Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies

 Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies1

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are sitting around our dining room table decorating cookies with my mom and sisters.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Christmas cookies.  Even if they don’t even taste that good, they bring back such happy memories.  Luckily for us, these cookies not only look adorable, but are delicious as well.  The combination of peppermint and cocoa is certainly not a new concept at Christmas time, but making the cookies red velvet gives them a fun, festive flare.  I made these cookies for the Food Blogger Cookie Swap and MKEfoodies Holiday Bakesale.  Both events support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, so I was excited and honored to be a small part of their efforts.

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies2

I have to say I was really surprised when I started to feel a little emotional thinking about what to make.  My first nursing job was on a pediatric oncology floor, and I can honestly say that walking with children and families on their cancer journey is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.  I immediately thought back to my time on that unit and the families who really made an impact on me.  There was one family in particular who I became very close with, and even though I always declined, they would buy me dinner every time I worked night shift.  It was usually Chinese food, so I started with that as my inspiration.  I love the symbolism in Chinese cooking and learned that the color red signifies health, joy and good wishes.  I can’t think of a better wish for these children, families and healthcare providers, so while the red cookies are fun for Christmas, they mean so much more.  If you’re interested in contributing to Cookies for Kids, you can visit their website here

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 - 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  2. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1/4 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup canola oil
  6. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  7. 1/3 cup agave nectar
  8. 1 large egg
  9. 1 tbsp. red food coloring
  10. 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  11. Candy Cane Hershey's Kisses
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, combine oil, brown sugar, agave and egg until creamy. Mix in red food coloring and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture until combined.
  4. Scoop dough into 1-inch balls, rolling with your hands and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until edges are set.
  5. Remove from oven and place 1 Hershey's Kiss on each cookie and let rest 1 minute. To create the thumbprint shape, gently tap the cookie sheet on the counter. Enjoy!
Adapted from Yummy Healthy Easy
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
 Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies3

 If you’re planning on shipping your cookies, these packaging tips are super helpful.  There’s something so fun about going to the post office at Christmas time, knowing that you’re going to make some lucky people very happy in a few days :)  Happy Baking!


Pear Prosciutto Wraps

 Pear Prosciutto Wraps3

Healthy, easy, tasty, 3-ingredient holiday appetizer.  I love this appetizer because you can easily throw it together the day before your Christmas or holiday party, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  I made these for Trivia Night at our church, and even though I ended up staying home with a sick toddler, we were able to easily wrap these bundles up and send them to our team.  I like to think that they brought our team a little luck – very little, as we finished 2nd to last, but at least they had savory, salty prosciutto to ease the pain!   

Pear Prosciutto Wraps

I first had the idea to make these when I saw peach bundles on Cooking Light’s 100 Ideas for Appetizers.  Substituting pear makes them the perfect Fall or Winter snack.  They taste so much better when the pears are ripe, so if yours are still hard, place them in a brown paper bag with a tomato overnight.  The gases from the tomato speed up the ripening. 

Pear Prosciutto Wraps4

It seems like this is the time of the month when Christmas planning goes from fun to a little overwhelming, so I wanted to focus on stress-free food preparation.  I’d much rather spend this time sipping Peppermint Hot Chocolate and driving around Candy Cane Lane, so here are some other ideas for quick and easy appetizers.  Hope your weekend is filled with holiday fun! 

Balsamic Roasted Red Peppers

Cranberry Salsa

Sesame Roasted Asparagus

Skinny Queso Dip

Slow Cooker Bacon Cheeseburger Dip

Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Apricots and Cashews

Sweet Potato Fries

 Pear Prosciutto Wraps5

Pear Prosciutto Wraps
The easiest appetizer ever!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups lightly packed trimmed arugula
  2. 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  3. Salt & pepper to taste
  4. 12 slices prosciutto
  5. 3 pears
Instructions
  1. Lightly toss the arugula with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange 3-4 arugula leaves at 1 end of 1 prosciutto strip. Place 1 pear wedge and roll up.
  3. Place bundle seam side down on a serving plate and repeat with remaining ingredients. Enjoy!
Adapted from Cooking Light
Adapted from Cooking Light
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
Pear Prosciutto Wraps2


Portillos Chocolate Cake

copycat Portillo’s Chocolate Cake

  Portillos Chocolate Cake

Exactly one year ago at this time I hit “publish” on my very first blog post – a tasty but truly terribly-photographed deep dish pizza.  I figured starting a food blog would allow me to share my love of cooking while making some easy money on the side (haha) – not that I’m not grateful for my $8 from Amazon Associates :) Over the last year, I’ve worked really hard on improving my recipes, photographs and overall blog layout, so I think it’s time to take a break and celebrate with a lightened-up Portillo’s Chocolate Cake! Yes, that rich, fudgy, decadent chocolate cake you’d expect, but so light and easy to make at home.

When I first started researching recipes for Portillo’s cake, I was slightly nauseous when I read what bloggers claim is the secret ingredient… mayonnaise. That’s right, this beloved cake is a mixture of boxed cake mix, eggs, ice water, and mayo. The good news is that it was incredibly easy to lighten-up! Plain Greek yogurt provides the richness without the fat (and grossness) of mayo. And the frosting may be my greatest achievement as a food blogger. Mashed avocado is the perfect frosting base. I’ve tried “healthy” versions of frosting in the past, but they were always more of a yogurt consistency. This frosting is delicious! Not just, good for “healthy” frosting but truly delicious!

Portillos Chocolate CakeI have been thinking about recreating this cake for months, so it’s the perfect way to celebrate DDD’s birthday!  If you’re thinking about starting a blog or a new project, just do it!  Even with all the work and terrible photographs, I could not be happier with where I am.  I’m so proud of what I’ve created and excited for the next step.  This year I’ll be focusing on new projects with brands as well as improving my photography, so stay tuned for light, airy, pin-worthy photographs :)

Thank you for reading!  I am beyond grateful that you are taking the time right now to be here.  Enjoy the birthday cake! 

Portillos Chocolate Cake   Portillos Chocolate Cake 

 Portillos Chocolate Cake   Portillos Chocolate Cake

copycat Portillo's Chocolate Cake
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
For the cake
  1. 1 box chocolate cake mix - I love Immaculate mix (found in the Natural Foods section of most grocery stores)
  2. 1 very ripe banana, peeled and mashed
  3. 1 egg + 1 egg white
  4. 1 cup ice water
  5. 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
For the frosting
  1. 2 small avocados, mashed
  2. 1/4 cup honey
  3. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  4. 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla
  6. 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
  7. 1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray.
  2. Beat all of the cake ingredients for 3-4 minutes and pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
For the frosting
  1. Place all frosting ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Chill until ready to ice the cake.
  2. After the cakes have cooled, place one cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread 1/3 of the frosting over the top. Top with the second cake and spread frosting over the top and sides. ENJOY!
Notes
  1. This frosting recipe is adapted from http://mouthwateringfoods.blogspot.com/2013/05/chocolate-avocado-frosting.html
Adapted from Portillo's Chocolate Cake
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
 Portillos Chocolate Cake


Salted Cherry Caramels

Salted Cherry Caramels

Soft, chewy, delicious caramels with no butter or cream!  That is the magic of date caramel.  By tossing dates and a few other ingredients in the food processor, you can make candy for the whole family all Christmas long.  These cherry caramels are inspired by the incredible Wood Orchard cherry caramels we had in Door County, WI.  Door County holds so many amazing memories for us, so I knew I wanted to recreate a dish we’ve had there when I read this month’s Recipe Redux theme…

A Food Memory For Which You Are Thankful

In the US, November marks the Thanksgiving holiday. But many of us are especially thankful for food memories we have shared with friends or relatives throughout our lives. Was it a special meal you ate as a child? Or, maybe it was a food you grew and harvested with your own children. Please share one of your favorite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe.

Salted Cherry Caramels

Salted Cherry Caramels

Vegan date caramel is absolutely delicious and an easy way to lighten-up your favorite candy.  I love the idea of giving these as holiday hostess gifts this year.  The subtle cherry flavor is perfect with the salted dark chocolate coating.   They’re also so much easier to make than traditional caramel – no candy thermometer or hours over the stove required!  Enjoy!

Salted Cherry Caramels  Salted Cherry Caramels

Salted Cherry Caramels
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces (1 1/4 cup) medjool dates, pitted
  2. 1/2 cup dried cherries
  3. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  4. 3 tbsp. coconut oil, divided
  5. 3-5 tbsp. water
  6. 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  7. Sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, combine the dates, cherries and cinnamon. Melt 2 tbsp. of the coconut oil and drizzle over the date mixture.
  2. Pulse the food processor until the dates form a creamy paste. Add water as needed.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the freezer and allow to set overnight, or at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove the caramel from the freezer and roll into 1-inch balls. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer until firm, at least 2 hours.
  5. To coat the caramel, combine 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 1 tbsp. coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted.
  6. Dip each caramel into the chocolate and sprinkle with salt. The chocolate will harden pretty quickly, so sprinkle the salt right away. Store in the freezer for up to a week. Enjoy!
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
Salted Cherry Caramels



Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice I love making fried rice at home.  It’s quick, easy and so much fresher than the Chinese restaurant.  This veggie fried rice is light, flavorful and ready in less than 10 minutes!  This is the ultimate weeknight side dish. 

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

This month Recipe Redux members were challenged to get moving in the kitchen by creating delicious appetizers, soups, salads and side dishes in 10 minutes or less using Libby’s Vegetable Pouches.  10 minutes?!  I immediately thought of fried rice and looked through Cooking Light for ideas.  To keep things simple, I opted for a vegetarian dish using brown rice pouches. 

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice6

I was already a big fan of the super convenient rice pouches, so vegetable pouches just seem like a no-brainer!  They will be available nationwide in January.  I was impressed with how fresh the vegetables tasted and loved that they didn’t take up valuable freezer space.  I also like that pouch packaging uses 75% less energy to produce.    This recipe can also be easily adapted to fresh or frozen vegetables as well.  Happy cooking!

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

Easy Vegetable Fried Rice
Light, flavorful, and ready in less than 10 minutes!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 onion
  2. 2 pouches brown rice
  3. 3 pouches vegetables (corn, peas, green beans)
  4. 3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  5. 2 tbsp. olive oil + 1 tbs. extra for sautéing the onion
  6. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  7. 1 tsp. cumin
  8. 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  9. 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
Instructions
  1. Dice the onion and heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. While the onion is cooking, microwave the rice pouches and then vegetable pouches according to package instructions.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, 2 tbsp. olive oil and spices.
  4. To the skillet, add the cooked rice, cooked vegetables and soy sauce mixture. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Pour in the egg whites and stir and until egg whites are cooked through. Divide among 4 plates. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. If using frozen vegetables instead of the pouches, simply cook as directed then stir them into your fried rice.
Adapted from Cooking Light
Adapted from Cooking Light
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

I received free samples of Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby’s and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.



Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

Make Ahead Thanksgiving1

Last year around this time I officially became an adult… It wasn’t my looming 30th birthday or my baby quickly turning into a toddler that forced this shift… I officially offered to host my first major holiday.  When we offered to host Thanksgiving, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to enjoy the day, rather than spending it stressed out.  I had visions of relaxed conversations with family, simple, rustic decorations, the perfect pumpkin pie, and laughing with Tim as we tried to figure out how to carve a turkey.  And you know what… it actually happened!  I credit this to making everything (except the turkey) ahead of time. By spreading out the meal prep over a week, we were able to enjoy every part. 

Step 1 for a stress-free Thanksgiving… Starbucks red cup + red manicure. 

Red

Below I’ve listed our Thanksgiving day menu, along with my stress-free timeline for the week.  This is the result of hours and hours on Pinterest (sad but true) to find the easiest, somewhat healthy, totally delicious Thanksgiving dishes.  All of these recipes were easy to assemble and kept well in the refrigerator.  Any dishes marked with an asterisk* were brought by our wonderful guests.  The table decorations (leaves, candles, candle holders) were purchased from the Dollar Tree.   I hope this gives you some inspiration!

Diet Deep Dish 645

Menu

Appetizers

Cranberry salsa with pumpkin & sweet potato tortilla chips

Veggies & Hummus (store bought)

Crackers & Dip*

Swedish Meatballs*

Main

Turkey

Apple & Herb Stuffing

Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

Sweet Potato Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Mashed Potatoes*

Cheesy Potatoes*

Wheat Rolls (from Breadsmith)

Autumn Chopped Salad

Dessert

Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

S’more Pie*

Cocktails

Apple Cider Sangria

Spotted Cow Beer

Assorted pop (I may live in Wisconsin, but it will never be soda)

Diet Deep Dish 647

Timeline

Sunday

Grocery shopping

Monday

Make cranberry salsa

Set the table

Tuesday

Make the pumpkin pie, pecan pie & cheesecake

Buy the rolls

Wednesday

Assemble the sweet potato & green bean casseroles

Make the salad dressing

Thursday morning

Cut up the veggies

Make the sangria

Make the stuffings

Prepare the turkey

When the turkey is close to being done, add the casseroles and stuffings to the oven until warm.  If there isn’t any room, the microwave will work as well. 

I hope this post took a little bit of the stress out of hosting this year.  You can do it!  Thanks for visiting!  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Diet Deep Dish 654


Halloween Cocktails

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Happy Halloween!  If you’re like me and have already OD’d on candy this week, you will love these fresh, light cocktails. They are all made with LO, Low Glycemic Real Fruit Beverage – juice sweetened only with real fruit, organic agave and stevia. 

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I had the chance to sample all 4 juice flavors this morning along with my pumpkin pancakes.  I loved the pomegranate and pomegranate mojito!  The acai-blue and mango mojito were a little too tart for me, but were great mixed with a little soda water.  Tonight our neighborhood is having a little adult trick-or-treat with every house making a cocktail, so I am really looking forward to mixing up some of these tonight… 

Black Cat Fever (124 calories)

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  • 2 oz. LO Acai-Blue Fruit Beverage
  • 1 oz. citrus vodka
  • Splash of cinnamon flavored whisky
  • Combine the Acai-Blue beverage and vodka in a glass and fill with crushed ice
  • Top with a splash of cinnamon whisky

Freaky Tiki Quencher (188 calories)

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  • 2 oz. LO Mango Mojito Fruit Beverage
  • 1 oz. macadamia liqueur
  • 1 oz. coconut rum
  • Combine all in a glass and fill with crushed ice, garnish with a lime wedge

Pomegranate & Pumpkin Cocktail

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  • 1 pump Amoretti Premium Pumpkin Pie Syrup
  • 2 oz. Lo Pomegranate Fruit Beverage
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice.
  • Strain over fresh ice and top with a splash of sparkling wine.

 

Have a happy Halloween! Thank you to LO for the samples!  I will leave you with this :)

 12b261c2ae0733bfc14e9758fb84910c

 


Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Apricots & Cashews

 Spicy Roasted Broccoli

Spicy roasted broccoli with sweet dried apricots and cashews in under 20 minutes!  Dried red pepper flakes give this dish its kick and can easily be adjusted to your taste. 

spicy roasted broccoli I’ve been trying to focus on keeping my recipes quick and weeknight-friendly, and this side could not be easier.  I’m thinking it would be a perfect Thanksgiving side, because it’s a delicious vegetable dish that won’t take up valuable oven time.  You’ll also love that you can control the heat with the red pepper flakes.  That is a spice that I usually avoid, because I always go overboard and then can’t get through the meal without a gallon of water.  I was inspired to pull it out when I read this month’s Recipe Redux theme…

Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop – and the spice still give you nightmares?!) 

spicy roasted broccoli   spicy roasted broccoli 

The heat of the broccoli is easily balanced by the sweetness of the apricots and cashews.  I paired it with goat cheese-stuffed chicken breasts for an unbelievably quick and satisfying dinner.  Enjoy!    

Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Apricots & Cashews
Serves 4
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Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 medium head broccoli
  2. 1 small onion
  3. 1/2 cup dried apricots
  4. 1/2 cup cashews
  5. 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  6. 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  7. Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop the broccoli florets. Dice the onion and dried apricots. Coarsely chop the cashews.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the broccoli with 2 tbsp. olive oil, diced onion, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Spread onto a greased baking sheet and roast for 12-14 minutes.
  3. After removing broccoli from the oven, sprinkle with dried apricots and cashews. Serve warm.
Diet Deep Dish http://dietdeepdish.com/
spicy roasted broccoli



Must-Haves for Fall

Must-Haves for Fall

Between the pumpkin spice lattes, gorgeous hikes and warm apple cider, it’s hard not to be a little obsessed with Fall!  And even though most major department stores are already playing Christmas music, we’re only halfway through.  I’ve pulled together some of my “must-haves” for this Fall, from pumpkin carving ideas to what yoga poses help our bodies transition to the cold.  So read on and take advantage of this beautiful season!   

Here are some Fall favorites…

Comforting Slow Cooker Meals – Last week I made the easiest Vegetarian Chili with Pumpkin Biscuits from Cooking Light*.  I love slow cooker recipes whose only instructions are: pour all ingredients in and set on low for 8 hours.  It is perfect topped with a little plain Greek yogurt and mashed avocado.  The pumpkin biscuits were lightly sweet from the pumpkin and honey.  We had the leftovers for breakfast topped with a little cream cheese and apple butter. 

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

  Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

Brisk, Fall Walks – Haunting memories of last year’s polar vortex have inspired us to take advantage of every second this Fall!  From apple picking to pumpkin farms, there are so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors this time of year.  This weekend we learned that a rainy October day is the perfect time to visit the zoo :) 

photo 2  photo 1

Creative Pumpkin Carving 

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Festive Fall Cocktails – I made this apple cider sangria for Thanksgiving last year.  It was a huge hit and definitely took the edge off of hosting our first big holiday!

Photo courtesy of How Sweet It Is

Photo courtesy of How Sweet It Is

Balancing Yoga Poses – I’ve been focusing on balance poses in my yoga classes the past few weeks.  With the change of weather, our bodies and minds often feel out of balance, so focusing on feeling grounded during your practice will help you transition to the cooler months ahead.

Photo courtesy of Yoga Journal

Photo courtesy of Yoga Journal

 Deep, Vibrant Nail Colors – This month the magazines are filled with jewel tones, heavy metals and soft neutrals. 

hbz-pp-lg-0807-nails-hor-lg

 *As part of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection, I will be posting 2 CL posts per month.  Thank you for following!

What are some of your Fall favorites??


Hello Fresh Review

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If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with trying to make healthy, home-cooked meals during the work week, I really recommend trying a cooking kit company!  It’s just so easy.  As I’ve started doing some freelance recipe development, I’ve had the opportunity to try a several different companies, and I have to say Hello Fresh has been my favorite.  The name says it all!  All the ingredients are so fresh, minimally processed.  I have to admit, the recipes looked a little boring to me at first, but by keeping things simple, you really get to taste the natural flavors of the food without covering them up with too many seasonings, cheeses, etc.   

Just for review, when you sign up for a cooking kit subscription, you’ll receive a box of ingredients in the mail each week – you can decide how many meals per week.  All meals should be simple to prepare and take no longer than 30 minutes.

Here are the 3 meals I had the chance to sample…. recipe links included!

Stroganoff Meatballs over Linguine

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Toasted Fried Rice with Shrimp

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Spiced Chicken with Barley and Avocado Salad

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I also love the Hello Fresh Cooking School - a blog that features “how-to” videos and articles, like “How to pick an avocado” or “How to enjoy leftover steak.”  This post does NOT contain affiliate links – I just loved this service!  Hope it gave you some ideas for delish weeknight meals!

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