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.

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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.

Places I Love

Lately, I’ve been playing the game “Where I Wish I Was Right Now”.

I play it when I am sitting in my Biochemistry lab, trying to look intelligent while my partner does all the work. News flash: today was the last lab of the semester — and perhaps off my entire college career. I would be more than happy to retire my lab glasses forever.

I play WWIWRN (can I get that patented?) when I see things like this:

Yes that says, Exam, Presentation, Exam all in the last week of class.That’s when I wish for a magic carpet. Or a snow storm or anything.

Where are the places I love most to be?

  • By the fireplace in my PJs with the family
  • In the kitchen, baking cookies and listening to Christmas music
  • The Christmas tree farm where horse-drawn carriage take you to your tree and candy canes and hot chocolate await your return
  • Boston. It’s my favorite city. One day I want to live there.
  • On country roads in the early morning, my neon orange sneakers rhythmically pounding the pavement with cows and horses for company.
  • Anthropologie. I’ve actually only been in one store, but I’m on the website often enough for it to definitely make my list of wishful getaways.
And then there is this place:
Rebecca Florio@beccarosiefloRebecca Florio
I may be putting my reputation on the line, but yes, I count a grocery store as one of my favorite places to be.
Because it’s forty-five minutes away, it’s an all day event that only happens about four times away.
Because it’s TRADER JOE’S. The whole atmosphere is just happy.
Because it inspires snacks like this one:

That would be mini pretzels lathered in pumpkin butter and sunflower butter, topped with Ghiradelli chocolate chips. DO IT.

I came home with lots of goodies, the kinds of signature foods you can only find at TJ’s: the best hummus ever, cinnamon roll bread, sunflower butter, fruit bars, cereals, tofu. It’s like a bottomless treasure chest and I had to remind myself that we were driving a minivan, not a bus.

Mom and I were just heading out the door when she spotted the large bin of pineapples at an incredible price. It didn’t take much convincing for me to turn around and get back in the checkout line.

And it only took a day until the pineapple was put to good use.

I’m a big believer in eating food in season. It’s freshest, most natural, and supports local farming. It also inspires creativity. I could always use more of that.

Which means that if your toes are freezing off in the middle of December and you wish you were tanning on a Florida beach, you can still have your fruit salad. This is the kind that will make you want to pull up your toe socks, pour a warm cup of tea, and cuddle up by the fireplace.

Winter Fruit Salad with Citrus Honey Dressing

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 3 medium pears, diced
  • 3 medium apples, diced
  • 1 pomegranate, peeled and seeded (I use this method)
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. cinnamon
Directions
  • Cut fruit in bite-sized pieces and combine in a large bowl
  • In a small jar or bowl, combine honey, juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Place the lid on the jar and shake, or use a whisk to thoroughly combine ingredients.
  • Pour dressing over fruit and stir to coat.
  • Refrigerate salad for at least 1 hour to let flavors develop.

Of course, now the fruit salad is gone and I’m wishing I had bough three more pineapples at Trader Joe’s.

As if I needed an excuse to take the forty-five minute commute twice in one week. Anyone up for a road trip?

Packable Snackables

It was 4:45pm on a Wednesday. My philosophy professor was an hour into a lecture of Mill’s On Liberty. And I was captive to the vending machine out in the hall.

I seriously could not stop eying it. From the Snickers bar on the top row all the way down to the Doritos at the bottom. Who was I? I can’t remember the last time I bought something from that black abyss of junk food. Yet now, stomach growling and mouth salivating, I was about ready to yell out loud “Give me liberty or give me Reese’s!”

Hunger will do funny things to you. Which is why I try to counteract the 3 o’clock slump by carrying healthy snacks with me. Instead of resorting to desperate measures like borrowing change for a bag of chips, pulling into the nearest fast food for a large order of fries, or ordering a fourth cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts (zing!), I can just reach inside my Mary Poppins backpack for instant energy, satisfaction, and nutrition.

Here are some of the “packable snackables” that have been saving my life I’ve been enjoying lately.

  • Dips and Dipables. This is one of my favorite ways to add veggies to my diet, which also serve as great vehicles for yummy dips, like hummus, salsa, plain yogurt, and cottage cheese. In the picture above, I packed yogurt, hummus, and white bean dip with carrot sticks, green pepper strips, cucumber slices and Mama Pea’s Tofu Dippers (look, I’m eating tofu by itself now!)
  • Fresh fruit. Grabbing an orange, banana, or apple from the fridge is more convenient than any fast-food drive-thru — and will make you feel ten times better. I also like to pack containers of fruit salad (diced melon, sliced peaches, grapes) to eat as a “desserty” option after lunch. It makes it easier to say no to Twinkies when my sweet tooth has already been satisfied.

 

  • Dried Fruit. I’m going on a long car trip today and in preparation, baked up a batch of apple trips to chew on the road. Dried fruit is one of my favorite no-mess travel snacks. Or you can eat half a batch straight off the pan if you prefer. To make your own apple chips, slice five apples into thin (1/8″) slices, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in a 250F oven for about 2 hours or until they are dry and crispy. Easy peasy, no sugar-added alternative to the $$-bags of candied dried fruit at the grocery store.
  • Yogurt. Satisfying, protein-rich, and oh so convenient — what is there not to like about yogurt? Well, maybe the high-sugar content of some of the leading brands. When buying yogurt, choose Greek (2x the protein!), low-fat or fat-free, and less than 30 grams of sugar. If you are planning on being out all day, store your yogurt in a cooler.
  • Bars. If you really want nutrient-dense convenience, stock your purse/backpack/car with whole food protein bars. They are perfect for beating that mid-day slump, refueling after exercise, or supplementing a sub-par restaurant meal (aka, salads for mice). Just be sure to choose brands based in whole foods, and not candy bars dressed up in healthy packaging.

Odwalla asked me to review three of their latest bars and of course I jumped at the opportunity (who doesn’t want to get free food in the mail?). I immediately stuck the Berries Go Mega in my book bag to eat between classes. 1000mg of essential omega-3s from flax, 25% Calcium’s Daily Value, and 5g of fiber? Sounds like an instant brain and mood booster to me. I was pleasantly surprised at how thick and chewy Odwalla’s bars are — not like some of those skimpy protein bars that leave me still hungry.

I ate the Banana Nut as fuel before a day at the mall with Elizabeth. Shopping works up an appetite and I was not spending precious dollars at the food court. I was really impressed by the flavor and texture of this bar — just like homemade banana bread, in all its whole-grain and walnutty richness, but full with vitamins and in such a convenient portable package. I was one happy shopper. Odwalla is definitely worth checking out — and their website is so cute! You can search by whole-food ingredients!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a cooler suitcase of goodies to pack before hitting the road. But please share your favorite healthy on-the-go snacks in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas!

Disclaimer: I was sent Odwalla products free of charge to review for the blog. All opinions are my own.

 

It’s Beginning to Taste Like Fall

Something is happening.

The other morning, instead of daily iced coffee routine, I woke up craving steaming green tea. I had to search deep behind stacks and stacks of mugs to find one big enough.

Another strange thing. It is no surprise that whenever Mom goes anywhere, she almost always manages to drive by a farm stand and almost comes home with a big bag of fresh produce. But the surprise came when she pulled a big butternut squash out of the bag and declared, “It’s time you make butternut apple soup again.” Which I haven’t done yet because butternut squash are far more pretty to look at then to cut.

And then there are all this packages that kept appearing on our front step and now there is a mountain of textbooks stacked in the middle of my bedroom floor. I’m scared to go near it, lest there be an avalanche, so I’m considering sleeping on the couch until it melts.

Oh, and the past couple days when I’ve stepped outside for my early morning runs, I have been shocked by a cool breeze. Where did that come from? And why do I still sweat like it’s 90 degrees?

So the hot tea, butternut squashes, textbooks, and breezy mornings have brought me to a conclusion: The seasons are a-changing. Opening my calendar to September 1 this morning confirmed my suspicions. Autumn is coming.

There’s an excitement that creeps over me at this time of year, just as shades of red and orange creep into summer’s green leaves. There is something about the crisp air, the evening glow, campfires and woolly sweaters that makes my heart so glad. And it reminds me of the faithfulness of God, shown in the way the seasons cycle and the earth is renewed every year. “He did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

But I also know that with summer’s end comes the end of other things as well. Like baking. Let me tell you, I took every opportunity to bake this summer because I knew they would soon be no more. Now, the afternoons I’m not in classes must be devoted to studying. Now, instead of dusting myself in flour from head to toe, I’m spilling chemicals in Biochemistry lab (please, don’t comment. I’m an absolute klutz in the lab). Now, I’m not pursuing cookbooks on a lawn chair, I’m bent over Plato and Locke. In bed. With the covers pulled up to my chin.

During my last week of freedom, I decided to devote my last baking project to making something that would welcome the new season with open arms, to embody everything I loved about fall.

Well hello there, beautiful. I think I can handle you.

Please make this. On a autumn school night, this banana apple bread will keep you warm company, especially if paired with a mammoth mug of hot tea. I promise it will give you happy thoughts during lab disasters and strength to tackle The Leviathan.

And it’s easy enough to whip on a weekend or in between study sessions (shh, I won’t tell).

It’s-Almost-Fall Apple Banana Bread

  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. flax seed meal
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ t. cinnamon
  • 3 ripe bananas mashed (about 1 ½ c.)
  • ¼  c. honey
  • ¼ c. natural peanut butter
  • ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ t. vanilla
  • 1 medium apple, sliced.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8-inch cake pan or 8×4 loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, flax, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  • In a separate bowl, blend mashed banana, honey, peanut butter, applesauce and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add liquids to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  • Pour batter into pan and smooth top with a spoon. Arrange apple slices on top, only overlapping slightly.Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Fall I welcome you with open arms. And open mouth.
In bed with the covers pulled up to my chin.

Celebration Calls for Baking

I feel like celebrating.

I’m not exactly sure why.

It may be because yesterday marked the end of my summer Statistics course. I hit the final “submit” button at 11:13 pm while sitting on my bed in my pajamas. Still awaiting the score on that one…It can wait until I’ve fully enjoyed this sense of accomplishment.

It may be because I just spent the last week at an exhilarating, inspiring conference for girls. Making new friends, getting closer to old ones and being strengthened in my faith had me walking around with a smile all week. It also had me taking a Statistics class at 11:13 pm, but the joy far outweighed the consequences.

Or it may be because in a few short days, I’ll be heading out to Philadelphia for another conference, to learn about nutrition and healthy living, and to stalk a few of my blogger heroines. And staying up till 11:13 pm, on my bed in my pajamas, with my head not bent over a calculator, but immersed in a swag bag of goodies. I’ll take it.

But really, when I think of my blessed life, I see there is much to celebrate. Family and friends who are dear to me, the comfort of home, health and strength to enjoy long runs in the August sunshine, clothes to wear, a bed to sleep in…and study in.

Mostly I rejoice that I know the Source of my blessed life. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). Each day I know that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23,24). Great is His faithfulness.

It’s worth celebrating. Is it weird that I always associate food with celebrating? Whenever there is a birthday, anniversary, graduation, soccer win, passed exam, or just a really good day, my first thought is what recipe best will best commemorate the occasion.

Is that strange? Because if it is and I’m the only one celebrating with blueberry shortbread with coconut streusel, I don’t want to be normal.

Blueberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients:

  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ½ c. margarine
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 2 T. milk
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ¼ c. chopped  pecans
  • ¼ c. unsweetened coconut

Streusel Topping Ingredients:

  • ¼ c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ c. rolled oats
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. chopped pecans
  • ¼ c. margarine, melted

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly pray a 8×8 pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream together sugar, margarine and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add dry ingredients gradually into wet mixture until fully combined. Stir in milk. Gently fold in berries, pecans, and coconut. Press mixture into prepared pan.
  • Topping: Combine flour, coconut, oats, brown sugar, and pecans in a medium bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and stir to coat. Sprinkle topping over bars and gently press into batter.
  • Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

Have you thought of a reason to celebrate yet? These bars are calling your name.

Red is the Color of Love

Oh, Watermelon. How I love thee.
Juicy, refreshing, bright and sweet.
Red burst of summer in a great green ball.

“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat” ~ Mark Twain

*The nutrition of watermelon*
~ Packed with Antioxidants and Phytochemicals (FitSugar)

*Watermelon-inspired link love*
~ Grilled Watermelon Salad (Peas and Thank You)
~ Chopped  Vegetable, Watermelon, and Feta Salad (Smitten Kitchen)
~ Watermelon Granita (Pioneer Woman)
~ Watermelon and Cucumber Gazpacho (Epicurious)

What will I do when summer is over?