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)

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?

*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

Related articles

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)

Favorite Blueberry Banana Bread Recipe

This recipe is a keeper. The banana bread disappeared really fast! I think it’s so good because it’s got oats in it. It makes for a really good, grainy texture. Maybe “grainy” isn’t a good word. Maybe grainy implies that there are hard “seed-like” chunks in there, which is not the case at all! It is very soft and moist and hearty and wholesome. I will definitely be making this again!

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Blueberry Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup blueberries
1 5/8 c flour
1/2 c oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, & vanilla
1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas

2013-08-24 04.22.04
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour 9×5 loaf pan.
3. Mix blueberries and 4 TBSP flour in small/medium sized bowl. Make sure blueberries are coated. 
4. Add oats, the rest of the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
5. In stand mixer, cream together vanilla, applesauce, and both sugars.
6. Add eggs one at a time.
7. Add mashed banana.
8. Combine blueberry mixture with liquid mixture and mix together until just moistened. 
9. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

186 cal per serving (1/12 of loaf)

Strawberry Freezer Jam Discovery

I promised I’d post about my strawberry freezer jam experience, so here it is. I must confess that the results of this recipe were disappointing after the Homemade Peach Jam experience. See my conclusions at the end to see why. For now, here is the recipe I followed. It is the typical freezer jam recipe you get when you buy a pack of pectin, but I did what it said NOT to do (reduce the sugar)…

Strawberry Freezer Jam – Reduced Sugar

1lb strawberries
2.5 tsp lemon juice
3.5 tsp pectin
1.25 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 1.4 cups)
Yield: 3 cups jam = a little over 1.5 lb (1lb 10oz)
  1. Cut the tops off of the strawberries and dump in a food processor. Chop to desired chunkiness (or the lack thereof).

    1lb of Strawberries

    1lb of Strawberries

    Dump in Food Processor

    Dump in Food Processor

    Strawberries in Food Processor

    Food Processor-ize!

  2. Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir mixture for about 5 minutes while it continues to boil.

    Cooking Strawberry Freezer Jam

    Looks like tomato soup…

  3. Add sugar. Stir constantly for 1 minute while mixture is still at a rolling boil.
  4. Remove from heat. Let cool. Dump in a jar.

    Jar of Strawberry Freezer Jam

    How domestic :)

  5. Eat it!

    Strawberry Jam on Toast

    Yummy!

Conclusions

This jam was a success in that it tastes good and is only 23 calories per TBSP as opposed to Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves at 50 calories per TBSP. However, I have to say that I was disappointed in it for 2 reasons:

  1. The jam turned out a little runny. I realize that the recipe did warn me that if I didn’t put in the full amount of sugar, the pectin wouldn’t be able to set the jam. I figured a 10% reduction wouldn’t do much harm, but it looks like it did make a difference. Also, even with the reduction in sugar, I feel like the jam is still a bit too sweet! I will be looking in to making the jam again, except next time I want to try it the old-fashioned way – without pectin.
  2. After all the time and effort I put in to this, in my opinion, Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves tastes better and is cheaper! You can get it at Costco for cheaper than what it cost me to make this jam! I got the strawberries at what I thought was a really good deal ($2.50/lb), but it wasn’t good enough. I found that you’ve got to get the strawberries at about $1.85/lb just to meet (not beat) Costco’s price. (See the price breakdown in the table below.)
    My Homemade Freezer Jam
      Price Calories
    1lb strawberries $2.50 145
    lemon juice $0.03 3
    pectin $0.26 0
    sugar $0.29 953
      $3.08 1101
         
    per oz: $0.12 42
    per TBSP: $0.06 23
         
    — VS —
         
    Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves
      Price Calories
    2 32 oz jars at Costco: $6.05
    per oz: $0.09
    per TBSP: $0.05 50

So, until I find a more successful recipe AND find strawberries at a screaming deal, I would recommend simply getting a jar of Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves – assuming you are okay with 2x the calories.

Homemade Peach Jam

Peaches went on sale at Kroger for $.99/lb this week, so I set about making my very first homemade jam. So exciting! There’s just something especially gratifying about spreading fruity goodness – that you made with your own two hands – over a piece of toast. The jam turned out delicious!! I think it has about half the calories as Smucker’s peach preserves, but I didn’t measure exactly how much jam my recipe produced when I was done (and my husband and I already ate quite a bit), so I can’t be sure. I plan to make strawberry jam this week so I will be more on the ball the next time around. The cost of the homemade jam was also about half that of Smucker’s peach preserves ($2.54 per 18oz jar vs about $2.50 for closer to 36oz). But the real reason I made the jam was because it was fun and exciting!! I learned how to easily get the skin off of peaches and watched as the concoction turned into a jelly-like form (without pectin). I love learning new things. So without further ado, here is the recipe:

Simple & Delicious Peach Jam

7 medium peaches (about 7 cups)

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cups sugar

  1. Peel and slice the peaches. Peeling trick: Put peaches in boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then dunk in cool ice water. The peach skins will rub right off! I found that it was easier to cut the peach in half and remove the pit before pulling off the skin. Trying to do this the other way around can lead to a slippery mess.

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  2. Put the peaches in a food processor and chop to desired chunkiness. Some people like their jam completely smooth. Me, I like a few chunks of fruity deliciousness in there. :)
  3. Put the peach mixture in a pan. Dump in the sugar and lemon juice. Don’t stir yet! Let sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature. This is supposed to release the natural peach juices.

    2013-08-09 08.04.06
  4. Bring peach mixture to a boil and continue stirring for about 30 minutes. You should have someone else in the kitchen with you to keep you company. :) Actually, my sweet hubby did this part for me and I kept him company. :) He’s such a keeper! You’ll know it’s done when the jam reaches a temperature of about 220 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is to boil out all the watery content to get a more jelly-like consistency. If you don’t have a thermometer, another test would be to freeze a spoon, put some jelly on it, put it back in the freezer for about a minute, then tip the spoon vertically to see if the jelly runs off like a liquid, or sticks together like a jelly.2013-08-09 10.19.52
  5. Let cool and then put in a jar! I didn’t mess with sealing the jar because I know Kyle and I are going to eat this fairly quickly. :)2013-08-09 23.54.062013-08-09 23.34.05

Hope you enjoy!!