Pancakes… on a school day??

Good morning everyone!!  Despite having been out of school for over a decade a short while, I will always think of Monday to Friday as the ‘school week.’  And maybe a little denial about being a grownup  😉

Well, great news… with this recipe, you can enjoy hearty, filling, healthy pancakes in minutes.  Totally do-able for a weekday breakfast!

Oatmeal Powercakes

Enjoy this quick and filling pancake in minutes… pancakes no longer need to be relegated to a weekend-only meal!  And you can top with anything you like.  I event heard about a girl that topped hers with chocolate chips… perhaps that was just an urban-pancake-myth, or maybe that person was me  😉

  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup oats (I like texture of the thinner cut variety or ‘quick cook’)
  • 3 Tbs egg whites (or 2 egg whites)
  • dash of pumpkin pie spice
  • toppings: strawberries, blueberries, almond butter

Heat a skillet to medium heat, it’s important that the heat isn’t too high… you want the pancake to cook through without burning the outside.  Smash the banana with a fork and mix in the egg white, oats and spices.  Add to the skillet and cook until set, about 5 minutes.  My first few pancakes were more like pancake scrambles because I flipped to early.  Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Top with berries and almond butter and enjoy!!

oatmeal powercakesYou all know how much I love my morning oatmeal… I must say, this is a contendor for weekday breakfast favorites!

In other news, this week started the 21-day meditation challenge with Deepak and Oprah!!  Jonathan and I have participated every day so far!  I had big plans to finish unpacking our spare room and create a beautiful meditation space before the challenge stared…. alas, I got busy and the room is still in disarray!  But, this proves that you don’t need a special zen garden to start a new practice and reap the benefits of meditation.  I often find that making just a humble beginning is all it takes!

I hope everyone is having a great week!

xox, Kristen

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Cold weather and bean soup

Hi everyone!  Although it’s only been a week, it feels like ages since I’ve blogged!  I guess it’s been a busy week 🙂

I played hooky from work and hit the slopes with the girls!  Well, it wasn’t really hooky since I requested the day off in advance… but being off on a random weekday still felt rebellious and awesome.

slopeside

Here I am with Heather and Sheila at Sugarbush, which is quickly becoming one of my very favorite places!  Wow, the picture makes the trail look so flat… must be an optical illusion.  Seriously, it felt much steeper!  😉

In other news, Jonathan and I had a great weekend, we spent time with both of our families, plus had a fun date night in Boston.  We went to Life Alive for dinner… we both love this place so much that we’ve already decided what to try next time we go!  (Life Alive owners, if you happen to be reading this, pretty please open up a restaurant in Portsmouth.  I promise, I’ll be there all the time!!)  After dinner, we saw a comedy show with Janeane Garofalo, which was hilarious, I love her smart humor.  And then…….

cannoli

We totally indulged!  In fact that less-than-gracious picture is me holding a chocolate chip cannoli… no plate… no napkin (!!)… just cannoli, straight up!  In my humble opinion, Mike’s Pastry has the BEST cannoli in the North End, as proven by the ever-present line out the door.

Mike's!

By the end of the weekend, we were both pretty tired.  Plus, the last few days have been cold and a bit dreary here.  A perfect time for a big ol’ pot of soup!

No-Limits Bean Soup

The great thing about this soup is that no bean is off limits!  You can use any combination of dried beans… as many different types as you like.  I used Bob’s Red Mill brand mixed dried beans, or mix and match your favorites.  This recipe does require a little planning as you will need to soak the beans overnight… not a ‘spur of the moment’ meal, but totally worth the extra time!  And dried beans are far yummier and healthier than canned.

beans

  • 1 cup dried beans (expands to about 2 cups after soaking)
  • 3 small leeks, about 2 cups chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalked, chopped
  • 1 lg. can of tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado (optional garnish)

Begin by soaking the beans overnight.  Be sure to cover the beans with a few inches of water as they will expand.  Rinse the beans after soaking.

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, sautee the leek, carrot and celery until slightly soft.  Salt and pepper to taste.

beans2

Add the vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, and soaked beans.  Bring the soup to a boil and reduce to simmer for approximately two hours.  After cooking, add water or vegetable stock if needed to thin and more salt and pepper to taste.  You can always add hot pepper, but I kept the recipe mellow.  Serve topped with sliced avocado.

Now, it was a particularly cold day and true comfort food was in order… so we ate the soup with mini grilled cheese sandwiches.  Mmmmmmm!!  As there are only two ingredients, I won’t walk you through a grilled cheese recipe, but I will say this: get really good bread and good cheese… and you can’t go wrong.  We used roasted garlic baguette and smoked gouda.  And it was ‘so gouda’  (you like what I did there)  😉

bean soup

The longer cook time on this soup really lets all of the flavors melt together.  Nothing like grilled cheese and soup to ward off the freezing weather!  And this guy…..

ice moose

15 days til Spring!!  Hang in there friends!!  xox  Kristen

Fruity granola bars… and a challenge

I love granola, I really do… especially in the form of highly snackable granola bars.  In fact, we eat a lot of granola / kashi / cliff / power bars at my house.  So, in an effort to take another small step away from packaged food… and a step towards whole food goodness… I bring you, fruity, nutty homemade granola bars!!

Fruit and Nut Oat Bars

These bars are sweet and chewy with dried fruit, crunchy nuts, and just a touch of dark chocolate.  I used what I had on hand… these would also be delicious with dates, figs, dried cranberries or other types of nuts.  Oh, and be sure to look for dried fruits without added sugar… otherwise, they can pack a mean little sugary punch.  I get mine in the bulk bin at the grocery or health food store.

  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (of course I use my own)
  • 1/2 cup chopped or crushed walnuts
  • 1 cup oat flour (just pulse oats in your blender or food processor)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (I like the texture of the thick cut rolled oats)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (the good stuff, aim for > 70% cocao)
  • about 1/2 cup water (see explanation below)

Preheat oven to 325F.  Combine all of the dried fruits in a mini-chopper or food processor and pulse until well chopped… you could try to do this by hand, but trust me, it will be hard to achieve what can be done 1-2 minutes with the processor.

Transfer to a bowl and add the almond butter, nuts, oat flour and oats.  Start by adding 1/4 cup of water and mix by hand.  Slowly add more water until you have a dough.  I used 1/2 cup… excess water will cook out, so it’s better to add a little more rather than have a dry dough.

Line an 8x8in baking dish with parchment paper.  Press the dough into the pan and bake at 325F for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool, cut and serve.  Makes 12.  I like to cut bars into different sizes… because sometimes you just want a little bite, and sometimes you need more!

fruity granola barsfruity granola bars up close

I recently received an email from Deepak Chopra (well… okay, I’m on a mailing list… it wasn’t from him personally)… his center is doing a FREE 21-day meditation challenge starting on March 11th.  You just sign up, then you receive a daily email and have access to a new guided meditation for 3 weeks… and did I mention that it’s free?  Oh, and as if this could get ANY better, guess who is co-hosting with Deepak.  No silly, not me… Oprah!!  It’s bound to be fantastical!  Plus, developing a mediation practice is one of my goals, and this sounds like a perfect way to start!  Who’s with me??

xox,

Kristen

Apple stuffed acorn squash and lemony kale salad

Hi everyone and happy Tuesday!  I had a low-key weekend filled with family time, yoga, Thai food (the BEST I’ve ever had at The Green Elephant in Portland, Maine), movies and homemade pizza… some much-needed relax time.  And I was lucky enough to work from home yesterday (second best to actually having the day off), so I could catch up on some important work stuff, and also laundry.  😉

For food highlights, I have a delicious apple stuffed squash for you.  The recipe is reminiscent of my Mom’s Waldorf salad.. since I’m not a mayonnaise gal, I’ve actually never eaten it (yes Mom, it’s true, all those years at Thanksgiving, never tried it), BUT I can tell just by looking that it’s tasty!  And other people love it.  I digress….. anyway, I must have been channeling Waldorf in the kitchen when this one was hatched.

squash ingredients

Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

You know what they say about ‘good things’ and ‘waiting,’ right?  Well, this is one of those recipes… it’s not difficult, you’re just going to need to give the squash some quality time in the oven.  Great news, this is a perfect make-ahead candidate… the stuffed squash will keep just fine in the fridge.  Think about it: home from work, pop food in the oven… by the time you’ve unwound from your day… a hot ‘weekend’ dinner on a weeknight!

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 apples, I used organic fuji, but whatever you like will be great
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion
  • 1 tiny piece of ginger, zested about 1/4 tsp
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (the good ones, without added sugar)
  • 2 Tbs chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbs fresh parsely, minced
  • olive oil and black pepper

Chop and combine apples, onion, celery.  I left the apple skin on.  Stir in cranberries and pecans.  Add black pepper to taste.  I used several cracks of pepper but no added salt, you really don’t need it!  The chopped filling smelled so fresh and tasty, I almost grabbed a fork and stopped there.

squash filling chopped

Carefully cut the squash in half.  The squash are pretty hard so I lodge the knife as far as I can, then use the ‘splitting wood’ method.  Scrape the insides out and save the seeds.  I love roasted seeds and always cook mine when making squash… I throw them on a piece of aluminum foil with some salt and pepper and roast while the squash is cooking.

Lightly oil a baking dish.  Stuff the squash halves and place in the dish.  If you have extra stuffing, just throw it in the dish.

squashes

Cover and roast at 450F until soft, approx 50 minutes.

While these are roasting, you can prep your salad… I made a kale salad with lemony tahini dressing and roasted brussels sprouts.  I really love the addition of hot food on top of my green salads… especially in the winter.

stuffed squash

Lemon Tahini Kale Salad

I’m going to explain this recipe two ways, so I will try to keep it straightforward… I made the basic salad with dinner, then bulked up the leftovers with extra toppings for lunch the next day.  The add-ons gave the salad some protein and lasting power, making it more main-course worthy.

  • 1 head curly kale
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts (approx)
  • Lemon Tahini Dressing: 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar, 1Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs tahini, 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, pepper

Thoroughly wash kale and tear into bite sized pieces, skipping any really thick stems.  Combine dressing ingredients and mix with the kale and carrot to coat well.  The vinegar will begin to soften the kale a bit… in fact, the longer this salad sits, the better it tastes!  Kale won’t go limp like regular lettuce can.

Slice brussels sprouts in half and spread on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Roast the brussels sprouts at 450F for 20 minutes.  If you’ve never roasted sprouts, it’s absolutely the best way to cook them… they get a little sweet with nice crispy edges, soooo good!  In fact, roasting is my very favorite way to cook any vegetables!

Top the kale salad with roasted brussels sprouts and squash seeds.  This makes a perfect side dish… OR, as a meal…

  • 1 cup mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup dressed kale salad
  • leftover roasted brussels sprouts
  • chopped red bell pepper
  • marinated white beans
  • roasted squash seeds

Marinated beans are a new favorite of mine… I’ll whip them up and leave them in the fridge to add to salads or wraps.  Simply soak any type of beans (I’ve been loving the large white beans) in a combo of 2T apple cider vinegar, 1T olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Between the marinated kale and beans, you totally don’t need extra dressing.  If you are really feeling the need for a flavor burst, you could always whip up a little extra lemon tahini.  I love how fresh and crunchy and brightly colored this salad is!  And I always forget how yummy cabbage is until I eat it.

pumped up kale salad

In other news, today is day 5 of the 30 day green smoothie challenge that Jonathan and I are doing with Young and Raw.  So far, it’s been a success.  We’ve had a new green smoothie every day and are both totally LOVING the experience.  I’m a big smoothie fan, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut… so it’s lovely to have a supply of new recipes and creative new combinations.  It’s too late to join this month’s challenge, but if you follow them on facebook, they post lots of great smoothie and other raw recipes.

That’s all for now friends!  I am experimenting with homemade granola bars… so with any luck, I’ll be back with a healthy treat soon.

xox, Kristen

Heart Health, Valentine’s Day… and Chocolate Truffles

Wouldn’t it be great if heart health was as easy as having some laughs with friends, indulging in certain high-fat foods, savoring dark chocolate, and sleeping more?  Well, great news guys!!  All of these things are great for your heart health and general well-being… and now there is actual ‘data’ to back up what our intuition already knew.

We may be complex beings, but it’s all connected…

Indulging in some delicious foods… and I’m not talking about snarfing down an entire pizza (although sometimes those things happen)… I mean truly enjoying and savoring your favorite treat.  Doesn’t that make you feel good?  And how about sleep?  A good night’s sleep helps our immune system, metabolism, memory, learning and more… plus, after a restful night, I feel ready to take on the world!  And, who could argue that laughs with friends is anything but awesome.  Laughter totally zaps stress… and if you get rolling like my friends and I do, laughter can even equal an ab workout.   😉

So, it turns out, staying healthy can actually be pretty easy… and fun!

Oh, and CHOCOLATE… don’t worry, I didn’t forget that one.  Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and even vitamins and minerals.  It can lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function, and create a positive mood.  And most importantly, it’s delicious.

With no further delay, a tasty chocolate treat….

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

These little bites are not only delicious but they are sweetened with fruit and devoid of refined sugar, plus they contain heart-healthy dark chocolate and Omega 3’s… so you don’t have to feel bad about indulging!  Savor away friends  🙂

  • 1 cup unsweetened dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened coconut flakes, plus more for rolling
  • 1 Tbs cocoa powder (raw cacao is great here if you have it)
  • 1Tbs almond milk (you just need a dash of liquid to hold it together, if you don’t have almond milk, water or orange juice would work)
  • teeniest little dash of salt

Finely chop the cherries, dates, walnuts and chocolate.  I went old-school and hand chopped, but a food processor would probably work too.  Add remaining ingredients and mix by hand to form a dough.  Roll into small balls… the recipe will make about a dozen.  Roll the truffles in coconut.  Store these little delights in the fridge (unless you keep your house really cold like I do… or if you eat them all…)

chocolate cherry truffles

So, while you savoring your homemade truffles… I have a little activity for you, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

Ayurveda teaches that unconditional love is, in fact, our true nature.  So, let’s check that out.  Think of a person that you really love… a friend, spouse, family member, anyone… now grab a piece of paper and write down all of the things you love, appreciate and respect about that person.  This is for your eyes only, so really go for it!

As you write this list, observe how you feel.  You may notice that you feel loved, appreciated, important, respected, cared for… and here’s the little trick that our minds play on us: all of these things, which we think we need from someone else, we actually experience all by ourselves when we give love freely.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

xox  Kristen

Yogalates and an Asian rice bowl

Hi friends!  I hope everyone is having a great week… I am having an extra-awesome week because I am not working!  Well, back to the office tomorrow, but let’s not think about that today 😉

Yesterday I spent the day around the house.  I reorganized the walk-in closet to make room for Jonathan’s clothes.  I mean, we’ve only lived there 5 months, so it seemed like it was time.  I have never, ever shared a closet in my life… so far, nothing catastrophic has happened.  And Jonathan was so happy to see his clothes hanging neatly when he got home, so it was a win.

Today, I’m enjoying some quality me-time.  This morning I tried a new class!  My friend Vanessa teaches Yogalates at Coastal Fitness in Kittery.  I am always working on Wednesdays, so I was really psyched to be able to attend her class.  As the name cleverly suggests, it is a fusion of Pilates and yoga… it was a pretty killer ab workout, which felt great (I can safely say that now that it’s done).  And Vanessa had some new-to-me moves the I look forward to adding to my repertoire… one huge perk of checking out new instructors.

In food-news, I’m excited to share this recipe with you all.  A yummy little Asian-inspired creation…

Asian Brown Rice Bowl

This one is quick and easy… and delicious, a great combination!  I’m a big ‘grab what’s in the fridge’ person, so feel free to substitute whatever veggies you have on hand… I promise, you can’t go wrong.  Serves 3.

  • 1/2 large beet
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • large handful of kale
  • brown rice
  • Sauce: 1T rice vinegar, 2T Bragg’s (or soy sauce), 2T almond butter, 1T olive oil, 1 small clove garlic, small piece of ginger (about the size of a garlic clove), 3T water to thin
  • Toppings: scallions, chopped almonds, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast (all are optional), or whatever sounds good!

Cook the rice… I have failed at cooking rice many times.  I have had friends tease me because cooking rice is supposed to be so simple.  Out of nowhere, it suddenly became easy and has since always worked out.  In case you aren’t yet a rice-pro, here’s the deal: bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil, add 1/2 cup rice, cover, turn down and simmer about 40 mins or until all of the water is absorbed (I like to double this so I have rice to use later in the week).

Chop all the veggies, except the kale… I was hungry and hoping to speed things up, so I cut them into small 1/2-inch cubes.

Roast veggies at 450F until soft, about 20 mins for small-cut.  Rip the kale into bite-sized pieces and add on top of the roasted veggies.  Cover with foil or a lid to wilt the kale.

Prep the sauce… if you have a food processor or blender, that works really well to mince the garlic and ginger and incorporate all the flavors.

To assemble, scoop rice into a bowl, add veggies, sauce and toppings.  Yum!

asian bowl

Okay friends, I’m off to work on another little house project.  Have a great day!!

xox, Kristen

Birthday Brunch… Success!

Hi everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying the weekend!

Jonathan’s family came up celebrate his mom’s birthday.  Sometimes the logistics of putting out a big meal can be challenging, so I thought it would be helpful to share my brunch strategy.  😉

Here’s the goal: vegetable frittata, roasted sweet potatoes, green salad, veggie sausage, coffee cake and green smoothies.  And here’s how it went…

8:30 am, wake up… remember I’m missing a few ingredients… shoot out to the grocery store.

9:30… okay, ready to start for real!  Guests arriving in two hours.  Preheat the oven, game on.  First order of business is the cake, because it goes together quickly and will need time to cool.  10:00… sautee veggies and prepare the frittata… this cooks at the same temp, so it can share the oven if you’re ready to roll before the cake is done.  The frittata can also sit at room temp a while, so it’s up next!

10:30 – rejoice that I am ahead of schedule and break for tea.  I’ve been all about the ‘I Love Lemon’ tea lately!  Yum!

10:45am – chop sweet potatoes, bump up the oven temp and toss those in.  (I leave the skin on, toss with olive oil and salt and roast at 450F for 25-30 mins, the key is to leave space between the potatoes so they get crispy)  Make salad.  Cut and plate the cake.  Oops, just remembered that I wanted to serve veggie sausage… luckily this is quick… turn off the oven and keep potatoes in to stay warm.  Return frittata to the oven to warm.  Sautee sausages.  Whip up smoothies… and voila, we’re ready to serve!!

tanya's bday brunch

Everything came out delicious.  I love cooking for people and especially love showing friends and family that healthy eats can be so tasty!!

Vegetable Frittata

I’ve always been intimidated by frittata… the traditional stovetop skillet/finish in the oven sounds scary… but this is a super easy recipe.  No skillet required, it cooks exactly like a quiche, minus the crust.  This recipe is also very adaptable, feel free to use whatever veggies you like or have on hand.  And I like my frittata chock full of veggies. 😉

  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, thin sliced
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • oregano, thyme, cayenne, black pepper, turmeric

Sautee the mushrooms, onions and zucchini in 1 Tbs olive oil until soft, 10-15 mins.  Add spinach to wilt.  Lightly oil a deep pie plate.  Add sautéed veggies and red peppers.  Whisk eggs and whites… there’s nothing wrong with a few whole eggs now and then.  Especially if you get the farm fresh one’s from my friend Shelly over at Burnt Swamp Farm!!  But, I do like to mix it up with some egg whites to keep the cholesterol low.  I add a little shake of turmeric to give the egg whites that familiar yellow hue.  Plus turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and a natural healer, so it’s great to sneak it in where you can.

Add egg mixture right on top of the veggies.  Sprinkle with spices to taste.  I used about 1/4tsp each of oregano and thyme, a teeny dash of cayenne and several cracks of black pepper.  Cook 45mins at 350F.  The top will be firm when cooked.  Frittata is great for brunch because it’s equally great hot out of the oven or at room temperature.

fritataYum!!  Can you see the steam rising?  With all the veggies, this gives a nice hearty slice.  Serves 6.

This frittata is great with a green salad: baby greens, chopped apple, pecans, celery, dressed with olive oil and balsamic.

Raspberry Pecan Coffee Cake

Since I made this for a birthday brunch, I dressed it up with some carob chips.  Carob is vegan and tastes similar to chocolate, and carob chips have no added sugar.  If you don’t like or don’t have carob, some dark chocolate chips would also be delicious in this recipe.  I also used a combination of flours… spelt flour does contain gluten, but some people with allergies are able to tolerate spelt.  You could substitute with whole wheat flour, but will need a bit less, about 1 1/2 cups to replace the spelt, or 2 cups to replace both flours.

Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (purchase or make your own by blending oats)
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, dash salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (can sub with dairy milk)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries (or more raspberries)
  • 2 Tbs carob chips

Topping

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbs oil, 1 Tbs cinnamon, 1 Tbs maple syrup, 3 Tbs carob chips

Combine all dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients and add to dry.  Mix until incorporated.  Lightly oil an 8×8 glass dish.  Scoop about 2/3 of the batter into the dish.  Spread fruit over the batter and sprinkle with 2T carob chips.  I like to break up the raspberries, which is really easy to do if you are using frozen berries.

coffee cake in progressDot remaining batter over the fruit.  Combine ingredients for topping and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 mins or until the center is set.

coffee cake

This cake was delicious enough to serve as a ‘birthday’ cake, but not overly sweet, so it still works for brunch.  With rave reviews, the brunch was rated a success!!

And I’d like to share some other important news…

Jonathan tried his very first yoga class this morning at my home studio, Zev Yoga in Portsmouth… and HE LOVED IT!!!!  I am so excited and happy to share my passion.  A new yogi is born!  🙂 🙂

xox, Kristen