#BetterGoodThings “Waste Not” Edition: Coffee Pudding

5 Jul Coffee Pudding

Coffee Pudding

When Evin (my Better Good Things buddy) and I first bonded via the interwebs it was over an instagram image I had posted of espresso powder while I was in my Mono fueled spiral of exhaustion.  It seemed that Evin and were both simultaneously contemplating ways to inject copious amounts of caffeine into our systems as a motherhood survival tactic.  Since I had been sans-caffeine for several years until my bout with mono, Evin and a few other insta-buddies became my espresso powder spirit guides.  So it was inevitable that espresso powder would one day be the heart of one of our Better Good Things Challenges.

A little disclaimer about this post:  Remember my April BGT post in which Evin was running a bit behind and didn’t have her link up when I posted?  Yeah…. so this was our MAY post that I started writing in APRIL after a race and I’m just now posting it in JULY.  Apparently, I’m the slacker in this pairing.  I would have never know that about myself had I never started a public facing blog that makes my sporadic task neglect so glaringly…. public.

Oh well… what I lack in perfection I make up for in hospitality and charm.  {bats eyelashes adorably}

I’m totally in love with this recipe because it was born from my interest to eliminate waste in our home!  After the final Chuy’s Hot to Trot 5k, The Hubs and I hosted some of our running buddies for breakfast, beer, and coffee…. lots and lots of coffee.  I’ve learned recently that there is very little change of having too much coffee on hand for people after a run, so we made sure we had LOTS of coffee.  As a coffee press family, having lots of coffee on hand necessitates a trip to Starbucks.

Coffee Pudding

Because we have to call in reinforcements for copious amounts of caffeine, having lots of coffee also meant that we also had lots and lots of coffee accoutrements provided by the good people at Starbucks with each carafe. One our gusts have left to go home and nap off thier impressive 5k times, we were left with tons of leftover half and half and sugar.  Knowing that Evin and I had an espresso powder challenge planned I felt inspired to put the Starbucks leftovers to good use.

And this recipe was seriously crafted with the leftovers.

Coffee Pudding

This is exactly how much sugar they gave me…

Coffee Pudding

And this is exactly how much half and half they gave me…

Coffee Pudding

…so that is exactly what I used!

I added in a little cornstarch, salt, and espresso powder (of course) and all of a sudden I had pudding all thanks to Starbuck’s overly-generous provisions!  I let them set in my adorable Le Cruset coffee cups and all of a sudden I had an elevated desert that totally betrayed its leftover status.

When Monday morning rolled around, I served it too my soul mama buddy who brings her little girl over for a standing playdate.  She bartends the night before so I always have an espresso ready for her when she arrives.  She quickly declared this deceptively simple pudding far superior to her regular Monday morning espresso.  Nothing like a little sugar, cream, and espresso to get you ready for toddler princess playtime.

Coffee Pudding

 

“Waste Not” Coffee Pudding

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs cornstarch

Directions: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the half and half with the cornstarch whisking as you add the cornstarch to prevent clumping.

Combine remaining half and half, sugar, salt, and espresso powder in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.  Remove from heat.

Whisk in cornstarch mixture and return to heat, continuing to whisk constantly to prevent clumping as pudding thickens.  When whisk leaves visible ribbons in the pudding, remove from heat and pour into coffee cups.

Cover the surface of each pudding with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Evin made Honey Espresso Skin brightener- check it out!

Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

2 Jun Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

Whew!  The blog has been silent for quite sometime, but I have a good excuse…

We packed up Baby Bird for her first international jaunt to Paris and Ireland (Yes, I realize that it sound weird to list a city and then a country as separate destinations, but I figured it was easer than listing every town we visited in Ireland!) where we all ate entirely too much bread and cheese for 15 days.  But we ran it off…

The Hubs on a morning Paris run

The Hubs on a morning Paris run

The Hubs completely dominating The Cliffs of Moher

The Hubs completely dominating The Cliffs of Moher

International travel even has a way of making ME look like a competent runner

A little run through The Burren- International travel even has a way of making ME look like a competent runner

So I guess we sort of had baguette immunity since we were running.  That’s a thing, right?

We’ve only been home a few days- we are currently struggling to get a toddler back on the correct time zone… YIKES!- and I’m trying to keep things simple, so when we got an invite to a friends house for dinner* I went with my very favorite, super simple summer combo of watermelon and feta for our addition to the fete.  Just to be fancy, I jazzed it up with avocado, mint, and a pomegranate simple syrup that were still all very easy but felt slightly elevated.

To be clear, this is the salad that will accompany me to all gatherings in the next few months.  So if you invite us over, don’t you add this to your menu and then expect me to arrive with a berry crostada embellished to look like the American flag.  You’ve been warned!

Okay, okay… if you ask really nicely, I’ll still show up with a patriotic dessert.

But you better have plenty of watermelon salad!

 

*If you invite people over for dinner after they’ve been out of town with a toddler for awhile, you are totally awesome.  Chances are anyone traveling with kids is exhausted and looking for any excuse to not have to cook a meal at home… and then clean it up!

Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint, and Pomegranate Dressing

  • about 1 lb watermelon, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 6 oz solid feta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 cup unsweetened, pure pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

In a small saucepan, bring pomegranate juice, sugar, and maple syrup to a simmer and reduce to form a thin simple syrup.  Set aside in a container to cool.

Layer watermelon, avocado, and feta in a large serving bowl.

Pick the mint leaves from the springs and chiffonade.  Sprinkle leaves across the top of the feta layer.

Serve with dressing on the side (the most attractive presentation) or toss with simple syrup dressing just before serving.

 

#FirstontheFirst- Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

1 May Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

It’s hard to believe that this is the final First on the First post!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to virtually cook with such fabulous ladies each month and I’ve definitely been inspired to try things in my kitchen I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  When we set our cooking calendar for this year, the crew agreed to do mille feuilles in May in honor of a little Parisian jaunt I was hoping to take this month- and how exciting that we have finally arrived at our grande finale de joie!

I have to admit that I am secretly also excited to have a momentary platform to address my second greatest pastry pet peeve (behind the “Macaroon” vs “Macaron” debacle… QUIT CALLING THE FRENCH COOKIE A MACAROOOOON!  A macaroon is a Southern ball of coconut.  Not close to the same thing.) and that is simply that a “Napoleon” is not a pastry.  It’s called a mille feuille.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two- far easier even that deciphering a macaroon/macaron.  I’ve included a guide below:

This is a "Napoleon." *

This is a “Napoleon.” *

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille (Napoleon)

This is a “Mille Feuille”

I hope that helps.

As I set out on this months challenge, I wanted to stray away from the traditional mille feuille… I’ll enjoy the purist version in a proper Parisian patisserie soon enough.  Instead I set out to create a version that was a happy medium between a gussied up banana pudding married to my new favorite way to enjoy a banana- smeared with Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter.

As always, I cheated and bought pre-prepared puff pastry dough- Whole Foods and Durfour still do I better job than I do!  I also made my pastry cream with a combination of granulated white sugar and coconut palm sugar to give it a caramelized depth with no added work.  In the end, it turns out that mille feuilles are insanely simple.

That is… once you master the icing situation…

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Although I’m a total Salvador Dali fanatic, this wasn’t truly my intention. C’est pas mon trip!

This recipe makes two full sheets of mille feuille (the hot mess pictured above is one sheet) so just cut the recipe in half to reduce.

Or make both… so you can practice your pattern skills.  If not, c’est kif-kif- declare it le surrealiste and just dive right in with a fork!

 

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Banane Noisette Mille Feuille

  • 2 prepared puff pastry sheet
  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 large banana, cut into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk with the corn starch and set aside.

Combine the remaining milk and sugar in a saucepan.  Whisk to dissolve sugar and slowly bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.  Remove from heat.

Beat two eggs into the milk and cornstarch mixture.  Separate the remaining four egg yolks- reserving two egg whites for the icing- and beat the egg yolks into the mixture.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the heated milk and add to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from cooking.

Return the heated milk in the saucepan to the stove and return to a simmer.  Pour in the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.  Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and whisk pastry cream until smooth.  Whisk in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.

Pour into a glass bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and chill in fridge for at least six hours.

Once pastry cream has fully cooled and thickened, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out prepared puff pastry sheets  and cut each one into three equal portions.

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lay the first portion of pastry on the baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.  Cover with parchment and top with a glass baking dish to keep the pastry from rising.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden around the edges and remove to a cooling rack.

Repeat with the five other pieces.

Once pastry sheets have cooled, construct the mille feuille.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Layer:

  1. Puff pastry sheet
  2. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  3. Sliced bananas
  4. Pastry cream
  5. Puff Pastry sheet
  6. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  7. Sliced bananas
  8. Pastry Cream
  9. Puff pastry sheet

Place mille feuille in the fridge as you prepare the icing.

Melt chocolate and 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter in a baine marie.  Once melting and thoroughly stirred, transfer to a piping bag and place in a cup until ready to use.

Whisk two egg whites with lemon juice until light and frothy.  Whisk in two cups of powdered sugar, adding more to reach desired consistency.

Pour royal icing over the mille feuille.  Working quickly, pipe stripes of chocolate across the top of the icing and use a toothpick to trace trails through the surface to provide a classic finish.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

 

More mille feuille madness:

*Napoleon image used under the Fair Use Doctrine from http://www.time.com

#BetterGoodThings- Marathon Lasagna Rolls

28 Apr #BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

#BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

 

Yikes!  The disorganization of my mind is spilling directly over onto the blog.

Guess what day it isn’t?

It isn’t the third Thursday of the month.  That’s the day that Better Good Things is supposed to grace the headlines on the blog, but this month that day rolled by long ago in what was a haze of Boston Marathon prep for me (and STAAR test madness for Evin).  Just to be clear- that didn’t mean that I didn’t create and share this recipe with my family in time for my deadline… it just meant I forget about y’all.

*hangs head in shame and looks up with endearingly sad puppy-dog eyes*

I am sorry.  I’m the blogging equivalent of your super flakey friend this month.

You know the friend who always makes really ambitious, elaborate plans with you to go on a fabulous girls’ trip in the not-too-distant future and then becomes vaguely busy the closer the date grows?  Yeah.  That one.  (Which reminds me- I think I might be slightly committed to trips to both the Amalfi Coast and Vegas that I need to start side stepping out of pretty soon… because I’m totally busy… with things.)

For April, Evin and I chose to “better up” lasagna- a beloved favorite in many a kitchen- which launched us into a great philosophical debate.  Are we “easying up” healthy things or “healthying up” easy things when we are engaged in our “bettering?”  And really, how do you define healthy?  And what is actually considered easy?

Too many questions.

Honestly, who knows!  I love that we went with Better Good Things in place of Healthier or Easier because it just means that we can make it whatever the heck we need it to be that month.  Whenever we want for that matter as we’ve so proved a good 10+ days late.

As luck would have it, this month better means both healthier and easier in my book.  I created lasagna rolls that make portioning easy (hooray!) and that cut back on the fat while upping the protein ante with cottage cheese in place of obscene amounts of ricotta and mozz as well as bison in the place of beef.  It’s pretty amazing, it packs well for lunch, and it can be frozen in the pre-bake stage for later use.

To make matters even better on my end, this became the only non-bland pre-race meal my husband could stand in the week leading up to Boston so we have dubbed them Marathon Lasagna Rolls.  They will definitely keep their place on our pre-race menu from here on out!

Looking for Evin’s lasagna take?  Standardized testing for elementary students really sucks, so she hasn’t gotten around to it because cheering her son through an unnecessarily stressful testing situation is way more important than getting creative with lasagna noodles.  Everyone say a prayer, light a candle, or rake your Zen garden for The Boy over at Food Good Laundry Bad as he braves the testing gauntlet!  When she’s got hers up I’ll update and share the link.

 

*UPDATED*  Evin rocked this month with Slow Cooker Lasagna which she claims is “not a recipe.”  Part recipe, part how-to, it’s 100% genius and definitely an idea that I’m glad to have in my arsenal for busy days!

 

#BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

Gimme a break- Rolled up pasta isn’t inherently gorgeous… but it is really yummy!

Marathon Lasagna Rolls

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 12-15 lasagna noodles
  • 10 oz ricotta
  • 2/3 cup small curd cottage cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 jar organic marinara
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions: Heat 1 tbs of oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and cloves until soft and fragrant.  Add the bison to the pan.  Over medium/medium-high heat, break up bison into large pieces.  Add spices and cook through, breaking up into small pieces as you cook.  Season with additional salt and pepper as desired while browning meat.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add lasagna noodles, along with a dollop of olive oil, and boil for about 6 minutes.  Drain.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, cottage cheese, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and the ground bison mixture.

Grease a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil.

Working with one lasagna noodle at a time, lay out each noodle and spread with a generous 2 tbs of filling.  Roll up and place in baking dish.  Once baking dish is full, top lasagna rolls with sauce and cover with foil.

Bake at 400 for 30 min.

To freeze in individual portions: Follow the recipe directions through assembly but instead of preparing it in a 9×13 baking dish, spread them out on a cookie sheet to flash freeze them. Once they are mostly frozen (30 minutes to 1 hour), place them into freezer bags and freeze. When serving, place your preferred number of frozen lasagna rolls in a baking dish and top with sauce. Put foil over baking dish and bake at 350 for 60 minutes, or until heated through. The time will vary based on number of rolls.

Crispy Farro Bars

16 Apr Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Yesterday evening as I was at the pharmacy picking up prescriptions I just may have purchased four Cadbury Eggs and two Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (vile I know… DON’T JUDGE ME!).  The pharmacist smiled, “Preparing for Sunday?”  I hung my head sheepishly.  I can’t and wont give Baby Bird chemical storm candy… but for me? Ugh… okay…

So they weren’t a tiny Easter stash for my child, they were for a full grown adult who knows better.

“I’ve got a toddler with hives… so they’re actually all for me.  Tonight.  Like, in the car,” I confessed, trying to shrink and disappear- digging in my purse for my sunglasses and any other suitable disguise items in case I ran into anyone on my way to the car (or as I sat in my car  binge eating candy eggs).

In lieu of judgement, he offered an earnest suggestion.  “Try making rice crispy treats!,” he said. “This started out as a rotten day.  I’ve had three rice crispy treat and somehow everything seems better!”

It didn’t prevent me from the impending Easter candy massacre, but is was a very sweet sentiment.

And I totally get it, because rice crispy treats are amazing!  Most of use grew up with them, they are inexpensive to make (even when subbing in the organic, non-GMO version of everything), and they will completely dominate a bake sale fundraiser.

Despite it’s lack of real nutritional value, the purist (organic, non-GMO) version of the rice crispy treat will always exist in my kitchen.  I’m an American.  I live in the South.  There will always be a place for it.

In our house, the humble rice crispy treat has also given birth to an elevated offspring- the crispy farrro bar!

It keeps its lineage’s simple gooey, square shaped goodness but gains depth and complexity thanks to the puffed farro and the addition of rich and slightly salty chocolate hazelnut butter.  I urge you to stay away from Nutella in this instance- eat it with a spoon and I wont judge you should you choose (remember the Easter candy debacle above) but it contains its fair share of unnecessary ingredients- including soy- which give it an unnatural smoothness and slightly mask the true flavors that make this bars a stand out.  Amidst the melty marshmallows, you want this fella to scream rich chocolate, sweet hazelnut, and malty farro.

And these will still clean up at a bake sale- even if, every once and awhile, you have to describe them as being “like eating a rice crispy treat with Nutella.”

And just like that, I have treat envy.  The pharmacist was right- I should have left the chocolate eggs and gone home to make some more crispy farro bars!

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

 

Crispy Farro Bars

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 12-15 oz marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 4- 4 1/2 cups puffed farro cereal, unsweetened

Directions: Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper

In a medium saucepan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium low heat until marshmallows are melted.  Stir in hazelnut butter until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in farro cereal.

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and press down evenly with oiled hands (Careful- it’s hot!) or with another sheet of parchment.

Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

Let’s Eat All the Carbs!- Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

15 Apr Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

So… when I last left y’all (a short five days ago, none the less) we were on the nutrition plan of champions in this household bearing down on Boston Marathon and leaving nothing to chance- or lack of micronutrient consumption.  To hell with “if the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything” we said.  We’re going to burn the best of the best in this house!

Until The Hubs got norovirus (which, apparently, is the stomach virus of champions) and created a bonded association between quinoa and nausea. Now the only thing that sound appealing to him is ultra-refined carbs.  Ugh!

I’ll admit that this is tough for me.  When he injured his achilles and we decided it made sense for him to healthfully and safely drop some extra race weight I invested myself into the task with gusto.  It meant extra market trips, extra late nights prepping meals and snacks, and extra adorable/neurotic texts about dining decisions.  It meant sometimes prepare separate meals for he and Baby Bird.  And it meant tossing out all our standard taper menus I’ve become familiar with to recreate the wheel.  When he steps on the scale and is on track for the race weight we’ve been targeting, I feel like it’s a win in my column.

So tossing it all out and saying ‘Totally, eat all the refined carbs you want!’ seems pretty cray at this point.  There are SEVEN. DAYS. TO. GO!

Would a cold pressed, green juice IV line be an unreasonable thing to invent?

Admittedly, eating refined carbs is far better than eating nothing- the only other alternative for my poor patient who turns pale at even a mention of kale right now- and so my kitchen has become an artisanal bakery with hyper-obsessive portion control.  That is… until I DNF out of a half marathon, down a quarter of a bottle of Cab, discover a cherry chocolate bock in the outdoor fridge and need a more sensible way to finish it off…

Then it’s “Forget it, y’all!  Let’s eat ALL THE CARBS!” time in the most awesome way possible.

Like… seriously awesome.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

No, wait…

When life gives you 3/4ths a bottle of Cabernet, a lonely bottle of chocolate cherry bock beer, and the thumbs up on ripping into a new bag of all-purpose flour- make boozy jam and bread!

Cherry Chocolate Bock beer is in its heyday during winter months, but a cherry wheat (or even cherry chocolate stout if you’re feeling bold) would work just as well.  Spread your warm bread with a simple, good-quality chevre, slather with jam and enjoy.  You might even momentarily forget about your DNF, your stomach virus, or the A race you have looming on the horizon.

Carb blinders are sometimes a good thing.

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

 

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cabernet Jam

Bread:

  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Cherry Chocolate Bock + 1/4 cup water, heated to 120 degrees F
  • 1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
  • olive oil
  • coarse sanding sugar

Jam:

  • 3 cups of Cabernet
  • 2 cups frozen cherries, thawed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin
  • 4-6 cups of sugar

To make Jam: If you will be canning in a water bath, prepare jars. (This makes 2 16 oz jars + some additional for immediate use)

Add cherries and all but 1/2 cup Cabernet to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, slowly adding sugar cup by cu and stirring to dissolve (amount of sugar depends on your preference for sweetness).  Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until cherries are softened and wine has begun to reduce slightly.

Add the liquid pectin and remaining half cup of wine and stir throughly to disperse pectin. Skim off any foam and continue to cook over medium heat until jam mixture will coat the back of a metal spoon of mixture spooned onto a chilled plate will firm up and gel on the surface.

Ladle hot jam mixture into prepared jars and waterbath can (15 minutes at sea level) or store in fridge for 3-4 weeks.

To make bread: In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, and cherries.  Add the liquids and knead the bread until it forms an elastic ball.

Oil a large bowl with olive oil.  Form dough into a ball and place in the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise undisturbed for an hour until doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Gently deflate dough.  Reform into a ball and place on baking sheet to rise once again undisturbed until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Gently slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife, taking care not to deflate it.  Brush top of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake bread for about 35 minutes until brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

9 Apr Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

As I recently filled you in, I’m on a mission right now to keep The Hubs feeling full while watching his race weight as we continue the countdown to Boston.  This task is far more difficult than one might expect; on one hand he is the most relentlessly driven, self-disciplined person I’ve ever met, yet on the other- as soon as it’s territory he doesn’t have to dominate (read: any and all of the choices on the food he consumes)- he very willingly relinquishes all control.  Don’t read into this as a complaint, I take great pride in the fact that such a capable, intelligent person would entrust his diet to me fully.  It does mean that I have a very important job.

It also mean that my phone features a constant feed of questions about what he can and cant eat.  Which is pretty adorable:

text collage

A donut? Are you serious?

See… adorable.

In order to keep Mr. Adorable away from the donuts on the road to Boston, I try to send a variety of tasty, wholesome snacks along each day to help keep him feeling satisfied.  Granola is the absolute easiest option since it can be consumed a variety of ways- dry as trail mix, sprinkled over yogurt or cottage cheese, layered over sliced bananas and fruit, or in a bowl with alt-milk and a spoon.

For me, granola is one of those foods it makes me sick to think of purchasing because the store bought versions are A) infuriatingly expensive in comparison to their raw ingredients and prep effort level, B) normally contain lots of unnecessary salt and refined sugar, and C) are always lacking just a little something that would make it exactly what you wanted… but that you could easily make at home in the perfect, custom manner.

Chances are, you have the basic raw ingredients hanging out in your pantry just waiting to be used.  See what I mean:

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1/2-3/4 cup nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup seeds
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (coarsely chopped if using apples or apricots)
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt or kelp flakes
  • 4-6 tbs of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbs of coconut oil

From there you can get fancy with a pinch of this or a dash of that, but in the end it’s really all the same.  It ends up being a great way to use up odds and ends in the pantry- which is far more eco-friendly and budget conscious than buying store bought.

Granola making (and consuming) rarely looks the same way twice in this household, but I do have a favorite framework I like to work around that includes lots of fabulous seeds and other little nuggets of scrumptious goodness.  Give it a go in your kitchen, but don’t be afraid to change it up to your liking.  And- MOST IMPORTANTLY- don’t turn it into something that necessitates a trip to the grocery store… use up what you’ve got in that pantry.

Unless, of course, you aren’t yet someone who stocks oats, seeds, and grade B maple syrup. In that case, get thee to the market PRONTO!

 

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • generous 1/2 cup raw almond, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 2 tbs salba
  • 2 tbs black chia seeds
  • 2 tbs quinoa (raw)
  • 2 tbs golden flax seeds
  • 2 tbs shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 tsp kelp flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbs grade B maple syrup
  • 2 tsp local honey
  • 2 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • slash of vanilla extract
  • splash of almond extract
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using a silicone spatula, toss well to incorporate.  Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, toss, and return to bake for 10-15 minutes more.

Allow to cool completely on baking pan before serving of storing.

*Frequency of tossing during cooking as well as length of cooling time will affect the size of your granola clusters.  If you like chunkier granola, toss less and allow to cool completely undisturbed.

Will keep in airtight container for about 2 weeks in fridge.

#FirstontheFirst- Stuffed Naan with Candied Red Onion

1 Apr #FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Last month’s First on the First (lobster wellington, anyone?!) gave my wallet fits.  And while his month wasn’t a budget buster, it provided challenges of a different kind.  We’re tackling naan which is 1) made with refined white flour, and 2) something I make with some frequency.  Let me expand…

If you are even an infrequent reader you’ve probably gathered that we aren’t a gluten free (or flour free) household at this point, so the “refined white flour” challenge might be slightly confusing.  The Hubs is currently battling an achilles injury less than a month away from Boston Marathon, so we are being very careful about his diet and ensuring that he not put on weight during this change in activity level.  So white flour/white sugar are no-no’s for him right now.  Given his lack of self control when it comes to home-baked goods, it also means it’s a big fat no-no in our kitchen if he is at home.

#FirstontheFirst- Homemade Naan

The thing is, I really didn’t want to explore naan baking with alt-flours.  It just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So I needed to bake naan in our house when The Hubs was gone but there was someone other than just me and Baby Bird around to eat it.

The other problem that presented, however, was that good ol’ white flour naan wouldn’t be a real First on the First for me since it’s a pretty common menu item in our house.  Tikka masala, Indian slaw, and garlic naan fresh off the griddle stand as a pretty satisfying meal around these parts so trying something new would mean moving beyond my beloved basic garlic naan, brushed with butter and topped with parsley.

Since I wasn’t going to waiver on the flour type, I decided to make a stuffed naan… during a playdate so someone would be around to help with the consumption issue.  I originally wanted to stuff it with ground lamb, candied red onions, currants, and cilantro… but our playdate guests were vegetarians so the lamb had to go.  I also decided that I wanted to bake it in the oven instead of on the stovetop grill as usual because it seemed like a safer option with extra sets of tiny hands roaming about.

The mix of daytime guests and vegetarian stuffing ended up being the right mix, because there wasn’t a tray full of baked goods poised to taunt The Hubs when he returned from work.  And the filling was darn good!

When push comes to shove, my preference will still be the standard garlic naan grilled hot and fluffy on the stovetop- somewhere between oven-baking and stuffing the texture changes just a bit- but this was a nice, substantial treat to now have in my repertoire.

#FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

Naan Stuffed with Candied Red Onions, Currants, Garlic and Cilantro

  • half a red onion, minced
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs local honey
  • 2 tbs + 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • salt

Directions:  Place a pizza stone in oven.  Preheat oven to 550 degrees F (convection).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt 3 tbs of butter.  Add onions and saute until beginning to soften.  Add vinegar, honey, and 2 tbs sugar.  Over low heat, cook for about15 minutes until syrup is thick and condensed and resembles a chunky jam.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbs of butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and remaining sugar. Pour egg mixture into the flour and stir to combine.  Pour half of the warm water into the flour mixture, using a spatula to combine.  Add the melted butter and mix again to combine.  Using your hands to knead within the bowl, slowly add the remaining water until the dough becomes well incorporated but not sticky.

Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

In a clean bowl, combine candied onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro leaves.  Stir to combine.

Melt remaining butter.

Divide dough into 4 portions.

Working with the first portion of dough, roll out slightly into a circle on parchment paper.  Place 1/4 of the filling mixture into the center, allowing at least a 1/2 inch boarder around the outside.  Dampen the edges of the dough with water and pinch together in the center to seal as though you are drawing up a purse.

Invert the dough, seal side down, and roll out once again to flatten gently.  Brush top with butter and place directly on pizza stone for 4-6 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough portions.

 

These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:

 

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl with The Mother of All Taco Seasoning

25 Mar The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Here we are y’all… a month past Austin Marathon and I’m still avoiding writing about it.  I’ll get there, but there are so many other things going one and the fact that it doesn’t really count as a race because I basically strolled through the second half makes it feel pretty unnecessary to even recap.  Besides, I’m SO BEHIND on recipes right now it seems the recap will have to be squeezed in amidst far more interesting and yummy topics.

And, since I’ve currently got a backlog of recipes half written and ready to post, this is the perfect time to delay them further to write about what I’m making a this very moment in my kitchen.  Obviously, that makes perfect sense!

Boston Marathon is just a month away, so logically The Hubs is facing an achilles injury with less than four weeks before he has to line up in Hopkinton.  No bueno!  Luckily, we’ve got a little time and a lot of awesome resources so we aren’t concerned.   Who needs long road runs when you’ve got access to an AlterG and 3 hour aqua jogs (in a 25 meter pool none the less… The Hubs has deemed it the “actual insanity workout”)?  Dedication and hard work trump perfect circumstances every time, mostly because perfect circumstances don’t exist.

What does this have to do with food?  Major changes in training intensity this close to a race coupled with an injury mean we need to keep a careful eye on his weight and nutrition- even more than usual.  Every calorie has to count big time in terms of nutrient density.  Which means bye bye to refined carbs and the sugary treats that he loves to sneak!  I have to make sure he is satisfied and nourished enough that he doesn’t have the desire to snag a candy treat when I’m not around.

It also means making dinners that can be packed up as lunches for the next day because I’ve got my hands full at night ensuring I pack the right combination of snacks to keep him full… but not too full.

Last week, I brought a tray of my made-over mac and cheese to my friend Laura’s house for a lunch playdate, and she served me a quinoa side dish very similar to the one I feature here that I promptly mixed in with my serving of mac- and it was delicious.  I quickly realized that the concept of her quinoa side dish would be a versatile one that I could draw on for years to come.  As I made my menu plan for the coming week, the memory of that little quinoa side kept shouting at me in my brain “Top me with ground beef and serve me over salad!”

If you’re a distance runner or endurance athlete, you’re probably pretty familiar with skillet style meals- brown some meat, dump in beans and tomatoes, and serve over rice.  While easy, I’m not a huge fan because skillet meals lack texture or color interest- they are meals of necessity and not enjoyment.  This beef and quinoa taco bowl is just as easy, but far more flavorful and offers levels of interest for your eyes and your palate.

I make my own taco seasoning, and you should too.  Mine is spicier and smokier than the one my friend Laura makes and serves mixed straight into the quinoa , but that’s the beauty of making your own spice mixes- you can make them perfectly to your liking.  I served the beef and quinoa over mixed baby herb greens, but you can just as easily use it to stuff an tomato, a pepper, or an avocado… or wrap it up in a spelt tortilla.  Top it according to your nutritional needs and taste preferences- plain kefir (instead of sour cream), queso fresco, or diced avocado.

The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tbs chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp Chihuahua de Mexico wood smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked tomato powder

Directions: Mix all spices in bowl to combine.  Store in an airtight container.

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or veggie broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs+ of homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 a small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb grassfed, lean ground beef
  • grapeseed oil
  • serving options: plain kefir, queso fresco, mixed baby greens, avocado

Directions: Rinse quinoa well and drain thoroughly.  Bring veggie broth or water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add quinoa and I smashed garlic clove to the broth.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork.

Thinly slice remaining garlic clove. Saute sliced garlic in a dollop of grapeseed oil for 2 minutes until fragrant but not browned.  Over medium/medium-high heat, add ground beef  and break up into large pieces.  Add taco seasoning (add seasoning to taste, I like to start with 2 tbs) and cook through, breaking up into small pieces as you cook.  If desired, season with additional salt while browning meat.

Line a colander with paper towels and pour in ground beef to drain off/ absorb any unnecessary fat.

In a large bowl, toss together quinoa, corn, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.  Squeeze lime juice into quinoa mixture and toss to mix thoroughly.

Serve quinoa on a bed of greens, topped with beef and additional toppings of your choice.

 

#BetterGoodThings: Mac and Cheese Makeover (Complete with Cauliflower, Squash & Kale)

21 Mar #BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

This month for Better Good Things, Evin and I decided to better up (that’s a phrase now… I’m totally making it a thing) mac and cheese.  Apparently her kids are addicted to the orange stuff from the box, and even though baby Bird can’t eat much of the boxed stuff (Because soy.  And because NO.) besides a few types of Annie’s, she was introduced to a version she could eat while she was staying with grandparents and was apparently on a major mac and cheese jag during her trip.  So much so that when she came home she asked for it at every meal.  Every single one.

Now, I shouldn’t pretend that N has never had boxed mac because she most definitely has indulged.  On oh-so-overwhelming toddler days I have on occasion broken out the Annie’s mac and tried to make myself feel better by lacing it with non-gmo corn, peas, and diced carrots.  She is partial to the one with the oozy, Velveeta-esque cheese that really freaks me out.  I get it… the texture is smooth and creamy… but cheese that oozes out of a pouch?  That shouldn’t happen.

But did I mention that I totally understand her love for the oozy cheese?  After all, I secretly binge eat queso in the closet.  Not often…. but sometimes.

I had almost decided that soy free pseudo-cheese could be our private, dirty little mother-daughter secret until my mom told me she had heard rumblings that you could make your own “processed cheese product” that was actually made with real ingredients.  After much poking around and experimenting, I settled on a recipe I’m quite pleased with based on the one developed by Cristina at An Organic Wife.  She is an awesome, real-food guru so I urge you to check out her purist version at the link.

I’ve used this “real-veeta,” as I’ve come to call it, in a less cheesy mac and cheese packed with veggies that doesn’t lose any of it’s cheese depth or flavor.  It also bares that beloved day-glow orangyness… NATURALLY.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

So much orange food…

You may look at the turmeric and nutritional yeast and think “Hmmm… those a weird for mac.  My kids won’t eat it.  I’m skipping those!”  Be forewarned, that will dramatically change the color, depth, and flavor- and your kiddos will call your bluff.

The kale and turkey bacon on top are the icing on the cake and add a satisfying crunch and bite.

Trust me on the orangey goodness.  The flavor, texture, and color are there.  Your kiddo wont be the wiser of the fast one you just pulled!

#BetterGoodThings- Homemade Real-veeta (Velveeta) made with whole food ingredients

It’s a beautiful nightmare, y’all! Whole food block-o-cheese…

Homemade Real-veeta

(following An Organic Wife‘s proportions)

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 package gelatin (2 tsp)
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 1/2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2/3 cup organic whole milk

Directions: In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and allow it to bloom for five minutes.

Add shredded cheese to a powerful blender or food processor (I used my Vitamix) and sprinkle in nutritional yeast. Line a mini loaf pan with parchment or plastic wrap.

In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.  Remove milk from heat once it reaches a boil and whisk in gelatin mixture until smooth.  Pour immediately into blender and process until smooth.  Pour cheese mixture into mini loaf pan.

Refrigerate for at least three hours.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

Made-Over Mac and Cheese

  • 1 block of homemade real-veeta, cubed
  • 1/2 a head of orange cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 5 oz bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash (defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack/cheddar cheese mix, shredded
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 a bunch of curly leaf kale
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 a bunch of kale
  • turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 cups pasta

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the kale to bake. Rinse and dry very well. Cut leaves from stem and tear into small pieces.  Toss kale pieces with with olive oil, 1 tbs nutritional yeast, and a generous pinch of salt and spread into a single layer across a baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake the kale for 15 minutes.  Toss kale, rotate, and return to oven for 12 more minutes.  Check the kale for dehydrated crispness before removing from the oven.  Return from oven for one to two minutes if needed, watching carefully, to ensure they are crisp but not browned.  Gently remove to a bowl to cool completely.

Raise over temperature to 375 degrees F.

In a small pan, saute the butternut squash in the butter to slightly caramelize the surface.

In a steamer basket, steam cauliflower florets for 5-7 minutes until soft but not mushy.  Add both the cauliflower and butternut squash to a blender or food processor.  Add salt to taste (about 1 tsp was good for us), 2 tbs nutritional yeast, and the milk and puree.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Pour puree into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add cubed real-veeta and 1/3 cup shredded cheese stirring to melt.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente according to the instructions.  Drain pasta and add immediately to the cheese sauce, removing from heat.

Pour pasta and sauce into a 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve warm, topped with bacon and crispy kale chips.

Hankering for even more mac?  Check out Evin’s take right here.  She gussies her mama version up with Sriracha… oh the goodness!

#BetterGoodThings- Mac and Cheese Makeovers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers