Thursday, September 22, 2016

12 Healthy Pumpkin Snack Recipes

Happy first day of autumn! The weather has been in the 80s every day this week, but you can still feel fall in the air since it gets cool at night and a few changing leaves are peeking out of the neighborhood trees. I obviously need to share a pumpkin post today to celebrate the arrival of my favorite season. I asked a group of my fellow food bloggers to share their best healthy snack recipes using pumpkin. The result is 12 healthy pumpkin snack recipes that you can feel good about eating all season.

Check out these wonderful healthy food blogs by clicking on the pumpkin recipe links below or the direct link to each site. For more pumpkin recipe love, follow my Pumpkin board on Pinterest.

from Chicago Jogger

from Chicago Jogger

Looking for more pumpkin recipes? Try my:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

4 Meal Prep Tips + Perfect Fit Meals Review

This post is sponsored by Perfect Fit Meals. All opinions are my own.

As we move into the busy fall season, now is a great time to look at your meal prep and weekly cooking plans to take steps to become more efficient in the kitchen. The company Perfect Fit Meals recently reached out to me to try their fresh meals, which are available for purchase nationwide at various grocery stores. This also got me thinking about how to improve the meal prep in our house on a weekly basis - below my Perfect Fit Meals review are four meal prep tips I'm planning to start using this fall.

Perfect Fit Meals sent four meals for K and I to try. The meals come vacuum sealed and ready to warm up in the microwave. The timing was perfect to try Perfect Fit Meals, as we had just arrived home from a busy weekend visiting family and didn't have time to make it to the grocery store for our usual trip. Perfect Fit Meals include a 'use by' date since they are fresh and ready to eat. You can also freeze the meals, if needed.

We thought all four meals were delicious, though the portion sizes were a bit smaller than I usually make for dinner {under 400 calories}. This was no problem as we added a small side of our own at home to complete each dinner. Growing a baby takes a few extra calories I have found :)

K's favorite meal was the Havana Chicken {pictured below}, made with Cuban spices and paired with black beans, brown rice and green beans. He especially liked the generous serving of chicken and balanced food options in this meal, which included a high protein side and vegetable.

My favorite dish was the Turkey Enchilada Casserole {pictured below}, with lean ground turkey, enchilada sauce, black bean corn salsa, cheddar, and white corn tortilla strips. This dish reminded me of a delicious Mexican "lasagna" I made a few years ago. I love the protein in this meal from the ground turkey and beans.

As I mentioned above, Perfect Fit Meals are fresh and ready to serve after a quick warm-up in the microwave {the recommended time is 1-2 minutes per dish}. The meals are portion controlled and designed by dietitians; each meal averages 330 calories. In the Chicago area, Perfect Fit Meals are available for purchase at Jewel-Osco. Check out the Perfect Fit Meals store locator to find a location near you. Read the company's FAQ for more information.

I love the idea of having fresh meal options like Perfect Fit Meals for days when you are just too busy to cook. Taking time to prepare for weekly meals is something I have a goal of doing better this fall.

Here are the tips that our household is planning to use:

1) Prepare your own snacks.
2) Plan your meals for the week.
  • My goal is to plan meals for the coming week every weekend, including estimating what leftovers we will have and scheduling in any special events and solo meal nights when K is traveling for business. Writing down a plan before heading to the grocery store on Sunday morning makes for a more efficient trip, and helps ensure we don't buy too much {or too little} food.
3) Organize your meal inspiration.
  • I recently created a "recipes" bookmark folder on my phone and I regularly pin new recipes ideas on my Chicago Jogger Pinterest account. I also use the Notes application on my phone to keep track of groceries we need to pick up and add to a running list of meal ideas. This way I'm never without inspiration when the "what's for dinner"? question comes up.
4) Have easy, healthy meals ready to go for the unexpected.
  • No matter how much meal prep you do, life inevitably gets in the way and sometimes you need a meal that's ready to go with only a few minutes to prepare. I'm planning to have healthy options like Perfect Fit Meals ready for those busy nights.

How do you prep for weekly meals?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars

Last week I posted my first apple recipe of the year, and tonight I'm back with my first pumpkin recipe: Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars with cinnamon glaze! These Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars are made healthier by using whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt - this dessert contains no butter or oil.

Like many food bloggers and fall food lovers, I am obsessed with pumpkin. I look forward to coming up with new and creative pumpkin ideas every year. This first recipe is a healthier take on dessert, using Greek yogurt instead of butter or oil. Using Greek yogurt resulted in light and airy pumpkin bars that you can enjoy with a little less guilt.

I'm a big fan of substituting yogurt and applesauce for part or all of the butter or oil in a recipe. These Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars are similar to a recipe I posted last summer, for Greek Yogurt Banana Bars. There's nothing wrong with adding butter to your life {and I do on a regular basis} but sometimes I'm craving something a bit lighter.

For this recipe, I also added whole wheat flour for extra health benefits. Whole wheat flour includes close to four times the fiber of white flour {source}. I came across one tip from the kitchn on baking with whole wheat flour: let your batter rest for at least 10 minutes before baking. This allows it to "hydrate" since whole wheat flour includes wheat that is courser in texture.

I think it worked! These Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars turned out delicious and super light. I also added a simple cinnamon glaze frosting, made with a few splashes of milk, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon.

I couldn't resist topping this dessert with Halloween-themed "spookles" :)

Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars
Yields: 24 pumpkin bars

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 {15 ounce} can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup dark brown sugar {packed}
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Glaze~
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk {I used 2%}
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Mix eggs, sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin, Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract.
*In a separate bowl, combine white and whole wheat flours, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
*Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix well.
*Add batter to a baking pan. I baked in a 3 quart Pyrex dish {13.25 x 9.25}.**
*Bake for 30-35 minutes.
*Let the bars cool for at least 20 minutes before frosting. To make the Cinnamon Glaze, whisk ingredients together. For thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar and/or milk until you get the desired texture.
*Store bars in the refrigerator or freeze.

**If you want thinner bars, bake your Greek Yogurt Pumpkin Bars in a jelly roll or cookie sheet pan. You may need to reduce the cooking time.

{Adapted from Taste of Home's recipe for Pumpkin Bars}

In the mood for more pumpkin recipes? Check out my:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Apple Pie Chia Pudding

Since the first full week of September ends tonight, it's finally time to share a fall-inspired recipe. The weather is unseasonably hot this week in Chicago with a heat index close to 100 degrees. For that reason, I don't want to turn on the oven or eat anything warm to enjoy fall flavors. My resolution: Apple Pie Chia Pudding!

Over Labor Day weekend K and I visited my family in Iowa, including a stop at my favorite local apple orchard. We sampled apple treats and picked up a bag of Zestar apples {so good} to take home. I haven't been able to stop thinking about apple flavors since this visit.

Apple pie flavors shine in this recipe by adding apple butter and apple pie spice. Apple butter is my favorite spread to enjoy in the fall. When I was a child, my grandma made apple butter from scratch every year and spread it on homemade bread as an after school snack for my brother and I. This chia pudding recipe is a new way to incorporate apple butter into breakfast. I picked up a jar of this delicious spread at the apple orchard.

Have you ever made chia pudding? I've tried it a few times but the texture has never been exactly what I wanted - usually too thin. With this recipe, I added two Tablespoons of vanilla yogurt and 2 Tablespoons of apple butter, and that fixed it. The pudding texture is perfect!

This recipe incorporates simple flavors, including vanilla almond milk, chopped apple, vanilla yogurt, apple butter, apple pie spice, and chia seeds. I used pre-made Apple Pie Spice {with cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice}, but you can also make your own. This version of Apple Pie Spice from My Baking Addiction sounds delicious.

All you need to do is stir / whisk your ingredients together and let the pudding soak in a covered container overnight in the refrigerator.

I stirred chopped apples into and on top of my Apple Pie Chia Pudding before enjoying it for breakfast this morning. This recipe serves one for breakfast or two for a smaller snack.

Apple Pie Chia Pudding
Serves 1-2

1 cup vanilla almond milk
3 Tablespoons chia seeds
2 Tablespoons vanilla yogurt
2 Tablespoons apple butter
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice

Optional: 1/2 an apple, chopped

How to~
*Add almond milk, chia seeds, yogurt, apple butter, and apple pie spice to a bowl.
*Whisk or stir until ingredients are combined.
*Let the chia pudding sit overnight {~8 hours} in a covered container in the refrigerator.
*Add a chopped apple in the morning, if desired.

Looking for more fall-inspired apple recipes? Try my:

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