Sunday, April 26, 2015

Simple Spaghetti Sauce

A week ago I ran my first race of the year, the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. It's an all female half marathon run in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the third year for the race and I've run it all three years now. It's fun race and I've really enjoyed being a part of it over the past few years. This year the race turned out the best yet both due to the weather and some course changes they've made. The first year of the race the weather was just awful, it was super cold (in the low 30s) with rain/sleet/snow the whole race along with a nice strong wind. Last year the temperature was okay, but I was scared it was going to rain the whole time. This year however, the sun was out the whole race and the temps were in the mid 40s or so. There was a little wind, but it was mainly a cross wind and not too bad, definitely could have been worse! The race organizers have also tweaked the course every year and this year it was by far the best yet. All in all a really nice spring run that I hope to be a part of for years to come. 

Although I'm not a big believer in the need to truly "carbo load" the night before a half marathon, I like to just pretend that it's necessary so I can whip together a big bowl of pasta and feel like it's a requirement that I eat it all! For this race a simple meat sauce was calling my name. This is the type of spaghetti sauce that my mom would make all the time when I was growing up, so for me this is true comfort food. It is so quick and easy to throw together and it always turns out simply delicious. Honestly, this is one of my favorite meals of all time, it will never get old, something I will return to over and over again. The perfect pre-race dinner for my first race of the year. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Banana Oat Breakfast Bars

Currently these breakfast bars are hanging out near the top of my long list of favorites. I'm really loving them. I discovered the recipe a few months back when I was looking for some kind of breakfast bar that was easy to whip together using ingredients I usually have on hand, and was on the healthier side as baked goods like this go. Oh, and of course, they had to taste good too! This recipe easily meets all of these requirements. I love that they are full of hearty oats, sweetened with banana and just a hint of honey. I added pumpkin for extra moisture, which also adds a nice golden color without adding any additional flavor, I promise you won't even notice it's there. Plus, I love that I can add a vegetable into my breakfast treat and don't even notice it. My favorite way to eat these is by cutting them in half lengthwise and spreading both pieces with peanut butter, it's a perfect combination and a perfect breakfast.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Broccoli Kale Pesto

I know there are a lot of broccoli stem haters out there. Honestly, I'm not one of them, I've found that as long as the tough outside layer is cut off at least a little bit that they roast up quite well. However, I've come up with a new use for them, and if you are in the broccoli stem hater camp this one is for you. 

For this broccoli kale pesto I took all the stems from one bunch of broccoli, boiled them up until nice and soft, and processed them with some kale and garlic to make a vibrant, healthy, and delicious spread or sauce. I thought the broccoli flavor was quite mild so if that worries you, have no fear. The combination of the broccoli with the kale was a perfect match. The kale brightened up the color of the pesto, and the combo of the two veggies helped mellow the flavors of both resulting in a nicely balanced sauce. With the punch of the raw garlic added in as well, this sauce turned into a beautiful, healthy and delicious way to amp up a sandwich, a batch of eggs, or a bowl of pasta. It is super versatile and really can be used in just about anything you might possibly imagine. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Warm Brown Rice, Sweet Potato and Roasted Cabbage Salad with Tahini Yogurt Dressing

This is one of those meals that I wasn't really planning on being anything extra special or turning out as well as it did. That is one of the things I love so much about cooking, coming up with new combinations that surprise me with how good they are. Taking a couple of ingredients that I have never really put together and creating a whole new dish out of them that just works, at least for me anyways!

The other night I just happened to have a few leftovers and random ingredients hanging out in my fridge and thought I better use them up or freeze them before they went bad. I had a general idea about what I was going to do with them, but it sort of evolved as I went along and turned into this wonderfully warm and filling salad, perfect on a rainy and chilly spring night. Sweet and creamy baked sweet potato combined with chewy brown rice, and roasted cabbage, topped with pecans for nuttiness and some dried cranberries for sweetness. A quick dressing of tahini and yogurt finishes the whole thing off and brings it all together. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

S'mores Cupcakes

April 1 is a special day in my family. We get to celebrate not just one, but two birthdays! My cousin Bailey and my grandpa get to share their special day with each other. In honor of their birthday's, Bailey invited us all over for a "112th birthday party" this past Sunday. Since my favorite part about birthday celebrations is the cake, I offered to make some cupcakes to bring along. In my opinion you cannot have a birthday party without cake, it just isn't right. 

For this occasion I had a few more restraints than normal. Dairy products don't agree well with Bailey so the only cake options I had were dairy free ones. This can be a challenge for me; I am partial to good old butter cakes piled high with sweet and fluffy buttercream, neither of which were an option for this party. I toyed around with a couple of different ideas before having that aha moment. Early on I had decided that a chocolate cupcake made with cocoa powder would work really well for the base. Cocoa is dairy free, and although I know you can find dairy free chocolate out there, I just wasn't going to get around to buying any in time. 

What was really stumping me was the frosting. I am not a fan of using butter substitutes, I just don't think they taste good. Even the really nice brands without trans fats and all that other junk don't taste like butter. I like butter, and there really is no replacement in my book. I toyed with the idea of using coconut cream but I'm not a huge coconut fan and I'd never tried it before so didn't know how it would work. Then I came across a recipe for marshmallow frosting, basically just a meringue, and it all came together. Marshmallow frosting on a chocolate cake, only one thing is missing.... graham crackers! Who can resist a good old s'more, especially in cupcake form? The perfect dairy free cupcake to celebrate a couple of extra special people. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Last week I looked in the freezer and realized that I had almost no cookies or bars or anything else to eat for my bedtime snack! Moving into a new place can really throw off your baking schedule. I wanted something easy to quickly remedy this dire situation. Since I have a huge bag of oats floating around in my kitchen, I thought a simple oat bar of some kind would be nice. And while there are tons of oat bar recipes that call for peanut butter, I decided against a PB oat bar, looking instead for something even more basic; simply butter, oats, sugar and some chocolate of course. 

These bars fit the bill perfectly. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult, exactly what I was looking for. They come together in about a minute, really couldn't be easier. If you're looking for a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth but don't want to get into anything fancy or complicated these bars are for you. My first baking endeavor in new apartment was most definitely a success!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Foolproof Oven-Baked Brown Rice

This may not look like a very exciting recipe to some people, but honestly it's one of my favorites. Over the last couple of years I have grown to absolutely love brown rice. It is extremely healthy, it's super versatile and I think it's absolutely delicious. If you've ever looked up directions on how to make brown rice, you may have noticed that there are so many different methods. Each with it's own ratio of water to rice. Now I'm sure most of them will turn out a fine batch of brown rice, I personally am not too picky as long as it's cooked through. However, once I found this recipe I never turned back. Not only does it turn out a perfect pan of brown rice every time, it also makes a really nice big batch so I can have it on hand all week long. This is the only recipe I ever use so I wanted to share it in case anyone else is looking for a foolproof method of cooking brown rice. Well look no further, this is it.