Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Treats - Dessert Recipe Round-up

Easter is just around the corner, which doesn't seem possible seeing as we had SNOW FLURRIES over the weekend! Most of the time, Spring is in full swing by Easter. However, the weather will not stop me from making bright and cheerful desserts. You gotta stand strong! Break out the pastel candy even if you are wearing jeans and sweaters! Bake up some lemony goodness despite the gray and cold! WILL IT to be Spring!! Okay, so maybe I got carried away
(Pictured above)
Cadbury 'Deviled' EggsNo recipe - just Cadbury Eggs, cut in half and decorated with yellow frosting and sprinkles to look like deviled eggs. Very cute, VERY sweet! (It helps to chill the eggs for cleaner cuts)
 
Thick and Chewy Cookies with Spring Chocolate Chips (or candy)
or
My favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars - can also make with spring candy or chocolate chips

I don't know about y'all, but I'm hungry now! Have you made out your menu for Easter Sunday? I'm still deciding...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I like carrot cake. That's not a big deal except I didn't know I liked carrot cake until I made this one. This carrot cake is amazing. I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, but...oh wait...yes I am. So never mind.
I made this one for my family's get together last Easter because carrot cake is one of my dad's favorites, and it is perfect for Easter. Because it has carrots in it. And rabbits like carrots. And the Easter bunny is a rabbit. That's my logic and I'm sticking to it. Seriously, this cake is fluffy and moist and full of flavor, and can convert people who don't think they like carrot cake to people who loooove carrot cake. True story.
The cream cheese frosting is the 'icing on the cake'. Well, literally, it is the icing on the cake. Good to know where that expression comes from. Cream cheese makes everything better it seems. It's simple and pairs perfect with the sweet flavors of carrots and pineapple and spices that you have going on in the cake. And for those of you who are thinking 'ewww, who wants carrots in a cake'...(yes, I was once one of those) they are soft and sweet once baked in the cake. It's not like chowing on a salad.
Toasting the pecans is optional, but makes it extra delicious. (Of course, the nuts can be left out all together if needed. My son is allergic to nuts, but doesn't eat anything but chocolate cake, so I knew he wouldn't be touching this.) I think black walnuts would be a good option as well.

The Ultimate Carrot Cake 

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with a half tablespoon white vinegar, let sit for 5 mins)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans (optional) *toasted if desired
1 cup golden raisins (optional) *I used regular raisins because that's what I had on hand

Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack in center of oven. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by lightly coating with cooking spray and lining with parchment paper. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and pineapple together.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.
  • Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until blended together. 
  • Fold in carrots, pecans and raisins (if using) just until mixed in.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake approx 30-40 minutes or until done (can check doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, it's done)
  • Cool cakes in pan for 15 minutes then, turn onto baking rack to cool completely before frosting. (remove parchment paper) 
  • While cakes are cooling, prepare frosting by mixing cream cheese and butter together until creamy and smooth. Mix in vanilla, then confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, until frosting has the desired consistency. 
  • Once cake has cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting. Add pecans to the top and /or sides of cake for decoration if desired. Chill. (This will help the frosting firm up some.)

This recipe is a little more work than my normal recipes, but it's worth it! Definitely worthy of the Easter table and I will probably be making it again this year. Easter is coming so fast that I am not prepared at all. The weather is not cooperating either, I need Spring temps and sunshine!

And if you are looking for a healthier snack after indulging in this cake and all the kids' Easter candy, check out my review of these low-carb, low sugar protein bars!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

B-Up Bars - Product Review (#lowcarb #highprotein #cleantreat)

This is a sponsored post from Yup Brands and Blog Meets Brand. All opinions are my own (or that of my hubby).

This is a product that I was excited to review since my husband is diabetic and follows a low carb diet to help control his blood sugars. It is so hard to find tasty snack options that are not full of junk because let's be honest, snacking on vegetables gets old. It's nice to have some other low carb snack options that he can enjoy on the go and satisfy that sweet tooth. Not to mention, I like to have high protein/low sugar bars to keep in my gym bag for post-workout snacks. (Protein helps build lean muscle and the more muscle you have, the more your metabolism increases. Since my metabolism slowed down to a slugs pace after age 35, it's important for me to incorporate weight lifting in with my cardio.) I also need to lay off the chips, but that's a different post all together!
A huge issue I have with most low carb bars is the amount of sugar alcohols in them. Sugar alcohols are those sweeteners that come with a warning about causing GI distress if you consume to much. Uhmmm, no thank you. I also only like to use sweeteners from natural sources, like stevia and xylitol. I am really trying to limit our intake of aspartame and sucralose.
So, my "dream bar" would be high in protein, low in carbohydrates, low in sugar/sugar alcohols/artificial sweeteners...in other words - no junk! Well, guess what? B-UP Bars are a dream come true! They are all those things plus high in fiber, low in sodium and they taste good! (Not that weird "protein-y" funky taste, but actually taste good.) My husband, who is super picky (sorry honey, but it's true!) really enjoyed the bars and tried to take them all for himself. The bars have a nougat type texture/consistency, and come in several flavors. (Peanut Butter, PB and J, Chocolate Mint, Sugar Cookie, Cinnamon Roll, and Vanilla Peanut)
     *As a matter of fact, you can sign up to receive a 6-pack trial of the bars here to give each flavor a try. ALSO, readers can save 12% on box orders by entering code yup29 at checkout.*

So, bottom line...B-UP Bars have 20 grams protein and 18-20 grams fiber, with only 2-3 grams of sugar and only 4-5 grams of net carbs. AND, they have no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives, are low in sodium and gluten free. If I had not tried them for myself, I would not even believe it! If you would like to learn more about the products above and this awesome company, check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I, for one, am very glad to have some healthier pre-packaged options for my diabetic hubs and for me too! I also love the company's tag line...Be Healthy. Be Better. B-Up. (UP stands for Unlimited Potential!)

Anyone else lead a low carb lifestyle? What about that mid-life metabolism? Can anyone else relate or is it just me?!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chicken & Biscuits Casserole {Quick and Easy Meal}

This is another quick and easy meal to get on the table, that is approved by 2 out of 3 (of my) children. It's pretty much the ultimate comfort food, with creamy sauce, biscuits, cheese...oh yeah, and some chicken too. Some people even get crazy and throw a vegetable in there. Which totally would not fly in my house. 
This can be thrown together really quickly if you have pre-cooked or leftover chicken (or turkey), use refrigerated biscuits, and condensed cream of chicken soup. However, you could certainly use homemade biscuits, make your own cream of chicken, etc. I went with the super quick and easy version since as I mentioned in my last post...kids have practice in the evenings and dinner has to be FAST.
I used the large Pillsbury Grands biscuits, but next time I will use the smaller biscuits, just to make serving easier; or cut them in half before baking. I quartered and baked the remaining biscuits in the can because my crowd loves a biscuit, but you could buy the smaller container of biscuits. You can always do this with the leftovers too.

Chicken and Biscuits Casserole

1 can condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (I used the reduced fat version)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 cups chicken, cooked and cut into bite size pieces
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can of biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands Reduced Fat)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 
  • In a large bowl, mix the cream of chicken and yogurt (or sour cream) together.
  • Add chicken, milk and melted butter to the cream base. Stir until combined. 
  • Pour into prepared baking dish and top with cheese. 
  • Flatten your biscuits (only 4 of the Grands biscuits would fit) and place on top of the cheese.
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until biscuits are nice and browned on top, and sauce is bubbly. 
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before serving (the sauce will thicken some as it sits)
Recipe adapted from: The Three Little Birdies


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