life changes

hello all! so, I’ll admit that i (definitely) let the blog take a backseat, first because of the journal, then because of finals, then because of studying for the GRE (more school? I must be crazy), then because I was in North Carolina for eight weeks, and then because I was moving to Atlanta to start my adult job! That’s right. I’ve moved and I’m gainfully employed. Now, I’m going to get back to posting on the Kitchen Counsel.  I promise. 

take-it-to-go thursdays: artichoke hummus

I love artichokes. I really do. I think it starts from the times that Mama would make them in the summer. All of my family–cousins, brothers, parents, aunts and uncles–would eat together every night and most nights, boiled artichokes were on the table. Normally with a side of drawn butter. Or French Onion Dip, straight from the fridge. Yum.

While boiled artichokes might still be my favorite, they are not the most convenient food to take on the go. So, as I’ve gotten more wise in the ways of easy lunch food, I’ve found other ways to incorporate them. They even had a cameo appearance in my Tuna and White Bean Salad a few weeks ago. This week, when I was contemplating what my take-it-to-go recipe would be, I was scrounging around my kitchen cabinets and there happened to be a can of artichoke hearts next to a can of chickpeas. Eureka!  Artichoke hummus.

This was a great lunch! Different from what I normally eat but still very filling. I accompanied my hummus with baby carrots, chopped celery, and a chopped toasted everything bagel thin. It was nice to have all of the different dipping options.

Recipe:

  • 1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini 
  • Juice of half a lemon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water (optional, to thin it out)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • small squirt of Sriracha (optional, but kind of amazing)

Method:

  • In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  • Process until smooth, adding water to thin if necessary.  Add salt, pepper, and Sriracha (if using) to taste. Extra lemon juice or tahini may also be added if desired.

Small Details:

  • Total time: 10 minutes
  • Makes about 2 cups

oatmeal-peanut butter-m&m cookies

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I am a stress baker. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, I get the urge to make something sweet. When I woke up Sunday morning (at 6:57 AM. Without an alarm. On the weekend.), I decided to work at home for the morning so that I could make some cookies. I felt that was a reasonable use of my time. That, and I really needed to do some laundry.

I looked in my cabinets to see what all I had. I decided to modify the base of the Monster Cookies (recipe coming soon!) that I make and simplify it a little bit: Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M cookies. I also cut the recipe in half. As is, it makes 24 cookies, so in its original iteration, it makes between 50 and 60, depending on the size of the cookie.

You might notice that my cookies are a little flat. That’s because I was basically doing this in my sleep and I forgot to put in the baking powder. Guys, do not be like me and forget to put in the baking powder.  They are still delicious, but not as fluffy as they would be if they had reached their full potential. With the baking powder.

As soon as they were cool, I packaged them up and took them to school to share with everyone around me. I cannot be trusted with cookies in the house–especially ones that are this tasty.

Recipe:

  • 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
  • Plain M & Ms (As many as you want. I just eyeballed it)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (completely optional, but I was struck with a desire to make these slightly healthier as I lunged for the extra large bag of M & Ms. They added a really nice crunch!)
Method: 
  • Preheat oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer combine sugars, peanut butter and butter.  Beat on medium-high speed until well blended.
  • Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  • Blend in the baking soda, vanilla, and salt.
  • With the mixer on low speed, mix in the oatmeal until just incorporated.
  • Fold in the M&Ms with a spatula.
I may or may not have eaten some dough directly off that spoon. Don’t judge me.
  • Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between each dough ball.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until light golden and just set, being careful not to overbake.
  • Let cool on the baking sheets 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container. Or you know, eat them all pawn them off on your unsuspecting friends.

Small Details:

  • Cook time: 10-12 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes
  • Makes 24 large cookies

peanut butter and jelly green smoothie

I had a long day of working at school last Saturday, one where I was supposed to meet someone at 8:30. No fun. Predictably, I hit snooze on my alarm clock until 7:34 am, giving me less than 45 minutes to shower, get dressed, make my bed, and make breakfast before running out the door. My refrigerator was pretty empty (it was the end of the week!), so I had to improvise and ended up making a pretty delicious peanut butter-banana smoothie to enjoy on the go that morning.

While I was drinking it, I felt like I was enjoying a peanut-butter banana sandwich. So, I started thinking about how I could make it into a green smoothie. Now that I’ve started drinking my vegetables in the morning, I’m hooked. I decided to add some spinach and some strawberries to make it a little bit more like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The flavor profile is definitely there. This is also extremely filling. I had one this morning at 6:30 and don’t even want to think about lunch.

Recipe:

  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach, washed (put in as much as you dare!)
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim, but I think that almond milk would be fantastic in this)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 large banana, frozen
  • 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter

Method:

  • Put your spinach, oats, and milk into the blender. Mix well, until spinach and oats are completely liquefied.
  • Add in banana, peanut butter, and strawberries. Blend.
  • Enjoy!

Small details:

  • “Cook” time: 5 minutes or less
  • Makes 2 servings

mustard-lemon roasted cauliflower

One of the favorite things I’ve discovered at the prepared food sections at Whole Foods has been their mustard-lemon roasted cauliflower. I found myself buying it almost every day and snacking on it all the time. I know, I know, weird craving, right? It’s just that good.

I know the date says January 24, but don’t worry! These aren’t still in my fridge. I ate them a while ago but thought to snap the picture beforehand because I was planning on making these.

After months of this behavior, I realized Wednesday that I could just make it myself. Why it took me months to realize this, I’ll never know. I went to Whole Foods for one last purchase so that I could attempt to recreate it at home.

A little bit of fiddling with proportions in my kitchen later, I made something pretty close to one of my favorite Whole Foods snacks. Success!

I’m sure that the mustard-lemon sauce would be good on all kinds of other veggies, especially brussels sprouts or broccoli, if you don’t like cauliflower. I’m a recent passenger on the cauliflower bandwagon–I love that it basically takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with.

Recipe:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • Juice from 1-2 lemons (I used 1.5 simply because the first one wasn’t that juicy and the second one was)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Chop your head of cauliflower into florets. Put the cauliflower into a large bowl.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter (nuke it between 45 seconds and a minute, depending on how fancy your microwave is).
  • Combine the mustard and the lemon juice with the melted butter. Whisk until combined.
  • Pour the butter-mustard-lemon mixture over the cauliflower and stir to combine. You want to make sure that every floret has some of the deliciousness on it.
  • Roast in your oven for 40-45 minutes, until caramel-y.

Small details:

  • Makes 4-5 servings, depending on how large your cauliflower head is.
  • Cook time: 40-45 minutes
  • Total time: 45-50 minutes

take-it-to-go-thursday: almost chipotle burrito bowl

I’ve only had Chipotle once in my life. I was in the Washington, DC airport, coming back from studying abroad in Europe. As any of you who have spent a fair amount of time abroad know, while Italian and French food are delicious, after awhile you just want the familiar. My first stops in the airport were McDonald’s for a Diet Coke–yes, it does taste very different from “Coke Light”–and Dunkin’ Donuts for a drip coffee. My traveling buddy had been talking everyday of the eight weeks when had been abroad about how she missed burritos.

I like Mexican food as must as the next person. I promise. However, I’ve never been a huge fan of burritos. I don’t know why–I think its the fact that I can’t eat them without ending up throwing the food all over myself. (My parents joke that I spill all of my food but only because it is entirely true.) So, I had a burrito bowl. I wasn’t expecting much.

I loved it. I loved all of the flavors combined. I mean, there isn’t much better than beans, cheese, guacamole, rice, and all of the other accoutrements, at least in my opinion. After seeing this post, I decided to attempt to make them on my own for this weeks take-it-to-go challenge.

My original plan was to put brown rice at the bottom of the burrito bowl, but I ran to the grocery store in the rain after classes yesterday and forgot to buy rice. Rice is not one of my kitchen staples because I rarely cook it successfully. I had big plans to buy the Uncle Ben’s Microwavable Rice Bags and then doctor it up. My big plans did not come to fruition, obviously. I did have some cooked quinoa in my fridge, so I tossed it with the same flavorings I planned to use in the rice: cilantro, lime, and a touch of olive oil.

On Wednesday night, I went ahead and made the chicken. If I hadn’t been an idiot and remembered rice at the grocery store (I know, I know), I would have also made it Wednesday night while I was watching How I Met Your Mother doing homework.  I would definitely recommend to prepare stuff the night before when trying to make a quick lunch in the morning.

Recipes:

Inspired by Iowa Girl Eats

For the chili-lime chicken:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
For the rice:
  • 1 cup brown rice (or if you are an idiot like me, 1 cup quinoa)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Salt, to taste
For the bowl:
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup rice (or quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese (or white cheddar would be delicious)
  • Any other toppings: guacamole, sour cream, salsa, pico de gallo (I mixed fat free greek yogurt with salsa to make a “dressing”)

Method:

Chicken:

  • Combine the lime juice, spices, olive oil together. Marinate the chicken in it.
  • Cook it in a skillet on the stove top until cooked thoroughly, about 6-8 minutes on each side.
  • When cooled, chop into bite sized pieces

Rice:

  • Cook rice (or other grain) according to package instructions.
  • Once cooked, toss the rice with lime juice, olive oil, and cilantro.

To assemble bowl:

  • Put rice at the bottom of a bowl (or if you are like me, a tupperware container).
  • Layer beans, corn, chicken, and cheese on top of the rice.
  • If you are not eating this immediately (I mean, it is take-it-to-go-Thursday, after all), put any additional toppings, like salsa or guacamole, in a smaller container so that everything doesn’t get soggy.

I took this to work with me and stored it in the fridge there. It reheated really well and was a satisfying lunch, with some tortilla chips and baby carrots on the side. The quinoa made it an interesting texture (and more protein packed), but I think I would have enjoyed it more with the rice. Next time I make this, I’ll be sure to remember rice at the grocery store.

Look how well it packs to go!

one new food: chia seeds [peanut butter chia seed granola]

I’ve been seeing all kinds of stuff on the blogs I read about chia seeds, which I had never heard of until about six months ago. The whole point of my “one new food a week” goal was to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things. I was wandering aimlessly around Whole Foods last week (so easy to do) and they had a big display for Chia Seeds. So I threw a bag in my purse and decided to figure out what to do with them later.

What exactly am I supposed to do with this “superfood”?

Brittany at Eating Bird Food wrote a fantastic post on why to eat chia seeds, which details all of their health features. These tiny little seeds are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, plant based protein, antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Who would have thought so much could fit into something so little?

So, once I knew that they were good for me (whew! I need all the help I can get), I had to figure out how to eat them. I know that you can soak them in water to made a “gel” to insert in a smoothie. I will try that for my green smoothies, but another smoothie recipe didn’t feel like I was really making an effort at eating this “new food.”

Then! Inspiration struck.

One of my favorite sites I read is Peanut Butter Fingers, written by the wonderful and hilarious Julie. I love getting a peek into her life multiple times a day. Does that make me a voyeur super creepy? I hope not–because I don’t plan on not reading her site any time soon. Well, she makes a ton of granola, which is something I’ve eaten but never made. While I was perusing her blog, I came across recipes for Cinnamon Chia Seed Granola and Peanut Butter Granola–and decided to combine the two to  make my own peanut butter chia seed granola.

It’s a great breakfast or a filling snack! I like to think the chia seeds make it even more healthy–so I can eat more, right?

Recipe:

Inspired by Peanut Butter Fingers

  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Combine honey and peanut butter together in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until just melted, between 20-30 seconds.
  • Add oats, cinnamon, chia seeds to the peanut-butter honey mixture. Stir until fully mixed.
  • Spread flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Cook in the oven for ten minutes, stirring halfway through.
  • Let cool until oats are just as crunchy as you prefer.

Small Details:

  • Makes 6 1/4 cup servings
  • Total time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes