gleaning the veggie drawer.

I went all crazy and wild with the vegetables, tonight.

First, I chopped up some butternut squash.  Then I sliced some mushrooms.  And then I decided—since I was at it—may as well chop the broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions too.  Feeling deliciously wild and free, I squished and smashed a few cloves of garlic and spread them all over the top.  And then—as if that wasn’t enough!—I bathed it all in a little bit of olive oil.

It feels good to go wild now and then.

Inspiration for these vegetarian quesadillas came from Trader Joes, which is where I found these cute ‘n’ wrinkly sun-dried tomatoes.  I knew they’d be perfect for some impromptu pizza or maybe some scrambled eggs.

Or, as in tonight’s case, perfect for a veggie quesadilla.

(Or eaten as is, straight from the bag…yum!)

This fresh and local mozzarella was a bit on the pricey side as far as cheese goes, but it does make a fun splurge now and then.

Dinner was fabulous.

On the side, I roasted some brussels sprouts.  They came directly from the freezer isle and tasted sweet and amazing.

(But don’t tell their fresher cousins that I told you so.  They think they’re so much better than these guys, but they’re really not.) 

The Great Vegetarian Quesadilla

Serves 4

This is the “Great” Vegetarian Quesadilla because it requires a “great” clean up, as you glean your way through the veggie drawer.  If you have an extra stalk of broccoli, throw it in.  Half a red bell pepper?  Chop, chop, chop it.  A few mushrooms on their last leg?  Perfect.  Use it all up and don’t be afraid to try some of the more uncommon quesadilla additions, such as butternut squash or turnips.

Top these melty quesadillas with a scoop of fresh, zingy salsa and you’ll have yourself a delicious, easy meal in no time!  Enjoy!

  • Mixture of your favorite vegetables (I used mushrooms, broccoli, butternut squash, red and green bell peppers, and onions)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Spray baking pan win with cooking spray.
  2. Chop all of your vegetables into bite sized pieces and layer on the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle garlic over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Stir lightly to combine.  Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping once in between cooking times.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat.  Place tortillas down, place cheese on half of the tortilla, and fold over.  Flip tortilla once it has become golden brown on one side.  Continue cooking on the other side until golden brown.
  4. Once vegetables are cooked, unfold tortilla and fill half with the vegetable mixture.  Fold back and cook for another minute or so.  Serve hot with salsa.  Enjoy! 😀
QUESTION: What is your favorite quesadilla filling?
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Jam Filled Muffins

 

I am constantly searching for healthy breakfasts-to-go options.  Options that will carry me through those insanely busy mornings.  You know.  Those barely have time to shower, I think I’m still sleeping, my brain isn’t really functioning, kind of mornings.

Hey.  Life happens.

 

 

And so—more times than not—you’ll find me driving along in my car at 6:30am, eating an almond butter and banana sandwich (maybe toasted, maybe not) and sipping on a hot cup of green tea.  In fact, you could almost bet on it.

But then, once in a great while, I’ll find myself home alone during a lazy Sunday afternoon.  That’s when I break out the whisk and spend some quality time in my kitchen, preparing breakfasts for the week to come.

 

 

Everyone has a favorite muffin.  A favorite recipe.  (Mine happens to be the whole wheat pumpkin muffins on my recipe page, but please don’t tell all of the other muffins!)

 

 

However, jam filled muffins are a delightfully close contender.  With their sweet personality and rustic good looks, they really are impossible not to love.  I almost always have a couple sitting in my freezer, just in case.

Because you never know when those crazy mornings might come along.  I like to think that I’m completely prepared.

 

 

It should be mentioned, however, that jam filled muffins are only ever as good as the jam that fills them.

You could technically use any old jam and probably still enjoy each and every delicious bite.  However, I’ve found the best results with either (a) homemade jams and jellies, (b) Trader Joe’s raspberry jam, or (c) some other “gourmet” jam/jelly.  You want these to taste fresh.  Homemade.  Rustic and pleasant.  This is one of the few times that I become totally stuck up, refusing to buy any store-brand products. 😉

 

 

~17 minutes in the oven~

 

 

Crazy busy mornings.

A healthy breakfast to go.

And let the day begin.

 

 

Jam Filled Muffins—recipe adapted from the Eating Well Magazine

These muffins are absolutely heavenly when served warm, straight from the oven.  To reheat the next morning, simply pop them in the microwave for a good 15-20 seconds.  Any extras can be frozen for the upcoming week.

Serve with a glass of milk and a fruit for a complete, healthy breakfast-t0-go.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup blackberry, blueberry, raspberry or cherry jam (highly recommend Trader Joe’s raspberry!)
  • walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add buttermilk, orange juice, oil and vanilla; whisk to blend.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until moistened.
  4. Scoop half the batter into the prepared pan.  Drop a generous teaspoonful of jam into the center of each muffin.  Spoon on the remaining batter, filling each muffin cup completely.  Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15-20 minutes.  Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.  ENJOY! 😀

 

Question: Do you ever eat breakfast on the go?  What are some of your favorites?

Food Stars

 In every good movie, there is a celebrity.  A star.  The main actor.  The reason you watch the movie in the first place.

Food isn’t so different.

Take breakfast, for example.  Just my standard bowl of banana ‘n’ oats, topped with granola, chia seeds, coconut…

 

 …and Trader Joe’s almond butter. 

Almond butter.  It stole the show.  I mean, everything else was delicious, and there would have been no meal without the oats, the milk, the banana.  But still.  It was all about the almond butter.

 

 Then there was lunch.

You all know I love my salads.  Whether it’s basic like this one, or filled out to the max.  Love. 

 Extra virgin olive oil.  Tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden.  Buttery white beans.

But it all came down to the cheese.  Robusto cheese, to be exact.  Full of little crystals that pop when you chew, melting into your tongue with a burst of sharp, nutty flavor.  I like to try all different types of cheese, but I’m pretty sure I could settle down and enjoy this one for the rest of my life. 

 

dessert: watermelon x2!!!

snack: grapefruit and almonds

 

 Dinner had a major role player as well, although this one was a little harder to narrow down.

Was it the brown rice cooked in vegetable broth?

The grilled zucchini, cooked with olive oil, garlic powder and pepper?

 

 Was it the grilled chicken, smothered in garlic powder, paprika, parsley, pepper, & a little olive oil?

Was it the fresh salsa, made of Trader Joe’s mild salsa and diced avocado?

 

No. 

It was the date.  The sweet, innocent medjool date that I ate for dessert.  At first glance, he doesn’t look like much.  But, you know, first appearances really aren’t everything.

Densely sweet.  Chewy.  Nature’s candy. 

Melt.  In.  Your.  Mouth.  Delicious.

Question: What were some of the “food stars” of your day?

Do I need this?

Do I need this?  No, seriously.  Do I really need this?

Every year, I make a new resolution.  I know some people aren’t into this sort of thing.  It never really happens, they say.  You’re only setting yourself up for failure.  I kind of, sort of, partially agree.  But at the same time, I love the idea of setting new goals.  The idea that something wonderful—life changing, even!—has the potential to be achieved.

And that is why, when 2009 rolled into 2010, I made the pact with myself that I would always ask myself one question before purchasing anything.  Do I need this?

All in all, I try to be careful with where the money goes.  For example, I will never—never, never, never—throw food away unless it’s moldy, smelly, or past the point of safety.  Today I made the discovery that freezing overripe bananas can come in super handy…

 

 Did you know that a frozen banana works just as well as a fresh banana in a morning bowl of oats?

It’s true.

I think I was a little over excited about this idea, as I marveled over the way my oats came out fluffy, sweet, perfect.  It tasted a little like banana bread in a bowl.  Not bad for an almost over ripe banana that might have otherwise been thrown away.

Score one for my New Years Resolution!

 

 Breakfast

  • 1/4 c. each of oatbran and wheat bran
  • 1 very ripe banana, frozen
  • 1 c. milk + 3/4 c. water
  • toppings: Galaxy Granola, chia seeds and peanut butter
  1. Place the water and milk in a saucepan with the frozen banana and bring to a boil.  Add oatbran and place timer for 4-6 minutes.
  2. Halfway through cooking, when oatbran begins to thicken, add wheat bran and stir, stir, stir.  Mash up that banana a little with the back of your spoon.
  3. When cooked to perfection—however you most prefer—pour into bowl and add your favorite toppings!!!

 

I also like to make heaping salads full of leftovers.  You know, things like the last remains of a salsa jar.  The last carrot and mushroom.  A few garbanzos.  A couple Wasa’s, way back in the closet.  Things like that.

It makes me feel economical.  Money-wise.  On track with my New Year’s Resolution.

 

 And then there are those times when I’m walking through Whole Foods or Trader Joes, with a growling stomach and a slowly deminishing resolve to stay on budget.  Each isle asking me that one haunting question:

Do you need this?  No, seriously.  Do you need this?

I firmly stood my ground until walking past the nut butters.  When asked that one question, I said YES! to the almond butter.

And a YES! to the medjool dates.

I honestly don’t know how these two items snuck into the cart, but they seemed necessary at the time.  Like water on a deserted island, you know? 

Okay, so my effort to stay on budget could use a little tweaking.  I didn’t really need the almond butter and I certainly didn’t need the dates (gasp).  But I came to the conclusion that being money-wise is a little like a smart, healthy diet.

Balance.  A little give and take.  Learning to say no to some things, yes to others, and knowing that it’s okay to include your favorite things now and then. 

And some dinners are just so darn cheap that they completely make up for it.  Black bean burgers, for example!

 

 I followed my basic recipe, except I used 3 T. of worcestershire sauce instead of just the one.  It was delicious, and I didn’t need to buy a thing for it from the grocery store.  Cheap, cheap, cheap!

And deliciously nutritious.  Obviously, that is just as important. 😉

On the side, there were sliced veggies from the garden, some sweet potato fries, onions and lots of ketchup.

 

I highly recommend this recipe, whether you’re attempting to find more affordable meals, tasty vegetarian options, quick lunches-to-go for salads/sandwiches, easy dinners for busy nights, or even if you’re just looking to include more beans into your diet.  Whichever the case, this recipe is one of my personal favorites.  😀 

Question: What are some foods that you like to splurge on?   What are some of your favorite, most afforadable meal & snacks?  I love splurging on good nut butters and yogurts.  Other than that, I like to cook vegetarian meals in between meat meals in order to keep costs lower while also including many of the health benefits. 😀

Weekend Highlights

Nicole and I had big plans for today, so I knew I had better start with a filling and satisfying morning meal after my brisk 2-mile walk.

I filled my mostly used peanut butter jar with a mixture of overnight oats.  I have to say, this isn’t quite the same experience as eating hot oats in a jar, but it does have a charm of its own.  I kind of like it.  A lot, actually.

Anyways, let’s get to the nitty gritty details…

  • 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 c. wheat bran
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1-1/2 tsp chia seeds
  • cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • about 1/4 c. of soymilk
  • mix above ingredients and stir in 6 oz. plain yogurt the next morning

I found every little last bit of peanut butter in this jar, and let nothing go to waste.  Not one little lick or spoonful.  Nothing.  Oh the joy of oats in a jar! :mrgreen:

Once I was well fueled and ready for a day of exploring and fun, Nicole (aka, Loving Simple Moments) and I set out on an old, windy dirt road to pick up some farm fresh eggs (which, by the way, happen to come from organic, free range, vegetarian fed walking hens…it feels good to purchase local eggs!) 

Then we were off to Trader Joe’s!!

This was Nicole’s very first time meandering her way around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  An event that should be remembered and enjoyed to the very fullest.  :mrgreen:

Oh how I love Trader Joe’s and their creative glass displays!

I also love their food samples!  Beef hotdogs anyone?

I’m not even a hotdog person, but these were actually pretty tasty.  I especially liked the trader joe’s ketchup on top—it was similair to heinz. 

With bags full of grocery items (gotta stock up on the wholewheat sourdough bread, folks!), Nicole and I headed off to eat lunch at Panera.

Nicole ordered the You-Pick-Two option with half a turkey asiago sandwich and half a caesar salad.  She let me steal one of her croutons which was amazing.  I can’t wait to try making homemade croutons at some point in the near future…they seem like they’d be simple to make (I think?)  And I’ll bet the TJ’s sourdough bread would be perfect for this. 😀

I ordered the new menu addition, which was the Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad.  It was filled—absolutely filled—with blueberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges, pinepaple, pecans and chicken.  It was light, refreshing and exactly what I was in the mood for.  I also ordered a whole grain baguette slice on the side which was perfect for dipping and dunking.  Loved this lunch! 😀

Then we were off to Whole Foods, where—of course—there were more free samples!

We both loved this zingy lemonade. 😀

I found so many goodies at Whole Foods, including canned pumpkin for under a dollar, cheap cereals, big bags of coffee beans and lots of canned black & garbanzo beans.  It feels good to have a restock of all those oh-so-necessary items. 😉

However, I’ve got to say, the highlight of the entire day was stopping in at one of the nearby icecream spots.  Bart’s Homemade Icecream has some of the most grand flavors imagineable, and this was my first time stopping here.  It most certainly won’t be the last though.  Nicole and I both agreed that it was worth coming out just for this stop.  Oh my word.

We each ordered one scoop of the Snickers on a sugar cone, and then we ordered one more flavor scoop to top it off.  Nicole ordered the “Three Geeks and A Redhead” (yes, I’m being serious) which was a combo of raspberry swirls, chocolate chunks and—get this—coconut icecream!  Yes, my friends, it was as blissful as it sounds.  I went with another scoop of the straight out coconut sorbet which was also as good as it sounds.  Full of creamy coconut flavor and actual coconut chunks.  It was delightful in every sense of the word. 😀

Two thumbs up…we’ll be back, Bart’s!!! :mrgreen:

Question: What was the Highlight of your day so far?