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?

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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!

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…

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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?!

Greek Salad Pita

Pretty sure this is what my lunch is going to look like every day this week:

This pita sandwich came together in a snap since many of the ingredients are already staples in my refrigerator. It also made the perfect post-gym snack this afternoon. It tastes extremely light and fresh, but packs some serious staying power-I can tell I’m going to be full for hours!

All I did was toss romaine lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes in lemon juice with a few dashes of pepper. Then, I spread roasted garlic hummus (my fav!) over a whole wheat pita, topped with quinoa, added the salad mixture and sprinkled with feta cheese. It was that easy.

The Kalamata Olive Hummus from Trader Joe’s would also be kickin’ in this. Try it!

Greek Salad Pita

1 whole wheat pita

4 T hummus

1/4 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup of romaine lettuce

2 T each diced tomatoes and cucumber

1/2 ounce of feta

lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Toss lettuce with lemon juice, salt and pepper according to taste. Layer hummus and quinoa on the pita, add salad mixture and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Fold, eat, enjoy!

A Trip Down Memory Lane.

I have vivid recollections of escaping the schoolyard with my fellow auxiliar during the breakfast breaks at the school where we were teaching. Those precious 30 minutes were never wasted. We used this time to properly prepare ourselves for the rest of the day (read: CAFFEINE) and share the ridiculous stories we had from teaching our first period class. Believe me, there were always plenty.

We would jam ourselves into a tiny cafe full of older women and men and usually a few construction workers. We were always the only non-natives, and even though we were “regulars”, the patrons always stared at us as if we had three eyeballs or a rare deformity. Once we found a spot, the same waitress would come over and take our order. For 10 months, our order never changed, but for 10 months we replayed the exact same scene, over and over, like clockwork. My friend and I would laugh to ourselves and wonder why she didn’t just bring us our usual order (like she did to the regular Spanish customers), but we always played along and began to count on this exchange as a constant in our foreign lives. A rarity, to say the least.

“Que te pongo?” (Sort of like saying What do you want? only always sounding more like a passive statement rather than a question).

“Dos cafes con leche y dos pitufos con tomate y aceite.” (Two coffees and two tomato and olive oil sandwiches).

Oh yes, two pieces of a toasted baguette, drizzled (sometimes soaked) in olive oil, topped with slices of juicy tomatoes and sprinkled liberally with salt. Occasionally eaten sandwich-style and at times eaten separately to make it last longer.

After realizing I hadn’t had olive oil and salt for breakfast in over six months, I decided to recreate a favorite staple from my Mediterranean diet at home this weekend. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same, but it definitely brought me back…if only for a little while.

Sunday Stew

Chilly Sundays were made for steamy bowls of fresh, homemade vegetable stew.  You should really make this.  It was quick, super easy, incredibly cheap, and I bet you have at least half of the ingredients on hand already. Also, after a weekend full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and everything else under the sun, your body needs this.

I almost forget to mention that it’s vegan, full of protein, and yields approximately 3 days worth of meals for a single person.  No scrounging the office for leftovers this week!

Easy Veggie Stew  (slightly adapted from original recipe, here)

  • 2 cans of vegetable broth + 1 cup of water (more or less depending on how stew-like you want it)
  • 1.5 cups of frozen vegetables ( I used broccoli, cauliflower and carrots)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of mushrooms, drained (I would actually use fresh next time)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • handful of chopped fresh carrots
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t of paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring vegetable broth to a boil, add in all ingredients and seasonings, stir well and bring back to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Told you it was easy!