Christmas Traditions and Fresh Spinach Dip

I don’t know about all of you, but this skinnyfat girl has been BUSY!  Holiday parties, Christmas cooking, buying presents, et cetera, et cetera…

How was your holiday?  Mine was absolutely wonderful. 

On the 24th, my hubby, sister, and I headed for Oklahoma where my mom, dad, and little brother live.  When we got there we watched It’s a Wonderful Life, as we do every year on Christmas Eve.  There is always the inevitable moment about halfway through the movie where my mom will get annoyed at all of us for quoting lines and getting into philosophical debates over certain scenes.  It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, I am always beaming by the end of it.

After the movie, my siblings and I raided the fridge, well tried to anyway, it was pretty much filled with food for Christmas dinner.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if my mom hadn’t been watching us like a hawk.  We just had toast and then headed to bed.

In the morning, we had our traditional Christmas breakfast – each of our favorite sugary cereals.  It’s Fruit Loops for my sister, Reeses Puffs for my brother, the hubby has Frosted Flakes, and I have Lucky Charms.  My dad has Life cereal and then a bowl of Lucky Charms.  My mom rarely indulges, but she usually has granola or something similar.  I am responsible for this not-so-healthy tradition as I was the one who, at the tender age of about 4 or 5, convinced my mom to buy “special” cereal once a year for Christmas. 

And, of course, after breakfast there are presents.  I didn’t start this tradition, but I thoroughly approve of it.

I also approve of another tradition; one that I am implementing now.  Fresh spinach dip for Christmas, New Year’s, and mealtimes.

Fresh Spinach Dip

  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 8 oz. package neufchatel cheese (or vegan cream cheese)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (you choose the color, I used red)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

First combine the greek yogurt and neufchatel cheese together.  You will need to either mix it with a hand mixer or blend it in your food processor or blender.  It will not work to just mix it using a wooden spoon.  Trust me, I tried.  It may have worked if the neufchatel cheese was softened (note to self for next time).

Then chop your various ingredients.

Bell pepper…

Fresh spinach (chop off stems and discard)…

Water chestnuts…

If you do not have water chestnuts…

Go to the store and buy some right now.  This is the ingredient that makes this spinach dip so special.  Just trust me on this.

Now add your garlic powder, paprika, salt and that’s it!

Now it’s time to eat!  You can serve the dip in a bowl with crackers or you can get fancy and make a bread bowl like I did.

Happy (almost) New Year, everyone!  I wish you all the wonderful and happy things that life can bring, including spinach dip.

~Elesha, a skinnyfat girl (New Year’s resolutions: eat lots of spinach dip, post to SkinnyfatGirls once a week)

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

December is the best month of the year, hands down.

To kick things off, we celebrate a very important birth – mine. Yep, I celebrated my 25th birthday on the first! The hubs threw me a surprise party so wonderful that I actually cried with joy. I’ve always heard that as you age you become more emotional, and so far it seems to be true. I cried while watching a Shirley Temple movie this weekend. Seriously?

Me and the hubs on my birthday.

When all the birthday hooplah ends, the Christmas hooplah begins, full swing! FedEx started delivering the holiday goodies to the office this week. First, Creme Brulee Almonds!

The next day we got a gingerbread cake. This was not just any old cake. This cake made all my molasses dreams come true. I hadn’t even realized I had molasses dreams. I also hadn’t realized how delicious gingerbread can be. This cake is incredible. Amazing. It’s magic cake.

As with most cake, the magic is made with refined sugar and flour, so I thought it best to eat just a small piece. Fine, two small pieces. Okay, three! Three small pieces! Thankfully, there are other people in the office to eat the rest because I probably would just eat it all by myself.

I’m really hoping FedEx brings cheese next week. Hey, we got some last year – it could happen! If not, another gingerbread cake would be acceptable.

The hubs and I have been doing a lot of juicing to offset all the holiday indulgence.

Besides some almonds and three small pieces of cake, the holiday indulgence I speak of is mostly cookies. I become cookie monster at Christmastime. Me want cookie…like, every day. And pluralize that cookie; me want 3 or 4. One of my favorite things in the world is snuggling up with a hot cup of somethin’ and warm cookies from the oven to watch a christmas movie in my fleece pajamas. Life can’t get any better that that.

Baking cookies every night is a great idea if your goal this holiday season is to put on ten pounds. That’s not my personal goal, but I still have trouble quenching the cookie monster within, so I did some experimenting with recipes and substituted the white, sugary stuff with healthier sweeteners and whole wheat. Success! I can now silence the cookie monster within without gaining ten pounds! Please remember that while these are a healthier alternative to regular cookies, they’re still cookies and should be considered a treat! During December, however, treats are permissible at least once a day, so you may want to stock up on flax seeds.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from this recipe, makes a batch of 12 cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa (regular or dark; I used a combo)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup butter or substitute, nearly melted (I use Smart Balance Lite)
1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar (if you don’t have either sweetener listed below, go with 1/2 cup)
1/4 t stevia (optional)
1 T raw sugar (optional for added sweetness or if you don’t have stevia)
1/2 t vanilla
1 flax egg (or 1 regular egg)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks (I use 60% cacao bittersweet chips – low in sugar)
1/3 cup walnuts (optional, but definitely make the cookies nice and “chunky”!)

(For those of you who have never made a flax egg before, click here for step-by-step instructions. Easy peasey, lemon squeezy!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a flax egg, make it following the instructions provided in the link above and put it in the fridge to set for at least 15 minutes.

2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, sugars, stevia, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in the flax egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and spread the dough into a flat cookie shape (these cookies will not melt or spread, so they will bake in their pre-baked shape or a little bit puffier).

3. Bake for 9 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set but still soft. Remove from cookie sheet immediately (so they don’t continue to bake) and let cool.

I like gooey cookies and these did not disappoint. I made two batches; one with a regular egg and one with a flax egg. The batch with the regular egg came out a bit too dry or “bread-like” for my taste (actually, those are the ones pictured), and I preferred the flax egg batch, which was much more gooey. I did notice that even the flax egg cookies had dried out a bit by the next day, so I recommend either making a smaller flax egg or eating the cookies the same day as you bake them. Also, if eating the cookies more than a day after baking them, I like to heat them in the microwave for 8 – 10 seconds.

So go ahead, feed your chocolate craving and enjoy the holidays!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

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