Avocado Paninis with Basil Mayo on Whole Wheat Focaccia

We eat a lot of sandwiches ’round here.

They’re quick and easy, perfect for those nights when we’re too ravenous to take the time to cook. They’re also super healthy if you use lots of veggies and a great whole grain bread. Yesterday, I got the hankering for a hearty, whole wheat bread and found a wonderful recipe that I hope you’ll try. Homemade bread makes the absolute best sandwiches! A panini maker doesn’t hurt, either. My gem of a sister-in-law got me a mini George Foreman for Christmas and I’ve been making great use of it.

If you’re not into baking your own bread (it’s quite a process!), I’ve put the sandwich recipe first so you can try it out with your favorite store-bought bread. It’s a delicious combination of flavors!

Avocado Panini with Basil Mayo

Basil Mayo:
Combine 2 T mayo or substitute (I love Vegenaise, a great vegan option, or olive oil mayo) with 1 T fresh basil, chopped tiny, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Sandwich:
Bread (duh)
Avocado, sliced or mashed
Tomato, sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh baby spinach
Monterrey Jack or Mozzarella cheese

Spread the mayo on bread, pile on the sandwich fixings, grill, and enjoy! Simple and delicious.

The next half of this post is dedicated to those of you who, like me, are willing to wait 14 hours for a fresh loaf of bread.

Yes, I said 14 hours.

Fear not, brave soul! There isn’t a whole lot of actual work involved in making this bread, just a whole lot of waiting. You know how yeast works, right? You’ve gotta be patient with it. In this case, extremely patient, because we’re making a poolish, which is a pre-fermented dough that needs to sit for 12 hours. But you don’t have to do anything – touch it, move it, stir it, nothing. Just let it sit there. You can sit, too, if you want. Take a nap, even. It’s easiest to whip up the poolish before you go to bed and it will be ready in the morning. You can even extend the time the poolish sits to almost 20 hours if necessary.

Let’s go!

Whole Wheat Olive Oil Focaccia
Recipe (barely adapted) by Food Network

Poolish:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
3/4 cup water
Pinch active dry yeast

Whisk all your poolish ingredients together in a medium bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours, or longer if refrigerating. When it’s ready, prepare the rest of your dough.

Dough:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
2 1/4 t active dry yeast
2 t fine salt
1 3/4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, flax meal, yeast, and salt) in a large bowl. Stir in the poolish, water, and olive oil to form a loose, sticky dough. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes (I know, more waiting). The original recipe actually calls for two additional 30-minute rising periods, but I was too impatient and skipped them. The bread turned out wonderful, but feel free to stick to the original recipe and let it rise longer if you like.

Preheat the oven to 425 and spray your pans with olive oil. Divide your dough into the two pans – I used a springform pan and a square nonstick casserole dish! You can use whatever baking pans you have; it doesn’t have to look beautiful. The loaves should look like discs (unless using a square pan, obviously 🙂 ), about 2 -3 inches deep.

Topping:
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Dried herbs, optional (I used thyme)

Combine the olive oil, garlic, and herbs and spread evenly over the two loaves. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown, remove from pans and let cool. Perfect for avocado paninis!

My favorite thing about this bread is the glorious olive-oil and garlic-flavored crust. Extra virgin olive oil is where it’s at, people. It tastes divine. I put it on nearly everything I eat. Not dessert…but yeah, everything else. 

This sandwich would be good cold, but if you crispify it (trust me, that’s a word) you end up with an olive oil crunch layer that almost makes you forget about the taste explosion that is basil mayo.

On a side note, Elesha and I have decided to post every Saturday and Wednesday, respectively, so y’all will have a better idea of when to be on the lookout for new recipes. Also, be sure to check out our updated Recipe page and the Skinnyfat Recipe Makeover page. We’re so thankful for all of you and we look forward to sharing more food adventures with you this year, so keep reading!

But first, make a sandwich.

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

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Crunchy Pecan Granola

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. I’ve definitely got a bad case of the after-Christmas blues, especially after taking down my tree today. Well, technically I just moved it, fully lit and decorated, out of the living room and into the second bathroom that we never EVER use. Why spend hours taking a tree apart and putting it back together? When Christmas rolls around again, decorating will be a cinch! I think it’s a brilliant plan. Plus, if ever I’m in a bad mood I can simply draw up a hot bath in the old bathroom, plug in the tree, and listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. It’ll be Christmas all year round in there!

Has everyone made their resolutions? I have quite a few, so I’ll just share a couple of them. More than anything, I want to continue to live a healthy lifestyle and be more committed to nutrition and daily exercise. Some others: Learn to drive stick. Develop lots of new recipes. Learn how to use my camera. Practice calligraphy. Learn to sew. Figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Blog more. Buy a bicycle. Oh yes, and stop hanging every darn thing on the refrigerator! It’s getting ridiculous.

Oh, and lastly, eat more waffles. My mom got me a Belgian waffle maker for Christmas, so look out; I’ve already named 2012 ‘The Year of the Waffle’. We’ve had them for breakfast twice already this year and it’s only January 2. I would hate for the world to end and have the regret of not eating enough waffles. I promise to post my recipe once I perfect it. Yesterday’s waffles weren’t so great, but today’s….mmm boy! They’re whole wheat, vegan, and use soy milk curdled with apple cider vinegar! Doesn’t that sound tasty? 😉

Now, about this granola: it’s without a doubt the best granola I’ve ever tasted. I gave it to some friends for Christmas and they all loved it, too. My husband says we could sell the stuff. I got the recipe from one of my dearest friends, who got it from her sister, who adapted it from a recipe she found…somewhere. The only trouble I see with it is that some of the ingredients, namely the coconut oil, pecans, and coconut palm sugar, are rather expensive and may not be something you have on hand or want to splurge on. While I do suggest sticking to the recipe if possible (because it’s perfection), you can make substitutions if necessary: other nuts of your choice for the pecans, butter, a butter alternative, or canola oil for the coconut oil, and a darker sweetener (such as brown sugar or sucanat) for the coconut palm sugar. Also note that the wheat germ can be omitted if you don’t have any, and oat bran is easily made by blending rolled oats into a coarse flour in a coffee grinder or food processor.

Crunchy Pecan Granola

Ingredients:
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional, I love them!)
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup molasses, honey, or agave

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together.

 2. Whisk the oil and molasses together and add to the oat mixture. Mix well.

3. Divide the oat mixture onto two baking sheets and spread evenly. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring all the way down to the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or so. Bake longer if you prefer darker, crunchier granola. Let cool and serve.

Granola is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast (besides waffles). I especially love it with Greek yogurt and chopped fruit for a delicious and healthy breakfast parfait. If eating healthy is one of your resolutions this year, make sure to eat breakfast; it’s the most important meal of the day!

I topped this parfait with banana, shredded coconut, and homemade blackberry sauce. What tasty additions do you put on your parfait?

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

December is the best month of the year, hands down.

To kick things off, we celebrate a very important birth – mine. Yep, I celebrated my 25th birthday on the first! The hubs threw me a surprise party so wonderful that I actually cried with joy. I’ve always heard that as you age you become more emotional, and so far it seems to be true. I cried while watching a Shirley Temple movie this weekend. Seriously?

Me and the hubs on my birthday.

When all the birthday hooplah ends, the Christmas hooplah begins, full swing! FedEx started delivering the holiday goodies to the office this week. First, Creme Brulee Almonds!

The next day we got a gingerbread cake. This was not just any old cake. This cake made all my molasses dreams come true. I hadn’t even realized I had molasses dreams. I also hadn’t realized how delicious gingerbread can be. This cake is incredible. Amazing. It’s magic cake.

As with most cake, the magic is made with refined sugar and flour, so I thought it best to eat just a small piece. Fine, two small pieces. Okay, three! Three small pieces! Thankfully, there are other people in the office to eat the rest because I probably would just eat it all by myself.

I’m really hoping FedEx brings cheese next week. Hey, we got some last year – it could happen! If not, another gingerbread cake would be acceptable.

The hubs and I have been doing a lot of juicing to offset all the holiday indulgence.

Besides some almonds and three small pieces of cake, the holiday indulgence I speak of is mostly cookies. I become cookie monster at Christmastime. Me want cookie…like, every day. And pluralize that cookie; me want 3 or 4. One of my favorite things in the world is snuggling up with a hot cup of somethin’ and warm cookies from the oven to watch a christmas movie in my fleece pajamas. Life can’t get any better that that.

Baking cookies every night is a great idea if your goal this holiday season is to put on ten pounds. That’s not my personal goal, but I still have trouble quenching the cookie monster within, so I did some experimenting with recipes and substituted the white, sugary stuff with healthier sweeteners and whole wheat. Success! I can now silence the cookie monster within without gaining ten pounds! Please remember that while these are a healthier alternative to regular cookies, they’re still cookies and should be considered a treat! During December, however, treats are permissible at least once a day, so you may want to stock up on flax seeds.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from this recipe, makes a batch of 12 cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa (regular or dark; I used a combo)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup butter or substitute, nearly melted (I use Smart Balance Lite)
1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar (if you don’t have either sweetener listed below, go with 1/2 cup)
1/4 t stevia (optional)
1 T raw sugar (optional for added sweetness or if you don’t have stevia)
1/2 t vanilla
1 flax egg (or 1 regular egg)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks (I use 60% cacao bittersweet chips – low in sugar)
1/3 cup walnuts (optional, but definitely make the cookies nice and “chunky”!)

(For those of you who have never made a flax egg before, click here for step-by-step instructions. Easy peasey, lemon squeezy!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a flax egg, make it following the instructions provided in the link above and put it in the fridge to set for at least 15 minutes.

2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, sugars, stevia, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in the flax egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and spread the dough into a flat cookie shape (these cookies will not melt or spread, so they will bake in their pre-baked shape or a little bit puffier).

3. Bake for 9 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set but still soft. Remove from cookie sheet immediately (so they don’t continue to bake) and let cool.

I like gooey cookies and these did not disappoint. I made two batches; one with a regular egg and one with a flax egg. The batch with the regular egg came out a bit too dry or “bread-like” for my taste (actually, those are the ones pictured), and I preferred the flax egg batch, which was much more gooey. I did notice that even the flax egg cookies had dried out a bit by the next day, so I recommend either making a smaller flax egg or eating the cookies the same day as you bake them. Also, if eating the cookies more than a day after baking them, I like to heat them in the microwave for 8 – 10 seconds.

So go ahead, feed your chocolate craving and enjoy the holidays!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Chocolate Mousse Pie

Hi, my name is Becky and I’m a recovering chocoholic. I once had a collection of about 50 Hershey’s milk chocolate bar wrappers that I made into a giant frame for my bedroom wall. It was serious.

I still have a deep love for all things chocolate (except for chocolate cake, which is strange, right?), but I’ve developed an even deeper love for healthy living. While Hershey bars don’t exactly fit into a healthy lifestyle, that doesn’t mean I have to give up chocolate! In fact, dark chocolate actually has health benefits, which is why I’m perfectly comfortable indulging my chocolate addiction with a piece of chocolate mousse pie.

Okay, two pieces.

Of course, even dark chocolate should be eaten in moderation. If this pie was all chocolate it would be super high-calorie, which is fine if you only want a small slice of pie. But really, is one tiny slice of pie satisfying? I want two big slices! That’s why we’re adding tofu. A whole block of it. Don’t freak out, you won’t even notice it’s there!

Tofu never ceases to amaze me. It can take on any form and any flavor with ease. It’s the chameleon of the food kingdom. It can be  the highlight of a meal, like in this asian-inspired glazed tofu recipe, or it can be a completely hidden ingredient, like in this chocolate mousse pie. Tofu not only makes this pie a perfect balance of firm and creamy, but adds a ton of protein. Add the nut crust and you’ve practically got yourself a protein pie!

This recipe is taken from Chocolate-Covered Katie, a great source for healthy dessert recipes. Check her out!

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Nut Crust
Adapted from this recipe, makes one 8-serving pie

Ingredients
For mousse:
1 box Mori-Nu lite firm silken tofu (available at health food stores or amazon)
1 and 1/3 cups chocolate chips (NOT unsweetened; I like Ghiradelli semi-sweet or 60%)
2 T cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp nondairy milk
Dash or two of salt
2 – 3 T agave or honey (optional, depending on desired sweetness)

For crust:
(Note: you can use a pre-made graham cracker or granola crust, which is easier and less expensive, but also less healthy and less delicious!)
1.5 cups nuts 
3 T vegan butter substitute
1 – 2 T sweetener of choice

Instructions

Step 1: Pulse the nuts in the food processor until finely ground. You can use whatever nuts you have – I use a combination of walnuts, almonds, and pecans, which taste excellent! Add the butter and sweetener (I used a stevia blend) and pulse again until well mixed.


Step 2: Press the nut mixture into a 9″ pie plate and bake at 325 for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Step 3: Put all pie ingredients into the food processor except for the chocolate chips. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, then use a rubber spatula to scoop the chocolate into the food processor. It’s fine if you lick the spatula clean. We all do it.

Step 4: Blend mousse ingredients until smooth, pour into nut crust, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 


Step 5: Serve with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chocolate shavings, or coconut whipped cream (easily made by refrigerating canned full-fat coconut milk until thick)…or all of the above!


Bet you didn’t expect tofu to make all your chocolate mousse dreams come true! I suggest buying quite a few boxes of tofu, because this pie will immediately beocome a household favorite that you’ll want to make again and again. And then probably again a third time. Besides that, you may or may not need a box for an upcoming recipe that involves cheesecake and brownies…

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Potato Corn Chowder

Last weekend I traveled to Michigan to visit some dear friends. My life has been a whirlwind ever since, so I’m glad to finally be able to relax and have time to post (and cook!). I put together a little collage to share some of the highlights of my trip.

We were the elements for Halloween – earth, fire, wind, and water – and went out to eat looking all glamorous and sparkly. I’m still finding glitter on my face a week later. My flight was out of Chicago the next day, and before I left we ate in the city at our favorite place in the world, Friends Sushi. They have the best vegetarian sushi on the planet. It was a marvelous weekend, but it’s nice to be back; there’s nothing quite so comfortable as coming home and sleeping in one’s own bed, except for maybe a bowl of hot soup.

I grew up in New England, chowder capital of the world – namely, clam. My family didn’t eat clams, but my mom made a mean corn or fish chowder. Chowder nights were an exciting event, and I remember many exclamations of “Mom’s making corn chowder for dinner!”

I’ve shared my enthusiasm about soup season before. Once the air has even the slightest hint of a chill to it, I’m ready for soup of every kind, every day of the week! However, at least in my biased, Massachusetts opinion, no soup will ever be as comforting and delicious as corn chowder. Chowder wears the crown.

So here’s my own personal recipe for thick, creamy potato corn chowder, no heavy cream or butter required.

Potato Corn Chowder
Makes approximately 8 servings

8 cups vegetable stock
3 lbs red potatoes, washed and chopped
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 t olive oil (to saute onions)
2 cups corn (or 2 small cans)
1 cup Silk creamer, unsweetened
1 – 2 T Smart Balance Lite (optional, for buttery flavor)
Dried herbs (optional: parsley, oregano, basil, bay leaves)
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Thinly sliced green onions and/or chopped basil, for garnish

Step 1: Bring vegetable stock to a simmer in a large pot. At the same time, saute the diced onion and crushed garlic in olive oil in a pan over medium low heat.


Step 2: While your broth simmers and your onions saute, chop your potatoes into bite-size pieces. I realize it sounds like I’m asking you to be a crazy multi-tasker here, but I promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds.

Step 3: When the onions are clear and tender, add them to the broth. Stir in optional dried herbs and butter substitute. You don’t have to be precise – I added a few generous shakes of the herbs listed above, but you can add more or less or omit entirely depending what you like. Add the potatoes, and let simmer until soft.

Step 4: Strain out 2 – 3 cups of softened potatoes into the blender (or fill the blender until it’s about 2/3 full). Pour the silk creamer on top of the potatoes in the blender and blend thoroughly until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little broth so it will blend more easily. It should be very thick and creamy (and hot, so be careful!). Pour the blender contents back into the soup.

Step 5: Add the corn and fresh herbs. Fresh parsley and basil play a huge role in the flavor of this chowder. While you can use dried substitutes, the results will not be nearly as satisfying. Use the fresh stuff – corn chowder deserves the best! 🙂

Step 6: Finally, bring to a very light simmer while stirring and at the first sign of a tiny bubble, turn off the burner. Add salt and pepper to taste until your tastebuds dance with delight. Garnish with more fresh herbs and green onions and serve!

Aah, there’s nothing like a belly full of hot chowder on a cold November evening!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Mini Apple Cinnamon Empanadas

I’ve been thinking about tarts a lot lately. Fruit tarts, savory tarts, chocolate tarts, ugly tarts, pretty tarts, any and all tarts. I came home with every intention of making tarts (three ways, mind you), but at the end of the night I had 25 mini empanadas staring me in the face and not a tart in sight.

I don’t know how that happened. I must’ve been baking on auto-pilot again.

Fear not, fellow tart-lovers, they’ll make their debut. For now, let’s enjoy what tastes like a bite of warm apple cinnamon cheesecake wrapped in a whole wheat blanket. As it turns out, empanadas don’t have to be fried or filled with greasy meat to taste utterly sinful. Waistlines, rejoice!

Mini Apple Cinnamon Empanadas

Dough Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 T stevia (or other dry sweetener)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter or alternative (I use Smart Balance Lite. You can also sub half oil of your choice. And please, PLEASE don’t ever use margarine!)
1/4 cup cold water

Apple Filling Ingredients:
3 – 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 – 2 T butter alternative
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 – 2 tsp agave (optional)

Cream Cheese Mixture Ingredients:
4 oz tofu cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese, non-vegan alternative)
1 – 2 tsp agave (depending on desired sweetness)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Step 1: Prepare your dough. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sweetener, then cut in the butter (or alternative) with a fork or pastry cutter. Sprinkle the water and cut in until the dough is crumbly. Knead the dough lightly for a minute, form into a ball, wrap, and put in the fridge to rest for about a half hour.

Step 2: While the dough chills, peel, core, and chop the apples. Chop small pieces for smooth filling or larger pieces for a chunkier filling.

Step 3: Heat a pan to medium low and add the apple filling ingredients (apples, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and agave). Cook down, stirring frequently, until the apples are completely soft, gooey, and about half their original size. While they’re cooking, preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine all cream cheese mixture ingredients (cream cheese, agave, and vanilla), beat until smooth, and set aside.

This is the beginning of the cooking process; as you can see, they're not gooey yet. The aroma was irresistible, and I was burning my fingers so bad picking out apple chunks that I eventually just got a fork to eat them straight from the pan to spare my scorched fingers. These apples are dessert all by themselves.

(Note: Brandy would be an excellent addition to the apples. I was momentarily tempted to tell my husband that I was taking up drinking so that I’ll always have alcohol on hand just in case a recipe calls for it, but I must have caught another waft of buttery vanilla and lost my train of thought. All this to say that if you happen to have Brandy in the cabinet, please add a splash or two.)

Step 4: Remove the dough from the fridge and roll onto a floured surface until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as many 4-inch rounds as you can (I used a large jar lid to do this; be creative if you don’t have the right tools!) and line them on a floured cookie sheet. Gather the leftover scraps of dough, knead together, and repeat the rolling and cutting process until all the dough has been used.


Step 5: Top the dough rounds with a spoonful of the apple filling and cream cheese mixture. Fold one side over and seal the empanada closed by crimping the edges with a fork.


Step 6: Brush the tops of the empanadas with a very light layer of non-dairy milk (optional) and add a few more sprinkles of cinnamon (if you’re a cinnamon freak like me). Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until slightly crispy around the edges. Let cool for five minutes and serve warm with a drizzle of coconut cream or a little scoop of non-dairy ice cream if you want to really indulge!

Warm, seasonal, and so darn cute! These little guys just took my cinnamon obsession to a whole new level. I’m beginning to think that in addition to calcium, manganese, and vitamins A and K, cinnamon may also contain a significant amount of crack. Autumn is the season of giving and generosity, so give yourself permission to be generous with cinnamon at all times. It’s critical to your health. 🙂

Here’s hoping autumn never ends!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Zucchini (and Friends) Bread

Now that it’s fall, I go weak in the knees for all things baked. So when I came across this easy (and adorably written) recipe, I knew I had found a quick cure for my bread craving.

After devouring a thick slice with melty butter (Smart Balance, really), I was satisfied…momentarily. I wanted more bread, but not the simple, yeasty bread I’d just baked. I wanted dense, sweet, gooey bread. Zucchini bread.

The recipe I used was really just a guideline. You won’t believe the nutritious goodies I’ve added! Besides zucchini, this bread will fuel you with banana, flax seed, applesauce, coconut, walnuts, and wheatgrass. Yes, wheatgrass.

Poor wheatgrass. It ain’t easy being green. One of the superest of superfoods, hardly eaten by the average American. And even then, it’s usually only consumed in green juice or powdered capsule form. Why are we such grass haters? Grass has rights, too. Give grass a chance.

I realize I sound like a hippy, but I promise I’m still talking about wheatgrass.

I saw a small bottle of wheatgrass capsules in the store last week for $28.99. No, no, no! It was all wrong! Instead, I bought a container of the fresh stuff in my local health food store for $1.89. Better, right? The fresh stuff has more of the good stuff in it, anyway. I think the reason people don’t buy wheatgrass is because they think “You want me to eat grass? Ew! Nasty!”. Well, think again, people, because this recipe allows you to reap the health benefits of wheatgrass and not even realize you’re eating it. No more excuses!

Zucchini (and Friends) Bread
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

3 cups flour (I used half white whole wheat, half whole wheat pastry)
2 t cinnamon
1.5 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup finely chopped wheatgrass
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup coconut meal (I have lots left from making milk)
1 very ripe mashed banana
1/2 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
1/2 cup canola oil (or oil of your choice)
2 t vanilla
1/2 cup raw sugar (or other dry sweetener, or 1/4 cup stevia)
2 T agave (or other liquid sweetener)
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

NOTE: I realize you may not have every single one of these ingredients on hand. No worries, you can omit the wheatgrass, applesauce, coconut meal, banana, or walnuts if you don’t have them. You can even substitute other nutrient-dense foods in their place: carrots, squash, oats – get creative!

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the dry ingredients (the first six) in a large bowl.

Step 2: Mix the rest of the ingredients except for the zucchini and walnuts in a separate bowl. When mixed thoroughly, add the zucchini and walnuts.

Step 3: Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix thoroughly.

Oh YUM - look at the green bits!

 Step 4: Scoop mixture into a well-oiled bread pan.

Step 5:  Try not to eat too much of the delicious batter. I failed miserably at this step.

Step 6: Let bake for 1 hour or until you can put a butterknife in the center and it comes out clean. Let it cool. When I cut a slice a few minutes after taking the loaf out of the oven, it just fell apart. It tasted wonderful but it was just crumbs. I was devastated and thought I’d have to start all over. NOT THE CASE! 2 hours later I wanted another piece and it had magically bound together! Let it cool. Still, it’s very soft, so be sure to cut through it carefully so it doesn’t fall apart.

Pretty simple, right? The only hard part is all the waiting, but I promise you – it’s well worth it!

Hopefully all this bread will silence the baking monster within me for a few days. After that, I’ve got a couple cans of pumpkin in the cabinet begging to be put into Elesha’s pumpkin bar recipe, a pie, or maybe even brownies.

Fall is the best.

~Becky, a skinnyfatgirl

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally that time of year! The time of year when you decorate your home with dead leaves. The time of year for hot tea, acorns, sweaters, and pumpkins. The time of year when you can throw everything that’s been sitting in your fridge all summer into the crock pot before bed and have a magical soup ready in the morning. Yep, that time of year: soup season!

For the record, I encourage you not to put three-month-old ingredients into your next soup. Or any soup, ever. What I meant was that a good soup can be made from almost any vegetable known to man – except for  brussel sprouts. Those things just shouldn’t even be eaten in the first place. Yes, you heard me, I don’t like brussel sprouts. Hey, it’s not written somewhere that I have to like every single vegetable, okay?!?

Lots of recent blog browsing has led me to the conclusion that I’m not the only one who appreciates this season of hot, liquid food. In fact, I blame other bloggers for my current soup obsession. I found a wonderfully simple and delicious-looking tomato soup recipe that I plan on testing out over the weekend. But it was Elle’s post that gave me the idea of concocting a butternut squash soup recipe, and Lauren’s post sealed the deal – it was butternut squash soup or bust!

The thing I love most about butternut squash is that it doesn’t taste like butter or nuts but tastes delicious with both of those flavors. It’s almost as if the guy who named the squash was suggesting that it be combined with nuts and butter, so I followed his advice. I wish he could taste my soup and I could thank him for his brilliant suggestion, because I am confident that this soup will make it into the Soup Hall of Fame. Oh, it’s a real place – or at least it will be after I build it to ensure that this soup is remembered for eternity. You’re witnessing history, people!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
Olive oil
4 – 6 cups vegetable broth
1.5 cups cashew cream
3 T butter substitute (I used Smart Balance)
Seasonings to taste (I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper)

Step 1: Roughly chop all veggies. This is a creamy soup, so nothing needs to be neat or bite-size – it’s all going in the blender. Saute the onion, carrot, celery,  and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

Step 2: While the veggies are getting soft, prepare your cashew cream. You will need to plan ahead and cover 2 – 3 cups of cashews with water and let them soak overnight in the fridge. After soaking for at least 12 hours, rinse the cashews and cover with fresh water in the blender. The less water you use, the thicker the cream will be. Blend for at least 2 minutes until smooth.

I ended up adding more water to this because it was too thick.


Step 3: Don’t get so preoccupied with your cream that you forget your veggies are on the stove. Then you’ll have to start all over. 😦


Step 4: When veggies are soft (but NOT burnt), add the squash and the butter alternative. Remember to stir frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot or burns. You can add more olive oil if necessary.

Step 5: Let everything cook until the squash is soft and falling apart. When all the veggies are very tender, scoop them into the blender. Add a portion of the vegetable broth and a portion of the cashew cream to the blender with the veggies and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Repeat this process until all the veggies have been blended with all of the cream and broth.

Step 6: Wash your pot and put it back on the burner on low. Pour all of your smooth, creamy soup back into the pot and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. You can add other seasonings if you want to make it interesting, but the squash is so simple and flavorful that you probably won’t want to add much more to it. I actually added a teeny dash of pumpkin pie spice, mostly just to see if my husband would notice (he didn’t). Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.

I added a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick and an extra swirl of cashew cream. Parsley would be a nice garnish as well, but I didn't have any

My husband went absolutely crazy over this and ate two enormous bowlfuls. When my dad handed me his empty bowl he declared, “This soup is restaurant-worthy!”, but it was really hard to take him seriously with big orange globs dribbled all over his beard.

Pull on a sweater and enjoy a hot bowl of delicious, creamy butternut squash goodness. Then enjoy a second bowl, because it’s all vegetables and cashews, and it can’t get much healthier than that! This is what soup season’s all about.

EDIT: I made this again with Silk creamer and it was equally as tasty!

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Jicama Pear Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Step aside, boring sandwich and Diet Coke, because lunch at the office just got a whole lot more interesting.

No, you’re not in a pricey restaurant, you’re in the break room. This salad may sound fancy, but it’s really quite simple to put together, chock full of nutrients, and, best of all, entirely scrumptious!

I know what you’re thinking: those are some GIANT raspberries. Yup. Gigantic, delicious raspberries that were on sale, 4 cartons for 5 bucks! Definitely the best $10 investment I’ve made in a while. I didn’t initially plan to put them in my salad, but it turns out they add a necessary tartness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this heat and am really quite ecstatic about not having to put my head in the freezer anymore! And I’m sure my sad lawn will be grateful for a break from the unrelenting sun after being scorched for three months straight.

We have a tiny, random green spot in the yard. We call him "Patchy". We haven't had to mow since the first week of June because SUMMER IS A MURDERER.

This will be the last hoorah for summer recipes of the year, though I can’t promise that I’ll stop drinking strawberry coconut smoothies anytime soon. This salad is light and fresh – a great way to celebrate the last week of summer.

Jicama Pear Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Serves 4 (or, ya know, just me)

Ingredients:
1 medium pear, sliced
1/3 cup jicama, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup toasted pecans (I only had raw almonds, but they tasted great, too)
1/4 cup raspberries, chopped
3 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
3 cups chopped dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach; I used collard greens)
Optional: If you eat dairy products, goat cheese would be a wonderful addition!

For the dressing, combine the following ingredients and mix well:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1.5 T white vinegar
1 T agave (optional)
1 T olive oil (optional, I omitted)


Chop all of your ingredients. For collard greens, kale, and swiss chard, it’s preferable to remove the bitter spines from the leaves.

Toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Because it’s strong, you may not need to use all of the dressing, so add half, taste, and go from there. Divide onto four salad plates and garnish with all additional ingredients. Serve immediately.

What’s special about this salad is that it has so many different things going on at once. The citrusy vinaigrette brightens up the strong, dark flavor of the greens, jicama adds an earthy, root flavor, raspberries provides tartness, the pear is sweet and fruity, and pecans finish it off with a nutty crunch. I imagine goat cheese would add a lovely creaminess.

Of course, I have to mention that the fact that fresh, raw green leafy vegetables contain high doses of chlorophyll, easily digestible proteins, enzymes, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. They’re an easily accessible superfood that should be eaten daily. Berries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant content and are excellent sources of several phytochemicals that seem to help block cancer development. Additionally, nuts, pears, oranges, and jicama offer other health benefits. Your body will LOVE this super salad!

Powerful and tasty all at once? That’s why I eat four servings.

~Becky, a salad freak skinnyfat girl

Salsa Verde

I married a Mexican. Well, half Mexican, half Colombian…the point is, we eat a lot of Mexican food. I’m talkin’ probably 75% of the time, dinner is tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, chilaquiles, or guacamole with totopos.

Mexican food is simple, quick, tasty, and very healthy. You can easily incorporate lots of plants; shredded greens, pico de gallo, sauteed veggies, and chopped avocado work magnificently with any meal. Of course, beans are almost always a requirement and a great way to add fiber and protein to your plate.

While it’s easy to make healthy Mexican food, remember to avoid the traditional unhealthy stuff, such as white flour tortillas, fried chips, fatty cheese, sour cream, red meat, and the worst offender of all: LARD. If you have to eat any of it, do so in moderation! There are all kinds of great substitutes out there, so make use of them. We like whole wheat flour tortillas and corn tortillas, which can be eaten soft or baked for tostadas or nachos. I’ve found that if you pile your plate with enough greens, tomatoes, pico de gallo, guacamole, beans, salsa, and other delicious veggies, you won’t even miss the cheese or sour cream!

I’ve become a pro at scraping a Mexican meal together with just the bare minimum ingredients. Grilled seitan with onions, corn tortillas, and salsa can be sufficient for an enjoyable dinner. But if there’s one thing you simply cannot do without, it’s salsa. You can work around the other meal components, but salsa is a necessity. Salsa gives a touch of heat and burst of flavor. Without salsa, those grilled seitan and onion tacos would be dry, bland, and one-dimensional, but salsa gives it that kick and – voila!- it becomes a delicious meal.

Y’all should know me well enough by now to know that I don’t eat many things from cans, boxes, or jars, so our salsa is always homemade. Store-bought salsa is probably one of the healthier things you can buy in a jar, but honestly, you have no idea what you’re missing. Once you’ve tasted the homemade stuff you will never go back. I could slurp it up with a spoon. Or drink it from the jar. Gross.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Here it is, the best salsa I’ve ever made!

Salsa Verde (Green Sauce)

Ingredients:
10 – 15 tomatillos (green tomatoes)
3 medium serranos (more or less, depending on desired spiciness)
3 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (more or less, to taste – I use more!)
Salt, to taste

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Remove the dry, loose outer peel and wash the tomatillos. Arrange them on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish.

 

Step 2: Roast them for at least 30 minutes, but longer is better. The flavor will be better if you let them bake until they look almost burnt. Actually, the absolute best-tasting salsa is made by grilling the tomatillos on a charcoal grill, but I really wasn’t going to go through all that trouble at 10pm.

These guys baked for about 45 minutes. I would have preferred to cook them longer, but my kitchen was a sauna at this point and there’s only so long that I can bake myself at 400 degrees.

Step 3: Cut off the hard stem part on top of the tomatillos (you don’t really want that in your salsa). The reason you don’t cut them off before baking is so that the tomato juice can’t escape, although some of the tomatoes will “explode” in the oven, as you can see happened to the deflated-looking ones above.

Step 4: Grill the serranos and unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry frying pan until thoroughly blackened.
 
 
 
Step 5: Peel the garlic and take the stems off the serranos. Put the tomatillos, garlic, serranos, cilantro, and a few sprinkles of salt in the blender and blend until smooth.
 

That’s all there is to it – so simple, yet so flavorful! This can go on anything, and believe me, you’re going to want to put this on everything!

What’s your favorite healthy Mexican meal?

~ Becky, una chica Skinnyfat

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