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Fresh Cherry Pistachio Oatmeal

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This weekend was a hectic one; Friday, I packed Monkeybear, my mother, and myself into my rig, and drove 5 hours up to Ashland, OR. My mom and I have been going since 2004 (and what a fun first year that was. First time I ever saw streakers). I think that now with Monkeybear and Baby-to-be, this was probably my last year, which is sad, because I love Ashland.

I used this year as an opportunity to get in one last round of culinary exploration. Saturday morning, Monkeybear and I headed down a hill that would make Baxter Grade look like a speed bump (Baxter is a 6.8% pitch, and the hill I navigated was 15.3% pitch), and went to The Breadboard restaurant. I have never heard someone say they’d like to “lay their face” in a cinnamon roll, nor do I believe I will hear that again. The Oatmeal Pecan Muffin was out of this and any other world, though, so the climb back UP that God-forsaken hill was worth it. Pushing Monkeybear. Pregnant. Yes, that muffin was worth it.

On Sunday, we went to the Dragonfly Restaurant and Gardens, a favorite of mine. I usually get the Grilled Ahi Platter, but this time, I opted for the Double Happiness Lettuce Wraps. The food was awesome. But I have seriously had five year olds at stuffed animal tea parties who were more attentive hosts than the wait staff. And most five year olds have the attention span of a goldfish. Nevertheless, I have never been disappointed by the food.

I will, most likely, be making all of those things at some point in the future. What I am making today, though, was not something I ate. Rather, it was inspired by a flavor combination.

Sunday night, after our lackluster time at the Dragonfly, my mom, her friend “H”, and I made our way upstairs to where H’s husband “M” works building sets for the Oregon Cabaret Theater. Their newest production was Nunsensations, and I have to say, as a Catholic, it was pretty hilarious. Before the show, servers come around to ask for dessert and drink orders (It is actually a dinner theater, but you have the option to just come for the show and dessert), and while my mom and H got lemon blueberry cheesecake, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and order the panna cotta. I have never had panna cotta before, but all I knew was that it involved heavy cream and gelatin.

I damn near licked the plate clean.

I really liked the panna cotta itself, but I think my real love of the dessert came not from the cream, but the fact that it was a pistachio panna cotta with a cherry compote on top. I was so good I wanted to order another. I could pass it off as eating for two. I think people would buy that.

While I don’t have the time or energy to make panna cotta, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law C, who said that for breakfast, she has been having these pre-made pistachio-cherry oatmeal cups that Quaker© makes. So, I sat down to research. There are tons of reviews on the product, and lots of links to where you can purchase them online, which didn’t help me in the least.

I found one link to an oatmeal recipe that called for dried cherries and pistachios, but I have a bag of fresh cherries in the fridge, and a ton of frozen ones in the freezer, which means that this girl is NOT going to the grocery store for the second time today just to get one more cherry product.

Making this took almost no time at all, and was a hit. I really liked it with agave nectar, though you could certainly use honey, sugar (plain or brown), or Mr. This is not a Parade’s suggestion of maple syrup. He said the maple syrup was good, but I personally wouldn’t go for it. And I’m supposed to be the pregnant one.

This recipe is completely my own, no links from other sites to check out. If you have them, try this with dried cherries, and let me know how it tastes.

 

Pistachio Cherry Oatmeal

½ c. shelled pistachios, chopped

½ c. fresh cherries, pitted and chopped, or frozen cherries, thawed and chopped

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of allspice

Salt to taste

2 servings Old-fashioned oatmeal

Agave nectar or honey

 

Method:

1. Cook oatmeal per package instructions. Mine called for approximately 3 ½ c water for 2 c. oatmeal, but your brand may be different, so check that first.

2. Add the pistachios, cherries, nutmeg, and allspice, and stir. Season with salt to taste, drizzle with whichever sweetener you choose, and serve.

Yogurt Zucchini Brownies

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So far, I have only received one recipe request: my Zucchini Brownies. The person who requested it thought they were awesome, but the truth is, I feel terrible about what I’m going to tell you.

One evening, Mr. Ironman tells me that he is having some of our friends, Amy and Karen, over to our house for a bike fitting. He implies that I will probably need to make dinner for them as well, which I am ecstatic about. I’m not very good at it, but I do like entertaining people over here.

So, as part of this I-have-an-hour-to-plan-a-menu whirlwind, I decide to make zucchini brownies for dessert. I look at the recipe I’ve made before, and sadly, I don’t have any yogurt. So I look for a different recipe, find one, and set to work.

I pop the ensuing batter into the oven to let it bake, but to my mounting dismay, they are only cooking on the top; the bottom is still gooey. I am horrified. I do my best, and try to get them as cooked through as possible, but soon my guests have to leave, and could not stay for dinner. So I package up a few slightly gooey brownies, and send them home with people I really like.

Then I realize my oven was set to “Broil”, not “Bake”.

I automatically feel like a schmuck.

I also feel terrible because I know how amazing zucchini brownies can be, and the ones I gave them were mediocre at best.

This brings us to today. I finally got my hands on some yogurt, and can now share the real recipe for this wonderful dessert. It has quite a few ingredients, and I will make some notes before getting into the list and procedure, but if you aren’t impressed by these… well, you are clearly lacking taste buds.

First, you can use any oil you wish; vegetable oil and coconut oil are what the original recipe called for. I, however, like to use unsweetened applesauce, because it keeps the brownies super moist (and when I say this, I mean that these puppies stay moist for days) and very dense. It also is another serving of fruit, so there’s hardly any arguing with that.

Next, I use whole wheat flour, but I am sure you could use regular all purpose flour, or even a non-wheat flour blend. I personally have never worked with non wheat flours, so I am only speculating on that. Do not take that as Gospel truth.

Finally, as far as the yogurt is concerned, I have found a great deal of success with Greek yogurt, both plain and honey flavored, but you can use regular yogurt as well. If so, I would suggest a plain, vanilla, or honey flavored yogurt, as anything else would probably taste odd.

Now go make this. I am sure you have at least one friend who has… um, “generously” given you more zucchini than you know what to do with. And yes, I made sure my oven was set to “Bake” this time.

By the way, I made these today just to make sure I was giving you all a quality recipe. I still have some left over. Just sayin’.

 

Yogurt Zucchini Brownies

Recipe inspired by www.theyummylife.com/Zucchini_Brownies

Ingredients

2 c. zucchini, chopped

¼ c. unsweetened applesauce

½ c. Greek or regular yogurt, plain, vanilla, or honey flavored

1 ¼ c. sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 c. whole wheat flour

½ c. dark or regular cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 inch pan, and set aside for later use.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine zucchini, applesauce, yogurt, sugar and vanilla. Blend until zucchini is completely smooth. Set aside.

3. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well incorporated. Make a well in the center. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and then fold in until the mixture is just combined and completely wet.

4. Pour mixture into the prepared pan, making sure it is even. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

 

Also, the website where I got the recipe for this includes a frosting recipe as well, which you are more than welcome to try. I honestly don’t think these brownies need it, but head on over to The Yummy Life and check it out if you are interested!

Swiss Chard Berry Smoothie

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Let me tell you about my baby weight woes.

Let me just say, I have not had anywhere near the issues that some women have. While pregnant with James, I gained 35 lbs, which is on the upper end of the healthy range. I then produced the most perfect little boy this world has ever seen (and no, I’m not biased), and was left with 25 lbs to lose. Over the course of about a year, I lost the weight doing various things like P90X (I lasted a month), running, and cutting calories. At about a year, I got back down to my pre-baby weight of 110 lbs. I wanted, however, to get back to my academy weight: 108.6. Two pounds shouldn’t be that hard to lose, right?

Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha.

Now, I’m not talking hundreds of pounds here. But when you’re just over 5 feet tall, one pound looks like 10. So when I say that this was affecting my self esteem in a major way, I absolutely mean it.

The irony of it all was that I wasn’t even really trying to get down to 107.8 lbs. And it all started with my teeth.

At 24 years old, my wisdom teeth decided to make an entrance. Literally. So, off I go to the dentist, who says, “Yeah, your wisdom teeth needed to come out yesterday. What’s the earliest we can get you in?”

I vaguely remembered that my friends in high school who needed their wisdom teeth removed drank smoothies, ate ice cream, and were in tremendous amounts of pain. This made me decide to try green smoothies, because if I couldn’t eat my veggies, by God, I’d drink them.

As a side note, if you can stomach it, don’t let them put you under when you get your wisdom teeth pulled. I stayed awake for mine, and I thought the experience was oddly fascinating.

After my surgery, I get home, and hang out with my husband and mother-in-law. Tim whips me up this drink (I told him exactly what to put in), and when I say that you really can’t taste much of the “green”, I mean it. I won’t lie and say that it’s completely eliminated, but I think it won’t be nearly as good if you left out the greens.

For this recipe, especially if you are new to green smoothies, I recommend Swiss chard or spinach; it’s lot easier to mask. Kale, arugula, and lettuce can be used as well, but you’ll taste it a lot more.

 

Swiss chard Berry Smoothie

3 cups Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped

1 cup frozen mixed berries

1 apple, cored and chopped

1 orange, peeled and segmented

Water as needed

1. In a blender, add together the fruit, and put the lid on. Use the “Crush Ice” mode until the berries are roughly chopped, then add the Swiss chard. Blend until smooth.

Pour into a pretty glass, and enjoy!

Shrimp and Edamame Salad

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At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start a food blog.

I am, by no means, able to compare to the likes of The Pioneer Woman, or Smitten Kitchen, or my favorite, Sophistimom. I will attempt, of course, but mine will not be nearly as fancy. If I do upload a picture (which I can’t guarantee I will; I know my abilities, and I can say that most times I’ll be far too lazy to do anything so ambitious), it’ll be from my little Canon camera, or, quite possibly, from my phone. But this is not what this blog will be about.

I am notoriously horrible at communicating. Keeping in touch is not one of my strong suits, and it’s always something I’ve wanted to improve. So, in my own way, this blog will accomplish that; keeping in touch via food.

In the end, though, what convinced me to start a food blog were two things. The first, anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve had stories I’ve played around with over the years, but the thought of writing a book is just too daunting, especially now that I have the Monkeybear to consider. The second, is that being a stay at home wife and mom has opened me up to the world of cooking, and enjoying healthy, (and hopefully) tasty food. That, to me, is something worth sharing. Food that satisfies your stomach as well as your ego.

Tell me you haven’t been secretly proud of yourself for ordering salad at a restaurant, when you really wanted that burger. I dare you.

Having said that, I would be remiss if my first recipe didn’t involve salad.

I will preface this recipe by saying the following; I’m not really a salad person. If you see me eating a salad, it is for one or more of the following reasons:

1. I’m feeling fat, and I’m punishing myself by eating a salad.

2. I’m a poser, and what other people think of me is important. Being the wife of an Ironman triathlete and an ultra-runner has a certain image associated with it that I’d like to maintain.

3. I’m at a restaurant, and I don’t trust the establishment enough to order anything else. If you can manage to screw up a salad, you have bigger issues, my friend.

4. I’m in an odd mood, and actually want a salad. Absurd, but it does happen.

Most salads, to me, are boring. I’m not the biggest fan of lettuce to begin with, so already I’m destined for failure. Most salads are just a hodgepodge of toppings heaped on the lettuce to disguise the fact that there’s lettuce in there. There’s either no theme to the salad, no flavor, or too much of everything, and you’ve lost the point of trying to eat healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful salads out there. Cobb, Asian-inspired, I could go on. But most just have something… missing.

I am pleased to report that this wonderful little salad has no lettuce. Or it can, if you wish.

I was inspired to make this salad by another blog; it was a lima bead, tuna, and avocado salad. I automatically wanted to try something similar, but as I have no lima beans in the house, and I can’t stand canned tuna, I knew I’d have to improvise, and I’m so glad I did.

This recipe has Asian flair, awesome flavor, and is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as monounsaturated fats and protein. It’s also dead simple to make, and quick for those days when you want to eat healthy, but don’t have the time to do anything extravagant.

 

This recipe is also Monkeybear tested-and-approved, so there’s that, too.

 

Shrimp and Edamame Salad

8 oz. frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed

1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cubed

8 oz. frozen shelled edamame, thawed

Chopped cilantro to taste

Dressing:

¼ c. Low-sodium Soy Sauce

1 tbsp miso

1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce and miso until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Add in ginger and garlic, and then taste for seasoning. *Miso is intrinsically salty, so do not, DO NOT season this before you taste it, or it could potentially turn out too salty*

2. In a separate bowl, add in shrimp, edamame, avocado, and cilantro. Pour over dressing, and gently stir.

Plate up, and enjoy!