Banana-Blueberry Oat Squares

I get the urge quite often to bake something I have never tried before.... pretty much everyday really.  Today was no different, so as I looked through my fridge, on the counter, and in the cupboards-- and the extra ripe bananas and the freezer full of fresh-frozen blueberries were calling out to me to be used for something tasty.
After browsing the internet for a few ideas.... this is what I came up with.  

Banana-Blueberry Oat Squares
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 ripe bananas)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter- make sure it is at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups quick oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans (or any kind of nut you have on hand)
1/2 cup blueberries- fresh or frozen

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in egg and almond extract. Beat well. Add salt and mashed banana and mix until incorporated . Stir in oats and nuts. Spread in greased 9×9 inch pan. Bake for almost an hour or until firm. Cool and cut into squares.

These ended up being pretty tasty. Great as a breakfast bar or a snack after work.


Is Frozen Yogurt really that Healthy?

I was reading in August's, Cooking Light Magazine and they had a little blurb about Frozen Yogurt. I don't know about you, but I catch myself telling myself that I can eat more frozen yogurt than ice cream because it is 'yogurt'- therefore it must be much healthier than ice cream.
 This is what cooking light had to say,  
"Frozen Yogurt is not regulated by the FDA, meaning the scoop in your cone could be made entirely from yogurt--- or could be ice cream with a little yogurt stirred in."

--- The National Yogurt Association does sponsor a voluntary labeling program for frozen yogurt; To see if your frozen yogurt actually contains 'yogurt', look for the "Live and Active Cultures" seal on containers of frozen yogurt.
Really every single frozen yogurt could be different in nutritional value. Be sure to check the labels for calories, fat etc.  Don't just assume that is healthier because it is frozen yogurt and not ice cream.


Eat Cake.

I was at the library today and saw this book. Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. I really had no idea what it was about but I guess the part of me being hungry and the other part that I was in the mood for an easy read---this made for the perfect find. I read all of 2 pages when I came across this quote. Awesome.  

"Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline; that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy. A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life."

I especially love those last few sentences. So true. I think about most of the cakes I have eaten and I have such fond memories correlated with them. After reading the passage, I sat back and thought about some of my favorite cakes.... and the memories flooded in.
My Wedding Cake.

I am not encouraging you to go out right now and Eat some Cake, but I love the idea presented above. I don't ever want to be the type of person that turns away all the Good stuff in life.  Enjoy all things in Moderation.... and don't be so worried about 'eating perfect' that you miss out on the good things in life.


How to make your own Greek Style Yogurt

Greek Yogurt is all the graze right now--- I see it as the 'cool' friend. If you eat it, suddenly you are cool too. 

What is greek yogurt?: Basically STRAINED REGULAR YOGURT-- yep that's it.
---It is just yogurt that has been strained in a cloth or filter, to remove the watery whey, giving a consistency between that of yogurt and cheese! So simply, it is thicker and creamier than it's regular yogurt counterpart. 

You see it in all kinds of recipes being used as a substitute for cream cheeses or sour creams.....  in sauces, with fruit... everyone seems to like the thicker texture. But for those of you who buy Greek Yogurt, you know it can be pretty darn expensive compared to your regular non-fat yogurt. 
Did you know you can make your own greek style yogurt?? It is so Easy.

Here's the low-down on how to  
make your own Greek Style Yogurt

  1. Put a strainer lined with a piece coffee filter or paper towel into a medium size bowl (or you can just use a cheese cloth).
  2. Dump the non-fat/low-fat yogurt into the center of the cloth. (you can even try flavored yogurt. Yummy).
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Place in fridge.
  5. Let the Whey drain out of the yogurt. (The length depends on the consistency that you want it- 12 hours is about right for typical greek yogurt consistency. Check your yogurt every few hours to use when it is the consistency you like it at).  
  6. You can even use the strained out liquid whey and add it to smoothies etc. for an extra whey boost. Or just toss it.
 (picture from here)

Nutrition Comparisons: 
Trader Joe's Fat-free Plain Yogurt:
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 110
Sodium:100 mg
Protein:11 grams
Calcium: 40%

Trader Joe's Fat-free Greek Yogurt-
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 120 
Sodium: 70 mg
Protein: 22 grams
Calcium: 20% 

Have any of you tried making this before? ! 


Summer Snack = Frozen Grapes

After buying a huge bunch of big, crisp, grapes last night (.89 cents a pound.... you can't beat that), I was reminded of one of my favorite summer time quick snacks and thought why I have not shared this with you all yet??!? 
Frozen Grapes.  
They are perfect on a hot summer day (we have had plenty of those this past week here in Iowa- hot, humid, muggy). When I come in from work, I head to the freezer, grab a handful, and am satisfied for the hour or so before dinner is ready.  I love that they have the harder outer shell but as soon as you bite into them they are soft and delish! I am a candy lover, so because of the sweetness, these are about the closest thing that comes to candy-- in a healthy form.  Plus they are bite-size, easy, and super convenient. Introduced them to the hubby this summer and he was an instant fan. Plus when there are just two of you, it isn't always easy to eat the whole bag of grapes before they get mushy..... this solves our problem and we have plump grapes for weeks.

For those of you who have never tried frozen grapes before, here's the low-down on how it's done.  
Easy peezy. 
1. Wash Grapes thoroughly
2. Pick off from the stems
3. Set individual grapes on paper towel and dry off
4. Put in zip-lock baggy and store in freezer
5. Let freeze for 5+ hours and enjoy

Use within 1-2 weeks for tastiest grapes.  They will stay good pretty much forever but they may tend to lose their sweetness if you leave them in the freezer for too long.
I like to add them in my cold cereal in the morning. The hubby things I am weird but I love the contrast of the crunch of the grapes with the softer cereal. Plus they help keep your milk super cold. Try it and let me know if you are a fan.
-Other uses: add to yogurt, top your ice cream, put in smoothies.

Nutrition Info on Grapes (for 1 cup or 92 grams)
-60 calories
-0 grams of fat
-Are high in antioxidants (vitamin C, resveratrol)- help protect against heart disease and may decrease some cancer risks. 
-Contain manganese, Vitamin B6, Thiamine, and Potassium
Plus frozen grapes take longer to eat so you will most likely eat less.

Click here for other tips on freezing fresh fruits and veggies.


Try This- Not That. Healthy Substitutions

Being the one doing the mixing, mashing, folding, and baking means that I am in control of what goes into my dishes.
I like control and I like cutting out calories and fat......
         so when it comes to baking substitutions here are some ideas on how you can cut some calories and the fat.
Sugar in fruit pies/cobblers-
Use this: Half the amount of sugar
Not this: All the sugar
Benefits: For everyone 1 cup of sugar you don't use you will save 744 calories. Plus when using fruits often the natural sugar and sweetness from the fruits is all you need

Flour in Cookies & Crusts(pizza)-
Use this: Half whole-wheat pastry flour and half all-purpose flour
Not this: Just all-purpose flour
Benefits: Whole wheat flour has upwards of 12 grams of fiber per cup compared to white which only has ~4 grams.

Cream or Whole Milk in Soups, muffins, puddings-
Use this: Skim or lowfat (1% or 2%) milk
Not this: Heavy cream or whole milk
Benefits: By replacing heavy cream you can slash up to 700 calories per cup. 

Cream Cheese in Cheesecakes-
Use this: Lowfat ricotta/reduced fat cream cheese
Not this: Regular Cream cheese
Benefits: Skim/low-fat Ricotta has more protein plus you will cut out around 60 grams of fat and 450 calories per cup.

Oil in brownies, fruit breads, muffins-
Use this: part applesauce or pureed pumpkin
Not this: Oil
Benefits: For each 1/2 cup you cut out, you'll save more than 900 calories and 100 grams of fat

Chocolate in Chocolate Desserts (like brownies, chocolate cake)- 
Use this: 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder 
Not this: 1 ounce of baking chocolate
Benefits: Substituting with powder can shave off 13 grams of fat and 85 calories 

Anytime it asks for Eggs
Use this: 1 egg + 2 egg whites or egg substitute 
Not this: 2 eggs
Benefits: Substituting with egg whites will cut out ~4 grams of fat and 25 calories