Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars

So it’s no secret that since I’ve started eating “healthy” – or whatever – I’ve become a breakfast eater.

My breakfast game was at its all time peak during my couple of months of unemployment late last year when I got to make breakfast at home every morning. Toast, eggs, cheese and salsa, yessssss #allthethings

HOWEVER, that’s unfortunately not the norm. I usually eat Greek yogurt and a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side. What that somethin’ somethin’ entails changes from week to week… I have made skinny muffins. I’ve made protein muffins. I love muesli…and I even made muesli bars.

For this week’s What I Ate Wednesday, I’m sharing what I’ve been eating for breakfast lately:

The past few weeks, I’ve been eating homemade granola bars!

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You’ll notice that, unlike my other breakfast muffins and bars, there is no “skinny” or “protein” in the title of this recipe.

That’s not to say they aren’t healthy! Made primarily of oats, uncooked quinoa, and flaxseed, they’re leaps and bounds better than any processed bar you’ll find in the supermarket. Plus they have a LOT less added sugar (only 3 tbsp of honey for the entire batch!).

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But they’ve also got a fair amount of nut butter…and chocolate.

The point of these granola bars isn’t that they’re low cal, or fat free. It’s that they are full of nutrient dense foods that are good for you, and some healthy fats that make them DELICIOUS.

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Plus, mango + macadamia nuts + coconut = tropical summer vacation. Am I right?

Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars
adapted from Cooking Light’s Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars
makes 9 bars

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (or just grind up flaxseed!)
1 oz chocolate (chips or chunks)
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Note: This is an extremely flexible recipe. I’ve also made it with pepitas and dried cranberries. Use whatever kind of dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, or oil you want!

Preheat oven to 350* F. Arrange oats and uncooked quinoa on a baking sheet and bake until slightly toasted and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, combine mango, macadamia nuts, coconut, chocolate and flaxseed meal. Once cooled, add oats and quinoa.

In a stovepot, mix nut butter, honey, and coconut oil. Heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute and add to oat/nut/coconut mixture. Add to a greased 8×8 inch pan and bake at 350*F for 12 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Let cool before cutting into 9 squares. Eat at room temperature or cooled…the squares will keep for 1 week in the fridge!

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What is your breakfast go-to?

Chocolate Flax Muffins

As much as I know you all love lurking on my weekend fun…I did not have it in me to bust out a weekend recap post this week! I knew that I probably wouldn’t have time to put up my normal post yesterday, because I have been insanely.busy at work. I was hoping to bring back Meatless Mondays, but didn’t get a chance to work out a shareable recipe in time…

However, if you really must know what I did this weekend… 😉 We had a couple of GORGEOUS 75-80 degree days and I took full advantage!

If you follow me on Facebook then you already know that, even though I’m no longer in half marathon training mode, I still did my usual long Saturday morning run:

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It was weird — but GOOD — to be running less than 10 miles. I got in a great workout, but didn’t feel like I was suffering the rest of the day, which was nice!

And if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I followed up that run with some frisbee:

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I’m hanging up the Thursday night dodgeball knee socks for a season or two and putting together an Ultimate Frisbee team…Chris is pretty much a pro (he played competitively in college) and spent over an hour imparting his knowledge and showing me all his tricks. It was lots of fun! Slightly draining though, and much harder than it looks 😉

Moving on….I am happy to report that even though I don’t have a Meatless Monday recipe, I do have a recipe to share!! It’s been a while, eh?

It all started last week when I went to my beloved Grocery Outlet and snagged a boatload of good deals for less than $30.

As if finding that 6 pack of Luna bars for like $2.99, Greek yogurt for .60c a pop and a bottle of wine for $5 wasn’t enough, I was extremely excited to find a bag of organic milled flaxseed (aka flaxseed meal) for $2.99. Generally, healthy living blogger ‘essentials’ like flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp, and other such random gluten free shtuff cost a fortune! So I snagged the bag and looked for ways to incorporate it into a healthy, yet yummy, girl-on-the-go recipe.

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ENTER: chocolate muffins.

Every flax muffin recipe I found had some kind of weird combination of gluten free flours/meals, xanthan gum, non-sugar sweeteners, or other various products that most regular people on a budget don’t keep in their pantry. So I was largely on my own testing out this recipe and, after a few months of very little baking, was thrilled to realize that not only were these not terrible

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They’re actually really frickin good. Although I can’t call them “skinny” like my nearly fat free lemon poppyseed muffins…They do have less added fat than your standard muffin recipe (the majority of the fat comes from the Omega 3-rich flaxseed), not too much sugar (1/3 cup), and have a texture that’s not only incredibly moist, but has a little bit of chew in it from the flaxseed meal.

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I’ve been eating 1-2 in the morning with Chobani for a breakfast that’s packed with both protein and fiber. They are actually pretty healthy, at about 160 calories a pop. They have 8 grams of healthy fat (from the flax!), 3.5 grams of fiber, and almost 5 grams of protein.

But I won’t tell anyone if you slather peanut butter all over them.

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Chocolate Flax Muffins
Makes 9 muffins

1/3 cup (white) whole wheat flour
2/3 cup flax seed meal (or just grind up flaxseed in a food processor/coffee grinder/etc)
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (chocolate chips/chocolate square/whatever you can find!)
1 extra ripe banana
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 325F and grease a muffin pan. Don’t use paper liners- these guys are low enough in fat that they will stick to them!

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour through baking powder). In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals (or over a double boiler), being careful not to burn it. When it’s done, vigorously mix in the banana and mash until it’s fully incorporated. Add in sugar, eggs and oil and mix to combine.

Add wet ingredients to dry and distribute into ~9 muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops are set and a toothpick comes out clean. Use a butter knife to help release the muffins from the tin.

Eat fresh out of the oven or soon after. If you can’t, keep muffins in the fridge. Heat ’em up in the microwave briefly before eating if desired!

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Have you ever cooked or baked with flaxseed? What’s your favorite use for it?

What’s your favorite recent grocery store discovery?

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I must admit, even though I’m a “food blogger” and a self-proclaimed foodie, I don’t think I really have a signature go-to dish. I feel like every blogger, mom, homemaker, Pinterest-obsessed lady, or even BBQ-loving man out there has a signature thing that they make well.

Unless throwing a bunch of veggies in a saute pan with various spices and serving it over rice/quinoa counts as a “signature dish”….I am a little bit all over the place, and I prefer to try my hand at as many different kind of dishes as possible rather than specialize in just one.

However, there is one flavor profile that I may have a borderline obsession with…

Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins (one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog, probably because I put the word “skinny” in front of them)… Basil-Lemon Breakfast HashBraided Lemon BreadLemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies…. Seeing a trend here?

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Which brings me to this cookie. I have made these cookies (in Lemon Shortbread Square form) every year for the past 4 years. I thought, nay, KNEW they could not be improved upon…and then I made them into cookies.

GAME CHANGER!

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Not only do you get more cookies out of a batch than you would if you put the dough into a square pan and cut out squares (bonus: it makes them fewer calories!!)… The cookies are just straight up BETTER. Slightly browned and crumbly on the edges, covered in the same heavenly lemon glaze (it’s really what seals the deal here), you need these on your cookie tray!

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Seriously. Nothing is better than lemon juice and powdered sugar. Even people who aren’t huge fans of lemon have told me they liked these cookies. Plus, I tend to prefer a cookie dough that doesn’t have raw egg in it. No danger in eating it off the spatula as you bake 😉

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If you’ve found yourself behind on your Christmas baking, or if you’re like me and you have eaten too many of the cookies you baked that were supposed to be gifts…look no further for your next cookie recipe!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
makes 24 cookies

For Cookies:
2 sticks softened butter
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Lemon Icing:
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
juice & zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 300˚. Beat together butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Whisk the flour and salt separately, then add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. The dough will be scraggly; this is okay!

Lay down a piece of plastic wrap and turn over dough onto plastic wrap. Form the dough into a log with a diameter about the same size you want your cookies to be (about 1.5 inches). It will be pretty long, about 12 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Remove shortbread from fridge and slice into cookies that are about 1/2 inch thick. Score the shortbread with a fork, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.

While shortbread is baking, combine sugar and lemon juice/zest. I usually start with the juice of half a lemon and add powdered sugar as needed. You’ll want it to be semi thick because it’ll get thinner when it touches the hot cookies.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately drizzle with as much icing as desired (ALL OF IT). Let cookies cool and icing harden before storing.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 – Walnut Bars

Today is Cookie Swap reveal day!

Leave it to me, the typically Millennial internet-obsessed 20-something, to participate in a virtual/Internet-based cookie swap before ever participating in a real life one! I chose a good one, however: this year, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000 (via entry fees, donations, and matching donations from sponsors) to be donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer. That is one seriously awesome cookie swap.

Those bloggers who participated had to bake 3 dozen cookies – each dozen going to one of 3 different food bloggers around the country. I was SERIOUSLY impressed by every batch of cookies I received! Each one was better than the last. But more on that later 🙂

My “cookies” went to Maria at Maria of the Best, Lauren at Have Fork, Will Eat, and Samantha at Haute Pepper Bites. I hope they enjoyed their goodies… take a look at my contribution to the cookie swap!

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My cookies weren’t cookies, per se, but rather bars! Walnut Bars, to be exact. These bars can be found in my family’s home every winter without fail. My parents have a walnut tree that produces pounds upon pounds of walnuts in the fall, and this recipe is one of our favorites for using them all up!

The pecan pie-like filling is a perfect complement to the buttery shortbread crust…I was happy to be sending these to Maria, Lauren & Samantha, because whenever they’re around me I end up eating them up super fast 😉 Walnut Bars for breakfast, anyone?!

Walnut Bars
makes 24-36 bars, depending on size

Shortbread Cookie Crust:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine, softened

Walnut Filling:
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup (corn syrup)…light is OK!
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie crust: Spray or grease 10x15x1in baking dish. Beat together the sugar, flour, salt and butter until mix becomes crumbly. Press into pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, prepare walnut filling. Beat eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in walnuts. Once the shortbread cookie crust is finished, evenly pour the mixture over tje hot crust. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm around the edges and set in the middle.

Let cool and cut into bars/squares/whatever shapes your heart desires!

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Now, for the delicious goodies I received… I’m going to use photos from the recipes’ creators, because my iPhone pictures seriously don’t do justice to how amazing these cookies were. Be sure to click through and get the recipes on their blogs! I am DEFINITELY making all 3 this month!

Cherry Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Sarah at Strawberry Plum

These had a great almond flavor and PERFECT texture. Plus, I need to find out where to get that sour cherry jam!

Peppermint Biscotti from Lynn at Turnips 2 Tangerines

Peppermint biscotti?! GENIUS! I can never say no to the peppermint+chocolate combo!

Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Deb at Cooking on the Front Burner

I can’t decide what I liked more about these…the zingy ginger flavor, or the huge chocolate chunks?!

Thank you ladies for some delicious cookies! I can’t wait to give them to my friends and family this month over the holidays.

Have you ever participated in a cookie swap?

What is your go-to cookie to make during the holidays?

Monday Night Football Feast — Week 4

OK, bear with me here friends, I know we’re going back in time a little bit. We did just finish Week 11 of the NFL season, after all.

However, I promised more updates on our MNF Feasts, and a separate post on what I made for New Orleans week. So here we are!

Sadly, since our epic Italian/New York feast I have missed a few weeks, but I’m back at it tonight so I decided now was a better time than any to share another example of a dish I’ve brought to the table!

On the 4th week of Monday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints took on the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans… And I took on BEIGNETS!

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I felt pretty confident about making the dough for beignets, since I use yeast when I make my pizza dough, and I’ve made sweet yeasty creations before (OMGGGG I can’t wait to make Braided Lemon Bread again)… So bringing the dough together was pretty simple.

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Where it differed was in two ways: first of all, I rolled out the dough and cut it into rectangle-ish squares. There was a little bit of trial and error with this when it came to cooking them because some required more/less time in the oil…but all in all it went okay.

The other reason why I was out of my comfort zone with these guys is because beignets are deep fried! I don’t think I had ever deep fried anything before making these. I pan fry stuff occasionally…but was fairly certain that I would need a trip to the burn unit of the ER after attempting these puppies, especially with my tendency to injure myself 😉

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dusting

Well, since this was almost 2 months ago and I haven’t shared any stories of 3rd degree burns…I think you all know it went fine! It took a couple of batches of 2-3 beignets to get the timing and done-ness right (we didn’t have a thermometer for the oil), but after a few tries I finally got it down and, after a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar, they were delicious!

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Along with Dave’s gumbo dishes, this made for one of my favorite Monday Night Football meals yet!

Although tonight for the New England at Carolina game, we chowed down on pulled pork and jalapeno coleslaw sandwiches, fried mac n’ cheese, and chocolate lava cake. At least I know I’ll have my winter coat this November through January in the form of an added 5 pounds 😉

Beignets
based on Anne Burrell’s recipe
yields about 2 dozen beignets

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1(.25-ounce) packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups peanut or other neutrally-flavored oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
In a measuring cup combine the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit until the yeast gets frothy and smells yeasty.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and pinch salt. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine well.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and place on the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Once the ingredients are well combined, knead 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and place in a warm area for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

In a wide, deep pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Set up a paper towel-lined sheet tray to land the beignets when they come out of the oil.

Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly knead on a floured work surface. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.

Working in batches so as to not crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, make a pit stop on the paper towels and immediately dust with powdered sugar.

Serve hot!

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast

CHICKEN. It’s what’s for dinner! 99% of the time.

Amiright?

Chicken was always a staple of our household growing up. Pretty much most weeknight meals at our home consisted of either chicken or pasta. When I started taking an interest in cooking, I soon realized that while chicken is one of the most readily available and easy to cook ingredients out there, it’s easy to fall into a chicken rut.

Don’t take it out on the chicken, Rachael. It’s not its fault it’s boring to eat!

There’s only so many things you can add to a chicken breast before you get sick of it. So you have to start getting creative…

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A little while back, I blogged about La Terra Fina dips and how much my roomie and I LOVED THEM.

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The Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was definitely my favorite of the two. It has mild chilies in it that go PERFECTLY with the cream cheese-based spread. Add in artichokes and I’m in heaven.

While I decided that the Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was my favorite to go at with chips or veggies, the Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan screamed RECIPE to me.  It’s a bit more smooth than the Artichoke & Jalapeno, and is delicious heated up. And thus this recipe was born.

Delicious dips + boring chicken –> miracle recipe!

Though La Terra Fina’s dips are all made of natural ingredients, are gluten free, and include no trans fat, they don’t claim to be “low-fat” or “light” or any of that nonsense.

So to keep this entree on the healthier side, I used a trick I often do when cooking chicken breasts, which is: to butterfly them and split them in half. One serving of chicken breast is 4 oz (about 140 calories)…Most chicken breasts that you buy in the store come in at nearly twice that size. Unless you’re a body builder, you probably don’t need that much protein in one sitting! Butterflying your chicken breasts makes them a healthier portion size…plus, your chicken will cook faster! With the space you save on your plate, you can load up the rest of your plate with more veggies, salad, whole grains…whatever is your jam.

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PLUS, butterflying your chicken breast makes it much easier to wrap around some delicious spinach & artichoke dip 😉 How bad can that be?

INAAAAAAA. How’d you get in there?!

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast
makes 2 small servings

1 large chicken breast, butterflied & split into 2 separate pieces
2 tbsp La Terra Fina Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan Dip (or your preferred dip)
~1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. After cutting your chicken width-wise down the length of the side of the breast and splitting into two thinly sliced pieces, season with salt and pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon of dip on the chicken breast, closer to the base of the breast. Carefully roll the chicken over the filling, using a toothpick or skewer to keep the ends closed.

Sprinkle/cover/roll chicken breast in breadcrumbs (If you want, you can coat the chicken in egg wash first, but I found it wasn’t necessary) and place on a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until done. Watch out for dip oozing out of the sides 🙂

Disclaimer: La Terra Fina provided me with dips to review/taste/develop recipes. All opinions, however, are my own!

Meatless Monday: Zucchini-Corn Fritters

Labor Day is the worst.

For me, it has always marked the end of summer. No more pool days, no more white pants, goodbye 9pm sunsets, goodbye barbeques!

I have had an epic weekend, however, which I will share pictures of tomorrow. Wine, grape stomping, college friends, Sunday Funday, Nutella…If I have to say bye to summer, I might as well send it off right…right?

These past few years, I’ve also begun to love summer produce. Tomatoes have always been one of my most hated foods…but between the months of June and September, I find myself popping fresh cherry tomatoes like candy. Every meal is accompanied by corn on the cob, and I can’t remember the last stir fry I made that didn’t involve zucchini.

Luckily for us in California we get summer produce year round! For a price 😉

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This summer, I’ve been trying to perfect the zucchini fritter. It’s such an easy Monday night meal – there’s minimal prep needed; just scoop together a bunch of veggies and fry ’em up! My ratio was always off, though…too wet, too crumbly, etc. Last week, I finally hit my sweet spot and they turned out delicious! But really, who doesn’t like fried food?

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So make these tonight, make them next week or next month, and enjoy the lingering produce of summer!

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Unfortunately I learned that taking pictures of food isn’t super easy to do with a cast on your thumb…haha.

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#epiclyblurryfoodphotos

Zucchini-Corn Fritters
loosely based on Zucchini Fritters by smitten kitchen

makes 4 fritters

1 medium zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil (fresh) or 1 tsp basil (dry)
1/2 cup corn, removed from cob
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
oil, for frying

Shred zucchini with a box grater or, if you’re smart and lazy, a grater attachment on your food processor. Place in a strainer and sprinkle salt over the shredded zucchini. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then using a clean towel or thick paper towels, wring out all the excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

To the lump of zucchini, add salt, pepper, basil, corn, and egg and mix. Add flour and baking powder and combine until well incorporated.

Heat about a tablespoon (or more if desired) of oil over medium-medium high heat. One at a time, scoop blobs of zucchini batter into the pan. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until brown, then carefully flip to the other side. Once it’s on the other side, you can flatten it out a bit so it has a fritter shape. Let cook on the other side for another 3 minutes and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately!