Category Archives: Snacks

Recipe ReDux: Butternut Squash Cream Cheese Spread

This month’s Recipe ReDux theme is “Dressing for Success.” While the original idea (by my friend and fellow RD Danielle at Food Confidence) was salad dressings, the theme was expanded to include spreads and condiments.

I have posted a bunch of dip and spread recipes in the past so I needed to come up with something new.  A few years ago I made a delicious pumpkin cream cheese dip that I served with cinnamon pita chips – it was really delicious! I couldn’t find my recipe for it, but decided to recreate it for this month’s post. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to roast, scoop, and puree fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin isn’t so easy to find right now. (A couple of years ago there was a shortage of canned pumpkin and apparently this year should be better, but I had no luck finding any yet. Maybe it’s just too early in the season.) I did however find canned butternut squash, so I used that in place of the pumpkin and the end result was still delicious.

Using canned squash or pumpkin with no added ingredients and low-fat cream cheese keeps this recipe low-calorie, low-fat, and rich in beta-carotene. Portions can be kept small because a little bit of this dip goes a long way.

cream cheese spread recipe

Butternut Squash Cream Cheese Spread
Serves 20; Serving Size: ~ 2 tablespoons

Ingredients: 

  • 1 15-ounce can butternut squash
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese (half a bar)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Ground cinnamon, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine the butternut squash and cream cheese. Blend until well combined. Add salt and cinnamon to taste and blend well.
  2. Chill and serve with pita chips, crackers, or vegetables.

butternut squash cream cheese spread recipe

Nutrition Facts (per 2 tbsp): 23 calories, 1 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein, 4 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium

Check out these other great “Dressing for Success” recipes from my fellow ReDuxers!

Recipe ReDux: Watermelon Sorbet

When I first found out this month’s Recipe ReDux theme, frozen desserts, I was a little worried. First of all, I don’t make dessert very often – don’t get me wrong, I eat plenty of it, I just buy it instead! Second, I don’t have an ice cream maker or popsicle molds, so all the ideas that originally came to mind wouldn’t work. But as I continued to think about what I would make, I realized simplicity was the way to go. Plus, I wanted to make something that most people could easily whip up without having special gadgets taking up room in their kitchens.

Watermelon sorbet sounds like it would be a lot more complex to make than it actually was. This recipe is so quick and easy, only requires a blender and ramekins, and the result is a refreshing treat that the whole family can enjoy. An added bonus: it’s low in calories and a great source of the antioxidants vitamin A and lycopene too! (Find out more of the nutritional benefits of watermelon.)

watermelon sorbet

Ready to serve!

Watermelon Sorbet
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Since there is very little sugar, this will happen quickly. Keep an eye on it to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate.) Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine the watermelon cubes, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Blend until no watermelon chunks remain.

making watermelon sorbet

  1. Divide the mixture evenly among four ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least three hours. Enjoy!
watermelon sorbet

Watermelon sorbet before freezing

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 35 calories, 9 g carbohydrate, 8 g sugar (only 3 g added sugar), .5 g protein, 0 g fat

For more delicious frozen desserts, check out these great recipes from my fellow ReDuxers!

Tomatoes and Basil

As you may know from summer’s past, I love farm-fresh tomatoes. What I love even more is the simple yet nutritious and delicious combination of tomatoes and basil. Lucky for me I have both from my CSA this week, which makes me so happy! This afternoon as I was looking in my fridge and pantry for an afternoon snack, I thought “Why not make a little tomato and basil salad?” In less than three minutes I had this beautiful salad, which paired with some cheese made for a filling and balanced snack!

tomatoes and basil

How good does that look?!

Ingredients:
  • Handful cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
Directions:
  1. Rinse tomatoes and basil in cold water and pat dry. Slice tomatoes in half and add to a small bowl. Tear basil leaves and add to tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top of tomatoes and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy the fresh flavors of the summer!

Looking for another tomato recipe? Try the Tomato Jam I made last fall.

Do you like tomatoes? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Baked Falafel

In celebration of National Mediterranean Diet Month, here is the first of two Mediterranean-inspired recipes from Nutritioulicious intern Jo Bartell.

I have always loved falafel. Lucky for me there is no shortage of delicious, crispy falafel at the various Middle Eastern restaurants and falafel stands scattered throughout New York City. For those of you who are not familiar with this delicious food, Falafel is a ball or patty made of ground chickpeas. Falafel can be eaten alone as a snack, but it is often served in a pita pocket topped with vegetables and different sauces such as hummus or a yogurt sauce called tzatziki. The main ingredient of falafel is chickpeas, which makes the falafel high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. This combination of nutrients creates a healthy, satisfying meal component.

The problem with falafel from a nutritional standpoint is that it is usually deep-fried in oil. This cooking method turns a healthy dish into a less healthy version filled with saturated fat and cholesterol. Luckily, I found a great recipe for baked falafel I want to share. It is easy to make and definitely nutritioulicious!

Baked Falafel Balls (adapted from www.food.com)
Serves: 8; Serving Size: 4 falafel balls

Ingredients: baked falafel recipe
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup bulgar wheat
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed for brushing
  • 1 red onion, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs*
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • ¼ cup minced parsley

*Note: You can substitute Panko Breadcrumbs for the whole-wheat breadcrumbs.

Directions: 
  1. Bring water to a boil and remove from the heat. Mix in the bulgur. Cover and allow the wheat to sit until all the water is absorbed — about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is just transparent.
  3. Add chickpeas, red chili flakes, salt, cumin, and coriander to the pan and sauté for 1 minute more. Combine the chickpea mixture and bulgur in a food processor.
  4. Add the lemon juice, breadcrumbs, cilantro, and parsley and process until just mixed and the mixture has a grainy texture. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Form falafel mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Brush the balls with olive oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden, turning the pan once during baking.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 110 calories, 3.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, 173 mg sodium

Do you like falafel? Have you ever made it at home?

Nutritioulicious Meals at Work

By Jo Bartell

A friend of mine who has been working from home for the past year recently started working at an innovative startup company. She was telling me that while the transition to working in an office from 9 to 5 is a welcome change, she is finding it difficult to keep her eating habits and meals on track. So, she asked me for some ideas for healthy at-work snacks and meals that will keep her satiated throughout the day and help her avoid the dreaded 4pm slump and subsequent mindless munching of high calorie treats lurking around the office. Luckily, her new office has a large refrigerator and kitchen, and as an added bonus, the company stocks the fridge full of nutritious and delicious sounding groceries. I asked my friend for a list of foods she sees in the company kitchen from week to week and here is a sampling of what she found:

Fresh fruit healthy meals at work
Hummus
Laughing Cow & part-skim string cheese
Deli meat
Oatmeal
Whole wheat crackers, bagels, & English muffins
Baby carrots & cherry tomatoes
Almonds
Natural peanut butter
Plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Olive oil

Here are some nutrtioulicious ideas I came up with for the workday:

Satisfying Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with a small handful of almonds, cut up fruit, and a tablespoon of Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 whole wheat English muffin or one slice whole wheat bread topped with 1-tablespoon natural peanut butter and sliced fruit (save the other half of the English muffin for a mid morning snack)

Light Lunch:

  • Hummus on whole wheat bread or crackers with 1 cup of baby carrots
  • Laughing Cow cheese on a slice of whole wheat bread or crackers and a few cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
  • 1 slice deli meat and Laughing Cow on whole wheat bread or English muffin

Afternoon Snack:

  • Any available fruit is a great snack at any time of the day but add some protein, such as one tablespoon peanut butter, a small handful of almonds, or a piece of string cheese to stay satisfied.
  • Small handful of raw almonds (about 10) with a piece of fruit or some grapes
  • Apple with 1 tablespoon natural peanut putter
  • Pear with string cheese
  • Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, small handful of raisins, and cinnamon

What are some of your favorite healthy meals and snacks to bring to work?

Caramelized Onion Dip

Yesterday I told you about the versatility of Greek yogurt, and what an especially good replacement it is for sour cream. As promised, and in honor of my husband, here is a recipe that generally uses sour cream (and one of his faves!), but comes out great using Greek yogurt instead. Plus, you won’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in it because of how nutritious it is (especially compared to the original!).

Caramelized Onion Diphealthier onion dip
Serves: 12; Serving Size: 3 oz

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 small to medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
  2. While the onions are cooking, mix together the yogurt, garlic powder, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. When the onions are room temperature, add ¾ of them to the yogurt mixture, transfer to a bowl, and top with the remaining onions.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 68 calories, 4 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 56 mg sodium, 36 mg calcium

(Nutrition info for 3 ounces of traditional onion dip: 172 calories, 3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 13 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 0 mg calcium)

Cinnamon-Chili and Maple-Glazed Walnuts

As you know, lately I’ve been on a walnut kick ever since my visit to the walnut harvest. Well, a couple of weeks ago the nice people at the California Walnut Commission sent me a 5-pound bag of walnut halves from this year’s harvest! So I knew I needed to get cooking in the kitchen with these nutrition-filled babies!

california walnuts

5-pound bag of California walnuts

First thing I thought to make was spiced walnuts. I wanted to combine some of the sweetness of caramelized walnuts without all the stickiness, so I decided to do a combo of salty and sweet, and what I ended up with was a batch of Cinnamon-Chili and Maple-Glazed Walnuts, perfect to snack on and to serve at a holiday cocktail party!

Cinnamon-Chili and Maple-Glazed Walnuts
10 servingsmaple glazed walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the walnuts, maple syrup, and all the seasonings to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are coated and caramelized, about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the pan and let cool. Once the walnuts have settled, use a fork to break apart pieces that have stuck together.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 122 calories, 2 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fiber, 10 g total fat (1 g saturated fat, 7 g polyunsaturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat), 0 g cholesterol, 30 mg sodium

What’s your favorite way to cook with walnuts?

Yellow Squash Carrot Muffins

Summer squash is still in season and if you’re like me and still getting a bunch from your local farmers market or CSA, you may be tired of grilling or sautéing it! Last week I decided to do something different with my yellow summer squash: make muffins! While I love to cook, I rarely bake, as you can see by the dearth of dessert recipes I have posted! But I decided to take a shot at it and the result was a delicious muffin!

Yellow Squash Carrot Muffinshealthy zucchini muffins
Serves 9

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 whole egg
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow squash, unpeeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, zucchini, and carrots. Add the wet mixture to the large bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine well.
  4. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until about 2/3 full. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Nutrition Facts (per muffin): 211 calories, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 4 g protein, 23 mg cholesterol, 86 mg sodium

Stay tuned tomorrow for my tomato jam recipe, which was a delicious topping to these savory muffins!

P.S. Don’t forget to take the COAK pledge to be eligible for the giveaway valued at $230! Giveaway ends Friday September 24 at 12:00 pm.

Simple Ways to Enjoy Strawberries

Yesterday I told you about the nutritional benefits of strawberries. To follow up, here are some of the ways I like to include my farmers market strawberries into meals (you can do the same with strawberries from the supermarket too!):

  • Top whole grain cereal, waffles, or pancakes with fat free yogurt and chopped fresh strawberries as a substitute for butter and syrup.
  • Make a Fresh Strawberry and Cream Cheese sandwich – perfect for the lunchbox!
    • Spread 1 tablespoon of reduced-fat cream cheese on 2 slices whole wheat bread. Top with 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest and sliced strawberries. For some additional sweetness you can add ¼ teaspoon honey.
  • Add flavor and color to green salads for lunch or dinner.
    • Combine arugula, baby spinach, and watercress on a plate. Add sliced fresh strawberries, toasted chopped pecans, and crumbled goat cheese to the mixed greens. Top with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
  • Try a strawberry, melon and avocado salad.
    • Top baby spinach with thin slices of avocado, cantaloupe, and strawberries. Dress the salad with a simple combination of honey, red wine vinegar, fresh mint, and black pepper.
  • For dessert, enjoy sliced fresh strawberries with a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of cocoa powder!

What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries?

This post was written by nutritioulicious™ intern Jo Bartell

Movie Snacks

As you saw yesterday, the calories, fat, and sodium in movie theater popcorn will do much more harm than good. And the candy at the counter is no better — the sizes are too big and filled with way too much sugar. So here you are, left wondering what you should snack on in the movies instead.

My number one answer is nothing. Instead of snacking during the movie, when you’ll be mindlessly popping pieces of candy or popcorn in your mouth, have a snack at home before you head to the theater. This way, you can concentrate on your snack, recognize what you’re taking in, and truly sense when you are full. For healthy snack ideas, check out my post from July, nutritioulicious™ Snacking.

If you absolutely can’t resist eating something in the theater, I suggest bringing snacks with you. Here are some to try:

  • Apple and some almonds
  • String cheese (part skim of course)
  • Microwave popcorn 100-calorie bag
  • Smartfood Popcorn Clusters* individual bag
  • Whole wheat pretzels
  • Dried fruit and nuts

Keep in mind that anything that comes in a big bag you want to portion out into a resealable bag before you go to the movies. And don’t forget a bottle of your nutritioulicious™ drink — water!

What’s your favorite snack to eat at the movies?

*Full disclosure, I am a media spokesperson for Frito Lay.