Life’s Real Sweetness

If this post seems caffeine-induced, that’s probably because it is.

With the early shift at the coffee shop, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to train for a relay marathon at the end of the month, coffee has felt like a necessity. A delicious, energizing necessity.

In the midst of craziness, there has been time for sweetness.

Un-contrived, mostly unplanned moments that make life sparkle with meaning and joy. Here’s a little glimpse…

We’ve been soaking up the warm sun this past week by spending evenings at the park…

Workouts that leave me like this make me happy and energized all day

My little sister turned eighteen almost a month ago and I still can’t believe it.

And then, I turned twenty myself. 

There is something about reaching a milestone of maturity and yet feeling so far from it that makes you realize how very precious this life is.

All I wanted to do my birthday weekend was go on long adventurous hikes with my family.

Simple, everyday moments. So natural and yet so special. Life in its real sweetness.

If we don’t grab on to it now, it will slip our grasp.

It’s Day 22 of my fast of processed and packaged foods. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few cheat days. But on those days, the little treats that snuck in have been exactly that — treats and not habits. That is exactly how I want to feel toward sweets — special on the occasion but not necessary every day.

I’ve been experimenting with satisfying my sweet tooth naturally. Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s just like the simple gifts of life — it’s the real, un-contrived foods that give sweetness at its best. Sweetness you can feel good about.

I made these cookies on the afternoon of my twentieth birthday. I wanted to celebrate without compromising my Real Food challenge. So I opened the fridge and pantry cupboards and began pulling out an army of ingredients.

These were totally unplanned and had great potential for failure. No sugar, no flour, no butter or oil, no egg, no recipe. My chances of producing something edible were mighty slim, but I think it was the excitement of embarking on a new decade that gave me courage.

Surprise of all surprises — they worked. And they were delicious. 

So delicious in fact, Jenny couldn’t keep her hands off of them.

“These are the best things you ever made. Seriously. I think turning twenty has made you a really good cook.”

I really had no idea how to interpret that so I just kept munching and smiled. She has no idea she basically consumed a day’s worth of vegetables and whole grains in the four cookies she ate.

It’s the natural, bite-sized moments in life that are the sweetest.

 Carrot Cake Apple Bites

~ makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

  •  1/3  c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 c. oat flour
  •  ¼ t. salt
  •  ½ t. cinnamon
  •  ½ t. baking powder
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. vanilla
  •  ¾ c. grated apple
  •  ½ c. grated carrots
  •  2 T. almond milk
  • ¼ c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. chopped apple
  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • To make buckwheat flour and oat flour: process raw buckwheat groats/raw oats in a food processor or blender until a fine, flour-like texture
  • In a large bowl, combine buckwheat flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and rolled oats.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple and carrots and almond milk.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  • Mix in coconut, chopped apple, and rolled oats.
  • Drop by teaspoonful on to prepared baking sheet. These cookies will not spread out much at all when baking so shape them as you want them to look after baking.
  • Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutrition Facts for 1 cookie~ Calories: 83.5, Total Fat: 4.6g (Sat.fat: 2.8g), Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 53.6mg, Potassium 39.5mg, Total Carbohydrate: 11.6g (Dietary Fiber: 3.0g, Sugars 3.6g) Protein: 1.5g.

Cookies for breakfast, anyone?

40 Days of Conscious, Natural Eating

“Fasting is an expression of seeking God with life-and-death seriousness”
– John Piper

I’m on Day 5 of a 40-day long journey.

For forty days I am fasting off of all processed foods. The purpose is more than just to gain an appreciation of real food (though that is definitely included). It is more than just denying myself for the season of Lent. My real motivation is to be more actively engaged in prayer and ministry with time and energy normally spent eating.

I have two “focus points” for this challenge:

  • A 40 Days for Life campaign is going on in my city during the Lent season. It is a community prayer vigil for the awareness and protection of human life.
  • A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor. This devotional-style book has daily readings to guide intercession for undeveloped countries where hunger is a life-threatening issue. By eating a diet similar to these cultures for forty days, I hope to be reminded to be in constant prayer.

This is going to be hard at times, but I am so excited. Excited to see where eating intentionally and with purpose leads my thoughts and prayers and actions. I’m also excited to share what I learn with you. I have a number of posts lining up: What I’m not eating v. what I’m eating, a day in unprocessed meals, hunger v. appetite, being satisfied with less, and 100% natural recipes!

For now, here are the lessons I’ve learned these first five days:

1)      I am such a product of this convenience, have-what-I-want-when-I-want-it culture. Food is so available to me, when I go to the grocery store, when I walk into the drugstore, when I’m studying at the kitchen table. It doesn’t take much thought to find food, but I also realize that I often orient my day in terms of food: Before my run, I’ll grab a handful of nuts and afterwards I’ll make a smoothie…As soon as I get to work I’m making myself a latte…Friends are coming over, I need to stock up on chips and dip…I can’t wait to end this day with a big bowl of popcorn and some chocolate. These thoughts stem from food habits, not necessity and are foreign to most of the world where the purpose of eating is nourishment and survival.

2)      To combat sweet cravings, don’t limit FRUIT: I’m really giving myself no limitations here. The idea is that if I satisfy my sweet cravings with fruit, I won’t be tempted by sugar. Fruit has been my #1 snack, and I’m making it my job to keep the fridge well stocked with apples, berries, and oranges. And, of course, BANANAS. I think I’ve been averaging 2.5 a day.

3)      Fill your plate with fresh VEGETABLES in their natural state: Again, no limit here. I am trying to bulk up my meals with produce, eating them in their most natural forms possible – either raw, roasted or stir-fried over the stove. Cutting out processed ingredients means skipping my typical seasonings like stir-fry sauce. Minimal seasoning’s been going on with salt + pepper, herbs, and lemon juice. What I’m finding is this way of cooking brings out the natural flavors vegetables which are amazing on their own!

  • Discovery: Mushrooms are amazing. I bought a huge box of baby Portabellas and have been throwing them into almost every savory dish. They add tremendous flavor and are stellar on the nutrition scale: 5g of protein and 3g fiber for each cup plus high levels of minerals like selenium, B vitamins, and riboflavin.

4)      Eating only unprocessed WHOLE GRAINS expands creativity. Starchy carbs are my number one craving and I knew going into this challenge the hardest thing for me to give up would be processed grains – cereal crackers, pretzels, packaged bread, tortilla chips. If I am going to persevere through this, I need to get creative with real whole grains. Brown rice, buckwheat, oats, cornmeal bulgur – this are the staples of the underdeveloped world (and most of the world, for that matter) and for the next forty days, they are mine too.

5)      All that’s needed to make a meal is Grain+Vegetable+Protein. For breakfast this has been oats + pumpkin(or sub fruit for vegetable) + nuts, lunch is homemade tortilla (recipe coming soon!!) + green veggie + beans, and dinner is brown rice/bulgur + beans or tofu + salad. No condiments, no frills. Simple and satisfying.

6)      Making one-pot meals and not snacking takes my mind off of food and onto more important things. Instead of my typical snack-through-day habit, I am attempting an approach of eating three meals a day, not for social or boredom reasons, but simply to feed my body well. When the munchies hit, instead of hitting the snack cupboard, I am purposing to get my thoughts and hands busy accomplishing this list:

  • Pray for country and people featured in A Place at the Table
  • Pray through missionary list provided from my church
  • Sign up for a time slot at 40 Days for Life
  • Read: Currently Bonhoeffer and Francis Schaeffer
  • Call a friend or family members
  • Take a walk with my mom and sisters

I plan on getting a lot done these forty days!!

My Single Healthy Heart

At our recital this past Saturday, one of my student’s moms came up to me with a timid smile.

“Our next lesson is scheduled for Tuesday night. That’s Valentines Day. I just wanted to make sure…are you…do you have plans?”

It took me a minute to realize what she was asking, and then I smiled reassuringly. “Oh no, I’m not doing anything”.

“That’s okay”, she leaned in and patted my arm. “My husband and I aren’t doing anything either”.

Sure, Valentines Day isn’t made for the single young woman who spends the night teaching piano lessons and sitting on the couch in a messy bun with my two sisters. But, I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I have far to much love in my life to feel that I’m missing out. And I’m not going to be left out of celebrating, either. There are more than enough hearts and chocolate to go around, thankyouverymuch.

This Valentines Day, I’m taking care of my heart by feeding on antioxidant rich nuts and fruits. With chocolate, of course. Because, we all know that is the real attraction to the holiday.

Check out the heart-friendly ingredients in this Valentines-inspired, dressed up trail mix:

  • Walnuts: Contain the more antioxidants than any other nut. Antioxidants protect cells against damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals. The damage can play a role in heart disease and other health conditions.
  • Pistachios: A lower-fat nut, full of antioxidants, phytosterols, unsaturated fats and various vitamins and minerals,  vitamins, and fiber — all of which work to lower cholesterol and promote heart health
  • Cranberries: Cranberries contain no fat, no cholesterol, and very little sodium and are great sources of fiber, flavonoids and polyphenoics.
  • CHOCOLATE: The cocoa bean has flavanols that act as anti-inflammatory nd antioxidant agents, keeping blood pressure low and arteries healthy.

I always knew there was a good reason to eat more chocolate!

Because I fully intend to spend Valentine’s Day, bonding with a bowl of this trail mix. With my single ladies. And probably a good book.

Keeping my heart healthy till the day I give it away.

I hope he doesn’t mind if I pick out all the chocolate chips for myself.

Heart-Loving Trail Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 c. walnuts
  • 1 1/2 c. shelled pistachios
  • 2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips (or more, ;))
  • 1 t. dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t, sea salt

Directions

  • Mix nuts, cranberries, and chocolate together in a large bowl
  • Sift cocoa powder over mix and stir until everything is well “coated”
  • Sprinkle with sea salt

Serve with love. Even if you are the only one eating it.

Walk by the $6.99 bagged trail mixes, the racks of Valentines Cards, and the case of red roses with your head held high.

Know that you are loved. Your heart, though single, is full. And happy.

“Breakfast” Anytime: Herb and Cheese Souffle

I like thinking about breakfast.

I do it a lot. I think I’m making up for lost time.

When I used to think about breakfast, I used to think….well, not much. I rarely ate breakfast back in the day.

I don’t know who that girl was. Except that she wasn’t very healthy. And she was missing out big time. Breakfast is now my favorite meal of the day.

Now I savor my mornings. I pad downstairs and pour myself a big glass of water to drink while reading my Bible and journaling. Then I sip a mug of green tea while I ready my school books and contemplate what I want for breakfast. There’s nothing more sad than rushing into eating something I’m not really in the mood for. I generally choose between one of these breakfasts (in no particular order):

  • Oats/oat bran. Cooked stove-top style with almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla and some kind of fruit mixed in (banana, berries, apple, pear)
  • Yogurt parfait. Plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit, topped with cereal and drizzled with maple syrup.
  • Big bowl of Cereal. I am without shame a cereal mixer (maybe that’s why I love granola?) — sometimes it gets crazy 😉 I always need to pair my bowl with a whole piece of fruit because cereal alone never fills me up!
  • Smoothie — my favorite post-workout breakfast. See here, here, and here.
  • Whole grain toast with mashed banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Kind of like the lazy version of my Pumpkin Banana French Toast
Things I never crave for breakfast?
  • Pastries. Keep the donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls away from me and hand over the fruit.
  • Savory Veggies. Meaning tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. Ick. That being said, I do it some veggies for breakfast (Hello pumpkin! Green (spinach) smoothies!)
  • Eggs.
I used to think I didn’t like eggs at all because of the way my stomach turned on the Saturday mornings Dad cooked omelets. The savory smells and the gooey yolks were too much to take at eight am on a weekend. A big reason I never ate breakfast was that I didn’t realize there were breakfast foods I liked. I needed to find my modus operandi for breaking the fast.

Lightly sweetened whole grains with fruit? Sold.

Eggs in the morning? No thanks. But any other time — cook them till the yolk is set,  season them with fresh herbs, and I’m more than willing.

Put them in cute little ramekins and bake till light and puffy, and I’m in love forever.

Cheesy Herb Souffle 

Slightly adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half of a small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour flour
  • 2 eggs, separated + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Romano (or mozzarella or parmesan) cheese
  • ½ t. fresh oregano
  • ½ t. fresh dill
  • ½ t. fresh sage
  • Pinches of salt and peppers
  1. Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to “steep” Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spray 2 mini (150ml) ramekins or 1 2c. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the grated Parmesan.
  2. Melt the butter in a seprate saucepan. Whisk in the flour and let thicken for about two minutes.
  3. Remove onion and bay leaf from the milk and gradually whisk flour-butter mixture into the milk. Continue to heat and stir until thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and beat in egg yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Stir a spoonful of whites into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together.
  6. Pour into the soufflé dish and bake until risen and set, but not completely firm in the middle, about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the soufflé dishes.
  7. Serve immediately before it slumps!

Dad took the older sister out for breakfast this morning. He’s probably eating a fancy omelet and she’s probably cutting into a mountain of Belgian waffles. Topped with whipped cream. And maybe a chocolate drizzle.

I’m not jealous, though. I happy to b here, sipping the last of my green tea, and licking the last bit of yogurt from my spoon. Breakfast just the way I like it best.

Food Habits: Self-Evaluation

I am a creature of (strange) habit.

Every night, before I go to bed I set the alarm on my phone. Every morning I wake up before the alarm goes off because there is nothing I hate more than being jolted awake by an obnoxious ring.

Today, when I wake up to a snow-covered world, my instinct is to run downstairs, pull on my bright blue snow pants and dash out to build snow forts and freeze my fingers until I can’t feel them any more and need to come inside and de-thaw with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Just like when I was eight years old.

This week, in my Food and Culture class, I had the opportunity to reflect on my personal food habits by filling out a self-evaluation form. As a Dietetics student and a self-admitted “foodie”, I imagine I think about my food habits more than the average person. But it was still interesting to think about why I eat as I do and what cultural influences affect how I eat.

In order to make healthy changes to your diet, it’s important to evaluate the way you are currently eating. As a Dietitian one day, that is what I hope to do so it was good for me to start with evaluating my own diet. I’m sharing a bit of what I learned here. I’d love to read some of your own food habits in the comments!

Meal Composition/Cycle

How many meals do you eat each day? I eat three meals a day, with breakfast being my largest and most important meal. I tend to decrease meal sizes as the day goes on and my dinners are often smaller than my lunches, simply because I feel less hungry and in need of energy at the end of the day. I also am a big snacker, but try to limit myself to two-three medium sized snacks a day.

What elements (bread, rice, meat, vegetables, or other) are needed to make a meal for you?  It is very rare that a meal does not include vegetables in some form – often as salad loaded with other veggies. Even at breakfast, I often incorporate spinach, pumpkin, or shredded carrots. Another necessary element of my meals is a protein source. I am a vegetarian so this is usually in the form of beans, hummus, tofu/tempeh, yogurt, or cottage cheese. I also usually have some kind of whole grain at a meal: whole wheat toast, oats, millet, or brown rice

What is a typical serving size of meat, starch, and vegetable for you? I don’t eat meat, but my protein servings are typically:  ½c. beans or tofu, 2 eggs, ¾c. Greek yogurt, ½c. cottage cheese. A starch serving is typically ½c. and a typical vegetable serving is 1c.

How often do you snack each day?  What types of foods do you consider a snack? I eat about two to three snacks per day. My favorite snacks are fresh fruit, carrot sticks and hummus, or toast with peanut butter

Food Attitudes

How do your food habits differ from your family norms?  Those of friends?  Those of people you work with?  In what significant ways do they differ? Most of my friends know me as a “health nut” because I often opt out of fast food or ice cream and choose the salad bars at restaurants. Culturally, here in Lancaster County most of my friends eat a Pennsylvania Dutch diet – a lot of pork and potatoes. My family eats a more Italian diet – based in pasta, olive oil, lots of spices and garlic.

Sometimes, I have to fight against the personal bias against people who eat meat or lots of processed foods. I know everyone has different standards and habits when it comes to food and I don’t want what to make what I believe is best for me to be a standard I hold everyone else to.

Application: I am very willing to try new foods! I love ethnic cuisine, especially Mexican and Asian – both trying them at restaurants or friends’ houses and trying new recipes. Growing up on Long Island , New York, a very multicultural place, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and ethnic food traditions. I think being willing to experience and celebrate the traditions of other people is the best way to avoid ethnocentric judgments.

Tiny Recipes (so there’s time to blow your nose)

This has pretty much been my week:

Me: Where has this day gone?

Mom: Up in a pouf of snot.. :/

The “big night” was sitting on the couch with Mom and Jenny, watching politics, guzzling water and passing the tissue box. Aren’t you sorry you missed it?

There has been waaay to much NightQuil flowing around here!

This sickness, unfortunately, came right at the same time as my first week back in classes and my first week of work. So much for entering the new year with energy and enthusiasm! Here’s to 2013!

One thing I have been valuing lately, beside cough drops and lotioned tissues, is tiny recipes. Following @tinyrecipes is my latest Twitter obsession: entire recipes all in the short space of one tweet. It’s clever, fun, and uncomplicated for my swollen sinuses.

Not many of us have time to lug the cookbook off the shelf at every mealtime. Most days I’m lucky if lunch even makes it on to a plate. I need fast, simple, and healthy. Oh and immune-boosting, cold-fighting ingredients are always a plus.

Ready? Six quick and favorite recipes in 140 characters or less:

Humolsa:
1 mashed avocado + 1/3 c. hummus + 1/3 c. salsa
#scoopit

Egg-topped salad:
Pour 2-3 egg whites in a greased skillet, top with veggies of choice. Cook till egg is settled, flip and cook 2 min. Serve over hearty salad.

HLT:
Layer hummus, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat roll. “Grill” both sides of sandwich on a greased frying pan until hummus is “melty”.

Pumpkin Green Monster:
Banana, pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, instant coffee, spinach, and cinnamon #pumpkinpieinaglass

Fruit “Roll-Ups”:
Spread almond butter on Whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with cinnamon, and wrap around a whole banana. Cut into bite-sized slices.
#snackable #tastebudsofachild

Yogurt Parfait:
Top a Greek yogurt with a sliced banana, crumbed baked oatmeal or muffin or raw oats and sprinkle with cinnamon.
#instantbreakfast #tastesfancy

What are your favorite tiny recipes?

Oh, and got any cold-busting tips to share? I’ll pay in honey-lemon cough drops.

Savoring Break: Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal

I am a huge fan of this thing called “break”.

Waking up without an alarm clock after eight hours of restful sleep. Thinking “What do I want to do today” instead of “How many items can I knock off of my gazillion lists before the day’s out?”

Having time to spend with friends and family so my sister tells me every single day: “You are so much nicer and happier now”. I had no idea what a monster school made out of me.

I may be over sugar and cookies, but I am not ready to say goodbye to the holiday spirit. No siree. I am going to savor every moment for as long as I can.

Days like yesterday. I puttered around half the morning before bundling up and heading out in the sub-freezing temperatures for a run. I kept my mind off my frostbitten nose by planning a warm, nutritious breakfast. Then I ran harder to get back home and into the kitchen.

My vision of Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal was whipped up and baking away quicker than the drive-through at Dunkin Donuts to cash in my brand spanking new gift card. Thank you, Aunt Robin. That large coffee was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious smells of winter spices and orange zest wafting from the oven.

Breakfast was everything I hoped for and much more. I “mmmed” at every bite and felt so good making two healthy decisions that morning. It was the perfect balance for spending the rest of the day with friends, sprawled on the couch and eating chocolate covered strawberries.

My free days are fleeing by and there won’t be many more days to drink in the joys of life, of family and friends. So right now, I’m just going to be thankful. And savor every delicious bite.

Chocolate-covered strawberries and oatmeal alike.

Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal~ serves one ~

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
  • 1 Chai tea bag
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T. ground flax
  • 1/2 banana, mashed*
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. chopped cranberries
  • orange zest
  • stevia to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 and spray a ramekin with cooking spray.
  • In a small saucepan, heat water and milk with tea bag until it simmers lightly. Remove from heat and allow tea bag to steep for a few minutes. Remove bag, squeezing to release flavor. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared ramekin and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

* The banana is to bind the batter together. If you’re not a banana fan, you can substitute either one whole egg or 1/4c. unsweetened applesauce.

I’m going to make this tomorrow morning so I can feel okay about my last hurrah, snacking all night and ringing in the New Year. It’s all about balance, folks.

Make Time for Tempeh

I know it is a week till Christmas (eek!) and this should be a post of festive cookie recipes, but though that post will come, it is not this post.

Truth #1: I am not officially finished with the semester until Tuesday, so my opportunities to bake have been slim.

Truth #2: I did take some time off studying the past few days to do some baking, and, well let’s just say I went a little overboard. As in did not take a shower till noon today, I still have icing in my hair, and I’m pretty sure if I don’t bake again till Valentines Day, that will be just fine with me. (Don’t hold me to it, though).

Truth #3: After a few days of rolling in sugar and flour, the last thing I want to do right now is look at a bunch of pictures of cookies. That time will come. Right now, I just want to eat something full of nutritious and wholesome ingredients. Like Tempeh Quesadillas.

Stay with me, here. Never had tempeh? It’s time you met.

Tempeh is a superfood, made by fermented soybeans formed into a patty, similar in substance and nutrition to tofu. It is very minimally processed and so is rich in soybean nutrition: high protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and beneficial isoflavones. It has a textured, nutty flavor, but also quickly absorbs the flavors of the foods and spices it is cooked with. I have found it to be a very versatile substitute for meat — crumbled into chili or taco “meat”, grilled for a TLT (tempeh+lettuce+tomato), and now used in place of chicken strips in one of my old favorites, the quesadilla.

Tempeh Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1/3 pkge tempeh
  • /2 green pepper, diced
  •  2 T. chopped onion
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • 1/8 t. garlic salt
  •  1 large whole wheat tortilla
  •  2 T. hummus
  •  1 T. low-fat cottage cheese
Directions
  • Slice tempeh into thin slices, about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add tempeh, peppers and onion to the pan and sprinkle with lime juice and spices. Saute, flipping tempeh for even cooking until it is lightly brown and vegetables are soft. Set aside in a dish.

  • Lay tortilla in the frying pan. Spread hummus across tortilla and spoon cottage cheese on one half of the tortilla.
  • On the cottage cheese side, spoon tempeh and veggies. Let tortilla heat a bit open-faced, about 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • With a spatula Gently fold the empty side of the tortilla over the vegetables and using the spatula edge, “seal” sides together.
  • Continue to heat, flipping quesadilla after a few minutes to brown both sides.
  • Serve warm with salsa, Greek yogurt, or guacamole.
This is not like your typical quesadilla — there isn’t even any cheese! But, trust me, it’s good. When heated, the hummus and cottage cheese get all gooey and delicious and the veggies and tempeh add wonderful flavor. As for nutrition? It’s hard to beat these stats:Who says vegetarians don’t get their protein? That’s 21g right there, as well as 10g fiber and high amounts of both Calcium and Iron.

Whether you eat meat or not, it’s good to expand your repertoire of healthy ingredients and experiment with a few new superfoods. The more nutritious variety available to you, the less you will find yourself reaching for the unhealthier options.

What did you say about Christmas cookies?

Come back soon. I’ve got to brush my teeth a few more times.

So Much to Be Thankful For: Savory Bread Pudding

Yes, Josh, I’m looking at you.

I really am pretty blessed.

I have a family who sees all of my idiosyncrasies, meltdowns and bedhair, and loves me anyway.

A home where I am safe, cared for, and kept warm.

A professor who makes a last-minute decision to cancel class on Thanksgiving-eve.

The unexpected joy of spending the whole afternoon snuggled with sweats, blankets, and cranberry-pomegranate green tea because class was cancelled.

An entire weekend with no deadlines to spend with cousins, aunts and uncles and my grandpa.

A great big extended family who hugs, talks loudly, and eats well in the good old Italian way.

A Thanksgiving eve service that reminds me from Whom all blessings flow; that life is about much more stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie. Yum.

Friends who invite us for Thanksgiving dinner.

The excuse to bake Thanksgiving-y dishes all week long, because, well, we’ll be at friend’s house for the actual dinner and what’s Thanksgiving without a messy kitchen and leftovers?

The butternut squash and Brussels sprouts falling out of the fridge just as I was contemplating vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving dishes.

A healthy, hearty, scrumptious dish to help combat all the sweets and treats I’ll be consuming this weekend.

Savory Autumn Bread Pudding 
~ Serves 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and subed
  • 1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts, cut in halves
  • 1 large apple, diced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 T. dried rosemary
  • 4 pieces whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 1/3 c. milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 eggs + 2 egg whites
  • 2 T. raisins

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange squash and Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake about 30 minutes, or until tender.
  • Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil, salt, pepper garlic, and rosemary. Combine vegetables and onion in a medium casserole dish. Top with bread cubes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Pour mixtures over bread. Sprinkle raisins on top.
  • Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes, until egg is set.

This was baked alongside my sister’s egg-sausage-cheese-frenchfriedonion casserole. I’m thankful all our hearts are pumping.

Guess which casserole was licked clean within minutes? Apparently the beauty of Brussels sprouts is outshone by the glitz of cheese covered French-fried-onions. But I am thankful my family was considerate enough to leave me leftovers. What’s Thanksgiving without them?

Make it Better: Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies

At the ripe old age of nineteen, I’ve come to the realization that life is full of inconveniences. They’re unwanted, unplanned, and unavoidable. I have spent a lot of energy and time trying to remove them, but to no avail. So I’ve also come to the realization that they must be meant to be. Part of the greater good God’s working in my life (Romans 8:28). These everyday inconveniences can be opportunities to learn lessons and challenges to find and cultivate the good in “bad” days.

When you have a three hour lab that includes a two hour wait, when you and your lab partners are yawning at each other under foggy lab classes, turn it into a conversation opportunity. You may just make some nerdy new friends

When you are “feeling a bit out of sorts,” your throat is scratchy, and your nose is sniffly, turn your downtime on the couch to read that book you haven’t gotten around to.

When the weather keeps you inside from the run you were planning, turn on cheerful Christmas music and try a new workout.

When you’ve had a long rough day at school, use your car ride home to call your sister and plan a movie-popcorn night.

When you’ve stayed up late talking to a friend and your alarm goes off at 5:15am, be sure to cash your Dunkin Donut coupon in for a tall coffee

When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you’re coming. (That one’s from Winnie the Pooh. Go read him)

When you want to turn unhealthy sweets into healthy treats, be sure to make them 1)edible and 2)yummy. Just so you know, almond flour + oat flour is a magic combination.

And please, when you have three kinds of baking chips, be sure to use them all.

Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies
~ makes 6 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. coconut
  • 2/3 c. Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 egg (or 1 T. flax seed + 2 T. water)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • To make oat flour, process oats (1/2 c. at a time) in a blender or food processor until ground into a fine powder. It should look something like this: 
  • Process coconut in a blender or food processor until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat Earth Balance with sugar and baking soda until fully combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add almond flour, coconut and oat flour and mix well.
  • Stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips.
  • Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown

When you make six dozen cookies that combine oats, almond flour, and coconut, and when you are going to go all crazy in the baking chips department, be sure to eat them surrounded by friends.

I promise they will taste a thousand times better. And your day will be a thousand times sweeter.