Vanilla Green Tea Energy Bites (With Kale) and Spring Break Adventures

IMG_1895This past week was Spring Break for Grant, which – perk of being a teacher’s wife – means Spring Break for me too! Some things never get old, and Spring Break is one of those things. It’s nice taking a little break from life sometimes, even if it means I’m behind in everything now.

spring breakFor the first part of break Grant and I went to Billings, Montana on a little weekend getaway. We had a great time thrifting and eating good food and riding our bikes along a cliff edge. Then, on Monday my brother and his beautiful wife came to visit us in the Bighorns! Leslie and Andrew have been married since January and live in Texas. They decided to make a loooong road trip to come see us, stopping along the way at places like Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Tetons. It is nice living in a part of the country that can be a road trip destination – Wyoming is so beautiful and contains so much adventure, which makes it easier to convince people to come visit us! While they were here, we explored the Tongue River Canyon, journeyed to Shell Falls in the Bighorns, and visited the Badlands. It was a great time!

Andrew and some mountain goats
Andrew and some mountain goats
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Watching some bighorn sheep
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We saw LOTS of bighorn sheep

spring break 2So it was a fantastic week off, but now it’s time to get back to reality. If you are having a hard time getting back in the groove like me (especially when the sun is shining and everything outside is begging you to take a break) I have some energy bites to hopefully get you in the spirit of things again. My Vanilla Green Tea Energy bites are bursting with flavor and color and adventure, kind of like spring itself.

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And since energy bites are obviously the cure for everything……….

IMG_1902 IMG_1912Vanilla Green Tea Energy Bites

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups oats
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp chia
1/2 tsp salt
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
2 to 3 green tea bags, contents only
1 cup kale
4 tbsp honey
3 tbsp coconut oil

METHOD:

1. Mix oats, flour, chia, protein powder, salt, and the contents of your tea bags together in a large bowl.

2. Process your kale in a food processor until smooth. You may need to add water (one teaspoon at a time). Once kale is processed (it is okay if there are still some chunks), add honey and coconut oil and process together until smooth.

3. Pour the liquid mixture into the oat mixture and stir until all oats are incorporated. If the mixture is too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time. If too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time.

4. Once fully mixed, roll mixture into balls, using about a tablespoon of your dough per ball. These will last up to two weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!

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How To Sprout Lentils (Because Sprouts are the Best Thing Ever)

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I lost a little respect for Jimmy John’s when they stopped putting sprouts on their sandwiches. In my mind, they had always been the premier sandwich stop because of the sprouts. But then they just stopped, and my heart broke a little bit.

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Now, let’s just get something straight here: Sprouts are the best thing ever. Period. Done. End of story.

They add deliciousness to any and all dishes including but not limited to salads, wraps, rice bowls, and sandwiches. Good news – they are also super easy to grow right at home. And I think everyone should grow sprouts at home. There are no excuses, especially now that I’m going to show you just how easy it is.

Here’s what you need:

  • one or two mason jars
  • 1/2 cup of dried whole lentils, any color (make sure they are not dal-style or split)
  • cheese cloth
  • rubber bands

Here’s how to do it.

First, soak your lentils in water for 8-12 hours in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.

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After they have soaked 8-12 hours, rinse your lentils and place them in your mason jar(s). Only fill up one-third of the jar, as the lentils will expand to at least three times their size. Cut cheese cloth to size and place over top the jar, securing with a rubber band. Place on your windowsill in the sunlight, and wait!

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A few times a day, rinse your lentils (leaving them in the jar) and drain them through the cheese cloth. You want to make sure the lentils do not get slimy.

In one day, you’ll start to see slight growths on the lentils. In two days, the lentils will be about twice their original size. In three days, you will be able to harvest them to eat, but I particularly like waiting until the fourth day, when the tips of the lentils are green and they start poking through the cheese cloth.

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Day One in jar: Lentils are just starting to sprout
Day Three in jar: lentil sprouts can be harvested at this point
Day Three in jar: Lentil sprouts can be harvested at this point
Day Four in jar: Lentil sprouts have expanded to fit entire jar and are perfect for harvesting
Day Four in jar: Lentil sprouts have expanded to fit entire jar and are perfect for harvesting

IMG_1778I really hope you try this at home because lentil sprouts are a nutritious and delicious addition to any meal. Not to mention, the yield is pretty remarkable, considering you start with just 1/2 a cup of dried lentils. As you can see, the bowl I started with was overflowing with sprouts when it was all said and done.

These last for many days stored in the fridge. I line a large plastic bag with a couple layers of paper towels and place the sprouts inside, leaving the bag open when I put it in the fridge so the lentils do not suffocate.

Enjoy!

!

Orange Spiced Gingersnaps

I’ll always associate gingersnaps with Christmas, so much so that I have a feeling I’d find it wrong to make a batch of these Orange Spiced Gingersnaps any other time of the year. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I grew up decorating gingerbread houses every Christmas break, and therefore that hot, ginger-molasses-y aroma is weld solidly to glittering lights and nativity scenes and a massive Christmas tree taking up a fourth of our piano room.

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The two months preceding Christmas are my favorite time of the year, despite the frigid air up here in tundra land. I think I’ve built it up in my brain so much that it’s more the memories intoxicating me than the holiday itself. It’s been years since my family decorated our house with Christmas lights, and as I’m living in an apartment this year we won’t be able to participate in that small gesture of holiday spirit. But every single year I get so excited to drive at night, simply because there are houses adorned with little lights. I remember how we used to put a timer on ours so they’d come on at the same time every evening, right as the sun hit the horizon, and I always had this longing to be there the moment they turned on. I don’t know if I ever got there in time.

I was always there for the tree decorating, though – if not to help, to watch. Mom was always painfully organized when it came to ornaments – Andrew, Mickey, and I each had our own ornament box (which grew to multiples over the years), because every year we received at least one ornament that would become ours as soon as we moved away and married (which I have, but my box remains in Texas. Of course, I don’t have room for it in this teeny apartment). By the time my brother, sister, and I were in college, the tree was so full of the craziest assortment of ornaments that its limbs hung lower than normal. At least now it will be a third lighter.

The main reason I love Christmas is not because of the lights or the cookies or the decorations, though – it is the general air (to risk sounding cliche) of cheer. The joy that comes from celebrating something that isn’t merely commercial is contagious – there’s a meaning behind this holiday, one that is greater than anything we know. A savior was born, and we can live with the peace of having eternal celebrations in paradise. Even people who deny Him cannot deny the jubilation that permeates every corner of our country during this holiday season. There is a reason we are rejoicing.

Now on to this Christmassy recipe. God bless you all and to all a good night! (Or morning, whatever, you get my drift.)

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Orange Spiced Gingersnaps

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1 egg
Sugar with orange zest for rolling

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt together in a bowl. Stir and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, molasses, orange juice, and olive oil. Mix on medium for 5 minutes. Add egg and mix on low for 2 minutes more. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in orange zest.

3. Add a couple pinches of orange zest to the sugar for rolling. Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in zested sugar until completely covered. Flatten dough balls a little and place them on cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes or until tops crack.

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Roasted Pumpkin Spice Almonds

The other day while grocery shopping I came across some Planters Pumpkin Spiced Almonds and was extremely close to buying them. I had never seen such a thing. Pumpkin lattes, sure; pumpkin candy, whatever; pumpkin cereal, oatmeal, eggnog; this is all commonplace to me now. But pumpkin nuts? Never before. However, a battle raged inside me, and frugality won. It is tough for me to shell out $10 for 20 ounces of nuts, no matter what flavor they are, when I can buy 3 plain pounds for $14. This is why I always have trouble in the snack aisle at Target – Archer Farms was made to make me rue my own poorness, I’m sure of it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m nuts about nuts, I just prefer satiating my obsession in a cheaper way. I figured making my own Pumpkin Almonds shouldn’t be too hard and I was oh-so-right about that.

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Isn’t it great how you can see something you want and make it yourself? I never realized this as a kid. I figured some things just weren’t possible. For instance, it came as a great epiphany that there was such a thing as pasta makers, because until the time I was about 20 I had the naive assumption that the only way to produce pasta was by a huge shiny machine, one I had not quite thought out the technicalities of, but just stopped at that. I haven’t yet obtained my own pasta press, but it is a dream I hope to one day realize.

Another big one was homemade bread. Once in a while when I was a kid, my mom would make bread in the bread machine (these were always the best days, the yeasty richness of a fresh loaf permeating every corner of our tiny home), but more often than not this bread came from a box mix, and more often than that we just ate the Great Value wheat bread (which is pretty good, but doesn’t come close to the deliciousness of homemade). So basically I grew up thinking: 1) the only easy way of making bread yourself was via bread machine, and 2) bread came in a box mix, and without that failure is inevitable. It was a wonderful day, the day my lovely Nana gave me her old bread machine. At last, I thought to myself. Homemade bread once more! I quickly realized with help from my awesome elementary math skills that buying box mix yeast bread was darn expensive and there were a ton of recipes for bread machine bread that were easy as 1-2-3. So I started experimenting, making my own recipes, etc, etc and life was a glorious compendium of fresh bread smells and carb overload. But then the bread machine broke. (Sweet lamentation!) My love for homemade bread had swiftly become an obsession, so I was forced into simply making bread by hand, a task I had long feared. It was something about the kneading that set my nerves aquiver. But I have come to realize that making bread by hand is a simple undertaking, and as long as your yeast is fresh and you don’t mind a thin dusting of flour over every surface of your kitchen, it produces a fantastic result. I don’t even buy store made bread anymore.

This is a long tangent I know. But just think of how enslaved we Americans are to industry. We have our loyalties to brands such that they have become staples to our pantries. Campbells soup has a distinct metallic aftertaste, did you know? It sits in a can for who-knows-how long, like food meant for a future apocalypse, and then we eat it and think it good. This is the same for all canned soup, veggies, fruit. Why not just whip up some homemade soup with the things in your fridge?? Do people not realize how easy it is??? I will never eat Kraft macaroni and cheese again, because it doesn’t even blink to macaroni and cheese I could make from scratch. But kids don’t dare eat Mac-n-Cheese unless it’s bright orange (and this is a proven fact, experimentation resulting in a pot full of uneaten Parmesan and Cheddar Macaroni, scorned by the four and eight-year-old kids I was nannying due to its pale color. The 14-month-old ate it, though, only further proving how as Americans we are raised to accept only the streamlined and mass produced). The list is endless: individually packaged  Quaker oatmeal, Swiss Miss hot cocoa, Betty Crocker cake mix, etc etc etc.

Now, if any of you actually read this monstrosity of a post, I apologize for how far I strayed from Pumpkin Spice Almonds. And all this came to be due to the frustration I sometimes experience at my lack of funds to buy expensive, name brand things (or is that just prudence?). But really, these homemade Pumpkin Spice Almonds are delicious. I may never know how they compare to Planters, but maybe that’s a good thing.

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Pumpkin Spice Almonds

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup raw unsalted almonds
1 tbsp pureed pumpkin
1 tbsp pure maple
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix maple, pumpkin, spices, and salt. Mix in almonds and stir until coated evenly.

2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely before eating or you’ll burn your tongue off (nuts magically retain heat for a reeeaaaalllly long time. Yes, I learned this the hard way).

 

Butternut Squash Pea Pizza

A couple weeks ago my husband and I were playing Scattergories with his parents. The letter was “P” and the category was “Pizza topping.” Naturally, my first inclination was  (no, not pepperoni. I am vegetarian. I actually didn’t even think pepperoni until someone else said it) peas. Yes, peas. Only because earlier that week I had made this delicious Butternut Squash Pea Pizza.

Have you ever had peas on pizza? It’s fantastic! They have this little pop of sweetness that just makes your mouth water for another bite. Married with the butternut squash, spinach, green pepper, and havarti cheese, to this day I have not tasted anything so tantalizing. Of course, there was dispute at the table as to whether “peas” counted as a pizza topping. I argued that I got the idea online from someone else’s pizza experimentation, so it had to count.

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I tend to think of pizza as the kitchen sink of all dinners. Whatever’s leftover in the fridge, just throw on there! And since whipping up a crust is easy as 1-2-3, it’s sort of a go-to when I have produce that needs eating.

Moreover, pizza can make for a pretty healthy meal if you make one of these crusts, Whole Wheat, Flax and Honey CrustCauliflower Crust,  or Sweet Potato Pizza Crust, or simply whip up an oat flour based crust like I did for this recipe. Topped with a generous serving of home-stewed pizza sauce and a ton of veggies, there is nothing really about this pizza that could be classified as “junk food.” See, I’m revolutionizing the ways of FatAmerica.

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Butternut Squash Pea Pizza

INGREDIENTS:

1 half butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 green bell pepper
2 large handfuls spinach
Pizza Sauce
Havarti Cheese
Parmesan
Italian Seasoning
Oatmeal Crust (recipe below)

METHOD:

1. We all know how to make pizza. It’s common sense. But do pop the cubed butternut squash in the microwave for three minutes or so until it is slightly soft. Chop the rest of the veggies into adequate sizes.

2. Proceed with the pizza topping. Bake in a 400F oven until cheese is melty.

Oatmeal Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cup finely processed oatmeal
1/2 tbsp yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 clove minced garlic
Italian seasoning
1 tbsp parmesan

METHOD:

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water, adding honey and oil after about a minute. In separate bowl, combine salt, oatmeal, seasoning, parmesan, and garlic.

2. Add yeast to flour mixture and stir well. Knead for 2 minutes and form into a ball. Let rise in an oiled bowl, covered, for twenty to thirty minutes.

3. After risen, roll the ball flat into a thin circle. If mixture is crumbly, add water and a little flour. Prick crust with a fork, then bake in a 425F oven for 15 minutes. Top with pizza toppings, bake some more, enjoy.

 

 

Simply Spectacular Spaghetti Squash Dinner

One of my favorite things about fall is the bargain prices on squash. As low as 49 cents a pound at Fareway…what could beat that?? It makes for a deliciously cheap dinner. This meal is so simple I am almost embarrassed to make a real post about it, but then again, I like to make people’s lives easier. And this dinner will be sure to make your life easier.

Even my meat-lovin’ husband liked it. And there’s no meat.

As many of you probably know, I hate waste. So when I cut into a scrumptious squash, the first thing I do is salvage the seeds. It is a common misconception that the only kind of seed that is edible is the pumpkin. While pumpkin seeds are the bomb diggity, seeds from all the different squashes are good to eat. Sometimes I like to eat them plain, but this time I decided to top my dish with them. This added that needed bit of both protein and crunch.

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Simply Spectacular Spaghetti Squash Dinner

INGREDIENTS:

1 spaghetti squash
1 tomato
1 green bell pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 can of black olives
2 tbsp parmesan
splash of lemon
Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste
Italian seasoned roasted spaghetti squash seeds

METHOD:

1. Heat oven to 375F. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Place cut side down on a baking dish and fill with a bit of water. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how big the squash and how mushy you like it (I like it with a little crunch).  While this is baking, you can also roast your seeds. Simply clean then toss in salt and italian seasoning, and roast until golden brown and crispy.

2. Steam broccoli. Chop up the rest of the veggies and toss with lemon juice, parmesan, and seasoning.

3. When squash is done and cooled slightly, scoop out meat with a fork. Toss with prepared veggies and season to taste.

4. Enjoy!

Apple Green Tea Cake with Apple Roses

Hello, world. I am here to report that the treetops are a steady shade of yellow now and a murder of crows has taken residence in my neighborhood. In other news, I made a pretty cake for my grandma’s garden club meeting the other day – Apple Green Tea Cake with Apple Roses. 

Apple roses are a relatively simple way to make a beautiful and edible decoration for a cake. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Slice the apple reeaaaaally thin (leave the peels on for that hint of color). 
  2. Boil the apple in 4 cups water, 1 cup sugar for about five minutes. Drain. 
  3. Mix up whatever batter you are using, and fill prepared truffle or mini muffin pan (spray generously with cooking oil so nothing sticks) half full with the batter.
  4.  Form apple roses and place in batter. 
  5. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 200 and bake for 2 more hours.

It makes for an impressive (and impressively simple) cake. For the fall season and upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, apple roses are the perfect thing to have up your sleeve!

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Onto a tangent…before Thanksgiving comes, we must celebrate the frightfully delicious Halloween. Halloween is a fantastic holiday – dressing up in creative costumes and parading around the neighborhoods for candy…what could be better?

Working at Target really makes me realize how into Halloween people get. Starting at the beginning of October people were buying skeleton erasers and gummy eyeballs and pumpkin rugs. This week, the thing has been costumes for kids. I’ve seen princess costumes, Iron Man costumes, witch costumes, and minion costumes, just to name a few. Here is my issue – these store bought costumes are sooo cheesy! Sure you can be a witch, but I grew up with the firm understanding that for Halloween we made our costumes. If that meant trolling Goodwill for a few hours to find the perfect black lace ball gown that was waaay to big, then that is how it was. Home-crafted costumes will always be better than the kind you get at places like Target. There is just no creativity in pointing and buying, and isn’t Halloween really just a passive celebration of creativity? I think so. 

But anyway. Perhaps I will make some Halloweenish recipes for y’all. Also, pumpkin carving is a definite must for this year. Pumpkin picking first, though. ❤

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Apple Green Tea Cake with Apple Roses

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whole wheat flour (for a less nutty flavor, use all purpose)
Contents of 2 bags of green day
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 finely chopped apple

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray bundt pan with cooking oil. Combine flour, contents of green tea bags, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix Greek yogurt, applesauce, olive oil, milk, and brown sugar. Add eggs and whip. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and mix until well incorporated.

3. Fold in chopped apples. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Top with your favorite cake glaze. 

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Spiced Walnut Date CROCKPOT Granola

I talked about fall smells in my last post. Wonderful spiciness, delicious air, when life turns into a giant candle. One of my great vehicles for smells this seasons is my crockpot. I never had a crockpot before getting married (only old married women cook in crockpots, right?) and it is truly my favorite appliance.  Not only does it concoct delicious foods, but the aroma that fills my apartment because of it is drool worthy.

This Spiced Walnut Date Granola was a slice of autumn as it cooked. It was all cinnamony and gingery and nutmegy and better than any wallflower you could plug in. Cooking it in the crockpot eliminated the almost certain danger of burning it in the oven. Sure, it takes longer in the crockpot than the oven (about 3 to 3 and a half hours rather than an hour or so), but that means the smell lasted longer too.

Just for the heck of it, here is a list of wonderful fall smells:

  • Pumpkin
  • Apple
  • Cinnamon
  • Fire smoke
  • Pine
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla
  • Sage
  • Ginger
  • Molasses
  • Hay

Mmmmm, the aroma of fall. And it’s even better when it is delivered to you through a crockpot! Crockpot cooking makes life happier, in many ways. Ease, smells, deliciousness – if you don’t have one, get one!

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SPICED WALNUT DATE GRANOLA

Ingredients:

3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3 tbsp flax
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple
2 tbsp apple butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp egg white
Banana, cottage cheese, and pure maple for garnishment

Method:

1. Mix all dry ingredients in bowl of crockpot.

2. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients, adding egg white last. Whip for 30 seconds, then pour over dry ingredients. Stir until well incorporated.

3. Turn crockpot on high (2 to 4 hour setting). Leave lid cracked so moisture can escape (you don’t want soggy granola!). Stir occasionally.

 

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Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake and An Homage to Autumn

In celebration of fall I offer up to you my first truly fallish recipe, Pumpkin Apple Spice Cake. In my opinion, fall does not really start until I have either made a pumpkin (an artsy one, mind you; I am not God, after all, or Harry Potter, though I wish I could make pumpkins appear out of thin air) or have cooked with pumpkin, and I have now cooked with pumpkin, so fall is here!

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Pumpkins are only one of the many things I appreciate about fall, though. First off, I love the smell of the season. It’s spicy, kind of, like the falling leaves are peppering the world for a feast. I love stepping outside and breathing in a lungfull of crisp, cold air that tastes of life moving on. I also enjoy wearing sweaters and socks all the time, and biking in leggings and windbreakers, and feeling how cold my cheeks are when I get home from a long run. I particularly enjoy listening to the crows bleak song, a chorus to the wind’s melody. All these smells and tastes and feels mean it’s time to listen to Enya and let the world wrap itself around me in a blanket of serenity.

How couldn’t one be inspired by fall? It’s like life is finally a poem again, after waiting through months of drought and suffocating flowers. Summer is fun, but there’s just something magical about this time of year. 😉

PUMPKIN APPLE SPICE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup finely processed oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup applesauce (like this homemade honey lemon kind)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin (or 1 1/2 cup pureed fresh pumpkin)
1 finely diced golden delicious apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
Chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray bundt pan with baking oil. Dice apple and place in the bottom of a large bowl. Add flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.

2. In separate bowl, mix sugar, maple, greek yogurt, and applesauce. Add eggs and whip well. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture, and then fold in pumpkin puree.

3. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. After the cake cools, top with Maple Glaze, made with 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tbsp pure maple, and a touch of salt (add milk until desired consistency is reached).

4. Enjoy a slice of pure autumn euphoria.