Category Archives: Brunch

My Oatmeal Review

Through my association with the Sweat Pink Ambassadors I recently got the opportunity to try a free sample of customized oatmeal from My Oatmeal! My Oatmeal is an awesome online company that allows you to customize rolled oats, steel-cut oats, or a blend of the two with tons of flavors, nuts, dried fruit, and other add-ins. Although this is something I could totally do myself at home (like my Banana Bread Oatmeal), it was so much fun to look through the ideas on the site and come up with my own blends :-). I ended up making two 1 pound bags – one with regular rolled oats and one with steel-cut oats which I’ve been meaning to try! In order to keep myself on some kind of path with the myriad of ingredients offered I tried to re-create some flavors I already knew. I used my rolled oats batch to make a “Blueberry Muffin” blend with dried blueberries, chia seeds, ground flax, and sliced almonds. For the steel-cut oats, I made an “Oatmeal Raisin Cookie” blend using dark raisins, walnuts, ground flax, and coconut chips.

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I love the way the site works – as you add ingredients to your blend, the price for your chosen size automatically updates, and a Nutritional Facts label updates with all the pertinent facts for your blend – it helped me keep an eye on calories and protein, as well as how much I was spending! It helped reign me in when I started to get carried away! The Nutritional Facts label is also on the bags when you get them, along with all your ingredients 🙂

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I chose to leave any sweeteners out of my mix, since I rarely eat sweet things I tend to be sensitive to sugar so I wanted to add my own later own – but the site has a great selection of natural sweeteners you can add, and they are slowly increasing their organic options! 🙂

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I cooked up both types of oatmeal as mid-morning snacks this week and loved them both! They are so hearty and filling that I ended up eating lunch really late one day since the oatmeal was really carrying me over. The steel-cut oats take much longer to cook, about 20 minutes on the stove, but the bag gives a great microwave option where you soak the oats overnight and then microwave them the next day. I tried this method (and the stove method) and it worked great for me! I am so happy with My Oatmeal’s products and I’ll definitely be making more blends in the future!

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Check out this deliciousness!

Full disclosure: I received a free sample of My Oatmeal in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own 🙂

Homemade Banana Bread Oatmeal

One of the healthy habits I was able to maintain during my crazy January was eating oatmeal every day for breakfast. Usually, I drink a green smoothie everyday for breakfast but during that month I wasn’t going grocery shopping and definitely didn’t have the time and patience for my usual green smoothie routine. It’s a shame, but rather than dwell on the past I’m going to focus with this delicious oatmeal recipe I came up with as a result!

One morning when I was grabbing myself a ziplock baggie of oatmeal to take to work I decided to mix it up a little. Up until this point, I was usually grab about a cup of plain oatmeal from my large container and add a few shakes a cinnamon and call it a day. This particular morning, I decided to add in a scoop of Banana Bread granola from Nature Box (delicious – by the way!) and headed off to work. When I added hot water at work, the granola broke apart and mixed into the oatmeal but still had that awesome toasted flavor and the nuts/seeds/raisins in the granola mixed throughout the oatmeal. It was really delicious! While I love the idea of using the granola in my oatmeal, I decided to make a homemade version with all the same great flavors!

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Banana Bread Oatmeal
Makes one bowl.

    – 1 cup plain oatmeal
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons dried bananas, chopped (I didn’t chop mine out of laziness, but I think they’d be better chopped up)
    – 2 tablespoons raisins
    – 1 1/2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
    – 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    – 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste)
    – Approx. 3/4 cup hot water or milk (to cook the oatmeal)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add hot water or milk and allow to sit and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Alternatively, add cold water or milk and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until soft.

I’m pretty obsessed with this oatmeal blend and I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack most days – it’s perfect during this last spell of cold weather! 🙂 I love how the dried bananas soften up in the oatmeal – so delicious! I actually ended up making a huge batch of the dry ingredients for this oatmeal in a glass jar and I just scoop out what I need each time. 🙂

Holiday Eats

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I had a great time relaxing at home with my family, and I wasn’t ready for it to be over. My family celebrates Thanksgiving with just myself, my sister, and my parents so it’s a relatively easy-going affair. As my mom put it, we eat when the food is ready! It’s nice to not have to worry about traveling or organizing a large group of people for the meal. It was especially nice this year since my dad had the flu the whole week, so it was much easier on him to be able to sleep and relax without lots of other family/friends around. Not that it was nice that he had the flu! Poor guy 😦

The last day of work before the break, even my afternoon tea was advising me to take a break from work. Such wise words!

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I didn’t take a ton of pictures over the Thanksgiving break because I prefer to unplug and just “be present” and spend the time with family. This may make me a #badfoodblogger but I can deal with that. I did snap a few pictures though.

This year, we used a recipe from Rachael Ray for our stuffing called ‘Simon and Garfunkel Stuffing’, called that because (wait for it!)…it uses parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! I am absolutely in love with this stuffing recipe. It’s a good basic stuffing recipe, absolutely packed with fresh herbs. This is definitely going to be my go-to from now on! In our house, we always make ‘stuffing muffins’ instead of just a big casserole dish of stuffing for two reasons: 1) instant portion control and 2) there’s lots more yummy crunchy pieces (which lets face it – is the best part) to go around! I managed to take a picture of the stuffing muffins before they went into the oven, but that’s the only ‘Thanksgiving’ picture I took. Trust me – they’re delicious!

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On Friday, my mom and I got up at 5 am for Black Friday shopping. It’s a tradition for her and I to go every year – but we do a very laid-back version of Black Friday. We get up at 5 am and are usually shopping by 5:30-5:45 which is too late for the people who get up really early to shop (or go the night before) but too early for the people who sleep in and shop at a normal time. This, combined with the fact that I’m from a relatively small town, means that there’s barely anyone at the stores. We also don’t go out looking for anything in particular or any big-ticket items. We just like to spend the time together and browse – picking up a movie here and a sweater there. I got a beautiful new sweater at American Eagle for 50% off as well as a couple movies from Target – ‘The Way, Way Back’ and ‘The Heat.’ I also picked up some more water bottles at Target as they had my favorite Contigo bottles on sale for $15 for a 2-pack. I’m happy with the things I bought, but I was more happy to spend the time shopping and chatting with my mom.

On Saturday, my mom and I went out shopping again to celebrate Small Business Saturday. We stopped by a new shop that just opened up called ‘Olives and Grapes’ that sells high-end olive oils, infused oils, and vinegars. We tasted a few different oils, and my mom bought some bottles as gifts for her friends. It was a really nice place and it sounds like they have some great ideas for the future (like hosting nights when chefs come in and prepare dishes featuring their oils!)

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On Saturday, I decided to make some bread pudding for my family with the leftover bread cubes from the stuffing. Someone (a.k.a. me) got a little carried away and we ended up with WAY more bread cubes than we needed for the recipe. So I decided to put the leftovers to good use! I’m always seeing chefs whip up bread puddings from all kinds of ingredients in the final (dessert) round on Chopped so I figured I could do the same with items we had around the house. I ended up with this delicious recipe!

bread pudding

Apple-Raisin Bread Pudding
Makes 8-10 servings.

    – 10 cups cubed stale or toasted bread
    – 5 apples, peeled, cored and cubed
    – 1/2 cup raisins (I didn’t measure these – just sort of added them to the bread until it looked like enough)
    – 3 1/2 cups milk (I used soy but any will work)
    – 4 eggs
    – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    – 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I probably use a lot more than this because I’m a little cinnamon-obsessed)

Mix bread, apples and raisins together in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Add the milk mixture to the bread mixture and stir gently to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes (up to overnight) to allow the bread to soak. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Confession: we ate this for breakfast on Sunday, with ice cream and it was amazing. So amazing I didn’t think to Instagram it until after I had finished stuffing my face.

I must have been bit by the baking bug this week, because last night I used the leftover cranberry sauce to bake these ‘Cranberry Cheesecake Brownies’ from Damn Delicious. Not healthy at all, but at least they’re made from scratch and absolutely delicious! After all, the holidays only come once a year!

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes & A Kitchen Tip!

Since it’s October I’m taking full advantage of the excuse to celebrate two of my favorite things: pumpkin and horror movies! Both of these things are October staples – and I had plenty of each this weekend! After Body Pump on Saturday morning I whipped up some Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Up first – a tip for cooking bacon!

I learned this tip for Rachel Ray and have since seen it on many cooking shows and articles online. Apparently, restaurants bake their bacon on sheet trays rather than cooking it on the stove top. This prevents 1) grease from splattering all over the stovetop and 2) keeps the bacon from having those “less cooked” spots as it cooks and crinkles up in the pan. Another great tip is that if you bake the bacon up on top of a cooling rack over the sheet tray – all the grease will drop down below! I recently purchased a new set of cookie sheets from Bed, Bath and Beyond so I took full advantage of baking my bacon this weekend – but I have yet to find a cooling rack that will work to put up on top. As soon as I do I’m definitely trying that method!

Bake the bacon in a single layer in a 375 degree over for 12 – 15 minutes.

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cooked bacon
Tada!

And while the bacon was baking I moved on to making the pancakes!

whole wheat pumpkin pancakes title

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes 7-8 pancakes.

    – 1 cup of my whole wheat pancake mix
    – 1/2 can of pumpkin puree (I’d say it’s about 1/2-3/4 of a cup)
    – 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    – Enough milk (I used soy milk) to bring the mixture to a pancake batter consistency

Mix all ingredients together until smooth – don’t over-mix! Drop onto a hot skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

Yum! These pancakes were so delicious and filling on a nice, cool, weekend.

I spent most of the weekend being sort of a hermit and getting stuff done around my house while I caught up on TV shows and watched a few movies. And by “watched a few movies” I mean watched the Paranormal Activity movies in marathon format. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, and I swear I never learn my lesson. I absolutely love horror movies, and I enjoy the scary feeling they give me while I watch them but sometimes after a marathon like this (or a particularly scary movie) I wake up in the middle of the night seriously creeped out. Luckily, I’ve discovered that the Animal Planet show “Too Cute” is on Netflix Instant and it is seriously the best cure for a case of the late-night heebie-jeebies! I’m sure I’ll need it again soon, as one of my favorite horror franchises – the Halloween series – is on marathon all this week on AMC. Even though I own all the movies on DVD (except for that terrible third outing that doesn’t count because Michael Myers isn’t even in it) I cannot resist the urge to watch them and/or DVR them when they’re on TV!

Questions of the Day:
What are your favorite horror movies? Or do you like horror movies at all?
Are you addicted to pumpkin too? If not, what is your favorite fall treat?

Zucchini Pancakes

One of my best friends went home to visit her family last weekend which is good news for me because every time she takes a trip home, she brings me a load of fresh vegetables from her dad’s garden! 🙂

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Check out that huge haul of veggies! I actually knew it was going to be a challenge for me to eat them all myself. Luckily, my mom is coming into town for Labor Day weekend and I know her and I will eat up a ton of them! My friend also brought me some zucchini bread which I had never had before and is absolutely delicious. It takes like dessert to me! In addition to the zucchini bread, she also gave me two of the biggest zucchinis I have ever seen! I hope the picture does them justice – they were each literally the size of my forearm.

So one of my first challenges was to decide what to do with all this zucchini! I already had zucchini bread – so I was looking for other ideas. I decided on zucchini pancakes, or latkes or zucchini fritters – whatever you want to call them. I’ve seen them called a bunch of different names on the internet. Basically, they’re very similar to potato pancakes.

First thing, I shredded up about a zucchini and a half (I saved half and diced it up to use in a frittata). I was a little wary of the task of shredding up that much zucchini, but it actually went pretty easily – probably because the zucchini has such a high water content. Because of that, I didn’t want soggy pancakes so I put the shredded zucchini in a strainer with a little salt and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, I squeezed it out in a water towel. I’m glad I did because a ton of water came out!

Next, I mixed the shredded zucchini up in a bowl with granulated onion, granulated garlic, eggs, and a little flour.

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I heated up a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet and dropped in small, silver-dollar sized pancakes of batter and cooked over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides.

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I drained the pancakes on paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

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Ta da! These are delicious. They really remind me of potato pancakes, and a little bit of hashbrowns. They would be great served up with ketchup, or sour cream, or even apple sauce (which is traditional for potato latkes). I definitely saved up the leftovers for my mom and I to enjoy for brunch on Friday!

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Zucchini Pancakes
Makes approximately 12 pancakes, depending on size.

    – 2 cups shredded zucchini
    – 2 eggs
    – 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
    – 2 teaspoons granulated onion
    – 1 tablespoon flour
    – 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and sauté a few tablespoons of batter (small pancake size) in hot oil until golden brown on both sides, approximately 5 minutes per side. Serve for breakfast or brunch.

Weekend Update & Granola Recipe

I hope everyone had a great weekend! The weekends just seem to go by faster and faster every week. This weekend was really calm and relaxing for me. In true introvert fashion, I spent the entire weekend by myself (other than the workout classes I took at the gym). It was so refreshing!

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On Saturday morning I went to Body Pump. I’m loving the new releases! The tricep track is really hard, but it’s exactly what I need since I feel like the triceps are the weakest part of my arms. Saturday afternoon, I took myself to see ‘The Way Way Back’ in theaters (another very introvert-y thing to do). The movie was excellent! I’m a huge Sam Rockwell fan and the movie was very charming. There’s just no other word for it. Saturday night dinner was one of my favorites – tandoori chicken, naan bread, tabbouleh and hummus. Yum.

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Sunday was one of those productive days where I got a bunch of little things done that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. A few months ago, I got an old drawing of mine from art class framed and I’ve been meaning to hang it up but I discovered that Michael’s had put the bracket on the back on upside-down. I finally took the picture back to Michael’s to have the hanger fixed and ‘ta-da!’, hung it on the wall.

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This literally took me 5 minutes. I can’t believe I put it off for so long. I also hung up a hook from West Elm that I’ve also been meaning to hang up for like 6 months. I’m using it to hold my gym/yoga bags by the door. Isn’t it cute? It’s an elephant!

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While I was grocery shopping on Saturday (it was a very small, quick trip in accordance with my August goal of eating the food that’s already in my house) I spotted some granola that looked absolutely delicious! But I know that store-bought granola can be really high in sugar (plus I’m not supposed to be buying extra grocery items) so I resisted the urge. Later that night, I did some Google-ing/Pinterest-ing and discovered that granola is super easy to make! So I decided to make my own.

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Turns out it’s as easy as mixing together some oats,

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Some nuts,

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Cinnamon (optional), vanilla, salt (gotta love salty-sweet!), coconut oil, and maple syrup.

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Spread the whole mixture on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

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Let it cool and store in an airtight container. I stored mine in this awesome glass jar I picked up at IKEA (really cheap!). It’s delicious, so easy, and along with some Greek yogurt will definitely be my go-to snack this week!

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This recipe is super easy to customize with your favorite nuts/seeds/flavors. Change out the walnuts for any nuts you like (if you want to use seeds add them in for the last few minutes of roasting or they could burn). You can also use honey instead of the maple syrup but I wanted that maple-y flavor! 🙂

Maple Walnut Granola
Makes 5 cups.

    – 4 cups oats
    – 1 cup walnuts, chopped
    – 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    – 1 teaspoon salt
    – ½ cup coconut oil, melted
    – ½ cup maple syrup

Combine all ingredients and spread on a sheet pan. Roast in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Keep an eye on the granola during the last 5 minutes or so – it browns quickly! I ended up pulling mine after about 17 minutes.

I hope everyone’s week is off to a great start!

“Protein” Pancakes

Yesterday was one of those days when nothing seemed to go my way. The weekend in general seemed to slip by rapidly, which I think is what happens when you spend Saturday afternoon/evening on the couch not feeling well. At least I had the new show “Orange is the New Black” to binge-watch on Netflix (I highly recommend it by the way).

Orange is the New Black

On Sunday, I made a big batch of slow-cooker “refried” beans (recipe to be posted later this week! :-)) and for the first time in my life, I got a pepper burn on my hands from chopping the jalapeños. At first I couldn’t figure out why my hand was bothering me so much. I’ve chopped jalapeños numerous times in the past without incident, but this time around I learned my lesson and will use definitely be using gloves in the future. I spent the afternoon with my left hand throbbing, trying every home remedy in the book (lotion, aloe, dish soap, lemon juice, ketchup, yogurt, etc) with no luck. It turns out time is the only thing that really gets rid of the burn.

I had planned my first “long run” for Sunday (5 miles) and it did not go according to plan at all. My first mistake was trying to run outside at 3 in the afternoon. After about a mile, the heat and humidity had done me in and I jogged over to my community’s gym to run on the treadmill. Less than a mile in on the treadmill, I felt terrible. My stomach was starting to really bother me. Worried that the bug from Saturday was returning, and feeling utterly useless and disappointed in myself, I returned back to my apartment to shower and continue my “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day.

Alexander's Bad Day
Alexander, I know how you feel brother

I made and ate a cheese pizza for dinner (pretty much the same one I had last Monday, as two crusts came in the package), which of course didn’t cut properly and stuck to my baking stone, in keeping with the theme of the day. A couple hours later, I was still hungry and looking for some sort of comfort food to heal my battered soul. I was considering making a couple pancakes using my whole wheat pancake mix, which is one of my go-to late night comfort food snacks when I remembered all the pins I’ve seen for making pancakes with bananas and egg.

You know the pins I’m talking about, don’t you? I think I’ve seen them a million times (though I’ve never re-pinned any). They all swear you can make pancakes using just eggs and banana (usually labeled “Paleo” pancakes, since they don’t contain grain and are high in protein). To say the least, I’ve always been skeptical that this combination would really produce fluffy pancakes like all the pins claimed. But I decided to give it a shot.

The ingredients – one banana, one egg, and a dash of cinnamon.

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I spent a few minutes mashing/mixing the ingredients together with a fork. If you don’t mind dirtying your blender or food processor, that would probably be a faster method but the “batter” came together easily enough using just a fork.

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I added a little bit of coconut oil to a hot pan and then dropped the batter in. The batter cooked just like normal pancakes, and I flipped them after they turned a nice golden brown. FYI, the one banana/egg combo made two pancakes – a perfect single serving! And, much to my amazement, the recipe did make nice, fluffy pancakes!

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The pancakes had a great texture, and a delicate banana flavor. They tasted way more like pancakes than I was expecting. I’m not sure what kind of black magic is behind this, but it’s a neat trick! I ate mine with a little butter and syrup, but they would be delicious with lots of other topping options.

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I’m already thinking about adding a few chocolate chips to these next time I need a late night, comfort food snack!

Have you tried any alternative recipes to traditional pancakes? How did it turn out?