Light(er) Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Halloween is quickly approaching which means I’ve entered into my annual pumpkin-obsession stage. From about mid-October to early December I am pretty solidly in this stage, consuming everything from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin ravioli. Of course the annual must-have is pumpkin pie for thanksgiving, although I’ve also experimented with a few other pumpkin-based desserts such as pumpkin cupcakes and this year’s masterpiece: pumpkin cheesecake bars.

This recipe is good because it is a lighter version of the traditional pumpkin cheesecake bars, which are absolutely delicious but very heavy. It uses light cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and very little sugar. Indeed, I feel I must put in a warning that the final product has only a hint of sweetness due to the limited sugar used. It goes very well with ice cream, for those who want that extra bit of sweetness alongside the pumpkin. I also topped mine with a candy corn (near impossible to find in Britain…very kindly brought over by a friend from New York!) to give it a particularly Halloween feel!

Light(er) Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup (200 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) butter

Cheesecake:

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (75 grams) unrefined or granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1⅓ cups (310 grams) pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup (54 grams) plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice

Directions:

Crust:

  1. Combine flour, powdered sugar and room temperature butter until coarse crumbs form.
  2. Put into greased pan (can also line pan with wax paper to avoid sticking) and bake for 15 minutes at 350F (176C).
  3. Remove from heat until filling is ready. Reduce oven to 300F (150 C).

Cheesecake:

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
  3. Add the remaining cheesecake ingredients and mix just until combined.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 35 minutes at 300 F (150C) or until the middle of the cheesecake bars appears set and no longer jiggles when you move the pan.
  5. Open the oven door and let the bars cool completely before removing from the oven. This is to prevent the cheesecake from cracking.
  6. Cover and store the bars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Peaches in Coconut Oil

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I bought some coconut oil the other day from Holland and Barrett (amazing health food store by the way for those who live in the UK). The oil seems to be all the rage these days so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s marketed as a healthy alternative to cooking oils and butters with a hint of coconut flavour. And, strangely enough it is also good for the skin, hair and nail cuticles, so you can also put it on dry elbows or ends. I haven’t tried that yet, but maybe I’ll test it out at some point!

In the immediate term, I tried this great recipe for pan fried peaches in coconut oil, served with ice cream. It was delicious – the coconut aroma was strong and tropical and the cinnamon brought out the warmth of the peaches. Can also serve this dish with Greek yogurt for a slightly healthier version, or whipped cream.

Ingredients:

2 cups sliced peaches
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
greek yogurt (or ice cream, whipped cream)

Directions:

Mix the oil, honey, and cinnamon.

Heat a pan until it is hot. Add the oil, honey and cinnamon mixture, stirring frequently.

When the oil mixture is simmering, add the peaches. Toss in oil until coated. Fry on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until peaches are soft, stirring frequently. Turn down heat if they start to burn.

Remove from heat and serve over ice cream, greek yogurt or whipped cream.

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Spicy Chickpea Salad Melts

 

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I reaaaaally enjoyed this recipe. I’d describe it almost as a spicy vegetarian tuna melt. It was pretty quick and easy to make as well which is a bonus in my book, as I tend to not prepare complex recipes when I come home at 8pm on weekdays! The crunchy bread and melted cheese (crispy on the top from broiling in the oven) give the open-faced sandwich a nice texture while the flavors of sriracha, Dijon and pickle give it a tangy, spicy bite. And the chickpeas, with their nutlike taste and buttery texture, are a good source of protein, fiber and iron and do a great job of filling out the sandwich. Overall I was very impressed with this recipe, as well as the website I found it on, The Gouda Life.

Spicy Chickpea Salad Melts

Makes 4 open-faced sandwiches

1 1/2 cups (approx. a small can) canned chickpeas
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 red onions, diced very fine
2 tbsp Greek yogurt OR mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large dill pickle, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp fresh minced basil
juice form 1/2 lemon (or a whole lemon if you like it tangy!)
1 tbsp sriracha (+/- depending on heat tolerance) OR 1/2 tsp (+/-) cayenne pepper
salt
6 slices crusty multigrain bread
greens of your choice (I like torn kale)
sliced tomatoes
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella (or fresh, torn mozzarella)
fresh ground pepper

Pour rinsed chickpeas into a flat, high sided dish, drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil and mash with a fork or potato masher until mixture starts to stick together. No need to be fussy, it’s even tastier when you get a whole chickpea in a bite.

Add in the celery, red onion, mayo, Dijon, pickle, garlic, basil, lemon juice, sriracha or cayenne and a good pinch of salt. Mix and taste for seasoning. Add more lemon, salt or cayenne if needed.

Preheat oven to 400F (204 C).

Slice your bread, lay on a baking sheet and top each with 1/4 of the mixture. It may seem like a lot but trust me. Just trust me. Top the chickpea salad layer with some greens, a layer of tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle with pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. If necessary, turn the oven on to broil to brown the cheese in the last minute or two.

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Rice and Oat Crispy Bars

I like these bars a lot because of the crispy crunch from the rice crispy cereal. They’re very similar to another bar I’ve made, Quinoa Berry Health Bars, (and indeed use a lot of the same ingredients), although the crispy cereal in the Rice and Oat Crispy Bars really adds a nice texture and satisfying crunch to it.

These bars make for a good breakfast or snack and are filled with healthy oats and protein from nut butter. They can be easily frozen to last longer but will stay good if stored in an air tight container for up to one week. Enjoy!

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Rice and Oat Crispy Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 c oats (rolled or quick cooking)
  • 1 3/4 c puffed rice cereal (can be gluten-free)
  • 1/4 c ground flax seed
  • 1/2 c honey or agave or both
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 natural peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
  • 1 t vanilla

Can also add:

  • 1/2 c raisins or other dried fruit
  • 1/4 c mini chocolate chips (put in freezer for 30 min before mixing in to prevent melting)
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts or seeds

Directions:

Lightly grease 11 x 7 inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine cereal, oats, and flax.

Combine honey/agave and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla.

Pour mixture over dry ingredients and mix well until combined. If adding any additional ingredients, do so now.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press mixture down evenly.

Put in refrigerator for an hour to set up.

Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into desired size bars.

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Egg White Salad with Avocado

I love egg salad sandwiches. Living in the UK, these are a staple on most lunch or afternoon tea menus. The “high end fast food” chains such as Pret a Manger, Eat, Waitrose, and others all have their own versions of the quintessentially English egg salad sandwich, often served with watercress. While egg salad is something I will happily eat if they are made by someone else, I have never been a fan of making it myself – mainly because of the use of mayonnaise.

Now I have to explain my love/hate relationship with mayonnaise, typically a key ingredient in egg salads. Since I was a child, the thought of mayonnaise and its flubby white goop has severely grossed me out. I’m not sure if I even actually tried mayo – in typical picky-child fashion I just categorically refused to eat anything that had been touched by it. However, in the past few years I have realised, after mistakenly eating sandwiches in which mayo was generously applied, that I actually rather like the creamy condiment. So in my head I have made sense of this dichotomy by allowing myself to eat mayo in items I purchase but not use it when cooking or making my own meals. So this brings us to…the egg salad.

Being a lover of both making my own food and the egg salad, I have frequently pondered discovering the perfect mayo-less recipe. I’ve tried a few that have substituted mayo with plain yogurt, and while they have been good enough nothing ever really hit the mark. Until, however, I stumbled upon this glorious recipe, found on a blog called ‘Eat Yourself Skinny’.

It uses mashed avocado, Dijon mustard and a bit of plain yogurt as a mayo substitute, while a dash of paprika adds the perfect amount of spice. And, it was incredibly simple to make! I served it on a slice of the thick, German whole-grain health bread. I really enjoyed the recipe and will be making it again soon!

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Ingredients: (can be halved) 

  • 10 hard boiled egg whites
  • diced 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup green onions
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, mash avocado and add in mustard, Greek yogurt and lemon juice, mixing until smooth.

Stir in green onions, celery, paprika, salt and pepper and set aside.

Begin chopping the egg whites, discarding the yolks, and fold into the avocado mixture until completely combined.

Serve on whole wheat bread with fresh arugula.

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Quinoa Berry Health Bars

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Quinoa Berry Health Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 c cooked quinoa (about 1/2 c uncooked)
  • 2 c raw oats
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries/blueberries/raisins or dried fruit of choice
  • 1/2 c smooth peanut butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 1/2 c skim milk (or non-dairy substitute)
  • 1/3 c agave syrup/brown rice syrup/or liquid sweetener of choice
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Other add-ins of choice such as: chopped nuts or seeds, chia seeds, chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat over to 350F (175 C).

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until they are well combined. If you have just made fresh quinoa make sure it cools before mixing.

Put ingredients in baking pan and cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Cut into bars and store in fridge or freezer.

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Healthy Carrot Muffins with Applesauce

I do a lot of healthy baking, often using whole wheat flour and oats or substituting things like vegetable oil with applesauce or sugar for honey. I especially like to bake with vegetables, carrots and zucchinis being a particular favorite. Here is a recipe I found for some rather delicious carrot muffins using applesauce and just a tiny bit of oil. (You could probably even do without the oil at all.) They turned out moist, just sweet enough and delicious! I keep some on hand for a quick afternoon snack and freeze the rest as the recipe makes around 20 muffins!
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats + a couple extra tablespoons for topping
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1.5 T  vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups carrot, grated
Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 375 F (190C). Prepare muffin pan.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, applesauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk just until all ingredients are incorporated. Stir in the carrots.
  • Put the mixture evenly into the muffin pan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.