Cleanse & Mend

Yeah, yeah. So you came here last Tuesday and noticed my blog had disappeared, eh? That news is sooooo last week. Ironically enough, it seems that being hacked is just the motivation I was looking for to revamp the site, clean it up a bit so to speak. So to the slimy douchebag out there who decided to ruin my day last Tuesday, I can now say, “thanks, asshat, because now i made my blog fancy.” I can neither confirm nor deny other obscenities that may have come across my innocent lips. And yes, I stuck my tongue out at him, too.

Anyway, I hope you like the new look. Thanks for coming back.

In other news, I thought this would be a good time to fill you in on that weird comment I made the other day about eating vegan for 2 days. It really wasn’t a big deal, but to me, noticeably not eating meat for that long isn’t something I intend to do on the regular (I say this while pounding back a hearty dish of jambalaya – more on that in the future). Sure, I often times go many days without eating meat, but not because I am forcing myself to, but because I choose to (which is different, I promise), because I do enjoy many a vegetarian entree. The vegan eating is the one that gets me – the no dairy, no cheese, no honey, etc.

Nonetheless, I did do it. One day involved a full-on juice detox from a company called Juice to You. I saw a coupon come across one of the many email subscriptions I receive, and since it seemed interesting, and since the bottles were pretty, I figured I may as well give it a try. I survived, and I did eat pretty healthily for a week. The juices were extra tasty, filling, and relatively easy to drink. Did I feel differently? Not really, but it was only a day. Maybe I’ll try the 3-day detox next time – if they release another coupon, that is. Or maybe I’ll just get that juicer I have on my wishlist and make my own.

The juice detox reminded me of a drink/smoothie I hadn’t made since living in Chicago. I’m sure there have got to be a handful of you still reading at this point, and hopefully you aren’t about to “X” out after I tell you this: it was full of spinach and flax seeds, totally vegan, and one of my very favorite smoothies.

Still there?

Okay – there’s a banana and some sweetener in there, too. And oats. I tell ya – there is not one moment where I drink this smoothie and think to myself, “man, this tastes like freaking spinach”. It’s all oat-y and banana-y and milk-y, and you should try it just to see if I’m telling the truth or not. But I promise you, I am. The juice detox reminded me that I need more greens in my diet, and blending them up in a creamy beverage each morning is mindnumbingly easy.

Plus, it saves me from having to drink tea and coffee every morning, putting me on the brink of being addicted again, and thus turning into a total crazy lady in the process of weaning off of said caffeine-ation once I start to feel guilty about it. Clearly, that’s a bad cycle, you see. Now that I say this, consider this smoothie my gift to you in more than one way. You’re welcome.

Spinach, Banana, & Oat Smoothie
makes 1 drink

time commitment: 5 minutes

this drink is super flexible and great for forcing some veggies and fruits into your diet. i’ve added raspberries, an apple, and cranberries before (not together, at different times), and have also added in pomegranate juice and other juices in place of or in addition to the milk. if i had some blueberries, i bet that’d be tasty too.

printable version

ingredients
1 T whole flax seeds
1 1/2 c baby spinach
1 banana
1/4 c oat bran
1 1/4 c vanilla soy milk
1 T agave nectar or honey
ice

instructions
in a blender, whiz the flax seeds around to grind up for about 30 seconds. add spinach, banana, oat bran milk, and agave nectar/honey (in this order to weigh down the spinach) and mix for about 2 minutes until well blended. add ice and blend until desired texture (i usually add about 8 pieces of ice).

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Banana-fana-fo-fuffins

I used to eat Luna Bars for breakfast every day. The chocolate-raspberry and caramel nut brownie were my two favorites, with the cookies n’ cream and the peppermint bars taking a very close 3rd and 4th, respectively. I used to buy 20 bars at a time, stocking up every 4 weeks and driving the checkout clerks at Whole Foods bonkers, at least the ones who rang up each flavor separately. I preferred the ones who cheated, gave me the “10% off case discount”, and rang them up all at once.

After the 1-2 year Luna phase (not to be confused with a ‘lunar phase’, which is related to the illuminated portion of the moon and is much less than 2 years…), I went into oatmeal phase and stayed there, switching between Quaker and Kashi brands, for almost a year. I grew tired of washing my oatmeal bowl at work every morning, and those days when I didn’t wash it, I felt icky and it was harder to wash the next time, further enhancing the annoyance. And plus, homemade oatmeal for dinner, laden with brown sugar, dried cranberries, and walnuts, is much better, and I like to do that once a week to keep the oatmeal vibe alive ;).

Then those granola bars, those lovely granola bars, came into my life. I make different versions of them regularly, recently using barley in place of oats (more protein & fiber) and dried blueberries for the fruit (which ain’t cheap, so that won’t happen often, that’s for sure). They are perfectly chewy but still crunchy, healthy but still somewhat sweet and tasty, and most importantly they are filling.

I’m still in granola bar phase, but every so often it’s nice to rotate something into the weekly mix, and generally that rotation includes muffins. I was inspired by a plethora of posts using bananas and chocolate chips over the past few weeks, including David’s banana cake and Kristin’s banana chocolate walnut cake, and set out to make a healthy breakfast version to use some bananas I’d frozen (cryogenic-style, to preserve their ripeness) a couple of weeks ago.

[For those of you turning your nose up, stop it. Right this instant. Those ‘naners are perfectly edible and when baking, the darker they are, the better. I like to let them get really dark before freezing them, as they’re most tasty at that point.]

I’m also recently turned on by non-all-purpose flours, and after a little research I surmised that bananas and spelt flour would be soulmates, or something. Ironically, I’d just bought some for a focaccia recipe (stay tuned, friends), so out of the freezer the ‘naners came and after a little thawing, straight into the oven they went, along with some spelt flour, some walnuts, and chocolate (banana’s other soulmate; it has more than one..).

The end result? Like I said, a match made in heaven, for certain.

Have any of you used spelt flour? And if so, what for?

Mo’ breakfast:
Tomato-Poached Eggs
Homemade Granola Bars
Oat Bran & Fruit Muffins

 

Muffins, Muffins, bo-buffins,
Banana-fana fo-fuffins,
Fee-fi-mo-muffins,
Muffins!

 

Spelt Banana-Chocolate-Walnut Muffins
Adapted from Wednesday Food Blogging

printable version

Did I mention these lil’ muffins are vegan? Probably not, since I’m not a vegan. It just sorta happened that way, as I was searching for ultra-healthy adaptations. And FYI, the flax seeds are a great substitute for eggs that provide loads of fiber and omega-3’s (1 T ground flax seeds + 3 Tbsp water (or other liquid) = 1 egg). Lovely even for us non-vegans.
ingredients
2 tablespoons organic flax seeds, ground
1/4 cup water
1 cup wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 c chocolate chips, optional
1 T dark Jamaican rum
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup walnut oil (or vegetable oil)

 

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside. Whisk ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl; set aside.

Combine spelt flour through chocolate chips in small bowl. Combine rum, bananas, sugar and walnut oil in a larger bowl, add flax mixture. Add dry ingredients, a half cup at a time, and stir until combined. Pour into prepared muffin tins and bake for ~30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean. If necessary, cover with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.

*Of note, various sites claim that, although spelt flour is not gluten-free, it’s tolerated by people with wheat allergies. Anyone know why?

I Must Be Nuts

You may know this already, if you know me personally or if you’ve been reading along for oh I don’t know, a week – but I can be a bit nutty sometimes. One time, I booked the wrong flight from NC to IL and got to the airport only to find that my flight left me the day before! My mom was selfishly ecstatic; meanwhile, Hubs was bitterly picking a Benjamin from our money tree. I forgot to include a dryer sheet the other day and I had static cling all morning until I was rescued by the static cling fairy one of the admins in my department. Static cling just isn’t pretty. I’ve missed my train stop a couple of times in the past month or two because, as opposed to most other people who miss their stops because they are sleeping, I’m just daydreaming. And just now, I received an email from someone searching for me because i forgot to include contact information on a hotel booking form. Thank goodness for google searches, eh?

I even went to culinary school once. Isn’t that just batty? I was in class three nights a week learning how to use aspic and how to make puff pastry from scratch, among other things. And as silly and nutty as that may have been, I loved every second of it. I miss it, in a way. And since finishing that last class and getting my official ‘culinary certificate’ in the mail, I’ve wondered where my place is in that world. I’ve wondered how to comfortably nestle my career as a genetic counselor into the arms of something I find even more rewarding, invigorating, and downright satisfying on so many levels – food. Not just eating food, but the entire process of it and the happiness that comes when you cook for others. Nourishing them, expanding limits of what they will eat, expanding limits of what I will eat – ultimately, that is what makes me smile, and that’s what this is all about.

Which brings me to ‘step 1’ and item #3 on my New Years Resolution list.I am officially for hire! Is that crazy, or what? So go on and read here for the details, and then spread the word! And if you’re up for being my sous chef one day, just holler :).

To really seal the deal on all this talk about nuttiness, I find it nothing short of mandatory to discuss homemade granola bars. Seriously, you really shouldn’t buy them at the store as they are loaded with all sorts of icky things. Plus, they are so freakin’ easy to make it’s not even funny. There are oodles of recipes online, so I’m not suggesting that you have to make these, but I’m biased and I can vouch for them – they will knock your socks off, even if you’re wearing two to three pairs these days.

I’m not sure what it is that makes these so awesome, but usually anything containing molasses is enough to make me drool like a St Bernard. Most recipes I saw used honey, but I had plenty of other sweeteners I wanted to try and I do love me some Grandma’s Molasses and have very fond memories of pouring it onto Aunt Faye’s buttermilk biscuits as a child. I think the agave nectar refines the taste a bit so that the bars aren’t overloaded with molasses, and you could surely use honey if you prefer, or even maple syrup. Either way, they truly are morsels of utter tastiness – sweet enough, chewy enough, and loaded nuts which add just the right amount of texture.

To boot, they are healthy and chock-full of all those good-for-you things that you want to consume first thing in the morning. Or afternoon. Or as a late night snack. No matter when, it’s a kind of nutty thing you just have to do, and you’ll never go back to those quaker granola bars again – unless you’re even nuttier than I think you are :).

Easy Granola Bars
makes 12 individual bars

yes, the version below is overflowing with ingredients. the thing about granola bars is you can totally make them your own by adding whatever suits ya. i’ll put an abbreviated recipe below so you can see how creative  you can be. because i’m all about making your life easy – especially making granola bars easy. because they are…

printable recipe

ingredients
2 c oats
3/4 c pumpkin seeds (or other seed combo)
3/4 c ground flax seeds
1/4 c macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1/4 c pecans, finely chopped
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 c almonds, finely chopped
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 c molasses
3 T unsalted butter, optional
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 c dried figs, finely chopped
1/4 c golden raisins, finely chopped

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. mix oats, seeds, and nuts into 9×13″ baking dish. toast nuts for ~20 minutes. dump in large mixing bowl when toasted and wipe down baking dish. toss in coconut and dried fruits and mix well.

while toasting oat/seed/nut mixture, heat sugar, agave nectar, molasses, butter, and vanilla in a medium saucepan until butter melts and mixture comes to simmer. pour hot mixture into the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

line baking dish with parchment paper and pour sticky mixture into dish. spread evenly. use another sheet of parchment paper to press down on mixture with your hands to ensure the mixture is evenly distributed, but also to ensure there are no bubbles and that the mixture is packed densely.

remove from dish by grabbing parchment paper and lifting up. turn out onto cutting board and cut into whatever size you want (i cut into 12 rectangular shapes). they can be stored at room temp for a couple of weeks or stored for even longer in the freezer.

 

Easier Granola Bars
makes 12 individual bars

as promised, here’s the short and sweet version

printable recipe

ingredients
2 c oats**
1 1/2 c seeds*
1 1/2 c finely chopped nuts
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/2 c liquid sweetener
3 T unsalted butter, optional
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes, optional
3/4 c dried fruit, chocolate chips, or both

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. mix oats, seeds, and nuts into 9×13″ baking dish. toast nuts for ~20 minutes. dump in large mixing bowl when toasted and wipe down baking dish. toss in coconut and dried fruits and mix well.

while toasting oat/seed/nut mixture, heat sugar, liquid sugars, butter, and vanilla in a medium saucepan until butter melts and mixture comes to simmer. pour hot mixture into the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

line baking dish with parchment paper and pour sticky mixture into dish. spread evenly. use another sheet of parchment paper to press down on mixture with your hands to ensure the mixture is evenly distributed, but also to ensure there are no bubbles and that the mixture is packed densely.

remove from dish by grabbing parchment paper and lifting up. turn out onto cutting board and cut into whatever size you want (i cut into 12 rectangular shapes). they can be stored at room temp for a couple of weeks or stored for even longer in the freezer.

*any seed combo. or wheat germ. if using flax, grind them first!
** gluten-free oats available at Whole Foods