Meatless Monday: Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash

Told you guys I had a Meatless Monday post waiting for ya!

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And it involves mini peppers and mini potatoes…because mini is always cuter, right?

Despite the fact that I just called this dish cute, it’s actually a pretty hearty meal. Potatoes are pretty filling, but since they’re so starchy and carby, they’re not the kind of filling that will sustain you for many hours. That’s where the other components come in to save the day!

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I got really into beets this spring since my dad was growing them and they always looked so pretty at the Farmer’s Market. They stain everything, but I love their earthy taste and they are so pretty! Sweet mini bell peppers and onions add crunch, and pinto beans give this hash some bulk.

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Finish it all off with some fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon and you have yourself a perfectly light and refreshing, yet filling, summer breakfast! Or if you’re like me, you don’t really wake up until 10 or 11 on the weekend and there becomes a thin line between breakfast and lunch 🙂

I am proud to report that the basil plant I bought at the grocery store about a month ago is still alive and kickin’! However, we are currently on Day 3 of an 8 day streak of triple digit heat. 104, 107, and 106 degrees on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…and it’s only getting hotter. So who knows if the plant will last much longer.

This quick 1-skillet dish would be great for a hot day like today (108 degrees!), but I’ve chosen instead to do the 3 Day Peel’d Juice Cleanse. I learned about it from my friend Sarah who did their traditional 5-day cleanse last month (Hi Sarah!). Consuming only juice for 3 days isn’t exactly my cup o’ tea…However, in addition to the allotted 2 juices and 1 smoothie per day, Peel’d allows you to eat as many fruits and veggies as you want: “This process isn’t about depriving yourself, but feeding yourself large amounts of foods that will nourish, support and heal you.” Olives, avocados, and nuts are also listed as ideal “snacks”…win!

I will definitely be writing a recap later in the week, but until then, I’ll just leave this here…and dream about potatoes:

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Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash
serves 1

2 mini potatoes
1/2 small onion (about 1/2 cup)
2 mini red or orange bell peppers
1/2 medium-sized beet, cooked (I roast mine in a foil packet in the oven at 400F for about 45 minutes)
1/4-1/2 cup pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
juice of one lemon
salt & pepper
oil, as needed for cooking

Cut everything into similarly-sized pieces. Heat your choice of oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add onions, stirring to coat. Let them sweat for about a minute before adding the potatoes. Again, stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in bell peppers and beets and cook for another 5 minutes. Add desired amount of pinto beans and lemon juice, and cook until heated through. Remove from heat, mix in basil leaves, garnish with lemon wedge (add more lemon if you’d like) and enjoy!

Politics and Avocado-Cilantro Hummus

What a crazy 24 hours for politics, you guys.

I’m sorry, I know it’s tacky to talk about religion and politics or whatever, but indulge me in this and I’ll indulge you all with POSSIBLY my best side dish recipe ever.

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{actually, considering the fact that I work in politics and live blocks away from the State Capitol, it’s a wonder that I don’t talk about it more!}

So first of all, Halle Berry was at the State Capitol yesterday. Yes, the one I live blocks away from.

She was testifying in support of a bill that would impose tighter restrictions against the paparazzi when it comes to photographing children [of celebrities]. Bill authors and bill sponsors get semi-famous people to testify from time to time, but I think Halle Berry takes the cake for most famous/fabulous in recent memory.

Next up: Wendy Davis is a BAMF.

source: NPR

She filibustered for 11 hours yesterday…while wearing fabulous pink sneakers of course. I actually listened to a good 2 hours of her filibuster at work, and then my roomie and I streamed the last 2-3 hours of it after we got home from work. The crazy/amazing thing about this is that during what seemed like every second of that time, old white dude after old white dude would try and bring up bogus points of order or interrupt her to get her all tripped up. She was advocating for a woman’s right to choose. And the men kept trying to silence her. What’s wrong with this picture?

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OK now LAST political thing before we get to this deliciousness:

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I have a picture to share.

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This is me and my family at my aunt Martha’s wedding in.. judging by my bangs…1994. It was me and my brother’s first wedding. Normal family picture, right? Happy family, happy to see our aunt joined in love with her partner.

Yup. Partner. The first wedding I ever attended was a gay one, y’all.

My mom retells the story about how a confused 8 year old me asked her, “Who is Aunt Martha marrying?” and was shocked when she replied, “Her ‘friend’ Michelle”. This early understanding that love can be found between two of the same gender has affected my outlook ever since.

That union eventually ended, and my aunt found her true soulmate a few years later. They were one of the first couples in line at City Hall in San Francisco to make it official when gay marriage was legalized. They have since moved to Connecticut, where they renewed their vows and made it official again when CT legalized gay marriage, this time with their young daughter by their side.

So you can see I am elated today that the Supreme Court essentially upheld the decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. It is an issue near and dear to my dad’s family: A regular American family who goes to church every week. No degenerates, no hoodlums, no drag queens. Just normal folk!

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It’s a very happy day, and you can bet you’ll find me celebrating at the Capitol this evening!

I got this bracelet from our friend Amanda, who is the Chair of the California Young Democrats LGBT Caucus (and who I met last year…at a gay wedding). I feel like it was my most appropriate jewelry to wear today!

OK, you have all been patient…and now you are awarded:

DSC_0609I bought Avocado-Cilantro Hummus from the Farmer’s Market two weeks ago and I have been dreaming about it ever since. But it cost $5 for a teeny tiny tub, so I decided to take matters into my own hands: I bought $2 of avocados and cilantro instead of the hummus, and got to work. It ended up just as great as the original, and the avocado made the texture of this homemade hummus thick and smooth. Probably my best hummus yet, and really, who doesn’t love avocado?

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[proof that my nails are rarely perfect. haha]

Avocado-Cilantro Hummus
makes about 1.5 cups

1- 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (reserve the liquid!)
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 tbsp tahini
zest and juice of 1 lime (2 if needed)
1 garlic clove
1 avocado
pinch of cumin
pinch of salt & pepper

If desired and if you have time, peel the skins off the garbanzo beans. Discard the skins.

Place garbanzo beans, cilantro, tahini, lime juice/zest, and garlic in bowl of a food processor. Blitz until everything is a coarse meal, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally. To get things moving, add up to 3 tablespoons of reserved garbanzo bean liquid. Keep processing for a minute or two until mostly smooth, and all the cilantro is incorporated.

Add avocado and spices to food processor. Keep processing until completely incorporated and mixture is smooth…if needed, add more lime juice rather than more reserved liquid.

Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days. Like guacamole, it will start to brown after about 3 days.

Lunch Lately & A Super Easy Taco Bowl Recipe

Before I get to pictures of my lunches lately, a few PSA’s:

I announced a winner of my Food Should Taste Good giveaway! Was it you?

Remember my Muesli Protein Bars? They were selected to be a finalist in the Muesli Fusion Recipe Contest! Please click here to go to the Facebook Poll and vote for me! All you have to do is click “Muesli Protein Bars — Blonde Ambition Blog”. First place AND runner up get a prize! Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted!

Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

Last month when I went to Park City to attend Blend Retreat, I often found myself the recipient of the question, “So what is your blog about?” In fact, I get this question a lot in everyday life. I think most people expect me to say that I think I’m some gourmet foodie, or that I make really elaborate dishes. The truth is, this blog is about making healthy living seem more accessible to busy twenty-somethings (or even just busy people in general!).

Now, I get that when I say “healthy living”, the image that comes to mind is someone who must be 100% preservative-free, organic-only, homegrown, or following the ever so trendy gluten-free diet. (“I’m pretty sure gluten is just anything that is bad for you” hahaha Seth Rogen in This Is the End) But I know that’s unrealistic for most people, myself included.

For me, one of the most important aspects of healthy living is limiting my meals out each week — especially lunch. There aren’t a lot of healthy options close to my work, and salads get old fast. So I aim to prep food on Sundays, or even throughout the week when I have time in the evening, so that I have quick grab-and-go meals to bring for lunch. On days that I’m not working out at lunch, I sometimes have time to bike home and cook a quick meal. I suppose that’s a luxury of living only 7 blocks away from my office 😉

But there are plenty of days when I have to grab an “emergency” burrito out of the freezer, or grab a salad or sandwich from La Bou. And that’s okay! I try to abide by the 80-20 ratio…80% good healthy eats, 20% indulgence. So if I go out to eat or mack on a frozen burrito one day out of the week, that’s not so bad.

Here’s what I’ve been making lately!

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My Lemony Rice & Spring Veggies – perfect for a non workout day, but could work for a workout day too…just add chicken!

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There was one week where I spent about 20 minutes on Monday night cooking up a few sausages and peppers, and had lunch for 3 days. One day I ate them on a tortilla with broccoli, another day with bread like a sandwich. Very versatile!

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Salad is super quick to put together either the night before or in the morning. This one had romaine lettuce, beets, broccoli, and bell peppers…I think some pinto beans were hiding in there too. Make or store your dressing in a mason jar and add when you’re ready to eat!

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You wouldn’t think so, but pasta is actually a great quick meal to make in the morning to bring to work…Especially if you use spaghetti (which cooks quicker than most pasta). Just cook the spaghetti, toss in some veggies like broccoli and kale, plus a squeeze of lemon and some parm…And you have a perfectly portable meal! Plus, the hot spaghetti will wilt the veggies.

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On days when I have time to go home and make lunch, my meals typically look like this. A bunch of sauteed veggies with a side of avocado toast. Can you tell there were beets in this stir fry? Haha.

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evol Burritos are probably my favorite frozen burrito. It doesn’t hurt that Grocery Outlet has been selling them $1 off for a good 2 months now 😉 They are a little heavy on the tortilla, but I read that evol recently took that feedback and changed their recipe to include smaller tortillas. This must be why Grocery Outlet has so many – getting rid of the old product! My favorite is the Bean, Rice & Cheese.

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Now that I’ve totally inspired you to make your own lunch everyday… 😉 Here’s a recipe for an easy lunch (and what I’ve been eating for lunch this week! These Chicken Taco “Bowls” are easy and quick to put together (you basically just layer the ingredients in a bowl/tupperware) and are a really hearty meal. They’re easily customizable, too, so if you don’t like the ingredients I included, sub in whatever you want! I made these Monday night in about 30 minutes, providing me with two grab and go lunches this week!

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Chicken Taco Bowls
makes 2 bowls (but is easily doubled!)

1 large chicken breast
juice of one lime
salt & pepper
chile powder
cumin
garlic powder
oil, for sauteing

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black beans, drained
1 small summer squash
1 handful baby kale (if you use regular kale, you will probably want to cook it a bit with the squash. Baby kale is much more tender)

Combine chicken breast with lime juice and spices in a plastic bag. Squish around all the spices to make sure chicken is coated. Let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients. Cook rice according to package directions if not already cooked. Drain and rinse black beans, and cut squash into half moons.

Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Add desired amount of oil, turning the pan to coat. Add marinated chicken to pan. Cook about 6 minutes, then turn. Once you have turned the chicken, add the squash. Cook an additional 6 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring the squash occasionally. Remove from heat and let chicken rest on a cutting board while you assemble the bowls.

In two tupperware containers, layer ingredients: 1/2 cup beans, 1/4 cup rice, small handful of kale, and half of the squash. When chicken is cooled, cut into cubes and evenly split between the two tupperwares. You’ll notice the heat from the squash and chicken will wilt the kale, eliminating the need to cook it separately. Store in fridge until needed, and microwave for about 1:30 on high before eating. Eat alone, or with a tortilla!

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20130619-092507.jpgWhat is your go-to lunch at work?

How often do you eat out during the week?

Muesli Protein Bars

***Muesli Fusion chose these Protein Bars as a finalist in their recipe contest!! If you like what you see, PLEASE head over to Facebook and click on my recipe – Muesli Protein Bars (Blonde Ambition Blog)…all you have to do is click! Voting closes this FRIDAY, June 21st! THANK YOU!!!***

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I have been really into overnight oats lately. This is in large part due to the fact that I acquired a bag of Muesli Fusion at Blend, and I l-o-v-e it.

When I heard Muesli Fusion would be sponsoring one of our breakfasts, I was actually pretty skeptical about the whole idea of muesli. I thought, “It has no added sugar, so it’s not crunchy like granola…it’s basically just oats and fruit??” whyyy would you eat raw oats and fruit?

Fortunately, Muesli Fusion totally proved me wrong. One beef I’ve always had with overnight oats is that it’s too mushy. I am a texture freak, I need to have SOME kind of crunch or chew in my oatmeal/overnight oats. And Muesli Fusion’s An-Ox totally provides that. It has walnuts, dried goji berries & blueberries, and cacao nibs. Perfect solution!

I’ve all but decided to eliminate plain oats from my grocery-staple list and replace them with muesli. Seriously, I love the stuff.

Last week, as I was approaching the end of my bag of An-Ox, I remembered that Muesli Fusion is hosting a recipe contest. The challenge: to create a recipe featuring Muesli Fusion cereal.

Challenge accepted!

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I really wanted to make homemade granola muesli bars, but every recipe I found used at least 1/2 cup and usually closer to 1 cup of sugar/maple syrup/honey/etc. One of the most advertised characteristics about Muesli Fusion cereals is that they have no added sugar, except that which comes from the added fruit, and I really wanted to keep a somewhat low level of sugar in my recipe.

What I ended up with not only has less sugar than a store-bought granola bar, but also, thanks to a few scoops of protein powder and crunchy quinoa, packs a good 8 grams of protein per serving!

Instead of tons of sugar, this recipe uses only 3 tablespoons of honey, as well as the natural sweetness of banana.

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Though An-Ox already has a bunch of good add ins, my inner texture freak came out and I added a few crunchy ingredients: chia seeds, quinoa, and almonds.

I maaaaay have also used chocolate protein powder and added chocolate chips…but doesn’t everyone love feeling like they’re eating dessert for breakfast?

These aren’t your typical crunchy granola bars, but I love them all the same. The version with chocolate chips that I made clocks in at around 200 calories, only 5g of fat, a whopping 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. This version has about 11.5g of sugar, which would be a fair amount lower if you omit chocolate chips.

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So will you join me in eating dessert for breakfast?

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PS. If these sound like something you’d like to try making yourself, please re-pin this post on Pinterest! I could get a prize if I get the most pinned recipe! Click this link to re-pin 🙂

PPS. If you aren’t feeling up to the challenge of creating a new recipe…try entering Muesli Fusion’s summer giveaway! No purchase necessary, no blog post needed. Just like their Facebook page!

(Chocolate) Muesli Protein Bars
makes 8 bars
pin this!

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (you can also use skim milk or any unsweetened non-dairy milk)
3 tbsp honey
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups Muesli Fusion An-Ox
2 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Onnit Hemp Force, but you can use any kind! Doesn’t have to be chocolate!)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, or full almonds roughly chopped (measure after chopping)
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa (or cooked. depends on what consistency you’re going for! i kinda par-cooked mine, haha)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional, will increase amount of sugar in bars)
1 tbsp flour (optional, if needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl. When evenly mixed throughout, slowly add dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients, making sure everything gets evenly incorporated. Mixture should be pretty wet, but if you think it looks too wet, feel free to add about a tablespoon of flour.

Ideally you will use an 8×8 or 9×9 pan for these bars. Spray your pan with oil and press the batter tightly into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark to see how done they are. You will want them to be firm in the middle, and to look dry. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before removing from pan. Let cool completely to room temperature before cutting into bars…it should make about 8!

Keep in an airtight container, or individually wrap the bars in saran wrap, and keep in fridge. Should keep for about a week.

Summer Recipe Ideas

The season of barbecues and grilling is upon us, friends!

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We are officially moving into the high 90’s, and there’s no end in sight. Such is life in Sacramento during the summer months! We get an average of 22 days of 100+ degree temps every year, according to the National Weather Service. That first day might be tomorrow!

And fortunately, I’ll actually be able to enjoy the weather this weekend: included in this weekend’s agenda are at least two barbeques, Concerts in the Park tonight, and a pub crawl tomorrow. All of a sudden, my social life has seemed to perk up! Funny how a little bit of sunshine will do that 🙂

If you’re curious whether I followed my “Getting Back on Track” meal/exercise plan for the week, I actually did pretty awesomely! All of my meals were more or less planned out [except last night I ended up having fries before dodgeball T-shirt pickup, and a salad after…I was supposed to have chicken, fries, and veggies. Not too bad, right?], and I stuck with the workouts. I surprisingly managed to run 2.7 miles on Wednesday at a 9:15 pace (my longest/fastest run since my 5K in March), and did a pretty killer arms & core workout yesterday. I’m definitely feeling like I’m back on track, though we’ll see if I can carry it over into the weekend full of food, booze, and fun!

In celebrating all of our social lives becoming active again, I decided to put together a little collection of summer recipes. Some are recipes I developed, and others are recipes I’ve pinned over the last year or so. Some are entrees that would be perfect for dinner tonight, others are sides that will make you the hero of any barbeque. I’ve got desserts and drinks too! Enjoy!

Main Dishes

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Fried Green Tomato BLTs with Spicy Ranch Spread – I made these on my birthday weekend this past year and they would be perfect for a summer meal on the balcony!

Chipotle-Mango BBQ Sauce Chicken Salad – That sauce sounds out of this world!

Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Rosemary – This Giada recipe is the first fish dish I ever made, and it’s been my go-to ever since! Cooking salmon in foil packets on the grill is foolproof and so delicious.

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Spicy Smoky Black Bean Burgers – My most popular recipe, and one of my favorites. Once you get the hang of it, making veggie burgers at home is really easy.

Grilled Veggie Tacos – The perfect summer meal. I made this so many times last summer!

Asian Turkey Burgers with Spicy Lime Mayo – This recipe has been pinned on one of my boards for over a year now. I think it might be time!

Side Dishes/Appetizers

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad – definitely a recipe that should be in everyone’s repertoire!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Corn & Avocado – Finally I can make zucchini ribbons, now that I have a microplane!

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Roasted Garlic Hummus – Now that I’ve perfected my hummus recipe, I am totally going to make it all summer long!

Grilled Corn & Cheddar Quinoa – I couldn’t believe how delicious this was. Possibly my favorite quinoa dish ever.

Roasted Red Pepper, Artichoke and Olive Pasta Salad – Ashley has managed to develop my most perfect ideal pasta salad EVER!

Desserts

photo courtesy of Heather Christo Cooks

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake – I’ve never made an icebox cake, but they sound so easy and perfect for warm weather…no oven required!

Orange Creamsicle Cookies – Quickly becoming my signature cookies! I am looking forward to revisiting this recipe this summer and updating my pictures.

Zucchini Almond Chocolate Bites – My favorite thing to do in the summer is sneak zucchini into everything. These bites are a perfect vehicle!

Coconut Shell Fruit Popsicles – What a cool idea. I might have to do this now that I got a huge amount of coconut oil in my Blend swag bag!

Drinks

photo courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

Whiskey Lemonade with Honey – Whiskey and lemons is a favorite combo of mine. It’s like a warm weather hot toddy!

Watermelon G&T – It sounds a little labor intensive to make the watermelon syrup…but I have a feeling it’d be worth it.

Iced Green Tea Mojito – What a cool idea. The healthiness of the green tea totally cancels out the alcohol right? AND there’s green stuff in it. It’s healthy!

Raspberry Beer Cocktail – This sounds like a hangover waiting to happen…and a delicious one, at that.

Citrus-Strawberry Green Tea – So you all can’t say I only included alcoholic drinks 🙂 Though this does sound like it’d be great with a splash of vodka!

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What is your favorite thing to make in the summer?

What are your plans this weekend?

Blend Retreat Swag + Chocolate Protein Muffins

Sooo, if you haven’t heard, we got a lot of free stuff at Blend.

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A yoga mat from NatureMade? Seriously?! 😀

photo cred: Becky @ Olives n’ Wine

We found all of this waiting for us in the swag bag we got upon checking in on Friday afternoon. And just… WOW.

Additionally, there was an expo room set up with tables featuring even more sponsors, with MORE products set up for us to take as we pleased. What? Like…REALLY? We were in disbelief all weekend at all the great companies who want to promote their products to healthy living bloggers.

The funniest moment had to be when we opened our bags and saw:

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coconut oil and vanilla beans!

Becky, Carly and I started freaking out. I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down in excitement…we were in food blogger heaven.

We thought that was it for the swag, but to our surprise, we walked back to our rooms on Saturday post-breakfast and pre-hike to find:

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MORE swag?!

So you get the point…there was a lot of swag.

The weekend concluded with a closing ceremony on Sunday, which included a raffle. Only, it wasn’t just a couple of items being raffled off…I think almost everyone won something!

{both photos courtesy of Lindsay @ Lindsays List}

2 of those 3 Onnit goodie boxes ended up going to Becky and I!

photo cred: Becky at Olives n’ Wine

Onnit has a lot of very interesting products…namely, their supplements. Their supplement Alpha Brain was one of the first nootropic supplements on the market. It is supposed to help with focus, creativity, and apparently it enables lucid dreams as well. I think Stron Bone & Joint might be a little more my speed, but I am definitely excited to try some of these out!

When I got home, I was determined to make the most out of all the free stuff I got, and save some money on groceries this week in the process. So I went to Safeway and got the essentials: bread, Alexia frozen fries because I’m obsessed, and mixed greens for salad. With some coupons from my swag bag, I also bought:

Yogurt and almond milk from Chobani and Silk, two Blend sponsors!

So basically, the swag legacy continues.

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I decided to use my Hemp Force protein from Onnit, Chobani yogurt, and Musselman’s apple sauce (yep, we even had apple sauce in our swag bag!) to make some chocolate protein muffins. At only about 110 calories and less than a gram of fat, they’re just as skinny as my Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins, but thanks to the hemp protein they pack a bit more fiber and protein!

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Skinny Chocolate Protein Muffins
verrry loosely based on these Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes ~11 muffins

2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 banana, mashed
3/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla (optional, but recommended)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or mixture of all purpose and whole wheat)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 scoops chocolate-flavored protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 425F.

Start by mixing all the wet ingredients together in a bowl: applesauce through vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift all the dry ingredients and whisk together. If you are using hemp protein powder, the only ingredient you need to sift is the cocoa (if you sift the hemp, some bits might not make it through). Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until combined. The mixture will be thick.

Spray a muffin tin with oil, and divide batter among tins. (Because of the low fat content, I don’t recommend using paper liners) It should almost reach the top. Place muffins in oven for 5 minutes. Then, keeping muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature to 375F and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Check the muffins with a toothpick: if it comes out cleanly, they are done. If not, give them another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the muffins sit for 3-5 minutes before removing to cool on a rack. I used a butter knife to loosely release the muffins.

NOTES: Hemp definitely has a strong taste, so next time I use hemp protein powder in this recipe, I will definitely add vanilla (I didn’t in this batch), chocolate chips, and maybe even cinnamon to off-set the flavor. Even so, these have great texture and are rather large for 110 calories!

Paired with even more Greek yogurt, this made quite the protein-packed breakfast!

Also, it was pretty much dessert for breakfast. I can always get down with that.

Have a great 3-day weekend!

Do you ever use protein powder in your smoothies or baking? What is your favorite kind?

I can’t wait to try the other protein/energy powders we got in our bag: Vega, Plant Fusion, and Fitmixer!

Lemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies

Seems like every season, I make some kind of rice pilaf (or quinoa, couscous, etc) with the season’s veggies. It started in the SUMMER which included zucchini, bell pepper and tomatoes.. then continued into an AUTUMN version which featured an amazing mix of walnuts, dried cranberries, caramelized onions, and rosemary. Ohhh man both were so good.

I think, however, I may have topped it.

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I am lemon-obsessed, as you all know. Braided Lemon Bread, Skinny Lemon Poppyseed Muffins…it is definitely lemon season around here. Plussssss, spring produce is finally here! Color me excited. I went to my first seasonal Farmers Market last week and zeroed in on two things: peas and asparagus. It’s green central up in my fridge, folks.

So what better vehicle is there to transport those fresh, green veggies into my mouth than my favorite brown rice?

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Of course if I were really to be following tradition here, I’d be using Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend. I really wanted to make this into a quinoa salad, but thought I didn’t have any… Of course right after I finished cooking this dish, I found a box of quinoa that I bought on Saturday and completely forgot about in a mostly-empty grocery bag in my living room. D’oh. Regardless, I really do like TJ’s Brown Jasmine Rice. I buy a 3 pound bag every six months or so and make it all the time.

The other players:

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Farmer’s Market asparagus is really funny lookin’. Duly noted.

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Green!

This dish gets its lemony kick from a vinaigrette I added at the end. A little bit of honey balances out the zingy lemon, and it’s so easy to make; all you need to do is add ingredients to a jar and give it a shake!

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This is my one snobbish foodie thing – I don’t use any store-bought dressings or marinades. If you have oil, vinegar, and mustard/honey in your kitchen, you will always have the makings of a delicious and cheap homemade dressing.

Mix mix mix.

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DSC_0498LEMON!

I split this batch into two tupperwares for lunch. It is about 300 calories, lots of fiber, and nearly 10 grams of protein thanks to the peas (that apparently have lots of it!).

DSC_0503I didn’t get a chance to food prep this weekend (being that I was too busy drinking tequila and playing kickball and whatnot), but luckily (unluckily?) I was feeling ill Monday and Tuesday and didn’t have an appetite for much beyond avocado toast or almond butter + toast. I made this on Tuesday night hoping I’d regain my appetite in time to eat it for lunch on Wednesday and Thursday……wish granted!

Except that my stomachache promptly got worse after eating it, so I went to the doctor and the reason my stomach was acting up was because of acid indigestion-related issues. So yesterday morning I got a strict “no caffeine-alcohol-dairy-spicy-or-acidic-foods” order from the doc. Which means one of these is still sitting in my fridge at work, waiting to be eaten.

Any takers?

Lemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies
serves 2, or 3-4 as a side dish

1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 cup chicken broth, veggie broth, or water (for cooking rice)
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
~10 asparagus spears (this was about 1/2 my bunch)
1/2 medium zucchini, about 1 cup when sliced
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp oil, or as needed for sauteing

FOR DRESSING
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp oil (I used sunflower oil)
pinch of dried basil
pinch of dried thyme

Prepare brown rice according to package instructions using your choice of broth or water.

While rice is cooking, prepare veggies. Dice the onions and mince the garlic. Snap or cut off the woody ends of the asparagus then cut each spear into 3-4 bite sized pieces, shuck the peas (if using fresh ones still in the pod), and slice the zucchini into bite-sized slices.

Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Next, add asparagus, stirring to coat. Let asparagus cook for about 4 minutes. Once the asparagus starts to get tender, add zucchini slices and garlic, stirring again to combine. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add cooked rice and peas all at once, mixing everything thoroughly.

While waiting for the veggies to cook, combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

After peas and rice are added, let cook until everything is heated through and then add dressing, stirring well. Turn heat down to low and let everything simmer until ready to serve, being sure to not let the veggies overcook.

Would be great served with fresh crusty bread, or with chicken!

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What is your favorite season for produce?

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Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

As you all may have imagined with my days of silence, it has been crazy times over here at Blonde Ambition headquarters (<– totally a real place).

I worked 10.5 hours on Friday, received a staggering 100 emails between Monday and Tuesday, and worked another 10.5 hours on Wednesday, but now it is all over and done with. Breathing a sigh of relief until the next big thing (which is…a committee hearing on Monday. Argh)

Anyway, I know I bragged last week about being able to come up with meals even when I’m busy during the week. I’d be lying if I told you that I made every meal at home this week. (I had a Caesar Salad at our Symposium on Weds, pizza at dodgeball last night, and was belatedly treated to Administrative Professionals Day lunch today) But considering I didn’t have time to do Sunday Food Prep this week, my other meals weren’t so bad…in part, thanks to my realization that I can make a damn good tzatziki sauce:

This random sandwich came together on Monday and consisted of 2 fried eggs, alfalfa sprouts (one of my fave sandwich ingredients), and a heavy smear of tzatziki sauce. I ate it with a side of potato wedges that I dipped in the rest of the sauce. Aaaaamazing.

Our Legislative Symposium closed out on Wednesday with a Cocktail hour and, after a couple of glasses of Chardonnay and entirely too many crackers and cheese, I finally got home around 7pm and decided I needed more sustenance. Some roasted vegetables and my new favorite fresh, fat-free dipping sauce were exactly what the doctor ordered.

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I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a large tub of fat-free plain Chobani in my fridge. It’s a great healthy substitute for some not-so-healthy baking ingredients, makes sauces creamy and fresh, and if you love making dips, it is a perfect alternative to sour cream or mayonnaise.

Who wants hot dip when it’s 85 degrees outside? Tzatziki is a perfect warm-weather condiment. All you need to transform the sometimes-tart plain Greek yogurt into a fresh tzatziki sauce is a little bit of cucumber, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some herby dill.

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Just make sure you’ve got enough of whatever vehicle you’re scoopin’ at the sauce with…because you’re gonna want to use your fingers if you run out and there’s still tzatziki left 😉

Now who’s got a killer falafel recipe? I sense a perfect combo in the works….!

Homemade Tzatziki Sauce
makes ~1 cup

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4-1/3 cup cucumber, peeled & de-seeded, then either finely diced or shredded
~1 tbsp fresh dill – OR – 1/4 tsp dried dill
juice of 1/2 lemon

Prepare cucumber. If you want a chunky sauce, then finely dice the cucumber. If not, grating it is fine too. I actually like to do a combination of both!

Combine ingredients. Taste and adjust according to your preference. For best results, prepare sauce first and let it sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your meal.

Use as a dipping sauce or spread on bread as part of a delicious sandwich!

Note: if you use regular (non-Greek) plain yogurt, most tzatziki recipes will require that you strain the yogurt over a period of at least 1-2 hours. This is to avoid wateriness when it comes in contact with the cucumber.

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Happy weekend!

Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce

So I think I’ve said this a few times before, but spring has definitely sprung in Northern California. Aside from a couple of rainy days here and there, and some crazy wind, I think spring is here to stay. It’s forecast to reach 85 degrees today! Anyway, the moral of all of this weather talk is that I’d like to thank the lawd for springtime and Daylight Savings because by the time I finished making this dinner last night, it was still light enough to get some semi-naturally lit pictures.

I wasn’t actually planning on dinner last night being a recipe I shared with the blogosphere. I was just jazzed that I’d had the foresight to put a chicken breast in the fridge the night before to defrost. {MAJOR win in my book}

Luckily, I was keeping track of the ingredients as I added them, since I record most of my recipes in my calorie counting app so I have the nutritional stats!

So I got out the chicken breast and my new trusty iPad, and pulled up the Pinterest app. I saw a recipe for spicy peanut sauce that I pinned 50 weeks ago. 50! It pops into my head from time to time, but for most of the past year I was trying to keep a low fat-ish diet. Not anymore! Now that I’m working out 3+ days per week, and trying to maintain my weight {not lose}, I think I can splurge on a little peanut butter here and there 😉

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I must have had faith in these trusty ingredients, ’cause I at least thought to take a picture of them! {not pictured are lime juice and sesame oil}

So I started to make the sauce, and had the chicken marinating…then, I started adding my own ingredients and subbing a couple of things here and there. Last time I made peanut sauce “with a few substitutions”, I went too heavy handed on the soy sauce and it basically tasted like salt. So I started eying the pizza my roommate and her boyfriend were making, and thinking to myself, “Welllll, if this doesn’t turn out, maybe I can at least steal a slice of their pizza…..”

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The dish turned out juuuust fine. MORE than fine, even. So fine, that I ran to get my camera after one bite to take pictures and texted my boyfriend, “HOLY S#@&!!” {and kind of freaked him out for a minute when I was too busy chowing down to explain my random outburst}.

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Suffice it to say, it was GOOD. And quick! This is a true 30-minute meal, depending on how long your rice takes to cook. The sauce is out of this world – salty from the soy sauce, spicy from just a hint {ok, a lot} of sriracha, and creamy from the peanut butter. Now how bad can that be?

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Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce
serves one…but is easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled 😉
sauce based on Naturally Ella’s Spicy Peanut Sauce with Rice Noodles & Veggies

For Sauce
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar (or just do 1 full tablespoon of soy sauce)
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced (or 1 clove)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup warm water

For Chicken + Marinade
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
oil, for sauteing

Optional (but you should totally add these things)
1/4-1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 bunch asparagus
1 tsp sriracha, chile garlic sauce, or sambal oelek

Begin by cutting your chicken into bite sized pieces, and combine the chicken and marinade ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag. Mix until everything’s incorporated and all the chicken pieces are coated in marinade. Set aside. This would also be a good time to get your pot of rice simmering on the stove or in your rice cooker.

While that’s happenin’, combine all the ingredients for your sauce, mixing after each addition. Give it a taste! It should be perfect, but if it needs a lil somethin somethin, go ahead and add whatever your little heart desires. If you want it to be spicy, you can add the sriracha here (I waited until it was all bubblin away on the stove). It may seem really liquidy at this point, but it will thicken when it cooks. Prep whatever veggies you’re using…I used asparagus, so I trimmed the tough edges and cut the spears into 3rds/4ths.

Heat ~1 tsp of oil on a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, draining them of their marinade. If the veggies you’re using take a longer time to cook (like asparagus) add them in at the same time. If not…just wait a few minutes before adding them. No biggie. Cook chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, then add your sauce and reduce heat to medium-low. Let it simmer away until it has thickened to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes.

Spoon chicken, veggies, and sauce over rice and enjoy!

Notes: This recipe makes aboout twice as much as is on that plate. Other good veggies to use would be broccoli/cauliflower, a frozen stir fry mix, or other in-season veggies right now like peas or string beans.

Skinny Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Yup, I went there.

Two lemon recipes in one week.

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I actually made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, when I was on this muffin + yogurt for breakfast kick. But I really don’t have a huge appetite for breakfast, and I was feeling like a 140 calorie yogurt and a high fat 200+ calorie muffin was a bit much for breakfast.

So I set out to make the lowest possible calorie muffin I could. And guess what? These puppies are not only virtually fat free, and only 112 calories a pop…but they’re also delicious. Whaaaaaat?

That’s right. You didn’t think I could possibly post two lemon recipes in one week without mentioning my favorite Lemon, did I? Much love, LL.

Anyway, back to these muffins.

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I think it was last spring or summer that I bought these poppyseeds – I was seeing so many lemon poppyseed recipes and I needed to make something of my own RIGHTTHISMINUTE. And then they sat in my cupboard for half a year.

I used the same white whole wheat flour that I used in the braided lemon bread, except this time I used it exclusively – no all purpose. (Healthier source of carbs/fiber? Check!) Instead of oil or butter, I used plain nonfat Greek yogurt. (Replacing fat with healthy protein? Check!) Add in some lemon zest & juice, poppy seeds, blueberries, and vanilla, and you’ve got your flavor factor.

I was super scared when I put these in the oven. I was looking at 2-3 different “skinny” muffin recipes to guide me, all of which included bananas or apple sauce, which I didn’t plan on adding. So I was really winging it.

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me when I took these muffins out of the oven

Apparently I did something right! The texture was as close as you can get to a traditional full-fat muffin. These puppies are light and fluffy, lemony and fresh, and they’re perfectly moist inside! They’ve got about 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein per muffin. Not too shabby.

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Not too shabby at all!

Skinny Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour {or combination of all purpose and regular whole wheat flour}
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp poppyseeds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup nonfat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
juice and zest of one lemon {about 3 tbsp of juice and 1 tbsp of zest}
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/3 cup milk {start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed}
1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen-then-thawed

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. I don’t recommend using paper liners, as these muffins have very little fat and will stick to the paper.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, and poppyseeds). Set aside. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients (brown sugar through milk) and mix with a fork, whisk, or handmixer until thoroughly combined. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing only until combined – do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. If the mixture seems too thick/dry, add a tablespoon or 2 of milk as needed. It will be rather thick though, so don’t add more than 2 tablespoons.

Scoop spoonfuls of batter into the muffin tins and place in the oven to bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out mostly clean.

Let muffins cool in tins for about 5-7 minutes, then remove and place on cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Mine kept best when refrigerated (then reheated for a few second in the microwave).

Final step: eat one of these muffins fresh out of the oven and you’ll feel like this:

LEMON OUT!