Better Choice Brownies

Last weekend, Nicole posted on some form of social media that she was making brownies for after her first full marathon (go tell her congrats, she did great!). That was really all it took for a brownie craving to set in.

I, however, did not run a full marathon (or a half, or even the equivalent of a quarter) this weekend, so I opted for black bean brownies.

bbbThat’s really all there is to it. Drain the beans, puree (or mash), stir into the box mix (in place of the oil, water and egg) and the fantastic little Ghirardelli pouch o’chocolate it comes with and bake as usual. Yum.

I once had someone tell me the WHOLE pan had “only like 300 calories,” which is so not true at all, but they do have less fat and calories and more protein than the traditional brownies and I think hit the spot. I’m taking the leftovers to work to see if the boys notice anything is different!

Work Lunch: Greek Cucumber Salad

I usually take leftovers for work lunch, but on Sunday night, I wanted fish tacos and A. you can’t take leftover fish to work, it’s against all the rules and B. there were no leftovers because they were awesome and I’m getting really good at cooking just enough for one.

So, I prepped something different for my work lunches on Sunday afternoon – a new Greek cucumber salad recipe.  Note I said new.  That’s dangerous because what if it sucks? I get cranky and woozy if I don’t eat!

But, it was all stuff I liked and it was based on a Rachael Ray recipe, so how can you go wrong?

Greek Cucumber Salad (for one to-go lunch)
half a cucumber – thick slices, quartered
handful of grape tomatoes – halved
half a bell pepper – chopped
an eighth of a red onion – chopped
a few kalamata olives – quartered
Combine all veggies. Top with olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and feta crumbles.

As you can see, my “recipes” are quite precise.  Follow with care!

I chopped on Sunday and added the oil and vinegar before I took it to work so it was nicely soaked in. The veggies are all pretty firm, so they’ll hold up to the dressing, which is nice because then you avoid taking dressing and then forgetting it and then forgetting which in the communal mini-fridge are yours and then everyone’s mad at the person who’s taking up all the space in the already-small-for-nine-people fridge, including you because you have no idea they’re ALL YOURS. 

In addition to getting cranky if I don’t eat, I also get totally lethargic, which makes me cranky, if I have a big (for me) lunch, so this suited my as-of-late mini-meals plan, but if I wanted a little more, I might add some hard-boiled eggs or it would be really good in a wrap and of course, it could just be a really good side for something heartier.

I get so bored and uninspired by my work lunches sometimes, but I’m in love with this one - it’s so easy and quick and a great way to eat fresh!

My Mother’s Potatoes

I am my mother’s daughter so when I signed up to take mashed potatoes to Thanksgiving dinner, I did what my mother would do…I attempted to double the recipe that already claimed to make eight servings even though there were only eight people at dinner and obviously there were many other things to eat!

I say attempted to because I made slow cooker garlic mashed red potatoes (yum!) and my crock pot is a mini-me and only fit the ingredients for a single batch.  It’s actually a good thing because my family ate and liked the potatoes AND  took some home, but I took the bulk of the leftovers and just finished them on Friday! Imagine if I had made a double batch. (My sister is also our mother’s daughter and actually did double her sweet potato au gratin casserole recipe and ended up taking the whole second dish home with her!)

But, still, I was left with the extra five pounds of red potatoes I never made.  If you followed along, you’ll see how I blame my mother for those five pounds of potatoes, which is why, when my mother came over for breakfast after the GOTR 5K (she was a running buddy!) yesterday, we had potato breakfast burritos. 

There were no pictures of the food, so I’ll just tell you they were pretty and yummy.  Just sautéed/steamed green peppers and red potatoes, eggs, cheese and salsa verde.  Further proof that I am my mother’s daughter, I used the smoke detector as a kitchen timer.  Twice.  I blame the turkey bacon. 

Since I like cooking and baking so much recently, I should probably just leave this little quick access to smoke detector set up as is.  And yes, that is It’s a Wonderful Lifetime on the TV…I love made-for-TV holiday movies!

A Spoonful of Agave

This week at the PA house, this was happening:


It was my first oh-my-gosh-I-own-this-place-and-can’t-just-call-the-management-company moment, but all I could do was laugh about it (okay, and let’s be honest, freak out and cry a bit) and have a parade of contractors come in to figure it (a sneaky little leak issue) out and fix it so I could move on with my life. It gave me great opportunity to practice my “he’s not as vicious as he looks” deadpan.

Gets ‘em every time. Oh, that’s ME laughing at my own joke? Oh well.

Still, I wouldn’t be ME if it didn’t stress me out at least a little, so I kept up with my usual methods of stress management – mostly yoga and swimming lately – but I also decided to try what seems to work for other people and I took to the kitchen.

My favorite roommate was always baking…correlation to her being my favorite?!  I don’t think she was necessarily stressed out, but being in the kitchen just made her happy.  One of my good girlfriends from high school used to tell me how relaxing it was for her to chop carrots. 

I don’t quite get it, but it was worth a shot, plus it’s not Christmas season until there are Christmas cookies!  These M&M  Peanut Butter Cookies are a favorite of mine year-round, but instantly become Christmas cookies with Christmas M&Ms (Easter cookies with Easter M&Ms, Fourth of July cookies with Fourth of July M&Ms…you get the idea).

M&M Peanut Butter Cookies 

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. peanut butter
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 and 2/3 c. flour
3/4 c. quick cooking oats
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 oz. M&Ms

Cream butters and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Gradually mix in dry ingredients.  Add M&Ms.  Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes.

After freezing my tail off at our last GOTR practice on Thursday, I stopped by the store for the M&Ms and milk, of course, but when I got home (and out of my nice warm-up bath) I realized I was missing brown sugar! Since it was still cold and potentially rainy outside and I was cozy inside, I didn’t want to go to the store again, so I looked up how to substitute what I did have – amber agave – for the brown sugar.

The recommendation was 2/3 of the amount of called for brown sugar (using math in every day life…Mr. Garibay would be so happy).  There was debate on whether or not to reduce the total liquid – a definite yes if subbing it for white sugar, but since brown sugar is a little wet anyway, it could go either way.  I decided to just keep the other ingredients the same and the cookies did come out a little too moist, so perhaps next time I’d use just the egg whites…or just remember to pick up brown sugar!

As for whether or not it soothed my soul, I’d give it a thumbs up.  While it didn’t dry up my leak, I did enjoy being in the kitchen and focusing on a recipe and having my house fill with the lovely smell of freshly baked cookies.

Pumpkinpalooza

I don’t go crazy for pumpkin stuff. Well, except a few years ago I had pumpkin cheesecake from CPK that was awesome.

And I usually head to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte as soon as they’re out for the season, except this year, I realized I don’t really know how to order the damn thing  - I’m not okay with having to ask a barista to NOT put whipped cream on my coffee because, well, it’s coffee and whipped cream shouldn’t be an option - and what I really want anyway is my regular drink, an Americano, with pumpkin spice flavor.  So now I know.

Anyway, I really don’t think of myself as one of the pookie for pumpkin types, until this happened:

Those are pumpkin scones btw. I made them and drank that last night after this happened:

Staying in won out. When making a training schedule, I think it’s important to know yourself. I know that as my day moves along, my chances of working out get slimmer, which is why morning workouts and straight-from-work workouts work best for me.

My official training for my next race doesn’t start until Christmas Day, but until then, I do have a plan that is meant to keep me sane during the holiday season and on track to be able to start the training without starting from square one.

Based on my recent acceptance that the 7:15 class doesn’t work for me and changing priorities and responsibilities in my life, I’m going to be revising that schedule because it’s way better than being frustrated and disappointed that I’m not following it.

Anyway, back to the scones.  I found this recipe on The Granola Chronicles early in the season:

Ingredients
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter
1 egg
additional sugar & cinnamon for sprinkling

Blend the pumpkin, yogurt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in the butter, and then stir in the pumpkin mixture and egg until just moistened. 
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead briefly. Split dough into half and shape each half into a circle that is 3/4″ thick. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cut each evenly into six wedges and place on a lightly greased baking sheet 2″ apart. 
Bake at 350 for 23-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

I held on to it until a few weeks ago when I made a quasi-fail half-batch.  They came out somewhere in between muffins and scones because I added extra pumpkin and yogurt because they seemed too dry.  Yes, I know that’s kind of the idea. 

I probably wouldn’t have made them again, except the recipe only calls for part of the can of pumpkin, so I decided to take another shot at the scones to use up what I had left and made a full batch this time. 

Patience is a virtue, so I therapeutically kneaded until it was combined instead of tossing more wet ingredients at it to hurry it along.  And this time, I got scones!  While I don’t necessarily recommend pairing them with pumpkin beer (coffee is really the way to go), don’t knock it until you try it!

As-You-Like-It Veggie Enchiladas

Fall makes me want to eat home cooked meals. Owning a home makes me want to be a little more domestic. Not eating very well for the last month or so + taking a post-tri training break for the last week has me wanting to clean up my diet.

I bookmarked a veggie enchilada recipe from Runner’s Kitchen last year and finally decided Sunday was the night. Originally I was thinking of adding chicken, but the produce section at Safeway looked particularly lovely today (and crowded…apparently everyone is jumping on the healthy food train, yay!) and I picked up a few veggies that I thought would be good mixed in with my favorite black beans.

Here’s how my version ended up:

4 whole wheat tortillas
1 can black beans, drained
1 green bell pepper
1 zucchini
a few handfuls of corn kernels
small can green enchilada sauce
salsa

Chop and start sauteing the pepper and zucchini.  Add corn and finally the beans for just a bit.  Pour some sauce in a casserole dish and scoop the filling into each tortilla – mine were soft taco size, but burrito size would have probably been better for the amount of filling it made and to get them wrapped up - roll and tuck the ends.  Place in the dish.  Pour more sauce over top.  Cook at 350 for 25 minutes.  Top with salsa and serve.

I really don’t remember the last time I cooked a real meal; it was definitely the first in my new kitchen!  Since I was there getting comfortable, I also got busy cooking some chicken for take-to-work lunch salads for the week.  I love Sunday cooking and the leftovers I have stocking my fridge this week!

Grilled Cheese

I had a point when I started, but now I’m just going to go with, please forgive me this word vomit, it’s the Monday after a glorious three-day.

It was a lot of bike rides, girlfriends, pool time, reading, potentials, sushi, wine, a dive bar, live music, shopping and family.  Be jealous.

My training has been all over the place lately.  I’m mostly following a plan to get ready for my second 10k, which will be my last race of the season.  It’s getting toasty in Arizona, so I’m kinda sitting here wondering WHY I signed up for a race in mid-May (oh yeah, to honor this man’s short life and support a few good charities).

Anyway, because I’m expecting warm to hot weather, I’m not psyching myself up too much for an awesome race.  Yes, I’ll probably PR (woohoo for being able to say that since I’m now running repeat distances!) but then again, pretty much anything would beat my first 10k performance in which I was untrained and hungover/drunk.  Hey, don’t judge, I’ve come a long way in five months!

My knee has been bugging me since Pat’s Run, which is why I’m mostly following a training plan.  I’m trying to cross train more and rest, but by rest I mean work out yesterday morning and wait until tonight to train again.  That’s a solid 30 hours of downtime for the old knee!  There’s a hip thing too.  Perhaps my sports doc was onto something when he suggested PT?

My training two-piece came in, but I don’t like the color.  It’s a great suit so I’m exchanging it.  There are children in my pool right now anyway, so I can wait until it’s so hot that only the crazy people go in the pool (or outside in general). 

For my reward for the 10k – because OF COURSE I’m still setting my goals – I’m thinking of bike accessories (Meyer needs a lock and a basket), Ironman sunglasses (because my LA/Scottsdale look while running I’m sure is pretty redic) or going big with an indoor bike trainer. 

And happy zucchini bread day!  Yeah, it’s a thing.  I was going to post the ah-mazing recipe I recently found and fell in love with (I think it’s this one with applesauce instead of the oil) and beautiful pictures of the process of making it, but then I remembered zucc bread is pretty dangerous if you don’t have anyone at home to share the loaf with AND that two of the lights in my kitchen are out and the pics coming out of there are pretty dismal.

Now can we talk about when I looked up zucchini bread day, I learned this:

I’m slightly upset there’s only five days left to celebrate this glorious occasion, but let’s be honest, ain’t no party like a grilled cheese party ’cause a grilled cheese party don’t stop.  Plus, there’s still plenty of time to go Paradise Melts truck hunting.

Come to me!

Killer Tofu

New levels of crunchiness are being reached every day.

I bought tofu a while ago intending to make a recipe my parents suggested to me but I never got around to it.  The veggies that went with it didn’t last long and I used them in other ways before they went bad but that tofu has been staring at me for weeks and the expiration date was coming up, so I figured it was now or never.

Now, I could have gone to the store and bought the veggies again, but let’s be honest, if I went to the store, I’d probably find awesome dollar brie again and end up eating it with a loaf of fresh French bread for dinner.  Gosh, it’s hard to be a single twenty-something these days. 

So, I decided to use what I had.  Since this was my first time cooking with tofu, I just kinda wanted to learn the ropes.

I pressed the extra firm tofu for a bit, chopped it up a bit, sautéed it a bit and ate it a bit.  I’d give better instructions, but I got my info here, so you might as well just check that out.

It was good, but needs a little something.  I’m glad I’ve lost my adult tofu-ginity (considering how I lost it as a child – my mom’s infamous, forced-fed tofu meatballs – I wasn’t sure it was going to happen again) and plan to include more in my diet. 

Well, after I finish this first batch of leftovers!

When Life Hands You Rice, Make Rice Pancakes

I made rice the other night.  I can’t remember if I’ve ever made rice before, so A. I was intimidated because I’ve heard it’s pretty dang easy to mess up, B. I didn’t realize how long it was going to take and C. I didn’t think about how much cooked rice would result from preparing a cup of uncooked.

A girl can only eat so many burritos. 

I wanted to use what I already had and I LOVE B4D (also known as breakfast for dinner or brinner), so I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for rice pancakes that called for ingredients I already had in my kitchen!

The baker who posted it on AllRecipes.com said she came up with the recipe to accommodate a lot of food allergies.  I guess the pull is that they’re gluten-free and could be made vegan with the substitution of soy or almond milk.*

Rice Pancakes
1 cup cooked rice (mine was brown)
1 cup milk
1 and 1/4 cups rice flour (I didn’t have and used regular, therefore, mine were not gluten-free)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients with a hand mixer for 2 minutes and (shocker!) cook them as you would regular pancakes.  Makes six average-sized pancakes.

As a very novice pancake-flipper, I really appreciated that theses pancakes held together pretty well in the pan.  The rice made them dense and moist, but they weren’t too “ricey” (even though my kitchen ended up smelling like a chinese restaurant).  They pretty much just tasted like pancakes! 

Last night I topped with syrup and this morning I’m taking one to work with some jam.  Yum!

I still have a lot more rice left over, so I just might have to make them again.  Such a sacrifice!

*I think.  I don’t follow either of these diets strictly and am not 100% sure of the ins and outs.  Please correct me if I’m wrong!

WTF, Eggplant Edition

That means “What The Food?”  You, potty mouth, you.

I assessed the fridge sitch this morning with a quick glance into my produce drawer, saw an eggplant and freaked.

I know eggplant is not THAT strange of an ingredient, but it does fall into my category of food-that-I-thought-was-weird-when-I-was-growing-up-and-claimed-to-not-like-even-though-I’d-never-tried-it.  

Now that I’m older wiser not as picky, I think eggplant deserves a second chance.  My problem is that it is just so shiny and purple and fun-looking.  And cheap! Eighty-eight cents for something I’m going to turn into my main course? Yes, please! 

But then I get it home and wonder what I got myself into.

I made eggplant once before – baked and topped with balsamic.  I lied and told myself it wasn’t so bad, but yeah, it was kinda bad.  I guess I’m ready to redeem myself and admit that recipes are my friend. 

Option #1 was eggplant parmesan.  Safe, but not the healthy, fresh dinner I had in mind for tonight, so I found option #2:  eggplant with yogurt and dill.

I’d post the pictures and recipe, but long story short, I don’t think I liked it very much.  Essentially, it’s roasted eggplant, garlic and shallots topped with walnuts and tossed with yogurt and dill.  I just wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be. Is it a salad?  Is it a side?  I had decided it was my main course, but the attitudy eggplant was more like, “I do what I want.”

And now I have leftovers.  Do I heat them up?  Eat them cold?  Let them sit in my fridge until I realize it’s April and something made in February desperately needs to be tossed?

Eggplant – 2.  Megan – 0.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me?  Hell no.  I’m too stubborn for that.  This is not over.

If you’re intrigued, and maybe if you happen to like eggplant more than I do, you can find the recipe from Food Network here.