Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes Filled with Goodness

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Cupcakes are all the rage.

I confess, I don’t make cupcakes very often. In fact, I generally don’t make cakes and pies unless it’s a special occasion. So the challenge this month for Recipe Redux is to think cupcakes or individual desserts.

I decided to see if I could make a somewhat “healthier” cupcake. However, I wanted to start with the convenience of a package mix. I started with a package of dark chocolate fudge brownie mix. But, instead of 3 whole large eggs, I substituted 3/4 cup of silken tofu (1/4 cup for each egg). And, instead of 1/2 cup vegetable oil, I substituted 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce.  I also added 1 medium zucchini, shredded, to the uncooked batter. Lastly, I added ground cinnamon to the dry brownie mix as well as to the chocolate cream cheese frosting, as cinnamon is a great complement to chocolate.

Here is a comparison of the brownie mix prepared as directed on the package and my version (with tofu, applesauce,  zucchini, and cinnamon). You can see from the chart, that there is a significant savings in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

original brownie mix, prepared as directed w/ 1/2 cup oil and 3 large eggs
dark chocolate zucchini cupcakes (without frosting)
70 calories; 21% reduction
Total Fat
19 g
10 g
9 g; 47% reduction
Saturated Fat
4 g
2 g
2 g; 50% reduction
68 mg
29 mg
39 mg; 57% reduction

 These cupcakes are very dense and sponge-like; not like brownies that tend to be chewier and drier.


Here is the complete recipe, including a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting, which is optional.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes



1 19.9 oz. package dark chocolate fudge brownie mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/4 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium zucchini, about 7 inches long)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

3/4 cup silken tofu

1/4 cup water


Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 oz. one-third less fat cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups unsifted powdered sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of muffin tins or use non-stick cooking spray.

Combine brownie mix and cinnamon in a large bowl; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine zucchini, applesauce, tofu, and water; mix to break up tofu into small pieces.  Gently stir zucchini mixture into the brownie mixture, stirring just to blend all ingredients.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes. Using a butter knife, lift cupcakes from pan. Let cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Frosting: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread on cooled cupcakes.

Makes 14 cupcakes.

Note: Since most cupcake tins typically make 6 or 12 cupcakes, use greased small custard cups for remaining 2 cupcakes or refill cupcake tin after first batch comes from oven.

Nutrition Information per Cupcake (without frosting):

257 calories, 10 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 0 g dietary fiber, 4 g protein, and 167 mg sodium.

Nutrition Information per Cupcake (with frosting):

365 calories, 14 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein, and 199 mg sodium.

 Cost per Serving: $0.24 (without frosting); $0.41 (with frosting)

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except the brownie mix which was on sale for $1.49.

Click here to download and print a copy of this recipe.

Be sure to check out these other cupcake recipes.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Menu Labeling for Movie Theatres, Sports Arenas, Etc.?

Former ag secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman authored an article in today’s Huffington Post titled, “AComprehensive Menu Labeling Standard is Needed to Support Healthy Choices.” They recommend that calories should be posted for all “restaurant-type” foods found in movie theaters, sports arenas, convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as those already found in restaurant chains with 20 units or more. This is needed, they argue, so that people can make informed choices when eating away from home.

According to the comments written in response to this article, people do not appear to want this information. One commenter, Violettefemme, says: What I hate about this kind of plan is that is assumes complete stupidity on the part of the individual, rather than the fact that people make choices even if someone else thinks their choice is ‘bad’. Posting all this in every single damn place we can ever buy a bite to put in our mouths is expensive, annoying, and insulting. Having all this posted will only make ‘perfect’ people think they can interfere with other people's decisions in those places and times."

Personally, I think it would be helpful to have calories, as well as any other nutrient that a person is interested in, available for these foods. Perhaps, what we need is an app for smart phones that can make this information readily available for those who want it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Don't Go Stir Crazy Coconut Shrimp Risotto

I’ve just used a new product that I want to share with others. The product is called Vita Coco coconut water.

Vita Coco pure coconut water


This coconut water can be enjoyed “as is,” used in cocktails/mocktails or smoothies, or used in recipes. I have chosen the latter and used it in a delicious shrimp risotto dish. One 8-ounce container of Vita Coco coconut water has only 45 calories, adding flavor without a lot of calories. It also contains electrolytes and nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Don't Go Stir Crazy Coconut Shrimp Risotto

Risotto is a wonderful dish, but it can be very demanding, requiring constant adding of broth and stirring for 25 minutes until the rice has absorbed the liquid. The May/June issue of Cook’s Illustrated (my favorite cooking magazine) featured a “almost hands-free risotto.” It got my attention. Instead of the constant stirring, the author, Andrea Geary, found that adding several cups of liquid at the start of cooking agitates the rice grains much like stirring. This releases the creamy starch from the rice grains. Then she covers the heavy Dutch oven and turns down the heat so the rice grains cook evenly. Then, you stir for only 3 minutes and let it rest for 5 minutes. Voila! Perfect risotto without all the stirring.

I started with a basic risotto and then added the pure coconut water, shrimp, seasonings, and peas.

Here is the complete recipe.

Don’t Go Stir Crazy Coconut Shrimp Risotto

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 16.9-oz bottle Vita Coco pure Coconut Water
8 oz. uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, defrosted if frozen
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 medium clove garlic, peeled and minced
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced, using both white and green parts
Ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: 4 teaspoons toasted flaked coconut (optional)

Bring broth and coconut water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Drop in shrimp and cook until pink in color, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from broth and set aside. Cover and reduce heat of broth to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir about 30 seconds. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of hot broth mixture into rice; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 16 to 19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Add 3/4 cup hot broth mixture and stir gently and constantly until risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and peas. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir in reserved shrimp, butter, lemon juice, and green onion; season with pepper to taste. If desired, add up to 1/2 cup remaining broth mixture to loosen texture of risotto. Serve immediately. Garnish each serving with 1 teaspoon of toasted coconut, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Click here to download and print a copy of Don’t Go Stir Crazy Coconut Shrimp Risotto.

Disclosure: By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Vita Coco and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Be sure to check out these other ways to use Vita Coco pure coconut water. get the InLinkz code