Sweet Potatoes and Switzerland.

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img_3638We embraced and she welcomed me into her little house as her tall longhaired black-bear-of-a-dog welcomed me with grunts of excitement

“You’re home!” I squealed in excitement.

One of my very best friends had just returned from her first adventure in Europe and we planned on spending the evening pouring over her photos, sharing our love for Switzerland and whipping up a lovelieats creation to share with all of you.

We sat in her kitchen sipping on a buttery chardonnay and laughing over our adoration for creamy fondue, dreamy Swiss countryside and cozy warm cabins after a long day scampering around in the mountains.

She showed me photos of castles, fine dining fancy dinners and group shots of all our mutual friends donned in their coziest snow clothes.

img_3636I shared with her my experience in Switzerland a few summers back in the little village of Lauterbrunnen- a place I’d love to be proposed to or honeymoon in someday. The whimsy of the Swiss architecture, the rolling wispy green hills and the overbearing and strong presence of the waterfalls as they surged down into the the little village all draw me back to this place of such soul filling memories.

I spent the mornings there tucked into cozy coffee shops sipping on luxurious creamy lattes and the afternoons covered in mud while hiking in the surrounding areas finding any wildlife I could- mostly dairy cows and goats that I’d coo over and make international friends with.

I’m so glad to know that she’s had the experience to fall for such a charming country as I did and experience the wanderlust and travel bug fever that sets in after your first trip to Europe.

As we continued to catch up we set into making yet another sweet potato based dish and joked about how the blog should probably be renamed “lovelipotatoes” at some point in the future. We just really love sweet potatoes – you can’t go wrong with their earthy candy like flavor, mineral rich skin and their nature of complimenting almost any other ingredient perfectly.

img_3635We’d compiled a list of yummy Mexican inspired ingredients we’d stuff into our twice baked potatoes that evening- broccoli, kale, black beans, jalapenos and Havarti cheese with tortilla chips crunched a top the mountain of goodness.

The recipe came out  incredibly – the kitchen warm with scents of spices and the heat from the oven, the flavor creamy, sweet and spicy. The ingredients are high in soluble and insoluble fiber: wonderful for gastric as well as cardiovascular health. The potato high in beta cartone- a precursor to vitamin A. The vitamin is a valuable antioxidant ridding our bodies of inflammation and disease-causing oxidants while increasing our immunity and ocular health.

Enjoy and please let me know if you have any modifications or feedback in regards to this recipe … or if you have a Swiss chalet I can move into.

 

Twice Baked Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes:

Recipe:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes ( 5’)
  • 1 can jalapeno black beans (15 oz.)
  • 2 cups rough chopped broccoli
  • 4 stalks of kale or 3 cup roughly chopped kale
  • 1 cup shredded or sliced Havarti cheese (any of your favorite cheeses would do)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Wash sweet potatoes with water and dry.
  2. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork several times and wrap them in foil.
  3. Bake sweet potatoes in oven for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
  4. While potatoes are in oven: wash kale, drain off some liquid form the beans and shred the cheese.
  5. While the sweet potatoes are in the oven: steam broccoli in the oven or steam over the stove.
  6. While the sweet potatoes are in the oven: add the kale to a sauté pan while olive oil- sauté until softened.
  7. Add all ingredients (except for shredded cheese) into a mixing bowl.
  8. Once sweet potatoes have baked slice them in half and with a spoon; gently scoop out the inside making sure to keep the skin in tact and prevent ripping it.
  9. Mix the sweet potato innards with the other ingredients in the bowl and then scoop the ingredients back into the sweet potatoes- filling them about half way and pressing down. Add a layer of shredded cheese, cover with more mix and press down- finally topping the potatoes with a final layer of cheese.
  10.  Line the potatoes up on a baking sheet lined with foil and place back in the 400 degree oven for 10 minutes to let the ingredients seep into one another and allow the cheese to melt over the potatoes.
  11. Pull the potatoes out and let them rest for 5 minutes prior to serving!

A wanderlust memoir

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Lovelieats in Portland- food & travel video here

“Click” I tapped the “Clock out” tab on our ADP payroll website and excitement surged through my veins – freedom rang. I gathered my things and said my few goodbyes to a team of individuals that molded and shaped me into more of team player than I think I’d ever been in the past. It was my last day at Quest Nutrition and I was headed to Portland to let my brain and body rest for a few days – prior to beginning my new position that I’m excited to share with yoimg_3261u in the future.

I scampered – two stairs at a time – down to “Ruthie”, my big white truck. She carried me to my destination at Los Angeles International Airport where I would glide down the hallway to Terminal C , eager to plant myself into a window seat and be on my way to a weekend free of stress, relationships and lack there of.img_3219

I arrived in Portland Thursday evening already knowing that it was going to be a weekend of joy, friendships and food. I hit it off with an earthy looking gal, Sam,  in the lady’s room- chatting whimsically of the waterfalls to visit and all the restaurants that called our names, she left me with a challenge to eat a vegan diet for the weekend and to “Live it up”. I lived it up – failed on the vegan part though.

The travel was seamless – from picking up the sporty rental, checking into my retreat of a hotel room and driving to the South East district of Portland for supper at Harlow restaurant. I was charmed with the old rickety Victorian houses on the surrounding streets and colorful restaurants that dotted the area. The restaurant was welcoming – large family seating, reclaimed wooden tables and hordes of young couples and girlfriends out for a delicious vegan supper. The drinks were unique –  fresh squeezed juices, sugar rims and pretty jar glasses. The menu laden with flavorful and unique ingredients – sea vegetables, quinoa and cashew jalapeno sauces – delicious.

I settled into a big table – hopeful someone might join me and my big book. The Chipotle Chili bowl – black bean chili, house made chimichurri, guacamole, and jalapeno cashew cheese  -made its way to my table and was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was warm, spicy and perfectly creamy with the addition of the guacamole. I savored every last bite. The cocktail-The Montgomery Angel -was unique and lively on the pallet, my favorite part being the cinnamon sugar rim which was licked clean by the end.

I strolled through the streets that evening and ended up in a Powells City of Books satellite store, meandering through their endless books, home goods and adorable mugs.

The next day I slept in – 7 am being pretty luxurious in comparison to my normal schedule – then worked out and wolfed down a free breakfast at the hotel. My morning began at Tom Mcall park- really nothing to write home about to my dismay. It’s a bit of a refuge place for the unfortunate homeless community – the whole area of old downtown Portland is in fact. Once I’d explored the park a bit I stumbled upon Voodoo donuts – not realizing it’d be so close. This was an experience I won’t forget – the interior reminding me of an old punk rock record store I might have frequented in my rebellious teenage years. The staff was friendly and excited to help me pick the perfect donut. I settled on what looked like it may have very well contained at least 700 calories worth of pure simple carbohydrates – the “Dirty Bastard” the cashier called it. He tucked my fluffy donut img_3286covered in rich chocolate frosting, mini Oreos and peanut butter drizzle into a brown bag and sent me on my way. I perched myself next to a young woman and an older man chatting intently while she wrote. She was interviewing him and to my delight the gentleman was one of the owners – Kenneth Pogson. I was thrilled to have the chance to listen in on the interview. Kenneth was friendly, engaging and treated the woman with all due respect as she inquired about the company and how it began. He shared of the company’s  beginnings – having only $1,000 to start the company and their “sink or swim” mentality. The donuttery  has now grown from a 700 sq.foot shop to the store front it is today of 2,200 sq. feet. He mentioned the maple bacon donut- it’s incredible popularity and competition it had caused in the world of donuts.

After my feast of chocolate-peanut-buttery greatness I moved along to Powells where I poured over books – the nutrition section alone being the size of a small book store. I lingered without a care in the world as the time passed and pages turned.

My day finished up in the NobHill area of Portland  -a ritzier and more refined neighborhood with flashy boutiques and dainty eateries. Salt & Straw Ice cream was my first stop – I tried at least 6 of their delicately crafted flavors – a vegan Cookies and Cream, a truffle infused blend, a Balsamic strawberry that was divine and Lavender ice cream that tasted richly of floral notes – finally choosing the Double Fold Vanilla in the end: classy and simple.img_3309

Before I headed back to my cozy hotel room that evening I popped over to the nearby Rose Test Garden – something Portland is famous for. The garden wasn’t much to look at during the 30 degree weather but I can only imagine it’s beauty in the spring when the hundreds of bushes would blossom and bloom. I hope to make my way back some day.

The next morning I was on a waterfall hunting mission. I worked out, wolfed down another img_3387free and delicious breakfast and made my way in my little Ford Focus to the Multnomah Falls waterfall. The area is rich with greenery, lush with trees and had more waterfalls than I’ve seen since the Grand Canyon. I began at the lower end of the falls – Mutnomah and made my way to Latourell,Horsetails Falls, Wahkeena and finally ended with a short hike down to Bridle Veil falls. I think the memorable part of this trip was the slippery hike down to Bridle Veil- having to walk along walls on the edge of the trail to avoid the sleek ice that covered the earth – well worth it in the end.

After my waterfall expedition it was long past snack time and I was eager to try Blue Star Donuts after hearing from so many that they were “better” than the Voodoo variety I’d already embarked on. I honestly beg to differ – the Cointreau Creme Brulee was fancy -that’s for sure. The pastry was glazed heavily, stuffed with vanilla bean creme brulee and accented with a pipette of Cointreau liqueur for my drizzling satisfaction. It was luxurious – and I felt high-class while slurping down the creamy creme brulee – but it lacked the ridiculousness, richness and child- like qualities of the Voodoo variety. I’d go back to either shop and be thrilled to have another of both but my favorite might lie at Voodoo- I guess I’ll have to go back and try some more to know for sure!

After I’d recharged my batteries with my Blue Star finery I made my way to Forest Park- an area raved about by an older couple I’d met over breakfast – Ken and Dorris. The area was stunning  -I felt like I’d just stepped into the forest from Snow White- so much lush fauna, moss and creeks that drizzled down the hill sides.

img_3397Dinner that evening was at a restaurant I’ve followed for a long while on Instagram- Prasad. I didn’t even realize it was in Portland until I passed by and spotted its sign. The food is lavish with vibrant vegan ingredients – unique sauces : Avocado ranch and cashew cheese. The Dragon bowl I ordered had brown rice, beans, steamed greens, avocado, sea vegetables, cabbage-apple kimchi, scallions, hemp & sesame seeds and was lathered in a creamy sauce. It was the perfect way to warm up after a long day outdoors.

The last morning in Portland was up in that air as to its agenda- go to the Portland zoo and rush from exhibit to exhibit before my flight, or grab a frothy latte somewhere, spend some time with the Lord and make my way to a church that a friend had recommended in Portland. I was intimidated about going to a gathering where I certainly wouldn’t know anyone and very well may feel out of place – I lost the internal argument and ended up going the latte and church route.

img_3407I drove to the Nobhill area of Portland again and perused the area in search of Sterling Coffee Roasters -I passed by it twice before spotting the small wooden sign. Eager to experience my first cup of Portland’s finest I made my way into the small coffee house -maybe smaller than the studio I live in. What it lacked in size it certainly made up for in fine and charming personality. Each white table-clothed table was trimmed with fresh flowers and the baristas were the friendliest I’ve ever met. The shop owner made me an almond milk latte with a fresh vanilla bean syrup that had been hand crafted by a local confectioner. It was heavenly.

Once I’d sat and journaled for a bit I made my way to the school where the church service img_3416would be held that morning. Bridgetown it was called. I wandered up the grand cement staircase and into the theater where we’d worship together that morning. I planted myself beside a friendly looking gal. We both smiled but didn’t say a word – unlike me to be so shy. She peered over at me, ” My name’s Ariel”. I gawked – I had sat next to a girl with my name!? We got to know each other a bit : not only the same name we shared but she’s also a food blogger, loves to bake and made me feel perfectly welcome in church that morning.

To finalize – Portland was awesome. I was pretty sold on moving there when I first exited the plane – ready for something fresh, California not filling my soul as I desperately want it to. It may not be somewhere I end up though – a majority of the people I met seemed “too cool for school” and not interested in entertaining my bubbly exterior in conversation. There’s not a large demand for nutrition professionals and I might miss the ocean  -scratch that – I’d definitely miss the ocean. I’ll keep an open mind though- I mean I do have to try more of those donuts at some point.

 

Grandma’s Mac n’ Cheese- quite literally

Recipe and instructions here:

Grandma’s Mac N’ Cheese

My grandma was a spicy one- sassy some might say- I loved her. She embodied what a strong and spirited woman looks like. She lived a long life, many of her years in the same quaint house- independent into her 90’s! Her passions included competitive bowling, making it into the nationals at least once- her face highlighted in the local newspaper. What I longed for in a sweet soft grandmother she made up for in personality.

Her last 5 years or so I remember most. She depended on us more- not able to drive we’d make jaunts to the grocery store or simply spend time visiting at her home. Once she’d been moved to an assisted living near my house we saw each other more frequently. I longed her wisdom- seeking insight into relationships, careers and family. She shared stories of romances in her youth- never sparing me a blush-worthy detail. Dancing was something she did regularly and loved to talk about- a beauty if I’ve ever seen one, I’m sure the boys loved her.

Once she passed we, had time to sort through her belongings. My mom came upon a cookbook from the year 1930- she’d been in highschool at the time. The cookbook is from her home economics class- written in lavish cursive, detail  in every letter. It’s a treasure I’m so happy to hold.

In this video I share the recipe and some tidbits on the nutrition information for the dish.I hope to share more of them with you in the future months.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 Colby Jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  •  24 oz water

 

 

Food- a mended relationship.

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img_0528“Me too”- two words that will alter the direction of any correspondence- it’s a detour on a side street out of a blackened ally. It’s the sudden realization that the reality you’re faced with isn’t something unique to you but rather an inclusionary characteristic with a gathering of others that have walked the same path.

Some friendships click right off the bat; you look lovingly at your new gal pal as a husband and wife did on their very first date- intrigued, curious and excited. Some friendships start that way and some take time, trust and “me too’s.

Sure, we had plenty in common from the get-go- our faith,our passion for animals, and our excitement over fitness but I can put my finger on the moment when I truly saw her as someone I would call a best friend. We shared our past experiences with eating disorders. It was a dark hidden place that we both traveled through.

Body image, anorexia, bulimia, diuretics, laxatives and exercise- they’re occasionally touched on in the media- but I’d bet you a dime to a dollar that slim six packs and teensy-weensy waists are highlighted more often.470a43d740f97

My desire to be slim and slender, desirable and acceptable began at a very young age- exposed to disordered eating growing up, having expectations placed on my appearance and clothing size began early and was not intentional to cause harm by the parties involved but it did- our brains are like kitchen sponges at that age- so eager to soak up our environments and the information presented.

In my youth this was demonstrated in my sudden concern in needing to pick my own outfits out for school- I needed my best friend to like my clothing choices. In high school I was exposed to bigger battles, girls already taking laxatives and binging and purging in sophomore year. What a sad site to see a young woman so disappointed in the body God had gloriously crafted. Not appreciating the new womanly curves that develop in puberty. I took the bate, I would do what it took to have the rail slim body of the girls that danced at my ballet studio, that walked the runways I dreamed of gliding down, the women of the magazine spreads draped in luxurious clothing and looking ever so sad.

It began with a gym membership- harmless enough- I ran. I ran from my hurts, my thoughts, my insecurities and myself. Eventually “burning” the calories wasn’t efficient enough, bulimia took its course with some instruction from whom I considered my best friend. It would go on for years- never able to control the amount I ate and feeling so guilty, shameful and unacceptable: after meals I purged. People caught me and I promised I would stop- never wanting to upset an apple cart or cause worry. The solution didn’t come till I was quite a bit older and finally fully aware of the bodily harm I was causing to myself.

It became an on going internal conversation of- you’re ruining your beautiful braceless teeth, your gums, you’re not even ridding yourself of a third of the calories you’ve consumed, and you’re increasing your likelihood for throat cancer as you continually inflame your esophagus- so what’s the point?

Eventually I stopped- if I over ate I sat with that awful stuffed feeling and let myself digest the food- sooner or later I’d learn some self-control.

Now a few years since I’ve grown to appreciate my womanly curves- still desiring a slimmer figure but realizing it isn’t the end of the world if I haven’t reached my fitness goals just yet. I came to realize I likely wasn’t created to be a Ford model and live in LA and that was OK- there were plenty of other fabulous careers to pursue. Lastly I realized- all men don’t necessarily desire skin and bone- they desire the softness and suppleness of a woman. We naturally have about 25% of our weight coming from fat on our bodies while men are at around 15% if at a healthy weight. We’re attracted to men’s bodies because of that- the muscle, the defined shape and the strength- it’s different than our womanly bodies. Men on the other hand- from what I’ve heard are similar in that they’re attracted to what’s different than them- not necessarily needing a 6 pack to feel satisfied with his wife’s physique.

In March a few year’s back I created an online campaign and invited all of my friends to celebrate a month without makeup- 30 days of rejoicing in a women’s natural God-given beauty. This was probably one of my most healthy moments – celebrating my own natural appearance but encouraging others to do the same.

I’m thrilled that I have a friend that’s journeyed this same road- the one that say’s “me too” she’s someone that I can celebrate healthy recipes and eating with- meals abundant in vibrant vegetables, satisfying protein and luscious satiating fats.img_2937

This most recent recipe we created was a real winner, packed with prebiotic fiber from the corn, beans, kale, quinoa and sweet potatoes.

We drizzled a creamy and zesty cilantro dressing upon the layers of Latin inspired ingredients- jalapeno and cayenne dancing upon our tongues while crunchy sweet bell peppers provided relief from the heat.

This is a meal that will satisfy and leave you feeling full with the high amount of fiber, crunchiness of the kale, the vast amount of spices and because of all the vegetables the recipe provides a nutritious punch loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Quinoa and Kale Latin bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of prewashed and trimmed kale
  • 1 15 oz. can of jalapeno corn
  • 1 15 oz. can of jalapeno black beans
  • 1 bottle of creamy cilantro salad dressing (Stater Bros makes a store brand version)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • ½ cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa and bulgur blend
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 5 ‘ sweet potato
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • ¼ tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Recipe:

  1. Add ½ cup quinoa and bulgur blend to a cup of water and bring to a boil; turn to a simmer for 10 minutes, fluff and let sit.
  2. Wash and chop the sweet potato into 1 in’ cubes, drizzle with olive oil, cayenne pepper and garlic salt. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until softened and crispy.
  3. Drain corn and black beans.
  4. Chop cilantro leaves- removing stems, slice avocado into thin slices, julienne bell pepper and slice the cherry tomatoes.
  5. Assembly: Lay ½ cup of kale into a big bowl, add ½ cup grain blend, ¼ cup beans, ¼ cup corn, ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, a few bell pepper and avocado slices and finish with a drizzle of dressing.

Sweet Potato and Spicy Spinach Burritos

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Time seems to fly by more rapidly with each year’s passing. Halloween and Thanksgiving a glimmer in 2016’s rearview mirror. This seems to be a simple reality of being part of the working world- 8 hours or more you may sit lost pursuing a venture of something bigger- your work life piling task upon task untilimg_2123 yet another day has passed without taking some moments to be present in the season that’s presently whizzing by like the hands on your super hip leather wristwatch.

For this reason- I decided it was absolutely pertinent to make Christmas, this year, something that I could slow down and enjoy the days leading up to. The slowing down hasn’t quite been achieved but I’m doing my very best to be present in the season itself.

The efforts began with a salad bar date with my momma- my favorite meal; with a woman that seems to get my heart, despite our years of teen rivalry. We pulled our Christmas lists from our purses and shared the gifts we hoped we’d find under the boughs of my mom’s img_2122intricately decorated Douglas Fir. Purses, boots, horse bridles, pajamas- the lists went on- seeming to be the same items we’d longed for last year. After supper we piled into my cozy truck and whizzed over to an overpriced Christmas tree lot- these were Cadillacs of Christmas trees. All freshly grown and practically perfect Christmas trees – originating in the mountains of Oregon- they were pricey. The lot came with a Christmas on 34th St. Santa Claus and reminded me of when I bought my last car- an attendant asking you what you longed for in the pine you’d dreamed of. We left quickly, finding ourselves at the supermarket down the road that carried similar, but more economical, trees. We bought the first one we laid eyes on- maybe 2 feet tall and absolutely perfect- I named her Fiona and vowed to feed her lots of water because she’s not fresh and certainly not originating in the mountains of Oregon with her desert –like branches.

img_2083The next task on my Christmas season to-do list was to take an evening filing my little house with Jingle Bells and Santa Baby lyrics, sipping on Bailey’s and mostly whipped cream, styling Fiona’s branches with the most lavishly painted ornaments and putting together a delicious dinner for me and a friend. So the evening began.

Nicole is my go-to Lovelieats friend- being patient and embracing the many photos of the ingredients and steps taken to create each meal- only rolling her eyes a time or two.

 

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We opted for a Kale and Sweet Potato burrito recipe that we’d seen on Pinterest- our personal recipe database. We changed it up a bit but the original recipe can be seen here– it looks quite delicious in it’s original recipe too!

The filling was scrumptious- the spicy cayenne and fragrant garlic playing off of the sugary and earthy sweet potatoes. The avocado balanced out the spicy onion and pepper tortillas. This might be a new favorite of mine- I’d love to try it with pumpkin or butternut

squash instead of the sweet potato and pair the burritos with a creamy chipotle sauce or avocado cream sauce. You’ll find the recipe below- let me know what you think!

As for the rest of this cozy Christmas season I plan on spending time to remember what this season is actually in celebration of- preparing Him room- Christ our savior is born! Looking forward to seeing how each of you embrace this season- spending moments showing your gratitude for those you love most, making Christmas cookies to share and sitting around colorful trees sharing laughter and friendship. I’m so thankful for each of you who support Lovelieats! Merry Christmas!

img_2121Ingredients:

  • 6 Chile and Onion tortillas from Trader Joes- regular flour tortillas would work great too!
  • 5 garlic cloves,
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ¼ – ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ -tsp. garlic pepper
  • ¼ -tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Jar of Trader Joes Red and Yellow Fire Roasted Peppers
  • 1 can of Sprouts brand Cuban black beans
  • 2- 5 inch sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast- or ¼ cup cheddar cheese if you eat dairy
  • 4 heaping cups baby spinach
  • 1 avocado- sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Oil or butter up a baking sheet to lay burritos on.
  2. Wash sweet potatoes, pierce several times with a fork, place in a microwave and microwave for 5-8 minutes or until softened.
  3. While Sweet potatoes cook- mince garlic and simmer with 1tbsp butter or olive oil.
  4. When garlic has begun to turn golden: drain off the beans and add them to the garlic- simmer for 5 minutes.
  5.  When sweet potatoes are finished cooking: set on a cutting board and mash with a fork – no need to peal as this will provide extra vitamins and minerals!
  6.  Add the sweet potato mash to the beans and garlic, mix together over low heat for just 2 minutes or so- adding in the cayenne, garlic salt and black pepper.
  7. Move the sweet potato mixture to the back burner.
  8. Add spinach into a small pot with about a tbsp. of butter or olive oil- wilt over low heat. Stirring in the nutritional yeast before pulling from heat.
  9. Layer the 6 tortillas with the sweet potato mixture, spinach, peppers, avocado and cilantro. Roll the burritos- tucking in the ends or leave them open for prettier presentation!
  10. Line the burritos on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes- the tortillas should be golden when you pull the burritos out!
  11. Devore!

Cardboard boxes full of pizza

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It feels as if the good Lord above has just “pressed play” on life again. For the last- well I might not reveal how many years it took me to finish college- but for the last long-amount-of-time I’ve ,every day, had the excuse : “I need to study”. I need to read this chapter or cram for that test or listen to this podcast or go to that class. I feel as if freedom has just wrung it’s big brass bell in celebration of liberation from having to be tied to an assignment in one form or another.

Hence why this blog post is being tip-tapped away under my finger tips at this very moment.

The last month was the highest priority as I was preparing to take the credentialing exam for my Dietetic Technican registration. I put all relationships on a bit of a “rain-check- until –further-notice” stance and began spending countless hours tucked into my big fluffy douvet pouring over flash cards, old worn nutrition books and chugging down unthinkable amounts of dark caffeine concentrated coffee.

I won’t drag the anticipation out much longer- I passed!
Praise the good Lord himself- I was a nervous nelly the day of.

I could not be more grateful for the patient friends, family, professors and mentors that walked me through this process. They gave me grace in my absent mindedness as I shared with them facts about foodborne illnesses instead of listening to their life updates, they were understanding in my inability to attend social function after social function in my friend group, they spoke words and prayers of encouragement over me and lastly provided easy meals to prep when life got busy.

A best girlfriend of mine reached out sometime a few weeks ago with notice that she’d img_1051sent me three meals from Blue Apron- knowing I hadn’t the time nor juice in my brain to come up with delicious meals of my own during that time and was mostly living off of protein laden bars and shakes.

I was near beside myself with excitement as I perused the meal delivery site’s pages. The meals all looked like they’d come straight from some high end foodie’s instagram account. Dotted with sauces and herbs, rich in unusual ingredients and tempting combinations.

I chose a variety of vegetarian options -3 recipes that would prepare 2 meals each -and had them delivered the following Friday. As I drug my tuckered legs up the stairs that Friday I was elated to find a hefty sized box perched at my front door- the words “Blue Apron” dazzling across all sides of it’s cardboard exterior. I scooped the oversized package into my arms and hoisted it onto the kitchen counter for inspection. As I slit open the taped edges the interior began to reveal itself. The food all tucked into a big silver insulated bag. The ingredients were lovely- the presentation spot on. Each ingredient labeled and measured out in just the perfect amount. I emptied all of them into my fridge and waited impatiently for the supper hour to arrive.

The first meal I dove into was a Smoked Mozarella and Cabbage Pizza- I told you the ingredients were unusual. I can’t say I was tremendously excited to place a head of cabbage upon the yeasty delicious dough they’d sent me but I figured they knew what they were up to at this Blue Apron place and trusted the process.

The pizza was simplistic to assemble- some of the steps surprising me along the way but making perfect sense in the end product. The flavor was rich, smokey and tangy with the capers found peaking through the cabbage and hunks of gooey smoked mozzarella.img_1449

The recipe and ingredients are below for you to have a go at- I promise it won’t let you down. Despite how much you may not dig cabbage- anything is good when it’s draped upon a fluffy round of pizza dough and then covered in cheesy goodness.

Thank you Blue Apron for the study break of a lifetime- dinner was everything I imagined and more. I look forward to many a more gourmet dinner out of a box.

 

Original Recipe on BlueApron.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pound Plain Pizza Dough ( you can make this from scratch, buy Pillsbury or some smaller pizza chains will sell you a serving of pizza dough)
  • 7 Ounces Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • ¾ Pound Green Cabbage
  • 1 Tablespoon Capers
  • ¼ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Siracha for dipping- if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Directions:

1.Remove the dough from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut out and discard the cabbage core; thinly slice the leaves. Peel and mince the garlic. Small dice the cheese. Cut off and discard the root end of the romaine; halve the leaves crosswise. Core and thinly slice the apple.

2. In a large pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the cabbage and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes, or until softened. Add the capers and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.

3.While the cabbage cooks, lightly oil a large sheet pan. On a clean, dry work surface, using your hands and a rolling pin (or a wine bottle), gently stretch and roll the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. (If the dough is resistant, let rest for 5 minutes.) Carefully transfer to the prepared sheet pan; rub the dough into the pan to coat the bottom in oil.

4.Evenly top the prepared dough with the cooked cabbage and cheese, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Season with salt and pepper. Bake, rotating the sheet pan halfway through, 16 to 18 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 2 minutes.

Take-a-moment French Toast

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Sea foam green- a cool, calm and ever peaceful experience. Pair that shade of greatness with the wildness of a deep and ocean inspired turquoise and you have magic- pure magic. Picture noimg_20160917_204006w a willow -tree -shaded yard with long tables donned with brown butcher paper, porcelain navy mugs, fuscia wild flowers, bright bountiful sunflowers and food- lots of tantalizing food. The corner of the sweet patio surrounded by cozy outdoor sofas and centered on a glamorous fire pit- the stones all sea blue and fiery.img_20160917_101629This, my friends, was the setting of today’s decadent brunch. My very best friend- which I have a few of (praise God)- celebrated her day of birth with a relaxing and abundant birthday brunch. I arrived at the quaint cottage at 6am and we acted like little Marthas- like Mary and Martha – running from task to task, dusting off patio furniture, picking out flowers, displaying the coffee and mimosa bar just so, and then we assembled what now may just be my new favorite breakfast item- French toast bake. If you’ve not tried it you must. You must go to the market straight away and purchase the few ingredients required and assemble this masterpiece immediately- no matter the hour- it’s a fine choice.
The morning proceeded without a hitch, several girls arrived primped and pressed in their finest Saturday brunch attire and we enjoyed yogurt parfaits with loads of fresh peaches, berries and bananas. We sipped on tropical mimosas- laden with strawberries, pineapple juice and the finest $5 champagne. We prayed and played, we decorated mugs and talked about boys and weddings. It was scrumptious.

img_20160917_203618More often than not all of Southern California races from calendar event to calendar event- not taking a spare moment to breathe and be in the moment they currently exist. We hurry ourselves from work to dates to bed and to work to gym to church. It’s a busy life we lead and it is fine and dandy when we embrace secret garden moments such as these. img_20160917_203837Where we sit, we sip, we make eye contact and genuinely listen to the souls in our presence. The moments where we let the sun sink deep into our skin and breathe the fresh ocean air wafting in from the sea nearby. These times are where life, memories, and relationships flourish. These are the times we allow to remain in our memory banks for later reference and laughter.img_20160917_203157

On that note- go plan a brunch for yourself, yourself and some girl friends, for your mom and your sisters. Sink your teeth into this take-a-moment-French-toast and enjoy life for the riches it so abundantly provides should we take a moment to gratefully receive them.

Ingredients:

French Toast Bake:

  • 15 oz. day old French Bread- cut into cubes
  • 8 AA jumbo eggs
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk ( I like Whole Food’s 365 brand!)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter ( cold)

For serving:

  •  powdered sugar for dusting.

 Directions:

French Toast Bake:

  1. Cut day old loaf into 2′ x 2′ cubes and layer in a 12′ x 10′ glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk the “French Toast bake” ingredients together and pour over the french bread cubes.
  3. Cover with Saran rap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and no more than 24 hours.
  4.  The day of serving: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Mix brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon in a mixing bowl, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s reached a crumb-like texture.
  6.  Sprinkle the topping onto the French toast bake and place in oven to bake for 45 minutes. Check the bake every 10 minutes or so to ensure the bake is not burning on top- if it is you may need to move the bake to a lower rack for less exposure to the superior heating element.
  7.  Once complete, dust the bake with powdered sugar!
  8. The bake can be refrigerated for 3 days.