Wednesday, October 1, 2014

my (new) favorite granola.

granola1 As I'm writing this, it is raining. A good, hard, steady rain. The perfect kind for snuggling up in a warm blanket and getting lost in a really good book. Woody Guthrie is laying next to me in complete relaxation. These are the elements of a perfectly pleasant afternoon. But to be perfectly perfect, it needs a snack. And what would be more fitting than some freshly made granola?

I am a sucker for some good granola and I've been fiddling around with the makings of a recipe for quite some time now. To me, granola should be cinnamon-y, crunchy (but not too crunchy), simple, and delicious. That's the most important component. It must be delicious. I also don't like recipes that are too fussy or require too much care (i.e., lots of oven time with lots of shuffling around on the baking sheet to ensure there's no burned bits). Because isn't the ideal granola eaten by the handful while one passes absentmindedly through the kitchen? That's what's ideal to me.

I don't want to tout my granola-making abilities, but this recipe is good. As in could-be-eaten-on-ice-cream good, or could-be-eaten-on-yogurt good, or could-be-enjoyed-with-almond-milk good, or could-be-eaten-all-by-itself good. I hope you make this recipe and enjoy it as much as I do.

The beauty of granola is that it can be modified to meet one's individual preferences. Not a fan of sliced almonds? Substitute hazelnuts or cashews instead. No sesame seeds on hand? Mix in a few sunflower seeds in their place. Unsure about buckwheat groats? Add 2 cups of rolled oats instead. Toss in bits of dried fruit or even chocolate chips if you're really feeling fancy!

granola3 granola2 M Y  F A V O R I T E  G R A N O L A
Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter (unsweetened*)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raw buckwheat groats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

*If you don't have unsweetened peanut butter, I would suggest forgoing the coconut sugar.

Directions
1. Preheat your oven to 350º F and lightly coat a baking sheet with coconut oil.
2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine maple syrup, coconut sugar, peanut butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Heat until coconut sugar has completely melted and the mixture resembles a thick sauce. Stir occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, combine the rolled oats, buckwheat groats, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds in a large mixing bowl.
4. Once the sauce mixture is completely emulsified, pour it over the dry ingredients and gently combine with a spatula until the mixture is evenly coated.
5. Pour the granola onto the baking sheet and spread evenly.
6. Pop the granola into the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, shuffle the granola around on the sheet (to help with even baking) and pop back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
7. Remove the granola from the oven and place it (still on its baking sheet) on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before enjoying.

Monday, September 29, 2014

black bean bowl.

bowl4 Last week, I wrote about how I plan meals for our family. This recipe is an example of what might come of that plan. It's hardly a recipe because it was created from the ingredients we had at home on a Wednesday night, but there's no harm in sharing anyway!

It is always best to soak beans for an extended amount of time (I try to start the soaking process before I leave for work in the mornings), but in case you forget (as I did on Wednesday), here's a great how-to for quick-soaking beans. If you're new to soaking beans and would like to read a bit more, this is a well-written and informative article.

bowl1 bowl3 B L A C K  B E A N  B O W L
Serves 2, with plenty of leftovers

Ingredients
1 cup pre-soaked black beans
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup steamed corn
3 small peppers, chopped
1 heaping handful spinach, chopped
1/4 of onion, chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced
Honey-Lime dressing (recipe below)

Directions
1. Cook black beans on a low simmer for one hour (for firmer beans [my preference]), or an hour and a half (for softer beans) with 2 cloves of garlic in 2 cups water, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Add 1 teaspoon salt during the last 10 minutes of cook time.
2. Divide beans into two bowls,* and top with corn, peppers, spinach, onion, avocado, and dressing.
3. We like serving with these chips.

* This is where I save the remaining beans and toppings + dressing in a reusable container for the following day's lunch.

bowl2 H O N E Y - L I M E  D R E S S I N G
Serves 2, with plenty of leftovers

Ingredients
1/2 avocado
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon coconut milk
up to 2 tablespoons water, for thinning
up to 1 teaspoon salt

Directions
1. Place all ingredients (except for water) in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and combined.
2. If desired consistency is not reached (or your appliance needs a little extra help), add up to 2 tablespoons of water to thin the dressing. Add salt for taste.

Enjoy! xo


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

construct your meal consciously.




My dream kitchen is big and open with beautiful tile, hardwood floors, a wide, sprawling countertop, fresh flowers on every surface, and a fridge full of vibrant, organic produce. I have endless time to cook whatever my heart desires, and there's always a healthful dessert in the oven to enjoy later that evening. (I let my dreams run pretty wild.)

In reality, our kitchen is quite small. It's (more or less) galley style with scarce counter space, a very old oven/stove combination, and the refrigerator door cannot even open all the way (that might give you some reference as to how wide our kitchen is). When I get home, I'm often in a frantic mad dash to prepare something tasty and healthy.

It's all quite imperfect and, truthfully, our kitchen is the last place I want to spend my time. However, I do enjoy cooking if it involves fresh, wholesome, vibrant ingredients, so our little kitchen has to make do for now. I pretty much follow the same procedure for making our meals. I make a lot of bowls: hearty, quick meals that pack a lot of punch and taste great, too.

As a general rule, there's something from every category (above). I include mostly veggies and incorporate items from the rest of the sections, too. Obviously there are no rules to this, but I've found that I have the most success when I build from this template.

Here's to cooking (with or without that dream kitchen)! ;)

Monday, September 22, 2014

weekenders.

weekenders2 weekenders1 weekenders3 weekenders4 weekenders5
This weekend was slow and quiet. Sometimes that's just how we like them around these parts. We took afternoon walks, had late night TV marathons, and ate sesame bagels on a mellow Sunday morning.

Lately I've been thinking about being more intentional with my time. I often feel like I have no free time and it's running me ragged at a fast pace. Last school year, I worked incredibly hard at having more of a work-life balance in order to keep both parts of myself happy and in harmony. It seems almost necessary to dive head first into the beginning of the school year, but I've found that in the middle of September I'm already feeling stretched thin and frazzled.

Working hard and giving my best at my job is important to me, but when the day's work is done, I'm finding more and more that it's equally important to relax, too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

it's all beautiful.

beautiful4 beautiful1 beautiful3 beautiful2 Sometimes feelings are hard to put into words. I guess that's why they're feelings. There are people in our lives who don't need us to explain our feelings because they just get it. Those people are called kindred spirits. I hope you have one. Or two. Or three. If you don't, I'll be yours today.

Now and then, it all becomes a bit too much. You feel like you're at the bottom of a well that has a busted pulley system. And you need someone to tell you that it's okay to feel crappy. It's okay to feel like throwing the towel in. It's okay to breathe out all those negative feelings and say, "That's enough for today."

Friends, you can't fix it all. You just can't.

In the age of the Internet, we have the freedom to share whatever we want to share. Often times, it's the greatest triumphs in our life that we choose to parade on social media. And why shouldn't we? Shouldn't this life have more things to celebrate? More people to feel happy for? More pride for our fellow human beings? I think it should, and I'm sure you do, too.

But sometimes, you can look at everyone else's bright spots, and your bottom-of-the-well spot seems that much worse. You look around and you think, "Really?" And there are truly no other words to mutter.

It's okay. It's real and it's honest to feel a bit sad inside. It's even a little bit brave.

Today, I felt it. I felt sad and I felt like I was at the bottom of a well. I wished for nothing more than the feelings to just disappear. I wanted up and out of that well quickly and without damage, please. But I listened to the quietness in my heart and the twisted up feelings in my soul, and I reminded myself that it's all beautiful. Even those bottom-of-the-well moments.

// Above: pictures that make me feel happy.
1 || Glorious blooms. I thank God for them.
2 || Woody's fur in the breeze.
3 || Celebratory selfies.
4 || A peering elk.

Monday, July 7, 2014

a week of breakfasts.

breakfast_day1

M Y  F A V O R I T E  O A T M E A L
(Serves 1)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, separated
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 6 chopped strawberries
  • 1/8 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/8 cup frozen blueberries
DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour oats, water, and half and half into a pan, and bring to medium heat. Stir and bring down to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow mixture to simmer for 5-7 minutes (watch carefully, or the oatmeal may burn). 
  2. Meanwhile, place berries and 1 teaspoon maple syrup in a small pan. Mix on medium-low heat, until syrup mixture has thickened and berries are warm.
  3. Stir 1 teaspoon maple syrup and dash of cinnamon into oatmeal. Pour berry mixture over oatmeal.
breakfast_day2
G R E E N  D R E A M  S M O O T H I E
(Serves 1)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • healthy handful spinach
  • 3 Romaine leaves, shredded
  • healthy handful pea shoots
  • 1 banana (frozen is best)
  • 1/4 cup mango
DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour coconut milk, spinach, and Romaine in blender and pulse to combine.
  2. Add pea shoots, banana, and mango. Pulse until well combined.
breakfast_day3
J E F F R E Y ' S  B E R R Y  B L I T Z  S M O O T H I E
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • healthy handful spinach
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/8 cup blueberries
  • 1 banana (frozen)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour coconut milk, water, and spinach in a blender and pulse to combine. 
  2. Add raspberries, mango, and pineapple. Pulse until well combined.
  3. Add blueberries and banana. Pulse until well combined. Split smoothie equally between two glasses.
breakfast_day4
My favorite oatmeal, topped with fresh strawberries, sliced almonds, and unsweetened coconut flakes

breakfast_day5

The thing about breakfast is that it's either an absolute pleasure or an absolute pain. There are two scenarios: The first involves a lovely spring day, 70º weather, billowing white tablecloths, and a table set for two with a vase of friendly daisies. The second involves last night's dishes, ten minutes until it's time to leave for work, and a half empty fridge whose contents include week-old leftovers and a pitcher of water. My recent mission has been to help the second scenario look a bit more like the first.

Truthfully, there are few things I enjoy more than dining out for breakfast. But, the reality is that on a Tuesday morning before I rush out the door (and there's not a chance of a restaurant breakfast), I need something that will fill me and stick to my ribs, so that my stomach's not grumbling by 8 AM. That typically comes in the form of a smoothie. However, because I'm on summer vacation, I've gotten the chance to be a bit more creative in the kitchen, and breakfast has been an absolute pleasure to make and enjoy.

(And in the interest of total honesty, I've also (happily) consumed this for breakfast.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

a week of dinners.

dinner_day1

S T I R  F R Y --
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • brown rice pasta, water
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • handful green beans
  • handful (frozen) broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon nama shoyu (for the sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (for the sauce)
  • sesame seeds (for topping)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cook pasta according to package's directions
  2. Meanwhile, heat coconut oil a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add chopped onions and a clove of garlic. Sauté while you chop the carrots and peppers. Add carrots, peppers, and green beans and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli and sauté  until veggies turn vibrantly colored (about 5 minutes).
  3. Slowly add the nama shoyu + maple syrup and sauté  until sauce has thickened, about 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Serve over brown rice pasta and sprinkle with plenty of sesame seeds.

dinner_day2

Big Comfy Sweet Potatoes

dinner_day3

H A P P I N E S S  B O W L -- 
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • handful (frozen) broccoli
  • handful sunflower sprouts (pea shoots or alfalfa sprouts would be a good alternative here)
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
DIRECTIONS
  1. Rinse the quinoa (even better if you can soak it for 8 hours and then rinse it!) vigorously. Place in a large pot and cover with 1 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then immediately bring to a simmer. Stir and cover with a lid. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add 1 clove garlic, peas, and broccoli. Sauté until peas and broccoli are bright green and cooked through.
  3. Spoon quinoa, broccoli, and peas into two bowls. Add onions, sprouts of your choice, and avocado.
  4. Pour plenty of sauce over the mixture (recipe below).

H A P P I N E S S  S A U C E -- 
(Serves 2, with plenty of leftovers)

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • ~ 1/4 cup water (for thinning)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Place carrots into a food processor or blender (you might want to add one at a time if your appliance is a bit more on the delicate side). Pulse until finely chopped. Add the garlic, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Pulse until combined.
  2. At this point, your mixture will most likely be quite thick. Add in some salt and pepper, and introduce a slow stream of water. Add as much or as little as you'd like until desired consistency has been reached.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight jar. Will keep for about 1 week.
dinner_day4

Black Bean Salad with Cumin-Roasted Carrots
(You might recognize this! I used the leftovers for lunch!)

dinner_day5


H E A R T Y  S A L A D
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 big handfuls spinach
  • 4 Romaine leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 pear, chopped and roasted (450º F for 10-15 minutes)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Shred spinach and lettuce. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Crumble Gorgonzola and grate Parmesan over greens. Top with onions, pear, and candied walnuts (see below). Toss with vinaigrette (see below).
C A N D I E D  W A L N U T S
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • pinch of salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Toss coconut sugar, honey, and salt over walnuts and combine until evenly coated.
  2. Roast at 450º F for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
R A S P B E R R Y  V I N A I G R E T T E
(Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/8 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 splashes balsamic vinegar
  • 1 healthy pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch garlic salt
  • ~2 tablespoons water (for thinning)
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse all ingredients (except for water) until combined. Slowly add in a steady stream of water until desired consistency is reached.


We believe homemade dinners should be simple. After all, we're two of the most likely people in this world to go out to eat because we love it so much. Therefore, we have to be pretty persuaded to stay home for our dining experience. That boils down two to things: Will the ingredients be simple? Will it be healthy?

In all honesty, answering those two questions in the affirmative actually takes a lot of forethought. That is, forethought in the form of a grocery list. We are meal planners, and for the last five years of our relationship that has made all the difference. We account for one date night a week, in which we dine out; the rest of our meals are eaten at home. On the (not-so-rare) occasion that we eat out twice in a week, we try to choose restaurants that still use simple ingredients and are (for the most part) healthy.

However, life happens in those in-between moments, so we're also not ones to turn down pizza if the mood strikes and we just happen to be driving by our favorite local haunt.
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