Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins and a Shameful Secret

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I had to cut out the back row of my muffin pan on this picture because I messily devoured one of these right as it came out of the oven.  Crumbs EVERYWHERE.

No, that’s not my shameful secret.  The secret is that the original recipe for these muffins comes from the newest batch of beachy treats from the Tone it Up girls.  “Who are they?” you might ask.  Meaning that you have never been a woman with a mission to look better naked and hours of internet time to spend searching for just the thing to get you motivated to FINALLY eat right and work out regularly.  Good for you.

I think I stumbled onto the Tone it Up website after a meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream.  I wasn’t feeling to good about myself and the website’s impossibly girly aesthetic drew me right in.  It was a nice change from all the paleo sites I usually frequent.  It’s run by Karena and Katrina, a pair of Southern California best friends and personal trainers whose mission is to help you become a “beach babe”.

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Yeah, I kind of wanted to barf, too.  But I also kind of wanted to BE them. So I kept visiting the website, joined the online community, and coughed up a stupid amount of money for their nutrition plan.  Never mind the fact that I almost never go to the beach and when I do, it’s in Oregon so I’m dressed like this.

With my mom, in July.

With my mom, in July.

Oh well, everyone has to have their guilty pleasures and the muffins are pretty good.

Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins
adapted from Tone it Up
makes 12

Ingredients
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1/4 cup xylitol
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 bananas, mashed
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 3 drops vanilla-flavored stevia
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 5 Tbsp melted coconut oil
- 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, xylitol, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, protein, and cocoa powder.  In a separate bowl, mix bananas, maple syrup, stevia, milk, coconut oil, and flax seeds.

Mix baking soda and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl, let fizz and add to the wet ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just blended.  Fold in walnuts.

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes.

A Decadent Sandwich (and Sourdough Brioche)

A few months ago, my mom shared her new diet theory with me.  It goes like this, if you want to eat something unhealthy, you have to make it yourself.  You want french fries?  Fine, go buy yourself some russet potatoes, cut them up, fry them, season them, and enjoy.  While I’m not sure I’m totally on board with this idea (I could see myself getting into some major trouble, especially during weeks when I’m not too busy with work) I can see the sense of it.  It allows for indulgences, but not for fast or processed food.  It also allows for more quality-control on ingredients.

I decided to put my mom’s theory to the test when I decided to make Saveur’s incredible-looking Ham, Cheese, Egg and Lemon Sandwiches this week.  And, yes, I wanted to use brioche like the recipe called for.  So instead of heading to a local bakery, I headed to the pantry and ended up with one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in my new home.  Here’s how to do it in yours.

First, make the brioche.  I’ve been playing around with my sourdough starter recently and I decided I’d try using that instead of yeast.  I found this recipe online and it worked like a charm.  I had to start the day before in order to have time to reactivate my starter and for the dough to have a nice, slow rise in the refrigerator.  The next morning, I formed the rolls, let them rise again, and baked them in the afternoon.

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The buns were impossibly soft with a moist, airy crumb.  Yes, there is a lot of butter in there.  But I used pastured butter instead of conventional, which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and Vitamins A and K2 among other things.  I resisted the urge to try and add whole wheat flour to the dough because I didn’t want to risk making them too dense.  I’ve had recent sourdough baking experiments fall flat (pun intended).

Before moving forward with my grand sandwich plans, I had to make a cinnamon roll detour.

IMG_0288You see, I realized that I had enough dough for about a dozen brioche rolls.  Waaay more than I needed (or wanted) to consume.  I repurposed about 2/3 of the dough into cinnamon rolls figuring I would have no trouble getting Jeremy, his friends, or my coworkers to eat them.  Yes, I know it’s evil to foist one’s unwanted sweets on the workplace breakroom, but I haven’t had any complaints so far :)

With the bread situation handled, it was time to move on to the lemon curd.  I only made about 1/4 the recipe, a choice I may regret since this stuff is so darn tasty.

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Phew!  Ok, now it’s time for the next step.  For me it was going to the gym.  And when I got home, it was sandwich-time.

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Every bite.  So good.

Our neighbors’ chicken was very intrigued.

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Please share your favorite homemade indulgences!

Last year: Peanut Butter White Bean Blondies

Ham, Cheese, Egg, and Lemon Sandwiches

For each sandwich, you’ll need:
- 1 brioche bun, cut lengthwise
- 1 tsp butter
- 2 tsp lemon curd (see recipe below)
- 1 oz goat cheese
- 1 pastured egg
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- salt and pepper
- 2 slices ham
- small handful salad greens

Melt butter on a skillet over medium heat.  Toast brioche, inner surfaces down until golden and crispy.  Transfer to plate; spread goat cheese on bottom half and lemon curd on top half.

In a bowl, whisk the egg.  Add to heated skillet and cook like an omelette with thyme, salt, and pepper inside.  Fold the omelette into quarters and place on top of goat cheese.

Place ham in skillet and cook just until nice and warm.  Place on top of the egg, followed by salad greens.  Place the second half of brioche bun on top.
Lemon Curd
makes about 1/4 cup

- 1 pastured egg yolk
- 3 Tbs sugar
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
- zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth.  Place over medium-low heat and cook, whisking frequently until curd starts to resemble pudding, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to an airtight jar and chill for a couple hours before using.

 

 

Triple Green Salad with Smoked Tuna

I have to tell you about the salad I made last night.  My original intention was just to throw together something healthy, not necessarily outstanding or blog-worthy.  As soon as I took my first bite, though, I knew that I would have to share this.

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I haven’t made a salad in a while.  When it’s cold and rainy outside, a plate of raw vegetables just doesn’t appeal to me.  I’m sure many of you can relate.  I think the secrets to this salad’s beauty are the sautéed mushrooms, which add some much-needed warmth, the lick-your-fingers good savory dressing, and the hearty smoked tuna, which I discovered a while back from a small company on the Oregon coast.

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Good News Tuna Company

So good.

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I’m even looking forward to eating the EXACT same thing for dinner tonight.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Triple Green Salad with Smoked Tuna
serves 1

6-7 crimini mushrooms, washed with stems removed and sliced
1 cup dandelion greens, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt
a few handfuls baby spinach
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, washed and dried
a few tablespoons of Duma Dressing (see recipe below)

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, cover with a lid, and continue to sautee while you prepare the rest of the salad.  Check on it and stir it occasionally.

Place spinach and parsley in a large bowl.  Make dressing, pour a generous amount onto greens and toss to coat.  Place on a large dinner plate.

Add dandelion greens to mushrooms on stovetop.  Heat, covered, for about 2 minutes until beginning to wilt.  Place the mixture on top of the plated greens.

Flake about 4 oz tuna over everything.  Enjoy.

Duma Dressing
makes about 2 cups (you can keep in fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week)
adapted from Get It Ripe by Jae Steele

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
small handful of pumpkin seeds

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender.  Blend on high for about 30 seconds until smooth.

I shared this post with this week’s Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, and Keep It Real Thursday.

Banana, Chocolate, and Hazelnut Muffins (Gluten-Free)

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I think it’s been too long since I’ve posted a tasty baked item on this blog.  I’m not sure why that is.  I always seem to have some kind of homemade treat lying around the house.  Perhaps the issue is that I’m always on a mission to “health-ify” my baked goods.  I’ll adjust flours, fats, and sugar content until I end up with something I don’t have to feel too bad about eating every day.  The problem is, I often end up with something that perhaps not everyone will appreciate.  I end up with healthy-tasting cakes, brownies, cookies, etc that just can’t compete with the utterly Southern pound cake shipped to us by Jeremy’s mother.  Or if I make something AMAZING it gets eaten up and I don’t take any pictures (that was the fate of a recent lemon custard pie).

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So I feel pretty proud about having gotten things together for this post.  These muffins are good enough to inhale in an afternoon, but recent New Year’s resolutions have allowed them to stick around for a few extra days to be photographed and savored.  The recipe is adapted from the gluten-free cookbook La Tartine Gourmande, which I can’t recommend highly enough.  Just as in her blog, the recipes and photos are a delicious inspiration.  Everything I have made from the book has turned out beautifully.

Last year: Danish(?) Trabak (which I have now learned is probably “Tvebakker”)

Banana, Chocolate, and Hazelnut Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1/3 cup hazelnuts, soaked and dried if possible (benefits of soaking nuts here)
2 eggs
1/2 cup xylitol (or you can use regular sugar)
8 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour (you can make this by simply grinding about 1 cup hazelnuts)
1/2 cup white rice flour
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Toast hazelnuts until lightly browned.  Place in a kitchen towel and roll to remove some of the skins.  Roughly chop them and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare 12 muffin cups with paper liners or cooking fat of choice.

Beat eggs and xylitol together in a large bowl.  Add melted butter and yogurt and whisk until well combined.  In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda, lightly mixing.  Add to the wet ingredients and stir just until mixed together.  Add banana, hazelnuts, and chocolate and stir in.

Divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool and serve with a healthy pat of coconut oil or butter.

Nourishing Italian Ragù

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy a relaxing holiday last month.  My December felt so busy that I didn’t feel I got much of a break until the last few days!  Between my new nursing job, a trip to visit family and friends in Minnesota, and attempts to carve out some quality time with my boyfriend, I’ve been running around like a madwoman.  Luckily, I’ve been able to spend the last few days at home with no agenda other than some light housework, cooking, and catching up on some much needed sleep.  Perhaps other new nurses can attest to the utter energy wreckage that happens after a few busy shifts?  I’ve been reassured by my co-workers that this is completely normal in the first few months of being an R.N.

Along with the New Year come the inevitable resolutions.  I’ve stopped making a big deal of them because I am the kind of person who seems to have a new resolution every week. But, of course, I am hoping that January will be a good time to focus on cleaning up my diet.  Like most people, I ate with abandon last month and now feel ready for a healthy change.

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Luckily, I just finished a wonderful book called The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.  It takes a Paleo-esque type of approach but seems a bit more carb-friendly than some other versions of the diet that I have seen.  It’s exquisitely researched and seems quite do-able and so I’ve decided to give their advice a go.  I’ve managed to stick to their recommendations for a whole 2 days now (sadly, this is better than I’m able to do on most diets) without feeling hungry or having overwhelming cravings for unhealthy foods.  We’ll see if this is the case in a few months.

This ragù was the first dish I prepared with the Jaminet’s principles in mind.  It has a healthy portion of veggies, organic beef, and small amounts of sardines and liverwurst for good measure.  If you don’t have those last two ingredients or feel wary of them, feel free to leave them out.  Because the Perfect Health Diet is gluten-free, I opted to serve the sauce over boiled potatoes.  Rice noodles would be another good option.  Apparently meat and potatoes are coming back into style :)

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Nourishing Italian Ragù
adapted from Pinch and Swirl

- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground beef (I used 5% fat)
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 jar tomato sauce
- 1 can sardines in tomato sauce (about 4 oz), optional
- 1/2 cup chopped liverwurst, optional
- 1 bunch collard greens, finely chopped
- salt, to taste

- boiled potatoes, for serving
- olive oil, for serving

Saute onion, pepper, carrots and celery over medium high heat until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.  Add ground beef and sauté until browned.  Pour in wine and allow to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add tomato sauce, sardines, liverwurst and collard greens to the pot.  Cover and allow to simmer for about 1 hour.

Serve over potatoes or noodles with a healthy drizzle of olive oil over everything.

Vegetable-Packed Miso Soup

Today, I needed to take a break of all the holiday indulgences I’ve been enjoying.  They’ve been impossible to avoid.  I baked my first pie this week, the break room at work has been littered with cookies and candy, and yesterday we got a package in the mail straight from Jeremy’s mom in Georgia with southern-style holiday treats.  I recently heard that the average American gains 1-2 pounds during the holiday season each year.  Which doesn’t sound like a lot…except that most of us never lose it again.  Add that up over the course of a few decades and you’ve got a pretty sizeable problem.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to deprive yourself of all the sweetness that the holiday season brings.  I am the worst (THE WORST!) at staying away from tempting goodies.  For me, the best solution is to load up on healthy foods when I can so that I’m simply not that hungry when I’m faced with items that don’t fit into my healthy eating plan.  Yeah, I’ll still eat them, but I’ll have smaller portions.

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This soup, with its nourishing veggies and umami-filled broth is a good way to step back from the holiday fray…so you’ll be even more ready to fully enjoy that holiday meal.  I used bonito flakes in the broth for a more authentic miso flavor.  You can find them at a well-stocked asian grocery store, but feel free to substitute low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (the miso and soy sauce will add plenty of their own saltiness at the end).

Miso Soup with Vegetables
makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups lightly packed bonito flakes
- 3 carrots, halved and sliced
- 2 heads baby bok choy, thinly sliced
- 1 block medium-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
- 3 Tbs miso paste
- soy sauce, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute longer.

2. Add water.  Place bonito flakes in a mesh container (I used a nut-milk bag) and immerse in the water to steep.  You just want to be able to remove the flakes once they’ve imparted their flavor.  Add carrots and white sections of bok choy and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Lower heat and remove bonito flakes.  Add leafy sections of bok choy and stir until wilted.  Add tofu.

4. Ladle some broth into a bowl and add miso paste.  Stir until miso has dissolved and return to stock pot.  Taste and add soy sauce, if desired.

Power Lunch: Turkey, Veggie, and Brown Rice Bowls

You guys, sh*t is gettin’ real over here.  How real?  Well, my gorgeous diploma for my B.S. in Nursing came in the mail yesterday, my NCLEX (that’s the nursing licensure exam) is 2 weeks away, and I had my first job interview this week!  I have been losing myself in daydreams about how much I want this job.  It’s a resource position, which means I would get to fill in for other nurses on vacation, sick days, or family leave, and it’s at one of the best hospitals in the state.  I’ll be hearing back next week and am excited/terrified!

In the meantime, I’ve been truly enjoying my unemployed-cation.  I have time to cook most of my meals at home, have been going on long walks with my dog, and I’m catching up on Homeland just in time for Season 2.

Even if you are working a 9-to-5, this power lunch bowl would be an easy and energy-boosting work take-a-long.  Just sauté your ingredients over the weekend (make enough for several days to save time), cook some rice, and you’ll have an envy-inducing lunch on Monday.  The protein from the turkey and the fiber from the brown rice will keep you satisfied for hours.  Which is also a plus for a homebody like me whose kitchen is only steps away.

Turkey, Veggie, and Brown Rice Bowls
makes 2 servings

- 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
- 1/2 lb ground turkey
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 avocado sliced

Cook turkey and spices in a large skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, peppers, and about a pinch of salt.  Cook for another 7-10 minutes until peppers are tender.  Serve over 1/4 cup warm rice topped with 1/4 avocado.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Ok, so my first week of “freedom” from school has been much less productive than I had anticipated.  I am coming to the conclusion that the internet is an evil dementor (Harry Potter reference, sorry) and is sucking my life away.  I love having information and ideas right at my fingertips, but sometimes accessibility cheapens things.  Does that make sense?  My brain has been retrained to flit from one webpage to another, not to quietly enjoy a morning coffee or spend an hour wrapped up in a book.  I’ve only recently come to this realization and have not yet decided what to do (or even if anything must be done).

Do any of you have the same problem?  Have you done anything about it?

Ok, enough with randomness.  On to food!

I made these sloppy joes for my vegetarian boyfriend and we both loved them.  The chipotle peppers and barbecue sauce added a lovely, smoky flavor and the combination of black beans and edamame kept the filling from being too heavy.  I promised Jeremy that I would start repeating some of his favorite recipes (I’m guilty of never doing the same thing twice…possibly a manifestation of internet-induced attention deficit?) and this one is going in the regular rotation.  Enjoy it with seasonal veggies or oven-fries.

Find the recipe here at Vegetarian Times online.  The only change I made was not to bother with low-fat barbecue sauce or cheese.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to another comfort food recipe I’ve been loving this week.  The BEST rice pudding from Gilt Taste.  Don’t do like I did and decide that the 1/4 cup rice to 3 cups milk ratio is wrong.  It’s right.  Next time, I will trust them completely.  :)

* I added this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday.

Welcoming Fall with Sweet Potatoes

I spend a lot of time in the summer dreading the fall.  Warm, sunny weather in the Pacific Northwest is a rarity and I truly do hate to see it go.  But now that cooler days have set in, I’ve remembered that I actually like wearing scarves and sweaters, using the fireplace, and making crock-pot dinners.  I also love sweet potatoes.

Even for breakfast.

These are perfect alongside some local grass-fed goat sausages.  I made enough for a few days and then breakfast was just a few microwave buttons away.

Cumin Roasted Sweet Potatoes
serves 3-4
adapted from September 2012′s Vegetarian Times 

Ingredients
- 3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Toss all ingredient in a large baking dish until vegetables are well coated.  Roast for about 45 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring halfway through.

I added this post to this week’s Full Plate ThursdayThriving on ThursdaysWhole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy Free WednesdayFat Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Cast Party Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Traditional Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese

Hello!  I feel like I should apologize for my long absence.  In the last several weeks, real life has trumped cyber life and I decided it would be best to wait until things settled down before getting back into the kitchen and on dishesanddishes.  There was the wrap-up of my final term in nursing school, graduation(!), a visit from my parents, and a trip up to beautiful Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.

The view from outside our hotel.

The San Juan islands are amazing.

On the ferry to Orcas.

Even Dan got to enjoy his favorite activity.

I’ve been catching up on sleep, reinstating some self-care (hello exercise and yoga!), and working through the process of getting my nursing license and looking for jobs.  I tend to shy away from instability and uncertainty and so I’m sure these next few months of battling it out in a tough job market and seeing what turns up will be a real learning process for me.  The up-side of unemployment?  I have time to cook.  :)

Yay cast-iron!

My mom gave me a cast-iron skillet as a graduation gift and a used it for the first time with this simple sauté of crookneck squash, red onions, spinach, and goat cheese.  It was a delicious side dish and the perfect answer to the end-of-summer’s glut of squash.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

How do you deal with change?  Do you welcome it or dread it? 

Summer Squash Sauté with Goat Cheese
makes 6 servings
inspired by Happyolks taco version

Ingredients
– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
– 3 crookneck squash, cubed
– 1 tsp red wine vinegar
– 1 tsp dijon mustard
– a few handfuls of spinach
– 2 oz goat cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add squash, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in red wine vinegar and mustard until well incorporated.  Add spinach and stir for another minute, just until wilting.  Remove pan from heat and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.  Toss a few times and serve warm.

* I shared this post with this week’s Superfood Sunday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.