And the great saga continues! (Click for Part 1 and Part 2.)

Our next great adventure was the lovely city of Florence.  My dad and brother spent the day visiting car factories, so my mom and I had the day to ourselves.  We caught a morning train into the city and soon began exploring the bustling streets.  There were a tad too many tourists for our taste, but we still greatly enjoyed our time.  Our favorite attraction was the Central Market.  It was an indoor market filled to the brim with vendors, and they had every type of food you could imagine from pasta, to cheese, to nuts and dried fruit, to fresh fruit and vegetables, to breads, pastries, and biscotti, to olive oil, to every cut of meat you could imagine (clearly just for me), and everything in between.  There were also a good amount of samples, my favorite being an exquisite truffle paste.  Truffles are very popular in Italy and for a good reason!
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Ohhh look at all that cheese!!!
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Talk about huge blocks of cheese… I can't even imagine how much these weighed!
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It was like they managed to find a way to dry every single fruit!
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Fresh pasta!
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While I'm not a fan of dry American biscotti, the real Italian deal is an entirely different, tastier story!
Florence really does have some gorgeous buildings.  While we didn't have the opportunity to see even half of them, we saw as many as we could!  And of course, we did see the Basilica of Saint Mary.  We were expecting the inside to be quite intricate to match the finely decorated exterior, however we found the gothic interior to me quite simple, though still beautiful.
The paintings in the dome were quite detailed however, and I loved the 3D nature of the floor.
While it may have been one of Florence's most famous buildings (and it was indeed beautiful), the city is full of other noteworthy buildings and architecture as well.
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Florence's oldest bridge is lined with shops.
Now of course Florence is home to Michelangelo's David, but the line was wrapped around the outside of the building, and mom and I decided that we didn't want to spend our day in Florence standing in a line.  I have never seen more lines than I saw in Florence in Rome.  Thankfully, you can pre-purchase tickets and avoid most of the lines.  We did that in Rome but hadn't thought the lines would be so massive in Florence.  We did up in one to see a museum (we had to see something!), and even for a line that had maybe 20 people in it, we waited nearly 45 minutes!  So the lesson: pre-order tickets whenever possible!

You're probably wondering what we dined on while in this gorgeous city.  Well, we ate at a little ristorante on a quiet side street.
We started with bruschetta, but it was nothing like the first time we had it.  In fact, it was rather disappointing.  The bread was dry and flavorless, matching the tomatoes that scattered the top.  There wasn't garlic or even olive oil!  We managed to get it down, but it took a hefty amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Luckily, the mushroom risotto that we split as our entree was quite delicious.  Much like topped the crostini the night before, the mushrooms were thick and meaty.  They really know how to do their mushrooms in Italy!  The risotto itself was also quite good, though I admit that I've made better at home.
The best thing we ate in Florence was the gelato (no surprise there I'm sure!).
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Just look at those fluffy pillows of gelato!
This time I tried fruit and yogurt (one flavor) and mint.  The fruit and yogurt was good, but oh goodness, that mint was incredible!  There were huge, glorious chunks of chocolate in it.  My mom got mint too, and she had a piece of chocolate that was bigger than one inch by one inch!
Although we greatly enjoyed Florence, one day was enough.  I had heard that I should as much time in Florence as possible, but I enjoyed the smaller, quieter towns more.  And as far as cities go, I liked Rome and Venice more. 

Speaking of Rome, that was our next destination!  Our first night there we didn't have anything scheduled so we wandered around the city and ended up visiting Castle Sant'Angelo.
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Bridge in front of the castle.
If the castle and small courtyard look at all familiar, you may be recognizing them from the movie Angels and Demons.  I watched that movie with my parents shortly after returning home from our trip, and there was a scene of "Robert Langdon" racing through that castle and courtyard, as well as several other places we visited.  That's one of the things that's so cool about visiting places like this - you see a movie filmed there and you can say, "hey, I was there!!"

There was an amazing view of the surrounding city from the top of the castle, and we even caught or first views of the Vatican!
Our first dinner in Rome was probably the most memorable meal of the trip - but not in a way you would think, or hope.  The food was crazy expensive, so we had to search for something cheaper in price, which we eventually found.  It was a cute little cafe with wide open doors welcoming us in.  The menu was written on a white board on the door, and although it was sparse, there were pizza and pasta options.  The rest of my family ordered pasta alla carbonara, a pasta dish with an egg sauce, bacon, and black pepper, a very popular dish in the Roman area, and I ordered the pizza margherita.  The man took our order and then retreated through a door in the back.  He emerged from what turned out to be a freezer with three boxes of frozen pasta, proceeded behind the counter where the microwave was stationed, and, without shame, began the "cooking" process.  He then whipped out a pre-made pizza crust with sauce from under the counter, sprinkled some cheese on top, and placed it in what looked liked a panini press.  We all watched, our eyes wide, not sure what to think.  He scraped the pasta from the plastic containers onto plates, slid my pizza onto a round tray, and dinner was served!
We all tried to keep an open mind, and my family said their pasta wasn't too bad.  While I wasn't expecting a pizza from a five star restaurant, that crust made rubber sound like fine dining.  I just couldn't eat it.  I hate to say something like this, but it was the worst pizza I have ever had.  The cheese was still fine, so I ate it off the top, leaving a naked crust behind.  I felt terrible, but I just couldn't stomach it.  The man was super nice though and even brought us complementary cookies!
We learned something that night - cheap price equals cheap food.  But like I said earlier, it was one of the most memorable meals, one that none of us will ever forget!

Since dinner was, well, kind of a bust, we decided we must end the night on a good note.  Of course, that meant getting our daily dose of gelato!  This time I got cherry (though I thought I had ordered almond - guess I can't read Italian very well!) and soy chocolate (again, I thought I was ordering regular chocolate…).  The cherry was okay, but the soy chocolate tasted like a fudge brownie!  Maybe it's a good thing that I can't read Italian. ;)
And that concludes Part 3 of my Italian adventures!  More of Rome to come in my next recap!

Is there a meal that you remember very vividly, though perhaps not for the reason you would hope?
 
 
If your missed my first recap post of my summer Italian adventures, be sure to check it out here!

The next site on our agenda was Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre is cluster of five "sister towns" on the west Italian coast.  What's special about these towns is that there are walking paths along the coast that connect them so that you can hike from town to town.  That is what motivated us to hop in the car and visit them, but unfortunately the paths were closed due to weather damage.  We still had a wonderful day however (I mean, how is it possible to NOT have a good day when on vacation in Italy?), with one of the coolest things being this marble mine we passed on the way to the towns where they were mining real Italian marble!
The towns were still lovely, though rather touristy.
Look at these tiny little farm trucks!  They have them all over Italy, especially in the country side.  They don't even have steering wheels!  Instead, they have a horizontal bar you push and pull on the ends to maneuver the automobile around Italy's twisting roads.  I'm bigger than it is!
And of course we had to get our daily gelato!  This time I tried lemon and pistachio.  The lemon was very refreshing, but wow, the pistachio was especially amazing!!
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Look at how blue that water is!!
Because the paths were closed, we had to take a train to the last town and didn't get to see the middle three towns.  Luckily, I think all three towns were pretty similar, but it still would have been nice to see all of them.
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An old World War II barricade that I explored with my brother!
My mom and I hiked up to the top of a hill where there was a really neat old cemetery (most of it above ground - it reminded me of the cemeteries in New Orleans), as well as gorgeous views!
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See the grape vineyards lining the hills?
We explored the town a bit, and then headed back to our pension, hoping to find dinner on the way.  We ended up stopping at this little place, in a rather abandoned feeling small town, called Ristorante Eloise.  It was an adorable, quaint cafe with only one other table occupied, but it was very homey feeling, and we felt like we got the true "Italian dining" experience (meaning that we weren't rushed out with the check but encouraged to stay and relax after dinner).  Pretty much every restaurant in Italy brings you bread as a part of the "cover charge."  As much as I love bread, even plain, white, rather flavorless bread can get old after a while.  Thankfully, this bread was extra special.  I believe it was bruschetta, the best bruschetta I've ever had!  The bread was toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil prior to being topped with the most delicious tomato topping.  I could have eaten a plate of that bread alone for my meal!
But thankfully I didn't do that or I would have missed out on the best pasta of my life.  It sounded simple on the menu (pasta with spicy tomato sauce), and it was simple, but that is what made it so perfect.  Rather than the sauce masking the flavor of the pasta, it complemented it.  The sauce wasn't hot spicy but very flavorful, showcasing the fresh tomatoes and spices.  The pasta was obviously homemade as it was wonderfully thick and chewy.  My whole family agreed that this was one of the best entrees we tried that night (though everything we had was fantastic), and by far the best pasta dish we had ever had.
I ordered a side of swiss chard and could only dream of being able to cook it like that at home!  Olive oil and garlic were obvious components of some of the best greens I'd ever tasted, but the swiss chard flavor shone through as well.  Still, there was not a drop bitterness.
Whille in Italy, my mom and I had a list of foods that we had to try, and on that list was Tiramisu.  We figured that this little eatery would be the perfect place to try it, as it was homemade, and it turned out we were right.  We had never had it before and weren't even expecting to like it, but we ended up loving it.  The coffee flavor was light but still present, and the cake was incredibly moist, rather dense (in a good way), and topped with the thickest, creamiest, whipped topping ever.  It was better that we had ever imagined.
 While the night was already perfect, it became even more perfect when our waiter/host brought this complementary drink to the table:
That would be a bottle of ice cold cream limoncello.  We found during our time in Italy that it is tradition to end a good meal with a shot of limoncello.  Because lemons are a big agricultural commodity in Italy, limoncello is a product commonly sold in Italy, much like olive oil.  And since the legal drinking age in Italy is 18, I got to taste it!  I only had a few sips, but it was truly wonderful.  Sweet, creamy, smooth, and as thick as cream.  That dinner was one of the best meals on our entire trip.

We drove to Tuscany the next day and so didn't see a whole lot that day (except for the gorgeous countryside), but we did have the opportunity to visit a really neat walled medieval town, San Gimignano, for dinner.
The gelato flavors of the day were yogurt and fruta de bosca (mixed berry).  We consumed our gelato just prior to dinner because it was late, and we didn't want to take a chance that the gelaterias might close! ;)
And for dinner, I had the most amazing mushroom crostini topped with plenty of cheese and fabulously thick, meaty mushrooms.
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The walled city was even more beautiful at night. Just look at that incredible sky!
My next Italian recap will include Florence and the beginning of my Roman adventures!  Stay tuned. 

Happy Wednesday everyone!
 
 
You know when you see a recipe and you're so excited to try it that you can't get if off your mind?  That was me yesterday morning when I saw a recipe for french toast casserole with praline topping and decided that it was the perfect dish to make my parents for their anniversary today.  It was an overnight casserole, so I put it together yesterday afternoon before work and then this morning excitedly made the topping, piled it on the pan, and shoved it in the oven.  I imagined my parents waking up in about half an hour to the smell of sweet cinnamon and vanilla and stumbling down the stairs half asleep to be greeted with a melt-in-your-mouth delicious breakfast.  

Well, if there was a smell that woke them up, it was definitely not cinnamon or vanilla but a burnt smokey smell.  I didn't set the house on fire or anything, but I had to turn on the hood fan, open the doors, and stand under the fire alarm waving a towel above my head so that the fire alarm wouldn't set off.  There was so much smoke in the oven that I couldn't even see the casserole.  Fortunately, the topping actually turned out pretty good, but the bread itself was still sitting in egg batter and was rather goopy.  It wasn't a complete disaster, but I just wanted it to be perfect for my parents, and it was far from perfect.

That whole experience almost deterred me from doing any more cooking today, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and try out a recipe I had thought up in my head this morning.  Yesterday I bought some millet because I love trying new grains, and I love it in bread.  I also happen to have a ton of mint growing in my garden, and of course anything is better with fruit and cheese.  I sure am glad that I didn't let my cooking experience this morning stop me from whipping up this dish because it. was. incredible.  Good enough to serve at some fancy restaurant incredible.  Please do yourself a favor and try this.  I promise you won't have an experience like I did this morning with the casserole.
Creamy Goat Cheese Millet with Honey-Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Fresh Mint
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1/4 cup uncooked millet
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk of choice (I used coconut almond milk)
Sea salt + fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 ounce crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh mint leaves

Directions:
For the millet:  Heat a small pan over medium-low heat and add the millet.  Toast, stirring frequently, until the millet begins to pop.  Cook for a few more minutes and then add 1/2 cup water and the milk.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Towards the end of  the cooking time, stir in the remaining water and continue cooking until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in salt and pepper and about two-thirds of the goat cheese.
For the strawberries:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees, line a pan with aluminum foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk the honey and vinegar together.  Toss with the strawberries and spread them out over the foil.  Save honey-vinegar mixture.  Roast the strawberries in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
To assemble:  Spoon the millet into a bowl and top with the roasted strawberries, mint leaves, and remaining goat cheese.   Drizzle the left over honey-vinegar mixture on top. 
This truly is one of those recipes that needs no perfecting because it already is perfect.  I'm not trying to toot my own horn, it just made me so happy that something actually turned out after I was nearly in tears with that casserole this morning!  This is also a perfect summer dish as fresh berries have actually been tasting like berries lately!  This dish definitely made up for my cooking flop this morning, and I know it will brighten your day as well.

Have you had any cooking flops lately?
What are you favorite summer foods?
 
 
I feel like I haven't posted a recipe in, well, ages really.  It's probably been about six months, and that is just way too long.  Thank goodness I'm breaking that streak today!
Yep, it's being broken with donuts.  Why?  More accurately, why not?!  I mean, chocolate donuts spread with luscious, creamy frosting and packed with about 20 grams of protein… do you really need any more convincing? Ya, I didn't think so.
CHOCOLATE PROTEIN CAKE DONUTS WITH CREAM CHEESE PROTEIN FROSTING
Donut recipe based on my chocolate peppermint donuts.
Serves 1

Ingredients:

For the donuts:
•  1 /4 cup spelt flour
•   1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•   1/8 teaspoon baking soda
•   1.5 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
•   smidgen nutmeg
•   1/4 cup Greek yogurt
•   1 tbsp applesauce
•   3 tablespoon liquid egg whites or 1 egg white
•   1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•   sweetener to taste (I used liquid stevia)

For the frosting:
•   2 tbsp whipped cream cheese
•   1/4 scoop vanilla protein powder
•   1 tbsp almond milk

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or 375 on convection) and grease two donuts of a donut pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and nutmeg.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, applesauce, egg white, vanilla extract, and stevia/sweetener.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until well combined, but don't over-mix.  
  5. Spoon the batter into the greased donut pan and bake in the preheated oven for about ten minutes.  Test with a toothpick!
  6. While the donuts are cooling, mix together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until combined and smooth.  Remove the donuts from the pan, frost, and devour!
Now my absolute favorite part of this recipe is the awesome frosting.  Seriously, I could have a bowl of just the frosting for breakfast and be one happy camper.  I'm thinking the frosting would also be great on pancakes or waffles.  Don't worry, I'll be testing it out ASAP.

So go make some donuts, drown them in frosting, and sit in the kitchen (or in bed, I won't judge) with a smile on your face as you have your donuts and eat them too.  

Do you like donuts?  Are you a fan of frosting?


I hope everyone's week is off to a great start!
 
 
A few days ago, Enlightened sent me a coupon to try out their healthy, natural ice cream bars.  I love trying any new product, but I especially love ice cream of any kind, and healthy ice cream is even better!
The bars come in fudge, peanut butter, orange cream, coffee, and toasted almond.  They also sell ice cream sandwiches in vanilla bean and mint flavors.  My store only had the fudge and peanut butter bars, so I snatched up the fudge flavor wondering if it would taste at all like fudge bars!

But first off, let's take a look at the nutrition facts to see just what makes these bars so healthy!  The bars have 8 grams of protein (yes, 8!!!), 5 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of sugar.  They also have only 70 calories making them perfect for a light treat or snack any time of the day!

I excitedly opened up one of the little packages awaiting inside the box and found this inside:
I loved that even though they are low calorie and healthy, they are still a good size!  It's always disappointing when something is so small that it only lasts a bite or two.  Not the case here!  Of course if it had been even bigger I definitely would not have complained because these bars are awesome.  But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here… let's talk taste!  

It is recommended that the bars sit out to temper for three to five minutes before eating.  The first time I had one, I was so excited to try it that I completely forgot to do it, but I was sure to remember next time and set it out for a full five minutes.  It was a bit softer when I let it sit out, but I honestly didn't notice any other difference.  Both ways the bars were soft but firm (in a very "fudgey" way - they live up to their name!) and were so creamy and rich in flavor that if I had been wearing a blind fold, I never would have guessed I was eating something low fat and most definitely nothing healthy.  At first, I claimed that these were better than fudge bars, but then I realized that I hadn't had a regular fudge bar in years so perhaps that isn't a very good comparison.  Like fudge bars or not, however, Enlightened worked some real magic into their healthy ice cream bars, and I can't recommend that you try them enough.  I can personally say that I will be buying their bars again and am excited to try their other flavors, as well as their ice cream sandwiches.

Also, I wanted to mention that I found this company to be very nice, helpful, and responsive.  The corresponder that I worked with was awesome!

So if you haven't had luck with low fat, "healthy" ice cream in the past, don't pass up these bars thinking that they will be the same.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised!
Have your tried Enlightened ice cream bars?
What has your experience been with "healthy" ice cream?

Disclaimer:  Although I was able to try these ice cream bars free of charge, I was not compensated to write this review, and all opinions are my own.
 
 
Hello everyone!  It is time for me to spill my Italian adventures to you!  Obviously there is more than can fit into a single post, but I have to start somewhere!  I realize that Part 1 isn't a very creative title, but I thought it was better than a laundry list title of all the different places I talk about in each post, so they will be broken into "parts".  Who wants to read a title that's five or so lines long?!  But I digress....

We flew into Zurich, Switzerland and spent our first afternoon exploring Luzern.  Of course we had to walk across Chapel Bridge, which was absolutely lovely and so "old" feeling, almost like walking back in time.
We also hiked up to the top of a hill, and our eyes were rewarded with some gorgeous views of the town and the Swiss Alps.  Unfortunately it was a rather cloudy day so we couldn't get a full view of the Alps, but what we could see was beautiful.
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A clock tower at the top of the hill.
It was in Luzern that I had the amazing cream cheese and cucumber sandwich that I was talking about in my last post.  It may not look like much, but you can't judge a sandwich by it's appearance.  Behold...
We stayed the evening in Genoa, a coastal town in northern Italy.  But to get there, we had to drive through the picture-perfect Swiss Alps.  
I love Colorado mountains, but they still don't quite stand up to the Swiss Alps. The mountains towering over the road were lined with hundreds of waterfall streams.  It was truly beautiful.

When we arrived in Genoa, we had one thing on our mind: food!  So we walked down to the water and settled with a classic for dinner.  Can't go to Italy without having pizza, am I right?!
My mom and I split this margherita pizza.  We imagined that, being in Italy, it would be cloaked in basil (which we were excited for because we both LOVE basil) so we were a bit disappointed when we found only a tiny sprig.  It was still a good pizza though!  The crust was the thinnest, most "cracker-y" crust I'd ever had, which was nice because it made the meal light and not too filling, leaving plenty of room for gelato. ;)  My dad had informed us before we left on our trip that we must eat gelato everyday, so this was our first round of it.  I had strawberry, which was nice and refreshing!
The next morning, we departed Genoa, and our Italian adventures began!
We did spend some time in the country exploring some smaller towns, but for the most part, we acted like the tourists we were and hit the major sites.  I mean, how could we not see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?!
Outside was magnicient, but my brother and I decided that it was also necessary to hike to the top.  Thus we embarked up the spiral staircase together and found that not only does the tower look tilted - it also feels tilted from the inside!

The top of the tower had some amazing views of the surrounding area.
That night for dinner, we ate at a local restaurant in a small walled city.
We had bread to start, as we did in most restaurants we ate at in Italy, and then ordered sheep cheese with honey and walnuts as an appetizer.  Cheese and honey was a pretty common thing in Italy, and after trying it, I know why!  I want to try it again here at home because it is truly a wonderful combination of sweet and salty.
For my main course, I ordered the vegetable soup.  It was a very simple soup, but one that I found to be quite common in Italy.  It was almost like minestrone but with very few beans and no pasta.
The gelato for the day was once again strawberry!
Well these are only the first few days, but I think this post is already long enough, so the adventures will continue next time!  I hope everyone is having a lovely week!
 
 
And once again, summer is here.  This past school year was the busiest yet, but also the best because I tried so many new things and felt that I had a true college experience.  I learned that I don't have to spend every minute studying to get good grades, and that in fact life is much more fulfilling when you spend spare time in other ways.  However, I did greatly miss blogging so hopefully this summer I will be able to reconnect with all of you and continue to share my love for food!  Also be prepared for some posts with pictures of Italy sprinkled in here and there as I recently returned from a three week vacation to the beautiful country with my family.

Now, what better way to return to the blogosphere than to participate in my favorite WIAW party?! 
These are Monday's eats (with a few recycled pictures from Sunday because some of the meals were just too good to not repeat)!

I'm still recovering from jet lag so I was up by 5am!  Breakfast was so good though that I really didn't mind.  Like most of the blog world, I enjoy  pumpkin all year long.  These pumpkin pie pancakes were the best pumpkin pancakes I've ever had!  They were adapted from a recipe on instagram and were just incredible.  I didn't even need or want to top them with anything - they were perfect on there own!  I also had an apple and my daily mug of green tea.  Breakfast perfection.
My morning snack was my favorite KIND bar flavor.  I will never tire of the sweet and salty combo!
Lunch was a repeat of Sundays' lunch - Vegetable cream cheese spread on Rudi's seven grain bread, a peanut butter chocolate chip chickpea blondie, steamed broccoli with honey mustard, and almond milk with vanilla protein powder!  When I went to Italy, we flew into Zurich and stopped for lunch in Luzern.  There I had the most amazing sandwich that was simply cucumber and cream cheese on a hardy bread roll.  I couldn't stop thinking about that sandwich the whole trip and this was my first attempt at an at home recreation!
Afternoon snacking consisted of some gorgeous fresh berries and a black forest carbmaster yogurt!  It was my first time trying this flavor, but after one bite I was in love.
While in Italy, I got an intense craving for Mexican food, and Monday night, I satisfied that craving with my favorite vegetable enchiladas and black beans from my local Mexican restaurant.
And of course no day would be complete without dessert.  I topped a peanut butter chickpea blondie with Halo Top chocolate ice cream, truwhip, and Walden Farms caramel sauce.  So good!  I've been having this combination every night this week.
Do you see batman?  Clearly I have talent in pouring caramel sauce. ;)

Now how have all of you been?!
 
 
Who else likes the site of a nicely browned, almost black banana?  While I prefer bananas on the greener side (though not as green as I used to...), I often buy a bunch of banana, forget that I have them, and they soon become too brown for me to eat plain.  It may seem thus that I personally don't like the site of black bananas, but in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.  You see, that part about "forgetting" I have them?  Well, that's kind of on purpose... Why?  Well, browned/black bananas equal banana oatmeal, banana pancakes, or more importantly, banana bread.  

So when I saw some lonely, way-past-eating-plain bananas sitting lonely on my counter, I knew just how to remedy the situation.  Now I also had about three-fourths of a zucchini in a fridge that was also looking for some attention.  So I dumped them in a pot and threw it in the oven and out popped some of the best banana zucchini bread that I've ever made.

Now to be fair, I've never made banana zucchini bread before (I know, I know, I'm sure it's something that everyone else has made loads of times :P ) so that last statement is a bit misleading.  But if there weren't tiny specks of green, you would think that your were eating plain 'ole banana bread.  And then you might agree that it was some of the best banana bread you had ever had.  At least that was my experience, and I hope it is yours as well!
Banana Zucchini Bread
Makes 4 small loaves or 1 large loaf

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup spelt flour (you could probably sub for a gluten-free flour)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (if you want to really be able to taste it, add more)
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup shredded zucchine (about 3/4 of a medium sized zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup agave (could probably sub maple syrup or honey)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon liquid stevia (adjust to taste)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup almond milk

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.*
  2. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until well combined, but don't over mix.
  5. Scoop the batter into a greased loaf pan or four mini loaf pans.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, turning half ways through.**  Test with a toothpick.  Allow the bread to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  (The bread is pretty moist so you may want to store it in the fridge if you won't be eating all of it right away.)

*My loaf pan is dark which is supposed to bake at a lower temperature.  If you are using a lighter pan (such as the silver ones), I would try setting the oven to 375.
**This time was for my four mini loaves.  If you are making one big loaf, it will probably take closer to an hour.
This was one of my first attempts to bake with coconut flour, but it turned out perfectly!  I couldn't be happier with the result.  So if you're skeptical of it, maybe give it a try!

I also wanted to give a quick update on my foot... I went to the doctor yesterday, and while I don't have a fracture, it's close.  My bones weren't recovering quick enough from my runs (apparently the break down and build up just like muscles) which is what caused my issue.  It sounded like it had finally healed, but I got back into training too intensely too quickly and messed it up again.  He said it would probably be mid February before I can run again, and even then, it will only be for 2-3 minutes every three days until I can work up to running more.  So that half marathon in two weeks?  Ya, that isn't going to happen.  Learning that was really hard for me, but I know that it is more important that I get my body healed and healthy.  In the intern, I'm going to work on running in the pool, which I'm actually quite excited about!  So anyway, that's that.  The good thing is that is sounds like I will heal and be able to run again, but it is going to take time.


Have a great weekend, my friends!


Question:

Have you ever baked with coconut flour?
 
 
Happy first day of 2014 everyone!!  You may have noticed that I didn't write the infamous New Year's resolution post, and that is because, to be honest, I'm pretty happy with my life, and there's not a lot I'm looking to change.  However, one thing that I do want to work on is not stressing myself out so much about school.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that that was my goal for this past semester.  Yeah, that didn't exactly go as planned... but it's a new year so no use dwelling on the past!  Here's to a stress free (or at least less stress) 2014!

Did everyone have a good New Year's Eve?  I rang in the new year with some awesome chocolate and a 5k!  So without further ado, let's jump into WIAW!
The last day of my 2013 started with an apple and green tea (just like most any other morning), and was followed by waffles!  I've had a couple of waffle failures lately (you guys know about the worst one), so I went with my go-to waffle recipe.  I always make them with spelt flour and an egg white, and they never dissapoint.  Plus, I figured they were good carbs to load up on for my 5k!
Obviously they didn't hold together completely, but they still tasted amazing!

Mid-morning I snacked on some kale chips, and then at lunch time I dug into this plate:
Once again, I was going for carbs, and a sweet potato seemed like a good choice!  (But then again, when is a sweet potato NOT a good choice?!)  I covered it in loads of peanut flour paste and cinnamon and had it along with Kashi hummus crisps (addicted) and roasted brussels sprouts.

After lunch, it was chocolate time!  My mom and I make homemade truffles every year, and let me tell you what, they are the best truffles on the planet.  And no, I'm not exaggerating one bit. ;)  I would say they aren't the slightest bit healthy as the only two ingredients are chocolate and heavy cream, but we all know that chocolate, with all those antioxidants, is practically a health food.  Or if you don't buy that, will you at least buy that these little gems are good for the soul?
So we made them (and of course, had to taste test them), and then my dad dipped licorice.  We ended up with quite a bit of melted chocolate left over, so we went a liiiiittle crazy.  I dipped and ate a pistachio, macadamia nut, almond, spicy chipotle peanut (so good!), blueberry, and raspberry.  Just look at that gorgeous chocolate-covered raspberry!!  I dipped it so that it ended up filled with chocolate.  Move over strawberries, there's a new berry in town.
Picture
By the way, that is my mom's beautiful hand not mine. :)
We also dipped, and have yet to try, lemon ginger chews, oreo cookies, peppermint stick, orange segments, and lime segments.  And we made some pistachio clusters and spicy chipotle peanut clusters.  I would show you a picture of the pistachio clusters I made, but you might be eating, and they're not exactly appetizing (they kind of look like a bird had an accident in the house... and we'll leave it at that).

About half an hour before we headed to the race, I had my pre-run snack of a piece of toast with peanut butter and banana.
The 5k was in the dark which was a new and rather fun experience!
It was on a college campus so luckily they had rented a classroom for registration.
There were around 400 participants in the 5k, which seemed like quite a bit to me considering there were about that many in the half marathon that I did in September.  When I first signed up, I was worried that it would be cold, but being dressed in my warm running clothes, it was the perfect running temperature!
Picture
The start line!
To be honest, this race was tough for me.  Really tough.  Overall, I'm fairly out of shape because my foot hasn't allowed to be run a lot.  I took the three days before the race completely off from running in the hopes that it would be fine for this run, but it started hurting not too long after the start.  I probably should have stopped, but when I'm in that running atmosphere,  I can't give it any less than my all.  That is honestly one of the things that I love about running, but this time it worked against me.  I kept up a steady pace through out the course, but my foot was hurting, and I felt like I was going to throw up.  Still, I picked up the pace and sprinted for about the last tenth of a mile and passed everyone that was between me and the finish.  I have to say that that felt good!  Until I stopped running, almost threw up, and couldn't really walk.

My official time was 25:46 (which I was pretty proud of considering everything!), and I got second in my age group.
Today, my foot hurts.  A lot.  And I'm just praying that I didn't mess it up for good.  Looking back, perhaps I should have just walked it, but that is much easier said than done!  Even though I've never considered myself a very competitive person, that changes a bit when I enter the racing environment.  But let's move on to brighter topics... such as food!

We had planned to go to Panera afterwards (one of my favorite restaurants ever!), but it had closed early for New Year's Eve.  I was so sad!  We ended up going to a Thai restaurant instead and took the food to go.  I ordered some kind of a shrimp salad that sounded like it had a lot of interesting goodies in it, but it was awful!  It was basically a pile of rice noodles with a few shrimps.  The shrimp wasn't seasoned at all, and the rice noodles tasted like they had beed doused in nothing but fish sauce.  Especially after that run, it wasn't the slightest bit appetizing.  Instead, I took out the shrimp and dipped them in hot sauce.
Obviously that was no where near enough food to fill me up so I also had a bowl of peas and a wrap consisting of a flat-out wrap filled with hummus, provolone, avocado, lettuce, and tomato.  Much better!
Before turning in, I tried some of my dad's chocolate covered licorice, and even though I'm not a big fan of licorice, these were really good!
I guess another New Years resolution is to get my foot completely healed.  I have a half marathon in 18 days, but I'm going to look into switching to the early start and walking it.  It just isn't worth putting my foot through even more pain.  Hopefully I will get to see the doctor soon, and maybe they will take some x-rays.  The first doctor that I went to told me it was probably plantar fasciitis, but I'm not fully convinced it is.  I kind of hope it is though because I think that would be easier to heal than a fracture or something.  I just hope that someday it will no longer be an issue and that I can just run without worrying about it!

I hope you all had a wonderful and safe evening last night and that 2014 brings you joy and good times!  I am so thankful to have your continued love and support. <3


Questions:

Have you ever dipped truffles, fruit, etc.?  What is the strangest thing you've had that was covered in chocolate?

Did you have a good New Year's Eve?
 
 
You might be tired of seeing Christmas recaps around the blog world, but I'm going to put you through one more.  Sorry I'm not sorry.  Don't worry though, there will be lots (lots) of pictures!  Let's start with Christmas Eve, the night when my family and I have our special Christmas dinner.  Each year, we have the same amazing dinner, and it is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  Each member of my family contributes something to the dinner.  My mom makes her outstanding scalloped potatoes:
My mom and I make the bread rolls together (I think I could live on them alone):
I make Maple Glazed Veggies (big surprise that I make the vegetable dish):
And my dad makes the lamb, which of course I don't eat, but he also makes an incredible rosemary sauce that I bathe my chickpeas in.  Here's the entire spread:
And my plate filled with the goodies:
You may be wondering what my brother contributes to the meal.  Well, he's not exactly into cooking, but he always contributes well to the whole eating part.  Except for when it comes to the veggies... it doesn't matter how I cook them, he won't touch them!  Ah well, with me and my unconditional love for veggies, I guess we balance each other out. ;)

Oh and dessert!  We mustn't forget dessert!!  Here my mom shines again with her chocolate cream pie:
You have not lived until you've had a slice of that heaven.

After dinner, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights like we do every year.  Overall, it was pretty disappointing!  People just didn't decorate all that much this year.  But we did find a couple of houses with people that went all out.  I always wish we could stumble across a street like the one from Christmas with the Kranks.  Who knows what I'm talking about, and how awesome would that be?!

Upon returning home, we read our Christmas books (the Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, etc.), and then I was off to bed!  I had to get to sleep so that Santa would come. ;)

Christmas morning, I came down to this:
Side note:  Isn't our tree cute?!  We usually get really tall trees that we have to cut the top off of because they scrape the ceiling, but this year we couldn't find one (which might be a good thing because once it was so tall that it fell over in the middle of the night!).  So this one is about the same height as me.  It definitely made decorating easier - we didn't have to use a latter!

Since I was the only one up and I knew that it would be a while until breakfast,  I snacked on an apple and then had a Christmas cookie.  A special Christmas cookie because it was shaped like Piglet.  Does anyone else love Piglet??  When I was little, I called him Pigget (and still sometimes do...).  I've always thought that he is just too cute!! 
I then cleaned the kitchen for my mom, and several hours later, we opened presents!  I was so happy that everyone liked the gifts that I gave them.  It just makes my day to be able to put a smile on my family's faces.  

My parents travelled all over the world this past semester while I was at school, so they brought me back gifts from Vermont, Peru, Denmark, and Italy.  It made everything so special!  And my brother got me a Garmin!!
I was so excited that I took it on it's maiden voyage Christmas day!
I took it slow and easy for the sake of my foot.  I'm absolutely in love with this thing!!  And I love all the detailed information that you get when you upload it to Garmin Connect.  I'm now even more excited to go running!!

Going back in time a bit (just step inside my time machine), my dad made French toast for breakfast after we opened gifts!  For mine, he used Dave's killer bread, which turned out fantastic!  I topped part of it with chocolate pb2, which I loved, but I actually preferred the French toast plain - you can really taste the buttery flavor!  Of course, I had another piece. :)
And that's a [gift] wrap!  Sorry, I guess that was a failed attempt at some humor.  Anyway, I wanted to end with a few pictures of my pups!  These pictures just plain make me laugh.  They're like those pictures that are taken that you're not ready for, and you feel like you look like you're in the worst state possible.  In other words, I don't think this is really what my dogs actually look like.  I think they're adorable pictures anyway though... the angle just makes them goofy!
The best part about this Christmas (well, any Christmas really, but I've noticed it even more since I started college) was being able to spend time with my family - including the fury friends.  Christmas might be over, but I still have several weeks with my family before heading back to school, and I plan on cherishing every minute of it!

So now I want to know - how was your Christmas, if you celebrate?  Did you get to spend time with your family?