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Lightened Up – Healthy Shamrock Shake

Starting in high school and then in college, people would declare themselves obsessed with Shamrock shakes – they had to be the first to get their hands on one when they were released in February, and whined when they disappeared around Easter time.

I had some really troubled friends who decided mix them with vodka on St. Patrick’s day.  Eww.  By the way – you can now report your first sighting of the shakes.

I thought I’d beat them to the punch this year – and save them about 400 calories, 16 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of fat. You’re welcome.

I made two versions: one with ingredients that almost anyone could find at their supermarket, and one with more “blogger friendly” ingredients.  I hate when you have to go order something online to try a recipe – but they both taste pretty accurate.  No green food coloring needed (but you knew that already, right?).


I bought the mint extract around Christmas time and then accidentally poured it in a batch of muffins.  That was a bad morning.


Lightened Up Shamrock Shake (version 1)

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (about 1 cup, packed)
  • 5-6 almonds or cashews (I think salted cashews are best)
  • 1/4 of a single avocado (or 2 heaping Tbsp) * key to a creamy shake
  • 1 cup milk of choice (will change nutrition info)
  • artificial sweetener as desired (I used 5 drops stevia – you can sub 1 Tbsp powdered sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp mint extract (I don’t like them super-minty)
  • 3-4 ice cubes


Approximate nutrition info: 175 calories, 9 grams fat, 11 grams sugar, 5 grams protein

Food Blogger Shamrock Shake (version 2)

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (about 1 cup, packed)
  • 1.5 tsp nutritional yeast (I think salted cashews are best)
  • 1/4 of a single avocado (or 2 heaping Tbsp) * key to a creamy shake
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • artificial sweetener as desired (I used 5 drops stevia)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp mint extract (I don’t like them super-minty)
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  • optional: pinch of xanthan gum to maintain creaminess


Approximate nutrition: 160 calories, 6g fat, 11 g sugar, 6 g protein

You could definitely make this a meal with a scoop of vanilla protein powder.


Are you obsessed with these green milkshakes?  Maybe we can use them to help introduce green monsters into the diets of the average American! 😉


Lightened Up Pumpkin Coffee Cake

I know, I know.  We started with the pumpkin in September – but I’m not done yet.  I have 4 cans left from the case I hoarded this year (ONLY 4, I know!). 

I actually only used pumpkin in this recipe as a substitute for applesauce.  Based on Sara’s Cinnamon Streusel Protein Cake recipe, I made a few slight changes (including cutting back on the topping and icing).

Pumpkin Coffee Cake (adapted from Cinnamon Streusel Protein Cake, courtesy of Nourish and Flourish)

Cake ingredients:

1 cup oat flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 scoops French Vanilla Designer Whey

6 drops vanilla Stevia

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp allspice

6 oz plain greek yogurt

1 cup pumpkin

1.5 Tbsp light butter spread, melted

1/4 cup vanilla almond milk (as needed)


1/3 cup quick oats

2 Tbsp brown sugar Splenda Blend

3 drops vanilla stevia

1/8 tsp salt

1 Tbsp light butter spread, melted

1) Pre-heat oven to 350.  Spray baking dish (I used a shallow brownie pan).

2) Combine dry cake ingredients in a large bowl.

3) Seperately, combine wet ingredients (beginning with  until well mixed, then stir in to dry just until combined.

4) Spread batter evenly in baking dish.

5) Combine topping ingredients, mixing well.  Sprinkle over batter.

6) Bake 25-28 minutes, until corners start to pull away from pan & toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Top with icing, if desired (I made a quick mixture of powdered sugar and almond milk).

Approximate nutrition (1/15th of cake, without icing): 110 calories, 3 grams fat, 15 grams carbs, 6 grams protein

The icing (using approximately 3/4 cup of powdered sugar) added about 25 calories per slice, but I thought it tasted just fine without it.

I’m still not tired of pumpkin.

Definitely stocking up on two cases next season.

Working on improving my photos.  These ones are making me hungry.

Are you pumpkin-ed out? 

Lightening Up: 2011

Thursdays are typically the day that I post a “lightened up” recipe.  Today it seems appropriate to recap my favorites from the year.

Baked Oatmeal


Taken from 394 calories and 15 grams of fat to 200 calories and 4 grams of fat, packed with protein, and incredibly satisfying.

For a single serving option, try the protein packed peach version.

Carrot Souffle


My favorite side dish – I made it for Thanksgiving but could eat it every single day.  It was also delicious in my oats the next few mornings.

Low Fat Pumpkin Spice Granola


By replacing some of the calorically dense oats with other cereals and minimizing added fat and sugar, this granola came out suprisingly low in calories, and a better choice than most packaged granolas.

Buffalo Chickpea/Chicken Dip


Making simple low fat or fat free subsitutions with this dip make it almost guilt free – works with chicken or chickpeas, for fellow vegheads.

Pumpkin Pie “Blizzard”


My favorite (by far), this satisfies your sweet tooth and makes a great post workout protein treat.

Pumpkin Muffins


At 90 calories a piece, I can’t believe I haven’t made a second batch yet (it’s on my to-do list).  I want to experiment with other flavors too, but you know I love my pumpkin.  These were made with alternative flours, but I’m eager to try them with more basic ingredients.

Bacon and Spinach Souffle


A savory, filling breakfast that puts Panera’s fat-laden version to shame.

S’Mores Cupcakes


Somehow these are under 200 calories and the most indulgent thing I ate all summer. 

What’s your favorite “light” recipe of the year?  Link up below!

Lightened Up – Buffalo {Chicken} Chickpea Dip

After the first few times I mentioned this dip on my blog, I got a bunch of requests for the recipe!  Here it is!

My mom’s buffalo chicken dip is a mainstay for Sundays during football season.  Before I went vegetarian I loved it, often eating it until I felt sick.

I still long for it when I smell it baking, so I had to make a vegetarian version.  And lighten it up, of course.  The following substitutions are a no-brainer:

Shredded chicken -> chickpeas


Cream cheese -> 1/3 less fat cream cheese

Ranch dressing -> fat free ranch



1 cup shredded cheddar mixed in -> 1/4 cup really strong, flavorful cheese on top


Baked until bubbly and delicious.


And I feel like I can eat even more, because it’s healthier.


Oven baked tortilla “chips” are just another reason for one more bite..


Lightened Up Buffalo Chickpea Dip

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

1/4 cup 1/3 less fat cream cheese

1/4 cup fat free ranch dressing

1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce OR 2 Tbsp Red Hot/Tobasco

1/4 cup strong cheese, shredded (I used a mix of beemster and smoked gouda)

1) Pre-heat oven to 350.

2) Mash garbanzo beans in a bowl until about 1/4 remain whole.

3) Add in cream cheese, ranch, and wing sauce or hot sauce.

4) Spread evenly in a sprayed casserole dish and top with shredded cheese.

5) Bake 20-25 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.

6) Cheer for the Steelers and eat ’till your heart is content. 

Makes approximately 6 1/3-cup servings (of if you’re me, 3  2/3-cup servings). 


Approximate nutrition (per serving): 125 calories, 4 grams fat, 17 grams carbs, 5 grams protein

Those stats are for the dip only – don’t forget that tortilla chips add up quickly!  Try dipping some celery, carrot sticks, or kale chips instead.

What’s your favorite game day / tailgating food?  Do you try to keep it healthy or just indulge?

Lightened Up – Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Butter Crepes

I’m super excited to be Matt’s featured blogger this week.  He always has amazing meals, new foods, and great advice for athletes (and those of us who wish we were).

There’s something about leisurely weekend breakfasts.

I woke up on Saturday morning and made my way to the kitchen for coffee and to make my husband pancakes before he had to leave for work.

I’m still loving the Kodiak Cake mix that I got for such a great price.  The simple, natural ingredient list and the fact that all you have to do is add water. 

When I started pulling items out of my “baking” basket in the pantry, I tried to decide whether my husband would want coconut, walnuts, bananas, or chocolate chips in his pancakes.   They all ended up in the batter.

Two large, fluffy (somewhat healthy) pancakes, made in minutes.

As good as his pancakes looked, I was still thinking about the pumpkin butter and goat cheese combination I’ve been enjoying on toast recently.

Then I thought about the sweet and savory blintz/crepe-like nalesniki I had in PolandTraditional crepes often contain more butter and egg yolks than regular pancakes, which makes the batter more moist; the batter is also much thinner than a regular pancake batter, which allows you to make them very thin.

I didn’t feel like making a real crepe batter with extra fat and calories, so I just thinned out the Kodiak mix. 

It worked beautifully.



I got 4 crepes from 1/3 cup of dry mix, which has the following nutrition stats:


Pretty good, right?  A savory blintz or crepe filling often has some kind of mild soft cheese – typically cream cheese or ricotta.  I wanted to keep the filling calories to a minimum too, so I substituted a mix of cottage cheese and 0% fat Chobani (both of which make this breakfast packed with protein), with a dash of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla stevia.


Each crepe got spread with a thin layer of pumpkin butter


Then topped with the “cheese” mixture…


Rolled up and sprinkled with powdered sugar.


Sweet, savory, and most of all – simple.


Approximate nutrition facts (3 crepes, with filling): 290 calories, 2 grams fat, 21 grams carbs, 25 grams protein (!)


1/3 cup of the mix made 4 crepes – and 3 had the pumpkin butter filling.

The last one?  Dessert of course!


White Chocolate PB&Co and a few dark chocolate chips.

Rolled and eaten by hand. 🙂


Questions for you:

Can you enjoy pancakes plain?  I need to have something in the batter / topping to really enjoy them!

Crepes, or hearty, thick pancakes? I think there’s a time and place for both!

Thanksgiving – Lightened Up

My pie crust was a success!  No butter, oil, or shortening added!

I used 1 cup of almond flour, 1 cup of dates (soaked in hot water and drained), 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup of oats.  Baked for 20 minutes until golden brown and delicious!


The cheesecake filling was based on IGE’s pumpkin cheesecake recipe.


It was absolutely worth the time it took to bake and cool completely.  I’ll be making this every Thanksgiving from now on.


The “main dish” that I made was a vegetarian stuffing with veggies, apples, figs, and Lightlife “sausage”.




I used half a loaf of light wheat bread (35 calories a slice) and only cooking spray to sauté the veggies.  Topped with some dried sage and rosemary, and held together with 2 whipped egg whites.


It was tough to find a vegetable stock!  I do like their trademark though – “live love eat”.  I had to buy this brand. 🙂



It turned out pretty well!  I wasn’t a fan of the crunchy seeds from the figs and would probably use raisins or another type of dried fruit in the future.

My favorite part of my vegetarian Thanksgiving was definitely my carrot souffle.  I make it based on a Cooking Light recipe, and it never fails.  It’s got a hint of sweetness to it that makes it almost good enough to be dessert.  I made it even lighter by subbing in Chobani greek yogurt where the recipe called for sour cream.


Carrot Souffle [based on this recipe]

2 lbs carrots, chopped and cooked until soft, cooled

1/4 cup Splenda Blend (or 1/2 cup sugar)

1/4 cup Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt, 0% fat

3 Tbsp AP flour

2 Tbsp light margarine, melted

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup egg substitute, beaten

1) Pre-heat oven to 350.

2) Puree carrots in food processor until smooth.

3) Add remaining ingredients & pulse to combine.

4) Spread mixture into greased baking dish and bake 40 minutes, until edges brown.


Approximate nutrition: (per half cup serving) 130 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams protein


The dessert spread: my mother in law’s Polish “cookies”, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and my pumpkin cheesecake.


I’ve been enjoying stuffing and carrot souffle leftovers all weekend!


What was the star of your Turkey day meal?

Check out my post on holiday shopping to make the most of today’s Cyber Monday sales! 🙂

Heart Healthy Banana Bread

Every year, downtown Pittsburgh hosts “Light Up Night”, when all of the office buildings stay lit up and the stores stay open and everyone walks around and enjoys the first holiday sights and sounds of the season.   They light a large tree and have live music, ice skating, fireworks, and other events spread throughout the city.


Meeting up with Katie, Beth, and Amy for lunch and shopping yesterday was great.  We hope to meet once a month – other Pittsburgh bloggers and readers are welcome to join too!  Head on over to Katie’s post to see a pic of us (and her pathetic salad). 😉

Monday mornings are made infinitely more tolerable by a delicious breakfast.  I broke into my Kodiak Cake mix from Big Lots.


The mix is great because it’s whole grain (this is whole wheat and oat), doesn’t have a ton of ingredients, and you only need to add water!

I added pumpkin (about 1/3 cup mix, 1/3 cup pumpkin) and 1/4 cup of almond milk to get the right consistency.


It made six small cakes and I had 3 this morning and saved 3 for later in the week.


I was planning on making another loaf of pumpkin bread, but instead decided to use up the two sad looking brown bananas on the counter.

I used Chobani to replace oil in the recipe and used flax eggs – only because I didn’t have real eggs in the house!  Although flax is a source of fat (unsaturated), it is also a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids – combined with whole wheat flour, this is a fiber packed breakfast treat!


Heart Healthy Banana Bread (with chocolate chips)

1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp ground flax (added to 6 Tbsp warm water to make 2 “eggs”)

1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Baking Blend (equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup mashed, very ripe banana

1/2 cup 0% plain Chobani greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup almond milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1) Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees & grease loaf pan.

2) Combine all dry ingredients (except sugars) and whisk to mix well.

3) Mix mashed banana, milk, yogurt, flax eggs (when thickened), vanilla, milk, and sugar. 

4) Add wet mixture to dry and stir until incorporated.  Add chocolate chips.

5) Pour into prepared pan and bake 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes and then on a cooling rack.

Makes 1-12 slice loaf.

Approximate nutrition (per slice): 180 calories, 4 grams fat, 32 grams carbs, 4 grams protein

You could reduce the fat and calories by using egg whites (instead of flax, which I had planned on!) or not including the chocolate chips.  The ripe bananas give the bread so much sweetness that you could probably further reduce the sugar.  You would never know it was loaded with fiber.

Does your town do a holiday kick-off event? 

Lightened Up – Baked Oatmeal

A recipe for traditional baked oatmeal has 394 calories and 15 grams of fat.

For all of you oat lovers who haven’t tried baked oats yet, you haven’t lived.  And no, the microwaved version isn’t quite the same (in my humble opinion).

Of course you can make lots of variations to this recipe – play with the fillings, fat replacers (pumpkin for applesauce, etc), or use flax/chia eggs.  This time I used a combination of overripe banana and applesauce, with raisins and toasted slivered almonds.


Light Baked Oatmeal

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp slivered almonds, lightly toasted (I did them in a skillet with no fat)

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp Splenda blend

1/4 cup raisins

1 egg white, beaten

1 1/2 cups almond milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 super ripe banana, mashed

1/2 cup applesauce (I used the sweetened Mott’s variety because it was all I had)

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2) Combine dry ingredients, mixing well.

3) Combine wet ingredients, add to dry, and mix until combined.

4) Pour into greased 8×8 pan and bake 25-35 minutes, until lightly browned and solid.


Makes six large servings.  Best served hot.

Approximate nutrition information (per serving): 200 calories, 4 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of protein.


I had intended to add some protein powder to increase the protein content, but completely forgot.  Some protein “frosting” (powder + almond milk) and a shake of extra cinnamon did the trick.

This breakfast, which feels more like dessert, will keep you full and satisfied for hours!  It’s also good reheated.

Have you tried baked oatmeal yet?  What’s your favorite ingredient combination?

A blueberry coconut, strawberry cocoa, or pumpkin spice version is next on my list!

Lightened Up Peach Cobbler

Peaches are FINALLY in season!  I got the baking bug Sunday night and decided to make one of my favorite summer desserts – peach cobbler.  Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fresh peaches on hand, so I had to cheat and use canned.  Ironic, right?


I also took this opportunity to try out the NuNaturals More Fiber Stevia Baking Blend that Ron from NuNaturals sent me about a week ago.  I was surprised by the texture of the product but substituted it for the sugar that I usually simmer the peaches with.


The filling looked just about right, even without the sugar!


The dry ingredients contained a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but you could definitely use whole wheat pastry or another gluten-free flour.  Next time I think I’ll try oat flour.


I don’t remember where I got this recipe from originally (the card is stained and tattered from lots of use), but I think it was Cooking Light or something along those lines.  It uses only 3 tablespoons of fat, and calls for light margarine.  For the milk I used unsweetened almond. 

Don’t over-stir your topping batter!


Before hitting the oven…


I can almost smell it now.  I’ve been eating this for breakfast and dessert – don’t you love when things work out that way?



6 medium peaches, sliced (I cheated and used 1 large 28-oz can, drained)

1/3 cup MoreFiber Stevia Baking Blend (or you could use sugar – but the physical quantity is important while making the filling, so a liquid sweetener wouldn’t work)

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon, divided

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup AP flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp reduced calorie margarine (I used Olivio light)

1/2 c milk (I used unsweetened almond)

1) Pre-heat oven to 375.

2) In large sauce pan, combine peaches, Stevia baking blend, cornstarch, lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Toss to combine.  Heat over medium high until it comes to a boil.  Cook until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into sprayed baking pan.

3) Combine 1/2 tsp cinnamon, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Work in margarine with a fork until course and crumbly.  Add milk and stir just until combined (batter should be thick and lumpy).

4) Drop by tablespoon on top of peach mixture. 

5) Bake 20-25 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving (enjoyable both warm and chilled).  Makes six generous servings

Original nutrition facts on the left (Food Network peach cobbler), mine on the right (both for six servings):


Under 200 calories?  Definitely unexpected!  The taste was great too – wouldn’t know it wasn’t real sugar!   

Just to convince the fiance’ that it wasn’t too healthy, I added some whipped cream before giving him a serving.  Aren’t I sweet? 


What’s your favorite fruit in season these days?  Is there a dessert that reminds you of summer time?