Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cups

I’m trying to work those ‘good’ grains back into my diet these day. I know I need to watch the carbs, but you can’t deny the goodness of putting whole grains into your body. In addition to all of the fiber you’ll get to keep you full, they are little nuggets of goodness to get you through a derby practice. Nothing is worse than running out of steam and you still have to keep skating another hour.

I like this recipe because it allows me to use all of those overripe bananas that I throw in the back of my freezer. Store in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge or pop them in the freezer for much later. These are awesome on-the-go when you overslept before your morning practice or only have a few minutes to get to derby after work.

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Makes 12 cups
2 cups of rolled oats
1 Tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (you can sub any unsweetened milk of choice, I just like almond)
1 egg
2 medium bananas
1 large apple (preferably Granny Smith) cored and cut into small chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spray your muffin tin with nonstick spray, or use tin foil liners. The paper ones may be harder to get off (they were for me).

3. Mash your bananas and add your egg and milk. Mix together thoroughly.

4. Add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Once blended together, fold in the apple.

5. Fill your muffin tins to about the top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie

I’m trying to clean up my eating again. Like everyone else, I fall off the bandwagon during the holidays. I work in an industry full of food vendors. They are sending us droves of goodie baskets, as if the continual supply of food for testing throughout the year wasn’t havoc enough on my hips. Usually I wouldn’t mind, since I don’t beat myself up if I slip a cookie here and there because I know I’ve got at least 4 hours on my skates every week. However, my derby league is on holiday break like everyone else. Hopefully when I do start skating again back in January, the chocolate-covered pretzels, French truffles, Christmas cookies, and caramel popcorn won’t slow me down too much.

For me, getting back on the bandwagon is all about shortcuts. Just something to make the act of saying, “No, you don’t need to pull into T-Flats for Taco Tuesday because you have something equally delicious at home,” a little easier; like ripping off a Band Aid. My big problem this past month has been not eating a balanced breakfast. Lunch is easy for me if I don’t have time to pack it. I walk over to Panera for a fresh salad, or drive to one of many sushi places around and grab a fairly healthy meal. I’ve come to love Jimmy John’s not only for their freaky fast delivery to my office, but their Un-Wich as well. But when it comes to breakfast, I’m screwed if I don’t plan ahead. A bagel is out of the question, and though I like the hidden menu steak and egg bowl at Panera I don’t like paying more than $6 for it.

Enter chia smoothie goodness. I can whip this up in less than 5 minutes while I’m making dinner. Really no mess (especially if you heat the milk in the jar in the microwave) and after it sits in the fridge overnight, all you have to do is grab and go. I drink mine right out of the jar once I get to work and have been pairing it with eggs cups (recipe here) for a protein-packed breakfast that will help keep me going all morning.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy, coconut or cow’s milk)
3 Tbs chia seeds
1 Tbs honey
1 Tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat your milk of choice either in the microwave or on the stovetop. Be careful not to scald it; stand by the stove and wait for it to warm. You want it warm so when you add your honey it will dissolve.

2. Add the honey and stir through, making sure it has dissolved into the milk.

3. Add your sweetened milk to a container with a lid (I prefer a mason jar or something from my collection of reused pasta sauce, pickles, mustard, and olive jars).

4. Add the vanilla extract and chia seeds.

5. Seal the lid and shake vigorously (over the sink!) until everything is incorporated. Let this is in the fridge for about half an hour and give it another good shake. Put it back in the fridge for at least 3 hours before shaking up and enjoying!

Paleo Brownies

It’s the holidays! There is one thing I splurge on… EGGNOG. I happen to have 2 half-gallons in my fridge at this very moment, right next to the eggnog coffee creamer. Aside from the eggnog splurge, there’s always the other treats with the holidays. Now that I’m not living with Mom and Dad anymore, the threat of the bounty of Christmas cookies is long gone. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want to eat something sweet and decadent. I like making these brownies because they are not only rich and chocolaty, but they are a cinch to make in your food processor.

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15 large medjool dates, pits removed
1 medium ripe banana
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup dried cranberries

1. Except for the dried cranberries, combine all ingredients in your food processor until mixed thoroughly.
2. Stir in your cranberries.
3. Press into a greased baking dish and pop in the freezer until set (about 1 hour). Cut into squares and enjoy!

Paleo Zucchini Bread

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I suck at baking. Like really, really suck at baking. I never can seem to get things right. I blame it on the fact that baking is all about being precise. It’s a chemical reaction, and I think I got a C+ at best in chemistry. The best part of being a business major in college was that I could get away with geology as my required science class. The only thing I took away from my professor was his love of ‘A Land Remembered’ by Patrick D. Smith, which is now one of my favorite books. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Florida history.

Luckily paleo baking seems to be something I’m far better at. It’s still not the ‘pinch of this, dash of that’ freedom that cooking gives me, but it seems less hard for me to totally screw things up. I also enjoy paleo baking because it means I can eat baked goods without all of the extra sugar and processed carbs. I’m one of those people who needs to watch my carbs and processed junk I put into my body because it seems to enjoy settling on my stomach. I by no means am trying to ‘eat like a caveman’, and I do still put some lower-fat cream cheese on my paleo zucchini bread because that’s the way God (and my mom) intended zucchini bread to be eaten. As far as my lower-carb-higher-protein lifestyle goes, this just seems to fit right in.

In the two times I’ve made this recipe, I’ve found that using thawed zucchini that you’ve nearly crushed with your bare hands works the best. This is particularly helpful when it’s near the end of summer, and your fridge is overflowing with all of the zucchini that you bought on sale because it was in season and you got tired of grilling, sautéing, and making baked zucchini fries (recipe here). Just run it through the food processor’s grater (or shred by hand with a box grater), bag it up in portions, and toss it in the freezer (next to your stockpile of bananas that you also bought in bulk) till you’re ready to make a bounty of zucchini bread, which to me is a fall treat with summer’s leftovers. Let it thaw, then squeeze as much liquid as you can out to make sure your bread doesn’t come out too wet.

1 ½ c almond flour
1 cup zucchini, shredded and drained of excess water
3 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1 ½ tsp baking soda
3 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs coconut oil, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

3. In another bowl, add your eggs, honey, banana, and coconut oil and whisk together thoroughly.

4. Add your squeezed zucchini to the wet mixture. Seriously… Squeeze the shit out of it.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients until everything is smooth.

6. Grease a loaf pan and pour the batter in. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

7. Allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Man, being sick sucks. When you’re not running for the nearest roll of toilet paper to wipe your face of snot, you’re gasping for breath because you’re too congested. Sleeping on your side means waking up with one functioning nostril. Everything hurts. The only thing that feels good is your fluffiest sheets and your ass nestled among every last pillow you have on your bed.

Luckily for me, I’m not sick. But my boyfriend is. And yes, I do have a picture of him swallowed in a cocoon of feather duvet and pillows. It’s pretty flippin’ cute. I’ve never seen a boy appreciate 700-thread-count sheets that much, and I’ll save him the emasculation of posting it on here.

Just check my Instagram, in case he ever pisses me off. MWAHAHA.

We finally had our first cold front of the season. It only took till the last week of October for cold-ish air to come barreling through Orlando. My favorite part of living on the third floor of my apartment is being able to leave the windows open for all of the crisp Fall air to come in. And yes, I do consider 67 degrees to fall under the definition of ‘crisp’. We’ve left the windows open all night as well, when it actually dips down to the mid-50’s. It’s quite the treat.

So naturally the third wheel to this sick-boyfriend-cool-weather combination is soup. But not just any soup. For the next 2 months, we’re all obsessed with eating anything orange or belonging to the squash family. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese, and of course everyone’s favorite the Pumpkin Spice latte. Butternut squash soup is among this great and glorious category. I’ve tried my hand several times at creating that lovely, velvety smooth traditional butternut squash soup. You know the one that has just the right amount of sweetness, cinnamon, maybe nutmeg, and some other spices that I can’t seem to figure out and it always leaves me thinking I’m better off just buying it at Crisper’s or Panera Bread or some other place that gets soups right.

Not this time.

I perused Pinterest like I do for some inspiration and I came across a recipe for a Thai take on this classic. When I told the boyfriend, I saw the joy rise in his eyes. Apparently he has a thing for squash soups as well. Here’s my take on this recipe.

Do this!

2 Tbs coconut oil
1 sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
3 Tbs red curry paste
4 cups of your favorite broth (meat or veggie)
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2” cubes
1 14 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
Salt & Pepper
Lime for squeezing

1. Warm your coconut oil in a deep pot (the kind you’d cook your pasta in) over medium heat.

2. Add your onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt and coat in the oil. Let this cook about 5 minutes, until the onion are translucent.

3. Add your curry paste and ginger and stir to coat your onions. Isn’t that color lovely??

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4. Drop in your chunks of squash, then add about 3 cups of your broth. Everything should be almost submerged. Bring this to medium-high heat and cover. Let it do its thing for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. When done, take it off the heat.

5. Carefully add the contents thus far into a food processor or even a blender. Since the soup is scalding hot, keep the food chute (that place you stick your food in when you’re shredding it) or the hole in the lid of your blender uncovered. If not, the heat will build up and shit will hit the ceiling in the most literal of senses. If you’re worried about being splashed, gently hold a paper towel over the opening. Hit the pulse button a few time to get it started, then let it blend away until you see no lump of squash or pieces of onion floating around.

6. Pour your soup back into your pot and turn the heat back on to medium.

7. Add your can of coconut milk and stir thoroughly. Depending on thick your soup is (most likely depending on how much squash you used) you’ll need to add your last cup of broth. If you’re out of broth, you can thin the soup with some water. No biggie. Heat this through on medium heat.

8. Taste test! Do you need some salt and pepper? More than likely you will! Depending on what broth you use (low-sodium, who-cares-about-sodium) you may need to add some or not at all. Always season soups at the very end.

9. Serve up with wedges of lime to squeeze. The lime brightens up the soup and really highlights the coconut and ginger.

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Paleo-ish Cookie Dough Bars

I’ve never been a person to shy away from a problem. I enjoy a little fire under my ass. As a matter of fact, I don’t enjoy using the word, “problem”; “challenge” or even “opportunity” is far more enjoyable.

I may just be saying that after having enough previous bosses tell me that.

Either way, I’m stressing. Like, the kind of stress that makes you reach for a Hershey’s bar, some preservative-rich frozen macaroni and cheese and a box of wine. Anything that will leave you in a sugary, carb-induced coma on the couch and slurring your thoughts so badly that even if there was a zombie walking through your living room you couldn’t put two and two together. That, my friends, would be a “problem”.

After all, I’m a red-blooded American woman, and nothing says that better than reaching for the sweets and the booze. But since I’m on this kick of eating well, I’ll bypass the creamy cheesy carbs and opt for something a little more wholesome. Something filled with ingredients that my body will actually know what to do with. Don’t worry; wine is still in the mix.

This recipe is actually inspired by one found on damyhealth.com, and I’ve been meaning to make it for several weeks now. OK, weeks really means months. But I’ve been pushed to my stress’ limit to where I have no other option but to make this. And since I love baked goods but can’t bake to save my life, this is totally up my alley. All you need is a food processor and something to heat the ganache with.

MAKE THIS!

Paleo-ish Cookie Dough Bars
Makes 12 squares

Crust:
1 c peanuts
1 c cashews
½ c pitted dates
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs honey

Ganache:
1 c coconut oil
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup honey

1. Place the crust ingredients into your food processor. Pulse together for a few minutes until everything comes together in a ball. Add a tablespoon or two of water f it needs a little help. This is my kind of baking!

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2. Grease a glass baking dish (I used an 8 x 12) and press the crust in an even layer.

3. Put your ganache ingredients into a small pot on the stove top and gently warm it through, until you can see that the honey has incorporated and all of the coconut oil has melted (aka there are no little white balls floating around).

4. Pour the ganache on top of the crust layer in the pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer for a few hours. Cut it into your 12 squares and enjoy!

*To store, seal in a container and keep in your freezer!

Poached Eggs with Spinach and Pasta

Sometimes you’re just craving pasta… Even at 10:47 in the morning. Appropriate? Maybe.

Perhaps that’s why I love brunch so much. Got some vodka? Add some juice, and magically daydrinking is now encouraged. Take your favorite thing to eat at dinner, throw an egg on it, and VOILA! It’s now acceptable to eat it before noon. Some of my favorite brunchie things are any type of steak and eggs (I had a chimichurri flank steak and eggs at Dexter’s Winter Park that was amazing) and crab cakes eggs bennedict (the gold standard of this is at HUE in Thornton Park, but I heard they are now closed, which may be good because I can only justify paying $14 for this dish there). Sadly I don’t keep crab cakes on hand.

So I rummaged around in my fridge once I finally put my book down, because sleeping in and reading a good book in bed is quickly taking precedent over cardio tennis at 9 in the morning. I do fancy myself a Kitchen MacGyver and I love a good challenge. Kinda feels like Iron Chef, and today’s secret ingredient was the leftover whole wheat penne I’ve had shoved in the back of the fridge since making the conscious decision to slow way, way down on the amount of bread and pasta that I eat. This decision was also made before my friends and I decided to make homemade pizzas nearly every other day for a week, which explained the open jar of pizza sauce sitting in the fridge amongst all of the lovely fruits and veggies I just bought and have barely touched. I blame it on all of the work functions, the awesome friends that I have that just love to share great food in unorthodox abundance, and this new beau of mine that enjoys treating this lady to culinary adventures around town. It’s not entirely my fault.

But since I turned down the urges to order pizza and wings at midnight and opted for a good night’s sleep, I will indulge in a little pasta this morning. Topped with eggs, of course.

Weeee!

You’ll need:

2 eggs
Apple cider vinegar (or any other light colored vinegar, like white wine, just please no balsamic!)
Some kind of tomato-based sauce (pizza sauce, pasta sauce, whatever)
Pasta (any shape and kind will do)
A big handful of spinach

1. Get a pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it, and drop in your pasta. Cook it like usual, for about 7 minutes or until al dente.

2. While your pasta is cooking, get a frying pan, preferably a deep one, and fill it about half way with some water and a good splash of your vinegar of choice. If you need definition of a ‘good splash’, take that as 3-4 tablespoons. Bring this to a soft simmer.

3. Once the water in the pan is lightly bubbling, crack your eggs and slowly add them into the water. This is called poaching. The vinegar in the water and the temperature will keep the whites from making a huge mess. After about 2 minutes, you can take a slotted spoon and gently turn them over in their bath. If you like runny yolks like me, take them out of the water after another 2 minutes and place them on a paper towel to drain. For fully cooked yolks, go for a full 3 minutes.

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4. After the pasta is done, drain it, add it back to the pot, and throw in your handful of spinach. Wilt the spinach, which won’t take too long because of the heat of the pasta. Toss in a few spoonfuls of your tomato sauce to coat the pasta and heat through.

5. Put the pasta and spinach into a bowl, then top with your poached eggs. I added a chiffonade of fresh basil and some pepper, but you could also throw on a little grated Italian cheese or a drizzle of quality olive oil.

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Zucchini ‘Fries’

Zucchini is a great vegetable that is readily available and especially cheap when it’s in season in the summer. Oddly enough I get into a rut when it comes to using it. I love grilling it in long strips and throwing the leftovers in an antipasta salad the next day, cubing it for kabobs, or sautéing it with a little oil and garlic. But that’s where my mental block begins!

There is a place that I absolutely love here in Orlando called Graffiti Junktion. Aside from their amazing burgers, they make the best zucchini fries served up with a dish of spicy remoulade similar to the dressing you’d get with a blooming onion. I have eaten an entire bacon cheddar burger and split an order of zucchini fries a few occasions. It could possibly be the best hangover helper I’ve ever encountered. However, sometimes your body tells you that you need to forego the beef patty the size of your face and all of the deep-fried goodness. This recipe by no means replaces the Junktion’s zucchini fries, but it does make for a nice substitute you can make at home and feel good about.

3 medium-sized zucchini cut into sticks about the size of your finger
Salt
2 large eggs
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese (I like the shredded kind, personally)
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano

1. Toss your zucchini sticks in a liberal amount of salt. Leave them in a colander over the sink for at least an hour. This will release excess water in the zucchini, so they come out more firm than mushy. Watch the magic happen!

2. After the zucchini have done their thing, rinse them well to remove the salt, then thoroughly pat them dry with paper towels.

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3. Preheat your oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Beat your eggs in a bowl large enough to dip your zucchini sticks in to coat them.

5. Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan, and herbs in a separate dish large enough to dredge the battered zucchini in. My favorite method is to put this into a large Tupperware container (the kind I’d use for a salad), then add no more than 2 or 3 sticks at a time. Hold the container over the sink and gently knock the sides with your hand to coat.

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6. Place the sticks on your baking sheet with just enough room so that they don’t touch. Bake for 12-15 minutes before flipping and baking for another 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden all around.

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Serve them up with your favorite dipping sauce!

Lunch: Provencal Potato Salad

I like to call this The Pantry Cleaner. Basically, take all of your things in your pantry and just dump them in here. Not really. But basically.

Provencal Potato Salad

Provencal Potato Salad

Usually I can’t stand recipes that call for so many ingredients. And you still have to make the base of this recipe, which can be found HERE. But, Ina Garten again works her magic, and everyone that I had try this at the office agreed its pretty flippin’ amazing and totally worth the slaving in the kitchen.

OK, maybe you’re not really slaving… Just opening up a few jars, mincing a few things, and peeling some eggs. If you’re a fan of nicoise salads like I am, your mouth will thank me. Thankfully this does make a pretty hefty batch, so get ready to eat a few bowls of this or feed a small army of friends. Since this is a pretty complete meal, you’ll have a great lunch for the week!

Here we go!

½ lb haricots verts (fresh green beans, to you and me)
1 recipe French Potato Salad
1 can of tuna fish, drained
½ cup capers, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, minced
½ cup pitted olives, chopped
6 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

1. Get a giant ass mixing bowl with your French Potato Salad in it.

2. Get a pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop in your haricots verts and cook for about 3-5 minutes. You want to keep them fairly crisp, instead of too mushy. Drain and give them a chop in half.

3. Add the haricots verts, tuna fish, capers, cherry tomatoes, onion, olives, and eggs to the potato salad. Toss well and serve!

So pretty...

So pretty…

...So yummy!

…So yummy!

Sides: French Potato Salad

This is another stab of mine at an Ina Garten recipe. That woman really does no wrong in my book, and this recipe proves just that. I’m a big fan of Southern-style potato salad, but this one is so fresh and flavorful with the tangy vinaigrette and fresh herbs that it’s a nice detour from mayo-heavy potato salads that we’re used to.

I will be honest, I’m not crazy about recipes that call for a million ingredients. I’m also not a fan of ingredients that are highly-specialized or very expensive. However, I passed up my usual six pack of fancy beer and decided to pick up some fancy vinegar instead. Luckily my grocer had a clearance on a walnut champagne vinegar. Even on sale, this shit was like $7 for 6.75 oz. But once you add your vinaigrette to the warm potatoes and you get a nose full, you’ll understand. And when your friends are asking you what that flavor is in the back that they just can’t place and you casually say, “Oh. It’s just this champagne vinegar I picked up. Sounded like a good idea at the time…” Get ready for the eyebrows. Shit just got real.

Here we go:

2 lbs of small potatoes (I love the little red ones, but feel free to add the white and reds together for color)
3 Tbs champagne vinegar (I used a walnut champagne for extra flavor… and it was on sale)
½ tsp Dijon mustard
10 Tbs quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced scallions, white and green
2 Tbs minced fresh dill
2 Tbs minced parsley
2 Tbs chiffonade of basil

1. Get a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add some salt, the same way you would if you were cooking pasta. Add the potatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes. Once tender, drain them and then add them back to the pot and throw the lid on them. This will let them steam, which lets them develop this creamy texture. Sounds nuts, but just go with it.

2. While your potatoes are at the spa, add your vinegar, mustard, oil, salt and pepper to a glass jar*. Shake it furiously until all of the ingredients combine to make a smooth dressing-like vinaigrette.

3. Take your warm potatoes and chop them into thick cubes. This may mean you’re quartering them, or if you’re using larger potatoes you’ll need to cube them a little smaller. Do what feels right.

4. Toss the potatoes with the vinaigrette, then add your fresh herbs. The warm potatoes will absorb the vinaigrette like a sponge, unlike if they were cold. The end results will be tasty potatoes literally packed with flavor from the inside out. Serve this warm or at room temperature.

French Potato Salad

French Potato Salad

*Pro tip: I keep little glass jars around the house for all kinds of shit. Every time I’ve used up a jar of olives, mustard, or whatever, I throw it in the dishwasher and add it to the collection. They are fantastic for cleaning your skate bearings (when friends stop by for a bearing cleaning party, I can send them home with a little jar or dirty turpentine!) and they are great for when you make your own dressings and marinades. Just throw your ingredients all into the jar, seal the lid tight, and shake like crazy… Preferably over the sink, just in case that lid got loose on you! It’s much fast than that whole ‘drizzle the oil slowly and whisk till your arm falls off’ method, and when you’re done you can throw it in the fridge, the cooler, your lunchbox, wherever… And it’s less mess.

Makin' dressing...

Makin’ dressing…