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Breakfast Bran Muffins

September 3, 2012

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! I can’t believe that summer has come and gone already. Where in the world did the time go? I feel, like everyone else, that I was just looking forward to summer and kicking things off with Memorial Day weekend, and now we’re getting all things fall underway. Is the rumor about Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks true, too? If so, I’m going to need the weather to cool down so I can get one in my hand asap.

Joe and I initially planned on heading to Chicago to visit his family for the weekend, but we promised ourselves that this fall we would not book ourselves silly every weekend. So in the name of relaxation and schedule management, we decided to opt for a little low-key time at home instead. Of course, we couldn’t sit still for long, so we did manage to play multiple games of tennis, run errands in Des Moines, squeeze in a couple great workouts and watch way too many hours of football on Saturday afternoon.

Also on my list was doing a little baking. It’s been a while since I really spent time in the kitchen baking for fun, and having a whole afternoon to play around in the kitchen felt like the ultimate luxury. A friend of mine and E&C reader, Rachel, passed along a couple recipes to me that she thought I would enjoy, and I’m seriously SO happy to have now discovered this amazing muffin recipe. Growing up, the bakery in our town delivered the best bran muffins to the local grocery store. For a while, I got addicted to eating a giant, gooey bran muffin for breakfast. Looking back, I’m sure the “oooey, gooey” part of those muffins made them rather unhealthy, but ever since then, I’ve had a thing for bran muffins.

It’s been years since I’ve had a bran muffin, and I can’t remember the last time I baked one at home, so when I got my hands on this recipe, I knew I had to fit it into the weekend baking lineup. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe and created two slightly different versions. The first version, Breakfast Bran Muffins with Carrots, uses half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose and vegetable oil and contains 2/3 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of grated carrots. The second version, Breakfast Bran Muffins with Banana, is slightly healthier and lower in calories. It uses 100% whole wheat flour, mashed banana, coconut oil, 1/3 cup brown sugar and a little bit of Stevia for added sweetness. The texture in both recipes is fantastic, and I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the muffin that uses all-purpose flour and the one that contains 100% whole wheat.

And my husband, the ultimate taste tester when it comes to the “Average Joe” set of taste buds? He loved them! In fact, he ate two the minute they came out of the oven and said he could easily eat more for breakfast or a snack as he works during the day. I made a few batches of each recipe and plan to store them in the freezer for breakfasts or snacks throughout the weeks to come.

Version #1: Breakfast Bran Muffins with Carrots
Adapted slightly from AllRecipes.com
Ingredients
*1 1/2 cups wheat bran
*1 1/4 cups buttermilk
*1/3 cup vegetable oil
*1 large egg
*2/3 cup brown sugar
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1/2 cup finely grated carrots
*1/2 cup whole wheat flour
*1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1 teaspoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions
*Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine the wheat bran and buttermilk. Let stand for a couple minutes. Add in the oil, egg, brown sugar, vanilla and carrots and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining ingredients until combined. Spoon batter into the greased muffin cups. This should make 12 muffins and cups should be filled about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutritional Information (per 1 muffin): 168 cal., 7 g fat, 16 mg chol., 41 mg sodium, 30 g carb., 4 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Version #2: Banana Bran Muffins
Ingredients
*1 1/2 cups wheat bran
*1 1/4 cups buttermilk
*1/3 cup coconut oil
*1 large egg
*1/3 cup brown sugar
*2 packets Stevia
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 large ripe banana, mashed
*1 cup whole wheat flour
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1 teaspoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions
*Same as above.

Nutritional Information (per 1 muffin): 151 cal., 7 g fat, 16 mg chol., 36 mg sodium, 236 mg potassium, 23 g carb., 5 g fiber, 4 g protein

Happy Baking!
Madison

Everyday Lunch: Quinoa Salad with Broccoli

April 20, 2012

Last week when I posted this salad that I take to lunch each week, lots of you responded saying you wanted to see more lunch ideas on Espresso and Cream. Sometimes my lunches are just a random assortment of whatever is left in the fridge, but other times I take a few extra minutes to prep something more reminiscent of a meal.

One of my favorite strategies for lunchtime success is to prepare a large batch of whole grains at the beginning of the week to go in lunches in the days to come. Quinoa, brown rice and whole wheat pasta are my personal favorites because they’re so easy.

 Here’s a look at what I ate this week! It was filling, veggie-packed and healthy. Though if I made it next time, I would suggest crumbling a bit of feta cheese atop the salad before serving, since feta makes almost anything better.

Quinoa Salad with Broccoli
Ingredients
*1/2 cup cooked quinoa
*1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Romaine lettuce
*2/3 cup steamed broccoli florets
*2 tablespoons Ken’s Steak House Light Caesar Dressing
*Salt and ground black pepper
*2 slices whole wheat toast (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions
*Toss the quinoa, lettuce and broccoli together in a travel storage container. Just before serving, toss with the dressing and sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper. Serve with the toast. Enjoy!

Madison

Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken

March 14, 2012

Before Joe and I got married, one of my greatest stressors was what we were going to do career-wise. I was working (very happily I might add) in my current job in Des Moines and Joe was searching for a job back in Iowa (he was working in Illinois at the time). Knowing how much we both loved our jobs, I was worried about one of us having to sacrifice a career we loved.

Thankfully, Joe’s company ended up giving him a work territory in eastern Iowa, meaning we could live halfway in between his territory and my work. And since that meant I would be over an hour from work, my company allowed me to work two days a week from home in order to save money and my sanity.

Initially, it was a little difficult to adjust to working at home. So many distractions, poor internet connection at home, you get the picture. Thankfully, Joe and I discovered that a building right across the street from our apartment rents out office cubicles. I can promise you that once we decided to rent out a space, my work situation improved immensely. It’s so nice to be able to have a little work/life separation during the days I work from home, and I feel as if I get so much more accomplished.

Of course on the days I work from home, I have two extra hours on my hands (!!) In the morning, I use my extra hour to get caught up on blog work, do laundry or clean up around the house. And in the evening, I usually spend my extra hour preparing meals that are a little above and beyond what I would normally make on a weeknight.

This week I put my efforts into making this Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken for Joe*, paired with homemade mashed potatoes, which I never make. The sauce that goes atop these chicken breasts is incredibly easy to make and packed with flavor. If you have even more time to spare, I imagine that this sauce would make a great marinade for the chicken a couple hours before putting it on the grill. But, if you’re anything like me, planning that far in advance is not going to happen. In that case, using it as a barbecue sauce (as in the recipe below) works out nicely, too.

*For those of you wondering, I made myself roasted kale and roasted sweet potato fries with cumin and ground mustard.

Maple Glazed Grilled Chicken
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light magazine 
Ingredients
*1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half width wise to make two thin chicken breasts
*Salt and ground black pepper
*1/4 cup maple syrup
*1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
*2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
*1 tsp. dried oregano
*1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
*2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
*1/2 tsp. Worcheshire sauce
*2 tablespoons ketchup

Instructions
*Preheat grill to medium high.
*Meanwhile, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Set aside.
*In a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat, combine the maple syrup, chicken broth, garlic, oregano, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a silicone pastry brush or rubber spatula. Add in the worcheshire sauce and ketchup and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced slightly and the mixture has thickened to resemble thin barbecue sauce. Remove from heat.
*Brush chicken breasts with some of the sauce. Lightly grease the rack of your grill with nonstick cooking spray.
*Place chicken breasts on grill and brush with some more of the sauce. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip chicken. Brush with some more of the sauce. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through and no pink remains. Remove from grill. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Happy Cooking!

Madison

Baked Oatmeal

November 21, 2011

Since I’m guessing by now most of you have your Thanksgiving meal planned and your recipes selected, I thought it might be helpful to shift gears a bit. Chances are that during the next month you will probably have guests staying at your house overnight, or perhaps you are planning on hosting a brunch in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

For me, this type of situation has always proved to be a little tricky. The most common large-group breakfast and brunch dishes seem to be sugar-laden pastries, coffee cakes and greasy egg bakes. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just prefer to start off the morning with something a little healthier.

I have no idea why it took me so long to get on the baked oatmeal bandwagon, but I’m so glad finally took the plunge. When Heidi’s recipe for baked oatmeal started making its way around the internet, I was intrigued. But it wasn’t until last night that I gathered up my ingredients and fired up the oven.

Although the original recipe calls for fresh berries, I used thawed, frozen berries since I wasn’t about to pay an arm and a leg for fresh this time of year. I also baked the oatmeal in a 9×13-inch pan instead of an 8×8 and upped the number of bananas used, since the baked bananas are the best part of this recipe. Heidi’s original recipe also calls for three tablespoons of butter, an ingredient I left out without any issue.

This dish left our house with the most heavenly aroma while it was baking and had us drooling when we pulled it out of the oven. I couldn’t help but sneak a small bowl for dessert last night, and helped myself to more for breakfast this morning. While it still tasted good the next day, I would highly recommend baking it the morning you plan to serve it, since that’s when the flavor and texture is pure perfection.

Baked Oatmeal
Recipe slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks 

Ingredients
*2 cups rolled oats
*1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted and chopped
*1/3 cup natural cane sugar
*1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
*1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
*2 cups milk (I used 2%)
*1 large egg
*2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*3 ripe bananas cut into 1/2-inch pieces
*1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries (blackberries, blueberries and raspberries), thawed

Instructions
*Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine the oats, 1/2 of the pecans, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
*In a second bowl, combine the milk, egg and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Set aside.
*Line the bottom of the prepared baking pan with the bananas in a single layer covering the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the thawed berries. Sprinkle the oats mixture evenly over the bananas and berries in the pan. Evenly pour the milk and egg mixture atop the oat layer. Give the baking pan a couple shakes to evenly distribute the milk mixture through the oats. Top with the remaining berries and pecans. Sprinkle with a little additional cane sugar, if desired.
*Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the edges are slightly bubbly and oatmeal looks set. The mixture will still be slightly moist but should feel ‘set up’ when you touch with your finger. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Makes 6 servings or 12 servings as part of a larger brunch spread.

Approximate calories for 6 servings: 332 calories, 11 g fat (2 g sat. fat) , 314 mg sodium, 50 g carbohydrates, 9.6 g protein.  

Happy Baking!
Madison

Almond-Date Energy Bites

April 7, 2010

One of my favorite energy/health bars out there is the Lara Bar. They are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, and kosher, but that’s not why I love them. My reasons are much simpler – they taste amazing and every bar contains five or fewer ingredients. If you’ve ever taken a look at some of the health bars out there, you have probably noticed that some look like a short novel, which makes Lara Bars’ five-ingredient feat even more amazing. 

But the simplicity of these bars, and the $2/bar price tag, got me thinking how easy it would be to make something similar. And it was, though I made a few adjustments in both ingredients and shape for simplicity’s sake. Instead of making bars, I rolled the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and rolled them in sesame seeds for a little extra crunch. 
Once you get this recipe down, which shouldn’t take long, I can imagine a whole host of variations, like substituting walnuts for almonds, adding in raisins, or substituting almond butter for the peanut butter for those with peanut allergies. I’ve been eating these little energy bites atop my yogurt at breakfast and taking a couple along for a mid-afternoon snack at work and can safely say they both taste great and provide a little extra energy throughout the day.  
Almond-Date Energy Bites 
Ingredients: 
*10 oz. whole dates
*6 oz. slivered almonds
*1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
*1 Tbsp. honey 
*1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Sesame seeds, cocoa powder, or graham cracker crumbs 
Instructions: 
*In a food processor, process the dates and almonds until mixture is finely ground into even ‘crumbs’ (3-5 minutes). 
*Add the peanut butter, honey, and ground cinnamon and process until the ingredients are evenly combined. 
*Scoop out the mixture by heaping tablespoons and shape into balls. Then, roll the balls in the sesame seeds, cocoa powder, or graham cracker crumbs. 
Happy Cooking!
Madison 
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