Healthy Weekend Brunch: Honey Quinoa Pancakes

I absolutely love experimenting with pancake recipes on a lazy weekend morning. Aside from waffles and anything with eggs, pancakes are probably my favorite breakfast food to both make and eat! I have shared a few other pancake recipes before, like Cherry Blueberry Chia Pancakes, and Chocolate Banana Protein Pancakes, but these are my favorite so far because they aren’t frilly with lots of add-ins (which you can do for any pancake, pretty much), they are basic and hearty and can be a good building block for lots of future deliciousness! The point of making these this weekend was to add a sweet breakfast counterpart to the fresh tart raspberries we got in our farm share this week.

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Unlike a lot of quinoa pancake recipes out there (I had no idea this was already a thing!) this one isn’t hardcore fitness-y carb-less gluten-free vegan (etc!) healthy. This is more about incorporating healthy twists into everyday food, rather than making sweeping changes. To make this recipe gluten free or vegan is pretty easy, just subbing the flour, using an egg substitute, and an oil instead of butter. My *husband* (I can say that now!) is lactose intolerant so we don’t drink milk, so this recipe uses Almond Milk, my favorite variety being an unsweetened Coconut Almond blend.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3-5 Tbsp Sugar (I used 5, but for a less sweet pancake, use 3)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used Coconut Almond Milk)
  • 1 cup cooked Quinoa (1/2 cup dry + 1 cup water)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

First, I cooked 1/2 cup dry quinoa and 1 cup water on the stove-top for 15 minutes. Bringing the water to a boil, I added the quinoa and lowered it to a simmer, lid on, for ten minutes. Then I uncovered the quinoa for the last five minutes. This was just to ensure that the quinoa wasn’t too watery, but not so dry that the bottom became crusty. While it was cooking I mixed all the dry ingredients in one bowl, then the wet ingredients (except the honey) in a separate bowl.

When the quinoa looks about finished, mix in the honey. Then mix it together with the wet ingredients before pouring in with the dry ingredients. Mix until combined, then cook in a hot skillet with melted butter: flip, and enjoy! We ate ours with the fresh raspberries and tart homemade plum jam.

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Personalized Canvas Bag with knit details

With the wedding over, I’m suddenly left with all this free weekend time on my hands! However, the project I’m posting about what one I did FOR my wedding, but I want to apply it pretty much everywhere now. The idea is simple: add a custom knit detail to any garment by knitting up a simple I-Cord on double pointed needles of any length desired, then using it to spell letters. I made initials to customize cute canvas bags I found at Micheal’s, and made one for each of my bridesmaids as gifts. 2014-05-26 18.16.17

First, I got some permanent fabric glue, a thin-gauge yarn that was actually Crochet Thread, and two double pointed needles (Size 1, 2.25mm). If you’ve never made an I-Cord, YouTube has some excellent videos. With this thread, I Cast-On 5 stitches for the best thickness/width that I liked, but this is also personal preference.

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Some letters are easy to make with one I-Cord, like “M” and “S.” However, for kicks I started with a “K,” and knit two I-cords of the same length and a one half the size. Depending on how large you want your letter to be, I made mine about six inches long for a sizable letter.

2014-05-18 16.27.08 Next, all I had to do was glue it down in the shape of a “K.” Then let dry at least 24 hours.

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Bags are just one thing you can customize with knit details, I envision writing a cursive phrase on a T-shirt or sweatshirt to jazz it up, a la A Beautiful Mess’ Sequin Phrase Sweatshirt DIY. So many crafts to do!

Cherry Blueberry Chia Pancakes: morning breakfast staple packs a protein punch!

On weekend mornings if I’m not working, I will often take the time to make one of my favorite meals of the day: breakfast. Unfortunately, at the end of the week the fridge is relatively barren, and I try to scrounge ingredients to make something. Pancakes are a particular favorite in my house, but it’s carb heavy and not particularly filling. I’ve tried various strategies to tackle this problem with moderate success (see my earlier Chocolate Chip Banana Protein Pancakes) but this time I really outdid myself. The result was fruity, dense but also fluffy, and very filling pancake that we ate with jam while going over our wedding TO DO list.

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The main barrier to my pancake making aspirations was a lack of milk, but I did have extra yogurt. I also planned to use Chia seeds to boost the protein content in my pancakes, and a lot of recipes I read used buttermilk with Chia seeds in pancakes. Since Yogurt+milk is one way to make a buttermilk substitute, I decided to try it. It was surprisingly delicious, considering the somewhat random assortment of ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup of Greek Yogurt (I used Siggi’s Blueberry, which contains 14g of Protein)
  • 1/2 cup milk, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped and pitted cherries

First, I mixed the wet ingredients: yogurt +1/2 the total milk (so 1/4 cup) with the Chia seeds, vanilla, and maple syrup. I let that mixture stand while I prepared the dry ingredients and chopped the cherries. This was the only time consuming part, but it was alright because during this time the Chia seeds soaking up the moisture and swelling to twice their size. This is why I only add half the milk, because otherwise the Chia seeds would soak up all the moisture and the pancakes would be very dry. Another solution would be to add less chia seeds of course, such as 1-2 Tbsp, but this would lower the overall protein content of the pancakes.

Next, mix the chia-yogurt mixture and pour it into the dry ingredients, along with the extra milk, the egg, and the fruit. Mix until just combined and cook in a hot buttered pan!

A good butter can definitely improve the taste and texture of pancakes, I fancy Amish Roll Butter, which I picked up at Penniman Hill Farm on a weekend getaway to the South Shore with the fiance. I hear that it’s not ACTUALLY Amish, but it hardly matters because it’s still hand-churned and absolutely more delicious than anything in the grocery store.

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The Registry Dilemma

With the wedding less than two months away,  items from our registry have started arriving at our doorstep. Every time I come home from a long day at work to find a package waiting, reminding me of my upcoming nuptials, it puts a smile on my face and I’m touched that people are thinking of us and spent their hard-earned money on things that make us happy.

However, our Registry didn’t always bring me so much joy. In the beginning, it was a huge source of stress for me. For one thing, I love to shop. At one point I was spending so much of my income on clothes, I went on a self-imposed shopping hiatus and only wore six items of clothing for a whole month (with washing, of course). I attempted to prove that I didn’t need a continuous supply of new clothes. I soon feel back in to my old habits, so it was only natural that when I got engaged the Registry was one of the first things I started working on.

But where to register? Immediately, I made spreadsheets of the best places to register for each type of thing; was I more interested in housewares or honeymooning? Which places had the best perks? Completion rewards? Free gifts? I was quickly overwhelmed by the choices. I liked small appliances from Macy’s and linens from Bed Bath and Beyond, but I liked flatware from Crate and Barrel. Instead of paring down my interests and making a decision, I did what I usually do- I didn’t decide. Instead I went with a “universal” registry where I could add any item from any site…and went a little crazy. Soon, I’d expanded to TWO universal registries: Amazon, and MyRegistry.

My Registry

Amazon RegistryMy level headed fiance attempted to pull me down to Earth. He patiently reminded me that perhaps we really didn’t need three sets of flatware and four kinds of wine glasses. And while I was inclined to agree, I was stuck in a mental loop thinking about my life to be…and not MY LIFE NOW. I was living in a Pinterest-inflicted wedding nightmare: shouldn’t I use this registry to craft the perfectly manicured home that was to follow? Wasn’t it my only chance??

The concept of “entertaining” suddenly became all too acute, and I was aware that I had nothing specific to serve cheese on, for example. What a travesty! I had to rectify this RIGHT NOW. Immediately I went down the rabbit hole; there are so many choices: wooden boards, marble boards, slate boards… different shapes (hearts! states! animals!), ones with accessories and ones with tools. Cute ones and Classy ones. How can I ever choose? Every now and then my mind would be blown: how can I  turn down a board that features little cheesy islands floating amongst a sea of swirling crackers that ALSO cutely says Cheese and Crackers? Obviously I need it! I need them all! I will become a cheese serving MACHINE! Muhahahahahaa!! Okay no, I didn’t add that one. But still, it’s an adorable idea.

Cheeseboard

Cheese & Crackers cheeseboard from Uncommon Goods

Just as I was the compulsive Registry adder, my fiance was the compulsive Registry researcher. I would add the first thing I saw that I marginally liked, then add ten more of the same thing, and promptly experience regret and then hopelessness when I found something better and realized I should choose only one. My fiance favored researching all the possibilities for one object then thoroughly and fully vetting each one before deeming it worthy to add.

Both approaches provoked disagreement and unrest, and I started getting anxious, as if furnishing our home together was a terrifying glimpse into the fate of our subsequent marriage. I lost sleep at night, I started to dread our registry conversations. But then I took a step back and a deep breath…and calmed down. I looked at the things we most wished for but couldn’t afford or needed for our life now (not our invisible future life) and I added those. I added things we would use, and better versions of things we had but wanted to upgrade. The registry started to take shape. I was stunned when I read Bon Apetit’s “The Kitchen Tools you actually need on your Wedding Registry” and found that our newly pared down list had almost all of those, but not too much extra fat.

I’ve learned it’s a process not to be taken lightly, but shouldn’t be overly stressful. As with most wedding things, a happy medium is the best, and freaking out too much doesn’t serve much good. Now let’s hope I can bring this zen attitude to the rest of the million things I have to do, and this wedding will be a breeze.

Chocolate Chip Banana Protein Pancakes

It’s Sunday morning, and there’s no food in the house. All I have is two week old bananas that look a little sad and brown: perfect for cooking! There’s no milk or eggs, only a free bottle of vanilla flavored protein shake I picked up as a sample at Boston’s Earthfest this weekend. I don’t even know why I took one, I hate vanilla flavored drinks! I also had less than half a bag of mini chocolate chips…the makings of some banana pancakes! So instead of running to the corner doughnut shop to pick up breakfast, as my fiance kindly offered to do, I opted to try using this protein shake (which was mostly soymilk based) as a milk substitute in a chocolate chip pancake recipe. The results were surprisingly delicious!

2014-05-18 09.45.01Modified from Bakerella’s Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups of Flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp Flax Meal + 3 Tbsp water, mixed (or 1 egg)
  • 1 cup Svelte Organic Vanilla Protein shake (or milk of choice)
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas (~1 cup)
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

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The banana and chocolate flavor nicely masked the protein-vanillaness of the shake, and gave it an extra something to keep us full throughout the day. I also used two tablespoons of sugar in my pancakes but I think it could even be omitted since they were plenty sweet already between the shake and the chocolate. I didn’t even have to use syrup.

To start, mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then separately (I like a Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup instead of another bowl) mash the bananas, to one cup. Then add the protein shake “milk” to 2-cups, mix, and add flax “egg”, melted butter and mix it all up. Then pour it into your dry ingredients and stir a few times until combined. I like to melt butter in a pan over medium heat before adding the pancake batter, then flip away! I add more butter each time I make a new batch to prevent the pancakes from sticking. If you have a non-stick griddle this isn’t necessary.

Tips for flipping pancakes perfectly every time: Once I volunteered at a pancake breakfast, pouring and flipping dozens of pancakes at a time. People were surprised how easily and mess-free my flipping skills turned out to be: apparently pancake flipping was my secret superpower! I had learned from my mom how to flip pancakes long ago, and her method turned out to be foolproof. I followed these simple steps:

  1. Pour a spatula sized amount of batter into the pan. Not too big, not too small (although smaller is easier). A little less than a quarter of a cup of batter.
  2. Don’t touch the pancakes until the edges are matte (no longer shiny) and bubbles appear. You should see bubbles even toward the middle of the pancake, even if it is still shiny in the middle.
  3. Slide your spatula underneath, wriggling it slightly side to side as you go
  4. Twist your wrist to flip, and flip with confidence! Don’t panic.

Now you’ve made the perfect pancakes!

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Sunday DIY: side table transformation and 5 tips for spray painting furniture

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We have had fleeting days of good weather (even though it’s mid-April!) and I’ve been wanting to get outside and transform this little side table since the winter. Finally this weekend, some sunny and sixties weather descended and I jumped at the opportunity.

This table must be more than thirty years old: I remember it housing our printer when I was just a toddler at my parents house, then it hopped a ride with me to college to hold my very own printer. Since then, it traveled 3,000 miles with me to my current apartment where it’s been struggling to find it’s purpose, not only because I no longer need a printer, but also because it was so hideous looking.

Browsing the spray-paint aisle, I settled on a teal-grey color scheme, and decided to accent both surfaces with the bright blue color, and painting the rest grey. I like how it turned out, but unlike my last spray painted furniture adventure of a little end table, this one was much more challenging because I couldn’t simply separate the pieces I wanted to be different colors.

For this, I gleaned the following few quick tips if you’re thinking about spray painting your own well-loved furniture:

  1. Clean your furniture first. Little specks of dust will definitely show up if you try to paint over it. Try to remove as much as you can first.
  2. Painters Tape: always and often. Especially for nice edges, it’s a worthwhile venture to spend time trying to get the lines of tape just right, and make sure they thoroughly covered. Spray paint can leak beneath the tape for an uneven edge, and this looks messy.
  3. Beware of the wind. It may seem like doing things outside in a “well ventilated area” as they say on the can is a good idea (and it is) but try to choose a less windy day for your spray painting activities. I ran up against little bugs, pieces of grass, all kinds tiny things that would love to stick to your wet paint.
  4. Be patient. Let’s be honest, I am not the most patient person. But waiting for the first coat to dry before applying the second is absolutely essential if you want an even application. I had to wait at least 20 minutes in between.
  5. Use a piece of cardboard to touch up the edges. I found this tip the most useful. With a two-tone piece like this, sometimes I missed a spot and want to give it a quick spray of one color without disturbing the other. For that, I held a piece of cardboard against the edge to spray a clean straight edge, while protecting the other color on the opposite side. I didn’t risk using tape over the new paint, even if it was mostly dry, so I just shielded it with strategically placed cardboard.

Even though I had this table lying around waiting for a makeover, I’d really like to pick up some free and more interesting pieces on Craigslist and make them over. I think I *might* be addicted to furniture DIY.

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12 Days of Meals: Eating Inspiration

As the wedding draws closer (140 days away!), I’ve been trying to make an effort to eat healthier. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into a boring food routine, where branching out becomes take-out. And while I’m an expert eater, I shy away from the stove unless it’s for Mac ‘n Cheese or breakfast foods like fried eggs, pancakes, and french toast. Fortunately, my fiance more than makes up for my lack of stove talent by growing his cooking skills exponentially, and I just had to share some of his creations here.

For a several weeks now, my culinarily inclined fiance tried really hard to make interesting and delicious food to tempt me away from the ever present graduate school pizza. This is seriously no joke: during the last week, I had pizza for lunch three days in a row and twice for dinner! Extremely bad for my waistline. Eating home-cooked food is always better and cheaper than ready made meals, even if the foods we choose to eat at home aren’t the most calorically restrictive. For example, one of the meals we had is a burger, which is probably the least close to diet food, but having bison meat instead of beef is much leaner and just as delicious. We drew inspiration from many different cuisines to keep it interesting, and just had fun with it. If anyone has ideas for fun and interesting recipes, please send them my way!

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

  1. Puff pastry stuffed with ground chicken, currants, and parsley
  2. Roast Chicken with Quinoa, chopped Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds
  3. Roast lamb with Bacon collard greens
  4. Tomato poached eggs with ground beef and cous cous
  5. Chicken Mole burritos
  6. Tempura battered Fish with homemade tarter sauce
2014-02-23 21.09.417. Homemade Ramen with shaved beef and enoki mushrooms
2014-02-23 21.15.248. Roasted honey mustard and bacon Brussels sprouts
9. Spicy sausage tacos with guacamole and pickled cabbage
10. Coconut lime mussels
11. Kale and chorizo Portuguese stew
 
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12. Homemade Bison burgers with a fried egg and homemade pickles
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The challenge for this coming week is not to buy anything at the grocery store that contains added sugar. It’s going to be tough, but just the simple awareness of ingredients in the food that we are buying can help us become more conscientious eaters, on the path to healthier eating!