Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Signs of spring are all around.

Out with puffy coats, snow, and heavy comfort foods. In with patio dining, blooming tulips, evening runs, skirts, and strawberries.

As a food blogger, I adore strawberries. In addition to being juicy and delicious, these red beauties are versatile, nutrient-packed, and photogenic. My only gripe about strawberries is that their peak season only runs from April to September. Bring on the strawberries all year long!

Strawberries are scrumptious enough to enjoy on their own, but finding creative ways to use them brings me great joy. Combining my love for strawberries and chocolate in the form of a healthy muffin with only 120 calories? Now that’s enough to put some spring in my step!

My Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins are exceptionally easy to make. You can stir all ingredients by hand – no mixer necessary! – and they take less than 30 minutes to make from setup to cleanup. The ingredient list is simple, but the texture and the flavor of the final product make these muffins heavenly. Unsweetened applesauce replaces butter or oil to produce a moist muffin that is low in fat and calories. Translation: These skinny muffins taste amazing AND will facilitate bikini season preparation. Beach body or yummy muffin? You don’t have to choose!

Making a batch of Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins is a marvelous way to celebrate the beginning of spring and, of course, strawberry season. Please join me in raising a muffin to springtime and to strawberries: cheers to a fruitful season!

Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yields: 10 muffins

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend (or 1/4 cup sugar)
2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar (or 1/4 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 egg white
1 cup strawberries, diced
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Mix together the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, the applesauce, and the egg white until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in strawberries and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Servings: 10
Serving size: 1 muffin
Calories: 120
Fat: 2.4g
Carbs: 23.8g
Sugar: 8.2g
Fiber: 2.5g
Protein: 2.2g

Chicken Wild Rice Casserole

How do I love thee casserole? Let me count the ways.

If the name of my blog didn’t give it away at first glance, I have also previously shared with you my affinity for casseroles in my Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Casserole recipe. Casseroles are comforting to the max, they produce enough leftovers to feed a small army, and they are a great way to clean out the fridge–anything goes!

According to my mom, I wasn’t always such a casserole aficionado. I have been told that I would often ask for a sandwich for dinner instead of the casserole Mom had on the menu. (Sorry Mama!) Only once I was older did I realize the error of my ways. A creamy combination of savory chicken, zesty rice, and yummy good-for-you veggies all in one dish–what could be better?

Chicken Wild Rice Casserole is particularly dear to my heart, because it was my grandpa’s favorite meal in my mom’s recipe book. Much to my then-casserole-despising self’s dismay, Grandpa would request Chicken Wild Rice Casserole every time he came to our house for a visit. My saving grace at the time was that Grandpa never failed to take me to TCBY for frozen yogurt after dinner. In that regard, my tastes have not changed; to me, frozen yogurt is still a cure-all.

I have made a few changes to the original recipe to make it a bit lighter and easier to prepare–swapping out sour cream for Greek yogurt and purchasing ready-cooked chicken at the store. Using a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup saves time, but you can easily make your own if you prefer. (Try this recipe.)

If you’re still not sold on casseroles, I implore you to try this recipe. Chicken Wild Rice Casserole is a healthy, foolproof weeknight meal that is absolutely addicting. One taste and you’ll know you want seconds!

Chicken Wild Rice Casserole

Yields: 6 servings (approximately 1 cup each)

1 6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced mushroom
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 10 3/4 ounce can 98% fat free condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

Prepare rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, heat a small amount of olive oil in a sauté pan and cook onion, celery, and mushroom until tender. In a large bowl, stir together soup, yogurt, wine, salt, and pepper. Stir in cooked rice, vegetables, and chicken. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes. Stir before serving.

Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 210
Fat: 2.6g
Carbs: 29g
Sugar: 4g
Fiber: 1.5g
Protein: 15.5g

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

I have a problem.

As I have revealed before, the number of bananas I buy every single time I go to the grocery store is superfluous. If I don’t have at least a few bananas hanging out on the counter, what happens if I eat one for a pre-run snack, slice one on top of my oatmeal, and then I get the urge to make my Banana Chocolate Chip Bread only to discover I am out of bananas?! The first stage of recovery is acknowledgement of the problem…

The second stage is a willingness to change.

I can never seem to get past this phase. This is why I end up with brown banana overload every week–and a weekly justification to devise new ways to use them.

This week’s invention: Double Chocolate Banana Muffins.

More like an indulgent dessert than a breakfast muffin, these muffins are a (healthy) chocolate version of a very moist banana bread made without any butter or oil. They are big, fluffy, and melt-in-your-mouth gooey–a perfect illustration of how food can be both healthy and delicious!

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Yields: 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Truvia Baking Blend (or 2/3 cup sugar)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup egg substitute OR 2 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips, plus a few extra for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper-lined muffin cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, beat together the bananas, yogurt, and eggs until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tin about three-fourths full. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Like banana bread, these muffins taste best the next day and should be stored at room temperature.

Servings: 12
Serving size: 1 muffin
Calories: 170
Fat: 3.9g
Carbs: 35.9g
Sugar: 15.6g
Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 4g

Beef and Beer Chili

Chili is my go-to winter meal.

My first few blog posts may convey the illusion that I only eat the following: 1) sweets and 2) breakfast foods. The reality is that my voracious sweet tooth has an equally zealous counterpart in my comfort food cravings. Curling up with a hot bowl of chili on a cold night is absolutely heart-warming and offers a distraction from the misery that is winter. In fact, I believe that chili is one of winter’s few redeeming qualities.

Especially my Beef and Beer Chili.

Hearty in texture, rich in flavor, and comforting as can be, Beef and Beer Chili is the perfect weeknight meal. You can throw everything in your crock pot in the morning and come home from work to a delightful smell and a delicious meal.

The key to keeping this recipe healthy is by choosing a lean ground beef. I usually choose 93% lean, which still packs a flavor punch without all the fat. Cooking in the crock pot allows the flavors to fully develop as the beer and the spices come together in a chunky, classic chili.

Let your slow cooker do all the work for you, and serve with cornbread, shredded cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt/sour cream, sliced jalapeños, tortilla chips, or sliced avocado, and, of course, a beer!


Beef and Beer Chili

Yields: 8 servings (about 1 1/4 cup each)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef (I use 93% lean)
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes & green chiles
2 15-ounce cans beans of choice (I like 1 can of pinto beans + 1 can of black beans, but you could use kidney beans, white beans, etc.)
12 ounces beer (Shiner Bock is my beer of choice)
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried cilantro

Optional toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Sliced jalapeños
Sliced avocados
Tortilla chips

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, onion, and garlic, and cook until the beef is completely browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and place on a paper-towel lined plate to soak up any excess liquid.

Transfer beef, onion, and garlic to slow cooker and stir in the rest of the ingredients, except for toppings. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

Serve warm with desired toppings. Freeze leftovers.

Servings: 8
Calories: 250
Fat: 4.9g
Carbs: 29.3g
Sugar: 5.3g
Fiber: 6.7g
Protein: 18.7

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I once gave up doughnuts for Lent. It was a long six weeks.

When I was a little girl, doughnuts were the ultimate treat. Seeing the vibrant red glow of the “Hot Now” sign at Krispy Kreme was the cue for the mouth watering to begin. “Doughnuts with Dad” events at school were sacred, and weekend morning doughnut runs were reserved for the most notable occasions.

As I grew up, I became more health-conscious and learned that while delicious, doughnuts were not exactly a superfood. My favorite doughnut variety (chocolate glazed with sprinkles) contains 250 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 23 grams of sugar. Yikes! This is dangerously close to the American Heart Association‘s recommended maximum of 25 grams of added sugars I should eat in an entire day! Maybe it was not such a bad idea to give up doughnuts for Lent–or for life.

But that would be too extreme.

What if I told you that you could make a lower-sugar, lower-fat, all-around-healthier version of your favorite doughnuts that are every bit as scrumptious as the real deal? You can. Just bake them!

Baking avoids the mess of frying and results in soft, dense, moist doughnuts that are perfect for topping with the drool-worthy combination of cinnamon and sugar. After watching Ina Garten prepare her Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts on the Food Network, I created this recipe. I love Ina’s philosophy of focusing on the basics.  She uses ordinary ingredients and cooks them in a simple way to produce dishes that are full of flavor.

These doughnuts call for everyday ingredients that you probably already have in the pantry. I use Truvia Baking Blend for the doughnuts and Truvia natural sweetener for the topping, but you could use regular sugar if you prefer. The only unusual thing you will need is a doughnut pan, which you can find for about $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, or Sur la Table. If you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can bake in a muffin pan instead.

Baked doughnuts are a cinch to make and simply delightful. This healthier version tastes even better than the real thing, evoking all of the precious childhood doughnut memories without any of the guilt–unless you gave up doughnuts for Lent.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

Yields: 12 doughnuts

2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Truvia Baking Blend (or 1 1/2 cups sugar)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 large egg)
1 1/4 cups almond milk
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon almond extract

4 tablespoons light butter, melted
1/3-1/2 cup Truvia natural sweetener
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 doughnut pans with cooking spray.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, yogurt, and almond extract. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the doughnut pans. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

For the topping, melt the butter in a saute pan. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Dip each doughnut in the butter first and then in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Servings: 12
Calories: 130
Fat: 2.7g
Carbs: 27.9g
Sugar: 6.8g
Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 3.5g