Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing

Many of you have probably seen the roasted cauliflower recipe that was all over Pinterest a few weeks ago.  I subscribe to a lot of daily recipe e-mails so when a recipe for it also arrived in my inbox I decided to try it.  The verdict?  I. am. obsessed.  I make this once a week and could eat the entire pan!  The second time I made it Josh got stuck at work and got home later than anticipated. I started nibbling on this straight out of the pan while I waited for him and before I knew it half the pan was gone.  Before dinner even started.  Whoops.  The good news is, I'm not going to get fat eating cauliflower.  However, I can't imagine an entire head of it in once sitting is considered normal either!  Cauliflower is a great source of Vitamin C and is also full of antioxidants.  The sauce adds the perfect amount of zest to make this dish incredible and the red pepper gives it a little kick.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing

For Cauliflower:
2 heads cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
2 T. olive oil

For Tahini Dressing:
1/3 C. Tahini sesame paste
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. water
2 T. honey
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 T. ground sumac (I don't have this and the recipe said you can sub lemon zest or lemon pepper seasoning.  I have used both subs and they work just fine)
1 1/2 T. fresh dill (or use 2 1/4 t. dry-this is what I always use)
1/2 t. crushed red pepper (I use red pepper flakes sometimes)
3/4 t. salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Spread the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet, in a single layer.  Drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and shake the pan to coat with oil and salt.
3. Roast in the oven 25-30 minutes.  Shake the pan once or twice during cooking to turn the florets.  I always use tongs to flip them all over.
4. Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the tahini dressing in to a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.  If dressing is too thick, add another tablespoon, or two, of water.
5. Drizzle the dressing over the top and serve hot.

The roasted cauliflower fresh out of the oven.  This is only one head of cauliflower because I cut the recipe in half since Josh turns his nose at the idea of cauliflower.  I should really start making the full recipe.  I could eat more and it wouldn't look so bad.  Next time...

All the ingredients in the food processor before blending.

All mixed up and ready to drizzle on the cauliflower.

You should be able to find Tahini at any grocery store.  This will be the item you may have to purchase to make this recipe, but it's totally worth it.  It will probably run around $6 or more, but I've made this recipe several times and I still have about half left.  You could also always make some hummus with your leftovers.

Don't be fooled.  I ate way more cauliflower straight out of the pan while I was waiting for the spaghetti noodles to finish cooking. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Christmas in July

Christmas, to me, is just like the popular Christmas song lyrics: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  When I got married I started a tradition where I buy Josh a Christmas in July present and I listen to Christmas music for that one day.  I know it’s kind of silly, but we have fun with it.  This year, my friend Katie and I decided to have a full on Christmas in July dinner with our husbands and a great time was had by all!  It was fun to come up with a summertime Christmas themed menu.  I’m only sharing one recipe though, because let’s face it, the rest of it was not very healthy!  We splurged a bit because it only comes once a year…well, twice in this case. :)

This week, my grandma and mom came to Wichita to visit and we made pepper jelly…LOTS of it!
I was excited to have some back in stock because I saw this idea on Pinterest and needed an excuse to try it. 

Simply, cut your cream cheese (I use Neufchatel because it has less calories, less fat, and more protein) in the shape of a tree and pour the pepper jelly on top.  I cut a little bit of green pepper to make the tree trunk.  I wanted to make a star as well, but my Christmas cookie cutters are packed away with all the Christmas stuff.  We were left with a starless tree, but I still think it turned out great!

Katie, who is much more artistic than me, free handed an amazing star out of cheese and brought a gorgeous cheese platter!

We enjoyed our appetizers while dinner finished cooking and then it was time for the main event.  I made fish, shrimp, and cheesy potatoes (made with the cream of chicken substitute).  Katie brought a vegetable side dish, bread, and the new Skinnygirl White Peach Margarita.  Below are some pictures and the recipe for the baked fish.  It’s one of my favorite ways to prepare fish.  It is so easy and it looks beautiful out of the oven.  Oh, and it tastes amazing as well!
I love me some Skinnygirl!  The original is still my favorite, but this is a close second! Katie and I had a good conversation about the serving size of this.  Remember, it's 100 calories, but that's only for 1.5 ounces.  It's still a MUCH better choice than a regular margarita, but measure/watch your pours.  And, no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, there is a small portion of a Christmas tree in the left part of this picture. I went all out this year.

I found my Christmas tree cookie cutter in a kitchen drawer so I was able to make the Apple Pie Christmas themed.

Such a festive red and green dish using summer veggies!

Baked Mahi Mahi (or whatever fish you like)

2 T. parmesan flavored breadcrumbs (or 1 t. Italian seasoning and 1 t. parmesan cheese added to regular breadcrumbs)
2 T. chopped red bell pepper
2 T. chopped yellow bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped
¼ jalapeno pepper, chopped
4 T. butter, melted
2 T. shredded mozzarella
4 (6 oz) fillets Mahi Mahi

Preheat oven to 375.  Stir together all ingredients except fish.  Place fish in a dish sprayed with non-stick spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Spread topping evenly over fish.  Bake 30 minutes, then broil for a couple minutes to make crispy on top.

I got this recipe from one of friends, KoKo, and the original calls for crab meat to be mixed into the topping.  I am not sure how much because I am allergic so when I copied this to a recipe card I left it off.  It would be a great addition though!

I used red and green bell peppers this time

The fish sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Ready to go in the oven.
All finished and browned on top.  Beautiful!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tofu Edamame Nuggets

I love getting the mail.  I’m not sure why, it’s usually just full of Josh’s medical school loan statements, but for some reason I enjoy walking to the mailbox each day after work.  One thing I get very excited to see when I open the mailbox is the Fearless Flyer; Trader Joe’s newsletter highlighting some of their products.  Each time I read their newsletter I usually find one or two new items I can’t wait to try and a few months ago they featured Tofu Edamame Nuggets. 

Found in the freezer section for $2.99

I don’t normally buy pre-packaged items like this, but I thought I would give it a try because I pack my lunch every day.  I usually eat leftovers of things I make that week or make something in bulk on the weekend to eat on all week, but it’s nice to have a back-up item in the freezer.  I purchased these a couple months ago and yesterday I was in a bind and needed something to bring for lunch. I opened the freezer searching and there were my Tofu Edamame Nuggets to the rescue!

I am sure you can microwave these, but I put mine in the oven so they could get nice and brown and crispy on the outside.  While these are a great option for adults, as I ate them yesterday I was thinking:

“Oh, good, there are healthy options out there for when I have kids!” 

If I'm being completely honest, I still haven’t figured out what I am going to do when my kid wants a Happy Meal.  I may not be able to watch. Those chicken nuggets sick me out and we all know they aren’t healthy.  Before you start thinking I should never birth a child, don’t worry, I realize a Happy Meal SPARINGLY isn’t going to be the end of things.  It just may lead to my first panic attack.  No big deal.

Some of you moms are probably laughing by this point.  Silly, naïve, me thinking I can sub tofu and edamame for chicken.  In my perfect little future bubble I will give these to my kids to start off with because they look just like chicken nuggets on the outside.   Then, maybe they will think this is how chicken nuggets are supposed to be and think everyone else’s is weird.  A girl can dream…

While the outside is a dead ringer for a chicken nugget, the inside is a different story. There are carrots and whole edamame so you see white with orange and green.  It’s quite beautiful actually, but having witnessed a picky little brother I know the faces that come with a “foreign” object inside.  If you have little ones I still say give it a try.  You may be surprised. Just a couple months ago my friend Brittany had a BBQ and was kind enough to tell me I could feel free to bring my own veggie burgers.  I didn’t have any homemade ones in my freezer so I grabbed a box of black bean ones at the store.  I ended up forgetting one at her house and I got a text the next day asking me what brand, what kind, and where I got them.  She fixed my leftover one for her 10 month old and he devoured it!  Who would have thought black beans?  You never know.  Worst case scenario, your kid hates it and you have an excellent option for lunch in a crunch!

I ate one serving of these (5) with some sweet potato chips and strawberries and had no problem getting full.  The only drawback is they are high in sodium (but what pre-packaged product isn't) so I wouldn't recommend this if you're watching your sodium.

Monday, July 23, 2012

True Lemon Drink Mix

I saw a coupon in the paper a couple weeks ago that caught my attention.  It was for a new, all natural powdered drink mix.  I added it to my grocery list and when I got to the store this weekend I was pleasantly surprised to “approve” of the ingredient list.  It was priced at Dillon's for $2.69 and then I had a $1.00 off coupon.  I am not sure if there are other options at other stores, but Dillon's offered lemonade and raspberry lemonade flavors.

I am fortunate that I love water.  Good 'ol plain water is just fine with me.  If I'm feeling a little wild and crazy I add a squeeze of fresh lemon and I’m ready for a few more glasses.  However, sometimes on those hot, summer days a nice glass of lemonade hits the spot.  And, let’s face it; we haven’t dipped under high temps of 100 plus degrees in weeks…this girl wanted some lemonade!
I used to be a Crystal Light drinker.  Okay, more like addict.  I made the Peach Tea by the pitchers and enjoyed it all summer long.  It was a great day when I discovered those convenient packets that I could add to a bottle of water. However, I noticed I often got headaches when I drank it so I started cutting back.  Coincidentally, around that same time I read a few books and learned more about artificial sweeteners.  The things I learned (one of which is they can cause headaches) led me to quit purchasing Crystal Light.  As I have mentioned before, I am not a dietitian or nutritionist so all this information is just from books or articles I have read and things I believe to be true.  Obviously, you can find pros and cons to everything.  I suggest if you are skeptical to do some research of your own. 

Crystal Light’s main sweetener is aspartame, which is also the sweetener in NutraSweet and Equal.  Although the FDA approves of this sweetener, they also verify 92 side effects that potentially come with consumption.  (Don't get me started on my thoughts about the FDA...who approves a product that is now added to TONS of our food on the shelves while also acknowledging an astonishing 92 negative effects?)  Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and the side effects range from digestive issues, headaches, dizziness, nausea, ADHD and weight gain to more serious things like cancer and seizures.  Although the serious side effects are usually with a large consumption of aspartame, I still do not want to put anything in my body that causes any side effects.  Aspartame contains Phenylalanine (up to 50%), and one of the components of Phenylalanine is methyl alcohol, which converts to formaldehyde in your body.  I immediately think of dear Frederick, my high school pig for dissection, and know that in no way, shape, or form do I want formaldehyde in my body.  That is for dead things; not for consumption by a living human. 

I have also mentioned in other posts I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.  This is a liquid sweetener from corn that is chemically altered.  It is much less expensive than sugar and much sweeter, so the manufacturer can use it instead of sugar for a fraction of the cost...at our health's expense. 
Lastly, when anything lists sucrose as an ingredient, that equals Splenda.  I avoid Splenda like I avoid lake water.  (Not for any scientific reason, I just find lakes disgusting)  Although sucralose, or Splenda, is much newer that aspartame, initial studies show many of the same side effects.  This is an excerpt from one of my favorite books:
"..Splenda is made by chlorinating sugar, changing its molecular structure. The finished product is called sucralose. The makers of this poison tout its lack of calories and claim it’s safe for diabetics. The FDA calls sucralose 98% pure. The other 2% contains small amounts of heavy metals, methanol, and arsenic. Well, gee, at least it doesn't have calories. So what if it has a little arsenic? Sucralose has been found to cause diarrhea; organ, genetic, immune system, and reproductive damage; swelling of the liver and kidneys; and a decrease in fetal body weight. What a splendid product!" According to Dr. Joseph Mercola in Consumer Research magazine's article "The Potential Dangers of Sucralose," "There is no clear cut evidence that sugar substitutes are useful in weight reduction. On the contrary, there is some evidence that these substances may stimulate appetite." Skinny Bitch, page 35-36.
Pretty much, I say if God made it, enjoy it.  Before you get all giddy, hold on there Cookie Monster.  It doesn’t mean go eat cookies until you're content because God made sugar and flour. It does mean to try to eat things in their most natural form.  I would much rather eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie than a store bought "healthy" one full of Splenda.  Just remember, moderation is the key!
Anyway, back to the drink mix.  I am aware that Crystal Light makes a powder mix with all natural sweetener called Crystal Light Pure.  I was very excited to see this several months ago, but I purchased the strawberry kiwi and I didn’t think it was very good.  Perhaps I need to give a different flavor a try, but I ended up throwing mine away.  I found True Lemon tasted much better!
I know it's a little hard to read on here, but True Lemon is sweetened with Stevia. (so is Crystal Light Pure so if you like how that tastes, great!)  I have read lots about Stevia as well as Truvia and I am happy it has made it's way to America! 

"Stevia, another winner, is derived from a plant found in Paraguay. The Japanese have been using this wonder sweetener for decades, South Americans for centuries (but we'd rather give OUR country chemicals!). In fact, it is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world to balance blood-sugar levels, reduce cravings for sweets, and aid in digestion. Additionally, it is known for its antimicrobial properties (it inhibits the growth of bacteria). Unfortunately, however, it the most unrecognized sweetener in the United States. This NATURAL, HERBAL sweetener contains no calories, has no glycemic index (won’t alter blood sugar), and is even safe for diabetics. But for reasons unknown to intelligent species everywhere, the Food and Drug Administration won't approve Stevia for use in food products. Maybe they are sleeping with the sugar industry." Skinny Bitch, 30-31

*Although both of these quotes are from the same book they are not the only things I have read about these ingredients.  Many books I have read support these beliefs.
Evaporated Cane Juice is also listed as an ingredient in True Lemon Mix and from what I can tell this ingredient comes from the sugar cane, but there is not as much processing as regular, white sugar.  I see no problem with that.
You still awake?! All that was my LONG way of telling you about a great new product I was really excited to try this weekend.  Here’s the deal: I will still drink this sparingly as water is always best, but it is a great alternative to other sugary drinks, and a MUCH better choice than drink mixes with artificial sweeteners.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Plantain Chips

My blog yesterday was about a place to eat in Wichita, so today, I thought I’d focus on my KC peeps!  In my short time blogging you have already read about my love, sometimes infatuation, with Trader Joe's.  I am a very happy lady when I go there.  Last weekend while in Kansas City I had a couple hours free in the afternoon so I headed to Trader Joe's and enjoyed the rare opportunity to look around and really take my time.  I found a new item that will be added to my regular list-plantain chips.  I stumbled upon them while I was in line to pay.   I should start by saying I just learned what plantains were several months ago.  I attended a cooking class at a restaurant in Wichita called Taste & See.  (Great place to eat, but that deserves an entire blog entry dedication so I’ll get to that one of these days)  I went to the class with my friends Brittany and Katie and one of the items we made was called Poke Tini.  It was ahi tuna atop Thai slaw in a martini glass topped with cilantro and plantain chips.  My friends knew my love for traveling to Mexico and were surprised when I shared with them I did not know what a plantain was.  They could not believe I had not seen them or eaten them on one of my trips to Mexico.  (Side note...that's probably because I am so busy stuffing my face with guacamole I am oblivious to anything else)  They filled me in and I learned a plantain is part of the banana family, just much smaller.  We made our plantain chips fresh at the class and they added to the presentation and taste of our dish. 

It tasted as good as it looks!

I looked plantains up when I got home and turns out they are much firmer than regular bananas and therefore are used mostly in cooking, rather than eaten raw.  They are also lower in sugar that regular bananas.  Until last weekend at Trader Joe’s I had no idea these came in a bag and could be eaten as a snack.  Bonus! 

As I waited in line and saw this package I was intrigued.  While we fried our homemade plantain chips these were roasted so I figured they had to be somewhat healthy.  I flipped the package over to the nutrition facts to further investigate.  You can eat 20 of these bad boys for a serving size.  Spectacular!  There’s nothing worse than flipping a package over and seeing 7 chips as the serving size.  I mean, really?  I can take care of that in 2 bites and it’s not going to fill me up.  I scanned down to the fat-6 grams.  I can deal with that.  Scanned a little lower to the sugar and it said zero.  Now, I was really interested.  All that was left was the ingredients.  I try to buy/eat as many things as I can with less than five ingredients and I like to be able to pronounce them.  Three ingredients were listed: plantains, sunflower oil, and salt.  I looked up to check the price and it was only $1.69.  Trader Joe’s product placement worked on me; the package was added to my cart. 

I am big on snacking, but not in a bad way.  I just get hungry frequently.  I usually eat breakfast, have a snack (or two) mid morning, eat lunch, have another snack in the afternoon and then dinner.  Two to three snacks per day means I am always looking for healthy items to eat.  I usually eat fruit or vegetables for one of them, but the other is granola, yogurt, or nuts, and these plantain chips fit right in to give me some variety.  I am also pleasantly surprised by how filling they are.  So far, I have enjoyed them plain, but they would also be great mixed with some nuts and dried fruit to make a homemade trail mix.   If you live somewhere near a Trader Joe's pick some of these up soon…and, Mom, feel free to grab me another bag.  I only bought one and it’s almost gone. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Flying Stove

I first read about The Flying Stove food truck in the newspaper several months ago. I was intrigued by the concept of bringing a style of food to Wichita that is predominately found in L.A. and NYC. The more I read, the more excited I became. Two brothers from California were the owners and chefs and it was going to be different than just BBQ or a sandwich/hot dog stand. I was chomping at the bits to visit. Not only could I support a local, family owned place, but I could get gourmet food for a reasonable price!  

Josh and I both had a Friday off a couple weeks later and although he was surprised when I told him where I wanted to try for lunch he ventured out with me. I understood where he was coming from.  It does seem strange in the Midwest to visit a food truck; the idea is foreign.  However, in my mind I was dreaming of a food truck like true New Yorkers go to and the ones you see on The Food Network.  The Flying Stove was exactly what I hoped for!  On our first visit I ordered fish tacos as there were no vegetarian items on the menu.  I was in love at first bite.  Tender fish, great marinade, and a surprise ingredient: mint.  I was expecting cilantro when I bit into it, but the mint was a fantastic addition.  Josh ordered a Hawaiian pork and pineapple sandwich. Although he was skeptical the entire car ride and all the way until we got in line, by the end he was hooked just like me. It was incredible! As we sat and ate and admired the truck Josh proclaimed he had a better name: The Rolling Stoves. :) The Flying Stove, The Rolling Stoves…I don’t care what you call it, it’s some of the best food I have had in Wichita.

Each week The Flying Stove posts their schedule on Facebook. While you can visit their website it is much more convenient to follow them on Facebook to see where they will be and get information on their menus.   Typically, Monday and Tuesday are off days. They do a great job moving to different locations around town to accommodate everyone. Weekdays they only serve lunch and it runs from 11-1:30, but your best bet is to get there early because they usually run out of food before 1:30. The menus changes every 2-3 weeks and each time it impresses me.  On my second visit I had a caprese salad.  It was not on the menu, but I arrived around 1:15 and they were out of the side dish I wanted to order. I asked if they could make anything on the menu without meat and he said they would make me something. I appreciated the customer service! Apparently, I wasn’t the only one inquiring about veggie items because every menu since then has had at least one vegetarian item. Woo hoo! I had an AMAZING pomegranate, goat cheese salad with a fruity vinaigrette and fresh melon. (I regret to inform you I forgot to take a pic, but this was before my blogging days. It won’t happen again) Josh came with me again for this visit and he had a hamburger and truffle fries that he very much enjoyed. 

During a more exotic menu week I tried their vegetable curry. 

Curry is one of those things I do not usually order. I like a bite or two of it, but it’s too rich/creamy for me to eat the whole bowl, but I was so excited they had a vegetarian item I went for it. It was GREAT! It was full of potatoes and spinach and very spicy; just the way I like it.  

I went last week and they had just returned from a week off in California for research. I was looking Tuesday night to see where they would be Wednesday and I about couldn’t sleep after I looked at the new menu.  They must have talked to some California vegetarians and decided to explore...drumroll please...tofu. I was so excited I was there at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. 

Best. Tofu. Ever. I am not exaggerating. Also, the most unhealthy tofu, but it was so good I'm over it.  It was fried, atop an edamame puree, sprinkled with wonton chips, cilantro, and some tomatoes and marinated mushrooms that were out of this world. I ate it in my car and was literally licking the container.    It was one of the best meals I have ever had and it cost $5.  I made myself wait at least until it was a new week, but I was back again Tuesday.  Confession time: I pigged out.  My plan was to try the potatoes with goat cheese...which I did.  As I stood in line I kept thinking about how good the tofu was and that it could be off the menu next time I come back.  Decision made, potatoes AND the tofu thank you very much.  

I want to try the calamari too!  Maybe next week...

I could write about this place for pages, but here is my review: You can’t go wrong at The Flying Stove. Everything is fresh, gourmet, and priced EXTREMELY affordable. If you took it out of the paper to-go container and placed it on a real plate in a restaurant this could sell for quadruple the price.   If you live in Wichita and haven’t made a lunch break trip to The Flying Stove start following them on Facebook here


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Refried Beans

I made some black bean and refried bean burritos on Monday. It got me thinking about something I noticed about a year ago while buying refried beans.  I was at the grocery store and noticed for the first time there was a vegetarian can of refried beans sitting next to the regular.  Vegetarian?  I was confused because I thought beans were a vegetarian item.  I picked both cans up and compared ingredients.  Sure enough, right there on the ingredient list of the regular can: animal fat.  Yuck.  I knew refried beans were not considered healthy, but I did not know it was because animal fat was added!  From that day on I have only purchased vegetarian refried beans.  Yes, they taste a little different, but I would rather add some more seasoning or salsa than eat straight animal fat.  I was at the store yesterday and found another example of regular refried beans to take a picture of for you and it was worded a little different: partially hydrogenated lard.  Trying to get sneaky on me by switching the wording.  Definition of lard:

the rendered fat of hogs, especially the internal fat of the abdomen.


Still animal fat, they just changed the wording to try and make it sound better.  It's still animal fat no matter how you slice it.

One last thing.  It's easy to make this switch at home, but I never, ever get refried beans at a Mexican restaurant.  You know they are buying the cheaper, animal fat added beans.  Ask for black beans instead-they will be happy to sub those for you.

Here is a picture of the Old El Paso regular refried beans

I love Trader Joe's brand, but you should be able to find lard free at your grocery store as well.

This fits some of the rules I try to follow: 5 or less ingredients and I can pronounce all of them!

Monday, July 9, 2012

No Bake Energy Bites

I have to tell you first and foremost…these little bites are addicting!  I got this recipe from someone at work a few weeks ago and now I want to make them all the time.   You know the Lays potato chip slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one”?  Well, forget potato chips, I can’t eat just one of these bites!  I made my first batch and as soon as they were gone I made another batch.  I ran out again mid week and I had to cut myself off.  I decided to make more yesterday because they really are a nice post workout snack or mid morning snack.  No nutrition facts came with this recipe, but they have all natural ingredients and are naturally sweetened with honey so I know they are pretty good for you.  I capped myself at 2 per day…otherwise, my batch would probably only last 2 days!

These are very versatile and you can add many items.  I love peanut butter so I made the peanut butter and jelly version.  As I’ve already mentioned, I think these are amazeballs, but it’s not just me who thinks so.  Two of my friends tried them a couple weeks ago and agreed.  One even commented it tasted like cookie dough.  Yesterday, I had my husband and his friend taste test them as well.  They both really liked them, but thought they were a little difficult to eat without a glass of milk.  (That never crossed my mind because the thought of drinking a glass of milk makes my stomach turn)  Anyway, maybe eat them like a lady and don’t toss the entire ball into your mouth.  Make it a two biter and I have no problems with “sticky” peanut butter mouth.  Boys…I tell ya.  J

No Bake Energy Bites-Peanut Butter and Jelly

1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (I always buy and use the all natural)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground wheat germ
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients and place bowl in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.  Form into balls.  After forming into balls press your pinky finger in the center.  Place ¼ teaspoon strawberry jam in the indention.  Gently pinch the indention to seal the opening.  It wouldn’t be a PB&J if the jelly didn’t ooze out!  (Try to buy jelly with the most fruit content you can to avoid a bunch of added sugar)

A few notes…Josh doesn’t like coconut so I left that out and put in just a smidge more oatmeal.  Honestly, that could be why he thinks these are a little dry-coconut would add moisture.  I also didn’t have wheat germ so I put flax seed in because that’s what I had on hand.  I left a few plain without any jelly and those are very good as well.  If you are big on dessert and want to use this as a healthier option you could put some mini chocolate chips in.  Or, maybe go more for a granola bar type theme and add some almonds/pecans and dried cranberries.  Get creative!

All the ingredients mixed up

I used a cookie portioner to scoop them out

Once you have your ball, push your pinky in the center to make a small indention

Place a little jelly in it

Reshape/close up the ball.  There will be a little jelly still showing

Peanut Butter & Jelly Energy Bites (with a few left plain)

And, just because it’s Monday I’ll share this version of the recipe with you too. (Also, because I have a certain follower who I know will want to try these.  You know who you are-let me know what you think!)  I have not tried this adaptation because I do not know if I will ever be able to purchase Nutella again.  Nutella takes me to a very bad place. I blame Nutella, Cheddar Jack Cheez-it’s and Husker Power (weight lifting) for my freshman year dorm meltdown in front of my mirror when my jeans were so tight around my thighs I thought I’d have to wear dresses for the rest of my life.  After that dramatic crying session I banned Nutella from being one of my food groups and quit cold turkey.  I just had it again for the first time a year and a half ago while in Vegas.  I waited eight years to take another bite of that deliciousness and let me tell you, that crepe at the Paris hotel was worth it!  Don't worry, I didn’t relapse, I just ate that one crepe, so I should probably allow it back into my life now that I understand what the word moderation means. I just can’t bring myself to buy a container of it.  Yet.  I’ll get there. I did some research and while Nutella does have a lot of sugar, which is what I try to avoid, it has all natural ingredients and very few ingredients so in small doses it fits my requirements for food I allow myself to eat.  Just remember, if you make this version of Energy Bites they aren’t as healthy/low sugar as the original or peanut butter and jelly ones so definitely treat this version as dessert.

No Bake Energy Bites-Chocolate Cranberry

2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup hazelnut spread (aka Nutella)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup ground wheat germ
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp vanilla

Follow same ingredients as PB&J recipe, but no filling is added.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Grilled Eggplant Bruschetta

I discovered my love for eggplant when I tried eggplant parmesan for the first time in college.  I still enjoy eggplant parmesan, but I also enjoy it when my pants fit.  So, I indulge in eggplant parmesan sparingly and then make this recipe ALL THE TIME.  I honestly can't remember where I saw this recipe.  I found it a year or so ago and we happened to be going to Kansas City that weekend and my mom and I made it.  We both LOVED it.  While it does have a lot of cheese, it still is much healthier than a battered and friend serving of eggplant parmesan smothered in sauce on top of noodles.  I grill this outside on the grill when Josh is eating chicken breasts or a burger and treat it like a main entree.  Then, I save the rest and eat it for lunch the next couple days.  These pictures are from when I made it for a friend coming over and I didn't want to light the grill in the 100 degree heat just for this so I used my indoor electric grill.  Works great either way!

Grilled Eggplant Bruschetta
1/4 C. shredded parmesan
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. minced basil
5 t. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. minced oregano
1 large eggplant
tomato slices
1/2 C. shredded mozzarella or fresh mozzarella

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.  Grill eggplant, covered, over medium heat for 3 minutes (or until you can see grill marks).  Turn slices over and immediately spoon parmesan mixture evenly onto each piece.  Top with a slice of tomato and mozzarella cheese.  Cover and grill 2-3 minutes longer.  (It is done when he eggplant is tender)

I always slice portions of the skin off the eggplant like many people do on cucumbers.  I like the flavor of eggplant peel, but if you don't do this I think it's too chewy.  I had a smaller eggplant from the farmer's market when I made this so I used that one as well.  And, how yummy do my farmer's market tomatoes look?!

Here is all the eggplant spread out on the grill.

This is the mixture you top the eggplant with.  I even had fresh basil from my mom's garden this time!

Topped with cheese and tomato slices.  I always use fresh mozzarella.  You can buy it very affordable at Aldi.  It is also much easier to slice thinly if you put it in the freezer for a little bit to get it nice and cold and then I use a serrated bread knife.  Even though the instructions say to put the cheese on top of the tomato I switch it up.  This time, my tomatoes were so pretty I wanted them on display. :) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Burger

Happy 4th of July! I love, love, love holidays! I think it's all the fond family memories it stirs up and things you remember about each specific one. Many times, certain foods remind you of a particular holiday. For the 4th of July I think of margaritas and black bean corn salsa poolside with my mama. I blame her for my sometimes over-the-top holiday cheer. Exhibit A: this is how my margarita was delivered to me last 4th of July.

Pretty awesome, huh? I was a little bummed the 4th fell on a Wednesday this year and we couldn't make it back to KC to spend the holiday with family. But, guess what? God has blessed us with some great friends in Wichita and they had us over for a BBQ last night. Scott and Katie grilled burgers and went over the top and out of their way for me. Here's my burger...

Looks amazing, doesn't it? Well, it was. They grilled me my first ever portobello mushroom burger and I am sold! I've made stuffed portobellos in the oven, but have yet to try them on the grill. After last night, I'm anxiously awaiting tailgating season so I can break some of these bad boys out. Katie was inspired by this recipe. However, they did some more research and marinated mine in some olive oil and garlic and then Scott grilled it.  Katie did make the balsamic glaze and that over the pepper jack cheese was the perfect finishing touch. Thank you to Scott and Katie for the great meal and fun celebrating the 4th of July! And, Mom, don't worry-I made black bean corn salsa and enjoyed a margarita today!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Coffee Bug

A new coffee shop just opened a few days ago on Rock Road near my house.  If you have read my blog before, you know I like to support locally owned places whenever I can.  This place has some guts; Starbucks is right across the street.  It is called The Coffee Bug and it is a drive through only space.  I went yesterday for the first time and I have to say…I will choose Starbucks next time.  I will admit, my coffee order is quite long and can be confusing, BUT, I always speak slowly and clearly so they can get it all down.    

Here was my order:

Small, decaf, soy, café au lait with one pump sugar free hazelnut

I understand it’s long and I have no problem repeating it for anyone.  I realize I am a pain, but I need decaf because caffeine gives me migraines, I like soy milk because regular milk sometimes bothers my stomach and soy tastes way better, and I only want one pump of sugar free hazelnut because I try to avoid all artificial sweeteners so when I do splurge I just want one pump.  And, if those reasons aren’t enough, I think if I’m paying over $3 for coffee it should be made how I want it. J

This place does not have speakers, you just pull up to the window and order face to face.  You would think that would help, but it went terribly wrong from the get go. I ordered and then this is what she repeated back:

“A café au lait with one pump sugar free hazelnut?”

“Did you get the soy milk?”

“Oh yeah.”

“And also decaf.”

“Oh, yeah.  What size again?” (Was she even listening ever?)


“Okay, that will be $3.22.”

I gave her $5.22

“Here’s your receipt.”

“Do you have my $2 change?”

“Oh yeah, I’m sorry.”

Then she shut the door.  30 seconds later…

“I’m sorry, we don’t have any decaf brewed.  I can do decaf espresso.” (Uh, no, I didn’t order a latte.  Looking back, I should have switched to a latte right then and there.)

“Just give me regular, that’s fine.”

6 minutes later she handed me my coffee and said, “Is this your first time here?”

“Sure is.”

“Let me get you a”  (I’m thinking…free coupon for next time since there was a car in front of me, you took forever to take my order, it’s 10:30 in the morning and you opened at 6 and you still don’t have decaf brewed, and I have now been in your drive through for 11 minutes) “to go menu.”

A to go menu?  Oh, thanks, you shouldn’t have.  I smiled, said thank you and went on my way.  I got on the highway, took one drink, and there is NO WAY there was only one pump of sugar free hazelnut in that cup.  Must have been at least three by how sweet it was.  Horrible.  I drank it, but I really was hoping after that fiasco I would have an amazing café au lait. 

I was very polite through the entire conversation as I could see this poor girl was quite frazzled, but she needs some serious training if she is going to master the drive through coffee line.  She was friendly, but she never apologized for not having decaf or for taking so long to get me my coffee.   I know she realized it was a bad experience because she asked if it was my first time in and then got me a menu.  It took me until last night to look at it and I noticed on the back there is a $.50 off coupon.  So, she did in fact give me a coupon, but she never pointed that out to me.  I could have tossed it in the trash and never noticed it.  She should have said, “I am sorry for the trouble with your order today, here’s a to go menu and on the back there’s a coupon for $.50 off your next visit.  I hope you’ll come back again.”  Then, maybe I would.  Well, if my coffee would not have tasted like melted candy then maybe I would.

The coupon doesn’t expire until September so maybe I’ll give them until then and try it one more time.  I’m hopeful they will get their employee’s trained by then.  Here is where they are going to struggle. If I use my Starbucks card I get free soy milk and free syrup, so it’s actually cheaper for me to go to Starbuck’s.  If you want to take business away from a Starbuck’s that you can see from your drive through you better lower your prices, up the ante on your customer service, or serve the best tasting coffee in town!  I was 0 for 3.
If you live in Wichita and have visited this place, I’d love to hear what you thought!  Kind of a downer of a post for a Monday…I promise, grilled eggplant bruschetta recipe coming as soon as I have time.  Oh, and I made the BEST no bake energy bites last week.  That’s coming too!