Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Long weekend means a road trip up the California coast to spend time with friends on the cliffs of Cambria. We’re taking off early so I wanted a breakfast snacky I could bring on the road and share around. Since I had some forgotten bananas looking lonely on the counter and I didn’t want to leave them to rot over the weekend, I decided a tasty and hearty banana muffin was the way to go!

Whether you’re heading out of town or staying in to enjoy the long weekend at home, these muffins are a perfect breakfast or midday treat. 🙂

Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix the coconut oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup in a large bowl. Add the mashed bananas and mix. Whisk in the eggs and almond milk – it is best if they’re not super cold because the coconut oil will clump up and harden. Add vanilla, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the whole wheat flour, rolled oats, greek yogurt and chia seeds until just combined.
  3. Grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or cooking spray – they can get stuck so make sure you oil it well OR you could use the little muffin tin liners.
  4. Evenly distribute the batter into 12 cups. Mine were filled almost to the top. I sprinkled with some extra oats so they didn’t look naked! 😉
  5. Pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Set the tin to cool on a wire rack or in a cooler area of the kitchen. After 30 minutes or so, use a knife to gently pop out the muffins, scraping around the edges if necessary!
  6. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container for maximum freshness and deliciousness!

Enjoy your long weekend!

IMG_9806IMG_9803

Advertisements

Sesame & Flax Crackers!

Making bread really changed my attitude about what is possible to make at home. I had never even considered baking it at home, so it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Making my first batch of crackers was a similar experience. When I announced to my coworker that I had made crackers – she looked at me funny and then was like “Wait, how do you even do that?”

To be honest? It is so flipping easy, I wish I had discovered it sooner. The base is quite literally flour, water, salt and baking soda. Add a few extra ingredients to make it tasty. Roll it super thin and cut into your desired shape and TA DAAAAAAA!

The scary thing is how easy it is…because once you realize that, you’ll be making them all the time and eating your weight in these thin & seedy crackers. Not a huge problem, because I guarantee these crackers are more nutritious than those sold in a box, but everything in moderation is still a guiding principle I fully support.

So do what you will with portions- but definitely make these because they’re so dang easy and so delicious topped with cheese or hummus!

Sesame & Flax Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 – 3/4 cup spelt flour (I also did a batch with white flour & whole wheat flour – they were all delicious)
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (vegan? Veg oil or melted smart balance would work!)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional – I’ve done with and without and both were great)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (adds complexity and delicious flavor!)
  • Sprinkle of paprika (feel free to experiment with different flavorings…rosemary would be delicious!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Add in: 2 tbsp  flax seeds, 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Then add honey, vanilla, paprika and water. Once mixed, stir in the spelt flour. Mix and knead with your hands, forming a ball with the dough.
  3. Sprinkle salt and baking soda evenly over top of dough and knead until you are confident they are mixed throughout the dough.
  4. Add flax & sesame seeds and knead to mix thoroughly.
  5. Divide dough into 4 small dough balls. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen cloth so the dough is kept moist while you work with each piece.
  6. Cover a work surface with a rectangle of parchment paper and cover it with flour. (If you don’t have parchment paper – you can do it right on the counter and then transfer the crackers to the baking sheet after, it is just slightly annoying to transfer each cracker!)
  7. Take one dough ball and place it on your floured parchment paper. Use a rolling pin and some muscle to get the dough as thin as possible. If you think it’s as thin as you can get it…roll for another 2 minutes! The thinner it is, the more crisp your crackers will be. The first time I did this, the crackers turned out tough because they were too thick, so take this part seriously!
  8. Once formed into a very thin, large rectangular shape (the edges will be uneven, don’t worry), use a knife to cut the crackers in 1.5 inch strips. Then cut them into squares by cutting them the other way. The edge crackers won’t be square, but they’ll still be delicious and perfect for dipping into hummus.
  9. Lift the edges of the parchment paper and carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.
  10. Put into the oven for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, take them out and check how they’re doing. You want them browned on edges and crisp. If not ready, flip them over and put them in for another 2-5 minutes, keeping your eyes on them to make sure they don’t burn. When you think they’re ready, take them out of the oven and let cool. As they cool, they crisp up so don’t worry if they don’t seem crunchy when you first take them out.
  11. Sample a cracker once it is cool enough to eat. If you like the taste, do the same steps with the other 3 pieces of dough.
  12. If you want to add extra salt, feel free to sprinkle it on top of the crackers before baking OR mix more into the dough. I also added a lavender & oregano seasoning to one batch and it turned out delicious so you can get creative if you want to make different flavors 🙂

Note: Your first batch may feel difficult because you have to roll 4 different times and keep an eye on the crackers while doing the 4 different batches. After you make the crackers a few times, you’ll get the hang of the timing. I bake two sheets at a time and prep the next batches while the first two are baking – it just takes time to get the process down. It’s important to divide into small balls, if you try to do more dough at once, it won’t get thin enough!

Storage: Store crackers in an airtight container. They should last a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll be around that long! Top with homemade hummus or other of your favorite dips and cheeses!

The Açaí Bowl

I’m not going to lie, when I was studying abroad in Brazil, I did not care for Açaí…Which is a bummer really, considering Brazil is the Land of Açaí. Men (in tiny bathing suits) run down the beach carrying coolers on their backs shouting “Açaí, Açaí, Açaí!” and if you call them over, they pull out a small bowl of the purple superfood and a pack of granola, selling you the nutritious and hearty treat to enjoy while you laze and tan (read: burn) in the hot, Brazilian sun.

I didn’t like the stuff. Something about the taste put me off, not sure exactly what it was. I wanted to like it so I kept trying it, but it wasn’t my thing so I focused on other Brazilian treats (sooooo many pão de queijo) and didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward a few years and Berry Bowl opened up in Highland Park on York Boulevard. After a few months of avoiding it because the smoothies seemed insanely over priced, I walked in with a friend, enjoying a leisurely morning and was tempted by their Açaí Bowls. They mixed in other fruits and tastes to switch it up, offering a lot of different renditions of the original açaí na tigela from Brazil. As a sucker for Peanut Butter, I obviously went for their PB Açaí Bowl.

I am now an açaí convert and will never turn back. Mixing these power packed berries with other fruits and flavors was a game changer. I quickly became addicted and needed to be able to make them at home. I wanted to save the money, the plastic cup, and some calories, since I can control what I put in and how big I make my bowls!

Unlike other berries, açaí is fairly high in calories and higher in fats than other fruits so I do not recommend eating this on the regular, or on days when you are just sitting around the house, catching up on (read: binge watching) your netflix shows. But when paired with an active lifestyle, this can be a wonderful breakfast to refuel and I love it after a workout for a boost!

You can buy Açaí puree in certain grocery stores. I buy mine at Vons. Make sure you get the UNSWEETENED variety – otherwise it is packed with unnecessary sugar.

The Açaí Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 pack Sambazon Pure Unsweetened Açaí
  • 1/2 banana (I like it frozen, but it takes longer to blend up!)
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • Approx. 1/4 cup almond milk (incorporated slowly)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • Toppings: 1/2 banana, berries of your choice, granola, coconut, nuts, anything!

Directions

  1. Remove your pack of açaí from the freezer and run it under hot water for 10 seconds so it softens slightly. Break it into pieces and put in your blender. Add your other frozen fruit and pour a LITTLE bit of the almond milk.
  2. Blend until it stops and is too thick to continue. Stir a bit, scrape down the sides, add a little more almond milk. Continue blending.
  3. Continue adding more milk and scraping down the sides if necessary to get it blending. Try not to add too much milk at once because then you’ll have a smoothie and not a bowl (not the end of the world).
  4. Once blending successfully, add the Peanut Butter if you want. Blend to mix and then stop.
  5. Pour into a bowl. Top with your favorites and serve. Alternative? Put it in a jar and take it on the go! Just keep cold until you eat it!

Other potential add-ins? Flax powder, chocolate hazelnut spread , almond butter, frozen strawberries, frozen mango…the possibilities are endless! I’m excited to try a bunch of other combinations too.

What are your favorite açaí toppings???? 🙂

Vegan Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

Working with youth has a lot of perks (and a lot of challenges). One of these perks is my schedule. As the program manager of an after school music education program, I generally work from 11am – 8pm. This may seem like the WORST for some people, but for me it has been great. Fresh out of college I had a 9-5:30 job and it just didn’t fly with me. I hated waking up and going to work knowing that by the time I was out of the office I would be too tired to do anything. As a morning person, it is awesome to have a few hours before work to whip up something fun in the kitchen, go on a walk, do yoga, or just relax and putz around the house.

Another perk? Holiday gifts! I’m not a teacher, but I work directly with the kids and their parents every single day. So when the holidays rolled around, I was so touched to be given gifts from the students and families. I received lots of Starbucks cards, a free pass to a nearby Korean spa (the besssttt), and LOTS of Ferrero Rocher chocolates…you know the ones I’m talking about – hazelnut in the center, surrounded by chocolate hazelnut cream, covered in a thin wafer thing and then another layer of milk chocolate and hazelnut pieces…AKA a little drop of heaven and an ode to my favorite combination ever – hazelnut and chocolate.

When I was growing up, Nutella was not a thing we had in the house. It may not even have been popular in the US at that time. But when I was 6, we moved to Germany and I was introduced to this delightful spread. It has never overtaken Peanut Butter – my #1 forever – but this delicious hazelnut chocolate spread is a definite favorite. In recent years I haven’t bought it because 1) I go through it too fast that it’s dangerous and 2) The amount of sugar/processed ingredients isn’t great.

So upon being reminded of my intense love of hazelnut + chocolate around the holiday times (note: all the boxes of chocolate I received are now long gone), I was motivated to make my own Chocolate Hazelnut Spread with more wholesome ingredients.

I was further inspired by this blog post about Toasted Hazelnut Butter and Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Spread. Since I don’t use metric system measurements, my recipe turned out different because I was just going by taste but check out these recipes too because they look wonderful! 🙂

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (optional)
  • almond milk – until desired consistency

Directions

  1. Toast your hazelnuts in the oven. I preheated mine to 350 degrees and toasted them for 8 minutes. The outer casings got golden brown and crisped up a little!
  2. Blend your hazelnuts in a food processor or blender for a few minutes – it will get crumbly first but then will start to release the natural hazelnut oil. I opted to use my food processor because the other day my blender exploded on me during a particularly aggressive smoothie concoction.
  3. Optional: After a few minutes mine was still pretty crumbly so I added a tsp of coconut oil to help it along – it also gave it a delicious hint of coconut flavor. It probably wasn’t necessary because once you add maple syrup and almond milk, it will get liquid enough so feel free to leave it out!
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and continue blending. Scrape down the sides if the cocoa powder gets stuck!
  5. Add a splash of almond milk at a time, continuing blending, until it reaches the desired consistency. Keep tasting and add more cocoa or maple depending on how sweet and chocolatey you want it!
  6. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator and put it on everything 😉

 

Recommended Meal

I ate my Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and a sliced banana on top of my oats this morning. Delicious!

Another idea? Spread it on your spelt bread toast 🙂

 

 

Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

Need a quick morning meal or something easy to take to the office for a mid-morning snack? Chia pudding is easy to prep, delicious to eat, and good for you!

When I first started seeing Chia beverages in stores I was really freaked out. Have you seen those juices that have little tiny blobs suspended evenly throughout the drink? It is kind of eery how they are perfectly suspended in the juice, like each seed has a little force field around it or something. Also, when I finally got up the courage to buy one the consistency was confusing – kind of thick with little chia blobs and the occasional crunch of a seed. Maybe you love them, maybe you don’t. Whichever you are, I recommend you try chia pudding!

With a higher ratio of chia to liquid, the pudding becomes thick enough to eat with a spoon and the consistency no longer throws me for a loop. It becomes a pleasant, creamy and thick pudding snack that is packed with nutrients, fiber, protein and healthy fats.

Not sure where to buy chia? It is now available in most grocery stores since it has become so popular. But you know where I buy it? Homegoods! Homegoods is a store, related to TJ Maxx, that sells home furnishings and decor at a discount rate. They have a whole health food section and most of it is very cheap for top of the line organic and natural products. Anyways, I get chia seeds there – a bag for $5.00 – but you can buy it nearly anywhere. If it seems expensive, think about how tiny the seeds are and how many chia puddings you can make with one bag…it’ll last awhile and be worth it!

Vanilla Maple Chia Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (grade A or B)
  • dash of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • your favorite toppings!

Directions

  1. Measure out your milk into a tupperware or mason jar
  2. Add chia
  3. Add vanilla, maple, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Give it a quick stir to break up the chia clusters. Then secure the lid and shake!
  5. Put it in the refrigerator to chill and thicken. Shake again after 5-10 minutes. Then leave it for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Add your toppings – my favorite is strawberries, blueberries and coconut flakes!
  7. Enjoy immediately or put the lid on and take it with you to work – keep it in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.

Monster Kale Smoothie

Just me, myself and my ginormous green smoothie…

I went to the gym for the first time since being sick today. My legs have been itching for a workout, but my lungs needed some more time to heal so I just biked for 20 minutes and then did stretches on the mat. It felt SO good to be kind to my body and make it sweat a little.

Anyways, after getting home from the gym I decided to make a green smoothie because we have a LOT of kale right now. I’m not always a super fan of kale (GASP! A health-conscious, foodie person NOT in love with kale?!?!?!). That’s right. It gives me stomach aches and doesn’t always taste great – you can quote me on that if you want. Anyways, I’m particular about how I like to use kale.

BUT, I do love it in smoothies… IF you get the right mixture!

Monster Kale Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 4-6 BIG kale leaves (mine was flat but you can use curly too, either way cut out the stiff ribbing so its mostly leaf, not stalk!)
  • 2 handfuls frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (vegan? leave this out – add less liquid!)
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • Optional: 2 tbsp coconut milk (I had leftovers from making coconut rice this week!)
  • Water as needed to blend!

Directions

  1. Throw all your good stuff into the blender.
  2. Blend it up REAL good.
  3. Enjoy!

I didn’t actually intend for this smoothie to be the size of my head, but it yielded a lot and I was hungry so I took it all and sipped on it at work all morning. I might not even need lunch! Hence the name…MONSTER kale smoothie.

What I love about this smoothie is that the greek yogurt, avocado and kale really balance out the fruity sweetness so it doesn’t taste like dessert – it’s a little sweet and a lot of goodness!

Tahini & Lemon Hummus

Food often ends up being my own way of “sticking it to the man.” Its a fun challenge to try to make something at home and when you succeed you get to say, “screw you corporate food system…I made my own hummus and will no longer stand for paying an obnoxious price for something that is so simple and cheap to make.”  Making food can be rebellious and badass. It feels fantastic and my wish for you is that you also get to feel that satisfaction!

So here’s my basic hummus recipe. Alex and I have been on a hummus kick because we can make a huge batch and then take it in lunches all week!

Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 lemon
  • tahini paste*
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic (to taste)
  • paprika
  • salt/pep
  • a blender or food processor

*You can usually find tahini in a typical grocery store. Its sometimes tricky to find, so ask someone! I think I found it near the peanut butter last time. Note: Tahini can be expensive, but it will last you awhile!

Recipe

  1. Rinse and drain the chick peas and put them in a small sauce pan. Cover with water and put over medium heat. I don’t like raw garlic so I also add the minced garlic to the sauce pan to cook with the chick peas. Add as much or as little as you like! Once it boils, turn the heat down so it doesn’t boil over. Cook 15-20 minutes or until the chick peas are pretty soft! The softer they are, the smoother your hummus will be.
  2. Pour the chick peas into your blender/food processor. Save the water you cooked them in!
  3. Add the juice of one lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little of the chick pea water. Blend. Add more chick pea water if its too thick. Pulse the blender to get it all mixed up.
  4. Once its pretty combined, add a tablespoon of tahini paste. Blend some more.
  5. Keep adding olive oil and water until its the consistency you want -tasting as you go to ensure its on track for being something you like!
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as paprika!
  7. (Optional) Add roasted bell pepper, curry powder, cilantro, OR other spices you want to try out! Its fun to switch it up.
  8. Your finished hummus will be warm (since you cooked the chickpeas). I like it warm, but if its not your thing, refrigerate it before eating. I recommend storing it in a tupperware and drizzling olive oil/garnishing with paprika before serving.
  9. Enjoy! And stick it to the corporate food system by never buying overpriced hummus (with unnecessary and weird ingredients hidden in it) ever again!