Recent Finds and Faves

I wanted to take a post and share several little things that have been keeping me happy and healthy over the past few days. I didn’t think each one on its own could constitute a post (especially not without a decent camera), but I did want to share.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower– I saw this recipe from Everyday Maven featured on Food Stories Blog. I love roasted cauliflower and curry, so I knew it would be a favorite. I was not disappointed!! It basically constituted half of my dinner last night.

PB Crave– I won Taylor’s giveaway, and was so excited to get three flavors of PB Crave in the mail a couple days ago. I love it way more than I ever thought I would!! All the flavors are  great, without any artificial ingredients or sweeteners. My favorite flavor is the Razzle Dazzle-a raspberry white chocolate blend. Sadly, Im almost out!


Bread Pudding- I used the last hunk of my homemade wheat bread to serve as the base of this bread pudding. Bread pudding was my second  favorite dessert at the dining hall in college (I think I was the only person who ever ate it), the first being the frozen yogurt machine. When I noticed my bread getting stale, I just knew what I wanted to bake. While my version was not nearly as sweet, it still turned out pretty good. I was afraid the bread would be too dense to soak up the coconut milk and egg mixture, but it was fine. I also wanted an excuse to use these cute rose ramekins that I bought 😉

Tazo Green Tea– This weekend I realized how addicted I am to coffee; I rarely make coffee at home, but I gave into the headaches and make a pot on both Saturday and Sunday. I hate to be dependent on anything (I’m kind of a control freak), so I decided to cut it out this week. I’ll admit that Monday was really tough, and I felt like a zombie all day. It took all my will power not to go to bed at 8pm. However, each day has gotten a little better! I do allow myself one cup of tea each day, and this Zen tea by Tazo is one of my favorites. In contrast to other green teas, I find that these tea does not become bitter, even if I steep the bag for…all afternoon (I pretty much never take out my tea bags before I finish drinking tea-thus, the bitterness). I also like the mint and lemongrass flavors, which make it lighter as well.

Anything making you happier and healthier this week?

One Hour Whole Wheat Bread

Making homemade bread is something that I have always wanted to accomplish, but never felt the desire to spend six hours on the process. I figured that one day I would take the time to do some research, experiment, and then find a bread recipe that works for my life. However, in general I do not eat bread very often, so I didn’t feel like I was really missing out on much by occasionally buying a manufactured loaf instead of making my own.

For no apparent reason, on Tuesday I randomly became obsessed with the idea of making bread. None of the blogs I read regularly posted about bread or bread recipes, and I honestly cannot remember what lit a fire underneath me. But whatever the cause, I spent the better part of my lunch hour scouring the internet for bread recipes that looked feasible for my time constraints (under  hours from start to finish) and knowledge (so…you have to add yeast to flour, right?).

This one hour bread recipe from Single Housewife scored high on both those criteria, so I rushed to buy some yeast and a bread pan after work.

 

While the bread took me closer to an hour and a half to make, I was still pleased with how it turned out. I used all whole wheat flour, so it was quite a dense loaf. The camera I am using right now is not good enough to show detail, but if I could take close up shots, you would see the dried cranberries and almonds that I threw into the batter. I liked the extra sweetness the cranberries added, without making it a dessert loaf.

 

I have demolished the loaf without much help from my roommate! It has been perfect for a grab and go breakfast, after toasting and slathering with PB Crave.

I will probably try the recipe again with a couple of alternations to make the bread less dense and more fruity, but for the next week or so I think my body needs to recover from the shock of gluten overload!

Anyone have other simple bread recipes or mix in ideas?

Homemade Nutrigrain Bars

Nutrigrain bars are by far my favorite snack bar. I love the bready coating and sweet gooey jelly on the inside. But they are also not healthy at all! I rarely buy them, but will pass them wistfully in the grocery store.

Instead of perpetually pining for the overly processed snack, I decided to look around the blogging world for a great subsitute. After a little experiementation, I used settled on this recipe from Peas and Thank You. I liked that it included whole wheat flour, lots of oats, and only minimal sugar.

I generally followed the recipe except that I substituted coconut oil for Earth Balance. The crust was a great replication of the nutrigrain taste, and the fruit preserve center was excellent as well. The first time I made the recipe, I thought the crust was actually too thick, and on the second try I found that I could make a 9×13 pan of bars, instead of the 8×8 suggested in the recipe.

The bars are definitely still a treat, because of the high sugar content in the preserves. Although I bet the taste would be maintained if one wanted to use sugar-free preserves instead (I’m looking at you, C.J. ;)).

Peanut Granola Bites

These Peanut Granola Bites were introduced to me by Jessica at A Kitchen Addiction, and I finally got the chance to make some this weekend.

I love the idea of only eating the big clumps in granola, and these did not disapoint! They served as a perfect afternoon snack at the beach. I actually made two batches of the recipe because my mom and sister ate most of the first batch before I told them I was saving the bites for the trip.

I essentially followed Jessica’s recipe, except I didn’t have oat bran so I just used sliced almonds instead. Also, because it is hard for me to imagine peanut butter or granola without chocolate, I added 2 Tbsp of chocolate chips. The bites were crunchy on the outside,  moist on the inside , with just enough sweetness.

 

 

May Book Club: Still Missing

It is time for the May book club review, organized by Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

The book is narrated by Annie O’Sullivan through her therapy sessions. Two narratives emerge and finally intertwine in the last sessions. The first narrative involves her capture and containment in a remote mountain cabin for a year with her abductor. The second is her path to overcoming her fears, rebuilding relationships, and untangling the mystery of why and how she was targeted by her captor. By focusing on Annie’s point of view, the book illustrates the raw pain and difficulties of surviving such trauma. Both the past and present meet in the final chapters, which are full of dramatic twists with a satisfying, yet horrific ending.

Overall the novel is very abrupt and raw. I thought it provided an accurate picture of the lingering psychological effects of abductions that is rarely seen. Throughout the novel Annie protests the invasive media attention she received from surviving the abduction, and deprecates the millions of people are entertained by her extremely painful experiences.

Annie is not an easy character to like; she is abrasive, scarred and bitter. But I was able to understand how much her capture had damaged her and admire her desire for survival.

The beginning of the book was very violent and abrupt as Annie describes her capture and first weeks in captivity. It was too explicit and gruesome for me to enjoy, and I skimmed through a lot of her first disturbing experiences. However, after the initial violence and sadism I was able to learn more about her captor and the childhood experiences that shaped him into the person he became.

The conclusion of the novel kept me totally engrossed in the book. The last chapters were a deluge of sudden discoveries about different characters and situations. As much as I enjoyed the entertainment of the conclusion, it also made me feel guilty for being as interested in her pain as the people who read the tabloid and news stories about her.

This book is not a beach read for sure, but it was a very intriguing and horrifying thriller.

I am looking for a good beach read for next weekend, any suggestions?

Now I need to do the Strong Core Challenge workout (from Monday…) organized by Kara Runs! It only takes 16 minutes, and will hopefully get my abs ready for the cruise in a couple weeks.

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

Wow I cannot believe it is already almost MAY!! I graduate in 14 days, but the reality of entering “adult life” still has not hit me yet. Maybe because I still have two exams and a paper in between today and Friday… Also there the whole moving to a new city thing.

On Saturday I hung out with my some of my dance friends who I danced with since high school, middle school, and even elementary school (Caroline, I think you are the only one who fits in this category :)). It was great to chat with them and get caught up on everyone’s lives. I don’t get to see them nearly enough since we live in different cities and states! We went to the Busy Bee, a cute bar in downtown Raleigh.

RECAP: Busy Bee “cellar-clearing” kickoff showcases rare brews and thriving communitysource

I really don’t know enough about beers to fully appreciate the expansive menu, but it they had a huge variety! I kept it simple with a Blue Star wheat beer, and Ellen ordered an interesting cherry beer that tasted a bit like Cheerwine (or cough syrup).

Sunday, I basically just studied my brains into mush.

Today will probably be more of the same.

Luckily, I have tons of goodies from my foodie pen pal, Brittany, at Glitz Glam and Granola to snack on in the library. Foodie pen pals is a program organized by Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean. I have participated the past two months, and its a lot of fun! You don’t have to be a blogger to join. Here’s some of the food I received:

My first Kind bar-so delicious and nutty!

The flattened nut butters (ie the ones with chocolate) were consumed straight out of the pouch

Amazing blue corn chips

All the fixings for an Italian dinner: pesto sauce, pasta, and Italian dressing

Not pictured is a bag of AMAZING granola that I devoured insanely quickly.

Now back to the library… :/

A Chocolate Crazed Weekend

Pretty much since the day I gave up chocolate for Lent, I have been looking forward to stuffing myself full of chocolate on Easter. I daydreamed about chocolate and thought about how much better food would taste once I could flavor everything with cocoa powder. I even moved my cocoa powder into a cabinet that I rarely open to stave off temptation.

When Easter weekend came around I went chocolate crazy. On Friday, I cataloged everything I wanted to eat, with corresponding grocery and baking dish lists. Even though I ignored all serving size information, most of these desserts kept me guilt free as well. I got the below three recipes from Chocolate Covered Katie, one of the best dessert blogs ever! All of her recipes are vegan, and she also includes a lot of options for gluten-free folks as well.

1. Deep Dish Cookie Pie: Hands down my favorite. It was more of the consistency of cookie dough than a cookie, but I loved every bite.

Nothing illustrates how delicious this was better than a comment that Perry made when he first tasted the pie. I had given him a sample platter of all the pies and he after biting into this one he said, “Wow, this is amazing, too bad it’s unhealthy and you can’t put this recipe on your blog.” And because I am mature, I laughed maniacally and told him it was “full of beans-so there, yeah desserts can be healthy and delicious! what now?”.

2. Chocolate Bar Pie: Although nothing can compare to the cookie dough pie, I really loved this pie as well. It was more of an “adult” dessert because of its richness and flavors. I did not use a pie crust so the result was more of a mousse, but it was deliciously chocolately and creamy. Out of all the recipes, this was was the easiest to prepare and I could probably make it using the Bullet instead of a food processor. Claire served as my outside seal of approval on this recipe and went back for seconds-usually she is a bit skeptical of my healthy foods.

3. Chocolate Strawberry Truffle Pie

The above picture pretty much sums up my feelings on this recipe. I just kept blending and blending and blending… While the consistency never reached perfect smoothness, the flavor of the pie was great! I subbed cherries for strawberries, and thought that both the cherries and chocolate were highlighted and neither was overpowering.

4. Reese’s Eggs: Ok, I really should not count these…but I have to because they are so delicious and I think they have a superior chocolate to peanut butter ratio than the regular Reese’s.

Did you make any fun Easter desserts this weekend? Or just any great healthy-ish desserts? What are your favorite Easter candies?