banana honey breakfast shake for 1

I make healthy shakes and smoothies all the time. For breakfast, a snack or dessert — I never get bored because there are so many combinations and no smoothie ever comes out the same! Almost every smoothie and shake I create contains a banana and vanilla soymilk, which both lend a nice sweetness without any added sugar. This is the first time I’ve actually measured out and recorded the ingredients, so here’s my recipe for the perfect mellow breakfast shake! And of course I encourage you to be creative and play around with your own spices and flavors.

3/4 cups vanilla soy milk

1 large banana [frozen is even better :]

1/2 cup yogurt [plain or vanilla]

1 t honey [I used this awesome ginger-infused honey I brought home from Ecuador!]

1/4 t vanilla extract

1/8 t ground nutmeg

1/8 t cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

Throw everything in the blender… It takes about 30 seconds. Get it good and smooth and then serve with a little sprinkle of ground nutmeg + cinnamon for looks.

To mix things up, try additions like espresso powder, coconut extract or shredded coconut, cocoa powder, peanut flour, or top with some peanut butter banana granola. This morning I made my shake after going to the gym so I decided to throw in some bourbon vanilla protein powder I had sitting around. It was delicious and super filling!

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Peanut butter banana [guilt-free] granola!

Granola. The word itself makes many people think health food. But store-bought and even homemade granola recipes are almost always loaded with butter, oil, sugar, even chunks of chocolate or m&m’s. Still sound healthy? It’s unfortunate that typical granola is so fattening and calorie dense, but what is fortunate is how easy it is to make your own, guilt-free granola without sacrificing any of that sweet n’ salty crunchiness!

The secret is using a fruit or vegetable puree instead of butter, and using a lesser amount of an unrefined sweetener like honey or maple syrup. In this case, pureed bananas add their own sweetness, so all that’s needed is a touch of honey. This stuff is so great in milk or yogurt, and my favorite is to dump in some raisins and dark chocolate chips and munch away as fast as I can!

Peanut Butter Banana [guilt-free] Granola, adapted from here

2 ½ cups rolled oats

2 cups puffed cereal [rice, wheat, etc… I used Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs]

¼ cup flax meal or whole flax seed

¾ cup chopped pecans

1 ½ large ripe bananas, cut into slices

1/3 cup peanut butter, melted slightly [I used a mixture of regular pb and Better’n Peanut Butter]

2 t honey

1 ½ t vanilla

½ t cinnamon

¼ t salt

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine all of the dry ingredients [oats, cereal, flax, nuts] in a bowl.  Set aside.  In a food processor/blender add the banana, honey, peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.  Process until completely smooth [or mix and mash it by hand].  Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until it’s all combined.  Pour onto a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray or lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir, and bake 15-20 minutes longer until the granola is golden brown and crunchy.  Let cool completely before storing. I put it into several mason jars so I don’t mindlessly eat it all at once! Makes about 6 cups. Enjoy!

Optional: for a healthy and addictive snack mix, dump in a few raisins, nuts, dark chocolate chips, and I haven’t tried this but I bet banana chips would be awesome!

And p.s—stay tuned for my apple-cinnamon and pumpkin-spice variations when the season arrives!


This post is linked to Love Your Heart Month

pan de yuca

Along with my cravings for Latin American flavors, I was inspired to attempt on my own many things I tasted in Ecuador this summer. One of these I thought I would never be lucky enough to taste again. I was on a late morning bus between cities and starving. Luckily for me, nearly every time buses are stopped, whether waiting in the station or dropping someone off, vendors come aboard trying to sell their goodies, from skewers of roasted pork and plantains, to candy that they shove in your hands and five minutes later either make you pay for it or take it back. So, on this morning an old man walked aboard carrying a large basket covered in a cloth. I was planning to buy whatever it was because I was so hungry, but I saw the man lift up the cloth for a woman in front of me, and what I saw intrigued me. They were steaming, bright yellow and white rolls, very different than anything I had seen in the panaderías on the streets. I asked for one, paid him 50 cents(!) and ripped off a small piece. What a strange texture! It was crispy on the outside, bright yellow and chewy on the inside. At first I didn’t realize it was cheese because I couldn’t see distinct pieces of cheese apart from the dough—it was a uniform consistency. All I knew was that it was warm, salty and delicious, and I gobbled it up and wished the old man was still on board! I had no idea what this bread was called, nor what unique ingredients created its odd texture, so my hopes for ever finding a recipe seemed pretty meager.

Fast forward 3 or so weeks later, and as I’m searching the web for Ecuadorian recipes I come across these ‘pan de yuca’ bites which looked curiously close to what I remember eating on that bus. I was so excited—could this be them?! The recipe was so simple. Tapioca starch, crumbly queso blanco, an egg, baking powder and water. I went to our local international foods market and found tapioca starch, or yuca harina [a very fine white flour], and gave my best guess out of about 30 different quesos.

To make the yuca bites, you simple combine the ingredients and knead into a dough, adding water until it sticks together to form a ball. Pinch off little balls, place in the oven, and in 15 minutes you have little ping pong balls of chewy cheesy bliss!

I knew instantly upon biting into these little rolls that this was it. Success! Just as I remember—except bite-sized and homemade by me (I’m sure the old man’s pan de yucca was homemade as well)! I made mom try them and although she is skeptical about some things I make, she loved the unique texture just as I did. They’re perfect to accompany any Latin-inspired meal, or as a bite to pop in your mouth with coffee or tea. I have Tamara from T’s Tasty Bits, an Ecuadorian cuisine blog, to thank for sharing this recipe. I am so happy to have found it and will definitely make these again and again as long as I can get my hands on some yuca flour!

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summer mexi-scramble

I was on a Latin American kick this summer after returning home from Ecuador—and that meant cravings for spicy salsa, salty cheese, grilled plantains, sweet corn, beans, avocados, limes and lots of coffee. The rice I could do without for a while.

One of my favorite savory breakfasts is huevos rancheros, and I found myself this past summer often making a scramble of eggs and my favorite Latin flavors to accompany a large mug of black coffee :]

The scramble was typically a combination of eggs, spinach, peppers, beans, corn, and sometimes onions, served with peach-mango salsa, avocado crema (mashed avocado with plain Greek yogurt + lime), and a generous sprinkle of salty queso fresco. Sometimes I’d add a piece of toast on the side spread with avocado crema and sliced tomato. My take on a blissful South of the border-inspired breakfast.


Peanut flour + whole wheat pancakes

I’m big on breakfast. This is only as of a year ago, when I was on Semester At Sea and if I didn’t get up and eat by 830, I was stuck in cranky hunger mode until noon. But before that I avoided breakfast, at most eating an apple or peach because I was never that hungry anyway.

After getting in the habit of breakfast, I can’t go without it. I never realized the energy I was missing out on to jump start my day, and that it left me choosing a more reasonable-sized lunch. My favorite thing about breakfast, though, is that you can choose to eat sweet or savory (or both!) depending on your mood. When else do you have that choice for a meal? I certainly don’t look too normal having blueberry scones for dinner, no matter how “healthified” they may be.

I try to make time to sit and enjoy my breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea. It always makes for a happy start to my day. My all-time favorite on-the-go breakfast is a brown rice cake [plain, salted or lightly sweetened] topped with honey-almond butter or Better n’ Peanut Butter, a layer or sliced banana and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. It wins every time. Quick and simple to make, easy to eat while walking, a bit salty, a bit sweet, and perfectly satisfying.

Oatmeal follows close behind as my favorite [especially during the winter months] because of the endless flavor combinations and add-ins, but more on that in a later post.

When I have a bit more time for breakfast-creating, pancakes are a popular choice. My recent discovery and obsession with peanut flour led me to try these peanut flour + whole wheat pancakes.

A little on peanut flour: it’s made from ground peanuts that have a good amount of the fat removed. It’s gluten-free, protein-packed, and has a mild peanuty flavor. If you want to make a lower fat peanut butter out of it, combine 2 T flour with 1 T water or milk [I like vanilla soy] and a little salt and honey to bring out the flavor.

All I have to say about these hot cakes is this: they smell and taste like freshly baked peanut butter cookies, and are healthier than I ever though possible for pancakes.

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making mint tea

My sister Jamie used to bring us home a bag of mint tea from the café she worked at in Burlington. All it consists of is dried peppermint leaves, but when brewed in a big pot of boiling water, chilled and served over ice, it was the most refreshing drink you could imagine. Like jumping in an ice cold lake. A blast of minty ice water to the face. A drink to your health, for sure.

Mom planted (spear)mint near the garden several years back and it has completely taken over, covering and scenting a large corner of the yard. The last bag of dried leaves we had from Jamie was getting low, and while wandering about the garden in my bare feet during one of my long, lazy days of summer, I saw the overwhelming patch of mint and thought, why don’t we make our own tea? How silly of us to not have done this before, huh?

So we did. I clipped several bunches of stems, researched ‘how to dry herbs’ and got to it. It’s really very simple; all that’s needed is patience.

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beets + chocolate

I made these a month or so ago and am just getting to posting them. I actually have many recipes from this summer that I’d like to post, which works out because I’ll soon be busy with school and have less time for leisurely baking. Plenty of time for blogging though, as I procrastinate writing papers on my laptop. But I have fun classes this semester like photojournalism and racquetball, so it can’t be too brutal ;]

So the brownies, fudge squares, whatever you’d like to call them. I’ve heard of black beans in brownies before, but beets?! Interesting. As always my curiosity got the best of me, especially when we’re dealing with nutritious substitutions to a delicious treat! Mom had the recipe clipped out of a magazine and one night when we were craving chocolate after dinner (a common occurrence), we decided to give it a go.

Result? Fantastic. Rich and deeply chocolatey; a smooth, velvety texture that melts away in your mouth. A cross between fudge, custard, brownie, and mousse. Heavenly when warm, even better when chilled. And one little square is all you need—they’re so rich, which is incredible considering their healthy ingredients!

This recipe is a keeper for sure. If only I had one in my pocket every time I’m offered a brownie—at school, birthdays, from the roommates—I’d be set!

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