Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Okay okay okay, so there have been many a revelations since my last post. I am ashamed and thrilled at the same time to share them with you. When you cook as much as I do you tend to have a very firm grasp on grocery stores and their layouts and the way they price things and when they go on sale and which ones offer which produce and goodies, etc. etc. Well there are a few places I won't even let myself go into because I know I will want to spend all of my bill money in one fell swoop (Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods, and what I thought was off limits Trader Joes.)

Don't get me wrong I want to go into all of these stores and I know that they have things to offer that I would adore but I am under the impression that they are all going to be pricy because of the quality or what not.

If you are like me and you have believed Trader Joe's to be a bougie overpriced hipster paradise, let me help shatter that illusion and provide proof at that.

I went in there searching for an ingredient I thought that they would carry for a recipe from some hippie blog I had found that I wanted to try(turns out they didn't have nutritional yeast after all, shucks!)

Anyways I just needed that one ingredient and had planned on doing my real grocery shopping later at the stores near me. TJ's is about fifteen minutes away from me so when I walked in the door and started noticing prices I quickly turned my butt around and grabbed a cart and went to town! I bought whatever I wanted. Things that I have such a hard time finding in my go to grocery stores, arugula for example was not only sold there in a big bag but it was also half the price and double the quality of what is offered elsewhere AND it was organic. I'm not one to really care too much about organic versus not, I know that it is better for you and what not but when you are as much on a budget as me eating produce is eating produce.

I will say that I loved that about the store though it offers nearly all organic produce and farm raised free range protein options. They don't offer a lot of junk food which is great, not really any room for temptation. Basically imagine all the healthy parts of your standard super center and that is TJ's with cute handwritten labels and pricing on everything and a much more condensed version of the store so you can be in and out.

Anyways if you would like some visual proof of how great it is, here is my first every Trader Joe's haul.



Just look at those prices!

Simply amazing. I highly encourage you all to head into your nearest Trader Joe's at your earliest convenience and fall into a deep grocery store love like I myself did.

Now onto the good stuff.

I've been as dedicated as ever to my healthy eating lifestyle and working out on a routine as much as the restaurant life will allow me. I have started prepping meals for work and waking up early to work out, a big thanks goes out to my friend Megan for that one, without her early morning phone calls getting my sorry butt out of bed everyday I doubt I would be as successful as I have been.

So with your days starting at 7 (okay sometimes 8) and not ending till usually 11-1 am breakfast has to be solid especially when at that early wake up you are running at least 3 miles and ending with weights. That'll surely leave a girl hungry. So today I offer you something I have been dreaming of. I couldn't get the thought of banana blueberry pancakes out of my head. I HAD to make them.

So off to Trader Joe's I went and with a few essential ingredients gathered later I went to work.

Here's what you will need.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Pancakes 

Serves : 2
Cook/Prep Time: 5 minutes

3 egg whites
1/4 c. milk
1 banana, mashed ( I might bump this up to 1 and a half to 2 next time to make it taste extra bananay, yes I just made that a word)
3/4 c. blueberries
1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. steel cut oats
1-2 dashes of vanilla extract

All you have to do is mix all of your ingredients together, the blueberries last because you just want to fold them in. 

Like so...

Then you want to take about 1/4 c. of the mixture at a time into your greased skillet and cook until done, be careful to cook on low and be patient that way you don't burn your pancakes and you can cook the batter all the way through.

Then voila you have these ready to eat babies!

I topped mine off with some extra fresh blueberries and they were FANTASTIC!

This is a super healthy recipe, VERY easy to whip up and high in protein and fiber thanks to the egg whites, oats, and whole wheat flour. 

The oats are totally optional but they are hardly noticeable and pack in an extra punch of fiber so why not right!


Some other fun happenings in my life include the AMC Best Picture Showcase that I am currently in the middle of with my best friend. She turned me onto this a few years ago and ever since I have been hooked!

So what is it you ask? Well every year before the Oscars AMC does a Best Picture Showcase in which they show the Best Picture nominees either in a 24 hour showcase ( For the true crazies) or split between the two Saturdays prior to the Sunday Oscars. Its a great way to see all of the movies that are up for a lot of nominations and be able to justify your opinions on who should win what. Or if you don't really care its just a great way to see a bunch of good movies for cheap. Its like 60 bucks for all 9. Not a bad deal at all but you have to have the lazy stamina for it. The ability to sit in a theater for four and then five straight movies in one day.

Its not for everyone but Britt and I we are pros in this field and we can marathon watch with the best of them!

Its fun, they do trivia in between the movies for prizes and its overall just a blast to be surrounded by movie lovers like yourself.

Also I went to trivia with some other great friends this past week. I love playing games and I love being around people that want to play games, while trivia mostly taught me that I don't actually know as many useless facts as I thought I did, it was a fun free way to get out of the house for the night. (Also thanks to the happy hour appetizers I tried one of the best apps I've ever had that I deduced the recipe for in my head and will be recreating likely for the Oscar party this Sunday and then I will be sharing it with you!)

This is Angela she is one of the world's true beauties and we got this picture together after trivia.

Behind us is an ice skating rink that I will be revisiting soon for another fun outing!

Well that is what is new with me. As always happy eating and I hope you are inspired to go out and do some fun things with your friends, because it is just plain good for the soul!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cheddar Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese with Spicy Sausage and Oreo Peanut Butter Brownies

Okay so again it has been forever since I have posted. But it has also been a while since I have felt I have created something worthy of sharing. Given the feedback from my last couple of food posts to my various social media (Instagram and Facebook) faith was restored that you all really wanted some of those recipes. So for myself and for you I redid one of them in order to preserve all its smoky cheesy greatness.

This recipe unlike the (Buffalo and Blue Cheese Tuna Cabbage Wraps - which is also to come one of these days) is not diet friendly. It falls into that category I have talked about before of the just gotta have it comfort food.

I created this with someone special in mind using a lot of the flavors we had in the house at the time. No intense planning went into it like some of my recipes simply convenience. It is a definite upgrade to a childhood classic of kraft mac and hot dogs. (Which I would like to mention is still enjoyed in this household by my lovely roomie :-P) Anyways after the feedback of people wanting the recipe I had a chance to decide what really worked with it and what could have used some tweaking, it is still just as easy but oh ya know just a bit cheesier, and creamier and more to die for. ( Didn't figure anyone would mind those changes. :)

So without further ado here we go.

What you will need

1 box of whatever kind of pasta you want to use. 
I used whole grain rotini because it was the best pasta I had in the house for mac and cheese. You can feel free to use your preference or whatever short noodles or shells you have on hand. This pasta was also preferred because the ridges will capture all that cheesy goodness. (Just something to keep in mind when deciding on your noodle.)
1 8oz package of pepperjack cheese ( I could only find a block at my store but if you can find shredded that will save you some time, either way it needs to be shredded)
12oz of sharp cheddar cheese (8oz for the cheese sauce, 4oz for topping)
1/2 stick of butter
1 shallot, diced ( or whatever onion you have on hand, white or yellow preferably. If you use white or yellow use only a quarter of the onion.)
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. chicken stock/ broth ( this gives the dish a lot of great flavor I wouldn't change this)
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
pepper to taste (optional)
4 links of sausage of your choice ( I prefer beef sausage and to stick with the theme I used a spicy one from Hillshire farms, but whatever you like will do just fine!)
(Not pictured) Flour for thickening ( I used 2 Tablespoons, you may need more or less depending on how thick you want your cheese sauce)

The first thing you want to do is get your pasta boiling. This is a fast dish and that is the part that will take the longest.

Then shred your pepperjack cheese if not already shredded. 

Next you want to heat the pot you are going to make the cheese sauce in. Put it over a med-high heat and add in your half stick of butter while you dice your onion.

Add your onion to your melted butter along with your garlic salt and powder,  and cook until tender and starts to brown and bubble.

Next add in your chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then add in your cheeses. Pepper jack and cheddar. Whisk until nice and smooth. This is where you need to use your judgement about how thick you want your cheese sauce to be. I added two tablespoons of flour and it was perfect for my preference. 

Whisk away till you have a smooth yellowish orange color.

Remove from heat and whisk in your heavy cream.

Next chop up your sausage links. ( Make sure you are using precooked links if you are following this recipe or cook them before chopping them if they need cooking.)

Add your sausage to your cheese sauce.

By now your pasta should be cooked ( don't overcook your noodles, you want them to be al dente (slightly firm) to be able to hold up the cheese sauce.) 

Drain your noodles and then transfer into a bowl big enough to mix the noodles and the sauce. 

Stir all together and then transfer into an oven safe baking dish. 

(Note you could eat it from this stage if you want, I took a few bites myself and it was perfectly yummy, but being me I can't resist the option of adding a nice cheesy crusty layer to the top and allowing the flavors to deepen together in the baking process. So if you wish to bake continue to read if not Bon Appetite)

Once you have it in a baking dish cover with the other 4 ounces ( or however much it takes to cover your pasta) of cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted. About ten minutes or so.

This is pre baking. I was saving this to be baked later but I topped with the cheese and covered it with an airtight lid and it was ready to go when I was ready to cook it. 
Got to love make ahead dinners!


Oh and as a bonus I will share with you this little baby of a recipe I put together the other day on my brownie making quest. It was something I saw a picture of that I needed to try out. Its a 25 minute dessert that you can't beat!

Oreo Peanut Butter Brownies
Okay so what you will need 
1 box of brownie mix (and whatever it calls for usually water eggs and oil)
1 package of oreos ( I didn't count when making this recipe so just have a package)
Peanut butter (have a jar handy I don't know the exact amount here either)
Cupcake liners ( yes these are essential if you don't want a huge mess or ruined brownies)


Okay you ready?

Preheat your oven to 350.
This is all you do, mix your brownie batter together.
Take two oreos and layer with peanut butter. Oreo, peanut butter, oreo, peanut butter. Got it?
Okay like this

Place each of those babies into your cupcake line pan and then cover with brownie batter. Don't overfill because the brownies will puff up some just make sure your top layer of peanut butter is completely covered.

Next bake for twenty minutes and VIOLA!

Yea you can thank me later. ;-)