Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Forget the Cherry on Top!!

My love for sweets has been making my attempt to live a healthier lifestyle a challenge.  So when I discovered this recipe last weekend, I was thrilled.  Not only is it not horribly bad for you - but it is probably one of the easiest recipes that I have ever made.

Diet Cherry 7up Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1 can Diet Cherry 7up
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Be careful when you pour in the soda, mine fizzed up quite a bit.  Once thoroughly combined, pour into cupcake liners, filling to about 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Before serving, top with whipped cream and a cherry!  I just bought a set of silicone mini-cupcake liners, which was inspiration for finding this recipe in the first place.  The recipe filled 24 of the mini cupcakes and 9 regular sized cupcakes.  It should make 16-24 regular sized cupcakes.

Make sure to wait until right before serving to top the cupcakes.  I made some up ahead of time and even though I refrigerated them, the whipped cream melted.  They still tasted heavenly, but weren't very presentable.

The large cupcakes are only 2 points+.  2 of the smaller cupcakes are probably 1 points+.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Easy snack food!

Last night we had the opportunity to go spend the evening with some friends, as well as my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.  I haven't laughed that hard in a really long time - my cheekbones actually hurt on the way home.  It was nice to be able to spend time with friends even though work has been picking up.

I also got a chance to be in my kitchen a little bit yesterday afternoon!  When I was younger, I remember having frozen grapes for a snack during the summer.  The other day, while surfing Pinterest, I saw this idea to use skewers to freeze the grapes.  Grapes were on sale yesterday so I decided to try it.  You can get about 1/2 a cup of grapes onto a skewer and I think I was about to make 8 or 9 of them out of one bag.

I used red seedless grapes because I prefer the sweeter flavor.  Green grapes would probably be really good too, though.

If you have kids - this is a great way to have quick snacks that are ready to serve.  "Don't play with your food" doesn't apply here!!

They are also a great alternative to sugary popsicles or ice cream.  Just grab a skewer and you have a single serving of grapes all ready to go!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine's Day

Tristan and I decided to stay home for Valentine's Day this year.  Well, I decided.  I wanted to make a nice dinner and just relax at home.  It has been a long time since I have made a big dinner so it was a lot of fun.  We had Cilantro Lime Shrimp, roasted potato salad, salad and rolls.  However - it was kind of tricky getting everything to stay warm and be done at about the same time.  Because there was so much going on, I didn't really have time to make notes about the recipes or take any pictures.  I did get some good ones of dessert, though!!  (More of that to come...)

One thing I realized while prepping to make dinner, is that I will never again buy raw shrimp that has not be deveined!  I had never bought it before so I didn't really know what I was getting myself into.  It turned out to be such a pain, though!  Like I said - NEVER AGAIN!

For dessert, we put the fondue pot we got for our wedding to use.  We hadn't had an opportunity to use it yet - so I was pretty excited.

Chocolate Fondue
24 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups fat-free half & half
2 teaspoons vanilla

Melt ingredients together in fondue pot, set to about 300 degrees.  Stir to keep the chocolate from sticking to the bottom.

We had marshmallows, sliced fruit and french vanilla cake cubes (dyed pink for V-Day, of course!).  I think the strawberries and bananas were my favorite - but it was all REALLY good.  The chocolate turned out pretty sweet, so I think the fruit helped cut the richness a bit.

I didn't realize how much fondue this would make.  There was a lot of chocolate left over.  We actually froze the leftovers and, oddly, the mixture didn't freeze solid like I expected.  It got much thicker and really cold - but not hard.  It worked out well though - it's the perfect dip for apples!!

My final Valentine's Day project for this year is to make a card for my husband.  I am pretty impressed at all the use I got out of the 8 or 10 pieces of scrapbook paper I bought!  I know I've mentioned it before, but if you haven't checked out Echo Park's paper collections - you MUST....I love them!
This sheet that I got had a bunch of little individual "tags" that you could cut apart - really cool.

Another one of my favorite products - Distress Ink:
 It gives your stamping a really neat, older look.  I used this to stamp the front of the card

Here are a few other pictures of the final product.  I wanted to give it a kind of "worn" look - some new techniques I am experimenting with.  I focused on torn edges for this project.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tortellini Soup

This week has literally flown by.  I cannot believe tomorrow is Friday already.  This is the great thing about busy season - somehow the more hours I spend at the office, the quicker the days pass.  It's going to be April 15th in no time!

Unfortunately, the longer hours mean less time to spend here.  But I am trying!  This also means that I am about a week behind on my latest cooking!  This tortellini soup turned out really tasty.  Unfortunately the leftovers didn't really remain soup.  I'm not sure if we just ate most of the "soupy" part in the first sitting, or if some of the liquid evaporated somewhat - but the leftovers were more like some kind of pasta casserole.  They were still really good though with a lot of flavor.

Tortellini Soup

1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel
3 cups pasta sauce
1 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups fat-free half & half
20 ounces fresh cheese-stuffed tortellini
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Start by mixing the seasonings into the ground turkey in a small bowl.  Then transfer to a warm pan and brown.  Once browned, drain and transfer to a medium sized pot (I think I used a 3 quart pot and it worked fine).

Add the pasta sauce, water and half & half and bring to a boil.  After the pot begins to boil, add the tortellini and boil for 10-12 minutes. 
Finish by stirring in basil, salt and pepper.

To mix it up a little, try using different types of tortellini.  Another idea is to add various vegetables.  The fun, cheese-stuffed pasta may even get your kids to not notice the veggies!!

This did turn out to be a little high on the points scale - but not horrible.  It came out to 10 points+, definitely doable.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nutella Meringues

This last Christmas, I decided I wanted to take advantage of the KitchenAid mixer we got for our wedding.  I made dozens and dozens of cookies to bring to both my parents' and Tristan's parents' houses - plus some to share at work.  Here are just a few:

When I was looking for new recipes to try, I found one for peppermint meringues.  I hadn't ever made meringues before so I decided to give it a try.  The result - pure bliss.  They just melt away in your mouth.  So when I found the recipe on Cream Puffs In Venice for Nutella Meringues, I knew I had to try them.  If you haven't made meringues before - do not be intimidated.  They look delicate, but they require few ingredients and are actually pretty easy to make.


1/4 cup Nutella
3 egg whites, at room temperature
dash of Cream of Tartar
dash of salt
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  You should have one oven rack on the bottom and one on the top.  Start by melting Nutella in microwave at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes).  Once melted, set aside to cool.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites on medium-high until foamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Next, increase the speed to high and start adding the sugar by the spoonful.  Once you have added all the sugar, the mixture should be fairly stiff and firm peaks should form and remain.
Drop in Nutella and fold in with a spatula.  You want the mixture to have a swirled look, so do not over mix.

Using a couple of spoons, spoon mixture onto baking sheets covered with parchment paper in large drops (I actually ran out of parchment paper and used foil on one of my baking sheets, which worked fine). 

Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.  Immediately, lower temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour.  After an hour, the meringues should be dry.  If not, continue to bake for up to 20 minutes.  Once the meringues are dry, turn the oven off and leave them in the oven as it cools for a couple of hours.  The batch made about 32 meringues.  They will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container.  Even better - they are only 1 points+!!

I am going to have to think of some other ingredients that I can turn into meringues, cause I just can't get enough!!  Let me know if you think of some other alternatives.  I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Cheddar Biscuits

This week I have been trying to take advantage of my evenings at home and cook as much as possible.  Each day at work I can feel the hours stretching longer and longer - before long I will probably be there burning the midnight oil.

A couple of dinners turned out pretty tasty, but not exactly presentable.  For example, the black bean burgers last week had a lot of flavor, but they need a little more work.  The patties didn't hold together very well.  Once I work out the kinks, I will put the recipe up.

One meal that did come out better than expected was a batch of chicken noodle soup with some cheddar biscuits.  The biscuit recipe was supposed to be a knock-off of the Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits.  I'm not sure that they tasted quite the same, but I still could have devoured the whole batch!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from Let's Dish

2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast (roughly 2 breasts) 
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup low-fat milk
20 ounce package of egg noodles

1. Cook egg noodles according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.  In the meantime, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high.  Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until tender (about 5 minutes).
2. In a large pot, combine chicken broth and vegetables and bring to a simmer.  Add chicken breasts and boil about 12 minutes or chicken is cooked through (I cut mine open part way through to make sure it got done in the middle).

3. Once chicken is done, remove from the pot and set it aside.  Add milk to the pot and return to a boil.  While waiting for the soup to boil, shred chicken using 2 forks.  Once you have shredded the chicken and the pot is boiling, return the chicken to the pot, along with your noodles.

4. Cook for about 15 minutes, then add the cream of chicken soup and continue cooking for a few more minutes.  Once served, top with a little bit of pepper to taste.
This recipe made a huge batch of soup!  I measured it out to be about 10 cups.  We put half of it in a freezer bag to freeze for later.  A one cup serving worked out to be 7 points+.  Not bad for a hot, filling meal!

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Courtesy of, with a few tweaks!

2 cups Bisquick baking mix
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine Bisquick, water and cheese in a medium sized mixing bowl.  

2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1 inch thick.  Cut out biscuits and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for this, but you can use whatever you can find to cut them out.

3. Melt the butter and spices together.  Brush the biscuits with the butter mixture and bake for 8-10 minutes.
My batch gave me about 11 biscuits.  But you should be able to get a dozen out of the recipe.

Considering this IS a buttery bread product, the Weight Watchers points value was not horrible - 3 points+ per biscuit.  However, it is hard to eat just one . . . so good luck!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries

What is the difference between men and women when they don't feel well?  When my husband is sick, he is in bed sleeping most of the day.  My dad has always been the same way.  To be honest, men are kind of like sick children - only they don't bounce back so quickly.  I on the other hand have gone to the gym, washed dishes, and done two loads of laundry, despite being hit by allergies earlier yesterday. 

To top it all off, I put together a yummy treat to bring to our friends' house tomorrow for the Superbowl.  Thank you, Nutmeg Nancy for this yummy recipe!!  I did tweak my strawberries a bit, though.

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries

2 pounds strawberries
8 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
4-5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
graham cracker crumbs

The original recipe called for only 1 pound of large strawberries, but I found 2 pound package at Safeway that was a mix of large and small strawberries.  The amount of filling was just enough for the entire 2 pounds.

After washing your strawberries, cut off the tops.  If you want them to stand up, also cut a tiny bit off the bottom.  Using a paring knife, hollow out the inside of the strawberries and set the prepped berries aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.  Using either a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner cut off, fill the strawberries with the mixture.  Top by sprinkling with graham cracker crumbs.  I actually had some frozen butter cookie crumbs and used those instead.

Although I made these for the Superbowl tomorrow, I HAD to try at least one - make sure they were edible!  Not to brag, but they were delicious!  I can't wait to indulge in a few more tomorrow.

They can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two.  These were so easy to make.  I was done and cleaned up in 20, maybe 30 minutes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pulling It Together

Does anybody else ever have one of those days where all of sudden you realize the only place you want to be is tucked into bed?  That was my day today.  When my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I noticed I had a bit of a soar throat.  By 10 a.m., I was hit head on by allergies.  We are talking full-fledged stuffy nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat.

To top it off, we have a new employee at work this week.  He is fresh out of school and has never worked with taxes.  So I had the pleasure of going over his first tax return with him - which meant talking for almost three hours straight, taking a further toll on my throat.  Quitting time could not come soon enough!!  Fortunately, I am now cuddled up on the couch and just enjoyed a bowl of sugar-free vanilla ice cream.

Having taken my Benedryl and making a cup of hot tea, now I can do what I really enjoy...RELAX!

I finally finished preparing all of the elements for my Valentine's Day mantel a couple of days ago.  So last night I took the time to set it all up.

I wanted to develop the mantle around the "Love" plaque I posted.  After picking up some some cheap candle holders and a vase from Goodwill, I added some acrylic paint (the vase and candle holders on the right are the same paint that I used for the plaque) to dress them up.
I needed to help bring out the little bit of of red that is in the plaque.  So I took the black arch-shaped candle holder and added some red paint.
Finally, to finish it off and pull it all together, I added a couple of scraps of paper left over from the plaque and the Valentine's Day wreath to a couple of candles and replaced the plain white candles with some Hershey's kisses (with red and pink wrappers, OF COURSE!) in a couple of the customized votive candle holders.

At least while I lounge on the couch, nursing my allergy symptoms, I will have something pretty to look at (when I'm not surfing Pinterest!).  Speaking of which, I have a yummy recipe to try from Pinterest. I am planning on bringing it to our friends' house for the Superbowl.

Stay tuned for more!!

Also, go check out "14 Days of Love" at Cherished Bliss for more Valentine's Day ideas.
Cherished Bliss

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