Category Archives: Breakfast

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and Skinny Brownies: A Perfect Snowstorm Sunday

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It’s snowing. A lot. I woke up at about 9:30am and there was already 4 inches on the ground. I did end up making the trek to Trader Joe’s this morning with the company of my little brother who is in town from college. He lives in New Orleans now where it’s currently 80 degrees and sunny. I’m sure he’s super thrilled to be home for his SPRING break with what appears to be now 7 inches (at least) out there. It’s literally pouring snow from the sky. I’m looking outside my window right now and I can’t even tell the different between the sky and the white top of the apartment across the lot.

It’s not even really that cold outside. It’s just wet and gross. But it sure is pretty out there. The trees are catching the perfect snowflakes and the hill outside the window hasn’t been touched by the young sledders yet. I’ll be sad when the first footprints show up. That always ruins a hillside for me this time of year. What am I talking about? This time of year there should be green grass and flowers outside! Doesn’t the sky know it’s the end of March?

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

I’m currently making cinnamon raisin bagels. The dough is rising and I can already smell the cinnamon. It’s taunting me in there. I want to go in there and just eat the dough; why bother even baking them? Okay…fine. I’d probably regret that when either my stomach feels like crap or when I realize I don’t have any breakfast this week.

We’re having dinner tonight at my parent’s house. With my brother home from school and requesting dinner, we couldn’t really pass up good company and a delicious meal. With the snowstorm going on outside, it’s going to be a perfect evening to be with my family and my dogs sitting by the fireplace (in their new furniture that was delivered yesterday!).

Tonight I will be baking “skinny” brownies, a dessert that will only have about 120 calories per serving. When I read that, I knew I had to give them a try. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m all about my favorite sweets being on the healthier side. I love that I can still enjoy good food without all the processed ingredients. I ate Taco Bell with my brother this afternoon and I’ve felt disgusting since. My stomach is torturing me for putting that in my body. “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” I can hear it screaming. I know, I know…quit eating that shit. I get it people. Sometimes you’re just in a rush and theres 6 inches of snow falling from the sky and your brother is saying he’s hungry and you just pull into the closest, fastest place you can think of. Okay? Geez.

Eat these bagels. Eat these brownies. And have a very very happy Sunday.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

yields 12 bagels

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of raisins

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place warm water in a large bowl and add yeast, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and salt; mix well. Next, add in enough flour to form a soft dough that doesn’t stick to the bottom of the bowl.
  2. You can use a dough hook or your hands, but continue to knead, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Next, place dough in a bowl coated with oil, and cover the top allowing it to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  3.  Punch down the dough and shape into 12 balls. Push your thumb through the center to form a 1 inch hole. Strech the dough to form an even ring. Cover, place in warm place and let rise again for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Fill a Dutch oven two-thirds full with water and add remaining brown sugar; bringing water to a boil. Drop bagels, two at a time, into boiling water. Cook for 1 minute on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain well on paper towels. Place on baking sheets and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on wire racks.
  6. Eat with COOKIE BUTTER and a dash of cinnamon sugar. It won’t disappoint 🙂
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Photo by Allyson Grillo

“Skinny” Brownies

adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

yields 16 (2-inch) brownies

INGREDIENTS:

  • non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup mild honey like clover or orange blossom
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder like Ghiardelli
  • 1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour like King Arthur Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment and spray with olive oil.
  2. Measure the honey into a deep-sided small bowl and microwave on high power 45 seconds. Whisk in the cocoa powder and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  4. In a large bowl whisk applesauce, oil, egg, and vanilla together until well combined. Whisk in the cooled honey-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips if using.
  5. Add the batter to the prepared pan and spread out evenly. Bake until the surface looks dry around the edges and a toothpick in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 25 minutes or 30 minutes if you added walnuts and chocolate chips. Don’t over bake.
  6. Cool the pan on a wire rack. Once cool refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Remove the brownies using the parchment to a cutting board and slice into 16 squares. For clean cuts wipe the knife clean after each cut and dip in hot water. Store in an airtight container in a cool place 3-4 days.
Photo by Allyson Grillo

Photo by Allyson Grillo

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“Babe, we should make homemade bagels…”

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This is what Luke said to me Sunday afternoon while we were meal planning together. It’s this new thing we started doing. On Sundays when he is off work, we sleep in, lounge around till we feel fully awake, then seize the day by heading to Trader Joe’s and Schnuck’s for our weekly grocery needs. I whip out my laptop and hop on Pinterest and stalk a bunch of other blogs till I find exactly what I want to make (or read enough of the same concept to make my own version). This Sunday was St. Patrick’s Day! Our routine was a little different this week–we celebrated the Irish holiday with Luke’s family at the Missouri Veterans Home. His grandfather, who has alzheimer’s, is living in the home now and the family gathered there for a small lunch and to hang out. We were out late the night before and family time took a toll on our energy so we came back to relax before we made our trip. This was when Luke said the soon-to-be famous line. 

Homemade bagels? I’ve never even thought to do such a thing. I mean, it’s possible. But how do I do that? Pinterest is my new Google.

The recipe is claimed to be from a baker who made bagels for years. I went with a basic bagel this time, hoping I could at least figure the plain version out. I was so nervous. I actually don’t think I have ever been so nervous about cooking something before in my life. It was a combination of something new and not wanting to disappoint Luke that got me all jittery. I made these while I was making gluten-free cookies and granola bars so that I was in the zone and could put all my attention to the food and not to my worries. 

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

And here they are. The best freaking bagels I’ve ever had. Seriously. For a plain bagel, this did not disappoint. They are nice and crunchy on the outside with a soft center. And they are huge. Perfect for an on-the-go breakfast. We ate two right out of the oven, nice and warm. I’ve been toasting mine when I get to work and adding a tablespoon of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. If you have never tried this, you need to get in your car and drive to a TJ’s right this second. It is heaven in a jar. This recipe made 8 bagels, so next time I’ll probably double the batch to make enough for the entire week. I’m also going to figure out how to make different flavors. This is the most exciting thing I’ve done since I started cooking on my own! Please make them. I’m never buying store-bought bagels again. Ever.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

 

Plain Bagels

adapted from John D Lee

yields 8 bagels

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mis all the ingredients in a bowl. The dough should feel stiff, but add extra water if it’s really stiff, or you can’t get all the dry flour incorporated.
  2. Plop the dough down onto the counter, and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough is uniform and smooth.
  3. Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls, and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 425.
  5. Take each of the dough balls and using two hands, roll it into a little snake on the counter. When the snake is longer than the width of your town hands, wrap it around your dominant rolling hand. The dough rope should be wrapped so the overlapping ends are together at your palm, near the start of your fingers. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together. 
  6. Let bagels rest on the counter for about 20 minutes, and meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and grease a large baking tray lightly.
  7. After the 20 minute wait, your bagels will start to look puffy. Add them to the boiling water, as many at a time as you can fit without crowding them. Boil for about a minute, turn over, and boil for another minute. Take them out and let dry for am inute and then place them on your oiled baking tray. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled.
  8. Add the tray to the over, bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another ten minutes. 
  9. Add cream cheese (but really, you’re missing out if you don’t have cookie butter!).

 

 

 

I’m also throwing in the recipes for the gluten-free cookies and granola bars I made. OMG, both are so stinking good. I like the granola bars because I know exactly what went into them and they taste way better than anything I’ve had from a store. Honestly. The cookies are really good too. A peanut butter dark chocolate chip combo makes my mouth water. I might go eat one now…

And I won’t feel guilty about it because they don’t have any flour, white sugar, or butter! 🙂

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

 

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Averie Cooks

yields 12-16 cookies (depending on size–I got 12)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 oz dark chocolate chunks (I found morsels and just used those!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until well-combined and the sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is no longer grainy, about three minutes.
  2. Add the baking soda and beat to incorporate. Add the chocolate and stir well. Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 5 days, before baking.
  3. Preheat oven to 350, line baking sheets with foil and spray with oil. Make about 2 tablespoons worth of dough into a ball and place on baking sheet. 
  4. Bake 8-10 minutes, until edges are set and the tops are barely set, even if slightly under-baked in the center. The cookies will firm up as they cool so leaving them in too long will burn them and give you a crunchy cookie.

 

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

 

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

adapted from Shugary Sweets

yields 24 bars

INGREDIENTS

    • 4 Tbsp butter
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • ¼ cup honey
    • 2 cup granola (mine was a Praline Granola…delicious)
    • 1 cup Rice Krispies
    • ½ cup lightly salted peanuts
    • ½ cup pretzel sticks, broken
    • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

DIRECTIONS

  1. In large saucepan, heat butter, sugar and honey over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook about 2-3 minutes (until sugar is completely dissolved).
  2. Remove from heat. Add in granola, rice Krispies, peanuts and pretzels. Quickly add in chocolate chips. Press into a parchment lined 13×9 pan. Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy!

 

Planning Ahead

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my future this past week. Who am I kidding, I’m ALWAYS thinking about the future. Luke always tells me to live in the now, which is something I’m trying to work on. It’s just so hard to not be a planner! I’ve always been one to have a plan and even a back-up one in case the first run around fails. This time, I have zero clue about anything. I don’t even know what I’m doing next week, yet alone in a year.

But that’s the beauty of life, right? To always be unexpected. I think it would be pretty boring if I pictured something going a certain route and things always turned out that way. Just looking back on the past year I would have never predicted ANY of the things that have happened. If you told me five years ago I should date Luke, I would have laughed in your face (don’t worry, we discussed this the other day). I also would have probably chuckled if you told me I’d be eating vegetables other than broccoli too. Sometimes things just happen and they end up being really great things.

While I am trying to focus on the now and be where I am and enjoy that (which I can honestly say I’m doing a much better job at thanks to this blog), I do believe there are a few things that should always be planned ahead. Meals, for example, are easier to make when you already have what you need and know what you’re making before hand. I have tried dieting and cooking healthier before and failed miserably every time because I wasn’t meal planning. It can be a total pain in the butt and can take some time, but I promise it’s worth it when you come home from a long day at work and can just whip together a delicious meal you’ve had all day to mouth-water over. That’s my favorite part of planning–I can think about whatever it is I’m going to make ALL DAY LONG and be excited to cook it when I get home.

Besides meal planning, I’ve also been trying to make meals that will last me throughout the week. Mainly, I’m referring to breakfast and lunch ideas, but you could make plenty of dinners for the entire week too. A friend of mine just told me she made the angel hair and zucchini pasta I blogged about a few weeks ago to have for dinner a few nights this week! It’s a simple and genius idea if you think about it, not to mention it saves you a ton of time and money.

Yesterday I made oatmeal breakfast cookies and chicken salad for breakfast and lunch throughout the week. I usually end up having leftovers with the dinners I’ve been making, but sometimes we run out (or Luke and the man on the couch eat them all!) and I’m forced to take a turkey sandwich instead. I love turkey, but sometimes I just get sick of eating it. I thought this chicken salad recipe would be the prefect cure for my Monday blues and boy was I right! It’s a sweeter salad but was so delicious between two pieces of honey wheat bread today (and was also tested with some crackers last night). Either way, this is a must make for any chicken salad lovers out there!

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Peanut Butter Banana Oat Cookies with Chocolate Chips

slightly adapted from Watching What I Eat

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed until smooth & creamy
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix mashed banana & peanut butter until completely combined then add in the applesauce and vanilla. Mix again until all are completely combined.

Add in the oatmeal and chocolate chips to banana mixture until combined. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet & flatten cookies into circles. Bake cookies approx. 20-30 minutes (some like their cookies less cooked, some cooked more – try it both ways to find which works best for your tastes) or until golden brown & done.  Remove from oven & let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.

When cookies are completely cool, store in a covered container.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad

by Ari’s Menu

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 tbs finely minced rosemary
  • meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 large gala apple, chopped
  • 1 tbs slivered almonds

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mustard, pepper and rosemary. Set aside.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and lightly toss. Stir in dressing until well combined.
  3. Eat immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.

My Journey To Happiness Begins

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Come one, come all! Welcome to my new blog! I decided to begin a cooking blog over the weekend. I am attempting (I would say definitely, but sometimes things just don’t work out like you planned) to start eating healthier in order to increase my positive outlook on life. I recently lost a close friend who battled with PTSD. While he might have been suffering in ways that were unknown or unseen by others, he could always put a smile on your face and make you laugh till you cried. He also had a strong passion for health and fitness. I can’t tell you how many time I got yelled at for eating a pizza over chicken (although there were plenty of times he ate pizza with me!). A few months have passed and I want to honor him in this way; by simply living my life to it’s fullest and enjoying the things he loved in life. This includes food, and lots of it. I love to cook, and I love to eat. So this should be easy, right?

So, I invite you all to join me on my journey. It could last a week or it could last years. I can only hope that I gain the strength to continue with this and benefit from these changes both on the inside and out. Let me begin by sharing with you the first “healthy” recipe I chose to try first! When meal planning for the week, I thought it would be easiest for me with my insane work schedule (I nanny 55 hours a week for 3 boys, ages 6-1) to make something ahead of time to have for the entire week. With that in mind, I stumbled upon these muffins from skinnytaste.com and knew they had to be first on my list.

Insanely Good Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

I mean, just look at them. Insanely good doesn’t even begin to describe these muffins. I made these bad boys on Sunday night and have breakfast for my boyfriend and I for the entire week. One of these with a banana or apple and you’re satisfied till lunch. I currently have mine wrapped up to keep fresh. I do know that you can freeze muffins and they will last for awhile, but I’m thinking that these are so moist already (from the oatmeal) that they’ll last me till Friday without the hassle!

I went for the cheaper option on the oatmeal and got a giant tub of Great Value whole wheat instant oatmeal so I can try different variations with this recipe! I did use almond milk, but went with the honey instead of agave. I realized I forgot to purchase cupcake holders as I was about to bake these, so I just sprayed the tin with Pam. They popped right out of the tin without any problems, but I would use liners next time. These muffins are so gooey and soft and the liner might help keep them together more once they cool! Take my advice and make these babies and even try with different fruit or chocolate chips.

Insanely Good Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

by Skinnytaste

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups Quaker quick oatmeal
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or skim milk)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp agave (or sugar, honey) 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • baking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a muffin tin with liners and lightly spray with oil.

Place oats in a food processor or chopper and pulse a few times. Soak oats in milk for about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, agave, apple sauce, vanilla, egg whites, oil and mix well.

In a third bowl combine whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and whisk to combine.

Combine oats and milk with sugar, applesauce mixture and mix well. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 22-24 minutes.