Weird Fruit Day!

When I was little, my mom used to do some pretty awesome things. Since she usually worked on weekends, every so often she would call my brother and I off from school and declare it “Matthew and Kimberly Day.” She would literally call our school and tell the receptionist that her children would not be in class today because she was taking them to the beach. Or the zoo. Or Navy Pier…or wherever we decided we wanted to go that day. It was almost embarassing when the receptionist would be all “Uhm…ok…are your children sick?” And my mom would respond with “No, we’re going to the beach today. Have a nice day!”

CLICK.

Other times, when we’d actually have to go to school, my brother and I would wake up to find out it was Weird Fruit Day. I’ll never forget that morning when instead of eating a normal bowl of cereal for breakfast, we had things like mangos, papayas and star fruit. I remember going to school and asking my friends what they had for Weird Fruit Day only to be met with blank stares. Sneaky mom.

When I saw star fruit on sale for $.98 each at the grocery store today, my heart skipped a beat. Happy Weird Fruit Day!

If you’ve never had star fruit, let me just tell you they are totally delicious. They’re like a cross between a grape and an apple in terms of texture, but more grape-like in taste. Sort of?

They made me smile today. It’s always the little things, isn’t it?

Homemade Granola Bars

Since I am no longer galavanting around the world like I used to, I’ve been distracting myself by cooking. A lot. Have you noticed? I need an outlet!

On that note, I don’t want to alarm anybody here, but this might be the most delicious creation to ever come out of my kitchen. Not to be confused with healthy…I’ll give you fair warning there is a lot of sugar in this recipe. But, maybe the sugar gets cancelled out since there is also a lot of healthy-ish things like sunflower seeds and oatmeal and dried fruit and CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER!

I really didn’t know what to expect from these, but can I just say they are blowing my mind?! So sweet, chewy, and deliciously peanut-buttery. They’re addicting little squares of crack, I’m telling you!

Want to know what these little babies are perfect for? That dreaded afternoon slump. It usually hits me around 3:30 when I begin talking myself out of my evening workout because I’m too tired…or hungry. These homemade granola bars are the perfect pick-me-up!

You know what else would be totally awesome? If you popped one of these squares in the microwave for a few seconds and topped it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You know, in case you really want to be bad.

Check out Jenna’s blog for the recipe because I followed it exactly. The only difference is I used milk chocolate chips instead of dark, dried cranberries rather than a blend, and cut mine into squares instead of bars. Whatever you decide, you should really make these…and then share them because they are just too good to keep to yourself.

Now, go gather up some oatmeal, oat bran, peanut butter, shredded coconut, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and honey and get to business!

Overnight Oats

I don’t know about you, but I am just not hungry for breakfast right when I wake up. I always have to bring my breakfast to work with me, and usually don’t become hungry enough to eat it until almost lunch time. Pretty sure that defeats the whole purpose of eating breakfast in the morning to kickstart your metabolism, no?

Well, in an effort to simplify my morning routine today I made a bowl of overnight oats last night! Overnight oats have been floating around the blog world ever since I can remember, but for some reason I’ve never tried them. I tend to really enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal so for the longest time, I just could not wrap my head around the thought of cold oats in the morning. I decided to take a risk last night, however, and I was so excited to wake up and skip out the door with my already-prepared breakfast. Until this happened….

Doh! It’s always the way, isn’t it? I didn’t cry…but I wanted to.

Anyway, I wasn’t even hungry when I got to work (naturally) but practically force-fed myself because I so badly wanted to try the breakfast that re-routed my entire morning.

The verdict? Loved them! Oh you creamy, luscious, sweet bowl of oats…MARRY ME.

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dry oatmeal

6oz greek yogurt (I used honey flavored from TJ’s)

Splash of milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk <—– newest obsession)

Sliced banana

1 T peanut butter

Directions:

Mix together dry oats, yogurt and milk and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, add more milk to achieve desired consistency while continuing to stir everything together. Top with sliced banana and peanut butter.

Have you ever tried overnight oats? 

 

Healthy Cream of Asparagus Soup

A couple of months ago my boss walked past my desk during lunch and stopped dead in his tracks.

“What are you…eating?! It looks like gruel!” 

He stared for a few more seconds before walking away, shaking his head.

Yeah, embarrassing! In his defense, the soup I brought for lunch that day did look terrible…and it tasted terrible too. Note to self: never buy Latin Style Black Bean Soup from Trader Joe’s again. Regardless, I do not want to be known around the office as the girl who eats gruel for lunch…

[Source]

Except, if people actually do start calling me ‘gruel girl’, I totally brought it upon myself. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not your average brown bag lunch kind of gal. And even though this winter (can I even call it that?!) has been unseasonably warm, I’ve been on a real soup kick lately. You see, soups are virtually impossible to screw up which is probably why I like making them-it’s such an easy way to make myself look domesticated. First there was the Veggie Stew. Then I tried my hand at Curried Acorn Squash and Apple Soup. I even made Crock Pot Minestrone Soup a few weeks ago. Oh, and don’t you worry, I have plans to give black bean soup (the homemade variety) another chance pretty soon…I’ll be sure to make extra for the boss 😉

For a quick change of pace from heavy winter comfort food I decided to make a lighter soup last night. A spring soup! I know that silly groundhog says we’re in for six more weeks of winter, but I can’t help but think of brighter, warmer days with this little concoction…

Healthy Cream of Asparagus Soup!

Mmmm, right?!  <—-(Kind of a joke because maybe it just looks like green gruel? I swear it’s delicious!)

I used greek yogurt for the “cream” and couldn’t be happier with the result. Plus, it’s such a sneaky way to get in some extra protein. I seriously love how versatile greek yogurt is-don’t know what I’d do without it!

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb of asparagus

2-3 cups of vegetable broth (depends on how soupy you want it!)

1/2 medium sized onion

1 6 oz container of plain greek yogurt

1 T olive oil

1 T cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and discard. Chop asparagus in half.

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add asparagus and boil until tender, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until onion is soft and translucent.

Add vegetable broth, asparagus, onions and garlic to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Add greek yogurt, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir until combined.

Better Than Potato Chips

Now, what in the world could possibly be better than potato chips, you ask? KALE CHIPS.

I know it sounds totally ridiculous but if there was ever a food that could come close to the deliciously salty crunch of a potato chip…this is it. Plus, wouldn’t you rather replace a deep-fried, calorie and fat laden snack with one that is baked, has only “good fat” and mind-blowing amounts of Vitamin A and C? I would.

All you do is toss some kale with EVOO (how much? I don’t know…I don’t measure) and a little salt and pepper until the leaves are coated. I sprinkled mine with garlic salt too…maybe a little too much salt? Nah, never too much.

Next place the kale on a foil lined baking pan and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until the leaves are dry and crunchy. Then devour. And don’t feel guilty about it.

I seriously just found my new favorite snack.

Have you ever tried kale chips? What else can you do with kale? Besides “massage” it and make a salad…what does that even mean?!

Why We Travel

Can everyone just take a few minutes out of their day and read this article?

Generally speaking, I feel like I adjusted back to my pre-travel life fairly quickly after I returned from studying abroad. Maybe it was because I was in college and my life was still changing at a relatively constant rate. I had new classes and roommates every few months, new concepts to grasp each day, and long breaks from school to refresh and recharge. I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time but in a way, I was still traveling. My physical journey had just been replaced by a mental one.

Then I spent another year abroad and was constantly being exposed to something new and different every single day. New languages and cultural norms. New food, new friends, new experiences. I could practically feel my mind expanding.

And here I sit, more than six months after returning from one of the greatest adventures of my life, and I can’t help but feel as though I’ve fallen into a rut. I’m restless and I can’t stop thinking about traveling. I wake up at the same time every day, eat the same thing for breakfast, drive the same route to work, sit at the same desk, blah blah blah. Being the type of peson that absolutely thrives on change, the minute my life becomes even the least bit routine, my brain goes straight into “auto pilot” mode. I’ve been fighting an internal battle for too long now, telling myself I can’t write anymore because I’m not creative and I can’t find inspiration like I used to. That being said, you can imagine my relief after reading the article mentioned above. There’s actually some scientific evidence to help explain this feeling of being stuck-in-a-rut. Of course, nothing in the article actually came as a shock to me. I already knew why travel was so beneficial and why my mind, body and soul craved it. I knew why I traveled…but it’s not just me…it’s we.

A few excerpts:

“When we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we’d suppressed.”

“The larger lesson is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar. The brain is a neural tangle of near-infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry. A bit of distance, however, helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see something new in the old; the mundane is grasped from a slightly more abstract perspective.”

Seriously, read this article.