Thursday, March 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

A coworker told me after eating one of these muffins, "these are some of your best work in quite some time."

I think that was a compliment. :) This particular coworker always raves about the baked goodies I bring to work, but he is honest and isn't just trying to butter me up! So I trusted his opinion that these were pretty darn good muffins. But don't you worry; I also taste tested them myself just to be sure! And I whole heartedly agreed with his opinion.

This recipe is adapted from a great site, Keep Your Diet Real. The ingredients I used are listed below, but the original recipe can be found here. A couple notes about my changes... You'll notice that the original recipe calls for 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. In place of the all-purpose flour, I decided to try an experiment. In place of the AP flour, I measured 1 cup of regular oats (good ol' Quaker), and I pulsed them in the food processor until they were coarsely ground (you could pulse them until they were finely ground too). This substitution seemed to work great! They still turned out like a normal muffin, and that was how I judged whether the change worked (very scientific, huh?). Also, I used 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of the 1 tablespoon in the original recipe (that just seemed like a lot to me). But, I think a whole tablespoon would be just fine. And finally, the original recipe calls for canola oil but I used yogurt (light, banana flavored actually!) instead.


-1 cup white whole wheat flour
-1 cup regular oats (ground in food processor into "flour")
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-3 mashed ripe bananas
-1/3 cup yogurt
-1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
-2 eggs
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners or grease muffin pan. Place the ripe bananas in mixer, and mix at low speed for 3 - 5 minutes until well mashed. Add the yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla, and mix for 1 minute on low speed until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt. Add the banana mixture to the dry mixture and combine until just incorporated (do not over-mix). Mix in the chocolate chips.

Fill muffin liners until 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let sit in pan for a couple minutes; then remove from pan and let cool completely on cooling racks.

A smiling face... :)

Cuz after you eat one of these muffins, you will be smiling.

I couldn't resist, and I ate a muffin practically fresh out of the oven. Sooo good. The texture was great and the flavor was superb. Honestly, this is like the ideal muffin (in my opinion ;)). And part of what makes it ideal? It's nutritious too! We've got whole wheat flour, oats, banana, and dark chocolate chips. Hellooooo healthy muffin. How you doin'? 

Happy Friday to you all! Only a couple more days to enter my Dagoba organic chocolate bar giveaway. Be sure to do so before midnight on Saturday, March 31st!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bacon, Egg, and Spinach Salad

Hello lovely friends and happy mid-week! This week is passing quickly for me, and I hope that's the case for you too!

A local restaurant near where I live (it's Canary Square in case you're in Boston and want to check it out) serves this awesome salad that I've ordered several times. It's their "warm swiss chard and chicken salad" and it contains warm swiss chard (obviously) with fire roasted pulled chicken, pecans, a poached egg, and bacon vinaigrette. It is soooo good. Mike loves it too. What a unique combination, right? For a while now, I've thought it would be fun to make something similar at home, and then as I was reading the April issue of my Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine at the gym recently, there was a great looking recipe for a bacon, egg, and spinach salad. Seeing that recipe was the "kick in the pants" (er, the inspiration) I needed to finally get me to make my own twist on this whole "salad with an egg" thing that seems to be trending right now.

Now, I didn't follow the magazine's recipe exactly, so the ingredients here are what I actually used and not what's in the magazine. However, I found the recipe online and it's here for you in case you want to check it out! This recipe below serves two people.


-7 pieces of bacon (I used the reduced sodium Whole Foods 365 brand)
-2 eggs
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-3 to 4 cups spinach


Cook bacon however you would like (how's that for exact instructions? ha). I baked my bacon and it worked fabulously. No fuss or mess! I baked it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (using this method) and then let it cool and broke it into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces.

Drizzle a pan with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, and over medium heat, cook the chopped onion 5 to 7 minutes or so. Add the minced garlic about halfway through, and cook until the onion gets soft and translucent. In the meantime, fry or poach the eggs (whatever's your preference!) until done to your liking. We cooked our eggs "over medium" so they were slightly runny. When the onions are close to done, place the spinach right in the pan with the onions, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until the spinach begins to wilt. Again, cook the spinach until it's done to your liking. You can see in the pictures below that we didn't let our spinach wilt entirely, just a little. Add the already cooked bacon pieces to the pan, and to serve, place desired amount of the spinach, onion, bacon mixture on a plate and top with an egg! Sprinkle with salt and/or pepper, if desired.

Simple as that. :)

There was no need for any sort of dressing on this salad, in our opinion. The flavors of the bacon and cooked onions and garlic lent plenty of flavor to the dish without the need for dressing. However, you could definitely add dressing if you'd like.

You could also use less bacon than I used. I actually didn't think we'd eat all the bacon that I made, but we did! So, that was about 3.5 bacon strips each (they were pretty small though).

To go along with our spinach salad, we had deeelicious roasted sweet potatoes and When Pigs Fly bread. This was one of the simplest and most delicious dinners I've made recently. Loved it!

I realize this salad may not look like the most appetizing meal in the world, but trust me, it's awesome. You could easily add chicken to this, and you could also change it up by using kale or swiss chard in place of the spinach.

Writing about this dish is making me want to make it again...ASAP!!!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Dagoba Organic Chocolate: A Giveaway!

Greetings! I am back on the east coast, safe and sound at home. It's so nice to be back in Boston! My first trip to San Francisco was great though, and someday I hope to go back. If you're a regular blog reader, you remember from my last post about Good Eats in San Fran, that I may have mentioned a giveaway... Well, here it is!

While in San Fran, I visited a Scharffen Berger store in the Ferry Building Marketplace near the water. Loved that marketplace! It's where I got one of the best oatmeal raisin cookies I've ever had, remember? ;) Anyway, while there, I also visited Scharffen Berger and spent a loooong time perusing the various chocolates they have. Such a variety!! If you're not familiar with the company, it was founded in 1997 and was the first "bean to bar" chocolate maker in America in over 50 years. The company's history is quite interesting; you should check it out!

So the funny thing about this giveaway though is that the bar I bought to give to one of you lucky readers is actually made by Dagoba, not Scharffen Berger. Oops! I didn't even realize it at the time that it wasn't an actual Scharffen Berger bar (I finally realized it when I started to write this blog post! Silly silly me). I have been trying to understand the connection between the two companies, but I'm not quite sure how they're "related." However, it does appear that there is a connection of some sort, as they've paired up in their wholesale orders. Hmmmm... So perhaps that's why the Dagoba is being sold in Scharffen Berger. I loved what I read about Dagoba as a company. Their efforts and actions all work toward "full circle sustainability" and are quite impressive and meaningful! I encourage you to read more about this great company. 

I had such a fun time checking out all the different flavors in the store (both Scharffen Berger and Dagoba!). Sadly, I didn't sample all of them (I would have been there all day!) but I did try a few. They were all delicious, but one flavor in particular that stood out to me was the Dagoba organic chocolate mint flavored bar. This particular bar is dark chocolate (59% cacao) and made with mint and rosemary! Yes, you heard me right - rosemary! How unique. The rosemary flavor was very subtle, but it is there. And it really complemented the mint well too. :)

Because I liked this flavor so much I decided to get one to share with one lucky reader! 

And no, don't worry; this opened bar pictured here is not the one I'm giving away. That's the one I bought for myself. ;)

So what do you need to do to enter this giveaway? Well, I ask that you please leave me a comment here on this post and tell me what your favorite chocolate is. You can tell me if you have a favorite brand of chocolate or even simply if you just prefer milk or dark chocolate - whatever you'd like! Just make sure to somehow answer the question, "What is your favorite chocolate?".

The giveaway will be open for comments (U.S. mailing addresses only, please) until Saturday, March 31st, at 11:59 PM EST. :)

I'll choose one winner at random and will announce the winner on April 1st (and will get your mailing address from you privately). Thanks in advance for entering, friends!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Good Eats in San Francisco

Hello and happy weekend to you all! I've had a great two and a half days so far here in San Francisco. I spent half of Wednesday and all of Thursday exploring various parts of the city, but today I actually had to attend the conference. Sad. :(  Haha, just kidding. The conference is going quite well! One more day of the conference and then it's back to good ol' New England.

More importantly though, I should share a few of the good eats I've enjoyed since I've been here! This is just a sampling...

A delicious sourdough bread bowl filled with a very tasty tomato soup from Boudin Bakery, San Francisco's original sourdough bread. They've been around since 1849!

 As you can see, I liked it. :)

The bread was soooo good!

That same day I visited the Ferry Building Marketplace, where I came across this little bakery called Black Jet Baking company. The cookies pictured above were just a few of the treats I had to choose from...

Which one did I settle on? The oatmeal raisin. And I can honestly say it was one of the best oatmeal raisin cookies I've ever had. Seriously! I was sad when I finished it. :( It was flavorful and chewy and just all-around delicious. And it was huuuuge too! I ate it in small sections throughout the day to savor it...

Oh, and I may have had a beer or two while here as well, including this tasty sampler from Gordon Biersch... My first evening I dined and drank alone (something I've never done until this trip!!) at 21st Amendment, a fabulous local brewery/brew pub.

This breakfast? Delish! I've been eating breakfast at my hotel in the restaurant on the 36th floor overlooking the city. Not a bad way to start off the day! Today's breakfast was a "healthified" eggs benedict. No hollandaise sauce on this one. Instead, it was tomato slices, spinach, and poached eggs topped with onion jam and served with breakfast potato. Such a satisfying meal to start my day!

And finally, one more snippet of my food adventures so far... I also visited Scharffen Berger, America's "first contemporary artisan chocolate maker," founded in San Francisco in 1997. I was lucky enough to taste a few samples while shopping, and boy, do they make good chocolate! Stay tuned next week; there's a chance that I bought some chocolate to give away on the blog... So be on the lookout for that soon!

Enjoy your weekend, friends! :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sourdough and Seafood in San Francisco!

On Wednesday morning I'll be leaving New England and heading to San Francisco for a few days. Woohoo! I'm actually heading out there for a conference for work, but I plan to do some exploring and sightseeing while I'm out there too, as my free time allows. I've never been to San Fran and am very excited! I've heard that the sourdough bread in San Francisco is excellent, as is the seafood, of course! So those are two foods I hope to check out, along with many other good eats.

(photo source)

And the beer scene there is apparently fabulous too, so you miiiight just find me at a couple breweries or brew pubs. Just sayin'...

(photo source)

Any recommendations for me if you've been to San Francisco? Good eateries? Bakeries? Coffee shops? I'd love to hear any suggestions if you have them - thanks!

Talk to you later this week from the west coast! ;)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicken and Sausage Quinoa Jambalaya

A few weeks ago we went to visit our friends who had recently had a baby. :) I browsed recipes quite a bit beforehand, trying to decide what to make for the dinner we were planning on bringing over and eating together. I have no idea why, but some notion got into my head to make jambalaya (I've never made it before). But as I read recipes and saw that most all of them called for rice, I wasn't too excited about making it with rice and began to wonder if anyone had ever made jambalaya with quinoa (I've been on a quinoa kick for quite some time). Such a silly thing to wonder; of course someone has made a quinoa jambalaya before! I had no trouble finding a delicious looking recipe on the web.

The recipe I loosely followed was this one for shrimp, sausage and quinoa jambalaya, from Relish, which is pictured here.

(photo source)

The ingredients I used to make this dish differed slightly, however, and are written below. All in all, this was very easy! And it was sooo good. We all loved it. In fact, we ate the whole dish! There were no leftovers to be had once the four of us got through with this. :) And I think it makes 8 servings... Guess we were all hungry!

In addition to just being plain yummy, the other great thing about this recipe is that it's quite versatile! You could make this completely vegetarian and add a larger assortment of veggies and maybe even some tofu? You could also add different meats or seafood (e.g., shrimp, of course!). And you can certainly kick it up a notch and add more heat/spice to this dish too, if that's your preference!


-4 and 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
-2 cups quinoa (I used white; you could use red)
-3/4 to 1 pound cooked sausage or kielbasa (it's your choice really as to what exact kind of meat!), cut into bite-sized pieces
-3/4 to 1 pound cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (you could roast, grill, saute, etc. the chicken - again, totally up to you)
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 medium to large green pepper, chopped
-1 medium to large red pepper, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
-1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes (the brand I used were "spiced" diced tomatoes)
-1/2 to 3/4 tsp. chili powder


Cook the 2 cups of quinoa with 4 cups of broth according to the quinoa package's instructions until it's done; set aside. Heat 2 to 3 tsp. of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot, and add the onion, peppers, and garlic to it. Saute about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth, can of diced tomatoes, and chili powder, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the cooked quinoa and the cooked meats, and mix everything together well. Heat a few more minutes, if necessary, until all ingredients are heated through.

Serve and enjoy!

As you can see, I don't have any pictures of this delicious dish to share with you. :( I was kind of in a rush when I was making it at home and I guess I wasn't thinking about taking pictures (which is really rare when it comes to me being in the kitchen; I am always taking pictures of what I make!). And I also didn't think to take pictures while we were eating. I blame the fact that I was distracted by the cute baby who was nearby... But, this dish was totally blog worthy, so I do wish I had snapped a few photos for you to see it. Oh well!

Instead, I'll show you a couple baby pictures. I definitely think that baby pictures are much more fun to look at than food pictures anyway! ;)

I can't stand the cuteness! Love being around little ones. :)

Mike's first time ever holding a baby this young and his first time feeding a baby! He looks like a natural, wouldn't you say?! 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish Soda Bread Shamrock Cookies

I realize I'm a day late (literally) and a dollar short with this post since St. Patrick's Day was yesterday, but I still wanted to share this delightful, festive cookie recipe with you. For the past few years I've made the traditional Irish soda bread for St. Patty's. I bought buttermilk last week with the intention of making soda bread again this year, but then I all of a sudden had an inkling to try something different.

I thought, I wonder if there's a recipe out there to make Irish soda bread-ish cookies? Why of course there is! I found a few very similar looking recipes online and finally settled on trying one from a site, Grandma's Kitchen.

The cookies were quite easy to make. It is a little time consuming to roll out the dough, but it's not difficult at all. The flavor of these cookies was fantastic! I was honestly pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the taste of these cookies. I did think they'd be good, but I guess maybe I didn't expect to like them quite as much as I really did. They were certainly sweeter than an actual Irish soda bread, as they called for much more sugar than the bread recipes call for. They were almost a cross between a sugar cookie and a shortbread cookie of sorts. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what they tasted like, but the bottom line? They're delicious! I gave many of these cookies away to several friends over the weekend, and they all gave their stamp of approval as well. :)


-2 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
-1/2 cup currants
-1/4 cup buttermilk
-1 egg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, baking soda, and salt. Using a box grater, grate the chilled butter into the flour mixture. Stir the mixture with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the currants.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 times. Divide the dough in half, and using a rolling pin, roll one half of the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter or a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet (I actually put parchment paper on my cookie sheets). Repeat with the remaining dough to form additional cookies.

If you cut the dough into circles, using a knife, score the top of each cookie with a large "X." Sprinkle the cookies with the remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar. OR, you do not need to score the cookies if you don't want to (especially if you used other, shaped cookie cutters like I did with the shamrocks). I also chose to sprinkle mine with green colored sprinkles instead of the sugar.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned on the bottoms, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

This recipe made about 3 dozen shamrock shaped cookies for me.

No, that's not cheese. :) It's the grated butter! The grater worked so well to break up the butter. I think I'll use this method more often when I'm making scones and other similar items.


I couldn't make shamrock shaped cookies on St. Patrick's Day without adding green sprinkles to them!

Oops! Which picture here doesn't belong? These were the green beers that Mike and I drank at home the evening of St. Patrick's Day. It was difficult to make them a really "pretty" shade of green, but you can still tell that we attempted!

I hope you all had a wonderful, festive St. Patrick's Day! This very Irish gal sure did. :)