Brown Rice and Black Beans with Pico de Gallo

Yum! I love black beans, but sadly my family doesn’t. If you have the time and you’re not starving, but you want a substantial meal plus leftovers, this is perfect 🙂  I got the idea for this here, but I modified the black bean recipe quite a bit to make it even more healthy. I read that draining and rinsing the beans decreases the sodium by about 40% ; and besides, the liquid inside the can kinda grosses me out. I love baking the brown rice and it’s a foolproof method of preparing it – not quick by any means, but entirely worth the wait. Once the rice is in the oven, you can make your pico de gallo and stash it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The beans are the quickest part of this meal and only take about 10 minutes. This is by far my favorite lunch and I ate the leftovers for four days, ( I had to make up another batch of black beans) and thankfully I’m not sick of it yet! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Baked Brown Rice – adapted from Food Network

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups HOT water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

Pour rice into the dish, add water, salt and butter; and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.

Once it’s finished baking, carefully remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Black Beans –

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained really well
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 TBSP chopped cilantro, optional
Directions:
1. Rinse and thoroughly drain your black beans. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan or skillet over medium heat, drizzle the olive and saute the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the beans, cumin, oregano, salt and about 1/3 cup of water to the pan. Cook for about 5 more minutes or until desired thickness, (you can smash some of the beans for a thicker sauce). Add your cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, serve over brown rice and top with your fresh pico. Enjoy!
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Grilled Chicken Salad with Whole Wheat Pita

This is one of my sneaky ways of getting the family to eat healthier with me. It’s not that they don’t like this kind of meal, but I know if they had a choice – the first one wouldn’t be salad. I marinated the chicken souvlaki style and set it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and the chicken was moist and flavorful. I used my new favorite dressing – this stuff is so addicting I love it on veggies and sandwiches too. M didn’t like the pita because it was too chewy for him, but the kids and I didn’t mind that at all. Thanks for reading, enjoy!
White Whole Wheat Pita – adapted from King Arthur Flour
  • 1 3/4 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (*I didn’t end up using this, but it probably would have helped keep these moist)
Directions:

1.Combine all of the pita ingredients (except the oil for brushing), and mix and knead to make a soft, smooth dough.

2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it’s just about doubled in bulk. Towards the end of the rising time, start to preheat your oven to 450°F, with a pizza stone on the bottom shelf, if you have one.

3. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover them, and let them rest for 10 minutes.

4. Working with two pieces of dough at a time, roll each into a 6″ circle. If you roll the dough about 7″ wide, it’ll shrink back to about 6″.

5. Carefully flop the dough onto the hot pizza stone. If you’re not using a pizza stone, put it on an ungreased baking sheet, and put the baking sheet on your oven’s bottom rack.

6. Bake for 4 minutes. The pitas should rise enthusiastically. If they’re on a stone, they’ll probably puff up like balloons; if they’re on a baking sheet, they’ll still expand; just not as vigorously.

7. Turn the pitas over, and bake for an additional 60 seconds.

8. Remove them from the oven, and brush with your favorite olive oil, plain or flavored. Wrap lightly in a cotton towel, to keep them soft. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough

Banana Split for Breakfast

Quick Post: I just had to try this when I saw it. I’ve been looking for creative ways to make healthier breakfasts lately and I thought this would be a fun one to try. This recipe has it all – protein, fiber, healthy carbs, healthy fats – there is so much going on. I might even convince the kids to try this because it’s so different and I would feel good about giving them something that’s not their preferred sugary cereal. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Banana Split for Breakfast – adapted from Naturally Ella

  • 1 banana, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup to 1/2  cup cottage cheese
  • 1 -2 Tbsp all-fruit preserves (*I used strawberry)
  • 1/4 cup granola
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seed

Other options: add nut or seed butter or in place of the preserves, shredded coconut, replace cottage cheese with high-protein Greek yogurt, sprinkle with cinnamon, raisins, other fresh fruit, goji berries etc!

Directions

1. Place two banana halves in serving dish or bowl. Add scoops of cottage cheese on top of banana. Drizzle with fruit preserves and garnish with flax, chia and chopped nuts.

Fiber-tastic Granola

Here’s hoping this experiment goes well! I had all this stuff on hand, and the oat and wheat bran have been hanging out in my freezer for several months. I tried both of them and they weren’t rancid or smelly. The freezer is the best place for these kind of ingredients with fat (healthy of course) because it can go bad quickly. This really is full of fiber, minerals, vitamins, protein, omega-3, and nutrients. I pulled a few ideas from a couple of different recipes, so I can’t credit any one source.
Verdict: Yum! My husband tried some of this and he didn’t recoil! I gave some to a friend and she declared it “tasted wonderful”. I have had it for breakfast the past few days and I can tell you, this will keep you full for several hours – that’s the fiber doing it’s job. I enjoy this with almond milk and a small handful of raisins. It’s hearty, filling, nutty, slightly sweet – near perfect in my opinion. Thanks for reading, enjoy!
Fiber-tastic Granola – 
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (I ground up golden flax seeds for this)
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • *suggested additions after baking: 1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit, chia seeds
Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with lightly oiled (or non-stick) foil.
2. Toss all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then combine your liquid ingredients in a smaller bowl. Combine the wet and dry together with a rubber spatula then spread the granola evenly over the two baking sheets.
3. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Halfway through baking, stir the granola and spread out evenly again.
4. Place baking sheets on cooling racks – be sure to cool completely before storing in airtight containers. It’s best to store it in the fridge for a longer shelf life – about 7-10 days.

Green Almond Oat Smoothie

Quick Post: Yes, another green smoothie – but this time with oats and chia seeds.

Green Almond Oat Smoothie – adapted from Natural Noshing

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup soaked oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • dash of cinnamon

Directions:

1. The night before, soak your oats in 1/3 cup of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate.

2. The next morning: Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake

I promised M I would make him this a long time ago, so I decided it was best to make good on that promise. Besides, he’s been giving me many guilt-trips these past few days about wanting something sweet. I hope he appreciates this! 🙂 I love lemon zest and the step where you have to rub the zest and sugar together – it smells amazing! While it’s baking is smells buttery and sweet…swoon!

Verdict: I thought it best to cut this recipe in half so the extra loaf wouldn’t tempt me! The crumb is dense, but when I bit into it; it was like a cloud 😉 It’s so light and airy – totally unexpected. It was sweet, lemony (of course) and the texture is so unique. It’s great – if you love lemon, try this!

Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake – adapted from Joy the Baker 

Cake:

  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 1 stick, plus 7 tbsp unsalted butter (15 tbsp total), melted and cooled

Syrup:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • juice of two lemons
Directions:
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Even if the pans are nonstick, it’s a good idea to butter and flour them.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of lemon.
  4. Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract, then whisk in the cream. Continuing with the whisk, or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
  5. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. As soon as the cake goes into the oven, make the syrup. After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color- if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.
  6. Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.
  7. When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-bladed sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.

Tropical Smoothie

Quick Post: Yum – this is so luscious! My kids would love this one, but it’s definitely a treat smoothie because of all the orange juice…carbs and sugar! This recipe is enough for 1 serving. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Mango, Banana, Strawberry Smoothie – 

  • 7-10 cubes frozen mango
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 4-5 frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
Directions:
1. Blend until nice and smooth! Enjoy 🙂

French Bread

Maybe I enjoy making things more difficult, or it may just be the fact that I love making as much from scratch as possible. I enjoy learning new techniques as well as avoiding buying more over-priced foods from Publix, (the money saving makes it even more rewarding for me). I needed to make these for meatball sandwiches, so hopefully they’ll hold up well to the sauce, cheese and of course – the meatballs. This dough was hard to work with because it was so sticky.
Verdict: These were really good with a nice tight crumb so they held up well to the meatball subs we used these for. They have a nice chewy crust too – overall a great choice for future sandwiches. Before adding the meatballs, I hollowed out the bread to make room for easier handling and eating. All the bread guts went into a freezer bag to be used for bread crumbs – waste not, want not! Thanks for reading, enjoy!
French Bread – adapted from The Sisters’ Cafe
  • 2 ¼ c. warm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 5 ½ -6 cups flour-stirred before measured

First dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let this proof—or sit for a few minutes until it bubbles. Then add salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well (At this point I switch to my dough/kneading attachment on my mixer) Add in 2 1/2 -3 more cups of flour. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too sticky. Knead for a few minutes. Leave the dough in the mixer to rest for 10 minutes and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. Then turn dough onto a floured surface and knead it 2 or 3 times to coat with flour. Divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each part into a 9×13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second part of dough. With a sharp knife, cut 3 gashes at an angle on the top of each. Cover lightly; allow to rise 30 minutes. Brush entire surface with egg wash (one egg beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seads. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Cool on racks

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Quick Post: I love balsamic vinaigrette! This one is full of flavor and it’s not too tangy because the sweetness of the honey mellows out the vinegar. This couldn’t be easier and I used one of my favorite kitchen tools to knock this out. Using the stick blender quickly made this creamy and homogenized mixture. I will make this again as soon as this batch runs out, but thankfully I doubled it to fill my 8 ounce Ball jar perfectly. It’s so good! I’m pretty happy that I don’t have to waste money on store bought dressings that are full of junk – this is a dressing I can feel good about using. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Balsamic Vinaigrette – adapted from Jan’s Sushi Bar

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Directions:
1. If you have a stick blender, use it to blitz all these ingredients together. If not, whisk all ingredients together, pour into a glass, sealable container and place in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavors to marry. Enjoy over your favorite salad greens 🙂

Orange Almond Coconut Granola

I’ve never made granola before, but I love the stuff. It’s perfect on top of yogurt, an on the go snack or a hearty breakfast. Most store bought brands have lots of sugar, salt, preservatives and fat…no thanks! This one is great because it’s all natural, easy to make and it keeps well in the fridge or up to a week in an airtight container. While this was baking, the most wonderful mix of orange and honey came wafting out the oven!  I can’t wait to try this 🙂

Verdict: So addicting! The orange zest gives this an aroma and bright, fresh flavor that I have never had in granola before. It was the perfect pre-workout breakfast. Bottom line – I will make this again and again! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Orange Almond Coconut Granola – adapted from Two Blue Lemons

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups “Old Fashioned” rolled oats (not the quick kind)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  • pinch of kosher salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 1/3 cup dried fruit of your choice – I used raisins because that’s what I had on hand*
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 300.
2. In a large mixing bowl mix the dry ingredients and set aside. (Oats, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, zest, salt.)
3. In a small bowl combine the wet ingredients. (Honey, molasses, vanilla, oil.)
4. Pour the honey-molasses mixture over the oats and spread in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, tossing once in the middle. (Don’t let it get too brown, you want it to still be a little chewy.)
6. Out of the oven, toss in your dried fruit. Makes about 5 cups.