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freshly made yogurt

Another one of my Christmas toys was a yogurt maker!  As I’ve said before, I really try and prefer to eat healthy foods without any additives or preservatives.  Unfortunately, most of the yogurt that we see in the dairy aisle today all contain additives, and most importantly, loads of sugar!  I love yogurt, so I have continued to eat all of the added sugar, but recently I have been trying to stick to the basics by eating greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt (if you get the plain kind) does not contain any added sugar.  I love greek yogurt as a snack with a little honey or jam – YUM!

Even though I aim to eat more natural foods, I still 100% believe that you can eat anything that you want, as long as it is in moderation.  No one is perfect (I certainty am not!), but personally I feel better when I eat healthy the majority of the time and still allow myself to have treats every so often!  If you deprive yourself, you will just want that chocolate bar or donut even more.  I definitely eat some kind of chocolate everyday!

My yogurt maker will allow me to avoid buying yogurt all together and make my own!  The maker that I received comes with individual jars to cook the yogurt in, which is perfect for grabbing when I am running out the door to work.  You can cook it plain, add a flavor to the mix, or add flavors to the individual jars to come out with 7 different types!  I’ll most likely be keeping mine plain.

All you need to make yogurt is pasteurized milk (of your choice) and a starter, which can be a container of a plain yogurt that you enjoy (or from your last batch of freshly made yogurt) or starter cultures that you buy.  You then heat the milk on the stovetop (this will ultimately create a creamier yogurt), add the starter once it cools to room temp and pour the mixture into each jar in the yogurt ‘oven’.  The yogurt will ‘cook’ for 8-12 hours depending on the type of milk you use.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, here goes my first shot:

My Very Own Homemade Yogurt

1.  Thoroughly clean each of the yogurt jars and allow to dry.

2.  Heat 42 ounces (specific to my yogurt maker) on the stovetop until it boils.  I am using 1% milk this time because it is what I have in my fridge!  Next time, I will definitely use a creamier milk, like 2%.

3.  Remove saucepan from heat and let sit until the milk reaches room temperature.

4.  Once milk has cooled, pour it into a pitcher.

5.  Add yogurt starter to the milk and stir until it dissolves.

6.  Pour the room temp mixture into the 7 glass jars of the yogurt maker.

7.  Place the jars (without lids) into the yogurt maker and place the cover on top.

8.  Plug in the unit and switch the ‘ON’ button.  Set the unit to the desired length of time (most likely 10-11 hours for 1% milk).  My 1% milk took 10 hours!

9.  Once the 10 hours is up (add actual length of time here), check the yogurt to make sure the yogurt is set.  It may take a few tries at making your yogurt until you receive the consistency and tartness that you desire.

10. After the yogurt is set, add the lids and place the individual jars in the fridge for 2-3 hours until chilled.

11. Once chilled, enjoy!

YUM!  It seems like a long process, but the steps of the process are very easy.  I think that it is important to make sure the yogurt is really at room temperature before adding the starter, and the mixture into the yogurt maker.  I read some reviews from people who did not have good results their first time.  But, I seemed to have a lot of luck my first time!

My yogurt was a little tart, which plain yogurt usually is, but it was also a little thinner than I prefer.  I enjoy greek yogurt over regular yogurt, so next time I will use different milk and I think it will help!

I’ve been enjoying my little jars of homemade yogurt all week!

I love it for breakfast with fresh blueberries, granola and a squeeze of honey.

But, I also love it for dessert with raspberry jam, shredded coconut and cacao nibs!

Next up, I’m going to try making some tzatziki for a more savory way to use yogurt.

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breakfast cookies & nut butter

Just another Sunday over here in Boston!  Lots of time spent in the kitchen trying out new things!

My first creation of the day was a breakfast cookie that I had been dying to try.  They are all the rage with food bloggers out there, so I decided to try it out.  I kind of did a combination of the cookies I have seen on my favorite blogs, so here is goes.

The cookie is actually a perfect breakfast with ample fat, protein and carbs in the mix.  You mix all of the ingredients together, put the mixture onto a plate to form a cookie shape, and pop it in the microwave.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup oatmeal (I used rolled oats)
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter of choice (I used banana raisin!)
  • 1 scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Mix (or protein powder)
  • 1/8 cup Almond Milk (regular milk would work as well)
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • small handful raisins

Directions:

  1. Mix oatmeal, protein powder and nut butter of choice together in a small bowl until it creates a clumpy mix.
  2. Stir in almond butter and mashed banana until well combined.
  3. Add in mix-ins of choice! I chose raisins here to work with the banana raisin PB that I chose, but other great mix-ins would work as well.
  4. Put mixture onto small plate and form into cookie shape.
  5. Pop in microwave for 4 minutes, or until it springs back like a fresh baked cookie! 🙂
  6. Top with whatever you want: more nut butter, banana, jam, etc.
  7. Enjoy!

This process didn’t take any longer than a regular bowl of oats!  It was a nice change to my normal breakfast.  I felt like I was eating something completely sinful, but it wasn’t!

Cookie formed before cooking

And, after being cooked!

And, with my toppings of choice – scoop of banana PB, 1/2 banana and sprinkle of raisins!

Next up, I whipped up another batch of nut butter.

While eating my chocolate almond butter this week, I found it to become drier as the week went on.  I was not sure if this was just due to it being more natural or not, but today I figured out that it was due to the fact that I had used my small food processor!  The large one is much more powerful, and turned my hazelnuts and pecans into a smooth and creamy nut butter!

Nut butter is so easy to make!  Just throw all of your ingredients into the food processor and blend.  Keep blending until they become smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.

Today, I used hazelnuts and pecans.  I roasted them for 2 minutes, and then let them cool before blending because I had read that they blend easier this way.  They definitely did, but by toasting them you do lose some of the nutrients.

Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Hazelnut Butter


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

  • Toast hazelnuts and pecans for 2 minutes, let cool.

  • Add nuts to food processor and blend until all chopped.

  • Add cacao powder, nibs, honey and cinnamon and blend.

  • Blend until creates a smooth and creamy nut butter.

This came out much better than my almond butter!  It tastes great, with just a hint of spice from the cinnamon!

I have my yogurt maker going right now…it should take about 9-10 hours!  I’ll be back with a post for that once it is done and I can try some. 🙂

got to love chocolate

Ok, so I’m a chocoholic…I would say that I eat chocolate at least once a day in some form or another.  Breakfast this morning was a chocolate lovers paradise!

Stew Leonards whole grain toast smeared with homemade chocolate almond butter!!  I whipped up this almond butter last night, since I was craving something healthy, sweet and chocolatey.

(oopps – guess I couldn’t wait to take a bite before I snapped this photo! :))


Almonds do have a high fat content, but they are very good for you!  They are a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, protein, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.  They are great for your body, and for your heart!  A small handful of almonds is a great snack because they will fill you up, and are easy to bring on the go.

I bought some raw almonds at Trader Joe’s last week, so I decided to try to make my own almond butter!  It is a very easy process, and if you buy your almonds somewhere like Trader Joe’s (where they are cheap!) then you’ll save yourself some money as well.  Buying almond butter at a store can be upwards of $10 a jar!  I purchased a 1 pound bag of raw almonds for $5.49, and only used 1 cup for this recipe!  I still have over 1/2 of the bag left.

Homemade Chocolate Almond Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Raw Almonds
  • 5-6 ounces Dark Chocolate
  • Splash of Agave Nectar

Directions:

  • Take 1 cup of raw almonds and throw them into a food processor (or blender).

  • Process on high, until the almonds form an almond meal (a flour-like consitency).

  • Add 5 blocks of chocolate bar (or about 5-6 ounces of chocolate).  I added 3 blocks, then went back for 2 more to make this butter more chocolatey!

  • After the chocolate is blended into the almonds, add a few squirts of agave nectar for sweetness.  I used Almond flavored, since I had it in my cabinet, but anything will do.

(this flavor of almond agave nectar is delicious!  It has a slight almond flavor, definitely not too overpowering.  I’ll give it a try in tea sometime!)

  • Continue to blend until the mixture creates a butter-like consistency.  It will be a big drier than store bought nut butter, but still spreadable and even more delicious!

Well, it is delicious straight out of the jar!  And, it was even more tasty on my whole grain toast!

Next up for breakfast was a new smoothie flavor that I have been dying to try!

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Frozen Cherries
  • 1/2 Banana (next time i’d use the whole!)
  • 1 tablespoon ground Flaxseeds
  • 1 scoop or packet Amazing Grass Kidz Chocolate SuperFood
  • 1/2 cup Almond Milk
  • Squirt of Agave, if desired
  • Handful ice cubes
  • Water if needed

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients above to a blender and blend until smooth!  I needed to add about 1/2 cup water to make the consitency drinkable.

Trader Joes Frozen Cherries – they have great prices on their frozen fruit, so I always have a freezer full of it!

Yummy banana thrown in there!

Ground flaxseed

The Amazing Grass products are definitely an aquired taste for me.  I cannot get over the wheatgrass flavor, but I do love the chocolate products (of course!).  I used the Kidz Chocolate Superfood here because I find the taste to be more chocolatey than their other products.  It is great in smoothies, and a great way to get some veggies into your breakfast!

I am a big fan of almond milk in my cereal, smoothies, and tea!

Almond agave

Add a handful of ice, and blend!

That was my kind of breakfast. 🙂

quinoa with oven roasted tomatoes

What is quinoa?  Quinoa (pronounced: KEEN-wah) is an annual herb of the goosefoot family that is cultivated for its starchy seeds which are used as food and ground into flour.  It is a high-protein whole grain which contains essential amino acids.

We love quinoa and made another delicious quinoa dinner tonight!  The prep didn’t take too long, but make sure you get the tomatoes into the oven early because they will definitely take the longest.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Splash of Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of Pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Cut cherry tomatoes in half

  • Place open side up in a baking dish

  • Spritz or drizzle tomatoes with olive oil

  • Then sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper

  • Place tomatoes in oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on size.  Keep checking every so often to see if tomatoes are done.  They should be slightly wrinkled and very tender.

  • Our tomatoes cooked for 30 minutes!  Let tomatoes cool before serving.

Quinoa with Vegetables

adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Serves 4-6, depending on type of dish

Ingredients:

  • a splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups rinsed quinoa
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup oven roasted cherry tomatoes (recipe above)

Directions:

  • Place 1.5 cups of quinoa and 3 cups of water in a saucepan; bring to a boil

  • Once it comes to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.  When ready, quinoa will have small spirals off of each seed.

  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and salt in a saute pan over medium heat.

  • Add onion, and cook until tender.

  • Add quinoa and corn and cook until hot and sizzling.

  • Once sizzling, add the kale and cook a few minutes until wilted and tender.

pre-chopped

chopped

  • Then add the pesto (we used store bought, but you could make your own!) and stir until well blended.

  • Once mixed, add the toasted pumpkin seeds and stir.

(place on a baking sheet, and toast for a few minutes until browned)

  • Serve with oven roasted tomatoes on top!

We both loved this meal!  The pumpkin seeds gave it crunch, and the tomatoes added a little sweetness to the dish.  The pesto was not overpowering at all, just a little flavor.  Give it a try!

Does anyone have any delicious quinoa recipes that are a must try? Or is their another grain that you love?

granola bars

I decided to have a little more fun while my fruit was dehydrating, so I whipped up some homemade granola bars that I found on another blogger website: Katheats.com

They were super easy to make.  I substituted some of my own ingredients in the bars, since I had them on hand.  You could basically use any type of dried fruit and/or nuts you have on hand!

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit (I used 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup craisins, 1/4 cup apricots)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.25 cups skim milk
  • 1 egg or egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Directions:

    1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

    2.  Mix dry ingredients.

    3.  Mix wet ingredients.

    4. Pour wet into dry.  Stir to combine.

    5.  Pour into a 9 x 9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

    6.  Bake for 40 minutes.

    7.  Cut into 9 squares.  Wrap individually and freeze for an on-the-go treat!

    These smelled delicious while they were cooking!  Upon taking them out, I dug right in to try a piece and I was a little disappointed.  I would like them to be a tad sweeter.  Next time I will add some agave or honey or brown sugar!  My husband doesn’t agree though, he loves them!