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breakfast

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Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (aka The Healthy Girl’s Milkshake)

January 7, 2014

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Now that our first full week of January is underway, I’m finding myself with a serious case of winter blahs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not seasonal depression or anything of the sort, but I find it incredibly difficult to jump from the warmth, glow and excitement of the Christmas season to the bone-chilling routine of January. Maybe if 2013 was a little less wonderful I wouldn’t be so sad to let it go and would have anticipated the arrival of 2014 a little more.

Of course, some of this probably has to do with the fact that we’re experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures in our neck of the woods, with wind chill temps that hover in the -50°F mark with a high of -20°F. No, that’s not a typo, that’s just Minnesota winter for you. It’s this time of year that I really start to long for long nights filled with tennis matches with Joe, walks with the dogs, our weekly CSA delivery and cooking everything on the grill. Summer’s pretty sexy, and it’s hard not to long for it in the depths of winter.

I tend to get really wrapped up in the big moments, the next fun event or the next mini trip or vacation that’s on our calendar. I look at our schedule and think about how many days until our trip to Idaho or our long weekend away just the two of us. There’s nothing wrong with anticipating fun events, but I’m beginning to realize that real life is more about the everyday living and ordinary events than it is about the next big thing.

Last week on Monday Joe and I made plans to have a beginning of the week date night. Since we’re working on being disciplined with our finances (and because we have a puppy who needs our time an attention after work) we kept it simple by picking up two brownies from our favorite restaurant and ordering drinks at Starbucks, where we had lots of Christmas gift cards to burn. We sat for about an hour at Starbucks, eating and sipping and talking about life things that we don’t normally talk about at home, when there are things to do and dogs to play with and TV shows to watch. We got away from our phones and all other distractions, and looking back, that Monday date night in all its simplicity was the highlight of my week.

I think, more than anything, the reason I love summer is because I savor every moment. A Tuesday night feels special when it includes a tennis match and a trip with Joe to get froyo. But when I’m hibernating all winter, a Tuesday night just feels like a Tuesday night. So this year, I’m setting a goal for myself to make weeknights, even those in the winter months, feel a little more special. We’re already off to a good start since we had friends over last night to watch the BCS Championship and we have dinner plans with Joe’s parents tonight.

My lack of creativity means I really have no nice transition from one subject to the next. I guess this smoothie recipe, which is on regular rotation at our house, isn’t really related in the least bit to savoring the weekdays through the winter. But perhaps if you think about it as a milkshake (it really tastes like one!) then perhaps a regular smoothie at home can become something a little more special. Milkshake and movie night, anyone?

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Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie (aka The Healthy Girl’s Milkshake) 
Makes 1 smoothie
Ingredients
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
1 medium banana, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen
1 packet Stevia (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (make sure it’s high quality vanilla)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 to 3 cubes of ice

Directions
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more milk if necessary to reach desired consistency.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Triple Chocolate Pumpkin-Chai Muffins

January 2, 2014

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Happy New Year, friends! I think that in order to be accepted in the food blogger universe, I should really be sharing a recipe for salad, or a smoothie, or green juice. But since I can’t stick to the rules, I’m breaking with convention and sharing a recipe for muffins, with lots of chocolate and pumpkin and a little bit of chai.

You see, I got a little carried away with holiday recipe testing but got behind on posting some of the recipes I meant to share before the holidays were over. So instead of saving these recipes for Feburary (after you’ve all ditched your diets and gone back to regular modes of eating) I decided to share them now.

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I will, of course, be sharing some recipes that are a little on the lighter side in the next couple weeks. But today is all about muffins. These little beauties are incredibly easy to make and have a ton of flavor thanks to the chai added into the mix. It’s a quick way to add a lot of flavor without much fuss. Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Chai Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup chai concentrate
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions
Heat oven to 350F. Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with paper baking liners.

In large bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the pumpkin, eggs, oil and chai concentrate. Stir until wet ingredients and dry ingredients are well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon batter into muffin liners. Bake 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Happy Baking!
Madison

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Breakfast Oat Bran

December 5, 2013

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Can you believe your eyes? A recipe to share today? It’s been too long! I have been meaning to get a post up sooner, but winter has already impacted my blogging schedule with the lack of light and lack of time around the holiday season. We had our first big snowfall this week and I’m already looking forward to summer!

I’ve been meaning to share about oat bran for quite a while. Six or seven months ago I started swapping my morning bowl of old fashioned oats for a bowl of oat bran. I can’t even remember where I heard about eating oat bran as a hot cereal (I had baked with it before) but I’m glad I stumbled upon this nutritional powerhouse. Don’t get me wrong, old fashioned oatmeal is incredibly healthy, but oat bran has some unique properties that give it a leg up on rolled oats.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered to some degree with an irritable stomach. This may be branching into TMI territory, but regularity has been an issue for years, despite the fact that I eat a vegetarian diet that is very heavy on veggies and whole grains. Since I have started eating oat bran for breakfast, and when I stick to it consistently, it has almost completely remedied my stomach complaints. I’ve even been known to travel with oat bran and/or take my breakfast with me I love it that much.

What is Oat Bran?
It is the outer layer of the oats that is typically removed when making old fashioned oats and instant oats. The thing is, the outer layer of the oatmeal is where all the fiber resides. Consequently, a bowl of oat bran contains about 50% more fiber than the same amount of old fashioned oats. And, as many people already know, more fiber keeps you feeling full longer, keeps your tummy happy and regular and can aid in weight loss. As far as calories are concerned, I find that the brands of oat bran I’ve purchased have had about the same number of calories as an equal amount of oats.

Where Can You Purchase It?
I have purchased pre-packaged oat bran at Trader Joe’s but lately I’ve been buying oat bran in the bulk bins at Whole Foods because it is cheaper and you can buy larger quantities. When I get it home, I just transfer it into a plastic storage container. I have also seen oat bran at other local grocery stores in our area. Oat bran and wheat bran are not the same thing, so be sure to clarify when asking at your local grocery store.

How Do You Prepare Oat Bran?
I’ve got a quick and easy recipe below for preparing oat bran similar to how you would prepare oatmeal. When I first made oat bran, I was really turned off by it because I didn’t use enough liquid. It turned into a rubbery brick in no time! The general rule of thumb I like to use is 1/2 cup oat bran plus 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk of choice. The milk really gives the oat bran a creamy texture and makes it more indulgent. You could also use 1 cup milk and leave out the water completely. If you prepare the oat bran with all water, you probably won’t be all that impressed.

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Breakfast Oat Bran
Makes 1 serving
Ingredients
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk of choice (I usually use almond milk)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sweetener of choice (stevia, brown sugar, etc. to taste)
Dollop of peanut butter (I have been loving Peanut Butter & Company Peanut Butter)

Directions
Place oat bran, water, milk and cinnamon into a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture just beings to bubble/boil and the mixture begins to thicken. It’s better to under-cook rather than over-cook. The mixture will thicken slightly after removing from the heat. Stir in your sweetener of choice. Transfer to a bowl and top with peanut butter.

Happy Cooking!
Madison

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Classic, No-Fuss Banana Bread

August 22, 2013

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A couple weeks ago I shared with you a recipe from Joe’s great grandma Jacobs. Maybe I was a bit early with sharing a recipe for pumpkin bread in August, but it was so delicious that I’m sure anyone who bakes up a loaf would quickly forgive me for sharing something not quite seasonal.

I was so inspired by the pumpkin bread recipe. It was so perfect, exactly how I remember perfect pumpkin bread tasting, and, more importantly, the texture was just right. And so, with that recipe in hand, I decided to try and recreate the banana bread I remember from childhood church potlucks and snack times. I’m not sure who made that type of banana bread, but it was spot on.

I have a lot of banana bread recipes on this site. Maybe a few too many, but I can’t help myself. There’s this Chocolate Banana Bread, which is a departure from the traditional. And this Caramelized Banana Bread, which is all about a unique method for creating great banana flavor. And the healthier varieties, like the Higher Protein Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and Health Nut Banana Bread and even a recipe for Banana Bread Ultimate, which is a very old recipe and probably not all that “ultimate” when I really think about it. Sorry for that. And if that wasn’t enough, I have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Mini Muffins. They really are quite good, though the photo is horrible.

I’m starting to realize my banana bread obsession is getting out of hand. Forgive me?

But what’s really missing from this whole collection is a great, classic  banana bread. Probably because I haven’t had any success with the type of recipe I was looking for until now. Perhaps it’s time to retire my search for the perfect banana bread?

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Classic Banana Bread
Makes 12 servings
Ingredients
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until well combined. Add in the mashed bananas, sugar, oil, eggs, water and vanilla and stir until just combined.

Line two 9×5-inch baking pans with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Divide batter between two pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack. remove from pan and remove foil. Cool completely. Store on the counter wrapped in aluminum foil.

Happy Baking!
Madison

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Cornmeal Biscuits with Fresh Corn

August 8, 2013

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Do you ever find yourself in awe of the way God moves in your life? Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how God has worked in our lives over the last year. Joe and I have a life now that looks very different than our life last year at this same time. And while we had so many things to be thankful for about our life in Grinnell, we also had prayers that we hoped God would answer. Prayers to move to a place where we would be surrounded by other couples our age, more like-minded friends, a yard for Joe, my farm boy, to work in every night, jobs that were better suited for our personalities. I don’t think we had a clue what God had in store for us. It’s a testament to answered prayers and the fact that God has a plan through it all. It’s so easy to forget in the hard times, isn’t it? And pretty hard to lose sight of in the good times, too.

I’m not sure what that had to do with biscuits. Nothing, really, I suppose. Just something I was thinking about today.

These biscuits are certainly worth making. Usually I reserve cornbread for the fall months served alongside chili, but the addition of fresh corn gives these biscuits a more summery appeal. The original recipe contained 100% all-purpose flour, but I subbed in whole wheat flour, using equal parts whole wheat and all-purpose flour along with cornmeal. These biscuits are certainly hearty and a little bit dense, which I found charming. However, if you prefer a lighter biscuit I would suggest using all-purpose flour in place of the whole wheat flour. Either way would work just fine.

I’m already thinking of countless ways these biscuits could be used. Served with butter alongside a salad, cut in half and stuffed with eggs as a breakfast sandwich. Drizzled with honey or a little butter and fresh basil from our garden. Maybe even as the bread for a summery BLT. Mmmm. I can already taste it now.

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Cornmeal Biscuits with Corn
Adapted from Food Network
Makes 6 large biscuits

Ingredients
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup corn kernels (I used canned and drained but I imagine fresh would work well, too)

Directions
Heat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well combined. Use pastry cutter to cut butter into dry ingredients until a coarse meal forms. Add in the milk and buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Turn dough onto floured surface and form into a large disc about 1/2 inch thick. Use biscuit cutter to cut six biscuits from the dough, re-shaping as necessary.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are baked through and light golden brown. Serve with butter, if desired.

Happy Baking!
Madison

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