Fancy {pants} Frittata

Sometimes I just need something super easy to make for dinner. 

Yet, at the same time, I need it to make me feel good about myself.

And it has to be yummy.

And the Husband has to approve.

And it has to be made of things I have languishing in my fridge.

Arg – Impossible, right? Wrong.

Enter Fancy Pants (and ridiculously, awesomely, embarrassingly easy) Frittata:

Just the word “frittata” feels sophisticated as it roooooolllllsss off the tongue (especially when the Husband says it. He also tried to incorporate it into a Lady Gaga song… another story altogether).

Mmmmm…. cheesy.

But seriously, with that fancy name and cute little triangle shape, you wouldn’t dream that this ‘lady’s brunch dish’ is glorified scrambled eggs. Way easier than an omelet (no flipping required), healthier than quiche, and perfectly customizable (do half-and-half with different ingredients!) this MUST be on your next ‘breakfast for dinner’ list…

Or weekend breakfast list. Or brunch for the parents list. Or pack for lunch to take to the office the next day list.

Again, seriously.

Fancy {Pants} Frittata

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 6 Eggs or 3 eggs and 1 cup of egg whites
  • About 1 Cup of Spinach, chopped
  • About 1 Cup of Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Green Pepper, chopped
  • About 1/2- 1 cup shredded or crumbled cheese of your choice – I used goat cheese on one half, and part skim mozzarella on the other (His & Hers!)
  • Any other vegetables, meats or cheeses your little heart desires (Bacon? Parmesan? Broccoli? Go for it.)
  • About 1 T of Olive oil
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350.
  • Break eggs into a medium-sized bowl, whisk.
  • Sauté veggies in olive oil in an oven-safe 10″ skillet on medium-high heat until softened (about 5 minutes), add spinach for last minute or so.
  • Pour egg mixture evenly over veggies. Do not stir. Turn burner to low.
  • Sprinkle cheese over eggs – be as generous as you like ;)
  • Let the mixture cook on low for five minutes so the bottom begins to set.
  • Put the entire pan into the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the eggs are set in the middle (no longer jiggly!).
  • Use a hot pad and pull pan from the over (remember not to grab that hot handle!) and let cool for a minute or so before cutting and serving.
  • Serve slices with fresh fruit, toast or yogurt or nutella or bacon…. you get the picture!
 

Enjoy!

Do you have an easy-but-seems-fancy dish that you love to whip up? Tell me about it!

P.S. I got a surprise visit from my college roomie, Chelsea last night! Thanks for the visit, C!

Yes, I am “R”… we also had an “A” and an “L”.

And yes, we were super hip ;) Not.

Boston {carrot cake} Pancakes

Nothing brings back memories for me like the weather. Weird, huh?

…sometimes, it just feels like Christmas, or summer vacation, or camping, or the first day of school outside, you know? You can almost smell it, sense it, in the air…

Lately, Boston has been drifting on the wind.

A year ago, about this time, I visited my best friend Hannah in Massachusetts just before her graduation from college. We’ve known each other for a long time (learn more about our friendship in this post, and the other trip I’m planning to visit her here!), but school and work and travel and a wedding had kept us apart for too long.

So, on a whim, I hopped on a plane.

So worth it… isn’t it always?

It was a wonderful trip full of adventures, reminiscing, historic sights, whispers, hopes, plans and daydreams. Every minute of it was glorious, but one particular thing sticks in my mind more than the rest.

Not an ancient church, or view of the ocean…

It was a pancake.

A carrot cake pancake with maple cream cheese butter from Sugar Magnolia’s in Gloucester, MA, to be exact. Ahhh… a thing of dreams.

When the weather changed this spring, that pancake started haunting me once again. So, I decided to do something about it:

So sit back, grab a copy of the House of the Seven Gables or On Walden Pond, and enjoy.

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake Pancakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Food4Fitness

Makes about 8-10 small, 4-5 large pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 Cup of wheat germ
  • 2 T Toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 t Baking powder
  • 1 1/4 t Cinnamon
  • 1/8 t Ginger
  • 1/8 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 2 T Brown sugar
  • 1 -1 1/4 C Unsweetened vanilla almond milk (Start with one cup – add if needed)
  • About 1 1/2 -2 C Finely grated, peeled carrots (Peel to reduce bitterness, grate finely so carrots soften with cooking. Start with 1.5 cups, add as needed. )
  • 1 t Vanilla extract

Maple Cream Cheese Butter

  • 4oz. (1/2 block) Neufchatel Cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 2 T Maple Syrup
  • 2 T Butter, softened

Directions:

  • Combine flour, wheat germ, pecans, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine egg, sugar, milk, oil, carrots and vanilla.
  • Add the carrot mixture to the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  • Use butter or oil to grease a skillet or frying pan, and cook until done (about two min. on each side. I like to watch for bubbles on the first side, then flip!)
  • For topping, mix softened ingredients together and spread, dollop or dip generously. Garnish with real maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon.

These pancakes are dense, hearty, and packed with fiber and other good-for-you-ness. Not too sweet (you can really taste the carrots!), and perfect for an Easter treat, or any time you want to take a trip to Boston in your head…

What are you making for Easter this year? Do you have any special family traditions? Please, share!

Pear & Gorgonzola {Flatbread}

Flatbread makes everyone happy.

This recipe straddles the delicate balance that all hostesses search for: Something the ladies will love (and be impressed by) but that the husbands will still chow down on with abandon.

Enter Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread. Perfect for parties (now one of my most “requested” appetizers!), or for a meal with salad, or just when you’re craving one of the most perfect sweet/salty marriages ever.

The stinky cheese makes foodies swoon, but it looks enough like pizza that dudes will grab a slice, too.

Talk about a win, win.

Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread

Inspired by the California Pizza Kitchen

Makes 2 Flatbreads, Serves 8 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium onion (I used a Vidalia – on the sweeter side of spectrum)
  • 2 Pears (Try a mix of varieties for color)
  • About 1/2 Cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Package of Whole Wheat Naan (Usually contains two flatbreads – Or, use pita or make your own from scratch!)
  • 2 T Earth Balance or Olive Oil
  • 1 T Garlic Gold or Olive Oil
  • 2 T Fig Vinegar (The fruit flavor works well with this recipe, but balsamic is a great substitute)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Chop onion into thin half-moons, and roughly slice pears (about 1/2 in. thick, varying sized pieces).
  • Add onion to medium/medium high heat along with Earth Balance. Add vinegar, stir occasionally, and cook until browned and almost caramelized – 10-15 minutes. Add sliced pears, stir. Allow to cook down and soften, about 5 minutes (you may need to add a little more EB).
  • Remove Naan from package, and lay on a baking sheet. Lightly brush with Garlic Gold.
  • Spread pear and onion mixture over flatbreads, then sprinkle (liberally) with the Gorgonzola cheese.
  • Place flatbreads in oven, and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the breads are crispy and the cheese begins to melt.
  • Remove from oven, slice, and serve warm! Arugula, tossed with a little balsamic, makes a great garnish… and a great Cabernet :)
Enjoy!

Sweet {Pecan} Turkey Burger with Spicy Yogurt Aioli

I LOVE that show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network.

Well, really anything on the Food Network.

But, who doesn’t enjoy see those amazing dishes, and learning about what food gurus think is the BEST of the Best?

It seems like we’ve all had those few dishes that really stick with us: The ones that we dream of as we eat random green leftovers for lunch, or choke down that rubber chicken they serve at conferences and college events…. again. The ones that we crave all the more because they are so unattainable – Nestled in a cozy booth in a restaurant far away, or at your grandmother’s table in another state.

Well, I’m no guru, but this is one of those meals.

I’ve eaten this burger exactly once, about 5 months ago, and I’ve thought of it about 127,000 times since then. So, I decided to do something about it!

Inspired by Barley’s Brewing Company’s Turkey Nut Burger, this sandwich is spicy, sweet, juicy and fresh. The pecans are surprising. The aioli is secretly healthy. Best enjoyed with crispy baked sweet potato fries.

Oh, yes.

{Perfect for a summer dinner, or a “wishing for summer” dinner… like tonight}

The secret is really in the maple syrup, pecans and aioli, so feel free to use your tried and true burger recipe (I based mine off of this one), or even use ground beef, chicken or pork. Those caramelized, sweet pecans are to die for!. The millet, onion and veggies in this version do a great job of keeping things juicy… just be very careful when flipping. The lower fat content can cause the burgers to crumble easily…. but it’s so worth it : )

Sweet Turkey Pecan Burger with Spicy Yogurt Aioli

Serves 6

For the Burger:

  • 1 lb ground turkey (lowest fat content may not hold together as well when formed into patties – try 93%-lean)
  • 1/4 cup cooked millet (you can substitute couscous, quinoa or another grain if you have it on hand)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

For Grilling:

  • 3 T olive Oil
  • 2 T pure maple syrup

For Spicy Aioli:

Measurements are “to taste” – add a little more spicy or sweet if you’d like!

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • About 1 T Sriracha Asian Chili Sauce (available at most grocery stores!)
  • About 1 T honey
For Caramelized Onion:
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1T olive oil
  • 2T fig or balsamic vinegar
  • Sprinkle of brown sugar (optional)
For Garnish – Optional:
  • Sliced tomato
  • Spinach
  • Cheese of your choice

Directions:

  • Prepare millet according to directions, or (like I did) use leftovers!
  • Preheat grill to medium-high.
  • Prepare aioli: Mix yogurt, chili sauce and honey to taste, cover and place in refrigerator.
  • Prepare caramelized onions: Place ingredients in pan on medium heat, stir often until crust forms, golden brown, fragrant. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add celery; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds more. Remove from heat.
  • Add millet to the pan, toss, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add onion and grain mixture to the ground turkey and stir until combined; do not overmix. Form the mixture into 6 patties.
  • Mix olive oil and maple syrup. Press crushed pecans onto the top of each patty, and brush with the maple-olive oil mixture.
  • To grill: Oil the grill rack, and grill the burgers for 5 to 6 minutes per side, flipping gently to avoid breaking them. Garnish, and serve immediately!
  • To cook on the stovetop: Coat a large nonstick skillet, preferably cast-iron, with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the patties, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. Cover and continue to cook until lightly browned but still juicy (the juices should run clear, not pink), about 4 minutes more. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should read 165° F.)

Don’t forget those fries…

Enjoy!

What is one of your “Best Thing I Ever Ate” dishes?


Get your {Greek} on

BIG news!

No, mom… not THAT big news.

We booked the cruise portion of our summer European adventure!

{<– The Husband at the Greek Garden for his 25th. I embarassed him, but I think the Birthday sash is rather dashing.}

The trip is starting to feel real for the first time, and I am beyond excited. The second leg of our two week excursion, the cruise will take us to Sicily, Italy; Ephesus, Turkey; Athens, Greece; and Crete, Greece…

{source}

I’m ready to leave NOW!

Ok, not really.

…it will take me three months just to decide how to fit eight pairs of shoes, two purses, twelve bottles of nail polish and three jars of almond butter in my suitcase.

And maybe sunscreen.

I like to be prepared…There are a million-and-one things left to plan, but in honor of getting this far, I’m making a Mediterranean dinner for The Husband… it’s one of his favorites (and one of the first “signature” dishes I crafted after we were married : ) It was inspired the “rice bowl” at one of our local date spots, The Greek Garden!

We love this dish because besides being healthy-to-the-max (can you say protein, veggies and healthy fats galore?!) it is super versatile. Eat it hot, eat it cold, make ahead, eat it with chicken as an entree or nix the chix for a veggie dinner or side dish! This is also great to make for a crowd, and is always a hit a potlucks…

“Get Your Greek On” Mediterranean Quinoa

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Quinoa, cooked per directions on package (white or red, you can also substitute other grains – farro is fun – just gotta love quinoa’s protein-punch!)
  • About 1/2 cup diced cucumber (I like to use English cucs, because you don’t have to worry about peeling!)
  • About 1/2 cup diced orange bell pepper (I just like a mix of colors – green, red, yellow, will do.)
  • About 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • About 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • About 1/4 cup seeded, diced tomato
  • 3 T EVOO
  • 1t parsley
  • 1t oregano
  • 1t dill
  • 1t thyme
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives (optional)
  • Sauteed, sliced chicken breast (for a non-veggie option. Use same spice mixture to season!)

Directions:

  • Drizzle cooked quinoa with EVOO, toss (don’t overcook! You want it to have a little texture…)
  • Chop vegetables, crumble cheese, add to quinoa – gotta love that color!
  • Chop fresh herbs, add to quinoa mixture along with spices
  • Ganish with chopped olives or chicken, if desired

I love to serve this with toasted pita and hummus, and (you’ve probably guessed it) a little Greek yogurt.

So Fresh. Like a little bit of summer in your mouth.

Try it, and Enjoy!

Vegas {Baby}

We’ve been busy.

Busy having a swinging’ WinterBlues Party…

{Carnitas tacos, Lettuce Wraps, Red Wine Sangria, La Paloma}

And busy getting to…

Vegas.

Here’s the low-down!

Our Blues Party is an annual event at the FreshlyMinted household, and is really a pre-party for a sweet festival held in our city each year. Friends gather for food, drinks and fun, before heading downtown for a blues benefit concert.

{Pears with Goat Cheese, Pistachios & Cranberries, Cheese, Pear & Gorgonzola Flat Bread, Hummus, Salsa, Whole Wheat Beer Bread with Spinach Dip}

This year, we had some fabulous eats, and the festival was held at Alexandria’s! (you KNOW that’s one of our favorite spots…)

A visit from Cole & Steph also made the weekend perfect. Along with a relaxing super bowl party at a new friend’s house on Sunday (and those Nutella Cheesecakes above).

{Brownie & PB Mousse & Mini-Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies}

After that weekend, we had to hurry and pack…. because we’re in VEGAS. The Husband had a training for work, and so I tagged along (with my laptop and a few days of work for the road) to spend some time in this fascinating, crazy, bright city. We’re here much more for the food, the sights and exhibits than the “usual” local activities – having the chance to travel to a new place is exciting!

My goals were: To spot a Kardashian and a famous athlete.

The Husband said that was crazy.

But today, we lunched at Serendipity 3 (after a morning that started at 5am to keep up with work – darn time zones! – and a workout) and we saw THE Dick Clark!

I felt like an idiot snapping pictures, but the guy looked great (better than on TV), and I couldn’t help but think of all of the New Year’s Celebrations he’s hosted in my living room. And yes, we even googled a photo of him and his wife together, and… it was really them!

Even better than a Kardashian.

Almost as good as the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

{As good as it looks….}

So, as we have our adventures this week (including our crazy flight), Ill be keeping track of the cool places we see, restaurants we visit and characters we meet (there have been a few already…)

{WARNING: Mini rant! NEVER fly with Spirit Airlines. This was the filthiest, most wretched flight I’ve ever been on… and it was four. hours. long. “First Class” was apparently too hard to understand, so they re-named it the “Big Font Seats”; The lady behind us was using the sink to drain her canned Vienna sausages; $3 for water; snacks included a Cup ‘o Noodles for $5, our seats didn’t recline; 27,000 children were onboard; people were yelling; stewardesses were swearing; and a large, scary, foreign woman took our window seat… and proceeded to give us candy filled with some sort of strong liquor… The Husband was convinced that she was trying to poison him, but he was too afraid not to eat it.}

So, bear with me while I try to keep up (and try to stay on track for our Europe plans as well… a cruise booking is in our very near future!)

:)

Have YOU ever been to Vegas? Any suggestions?

More coming soon!

{Old Fashioned} Popovers

Heart-shaped Swedish Waffles, timbales, and popovers, all delights with special shapes, give a dinner party special charm. Try them and see.

Pulled right from the pages of one of my great-grandmother’s vintage magazines, these little breakfast treats are more fun than filling, but have the flavor of a lighter-than-air pancake and are a joy to eat…

Give these a try (and watch them grooooow before you eyes!). Just be sure to have your butter and jam close at hand – and a cup of coffee and good read.

Playing make-believe has always been a favorite pastime of mine, and these piping hot, topsy-turvy little treats transport me to a whole other world:

One where Jackie O. is on the cover of magazines, Sucaryl Sweetener was the latest craze, and my Maindenform girdle is my best friend…

*sigh*

Sometimes, I wish…

Old Fashioned Popovers

From McCall’s “First Magazine for Women”, March 1963

Makes 8 Popovers

Ingredients:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 3 T Salad oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 Cup Sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • A splash of Vanilla and Cinnamon (My own additions…)

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 400F. Lightly grease 8 (5-oz) glass custard cups.*
  2. In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk, and salad oil with rotary beater until well combined.
  3. Sift flour with salt over egg mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour into custard cups. Bake 50 minutes. (Note: My custard cups were 7-oz, and the cooking time was closer to 45 minutes.)
  4. Serve hot, with butter and your favorite jam.

*Or preheat cast-iron popover pans (eleven 3-oz cups) until sizzling hot; grease cups lightly just before filling. Bake 40 minutes. Makes 11 popovers.

Take a step back in time, and enjoy!

{Did you happen to notice my lovely, new “toy”? We found this antique hutch for a steal over the holidays at a little shop called the “Swanky Abode”. So fun, such a beautiful backdrop – Perfect place for all my odds and ends!}

Have you had any wonderful finds lately? What are your favorite old fashioned treasures?

What we’re {still} eating

So, I’ve been on a cooking kick lately.

<—Not like a literal kick…

{That’s my little bro and his adorable girlfriend. We got to see them cheer at their college game this week! Mad skills…}

This new culinary dedication is partially due to the fact that after being away for the holidays I missed my kitchen.

Partially because we decided to make a concerted effort to stay in a focus on our home, and home cooking this month.

And partially because Pinterest is taking over the universe.

And so, we now have a freezer that looks like this:

Lovely, yet dangerous at the same time. A TON of quick leftover meals, and a TON of ways to get hit in the head by a falling rubbermaid containers while fishing for something in the fridge. It happens.

At any rate, we’ve lucked out and hit the jackpot with some AWESOME new recipe finds. They were too good to keep to ourselves. And to our freezer. And so, here is my list of things you’ve just gotta try…

  • Eggplant Lasagna: I added a single layer of mashed sweet potatoes mixed with Italian herbs and spices. Perfect addition. Try it!
  • Tempeh Tamale Pie: The Husband was NOT a fan of the vegan cheese I used as the topping (should have done half and half) but couldn’t tell that the filing wasn’t ground turkey. Perfection with a few chips and Greek yogurt. Yum!
  • Turkey Sloppy Joe’s: This was delish, but for the sauce I ended up pretty much squirting in a mix of every bbq-esque sauce we had in the fridge until it tasted good. Whatever floats your boat!
  • Kale Chips: The BEST way to eat this slightly-scary veggie… perfect with a sandwich (love that c.r.u.n.c.h.)
Drum roll…
Best of the Best….
This:
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Tiki Masala: Best. Thing. We’ve. Eaten. In Months. I substituted a mix of Tofutti cream cheese and plain almond milk for the cream at the end – you couldn’t tell! The dish was so rich and delicious and creamy and decadent. A total MUST.

And, here’s a deep, dark secret.

I also made this….

{A box of cake mix, plain yogurt and fat free cool whip: So bad. So good.}

In my defense, it was for a “Trailer Trash Tragedy” Murder Mystery party….

See, it totally fit in. Cheese puffs on a toothpick, Funyuns, spray cheese, dirt pudding…

My dip was practically a health food.

But truthfully, I just wanted to eat gobs of it on an off-brand Nilla Wafer.

Yep. Did that.

Enjoy!

{Warm up} Spicy Carnitas Chili

It’s freezing.

As in, the temperature stood at a grand total of 5 degrees yesterday morning as I headed out the door to work. Yuck.

The Husband and I had planned on swimming after work this week, but because of the wet, blustery weather we decided against it.

My feet had already been damp all day long, and the thought of jumping in a pool made me want to die.

So instead, I made chili.

So worth it.

This recipe is based off of my favorite Turkey Chilli recipe from Eat, Live, Run, and was inspired by Alexandria’s Tacos De Puerco – A braised pork belly taco with tomato-ancho sauce, queso fresco and cilantro… that is to die for.

And so, Spicy Carnitas Chili was born… Try it!

Spicy Carnitas Chili

Ingredients:

Makes about 8 servings

(Don’t be intimidated by this long list – it’s easy!)

  • About 2 cups (a little more or less works just as well) of cooked pork loin, cut into bite-sized cubes (I used leftovers that I had roasted with cranberries, rosemary and apples. Great flavor!)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large green (or red or orange or yellow…) bell pepper
  • 8 cloves of garlic (yeppers – e.i.g.h.t.)
  • 1-2 Jalapeno peppers, or 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped (depends on how HOT you like your chili! The chilies add an amazing depth of flavor, but can heat things up pretty quickly. Watch out!)
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1T ground cumin
  • 2T brown sugar
  • 1 t oregano
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 regular cans of black beans
  • About 2 cups of corn, fresh or frozen
  • Chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and plain Greek yogurt for garnish

Directions:

  • Chop onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño pepper (or chilies). Sauté everything in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium/low heat in a large pot/stockpot.
  • After about five minutes, add cooked, cubed pork loin (or add pound of lean ground turkey). Cook until the meat begins to form a crust (or has browned if you are using raw – about 8 mins.). Stir to keep things moving!
  • Add chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, oregano and tomato paste. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly (Don’t worry – the crunchy stuff on the pan is flavor!).
  • Add red wine , stir – this will “deglaze” the pot.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, beans (drained and rinsed), and corn.
  • Give it one last stir, then cover and let simmer for about an hour. Check and stir occasionally.
  • Serve piping hot with a hearty garnish of chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and plain Greek yogurt. A few tortilla chips would be a nice addition as well…

Enjoy!

This soup is thick, and almost has a smoky BBQ flavor that is out of this world. The meat is tender and falls apart – each bite is full of rich, fresh flavors and textures (and, like most soups, it just gets BETTER sitting overnight in the fridge!). Awesome for a group, perfect for a snowed-in weekend, and just different enough to keep your taste buds entertained.

You, on the other hand, might need a few Lifetime movies, nail polish, a good book and a backrub.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Favorite Things {Snacks}

2011 was pretty good to us.

We saw some beautiful places, spent time with friends and family, went on adventures, ate amazing food, tried new things, enjoyed our little house and each other…

{This pic is from the inside of a car wash. Sweet, huh?! It has nothing to do with 2011.}

Every bit of it was great, but I do have some yummy little discoveries I’ve made in 2011 (or grew to love even MORE) that are my favorites

Okay, okay. If you ask the Husband, he might even go so far as to say obsessions.

Nah.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

A few are little odd (I mean, If I say “I love hummus”, you’ll just roll your eyes and say, “duh!. You and everyone else on the planet!) So, get ready to find some new things and branch out a little bit… totally worth it.

1. La Croix Sparkling Water – Coconut and Pamplemousse flavors:

I discovered this delightful, bubbly water in a can a few years ago, and I have one almost every day. No sugar or artificial sweeteners, no sodium, no artificial flavors or colors: just pure water, natural hint of fruity flavor and bubbles. Gotta love bubbles. I often mix half of a can with a dash of fruit juice and a handful of ice for a late-night TV watching snack. Easy to pack for lunches, good for you, and a great way to “quit” a pop habit. Find them a Kroger, Wal-Mart and lots of other stores in the “drink mixers” section!

2. Pineapple Chobani Greek Yogurt:

This yummy treat packs protein AND a grandma’s-amazing-marshmallow-fruit-fluff-salad-like flavor that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. We love a lot of Chobani’s flavors (lemon and blood orange are also favorites. But beware – passion fruit has funky crunchy seeds in it…).

Great 3:00p.m. office snacks and easy to pack. Grab ’em on sale for just a buck, or get a coupon here. Beware. Your man might ALWAYS steal the last one. Not that I’m bitter…

3. Morning Wheat Grass Smoothies:

I originally hated the cliche, and hated the taste. That is, until I tried one that was perfect for a “long weekend detox”!

And may or may not have tasted like an old favorite from Arby’s.

“JaMocha” Detox Shake

Makes one shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop wheat grass powder (I like Amazing Grass Wheat grass powder. They have a lot of great products for kids and adults who need a little green in their lives. Or, substitute a few handfuls of fresh spinach)
  • 1/2 to 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I’ve been using Designer Whey – 100 cal per scoop, no artificial sugars – but there are a lot of great options out there)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (Weird, but totally necessary for texture. You can’t taste it!)
  • About 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 6-8 Ice cubes
  • Splash of water
  • Directions:

Just toss everything in and blend until smooth! A ton of vitamins, protein and fiber, with  a slightly “green” mocha flavor. For a richer chocolate flavor, add a little unsweetened cocoa powder or use chocolate almond milk. It might take a few tries for you to adjust or find the right mix, but I wake up craving these quick little meals!

4. Sweet-Potato-in-a-Bag:

Sounds weird, but it’s the been the best thing for my lunchbox since sliced bread. Just wash a sweet potato, cut off a little of each end, poke several holes, then place in a heavy-duty Zip-Loc bag. When you’re ready to each, just open the bad a little at one corner to vent, and pop in the microwave for a few minutes until tender. I like to chop it up with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a little salt and pepper – filling, easy and delish with a side salad, an icy cold La Croix and an apple for dessert.

5. Thinly Sliced Apples with Cinnamon:

Simple, yet so, so good.My “yay for good life decisions” movie snack of choice, I love to slice a huge apple (Honeycrisp!) as thin as I can and sprinkle it with heavy dose of healthy cinnamon. It fills a whole plate and I can eat is slow…

Love that crunch!

6. Plain Yogurt with Starbucks VIA dust or Powdered PB:

You know of my love for zero fat FAGE – just mix in a quarter of a packet of Starbucks VIA  or a 1/4 t instant coffee (note: it won’t be sweet – tastes like black coffee! Add a drizzle of honey or agave for a little sweetness) and you have an awesome treat with maybe just a couple of added calories! PB2 is a fun, quirky product made of peanuts that have had the oil squeezed out of them. You end up with a powder packed with peanut flavor, but with 85% less fat! Nothing artificial and perfect for smoothies, sauces, spreads and… making PB “mousse” with plain or vanilla yogurt. Mmmmm….

7. Justin’s Maple Almond Butter – On anything.:

I’ve tried a LOT of great nut butters over the years, but Justin’s Maple Almond Butter is my favorite. All of Justin’s  butters are available in cute, perfectly portioned to-go packs that are ideal for traveling or packing in your lunch to take to the office. Add it to hotel oatmeal or an apple at the airport for a great snack and a filling breakfast, or use it in your “emergency stash” for when you get stuck at work late… don’t be too proud to eat it right out of the container.

8. Homemade Mocha Protein Bars:
I love me some bars. Of the granola, protein, chocolate, I-might-not-even-really-need-a-snack variety. Sadly, a lot of those chewy little suckers also pack a list of ingredients my little sister can’t pronounce. And that’s the rule: if your nine year old sister can’t read the ingredient list, you shouldn’t be eating it.

Try these instead….

Mocha Protein Bars

Inspired by MaMa Pea’s Chocolate Chip Zee BarsMakes 10 bars

Ingredients:

    • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
    • 1/2 c. oat flour (aka old-fashioned oats ground into a flour)
    • 1/2 c. chocolate protein powder
    • 1/2 t. salt
    • 1 T. baking powder
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. sweetened applesauce (if you use unsweetened, add sugar to taste)
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. almond milk
    • 1 t. vanilla
    • 1/4 t. cinnamon
    • 1/4 c. + 3 T. chopped dark chocolate
    • 1 T instant coffee powder (do you see a trend here?)
    • For topping, if desired: 3T dark chocolate, 1t. coconut oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine oat flour, oats, protein powder, baking powder, salt, coffee and cinnamon.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine applesauce, vanilla and milk.
  • Add applesauce mixture to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Add stevia to taste. Fold in 1/4 c. of chopped dark chocolate.
  • Pour mixture into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until bar is set and pulling away from edge of pan.
  • Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  • For chocolate drizzle (optional – you may, like me, choose to put all of your chocolate inside the bars!), place 3 T. of chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag and microwave in 30 second increments, kneading bag until chocolate has melted.
  • Add coconut oil to melted chocolate and knead again.
  • Snip a tiny corner of the bag with a pair of scissors. Pipe chocolate across cooled bars and stick bars in fridge or freezer to allow chocolate to set, if desired.
  • Store remaining bars in the fridge, or freeze for later!

The Husband totally thought I was kidding when I told him these puppies were good for him. At about 135 calories a piece and more than 10g of protein, I’m not lyin’!

9. Frozen Grapes:

Ok, kind of a “duh”, but always so good! The perfect snack to eat while reading a good book… or any time you shouldn’t mindlessly eat chip after chip… (grape after grape isn’t nearly as bad).

Speaking of chips:

10. Baked Hummus Chips, or Sweet Potato Chips Dipped in Greek Yogurt:

Tie. I love both for the crunch… sometimes you’ve just got to have a little snap with your sandwich or wrap (that isn’t a carrot. Let’s face it. They don’t always cut it.). Try Humbles Lemon and Feta or Sesame Garlic nestled by your next lunch (TONS of flavor, 55% less fat than potato chips! Find them at Whole Foods, or… TJ Maxx, like me!). Another fav is to grab some more FAGE and a few Food Should Taste Good sweet potato chips to scoop just like a sour cream dip. Touch of salt, bunch of crunch, hint of creamy… just do it.

Well I hope these ideas inspired you to branch out a bit with your snacking and lunch items this fresh, new year. Dive in. It’s so fun!

Do you have any healthy snacks to share?

Here are a few other “Best Snack” lists to try:

Peas & Thank You: Snacks and Treats

Eat, Live, Run: A Good Snack

Oh She Glows: Kid-Friendly Snacks

Iowa Girl Eats: Best Healthy Snack Ideas

_____________________________________

On a totally different note, here are my favorite Christmas presents:

{Ahhh – who knew they made Nutella “To-Go”?!}

And yes, the camera did beat the cocoa-hazelnut spread by a small margin.

Get ready for some beautiful new photography…. as soon as I figure out how to turn this thing on.

Jk.