Honey Banana Bread

I…may or may not have eaten an entire loaf of this in 24 hours. It was that tasty. Good thing this recipe makes two 8x4x2.5 loaves, so you have extra to give to a friend or just keep all the deliciousness to yourself. Honey, greek yogurt and almond milk gives this a healthier kick than traditional butter/sugar recipes, and the addition of chocolate chips and walnuts just takes it to a different level.

HONEY BANANA BREAD (makes two loaves)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips
  • 1.5 cups crushed walnuts
  • Brown sugar, for sprinkling on the top of the breads

-Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

banana bread dry ingredients

-Make a little hole in the whisked dry ingredients, then add the mashed bananas, yogurt, almond milk, honey, eggs, vanilla. Combine gently – don’t overmix.

-Add chocolate chips and walnuts, fold into the mixture.

banana bread dough with chocolate chips and walnuts

-Lightly grease the loaf pans, then pour the batter into each equally. Top with a sprinkling of brown sugar.

-Bake about 50 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf. I tented these with foil at about 30 minutes so the tops didn’t get too browned.

-Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes while breads are still in their pans, then remove from pans and let cool completely. Serve and enjoy!

honey banana bread

Breakfast Bowl: Steel Cut Oats in Coconut Milk, Blueberries, Caramelized Bananas and Honeyed Peanut Butter

I cannot believe the last time I wrote on this blog was May of 2018. It’s been…quite a year. The main piece is that we did two brutal rounds of IVF, which I would not wish on my worst enemy, and both ultimately failed, and I kind of went off the rails. I’ve never been able to write when I’m depressed, and those experiences sent me in a direction that fundamentally unnerved me and limited my ability to do much of anything in a healthy way.

I turned 40 in February, and could not shake feeling like I was both moving towards something and moving away from something else. The image I had for what my life was “supposed to look like” at this point isn’t what it is on a lot of levels, and that scared me. Within that, my emotional upheaval – which is something I’ve always struggled with – got worse. It was typically something I would write off, try to validate and justify, but the older I got, the clearer it became that I couldn’t keep doing this. So after a watershed moment about three months ago, I decided to take a hard look at some key pieces of my well-being and – among other things – quit drinking.

It’s amazing what happens when you get out of your own way. I’ve spent so much time trying to control and direct my life, usually with good intentions, and then being disappointed and frustrated when the end result wasn’t exactly as I imagined it. I’ve projected my own fears, insecurities and expectations onto the people closest to me with some disastrous results. I’ve tried to excuse bad behavior from both myself and others, made terrible decisions almost capriciously, and established patterns that pulled me down instead of up.

Sobriety brings a clarity I don’t know if I’ve ever had. It’s the healthiest decision I’ve made in my adult life, by far. I’m much more consistent and easygoing, and far less judgmental. The anxiety and depression I struggled with for probably 20 years are at the lowest levels I’ve ever experienced, including reducing the prescription medication I was taking to address this by 75% in the past three months. I work out almost daily, do a ton of activities I was too tired or hungover to do before, am training for a sprint triathlon at the end of August, and am just so much more present in my life. I can actually feel my brain and my body healing. And my skin is glowing (I should have led with this, right?).

I’ve read a lot about the damage alcohol consumption inflicts on your entire system, because the data nerd in me loves that kind of stuff. This Naked Mind is a book I read early on that gave me some takeaways I still think about on a daily basis, including how your neural pathways need time to reconnect, how long-term drinking can negatively affect just about every part of a functioning system and how much time your body spends trying to heal itself instead of operating at its healthiest.

Is this a mid-life crisis? It seems to be pretty spot on, right? Well, okay then. Things need to break down in order to be rebuilt and I’m all for being the healthiest I can be – both mentally and physically – to face it all head on. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but that doesn’t fill me with the anxiety and fear it used to. I’m growing into the best version of myself that I can be, finally, and as long as I keep that up I know I’ll be okay. August 5 will mark 100 days of sobriety, and let me just tell you that I am HERE for who I’m becoming within this.

Anyway, this is a cooking blog, right? Good freaking grief. Let’s get to it.

STEEL CUT OATS IN COCONUT MILK WITH BLUEBERRIES, CARAMELIZED BANANAS AND HONEYED PEANUT BUTTER (makes about 5 servings)

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats (these are so healthy for you)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups coconut milk, shaken well (one 15-oz can will work)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 package frozen blueberries
  • fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • cinnamon

-Toast the dry oats in a little butter for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat. I’ve been using a cast iron pan for just about everything lately and I am *obsessed*. Set the pan aside.

-In a medium pot, bring the coconut milk and 1 cup water just to a boil. Add the oats, a pinch of salt and a couple shakes of cinnamon. Turn heat to low and simmer until water is evaporated, stirring frequently so you don’t end up with the gluey oatmeal stuck at the bottom of your pot.

-In the pan you used to toast the oats, add the blueberries, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tsbp. water. Simmer over medium until the blueberries can be mashed roughly with a wooden spoon and the liquid starts to reduce. Pour blueberry mixture into a small bowl and set aside.

-Wipe out the pan and melt 1 tbsp. of butter with a health dash of cinnamon. Add bananas, sliced lengthwise, and cook for about 5 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side for about five minutes more.

-In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey and 1 tbsp water. Stir well to combine until it’s a little runny and drizzle-able (is that a word?)

-When the oats are ready, add some of them to a bowl, then stir in the blueberry mixture. Top with fresh blueberries, some of the caramelized bananas and a drizzle of the honeyed peanut butter mix.

-Serve and enjoy. I had enough of this for about five days’ worth of breakfasts, which are so filling and so delicious I was looking forward to them every single morning.

Glad to be back on the blog!!

Heavenly Chicken

This chicken is so good that Brendan took one bite (eyes closed, of course, which is his “tell” that something is seriously delicious) and said something so filthy it’s unprintable on this blog. The Greek yogurt and lemon marinade tenderizes the chicken over the course of a couple hours, and the mix of spices sinks all into it and combines to make some of the tastiest chicken I’ve ever had. This is a great make-ahead meal if you meal-prep, and it’ll keep for a full work week. I strongly recommend grilling this, as that just takes it to a whole other level.

Heavenly Chicken (serves 4)

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts. I used thinly-sliced, but you could do regular size too.
  • 1 6-oz (approx) container of plain greek yogurt – not fat-free. This is key.
  • Juice of one large lemon
  • 1 tbsp. Garam Masala
  • 1 tbsp. ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Pepper
  1. Combine the spices.

2. In a dish large enough to hold all the chicken, combine the greek yogurt and lemon. Combine until mixed well, then fold in all the spices.

3. Add chicken to the spiced greek yogurt mixture, then coat evenly, making sure all chicken surfaces are covered.

4. Marinate for at least four hours and up to ten.

5. Grill the chicken until it’s done, flipping once or twice and getting those nice grill marks (thanks Bren).

6. When chicken is fully cooked, serve with a nice root vegetable salad or save for a week’s worth of meal-prep deliciousness.

 

Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Lemons and Olives with Quinoa and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

I’ve been trying recently to make salads that combine a bunch of produce and taste like they could be served in Paris (“Feed me like one of your French girls”).  This was a great combo of some cherry tomatoes that were a couple days away from their expiry date, roasted cauliflower (which is my all-time fav), chickpeas, mediterranean olives and lemons, topped with a lemon-tahini drizzle and served over a quinoa and bulgur mix. It seems way fancier than it is, takes about 10 minutes tops to throw together, minus cooking time, and makes a ton of a really healthy, super filling dish for lunch or dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Lemons and Olives with Quinoa and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

  • Two 15.5-oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • One lemon, sliced into fairly thin rounds
  • Half a large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size slices
  • 1/3 cup olives, pitted
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes
  • One cup dry quinoa, or quinoa/bulgur mix, which is delicious and takes approx. 10 minutes from start to finish to cook
  • 1.5 tbsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely-ground salt
  • 2.5 tbsp. EVOO, or Lemon Olive Oil, if you have it
  • Lemon-Tahini Dressing
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, for easier cleanup.
  3. Spread chickpeas over the parchment paper, then top with sliced cauliflower, olives, cherry tomatoes and sliced lemons. 
  4. Drizzle olive oil over everything, then add herbs de provence and salt. With your hands, mix everything until fully covered. 
  5. Roast for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a spatula to flip as much as you can. Roast for another 15 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered and cauliflower has browned edges. 
  6. While the dish is roasting, make the quinoa/bulgur mix according to package directions. When ready, fluff with a fork and remove from heat. 
  7. Serve the veggies and chickpeas over the quinoa. Drizzle with some lemon-tahini dressing to taste. 

 

 

Lemon-Tahini Dressing

This dressing is so simple, so delicious and can be used as a drizzle over anything from roasted veggie sides – it would be fantastic over roasted asparagus – to a salad or a hearty dish over grains. It keeps for about a week but honestly, you’ll be lucky if it lasts for more than a day. Enjoy.

Lemon-Tahini Dressing (makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. tahini
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO (lemon olive oil, if you have it, is amazing in this)
  • 1 large garlic clove, pulverized or finely grated on a microplane
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  1. Combine all ingredients, then stir really really well until it reaches a “drizzle” consistency – you want it to slightly coat a spoon, but also pour off pretty easily. Make sure you eliminate all the lumps of tahini – you want this to be smooth.

    pre-mixed

  2. Season to taste with more lemon juice, salt and olive oil as needed.
  3. Serve and enjoy, or keep in the fridge up to a week.

 

Quinoa, Lentil and Herbed Root Vegetable Salad

Apparently my new thing is to just combine some grains/legumes, roast some veggies, toss it with some fresh herbs and there you go: a delicious side, or main, that goes with almost everything. Rosted radishes are among my very favorite roasted veggies – you can get a big bundle of them for about a dollar right now, and organic carrots are about $1.50, so this whole dish couldn’t possibly cost more than $5 total. I honestly don’t know what my deal was with avoiding lentils for so long. They’re super healthy, filling and delicious, too!  Enjoy.

Quinoa, Lentil and Herbed Root Vegetable Salad

  • 1 Cup green lentils, cooked
  • 1 C. uncooked quinoa (makes approx. 2.5 cups)
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch sticks
  • 1 cup radishes, quartered
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • Kosher salt & fresh pepper
  • Fresh dill & fresh flat-leaf parsley, one generous tbsp. each.
  • Sprinkle herbs de provence (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Prepare the veggies. In a roasting dish, toss with EVOO, kosher salt, fresh pepper and herbs de provence. Cook approx. 25 minutes or until roasted, turning once or twice.
  3. Cook lentils according to package directions (should take about 25 minutes).
  4. Cook quinoa according to package directions (should take about 20 minutes).
  5. While everything is cooking, make an herbed lemon-yogurt dressing. Combine greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt and shredded garlic, then add chopped herbs.
  6. Combine roasted veggies, lentils and quinoa, then top with the remaining fresh dill and parsley.
  7. Top with a little herbed lemon-yogurt dressing and enjoy!

 

Herbed Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

Herbed Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

  • 1 C. Greek Yogurt
  • 1.5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or shredded on a microplane
  • Fresh dill and fresh parsley, chopped, approx. 1 tbsp. each
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO or Lemon Olive Oil

This one is pretty difficult. Ready?

  1. Combine everything, season to taste, add more olive oil or lemon juice to thin the dressing to your preference.
  2. Refrigerate for about an hour. Will keep for approximately five days, but odds are good it’ll be gone before then.

 

Broccoli and Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Bombs

This is really simple, super delicious weeknight meal. Taking the shortcut of using a “steamables” version of the broccoli and cheese sauce allows you to throw all this together in no time flat for a healthy meal that makes great leftovers, too. Honestly, I would roll just about anything up in chicken – but this one earns its name since these little chicken bombs are legit “the bomb.”

BROCCOLI AND CHEESE-STUFFED CHICKEN BOMBS (serves 2-3)

  • 1.5 lbs thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • Broccoli & cheese sauce (steamables)
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1/2 C. water
  • Squeeze of lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Cook broccoli and cheese steamables according to package directions, set aside until it’s room temperature (so the heat from it doesn’t start to cook the chicken once you start assembling).
  3. Arrange your little assembly station: place the panko breadcrumbs in one bowl, mix the EVOO, water and squeeze of lemon in another bowl,
  4. Salt and pepper the chicken.
  5. Lay chicken on a flat surface, then top with the broccoli/cheese mixture and a sprinkle of the mozzarella. 
  6. Roll the chicken up in a little twirl of deliciousness, then dip in the EVOO/water/lemon mixture, then roll in the breadcrumbs. If you have olive oil spray, lightly give the chicken bomb a little spray. This will help them develop a golden color as they cook.
  7. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  8. Place the chicken in a lightly greased baking dish, then cook for approx. 30 minutes or until cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

Stuffed Peppers

Ok, so I hated these growing up. Then one day about a year ago, I decided to try them again. And they’re AMAZING. Making them with ground turkey and adding a secret spice to them kind of makes them taste – warmer, I think. Brendan added these to the top of his “favorites” list and he gets soooo super psyched whenever I tell him I’m going to make these for dinner. This all comes together really quickly, especially if you use quickie rice, looks so pretty and makes perfect leftovers, too. Enjoy.

STUFFED PEPPERS (makes 6 halves)

  • 3 red and/or orange bell peppers
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. EVOO
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 large tsp Garam masala (don’t skip this, it gives it a unique flavor we love)
  • 1 large tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 C chicken broth
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Uncle Ben’s quick-cook rice (I use the whole grain brown chicken-flavored rice) that cooks in 90 seconds
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Heat EVOO over medium heat in a large skillet. Add chopped onion, garlic and cilantro, sautee for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add ground turkey, garlic powder, garam masala and salt, stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is browned.
  4. Add 1/2 C. chicken broth and all the tomato sauce, turn the heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the peppers lengthwise (I think this also makes the dish look so much better), scrape out the seeds, but keep stems on if possible for decoration.
  6. Heat up the rice according to package directions, then add to the turkey mix. Stir to combine.
  7. Place peppers in a baking dish, then carefully stuff with the turkey and rice mixture. 
  8. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.
  9. Add another 1/2 C. of the chicken broth to the baking dish, creating a little pool of liquid around the peppers (don’t splash this IN the peppers).
  10. Cover and bake at 400 for 45 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, top with scallions and serve immediately.

 

French Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

Ugh, I swear this is how French women stay skinny. I crave vegetables in France. There’s just something simple and indulgent about how they’re cooked and presented, and my very favorites are haricots verts, or French green beans. They’re basically American green beans, but super skinny (very French). This is a super simple, incredible tasty side that I could have with almost every meal I make. Enjoy.

FRENCH GREEN BEANS WITH TOASTED ALMONDS (serves 3-4 as a side)

  • 1 Lb. haricots verts (you can usually find these in grocery stores like Whole Foods, Wegman’s or Central Market, they’ll be labeled “French green beans.”)
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil
  • Heavy pinch fleur de sel
  • Fresh-cracke black pepper
  • 1/4 c. blanched and slivered almonds (you can find these in a bag in the grocery store, you don’t have to do this yourself).
  1. Heat walnut oil in a nonstick skillet over a little more than medium heat.
  2. Add green beans and a heavy pinch fleur de sel. Stir and cook for about three minutes.
  3. Cover most of the pan with a lid and cook for 6 more minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small pan over medium, then add walnuts and toast, shaking the pan frequently and watching closely so the almonds don’t burn. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat when golden brown.
  5. Add salt and pepper to haricots verts to taste, then top with toasted almonds. Serve and enjoy. J’adore les haricots verts!