Makeover Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is more dessert than salad, and it’s one of my favorites.

The original recipe is packed full of sugar, excess butter, artificial coloring, and hydrogenated fats.

I saw some opportunities for nutritional improvement without sacrificing much flavor.  I started by reducing the amount of butter by half…and honestly it still was plenty.  I also cut the sweetener amounts way down and then substituted Truvia or Erythritol for the sugar.  I got rid of the hydrogenated fats by swapping out the whipped topping for protein rich Greek yogurt. And ditched a pile of sugar and artificial food coloring by using homemade gelatin from light cranberry juice that was colored with vegetable powder instead of box gelatin colored with food dye. This healthier version is worthy of potluck suppers.

Healthier Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups (about 5 oz) roughly chopped pretzels (gluten free work too)

6 Tbs butter, melted

3 Tbs Erythritol or Truvia

8 oz Neufchatel Cream Cheese

8 oz Unsweetened Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup Erythritol or Truvia

1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 cups Low Calorie Cranberry Juice, look for an aspartame free variety.  I got mine from Aldi and it has 5 calories per cup.

1 Tbs plain Gelatin

  1.  Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup of cranberry juice.  Let stand for 1 minute.  Microwave on high for 1 minute or until dissolved.  Stir in the remaining cup of cold juice and chill until thickened.  (About 30 minutes to an hour.)
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together pretzels, melted butter and 3 Tbs sweetener. Press evenly into the bottom of a glass 9×13 pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.  Cool to room temperature.
  3. Beat together cream cheese, Greek Yogurt and sweetener until smooth.  Spread over cooled crust.
  4. Top cream layer with sliced strawberries, then pour thickened gelatin over all.  Chill for 3 hours or until set.Note: If you don’t let the gelatin thicken before pouring, it will sink to the bottom and make your crust soggy. I learned from experience

It makes 8 generous servings each with 262 calories; 16g fat; 20g net carbs and 8g protein.  I enjoy a piece for breakfast, or a snack, or both.

For the same size serving, the original recipe has 510 calories; 29g fat; 57g net carbs and 4g protein.

Have you given a favorite recipe a healthier makeover?  I’d love to hear about it.

This post contains amazon affiliate links.  Linking to the products that I personally use in my home. If you choose to purchase anything through one of these links, I will receive a small commission.

Grab and Go Muesli Breakfast Cookies

I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to simplify our lives, and if it makes us healthier too, it’s a double win.  Breakfast cookies are one of those double wins and are easy to grab and eat for a healthy breakfast on the go or an after school snack on the way to music lessons or sports practice.

I made these Muesli breakfast cookies last week for the Fit Mama meal plan and it was instant love. I had three the first day, one at breakfast and at each of my snack times. Inspiration for the recipe came from Sweet as Honey and I tweaked it to simplify the number of ingredients and to fit into the macro nutrition profile I needed for the Fit Mama plan.
I can imagine all sorts of different variations just by changing the type of dried fruit and seeds or nuts added.  Different fruit options include: dried blueberries, golden raisins, apricots, cherries, strawberries, apples, dates, bananas, mango, papaya, pineapple, prunes. Prunes are shockingly delicious despite their old person stereotype and taste sweeter than dates without as many active carbs . Nuts and seeds might also include macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, filberts, or cacao nibs.

I love dried fruits and nuts so much that it’s easy for me to overdo it and gain weight on them even though they are healthy foods.  By baking them into these cookies, there’s instant portion control.

After dropping the dough onto the sheets, you’ll want to use a silicone spatula to flatten and shape them into cookies.

Something you need to know about these is that they are HEALTHY and they taste like it.  They aren’t super sweet, just sweet enough to be pleasant.  More the sweetness of a piece of honey wheat bread instead of the sweetness of a chocolate chip cookie.

For that reason, I’m going to share the small recipe first.  It makes 4 large single serving cookies, enough for your family to taste them before you waste large amounts of ingredients.

I found everything except the unsweetened coconut at Aldi.  I also chose to use Great Value Sugar Free Syrup from Wal-mart instead of honey to keep the macros in fat burning zone. If I were making these for kids, I would use honey or real maple syrup as listed.

Muesli Breakfast Cookies, Small Recipe

3/4 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour or Almond Meal

1/4 cup Craisins

2 Tbs Pepitas (Shelled pumpkin seeds)

2 Tbs Sunflower Seeds

2 Tbs Fresh Ground Flax Meal

1 Egg

1/4 cup honey or real maple syrup

2 tbs melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in the order given and shape by 1/3 cupfuls into 4 large cookies onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before moving so they don’t fall apart. Enjoy with your favorite warm beverage.

They are also really good frosted with Natural Peanut Butter.

Muesli Breakfast Cookies, Family Size Recipe

3 cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour or Almond Meal

1 cup Craisins

1/2 cup Pepitas

1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds

1/2 cup Ground Flax Meal

4 eggs

1 cup Honey or Maple Syrup

1/2 cup Coconut Oil, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in the order given and shape by 1/3 cupfuls into 16 large cookies onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before moving so they don’t fall apart. Enjoy with your favorite warm beverage.

Made with Sugar Free Syrup instead of honey, each cookie contains: 270 calories; 16g fat; 24g net carbs; 7g protein.

The batter is moist enough that I think I could stir in some vanilla protein powder for extra sweetness plus protein.  If I try it out, I’ll update with the results.

Do you ever have call for grab and go breakfasts? What’s your favorite?

 

Little Chocolate Pots

This recipe has changed my week.  It’s one of the rare “health” foods that my kids are crazy about. I tested it for next week’s FitMama meal plan and thought I had double what I needed.  But my oldest daughter is singing a solo at district contest for the first time today and Monday she walked in the door a complete emotional wreck.  When I handed her a little chocolate pot, words were no longer necessary.  I loved knowing it was a tiny bowl of superfood to nourish her adrenals and her brain.  It wasn’t a false stab at comfort food that would fill her body with garbage and drag her down further.

The tiny little bowls were from Big Lots.  At $2 each they were an affordable splurge.  I love the texture in the stoneware on the outside and the crackle glaze inside.

The only unusual ingredient in this recipe is Xylosweet.It’s a sugar free sweetener derived from probiotics+corn that I feel ok about using.  It tastes like sugar without messing with your blood sugar. You can use any sweetener you prefer or have on hand.  Another good choice is Monk Fruit In The Raw.  You can also use Truvia, but if you find it bitter, pick one of the other two.

Superfoods:

Coconut Oil: thermogenic to boost metabolism; nourishes the brain and helps memory; reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system; nourishes skin, teeth and hair; anti-fungal and anti-microbial

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder:  Rich in fiber, protein, and anti-oxidants; boosts metabolism

Collagen:  Builds strong hair, skin, and nails; soothes the lining of the intestines and helps with digestions

Eggs:  Full of protein, vitamin A, Vitamin B and zinc.  Good for your eyes, brain and heart and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Cinnamon: Boost metabolism, helps regulate blood sugar, good for the heart and aids in circulation

Little Chocolate Pots

½ cup refined coconut oil, melted*

¼ cup ground xylitol**

Pinch salt

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup collagen

2 large eggs, room temperature***

½ cup hot water with ¼ tsp cinnamon****

1.Add all but the eggs and hot coffee to a blender and blend well.

2.Add eggs and blend well, one at a time. (If your eggs are too cold, the coconut oil will solidify too soon.)

3.Slowly drizzle in hot coffee while blending. Blend well. The hot coffee will “cook” the eggs.

4.Pour into 6 small ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or until firm.

6 servings: 242 calories; 21g fat; 9 net carbs ; 7g protein

*Refined coconut oil does not have coconut flavor. If you LOVE the taste of coconut, you can use unrefined pressed coconut oil. MCT oil won’t work, because you need it to harden when cooled.

**You can use any no calorie sweetener you prefer. I grind my xylitol in a little coffee grinder. It helps it dissolve better. If you are subbing all the sweeteners with honey, this is not the meal plan for you. The fat burning process with these specific ingredients rely on no sugars

***The temp of the eggs is super important here. I didn’t remember to take mine out ahead of time, so I ran some really hot water in a mug for each egg and dropped them in. They stayed in there for 3-5 minutes and were warm enough for this recipe.

****You can change the flavor by subbing hot coffee or mint tea

If you are looking for a weight loss plan that works with your busy schedule.  Check out FitMama. The food is prepped ahead so it’s ready to heat up and eat whenever you need it.  Healthy food could soon be as easy for you as grabbing a bag of chips.

Here’s the meals for the first day for the March 12th Fit Mama Plan.  We have a private facebook group too, so if you need help with ingredient substitutes for preferences we’re on it :).

Breakfast: Guacamole Eggs

Snack: Little Chocolate Pots

Lunch: Salmon Chef’s Salad

Snack:  Giant Frozen Eggnog

Dinner: Grilled Steak with Asparagus and Whipped Cauliflower

Snack: Hot Creamy Peppermint Sipper

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting us :).

Chili Dog Enchiladas

This recipe uses a few convenience items to get dinner on the table in a snap.  Since we usually cook from scratch, this change of pace feels really special.  Haha, yep, hot dogs are special.  This will only taste as good as your hot dogs are, so I recommend splurging a little on the all beef or turkey ones.   Read more

Why I’m Bubbling Over With Excitement

This month I’ve been hosting a spending freeze challenge for the Grocery Shrink Plus members.  It was an extra perk of their meal plan membership and they got some extra stuff, like printable worksheets and the super frugal $50 week meal plan to help them get the most out of the the challenge.  The best part is how the members encourage each other.

Here’s one comment from a member who gave permission for me to share her story but asked to remain anonymous:

This “no spending freeze” has been an inspiration to me. 
I finally talked with my husband about our budget. He is on board, and I am holding myself more accountable on our grocery budget. I am one of THESE people with overblown grocery budget, but can’t afford it. I am working hard on not stock piling, holding out for the true sales, and only buying what is needed right now (fruit for most part, along with paper products and toiletries). So far, we have only spent about 15% of our regular budget. I intend on keeping the same for February, and then keep our new budget to 2/3 of what we spent last year.
Our other budget items have remained at 0 for this month, except of course for what we spend our animals and pets, some homeschooling expenses and regular bills. When we had to eat out, due to lack of planning and time, it made my family more aware, and gave more tools to discuss with our kids why we are not going out every Sunday for dinner with our friends after church.
Is it hard? Yes, as I am trying not to obsess over the budget, but at the same time enjoy almost too much seeing our expenses going way down this month.
And from another member:
We were able to pay off the balance of a credit card that I didn’t expect to pay off for another 3 months! Getting this debt snowball rolling…. 
And we still have a week left!!!!
We wrap up the spending freeze, January 31st, but I’m keeping the group open for several ladies who want to continue freezing for a few more months and kick their debt to the curb.
But this isn’t the only reason I’m excited.  Have you ever noticed how much sticking to a budget is similar to sticking to a healthy eating plan?
That’s why the next official GSP challenge is a fitness challenge.  It starts February 6th and comes with special bonuses including fat shredding prep ahead meal plans, so you can have your meals and snacks all ready to go for each week, a private group where you can check in and get a pat on the back, and extra coaching.  If you’d like to join us, here’s a secret link for 50% off the membership.  It expires February 6th or whenever we fill up.

What I’m Into this Week

Ashley Black Fascia Blasting.  The tools aren’t cheap (and I haven’t purchased yet) but I joined the facebook group and have been lurking for awhile.  The success stories and before and after pictures are inspiring.  I’m interested in the process to gain more range of motion and reduce body pain, especially in my jaw, neck and shoulders. When my husband heard the testimonies, he said, “Will you buy me one for my back?”  He had a painful back injury 3 years ago that hasn’t healed even after months of physical therapy.  We can totally share one. I also plan to convince my mom to try it on her knee.  She has had horrible pain for more than 6 months that even surgery and steroid shots haven’t helped. I think this could be really helpful to her. If you decide to lurk in the group, search #storytimewithjoanna to hear how the business began. It’s inspirational.  (PS side affects include loss of cellulite, increased hair growth, increased collagen production, and some temporary bruising.)  If you are a physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist–this isn’t optional.  You should at least look it over.

Irlen Syndrome.  I alluded to this briefly in this post, but we have had even more experience with it since.  My daughters have struggled with learning disabilities from a very young age and I’ve spent a lot of hours and money researching and trying different things to help them reach their potential.  Both girls are extremely bright, but process slowly and have visual misperceptions.   The younger one was diagnosed with Irlen syndrome in August.   Since then we have discovered 2 more members of the family who also have it, and are screening the rest to rule it out.  This is a fascinating subject for parents of special needs kids, educators, and optometrists.  If you’d like to hear more about our experience with it, I can write more–just let me know in the comments.  I don’t want to bore you with the details if you aren’t really interested.  (This is likely the main trigger for my adrenal issues and I’m hoping with proper treatment, I will finally be able to heal.)

The Young House Love podcast. I’ve loved this blogging duo for years now. Their topic of expertise is home decor and I couldn’t figure out how that would translate to a radio show, but it totally does. I look forward to listening weekly as I do my kitchen chores.  I love the way the couple interacts with a big dose of humor.

Do you listen to podcasts?  Leave your favorites in the comments below.  (Also…let me know about the Irlen thing.)

Creamy Pumpkin Mousse: A Weight Loss Recipe

I’m so excited about the flavors of autumn! Apples, cinnamon, maple, pumpkin, acorn squash….Yes please!  All of it.

Here’s a super simple recipe that is sure to please your fall cravings, but is still cool and refreshing for those warm afternoons.  It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and is low carb.  If you’re following Trim Healthy Mama, this would be an S. The few carbs that are in it are naturally present in the Greek Yogurt and Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Mousse

Creamy Pumpkin Mousse

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup plain Greek Yogurt (I used fat free but any fat content is fine.)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp liquid vanilla stevia

4 packets Truvia

(If you aren’t counting carbs and just want to use sugar, I recommend 1/4 cup real maple syrup or honey to replace the stevia and Truvia.)

Put everything in an electric mixer with the whip attachment and whip until soft peaks form.  You’ll be able to see the trace of the beater through the mousse and the lines will stay when it is ready.

Transfer to 6 serving dishes and chill until ready to serve.  I’ve found my stevia sweetened things taste better when chilled for a couple of hours.  It helps the flavors blend and makes the stevia less bitter. My kids gave this 2 thumbs up even before chilling.

For a new prep-ahead weight loss meal plan every week, click here.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-11-21-19-am

A few things: Living Room Update etc.

I know I’ve been quiet lately.  I’ve been enjoying SUMMER with a slower schedule and time with my kids.  Here are a few updates.

  1. The hardwood floor in our living room is all finished!  I don’t have baseboards up and I haven’t started on the built ins yet.  But I did move the furniture in place just like it would be with the built ins there.  I want to live with it a little bit before I got through the expense and work of the built ins buy just to make sure I like the arrangement.  So far I really do!  You’ll notice there’s a rug down. It’s the one I bought for Darren’s office.  We are a long ways away from being able to use it for his office and I may pick something else for him then, or move it down and pick something else for the living room.  I love the rug and right now it’s the most affordable option since we already own it ;).  Everything is centered on the room, but the angle I had to stand to take the picture makes it look wonky.

Living Room before 2

Before

Living room during

Currently

Living Room afterConcept

(I’m rethinking the whole slip cover thing.  I’ll have to cut the back cushions off my sofa to make it work and it’s going to be a lot of work.  I still want to do it, just much later.)

2. I had a midlife crisis last week and bleached my hair patchwork orange. I don’t have pictures because it was too humiliating.  But it was mostly yellow with squares of orange and brown scattered through it.  My hair stylist’s son was having surgery that day so she couldn’t help me right away.  I wore hats everywhere, even to a wedding shower and denied all requests to take it off.  It was humiliating.  On phase one of the do over, she got rid of the orange and brown and I was GOLD blond all over.  It was horrifying.  The next day I was asked to lead the song service for the all area branch meeting.  I couldn’t say no because my hair was horrifying so I stood up there and sang away like there was nothing crazy on top of my head.  Three days later after multiple keratin and biotin treatments she added ash brown highlights and toned it all over.  We had to get pretty aggressive to get rid of the remaining brassiness and I was a little gray/purple for a few days.  It has settled down a little bit and now I’m REALLY blond, in a good way.  I no longer scream when I see a mirror, which is positive progress.

3. I have been healing up a lot over the last 2 months.  My hair has started to grow.  It has only been a week since the orange hair fiasco and I already have dark roots.  While dark roots aren’t pretty, I’m going to take it and love it since it’s another sign that my health is improving.  I started back to my Fit Yummy Mummy workout program, starting at the introductory level (the step before beginners….) and feel like I’m going to be able to finish this time.  While half my family is away at summer camp and my chores are reduced, I’ve been prepping foods to help with my goals.  I’ve made protein batter for pancakes and keep it in a jug in the fridge so I can cook a few fresh up in the mornings. I also froze protein shakes into popsicles molds.  It’s just almond milk and chocolate flavored protein powder, but having it in a popsicle slows down my eating process and is really fun. And I made a 4 serving recipe of Thai Chicken Salad and divided it into recycled Chic Fil A containers.

Thai Chicken Salad

If I make a family size recipe each time I cook something new, I can eat on it for awhile for no extra work.  When it’s that yummy I don’t mind eating leftovers.

4. My new washer and dryer have been in service for about a week and I love them!  They are HUGE.  One load in the new washer is worth 3 in my old one.  I used to do 3 loads a day and now I’m down to 1.  It’s the same amount of laundry but I can get through it in 1/3 of the time.

 

Bollstr Water Bottle Holder

I got a new water bottle carrier from Bollstr a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been using it awhile to make sure it’s a good product, and I’m smitten.

The Bollstr

It’s sturdy enough that it doesn’t flop around while I am moving, and has a spot in the back to hold a smartphone with an ear phone eyelet so I can listen to tunes while the phone is zipped safely in place.  No more jogging my phone out of my pocket while I run!  It also has a second pocket to hold an ID or money and a caribiner to clip keys.

11412295_1609458569292896_5034165117020995699_n

It adjusts with velcro straps to hold most water bottles.  Just be careful with fabric on long sleeves that might snag easily.

The Bollstr varieties

They have two varieties, an over the shoulder strap or a waist strap version. The waist strap is more comfortable for my lifestyle, but I was nervous since I’m not a fan of fanny packs.  I was relieved when it came that it doesn’t look like a fanny pack at all, allows full range of motion and is super comfortable to wear, even with a full bottle.  Wearing it a little low on the hips is super comfortable and distributes weight well.

This Bollstr was founded by Tamra Johnson, a friend I met 10 years ago at a training seminar for Spell to Write and Read.  She developed the Bolstr to help her daughter who received a kidney transplant. You can find out more about their story in the video below.

Even though I have 2 healthy kidneys, I still need plenty of water for adrenal support and weight management. I’ve made several water bottle holders from tutorials on pinterest, but none of them are as comfortable or effective as my Bollstr.   If you are looking for a health conscious gift, this is a good one.

5 Favorite Chicken Marinades

We eat a lot of chicken because it’s so affordable.  Bone in is nice for all the health benefits of bone especially if you are boiling it for broth or soup.  I like a boneless breast for fast cooking convenience.  It’s hard to admit this but I don’t like bones very much….it’s much harder for me to eat bone in chicken emotionally…..it’s weird.  Just being real.

Recently I’ve been struggling with weight gain. Our busy schedule tempts me to grab something that’s unsupportive to my goals and it shows in my waistline.

Last week, I decided to spend 15 minutes and prep ahead marinated chicken for the freezer.  It’s easy to thaw in the microwave then throw on the table top grill.  The breasts cook in just 7 minutes that way! (Since it cooks from both sides at the same time.)   It takes less time to cook these than to go get take out.

Not all chicken breasts are created equal.  My favorite for marinating and grilling are from Costco.  They are the least expensive brand there, but are nice and thin for uniform cooking

Costco isn’t as close to our house as Aldi, so I ran in and grabbed a bag of frozen chicken for a slow cooker meal.  Aldi’s chicken is a few cents more expensive per pound and it’s wonky.  This type of chicken is okay to dice for casseroles, or to cook and shred into soup, but not so good for marinating and grilling.

Marinating for the freezer is the easiest prep ahead meal type. I start by placing 8 breasts (about 2 lbs) of chicken in each freezer bag.

Then mix up the marinades and pour them in.  If you want to grill chicken in the next 3 days you can seal the bags and stick them in the fridge.  If it’s for later than that, throw them in the freezer.  They will still marinate frozen.

Here are 5 of my favorite marinades.  Do you have a favorite? Leave it in the comments.  I’d love to try something new.

Honey Lemon Chicken Marinade

1 cup lemon juice (I used from concentrate from Aldi)

1/2 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon dried Rosemary

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon lemon extract or zest

 (I used homemade lemon extract–video at the end.)

Combine all and warm slightly to mix the honey in well.  Pour over chicken and refrigerate overnight.  We grilled ours, but I think slow cooking the chicken in the marinade would be yummy too.

Thyme Chicken Marinade

This one is our favorite!  It’s really good with A1 steak sauce for dipping, but you really don’t need anything to help the flavor.

3/4 cup water or oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or rice vinegars are nice)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Fresh Black Pepper

Favorite Fajita Marinade

2 Tablespoons oil

2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground ginger

Instead of buying pineapple juice, I drain it off a can of fruit, then serve the fruit :).

BBQ Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

2 Tbs Brown Sugar or Truvia with a splash of molasses

1 Tbs yellow mustard

1 tsp salt

Crushed Red Pepper

 If you are curious about making your own extracts, here’s how I do it: