Fitbloggin’ news: I won the California Avocado Commission’s Avocado Recipe Contest!

You guys! YOU GUYS!!!! Remember my Avocado Cream Tarts recipe? Well, it won grand prize! I am over joyed, and so grateful to both the California Avocado Commission and Fitbloggin. During the session, we learned things like a new method for cutting avocados, called the Nick n’ Peel method, that helps you conserve the good stuff in the bright green fleshy part of the avocado nearest the skin, and how to use avocado as a substitute for butter or oil in recipes. For all of the details, check out the great live blog by Denise at Almasdays.

With the winners of the California Avocado Commission Fitbloggin Recipe Contest - Kia of Bodhi Bear and Kelly of No Thanks to Cake

With the winners of the California Avocado Commission Fitbloggin Recipe Contest – Kia of Bodhi Bear and Kelly of No Thanks to Cake

The session was lead by the wonderful chef and RD Michelle Dudash, and at the end of the session, they announced the winners of the contest! When I heard name, I had a moment of shock, and then in typical overwhelmed Alyssa fashion, put my hands over my head and was like “WHAAAAT!?” I stood up and said a little bit about my recipe, and shared that it was a good grief project for me as I dealt with feelings of loss after losing my mother-in-law in May. I feel so honored to have won this contest, because I did spend a lot of time on it, and really, found it a very fulfilling creative outlet to focus on in a time of despair. I then got to watch Chef Michelle make my recipe, and the feeling was so, so surreal to see a professional chef prepare something I conjured up in my mind. It was incredible (and far more graceful looking than if you’d had seen me try to bumble, stumble, and prepare a dish in front of an audience!)

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After Chef Michelle made my recipe, the doors burst open, all talk show style, and a table rolled in with a bunch of the cream tarts for everyone to try. I was still in disbelief at this moment, and felt like a movie star as people snapped pictures of me with the tarts!

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I was super excited that I also had chosen to wear my California necklace that day — talk about good timing, right? I may not be a native Californian, but after 19 years here, I think its safe to say California’s not getting rid of me.

You all need to check out the other two prize winning recipes! In second place, is my friend and Fitbloggin roomie, Kelly from No Thanks to Cake! How delicious does her recipe for Grilled Avocado Caprese look? I can’t wait to try it out this summer!

In first place, is my friend Kia’s Green Chile Avocado Gazpacho. This sounds so cool and refreshing!

Once again, I’m so grateful to the California Avocado Commission (Emily, Jan, Michelle, and Lori) and Fitbloggin’ for choosing my recipe. My prize includes a monthly shipment of avocados for the next three months (*drools*), a Kitchen-Aid Artisan Mixer (Movin’ on up, baby!), a $150 William Sonoma Gift Card, and a California Avocado Gift Pack. I’ll certainly share a photo of all of the goodies once they arrive. I also get to keep that kick-ass sign… it’s totally going to hang in my home office 🙂

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I have so many other things to tell you about Fitbloggin’, but it’s late, and I suspect I’m still a little bit on East Coast time. For now, I’ll head to bed and dream of avocados! I hope you have a wonderful day!

Low-Calorie Cocoa Peanut Butter Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

cocoa peanut butter pb2 chia seed pudding weight loss recipe

The worst part about being on a low-calorie diet is that the fatty foods of your past taunt you, like the king-sized pack of Peanut Butter Cups sitting in my freezer. I didn’t buy them for me. I bought them for my husband; but late at night, the siren song of waxy, chocolate covered peanut butter gently sings “Alllyssssssssa. Alysssssssssaaaaa. Come eat me!” One of the only ways I’m able to stick to a low -calorie diet is to get creative, and for me, that means finding substitutions for fatty foes of my past. There’s a lot of buzz about Chia seeds right now. They’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and provide fiber (25 grams give you 6.9 grams of fiber) as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, and zinc. When Chia Seeds are added to water, they form a gel. Researchers suggest that this reaction also takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar — super helpful for those with insulin resistance like myself.

Because of Chia’s natural gelling proprties, when I saw Chia Pudding on Pinterest, I had to try it. However, that recipe was for vanilla, and while there are many things in life that are fantastically vanilla, I wanted to kick it up a notch. Enter my good, low-calorie friend, PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter, and cocoa powder. I also had some vanilla beans buried in the pantry, so I decided to put those to good use. The best part about this recipe is that it is EASY – like super easy. You cannot screw this up. I promise. Even if you don’t know the recipe for ice cubes, you’ll master this pudding. It’s also low-calorie and low fat, coming in at 80 calories for about a 1/2 cup serving. That doesn’t seem big, but the Chia seeds are so filling, you’ll definitely get a bang for your buck.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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For the Milk, you can use either 2% cows milk, like I did, or almond milk, soy milk, rice milk. (Please note substitutions will slightly impact the calories.)

For the sweetener, feel free to use your choice of either stevia, sugar, honey or splenda. I chose Sun Crystals which are a blend of Stevia and Cane Sugar. You can also adjust the amount of sweetener. I prefer only semi sweet desserts, so I used a modest amount of stevia.

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See? I told you it was easy. The nutrition stats are included below, but remember, if you make substitutions like using honey or soy milk, the calorie count, sugar and fat will change. This was a yummy treat that definitely tastes a lot more decadent than it really is! Enjoy!

PB Chia Pudding

Semi-Homemade Chicken Potpie

I’m all about shortcuts – which is why this semi homemade chicken pot pie is the PERFECT fall treat without all the work. I promise, even people who normally don’t know the recipe for ice cubes can make this one. It’s an awesome comfort food dish – and this recipe will easily feed four people… or 2 with leftovers for lunch 😉

Here’s what you’ll need:
One package of rolled up pie crusts (usually in the butter section)
One can of either condensed cream of mushroom, chicken or celery soup (I use 90% FF Cream of Mushroom)
1 Carrot, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs, washed and sliced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 small chicken breasts, diced
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cube chicken boullion
2 TBSP water

All ya gotta do is:

0) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
1) Cook the diced chicken, potato, carrots, celery and onion on medium until chicken is no longer pink and potatoes are toothy (soft to the touch but not completely done.)

2) Add cube of chicken boullioin to the two tablespoons of water (or just throw it in the pan) until it dissolves.
3) Turn off the heat, and add the can of condensed soup to the pan. Mix it all up until well coated. Leave it alone for a few minutes while we prepare the crust.


4) In an ungreased pie pan or even a rectangular baking dish, unroll the first pie crust. It’s floppy, so don’t be pissed at yourself if it rips. It happens. Fold the edges upwards to make a little crust.


5) Evenly add the contents of the pan.

6) Unroll the next pie crust and drape it over the filling. Pinch the edges to create a nice thick crust.

7) Stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden. See? Wasn’t that easy?

Tangy Tomatillo Salsa

I’m a fan of zero point recipes, and I’m also a fan of trying new things. On Saturday as I was cruising the farmer’s market, I noticed these beautiful purple tomatillos. I asked the vendor why they were purple and she told me purple tomatillos are very sweet. For $2, I was sold, and threw them into my bag to be made into a tangy salsa. (FUN FACT: Tomatillos are part of the GOOSEBERRY family and come from the family of nightshade plants, like tomatoes. (Have you heard of deadly nightshade? it’s what Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas slips into her vial. I love that movie.)

Purpliscious

Here’s what you need:

1 Pound-ish of Tomatillos, purple or green
1/4 large onion, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves if you want to keep the vampires away (1 will do fine if not)
1 large handful of cilantro (the more the merrier if you’re feeling lean and green)
1 lime (lemon will do in a pinch)
Sea salt (a staple in every kitchen!)
Pepper (also a staple in every kitchen!)

No feet funk here!

1) Peel the paper husks off the tomatillos and rinse. Notice a strange aroma? Peeled tomatillos kind of smell like feet, in my humble opinion. A nice shower under the faucet fixes ’em up just fine. The paper skin is also kind of sticky. Like an artichoke, these aren’t the most glamorous vegetables, but they pack a tasty punch.

 

 

Mmm, tomatillo salsa thus far the color of vomit

2) Throw just the tomatillos into the food processor and press the button. Watch as you make salsa! Blend them up nice and smooth, and then stop the food processor and add your chunks of onion and garlic cloves. Squeeze in the lime juice. Press “GO” or “Blend” again and watch the chunks turn into puree. MAGIC!

 

 

3) Now, add your bunch of cilantro. I
love cilantro. This will help get rid of some of that gross barfy color, but if you’re using green tomatillos, yours won’t be so vomitous looking. Add in a few generous shakes of sea salt (like really generous, maybe more like 2 or 3 pinches), and lots of fresh cracked pepper.

And Voila! You’ve made tomatillo salsa! Easy, right? Despite my many comparisons to stinky feet and barf, tomatillo salsa is a wonderful accompaniment to tortilla chips, eggs, burritos, or even as a dip for veggies. It’s got a slightly sweeter and more tangy taste than tomatoes, and I think the little seeds are adorable… like polka dot salsa.

Yummy!

Are you a fan of tomatillos? Have you ever tried them? If not, will you? Or is their stinky feet skin stench too unappealing?

 

 

 

Rockin’ Red Potatoes

Do you know how much I love potatoes? THIS MUCH *stretches arms out wide* Potatoes are awesome. I think they’re kind of underrated, because admittedly, they’re not the most flavorful thing in the world – but maybe what makes them so great is how they can be dressed up in so many different ways. Recently, I had an influx of red potatoes as Matt and I both bought bags of them without realizing we already had them. I decided to utilize the massive herb garden at our house and make herb potatoes. While the points value isn’t super low (6+ per cup), potatoes are so filling that you don’t need a massive serving, and these kind of feel like junk food because they’re so yummy. Roast them until they’re golden brown and crunchy and you’ll think, “What diet?”.

Crispety Crunchy Golden Deliciousness

You need:
5 Large Red Potatoes, scrubbed,cut into chunks and then rinsed (removes extra starch)
2 Chopped Green Onions
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Water
2 TBSP Fresh Rosemary
2 TBSP Fresh Oregano
2 TBSP Fresh Thyme
2 Garlic cloves
Salt to taste

Green Goodness

Preheat your oven to 400. In a food processor, add all of the washed herbs (stems removed), green onions, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and water.

Slime!

Pulse until it’s a paste – it’s ok if it still has some herb texture. In a large mixing bowl, toss the raw potatoes with the herb paste until the chunks are coated.

Spread on a pan so they get nice and tan!

Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and roast until they’re brown on the sides and easily pierced with a fork.

Finito! Bon Apetit!

Eat one serving, resist seconds, pretend you didn’t eat five more of them off the baking sheet, and enjoy!

Zucchini Killer Recipe #1


I'm not famous enough yet to blur out the labels. And I'm lazy.

Zucchini are the parasite of the garden, because once you have one… you have 1,000. It’s like having fleas… on crack. I love growing zucchini because they’re easy to grow, but we have SO MANY ZUCCHINI. I have been giving them away to anyone who will take them, but tonight I actually used some and made one of my favorite zucchini recipes – summer squash pasta. It’s relatively simple and easy to make, and apparently, pretty healthy! I also used Orrechiette for the first time (it means “Little Ears” in italian!).

Slicing evenly isn't my forte.

First, you want to chop up your zucchini, mushrooms and onion. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan on medium and add the vegetables. Stir to coat vegetables with olive oil. Crush two big fat cloves of garlic into this. Keep this on medium/low, because the veggies have a high water content and will cook fairly quickly. If you cook too high, the zucchini will burn and get bitter.

Sea Salt and Pepper

Get your pot of water going for your pasta. You can use any pasta you want, I just happened to have Orrechiette on hand since I’d read about it in “Everyday Food”. I usually use something fairly dense like farfalle or rotini for a dish with lots of chunky vegetables in it – gives the oil and cheese something to stick on to. Once the onions are transparent and everything has shrunk down a bit, add 1/2 cup cheese, the frozen peas, and season very liberally with salt and pepper. (Remember: salt enhances vegetables but it’s a fine line between too little and too much. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TASTE AS YOU GO!!!)

Steaaaaaam

Has it been 11 minutes? Good. Let the pasta keep cooking. (The box lied – these little ears took about 17 minutes to cook instead of 11! Sheesh! The only way to tell if pasta is done is to pluck one out of the scalding water, let it cool for a few seconds on a spatula, and then burn the roof of your mouth as you see if it’s done!) Drain the pasta and shake it a few times to get all that bath water off of it. (Some people rinse, but I don’t. I guess I’m a rebel like that.)

Next, pour all of the pasta into your pan and gently mix to coat the pasta with the vegetables, juice, and cheese. When you’ve mixed it pretty good, add most of the rest of the remaining half cup of shredded cheese. Save some for the top of your dish – it will be worth it.

The Finished Product!

I calculated all of this out in the Weight Watchers Recipe Builder, and it’s coming in at 7 points per serving. The picture shown here is 1.5 cups which cost me 10 points – not bad at all for a delicious, filling, and savory pasta dinner. The picture below has more accurate portions and Weight Watchers listings, if you’re curious! Enjoy – and watch for the next Zucchini Killer recipe coming soon!