Strawberry Almond Cream Tart

20160606_110931As Spring comes to a close and we turn things over to summer on June 20, now is the time to enjoy the bountiful fresh fruit options spring provides. Luckily, here in Central Florida, you can find white tents and loaded pickup trucks all over the sides of the roadways selling fresh, in season produce and other oddities (such as gator jerky) on a typical drive home year round. This time of year, the main produce being sold at these mini markets of sorts are strawberries. Since I live rather close to Plant City (Florida), the winter Strawberry capital of the world and host of the annual festival dedicated to strawberries, it is not hard to come by an abundance of strawberries at affordable prices. With an abundance of fresh, irresistible strawberries, finding new ways to use them is not only fun but tasty.

20160606_111339-1Strawberries (and cherries) have always been my go to topping for cheesecake. As much as I love fruit glazed cheesecakes, I do have a problem with the cheesecake to fruit ratio often found in many recipes. The ratio ALWAYS leans heavily in the side of the cheesecake with minimal fresh fruit topping. I decided this needed to be changed. Why not make a cheesecake-esque dessert that focuses more on the fruit topping over the cheesecake filling.

20160606_111935The following recipe is the result of such a desire I have had since childhood. With this recipe, for once, the strawberries are the star of the show. Instead of being a simple topping, the strawberries are nestled in a thinner layer of creamy cheesecake filling and graham cracker crust, allowing them to shine. Perhaps even better than the taste itself, is the fact that this dessert will not set you back a ton of calories. In fact the tart is very low in cholesterol and high in vitamin C. It is perfect to serve at spring and summer parties and your guests will never suspect it is not as indulgent as it appears.

20160606_111325While on the topic of parties, this is also a great dessert that can be made in advance. You can easily make the crust and filling ahead of time (up to 2 days) and then assemble the dessert the day of the party. This will help free up some time to make all of the other items you may be serving that do not have the ability to be prepared in advance.


  • This tart will easily serve 10 people. If you need it to serve more you can easily double (or triple) the recipe and divide the crust, filling, and topping evenly amongst two (or more) tart pans.
  • You may have some extra strawberries if your cartons managed to miraculously not have any squishy or moldy strawberries at the bottom.
  • Although I chose to use a 9 inch round tart pan, you may also use an 8 x 12 inch rectangular tart pan or 9 inch pie plate.

Strawberry Almond Cream Tart

Crust Ingredients:

  • 36 Honey Graham Crackers (9 sheets)
  • 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
  • 4 tsp. Water

Filling Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese; softened (about 2/3 cup)
  • ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp. Almond Extract

Topping Ingredients:

  • 2 cartons Fresh Strawberries; hulled & divided
  • 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ tbsp. Cornstarch
  • ½ tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 2 tbsp. Sliced Almonds; toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9 inch round removable-bottom tart pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Add the sugar, butter, and water. Pulse until the mixture is moistened. Place the crumb mixture in the prepared tart pan and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Once crust has cooled completely, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir until mixture is smooth. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the crust.
  4. To prepare the topping, place 1 cup of strawberries in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pureed. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine strawberry puree, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  5. Combine remaining strawberries (approximately 3 cups) and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange the strawberries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over the filling. Spoon the glaze evenly over the berries. Sprinkle almonds around the edge. Cover and chill tart for at least 3 hours.


(1 Wedge)









Weight Watchers: 11 Smart Points, 6 Points Plus, or 5 Traditional Points




Chocolate & Salted Caramel Angel Food Cake

20160526_163523Angel food cake is a dessert as heavenly as the name suggests. It is light, spongy, and just sweet enough to satisfy without feeling as if one has gone overboard. As great as angel food cake is on its own, its simplicity provides endless possibilities for creating different versions of the dessert. With very little effort, a plain angel food cake can be transformed into an elegant cake for any occasion.

20160526_163534Traditionally, angel food cake is dressed up with fresh fruit and whipped cream to keep the cake light. I elected to go a bit of an unconventional route and add some heavier flavors because the rest of the cake is light enough to handle such additions without being too much. I took the flavors found in a turtle sundae (chocolate, caramel, pecans) and drizzled them across the top of the prepared cake. The results were a divine cake from top to bottom.

20160526_163739Chocolate & Salted Caramel Angel Food Cake


  • 1 box Angel Food Cake Mix
  • 1 (7oz.) container Dark Semi-Sweet Dipping Chocolate (such as Baker’s)
  • ¼ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • ¼ cup (4 tbsp.) Unsalted Butter
  • 3 tbsp. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Dash of Sea Salt
  • 3 tbsp. Chopped Pecans; toasted


  1. Bake angel food cake according to package directions. Cool completely.
  2. Melt dark chocolate according to package directions. Place melted chocolate in a clear, decorating squeeze bottle. Squeeze bottle over top of cake, moving back and forth to create a drizzled effect on both sides of the cake. If you do not have a squeeze bottle use the back of a spoon to drizzle the chocolate using the same motion.
  3. In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, butter, whipping cream, and salt over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and cook for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and quickly drizzle caramel over the cake in the same motions as the chocolate. Top with pecans and serve.





Triple Coconut Cupcakes

2016-05-15-15.42Spring is a time when the heartier flavor profiles of fall and winter (namely spices and chocolate) are replaced with lighter desserts more fitting of the season. The spring and summer months typically cause us to crave lighter flavor profiles such as citrus and berry based desserts. We also tend to crave colder items since the days are hotter and we do not want to be warmed up by our sweets in the same way we do during fall and winter. Many turn to ice cream to keep them cool and satisfy a sweet tooth. Despite the many flavor possibilities of ice cream, it can quickly become tiresome.

20160515_152257-1To keep things simple in the kitchen I try to make desserts that bake up quick, like cookies or cupcakes. Coconut always reminds me of warmer weather but many recipes fail to deliver on intense coconut flavor. The ones that do deliver are often more extensive in preparation than I care to take on this time of year. Therefore, I designed this simplistic recipe with the light flavors and textures of spring that can be whipped up quickly, leaving plenty of hours for some fun in the sun.

Triple Coconut Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 box White Cake Mix
  • 1 1/3 cups Coconut Milk
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 3 Egg Whites
  • ½ cup Shredded Sweetened Coconut

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz.) container Frozen Whipped Topping (such as Cool Whip); thawed (or you can substitute an equal amount of homemade whipped cream)
  • 1 (3.4 oz.) package Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix (such as Jello Brand)
  • ¾ cup Milk
  • 1 tsp. Coconut Extract
  • ½ cup Shredded Sweetened Coconut; toasted


  1. To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Spray bottoms of two 12-count cupcake tins with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, coconut milk, water, and egg whites. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the coconut by hand until just combined.
  3. Pour batter into prepared cupcake tins, filling each cup half full. Bake cupcakes until light golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. For the frosting: In a medium bowl, combine the pudding mix, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped topping/whipped cream until no streaks remain. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while the cupcakes cool, at least one hour.
  5. Assembly: Once the cupcakes have cooled completely you can frost the cupcakes. Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake. Sprinkle frosting with toasted coconut and serve. Cupcakes may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.




Skinny Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies

20160426_102122As the days creep closer and closer to 90° here in Florida I begin to miss the cooler, humidity free temperatures of winter. What makes summer even harder to grasp is this year we had a very mild winter with only a handful of very cold days. I quite honestly feel robbed of my favorite time of year. In order to make up for the loss I decided to make a classic cooler weather combination in spring.

20160426_101906Growing up, one of my favorite sweets to eat in fall was the caramel apple. A local candy shop in my hometown makes the best caramel apples and to this day I have yet to find a location that has made them better. The problem is those apples are seasonal treats and once the season is over (October/November) the decadent apples disappear for another year. The memories of eating these apples were brought up a few weeks ago and I have been craving them ever since. Of course I couldn’t even get one if I wanted to because they are not in season but perhaps I could replicate the flavors I was craving and fool my body into thinking I had been reunited with my childhood favorite. An even better idea was to implement those flavors into a skinnier option than a typical dessert.

20160426_102135This recipe makes approximately 4 dozen cookies so if you do not want that many at a time I recommend freezing some of the dough to bake in the future. After taste testing a few of these my father also suggested that the flavor and texture of the dough would make a great snack bar. If you have a snack bar pan it may be worth the try although I have not personally given this a go yet. Packed with oats, chopped apple, and decadent caramel, these cookies bring the flavors of fall year round. At less than 100 calories a cookie they also leave you feeling a bit less guilty.

Skinny Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies


  • 6.75 oz. (approximately 1 ½ cups) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • 6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Large Apple; peeled, cored, & quartered
  • ¾ cup Caramel Baking Bits (Kraft)
  • Parchment Paper


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a slip mat and set aside.
  2. Place quartered apple pieces in a food processor. Pulse until apple is finely chopped, about 5 pulses. Measure out ¾ cup of the chopped apple and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl place the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a whisk until combined.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl), add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter. Using a stand or hand mixer set to medium speed, beat the mixture together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, beating again until combined. Turn the mixer down to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Fold in the chopped apple and caramel bits until evenly combined.
  5. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten dough mounds slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.


(1 Cookie)









Weight Watchers: 3 Smart Points, 2 Points Plus, or 1 Traditional Point





Skinny Sour Cream Coffee Cake

20160409_165243To start the day off on the right foot, the average American wakes up, has a cup of coffee, and may or may not eat breakfast. For those that do want breakfast with their coffee, most coffee shops offer up alluring breakfast options such as doughnuts, muffins, bagels, sandwiches, and burritos. These offerings taste great but they are certainly not a healthy way to start the day. Although I would preferably like to always start my day with an omelet filled with healthy veggies and a handful of cheese, most days that is just not a feasible option. Rather than skip breakfast altogether one must look for more simple solutions.

20160409_165314-1A traditional pairing to coffee has always been coffee cake (hence the name)…because who doesn’t want to start the day off with something sweet. However, a traditional sour cream coffee cake does not fair any better than coffee house offerings. Just a slice of traditional sour cream coffee cake has around 500 calories and 32 grams of fat! Certainly not a way to start the day, especially if you already loaded the accompanying coffee with cream and sugar. In order to continue to enjoy this classic, it had to be slimmed down A LOT.

20160409_165257-1-1Without losing the moist and fulfilling taste of the original, this recipe adds plenty of whole grains and manages to cut off 225 calories and over 20 grams of fat per slice. Sure it is still not the healthiest option in the world but you can feel a lot less guilty eating a slice on days when you simply have no time for anything healthier. Even when you do have time for a healthier breakfast, this cake is sweet enough to be enjoyed as dessert too!

Skinny Sour Cream Coffee Cake


  • 2.5 oz. (¾ cup) Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats; divided
  • 4.5 oz. (1 cup) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 oz. (¼ cup) Whole-Wheat Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon; divided
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed (divided)
  • 1/3 cup Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub Light Sour Cream
  • 2 tbsp. Walnuts; finely chopped & toasted
  • 1 tbsp. Butter; chilled & cut into small pieces
  • Cooking Spray


  1. Coat a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until oats are light brown and slightly fragrant, about 6 minutes.
  3. Measure ¼ cup of browned oats and set aside. Place the remaining oats in a food processor, processing until finely ground, approximately 4 seconds. In a large bowl, place the ground oats, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Stir with a whisk until combined.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, place the granulated sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup butter. Beat with stand or hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the addition of the flour mixture. Be sure to mix until just combined (do not overstir). The batter will remain slightly lumpy due to the oats. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Combine the remaining ¼ cup oats, remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, remaining ½ tsp. cinnamon, and nuts in a bowl. Cut in the chilled butter pieces with a pastry blender until well blended. Sprinkle the top of the batter evenly with the nut mixture. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan and serve. Cake is best served warm but can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.


(1 Slice)









Weight Watchers: 12 Smart Points, 7 Points Plus, or 6 Traditional Points





Skinny Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

20160323_175154Oatmeal cookies have always held a special place in my heart. I remember when I was young, my family used to go to the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to get fresh picked sweet corn and other produce. I would always beg to get the flavored honey sticks and a bag of oatmeal raisin cookies from the bakery vendor. This made waking up early on a day I didn’t have school worth it. As an adult, I still love oatmeal raisin cookies but I also know how unhealthy they can be. I already have a skinny recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies so I was looking for a different type of oatmeal based cookie to try.

20160323_175304These chocolate-cherry oatmeal cookies are not only a tasty, healthier alternative but they also pack three essential foods that can help save your heart from disease. Heart disease runs in my family on both sides and so it is imperative that I take the issue seriously. Any foods that can help decrease my chances of heart disease are something I am willing to try. Put them into cookie form and then how can I resist. Obviously I am not saying you need to eat only these cookies and you will stave off heart disease, but if you want a sensible splurge these are a wise option.

20160323_175145-1The three main ingredients in these cookies (oatmeal, cherries, and dark chocolate) each have properties that promote heart health. Oatmeal helps keep you feeling full longer, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol. By replacing the majority of flour in this recipe with oats increases the potential heart healthy benefits. Cherries, whether fresh or dried, are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are responsible for protecting blood vessels. Lastly, is flavanol-rich dark chocolate, which provides antioxidant qualities along with the ability to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and decrease the stickiness of platelets that cause clots.

With all of the heart healthy benefits these cookies provide one would assume they do not taste very good but in fact they are spectacular. Chewy and full of flavor, you will forget these cookies are a skinny option compared to your favorite childhood oatmeal raisin cookie!

Skinny Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies


  • 1.5 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 oz. Whole-Wheat Flour
  • 1 ½ cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • ¾ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • ¾ cup Dried Cherries
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg; lightly beaten
  • 3 oz. Dark Chocolate Baking Chips (such as Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
  • Cooking Spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Add flours, oats, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Stir with a whisk until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, approximately 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and stir until smooth. Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the mixture on medium speed until well blended. Add the vanilla and egg, beating until combined. Fold in the cherries and chocolate.
  4. Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from the cookie sheets and allow to cool completely on wire racks.


(1 Cookie)

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookie NutritionLabel









Weight Watchers: 4 Smart Points, 2 Points Plus, or 2 Traditional Points





St. Patrick’s Day Cookies

20160318_134842St. Patrick’s Day is a fun celebration for many, not just the Irish. On March 17th of each year you will spot mobs of people wearing green, menus featuring corned beef and cabbage paired with Guinness infused everything, parades, and countless leprechauns, shamrocks, and pots of gold leading to rainbows. The luck of the Irish has spread and you clearly are no longer pinch proof if you do not have Irish blood. It is only fitting that I created some cookies for the occasion.

To achieve the signature look of the holiday I started with a Shamrock and Pot of Gold cutter. I used my favorite sugar cookies as the base. You can use your own favorite recipe or buy store bought dough and roll out to 1/2 inch thick in order to replicate the same look. Once the cookies have baked and cooled you can start decorating. To make these cookies you will need the following:

  • Shamrock Cookie Cutter
  • Pot of Gold Cookie Cutter
  • Outlining Consistency Icing
  • Flood Icing
  • 20-second Icing
  • Green Food Color
  • White Food Color
  • Black Food Color
  • Gold Food Color
  • Gold Edible Glitter (I used Disco Dust)
  • Wilton Squeeze Bottles
  • Small Offset Spatula

potgoldAfter your cookies have baked and cooled, decide which pattern you want to begin with. I began with the pot of gold cookies because they had the greatest chance of bleeding and therefore required a longer drying time. If you decide to do the same, begin by preparing black outline consistency icing. Outline the pot area of the cookie with the black icing, leaving the gold portion blank. Set aside to dry. While the outline dries, prepare the black flood icing. Flood the outlined portion of the pot and use the offset spatula to fill the open space in faster. Set aside to dry completely.

Meanwhile, begin decorating the shamrock cookies. Prepare green outline consistency icing. Outline all areas of the cookie. Set aside to dry while you prepare the green flood consistency icing. Flood the shamrocks and cover the entire surface with green. Allow to dry completely.

shamrockAfter both cookies have had time to dry completely, add details with the 20-second icing. Divide batch of 20-second icing into two. Tint one half gold and the other with optic white. Using the optic white, outline the shamrock as shown or with whatever design you like. On the Pot of Gold, add a large backwards “C” to the right side of the pot and a large, wide “U” to the bottom of the pot. Using the gold 20-second icing, outline the remaining blank area on the pots of gold. Do not flood the blank area inside the outline. Instead make small rounds by squeezing small portions of icing and lifting the tip straight up to resemble a pot filled with coins. With the gold icing still wet sprinkle the area with edible gold glitter. Set aside to dry completely before serving.