RECIPE: Orange Poppy Seed Almond Muffins

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Last week our agency had a wonderful offsite in Michigan. We were meeting at the office and hopping on a bus as a group at 8 a.m.

We were talking about what to drink and eat on the bus. I figured on making muffins, the perfect finger food for traveling. I put them in a handy basket that could be passed around the bus, with napkins tucked in for messy fingers. They got a big thumbs up from everyone, and went great with mimosas and bloody marys.

Ahem.
We did have coffee, too.


Orange Poppy Seed Almond Muffins
Makes about 16 muffins

Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable shortening, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1/8 cup orange juice
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 Tbsp. orange zest

Directions

In a bowl with a hand mixer, cream the shortening with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and orange zest. Mix well.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking soda and salt. Add it slowly to the creamed mixture, mixing low until just combined. Add the orange juice and poppy seeds, and mix. The orange juice will loosen up the batter a touch. If still too stiff, add a splash more.

Line muffin tins with paper liners, and spoon batter into each liner until 2/3rds full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, rotating pans once during baking time to evenly brown everything.

Remove from pans immediately. Serve warm, or store in an airtight container for a week.

INFOGRAPHIC: Coffee in Moderation can be Healthy

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If you are a regular visitor you may know I have an obsessive love of coffee. Recently, coffee has been in the news as having health benefits when consumed in moderation. I was thrilled to know that, because I have always thought that coffee has been one of my guilty pleasures.

Here is a handy infographic that explains what "moderation" means. I mean, everything in "moderation", right? 
Like healthy fats in moderation.
Like red wine in moderation? 
Hmm, yeah. I wonder how well I am doing with "red wine in moderation".....

anywhooo

The ever elusive "moderation" benchmark.

Well, no more guesswork with coffee thanks to foodinsight.org
I think my dad needs this, because he drinks espresso all day long (Italians-*shrug).

So moderation in coffee is 4 8oz. cups a day. HURRAY! I'm within that range. (Don't tell my fellow Fast Metabolism Diet Groupies, coffee is a no no, but I am more in maintenance mode now, and it seems to be OK.)

And remember, you get caffeine from other sources, as this nifty infographic shows. That all counts, so keep loose track throughout your day.

For more information around this, visit 
For more information, visit http://www.foodinsight.org/caffeine#sthash.GqHgXqZN.dpuf

Starbucks, S'mores and Stargazing Summer Night Party

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Summer means late sunsets, balmy nights and no early school mornings. For me, that's the perfect mix for late night fun with family and friends. Kids can sleep in so they can stay up late and enjoy what magic happens when the sun goes down. There is a lot of late night activities you can have for kids of all ages (firefly catching, glow in the dark rock scavenger hunts, etc.), but I have an affinity for star gazing. Nowadays, with the help of inexpensive apps, you can show kids all the constellations and planets swirling around in the night sky above you. If you have a telescope, it gets even better!

I decided to make it a fun summer night party, and included treats for adults and kids alike. I went with an array of Starbucks refreshing coffee drinks (after all, it's hot and staying up late needs some caffeine help for most of us!). Then I put out my famous S'more buffet for everyone and got the fire pit lit.

During set up I also got the kids going on some tealight Mason jar lamps for the patio. In the heat, they dry quickly so by the time the sun goes down, they will be ready for lighting! These lanterns allow for some ambient, magical light around the patio.

Here is my step by step approach for a fun filled, refreshingly yummy summer night party.

Starbucks Yum




Star gazing makes for late nights, and we all need some caffeine to keep a pep in our step and our eyes to the sky past our bedtimes. Thanks to Starbucks, you can provide your guests delicious, refreshing coffee beverages. They've just come out with some new summertime flavors, like S'more and Mocha Coconut, as well as protein packed espresso double shots. They've also extended their VIA lines to include sweetened iced coffee flavors. Don't even get me started about VIAs-they have saved girl scout camping weekends time and again every year. I mean...have you ever tasted camp coffee? (*shudder ) VIAs are the bomb.

For our party, I pre-chilled my Starbucks beverages-new flavors and old standbys. I then placed them in a basket for guests to grab. I had glasses nearby, ice water for VIAS as well as an ice bucket to keep things cool or if guests wanted some ice in their drinks. The Starbucks bar was a huge hit. My daughter thought the mocha coconut was sublime. I prefer the smooth, subtle vanilla flavored ice coffee. My nephew and grandpa fought over the S'more ones, but there was plenty for everyone.

Speaking of S'mores, you can't have S'more Fappuccino flavors without the real deal! A nighttime summer party isn't complete without campfire S'mores!

S'more Fun





Making a S'more bar or "buffet" is my new thing this summer. I wrote a how-to post about it here in case you want to print out my ingredient cards and my "recipe" poster. All you need to do is have a variety of fillings, grahams and cookies set out for guests to mix and match to their hearts' content. Light your fire pit and let guests have fun while the sun goes down.


Tealight fun

This is a great activity to occupy younger guests while you wait for the sun to set. Once finished, these tealight lanterns can then light your patio or deck with a subtle glow as you star watch and enjoy the yummies.

Here's how you make them:

What you need:
Tissue paper
Elmer's glue and water
sponge brush
Kosher salt
tea lights
Mason jars or other glass jars

Directions:
Rip up or cut up the tissue paper in small pieces. In a plastic cup, dilute the glue with some water. Brush the sponge brush with glue and brush a thin coat on the glass, then lay a piece of tissue paper on the glue, then brush another thin layer on top. Continue layering areas with tissue paper in the same manner until the glass is all covered. let air dry.

Once dried, pour Kosher salt in the bottom of the glass, about 1/2" deep. Nestle the tea light into the salt, and light it.





Stargazing



Star gazing was always a favorite past time of mine, but I could never remember the constellations. Now with smart phones and tablets, you can find an app to help you navigate the night sky with just a tap of your finger. Some have really cool 3d renderings and illustrations around the constellations to help young children see why constellations have the names they do. As you can see above, I was able to spot Venus!

There are a handful of stargazing apps, free or paid, out there. Here is a post listing some popular ones.

A great time was had by all, and I definitely will do it again this fall, but maybe with a hot Starbucks coffee bar and hot cocoa flavors. That would be super fun, and guests could compare the summer sky to the fall sky.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's enjoy summer while it's here. Fall will come soon enough.


Please note: Starbucks iced summer coffees 
were provided by Starbucks. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about Starbucks coffee are completely my own. Thanks! #starbucks @starbucks @frappuccino #icedcoffee #coffeepassion

RECIPE: Cherry and Pumpkin Butter Ginger Snap Cheesecake Cupcakes

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Over 4th of July, I made a giant S'more buffet for dessert. The table was filled with various fillings, like a sweetened cream cheese and a homemade pumpkin butter. The post is here, in case you want to do the same thing. It's super fun and delicious.

But the one draw back is that you will have a lot of leftovers of 'stuff'. You need to have will power of steel to not eat your way through straggling peppermint patties and Reese's peanut butter cups! I also had a lot of left over sweetened cream cheese, pumpkin butter and cherry pie filling. I hate wasting food, so I wondered what I could make with it all. I remembered my mom making these cute little mini cheesecake cupcakes with vanilla wafers on the bottom to form a crust. I decided to make a version of them, using tangy ginger snaps on the bottoms and using the various toppings to change the flavor profiles.

They turned out wonderfully, and they are super easy. I kept them in the fridge for a week, and my family dug into them for dessert each night.


Cherry and Pumpkin Butter Ginger Snap Cheesecake Cupcakes
Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 ginger snap cookies
6 Tbsp. pumpkin butter (here is my own recipe if you can’t find store bought, it keeps in the fridge for a few weeks)
6 Tbsp. sour cream
6 Tbsp. cherry pie filling or cherry jam
Directions
Preheat oven to 350˚. Place cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Place a ginger snap cookie in the bottom of each liner. Set aside.
 

In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the vanilla, sugars and salt until creamy and smooth. Add the egg and whip until creamy, then whisk in the flour until just combined. Spoon the batter into each mold until 2/3 full.


Bake for about 20 minutes, until batter is beginning to set. Then carefully pull out the pan and top 6 with the sour cream and top the other 6 with the pumpkin butter. Do this evenly so that each cupcake has a tablespoon of topping, try and place it on the top in an even layer.


Place the cupcakes back in the oven to bake up for another 15-20 minutes, until all is baked through and set. The cheesecakes are slightly golden around the edges and the sour cream is set.

Let the cupcakes cool completely. Top the sour cream ones with a tablespoon each of cherry pie filling. If you wish, you can dollop some whipped cream on top of the pumpkin butter ones. Serve and enjoy.

RECIPE: Vegan Popped Sorghum Snack

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I have been trying to not eat corn lately, especially since I've been on a clean eating diet. Corn not just turns into sugar in your body in record speed, it also is filled with GMOs and chemicals. Unfortunately, I love popcorn. It's a snack my daughter and I usually snuggle together with watching a movie. I have missed that a lot.
After doing some research, I discovered that corn isn't the only grain you can pop and eat! Barley pops up, and rice puffs up, and sorghum puffs up and is a great replacement for popped corn. It's a little smaller than regular popcorn, and is a little less sweet. But it is just as yummy and super easy in the microwave by using a paper bag! Also, I came up with a savory vegan option for seasoning, but you can do the typical butter and salt if that's works for you. Brewer's yeast is a great replacement for Parmesan cheese-which I usually top my popcorn with. 
Popped sorghum is a healthier replacement, and you can enjoy snacking on this while the rest of your rugrats eat typical bowls of popcorn.

Vegan Popped Sorghum Snack
Ingredients
Olive oil spray
½ tsp. salt
sprinkle of non active Brewer’s yeast seasoning
½ cup whole sorghum
paper bag
Directions




Pour the sorghum into a paper bag and fold closed at the end. Place the bag in the microwave with the folded side down so it won’t open. Heat in the microwave for about 3 minutes-3 ½ minutes. Listen to the small pops, and when the pops slow to about 10 second per pop, stop. Things burn fast and the smell is awful! I know from experience! So pay attention.



Pour the popped sorghum into a bowl and spray lightly with olive oil, tossing a few times. Quickly add the salt and Brewer’s Yeast, and give it a couple more light sprays of olive oil to assure the seasoning sticks. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Gluten Free Lemon Caper Turkey Cutlets with Zucchini Potato Fritters Topped with Caper Mayo

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Easy light dinners is the name of the game this summer. I found a great Better Homes and Gardens special edition magazine that is all about garden vegetables and how to cook them in amazing recipes. Hubby and I are basically cooking through this whole book this summer. We just have so much stuff coming from our yard, and we want to enjoy every bite that we work so hard to grow.
These zucchini fritters combined with shredded potatoes and a hit of lemon zest were one of the recipes I adapted this week. The lemon caper mayo inspired me to make a simple lemon caper main dish to go with it. But I was tired of chicken and didn't feel like veal-so I opted for some lovely turkey cutlets, just to change things up.
As with much of our protein lately, we are taking the time to brine. It's worth the extra effort and all you need to to do is remember to do it a few hours before cooking. It make a huge difference, especially if you are grilling. But it improves protein even in the oven or on the stove.
One last note, I made these gluten free by just using gluten free flour. Make sure your mayo is gluten free if you are going completely gluten free. You can also just use regular flour, too, for conventional cooking. The result should be the same.
Gluten Free Lemon Caper Turkey Cutlets with Zucchini Potato Fritters Topped with Caper Mayo
Ingredients
Lemon Caper Turkey Cutlets
1 lb. turkey cutlets
¼ cup sugar  and ¼ cup salt dissolved in a large bowl of cold water
1/3 cup gluten free flour (or regular)
½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. butter
¾ cup prosecco, champagne or white wine
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 ½ Tbsp. small capers, rinsed
Zucchini Potato Fritters
8 oz. zucchini, shredded
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
½ tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (do not shred these until ready to use-they will darken)
1/3 cup gluten free flour (or regular)
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. olive oil (I have a spray can too that as I cook these and need a little more in the pan, I spray it lightly as I go.)
Salt and pepper to taste
 Caper Mayo
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. capers, drained,
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Directions
Turkey cutlets
Brine the turkey cutlets in a large bowl of cold water that has ¼ cup of salt and a ¼ cup sugar dissolved in it. Let the cutlets sit in the cold water for a couple hours in the fridge.


When ready, rinse the culets and pat dry. In a bowl, mix the salt and pepper into the flour. Dredge turkey with flour. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, and get things hot. Working in batches, and cook the cutlets in the pan until golden brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes each side (depending on the heat of your pan). Drain cutlets on paper towels. Deglaze the pan over medium high heat with the lemon juice and prosecco, scraping up the brown bits as you go. Bring it up to a sizzle and simmer, and add the crushed garlic. Cook until soft and add 2 Tbsp. butter. As the butter melts and heats through, add the capers and parsley. Swirl the sauce in the pan around, and adjust the seasoning. Add the cutlets back in the pan, and turn them to coat with the sauce, and heat through. Serve hot.
 Caper Mayo
In a small bowl whisk the mayo with the lemon juice. Add the capers, lemon thyme and black pepper. Give it a couple more whips with the whisk, cover and chill until serving time.

Zucchini Potato Fritters
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Spread the shredded zucchini evenly over the paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Cover the zucchini with another layer of paper towels and let sit for 15-20 minutes, pressing down on the zucchini every once in a while to draw out the water.

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour with the lemon peel, baking powder, cayenne flour and garlic powder. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.




Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl. Shred your potatoes and add it to the shredded zucchini. Add the egg and mix well, then add the dry ingredients. Add the cheese and mix well.
Preheat oven to 325˚
Heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil over a medium high heat. Layer a baking sheet with paper towels. Drop the zucchini batter by the well-rounded tablespoon in the oil, and flatten with the back of a spoon or spatula. Cook on both sides until golden brown, and transfer to the paper-lined baking sheet to drain.

Transfer the fritters to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes while you finish the turkey. This allows the fritters to cook through in the middle and be kept warm while you finish up the turkey.

FMD Phase 2: Spinach and Turkey Bacon Egg White Frittata

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So, this summer has been hard for me and the Fast Metabolism Diet. I seem to have gone on a maintenance phase by default. Hard as I try to pack my own food for parties and travel and client functions, it is just too hard.

The cool thing is, I have not gained, I have maintained-which is a minus 20 lbs. since January.
So I guess this diet does work in healing your metabolism. I have had some naughty things for sure which usually would end up on my behind, but I have been able to keep a tight lock on my current weight.  Super awesome! It helps to know what to eat with what to understand how your body CAN breakdown fats and sugars should they cross your lips. 

Out of all the phases, the 2nd one is the hardest for me to work around, so any time I come up with a good recipe, I wish to share it with other FMDers.

This one is perfect for P2, it has all the green vegetables Haylie approves of with egg whites. It has a nice earthy heat from Chipotle seasoning. You can use other pepper spice if you can't find Chipotle.

I start every Monday this summer with the intention of keeping strict to the diet-but after 7 months, it is getting a bit boring. But the biggest fat-maker is stress, so if you are struggling to stay on it this summer like I am-just take it easy and start again the next day. I want to lose 5 more-and I hear those last 5 are a killer. So I am going to do what I can to get there, but also enjoy summer. It's way too short-ya know?!

Peace.

FMD P2 Spinach and Turkey Bacon Egg White Frittata

Ingredients

4 strips turkey bacon, chopped
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 full cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. ground dried chipotle powder
salt and pepper to taste
6 egg whites, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚.
In an oven-proof sauté pan, cook up the turkey bacon until brown and releases its juices. Add the red onions and sprinkle the garlic powder over it all, and sauté gently until onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms, the chipotle powder and spinach and sauté until tender. Turn the heat down to medium low, and pour the egg whites over the vegetables. Gently jostle the mixture and lift edges up to allow the egg white to get under the edges and distribute evenly. Cook until the mixture just begins to cook and set, but the top is still wet. Place the pan into the oven on the topmost rack and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until top is set and beginning to brown. Keep an eye on things-this can get away from you pretty quick.

Carefully pull it out of the oven, season with salt and pepper and cut into wedges. Freeze some of the wedges for later in the week.
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