#TBT

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through some old photos at my parents’ house. I had a particular purpose in mind, but that ended up not really panning out. In the process, though, I found a lot of forgotten gems! Here are a few:

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At the beach

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Michael and me with our great-grandparents, Nonny and Ompy

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I wore a LOT of tutus and dresses back in the day…

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I had a birthday party at McDonald’s. Because I’m classy like that.

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I look pretty happy considering this was right after I stopped being an only child :(

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Getting a legal education at a young age

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At my grandma’s house with her old dog, San Ban.

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All of us!

Ratatouille: Not Just a Disney Movie

It’s safe to say that we are in peak season for fresh produce here in Ohio. I have been getting tons of amazing produce in every week’s Market Bag and it’s so great!

Market Bag haul

Market Bag haul

In this Market Bag, I got eggplant, squash, heirloom tomatoes, onions, garlic, green beans and carrots, which are all things I enjoy eating and cooking with. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, it’s hard for me to eat all of that by myself. I mean, that’s a lot of veggies for one person to consume in a week. So I took my dad’s “polite suggestion” and decided to make something for my whole family to enjoy so that nothing would go to waste!

This recipe for ratatouille used almost all of the vegetables in the bag and needed very little that I didn’t have. The only ingredients I needed to pick up at the grocery store were one zucchini, two red bell peppers and basil.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

My parents and brother told me that Friday night would be the best night to get together and eat ratatouille. Well, actually, they didn’t know that we would be eating ratatouille because I was worried they might not be that excited about it if I told them that’s what I was planning to make for them…but regardless, they told me that Friday night would work for them. So on Thursday after work, I prepared the ratatouille.

I’m glad that I decided to cook the ratatouille a day in advance of serving it because a lot of the commenters on the recipe mentioned that it tasted even better the day after making it, so cooking everything in advance worked out really well. Also, from a practical perspective, this recipe did take quite a while to make. It was totally worth it in the end, but this is not something that you can just throw together in a couple minutes. There were a LOT of steps involved.

First, you dice up the eggplant, and toss it with some salt and let it drain for about 20 minutes. While I was waiting on the eggplant, I began chopping the other vegetables. There is a LOT of chopping involved in this recipe. Thank God I just got an insanely huge cutting board.

Lots of colors

Lots of colors

After the eggplant drains, you brown it in a bit of olive oil.

Browning the eggplant

Browning the eggplant

Then you begin adding the other vegetables.

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes in the peak of the season. Sorry Dad - pretend you didn't see this!

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes in the peak of the season. Sorry Dad – pretend you didn’t see this!

 

Smelling great!

Smelling great!

Final product

Final product

I served this over pasta with grilled chicken on top and I think it tasted great! Ratatouille is the quintessential late summer recipe and we enjoyed it on a gorgeous Friday night on my parents’ patio. It was a perfect summer night!

Entertaining FAIL

I’m not an incredibly experienced hostess. However, over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten increasingly comfortable with it and with cooking for people in casual settings. To be honest, I had started to feel like I had gotten pretty good at the whole casual dinner party thing – I would make a couple of simple hors d’oeuvres to have sitting out, I would cook a yummy but not overly fussy meal with a main dish and several sides and a salad, I would have a couple different options for drinks, et voila – dinner party success!

Well. This past past weekend, I had what I would consider a dinner party fail. My friend Meghan and I had plans to hang out on Saturday. Our thinking was that it would be fun to get together, cook dinner and watch a girly movie. I realized that it had been so long since I’ve done something like that! In law school and college when I lived with other girls, it was easy to take nights like this for granted, so I was excited about the prospect of having a low key night in.

In preparation for the night, I decided on a “menu” and went shopping for all the ingredients that we would need. I planned to make caprese salad, roasted zucchini and this skirt steak. I also got some wine (obviously…) and some cheese and crackers. It would be simple, fresh and delicious!

When I got home from the store, I prepared the marinade for the steak and put that in the refrigerator. I set out the cheese and crackers and poured myself a glass of wine. I was feeling like I had really nailed this whole effortless yet elegant dinner thing.

I mean how great does this look?

I mean how great does this look?

And then things started to go wrong.

Let’s start at the beginning – caprese salad. caprese Well to be honest, this turned out incredible. Meghan made it, though, so I can take no credit for what you see above. Before Meghan got to my apartment, I made a balsamic glaze. And that is something that is extremely difficult to mess up.

To make a balsamic glaze, all you need to do is pour balsamic vinegar in a small pan over medium-low heat and let it reduce. Once it reduces by about half and becomes thick and viscous, you have a balsamic glaze. I then set that aside until Meghan arrived and began putting this salad together. She arranged tomato, mozzarella, basil and drizzled it with the glaze. The result was gorgeous and delicious!

While Meghan was putting the salad together, I was trying to roast the zucchini and cook the steak. I have made roasted zucchini a couple ways before, but one of my favorite ways to prepare it is to slice the zucchini very thin, spritz it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then coat it with a mixture of even parts Italian bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese. It *usually* turns out crispy and flavorful. Not to mention it’s really simple. So I did that and I stuck it in the oven at 375 degrees to let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Then I poured myself another glass of wine and got ready to grill the steak.

Like I said, I had already marinated the steak. So, in theory, this next step should have been extremely easy. Grill the steak. steak It looks pretty, right?

I cooked the steak for about 3 minutes on each side, as the recipe says to do. It didn’t feel like it was done, but hey, I have really never grilled before and I trust Alton Brown. So I took the steak off the grill pan wrapped it in foil to let it sit for a while thinking that it would continue to cook a bit.

I checked on the zucchini. It wasn’t as crispy as I wanted it to be, so I turned on the broiler and put the zucchini under the broiler to crisp up while the steak rested.

After a couple minutes, I cut into the steak and it was not even rare. Ugh. I was flustered. I put the steak back in the grill pan. I was really focused on the steak. I turned it, prodded it, turned the heat down, cut into it, etc. until it was cooked the way we wanted it. I started to smell a burning scent, which I attributed to the fact that the grill pan had gotten too hot.

I took the steak off the stove and put it back in its foil packet. But my kitchen still smelled like burning. In fact, it smelled so much like burning that Sasha had moved to the absolute other side of the apartment and begun to look at me quizzically like “uh so it seems like something might be dangerously wrong…are you sure you have this under control?” Something he only does whenever I’m REALLY messing something up in the kitchen (sadly this is not the first time it’s happened…). sasha at door Aaaaaand it was about this moment that I remembered the zucchini, which had been under the broiler for about 10 minutes at this point and was burned to what can only be described as a “crisp.” UGH! The burning. I pulled the zucchini out of the oven and somehow it was still more or less edible. At least certain parts of it.

If I could go back in time and do this night over, I would trust my gut more on the steak. I had a feeling that it wasn’t cooked enough the first time, but I wanted to follow the recipe and I didn’t want the steak to be overcooked, so I took it off the grill before I thought it was ready. I would also probably have like one less glass of wine before cooking because then I might actually REMEMBER ONE OF THE THREE DISHES I WAS TRYING TO COOK. Basically drinking less wine may have salvaged this night. But it also would have made it a little bit less fun. And it did end up being a really fun night regardless of the less than stellar output from the kitchen.

Just a reminder that it’s important to stay on your toes – don’t get complacent or overly confident. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of something seems to be just the time that the universe steps in to remind you that you are not as great as you think you are.

And for the record, Sasha is usually no more than three feet away from me, especially when there is food involved. Case in point:

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Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

Soooo my self-imposed Market Bag Challenge is over. I actually did pretty well with it. I didn’t use everything (ugh stupid fennel and cabbage!) but I did use most of what I got, so I’m calling it a success…even though it was objectively a failure based on the terms of the challenge. Stupid technicalities.

With the romaine lettuce, I made a couple different things throughout the week, including a couple of regular salads. One of my goals with signing up for the Market Bag, though, was to branch out a bit and try new things, so in addition to salads, I made these vegetarian lettuce wraps!

Final Product

Final Product

I have never before cooked with tofu, so this was quite an adventure. In fact, I was such a tofu noob that I ended up walking down EVERY SINGLE AISLE in Whole Foods like three times looking for it! I was kind of embarrassed to ask for help locating the tofu because I thought the Whole Foods employees would be like “Uh who is this fatty carnivore that has never bought tofu before? #TRASHY” Why am I so concerned about being judged by Whole Foods employees? I don’t know. Apparently I have issues. (side note: read this hilarious post. At least I’m not the only one feeling judged at Whole Foods!) But I was a woman on a mission and I did not give up. Tofu located, I went home to start cooking!

Now I have eaten tofu before, but I have never cooked with it. And to say that uncooked tofu is disgusting is a major understatement. Honestly, if this recipe wasn’t a Pioneer Woman recipe, I would have probably thrown the tofu away upon opening the package and just thawed some ground turkey. The whole time I was cooking/looking at the tofu, I just kept thinking, “If the Pioneer Woman, the woman who coats her steaks in butter, the woman who is married to a literal cowboy, eats these lettuce wraps, then they can’t be bad…” But I was cringing internally (and externally…hence the beauty of living alone – no one can see the crazy things you do!)

Blech

Blech

More uncooked tofu...appetizing...

More uncooked tofu…appetizing…

I powered through, though (the recipe is super easy to make…) and it ended up tasting pretty good! I had a ton of leftovers, too, so it made a lot of healthy lunches for the week. I’ll have to try cooking some other dishes with tofu now that I’ve gotten over the initial hurdle…and know where it is at the grocery store.

Yum!

Yum!

Market Bag Challenge: Swiss Chard

I am slowly but surely making progress on my Market Bag Challenge. So far, I have used some of the onions, zucchini, romaine lettuce and swiss chard. I am feeling healthy and accomplished. It did definitely occur to me, though, that this would be a lot easier to do if I had a family to cook for. Yes, I have used a little bit of all of those veggies, but I haven’t used the entire amount that I have. And even still, I have leftovers of all the recipes I’ve made. So I’m going to have to get creative…

Surprisingly, my favorite thing that I’ve made with my Market Bag veggies has been this crustless quiche that I mentioned wanting to try. It seems I am a fan of swiss chard! Well…at least when it’s mixed with eggs, cream and cheese.

This is one dish I haven’t minded having a lot of. As has been previously documented here, I’m obsessed with breakfast. And I don’t always have time in the mornings to cook something or even throw something together quickly (well who am I kidding I would obviously choose being late for work over not even being able to throw something together quickly, but you know). I made this last Thursday night and just heated up a slice for breakfast the past couple of work-mornings. It gets my day off to a rather fancy start.

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Crustless Quiche

1 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 sweet onion, chopped (another market bag item!)

1/2 bunch swiss chard, ends removed and chopped roughly (leaving stems in tact)

2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 eggs

1 cup light cream

salt and pepper


 

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and the chard along with some salt and pepper.

Swiss chard is pretty

Swiss chard is pretty

The original recipe says to make sure not to overcook the chard. I wasn’t really sure what kind of texture to aim for, so I went with this:

Not overcooked?

Not overcooked?

I think, actually, this ended up being perfect! I mean, I guess I wouldn’t really know what overcooked swiss chard tastes like, but this held up pretty well in the quiche without being crunchy or bitter, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for this one! Once you’ve gotten to this point, you can set aside the onion and chard for a minute to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream and cheese. It’s worth noting that I might mess around with this aspect of the recipe if I make this again. Trust me, the final quiche is AMAZING, but it’s somewhat hard to justify the amount of fat in it if it’s just going to be my go-to breakfast before work. If I was entertaining, I would make the quiche just as the recipe says. But again, for day-to-day life, it’s just a tiny bit decadent.

Lots and lots of cheese

Lots and lots of cheese

I always know I'm doing something right by Sasha's proximity to the food...

I always know I’m doing something right by Sasha’s proximity to the food…

Once you’ve mixed the eggs, cream and cheese, add in the chard and onions. Stir to combine it all and make sure all the veggies are evenly distributed. Pour into a greased pie dish.

About to get good!

About to get good!

After that, all that’s left to do is bake it! The original recipe says between 35-45 minutes. I left mine in for 40 and it turned out exactly right!

Voila!

Voila!

Like I said, I actually think this quiche would be a really great thing to serve at a brunch or luncheon if you are the kind of fancy person who does things like that. It is super simple to make and I think it would really be a crowd pleaser – even though the headline ingredient is swiss chard. I can only hope all my Market Bag Challenge recipes will turn out this good!

North High Brewing Company

I’ve always sort of felt like Fathers’ Day is an under-celebrated holiday. By me, yes, but also just by society at large. In elementary school, I remember thinking that dads kind of got the raw end of the deal because Fathers’ Day was over the summer, so dads didn’t get any of the super awesome school crafts that we made for Mothers’ Day. Little did I know that dads were, collectively, probably like, “Thank GOD my untalented kid didn’t make me a dumb craft that I have to take to my office and pretend to like forever!” But in my 10-year-old mind, the disparity seemed unjust.

And yet it wasn’t until 2014 that I finally decided to do something about it.

This year for Fathers’ Day, I decided that my mom, my brother and I should take my dad to a place in Columbus called North High Brewing Company. I had actually never been before, but I had heard of it. I thought it was just like one of the many new microbreweries that are popping up around here, but last fall, one of my friends told me that you can actually brew your own beer there, too, which seemed like a really fun thing to do. My dad (one of my two blog readers – though now that this has switched to more of a food blog, who knows…) is getting very into craft beer. So Fathers’ Day seemed like a good occasion to try brewing our own!

The crew minus Mom

The crew minus Mom

We had a reservation to brew our batch at like 11:30 A.M. on Fathers’ Day, which was somewhat of a weird time to be in a bar. We were basically the only people there when we first arrived and we weren’t quite sure where to go. Pretty soon, though, a bartender materialized and gave us a list of all of the beers we could choose from to make. My mom and dad ended up deciding that we should do a more neutral, easy-drinking beer. This was definitely the right decision because you end up with about 144 beers at the end of this process, so you definitely want a lot of people to enjoy drinking whatever you brew.

Once we settled on the type of beer we wanted to make, the guy (hereinafter referred to as the “Brewmaster”) came back and helped us get set up at a station. The stations were surprisingly uncomplicated. I’m not sure why, but I always imagined brewing beer to be this incredibly complex and scientific process. In reality, our station took up about 10 square feet and was really nothing more than an industrial size cauldron (or kettle, for all of you non-sorcerers out there), a table and a small chemistry class-esque scale.

Then the brewing began! First, we measured out the grain we needed. Then, we ground the grain. Then, we put the ground grain into a “teabag” as the Brewmaster called it. From there, we steeped the ground grain in a cauldron of water, as demonstrated below:

Steeping the beer in the cauldron

Steeping the grain in the cauldron

After the grained had steeped, we put in some caramel (sugar). All kidding aside, this may have been the most difficult part of the whole process. The caramel is (obviously?) really thick, so you have to have one person holding the container, and one person scraping with a giant spatula to make sure that it all gets in the cauldron. Not complicated, by any means, but there was definitely some finagling involved..

caramel

After that, all that’s left is adding the hops. This has to be done in intervals. So we measured out the amounts that we needed to put in at various points in time and then we waited.

This was science-y

This was science-y

At this point, I want to give a shoutout to the Brewmaster. When I called to schedule a reservation, I was told that the beer brewing process would take anywhere from two-and-a-half to three hours, but that we would be able to order food, have drinks, etc. while brewing so the time would fly by. With this in mind, we planned to eat lunch at North High while we brewed beer rather than eating somewhere either before or after.

Waiting to add the hops seemed like the perfect time to order food since there is pretty much nothing else to do during this time. But unfortunately, the Brewmaster told us that the bartender had not showed up that morning so there was really no way that we would be able to order anything (apparently the “bartender” also serves as short-order cook (and I’m actually not being sarcastic)).

The Brewmaster was clearly stretched pretty thin at this point, as a couple of people the night before had apparently drunkenly made reservations to brew beer at the same time as us and the bartender had not added them to the reservation list. Not to mention, more and more people were coming to the bar to watch the World Cup. And the Brewmaster was the only person working. So we understood why it wasn’t possible to order food. But it was still kind of annoying.

Eventually, though, the Brewmaster told us that he didn’t know when the bartender was actually going to make it in, so he was going to turn on the panini press for us and let us order food. I felt so bad for him, but it was also incredibly impressive. He was going from beer-brewing station to beer-brewing station, acting as the bartender out front and apparently also cooking paninis. Like whoa. That guy deserves a raise. The paninis were actually not bad, too. I mean, I wouldn’t suggest going to North High Brewing Company for like a date or anything since literally the only menu item is a panini. But you know, for a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t bad!

So we ate our paninis and chips, added the hops as directed over a period of an hour, and then, voila, we were finished!

Dad breaking the No. 1 rule of chemistry class. #WAFT

Dad breaking the No. 1 rule of chemistry class. #WAFT

Once you’re finished brewing the beer, you basically just leave. It’s a little bit anti-climactic. They take the beer you’ve brewed and…do something with it. Then, in about two weeks or so, once the beer has fermented, you come back and bottle it, which I will discuss in a separate post.

Overall, I thought it was a good way to spend Fathers’ Day. We learned that my brother is weirdly knowledgeable about conversion ratios and that you can identify a hipster bar by whether they’re only showing the early rounds of the World Cup (non USA game) on the TVs even though the final round of the Masters is also on.

Market Bag Challenge

There is a company in Columbus called Great River Farms that delivers fresh and local produce to companies around the city every week. I had never heard about it, but one day when I was waiting in line to buy coffee in the cafeteria at work, I happened to notice a stack of informational fliers at the register. I was kind of absentmindedly reading one to kill some time, but the program ended up striking me as a really neat idea.

Basically, Great River Farms partners with several local farmers to collect and deliver a bag of eight produce items to you at your office each week for 30 weeks through the spring, summer and fall. You also have the option, for an additional cost, to get fruit included in your bag. Thinking that this would save me some money and force me to maybe get out of my comfort zone and try some foods I’d never tried before, I decided to sign up.

To answer your question, yes I feel like a giant loser carrying a bag of vegetables out of my office.

To answer your question, yes I feel like a giant loser carrying a bag of vegetables out of my office.

Every Thursday for the past couple of weeks, I have gotten my market bag. And every week, I’ve used a couple of the items, but I haven’t really tried much in the way of new recipes, and I have never used the entire bag. Therefore, my theory that this would save me some money is definitely not really panning out.

Adding to my guilt over not using all of the vegetables is the fact that, if you don’t plan on using your bag, you have the option to donate it to a local food pantry. I did do that one week when I was going to be out of town. But the other weeks I have just let the vegetables rot in my refrigerator. So I feel like a jerk on a lot of levels.

This week, I swore things would be different! I am officially throwing down the gauntlet and challenging myself to use every single item in the bag. Even if I don’t use the entire amount of it, I WILL be at least using a bit of every item or else I am going to force myself to sell my kidney to a food pantry as penance. (When I throw down the gauntlet, I throw it down hard…)

The items in this week’s bag, and my plans for them are listed below. I will report back with successes and (inevitably) failures.

All the goodies!

All the goodies!

1. Swiss Chard. A vegetable I have never eaten, let alone cooked with. My plan is to make this crustless quiche that Great River Farms recommended. It has a ton of cheese in it, so even if I end up not liking swiss chard, hopefully the quiche will still be edible…

2. Summer squash and zucchini. This will not be a challenge because I love eating and cooking with both of these veggies. I haven’t settled on a recipe yet, but I am considering making either “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) or else just roasting them with parmesan cheese as a side dish. To be determined.

3. Cabbage. This one is going to pose a challenge as I’m not really sure how I feel about cabbage. Great River Farms suggested making coleslaw, which could be a good idea…I am going to a “Bachelorette viewing party” next week, so a great big batch of coleslaw may be my contribution. And you wonder why I’m not more popular…

4. Fennel. Another tough one. Haven’t given this one too much thought yet.

5. Romaine lettuce. I found a recipe for lettuce wraps I’d like to try. And any leftover lettuce will be used to make a salad. I LOVE salad. I’m not normal.

6. Cucumbers. Again, fairly easy. I have been bringing veggies and hummus to work with me as a snack, so I think that will be the fate of the cucumbers. And I may get fancy and chop some up and put them in the aforementioned salad! Watch out!

7. Carrots. (See number 6).

8. Sweet onions. Another easy one! I typically go through one or two onions a week, so this will just save me from having to buy them at the grocery. Now there’s that money saving I was talking about! Suddenly the $800 I spent on vegetables was all worth it…

Asian Quinoa Salad

Well it has been a busy couple of months for me! Since January, I have been to Atlanta (twice!), New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. (twice), West Palm Beach, New York City, Austin and Nashville. I’m honestly a little exhausted just thinking about that. (and footnote – you can probably expect to see a couple travel related posts here soon – bringing it back to the roots over here!) It has been hectic and expensive, but very, very fun! I have one more trip this month and then I have a glorious month and a half of NO PLANS! I am probably the only person in the world who is excited about having a month and a half with absolutely nothing on the social calendar, but to be honest, I’m pretty exhausted. And broke.

Needless to say, the first half of this year was not the best from either a physical or financial health perspective. This week I decided it was time to re-commit to saving money and to eating better and working out more regularly. In furtherance of goals one and two, I made a big batch of Asian Quinoa Salad that I found here: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/asian-quinoa-salad/. My plan was to make a big batch of this and have it for lunches during the week.

The only ingredients in this recipe that I had already were quinoa, soy sauce and vinegar. I also decided to double the recipe because when I initially read the recipe, I wasn’t convinced it would actually make four lunch-portion servings. (You know how sometimes cookbooks will be like “what, do you not consider these four noodles to be a sufficient serving size of this dish?”) So yeah I made two times what the recipe called for. And guess what – my grocery bill was still only $27. And super guess what? It made like A TONNNNNNNN of food. I realized about halfway through that I definitely should not have doubled it. So basically what I’m saying is, if anyone is in the vicinity and wants some of this, come over.

Lots of healthy goodness

Lots of healthy goodness

So…so far I am rocking my healthy eating and saving money plans (other than the entire pizza I ate last night…oops…)! But the best part about this is that it’s actually really delicious. I don’t open up the refrigerator at lunch and feel like I have to force myself to choke this down because it’s healthy. The flavor is also not so strong to the point where I get sick of it after eating it a few times. Which is good because I will definitely be eating it more than a few times. But guess what? I will still definitely be making it again!

Barre3 Overnight Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Parfait

So I have a confession. This month, I’ve been attempting (key word here) to participate in the Barre3 Spring Challenge. I have been taking barre classes regularly for about a year and a half now, but I’ve mainly been focusing on becoming a runner. I was just starting to feel like I really needed a change of pace when Barre3 started advertising the Spring Challenge.

The Spring Challenge is a challenge to take four in-studio barre classes a week, to take two 10-minute  online workouts a week and to follow a guided nutrition plan. I’ve been doing really well about doing the classes, which I enjoy. However, I have to admit that I have been slacking off pretty hardcore in the nutrition plan department. I started out with great intentions, but I basically now have a refrigerator filled with spinach and kale that is definitely not going to get eaten. Oops!

One of the recipes I did decide to try was this Overnight Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Parfait. I’ve had a couple mandatory and early mornings at work this week. That, combined with the fact that I prefer to take the early morning barre class at my studio, has meant that I’ve been rushing around in the mornings a little bit.

Another confession I should just go ahead and get out there is that I am completely OBSESSED about breakfast. My work event was advertising having a free continental breakfast. But, to be honest, I would probably get fired from my job if I was asked to function and network after eating only a continental breakfast. I’m not even kidding. Eating only carbs for breakfast makes me cranky. And it’s not that I’m anti-carb or bread. Quite the opposite in fact. However, in the mornings, I definitely need a little protein and fat to help get me through the morning.

The combination of rushed mornings and the threat of continental breakfast inspired me to try this breakfast parfait that you actually prepare the night before. And it was great. If you think about it, you can just prepare it while you’re getting dinner together and leave it in the fridge overnight and in the morning when you wake up and remember what you have, you will LOVE your former self.

Here’s the recipe:

(serves 1)

  • 3/4 cup yogurt, plain, whole milk
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • Stevia (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 large banana, mashed
  • 2 Tbs. almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 cup (or more) mixed berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbs. chopped almonds

In a medium bowl, mash banana with a fork until mostly smooth. Add yogurt, oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, vanilla extract and almond milk. Definitely add the full amount of almond milk. I did not because I was concerned that it would be gross and runny, but the chia seeds help thicken everything overnight, so you definitely need the extra moisture. If you don’t think this is sweet enough, you can add some stevia or other natural sweetener. I left it out.

It does NOT look very appetizing at this point.

It does NOT look very appetizing at this point.

Then, begin layering in a tall glass or in my case, a to-go container. I started with a layer of berries (I used fresh raspberries and strawberries because they are in season right now and there is NOTHING better than fresh berries!). Then I added a layer of the yogurt mixture, a sprinkle of almonds, and then back to the berries! Easy!

The finished product

The finished product

Stick in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy when you wake up!

Sweet Potato Hash

This is a dish that was inspired by my friend Meghan’s blog. I changed some aspects of it, basically to accommodate the fact that I don’t own a cast iron or oven-friendly skillet. To be honest, cast iron skillets seem intimidating. They are not expensive, but from what I hear, require specific and meticulous care. I pretty clearly need to just bite the bullet and buy one, though, because I am constantly finding recipes that require a cast iron skillet and I feel like I’m missing out on a wide range of culinary delights by not having one!

Regardless of the fact that Meghan used a cast-iron skillet to make her version of sweet potato hash, I was so inspired by her recipe that I knew I could improvise and use another cooking method. In fact I was so inspired by her general concept that I’ve actually made a few different versions of this dish.

The first time I made this, I followed Meghan’s suggestion to cook bacon in the skillet and use the remaining grease to saute the onions and sweet potatoes. Of COURSE this version was delicious. However, and trust me, it pains me to say this a little bit, but I actually think I preferred the version I made earlier this week that was BACON-LESS. Sometimes I don’t even know myself…

This is a hearty and healthy dish that is sure to get your day off on the right foot!

Sweet Potato Hash - Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Hash – Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe (serves one):

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 large white onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (very precise measurements are clearly important in this recipe…)

2 eggs

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and saute until slightly softened; about 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potato, salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and paprika (as well as any other spices you think would taste good – like I said, no science to this dish!). Saute until sweet potatoes are soft but not completely cooked through. My trick to achieving the perfect crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside textured sweet potatoes is to cook them over medium high heat and do not mess with them! You, of course, will need to stir the sweet potatoes around in the skillet so that they are cooked evenly; however, if you can leave it for a couple minutes at a time without stirring, the outsides of the sweet potatoes will get a little crispy/delicious!

When sweet potatoes are close to being completely cooked, add spinach. You may want to add more salt and pepper at this point. Saute for another minute; until spinach has wilted a bit.

Finally, crack two eggs directly into the skillet and cook as desired. I don’t like very runny eggs so I usually let mine cook for a few minutes before breaking the yolk and making sure they get cooked all the way through.

Transfer to a plate and enjoy!