Protein Packed Breakfast

Remember how I bought that giant jar of almond butter, come to find out I’m more partial to peanut butter after all?  Well, that jar has been opened on very few occasions since its purchase, until I came across a recipe where I could actually use the stuff to my advantage – Almond Butter Granola, from one of my favorite bloggers, Peanut Butter Fingers.  I’ve never made granola before, so I never knew how easy it is to actually make.  Most of the ingredients are (or should be) staples in your kitchen.  I tweaked the recipe a little bit, since I, embarrassingly, did not have any vanilla extract in my kitchen.  And, instead of honey, I used Agave Nectar, which is lighter and a little less overwhelming than honey, in my opinion.

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It might be some of the best granola I’ve ever had, and I’m going to give props to the almond butter for that.  Less than 20 minutes to make, it’s a great on the go breakfast or snack for the day.

Does anyone have any favorite granola recipes I could try?  I’m hooked!

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Wild Berry Power Smoothie

Started the morning with this energizing and super easy to make smoothie 🙂

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1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

1/2 cup frozen berries

1/2 cup greens (I used kale in this one, but spinach is great too)

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1 Tbsp agave nectar

A few ice cubes

*Blend until Smooth

Get at those Greens

One of my goals in the new year is to incorporate more greens into my diet.  Green vegetables provide us with a variety of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as four vitamins, K, C, E and B.  These nutrients strengthen our bones and could help prevent diabetes.  They also make our skin and hair look healthier. Bonus!

I’ve never been a huge salad-as-my-main-meal fan, so I’ve been finding different methods of adding in extra green to my already well-liked meals.  Last night, I tried kale for the first time.  While I was a little hesitant about how it would taste (I had heard it’s on the more bitter end of the green spectrum), I have also read a lot of benefits about the cabbage cousin; like how it’s considered the “nutritional powerhouse” of leafy greens.  So I figured I should see what all the hype is about.

First, I washed and chopped the kale into smaller pieces first.

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I then heated some olive oil, garlic and pignoli (pine nuts) in a pan (with some chicken sausage off to the side to heat up)

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Tossed in the kale once the nuts were slightly browned and seasoned with salt, crushed red pepper and lemon juice.

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Mix it all together with some wheat pasta and chicken sausage, and I’d say it was a pretty delicious first-timer success!

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Pumpkin Goodness

I love just about everything pumpkin…pumpkin lattes, pumpkin seeds, and most importantly, pumpkin muffins.  It’s a good thing Panera has theirs all year round, or I would go through some serious withdrawal.  One of my many favorite things about Fall is that it gives me an excuse to try out some of these seasonal recipes.  And what better way to start the season with some Pumpkin Chia Seed Muffins.

I know, I know, that doesn’t exactly sound appealing, does it?  I guess we will have to rename these wonderful masterpieces, but nevertheless, yes they have chia seeds in them, and yes they are delicious.  Now for a little health food lesson:

What are Chia Seeds?  Chia is a type of edible seed that comes from the Mexican Salvia Hispanica mint plant.  They hold a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to the human diet because we cannot produce them ourselves.  Similar to flax seeds, but more abundant in the nutrients they provide, chia seeds are also easier to use.  They absorb in liquid, and thus can be used in many different kinds of foods; pudding, oatmeal, smoothies and baked goods!

The recipe I found via Oprah.com is very easy and takes about 30 minutes in total.  I nixed the walnuts and used agave nectar instead of maple syrup.  Although I think next time, I need to add something a little sweet into the mix, since they tend to need some butter on top for flavor; mini chocolate chips should do the trick!

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They taste better than they look, I promise.  Happy Fall!

My First Overnight Oats Success!

I’ve said it before, and anyone who knows me can agree, the first thought that comes into my head when I wake up in the morning is “Breakfast?”  Typically, I eat the same thing every morning during the week; two whole wheat eggo waffles with peanut butter.  Occasionally I will venture out and put some bananas on top, but time is usually of the essence in the morning, so I have to settle for quick and easy.  However, this morning (or should I say last night), I finally succeeded in whipping up a batch of Overnight Oats that proved enjoyable and tasty.   If you don’t know what Overnight Oats are yet, here are a few gurus who know their stuff.

Kath Eats Real Food

My recipe was inspired by this SkinyTaste one:
1/4 c Rolled Oats
1/2 c Vanilla Almond Milk
1/2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
Dash of Cinnamon
1 tsp of Agave Nectar
1/2 Cup Blueberries
1/2 Banana
Combine all ingredients except banana in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.  Slice banana and stir into oats before you’re ready to eat!
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Who says oatmeal can’t be fun?

Breakfast (is not) Optional

Breakfast is absolutely my favorite meal of the day.  I’m a firm believer in even eating it for other meals, but I never skip it if I can help it.  I love the variety of things that you can eat; from salty to sweet, protein, veggies or carbs.  The possibilities are endless, and usually require little effort depending on your time constraints.  What I love most is when I actually have the time to whip up something more gourmet than just frozen Eggo waffles (my Go-To during the week).  This past weekend, I had just the right amount of ingredients to put this beauty together, and can I just say, Oh my Deliciousness.Image

Turkey Bacon, Scrambled Egg, Avocado and Tomato sandwich on toasted Flax Grain bread.

Just cook the bacon in a pan with a little olive oil spray coating until it’s crispy, this kind usually only takes about 2 minutes on each side since it’s thin and has less fat to begin with.  Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to soak up the rest of the grease and let them cool.  Scramble two eggs in a bowl with salt, pepper, feta cheese and hot sauce.  Pour into the pan that you cooked the bacon in, set on low heat (I think this way gives the eggs more flavor, but feel free to use separate pans if you prefer).  Stir the eggs, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom too much, until they are just a little wet (I hate dry eggs).  They will continue to cook a little more once you take them off the heat.

While the eggs were cooking, I toasted the bread and sliced the avocado and tomato.  Place all ingredients together in open face sandwich form and either eat this way or altogether.

Can you guess what I had for dinner last night?

In other news, Happy Memorial Day!  I hope everyone enjoyed the warm weather and sunshine as much as I did.  It was a surprisingly relaxed weekend, which was perfect and much needed.  I got to enjoy the weather and even took a little trip to Rhode Island to visit my boyfriend’s family.  It was a nice get-away not too far from home.

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I think long weekends should be executed more often, who’s with me?

Home Cooking

I love home cooking.  I get a great deal of satisfaction of making my own meals without having to spend a lot of $, or helping out with someone else’s concoction.  Here are just a few that Susie Q and I have put together in the past couple of weeks.

Chicken Cutlets, Steamed Broccoli, Kale and Sausage Pasta side, and a Cucumber, Tomato, Onion and Parmesan salad.  I was in heaven.

Salad is simple; just chop the ingredients and toss together with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for seasoning.  I microwave the cut up broccoli in a veggie steamer for 6 minutes, then add a little margarine and toss.  Wash the thin chicken cutlets and pat dry.  Bread them in whole wheat breadcrumbs  and place in a skillet with some oil.  Much crispier than dipping in egg or flour, and decently healthier.  The pasta I will admit was not our own recipe.  It came from the grocery store, but I plan to make a replica of it sometime soon.  I’ve always wanted to experiment with Kale, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’d welcome them happily!

We also tried out a recipe I found on Pinterest (love): Baked Zucchini Sticks

Super simple.

Cut a Zucchini in half widthwise, then cut into halves again lengthwise.  Then cut into sticks of desired size.

In a zip lock back, combine:

  • 1/3 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
Dip Zucchini sticks into a beaten egg white, then place them a few at a time in the bag and shake so they are coated with the mixture.
Place on a cooking sprayed baking sheet in a single layer and pop in the oven on 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with choice of dipping sauce, marinara is ideal.

And now for the Guac.  I like to believe I make awesome guacamole (and hopefully those who have tried mine will agree) .  I adapted the recipe from my ultimate foodie friend, Alex.  It’s chunky, full of flavor and healthy, with no added ingredients but the veggies and seasoning (and maybe a little hot sauce if you’re feeling dangerous).  Check it out:

Ingredients:

2 slightly over-ripe avocados

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 medium tomato, chopped

1/4 chopped jalepeno, without the seeds

1 lime

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder

Hot Sauce (optional) to taste

Wash the avocado and cut in half.  Scoop out with a spoon and mash with a fork to desired consistency.  I like to keep it chunky if the ripeness allows.  Mix the rest of the chopped veggies (onion, tomato, jalapeno) in with the avocado.  Add in seasonings (salt, pepper and garlic powder) and some lime juice to finish.  Dip with whatever you desire.  I love the brand Food Should Taste Good Multigrain chips.

The finished product.  So good I could finish it by myself in one sitting (and often do… using only one avocado of course…)

Comments? Tips? Rave Reviews?

Simply Busy Birthday

Miss me?  I sure did.  I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t let it fall on the back burner.  Oops.  Sometimes life gets in the way and you find that the past two weeks flew by and all of a sudden it’s May!  So I’m sorry for not finding the time to update and inspire, I promise to do better.

So, this weekend was my Birthday and it was filled with more love and excitement than I ever expected.  Truly amazing.  I am 150% convinced that I have the best friends, boyfriend and family anyone could have asked for.  What could be better than a country concert, a surprise dinner and outing in Stamford with some of my best friends, and a relaxing lunch with my Mom who is finally home from her Florida adventures.  I couldn’t have asked for better.

Now for a recipe because that’s what I do.  I found I had little time to prepare what I was going to eat for dinner this week, so I put together some staple dinners I used to prepare for myself at school.  One of my favorites, broccoli and rice stir fry.

The first time I ever had tofu was when I made this with my girlfriend, Katie.  It became one of my favorite recipes from that moment on.  I didn’t have tofu this time, so I substituted some fiddlehead ferns that I had picked up at the grocery store the day before.  I used brown rice (the 5-minute kind) and sauteed the broccoli and fiddleheads in some olive oil and garlic.  Add some soy sauce (or stir fry sauce which is a little thicker and what I normally use, but I was out of that as well) and cook until desired brownness.  Once the rice is done, add it in with the vegetables and mix.  Voila! Super simple and easy.  Great for leftovers too!

Let’s end with a little Monday morning perk-up.  One of my favorite websites for providing uplifting and interesting articles throughout my day, Greatist.com, had this to share:

http://greatist.com/happiness/13-ways-to-beat-the-monday-blues/

Great tips for avoiding that Monday morning feeling of exhaustion and dullness.  Who doesn’t feel a little sense of disappointment when that alarm clock goes off at 6am?  My favorite ones; Get pumped up to some tunes and Smile!  I need to try these more often.  It’s all too easy to fall back into the dull routine of the week and lose sight of the good things in life.  Try some of them for yourself!

Almost like a Summer Day

I love weekends that feel longer than usual, don’t you? Especially when they are filled with enjoyable activities. As the spring begins to lead to the summer, I am beginning to look forward to my weekends more and more. My calendar is already filled with country concerts, Yankees games and outdoor festivities. And now that it’s still light out when I get home from work, I can actually enjoy a nice run outside when the weather permits (like I plan to do today). My winter blues have finally come to an end.

78 degrees and sunny is what the weather man told me Saturday would bring. A morning run with my girlfriend started off this glorious day; a 3-mile loop that I am determined to tackle whenever I get the chance. I am proud to say I have finally reached that point in my life where I actually get excited about running. It has taken me 7 years. It started after I ran my first 5k on Thanksgiving morning this year and realized it was something that wasn’t going to kill me (although my body definitely tried to convince me it would). I didn’t train for it beforehand. I just got on the treadmill two days before the race, ran as slow as I never though possible (12 min mile to be exact) and didn’t stop until I hit 3.2 miles. I have never felt as good as I did that day, and so began my love affair with running.

Kings was next on the agenda for the day, my absolute favorite breakfast spot. Nothing compares to their over-the-top variations of your normal Eggs Benedict (Asparagus Benny), french toast (Forget Paris) or scrambled eggs (The Soprano). This place is a must try if you live in Connecticut. If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself.

For those of you that have been missing out, this is The Soprano-pesto scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, red peppers and mozzarella cheese; homefries (which I could live off of) and bocco bread. Oh my Yum.

With my belly feeling happy and full, I headed up to Rocky Hill for the remainder of the weekend with plans to go on a hike and take Greg out to dinner for his birthday (or so he thought). What I actually had planned was a surprise dinner and night out with 14 of his friends. Who’s a good girlfriend? (Kidding).

Anyway, in the afternoon, Greg and I hiked up to Heublein Tower located on Talcott Mountain in the Simsbury/Bloomfield area. It is a 1.25 mile hike, half straight uphill (workout #2 for the day!). Once you get to the top of the hill, you can see out over the Farmington River Valley and Hartford area. I love wide open spaces, and this was a perfect picturesque view of my home state.

I imagine it is even more beautiful in the Fall, which I definitely plan to go back for. Unfortunately the Tower isn’t open until after Memorial Day, but we were still able to walk around the property.

It was the perfect Saturday afternoon leading into an eventful night out on the town. Relaxing + a little early shopping for my birthday was what Sunday had in store. Who says you can’t do it all?

What I’ve started to take away from both my long weekends (actual or perceived) and my almost nonexistent ones is to mentally slow down and breathe. To appreciate what you’re doing, right then and there, and harness that good feeling of having control and enjoyment in your life. To use that feeling to pull you through those gray days and bring you to the next good one. Too many times you hear someone say that life passes you by. From someone who never listened to that little bird while I was in college, and someone who sometimes wishes away the week in order to get to the weekend, I’m learning how important it is to develop a more balanced perspective of appreciating both.

Italian Delights

This past week involved lots of cooking, something I love to do and am hopefully becoming better at (besides that time I failed trying to make healthier pancakes…okay, two times).  What I really like is when I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of new ingredients every time I try a new recipe.  You save $ and don’t end up wasting food!  So this week, that’s exactly what I did.

I have an obsession with Pinterest (I mean, who doesn’t?), so that is usually where I find my meal inspiration.  I saw a recipe for Grilled Caprese sandwiches, and immediately clicked on it because #1, they looked delicious and easy, and #2, I’m Italian, and anything close to what I have savored from both my Dad’s and Grandmother’s kitchen, and what I got to enjoy while studying abroad in Florence for a semester, I refuse to not try.

So I picked up some fresh Italian bread and basil at the grocery store before heading home from work.  Note to self, basil apparently comes in a large bunch so make sure you utilize it quickly because it goes bad.  I had the idea to make pesto last night, but as I suspected, fresh basil doesn’t usually last more than 3-4 days.  I’ll have to save that recipe for another time.

Anyway, this recipe was super easy.  Start with a chopped garlic clove, olive oil and balsamic vinegar (about 1 Tbsp of each per sandwich) .  Mix half the garlic with the oil, and half with the balsamic vinegar. Cut the bread into slices and brush each on one side with the olive oil mixture.  You’ll use the balsamic at the end.

Place slices face down on a grill rack (I put my grill rack on a baking sheet so the oil wouldn’t drip on the bottom of the oven) and bake at 350 degrees for about 2 minutes

While the bread is baking, slice tomatoes and mozzarella cheese (I used two slices of each on each sandwich)

After 4 minutes, turn oiled pieces over and place cheese then tomato slices on top.  Put back in the over for another 4 minutes.

When cheese is melted, lay basil leaves on top and drizzle balsamic mixture on top.

Voila!

These were amazing.  Light but full of flavor.  Here is the original recipe if anyone wants to see a slightly different way of doing it: http://peegaw.tumblr.com/post/2712611955/making-grilled-caprese-sandwich

I used basil and tomatoes as the base of my meals for the rest of the week.  Wednesday I made Bruscetta, which I have an addiction to as well.  Toasted slices of italian bread, mixed some tomatoes, onion, olive oil, balsamic and topped it off with basil.  As my girlfriend, Dee, would say, it was scrumptious (she’s the only person on earth that I know who uses this word).  But it really was just that.

Thursday night I threw together a quick concoction of tomato basil pasta with olive oil.  I used gluten free rice pasta, which I think tastes better than the whole wheat stuff I normally go with.  While the pasta was cooking, I sauteed  some garlic and olive oil in a pan until it was brown.  I added half a chopped tomato and stirred for about 4 minutes.  I drained the pasta and added it in with the tomatoes, and stirred in a little bit more olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped basil.  Mmm Mmm Mmm.

I have to say, I’m pretty proud of my abilities to make tasty and decently healthy meals for myself all week without having to spend much money at all.

What’s even better is when you have someone else to cook with and enjoy the food you prepared.  My boyfriend, Greg, is a trooper and will try anything I make or order at a restaurant, even if it looks questionable.  Sushi, sesame tofu, sweet potato burgers (which he actually liked); he will humor my occasionally strange eating habits. But Sunday we decided to use his grilling skills and make balsamic chicken and broccoli.

How many times can tomato and mozzarella show up in a meal?  Not enough, in my opinion.

So all we did was marinate the chicken breasts in an olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixture in a plastic bag.  We only marinated it for about 5 minutes, but the chicken surprisingly held a lot of the flavor even after cooking it.  Using the good-old George Foreman, Greg grilled the chicken to perfection while I cut the T&M, and steamed the broccoli.  When the chicken was cooked, we placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet, topped them with the mater and mozz slices, and popped them in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes until the cheese was slightly melted.  Sprinkle a little bit of basil spice on top (or fresh basil if yours ends up lasting longer than mind did), and pair with the steamed broccoli on the side and you’ve got a colorful, healthy dinner on your hands.

Who says cooking can’t be fun and easy?