With all of that holiday baking happening, I thought now would be a great time to give some tips on how to make those cookies, cakes and other treats as healthy and delicious as they can be! Personally, I LOVE to bake, and my family and friends love to eat up all of the yummy treats I make! I definitely prefer to make my recipes from scratch and forgo most of the store-bought mixes that include ingredients like hydrogenated oils and artificial colorings and preservatives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I allow my own children to partake in treat-eating at other’s homes during the holidays without being too strict on what they are ingesting. However, if I am making the treats, I can control what I put in them. I choose to put in the best ingredients I can! Take a look below to get some ideas on how to start “healthifying” your sweet creations- I promise nobody will know the difference! ;)
MEGACOOLMAMA’S TIPS FOR HEALTHIER BAKING
- Use whole wheat flour for at least half of the flour called for in your recipe. You will be getting more fiber and nutrition from the whole grains.
- Use only half (or none!) of the butter and replace it with all natural applesauce. If you are going to go with half of the butter, try using an organic unsalted butter or something like Smart Balance or Earth Balance butters. Both or made with vegetable and flax oils and work to lower cholesterol. The applesauce keeps your recipe moist and also adds a nice flavor to cookies and cakes.
- Hide some flax in the recipe. I always have ground flaxmeal seed on hand to throw in to any recipe that calls for breading, or into any cookie or cake recipe. I have found that about 1/4 cup of ground flaxmeal seed is good for one batch of cookies or one cake. I would just take out 1/4 cup of the flour being called for in the recipe and replace it with the flax. Flax is awesome for fiber, good fats, and its anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides lignans, which are considered antioxidants (cancer fighters)! Read here for more about lignans and the benefits of flax seed.
- Throw some puree in it! I also always have on hand my butternut squash puree. Any cake or cookie recipe that is cakey in texture is good for using this technique. Usually, I just put in about 1/4-1/2 cup of squash puree for every batch of cookies or one cake that I am baking. I have found it is best to throw in and mix whenever you mix in the butter. By using this puree, you are adding lots of nutrients from the butternut squash, and the flavor is not even noticeable in the your finished baked product!
- Use all natural vanilla extract. Many of the vanilla extracts available today are not pure vanilla. Make sure that you read the label closely to ensure that you are getting pure vanilla extract. What’s so special about pure vanilla extract? Well, read here to find out more! (Plus, when a label says you are getting vanilla, isn’t that what you would expect? Not artificial vanilla, right?)
- Make your own frosting. Here are some great recipes for homemade frosting. Most of the frosting and icing I find in the store is either loaded with high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, both of which are frightening in their negative effects on one’s health. You are better off making your own and adding your own natural food coloring. (more on the natural food coloring below)
- Use natural food coloring. Do this by adding the following to your frosting: orange or lemon zest, berry juices, carrot juice…you get the picture. Did you know that the food coloring we are used to is made from a petroleum-based substance? Yup, and those substances are found in LOTS of other foods that we eat, too. Read here to find out more about the adverse effects of those ingredients on our bodies….this is an AWESOME blog that I just found about this subject, with lots of healthy recipes…love it!
- Use all natural dark chocolate chips. I found some at Trader Joes that I love, but you could probably also find something similar at your local grocer. There are many benefits to dark chocolate, and I think that putting dark chocolate in a sweet cookie recipe gives just the right balance to the sweetness.
CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SURPRISE COOKIES
So, I tried this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin cookies today from my Shape magazine (so, obviously, they were pretty healthy to start out with!). I did substitute a couple of the ingredients for my “mega healthy” stand-bys…for example, I used applesauce instead of oil in the dough and used unbleached whole grain flour instead of the white whole grain flour suggested in the recipe. Also, I opted to use Sunflower seed butter for the “nut butter” listed in the ingredients for the filling. Though they were not super quick to make, they did turn out yummy! I love that when you bite into the nice chocolatey cookie, a nice little pumpkin/creamy surprise is waiting for you! Also, these cookies only clock in to about 70 calories a piece, so it is a nice indulgence that you don’t have to feel guilty about (if you only eat one or two!). Try them out and let me know what you think!
Oh, forgot to add that they are vegan-friendly! And, no butter or eggs!
Here are the ingredients:
- 3/4 c. white whole-wheat flour
- 6 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cocoa powder
- Scant 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave (I used real maple syrup, not the fake stuff!)
- 2 tbsp. nondairy milk
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. oil (I substituted applesauce)
- 3 tbsp. pureed pumpkin
- 3 tbsp. nut butter of choice (I used Sunflower seed butter)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 packet stevia (or 1/2 tbsp. sugar)
- 1/8 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix very well. Add ingredients 6-9 and mix again to form dough. In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients to make the filling. Using about a heaping tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball and then flatten. Place a little scoop of the filling in the center and fold up the sides of the dough. Form into a ball. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cookies should be a little undercooked when you take them out. Let stand 10 minutes.
Makes 18-20 big cookies
Original recipe provided by Chocolate-Covered Katie, taken from Shape magazine online
VERY VEGGIE SALAD RECIPE
Here is a recipe that I like to make ahead for myself for a nice, light summer lunch. It has a good protein and fiber content because of the chickpeas and also lots of good stuff from the walnuts and all the vegetables. I call it “Very Veggie Salad”! The following is a list of vegetables that I use, but you can really use whatever you have handy!
For the salad:
- chopped Romaine lettuce (about five leaves)
- 1/3 c. rinsed, prepared chickpeas (from the can is fine, but I like to rinse mine to lower the sodium content)
- 6 chopped baby carrots
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 2 tbsp. chopped red onion
- 1/4 of a green pepper, chopped
- 1/4 of a large cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 7 or 8 grape tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 tbsp. dried cranberries
- 1-2 tbsp. unsalted walnuts
- 1-2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
For the dressing:
- juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- dash of vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
Just throw everything together for the salad in your salad bowl, mix ingredients together for the dressing in a separate small bowl, and drizzle over the top of the salad. Enjoy!
HEALTHY BANANA OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
I found this recipe on Shape magazine’s Facebook wall, and have adapted it a bit to fit my philosophy. It was actually pretty healthy to begin with, but I added a few tweaks AND links to coupons where available. Enjoy!
- 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 c. oats
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1-2 tbsp. ground flaxseed meal (I always buy in bulk from Costco)
- 1/4 c. agave nectar
- 1/4 c. soy milk (or almond milk)
- 1 tbsp. canola oil OR 1 tbsp. all-natural applesauce
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 c. walnuts
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing until evenly blended.
- Use a tablespoon to portion cookies out onto a greased baking sheet, approximately 1-2 inches apart.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Cool and enjoy!
With the crisp coolness in the air, October is the perfect time to start making my turkey chili! As a matter of fact, today I made a batch that I will get about three meals out of (for a family of four). I found a recipe some time ago for turkey chili on the Internet, but, of course, modified it to make it even healthier! My recipe for healthy turkey chili is below (highlighted ingredients linked to coupons!) Enjoy!
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. ground turkey (Perdue ground turkey is on sale at Jewel this week, 2 for $5)
- 1 (10.75) ounce can low sodium condensed tomato soup (COUPON in 9/11 SmartSource insert for $.40 off 2)
- 2 (15) ounce cans of dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 (15) ounce can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 (15) ounce can of white beans (like Northern beans) (drained and rinsed)
- about 11 ounces of organic chicken broth or chicken stock
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 c. pureed butternut squash
- 2 tbsp. chili powder (Target has great deals on their Archer Farms spices- this also goes for all of the spices listed below!)
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (you could add up to a teaspoon, depending on your taste. I wanted my kids to be able to eat it, so I stuck with 1/4 tsp.!)
- 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 pinch ground allspice
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place turkey in the skillet, and cook until evenly brown; drain.
- Pour condensed tomato soup in a small bowl and mix with chicken broth/stock until evenly mixed in.
- Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray, and mix in turkey, tomato soup, kidney beans, black beans, white beans and onion. Mix in pureed squash. Season with chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, allspice and salt.
- Cover, and cook 8 hours on Low or 4 hours on High.
Now, you might think that adding squash to chili is a little strange, but it gives it such a nice texture and flavor that I am sure you will love! My family loves this recipe…I serve it with crumbled blue tortilla chips and a sprinkle of shredded cheese on the top.
Let me know if you try it! YUM!
HEALTHY CRUNCHY CHICKEN PARMESAN TENDERS
Here is a recipe that I got as a recommendation from a friend (thanks, Amber!) that is originally done by Giada De Laurentiis. I have modified it just a bit and then added links where possible to coupons. Let me know if your little ones like it! (or if the big ones like it, too)!
- 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (COUPON)
- 1 cup buttermilk (Go here to see how to make a substitution for buttermilk if you don’t have it)
- 1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders (about 18) (COUPON)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (COUPON)
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (COUPON)
- ground black pepper (freshly ground, if possible) (COUPON)
- 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, mixed with basil and oregano for flavor
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Brush 1 tablespoon of oil over each of 2 heavy large lined baking sheets. Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mash the garlic with the salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and then the remaining 1/2 cup of oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with pepper. Transfer the vinaigrette to a small serving bowl.
- Stir the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a pie dish. Remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and dredge them in the bread crumb mixture to coat completely, pressing to adhere. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the chicken tenders and bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken tenders to a platter and serve the vinaigrette alongside for dipping. You could also serve with Hunt’s all natural ketchup for the little ones!
Fall is the perfect time to bake with the freshest apples you will find all year! Some day soon, after you have returned from apple-picking at your nearest apple orchard, try out this recipe. This cake will freeze quite nicely if you don’t use the entire cake after baking. Just plastic wrap it and freeze!
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 3/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1/2 c. all natural applesauce
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1/2 c. flaxseed meal (found easily at Trader Joe’s or Costco…I think even Walmart and Target sell this in the baking sections now)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 c. finely chopped unpeeled apples
- 1 c. chopped walnuts
- Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.
- In large bowl, beat sugars, buttermilk, applesauce, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 20 to 30 seconds or until blended. Add all remaining ingredients except apples and walnuts; beat on low speed about 1 minute or until blended. Stir in apples and walnuts. Spread batter in pan.
- Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on cooling rack 1 hour.
Do you have your own twist on the recipe or a “cool” way to serve this apple cake? Leave me a comment so I can try it out!
KID-FRIENDLY SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH ALMONDS
This recipe is perfect for fall weather, which we are beginning to experience in the Midwest! Also, this time of year, squash are ripe for the pickin’! And, they are soooo good for you! Here is a recipe I found in my “Real Simple” magazine that I thought I would share. As always, I have linked to coupons and filled you in on specials where possible!
Prep time: 10 mins. Total time: 1 hr. Serves 4
- 1 3-lb. spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. sliced almonds (these have been on clearance at my SuperTarget lately!)
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (on sale 10 for $1 at Meijer week of 9/12!)
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- Kosher salt and black pepper (Go to SavingStar and sign up for an account to get money back on your Diamond Kosher Salt purchase and much more!)
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash on a rimed baking sheet, drizzle the cut sides with 1 tbsp. of the oil, and turn cut-side down. Roast until tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spread the almonds on a second rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the lime juice, honey, cumin, the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
- With a fork, gently scrape the strands of squash flesh into the bowl and toss with the lime juice mixture. Sprinkle with the almonds and scallions.
This recipe looks absolutely delicious, and I think my kids would love it (they love spaghetti, so why not spaghetti from squash?). Of course, if your kids have NUT ALLERGIES, LEAVE OUT THE ALMONDS!
3 MEALS IN 1 CHICKEN RECIPE
Since Perdue chicken breasts go on sale often at Jewel-Osco (Buy One Get One Free) and Meijer, I have decided to focus this week’s recipe around chicken! The Megacool thing about these recipes is that you only have to cook the chicken once, then re-use it for the rest of the meals! Love that time-saving factor!
So, fire up the grill one last time before cold weather hits and get to grilling your chicken!
NOTE: highlighted food items will lead you to a coupon! Yippeee!
Dinner 1 (BBQ Chicken Breasts w/veggies)
- Put some barbeque chicken breasts on the grill (enough for a meal for your family). I usually wait until the last 5-8 minutes of grilling to put on the bbq sauce so that it doesn’t stick to the grill as much!
- While you are at it, throw on several more pieces of chicken without bbq sauce to use in your recipes for the rest of the week. You could use the same marinade on the chicken breasts that I used on my drumsticks in this recipe.
- Serve the bbq chicken breasts with some steamed veggies and whole grain buns or brown rice (the steamable microwave kind from Trader Joe’s is amazing! It’s organic and cooks in 3 minutes!)
Dinner 2 (Chicken Strip Salad)
- For the next night’s dinner, cut the chicken breasts into strips and serve over your favorite lettuce orsalad blend. Add some fresh sliced strawberries, some feta cheese and walnuts for a healthy, heartier dinner salad! (Just don’t go overboard with the nuts and cheese! 1-2 tbsps. of nuts and 1 tbsp of feta cheese is plenty to get you the taste and health benefits you need!) Use the dressing from my Very Vegetable Salad recipe to drizzle on top!
Dinner 3 (Chicken Fajitas)
- On the third night, reheat the remaining chicken strips with salsa, sliced & grilled peppers & onions, crushed garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of oregano to make delcious chicken fajitas wrapped in steaming whole wheat tortillas ( I like the Target brand Archer Farms Simply Balanced Whole Wheat tortillas!). Serve with slices of avocado if you like on the side!
I hope you enjoy your chicken this week! If you have any strips left over, you could even freeze them and use them to make dinner at a later date! Let me know how you liked the recipes!
KID-FRIENDLY BRAN MUFFINS
This recipe looks like it would be fairly simple to make and healthy to boot! I took it from this great website I discovered today, which I will describe in my next post! You will find the recipe below, with my links to coupons as well! Enjoy!
- 3 tsp. baking soda COUPON
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 tbsp. all natural applesauce COUPON (print it out from the Meijer Mealbox to use on Mott’s applesauce at Meijer)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar COUPON in August 28 RedPlum newspaper insert for $.50 off Domino sugar product AND Domino sugar on sale at Walgreen’s right now for $2.49 until this Saturday (Sept. 3) with their in-ad coupon!
- 4 tbsp. canola oil
- 4 egg whites COUPON for either $.35 or $.50 off Eggland’s Best Organic Cage-free eggs in July 31 RedPlum newspaper insert AND Eggland’s Best are on sale right now at Jewel 2/$5
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 cups non-fat milk COUPON (for $1 off 2 Horizon Dairy organic half-gallons of milk) AND COUPON(for $1 of 2 Horizon Dairy organic half-gallons of milk at Meijer!)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups bran cereal (Cascadian Farms organic cereal on sale at Jewel this week for $2.50 a box!)
- 1/2 cup raisins COUPON (this can be used on the Sunsweet Dates as well! You may be able to print it out twice!)
- 1/2 cup chopped dates
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Add baking soda to boiling water and stir; set aside to cool.
- Line a 4, 6, or 12-cup muffin pan with foil muffin cups. Although you can use paper liners, oil, or cooking spray; foil liners produce more moist muffins. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, applesauce and sugars. Blend very well.
- Add egg, mix again.
- Add baking soda mixture, lemon juice, milk, flour, salt, cereal(s), raisins, and dates. Mix until dry ingredients are blended; do not over mix. Allow to stand about five minutes: until dry ingredients absorb some liquid.
- Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake 25 minutes.
- Serve warm. Store remaining batter in covered container, refrigerated for up to six weeks.Makes 24 very filling, nutritious muffins.
Let me know if you tried this recipe and if the kiddos liked it! I plan on making it soon!