October 30, 2012

Winter is here!

The snow has fallen...and my view from work was glorious today.

I hope you're having a great week.

October 26, 2012

Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oatmeal Stuffing

Yes, another apple recipe. I'm obsessed with apples right now. When I went to Costco last week, I purchased 5 pounds of Honeycrisp apples...my favorite. These apples are so sweet and crunchy...perfect for a quick snack.

Looking for a dessert recipe that would be easy, low in sugar, but still satisfying, I knew I wanted to utilize my apples in a way that would bring out the yummy flavor of the Honeycrisp Apple rather than masking the flavor or using the apple as a sweetener.

What did I come up with?? BAKED APPLES!

This recipe was so easy...and luckily, with a few slight modifications, I had all of the ingredients in my cupboards.

Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oatmeal Stuffing

2 large apples (I used Honeycrisp), cored
1 cup rolled oats
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 medjool dates or a 1/4 c raisins
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Wash and core apples. The hole in the apples should be large enough for the stuffing (about an inch in diameter). Place the cored apples in a lightly oiled rimmed baking dish.

2. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

3. Fill apples with the oatmeal mixture (pack it down slightly) and then spoon the leftover oatmeal + all liquid into the dish, surrounding the apples.

4. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 40 minutes. The apples should be fairly soft when done and the milk should be absorbed into the oatmeal. 

The apples can be served with a drizzle of maple syrup and/or a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

The baked apple made a perfect dessert for Matt and me. Enjoy!

October 12, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins

Overly ripe bananas + no more freezer space to freeze the bananas = must bake something with bananas.

Since Matt would be eating most of what I baked, I asked him what he wanted me to make with the bananas.

His answer = banana nut muffins. Perfect. He makes decision making soooo easy.

So, with his request in mind, I did my typical research by looking up a few recipes online, checking out a few blogs and then coming up with my own modifications to make a recipe that was slightly healthier and more desirable than a typical recipe. I added nuts, used whole wheat flour and added spices to give the muffins more of a punch.

The result...a muffin with a moist interior and a crunchy outside that has a little bit of spice. Exactly what I was hoping. Matt approved.

Banana Nut Muffins

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c white sugar
1 egg
1/3 c butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

1/3 c roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease muffin pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Add sugar to the mashed bananas and use a fork to combine. Stir in egg, melted butter and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir just until the mixture becomes moist. Do not over mix the batter. Fold in chopped walnuts.

Evenly distribute batter into muffin pan.

Bake for 25 minutes. Eat at least one muffin right out of the oven, being careful not to burn yourself. Place muffins on cooling rack until completely cooled. Store muffins in zip lock bag or glass container.


October 10, 2012

Healer by Carol Cassella

What am I reading right now?

A good friend lent me Healer by Carol Cassella. A really great book, I have been finding myself going to be a little bit earlier so I can read more before falling asleep.

An intriguing book about a doctor trying to keep her family together after fortune and loss, Garth Stein gives Healer the following review on Amazon:

It's tough to follow a spectacular debut like Oxygen, Carol Cassella’s striking first novel, with an even stronger second novel, but she’s done it with Healer.

Claire, Jory and Addison Boehning find themselves strapped to a runaway train of personal financial collapse, with only each other to cling to, and only each other to blame. Their precipitous fall from the rarified air of security and prosperity is the consequence of Addison's brilliant but risky shot at developing a cutting-edge cancer drug. With their old life in shreds, Claire, who abandoned a medical career fourteen years earlier, is forced to redefine her entire life: yesterday, she was the wealthy wife of Seattle's hottest biotech wizard; today, she is the heart and soul--and breadwinner--for her foundering family.

With Cassella's dynamic novel, something is always lingering under the surface; her narrative develops from a story of marital love and strife into a suspenseful, gripping story that is both provocative and gratifying. She leads the reader into unfamiliar and intriguing worlds peopled with vivid, complex characters. There are no blatant good guys and bad guys in Healer, no simple blacks and whites. Cassella's characters come in myriad shades of gray that make up the complex psyche of all human beings. And when money competes with good intentions, Cassella doesn't shy away from negotiating the murky ethical areas where profit and altruism collide, weaving questions of immigration, health care, and the power of big pharma into a page turning drama. I highly recommend this compelling new book by this remarkable author.

I strongly suggest Healer, which can be purchased for cheap by visiting Amazon or my Amazon store in the right hand column of this blog.


October 07, 2012

Making Strides.

On Saturday morning I joined a couple friends and about 100 other people for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, a powerful and inspiring opportunity that honored breast cancer survivors, raised awareness about steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer and to raise money so the American Cancer Society can continue to fund breast cancer research and increase access to mammograms for women who need them. 

Making Strides began 20 years ago, and since then, breast cancer death rates have declined more than 32 percent...and more women have been able to celebrate more birthdays.

We began the morning with some coffee and Zumba. It was about 40 degrees, so these activities were very helpful in keeping our bodies nice and warm.

It had been constantly raining in Anchorage for about 48 hours prior to the walk. However, Saturday morning, it was NOT raining...and, although damp and wet, we stayed dry for the entirety of the walk. A few pockets of blue peeked through the clouds, which made the walk quite enjoyable.

The walk started in downtown Anchorage and ventured out onto the Coastal Trail before looping back around a residential area and finishing back downtown...

...for a total of four miles, I thought about the many more birthdays I have been able to celebrate with my grandma thanks to the funds raised by events like Making Strides.

Say cheese!

We finished!! ...and all agreed that the morning was well spent supporting a great cause.

October 05, 2012

Happy October!

Can you believe it is October?! That means only 3 more months in 2012.

I have been frequenting Twitter a lot lately...I love the immediate up-to-date information and the quick conversations you can have with people across the country who share your same interests and hobbies.

One interest of mine is finding what items are made in the USA. Why not support local business, right? :) This topic is definitely trending on Twitter. Over the weekend I began to think about October...and all of the good things that come with this month. Pumpkins, the changing of colors, apple orchards, cold(er) weather...and HALLOWEEN...and what comes with Halloween? Candy!

I became inspired by a series of 'tweets' about Halloween candy manufactured in the United States. After doing some of my own research about the topic (as my interest level continued to increase), I found that many manufacturing facilities are very vague about where their products are actually made. I was also surprised to read about companies that didn't manufacture their candy in the USA (Sees Candy, Hershey's, Nestle'), instead making their candy in countries like China, Mexico and Switzerland. 

Listed below are types of candy that I remember finding in my Halloween bag as a child and that exclusively make their candy in the United States.

Hot Tamales, Mike & Ikes, Peeps: Hot Tamales were my go-to 50 cent candy at football and basketball games when I was little. My dad would give me 50 cents to spend and this is what I purchased...until I realized I could get popcorn for 25 cents, and profit from keeping the other 25 cents. :) These little chews are made by the Just Born Corporation in Pennsylvania. You can take an online tour of the factory on their website!

Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Junior Mints, DOTS, Charms Blow Pops, Sugar Daddies: Not a huge fan of tootsie anything...these brands of candy are obviously a very popular find in Halloween sacks. The Tootsie Roll Headquarters is in Chicago and Junior Mints are made in Massachusetts.

Mary Janes: Chewy candy that tastes like honey...made in Massachusetts by NECCO (New England Confectionary Company). Similar to Bit-O-Honey, which is made by Nestle', Mary Janes can be purchased with American-made confidence.

Candy Corn: I was so pumped to realize that two brands of this candy are made in the USA...Jelly Belly, who has Headquarters in California and a distribution facility in Wisconsin, and Zachary Confections, who makes several different flavors of candy corn for a number of different companies (Target, for example). Zachary Candy is made in Indiana. I usually have a bowl of this tri-colored candy on my table all month...and I remember going to my grandma's house, where she always had a bowl of the little candy pumpkins (hopefully made by one of these two brands).

Dum Dum Lollipops: Eeewww! I hated Dum Dums, but a popular Halloween candy and loved by many, Dum Dums are made in Ohio by the Spangler Candy. In browsing their website, I noticed that you can tour their facility on the Dum Dum Trolley and visit the Spangler Museum. They even list 5 reasons why Dum Dums should be handed out on Halloween.

Twin Bings: Not really a Halloween candy, I had to add Twin Bings to the list because they are made by the Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, Iowa, and because my dad loves this candy. He went to college in Sioux City and became a fan of Twin Bings. During my freshman year of college, my dad turned 50 and Leah and I went to a college near Sioux City. We decided to give him 50 Twin Bings (which is actually 100 individual "bings") for his 50th birthday...and since then, I'm not sure he has loved them as much as he used to. :)
As you start shopping for Halloween candy, perhaps keep a few of these ideas in mind.


A big shout out to Tracy Hanson from Green Living for the inspiration for this post.

October 02, 2012

Pesto stuffed mushrooms

What's better than mushrooms...

...stuffed with pesto??

Honestly, probably a lot of things, but this snack was just what I needed when I was asked to bring an appetizer to a church gathering a couple weeks ago.

Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms
  • portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 cups spinach, packed tightly
  • 1/2 cup parsley, packed tightly
  • 3 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, soaked in water for 8 hours
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked in water for 8 hours
Drizzle portobello mushroom caps with olive oil. Place in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until mushrooms are just turning brown.

While mushroom caps are baking, place the garlic, spinach, parsley, basil, soy sauce, olive oil and cayenne pepper in blender in order listed. Blend ingredients, increasing speed to high. Blend for about ten seconds. Add the soaked walnuts and sunflower seeds (I soaked the walnuts and sunflower seeds in water overnight in a mason jar) and blend for 30 more seconds or until creamy. Fill mushroom caps with pesto. Warm mushrooms in oven for about 15 minutes right before serving.

The stems popped right out of the mushrooms...and after drizzling with olive oil, I stuck them in the oven while I prepared the pesto.

This bundle of parsley had been sitting in our fridge from another recipe. Doesn't it look pretty!?

I added all of the ingredients to my Vitamix blender...

and pulsed...pulsed...pulsed...

Eventually, the pesto became nice and creamy.

I filled each mushroom cap with the pesto...

and then warmed the mushrooms for about 15 minutes.

The mushrooms were a hit at church. As with many of the recipes I post, the ingredients in this pesto can be easily altered.