Saturday, March 30, 2013

Veggie Stuffed Peppers

I stumbled across a beautiful picture on Pinterest of veggies, quinoa and feta stuffed peppers.  They looked delicious!  On a recent Sunday, I took advantage of extra time in the kitchen to whip up my own version based on ingredients I had on hand (which is never a match to any recipe I find!) and enjoyed a lunch in peace and quiet while my little one napped.  This recipe was easy and tailored for messy cooks such as myself :)  It is also a recipe where you don't have to worry about exact measurements.  Like garlic? Add more.  Hate cilantro? Don't use it.  Vegan?  Ditch the cheese.  Want meat? Add some! There are so many variations that could be delicious, but here is what worked for me:  
Veggie Stuffed Peppers
(makes 3 servings)
~1 chopped tomato
~1-2 generous handfuls of spinach
~1 cup of canned (rinsed) or cooked black beans
~1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa or a combination of both
~1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
~1 clove of garlic or 1 tsp minced garlic (you can add more if you love your garlic)
~1 generous shake of dried cilantro flakes (hopefully fresh cilantro once this winter kicks it!)
~2 tsp cumin
~olive oil to grease a skillet
~3 bell peppers
Slice the tops off of the 3 bell peppers and remove the cores and seeds.  Set aside.  Generously coat a deep skillet or cast iron pan with olive oil and heat on medium heat.  Once heated, add the garlic.  Let the garlic simmer for 1-2 minutes and then add the chopped tomato and spinach.  Stir the vegetables so they evenly cook and get coated with the garlic and olive oil.  The tomatoes will soften and the spinach will significantly reduce in volume.  Add the black beans and stir.  Add the cilantro and cumin and stir some more (there will be a lot of stirring here!).  Add the cooked rice and/or quinoa and stir to mix completely with the vegetables.  Add 2/3 of the cheddar cheese and mix with the beans, rice/quinoa and vegetables.  Once completely mixed, remove from the heat. 
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon 1/3 of the rice/quinoa, beans and veggie mix into each of your 3 bell peppers.  Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  Lightly grease a shallow baking pan with olive oil.  Place the stuffed peppers into the pan and put the tops of the bell pepper back onto the pepper.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Serve with some organic white or blue corn tortilla chips and enjoy!  Filling, tasty & healthy!   
Served with sour cream and chunks of avocado!
I love adding spinach to stir fry dishes.  First,  spinach can go bad pretty quickly in the fridge so it is a great way to make sure you use it every week without hitting salad overload.  Spinach also drastically reduces in volume when cooked so it is easy to sneak that veggie into a recipe for an additional nutrition boost! 
As for quinoa and brown rice, I usually use a combination of the two.  One tip I find super helpful is to cook a big pot of the quinoa/brown rice combo when I am home and store it in the fridge so that there are healthy grains ready to go all week!  I have seen this tip many times over at Fannetastic Food in her amazing recipes and it truly does work.  On a rushed evening, I can quickly stir fry veggies, chicken and spices (such as Curry- yummy!) and serve over the rice/quinoa.  On a rushed morning, I can throw some rice/quinoa on top of a salad or in a wheat wrap with some veggies and Voila! Lunch!  I love tips like that...the trick is just staying organized with them!  Sometimes, the organization can be a challenge!   

Have a great Easter weekend! Plenty of cooking, baking and gathering to be going on over here this weekend!
Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Peanut Butter Muffins

Well, winter does not seem to be kicking it around here.  Despite the fact that we are officially into spring, the ground is still covered with snow and the forecast predicts potentially more of it on Tuesday. Boo.  I have spring fever.  Next weekend will be much for a spring egg hunt!

Here is a healthy but tasty comfort food recipe for a quiet morning with a cup of coffee....if you get any of those mornings! And yes, it's chocolate!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Wet Ingredients
~2/3 cup peanut butter
~1 mashed banana (you could add another if you need to get rid of some bananas!)
~1/2 cup honey
~2 tsp vanilla extract
~2/3 cup milk of your choice

Dry Ingredients
~2 cups white whole wheat flour
~1/4 cup coconut flour (you can use all white whole wheat flour if you do not have coconut flour)
~1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
~2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
~1/2 tsp baking soda
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix all of the wet ingredients with a mixer.  Add dry ingredients, except chocolate chips, and mix thoroughly.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spray a muffin tin and/or use muffin liners.  I used an ice cream scoop to evenly spoon out 12 muffins into the tin.  Place into the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.  Bake for 19-21 minutes or until a knife comes out of the muffins clean.  Let cool in the pan for at least 10-15 minutes before removing.  Enjoy with a cup of coffee or cold glass of milk!
My 3 year old said these were dee-licious! That never gets old.....
And congratulations to all those runners out there who had great races over the St. Paddy's Day weekend....I saw some amazing PR's on the race reports! I am still trucking along on the elliptical and spinning bike....11 weeks to go until baby #2 arrives!
Have a great week!
Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's my favorite holiday of the year! Although I will not be enjoying a festive ale or lager this year, we started our day with St. Paddy's Day Green Pancakes over here.  They don't quite fill my heart like a full Irish breakfast, but they are a delicious, festive and a healthy start to the day.  This recipe is a modification of our Sweet Pea Pancakes recipe that quickly became a staple over here.

St. Patrick's Day Green Pancakes
~1 cup milk
~generous handful of kale or spinach
~1 mashed banana
~1/2 cup whole wheat flour
~1/2 cup oats
~1 egg
~1 tsp vanilla extract
~cinnamon to preference
~chocolate chips to preference
In a blender, puree the kale or spinach and milk (you can add greens until you get the color you want).  Mix the dry ingredients (except chocolate chips).  Add the egg, mashed banana and vanilla.  Mix in 3/4 of the milk/greens puree thoroughly.  I did not need to use the last 1/4 of the puree, but you can add if you prefer a less thick pancake.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Heat a skillet with your choice of oil.  Cook on each side and serve with pure maple syrup.  That's it!  This recipe made enough to feed me and two 3 year olds hungry after a sleep over!
The green would be so much prettier in natural light, but my little one gets up too early!
Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doughnuts and Random Things

I have to give an internet shout out to two recipes that I have fallen in love with.  The first is Chocolate Covered Katie's Homemade Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.  I have actually never been a die hard doughnut fan.  I usually gravitate towards muffins, which can be even worse, despite the unexplained "healthier" connotation the word "muffin" brings. That said, it is quite relaxing on a weekend morning to sit with a fresh baked good and a cup of coffee.  The problem is that I am not so sure that most doughnuts or other "baked goods" that can be purchased would qualify as a "fresh baked good."  I stumbled across one of Food Babe's older posts "Sabotaged at Starbucks" this week.  I could not get the quote "The reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake has over 75 ingredients..." out of my head.  75?  What possible 75 things could be in that cake?  Silly me, I thought the recipe would have such things as eggs, milk, butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon.   I have caved to such things on the run or given in to the doughnut at work for that quick energy pick me up....only to come crashing down and not feel so great afterwards.  Well, this recipe is bliss to satisfy that craving for a sweet, fresh baked something and not feel gross afterwards. 

The first time I made it, I did not have spelt flour or any healthy sweetener substitute so I went forward with the all purpose flour and sugar.  I don't yet have a donut pan so I threw the batter into mini bundt pans and they still came out great.

I made them again this weekend.  This time I used spelt flour and substituted maple syrup for the sugar.  I baked them as "donut muffins" and then topped them with the amazing second new recipe that I found.  This one is from My Whole Food Life and I used the chocolate glaze from her pumpkin donuts recipe.  It is so simple- a small amount of chocolate chips of your choice melted with milk of your choice (I only used approx. 1/4-1/3 cup for my small batch of doughnuts). nasty ingredients.  Note: I am also going to need to try that pumpkin donut recipe at some point. 

The only mistake I made was not being patient to let them cool in the pan before removing because I was hungry :)  One of them fell apart so lesson learned!  Wait...they are worth waiting for.  Once I got the glaze on them, I popped them into the freezer for a few minutes to set and done.  The recipe made 6.

Definitely worth a few minutes baking...
Other random things I am loving this week include the avocado, my Vitamix blender and the elliptical trainer.  I used to stay away from avocados because of the reported fat content.  I'm learning differently now and loving them.  More on that another time.  My Vitamix blender is Ah-mazing.  I am starting each day with a handful of fruit and veggie servings thanks to this easy green smoothie recipe that I have gravitated towards:

Green Smoothie
~1 cup water
~2 generous handfuls organic spinach
~1 scoop organic wheat grass powder
~A generous heap of frozen berries
~1/2-1 banana or orange or apple
Throw into the Vitamix, turn on low and use the tamper to make sure the produce gets to the blades.  Blend until desired consistency (takes less than 30 seconds every time).  Enjoy!
I am sure there are tons of other healthy things that can go into a green smoothie and would love to hear any recipes you want to share!
Lastly, the elliptical trainer.  It's my favorite pregnant workout.  I have a spinning bike at home, which is my most used equipment just because of its convenience.  Although a good workout and it keeps the body moving, I psychologically like to see some miles add up and the spinning bike I have does not measure distance.  I'm sure there is something I could buy to set the bike up with mileage measurement, but I've always done my spinning workouts just based on time and I think that works fine and do not want to invest more money in it.  In contrast, the elliptical gives me that quasi-running feel without the bouncing belly and elevated heart rate so I am loving it and comfortably complete 3-4.5 miles per workout.  3rd trimester starts this weekend :)  Where does time go?
This weekend some friends of mine are participating in a local St. Paddy's Day 5 mile road race.  Good luck to everyone!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lemon Coconut "Shortbread" Cookies

I did not realize how much I love unsweetened coconut.  It all started with this granola recipe from 100 Days of Real Food.  Since that first batch, I have been adding unsweetened coconut to breads, muffins, cookies and even pancakes.  It is delicious and adds the taste of a treat without a bunch of nasty stuff to go with it. 

This week, I played around with a couple different types of flours that I do not usually have on hand.  I have been seeing many different recipes with spelt flour, almond flour, coconut flour etc. and my baking has pretty much been reserved to regular all purpose flour or whole wheat flour.  So, I geared up for a baking experiment.  The final product came out with a thick shortbread like texture that is nice to enjoy with a cup of tea...and the hint of lemon flavor is refreshing during what I hope are these last days of winter!

Lemon Coconut "Shortbread" Cookies
~1/3 cup coconut oil
~1/3 cup honey
~2 tsp vanilla extract
~1/3 cup organic milk (you could substitute your own choice of milk)
~zest of 1 lemon
~1 cup spelt flour
~1/3 cup coconut flour
~1/3 cup oats
~1/2 tsp baking soda
~1/2 tsp baking powder
~pinch of salt
~3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
*this recipe made 18 cookies

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract with electric mixer until blended smoothly.  Add milk.  Zest 1 lemon into the wet ingredients and mix again. 

Coconut Oil, Honey & Vanilla "Creamed" Together

Add dry ingredients (except coconut) and mix until well incorporated (batter will be thick).  Fold in coconut.

Drop by rounded spoon or melon baller onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Use a fork to press down the cookie.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Brew a cup of tea and enjoy!

I plugged the recipe into the My Fitness Pal app and came up with a calorie count of 108 calories per cookie.  For my next batch, I am going to modify the recipe a little bit and use orange zest and add some dark chocolate chips for that heavenly orange and chocolate combination!
And yes, this truly was a baking experiment. I had to work on this recipe a couple of times to get these cookies.  Just to prove it and maybe give you a giggle, please see this photo of my baking follies:
It's a good thing I like baking because my first recipe was a flop!
As we all gear up for another busy week, let's try to go with the flow, squeeze in those workouts that make us happy and remember this:
Funny cartoon I came across this week & had to share!
Have a great week!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hello QVC!

Honestly, I have never shopped on QVC or any other home shopping network....until about 2 weeks ago.  As you may be aware, I have been working to incorporate more green smoothies into my daily diet.  I'm trying to squeeze in as much healthy produce as possible for myself and this little bundle that is still growing, kicking and tumbling inside of me right now.  I'm in love with the promises of increased energy and glowing skin that I read others credit to their commitment to veggie intake.  That said, I have had my eyes on a Vitamix blender for a while.  Health blogs galore rave about them.  A good friend of mine has one and swears by it.  It is pricy and an investment, but I figured I would get to it after some planning and buy one....eventually.  Until then, I was committed to using the blender that was a welcomed hand me down from my parents when I was living away in college well over a decade ago.  Who cares that it barely shreds spinach and it feels like ingesting flakes with a fish-food like texture as you gulp the veggie goodness down, right?

So that was my plan....until my good friend the Vitamix owner sent me a text one Sunday morning noting that Vitamix was the "Deal of the Day" on QVC.  She said that she had never seen a deal this good and this girl did her research when she bought her magical blender.  I check the link out and there was considerable savings....and they were throwing in the dry container with shipping....and I had a $50 credit from my bank card (I guess I am still rationalizing)....and then they throw these words in of "3 or 5 easy payments."  QVC people are smart.  After a few quick questions by text to my friend to confirm my commitment to the product, the deal was done and processed within less than minutes.  QVC made it way too easy.

Several days later, this beauty arrived on my door step:

Except mine is in red!
I have only had the blender for less than a week.  I am not yet organized enough to share recipes, but I can say that this thing pulverizes fruits and vegetables.  Green smoothies are fast and delicious.  I have also made my first batch of "soft serve ice cream" using frozen bananas instead of milk or cream...more on that another time for sure as I practice these recipes!

On the fitness front, this week was pretty slow due to some extra work commitments. I only squeezed in a few short spinning sessions. I also seem to be having these random blood pressure drops that go away once I sit down, but they leave me feeling uneasy so I have tried to rest up a little extra this weekend.  Anyone else experience such pregnancy weirdness? 

Anyway, I wish you a good week.  I'm going to avoid QVC in case there are any other "Deals of the Day" that catch my eye....they just make it too easy!