Whole-Wheat Almond Joy Blondies

When I think of blondies, I think of the delicious chocolate chip blondies from the bakery I worked at in college. I used to pray there were some leftover at the end of the day so I could take them home. And by home, I mean devour them on the less-than-a-half-mile walk to my dorm. Or eat them for breakfast. Yet more reasons why I gained weight in college. But who can say no to an ooey gooey blonde brownie? Whoever invented the blondie is a genius. Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, everyone loves brownies…let’s mesh them into one delicious, mouthwatering dessert! Here’s hoping I’ll be responsible for the next earth-shattering food creation like the blondie…

In the meantime, I can make this delicious whole-wheat version to satisfy my sweet tooth in a slightly healthier way. I decided, rather than stick with the safe chocolate chip version, to kick these up a notch by adding chewy coconut and crunchy Blue Diamond Sea Salt almonds. I also used dark chocolate to make them even more decadent. Keep in mind that these do still have butter and brown sugar; however, they have less sugar and calories than a normal blondie as well as more nutrients from the whole-wheat flour. The key is to brown the butter first to give it more flavor, and it certainly succeeded! These are chewy, soft, and delicious, and they were also a hit at a potluck with some friends this week. Feel free to switch up the add-ins by using more nuts or adding dried fruit, white chocolate chips, etc. Enjoy!

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Whole-Wheat Almond Joy Blondies

  • Servings: 24 brownies
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Adapted very slightly from: Eating Well

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut flakes (I used half sweetened and half unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup Blue Diamond Sea Salt Almonds
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao and chopped them up)
  • Coconut oil cooking spray

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a glass baking pan (about 9 x 13) with coconut oil cooking spray.

2.) Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and starting to brown. Remove from heat, whisk in brown sugar, and let cool for 15 minutes.

3.) Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Prepare mix-ins by chopping nuts and chocolate chips into small pieces. Reserve 2 tbsp of each.

4.) Once butter mixture has cooled, whisk eggs and vanilla into mixture until combined. Fold in the flour mixture in 2 additions until just combined. Fold the coconut, chocolate, and almonds into the batter and spread evenly into the pan. Top with the reserved mix-ins.

5.) Bake the blondies until light brown around the edges, around 18-20 minutes. They may appear a little underbaked in the center, but will become firmer as they cool. Leave the pan on hot plates or a wire rack to cool completely for about 2 hours. Cut into 24 bars.

Nutrition Info (Per blondie, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 131
Fat 6 g (4 g saturated)
Fiber 1 g
Carbs 15 g
Sugars 10 g
Protein 2 g

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

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Strawberry Chocolate Crunch Parfait

Hello everyone! This last week has been a whirlwind of events for my birthday and the long weekend. I had the chance to catch up with almost all of my family and friends, went to the casino for a fun night out, and ended the long weekend with a friend at the beach. Life couldn’t be much better right now 🙂

However, as busy as I’ve been, I’ve still had time to whip up some delicious meals in the kitchen! You probably know by now how much I love breakfast, and how important it is for me to eat a filling breakfast so I’m not raiding my snack drawer by 10:30 AM. So this week, since it’s been really warm (yay for summer coming!), I decided to make a yogurt parfait for breakfast. Simple, refreshing, yet filling enough to get me to noon without my stomach grumbling. This actually ended up being so filling that I ate it in two servings; half for breakfast and half for an evening snack.

I like my parfaits to be crunchy, so I wait and put the granola and nuts on right before eating so it doesn’t get soft. The Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Almonds add the perfect crunch; they also add a nice chocolate flavor without all the extra sugar and calories of chocolate chips. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did – perfect for a warm summer day!

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Strawberry Chocolate Crunch Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup granola
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • handful of Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Almonds, chopped
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut

Directions:

1.) In two small bowls or Tupperwares, layer the yogurt, cinnamon, granola, and strawberries. Top with a little more yogurt, coconut, and chopped almonds. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

 

Mexican Fiesta Salad

We all know how much I love Mexican food. Basically an obsession. If I were to ever turn down a taco (or a margarita), be worried, because the world may be ending. So when I needed to switch up my salad routine, I naturally decided to add some Mexican flair. Nothing is better than the combination of avocado, salsa, corn, black beans, cumin…yum! I bet some ground turkey or chicken with taco seasoning would have stepped this salad up a notch, but since it was my first week in the apartment and I didn’t have a lot of time to cook, I made it meat-free. That’s what I love about salads – so versatile, yet such a great way to get your veggies in! This is an entree-sized salad, so it’s enough to keep you full for a meal, but you could also make it as a side dish to go along with other Mexican favorites. Enjoy this colorful and delicious salad, margarita optional 😉

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Mexican Fiesta Salad

  • Servings: 6 entree servings or 12 side salads
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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb spring mix
  • 1 can reduced sodium black beans, drained
  • 1 can roasted corn, drained
  • 1 container grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp  ground cumin
  • 3 small avocados, sliced
  • 4.5 tbsp cilantro lime ranch (found it at Walmart!)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1.) Top spring mix with black beans, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, sunflower seeds, and cumin. If serving the salad right away, top with rest of ingredients and toss. If eating one serving at a time, top each serving with 1/2 an avocado, 2 tbsp salsa, 3/4 tbsp cilantro lime ranch, and 1/2 tbsp oil. Enjoy!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 466
Fat 31 g (4 g saturated)
Fiber 14 g
Carbs 39 g
Sodium 555 mg
Protein 14 g

Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Feta

I’ve almost been in my own apartment for a whole week – woah! I have to say that I have no complaints so far, other than missing having my roommates around. It can be lonely! But I do love having a whole fridge to myself, being able to do dishes/use the microwave late at night, and just generally being able to do my own thing. Since I was settling into the place this week and didn’t want to cook anything complicated, I made one of my favorite pasta dishes that comes together in minutes. I make this dish often when I need to whip something up that will be quick yet satisfying. This always fits the bill!

I first made this when I ventured out into the “real world,” when I was a rookie cook and new to living on my own (feels like light years ago!) I based it on a dish my college cafeteria used to serve, which was just bow-ties with spinach, tomato, and feta cheese. So simple yet so delicious. I have tweaked it a bit to make it healthier and jazz it up, but I still owe the Stonehill College cafeteria a big thank you for introducing me to this dish!

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Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Feta

  • Servings: 6 servings
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Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole-wheat pasta
  • 1 bag spinach leaves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/c cup pesto (or more/less to suit your taste)
  • Feta cheese

1.) Cook pasta until desired firmness. Drain and set aside.

2.) While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven on medium heat. Once oil is hot, start adding in spinach, a handful at a time, until the whole bag is wilted, stirring frequently.

3.) When spinach is wilted, add the can of diced tomatoes to the sauce pan and let simmer for a few minutes. Then add pasta and desired amount of pesto and stir everything together!

4.) Top each serving with Feta cheese and enjoy!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, topped with 1/4 cup Feta cheese, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 448
Fat 21 g (5 g saturated)
Fiber 10 g
Carbs 54 g
Sodium 680 mg
Protein 18 g

Shrimp Parm Over Spaghetti Squash

It feels like forever since my last post – I’ve been busy busy! I have finals this week, so I am beyond ready for summer to begin. I also found my own apartment – yay! However, I move in this weekend, so I have been scrambling to find time to both study and pack; not easy. Therefore I have been relying on salads and freezer meals recently…a pat on the back to me for, at some point, making extra food and stashing it in the freezer! However, at the beginning of last week I made this yummy shrimp parm recipe. Another delicious and easy recipe from Gina at Skinnytaste! I decided to make spaghetti squash to go with it; however, she used zucchini noodles, or you could use your favorite pasta! I doubled the original recipe so I would have enough for the week. I also added pesto to a few of the leftovers and it was really good, so I may add that next time when I cook the sauce. My spaghetti squashes made a lot of cooked “spaghetti” so I made each serving of shrimp over 2 cups, which was very filling, but feel free to adjust that to your liking. Enjoy!

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Shrimp Parm Over Spaghetti Squash

Adapted from: Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb jumbo raw shrimp (buying peeled/deveined will save you time! Sadly, I did not do this)
  • 10 cups spaghetti squash, baked (about 5.25 lbs raw)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Italian seasoning and salt, to taste
  • 5 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2.5 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

1.) Prepare spaghetti squash – see here for instructions!

2.) Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray a glass baking dish or cookie sheet with oil.

3.) In a small bowl, whisk the egg. In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, panko, and grated parmesan. Dry the shrimp, then dip each one in egg and  roll in breadcrumb mixture until fully coated. Place shrimp on baking dish and spray them with oil.

4.) Bake until golden brown, crispy, and cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning the shrimp over about halfway through.

5.) While shrimp are cooking, heat the crushed tomatoes in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly. Add Italian seasoning and salt, to taste. Once shrimp are done, serve over spaghetti squash and top with sauce, mozzarella, and shredded parmesan.

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 292
Fat 6 g (2 g saturated)
Fiber 8 g
Carbs 36 g
Sodium 741 mg
Protein 26 g