Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy Avocado Month

Healthy Avocados!!

So February is National Avocado Month and since avocados are one of my favorite foods and something I eat almost everyday, I had to get in a post, before the month was over, dedicated purely to this nutritional powerhouse. Everyone knows that avocados are good for you.  There are so many different ways in which to eat them: chopped up on top of a salad, sliced up and on a sandwich or a taco, mashed into guacamole, or just plain (with hot sauce like I prefer)... but my new favorite way to eat avocados is as dessert.  Yes, dessert.  More specifically as a decadent chocolate pudding that tastes better than any other pudding you have ever eaten.  I swear.  This new recipe is basically just a simplified version of my original  raw vegan chocolate pudding, but quicker to mix together and more pure in flavor. Both of my kids love it and my husband who was a bit skeptical of the first attempt, didn't even know at first that this was basically the same thing.  It is that good.  And with only four healthy ingredients, it is a dessert you can eat anytime, all the time. So Happy Avocado Month, for one more day... but please, remember to eat them all year long.  They are one of those fabulous healthy foods that are available all year, not matter where you live or what the temperature is outside.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 23 through March 1, 2014 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This being the middle of that week, I thought it was an appropriate time to write a little bit about a topic that is very near to my heart and worthy of attention. I cannot speak for anyone else, and nothing I say should be considered expertise.  I can only speak from personal experience and from what I have learned from my own struggles and those of people I have struggled with.

One of the main issues I have with the usual attention brought up when discussing eating disorders is the role of society and the media.  Yes, the images young girls are fed from an early age of what a beautiful woman should look like do play a role, but they are just a small piece of the pie.  I know for a fact that all eating disorders are about control.  Control over one's life, surroundings, experiences and of course, one's body. When everything else in life seems to be spinning out of control, it is easy to focus on the one thing that we do have control over: our physical shape and more specifically, what we choose to put into our bodies. It is a way of deflecting a bigger problem, whether consciously or not, into a seemingly more manageable issue.

The problem is, once an eating disorder begins and the sufferer becomes malnourished, whether from starvation, frequent purging, or binging on nutrient poor foods, the brain becomes less able to process information.  A vicious cycle then ensues in which the sufferer cannot focus on anything, so they feel more out of control and perpetuate the disorder. When someone is in the throes of a severe eating disorder it is also impossible to see themselves clearly in the mirror so even though someone may look unhealthy to an outside observer, they themselves truly do see a different image.  One interesting trick that I have found helpful, even to this day, is to look at a photo, or even a mirror image of yourself from the neck down.  We are much less critical of others and if you think of the body as belonging to someone else, chances are you can view yourself as others would, and hopefully treat yourself and your body more kindly.

While any number of factors may cause an eating disorder, the first step in treatment is always the same.  Although it is hard to admit when you are in the depths of disordered thinking, the most important thing is to repair the physical body.  I hated this fact and fought it tooth and nail, but until I started to eat again during my many attempts at treatment, it was impossible to even begin to tackle the emotional underpinnings of my disorder.  It wasn't until many years later, years of normal eating and recovery, that I began to understand what started me down that painful road in the first place.  And I know for me, someone who was thin to begin with, it had very little to do with wanting to look like some perfect image of myself. It had to do with my soul, and searching for my place in the world.  Luckily I got the help I needed so that I can now fulfill that desire.

Chances are you or someone you know and care deeply about has suffered or is currently struggling with an eating disorder.  The majority of eating disorders in this country go completely untreated and that is truly a shame.  They can destroy lives, and in severe cases, even end them.  So take the time this week especially to educate yourself and those you care about.  Here are a few helpful links to get you started:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Try Try Again

It seems like forever since I have baked something new in my kitchen.  Been a busy few days full of a lot of eating out or eating on the run while standing over the kitchen sink.  Not my favorite, but sometimes it is all I have time for.  My parents visited from out of state this past weekend and for the first time in exactly two decades I went skiing.  My nine year old son has gone four times this winter with his school's ski club, so my mom and dad (and my husband and I) really wanted to see how he was doing.  Skiing is unfortunately very expensive, so we had not been able to go before, but this weekend seemed like the perfect excuse to spend way too much money in one day and make the most of it... especially since it was almost 50F on Saturday!

I was definitely a bit apprehensive to get onto skis again after 20 years, but the thrill of trying a sport I used to love as a kid was overwhelmingly exciting.  I was very impressed with my son who definitely looked and felt comfortable holding his own not only on the bunny hill, but also two long easy trails and even a couple of moderately steep ones.  I took him by myself down a blue square marked trail after a few easy runs and although he fell six times, one of which scared me half to death because I thought he was crying instead of laughing, he was perfectly fine and definitely has a future in this sport.  He knows how and when to turn and if he stopped looking back at me or all the other people around him and focused on the trail in front of him, I think he might make it down without even hitting the snow once!

As for me (and my husband), I honestly felt as if no time had passed and I was 14 again skiing down a mountain in CT or VT.  Although a bit more apprehensive about falling with my older and not so resilient body (I didn't fall down at all thank goodness), I was still itching and ready to go down the steepest trail on the mountain after about an hour of practice.  I chose a double black diamond that was on the front face of the mountain because I knew deep down that it would have been easy for me as a kid and that if I didn't try it that day I might not get another chance for at least a year and I would hate myself for not at least attempting it.  When I got to the edge of the first steep drop, that had the remains of what were once some tricky moguls, my husband looked at me and said "we're not ready for this."  But is was kind of too late at that point.  You would think watching someone else attempt the hill and wipe out miserably would make me more nervous, but in actuality, since I was more worried about upsetting experienced skiers by going too slow or wiping out and causing a collision, seeing this guy fall and knowing I could do better gave me the courage to go for it.  I was so happy once I did.  It was hard, icy and steep, but I held my own and although I may not have looked fantastic, I felt on top of the world, literally, and I couldn't wait to get back up to the top again.

That being said, the rest of the weekend was mostly about food and figuring out how to manage a healthy lifestyle while eating out, especially with children.  It is really hard to know which battles are worth fighting and which ones are best to let go.  I still have no idea.  Like most people, I enjoy eating out, often for the simple fact that it is one meal that I don't have to spend time cooking or cleaning up after. But unless I am at a (usually expensive) farm to table style restaurant or a vegetarian restaurant, I have trouble figuring out what to order and what to allow my children to eat.  I have no control over anyone else at the table, although I know I tend to give unsolicited advice from time to time, usually to my husband or my dad. They hopefully know that it is only because I love them so deeply that I care so much about what they choose to eat, but sometimes my frustration spills beyond personal health and into anger at the food industry in general.

I doubt there is any meal out that my children eat that doesn't contain some sort of food coloring or artificial flavor and it is so hard on those rare occasions when we eat out more than once a week and I start to feel like I am failing them as a mother.  I sometimes let my son drink a soda when we go out, but nothing with caffeine, artificial sweeteners or colors, so basically only sprite or ginger ale, but then you go places where they make fun drinks with colors, or with juice and grenadine, which although originally made with pomegranate juice for color is now almost always contains red food dye.  And then there is the white bread, the lack of produce and the conventionally sourced meat.  After reading an article again this past week about the inhumane way that most livestock in this country are treated, my healthy, growing, active son orders a cheeseburger.  I cringe thinking about it, and have educated him as best I can considering his age, so what am I to do?  I try to set a good example, but even I fail at times.  No one is perfect, and when you fall down, whether on a ski slope, at a meal or in life in general, the only real option you have is to get back up again and try to do better.  So try I shall.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Drops

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Drops
This is a variation on my original Chocolate Almond Fudge Drops, but using my favorite peanut butter instead.  My son's teacher requested a "healthy treat" for his class' Valentine's Day party and since I know there are no kids with peanut allergies in his class and that usually kids are more familiar with and willing to eat peanut versus almond butter, I thought I would give these cookies a try.  I do think the consistency of the all natural organic peanut butter make these a little less fudgy and a bit more grainy, but the flavor is perfect. You could easily experiment with the ratio of ingredients and increase the cocoa and sugar (like I did once with the almond variety) to intensify that aspect of the flavor.  The possibilities really are endless.  But one thing is for sure- they are quick, simple, and delicious.  Hopefully his classmates all agree!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Coconut Lime Shrimp with Thai Rice Noodles

Coconut Lime Shrimp with Thai Rice Noodles
served with an organic romaine and broccolette salad
The idea for this meal came about while cooking my simple Coconut Curry Shrimp the other night.  As I was sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes and shrimp in the virgin coconut oil, I was so impressed with how amazing it smelled that I knew I had to create another dish using the shrimp just like that. (I had a jar of sauce to use up that night or I would have changed my recipe immediately)... So a few nights later I planned out this meal, only adding a few fresh ingredients (lime, cilantro and scallions) and serving the shrimp over healthy, high fiber, brown rice noodles.  While a bit spicy, my son even liked it and I got my daughter to at least try out a new type of noodle, which I consider a success (even if she ate them with Parmesan cheese).

The salad I served along side is about as simple as you can get with only two ingredients, but again, they are vegetables that both of my kids will eat.  The dressing uses up half of the lime juice that I squeezed for the main dish and two delicious, full bodied, oils.  A very delicately flavored, yet complex tasting dish that I am so glad I figured out.  It tasted like I was eating something truly tropical and exotic while stuck in snowy Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whole Grain Pizza Rolls

Whole Grain Pizza Rolls

The last time I made homemade cinnamon rolls, I started to think how fun and yummy it would be to make a savory version using pizza ingredients.  There are endless options of things you can bake with pizza dough, but I have never tried to just make a pizza and then roll it up and slice it into pretty rolls.  My daughter even helped me make these, which made it easier to convince her to eat one (she did) and it was a lot of fun to do together.  They would be really great with some finely diced veggies or meat inside as well.  However, if you like crispy pizza dough, this may not be the best option as these rolls are very soft and chewy. But my kids loved them and they were even great the next day, cold, out of the fridge.  I am sure they would be perfect for a kid's school lunch as well.  Something fun and different, and of course, well balanced and nutritious. Get rolling!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Creamy Breakfast Polenta

Creamy Breakfast Polenta
with over easy eggs and crispy fried ham
Usually when I think of a breakfast porridge, I think sweet, as in oatmeal with bananas and maple syrup.  But this meal is completely different, and since I know sugar is not good for you, it is a great alternative to a typical American breakfast. The flavor of the buttery polenta, combined with a runny fried egg and some crispy ham is ridiculously satisfying first thing in the morning.  Super high in protein, this meal will set you up with tons of energy for the day ahead.  And the best part?  The polenta cooks while you sleep!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vegan Noodle Bowl

Vegan Noodle Bowl
This is a meal that will leave you feeling so good inside and out.  Full of veggies and high protein tofu, it is so satisfying and rich that you will not even notice that there is no meat in it.  Trust me because my husband and my son LOVED it.  I saw a recipe similar to this in a magazine awhile ago and was intrigued by the amount of sesame oil used in the dressing.  Usually just the smallest amount in a stir fry adds so much flavor, but this called for a few tablespoons.  I was skeptical, but it totally works.  The rich, nutty flavor adds a layer of depth to the otherwise simple combination of whole grain buckwheat soba noodles and vegetables.  Even without the tofu it would be a satisfyingly indulgent meal.  The original recipe also called for shredded red cabbage and fresh edamame but I didn't have either on hand when I made my version.  You really can add whatever vegetables you prefer and even use regular spaghetti noodles instead.  It is all about the sauce, which combines the perfect ratio of sweet, salty and spicy to this healthy and hearty dish.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spelt Flour Pizza Dough

I am writing this recipe up as a separate post so that when I refer to it in other recipes it can quickly be referenced.  I have also made pizza dough using regular organic whole wheat flour, as this dough can be a little more delicate.  But I like to vary the types of grains I serve my family so this is a nice alternative to a regular wheat dough.  Very versatile, it can be used to make a traditional pizza, pizza rolls or even sweet cinnamon rolls as a breakfast treat!

Spelt Flour Pizza Dough
dough before rising

2 1/2 C. whole grain spelt flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C. warm water
1 T. pure maple syrup
1 packet quick rising yeast
3 T. olive oil, organic canola oil or melted organic butter

after an hour rising
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a larger bowl, add the warm water and maple syrup and dissolve the yeast packet until bubbles start to form.  Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Pour in the oil or butter and mix well.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.  Return the dough back to the mixing bowl and cover with a damp towel for about an hour.  Once it has risen, punch down the dough and then knead it again for a minute. You can now either use it in a recipe or put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to work with it. If placing the dough in the fridge, make sure to put it in a sealed bag with room to expand as it will continue to rise a little.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolate Valentine's Day Cookie

Chocolate Valentine's Day Cookie

Happy Valentine's Day!!  Although the main star of my Valentine table this year is a delicious red cherry pie, I couldn't let the day go by without baking at least something that is chocolate.  This is a recipe that I have been wanting to share for awhile since it is a definite family favorite and so much fun to make.  It is originally from a web site that my husband's first cousin works on, although I have changed a few things around in the recipe and made three other versions of it as well. I have always wondered how to make a giant cookie that would bake evenly and this treat definitely solves that problem.  While slightly more like pizza dough than cookie dough, this tastes amazing while being high in fiber and low in sugar and fat.  It is really fun to work with and can be made into any shape you want. The double chocolate version is my favorite, but I have also made plain chocolate chip, peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin versions. The recipes for those and a few extra photos are included below.  xoxoxo

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Normally on Valentine's Day I would make a decadent dark chocolate dessert of some kind since chocolate is my favorite food group and Valentine's Day is usually all about chocolate.  But this year I also wanted to make something red, and the most naturally red things I could think of are cherries.  I had been wanting to try out a recipe for a pie crust using coconut oil, so I thought this would be the perfect day to give it a go.  And since I want to spend Valentine's evening enjoying the company of the people I love and not working in the kitchen, I figured I could make the pie the centerpiece of dinner (it does have fruit in it!) and serve it with a small selection of cheeses on the side.

The Coconut Oil Pie Crust came out perfectly and since it is made with 100 % organic whole wheat pastry flour it has health benefits as well.  A bit hearty if you are used to white flour pastry, but the coconut flavor is perfect, especially when paired with the cherry filling (would be great with a chocolate pie too!).  I did cheat and use a premade cherry pie filling because I found one at my local store that was very basic and had no corn syrup or anything artificial.  I decided to mix in some dried cherries and frozen cherries as well to add a bit of texture and it worked perfectly.  Not too sweet, not too tart and perfect for an evening meal with my Valentine.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Split Pea and Lentil Soup

Split Pea and Lentil Soup

Nothing is better on a cold snowy day than a warm, delicious pot of soup bubbling away on the stove.  That is why a couple of days ago when I heard we were due to get over a foot of snow today, and my mom had just told me over the phone about a pea soup she had made over the weekend, I knew what I was going to plan for tonight's dinner. My mom never did get around to emailing me the recipe she used but she told me it had parsnips and rosemary in it which sounded good to me.  So yesterday when everyone was at the grocery store buying milk, bread and eggs, I was stocking up on my ingredients for tonight's healthy feast... (along with some milk, bread and eggs as well!)

Knowing that my husband is not a huge fan of pea soup and that a lot of people do add ham to it, I figured a little meat in it would probably make him and my son a bit happier.  But I am not a big fan of ham, or pork products in general, at least not when the flavor permeates an entire dish, so I figured why not just top the soup with some crumbled up, crispy turkey bacon.  My local store carries the healthier nitrate free variety and I figured it would be easy to fry up while the soup boils so I can garnish their bowls, and maybe mine, with as little or as much meat as we would like.  I also added in the parsnips and the rosemary as my mom's recipe suggested, and they definitely make the dish that much more flavorful.  Super easy and full of healthy nutrient rich vegetables, this soup will warm both your home and your body.

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

I do not often make pastry.  I am not a huge fan of pies as I would rather have a dense fudge brownie or a cookie, but I know my husband and my son like pies and so on occasion I attempt to make them one. I hate to use vegetable shortening because I feel it has no flavor or health benefits so in the past I have always just used organic butter.  But I have gotten so used to using coconut oil in a lot of recipes and know that it has the perfect consistency at room temperature to use in pastry so I wanted to try to make a pie crust with it.  I looked online first to make sure that it wasn't a terrible idea and to get the basic measurements for a double pie crust.  I really wasn't sure that I was going to be able to blend it together well enough just using a fork and my fingers, but it really worked perfectly.  In less than ten minutes I had a beautiful ball of pastry dough that I knew would make an amazing pie.  I used it this first time to make a cherry pie for Valentine's Day, but I plan to make it again in the future for a chocolate version or maybe even a coconut cream!  If you use the organic virgin coconut oil like I did you will definitely taste the coconut flavor, which I really enjoyed.  And the whole wheat pastry flour adds a nice hearty touch that helps to fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied without having eaten half of the pie. Although it tastes so good you still may want to try!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Balsamic Chicken Tenders (with Pantry Vegetable Salad)

Balsamic Chicken Tenders 
(with Pantry Vegetable Salad)

I realize that the majority of my posts are either vegetarian or vegan, so when I decided to cook chicken the other night, I knew I had to post my recipe regardless of how simple it is.  My husband and son love meat (beef, poultry, pork...) and even I sometimes crave it, especially when I have had a tough week at the gym and want to increase my protein consumption.  I try to only buy organic so when I saw these chicken tenderloins at my local grocery store, I knew that I would make my guys happy by serving them up for dinner.  But I had a busy day ahead of me and didn't want to have to do anything complicated with them.  So as soon as I got home from the store, I put the chicken into a sealed plastic bag with a quick balsamic marinade and planned a simple salad to go with it for dinner.

I love to figure out recipes that you can throw together with items from your pantry, especially in the middle of winter when good quality fresh produce can be hard to find.  My son loves pickled carrots and I love red kidney beans, so this dish has both.  The beans add an extra boost of protein and the carbs needed to help round out the meal, and the pickled vegetables provide the vinegar for the salad I threw together with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and some toasted pumpkin seeds.  Very simple, but when I sat down after a long day in front of a healthy, beautiful looking salad, I had to smile and be glad that I took the small amount of time necessary to feed my family something truly wholesome.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Beer Biscuits

Beer Biscuits
I may be a health food nut, but my husband and I do love our beer.  But beer for breakfast?  Ok, not really, but my husband did get to drink the last 4 ounces out of the bottle, at 10am the other morning which was kind of funny.  I had heard of beer bread, so why not something even simpler that I could whip up on a Sunday morning?  I looked up a few different recipes for beer biscuits and settled on this combination which is truly amazing.  Very flaky and moist, these biscuits definitely smell and taste like the dark stout beer I used in them, but not so much so that my kids didn't enjoy them.  And they definitely got a kick out of knowing they were "eating beer!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Coconut Curry Shrimp
Not every meal has to be completely from scratch or complicated to be healthy, delicious and fun.  I had a jar of curry sauce that was going to expire in about a month and being a stickler for those "best by" dates and hating to waste anything I knew I had to use it up.  So last minute I raided my pantry and my freezer and came up with this meal.  I was not planning on putting it on my blog at first, but then figured, why not? It might not be that original, or that inventive, but sometimes simple and quick are just as good. Full of high protein shrimp and beans, fiber rich brown rice and super nutritious spinach and garlic it is a meal that is as good for as it is easy to throw together.  If you always keep items like this stocked in your pantry and freezer, a gourmet meal is never far away.

Friday, February 7, 2014

High Protein Peanut Butter Brownies

High Protein Peanut Butter Brownies

I have to assume that if you are reading this health food blog then you probably have already heard of Black Bean Brownies.  I made them for the first time a couple of weeks ago and since I am never satisfied and always thinking ahead to new ideas, I immediately thought of a way to make other versions.  I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate but I figured the color of black beans might look a little unappetizing if the brownie is supposed to be peanut butter.  So why not use white beans?  They are mild in flavor, have the same texture as black beans and more importantly, they are just as nutritious. I figured that if I used enough peanut butter and a few chocolate chips, even my kids shouldn't know the difference.

I was right.  After "fighting" with my daughter to try a red kidney bean at dinner (little success), I offered her one of these brownies after she did try a few new items.  She loved it.  My son and I knew what the "secret" ingredient was, but we did not dare to tell her.  Maybe the next time.  Either way, I know if she liked them, and the rest of my family loved them, then they must be good.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Roasted Vegetables and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

Roasted Vegetables and Tofu with Peanut Sauce
I love a good stir fry.  For the longest time I could never figure out how to make my own Asian inspired meals taste as good as the ones I would get in a restaurant, but with a few quality ingredients, combined in just the right way, I think I have cracked the code.  I have made peanut sauces in the past but usually they are way too thick and sticky and frankly, to "peanuty" for my taste.  This recipes fixes that by incorporating enough other ingredients so that the peanut taste is not overwhelming.

The other great thing about this dish, in addition to being full of nutrient dense organic vegetables, high protein organic tofu and fiber rich brown rice, is that it can all cook in one large pan (or two smaller ones).  The rice has to cook separately of course or you could use some you have left over from another meal. Or you could do what I sometimes do, and buy the packets of precooked plain brown rice (I even found an organic version at my local store).  I had never thought of roasting my tofu before but I saw it mentioned in a magazine recipe and figured it was worth a shot.  I usually pan fry it on the stove and the little bit of moisture that is always left in the tofu interacts with the oil and inevitably makes a giant splattering mess.  If nothing else, this method eliminates the stove top clean up and allows me time to make the sauce and prep the rice. Having everything cook together at one time, in one or two pans is so much better.

At first I wasn't sure that the tofu had cooked properly since the top still looked undone, but the bottom was definitely crispy and cooked to perfection.  If I remember next time or if you are picky about things cooking evenly you could definitely flip the pieces over halfway through cooking.  But this is definitely a simpler method of preparing tofu, that even my son loves, and will probably be how I make it from now on. Of course if you don't like tofu, as I know a lot of people don't, you could easily substitute organic chicken in this recipe or just increase the amount of edamame to provide more protein.  I am definitely looking forward to making this meal again soon and I rarely ever make the same thing twice!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Maple Sugar Cinnamon Rolls

Maple Sugar Cinnamon Rolls
One of my favorite smells in the whole world is the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Unfortunately cinnamon rolls have gotten a bad rap because of the way that most of them are made with loads of butter, artificial flavorings and white flour and sugar.  This recipe is different, and in my opinion tastes even better.  I have made many versions of these in the past, but after having a slightly not so perfect experiment using spelt flour in a previous recipe, I thought why not try to make a nice yeast based dough using spelt flour?  I had originally planned on just making a bread of some sort (and will try that soon) but I happened to be watching an episode of The Chew the other day and Mario Batali was using his own pizza recipe to make cinnamon rolls.  I wanted some so badly.

I knew that today was going to be a snow day and that my whole family would hopefully be sleeping in and I love taking advantage of lazy mornings like that by baking something warm for breakfast.  But I knew making dough and waiting for it to rise would never fly with four hungry mouths to feed.  So I decided to make the dough the night before.  I figured if you can buy pizza dough from a pizzeria, or even fresh dough from your local grocery store, then it must work to refrigerate your own overnight.  I was right.  I made the dough after dinner last night, let it rise for an hour and then put it in the fridge until this morning.  That way I had fresh cinnamon rolls in less than 30 minutes.

In order to make these fit with my healthy lifestyle, I of course used whole grain (spelt) flour.  You could of course use regular whole wheat flour as well, but the spelt worked nicely and I am glad that I tried it.  Instead of loading the filling up with tons of butter, I used half almond butter (thought about using all almond butter and probably will another time as the flavor and texture were amazing).  I also chose to use pure granulated maple sugar, since maple sugar has such a rich, potent flavor while also being high in nutrients and lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar. Granulated maple sugar can be hard to find and a bit pricey (I bought my small bottle that I almost used up today at a large country fair back in the fall), but it is definitely worth the search and investment.  You could also use plain brown sugar as I mentioned in the recipe or perhaps even raw coconut sugar crystals.  I didn't feel the need to add any maple syrup onto my cinnamon rolls once they were cooked, but I did for my kids and my husband.  I am not sure if it was the fact that after having to wait for them to bake my family was completely ravenous or because the cinnamon rolls tasted as amazing as they smelled, but the whole pan was gone within minutes.  Even my usually picky daughter gobbled up a whole one in record time. Maybe next time I will have to make a double batch!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Breakfast Cookies

Regular Breakfast Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Breakfast Cookies
Nothing is better on a weekend (or snow day) morning than a freshly baked treat hot from the oven.  But sometimes preparing and baking something can take too long and it is closer to lunchtime before my family gets to enjoy whatever it is I am whipping up in my kitchen. So when I saw a recipe a few months back for breakfast cookies that you prep the night before, I was intrigued.  Last weekend I finally got around to trying my own version of this idea and it was really good.  I made the dough the day before, wrapped it up in plastic and put it in the fridge.  So the next morning, with my husband's help, we just sliced up the dough and baked them.

The original cookies were delicious, and if I were to try to describe them, I would say they are a cross between a biscuit and biscotti.  More crispy than flaky, they held their shape well and my kids were able to eat them without it turning into a big crumbly mess. The chocolate version I made this past weekend wasn't such a success.  While absolutely delicious and melt in your mouth decadent, they literally fell apart on contact and we nicknamed them the "exploding chocolate cookies".  I honestly think it might be completely to blame on the fact that I used whole grain spelt flour instead of regular whole wheat.  I had heard that spelt flour was "easier to digest" than wheat and was a perfect substitute and mistakenly thought I could just switch it out.  But I guess you need to adjust other ingredients first and in such a delicate recipe as this, I probably should have just stuck to my usual flour.

I see no reason why the cookies would not have held their shape when I added in the cocoa powder and additional coconut oil, so I am probably going to try this recipe again sometime soon using regular whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour.  I also think adding an egg or two would moisten the cookies and bind them together better, as well as make them more "cookie like", and less like a biscuit. All in all, I would definitely recommend this recipe if, like me, you enjoy fresh baked goods and yet don't want to spend your whole morning in the kitchen.

Monday, February 3, 2014

("Go Broncos!") Indian Style Nachos

** I am aware that the Broncos lost miserably, 
but this dish is a winner!!!**
("Go Broncos!") Indian Style Nachos

I am definitely not a big fan of football.  I never played the sport, did not grow up in a family that ever watched the sport and yet even I enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.  Being a lover of food and cooking, I suppose it is the freedom to snack and eat items you normally wouldn't, as well as the amazingly creative commercials and reason to party that this American tradition provides that actually gets me to watch at least a few minutes of football once a year.  I usually plan out what to make for the big day a couple of weeks ahead even though it is usually just my little family that I am feeding.  Nachos have always been a family favorite so when I saw a recipe in a magazine a few weeks ago for "Indian Nachos" I knew immediately what I was going to try.

Loaded up with roasted and curried chick peas and cauliflower, shredded monterey jack cheese, cilantro and lime, this is like no other nachos I have ever eaten.  My husband is not a fan of cauliflower, but I convinced him that this dish would be so full of other flavors that he would not know that he was actually eating something healthy.  Top it off with a side of mango chutney, avocado and lime yogurt sauce and chopped raw cashews, it is a gourmet version of traditional game day food.

So when I got a call the day before the big game from a friend of mine inviting me and my family to a Super Bowl party, I was really excited that I had this meal planned out and thankful that I had bought way more than my husband, kids and I would ever eat on our own. I told her what I was planning to bring and just like my husband, I could hear the hesitation in her voice as she said, "that sounds interesting."  Yes, it does and it is deliciously amazing too!!

Now since I live in Pennsylvania and the two football teams playing in this year's Super Bowl are from the other side of the country, I really had no clue who anyone, including my husband, would be routing for.  He is an Eagles fan, so based on some reasoning of his own, his favorite to win is Denver and of course my kids follow along with whatever he says.  I was planning to stay completely impartial, because as I said before, I am not a fan of the sport.  But a few days ago, an article started circulating around the Facebook pages of a lot of my old high school friends informing us that a fellow alumni was on the Denver Broncos. Having graduated in a class of less than 300 kids, and having spent the first 22 years of my life in the same small Connecticut town, even I thought that was cool.  The player graduated six years after I did so although I do not know him personally in any way, the article I read had quotes about him from teachers and administrators that I do know and that made it seem special.  So obviously, I too am routing for the Broncos!

Because I like to be coordinated, I looked up the team colors for the Broncos (dark blue and orange) so I could convince my kids to dress in those colors.  (I don't really own anything orange except for a large old track shirt so I won't be dressing in spirit).  But the dish I am making?  It is blue (organic blue corn chips) and orange (curried vegetables) and I did not even plan that.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Just funny and meant to be.  Hence the name of this post, and this dish, "Go Broncos!" Nachos.

** I left the party before half time and about 2/3 of this giant pan of nachos were already gone and everyone seemed to love them... even those who were skeptical at first.  They are truly amazing!!!