HEALTHY HOLIDAY CHEESEBALL

Wow, It is hard to believe that there are only four days before Christmas. If you are like me, you are still putting all the finishing touches on decorating your home for this season, baking last minute Christmas cookies and wrapping that last present and placing it under your Christmas tree. I prepared this cheeseball last night for my husband’s work place Christmas party today. As usual, I wanted to modify my original recipe calling for cream cheese, shredded cheese, chopped nuts and a one ounce packet of ranch flavor dressing mix. I purchased the 1/3 less fat Neufchatel Cheese to replace the higher fat cream cheese. Next I walked over to the cheese aisle in the grocery store, admiring all of the wonderful varieties of cheese. I selected a few for the holiday season and also purchased a package of Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese made with 2% Milk in place of the shredded cheese made with whole milk. I chose the reduced fat version because I have found that these do not alter the taste and still have a smooth consistency. The revised version of this recipe still contains dairy fat, but much less now per serving with these minor changes. Dairy products are a good source of calcium and protein so I  use them in my diet for that reason. I have used some organic dairy products and find the taste of these is very good. My favorite dairy food of all is Black Cherry  Greek Yogurt.

Healthy Holiday Cheese Ball

 

I used ground walnuts in my recipe but you could use ground pecans or another variety of nuts as well. Walnuts contain heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a very beneficial for heart health and may also reduce inflammation in the body. Walnuts are also a rich source of polyunsaturated fat, including an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid which also benefits our hearts. Walnuts have also been linked to improving brain health and prevention of cancer in some medical studies. Including a handful of nuts in your diet each day is also a great way to receive dietary fiber, protein and heart healthy fats. Add them to snack mixes or cereal in the morning also. Two tablespoons will provide 100 calories, 10 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 0 mg of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of protein and 1 gram of dietary fiber.

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HEALTHY HOLIDAY CHEESEBALL
Recipe type: snack
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 8 oz packages ⅓ less fat Neufchatel Cheese
  • 1½ cups Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese made with 2% Milk
  • 1¼ cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 tsp Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Salt Free Seasoning Blend
  • 2 tsp minced Dehydrated Onion
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Set cream cheese out at room temperature in a large bowl for ½ hour before mixing the ingredients together to make it easier to work with. Mix seasonings into the cream cheese with a spoon or mixer. Crush the chopped nuts. After the seasonings are mixed into the cream cheese, add the cheddar cheese and mix well. Form into a ball and roll in the chopped nuts. Refrigerate until serving time and serve on a platter with a variety of crackers and raw vegetables.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/20 of recipe Calories: 130 Fat: 11 grams Saturated fat: 4.75 Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 3 grams Sodium: 142 mg Fiber: 0.5 grams Protein: 5 grams Cholesterol: 22 mg

 

If you are a label reader, you will no doubt find that many prepackaged seasoning mixes are very high in sodium content and many also contain monosodium glutamate which I prefer to avoid in my diet. For this reason, I experimented with my spices on hand in my cupboard and substituted the Garlic and Herb salt free Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, garlic powder, onion powder and dehydrated minced onion in place of the ranch flavored dressing mix.

Serve the Healthy Holiday Cheeseball for your Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebrations.

 

 

You may wish to serve this cheeseball with a variety of crackers and raw vegetables for your Christmas Eve or New Years Eve celebrations. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year readers.

Merry Christmas

I love decorating my kitchen with vintage table cloths or table runners, antique pictures and other vintage memorabilia. I purchased the table cloth pictured above at an antique store here in my small Minnesota city of 18,000 residents that I reside in.  It is right at home on top of my old singer sewing machine purchased for me by my late mother in an antique store in Mapleton, Minnesota. The The Singer Sewing Machine is displayed in my entryway to my home. My advent wreath with red candles sits on top of my old sewing machine welcoming guests into my home.

Singer Sewing Machine in the Entryway of my Home

 

Have a Merry Christmas as well as a blessed and prosperous New Year!

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

It is beginning to look like fall here in Minnesota. The leaves on the trees are turning beautiful shades of bright yellow, red and orange. The farmers markets are selling all varieties of squash including zucchini as well as apples and baked goods. I purchased a zucchini there recently and baked a batch of moist and delicious Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies. They are easy to pack into a lunchbox or enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I lightened up the recipe by substituting unsweetened applesauce in place of vegetable oil. This decreases the calories in the entire recipe by 960 or 60 calories per serving. The recipe yields 16 brownies. I also added 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed to the recipe to increase the fiber content and add extra texture to the recipe. You may substitute margarine or coconut oil if desired in place of butter in this recipe to reduce the cholesterol and saturated fat content of the recipe. Recent research on coconut oil has shown that it offers many promising health benefits, including improvement in cognitive functioning according to some newer studies.

I usually do not frost these brownies since they taste very good without the frosting. I was baking some cupcakes for my niece’s wedding shower and had some frosting left over so I decided to use it up by frosting these brownies. It does add some extra flavor and helps satisfy that chocolate urge that I sometimes crave.

The picture below was taken a week ago in Lansing, Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River in a park perched above this small river town. We went camping for the weekend in the area and explored the quaint river towns and gorgeous scenery in northeast Iowa and ventured across the river into Wisconsin as well. It was a fun weekend! Of course I packed up a batch of some freshly baked double chocolate zucchini brownies to take along on our weekend adventure!

 

 

I used Hersheys 100% cacao dark cocoa in this recipe to improve the health benefits of using dry cocoa. The cacao dark chocolate cocoa powder is higher in antioxidant flavonoid content. Flavonoids are part of a powerful group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Flavonoids battle disease producing free radicals in our body. Dry cocoa is very healthy, extremely low in fat content as well as a low calorie food. It can be used in baking cakes and brownies or add 2 tsp to your favorite smoothie for a chocolate flavor. It is very good when added to banana and peanut butter  smoothies. Dry cacao powder also has heart health benefits as well and may help to lower the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup Hershey's dry100% cacoa dark cocoa baking cocoa
  • 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini, gently pressed to remove excess liquid
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ ground flaxseed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., or 330 degrees if using a glass pan. Lightly spray a 9 x 9 inch cake pan with non-stick spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, honey, applesauce, sugar and almond extract until smooth in consistency. Combine dry ingredients, including ground flaxseed in a separate bowl and gently stir together until combined. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until well combined.Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds if desired to the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan Bake for 35-40 minutes until done or until a toothpick inserted in the brownies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the brownies cool off before cutting.
  2. Dark Chocolate Frosting: ¼ cup ( ½ stick) butter, ⅓ cup Hershey's dark cacao dry cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup 1% milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. Melt butter in a small glass bowl the microwave. Stir in cocoa.Alternately add the powdered sugar and the milk, beating to a spreading consistency.Stir in vanilla. Makes one cup of frosting.
  4. Spread cooled brownies with the frosting.
Notes
if you do not frost the brownies, the nutritional value per brownie is as follows: 179 calories, 6 grams total fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 1 gram unsaturated fat, 0 grams trans fats, 27 mg cholesterol, 127 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber and 4 grams protein.

The information presented in this food blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Contact your personal health care professional for medical and nutritional advice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/16 of recipe Calories: 221 Fat: 7 grams Saturated fat: 4 grams Unsaturated fat: 1 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 37 Sodium: 135 mg Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 4 grams Cholesterol: 29 mg

 

The picture below shows one of the many historic buildings in Lansing, Iowa.

Overlooking the Mississippi River in Ferryville, Wisconsin
The Clear Stream in Lansing, Iowa. Great trout fishing stream.
Exploring the campground.
Relaxing around the camp fire at the campground near Lansing, Iowa.