Oatmeal Caramelettos

Upon popular demand from my fellow dietetic friends, I am bringing you this decadent, caramelly, chocolately cookie. I was in charge of bringing dessert to a baby shower this past weekend and I chose to make these. After one bite, everyone was asking me for the recipe. I based this recipe off of one I recently found on Pinterest. I switched it up slightly by subbing almond flour for all-purpose to make it a weeee bit healthier (plus I don’t have all-purpose at my apartment).

These cookies require only one bowl and no mixer, so they are a breeze to whip up. Honestly, the most tedious part is unwrapping all those dang caramels (#firstworldproblems). The end result, is a buttery soft oatmeal cookie sandwiching a layer of chocolate and caramel. Worth it.

It’s that time a year where parties are in full effect, so bake these for your next birthday, graduation, wedding, baby, whatever party/shower you have coming up!

Oatmeal Caramelettos

Yield: 8X8 inch pan

Adapted from: Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, melted (1 1/2 stick)

3/ 4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup almond flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 cup whole-rolled old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

35 caramel squares, unwrapped

1/2 cup heavy cream

pinch of salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8×8-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 90 seconds. Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, optional pinch salt, and stir until combined.

Add half of the mixture to the prepared pan (just eyeball it) and bake for 10 minutes.

While it bakes, make the caramel sauce.

In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl heat caramels until melted. Add cream and stir until combined. Add pinch of salt.

After 10 minutes, remove pan from the oven and sprinkle with the chocolate. Slowly and evenly pour caramel sauce over the chocolate then crumble the reserved oatmeal-brown sugar mixture over the top. Bake for another 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and center is bubbling slightly. The center will look undercooked, but will continue to bake and harden as they cool.

Allow bars to cool completely for a couple hours before slicing and serving or else they will be a (tasty) gooey mess. Once cool, slice and enjoy.

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Tomato Risotto

One of my favorite restaurants to go to when I was at Purdue was Bistro 501. It has a French influence and they focus on providing fresh, local food, changing their menu based on what’s seasonally available. This is where I celebrated my graduation with my family and very best friends. My absolute favorite dish, which I order almost every time, is the seared salmon. The chef cooks it to perfection so it’s super tender, then layers it on top of a bed of tomato risotto and grilled asparagus and finishes it off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Although I’ve tried countless times to cook salmon so it melts like butter in my mouth, I haven’t even come close to mastering it. Something I HAVE mastered, however, is duplicating the tomato risotto they serve underneath it.

Risotto has a bad rap of being “complicated” and “time-consuming”, but that is not the case. Yes, it does take some stirring, but not as much as people make it out to include. Make sure to use Arborio rice, not just regular rice in this recipe as it soaks up the liquid better, producing the thick, creamy texture characteristic of risotto. To up the nutrition even more, I added a handful of spinach to my version. Feel free to add additional vegetables as well! This dish can be served as a main dish or as a side to chicken or fish.

Another perk to this dish? The fact that you need wine to cook it, so it’s only natural to pour yourself the obligatory glass to drink as well. Happy cooking!

Tomato Risotto
Serves 4-6 main dishes or 8 side dishes

Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 C Arborio rice
2 T tomato paste
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 C dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1/3 C Parmesan
1/3 C mozzarella
½ C tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ C chopped spinach (optional)
½ tsp. dried Italian herbs
Ground pepper to taste

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Mix in garlic and rice and then add wine. Continuously stir until wine is absorbed. Toss in tomatoes. Slowly add broth in ½ C increments and keep stirring until absorbed. Turn off heat and add herbs and tomato paste. Finally, add mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses as well as spinach if using. Stir until cheese is melted and spinach is wilted. Serve as a main dish or as a side with fish or chicken and always with a glass of wine!

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My Top 3 Health Tips

There is a whole lot of nutrition information out there and unfortunately a lot of it contraindicates itself. Carbs are good one day, but the next day a study concludes they make you fat. Cherries cause cancer, nope just kidding, now they’ve been shown to prevent it. Paleo, vegan, or fruitarian is the healthiest way to live…but chocolate and red wine help you live longer. It’s confusing!! That’s the one of the challenging jobs dietitians face: sifting through the research to accurately educate the general population on what really is healthy vs. crazy nonsense.

If I had to choose just three tips to give people to help them live a healthier lifestyle, I would choose the following. These have been proven again and again by multiple, credible studies and I have seen them work their magic in real life. Nothing over-the-top or extreme here, just simple steps you can make today for a healthier, happier life.

#1 Eat Often and Eat Early
The Biggest mistake I see people make, is skipping meals and banishing snacks in order to “save” calories. This is a problem for multiple reasons. One, it automatically slows your metabolism, preventing you from burning calories efficiently. Your body needs calories to survive and without them your body goes into what’s called “starvation” mode causing your organs to slow down, your muscles to waste and your brain to become sluggish. This is why so many people feel chronically fatigued and tired! I’ve seen this numerous times when counseling clients. When they say they aren’t losing weight despite healthy eating and extra exercise, I immediately look at their overall calorie consumption. Most of the time, especially in women, they are actually not eating enough to fuel their activity!

A general rule of thumb is to eat every 2-4 hours and ALWAYS, ALWAYS eat breakfast. Even if it’s just a hardboiled egg and piece of fruit. Something is better than nothing to kick start that calorie burn.

Study snack!
Study break snack!

#2 Move for Pleasure
Find some form of physical activity that you actually ENJOY doing! This is the key to sticking with exercise for life. Some people are hard-core weight lifters while others enjoy practicing yoga. For some, 10 miles is a “short” distance to run but for others 2 miles is challenging and sufficient enough. Following a strict workout regimen may be motivating to you, or (if your like me) you may prefer to do what feels right depending on how your body feels on that day.

Have an open mind and make sure to try things more than once before deciding you don’t like it. This is especially true for group exercise classes. The first spin class I took I hated! Then, I took a class taught by a different instructor and fell in love with it and eventually became certified to teach myself!

Lifting sesh
Sometimes I want to lift…
...Sometimes I want to run
…Sometimes I want to run

#3 Include a Fruit or Veg at (Almost) Every Meal
Most American’s are only getting 2 out of their recommended 9-11 servings of combined fruits and vegetables each day! Scary, as produce has been shown to help prevent almost all chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, obesity and much more.

9-11 servings may seem like a lot, but remember, in the United States, there is major portion distortion. For example, one serving includes:

1 apple (the size of a tennis ball)
½ C grapes
4 oz. 100% fruit juice
2 Tbs. dried fruit

½ C cooked broccoli
½ large potato
6 baby carrots
1 C raw vegetables

Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov  to find out how many fruits and vegetables you should be eating.

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Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Last week I posted a workout, this week i’m posting a decadent, chocolate dessert.This is where the balance comes in people. Most individuals assume I don’t EVER eat “unhealthy” foods like desserts, cheeseburgers or cocktails. This could not be further from the truth. The key is, I don’t eat these things in mass quantities, every.single.day. I eat a cookie when I feel like it and keep the side of fries more often then not when dining out. This prevents me from feeling deprived and overdoing it whenever the opportunity presents itself. I encourage everyone to listen to and acknowledge their cravings instead of constantly trying to ignore them. Doing so prevents you from overeating and keeps you happy! So there you have it, I give you permission to “treat yo’ self” every now and again.

The perfect start? These brownies! I inadvertently made them a wee bit healthier by subbing some of the butter for applesauce. I had no intentions of lightening this recipe up, but I ran out of butter…so in comes the applesauce. Did you know, when baking you can sub half the butter or oil for applesauce or yogurt to cut down on the calories and fat? There literally is no taste or consistency difference. Don’t be fooled, these are definitely still considered a dessert, but remember, everything in moderation! Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

Brownie base:
1/4 C butter, softened
½ C applesauce (one small container)
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ C cocoa powder
½ C flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 C dark chocolate chips

Frosting:
1 C powdered sugar
¼ C butter
½ C peanut butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 T milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat together the butter, applesauce and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs, then mix to combine.
Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, mixing till just combined. Stir in the dark chocolate chips.
Bake in an oiled 9×9 baking dish for 25-30 minutes or until set. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, to make the frosting beat together the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk and peanut butter.
Layer the frosting over the brownies and spread it out evenly. Cut into pieces.

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