The rush of the holiday season is fully upon this household. Dozens of cookies and trays of candy and shopping and wrapping and parties. Seems I always need to take something somewhere. And, when you add that to the seasonal cooking I already do and the everyday household stuff, I’m always looking to make my party dishes as simple as possible. That’s where this mix comes in. It’s slightly sweet, slightly salty, a little spicy and definitely crunchy. It’s not as carb and sugar laden as so many of the other holiday offerings and so I feel less guilty about eating it, but it still satisfies my snack craving. I like using dark chocolate chips, but you could certainly use chocolate candies or even toss in some white chocolate chips if you want something that looks more festive. Also, the batch in the photos I used all almonds for my nuts. That just happened to be what I had on hand. I’ve used almonds and pecans and like them both equally (and like them together even more). You can use any nut you want.
Stir together the oil and spices. Toss the nuts in the spice mixture and spread in an even layer over a baking sheet. Bake at 300* for 10-15 minutes. Stir them every 5 minutes. Nuts can go from toasty to burned in the oven really quickly. Let your nose be your guide. Also, I don’t recommend using coconut oil here. It has a pretty low smoke point and you’ll fill your house with smoke.
While your nuts get nice and toasty, measure up a cup of craisins and a cup of good quality dark chocolate chips. Don’t skimp on the quality of the chocolate here. The flavors in this are so simple that you really need to go with the best quality you can afford. Also, you’ll feel satisfied more quickly and eat less if you use flavor packed ingredients.
Allow your nuts to cool completely before you toss the ingredients together. You don’t want to melt those beautiful chocolate chips.
1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups nuts
1 cup craisins
1 cup dark chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 300*.
Stir together oil, paprika, chile powder, cumin and salt. Add nuts and stir to coat. Spread nuts in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake at 300* for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Nuts should be golden brown, but not black.
Cool nuts completely. Stir in craisins and chocolate chips. Store in an air tight container.
What I’m about to say to you will come as no surprise to my friends and family. I LOVE pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin spice latte (ok, so that last one isn’t really pumpkin, but I like it all the same). I’m always excited when fall comes around because suddenly it is ok to over-indulge in my pumpkin love. No one thinks I’m crazy for putting pumpkin in almost anything. My big weakness is a certain pumpkin pie ice cream confection from a nationally recognized member of dairy royalty. And the fact that it only comes out once a year just kills me. Plus, the calorie and sugar counts kill my waistline. That is why I developed these pumpkin pops. They satisfy that pumpkin dessert craving without destroying the health benefits of pumpkin by adding a bunch of cream and sugar.
I didn’t take pictures of the process, but it isn’t that hard. I throw all the ingredients in a blender and whiz it up until it is completely smooth. Since all of the ingredients are smooth to start with, this doesn’t take long. Then, I pour it into my popsicle molds. If you don’t have a popsicle mold (you really should get one) you can always use paper cups and popsicle sticks or and ice cube tray and toothpicks or just freeze it in a bowl and eat it with a spoon (though you’ll have to let this last one stand at room temperature for a bit to soften some). These take a while to freeze, so I’d make them early in the day or even the night before. Run a little warm water over the outside of your mold to help the pops release and enjoy all the flavor with almost none of the guilt. (Oh, and those missing pops, those are the ones I gave to my boys. If they see these, they won’t leave me alone until they have one).
1 can pumpkin puree
1 5.3 ounce container vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons real maple syrup.
Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until mixed well and completely smooth. Pour into popsicle molds. Freeze at least 4 hours.
I don’t do health food. I do food that tastes good, uses quality ingredients, and pleases and nurtures my family. A year ago, that food looked a lot different than it does today. My doctor and I got together and he was genuinely worried about my weight. I’ve lost around 50 pounds since then with his help and a combination of things. One of those was drastically cutting back the number of simple sugars and processed grains I ate. Which ruined my bowl of cereal and made dessert an actual ‘treat’ instead of a daily requirement. I struggled for a long time. I felt like I was being punished. I would literally break into hysterical sobs if my family mentioned they didn’t really like what I had cooked. Little by little, I started finding foods that satisfied me and still fit into the whole grain, lower glycemic index diet I was supposed to be eating. And, a LOT of them actually tasted good!
This is one of those that I discovered just a few weeks ago. One of the biggest changes for me was breakfast. I love a BIG bowl of cereal with ice cold milk. Cutting this from my eating hurt me in two ways – I no longer knew what to have for breakfast and my calcium intake tanked (I don’t like milk alone). After a long battle about not wanting to drink my calories, I tried a smoothie and was hooked. Then, my blender broke. It a moment of desperation, I mashed a banana with a fork, stirred in my yogurt, flax and almond milk and threw it in the fridge to get nice and cold. The next morning, I grabbed my glass and walked out the door to take my daughter to school. I took a long drink, not sure what to expect, and I was hooked. Who needs cereal when you can have dessert for breakfast for less than 300 calories. A quick dietary rundown for those who are interested: 247.5 calories, 23.75 from fat; 7g fat, 0g saturated fat; 479 mg Potassium; 31g carbs, 8.25 fiber, 14 sugar, 18g protein, 52% calcium. Seriously! And half those sugars are natural from the banana. Lately, I’ve taken to mixing this up and tossing it in the freezer for a couple of hours. Yup, that’s right. Ice cream for breakfast and I don’t have to feel bad about eating it. Here’s what it looks like scooped into my bowl (this is half of the recipe, so half the nutritional values I listed).
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
1 – 5.3 ounce greek yogurt (I use Dannon Light and Fit Toasted Coconut Vanilla)
3 Tablespoons flax meal
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Stir all ingredients together until completely mixed. To serve chilled, refrigerate a couple of hours or overnight. To serve frozen, freeze in a bowl or other container for 3 hours. Stir every hour to keep a soft consistency being sure to scrape sides of container.
It doesn’t matter if it has been hours since our last meal or minutes, it seems my kids are always hungry. And, especially in the desert heat, their favorite snacks are the frozen kind. As a mom, I want them to make better choices. But, I can only offer fruit or carrots or cheese sticks so many times before they refuse to compromise. Sometimes I can get away with frozen grapes, but even that is iffy. These smoothie pops, however, are usually fool proof. And, since there is no added sugar and a ton of protein and calcium, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about letting my kids eat them. They are super easy to whip up and the flavor combinations are pretty much endless. For this particular batch, I used raspberry yogurt and mixed berries. Just use whatever fruit you have on hand and your favorite flavor of yogurt. I’m pretty sure my next batch will use coconut yogurt and diced peaches. Just stir together the yogurt and almond milk (you could use regular milk or coconut milk or soy milk or whatever ‘milk’, but almond milk is low calorie and high calcium, so that’s what I use). Place your fruit in the bottom of your popsicle molds (or small paper cups), pour the yogurt mixture over it, place the sticks and pop them in the freezer for a few hours. Voila! Happy kids and guilt free mom!
1 5.3 ounce container greek yogurt, any flavor
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk*
8 Tablespoons fruit
Stir together yogurt and almond milk. Place 1 Tablespoon of fruit into each of 8 popsicle molds (or small paper cups). Pour yogurt mixture over fruit, making each popsicle as even in size as possible. Place sticks into mold and freeze for 4-6 hours minimum. To remove from mold, run a little water over the outside of mold until popsicle can be easily removed from mold.
*Any dairy or non-dairy milk can be substituted for the almond milk.