Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Cupcakes

This is probably the shortest and sweetest post so far -- I'm running out the door in a few minutes for a quick road trip east to visit my friend Jan in Hatfield, Mass.  Just wanted to share the Easter Cupcakes I made this morning for tomorrow's dinner.

Happy Easter and Springtime to you, my friends!

(and don't forget the contest, ends tomorrow night at midnight!)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter, Spring, and New Beginnings

I don't have much time to post today. There's so much going on!  Today is my last day working in Admissions at Skidmore College. Monday, I start my new position at The Tang Teaching Museum, also at Skidmore. It is a beautiful and dynamic place, and I am very fortunate to have landed this job at this point in my life. Before Monday, there's so much to do! On my way to my last day of work, I'm stopping to drop off a cake to friends Mimi and Ralph. They are good friends who trust me with their special desserts, even though one recent order was completely missed when I was preoccupied with sudden car troubles, and Ralph had to rush out to Putnam Market to buy a substitute! I was sick over that little speed bump. But, they had faith in me and called for the next special cake for a good friend.  Here's a photo of the cake they requested for this weekend's Easter dessert.

Ralph and Mimi's Easter Cake

The cake was frosted and decorated last night, after I got home from a belated birthday dinner for my brother Steven and me (March birthdays, one week apart). We went to our typical favorite place and enjoyed a terrific meal with my brother Michael and sisters Patsy, Ginny, and Anne. We were missing our brother Dan (Danny to me!) who lives near San Francisco with his wife Suzette. As always, we have a lot of fun just enjoying dinner and each others' company. Such dinners are like a shot in the arm to me, bringing me back to the core of who I really am, who we really are as we started life together, the seven kids of Val and Virginia O'Farrell! It's very grounding. I came home with renewed motivation to jump into that fresh start, to finish things up right in my old job, and welcome the new. I look forward to a lovely Easter weekend, starting by spending Saturday with my friend Jan in Hatfield, MA, and then driving home early Easter morning to spend the day with my kids and grandchildren.  Henry and Peter are at such cute ages. Henry will be 5 at the end of April, and Pete is 2 1/2. Little loves of my life!

So, today will be bittersweet, since I'm leaving behind a whole staff of terrific co-workers (but really, just working across campus), but exciting as well to have a fresh start at age 59 (!) which, even though I've been 59 for two full weeks, seems impossible! Someone seems to have pushed a fast-forward button and we've landed here. As many of my friends and co-workers are considering retirement (or have already retired), here I am, starting over! It's all very good, though, because I am ready and willing to take on this next phase of life!

I hope you all have a wonderful spring weekend, whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or just the spiritual renewal of nature and life. I am grateful for all of you who stop by to read my posts now and then.

AND... don't forget, April 1st marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog's comment contest, and there will be one BIG winner, to be announced before I walk out the door to start my new job. So, comment a little or a lot, and be in the running to win 12 months of goodies baked JUST FOR YOU!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Crab Cake Salads

The other night my daughter Katie really surprised me with a special treat for dinner - crab cakes! I watched her make them and the process is very simple -- one of those "less is more" dinners -- and the results were perfect! And these are "less" in the carb department too, so this dinner fit right in with eating healthier.

I so love crab cakes. They seem like an indulgence, but this home-made version is affordable and deeee-licious! It was if we were having dinner at a 5-star restaurant, except that we were home, the kids were wrestling and squealing in the background, and we had to do the dishes...but other than that, it was just like an elegant meal away from home! Except we had to wait on ourselves, and there was no dessert menu. But other than that, really, just like it...

recipe from the back of the can - Chicken of the Sea Premium Crab Meat

*1 lb. premium crab meat (Katie used Chicken of the Sea, claw meat, found in a large can in the refrigerated seafood section of the market)
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard, prepared (Katie used Dijon)
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. mustard (dry)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning (she even has that in her pantry!)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice (Katie used more)
hot sauce (optional)
3/4 cup bread crumbs (Katie used only 1/4 cup - found it didn't need that much)

Combine all ingredients except crab and bread crumbs.  Add crab to mixture.  Fold bread crumbs in gently.  Form into desired size crab cakes by hand.  Pan fry.  Katie formed 5 patties (burger sized) and fried in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until nicely browned on both sides and heated through.

We had our crab cakes on top of salad greens with cucumber slices and tomato wedges. Katie made an aioli from mayonnaise and hot sauce, and I made a traditional cocktail sauce from horseradish and ketchup.  It was a wonderful dinner, and I went out and bought my own can of crab claw meat for the next time I want to feel as though I'm dining out, and I'm not (!)

My crab cake salad, with both aioli AND cocktail sauces! (can't choose just one!)

*The Chicken of the Sea Premium Crab Claw Meat is about $10/$11 at Hannaford but you get five good-sized crab cakes from that. OR you could make a bunch of little ones for an impressive appetizer.  There is also a lump-crab version in the same size 1-lb. can. That was about $18. I wanted to make the same thing Katie made, so I went for the claw meat.

AND with those left-over crab cakes, you could make a killer crab cake sandwich on nicely toasted bread with crunchy lettuce and some tartar sauce.  How delicious would that be?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sweet Baby Feet

This Saturday morning was one filled with anticipation for the births of two about-to-be born babies. I was honored with the responsibility to bake cakes for two separate showers. The first cake was a black and white marble sheet cake decorated in a woodland theme, requested by a forever friend Christi (mother to five, including 2 sets of twins!) for her good friend Jaime and husband Chris. The second, also black and white marble, was a 2-tiered cake for my high school (and beyond) friend Linda's daughter who is expecting a baby boy. Linda also asked for baby feet cookies, and photos of those are posted here as well.  

I am so grateful and have to say that I couldn't have pulled any of this off without the help of my daughter Katie, who was aware of my morning's time crunch (since I was a little bit social last night, and went out to dinner with my sister Anne and nephew Patrick, and then went on to see my brother Michael's play, Lucky Stiff, at Russell Sage College in Troy, and got home much too late, and with no regrets!). 

While I'm am rambling a little bit in exhausted energy, I somehow find it important to note that I produced so many dishes today that the dishwasher ran twice!  And after the cakes and cookies were safely delivered to their respective showers, the rest of the day was spent with my buddies Henry and Peter so their parents could have a Saturday skiing date. When it came time to prepare dinner for the boys, I took the simple way out and made them peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches and orange slice "smiles." Just couldn't face creating any more dirty dishes! Anyway, because it was a late night, I set my alarm for 6 a.m. this morning to frost and decorate the cakes and I cut it very, very close!

It's been a long, long day so I am ready to go to bed the minute I post this, but am excited to share photos of today's creations so that I can sleep in tomorrow morning, maybe! And, not bake a thing!

Welcome little ones!  May every happy occasion of your lives be celebrated with cake!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Banana Blueberry Waffles with Honey Walnut Syrup (Gluten-Free!)

Here's the recipe I promised for Banana Walnut Waffles with Honey Walnut Syrup!  Instead of flour, flax meal is used.  Sweetness is provided naturally by the bananas and also by a tablespoon of honey.  Blueberries (I used frozen) are sprinkled on top of the batter before the waffles are cooked. It's a very nice option for those who can't/don't want to have flour in their waffles. They cook quickly, and I kept the cooked waffles warm in a low oven while I finished them up. These are softer and not as stiff as a toaster waffle, more like a pancake in texture. They are light, airy, and full of flavor. I loved them with just a little bit of butter and the honey and walnuts! It was my before-work breakfast this morning (and will be again for a few more mornings, since it made 9 standard-sized waffles!). Can't wait for my gluten-free friend Barb to try them and tell me what she thinks!


1 medium mashed banana
2 eggs, whisked
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup flaxseed meal or ground flaxseed (I used King Arthur)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder
Warm honey, and walnuts, for drizzling cooked waffles.


Whisk eggs. Add mashed bananas. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, and honey. Add flax meal, cornstarch, and baking powder. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes for flax meal to soften and absorb liquid.

Pour a couple of tablespoons into each waffle well (not too much or it will overflow). Sprinkle batter with a few blueberries. Close waffle maker and cook until done, but watch them because these cook quickly and brown faster than a traditional waffle.  Once the steam stops, check them, even if the waffle maker indicator (if it has one) hasn't yet gone off.

Keep cooked waffles warm in a preheated 250-degree oven (single layer) until they are all done. I put a piece of foil on a cookie sheet and then sprayed it with a little vegetable oil spray.  This keeps the waffles crisp until you are ready to serve them.

Drizzle with warm honey and chopped walnuts, and have a great breakfast!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie

The last slice of birthday pie!
Made by my daughter Kate xox
My birthday was Friday, and it was a terrific day. As my chronological odometer rolled over from 58 to 59, I wondered how it would feel to enter my last year as a 50-something. One short year from now, I'll be officially "in my sixties" and leading up to that has me a bit apprehensive, but just a bit. If the start of this year of Sixty-Eve is any indication, life is only going to get better. I'm feeling so much better since embarking on this low-carb lifestyle. And there are other changes in the works: after 22+ years and two degrees earned, I just (finally!) jumped from support staff to administration and landed a dream job at Skidmore College where I have worked for decades.  I'll start work at my new position on April 1st.  Such great news...AND spring is almost here!

So, it was a great birthday, beginning with a small celebration at work. Toward the end of a crazy-hectic day (we're about to send out almost 8,000 decision letters to applicants to the College), I was asked to stop by an office upstairs to find that my co-worker Wendy brought in a carb-friendlier cheesecake, and the rest of the staff singing "Happy Birthday." They presented me with a card signed by all and it was a touching moment. We do this for each others' birthdays in our office, everyone assigned their own party planner, and this way we all get a little bit of a big deal on our special day. I loved it.

After work, I stopped by to see friends who toasted my birthday with a little bit of the bubbly (!) and after a sip or two left to meet my family at home for a bountiful and healthy dinner Katie put together, the crowning glory a coconut cream birthday pie, and a low-sugar, low-carb one at that!  Katie found the recipe at Diabetic Living online, and it was not only beautiful, but absolutely delicious and could take its place nicely among much more decadent desserts.  It was a light yet substantial coconut cream crowned in a pillow of sweet meringue, with a confetti of toasted coconut.  I can't even tell you how much I loved it, and have already put my order in for another one on my next birthday!

I'd like to share a little story about the day I was born, a memory my father shared with me when I was a little girl. It was Monday, March 15, 1954, and they were living in Dayton. My dad was 37 and my mom 35 at the time. He was headed out the door to work, saying good-bye to my mother, brother Michael, sister Patsy, and baby Steven, a year old just a week before. (Irish Catholic, no explanation necessary, and they went on to have 3 more after me!)  I was due to be born a month later, on April 15th.  Before he got out of the driveway, my mother called him back.  She was in labor. I was born a few hours later, a tiny 5 1/2 lb. baby girl with a ton of black hair and chubby cheeks. Seems I surprised my family that day, and apparently that's been my M.O. ever since!

Anyway, back to Coconut Cream Pie -- that was a nice surprise! And here's the recipe, followed by a photo of my grandboys and me, just about to blow out the candles!

Diabetic Living

Baked pastry shell (recipe follows)
3 eggs, room temperature, separated (whites must be out of fridge for 30 minutes, minimum)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated fat-free milk
3 tbsp. flaked coconut
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
2 additional tbsp. flaked coconut

In heavy, medium sauce pan, stir sugar and cornstarch. Stir in milk and evaporated milk. Cook over medium/medium high heat until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and quickly whisk 1 cup of hot mixture into the three egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture back to pan; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and keep warm while you make the meringue.

In very clean mixing bowl, beat room temperature whites for 30 seconds until soft peaks form. Add vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is thick and glossy, about 2 minutes more.

Pour hot filling into pie shell. Immediately spread meringue, sealing it to the edge of the pastry.  If it doesn't seal, the meringue will shrink and it won't be as pretty.  Sprinkle meringue with the last two tablespoons of coconut.  Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes. Cool 1 hour on wire rack.  Chill 3-6 hours.  10 servings.

Pastry shell:
Oven, 450 degrees Farenheit
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
4-5 tablespoons very cold water

Combine flour and salt in bowl. Cut in shortening until it is the size of small peas.  With for, work in cold water, just a bit at a time, until the dough comes together.  Form into disk and chill.  When chilled, on floured surface roll into 12-inch diameter circle.  Fit into 9-inch pie plate.  Crimp edges.  Prick holes all over.  Line with a double layer of foil. Bake at 450 degrees Farenheit for 8 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake 5-6 minutes more until golden brown.  Cool.

Cupcakes for the boys, pie for me!
Who could ask for anything more?  Not me, that's for sure!
60, a year away - bring it on!!!

Nutritional information per serving (1/10th of pie)

Calories: 249
Fat: 10
Cholesterol: 66
Sat. Fat: 4
Fiber: 1
Protein: 7
Sodium: 147

Diabetic Exchange:
Other carbs: 2
Fat: 2

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Irish Scones for your St. Patrick's Day Breakfast!

What makes these scones Irish you ask? Well, scones are an Irish tea-time staple, and then there's me! I'm Irish, (100%, and of the McGeehan/O'Farrell variety), and I'm making them! It's a basic scone recipe -- no currants, no raisins -- nothing more than a cup of flour, cold butter, a little bit of sugar, an egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract along with the necessary baking powder and salt. That is IT. The mixture comes together in shaggy mess and gets kneaded, folded, and shaped into a perfect circle and divided into six segments. Of course, you can add your favorite ingredients to make this recipe your own over and over again! The batch featured here in this post was wrapped up and delivered to my good, good, good and beautiful friend Claire, since today is her birthday. Perhaps scones are not traditional birthday fare, but Claire was very happy to receive them! I hope she enjoys one in the morning with a great cup of tea.

St. Patrick's Day is Sunday, and what could be better to enhance your Sunday morning brunch than a plate of warm, just-baked scones? Add a pot of strawberry jam or lemon curd, clotted cream if you can find it, and luxuriate in a very fine breakfast, indeed! As basic as they are, scones are the epitome of pretty food!

Oven 375 degrees Farenheit
Makes 6 beautiful scones!

1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons ice cold butter, grated
1/4 cup buttermilk (or 2 tsp. vinegar and enough milk to equal 1/4 cup, let sit for a few minutes)
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Stir in grated butter.

Mix buttermilk with beaten egg and vanilla.

Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture, tossing it all lightly with a fork just until dry particles are incorporated. Put bowl in freezer for 10 minutes to make sure the butter stays well-chilled. Take out of freezer and dump out onto floured surface.

Knead 5 times or so by folding batter over itself and pressing down to create layers. Form into round disk about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into sixths, creating 6 wedges. Place wedges on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until scones are nicely puffed and golden brown on the bottom.

Remove from oven to wire rack. Serve warm with jam and/or clotted cream!

Enjoy, and from this Irish girl, my very best wishes for a grand St. Patrick's Day!

Couldn't be simpler!

Happy Birthday Claire, and Happy St. Patrick's Day to All of You!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paleo-Inspired Sweet Potato Brownies!

This recipe is so full of very, very good things that it creates a power food! With the nutrition of sweet potatoes, whole eggs, canola oil, dark chocolate, walnuts, white whole wheat flour and a minimal amount of sugar, this is one dessert that just might boost your health! (in moderation, of course!). Just don't eat the whole pan at once! The original Paleo recipe is very interesting, and though I didn't have some of the more exotic ingredients in my pantry, I do plan to buy coconut oil and coconut flour soon. Instead, I substituted where necessary, tweaked ingredients here and there, and the result is a beautiful pan of dark chocolate brownies.  They are just out of the oven, bursting with a warm, chocolate aroma and begging to be cut into! This will make 16 2x2-inch brownies, just enough to surprise my co-workers as they start another incredibly busy day!

Post-script: I wanted to wait for morning light photos, but just couldn't resist so here's the finished product.You can see that these are very thick brownies, fudgey and cake-like at the same time. The rather large crumb I sampled was deee-lish!

Paleo-Inspired Sweet Potato Brownies 
(so divergent from the original recipe that I can claim this one as my own!)
Oven 325 degrees Farenheit
Spray 8x8 glass baking dish with cooking spray
Makes 16 2-inch brownies

1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft, cooled, and removed from skin
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 ounces dark chocolate, melted in double-boiler or 1 min. in microwave with 1 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup plus one tablespoon white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey (I didn't have honey so used 1/4 cup granulated sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 70%, but semi-sweet is fine)

In blender or food processor, combine eggs, sweet potatoes, and vanilla extract. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Pour into mixing bowl. (If using a blender, put in one egg first to have some liquid on the bottom to get things moving.)

To the sweet potato mixture, stir in, all at once, melted chocolate, honey, flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir very well. Stir in chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour/spoon batter (it's thick) into baking dish. Spread edge to edge. Bake on center rack in oven for 40-50 minutes. Brownies are done when toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean. I had to bake mine for about 48 minutes. These are thick brownies and take a while. Test every 2-3 minutes after 40 minutes to make sure you take them out as soon as they test done.

Cool completely and then cut into 16 2-inch squares.


Check out all that sweet potato goodness!

All dressed up and ready to go!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Flashback Monday - Cherry Pie

Today we're revisiting a post from March 2010, all about cherry pie.  Hope you enjoy it the 2nd time around!

Happy Monday, with a cherry on top!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pancake Makeover

This morning for breakfast I had pancakes! So how can a low-carber be enjoying pancakes you might ask?  These are not your typical Saturday morning pancakes -- no -- this recipe comes from The Biggest Loser, and they are a blended whirl of egg whites, oatmeal, and cottage cheese with cinnamon and a teensy bit of sugar. I was skeptical because I've tried pancake alternative recipes before with an "eh" attitude, and these really made me happy! With barely a dusting of confectioners sugar, I ate these plain, just rolled up in my hand like an empty pancake taco (not the most polite execution, but there was no one here to judge me!) and didn't miss one bit of maple syrup. I had originally planned to add blueberries, but decided to evaluate this pancake on its own merits. And it is good! This recipe makes six 4-inch pancakes.

You won't be missing a thing!

(half the original recipe)

3 egg whites
1/2 cup rolled oats, dry
1/2 cup cottage cheese (I used 2%)
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Whirl all of the above ingredients together in your blender until completely smooth. Pour 4-inch circles of batter onto heated skillet (medium to medium-high heat) or griddle that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Flip when they begin to brown on the bottom and continue cooking until browned nicely on both sides.

Dust lightly with confectioners sugar and enjoy as is or with a sprinkling of berries!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Healthy Blueberry Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

The coffee cake I've made for years was adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, but because I wanted it to be as rich and luscious as possible, low-fat ingredients were replaced with their full-fat counterparts -- yes, counter-intuitive -- but man-o-man was it a good coffee cake! So, going back to the original recipe, I've decided to make it even healthier by replacing butter with canola oil, half the all-purpose flour with whole white, and incorporating nutrient- and fiber-rich blueberries with brown sugar and cinnamon to create a pretty swirl in the middle of each slice.  This adaptation is a doubled recipe. If you want to make a smaller coffee cake (8x8 pan or a bread-loaf pan - adjust baking time), halve the ingredients and proceed as directed.

Interior View ~ just look at that! (click for close-up!)

I'm not able to indulge in coffee cake or any cake for that matter, but I'm a baker and I have to bake!  So I am happy to offer it to my co-workers. For those who do enjoy this coffee cake, they can know that it packs a greater nutritional punch than the original with healthy oil, less sugar, more fiber, low-fat sour cream, and antioxidants. It has all that. Oh yeah, and a whole lot of flavor!

Oven - 375 degrees Farenheit
tube coffee cake pan, or angel food cake pan, sprayed with cooking spray

Coffee Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup canola oil (I use Smart Balance)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
3 egg whites
2 cups low-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole white flour (I use King Arthur flours)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I use Wyman's Wild Maine blueberries - tiny and very flavorful)

In large mixing bowl, beat canola oil with sugar. Add egg, and egg whites, one at a time. Mix well. Add sour cream and extracts. Beat well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix very well.

Spoon half of batter into prepared pan. Smooth to make an even surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, and distribute blueberries evenly over that. Add the rest of the batter and smooth top.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until cake tests done (springs back when lightly touched). If your oven runs hot, test at 40 minutes on.

Cool in pan for half hour. Remove pan and invert cake onto serving plate and continue to cool on wire rack. While still warm, spread glaze over top, and allow to run down sides a bit. Recipe follows:

Lemon glaze:

2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon Smart Balance spread, melted

Drops of water

Stir first four ingredients together as well as you can, and then add warm water, a few drops at a time, until the glaze is thick but loose enough to spread easily on its own. Be very stingy with the water as you add it. Even a few drops too much is too much. Pour over top of coffee cake and use the back of a spoon to spread it to the edges and nudge it so it spills over the edge here and there. If it's too thick to run, add a few more drops of water until it loosens up.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Picture-Pretty Cupcakes!

Today I delivered 36 cupcakes to a very surprised birthday girl. Her friend Kim had ordered the cupcakes and I was to take them to Mary's office (Mary's the bd girl) this morning, EXCEPT Mary decided to take the day off! Kim was a little bit panicked but I assured her I'd be happy to deliver all 3 dozen cupcakes to Mary's home after work. Kim checked to be sure someone would be home at that time, and when I pulled into the driveway and walked up to the front door, I saw that they were indeed home, having a cozy afternoon and enjoying Mary's day off.

Kim trusted me to make whatever I thought would be good, so I made 18 dark chocolate cupcakes, 18 vanilla cupcakes, and frosted half of each with vanilla buttercream, and the other half of each with chocolate buttercream. The white frosting was adorned with colorful sprinkles, and the chocolate frosting with chocolate sprinkles. I kept the cupcakes in my car all day (nice and cold) and when I got in at the end of my work day, my car smelled like a bakery!

I don't have a recipe for you today since I have NO time (so busy at work and away from work) but thought you'd enjoy a pretty picture of cupcakes!!!!

Happy Wednesday evening!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Healthy Snacking

One fairly universal question when you completely change your eating habits and go from carb-heavy choices to healthier options is "What snack won't completely undo all the good I'm doing?" There are good options, and here's a brief list that will expand as I figure out what I'm eating in the next weeks and months!

  • Apple slices with nut butters and raisins
  • Vanilla Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries, let thaw in the yogurt for a few minutes
  • Veggies with roasted red pepper hummus
  • Sugar-free cooked pudding (I use Jello's version) - I like chocolate.  Nothing better than home-cooked pudding!
  • 2% cottage cheese
  • a cup of broth-based soup
  • Paleo mug cake
  • Mini-cheesecakes (see my last post)
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds or other nuts
  • Thin-sliced Virginia ham rolled up with low-fat Alpine Lace Swiss cheese  
  • Deviled egg
  • Olives 
  • Unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon and a little sweetener (if necessary)
  • Sliced cucumber in vinaigrette
  • Banana chunks dipped in melted chocolate and frozen
  • V-8 with a couple of shakes of black pepper
  • Yogurt smoothie
  • Dark chocolate (I like Dove Promises - little squares, 5 = 1 serving - I pack just 2 in my lunch)
Here are a few of my favorites of the ideas mentioned above:

These snacking ideas should hold you over for a little while until I come up with more!
Little to-go containers and zip snack bags are invaluable.

One thing I've learned:  if you are prepared, you won't make bad choices.  If you don't buy it or have it in your house, you won't have to resist it.  If others in your household are eating all those things you don't want, ask them to do without them and to enjoy the same snacks you're eating as a measure of support for you.  Maybe you can positively influence the eating habits of those around you as well, and that certainly is a good thing.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mini Key Lime Cheesecakes

Looking for a healthier dessert when you really want cheesecake? I bought a bag of key limes thinking that I'd come up with something that combines two of my favorites:  key lime pie and cheesecake. But this no/low carb lifestyle won't allow either of those, so what's a baker to do? Improvise. Tonight, I put that experiment to the test, and am happy to say that the result is very successful! Combining low-fat and non-fat cream cheeses with low-fat sour cream, a little real sugar and some sugar substitute, an egg and egg white, the juice of key limes (you can use regular lime juice) results in mini-cheesecakes that are soft, creamy, sweet and tart at the same time. Baking in muffin cups makes a dozen perfect single servings. Serve very cold with a spritz of whipped cream, and be glad to experience cheesecake with none of the guilt!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit
line standard muffin tins with foil or paper liners


8 oz. low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. non-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 packets sweetener (or another 1/4 cup of sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup low- or non-fat sour cream
Juice of 6 key limes, or lime juice to equal 1/4 cup (fresh or bottled) - I squeezed the heck out of 6 little key limes over a strainer set over the bowl!


In large mixer bowl, combine cream cheeses, sugar, cornstarch, sweetener, and extracts. Beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg, and then egg white. Mix thoroughly. Add sour cream. Mix well.  Add lime juice and mix thoroughly until all little lumps of cream cheese have almost disappeared.

Divide cheesecake batter among the 12 muffin cups.  I use a standard, levered ice cream scoop and it works perfectly.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  They'll look puffed up and a little funny coming out of the oven, and then deflate a bit while cooling.  Not the prettiest dessert on their own, but thoroughly chilled and plated with a spritz of whipped cream, they are beautiful and delicious!

Breakfast, Pie, Cake, and a Saturday to Remember

As weekends go, this is a good one. I've been doing more cooking than baking lately, but this weekend found me baking a pie for an old friend, and a graduation cake for my nephew. I was glad to see how much they were enjoyed, especially since I cannot partake in the fruits of my labor (carb detox living).  It really didn't bother me at all to skip the pie and cake; it is such a pleasure to see how much they were enjoyed by everyone else!

Yesterday morning (Saturday) started with having breakfast with my good friend Claire at a brand new place she suggested in downtown Saratoga Springs -- SPoT Coffee at Market Center on the corner of Railroad Place and Division Street. It's a beautiful and cheerful coffee bar that also serves cook-to-order eggs and wraps, and lots of other things. I had a big cup of hot black tea and a goat cheese and mushroom omelette, skipping the bread choice that accompanies every order. Claire had scrambled eggs in a spinach wrap and a cup of coffee. We sat by the sidewalk in the heated and enclosed porch and did what we always do when we get such time together, solve our own and the world's problems! Time goes too quickly on such occasions and I can't wait to go to SPoT Coffee again, and do exactly the same thing!

On the way home, I took a detour to deliver the apple pie (Martha Stewart recipe) to Lynn who worked at Skidmore College years ago. Now, in her early 80s, she has finally given up the 9-to-5 and is getting some overdue time to herself! There's no one who deserves it more, and I hope she will be able to now spend more time traveling and visiting with her family, most of whom live a distance away. It was so good to catch up and sit with her while she enjoyed a piece of her pie. It was a surprise, requested by her beautiful granddaughter Kristin who is one of my daughter Tricia's best high-school friends (they're both 30 now!). It just made me realize that time flies so quickly, and that it's good to step back, stop, and smell the apple pie! We chatted until it was time for Lynn to leave for a few hours of beauty with her hairdresser, and me to get home to finish my nephew Patrick's graduation cake.

Lynn's apple pie

Henry and Peter came upstairs to my little apartment to help me finish the cake, a black and white marble cake with buttercream frosting. They got to sample the trimmings, and each had their own ball of fondant to play with while I did the serious work. Henry really helped this time by holding the flower nail as the frosting roses were constructed. He was fascinated seeing the roses come to life, and I was thinking that he just might remember this moment. He's almost five (seems impossible) and we're beginning to have very interesting conversations. Every day he says something worth writing down to remember! Pete was busy drawing pictures with a pink highlighter, and as Henry and were engrossed in fondant, I looked up to see Pete drawing all over my kitchen table, a long, bright trail of pink swirls and lines. I gave him a wet paper towel and he cleaned his artwork until it was all but a memory, so proud of himself!

It was snowing lightly last night, on the way to my sister's house for the graduation party, and I was glad to get there and join the warmth of the evening. Patrick graduated in December from Florida State University, and has landed a good job that he likes, so life is good. Anne and John had a big spread of foods that included lots of no/low-carb options, so I was able to eat well without feeling deprived (shrimp, cheeses, nuts, turkey chili)!  She had a house-full of our family and friends, with little cousins happily playing together. It was a terrific ending to a lovely day, a day that focused on how meaningful relationships make life so much richer!

A warm welcome...


Will (left) and Patrick (the graduate, right) Bishop!

Congratulations, Patrick!  So proud of you!