Why So Blue?

I knew that taking a day off of work in order to go to the DMV, unpack the remaining items from our PODS unit, and unpack/organize a bit wouldn’t exactly be a piece of cake, but it was definitely not an enjoyable day off.

The morning trip to the DMV started off as expected: stood in a long-ass line with 80 people in front of us. Sat in uncomfortable benches while we waited for our alphanumeric identifier to be called. (Of course the boyfriend was done way before I even got called up since he only needed a new license, not a car registration.)

Then, my stupidity showed.

I pride myself on being a list-maker and calendar-lover. I track everything so I know what needs to be done when and by whom; however, I’ve been falling off the wagon lately and it’s been biting me in the ass as a result! After sitting for an hour in the uncomfortable benches of the DMV, I was only a few numbers away from being called. Hooray! I glanced at my checklist (for the first time that morning)… and realized that I forgot my car’s title in my lock-box at home.

The boy rushed home for me to get it. A girl about my age was sitting in front of me and turned around to tell me that she did the same thing yesterday and reminded me how lucky I am to have my boyfriend here to help. (Amen!) In the end, my number was called, and I traded with the girl in front of me. By the time the boyfriend returned with my title, there were about 5 people in line in front of me so we spent another 20 minutes or so sitting uncomfortably, playing crossword puzzles.

By 10:40am (mind you, we arrived at 9:05am), I got my license and my new plates, which means one thing: I’m officially a Masshole! (Even so… GO GIANTS!) We had a celebratory brunch at my new favorite restaurant while my car got its state inspection so that we could be fueled up and ready to unpack when we got home.

And so we did.

It’s not even close to being completely done, but the place is coming along nicely. Bottom line: we now sit on a sofa, eat at a table, and sleep on a mattress and box spring… at last! The kitchen was my responsibility, of course, as it is my domain! Although frustrated at the lack of a pantry, I think I’m doing okay so far. In the absence of photos of the progression of the unpacking, I will simply share my first creation in my new wannabe-organized kitchen.

WHY-SO-BLUE SMOOTHIE
Yields one very thick 16-ounce smoothie full of nutrition.

  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut cream (the solid part of coconut milk)
  • 1 big leaf of kale, hard rib removed
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • Roughly 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

I have a personal smoothie maker (a cheap-o version of a Magic Bullet), but you can make it in a large blender if that’s all you have. (Hell, if you have my dream-machine — Vitamix! — your smoothie will lack the bits of blueberry skin like mine had! Color me jealous!)

Simply add the ingredients to your blender with the berries and kale closest to the blade. Blend until smooth, adding more coconut water or almond milk if it is too thick (but is there really such a thing??). Serve immediately.

I may not be following such a strict paleo diet as I was in week one (and as a result, my tummy troubles are gone!) but this recipe just so happens to be friendly to those cavemen out there!

Hopefully the next photo of my kitchen will be of something pretty, shiny, clean, and organized! (Maybe a craft that I’ve done or something… hint-hint…)

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Basic Crepes

I’ve always been intimidated by crepes. First of all, anything from the French cuisine immediately makes me nervous to make (but I’ll gladly eat it all). Secondly… brace yourselves… I don’t like pancakes, so I rarely make them (unless the boyfriend asks nicely, and I have Bisquick mix on hand). My inexperience combined with my hesitation to cook anything Frenchy meant that, until last weekend, crepes were something I could only have in a restaurant.

Most of my cooking decisions are random, and Saturday morning was no exception. I was awake, the boy was still asleep, so I hunted online for an easy crepe recipe. All of the ones I found online required batter to sit refrigerated for at least an hour before the actual cooking occured, but I wanted crepes ASAP!

I finally came upon a recipe that would supposedly give me delicious, thin crepes in about 15-20 minutes from start to finish. Supposedly. This assumes I don’t let the intimidation get the best of me!

Luckily, I survived, as did my crepes (except for one…)! On the left you have mine filled with almond butter and chopped up apples that had been cooked with butter, topped with plenty of Saigon cinnamon. My boyfriend, whose palette is less refined, had his filled with peanut butter and topped with chocolate syrup.

Much to my pleasant surprise, the picky boy I love said he’d eat them again — a huge success that has only occurred less than a handful of times in the eight years we’ve been together. If the boy likes it, the recipe is an immediate winner. With the weekend coming up, this recipe should be on your mind as a great brunch option. I bet you have all of the ingredients on hand… so, no excuses! (Not even fear of French cooking!)

Note: It’s been a few days since I made these, and I’ve lost the recipe that I found! When I do find it, I’ll give credit to the originator, even though I made my own tweaks to it.

Basic Crepes
Makes 6 crepes, serves three.

For basic crepes, all you need is:

  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 cup milk of choice, plus a few tablespoons (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 egg

If you want your crepes to be sweet, also add:

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp sweetener of your choice (I used honey, but you can use maple syrup, agave, etc.)

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until combined. If the batter seems too thick, add additional milk. Remember, you need it to be thinner than pancake batter so it will be thin enough to roll, fold, or wrap around your filling of choice. I made sure mine was about the consistency of Elmer’s glue.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Very lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. When pan is hot, pour 1/4 cup of batter into center. Immediately tilt your pan so that the batter spreads as far and thin as possible. (Mine never did coat my entire 9″ pan; it maybe reached 7″.)

When the edges start to pull away from the pan and the top is beginning to get a bit dry, it’s time to flip! It took my crepes less than 3 minutes to reach that stage of done-ness. Flip your crepe, then let it cook on the opposite side for an additional minute. Remove the crepe from the pan and repeat all steps with remaining batter. Fill with your fillings of choice!

You can see that I rolled mine, but two local creperies in my neighborhood folds them into a triangular shape with the fillings inside.

This website has a really comprehensive list of traditional crepe fillings if you need some inspiration… but I’m sure you have plenty of stuff on-hand you can use. Just get creative! Your taste buds will love these crepes no matter what.

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars

The kid in all of us reminisces about Chewy Granola Bars, Pop Tarts, and other hand-held sweet treats that were passed off for healthy snacks and/or breakfasts, right? I mean… who are we kidding? Are two S’mores Pop Tarts really part of a healthy breakfast, as advertised?

I love sweet. I love baked goods. I love the accessibility of having things like Chewy Granola Bars on hand when I need a snack or an on-the-go breakfast that will go nicely with tea or coffee. I don’t love preservatives. I don’t love factory-cooked foods.

At least, not anymore.

I found a fantastic recipe online for granola bars and although I didn’t have any nuts or dried fruits to add to the mix, adding lots of grainy, high-fiber goodness did just fine in the end. I’ll definitely be making these again, but with more mix-ins next time!

Regardless, I made these really POP! with flavor by making my own raspberry syrup in place of the maple syrup or agave the original recipe calls for. Any fruit or berry will do!

I always have a soft spot for recipes that are just basic — not mandatory ingredients… just the framework for a dish that can be adjusted for and catered to everyone’s individual likings. As a friend of mine just told me today, it’s always best to teach skills, not a recipe!

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars
Inspired by Healthy. Happy. Life.’s “Kitchen Sink Granola Bars”.
Makes 8 bars.

For the bars themselves…

  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax (or wheat germ)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup reserved unsweetened coconut (I used macaroon sized flakes, but you can use whichever you’d like, depending on your preferred consistency)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used organic granulated, but you can use turbinado, sucanat, or even a liquid like agave or maple)
  • 3/4 cup liquid sweetener (I made my own raspberry syrup – see the recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, salt-free nut butter (I used almond)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Any mix-ins you’d like, such as nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, goji berries, cacao nibs, dried fruit, pretzel bits, etc. I just didn’t have any on hand!

For the raspberry syrup…

  • 1 cup raspberries, washed (I used fresh organic, but you can use frozen if you’d like)
  • 2 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple, agave, etc.)

Make the syrup by putting both ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. When the raspberries begin to break down and the liquid bubbles, lower to medium-low and stir.

Break down the raspberries by using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Once all of the berries are broken down, remove from heat.

I ended up with exactly 3/4 cup, as the recipe calls for, but if you are short, just add a bit more liquid sweetener to it until it reaches 3/4 cup.

Set the sauce aside.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper on all sides and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the oil of your choice in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil gets warm, add the oats, flax (or wheat germ), and 1/2 cup of coconut to the pan. Stir every 30 seconds or so until the mixture becomes fragrant, set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar, liquid sweetener (this would be the raspberry sauce, if you made it), vanilla, cinnamon, and nut butter. Stir until combined. Add the oat mixture and mix with a spatula until combined.

Put the mixture into the baking dish. Top with the remaining coconut flakes (and any other toppings you want, really!) and push in so they won’t fall off of the bars when they’re done.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Using the parchment paper, lift the slab from the pan and onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 8 portions with a very sharp non-serrated knife.

These can be stored at room temperature in a tupperware for a few days, or as long as 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Delicious and very, very good for you! In just one bar you get tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and just enough sweetness to make it almost cookie-like!

The best way to eat these, you ask?

Slightly warm, with some almond milk!

Busketty, Part Two

If you come upon two spaghetti squashes and want to explore different ways of enjoying the 6 cups of flesh they yield, look no further than my previous post as well as this one!

Last time I showed you two sauces that complement spaghetti squash’s awesomeness. Now, it’s time for a twist!

Spaghetti squash… in muffins? Yep. Whole wheat? Yep! Vegan, too? Uh-huh! And it’s filled?? Yep again!

BLACKBERRY-LIME SPAGHETTI SQUASH MUFFINS
Yields about 14 muffins.

Inspired by this recipe.

Get yourself…

  • 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash, blended in a food processor
  • 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice + additional for sprinkling (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 3 tbsp ground flax mixed with 6 tbsp warm water (or a one-egg substitute of your choice, or one egg if you don’t care about it being un-veganized)
  • 2/3 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk), divided
  • 1/2 cup softened vegan butter (I use Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
  • 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a dash of salt
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 14 teaspoons of all-natural blackberry jam (or other jam of your choice… strawberry would probably be awesome, too!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line your muffin pan.

In a large bowl, mix baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk the sugar and softened butter until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except 1/3 cup of the milk and the jam. When combined thoroughly, add wet ingredients into the flour mixture and gently fold with a spatula or spoon until everything is moistened. (Don’t whisk unless you want flat, ugly muffins! You have been warned!) If the batter looks too dry (it should be slightly thicker than cake batter, but not as thick as cookie dough) add more of the milk until you get the right consistency.

Fill the muffin wells barely 1/3 full of batter. For me, this was about a heaping tablespoon. Add a teaspoon of blackberry jam on top of the batter, using the back of your spoon to make a small dimple so the jam can sit in it. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t stay put though!) Add batter on top of the jam until each muffin cup is about 3/4 full.

Sprinkle the top of each with a little of the reserved sugar and bake for 20 minutes. Let the muffins sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then enjoy!

The best ones were definitely those that showed a little bit of the jam peeking through the top.

Am I right or am I right?

These disappeared in record time when I brought them to work this week! Nobody could tell there was spaghetti squash in them. I hope that next time someone in the office brings in produce from their home garden that the rest of my coworkers aren’t scared to try something new!