Spinach Chips

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I’m a spinach lover and I always have a big bag of baby spinach in my fridge. I put spinach on sandwiches, salads, omelets, smoothies – pretty much anything that I think can use a bit of green. Still, I often have a hard time getting through the bag before the spinach leaves start to get slimy.

I stumbled onto this recipe the other day and had an “aha” moment. Spinach chips – of course! The perfect way to use up my extra spinach! Spinach chips are similar to kale chips, but with a much lighter texture. My kids loved them too, so this recipe gets a gold star in my book.

Ready to go into the oven:
Spinach Chips

Ready to eat:
Spinach Chips (cooked)

Ingredients
2 big handfuls of pre-washed baby spinach
Olive oil (use a Misto Olive Oil Sprayer, if you have one)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. (Note: this step is important; otherwise the spinach will stick to the baking sheet.)

Lightly spray the parchment paper with olive oil using an olive oil sprayer (or put a bit of olive oil on a paper towel and wipe it onto the parchment paper).

Spread the baby spinach evenly between the two baking sheets, making sure to keep the spinach in a single layer. Lightly spray the spinach with a bit more olive oil (alternatively, you can toss the spinach and olive oil together in a bowl, but be sure not to use too much oil).

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the spinach and bake for 12 minutes (you can cook both baking sheets at the same time). After 12 minutes, turn the oven off and keep the spinach in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the spinach cool for a few minutes before digging in. Enjoy!

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Roasted Chickpeas

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Hello everyone, I’m back! My work contract is over, and I’m super-excited to get back to blogging now that I have some more time on my hands. Yay!

Have you tried roasted chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) yet? If not, I’m so delighted to share this recipe with you. I’m a firm believer that roasting makes everything taste better, and chickpeas are no exception. Roasting turns bland-and-boring chickpeas into little balls of goodness that are tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Roasted Chickpeas

The best thing about these roasted chickpeas is that they are healthy and my kids love them too. In fact, this is one of their favorite after-school snacks (and mine too). Chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber, as well as several vitamins and minerals such as Folate, vitamin B6, and Manganese.

I started making this recipe with just one can of garbanzo beans, but I found that wasn’t enough for three hungry gals, so I make this with two cans now. Sadly for my husband, there still doesn’t seem to be any left when he gets home from work.

The basic recipe just calls for salt and pepper, but you can get as adventurous as you like by adding your favorite spices, like paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, or even cinnamon and brown sugar for a “dessert” chickpea.

Ingredients
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels (or a clean dish towel).

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and then put them on the towel-lined baking sheet to dry. If you have time, you can leave them on the baking sheet and let them air-dry, or you can place another towel on top of the chickpeas and roll them around a bit to dry them off.

Once dry, add the chickpeas to a large bowl and combine with the olive oil. You want enough oil to coat every chickpea. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir gently.

First, remove the towels from the baking sheet and then pour the chickpeas onto the baking sheet. Be sure to spread them out in a single layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas are golden-brown. Shake the baking sheet every 10-15 minutes to keep them from sticking.

Let cool and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

Enjoy and happy snacking!

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Blueberry Banana Coconut Smoothie

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The weather is warming up and it’s finally berry season! I love making healthy smoothies with ripe berries for a refreshing snack or a quick breakfast. I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar, so I don’t usually add any sweetener (the fruit is usually sweet enough). You may want to add a bit of honey if you like your smoothies a bit sweeter. I also add some fresh spinach to all of my smoothies now – you won’t even know it’s there!

Ingredients
1 cup of crushed ice
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 banana, sliced
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Small handful of baby spinach
1-2 tablespoons milk

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. You can also use a stick blender to blend your smoothie together (I got one for Christmas and it makes my smoothie prep a breeze!).

Pour your smoothie into a tall glass, add a straw and enjoy the refreshing goodness.

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Buttery Soft Pretzels

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I have officially found soft pretzel heaven! Salty and slightly chewy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside – good enough to make me forget about the impact to my waistline. These pretzels are heavenly right out of the oven (I had to exert serious willpower to keep myself from devouring the whole tray), but seem to lose their wonderful texture after they cool. You can revive them by warming them in a toaster oven, but they won’t return to their full glory. Eat them fresh out of the oven, if possible. Click here to view the original recipe. This makes about 12 pretzels.

Ingredients
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
Melted butter

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well (a.k.a. hole) in the center of the flour and add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix well until a soft dough forms.

Knead the dough on a clean counter for about 8 minutes (add more flour, if needed) until the dough is smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl; place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Note: if your house is cold, try letting the dough rise in a closed oven with the oven light turned on.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and put a rack in the upper third of the oven.

In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Rolling the dough is a bit tricky. I got the best results by rolling the end of the dough between my hands into a rope. Then I held the middle of the rope with my left hand, while I pulled the ends down with my right hand and twisted the ends of the rope together, and then folded them onto the bottom. It took me a few tries before I got the hang of it, but don’t worry, even my deformed pretzels tasted delicious.

Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution (this will help form the yummy pretzel crust) and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle each pretzel with kosher salt.

Place the baking sheet in the upper third of the oven (this will prevent the bottoms of the pretzels from getting too brown) and bake for about 8 minutes, or until browned.

After removing the pretzels from the oven, brush them with melted butter. Let cool a few minutes and then prepare for the pretzel feeding frenzy!

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Low Fat Bran Muffins

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I love bran muffins, but some recipes I’ve tried produce muffins that are dry and heavy, and not very appealing. This recipe, however, makes muffins that are light and tender, and so delicious that I’d choose them over a regular blueberry muffin any day. Click here to see the original recipe. This is a great recipe for those of us watching our weight, because it’s low fat and loaded with fiber. I prefer to use fresh blueberries, but I didn’t have any on hand this time, so I substituted golden raisins instead. These muffins are very perishable, so I usually freeze any muffins that won’t be consumed in a couple of days. Then I take individual muffins from the freezer and defrost them in the microwave when I’m ready to eat them. This recipe makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups wheat bran (not wheat germ)
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries (or substitute another fruit, or 1/2 cup raisins)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease your muffin pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the wheat bran and milk, and let stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix in the bran mixture.

In another bowl, use a whisk to mix together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the bran mixture until just blended. Fold in blueberries (or raisins, etc).

Use a spoon to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Store muffins loosely covered at room temperature. Freeze any muffins that you don’t eat within 2-3 days.

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