Five Fun Christmas Dessert Recipes

This week’s post is by Amy of Savvy Saving Couple

One of my favorite activities to do during the holiday season is bake. Making desserts, cookies, and casseroles is just so fun once the weather gets chilly. Seasonal baking is especially fun because there is no better time of year to indulge in some homemade and festive treats. I thought it would be fun to spread some Christmas cheer and share five of my family’s fun and easy Christmas dessert recipes.

First up is my Pistachio Cherry Christmas Cake. This recipe has been in my family for decades. It is such a unique cake because it has a delicious pistachio flavor, maraschino cherries, nuts, and is super moist. It is easy to make and can be turned into a beautiful Bundt cake, or even cupcakes.

Next we have a recipe for Gingerbread Men Cookies that was passed down from my grandmother. I love these cookies because they are slightly chewy, and the dough is great for actual cut out cookies. Personally, I prefer to always chill my dough before cutting out my little men, because the shapes stay. Decorating them may be even more fun because the decorating choices are endless.

Love easy treats that require hardly any cooking skill? I used to be like that too! That is why Peppermint Bark is one of the easiest Christmas or seasonal treats I have ever made! Seriously, who would have thought that just two ingredients could produce such a tasty treat that goes perfectly with a side of hot cocoa! You can switch this recipe up too if you prefer dark or milk chocolate.

Don’t have time to bake? Another fun and easy Christmas dessert option for parties and hosting are these Christmas Oreo Truffles. These are no bake balls that are made with a few simple ingredients. However, the taste is so rich and seems as if you traveled high and far for only the finest truffles. These no bake Oreo Balls are perfect for this season of cheer!

Since the Christmas season is just such a busy one, I couldn’t leave out a recent short cut or “hack” I discovered for yummy Peppermint Brownies. These delicious treats use boxed brownie mix, and store bought vanilla frosting. The secret ingredient is peppermint extract which takes these brownies from average to rock star is seconds. These would make great treats for parties, or a late night snack!

As you can see, the Christmas season doesn’t have to be spent slaving in the kitchen. There are just so many sweet treats which you can make or bake up this time of year. I hope you and your family enjoy our top 5 Fun and Christmas Desserts and Treats recipes.

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Sinless Decadent Desserts

Today post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggie and Glitter.

I’m typically not a strong lover of sweets, but lately I’ve had nothing but dessert on my mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cupcake, a cookie, or a slice of pie; if it’s sweet, I’ll gladly devour it in thirty seconds flat.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m currently about half way through my first pregnancy, and if the old wives’ tale is correct, then I’m definitely having a girl. It’s hardly scientific, but they say that those who crave sweets are carrying a girl; those who only want salty treats are having a boy.

But that doesn’t mean that this week’s Meal-Planning Monday post is only for those who have babies on the way. I have plenty of friends and relatives who struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and satisfying their overbearing “sweet teeth.” It’s easy for a doctor or fitness guru to tell you to simply skip dessert or substitute fresh fruit for your favorite cake, but it’s only human to want to indulge every now and then. This week’s loaded schedule of recipes is focused solely on desserts that are big on taste and not on calories and fat.

Monday ~ Pumpkin Coffee Cookies 

If you’re anything like me, you find it difficult to get through a particularly manic Monday without lots of caffeine in your bloodstream. To be perfectly honest with you, I need several cups of coffee to get through even those rare stress-free days, so on Mondays, an extra pick-me-up is simply a necessity.

With their density relying on Greek yogurt and pumpkin puree rather than fatty substances like oil or butter, these cookies will satisfy your sweet tooth and your coffee craving without expanding your waistline. So go ahead, pour another cup of joe and indulge in a plateful of cookies without feeling guilty. You deserve it after making it through the dreaded first day of the traditional work week!

Tuesday ~ Fig & Fudge Brownies

Sometimes you just need a chocolate fix, but it seems like there has to be some way to get that fix without feeling terribly guilty afterwards. Put down that calorie-laden boxed brownie mix and allow me to introduce you to a pan of brownies that won’t leave a pit in your stomach after you eat two more rows than you intended on consuming (Admit it: We’ve all done it!).

The reason that brownies are typically so scrumptiously moist is because they’re filled with oils or butters, but these brownies get their stabilization and density from fruit puree instead of from fat. While I concocted these brownies with fig puree, pureed prunes or dates could also serve the same function. And don’t worry if you’re trying to serve these to a family that’s wary of health food; your secret’s safe with us! ;)

Wednesday ~ Not-So-Chunky Monkey Cookies

The combination of bananas and dark chocolate in this recipe is a match made in heaven when it comes to flavor, but these goodies are also righteous when it comes to nutrition. Not only do the bananas add a punch of potassium to your daily diet, ingredients like whole-wheat flour and dates provide more fiber than a serving of bran cereal. And even though dark chocolate could hardly be labeled as a “health food,” it does contain more antioxidants than other types of chocolate, such as white or traditional milk varieties.

Thursday ~ Dark Chocolate Avocado Torte

If you’re anything like my little family, you’re feeling hesitant about a dessert containing something green. However, you’ll thank me later if you choose to give this easy, no-bake recipe a spin.  The addition of sweet ingredients like maple syrup and chocolate chips offsets the distinctive taste of avocado, so you don’t have to worry that it will taste like a bowl of guacamole! The avocado flesh simply adds a creamy, velvety texture that will have you heaping your plate with seconds. Thanks to the lack of animal-based or dairy products, this dessert is also vegan-friendly.

Photo credit: BettyCrocker.com

Friday ~ Double-Chocolate Snack Cake

I first discovered this recipe when I was invited to a dinner party at the last minute and idiotically offered to bring a dessert, even though I had no recipe in mind. With only about an hour to whip something up, I came to the realization that I had no milk or eggs on hand, which it seems like just about every recipe out there needs! Thankfully, I had previously saved this dairy-free chocolate cake on Pinterest and decided to give it a try. It was a huge hit with the entire group of guests; I even had two separate guests beg me for the recipe before the end of the night.

While this recipe does contain sugar and oil, the amounts for which it calls are far less than other recipes for similar-tasting  products. To further lighten the fat and sugar content, just omit the powdered sugar dusting and chocolate chip topping. It’s just as mouth-watering without it!

What’s your favorite “sinless” decadent dessert?

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey
Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC. Aside from being
a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather
unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Easter Recipe Round Up

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Easter is less than a week away!  I love everything about Easter – colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, everyone dressed up in their Sunday best, and of course gathering with family to enjoy Easter brunch or dinner.  This year, I’m hosting my hubby’s family for brunch.  On the menu: breakfast casserole made with eggs, sausage, and shredded hash browns, plus bacon, fruit salad, bread for toasting, and some sort of dessert I haven’t settled on yet. (I’m thinking maybe some of the cute cupcakes below…)  I thought it would be fun to team up with my blogger buddies to bring you some fresh recipe inspiration!  Whether you’re hosting an Easter meal or just showing up at a relative’s house with a dessert to share, I think you’ll find a great new recipe or two to try.

Breakfast Casserole

From Your Strong Tower by Christine Luken

This crowd pleasing egg dish is delicious, and best when assembled the night before.  On Easter morning, just remove it from the fridge and pop it in the oven!

Bunny Basket Key Lime Cake

From The Experimental Homesteader by Sheri Ann Richerson

 You’ll impress adults and kids alike with this Bunny Basket Key Lime Cake! It’s as
tasty as it is adorable!

Chocolate Easter Hen Cupcakes with Yellow Butter Cream Frosting

From Savvy Saving Couple by Amy Desrosiers

 Not only are these cupcakes cute and delicious, but they are gluten-free!

Easter Eggs in the Grass Cupcakes

From Savvy Saving Couple by Amy Desrosiers

 Or maybe these adorable cupcakes are more your style!

Key Lime Cheesecake with Fruity Pebbles

From An Exercise in Frugality by Rose Siders

 If you’re a fan of cheesecake, try this Key Lime version that’s as colorful as a basket of Easter eggs.

What’s on your menu for Easter brunch or dinner?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Changing Gears

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

Summer is my favorite season and I’ve been in denial about its departure the past few weeks.  But now that the kids are back in school, temperatures are cooling down, and even a few leaves are beginning to change, it’s undeniable that fall is right around the corner.  As sad as I am to see the end of summer days filled with golf, pool time, and picnics, I’m ready for a change.  So it’s time to shift gears into fall (my second favorite season, for the record) with my meal planning.  Here are some of ways I’ll be switching things up.

  • More Baking – I miss baking!!  I love baking cakes, muffins, granola bars and cookies, but during the sweltering Kentucky summers, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and burden my already overtaxed air conditioner.  When I bake, I usually make double batches and freeze leftovers.  This means that on busy mornings, I can just pull out a couple of chocolate chip zucchini muffins out of the freezer and pop them in the toaster oven or microwave.  My freezer is pretty bare of baked goods right now, so I’m anxious to restock.  When I was on vacation in Michigan, I bought some freshly ground cardamom at a spice shop for my Plum Cardamom Cake.  My co-op had some super ripe organic plums which I pureed and froze last month just for this cake.  (See recipe below.)  And with pumpkin season around the corner… My kitchen is going to smell fantastic!

 

  • More Soup –  I love homemade soup when the weather starts to cool down.  It’s relatively easy to make and leftovers get frozen in individual portions for weekday lunches.  I stopped buying canned soup last year due to the cost and the salt content.  Once a month, during the fall and winter, I would make a huge pot of soup or chili with the intent of freezing most of it.  Check out my blog post “More Soup for You!” for my favorite soup recipes!

  • More Casseroles and Pasta – I was so excited to add back casseroles and other hearty pasta dishes that require the oven to my September meal plan!  Pizza Casserole, Eggplant Rollitini, Firecracker Casserole, and Turkey Stroganoff will be served at my table in the very near future!  The great thing is that most of these also freeze well (with the exception of the stroganoff due to the sour cream) so I’ll be putting some homemade frozen dinners in my stockpile.  I’ve been collecting recipes on Pinterest to try as the weather cools off.  This Mexican Chicken Casserole is on the top of my list!

So, how do you change gears when it comes to meal planning this time of year?  If you’ve fallen off the meal planning wagon during the summer, now’s the time to jump back on!

Plum Cardamom Cake  (Modified from original recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor Cookbook)

  • 1 package of white cake mix
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of fresh, peeled and pureed plums
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbs. of Domino Light (or ¼ cup of sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is well combined.  Pour batter into the Bundt pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until cake is golden and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes.  Run a long, sharp knife along the edges of the pan and invert the cake on a serving platter.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Summer Desserts

 

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

Nothing makes it feel more like summer than hearing the jingle of the music from the ice cream truck coming down the street.  When I was a kid, my favorite treats from the ice cream man were the red-white-and-blue bomb pops and ice cream sandwiches.  My brother loved the orange push-up pops and Drumsticks.  I’m not sure that any of us outgrow that love of frosty desserts when the weather is hot.  So, I thought that this week, I would share some ideas and recipes for grown-up summer desserts that are both healthy and delicious.

Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream – My friend Shirley shared this recipe on Facebook and I can’t wait to try it!  There are only three ingredients: coconut milk, vanilla, and honey.  Anything coconut reminds me of my vacations in Hawaii, so I’m sure I’ll love it.  Plus, there’s no dairy in this ice “cream” so you can eat it even if you’re lactose-intolerant!  You will need an ice cream machine to make it, which I don’t currently have.  My husband is a huge ice cream fan, so I think I know what I’m getting Nick for his birthday in a few weeks!

Freezy PB S’mores Sandwiches – I recently downloaded the new dessert cookbook from Hungry Girl, Just Desserts: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories.  I’ve been on a chocolate and peanut butter kick lately, so I was eager to try this recipe.  Take 1/3 cup of Cool Whip Free, mix it with 2 teaspoons of powdered peanut butter (like PB2), 8 miniature marshmallows, and 1 tsp. mini chocolate chips.  Take one graham cracker sheet and break it in half.  Spread the Cool Whip mixture in between the graham crackers to make a sandwich.  Freeze for 90 minutes or until filling is firm.  It’s a lot of yum for only 160 calories!  Make a bunch and freeze them in individual sandwich baggies so you can grab one whenever the mood strikes you.

Angel Food Cake with Berries - Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are coming in season right now, so take advantage of their yummy ripeness with this easy dessert!  Mix one 6 to 8 oz. container of lemon Greek yogurt with one cup of Cool Whip.  If you can’t find lemon flavored Greek yogurt, mix 1 Tbsp. of fresh lemon juice with a container of vanilla Greek yogurt before combining with the Cool Whip.  Take a slice of store-bought angel food cake and top it with a dollop of the yogurt/ Cool Whip mixture then top with fresh (or freshly frozen) berries.  Absolutely delicious!

Protein Milk Shakes – Milk shakes are awesome, but they can really derail your healthy eating plan because of all the sugar.  Burger King’s small (12 ounce) chocolate milk shake has 588 calories and NINETY GRAMS OF SUGAR!  Holy moly!  (Don’t believe me?  Check it out on Calorie King for yourself.)  The good news is that you can have a tasty protein shake that will satisfy your cravings without all those calories and sugar grams. Diet Free Life has a bunch of great smoothie recipes, like Apple Surprise and the Coconut Berry Smoothie.  I freeze berries and ripe bananas for smoothies on a regular basis.  Lately, I’ve been taking my Chocolate Fit Pro and putting it in the blender with a few ice cubes and a tablespoon of PB2.  (I told you I was on a peanut butter and chocolate kick!)  The great news is that there are only about 200 calories and 10 grams of sugar – plus 28 grams of protein! – in my chocolate “milk shake.”  It tastes so great, I can’t even believe that it’s so good for me!

What is your favorite summer dessert?

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ When Life Gives You Lemons

           

            “Make lemonade,” right?  Not me!  When life gives me lemons, especially Meyer lemons, I’m making Lemon Caper Chicken, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, or Grilled Island Chicken.  If you’ve never tried Meyer lemons, you should!  They are a fragrant blend of sweet and tart and will give your recipes a blast of pure sunshine.  I tried them for the first time just a few short weeks ago.  My produce co-op had bags of five Meyer lemons for just $1.00.  Now I’m hooked!

            I’ve been squeezing fresh Meyer lemon juice in just about everything, from drinks, desserts, marinades, and even yogurt!  Here are some of my favorite uses for this gem of a fruit.  (Feel free to use regular lemons in all of recipes.)

  • Lemon-Caper Chicken – I found this recipe back in 2005 on the Cooking Light website, but the exact variation isn’t on there anymore.  It’s tasty, healthy, and easy to make, so I’ve included the recipe below.  I like to serve it with brown rice because it soaks up the tangy sauce.  Delicious!
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Cake - To me, this cake says, “Spring is here!”  I usually make it for Easter brunch or Mother’s Day.  Sometimes I’ll make a lemon glaze to pour over the top of it.  Fortunately, there’s never much in the way of leftovers, so I’m not tempted to eat half the cake by myself!
  • Lemon Greek Yogurt – Take 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt, add one packet of Stevia, the juice of ¼ of a lemon and mix well.  Top with half of a sheet of crushed graham crackers for a tasty protein-packed snack.
  • Lemon Spritzer – I will juice ¼ of a lemon and add it to sparkling water as a refreshing and healthy alternative to Diet Coke when I’m in the mood for something fizzy.  (I gave up Diet Coke when I did my Detox Drop in January and haven’t had it since.)  It’s also a great addition to green tea or plain water.
  • Grilled Island Chicken – Since our grill is broken and we need to buy a new one, I broiled the chicken after letting it marinade for 6 hours.  My husband and I both loved it!

 

Lemon-Caper Chicken (from Cooking Light magazine)

  • 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 4 Thinly Sliced Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (4 oz. each)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 4 tsp. Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Medium Shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbs. Drained Capers
  • ½ Cup Chicken Broth
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 – 2 Tbs. Fresh Chopped Parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Rinse and dry chicken breasts.  Season with salt and pepper and lightly coat with the flour.  Add chicken to the skillet and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn chicken and cook 2-3 minutes more until both sides are golden brown and chicken is no longer pink.  Transfer chicken to a serving platter.

Reduce heat to low.  Add shallots and capers to the skillet.  Cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add broth and juice and cook 1 minute.  Stir in parsley.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Nutritional Info: 260 Calories, 17 g fat, 5 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 1 g fiber, 72 mg cholesterol, 142 mg sodium per serving.  Recipe makes 4 servings.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Lazy Days

         

          As I write this week’s post, I am feeling L-A-Z-Y…  I had a super busy week and honestly, I am just plain tired!  Between my work schedule and even the fun stuff – Girls Night at church, painting class, and a big family gathering – I didn’t get enough rest this past week.  So I have given myself permission to be lazy for a few days!

            So, what does this mean for my meal plan?  Am I just going to throw it out the window and order pizza and Chinese carryout for the next three days?  Of course not!  I have a few freezer meals I can fall back on for times like these – banana chocolate chip pancakes and pumpkin muffins for breakfast, and turkey chili or chicken and wild rice for dinner.  I also have a stash of “Lazy Day Recipes” for meals, appetizers, and desserts that I put in rotation on my meal planning calendar.  I thought I would share some of them with you for your lazy days when you want a nice hot meal or a dessert/ appetizer to take to a party but can only muster up a minor amount of energy.         

 

~ Turkey & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes.  I buy a package or two of the Oscar Meyer Carving Board turkey (or roast beef) and put in on the stovetop or in the microwave with a can or two of gravy.  Serve over instant mashed potatoes or rice and a veggie on the side.

~ Chicken Fried Rice.  I use leftover cooked chicken breast meat, the frozen brown rice and veggie steamer blends, and some extra frozen broccoli cooked in the microwave.  It’s ready in less than ten minutes.

~ Grilled chicken and steak.  Sometimes I make my husband cook, I mean grill, when I’m feeling lazy.  I’ll take a can of whole white potatoes, put them on a skewer with some veggies, and brush with Italian dressing for Nick to toss on the barbeque with our meat.

~ Grown Up Grilled Cheese.  I will use rye bread or a good hearty wheat bread with a nice slice or two of sharp cheddar cheese, adding some ham for Nick.  I almost always have a few servings of homemade tomato or chicken soup in the freezer that I heat up on the stove to round out my meal.

~ Bean Dip.  This is a great appetizer that everyone loves and is SO lazy.  All you need is one can of refried beans and one cup of salsa.  Mix and heat thoroughly on the stove top or in the microwave.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips.

~ Warm Italiano Spread.  I found this recipe on KraftRecipes.com and it’s one of my favorites.  It looks and tastes impressive, but is extremely simple to make.  I serve it with the Black Pepper Trisuits.

~ Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake (or cupcakes).  With only a few ingredients and store bought frosting, I’m always a little surprised by the compliments galore I always get for this cake.

 

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake (Adapted from “The Cake Doctor” cookbook by Anne Bryne)

1 Box of Chocolate Cake (or Devil’s Food) with Pudding in the Mix

1 can (21 oz.) of Cherry Pie Filling

2 Large Eggs

1 teaspoon of Almond Extract

1 small jar of maraschino cherries

1 Can of Dark Chocolate Frosting

 

            Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pan(s) with butter flavored cooking spray.  Place cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl.  Beat on low for one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for two minutes more at medium speed.  Pour batter into pan(s) and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  ** You can make this as a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake, as a two-layer 8-9 inch round cake, or as cupcakes.  Use the cooking times on the cake mix box for the pan you are using.  **

            Once the cake is finished baking and has cooled, frost with the store bought frosting.  If I am making cupcakes, I will place a cherry on top of the frosted tops.  If I am making a layer cake, I cut the cherries in half and place them between the layers before frosting.  I then whip up the frosting in my mixer – which makes it fluffier and increases its volume, ensuring I will have enough frosting for the entire layer cake.  Sit back and enjoy the compliments!