Chocolate No Bake Cookies

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Let me add a disclaimer to this entire post (since I’ve now gone back through my most recent recipes and I know what you’re thinking):

Doesn’t it seem like all I’ve eaten during this pregnancy is sweets? Looking back through these old posts, the past three months here at W&W have been heavy on the ‘nana bread, muffins, and now these cookies. Geesh! It’s obvious where my mind has been!Despite the fact that I have been Googling pictures of cinnamon rolls just to stare at them, I promise my diet has been balanced compared to what you see being presented here. Lots of fruits and good carbs, but I’m told this is how most women make it through the first trimester. And now I’m free of that! Woot! So hopefully I’ll be able to stomach a salad again soon. In the meantime, my extra energy went into making these little drops of childhood, chocolate no bake cookies.

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Yes, they look more like a pile of poo than anything else. But if you’re one of those sorry people who has never had a no bake before, gosh, give me a call. I will be over STAT. It’s just a quintessential part of life, one must have no bakes at least once a year, just to remember how amazing (and easy) they are.

My school growing up used to have no bake cookies on random days, and so naturally this surprising glory of a day always went noted. They are just… not really a “cookie” cookie. There’s no flour, no rolling, no ovens, very little mess… They are the lazy baker’s ideal friend. One pot, a few ingredients most folks have, and 20 minutes later you actually have it all done (and cleaned!). Few recipes for treats can actually boast such speed. I laugh every time I try to accomplish a baking recipe that, according to its author, took a total of “45” minutes. 45 minutes my eye! I’ve always got flour everywhere, butter somehow ends up on the side of the refrigerator, they bake twice as long as the recommended time– oh I just have a litany of issues. I’m sure it’s me. And so, I’ll stick to my no bakes for awhile.

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You will adore these cookies. They firm up perfectly,  yet are still buttery and smooth when you bite into one, not chalky or hard. They are fool-proof, and everyone will believe you are some kind of kitchen miracle.

Chocolate No Bake Cookies   Adapted from centercutcook.com

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats

In a large pot, heat butter, sugar, cocoa, milk, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn off burner and remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter, and then immediately stir in oats (be quick, things can stiffen up fast!). Using two spoons, quickly scoop out small dollops and place onto parchment paper. Portion out cookies until all the “batter” has been used.

Leave to cool on the counter top until firm. Mine were ready to be bagged and put away within 20 minutes (the firmness was at it’s best the following day, but you can bet I taste-tested one or two). Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Makes about 24 medium sized cookies.

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Poached Egg Soba

DSC_0013This recipe has been such a life saver to me this week.

I’ve started to do something I have wanted for so long. It’s small. It isn’t really all that big of a deal. Yet, after working a few too many years as a waitress, it feels pretty darn cool to go to work wearing what I want (no more referee t-shirt!), to pace my day around myself (not fussy people with low-blood-sugar), and to experience what that ordinary nine to five life is all about. Adulthood! Oh the things that excite you as you age.

Don’t get me wrong, I will always love restaurants. They sparked my love of cooking, taught me a lifetime’s worth of lessons about being humble, and developed a heart in me to see the worth and love in serving another human being. It has good roots. But many years later, the thank-less nature of it can just be too tiresome. Restaurant work is a place to start, a great place really.

DSC_0025I’ve wanted this ordinary type of work for a long time. No more late nights, no more restless mornings (since what else can you do but laundry while you wait to go to work at 3:30)– just a whole mess of ordinary grown up stability. For now!

So now that I’ve hopped the fence, I’ve noticed something I never knew before. My deepest sympathies go out to all of you who have navigated these waters for so long.

Coming home around 5 and having to start dinner is an awful lot of work.

You’ve already worked all day, you’re hungry, your mind is tired, and yet you have more tasks ahead. How have I never understood what a trial this is?

DSC_0018I’ve been writing recipes and sharing my cooking ideas on this site for almost a year now, and in all that time I’ve never actually understood how challenging it is to find the motivation to work on dinner after you’ve already devoted most of the day to work. It is tough! In times like these, it seems as though fast food options are the only thing on your side to make dinner happen. Not so, my friends.

DSC_0015I love a good Japanese dish. The flavors are so savory, yet light. Noodles can always be involved. A delicate, yet salty broth is usually accompanying. And any dish that can be finished by plopping a fresh, steamy egg on top is just what I had in mind.

Poached Egg Soba is my own version of Japanese comfort food, in honestly little more than 15 minutes. Even with my zombie-like “five o’clock” mind, I can still boil noodles and poach a pretty little egg. You can too. And once you’re slurping salty little buckwheat noodles off your chopsticks, it will have been well worth it.

Poached Egg Soba

  • 1 package thin buckwheat soba noodles (10 oz bag will serve 4+ people)
  • 4 fresh, farm-raised eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (or dashi granules and water, if you have it)
  • 3-4 Tbs soy sauce (I use Braggs Liquid Aminos)
  • Dash red pepper flake
  • Chopped green onions, for garnish

In a salted, boiling pot of water, drop your buckwheat noodles and cook according to package directions. Strain and set aside when just al dente. Pour your cooked soba noodles back into the pot they were poured from, and let the heat from the pot meld the flavors of the sesame oil, spinach, and soy sauce together. In another pot or high-sided cast iron, fill with 3-4 inches of water, and warm until just before boiling. Stir water into a whirlpool circular motion, and drop in your cracked egg. Let cook through until desired doneness is reached. I like a mostly firm white, and a completely soft yolk. place eggs on top of piled noodles, sprinkle with chopped green onion, and enjoy!

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Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

DSC_0005It seems my blogging hiatus is finally over. Glad to be back friends.

Blogging, like anything that starts from scratch, is a lot like trying to roll an immensely stubborn boulder. The first pushes are all kinds of work, just a mess of awkward and sweaty, but slowly — very slowly — momentum keeps the ball rolling. The momentum stage is reaaal nice.

So yeah. That brings us to where I am now, working to get this boulder a-rollin’ again with something baked, and sweet, and lemony fresh. Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, you do just the trick.

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In spite of my sporadic ramblings this passed month, this tiny little blog has managed to do something I’m pretty darn proud of, in all my absence. Wise & Wonderful Cookery has had more views in the month of March than ever before — something that actually shocked me out of my chair, when I was finally willing to force myself out onto the web to see the damage. With just two posts, likely the least I’ve ever shared in a month before, all you folks still gathered here. It was awesome to peer over my sheets, fearing I would see bolded zeroes for days at a time, and instead be overwhelmed by positivity. You are all just great.

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I have a really big reason to be so grateful. You see, in the month of March a whole lot of things happened. Thing #1 — I just moved a bajillion miles away from the shiny (and cold) city of Chicago all the way to the quaint and beachy Galveston area of Texas. What! So while I did have recipes a-brewin’, it’s been more on my mind to spend time with the loved ones I’d be missing soon. It was time perfectly spent.

Thing #2 — Possibly the biggest of things I’ve ever shared on the internet.. Jake and I discovered we are going to be parents! Ah! Crazy has been the most frequent word I have attached to the thought. So many kinds of crazy: crazy awesome, crazy unplanned, crazy adventure. The beautiful thoughts of motherhood have been, for the time being, shrouded in a fog of morning sickness — which can, and has chosen to happen just about anytime I’ve tried to cook something — hence another part of my inability to share much these days. It has all been such a new experience. I can only hope and pray I have always been as empathetic to pregnant women as I now know they absolutely deserve — growin’ a wee baby is some serious work. Wonderful, challenging, totally-killing-my-cooking-skills, work.

DSC_0031I’m nearing the end of that morning sickness madness, and I look forward to sharing the recipes that helped me to still eat well (as well as you can when compelled to lose your lunch frequently) through those early stages of pregnancy. It’s tough, I commend all you mothers out there who have been through all these things I’m venturing through. The journey is full of new challenges, and I believe great nutrition to be one of the greatest allies to have in facing those challenges.

DSC_0011After making these muffins, I knew they were just the right recipe to attach to such brilliant news. They are bright, sweet, and drizzled with lemony glaze. If one could capture a feeling and somehow reshape it into a flavor, this was the flavor of such life-changing news.

DSC_0039Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (adapted from The Alderman’s Agate)

2/3 cup sugar (for delicious muffins try using my citrus sugar)
zest and juice of 2 small lemons
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened greek yogurt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil (or other neutral oil)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. In another bowl whisk together zest and lemon juice, eggs, vanilla extract, olive oil, and greek yogurt. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix.

For the glaze whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 Tbs lemon juice, and a dash of lemon zest.

Spoon into a well greased muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before enjoying.

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Brown Sugar Banana Bread

DSC_0003Salads are wonderful, great bean recipes are everyday saviors, but there are those times we want, we need something classic. Something sweet.

Every grandma has mastered it’s making, and everyone will tell you theirs is the best. So, I’m also going to hop on that bandwagon. Mine is the best.

DSC_0011Banana bread should, nay must be certain things. Majorly banana-y. Moist, even crumbed. Crunchy sweet outer crust. Studded with nutty bites of walnut. That is all that it must be. If you require chocolate, or wild streusel toppings, that is up to you. I think it is best un-fooled with, and uncomplicated.

DSC_0020Cooking is one of my greatest joys. There are times when something that brings you joy becomes harder, and more trying, and you have to find a way to rekindle the romance all over again– to push through. Cooking is currently on my shit list, amidst a move and lots of wonderful life changes– but baking has felt inspiring, so I plan to fiddle with it for the joy of it.

DSC_0017Pulling a loaf of fresh bread from a roaring hot oven is plum-full of joy. I think stirring in four whole fresh bananas into the mix makes it four times as awesome.

DSC_0009Brown Sugar Banana Bread

*adapted from sugar and snapshots

  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed, plus one more for garnish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, freshly ground
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • heavy sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular size loaf pan.

In one large mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and toasted walnuts. In another bowl, mash bananas, and mix in eggs and yolk, melted butter, and vanilla. Once well combined, in thirds, slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Once the batter is just mixed together (don’t over mix!) pour into your greased loaf pan.

Sprinkle the top with a dash of cinnamon, and line the center with circles of sliced bananas (they will caramelize in the oven, which = extra sweet and delicious). Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick will come clean after poking into it.

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Veggie & Tortellini Soup

DSC_0003March has finally begun, and as hopeful as I am for springtime weather, Chicago has other ideas. We’re still trudging through mini-mountains of snow around these parts.

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Snow and winter and cold are all things Jake loves a lot. He gets excited to wear his cute little snow boots, and mittens and such. It’s adorable… while I’m complaining and begrudgingly dragging myself outside to take out the garbage. Winter takes on a whole new me– a hibernating version of myself, that just aims to survive till the thaw. It’s sad really.

One thing we do both love about the cold? Soup.

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Soup! That one pot miracle that feeds hungry folks and doesn’t make a mess. Sounds perfect. And what makes this soup great? Tortellinis of course!

If you read often, you know it’s my thing to cook healthy recipes– and if you do that sort of thing, you may have realized the same thing I have: average eaters find your cooking strange (even if they are polite.) Typical Americans eat carbs and meat, toppled with melted cheese– and so leafy greens and unusual grains aren’t things they are comfortable with. That’s why I think this soup is great for guests.

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Veggie Tortellini Soup is packed with veggies, then deceptively sprinkled with a few rich, cheesy little tortellinis– making it a great soup for those surprise house guests. It is filling, tomatoey, and delicious– chock full of healthy veggies, and just a little indulgence to bridge the gap for average eaters. (And you healthy eaters, on the days you just need something cheesy.)

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Veggie & Tortellini Soup

  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • 2 ears of sweet corn, cut from the cob
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dried cheese tortellinis
  • 2 Tbs basil, oregano, parsley
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Sautee carrots, onions, and celery over medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant and onions are translucent.  Add all remaining ingredients, including stock, tomatoes, and herbs, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender and vegetables are cooked. (If using fresh pasta, wait until soup has been cooked, then add tortellinis into the pot in the last 3-5 minutes, to warm through.)

A Day with Dr. Fuhrman– Recounting the Chicago Health Immersion Seminar

DSC_0013Have you ever been to a health seminar? The Chicago Health Immersion Seminar, led by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, was my very first. Going in I was a bundle of questions. After all, what really happens at such a foreign sounding thing as a ‘health seminar’? Would it be some elusive club of fit Americans who all decided to be roadies and travel to every seminar on health? Is it smoke and lights, and just buy these supplements and live forever? I entered this new domain with much skepticism. After all, who was this man, Joel Fuhrman? Could he be trusted as a venerable leader in this field, shaping a diet that all could safely and healthfully live by?

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a world renown nutritional researcher, certified family physician, three-time NY Times best-selling author (Eat to Live, Super Immunity, The End of Diabetes), and the father of a style of eating, dubbed the nutritarian diet. When Lou and I arrived to the sold out event in the Grand Ballroom of the Rosemont Hilton in Northwest Chicago, I spotted him among those buying books and signing in. He stood comfortably and quietly, with a small yet sturdy stature, sporting youthful looking skin and a crown of dark grey hair. He seemed lightyears away from 59 years old. When the event began and he took the reigns of our attention, he filled the stage with a unique style that was 2 parts fierce intelligence, 1 part approachable warmth, and 1 part only-a-physician-would-say-that jokes. He was effective, and proved himself within moments to be a brilliant man, whose true calling was to know just exactly what ought we all to eat every day to live clear-minded, active lives?

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I can’t share with you every ounce of information the seminar contained. You and I both wouldn’t make it through all that. But I do intend to share the things that struck me hardest.

Let us begin with the facts that ought to remind you why this discussion is still so important:

The United States has the worst HALE (Healthy Life Expectancy: Average number of years that a person can expect to live in “full health”) of developed nations (67.4 for women, 66.3 for men) yet we spend 2.5x more money (conservative estimate) on health care than any other developed nation. 17 cents of every U.S. dollar is currently going towards health care. And yet:

  • We have less physicians per person (2.4 per 1,000 people, the OECD avg. is 3.1)
  • A lesser number of hospital beds (2.6 per 1,000 people, OECD avg is 3.4)
  • A lower total life expectancy than many other developed nations (women 80.5, men 78.6)

What does this mean? As a nation we are spending two and a half times more money than anyone else, yet most American women still lose their health around 67 years old, and spend an average of the last 13 years of their life succumbing to crippling chronic illnesses. Obviously the availability of funds is not the issue.

Something is broken here.

Dr. Fuhrman, and many other wise doctors and health advocates, believe it is what we eat. It is no secret that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is nothing to be proud of nutritionally (yet, emotionally it is like our next of kin.)

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Does it burn your eyes to read that chart? Half of the meager 12% plant food category can be considered processed vegetable foods, like french fries and ketchup. This is how your average American Joe eats daily.

Because of this diet rich in processed foods and animal products (especially ones that are processed  then later fortified with vitamins to seem adequate in nutrition) we have seen cancer rates grow each year, from 1945-1995, explosive amounts of autoimmune disease, and increases in neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Morbidity caused by diabetes, including diabetic foot, neuropathy, retinopathy, amputation, and chronic kidney disease are large and increasing. Half of all deaths in the U.S. per year are caused by either heart disease or cancer (HD: about 600,000 people. C: about 577,190 people) Basically, we are sick, and generally speaking, getting sicker each year.

So what is the equation to good health? Dr. Fuhrman actually has one.

H = N/C

Health = Nutrients/Calories. Simple enough, yes? Your lifelong health can be determined by how densely nutritious each calorie of food is that you eat.

andiscoresThis image is called an Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). Foods that score highest on the ANDI are the ones we ought to east most often, and in the highest quantity. Those foods are rich in nutrients, phytochemials, minerals, and vitamins, all the things that fuel our cells and enrich our bodies. Anything low on this score is a food that does not promote health (H=N/C) and therefor should rarely be eaten.

A low-calorie, high nutrient diet does these things:

  1. Enhances cell’s ability to repair
  2. Reduces the body’s inflammatory response
  3. Suppresses genetic alterations
  4. Decreases free radicals in the body
  5. Slows metabolic rate
  6. Enhances DNA repair
  7. Removes toxins and free-radicals

Eating this way allows the natural processes within your very own body to be active in healing and maintaining you. You can heal yourself.

So what should a diet that aligns with H=N/C look like?

DF food pyramidHow does that strike you? As nutritarians, we ought to be consuming at least a pound of raw vegetables, a pound of cooked vegetables, 1 cup beans, 1-2 oz of raw nuts & seeds, and a pound of fresh fruit per day. I believe this diet recommendation to be the most wholesome and freeing– no calorie counting, no living in a state of constant hunger. You can eat after 7pm if you desire, and you don’t have to feel deprived.

Unlimited — green veggies, raw veggies, non-starchy cooked veggies, fresh fruit, beans, legumes

Limited Weekly — cooked starchy veggies, whole grains

Limited Rarely — animal products, whole fat dairy products, fish, processed oils, refined grains, sugars

A phrase may come to mind for some of you is, “Rabbit food.” Consider this: a rhinoceros can grow to weigh well over 7,000 lb. and lives mostly on leafy green plant foods. You will not wither away without steak.

Another alarming fact for all you vegetarians out there:

Two types of Strokes:

high cholesterol = high risk of embolic stroke

low cholesterol = higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke

Vegetarians (who generally have low cholesterol) are left more vulnerable to hemorrhagic stroke because they still consume high amounts of salt. Long term, eating high amounts of salt leads to stomach cancer and stroke, even for vegetarians.

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My last exciting fact:

Studies have shown that altering an animal food from it’s natural state (skim milk, egg whites) actually increases it’s cancer causing properties. Fat and cholesterol are not to be singled out as enemies, and if you consume these foods (rarely) you ought to have them in their whole fat form. The fats are essential in their proper digestion.

So, there you have it. This is what I learned in an 8- hour seminar with Dr. Fuhrman, in a freaking crazy-condensed nutshell. It was a lot of information, but since I left I have been sticking to these guidelines, and have lost 5 pounds. Eating is simple and enjoyable (I actually look forward to the salads and soups I’ve been making) and would venture to say– yes it truly is the way we all ought to eat.

For far too long Americans have lived behind a veil, never fully admitting the implications our diet has had on society. We are hurting, from the inside out, and we cannot be healed by medications and surgeries alone. If you want to live a long life, and be functioning with the fullest capacity of mind and body, you will commit to living this way. We like to pretend the matter isn’t to important– isn’t so urgent– because that’s just human nature, we love to indulge our temptations. But I know each and every one of you wants to be able to dance to silly songs with your grandkids, or still be a wise and influential member of your community for as long as you are given. Truly, life is short. Be well, for the longest time.

My Simple Conclusion:

  • Attend a Health Seminar every year. Human beings live in need of constant reminders to stay the path. With a yearly immersion you will learn new things you didn’t catch the last time, and be renewed in spirit over what you already know and believe.
  • Set the bar for health high. We are fragile, broken people, and over time the bar will lower and lower on it’s own, because we allow exceptions and emotions to change our path. This information provides a clear basis for what is right, and if you decide to follow it you should follow it wholly, not with one foot in and one foot out in that sad wasteland of processed foods.

***This post is SO long, I’ve decided to share recipes in the coming days!

Cauliflower and Broccoli Mash

DSC_0125Word on the street is some of you were kinda excited for this post.

I mean, it’s only a recipe for savory, creamy, mashed-potato-esque cauliflower. In the span of exciting events, in all the world, I doubt very many of them ever involved the humble cauliflower. This is a good moment for humanity.

DSC_0112Truth is, I’m really so very glad you care about this post– and that you care about this blog at all. It keeps me writing and working. Without caring, involved, vocal support, I would not feel anyone really needed this work I do, and then I would probably do a lot less of it. So thank you, genuinely, for caring. There are a whole lot of writers and thinkers to care about in this world, and the fact that you would spare any little bit of your time for my thoughts is just so moving to me.

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Lets get back to cauliflower! I’ve only posted about it’s loveliness once, in a beloved post about roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower. It really should get more attention in the vegetable world; cauliflower is versatile comfort-food. It can be served crunchy, creamy, or somewhere in between, with a flavor so sweetly neutral, it truly becomes whatever you want it to be.

Cook this up, and enjoy heartily. It is healthy, tasty, and simple– what good food ought to be.

DSC_0118Cauliflower and Broccoli Mash

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • lemon juice
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • soy milk (or broth, water, or cow’s milk)

Chop your broccoli and cauliflower into manageable pieces, being sure to remove the leafy core of the cauliflower. The stem and leaves can be left on the broccoli. Put veggies in a large pot, and cover with water. Boil until fork tender, about 7-10 minutes. Strain veggies, and add them back to your pot. Just as in making mashed potatoes, do the mashing and adding liquid dance, just a tablespoon at a time, until a nice creaminess starts to take shape. Throw a few fresh cracks of pepper in there, and a large squeeze of lemon (It makes all the difference for some reason). Presto! Try not to eat it all at once. (You could add salt, I’m trying to leave it out when it isn’t so necessary.)

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Orange Dark Chocolate

DSC_0076These two flavors are, without a doubt, made for one another.

Do you remember those magical chocolate oranges that would appear in stockings and Easter baskets? They were, at least to my child-sized hands, practically the same size as a real orange. The outside was textured with bumps and pores, made to feel and look like an orange peel. Once you freed it from it’s shiny package, the great fun of it was giving it a good whack on a table-top, separating all the little, chocolately slices (also textured to look real!) These wonderful little things may still exist in stores today (the candy aisle is a dangerous place I dare not venture) but alas, I’m cursed (and blessed) with this constant desire to try and make things at home.

DSC_0104This time of year I’m rather sure you have an orange rolling around somewhere in your refrigerator, and a bar of dark chocolate tucked away in the freezer for a rainy day. Why not let those two come together, and make yourself one of the most satisfying little treats you’ve ever had?

Melting chocolate gets easier the more often you try it (yes this is me encouraging you to play with your chocolate.) Most anything you can think of would mix delightfully well into a melty, sweet little treat. I chose orange zest because it is nostalgic, and perfectly paired, and just darn delightful.

DSC_0066I wish you could be here, in my dinky little kitchen, sharing squares of orangey-dark-chocolate with me. Late nights after work I’ve found myself, with toes warming on the heat vent in the corner, tucked away near all my canned tomatoes and jams, nibbling away. It’s a nice way to unwind.

DSC_0092Orange Dark Chocolate

  • 4 oz high % cacao dark chocolate
  • zest of one orange

In a double boiler (or a glass bowl sitting atop a pan filled with an inch of water) melt your chocolate. If things get too hot, your chocolate will not set back up, so use the least heat and time possible. Stir in the orange zest, reserving about a teaspoon for sprinkling on top. Pour out onto a sheet of wax paper, and smooth out into a circle (if you own silicone molds, pour into those for cool shapes.) Sprinkle on leftover zest. Use a knife to slice squares into it just as it begins to set up, but before things harden too much. Store wrapped in wax paper, or in a reusable container. Makes about 18 little squares.

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Broccoli Soup with Sourdough Bread Bowls

DSC_0038Of all the indulgences in all the world, nothing tempts me more than a big hunk of crusty bread. Swear it! Cakes, candies, and steaks aside, nothing is more enticing, more mouthwatering, more completely my food addiction than a warm, buttery loaf of sourdough. I could eat the whole thing if I threw aside my self restraint– which honestly, can be quite hard to do sometimes.

Why is it that I pay such homage to a humble loaf of bread? Berries, in all their tart and colorful sweetness, have infinitely more health benefits. Greens are bursting with many more vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, keeping me well longer. Of all the foods to declare, with the utmost surety, that I love and adore with all my heart, I wish it wasn’t bread. As I write and share with you all these things about living and being healthy, I wish I could say every second of it falls into place for me, that I crave kale and down wheat grass shots like it’s going out of style– because being healthy just is, there’s no struggle. I sail through without temptation.

DSC_0046The truth is that I do struggle, like all of you. I have my triggers, the foods I will bargain with myself to eat more often than I know I should. I have mindlessly eaten half a pizza, washing it down with all the pop flavors in the machine mixed together. I’ve subsided on mostly skittles and sweet tea for a whole day. I’ve done the worst of it, and while I’m getting better I get stuck on bread ALL THE TIME. A sourdough bread bowl, which would probably feed a family of six, need not be consumed by me alone, brimming with hot soup and a sprinkle of melted cheese. The aftermath was one of those “I should have had a salad” moments.

I debated not sharing this recipe (but isn’t it lovely?) because after looking it over a time or two, I thought: This is a healthy living blog, right? Isn’t that deliciously unhealthy amount of bread a bad thing to show people? The feeling was akin to walking into a job interview with raggedy sweat pants and no make-up on– exposed, unkempt. For better or worse, being polished is sort of my thing. It shows how much I care, that everything I do I place thought and wisdom into, and to me those qualities seem necessary and important.

DSC_0043So after this silly internal drama cooled down, I realized an element that I often miss. Vulnerability. I don’t love exposing my bad, I mean really does anyone? I’m awkward at showing and sharing my pitfalls, because I think it negates who I am and what I’m about– which is honestly committed to having a healthy relationship with food.

Silly me. I’ve since realized that sharing where I struggle, where I fall off the wagon head first, is important. People need to know they aren’t alone in struggling to stay the course. Struggle is a huge element of change– and if we really intend to change, we have to work through constant struggle. Temptation exists for us all– and maybe in our generation more for food than any other– and so being honest about what temptations I deal with on a daily basis may help you to know you aren’t alone in your imperfection. I am horribly, tragically, dangerous-to-myself imperfect, and it will always be that way.

My name is Leighanna, and I’m a bread addict. Admission is the first step to change, right? So I’ll be working on holding myself accountable, and while I do that, you should check out this great recipe.

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Broccoli Soup in Sourdough Bread Bowls

  • 1 large head of broccoli, stem included
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 potatoes, boiled and mashed (or 1 cup leftover mashed potato)
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
  • splash of unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and carrots together in the bottom or a large pot on medium heat, until fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a simmer. Add chopped broccoli, leafy little stemmed parts and all. Cook until veggies are tender, stir in leftover mashed potato (if you are preparing fresh mash, you could boil the taters diced in little pieces in the soup, then puree half the soup when finished, to add some thickness to it. Less work = best thing. Choices choices!) If the soup is not as thick as desired, either let simmer on low until soup condenses and thickens, or ladle 1/2 the pot’s contents into a blender, and puree smooth, then add it back in. As your last step, stir in shredded fontina cheese, with an extra dollop on top.

* I bought my bread bowls from Panera for a darn good price, though I’m sure they are available elsewhere. Using a serrated  knife, cut a wide circle in the top of the loaf, like carving a pumpkin. Pull the lid off, and scoop some of the bready insides out, to hollow out a bowl.

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Bananas with Walnuts and Peanut Butter

DSC_0017I’m almost ashamed I’ve yet to share this recipe. Almost.

This simple, silly little banana snack is something I’ve been eating regularly, for the better part of maybe ten years now.

I had been watching some ‘health food’ infomercial on the T.V. Guide channel– where a blonde lady whose locks had more volume than would seem humanly possible– was teaching how it was made. She split the banana, smeared on the peanut butter, then stuck it under a broiler for a moment. When it came out, the peanut butter was warm and bubbly.

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I don’t always warm the peanut butter. I don’t even always add raw nuts on top. But I do eat bananas like this all. the. time.

This snack is just so simple, it seems like overkill to even post a recipe. Then I realized, in a world of endless snacking, that having a better alternative to chips and candy could be quite helpful.

This snack combines a bunch of my favorite things, bananas especially. They are sweet, inexpensive, and for fruit, quite filling. Nut butters, of any kind, are creamy, nutty, and delicious, practically made for bananas. When you buy unsweetened nut butters (or make your own!) you can use natural sweeteners, like honey, to replace the sugar. And then you need a topping! Shredded coconut, dried fruit, and raw nuts are all perfect and tasty choices. I like raw nuts– they have health benefits that just should’t be ignored. (More on that in an upcoming post! We were fortunate enough to attend Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Immersion Seminar, and can’t wait to share what we learned.)

DSC_0022I’d like to say a whole lot more about how bananas + peanut butter + anything else = best snack ever, but it’s just such a simple idea. You don’t need my convincing.

Bananas with Walnuts and Peanut Butter

  • 1 banana, split lengthwise, then cut in half to make 4 pieces
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw nuts

Cut your banana into four equal pieces, then smear the peanut butter on top. You’ll find greener bananas don’t work well for this, and that the peanut butter spreads easier on very ripe bananas. Sprinkle on chopped nuts, and place under a broiler for just a few seconds (or not, delicious either way.)