be creative in the kitchen.  My boyfriend, however, is a hard core meat lover.  I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the TV show Parks and Rec, but my boyfriend shares the same food attitude as Ron Swanson.  Anyway, the point being that Meatless Monday is something I kind of slowly snuck into his diet without him knowing.  I simply prepare a delicious meal on Mondays, don’t use the word meatless around him, and we are good to go.  The challenge here is that the meal has to be really tasty, otherwise my cover will be revealed!

Homemade sauces are an easy and healthy way to be meatless, which is boyfriend approved because the meal is so filling once combined with pasta.

I loved the caramelized onion and cherry tomato sauce I made last week, but I wanted to try something a little different.  I got this recipe from the Food Network website, and we really loved it.  So, I wanted to share the recipe and my thoughts/tidbits with you.

I apologize for the poor photo quality.  This sauce was not oily or glistening as the picture makes it seem.  I think it may be time to start saving money for a good camera…

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

Spicy Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

You Will Need:

1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices
3 whole heads roasted garlic [see “How To” note below], cloves removed from peels

How To Roast Garlic

Roasting garlic is a very easy, albeit time consuming, cooking skill.  I had actually never done this before, but I was only one google search away from mastering the skill.

Rather than confuse you with a lengthy step-by-step, I highly recommend that you watch this video.

Emeril’s (Spicy) Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce Recipe:

[Yield: enough sauce to top about 3-4 pasta meals]

time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 30-40 minutes for roasting garlic

  1. In a large saucepan saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomato paste, salt, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and basil, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you place them in the pan, and their juices. [Note: do not add the actual tomato juice that the tomatoes are canned in!]
  5. Stir to combine well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the roasted garlic cloves and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the flavors have come together.
  7. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

My Thoughts & Tidbits

  • This sauce has kick to it!!  We were pretty surprised by how spicy it was, and we like spicy things.  I feel that the hotness of the red pepper flakes and the hot sauce overpowered the roasted garlic taste.  Next time I plan on reducing (or maybe even omitting) the red pepper flakes and adding 1-2 extra cloves of garlic.
  • The spiciness of the sauce did die down when it was re-heated for leftovers the next day.  The sauce was delicious this way, as all of the flavors came together perfectly.
  • This sauce pairs very nicely with whole wheat pasta.  I feel like some sauces are not powerful enough to mask the sometimes cardboard-y taste of WW pasta, but this one does the trick.  So go ahead, make it healthy and use the good-for-you stuff.
  • Note that the roasted garlic portion is 3 heads, not 3 cloves.  Yes, this is a lot of garlic!  Yes, you do need it all!
  • As previously noted, crush the tomatoes and their juices for the sauce, but do not add the actual juices that the tomatoes are canned in.
  • This sauce would taste amazing with some spicy chicken sausage in it.  Next time I make this without a vegetarian meal in mind, that is definitely what I will add!
  • This recipe is a bit time consuming between roasting the garlic and the steps in which the sauce simmers.  However, you are not actively engaged for much of this recipe.

This sauce was fantastic!  It is healthy, flavorful, versatile, and inexpensive.  This is a great base recipe for vegetarians, meat lovers, boyfriends, and even kids.  Next time you need an easy yet hearty meal, try this fresh, homemade tomato sauce!

Fresh and Easy: Tomato, Garlic, & Caramelized Onions Over Pasta

Monday night, despite an impending and untouched presentation I have due soon, I was in the mood to cook.  I wanted a meal that was 1) meatless (still loving meatless monday), 2) not complicated, and 3) healthy.

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Fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onions, and garlic sauce over pasta

Enter this recipe idea from Cristin’s RDealistic Diet Blog: a fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onion, and garlic sauce over pasta. I actually walked into the grocery store planning on making a different sauce recipe, but saw these gorgeous looking cherry tomatoes and knew I had to make use of them.

I followed her steps for the basic sauce and then spiced it up a little at the end.

What You Will Need

MIA: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Missing in Action: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

  • Two containers of delicious, sweet cherry tomatoes
  • One large vidalia onion, cut into rings or slices
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Chopped, fresh herbs (optional), I used thyme and rosemary
  • Cooked pasta, cooked according to package directions

Step 1:  Caramelize the onion

Cut one large Vidalia onion into rings or slices.  Place onion pieces into a pan that has been coated with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (or butter) and heated over low-medium heat.  Stir onions around pan to coat evenly with oil or butter.  Reduce heat to low and let onions simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until they are in a caramelized state. You can add about 1 tsp. brown sugar during the cooking process to help with the caramelizing but this step is not required.

Beginning

Beginning

Finished

Finished

Note- this is the longest part of cooking this meal, but you do not have to stand over the stove the entire time the onions caramelize.  Check in on them every now and then, give them a nice stir, and go about your business.  You will know they are finished when they are extremely soft and browning.

Step 2: Simmer the tomatoes

In a large, deep saucepan (I used the one the onions were caramelizing in) heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  (Note- if using the same pan as the onions were in, it will already be very hot.  Heat your oil over low instead, otherwise it will spritz up as well as burn the tomatoes).  Add your two containers of washed cherry tomatoes, and turn so the oil coats them all evenly. Adjust the heat between low and medium.  They should be hot and cooking, but not sizzling too high.

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Step 3:  Adding in the Goodies

This sauce can cook for any from 15-25 minutes, depending on how chunky or cooked down  you want the tomatoes in the sauce.  Either way, after 10 minutes of cooking the tomatoes, add all your chopped, fresh garlic.  At this point,

  • If you want a chunkier, thicker sauce with more whole tomatoes: let the tomatoes and garlic cook on low/medium heat for 5 minutes, turning now and then.
  • If you want a thinner sauce with the tomatoes shed from their skins: cook the garlic/tomatoes for up to 25 minutes, or until it is at your desired consistency.  Stir the mixture every five minutes or so.

During the last 5 minutes of your determined cooking time, add your caramelized onions.  Then, some optional (highly recommended) add- ins include:

  • About 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped thyme or basil
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • Chicken sausage

I went with balsamic vinegar, thyme and rosemary, and it was the perfect, fresh combination.

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Step 5: Scoop over pasta and enjoy

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I served this alongside some Alexia baked mushrooms and roasted brussel sprouts (both not pictured).  This dinner was a huge success!  The progress on my project due soon?  Not so much..

I am loving the idea of homemade sauces and would love to know your favorite recipes!