Peanut Butter Meringue Pie

Disclosure: I received free samples of NEW SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Blend. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by SPLENDA® Sweeteners and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Have I mentioned that I am not a baker? Creating this recipe reinforced that notion and seriously heightened my respect for my fellow dietitian food bloggers who are recipe creators and bakers. Its no easy feat and my hat’s off to those who do it on a regular basis. So be sure to also scroll to the bottom of this post and check out my fellow Recipe Reduxer’s efforts in creating Celebration-themed healthier recipes using NEW SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Blend .

What’s really great about the new  SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Sweetener Blend is that not only is it made from only 2 non-GMO ingredients (sugar and stevia) and therefore has 50% fewer calories than sugar, but it also tastes great with no bitter aftertaste like many stevia products. 

I had to go with something meringue because what says “celebrate” more than meringue? (Think: Baked Alaska)  Last month we celebrated my mom’s birthday with her (albeit untraditional) favorite- lemon meringue pie which, unlike this pie, is baked. The SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Sweetener Blend holds up to heat and can be substituted for sugar in all of your baking needs. 

A no-bake pie with meringue is admittedly also a little untraditional. I made the pie first, baked the meringue alone on a Silpat® baking sheet, and simply topped it with the meringue. You can also use parchment paper which gives you the ease of knowing exactly how large your pie plate is and meringue should be (by drawing on it). Either way works.

I refrained from calling this pie an updated, healthier “Fluffernutter Pie” for fear of rendering memories of elementary school bag lunches wrought with refined flour, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated fats. But rest-assured, it will satisfy the peanut butter and marshmallow (sort of) lover in anyone. 🙂

Peanut Butter Meringue Pie

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. On a Silpat® or parchment paper, invert a 9" pie plate and mark 4 - 6 indications just outside the edges of the pie plate (use erasable marker or place small pieces of tape). Set aside.
  3. Place half of the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine crumb. Remove crumbs and place in medium bowl. Process the other half of the crackers, and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Blend.
  4. Stir in melted butter until thoroughly combined.
  5. Press into a 9 inch pie plate, evenly covering bottom and sides.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool.
  7. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer beat the peanut butter, yogurt, 2 T vanilla extract, SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Blend (3 T) and salt (everything for the peanut butter pie filling except the milk) until well combined.
  8. Add milk -one tablespoon at a time- until you achieve a creamy consistency. The consistency will vary depending on the brand of peanut butter used. *Use more tablespoons of milk with a firmer, more solid peanut butter, less with a runnier, more liquid peanut butter. The pudding will thicken with refrigeration.
  9. Spoon peanut butter mixture into crust, cover and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
  10. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy.
  11. Add cream of tarter and vanilla extract, mix well.
  12. One tablespoon at a time, add SPLENDA® Naturals Sugar & Stevia Blend. Continue adding and mixing until whites form stiff peaks.
  13. Spoon meringue onto Silpat® or parchment paper placed on a baking sheet creating a 9" circle. Create peaks and valleys using a spatula knife, if desired. (Remove marker or tape pieces before baking.)
  14. Bake meringue for 10 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Meringue should have a light/soft -not crisp- consistency.
  15. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes.
  16. Slide meringue from Silpat® or parchment and place on top of pie.
  17. Serve within 1 hour or store in refrigerator, loosely covered.
http://colleengerg.com/peanut-butter-meringue-pie/

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Slow Cooker Summer Harvest Curry

It’s hot outside. Like, really hot. A thousand hundred degrees hot.

So for obvious reasons, the theme for this month’s Recipe Redux is: “Whether you go slow or fast, just don’t turn on the oven. Show us how to keep the kitchen cool by using one of these appliances: Slow cooker, instant pot, pressure cooker.”

At first, I couldn’t wrap my brain around this challenge because I’ve always associated those appliances with “comfort food” …the kind of heart and soul-warming meals that we’re none too eager to eat over the late fall, winter and chilly spring months, but that take a back seat during the lazy, hazy dog days of summer. Regardless of the calendar, however, busy schedules don’t take much of a vacation, and neither should eating well.

Here I took advantage of the summer produce approaching bumper crop proportions (i.e. zucchini, eggplant and yellow squash) and the convenience of a “set it and forget it” appliance (the slow cooker) and made a spicy, rich, yet somehow light curry. I made the peanut sauce a few days ago and used it in a spiralized zucchini (“Zoodle”) dish. Two days later I took it to a party to accompany grilled chicken skewers and used the remaining to whip up this easy-peasy curry. This peanut sauce is so delicious I almost want to bath in it. Almost. You can serve this curry on any type of starch or grain you like, but to keep it really carb and calorie-friendly, I suggest cauliflower rice. You can buy cauliflower already “riced” at most grocery stores, or save some money and use the method I use to make my cauliflower pizza crust... repurposing at its finest.

Vegan dishes aren’t always associated with the terms rich and satisfying, but I can assure you this is, making it worthy of keeping in your menu rotation all year round. Enjoy! 🙂

 

(Be sure to click below to check out many, many more delicious creations from my fellow Recipe Reduxers!)

 

Slow Cooker Summer Harvest Curry

Ingredients

    For the Peanut Sauce
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter (Natural, with no hydrogenated oils)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 c. lite soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 2 T. fresh ginger root (or ginger juice)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. hot sauce
  • For the Curry
  • 3 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups yellow squash, chopped
  • 2 cups eggplant, chopped
  • 3/4 cup yellow or sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup lite coconut milk
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (for an extra kick, I used diced tomatoes with green chilis)
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • Garnish: chopped basil or cilantro

Instructions

  1. To prepare the peanut sauce, place all ingredients (peanut butter through hot sauce) in a high speed blender and blend until creamy. Set aside.
  2. Spray the removable server of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
  3. Place onions and garlic in a food processor and process until fine.
  4. Place onion/garlic mixture in slow cooker and add vegetables, beans, tomatoes, coconut milk and spices. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour 1 cup peanut sauce over mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Set slow cooker on high for 2 - 3 hours or low for 4 - 5 hours.
  7. Ladle over warm cauliflower rice (or starch of choice).
  8. Garnish with basil or cilantro and serve.
http://colleengerg.com/slow-cooker-summer-harvest-curry/

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

When many of my clients tell me they’ve eaten pizza, it almost sounds like a confession, like they’re reporting committing a crime against humanity. But pizza can definitely be part of a healthy diet – even if you have weight loss goals. With a few tweaks, you can have your pizza and eat it, too. No confession necessary.

One potential tweak is the crust. While I agree that nothing beats a good wood fired pizza crust, what’s better than knowing you’re packing in some major nutrition while eating pizza? Cruciferous vegetables (like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and Brussels sprouts just to name a few) contain some of the strongest cancer-fighting compounds of any food group.

Meatless Monday – or any day. My version of pizza doesn’t have to be YOUR version of pizza (mostly because I’m honestly not a fan of red sauce, pepperoni or melted mozzarella cheese…I know, I know I’ve lost all credibility at this point, but hear me out). You can top this crust with whatever your heart desires. In our collective, health-affirming effort to eat more plants, (because it’s good for you and the world), I encourage a pizza that’s light-on-the-cheese and has a mostly vegetable theme. Add a side salad and enjoy a meat free, veggie-loaded, nutrient-dense, satisfying meal that’s damn delicious any day of the week and makes you feel like you’re indulging in pizza…because well, you are! 😉

 

 

 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients

    For the Crust
  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (almond flour)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For my Toppings (but choose whatever toppings you want)
  • 1/4 cup feta or goat cheese
  • 1-2 cups shiitake (or any other type) mushroom tops, washed and sliced
  • 3/4 cup vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1 T. water
  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional ingredients:
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2-1 T. truffle oil
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut cauliflower head into smaller pieces and place in food processor. Process until "rice like."
  3. Place cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. When hot, add onions and sautee until translucent. Remove onions from pan and add the mushrooms to the pan. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes, and remove from pan. Return onions to pan and add broccoli plus one tablespoon water and cook on medium/high heat approx. 5 minutes. (*Optional add-ins: If you like garlic, add one garlic clove to the sauteed vegetable mixture, adding to the onions on the second heating.)
  5. Add mushrooms back to onion/broccoli mixture until water is evaporated and all ingredients are cooked and heated through (about 3-5 minutes).
  6. When cauliflower is cool, use a clean, thin dishtowel or cheesecloth to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. This step is the key to a avoiding a soggy crust. Return squeezed cauliflower to bowl.
  7. Stir in almond meal, beaten eggs, 1/2 cup cheese and lightly salt and pepper. (*Optional add-ins: For even more "pizza-like" flavor, add 1/4-1/2 tsp. dried oregano to the crust ingredients.)
  8. Line a baking sheet (round or rectangular) with parchment paper. Spread "pizza dough" onto parchment paper. (note: it's easier to spread the "dough" into a rectangle than a circle). Bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove crust from oven and dress with onion/mushroom/broccoli mixture.
  10. Sprinkle pizza with remaining feta or goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bottom of crust begins to brown.
  12. Serve alone or with a green salad.
  13. (*Optional: lightly drizzle with truffle oil and for a little kick, sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes before serving).
http://colleengerg.com/cauliflower-pizza-crust/

Cookie Dough Bites

If you read my blog with any consistency, you probably know that many of my recipes are posts for Recipe Redux, the first and only recipe challenge that is focused on taking delicious dishes, keeping them delicious, but making them better for you. Recipe Redux was founded by RDN’s extraordinaire: Regan Miller Jones, Serena Ball and Deanna Seagrave-Daly, and this year is turning 6 years old. We’re celebrating with cake small bites of dessert, which is a good thing because a baker I am not. I hung up my baking apron (?) after years of making dozens and dozens of chocolate chip cookies with my high school BFF Toni in my parents’ kitchen. Actually, we probably made enough cookie dough to make thousands of cookies, but how many actually turned into the final product likely numbered only in the hundreds. Why? Well, cookie dough of course. That sweet, addictive flavor that, 30 years later, is now an actual flavor of products like ice cream, candy bars, and even protein bars.

Thirty years ago of course, I was not a dietitian. So eating the dough of what undeniably made the best cookies ever (my dad used to tell me Mrs. Fields had nothing on me) would never cross my mind. I’m almost embarrassed to say that we actually used a combination of Crisco (when Crisco was still 100% trans fat) and butter as the fat. And then there’s the whole raw egg thing. I may live in Philly (ish), but Rocky Balboa I’m not, nor do I down raw eggs because – Salmonella. There’s actually a vegan solution to using eggs in a recipe called “Flax egg.” But these bites are raw, so you don’t even need the egg to achieve cookie dough consistency and flavor. I will admit, this recipe took about 4 tries. Which is annoying and oh-so-typical of baking even though these bites are technically raw. Go figure. I tried to make them all raw and vegan and “natural” sugar-y and then asked myself who I was trying to kid. There’s no way one is going to make good-for-you ingredients taste like a combination of flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, Crisco and eggs. You’re just not. So I compromised, substituting high fiber chickpeas and oat flour for white flour, using a LOT less sugar and medjool dates to increase sweetness. I didn’t mess with the chocolate chips – semisweet chips will not be replaced in my world, but you could use cacao nibs to make the recipe vegan.

The days of raw cookie dough consumption are long gone. Like piling way too many friends into a car to “ride around” all night or swinging from ropes into swimming holes of depths unknown, it was fun while it lasted, and we’re lucky we all survived. So here’s a much healthier walk down memory lane…

(P.S. Each time I post a Recipe Redux recipe, be sure to scroll to the end and check out my fellow bloggers’ recipes on the same theme. It’s like getting a FREE cookbook of up to 100 recipes each and every month!)

Cookie Dough Bites

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (about 1/2 of a 13.5 ounce can), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup oat flour or Almond flour (you can grind Old Fashioned oats to a fine powder in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 T. packed brown sugar
  • 4 medjool dates
  • 2 T. nut butter (peanut, almond or cashew butter; smooth or crunchy, I used crunchy peanut butter)
  • 2 T. water, divided
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. Himalayan pink salt (or other fine salt)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips* + 1/3 c. chocolate chips, divided
  • *to make these bites vegan, use cacao nibs

Instructions

  1. Add to the bowl of a food processor: chick peas, oat flour and dates. Pulse until course.
  2. Add to chick pea mixture: brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and peanut butter.
  3. Only as necessary, add water one tablespoon at a time, processing after each addition until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl and pulse again. Dough should resemble cookie dough batter.
  4. Remove dough from food processor and place in a medium bowl.
  5. Stir in 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips.
  6. Roll dough into approximately 18 (tablespoon-size) balls, and replace them on the wax paper-lined baking sheet.
  7. Place baking sheet in freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. In the top of a small double boiler, melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips. (Or melt chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave).
  9. Remove cookie dough balls from freezer. Using tongs, dip one end of the cookie dough bite into the melted chocolate, then replace on baking sheet on the bare/flattened side. Repeat until all bites are topped with the chocolate.
  10. Store in an air-tight container in refrigerator or freezer.
http://colleengerg.com/cookie-dough-bites/

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Why Meditate? You Decide.

YOU DECIDE.

It would be really easy to answer the question “Why Meditate?” by simply listing the benefits – both anecdotal and research-based –  of a regular meditation practice. But in my 22 years of experience as a dietitian-nutritionist, I’ve learned that simply listing the benefits of doing something (say, eating a nutritious diet for example) is very often not a good enough motivator to get people to do it.

DOING IS BELIEVING

I recently finished several months of traveling to nearly every major city in the northeast U.S., presenting on a variety of wellness topics. During the stress reduction and “Mindfulness Matters” presentations, I had the groups participate in a brief, guided meditation. At first I assumed that these people who don’t normally meditate might think even a brief meditation was a waste of time. What I learned from the evaluations, however, was that the guided meditation was the participants’ “favorite” and “most useful” parts of the seminar. I hoped that they would use the experience to begin their own regular practice, but like any daily habit or practice -like leading a horse to water- you can’t “make” someone meditate.

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

Maybe you know someone with a regular meditation practice who has told you they don’t know how they functioned in life without it. I’d say the same about my personal meditation practice. I have become as passionate about sharing the benefits of meditation as I have about sharing the benefits of eating vegetables…maybe more so. A regular meditation practice can:

  • Reduce stress and improve response to stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Improve creativity
  • Cure insomnia
  • Increase optimism
  • Improve mood
  • Improve digestion
  • Increase mental clarity
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Promote calmness
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve relationships

And the list goes on. But unlike my captured audiences in my corporate seminars, I can’t force you to close your eyes, focus on counting deep breaths and simply notice and dismiss thoughts without judgement. So rather than try to convince you, I’ll suggest that you watch this short video (click here) . If celebrity endorsement is not your thing, consider that meditation has been the focus of thousands of peer-reviewed studies over the past several decades, and is now widely accepted as a standard therapeutic tool employed in medicine, psychology, education and self-development.

Many people tell me “I tried meditating, but I’m not good at it, my mind is constantly racing.” Remember, meditation is a practice…with cumulative beneficial effects. If you’re skeptical, start small and short but consistent. Consider taking 5 minutes – JUST 5 MINUTES – to participate in this guided meditation (click here). Maybe you’ll continue with the full 21 day program. Maybe you’ll download Insight Timer or Head Space on your phone for other guided meditation options. Or maybe you’ll check out the Transcendental Meditation program (like I did) and learn how to meditate pretty much anywhere, anytime, with no guidance. Meditation itself is free. And there is no wrong way to do it.

I can’t think of a single person of any age, who wouldn’t benefit from a meditation practice. It’s even being taught in some schools which is a wonderful thing because unless the internet, technology and our hyper-connectivity is going away anytime soon (which it’s. so. not.) meditation will continue to help humans not only cope, but live their best lives in this fast-paced, stressful world. Try it. I’m convinced you’ll be glad you did.

Happy Centering 🙂