Merry Hanukkus

Hey all,
I’m writing you from my couch where I’ve been sitting, relaxing, for most of the morning. My Christmas started out on a good note:
– wake up without alarm clock
– yoga practice (dvd)
– steel cut oats with milk, pumpkin, pomegranate, flaxseed meal, and almond butter (so. good.)
– backed-up-email-reading

The rest of my day looks like this:
– debate doing this workout in preparation for the day’s feasts
– traditional feast with extended family and friends
– white elephant gift exchange (so fun)
– taco feast with the boyfriend’s immediate family

This past week I’ve been baking a bit for my friends’ holiday presents, which means a lot of dough-eating/”broken”-cookie-eating:

Notice the greasy stain where my "tester" cookie once rested

Oh darn, it broke apart. Might as well store it in my belly ūüôā

I bake cookies for my friends pretty much every Christmas. This year’s assortment looked like this:

Christmas Present Cookies

To the left we have Orange Spice Molasses Cookies :

Orange Spice Molasses Cookies

Wonderfully spicy and delicious. I think I’ve probably made a better molasses cookie in my day, but this recipe still is pretty darn delicious.

To the right (and pictured above) we have Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies:

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies are. so. good. This is the type of cookie that milk was made for. So rich and delicious. I doubled the recipe, added vanilla, and replaced the 2 cups white sugar with 1/2 cup organic turbinado sugar, 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar, and 1/2 cup stevia for baking.

On top you’ll find Coconut Date Cookies:

Coconut Date Cookies

I made these exactly as called for in the recipe except I doubled everything in the recipe except the sugar. These were simply fantastic. Another one of those “broken”-cookie-eating-cookies.

I was very pleased with how the cookies turned out. As you can see above, I gifted them to my friends in glass jars that they can reuse for future cookies or any decorative storage of their choosing.

As a side note: anyone else notice that their craving for sweets increasing in this holiday season? 

Did you fit in some exercise on Christmas?

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Summer Deliciciosity: Fresh Fig Cake

Quick life update before I fill you in on what you really want to hear about (cake):

My good friend (and bf of my friend Ashley), Xaver, is in town from Germany (hi Xaver! ;Ashley, show this to him, pleeze.)

From left: Regina, Me, Ashley, Xaver

Aren’t they cuuuute? But anyways, this weekend was spent having fun and catching up (hence the lackage of new postage). But fear not, I still kept myself busy in the kitchen. So here is your cake:

One (of many) things I look forwards to every Summer are fresh figs.

juicy.

Early in my childhood, my mother planted a branch of my Uncle’s fig tree in our backyard. (That’s how you do the growing-fig-tree-thing) It flourished in the Virginia climate, and so every Summer around August we get buttloads very many figs. The season’s short, but the figs are plenty, and I like to take full advantage of the opportunity to eat fresh figs (they don’t keep well, so you don’t find them much outside of their dried form at the grocery store).

So, naturally, the best way to eat fresh figs is in a baked good.

but for real, fresh is probably equally as awesome

I got the idea for this recipe from here and edited it a bit to suit my desires.

Fresh Fig Cake 

¬† ¬† ¬†(alternatively, you could make “cakes” and bake the batter in muffin tins)
¬† ¬† ¬†Makes 1-13×9 cake or 24-“cakes”
Ingredients
– 3/4 cup your-choice sweetener (i.e., sugar, brown sugar. I used coconut palm sugar but it’s really-really good with molasses)
– 1 cup plain yogurt
– 1/4 cup canola oil
– 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
– 2 tsp vanilla
– 2 flax eggs (combine 2 tbsp flax w/6 tbsp water and beat w/fork until gelled)
– 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 cups multigrain hot cereal (or old fashioned oats)
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
– 3 cups fresh figs, chopped (peel on)
– 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
1. Heat oven to 350ňöF and spray baking dish or muffin tins with cooking spray (or use liners for the tins).
2. In a large bowl combine the sugar, yogurt, oil, apple butter, vanilla, and flax eggs. Beat on low until blended.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, multigrain cereal (or oats), baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
4. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat on low  until well blended.
5. Fold in the chopped chopped figs and walnuts.
6. Spoon batter into your desired baking-container
7. Bake for 40-45 minutes in a 13×9 dish or 30 minutes in muffin tins.

mmm

ready-to-bake

Done!

After tasting this baby, I was slightly gulp disappointed. It tasted… healthy.The coconut palm sugar wasn’t quite as sweet as the cane sugar I used in the apple cake, and the recipe didn’t live up to my memory from last year of when I made it with molasses. So, I was left in a predicament: all this fig cake and no eating motivation. Enter solution: peanut butter. I spread a nice layer of peanut butter on the top of this baby, and wow! Delicious.

Super moist and super enticing.

If I had to do it over again, though, I would use molasses instead of the palm sugar… or add more palm sugar.

What was the last thing you baked?

What’s your go-to method for fixing a cooking/baking mess up?

Anything cool going on in your life?

Batch of Baby Baking Blunders

So, I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I work with kids in my full time job. So, naturally, I try to use them as an excuse to bake whenever I can. This past week I decided I wanted to bake them cookies for Friday, since every Friday’s supposed to be “Fun Friday.”

I headed out to the grocery store one morning before work. After some browsing, I landed on these chocolate chips:

I chose these babies mostly because the first ingredient was chocolate rather than sugar. (I supposed being 60% cocoa means that nothing can really be higher haha) I decided that since I was baking for children, and a few mentioned that chocolate chip cookies were their favorite, I would just go ahead to bake them according to the recipe on the bag.

But¬†then¬†while making them, I thought to myself: “Hey, this is a prime baking opportunity – why not make something that¬†I¬†want as well?” So I decided to just doctor the recipe to be one of my favorite’s – oatmeal chocolate chip. And I also wanted to sub in some Stevia for baking.

So instead of using 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour, I used 1 cup white whole wheat flour and mixed in 1 cup quick oats and 1/2 cup 5 grain hot cereal at the end. And instead of using 3/4 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup granulated sugar, I used 1/2 cup organic cane sugar, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/2 cup Stevia for baking. Lastly, I reduced the 2 cups chocolate chips down to 1 cup chocolate chips.

After mixing it all up together, I made one cookie sheet’s worth of cookies. (We only have one cookie sheet at the moment) And boy am I glad that I did because this is what I got:

I had to think quickly about what to do and decided that I would try baking a cookie cake instead by using a cake pan. Meanwhile, I decided to just make some cookie crumbles out of my flat “cookies.”

… A couple¬†handfuls¬†may have taken a detour to my mouth during this process. And I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. (But then again, these babies had lots of sweet and chocolate, so how could they¬†not¬†be good?)

When I peaked at my cookie cake, I was a little skeptical as to how it would taste:

But I let it cool overnight, decorated it, and toted it to work with me. Safe to say that it tasted pretty good. Most of the kids weren’t there, and they ate half of it:

Plus one kid threw a tantrum because he couldn’t get a second piece. (Mission accomplished)

So all-in-all I would say that these “baking blunders” turned into a really nice treat for my students. Now, does¬†anyone have any suggestions of what to do with my cookie crumbles?

In other news here’s…

TWIW (This Week In Workouts)

(Note: I decided to start writing the week from Sunday – Saturday… Probably just because I want an extra chance to get in my Strength training session haha)

Sa –¬†45 Minute Elliptical (w/a Self magazine)
Su –¬†off
M –¬†Circuit Strength Training
Tu –¬†30 minute Quick Cardio + 60 minute Power Yoga
W –¬†45 Minute Elliptical (w/Shape Magazine)
Th –¬†Circuit Strength Training
F –¬†60 minute Kick It Core class (Kickboxing w/some added core work)
Sa –¬†Circuit Strength Traning


Healthy(er) Cookout Fare

I suppose Memorial Day weekend marks the start of cookouts. Can you smell the grills firing up? Can you taste the delicious cookout grub? Me too.

So, being me, I feel that I must bring healthy dishes to cookouts just to even out the burgers/hot dogs/chips/all-the-delicious-but-not-so-healthy-foods-of-cookouts. For my friend’s cookout this weekend, I set out to make a healthier coleslaw and a healthier fruit crisp without compromising taste. I think that I succeeded. Here goes…
For the coleslaw, I pretty much followed a recipe from my Whole Foods recipe app on my iPhone. However, I made some substitutions (yogurt for the buttermilk, stevia for the sugar) and some¬†omissions¬†(didn’t have any green onion or chives):
Coleslaw with Apple Cider Yogurt Vinaigrette
Ingredients
– 3 cups savoy cabbage, shredded
– 1 1/2 cups red cabbage, shredded

Р1 carrot, shredded (or peeled w/vegetable peeler)                           
– 1/4 cup yogurt
– 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 2 1/2 tbsp organic apple cider
– 1 tsp ground mustard
– 1 tsp stevia for baking (or 1 packet stevia, or any other sweetener)
– 1/4 tsp ground sea salt
– 1/2 tsp ground pepper
Directions
1. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl.
2. Combine yogurt through pepper in a smaller mixing bowl. Stir well until uniformly mixed.
3. Pour yogurt mixture over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Vegetable Mixture
+
Dressing
=
fastest cookout side dish you will ever make.
Nutrition Facts (assuming 8 servings)
For the fruit crisp, I looked at several different recipes but ended up creating my own using various elements of several:
Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Crisp
Ingredients
-3 apples, chopped
– 1/2 cup frozen rhubarb slices, chopped
– 3/4 cup frozen strawberries, chopped
– 1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
– 1/8 cup flaxseed meal
– juice and zest of 1 lemon
Р1/2 tbsp cinnamon                                
– 2 tbsp butter, melted
– 2 tbsp raw honey
– 1 cup 5 grain hot cereal (or rolled oats)
– 1/4 cup Teff Flour
Directions
1. Combine fruit, apple juice concentrate, flaxseed meal, lemon juice/zest, and cinnamon in a medium-sized saucepan. Mix well. Simmer on medium-low for about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine melted butter, honey, 5 grain hot cereal, and teff in a small-medium mixing bowl. Mix until it has a uniform look.
3. Preheat oven to 350ňöF. Pour fruit mixture into a 11″x7″ baking dish. Sprinkle dry mixture evenly on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.
fruit-mixture ingredients
all mixed up
after cooking
+
topping mixture
=
ready to go in the oven.
+
20-30 minutes
=
yumm
Nutrition Facts (assuming 10 servings)
Alright, folks, time to head out the door! I’ll be sure to fill you in on how everything went over with the group later. ūüôā

Crave-worthy Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

    I, like many people in this world, am drawn to the delectable combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Reese’s cups have always been my great weakness when it comes to mass-marketed candy. Recently, however I discovered the joys of making your own peanut butter cups! Not only can you control exactly what goes into them, but your can specially tailor them to your size and nutritional desires.

     Credit goes to Avery from Love Veggies and Yoga for providing this easy yet incredibly delicious recipe for chocolate peanut butter cups! I stumbled upon the recipe during one of my typical web-purusings and was hit with one of those duh, why didn’t I think of doing this before moments.
Ingredients
– Chocolate (I use pieces of whatever dark chocolate bars I have on hand)
– Peanut butter (I used kroger brand creamy natural peanut butter but you could definitely experiment with other nut butters)
– Nutritional yeast
Additional Tools: mini or regular muffin liners
Directions
1. Place the muffin liners on a plate. Melt desired amount of chocolate in a separate bowl in the microwave (I have a melt setting on my microwave, but you can play with heating times and stirring to get the right melt) and spoon into the bottom of the muffin liners. I usually try to do a big square of chocolate per complete mini-cup (so one for the bottom layer of two and one for the top). Place the plate in the freezer while you complete step 2.
2. Combine peanut butter and enough nutritional yeast to slightly chunk up your pb. Avery notes that you can zap it for 15 seconds in the microwave if you’re having trouble combining the two. Remove the plate from the freezer and spoon peanut butter on top of the chocolate.
3. Melt more chocolate using same methods as before. Spoon overtop of the peanut butter, and return the cups to the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

 

 


Voila! You have delicious, homemade chocolate peanut butter cups! I like to make a batch of 5 or so mini-cups and eat them as a small treat after dinner. Added bonus: licking the peanut butter bowl. 

Bzzzzzzzz

>     You ever have one of those days where you feel like you’re busy all day yet still haven’t gotten to half of the things on your mental to-do list? Well today was one of those days for me. I was a busy bee!
     I started the day out with my typical bowl of scrumptious oatmeal. This morning’s batch of steel cut oats contained domestic blueberries, pomegranate arils, and wheat germ. (no picture)
     After my belly was nice and full with oatmeal and coffee, I started out on my mission to cook my very own batch of garbanzo beans! This was my very first attempt at making them myself, and I’m happy to say that I was a great success, and it was actually very easy! (I didn’t even slow-soak them) Read below for my (aka the kroger bag’s) method.

Home-cooked Beans (Garbanzos)
Step 1: Soak beans overnight. To quick soak them, boil them for one minute with 8 cups of water, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour.

pre-quick-soak
After soak

It’s hard to tell in the picture, but the beans really get nice and plumped after being soaked.

Step 2: Rinse and drain beans. Then, add 6 cups of hot water per 2 cups of beans. Let simmer with lid tilted for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. And voila! You have cooked beans!
Step 3: Drain and separate each 1 2/3 cup into a separate baggie. Freeze and use in recipes whenever canned beans are called for.
     Since the bean-cooking process was going to take a few hours, and I couldn’t leave them to go to the gym, (note to self: try them in the slow cooker next time) I decided to bake an apple cake with a few apples I had on hand that had lost their crispness. 
     I used a recipe from eatbetteramerica.com but changed it up quite a bit. I do this with a lot of my baked goods recipes- I use a base recipe to get the chemistry right but then I’ll cut the sugar, change out some flour for oats, and substitute any ingredients that I don’t have on hand or just feel like trying. All this tweaking got me to thinking… At what point does a recipe cease to be the cookbook’s or website’s and become your own?
     Anyways, back to the recipe…
Fresh Apple Cakes (it would be cake, singular, but I only had muffin tins available)
Makes 24 cakes (muffins?)
Ingredients
– 3/4 cup natural cane sugar
– 1 cup plain yogurt
– 1/4 cup canola oil
– 1/4 cup apple butter
– 2 tsp vanilla
– 2 flax eggs (combine 2 tbsp flax w/6 tbsp water and beat w/fork until gelled)
– 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 cup multigrain hot cereal (or old fashioned oats)
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
– 3 apples, chopped (peel on)
– 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Directions

1. Heat oven to 350ňöF and prepare muffin tins. (I just used liners)
2. In a large bowl combine the sugar, yogurt, oil, apple butter, vanilla, and flax eggs. Beat on low until blended. Add the flour, multigrain cereal (or oats), baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Beat on low  until well blended. Fold in the chopped apples and walnuts.

the batter is truly delicious

3. Distribute into muffin tins. And bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

30 minutes later…. voila! You have deliciously delectable apple cakes!

I took the liberty of calculating the nutrition for all you folks (and myself) via Livestrong.com. That site is awesome for calculating the nutrition of recipes and also logging your daily meals and activities.

     Not bad for a dessert, huh? And they taste pretty darn good too! I brought them to a meeting, and everyone gobbled them up. 
     So, as you can imagine, as I was cooking beans and baking apple cakes, my food was digesting, and I was starting to get hungry. I had a dilemma on my hands because I also wanted to go to the gym as soon as everything was done. Ultimately, I probably should have just eaten lunch, but I ended up snacking on an orange, my cocoa-yogurt-cereal-concoction, and mixed nuts to tide me over. 
     Finally I made it to the gym and did my Circuit routine (except with skull crushers for triceps) and headed out to do some grocery shopping. 
     By the time I got back to my apartment, it was time to start cooking dinner! I decided to make a recipe from The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible by Pat Crocker. My boyfriend had gifted me the book last Christmas, but I never got around to actually making something from it until today. I’m always interested in trying new ingredients, so I decided to make the Amaranth Chili. The recipe notes, “Amaranth is the only grain known to provide the human system with the most effective balance of protein matched only by milk.” Naturally, I was compelled to give it a try. 
Amaranth Chili (from The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible by Pat Crocker) 
Ingredients
– 1/4 cup amaranth grains, thoroughly rinsed
– 4 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (I used a can of unsalted diced tomatoes and 1 T tomato paste w/a bit of water to give a stew consistency)
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– 1 green bell papper, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup dried lentils
– 1 potato, chopped (I used a sweet potato)
– 1 cup chopped carrot
– 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 19-oz can)
– 2 tbsp chili powder
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– salt to taste
Directions
1. In a skillet, toast amaranth over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for about 10 or 15 seconds until the seeds pop. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, combine tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add stock. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add lentils. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes until lentils are tender. 
3. Add amaranth, potato, and carrot. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Stir in chickpeas, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Cook for 1 minute or until chickpeas are heated through. Serve immediately. 
I swear, it tastes a lot better than this picture looks
As you can see, it makes for a very chunky chili. And it was quite delicious. 
     To go with the chili, I sauteed some Collard Greens. First, I washed them, cut them from their stems, and then cut them in half lengthwise if they were too wide. Then I rolled them like cigars and cut them into 1/4 inch slices. I saut√©ed them with some olive oil over medium-high heat. Once they were almost done cooking, I added 4 cloves of garlic and cooked for 30 more seconds. Then I removed them from the heat, squeezed half a lemon into them and added a few dashes of cayenne pepper. 
soooo goooood

     Soon after cooking dinner I had to run out the door for school, so I had to pack my meal and enjoy it in class. 

     Once back at the apartment after class and a club meeting, I was huuungry. Not eating a good lunch caught up with me. So I put together an Almond Butter-Apple-Cinnamon Sandwich with the rest of the apple on the side. 
mmmm