Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Smart Substitutes: Seltzer Cupcakes

By now, most people have found the Weight Watcher's recipe for cupcakes using a can of soda and a box of cake mix. You also know I have a hideous sweet tooth, but hate fake sweeteners-they're just tooooo sweet usually. Today was born of desperation.

You see, for the most part, I've replaced my soda drinking with flavored seltzers. Every now and then I indulge, especially on cheat days, but generally I try to avoid the sweeter pops. For the seltzers, though, I'm particularly fond of the Polar brand; it seems to be super bubbly and says it uses nothing but seltzer and natural flavors.  Added bonus-it's cheap.  I got the new flavor, Pomegranate Sangria, thinking I love both so together they must be awesome.

It reminds me of children's chapstick.  Yuck.

But, I'm also trying to reduce waste. So I'm trapped.  How do I get rid of this vile concoction?

Cupcakes.  I had a box of chocolate cake mix I was saving to use up some stale Southern Tier Chokolat Oranj stout, but it was time to make cupcakes.  I've made them loads of times using the box cake + soda mix, but I had a feeling I was going to make them better than ever.

1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 1/2 cups, or 12 oz. Polar Flavored Seltzer
  1. Mix together until batter rather than foam.  Trust me.  Whip it good, but use your hand.  
  2. Measure out 1 heaping tablespoon into lined cupcake tins.  Should make 21 cupcakes at a whopping 76 calories each. 
  3.  Let those babies cool, and store some in the fridge and some in the freezer, or just eat them all, whatever.
These make a moist, rich, and wonderful cupcake with a touch of flavor.  The seltzer flavor is still there, but palatable encased in chocolate.  Next time I'm totally doing orange or orange vanilla. Mmmmm.

Seen served here with Jello Instant Chocolate, Sugar Free Fat Free with Skim Milk.  However, I split it into 6 servings rather than the 4 the box suggests. It makes a much healthier frosting.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Honey Papaya Fruit Bars

I started doing this blog to keep a log of all of the recipes I created as I was dieting.  Since October, I've lost 45 pounds, and I still have a ways to go.  One of the hardest things about dieting in these summery months is the cold and refreshing snacks all being pretty much hi-caloric junk. So, I had to do something about that.

These bars aren't as sweet as conventional fruit bars, but they work for me. Creamy and fruity. Feel free to add more honey or sugar as you prefer. Just remember to add it before the coconut water, as both are wet ingredients.

2 cups fresh papaya, packed
2 Tbsp. really raw honey, heated a bit to make runny
1/4 a cup, give or take, coconut water (simply balanced brand is my current fave)
  1. Throw papaya in blender.  
  2. Add a splash of the coconut water, and honey.  
  3. Blend until smooth, adding coconut water as needed.  Not until runny-about the consistency of thick baby food.
  4. Pour into molds and freeze. 
I serve mine with a dash of salt-it brings out the flavor.

Approx 50 calories per bar. Makes 6.

Savory Spinach and Sausage Salad

You must get creative when eating so many veggies every day.  This is one of my more successful experiments.  Salty, spicy, and green.

While I'm waiting for my own, squirrel-delayed garden to grow, and my local farm share to start (2 weeks!). I like to hit the local farmers market at Otsinengo Park and grab my greens there.  Because they're fresh, and close to the source, they seem to last longer.  When I can't hit the farmers market, I always turn to Wegmans.  If you don't have a Wegmans, I'm sorry.  I've lived in a few states now, and by far they've been the best grocer's chain.  The closest thing I've found was a Dierbergs in South St. Louis (I believe Webster Groves, or near it), and it had nothing on Wegmans. For you non-Wegmans people, a Whole Foods or something similar should do.  many of these kinds of chains bring in local produce. And yes, one of the reasons Wegmans is so awesome is because they not only bring in local produce, but goodies from afar as well. Papaya, mangosteen, lychee and rambutan have all show up in our store right next to the local heirloom tomatoes. Mmmm.

Back to the salad.  Super filling, but kimchi is high in sodium.  If you have heart issues, or high blood pressure, please lay off the kimchi. 1 Tbsp. is just as tasty as 2, I promise.  A little goes a long way with this brand!

2 cups fresh, local spinach
1 hot Italian chicken sausage (Lupo's shown here)
3 pansy heads, homegrown
1-2 Tbsp. WildBrine Japanese Style Miso Horseradish Kimchi
1 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp chili flakes

The salty miso, the floral and heated horseradish, mixed with the fresh green taste of spinach and rich spicy chicken sausage is wonderful.  I was licking my lips. The citrus undertones of the kimchi works well with the minty tones of the pansy, although originally the pansy was just added for color.

Approx. 130 calories

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Drunken Blueberry Lilac Salad

I love lilacs.  They're one of my favorite flowers.  We never had them as kids because my mother is super allergic to them, but my new place has a tiny bush outside, and I steal the blooms for scent and prettiness as much as for food.

Yup, lilacs are edible.Lilac is a member of the olive family.  But they aren't very olivy in the way we normally eat them.  Instead, they have a sweet and bitter lemony taste.  They're also awesome in lemon water and vodka drinks.

So, when I smelled the heady scent of first blooms on the air this morning, in the warm sunshine of an early summer in the Bing, I knew I had to make a salad.  But first I needed to hit the farmer's market to see what was out that might work. Lo and behold, Shared Roots Farm was selling a baby mix and I snagged small bags of each of their greens and made my way home.

2 cups baby salad greens, fresh from the farmers market
1/4 cup blueberries
2 sprigs, not heads, of lilac blooms from my yard. Just the flower
2 pansy heads from my garden

1 Tbsp. Fiordifrutta organic apricot spread
1 Tbsp. generic apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. Evan Williams American Honey Bourbon

Approx. 100 calories

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Salted Date Caramel

While I was in Toronto on a business trip, I ate at this amazing concoction of cashew butter, salted date caramel, bananas, black sesame and toast that gave me a sugar high like you wouldn't believe and left me full all day. Inspired by the iQ Food Co, where I got this lovely bit of decadence, I've scoured the internet for a date caramel recipe, and in the end none seemed close enough to what I saw.

But, there was a definite foundation to the recipe.  So, here's my version.  Not exactly the same, but close enough for me.

1 cup water
1 cup packed, medjool dates, pitted (about 12-14 dates)
1/4 tsp himalayan salt, coarse or to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I use Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste)
  1. First, I always buy my dates with pits in and pit them myself.  They come out really easy.  Just rip them in half the longways and pop it out.
  2. Bring water to simmer and turn off.  
  3. Soak pitted dates in water until soft. About 2-4 minutes.  I use my fingers to test.
  4. Remove dates from water, but keep water.
  5. Blend dates, vanilla, and half the soaking water, adding a little more water at a time until consistency is a sticky, thick paste. When it's just about done, add the salt and give it one last whir.
  6. Store in the refrigerator.
Great with apples, or with cashew butter and bananas on wasa. Toss it in your ice cream,  or even use it as a sugar sub.

About 50 calories a Tbsp.