Afternoon Bake Fest

Yesterday I suddenly had the urge to bake, and I hate baking.  I think it’s because I like to be able to only vaguely follow a recipe and with baking it’s more of an exact science. Rising, kneading, mixing; it won’t work unless your measurements are right! Plus, I like what I cook to look pretty (it’s the perfectionist in me), and whenever I bake….it’s not pretty.

I can't wait to bake!

I can’t wait to bake!

I decided to use this sudden baking compulsion to begin on my cooking bucket list. My sister joined in on the festivities and we picked 3 different recipes. I chose to bake a pumpkin pie (100% from scratch), my sister chose to bake orange chocolate chip scones and then we ended the evening with a pretzel twisting competition.

I used this pumpkin pie recipe. It was actually hard to find one that called for fresh rather than canned pumpkin. Honestly, the pumpkin pie crust was a struggle, and my little pumpkin’s yield was low; I was very skeptical, but it still turned out delicious!

Baking CollageKatie’s scones were delicious; crisp on the outside and soft on the inside ! We paired them with whipped cream, because what doesn’t taste better with whipped cream?

Baking6But, my favorite recipe of the day ended up being the soft pretzels! The recipe was so simple, but I was so impressed! It was also fun rolling, twisting and shaping them- there were some REALLY fat, misshapen and ugly pretzels. I don’t think my sister or I have a future career in pretzel-making. They paired perfectly with the sweet dijon sauce.Baking Collage2 Baking

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Best x.

How to Build the Perfect Breakfast

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I’m a HUGE breakfast/brunch fan. It’s my favorite meal to cook. Until recently, breakfast to me always included cereal, toast, oatmeal, pancakes, bagels, waffles or other grains. It was always high in sugar and I would feel hungry a couple of hours later. In September I did the Whole30 Program and was completely lost as to what to eat for breakfast. I started out just eating eggs and that was it. I knew I had to be more creative so I started playing around in the kitchen. My on-the-go paleo breakfast will always be egg muffins (recipe here), but when my morning is a little more relaxed I love to make a big roasted breakfast! If you are following a strict paleo diet use sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and remember have your coffee black!

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1. Start with potatoes. Red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, any potato of your choice. Wash well and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes. I like to leave the skins on because they taste delicious and crunchy when roasted. Put your potato cubes in a large bowl and mix in the seasonings! Definitely sprinkle some salt and fresh ground pepper on the potatoes followed by any spice of your choice. I like using garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika (for a little kick). Coat the potatoes with a small amount of oil. I like using olive oil or coconut oil! Roast your potatoes at 425 for about 20 minutes or until crispy!

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2. Load up on veggies. I always struggled with adding vegetables to my breakfast. I just found it hard to stomach greens in the morning. I found that if I roasted the vegetables though they were much more enjoyable. I like using broccoli, carrots, peppers, kale, zucchini, cabbage and mushrooms. Chop up veggies of your choice, coat with a little bit of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes on 425. You’ll find yourself loving kale for breakfast in no time!

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3. Bacon. Regular bacon, turkey bacon, veggie bacon….just any kind of bacon. You don’t need much bacon to add flavor to your dish. If I’m cooking breakfast for my husband and I, I use 3 slices (2 for him and 1 for me). I usually like it crunchy and chop it up to add to the mix. If you absolutely don’t like bacon try using black beans!

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4. Top it off with an egg! I like cooking my egg over medium because I love to dip my veggies in the yolk.

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5. Avocado. Avocado. Avocado. I LOVE avocado. I always think the best combinations are bacon & avocado and egg & avocado, so obviously all three together are amazing! So slice it up and don’t be afraid of the fat! It’s good for you.

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6. Coffee. No breakfast is complete without a  hot cup of coffee!

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Zucchini Pizza Boats

I love Thursdays because it’s the day that my husband and I both have off.  It always starts with coffee in bed while we watch crappy TV, followed by epic brunch. Today we got our butts out of bed and took the dogs for a walk at the park. I can’t deny that autumn in Savannah is beautiful!

Epic brunch- roasted potatoes and broccoli with mushrooms and black beans topped with an egg and avocado

Epic brunch- roasted potatoes and broccoli with mushrooms and black beans topped with an egg and avocado

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For dinner today I wanted to finally try my hand at a recipe idea I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for years now, zucchini pizza. There are about a billion different recipes online already so I decided to ignore all of them and make up my own to add to the mix! I decided zucchini pizza would pair perfectly with the glass of Cabernet I had my eye on for tonight (P.S. they went perfectly and perhaps I had another glass). For this recipe I decided to keep some of the zucchini “pulp” you scoop out to make room for the toppings because it seemed wasteful to throw it away. Just mix it in with the sauce and you won’t even notice! Also, I found these adorable mini pepperonis that were the perfect size for the pizzas. Feel free to jazz the recipe up a little with any topping of your choice.

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Easy Zucchini Pizza Boats

3 large zucchini
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup mini pepperonis (or topping of choice)
Fresh pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash the zucchini well and dry with paper towels. Cut off the stems and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the inside of the zucchini into a small bowl leaving about 1/4 inch around around the edges (I used a grapefruit spoon to scoop it out!).  Chop the zucchini pulp and mix half of it with the tomato sauce, discard the rest. Using your hands, (if you’re a messy cook like me) rub the zucchini down with olive oil. Line zucchini on the baking sheet and fill with tomato mixture. Top with pepperoni, cheese, and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through.

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Healthy Turkey and 3 Bean Chili

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I love eating a big bowl of chili in the winter time! I always load it with veggies and beans so I don’t feel guilty about eating it. Whenever I cook chili, I usually just throw in whatever veggies are just hanging out it the fridge and I never measure anything when I cook. I decided to actually put it in writing to share with you! I use low fat turkey instead of beef and 3 kinds of beans, but you could really use any kinds of beans you want. Make sure to rinse the canned beans before using because those canned beans are loaded with sodium. My husband absolutely loves this chili and his father is a firefighter, so he knows good chili! I usually make one big pot and we will eat it throughout the week for lunch or dinner. Leftover chili always tastes better anyway because the spices and juices have had time to really develop their flavor. Sometimes I serve the chili over brown rice or with a slice of whole wheat toast, or you can just eat it by itself. It’s that good!

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Healthy Turkey and 3 Bean Chili

1 lb ground turkey
2 cans tri-bean blend (or any beans of your choice) drained and rinsed
1 can 28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 bell pepper chopped (I used an orange one)
1 onion chopped
1 zucchini chopped
2 stalks celery finely minced
1 carrot chopped
1/2 small head of green cabbage shredded
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 32oz carton veggie broth
4 TBS olive oil
3 TBS chili powder
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 TBS garlic powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBS italian seasoning
1/2 TBS pepper
salt to taste

Brown the turkey in a small skillet over medium and set aside. In large pot add olive oil and heat over medium heat. When heated add onion and sauté for about a minute. Add the pepper, zucchini, celery, carrot and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until vegetable are tender. Add the turkey to the veggies and add in all your spices. Stir over heat for a few minutes until you can really smell the spices cooking. Add in the beans, crushed and diced tomatoes, corn, and vegetable broth and heat to boiling. Cover and reduce to low heat. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot.

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Fruit & Coconut Baked Oatmeal Cups

 

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Oatmeal has always been a favorite of mine for breakfast. It’s warm and cozy and warms me up on those cold mornings. I used to just heat up one of those instant oatmeal packets in the microwave every morning (strangely enough I used to top my oatmeal with a fried egg, what a weirdo). When I started paying attention to what was actually in the food I was eating I noticed that oatmeal is unfortunately filled with crap. Also, just FYI all fruit in instant oatmeal is just apple flavored to taste like whatever fruit is being advertised (true story, go check the ingredients in the cereal isle at your grocery store). Here are the ingredients for Quacker instant oatmeal. The added sugar and preservatives are just not necessary and it’s super easy to make yourself. And because I’m all about making breakfast quick and easy I baked the oatmeal in grab and go muffin size! They can also be stored in the refrigerator for a week or frozen and take about 45 seconds for 2 in the microwave. I baked this batch of oatmeal with raisins, blueberries and almonds, but I’ve used raspberries, strawberries, walnuts, chocolate chips, even sweet potato in the past.  Feel free to add your favorite oatmeal topping.

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WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, SUGAR, DEHYDRATED APPLES (TREATED WITH SODIUM SULFITE TO PROMOTE COLOR RETENTION), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, CINNAMON, CALCIUM CARBONATE, CITRIC ACID, GUAR GUM, MALIC ACID, NIACINAMIDE*, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, FOLIC ACID*, CARAMEL COLOR

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Fruit & Coconut Baked Oatmeal Cups

2 brown bananas
1 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS honey
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 TBS cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup of raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Prep a muffin pan by spraying with nonstick spray. In a small bowl mash bananas until there are almost no lumps. Add in coconut oil, vanilla extract, honey, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, almond milk and stir. In a seperate large bowl mix oats with shredded coconut, sliced almonds, raisins and blueberries. Slowly add the wet mixture into the oats and stir until well combined. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture evenly into a muffin pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until muffins brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

These tasty oatmeal cups can be a part of any cute balanced breakfast!

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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Growing up in a British food (and might I add beer) loving family I had my fair share of fish and chips, curries and shepherd’s pies. Brits aren’t known for the most healthy of foods, but my mom always put a healthy spin on them when possible. It wasn’t until I left the house that I realized how much I would miss my mom’s home cooking! One day she served a version of shepherds pie made with lentils instead of the traditional ground beef. It was AMAZING! Since then I’ve always wanted to recreate it in my kitchen, but my mom, being the kind of cook she is, had no recipe (we Braid cooks just eyeball everything) so I went to work! This recipe is versatile and I truly believe you could throw whatever veggies you have in the fridge fresh, canned or frozen. To all the cooking virgins out there, before cooking lentils, make sure to always sort and rinse with water first (I’ve actually found little rocks in the bags before).

For my shepherd’s pie I like using sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes because I love the taste of them and they have more nutritional benefits, but feel free to use either. This recipe is both vegetarian and gluten free!

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:
1 cup dry lentils washed and sorted
2 or 3 sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
1/2 an onion diced
1/2 a zucchini chopped
1/2 bell pepper chopped
1/2 bag baby spinach
2 TBS + 1 tsp olive oil
2 celery stalks minced
1 large or 2 small carrots minced
1/2 cup of corn or peas
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk or any milk substitute)
1 tsp balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 and spray an 8×8 glass baking pan. To cook lentils combine 1 cup of lentils with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, place sweet potatoes in a separate pot with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Boil over medium heat until tender and drain (20 minutes or so). Add milk and 1 tsp olive oil, mash and set aside. In a sautéing pan heat 2 TBS of olive oil over medium heat. When oil is heated add onions and sauté for a minute or so until tender. Add bell pepper, zucchini, celery, carrots, spinach and the remaining spices/seasonings and cook stirring occasionally for an additional 5 minutes or so. Add the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette along with the cooked lentils and simmer on low heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer lentil mixture to the greased baking pan. Top with mashed sweet potatoes and cook for 30 minutes or until the topping begins to crisp.

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