MAGIC CUPCAKES (cheater recipe)

This recipe is a great "cheater recipe" that I've used for YEARS!!! 

Basically it is just a DRY cake mix + a 20 ounce can of fruit pie filling + 3 large eggs mixed together (DO NOT follow cake mix instructions on the box). It makes an extremely moist and flavorful cupcake and it couldn't be easier !!

You can use ANY flavor dry cake mix and ANY flavor canned fruit pie filling so the combinations are endless. Our favorite is chocolate with cherry pie filling but we've also thoroughly enjoyed chocolate cake with raspberry pie filling, strawberry cake with strawberry pie filling, spice cake with peach pie filling, and yellow cake mix with lemon pie filling (*see note below about white cakes).

STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES


(1) box dry cake mix (usually about 20 ounces?)
(1) can pre-prepared pie (fruit) filling (usually about 20 ounces?)
(3) large eggs

For the cupcakes posted today, I combined a box of Betty Crocker strawberry cake mix (ignore any directions on the box) plus a 20 ounce can of Wilderness strawberry pie filling plus three large eggs. Put everything in your mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes (batter will be a little thicker than you expect). Fill paper lined cupcake pans about 2/3 full and bake at 350° for 20 minutes (or till toothpick tests clean). That's it!!! 

NOTE:* If you use a white cake mix, stick with a light colored pie filling like peach, or lemon. The darker fruit fillings taste good mixed with a white cake, but they produce an odd color.

NOTE: This recipe works very well for sheet cakes, as well as layer cakes. Just use the toothpick test for doneness instead of the baking times on the cake mix box. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: After you remove the cake from the pan, cover the HOT cake tightly with plastic wrap and let it cool. Keep the cake wrapped in the plastic until you frost the cake. 

I do this step with ALL of my cakes. It makes a huge difference.


FROSTING

1 cup of UNSALTED butter (room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
food coloring (optional)

Cream the butter with an electric mixer until it gets fluffy. Add everything else and beat on medium speed until everything is well mixed, then beat on high speed until it is smooth and fluffy.

ENJOY !!!
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BAKED POTATO CHIPS

When I am on a diet, (who am I kidding, I'm always on a diet) my weight loss plan starts to falter when I get a craving for something crunchy and salty. I'm not talking about raw fruits and veggie type of crunchy, I'm talking about potato chip crunchy. If I ignore this craving, it just gets stronger; does that sound familiar to anyone?

I did some online searching for a remedy to my craving that wouldn't have a billion calories. I found three different recipes for baked potato chips that sounded promising.

After trying all three (and immediately tossing all three into the garbage), I decided to make up my own version. I must say I'm quite pleased with it. 

Not only does this little recipe completely satisfy my "crunchy chip craving" but the ENTIRE RECIPE only has one tablespoon of olive oil!!

Wash and dry six golf ball size Yukon gold potatoes. Slice them as thin as possible. A mandolin would work well for this, but I just used my sharpest knife and sliced them; just try to make them all an even thickness.


Toss the sliced potatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, making sure that a little of the oil gets in between every slice. Lay the slices out on a heavy cookie sheet that has been lightly sprayed with vegetable spray, then sprinkle the potatoes lightly with kosher salt.

Baking time is important. One of the recipes I tried (and threw away) called for 2 hours at 200°F. That produced a dull, leathery piece of potato. I even let it cook an extra HOUR and it was still leathery...yuck.  Another recipe called for 18 minutes at 400°F which produced a crisp but burnt taste...yuck again.

So I decided to try Yukon gold potatoes. How long you bake them will depend on how thick you sliced your potatoes and how hot your oven runs. I baked mine in a 375°F electric oven for 22 minutes, flipping them over half way through the baking time....just right.


These chips are meant to be eaten right away because they are not meant to be stored like a commercial potato chip. There are small "non-crunch" parts on the chips that would not store well.

I hope you will try these. They have a WONDERFUL flavor and a fantastic, salty crunch!!!

NOTE:  Watch the chips closely the last couple of minutes because once they start to turn golden, they darken quickly.
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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Are you looking for freezer friendly meals? I get asked about freezer meals all the time and for good reason! We don't always have time to cook every night, but sometimes we may have an evening or two a week to prep for future meals. We may have busy schedules, but we still want delicious home cooked meals right? Lasagna has always been a great choice when wanting a meal that freezes well! Instead of traditional carb-laden lasagna made with pasta, make lasagna using spaghetti squash. It has a mild flavor which tastes wonderful with marinara sauce. It has all the flavors of regular hearty lasagna, but this version is lighter and healthier! A dish your entire family can enjoy!


Roasted spaghetti squash, creamy ricotta cheese, sweet Italian turkey sausage, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese! Comfort food to the max!


Spaghetti squash does have a tendency to release water when cooking. This is natural! I do find it to be less watery when I roast the squash in the oven rather cooking it in the microwave. Oven roasting is now my preferred method of choice. I think roasting makes all veggies taste better!


Begin by cutting the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and then scooping out all the seeds with a spoon. Get all those loose goopy (is that a word?) strands that are mixed in with the seeds too! Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Spray the squash with olive oil cooking spray and season with salt and pepper if desired.


Place the squash cut side down and bake until tender.


I love how the squash gets nice and brown around the top edges.


Use a fork along the flesh to make long spaghetti-like strands in a bowl.


Delicious spaghetti squash strands! Ready to be used or eaten!


Measure out 1 cup of spaghetti squash and place it on the bottom of a container. Sprinkle basil and garlic powder on top. Then add ricotta cheese. I used foil containers because I was freezing additional future meals for later. These foil containers are great because they can go from the freezer to the oven without cracking or breaking, unlike glass containers. I got these containers from Amazon. Click HERE for the link!


Next, remove the sweet Italian turkey sausage from their casings and cook until the sausage is cooked thoroughly. Drain the fat and set aside.


Measure out 3 ounces of sausage and spread it over the ricotta cheese. Top with Rao's marinara sauce.


This is the sauce you need to try! It tastes so delicious and it is lower in carbs than most marinara sauces out there! It is only 2 grams of carbs for 1/4 cup! 1/4 cup is 1 Green serving on the Medifast or Optavia Plan.


Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese has melted.


I was able to make four lasagnas with my spaghetti squash. Three of those meals went into the freezer and the other one is getting in my belly! Label the containers with the name, date, and re-heating instructions. Yummy, healthy, comfort food prepped ahead of time! Enjoy!


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:
1/4 cup 2% Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (1/4 Lean)
1/4 cup Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese (1/4 Lean)
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder (1/2 Condiment)
2 tsp grated Parmesan Cheese (2/3 Condiment)
1/2 tsp dried Basil (1/2 Condiment)
1 cup Spaghetti Squash, cooked (2 Greens)
1/4 cup Rao's Marinara Sauce (1 Green)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Place spaghetti squash on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Season lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a fork, scrape the flesh to get spaghetti-like strands. Measure out 1 cup of spaghetti squash and place on the bottom of an oven-safe container. Sprinkle garlic powder and dried basil on top of spaghetti squash. Then drop small spoonfuls of the ricotta on top.

Remove the Italian sweet sausage from their casings. Place the sausage in a medium sized skillet and cook over medium-high heat until cooked thoroughly. Drain the fat from the sausage. Measure out 3 ounces of cooked sausage using a food scale. Sprinkle the sausage on top of the ricotta cheese. Then add Rao's marinara sauce on top of the sausage. Next, add mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes or until heated thoroughly.

Makes 1 Serving

Each serving provides
1 Lean, 3 Greens, and 1.6 Condiments

If you decide to freeze them, place in the fridge the night before you plan to eat them. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes or until heated thoroughly.


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Heavenly Ricotta Chocolate Almond Mousse

The HOT HOT months have already arrived in Vegas and I just want a delicious, cool, refreshing dessert that my entire family will love! Well by golly... I think I found it!


This is a decadent dessert that tastes similar to swiss almond chocolate ice cream! It has creamy ricotta cheese with sliced almonds and a subtle hint of chocolate. It is soooo soooo delicious! The best part is that it counts as half a Lean so you can indulge in this yummy treat after the rest of your Lean and Green Meal! Dessert anyone? Yes, please!


Using a few ingredients, makes this so easy to make! Plus there is no cooking involved! Just mix ricotta cheese, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla extract, and stevia together in a small bowl.


Top with sliced almonds and then chill for an hour!


A spoonful of yumminess! I absolutely love the crunch of the almonds combined with the smoothness of  the blended ricotta. Try it! You won't be disappointed!

Feel free to leave out the unsweetened cocoa powder and add different flavored extracts. For instance, I also love to switch out the vanilla extract and add lemon extract with grated lemon peel. A wonderful lemon taste for summer! Leave a comment and tell me what your favorite concoction is!



Heavenly Ricotta Chocolate Almond Mousse

Ingredients:

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (1/2 Lean)
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (1 Condiment)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (1/4 Condiment)
1/2 packet organic stevia (1 g carbohydrate or less per packet), or to taste (1/2 Condiment)
1/3 ounce almonds, sliced (1 Healthy Fat)

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together except almonds.
You could also use an immersion blender to make it smoother and creamier.
Pour into a small ramekin and top with sliced almonds.
Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

1 Serving
1/2 Lean, 1.75 Condiments and 1 Healthy Fat


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