Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese – Easy, Healthy & Pretty

Here’s a dish that K and I recently included in an Italian-themed dinner we put together with some friends. I love it because it’s healthy and really really easy for how “pretty” it looks.  It’s also really delicious and refreshing – especially if you’ve got home-grown tomatoes. I just use salt and basil to bring out the flavor. My dad used to always salt tomatoes when I was growing up. I thought it was really weird. In this case, I don’t think it’s weird. It’s delicious. But he also salts watermelon. That one is definitely weird. I put my foot down there. :)

Ingredients:

  • fresh tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella
  • salt
  • basil

Directions:

  1. Slice & salt tomatoes.
  2. Slice mozzarella.
  3. Arrange on plate.
  4. Sprinkle basil on top.

44 calories per piece

(assuming you’ve got 1/2” slices of tomato with 0.5 oz of mozzarella)

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Introducing the FitBit One

I recently got a FitBit One as a gift from work and have got to say that it is really, really cool!

It’s basically a tiny, smart pedometer that syncs to your computer and/or smartphone to track your progress. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned and even floors climbed. It’s got an accelerometer in it in order to collect the movement data. It calculates calories burned according to complex algorithms developed by FitBit based on your age, weight, etc. More details on exactly how the algorithms were developed here: http://blog.fitbit.com/?p=69

The FitBit dashboard tells you lots of informative things. I like that it illustrates how many steps you took at what time of the day. Usually my graph is somewhat U-shaped (because I get up in the morning, go to work, sit at a computer all day, and then at the end of the day I see that I need to get in more steps so I go for a walk or a run), but I decided to share the stats of one of my “better” days in the picture below. :)

FitBit Dashboard

FitBit Dashboard

You may have noticed the “Sleep” tile in the picture above. Yes, it tracks your sleep – sort of. It doesn’t just magically know when you’re asleep. You’ve got to press a button on the FitBit to tell it when you get in to bed and out of bed. But once you’ve done that, it does provide some interesting information in the morning. It tells you supposedly how restless you were last night and how many times you woke up. Now, if you move around a lot in your sleep, it’s going to think that you keep waking up. My FitBit often thinks I wake up like 20x every night – which is definitely not the case. I must just move around a lot. I wonder if the times that I’m restless coincide with the times that the train goes by. That’d be interesting to look at. Now, the sleep pattern depicted below on the right is my husband’s. I was curious what my FitBit would think about his sleep activity, since he’s always been one of those people that hits the pillow and is absolutely out in like 5 minutes. According to the FitBit, it’s actually 3 minutes. Haha, life is just not fair!

The final feature that I’d like to talk about, I find very useful. The online dashboard allows you to set a weight goal and then log your food throughout the day. It provides real-time data to show you how many remaining calories you can eat that day and a meter visualizing how well you’re doing at any point in the day.

Smarter calorie estimates: Your Food Plan sets each day based on your historic activity levels. It will calculate how many calories you burn each day on average, and base your suggested calorie intake on this. As you wear and sync your Tracker throughout the day, your Food Plan adjusts dynamically based on whether you’re exercising more or less than that average, so that your goal remains as accurate as possible. And as your activity trends change over time, your Food Plan’s starting estimate will adjust to your new activity levels as well.

Calories in vs calories out: Additionally, many of you wanted a way to judge how well you were doing at any one point of the day. You can now view your total calories burned compared to your total ca lories eaten, and see whether or not you are currently within your plan’s deficit goal zone. So if you’ve just logged your lunch and wonder how you’re doing for the day so far, you can see how your total calories burned so far for the day measure up against the total calories you’ve eaten. There’s no more guessing if you’re behind or on track so far for the day. With this meter, it’s always clear where you stand.

http://blog.fitbit.com/?p=558

Very cool! Immediate feedback for me is so important. Now if I could just get a tool to accurately and automatically log all my intake calories for me… One day the technology will exist, right?

Homemade Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream (+ Sandwiches if you want)

I <3 Blue Bunny Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

My favorite ice cream in the whole wide world is Blue Bunny’s Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate. I love scooping that ice cream in a glass cup and pouring just a bit of milk over top of it. That gives it a soft, icicle-y texture. Sooooo good! Well. Kroger (where I shop) doesn’t carry this ice cream, so I have had to go without for the past year or so. But no longer!! Say hello to homemade bordeaux cherry chocolate!

And if you want to go the extra mile, then say hello to homemade bordeaux cherry chocolate ice cream sandwiches!! What!?!? Ice cream sandwiches are one of my most favorite things in this world. To combine these two things into one almost brings a tear to my eye. Ok, I’ll stop being a dork. :) But seriously. Soooo good.

How to make the ice cream:

Just follow the cuisine art recipe for simple vanilla ice cream and add almond extract, cherries, and finely chopped dark chocolate chunks. Easy!

Ingredients:
Yield ~5 cups

1 c whole milk
3/4 c sugar
pinch salt
2 c heavy cream
1 T vanilla
1 t almond extract
1 c dark sweet cherries (chopped)
1/2 c bittersweet dark chocolate chunks (finely chopped)

Notes: I actually feel that all that heavy cream makes the ice cream too rich. I substitute 3 cups of 1% milk for the whole milk and heavy cream and find that to be delicious. It is less creamy and more yogurt-like but it cuts down the calories A LOT (329 calories per 1/2 cup to 170 calories).

How to make the ice cream sandwiches:

Follow this recipe: Ice Cream Sandwiches Tested Recipe

I wouldn’t change a thing! The sandwiches are nice and soft and stay that way in the freezer for days afterward. (I’m not sure just how long they keep because they didn’t last too long before getting eaten…by me). Oh, and I take take that back, I actually did change one thing. I added some almond extract to go with the ice cream. I was mucho pleased with the result. 

*Any* Pie Filling Banana Bread

So… my banana bread kick is obviously not over yet. I had some leftover raspberry pie filling from the lemon cake and thought why not put that in banana bread!? Genius! It turned out so so good. And I bet you could use other pie fillings and really have fun with this recipe. I made a chocolate loaf and regular loaf and put in raspberry pie filling and white chocolate chips in both. Delicious!! I made them both at the same time so I could compare them side by side. I have to say that although they were both delicious, the chocolate loaf won out – and disappeared faster. It was almost brownie-like, not in chewiness, but in moistness and richness. Don’t those loaves look gorgeous??

Banana Bread

I bet it would be really good to try cherry pie filling + dark chocolate chunks, apple pie filling + caramel chunks/peanut butter chips, blueberry pie filling + white chocolate chips, etc., etc. Please feel free to post any variations you try in the comments! I’d love to hear about them!

Banana Bread Banana Bread
Chocolate Raspberry White Chocolate Banana Bread Chocolate Banana Bread

Ingredients:    (yield – 1 loaf)

Wet Ingredients –

1 ripe banana    

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

½ applesauce

½ can pie filling (I used raspberry)

Blondie Loaf Only –

½ t lemon extract (or 1 t lemon juice)

Dry Ingredients –

1 ½ c flour

1 T baking powder

½ t baking soda

¼ t salt

½ c white sugar

½ c brown sugar

1 c chocolate chips (I used white chocolate)

Chocolate Loaf Only –

1/3 c cocoa powder

Blondie Loaf Only –

¾ t cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour.
  2. Mash banana; combine with all wet ingredients in bowl.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in separate bowl.
  4. Combine both bowls.
  5. Bake for about 50 minutes. (You can check with a toothpick, but remember that the pie filling is going to remain a liquid.)

~180 calories per slice (1/18 of loaf)

Banana Bread

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Lemon, Raspberry, White Chocolate Cake

lemon raspberry white chocolate cake

So this was my very first round layered cake, and my first time making chocolate curls! So much fun! I had been craving lemon for forever and thought a nice lemon-raspberry cake would hit the spot. My husband suggested the white-chocolate frosting, which turned out to be a winner. The cake is made up of a simple lemon cake mix, raspberry pie filling, and a homemade white chocolate frosting. The inside of the cake has a layer of the raspberry filling mixed with the frosting – the best part in my opinion.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Make two 9” round cakes from a lemon cake mix and pop in the oven.
  2. Whip up some white chocolate frosting! This recipe posted by Kristen was what really made this cake:
    http://comfortablydomestic.com/2011/06/28/white-chocolate-buttercream/OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. When cakes are done, use floss to remove the top of one of the cakes.
    2013-08-30 11.17.38
  4. Mix together about 1/4 can of raspberry filling mixed and about 3/4-1cup. This mixture goes in between the cake layers.
    2013-08-30 11.40.39
  5. Frost the cake!! Top with another 1/4 can of raspberry filling and white chocolate curls (if you want to get really fancy). The white chocolate curls took a little bit of practice for me to get the hang of. My husband, Kyle, was actually really good at it and helped me figure it out. We found that – 1, using a cucumber peeler is more effective than a knife and 2, you need to apply just enough pressure to get the right thickness. My problem was that I was pushing too hard and the chocolate kept breaking in my hands!! But if you don’t push hard enough then you get sad little wispy shavings. So, you just have to play around with it.
    Lemon-Raspberry White Chocolate Cake

Lemon-Blueberry-Peach Loaf Cake

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Here is a very moist loaf cake that I “invented” using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/04/lemon-yogurt-anything-cake/). I followed the recipe except that I used applesauce instead of oil (lower cal but probably not as delicious) and buttermilk instead of yogurt (because that’s what I had) and lemon juice instead of lemon zest (also because that’s what I had). As a result, it was almost too moist. :) Next time I want to try using the yogurt instead of the buttermilk, BUT the moist-ness didn’t stop my husband and I from consuming it quickly. It made for a very delicious breakfast, especially with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Yum!!

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Here are some quick directions if you don’t want to go through the Smitten Kitchen link:

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170 calories per serving (1/12 of loaf)