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! 😀

  • 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?+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

not your average brownie

Well.  I never thought I would say this. But.

I made a batch of black bean brownies.  And I ate one.  And I liked it.

I don’t know where this idea first originated.  I mean, who puts beans in their brownies?

I honestly don’t know, but I figured that while I was at it, I may as well just throw some pumpkin in there too.  May as well.

For better or worse, into the oven you go…

The kitchen smelled like chocolate.

The brownies looked like chocolate.

These brownies are chocolate.  No doubts about that, the flavor is all there.  No off putting beany flavors, whatsoever (phew!)

I don’t know what it is that came over me tonight.  All I know is that I have but one can of pumpkin left.  I’ve eaten my weight in almond butter this week.  And after this shenanigan, I imagine that my kitchen will end up living in a state of shock for just a while.

But that’s okay.  It was all well worth it.  I think you’ll agree.

Black Bean Brownies

These are brownies with health benefits, thanks to the filling fiber from the pumpkin and the fiber/protein combo from the beans.  And while I wouldn’t try to claim that these are going to be your new “go-to” recipe for brownies, I think they make a fun new twist as a healthier dessert for during the week.

These brownies are moist—fudge like!—and soft and filled with sweet chocolate.  I highly recommend adding the walnuts, chocolate chips and coffee, as these ingredients will really help to intensify the richness.  Smear these babies with almond butter, raspberry jam or sprinkle with shredded coconut and enjoy with a tall glass of ice cold milk.  Enjoy!

  • 2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder + 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a blender, combine black beans, eggs, pumpkin, cocoa powder, sea salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and coffee until smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.  Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Brownies are ready when the top appears dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides.  Serve warm with a smear of your favorite nut butter or fruit jam.  ENJOY!

QUESTION: What is the most unusual ingredient you have ever cooked with?

I know I’m busy when…

I know I’m busy when I bounce out of bed at 5:00am on a Sunday morning, with a feeling that I’m late for something important.

I know I’m busy when a quiet movie night at home becomes the highlight of my week.

I know I’m busy when I can’t for the life of me remember what year we’re in.  How old am I again?

I know I’m busy when my calendar begins to look as if a two year old randomly scribbled a bunch of chaotic marks across the page.

I know I’m busy when I make three large salads, just so that I can have lunch already made for two more days.

I know I’m busy when I forget about the broiler.

I know I’m busy.  And yet, through it all, I know I am okay.

Because I actually kind of like early mornings, even on Sunday.  My scribbled calendar secretly makes me happy.  And larger than life salads never get old.

Oh.  Yes.  And I’m also okay with improvising.

 

QUESTION: Even when you’re in a time crunch, what is one thing that you refuse to give up? For me, it’s spending at least 15 minutes for breakfast.  And going for at least three runs or walks a week.  AND, spending at least half an hour at night to read in my book.  😀

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.

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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! 😀

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

Saying Goodbye to Clinical

When it comes right down to it, I’m not really very good at saying good-bye.

Silently, I kind of wished that today would be painfully torturous.  Excruciatingly long.  Boring, maybe?  Because driving to the hospital for my last day was a little like reliving all of my past good-byes.  The ones I didn’t want to make.  And I was reminded of how much I hate seeing things end.  Beginnings, new starts, early mornings—those are more my style.  Maybe if today was nothing special, I wouldn’t feel so darn apprehensive of bidding farewell.

But today was not a bad day.  Not at all.

The patients were exceptionally delightful to work with.  Nurses and doctors whom I’ve never even talked to before, suddenly spent the day joking and laughing along with me.  I was presented with a whipped cream frosted, “congratulations on finishing clinical,” yellow, fluffy cake.  And a card with signed notes from the entire kitchen staff (they’re so great!)

Today was not disastrous, as I had kind of, secretly, half-heartedly hoped it would be.  Today was actually pretty wonderful.   It was, in every sense of the term, a bittersweet moment.  Two dietetic rotations down, one to go.  Starting this Monday!

Goodbye, clinical rotation.  You were fun and filled with layers and levels of new experiences.

Hello, community rotation. I’m looking forward to getting to know you. 😀

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A Book A Month Resolution, 2011

January: Brooklyn

February: “House Rules”

March: “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld

For my March read, I chose “American Wife.”  I absolutely loved the beautiful way that Curtis Sittenfeld walks the reader through the life of a presidential wife.  She did it with such elegance and flare, always leaving me wishing that I had just a few more moments to read.  Each new chapter welcomed me into a new period of the “American Wife’s” life, and I loved this about the book.  Despite its slow paced, descriptive nature, I never felt bored.  It was nearly impossible to place back down on my nightstand.

However, in the end, I felt as if the story fell a little flat.  I wanted more before reading that last, final page.  A more definite ending.  Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to me.  But the inners of the book certainly made for a fun journey. 😀

QUESTION: What are you reading right now?

I’m calling it a recess.

The word “Hiatus”, defined: “A temporary break.  A recess.”  Yes.  I think I could use a recess. 😉

Sometimes life pulls and prods us in every which direction.  Sometimes we must say no to some things.  Say yes to others.  Primarily, we must say yes to the things that keep us sane (i.e., running, cooking, and family) and healthy and happy

Now that I’m grueling through my final week of clinical and preparing myself for my community rotation (which starts on Monday,) you may not see a whole lot of me this week.  But know that I’m still here.  Cooking and whisking and making a mess with flour, honey, cabbage leaves and things like that.  Not all at the same time, of course.  Of course.

Yes.  Know that I am here.  Know that I am still keeping up with all of your delightful blogs.  Know that I’ll be back in full swing before you even realize that I’ve been missing.  Consider this my short-term, very temporary recess.  😉

In the meantime, keep on having fun in your kitchen—don’t be afraid to get a little messy—and I will see you all again soon! 😀

Cute story of the day:

90 year old patient: “Here, let me show you how to use my kindle.”
Me: “Okay, but technology kind of scares me.”
90 year old patient: “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

I think I need to get with the times. 😉

 

for the love of kale

For some strange reason, I could not get the idea of eating kale out of my head.

Maybe this stems from the past weekend, having been filled with pies and burgers and sweet, heavenly pancakes.  Or maybe its the warmer spring weather.  The long pre-dinner walks.  The feeling of a summer-to-be and all the freshness that comes along with.  Maybe it’s a subconscious craving for the extra dose of nutrients.  Maybe.

Or maybe I just wanted something green and curly and surprisingly delicious.

Kale has long been one of my favorite foods, but it didn’t really start out that way.

There was, for example, the one time that I decided a kale smoothie sounded about right.  Zwirrrpp…in the blender.   With milk and a carrot and a packet of Amazing Meal.  It was as delicious as it sounds, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

And then there was the time that I thought eating it plain and raw with olive oil and parmesan sounded nice. It really wasn’t.

So the road has been a bumpy one.  But the end results were worth it, as I finally fell in love with the bright green vegetable.  I learned that:

(1) There are several varieties of kale, some being more suiting for soups and stews, and some being more suiting for sauteeing, stir frying, baking.  Some even do indeed taste good raw, but I wouldn’t personally recommend the curly kale in this approach.
(2)  Kale can be bitter and the ingredients that are added need to counteract this somehow.  I find that even a sweet, grated carrot acts as a beautiful counterbalance.  As does a little lemon juice, a little soy sauce, some diced tomatoes, et cetera.
(3) Kale needs to cook and soften.  Let it wilt as you would let spinach wilt.

Last night I finally had my fill of kale for dinner.  It was ridiculously simple.  Which is just one more thing I love about a curly bunch of kale.

Kale and Tofu Saute

(Serves 1)

This is a simple, satisfying meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight.  Pair with a slice of your favorite bread and dinner is on.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 bunch of kale, shredded into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • splash of lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 block of tofu
  • 1/4 avocado
  1. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat.  Add kale and cook until beginning to wilt.  Reduce heat to medium-low.
  2. Add carrot and lemon juice, and garlic powder.  Stir well and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Meanwhile, spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.  Cut tofu into 1/2 inch blocks and cook until browned on each side.
  4. Transfer kale to a bowl, topping with cooked tofu and avocado.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of leafy green?  Swiss chard?  Lettuce?  Kale?  Spinach?

one, two, three…

ONE

The number of “new” breakfasts eaten this week.

(this will change tomorrow, and that’s all I’m saying)

TWO

The number of quotes that made me smile and/or reflect today.

Quote Number #1: “I love hot water.  I should have been born a tea bag.”
Nicole @ Loving Simple Moments

Quote Number #2: “We are always getting ready to live but never living.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

THREE

The number of months since my last hair cut.  And the last time I checked, the shag wasn’t really in style.

I really should get on that.

Four

The time that my alarm clock went off this morning.

Yes.  It hurt.


FIVE

The number of pre-dinner walks that I’ve gone over this past week.

Delicious.  Absolutely delicious.

SIX

The number of banana bran muffins consumed.

SEVEN

The number of larger-than-life salads consumed.

EIGHT

The current time.

Time to pull on some fuzzy socks and unwind with a good book. 😉

QUESTION: What are some NUMBERS from your past week? Three mile run?  Hanging out with your two best friends?  A one dollar jar of peanut butter?

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! 😀

  • 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?