a breakfast kick of sorts

You must bear with me for a moment or two.  I am on a breakfast kick of sorts.

Normally, when I’m on such a breakfast kick, I revolve my mind around oats and yogurt and muffins.  And things like that.

But then, this week, a friend told me that she was just diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  That she would miss her beloved raisin bread and melty chocolate chip cookies the most.  And then, also, she would mourn the loss of her morning bowl of warm and creamy oats.  That’s when I realized (by golly!) that I needed to do something about this.  The raisin bread and cookies, I’ll tackle later.  But with so many gluten free grains to choose from, I knew she could quite easily find a breakfast that would once again make her feel right at home in her own kitchen.

If you’ve ever been into feeding your backyard birds or even if you’ve ever been to an animal feed store, you know exactly what millet looks like.  It’s one of the most popular seeds used for feeding birds, especially in the US.

A tiny, seeded species of cereal crops, this grain is completely gluten free.  The flavor is mild and subtly sweet, making it ideal for things like rice pilafs or tabbouleh.  Or–in my case–breakfast.

This isn’t as fast as throwing together a morning bowl of oats.  But there are some shortcuts.  You could easily double (triple?) the batch and have breakfast for the upcoming week.  If you really find yourself enjoying it, it might be worth purchasing some millet grits, which are ground more fine, making them quicker to cook up in the morning.  This is delicious with walnuts on top or served in an almost empty peanut butter jar, which will offer the most ultimate, creamy pleasure.

Whether your health demands that you go gluten free or not, millet will quickly win your heart.  And your breakfast.

Warm and Creamy Millet

(Serves 1)

This breakfast takes about 25 minutes of total prep and cooking time, which is why I highly recommend making it in bulk and refrigerating the leftovers for the following day.  :D

  • 1 cup lowfat milk + 1/4 cup water
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup millet
  • dash of salt
  • 1 very ripe banana, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. raisins
  • toppings: walnuts
  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring milk, water and spices to a bowl.  Add millet and a dash of salt.  Stir, cover and reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.  Cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add banana and raisins.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until millet has reached desired consistency.  Top with walnuts and ENJOY! :D
QUESTION: Are you adventurous with trying new grains or do you have your tried and true favorites?

Easter 2011

“9″ Things I Loved About This Year’s Easter

1. Nicole’s creativity, dispersed into the cutest place settings that I have ever seen.

(Nicole is the up and coming Martha Stewart, in case you didn’t know.)

2. Quiet time spent with family and friends.

3. The food.  (of course!)

Nicole made a large batch of sweet potato and rosemary soup.  For a moment, I completely lost my senses and found myself wishing that I was one of mom’s homemade butter rolls being dunked into the rich, orange broth.

Did I just say that out loud?

Heavenly.

I honestly could have made a meal out of the bread and soup, but the main meal was pretty scrumptious too.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Summer Squash w/ Dill Saute

Ham and Turkey

Broccoli Casserole

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

Green Beans

I hated the meal.  All of it.  Obviously. ;)

4. Seeing my bestie: Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

5. Dessert. (because this is a completely different reason than the #3!)

Nicole went all out with the entirety of the meal.  And then she ended it with a loud, lemony, coconut bang.

Kelsey brought a trio of yummy vegan desserts for the table to share as well.

Delish!

6. End of meal conversations.

This is always my favorite part of every holiday.  Empty plates.  Quiet chatter.  Candles glowing.  People laughing.  Bellies feeling full and content.

7. Goodie bags! :mrgreen:

Thanks, Nicole!

8. Cuddling with a cat named Stitch.

Because he never ceases to make me laugh.

9. Remembering all of the good things in life.

Sometimes I forget to thank God for the simple moments.  Which is funny, because these are the moments that I continue to remember, long after the day has passed.  The moments that mean the most.  I love that Easter reminds me of all these things. 

Happy Easter!!!

QUESTION: What is your favorite part of Easter?

all about the beans

Sometimes I just want a big bowl of hummus.

I’m aware that this isn’t entirely normal, and that most people who experience any sort of food craving won’t usually find themselves craving mashed-up beans of any sort.

“Quick!  Run to the supermarket!  I need my bean fix!”

Or…

“You know, I always stash a couple of extra beans in my purse.  You just never know when that urge will strike.”

You see?  Totally not normal.

I’m not trying to exaggerate my craving.  Because, really, when I want a big bowl of hummus, I want a big bowl of hummus.  This is serious stuff.  And so, tonight, when I found myself with such a craving—and no cans of chickpeas in sight!!!-–I needed to improvise.  White beans, I decided, would do just fine.  I added a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of zingy red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of rosemary to pull it all together.

It’s that simple.  It’s that delicious.  And it’s how my dinner became my dinner.

Anyways.  Continuing on with the bean theme…

I found this bag of “Beanitos” at the grocery store the other day and simply had to purchase them.  It’s nice to see a corn-free version of tortilla chips, especially when it revolves around black beans!

Love the ingredient list…

Love the nutrition facts…

Low salt!  High fiber!  Protein!

(Love those beans!)

Love that flavah and c-r-u-n-c-h!

A big ol’ scoop of the white bean dip found its way onto my roasted vegetable salad.

Dinner was simple.  Dinner was fabulous.  Simply fabulous.

Sometimes it’s all about the beans.

White Bean Dip

Beans are loaded with fiber, protein and nutrients.  They’re also loaded with flavor and they can be incredibly versatile.  Try whipping this quick dip together and make a veggie sandwich out of it.  Or serve over a couple of crunchy crackers.  Add it to a platter of veggie sticks for an easy appetizer.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1 15-oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary
  • pepper to taste
  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy on your favorite crackers, salads, flat wraps, etc!
QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of bean and what is your favorite way to eat them?

fire up the grill.

Sometimes, it’s important to encourage summer along.  Coax it out of hibernation. Give it a little pep talk…a little one-on-one.

And since cookouts scream summer to me—especially when they involve burgers—dinner became an obvious choice.

The sun was out all weekend long, well into today.  It reached 75.  Seventy-five! That is shorts and t-shirt weather at its finest.  And I like to think that I played my part by firing up the grill.

Yes.  I fired up the grill.

Well.  Dad did all of the cooking, after I initially pushed that little green button.  But still.  This must count for something.  Right?

My Pepere, my parents and I didn’t talk much during dinner.

I think this had something to do with the juicy grass fed burgers, the warm weather and the sunshine.  Lovely.

Summer Squash and Zucchini Saute; on the grill

For health and wellness reasons, it’s a good idea to strive for at least 1-2 vegetarian meals a week.  However, don’t stop there!  And don’t feel that you need to exclude meat in order to reap all of those colorful benefits.  Try including more vegetables with each meal, regardless of whether meat is being served or not.  And then have fun sampling your way through all different kinds, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, spaghetti squash, kohlrabi, tomatoes, etc.   What you end up loving may surprise you! :D

This is a simple way to include some extra veggies whenever you fire up the grill.  Cook up some extra, then layer it on top of your favorite pizza for the following night.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1 whole, medium summer squash, cut or sliced
  • 1 whole, medium zucchini, cut or sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb blend…OR…garlic powder and sea salt…OR…italian seasoning
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Place squash, zucchini and onion on a large, doubled sheet of foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings.  Stir gently.
  3. Fold edges of foil in and tightly seal the bundle.  Place on grill over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until soft and tender, about 15 minutes.  Enjoy! :D

QUESTION: What foods “scream” summer to you?

 

Fast Food.

Well.  I thought I’d let you in on a couple of my most recent, fast food favorites.

And no.  I’m not talking about that kind of fast food…

Recently, I went to a state dietetic conference, in which there were all kinds of free giveaways, goodies and snag bags.  Yep, just one of the many perks of going into a food-related job. ;)

I sampled my way through delicious (and, to be honest, sometimes not so delicious) chocolate, yogurts, and cheese.  Lots of cheese.  By the end of the day, I discovered a couple of new (to me) products that I plan on using in my kitchen if ever I need food fast.  Fast food.

Fast Food #1: Dell’Amore Tomato Sauce

Supposedly, this sauce is homemade in Vermont.  I’m not usually a fan of store bought tomato sauces, but I’m really, really liking this one.  The sodium content is reasonable and the flavor is as deliciously close to homemade sauce as I’ve yet to find.  Best of all, the ingredients are 100% pronounceable.

It is pretty pricey though.  I paid $5.00 for one bottle.  But considering how cheap pasta noodles are, this meal really comes out to be a pretty affordable deal.

I like to bulk it all up with some extra veggies: zucchini, mushrooms, onions

…and a crunchy side salad.

The sauce gets mixed with the cooked veggies and then I smother it all over a plate of whole wheat noodles.

There you have it.  Fast food at its finest.

Fast Food #2: Flat-Out Wraps

At the end of the dietetic conference, there were more and more giveaways, as companies tried to just get rid of their products before heading home.  I snagged a couple of these flat-out wraps to be used for quick meals and snacks.

The best serving method that I discovered for these wraps, was when I served them alongside bowls of homemade channa masala, which I had pulled from the freezer.

Fast food.

The taste and texture of the flat-outs are fun.  I liked them.  But I’m still not crazy about that long ingredient list.  I wonder if the non-light ones are a little shorter?

Fast food doesn’t have to involve drive through’s, greasy fingers or eating in 5 minutes flat.  A little planning can go a long way in preparing foods at home that won’t take hours and hours of your time.

Eating On the Road:

  • Stop at a grocery store and make a meal from the deli with a whole wheat bulkie roll, a couple slices of turkey breast, a slice of cheese and some lettuce and tomato.  BONUS: Park in the furthest parking spot and get some walking into your day.
  • Pack a sandwich into a cooler if you know your day will be a long one.  Chop up some chicken, mix it with a bit of mayo, add some grapes and walnuts, and tuck into a whole wheat pita with lettuce.  Serve with some fresh raw veggie sticks for crunch and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
  • Pack a substantial snack to hold you over until you can sit down and have dinner: half a peanut butter and banana sandwich, almonds with apricots, cheese stick and a piece of fruit, yogurt with fresh berries and granola, etc.

Quick Meals At Home:

  • Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toasts with a pat of jam, and roasted veggies on the side with fruit salad for dessert.
  • Tuna Melts: Grilled cheese with tuna salad tucked in between.  Serve with raw or roasted veggies and fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Black bean burgers on whole wheat buns with avocado, lettuce, and tomato.  Serve with homemade french fries and side salads
  • Make big batches of soups, chili, stews, salads, etc. on your weekend and stash in the freezer or fridge for an upcoming busy week.

Healthy fast food.  What a concept.

QUESTION: What is your favorite “fast food?”

Stuffed To The Brim

I am absolutely STUFFED to the brim…

…with happiness and smiles…

…quiet calm and simple joy…

…peace and absolute contentment…

…veggies and quinoa.

Isn’t life delicious?

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers—tweaked from the original recipe as seen in Moosewood Cookbook

These rustic peppers are delicious as is, but feel free to top them with a bit of zingy salsa or creamy guacamole for that little something extra.  Any leftovers will freeze and reheat really well, making for an easy peazy weeknight meal.  Or you can simply toss them in a container and eat them with a side salad for lunch the next day.  Enjoy! :D

  • 1 cup raw quinoa, rinsed
  • 6 medium bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup canned black or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place quinoa  and 2 cups of water in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise and carefully seed them.  Place peppers cut side down on baking pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, until softened and lightly browned.  When bell peppers are roasted, reduce heat to 350.
  4. Meanwhile, in a skillet, place 1 Tbsp. olive oil in pan and place over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic; cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir in cumin through beans.  Cover pan and cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  5. Combine vegetables and quinoa and add salt to taste.  Turn over the roasted peppers and stuff each half.  Sprinkle each pepper with some of the cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese has melted.

QUESTION: What are you *stuffed* to the brim with today?+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

a series of serious questions

I was in an especially thoughtful kind of mood today, spending some time chewing over those very important, real-life kinds of issues.

Things like, why can’t I sleep past 6 o’clock on a Saturday? Or, why do cold oats never keep me as full as warm? And, why am I still using St. Patrick’s Day napkins on April 2?

Because, you know, these are all very important, current, real-life issues that must be mulled over every now and then.

The real question, however, was this: Why do I feel the need to run?

Some would argue the point that runners run because they can.  Plain and simple.

But that answer just doesn’t work for me.  Because theoretically, I could go bungee jumping…”because I can.” But I don’t.  I could eat an entire cake in one sitting…”because I can.” But I don’t.  I could walk up to a tall, dark and handsome stranger, give him my number, and tell him to call me…“because I can.” Theoretically.  But I don’t.

So what is it about running that lures me in?  Why do I run?  Why do you run?

This is what I came up with…

When I run, I pray. Sometimes I pray just to keep me focused.   Sometimes I do it just because it feels good to finally be alone and talking to God.  And sometime do it just to get my mind off of the way that my legs are starting to feel like dead weights hanging from my body.  ;)

When I run, life feels more simple. My schedule suddenly makes sense.  My days don’t seem so crazy.  I feel focused and ready to embrace all that life brings.

When I run, I am strong.

When I run, I feel free. No phones, gadgets, internet connections (even worse, lack of) or demands.  I am alone.  I am content.  I am blissfully free.

Yes, bungee jumping is something that I could, theoretically, do.  But it wouldn’t really make life seem more simple.  It wouldn’t make me feel free in a good way.  And while I would be talking to God, I wouldn’t necessarily be praying.  More like begging and pleading for my life.

And so, take it or leave it, this is why I run.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grilled Salmon

This salmon is simple enough to make for a busy weeknight, but delicious enough to serve when company comes over.  It also makes the perfect post-running fuel, as its chock full of omega 3 fatty acids which may help to reduce inflammation.

Serve with your favorite veggies and some mashed sweet potatoes, rice, or a baked potato.  Enjoy!

  • 1 lb. wild caught salmon
  • 1 tsp lite soy sauce
  • garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh or dried parsley
  1. Heat grill to medium heat.
  2. Drizzle salmon with soy sauce and sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper and parsley.  Cook skin side down on grill for about 5 minutes.  Flip.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, depending on desired doneness.  Fish will flake easily with a fork when finished.  Avoid overcooking.  ENJOY! :D

QUESTION: What is your exercise of choice?  What makes this your favorite?

Yes, I love birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Dad! :D

Know what I love most about family birthday parties?  Well—I mean—aside from the food, of course.  I love the quiet excitement before the party actually even starts.  The table being set just so.  A candle or two being lit for a warm ambiance.  That first car that pulls into the driveway and the sounds of voices that are about to fill an empty, silent house.

This is what I love most about family birthdays.

Of course, in addition to all of that, it sure felt good to fire up the oven tonight.  This past week has left me craving a complete, full day of non-stop cooking.

Today: craving satisfied.

portabella mushrooms cooked in a balsamic reduction sauce

Everyone took part in making something.  I stood watch over the veggies and dad focused his attention on the meats.  Honestly, we all felt kind of bad having dad cook on his birthday, but he didn’t seem to really mind.  It would have felt just plain wrong to have someone else cooking the steaks and burgers, when we all know full and well that dad is the grill master in the family.

(p.s. I’m still using up the last of my garden cress…this stuff lasts and lasts, and I’ve been using it on everything from sandwiches to soups to hummus to burgers.  Quite delicious. )

Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

Meanwhile, my mom was busy cooking the main dessert, which is her own top-secret homemade apple pie.  I’m not even a pie person, and yet I find myself falling in love with this pie time and time again.

The crust is what gets me.  Its tender and flaky, but not overly so (i.e., it doesn’t crumble into dust on your plate!)  And it avoids being dense and boring like some of those beautiful (but sadly poor-tasting) store bought pies can be.  It is, in one word, perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

I guess we all know who the star of the show was tonight. ;)

Yes.  I love birthdays.

I love the excitement, the laughing, the silliness, the games and the elaborate stories.  The feeling of warmth, of home, of happiness.  I love the cooking, the variety of foods and most of all, the sharing.  I love that it’s more than okay to spend 2 hrs at the dinner table.

I love how relaxed and unraveled the dinner table seems, after everyone has finished eating.  Crumbs.  Empty plates and half empty glasses.  That quiet, comforting feeling of being fully content with life.

Yes.  I love birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Dad!  We love you! :D

QUESTION: What is your most memorable birthday?

clinical staff relief

At the end of the dietetic internship’s clinical rotation, there is something known as the “3 week staff relief.”  What this means, basically, is that the intern takes over all responsibilities of the dietitian.  She takes on the role and the pager.  The duties, obligations, frustrations, and limitless questions, faxes, requests.

Yes.  It is a little insane.

Yesterday, I had the entire hospital to myself.

Becoming the sole “dietitian” of the day might sound like a good thing, but if we’re going to be completely honest here, it’s actually kind of frightening.  Patients need renal diet education.  A woman just got placed on level 3 of the dysphagia diet and has no idea what to do when she goes home.  A man just found out he has diabetes.  Notes need to be written before a certain time.

Go, go, go!!

And then, of course, there’s the whole issue of having confidence or lack thereof.  My clinical rotation has brought out a whole new level of self confidence that I never even knew I had.  But then, at the same time, I feel this strange lack of confidence because I know there are so many things that I still don’t know.  So many things to learn and understand.  Counseling skills that need developing.

You know, it’s true what they say.  The biggest road block in life is oftentimes ourselves.

The hard part is trying to convince ourselves that we DO know what we know and speaking with absolute confidence.  Of course, nobody knows everything. But whatever it is that we don’t know, should never be thought of as a fault.  It is simply a learning opportunity.

Perhaps one of the greatest life lessons that I’ve learned came from a professor who told me never to be afraid to admit when I don’t know something.  “Look it up, Sarah.  Learn more about it.  Never stop learning.”

As you can imagine, most days of clinical staff relief have been a little insane.  There really hasn’t been much time spent in the kitchen, but (sigh) that is okay for now.  Because sometime, very soon, I will be back in the kitchen with full force and gusto and my little yellow apron.  Yes.  There is a whole lot of food in my near future (i.e., this weekend.)  Maybe I’ll try something new that I’ve always been afraid of.  Maybe I’ll even make a souffle.

Because it’s okay to admit that you don’t know how to do something.   But it’s never okay to be afraid to try.

QUESTION: What is one thing that you KNOW you’re good at? Don’t be afraid to brag a little. ;)

a little extra time

When I was small, my mom seemed to always have a loaf of zucchini or banana bread tucked away somewhere in the freezer.  And if she just so happened to take out a loaf or two—if us kids saw them sitting patiently on the counter—we instantaneously understood.  It was like some unspoken “code,” which everyone naturally understood.

“Who’s coming over to visit, mom?”

The bread would be warmed and sliced into soft, thick hunks of sweetness.  Placed just so, on a tea style plate for when company would arrive.  Coffee for the adults.  Milk and juice for the kids.  And if we were really, really lucky, there would be slices of both zucchini and banana bread sitting on the table.  Which, of course, means that you can have a slice of each.  Of course.

Last night, I came home from work a little earlier than normal.  Early enough to actually do something before preparing dinner or going for a run or diving head first into homework.

First thought: I want to take a nap.  Second thought: I want a banana bran muffin.  Always place your bets on the muffin; they always win.  I never take naps, but they sure sound nice.

At first, I set out to make a standard, favorite, and very well-loved version of the banana bread, but I’ve been wanting to use some of my pantry’s wheat bran for a while now.  Banana and bran go so well together, that it seemed impossible not to take the muffins in such a direction.  Impossible! Besides, I wanted my muffins to be sturdy and satisfying.  I also wanted them sweet and delicate enough to pass for dessert.  Hearty and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.

Banana bran muffins.  Yes.  That is exactly what I wanted.

Muffins have the glorious concept of being able to freeze individually.  They travel well, when breakfast needs to be taken on the road.  They’re versatile enough to be crumbled over oats or yogurt, slathered with peanut butter,or broiled in the oven with a pat of butter.  And while they are, of course, most delicious served hot from the oven, they can be easily rewarmed with results that are just as yummy.

You could bake them for when company comes over.  Say, you know, for brunch or an afternoon cup of coffee.  Or you could bake a batch, just because.  Just because you have a little extra time.  Just because you feel like eating a banana bran muffin.

Banana Bran Muffinstweaked from an original Eating Well recipe

If you ever want to change things up, add a sprinkle of walnuts to the batter.  Or chocolate chips.  Or raisins, pumpkin seeds, apricots, blueberries, etc.  You can make these muffins as personalized as you like.

If you’re not used to cooking with all whole-wheat flour or unprocessed bran, don’t be intimidated!  The bananas and small amount of oil help to keep these babies soft, moist and perfectly tender.  There’s absolutely nothing that’s overly grainy or dry about them.

Enjoy! :D

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 c. milk with 1 T. lemon juice (or 1 cup buttermilk)
  • 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • walnuts for top (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, oil and vanilla.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts, if using.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

QUESTION: What seems to always be in your freezer?