Mug_Cake_4I’ve got a serious bone to pick with mug cakes. While I love the concept of mug cakes, every time I went out looking for a recipe to satisfy my sweet tooth, the mug cakes I found fell in one of the following categories:

1. Very super healthy but tasting similar to sawdust
2. Super indulgent, with as much as 2 or 3 tablespoons (!!) nut butter in a single serving, meaning 200-300 calories in nut butter alone

When I’m looking to make a mug cake, I want it to taste great but I’m also not looking to consume a huge number of calories. In that case, I would just make a regular cake or go to Whole Foods for a cupcake. The other week as I was leaving work, I swung by the company store (yes, we have a company store and it’s wonderful) and picked up a box of Betty Crocker Party Rainbow Chip cake mix. We don’t usually have things like cake mix sitting around at home since I’m more of a from-scratch baker, but something about that Party Rainbow Chip was calling my name.

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Turns out I was right. I’ve found plenty of ways to use the cake mix I picked up last week. I was delighted when I figured out that I could make an incredibly easy and tasty mug cake with just a few ingredients. A little bit of cake mix, an egg white and a few tablespoons of milk is all you need to make a mug cake any night of the week. While it’s not exactly health food, it’s certainly healthier than a lot of the mug cakes out there and tastes so much like a regular cupcake! From now on, I’ll be keeping a box of cake mix in my pantry just in case.

Healthier Rainbow Chip Mug Cake for One
 
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This is my go-to weeknight dessert when I’m craving something sweet but don’t want to totally bust my healthy eating for the day. It’s easy and incredibly tasty and has enough protein to keep you full thanks to the egg white.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup Betty Crocker Party Rainbow Chip cake mix (or similar cake mix)
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions
  1. In small bowl, whisk together the cake mix, egg white and milk until smooth. Spray a mug with cooking spray. Pour cake batter into mug and microwave 30 to 40 seconds or until cake is cooked through. It’s better to undercook than overcook mug cakes.
  2. Serve cake warm plain or with a dollop of Greek yogurt or peanut butter as “frosting.”

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When Joe and went shopping for wedding bands I remember how confused everyone was when I decided to pick a simple, inexpensive gold band as my wedding band. Instead of choosing something that matched my diamond engagement ring set in platinum, I decided that I wanted a humble, understated band I could wear and not worry about scratching it, losing it or getting it dirty. Initially, it was a decision based on simplicity and practicality, but as we inch up on 3 years of marriage, that simple gold band means a lot more to me.

These days I wear that simple gold band 80% of the time. Sometimes it makes Joe shake his head, wondering why on earth he would have spent all that money on a diamond when I’m just as satisfied, if not more satisfied, with a $300 band.

And oh how I do love that ring. When I look down at it on my finger, slightly tarnished and scratched and simple it reminds me of what real marriage is like. It’s a daily reminder to me that marriage is beautiful and sacred, but it’s also messy and complicated and takes a whole lot of hard work in the day-to-day.

My diamond engagement ring (and the diamond band Joe later bought me to match it) is the ring I wear when I’m dressed up, going somewhere special, in the more glamorous moments of life. But my gold band is my “everyday” ring. It’s the ring I wear while we do life together in the real world. It’s a ring for bed head and bad breath and tears and dance parties in the kitchen and moving boxes and yard work and fixing plumbing issues.

On this Valentine’s Day we will be celebrating with couple friends tonight and spending a long weekend together by both taking Monday off work. It’s not going to be anything extravagant, and I think I’ll be wearing that same, simple gold band the entire time.

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Chana_Saag_1

One of my favorite traditions at work is our monthly cookbook club. It’s so fun to select a book, pick a recipe and get together with a bunch of other people who love to cook and discuss what we liked and didn’t like about said book. Sometimes it’s an incredibly successful cookbook club, sometimes it’s only okay.  But that’s the point, right? It’s so rare that I get a chance to make more than one or two recipes out of any given cookbook, so getting to taste 10 to 15 recipes at once really gives a feel for what the book is about and the quality of the recipes.

Our most recent selection was Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The book is entirely vegan but the part that really knocked my socks off was the fact that I feel I could serve these recipes at a dinner party to vegans and non vegans alike. The recipes were warm and comforting and incredibly filling. Although there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing and dicing involved in all the recipes, they were all fairly easy to prepare and didn’t require many specialty ingredients. Bonus: I don’t think “vegan cheese” or “vegan meat” was used once!

Chana_Saag_2
I left cookbook club this month feeling like I had eaten Thanksgiving dinner, though I didn’t feel weighed down or gross (albeit a little too full) like I sometimes do over the holidays. The food was nourishing, light and hearty all at once, and I fell in love with Isa’s casual and funny way of writing a cookbook.

The Chana Saag with Kale that I made for cookbook club was universally one of the favorite dishes that was prepared, and I couldn’t wait to make it again in my own kitchen to share with you. I tweaked the recipe slightly, mainly by adding more kale and slightly different spices to suit my tastes, but the recipe is incredibly forgiving and easy to adapt based on what you have on hand. However, I would strongly suggest not leaving out the lime juice, because the hit of tangy citrus really brings this dish together.

Chana Saag with Kale
 
This recipe is adapted from a recipe of the same name from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I fell in love with Isa’s version, which calls for kale instead of the more traditional spinach. Kale is heartier and holds up better, which is important for leftovers. Since this makes a lot, there are bound to be leftovers! I like this dish heavy on the kale, but feel free to use less if you aren’t a huge fan of kale.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste at the end)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less depending on desired heat
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) light coconut milk
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • Juice from 1 lime

Directions
  1. In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and softened. In small bowl, combine curry powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne. Add spice mixture to onions and cook 1 minute more to toast the spices.
  2. Add in the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add the chickpeas to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Add in the coconut milk and heat through.
  4. Add the kale and cook 5 minutes more or until kale is cooked and softened slightly.

 

 

 

Chia_Pudding_1

Let’s talk about breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day, but you already know that, don’t you? I’m always amazed at how many people don’t eat breakfast. Maybe that’s because I go to bed each night thinking about what I’m going to eat each morning for breakfast.

Breakfast gets your ready for the day and prepares you for whatever challenges you may face. Take, for example, when I put too much shredded beef down the disposal all at once on Saturday and it led to a major clog in our basement drain when all the beef tried to go down the pipe at once. Yeah, can you imagine how happy my husband was about that? I imagine he’ll be even less pleased when we get the plumber’s bill today. Thankfully. I had a large, healthy breakfast to keep the hangry (hangry = hungry + angry) at bay while dealing with said plumbing issues.

Since we haven’t been able to use the sink in our kitchen, cooking has been reduced to zero this weekend. We’ve been eating down leftovers from our fridge and freezer and using paper plates, bowls and silverware. This chia pudding has also been on rotation since it doesn’t require a pot/pan to prepare and is incredibly filling. It makes you feel like you can take on the world and fix all the plumbing issues. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea.

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If you’re new to the chia pudding game, don’t be afraid of their less than stellar appearance. The chia seeds plump up as they sit in liquid like milk, water or yogurt, taking on a gel-like consistency similar to tapioca. Chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3s and calcium, among other things. Plus, when you’re eating them you just feel super healthy. That’s got to count for something, right?

Since a lot of people (including me) are interested in nutrition when it comes to breakfast recipes, I did a rough calculation of the nutrition information in this recipe, not including the bananas or dark chocolate chips and assuming you’re using stevia instead of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Pudding
 
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Creamy chia pudding made with almond milk and peanut butter is the perfect breakfast when topped with sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips for a bit of decadence.
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Toppings such as sliced bananas or dark chocolate chips

Directions
  1. In small bowl, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, stevia, vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. Continue to stir for 1 minute longer.
  2. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) until the chia seeds are plumped and mixture is thick. Top with banana slices and dark chocolate chips before serving.

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Cookie_Dough_1
By the time Friday rolls around, Joe and I are both in the mood for a low key night, which means a workout together at the gym, eating Chipotle and watching something on TV. Maybe not the most exciting routine around, but I love it so much. Last week when were were watching Shark Tank on ABC, one of our favorite shows, I was drawn to a particular business idea that was being pitched to the sharks on the show. The company, Cookie Dough Cafe, was talking about their line of edible raw cookie dough in a jar. Um, yum!

Although I loved the business idea, one thing that struck me as strange was the fact that they went on and on about the fact that this product was safe because it didn’t contain eggs, meaning no risk of salmonella. However, they didn’t say a thing about the flour that was being used in the cookie dough. What a lot of people don’t know is that eggs aren’t the only source of contamination and that raw flour can also pose a risk of E. coli. I’m assuming that the ladies who own The Cookie Dough Cafe have this figured out and are just not mentioning it, but I thought that I would talk about it briefly. Better safe than sorry, right?

Well, friends, be prepared to have your world rocked by this recipe. If it’s not one of the best recipes to date on E&C, I don’t know what is. To make this Raw Sugar Cookie Dough in a Jar, you start by toasting your flour on a baking sheet in the oven. Doing so makes it safe to use your flour in any manner of raw forms, including this recipe. It takes about 10 minutes and doesn’t impact the taste but will give you peace of mind when serving this treat to your friends, kiddos and when you eat it yourself.

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This recipe makes a small batch of cookie dough, about a cup. It’s just enough to keep in the fridge when the craving strikes but not too much that you’ll make yourself sick eating a huge batch at one time. I would suggest, for the sake of your stomach and your waistline, to stick to a spoonful of this magical mixture, then return it to the fridge for safe keeping. For someone who always has to end the night on something sweet, this has proven to be the perfect solution!

Edible Raw Sugar Cookie Dough
 
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What most people don’t know is that uncooked flour can be a source of E.coli. To make this cookie dough safe to eat raw, toasting the flour is key.
Recipe type: Dessert

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 300°F. Place flour on ungreased cookie sheet. Toast flour in oven for 10 minutes, stirring twice during baking.
  2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar 2 to 3 minutes or until well combined and fluffy. Beat in the milk, vanilla and salt until well combined.
  3. Cool flour 10 minutes after toasting. Add to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Spoon into a jar with lid. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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