Friday, January 25, 2013

My Best Recipe Book

Elephants. Probably African. Quotes: Dr. Seuss, Holden Caulfield, a Bible verse, Mark Twain, other various writers. Numerous icons. Word documents. Excel sheets. Folders. Unfinished poems. Lots of blue. Not a dark blue, but light. 

My computer desktop.

I stare at it a lot.

Most of the time I’m not really doing anything on my computer. Just sitting there, staring at my desktop background, waiting for something to happen. (Unfortunately, I do not have a magical computer that creates amazing works of writing or art by itself that I can take credit for.)

So until one of those brilliant, momentous, immensely rare ideas comes along my desktop gazing and the Internet keep me occupied.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, and around again. Unfortunately, like my computer, those sites are not magical and not self-propelled, that they do need a human behind them to make something happen. Staring at them won’t make a bunch of people suddenly want to visit to my blog, or follow me on Twitter and Tumblr. Staring at Facebook won’t make one of my friends decide they want to message me.

So, I turn to Google.

Ahh… Google.

The depths and crevices and caverns of Google used to intimidate me. I was one of those who stuck to the top two choices. If they didn’t give me what I wanted, I ran away screaming saying the answer could not be found.

(Not out loud or anything, just a small fit of frustration inside my head.)

However, one day I realized that Google could be magical. Google can lead you to wonderful things, full of goodness and tasty joy.

As I continued to learn more and more about myself, like all the different restrictions my body was making to my diet, I also learned the wonders of one of the most used search engines.

Google was no longer some mysterious place full of unneeded knowledge or useless and undiscoverable information. I now saw Google as one giant, enormous, ever-growing, ever-changing, ever-changeABLE recipe book.

Now, when the confines of social networking bring me down or just aren’t moving fast enough, I spend my time looking for recipes that I can eat or alter to my needs. By the way, you can find some pretty strange recipes online. (There are some really freaky food combinations going on in the world.)

People are weird these days.

Through professional websites, linking sites, and other personal food blogs, I’ve acquired many recipes and gained a ton of foodie knowledge. I often look for recipes that I wouldn’t have to change a lot. It’s been surprising how much is out there that I never realized before. Another favorite thing is finding recipes that I can distort into my own culinary creation.

Google has also validated that I’m not so crazy. (Or maybe…I’m just not crazy alone.) People think I do weird stuff with peanut butter; you should try googling “Peanut butter sandwich recipes” or “Best peanut butter sandwich.” I get a lot of my ideas from searches like that.

Peanut butter, mustard, and onion is one experiment I did not think up myself. But it doesn’t sound half bad at all.

Also, I never knew this (how naive I am) that peanut butter and oatmeal is actually a big deal. Who knew?

Ants on a Log Oatmeal
Google is the best for the times my oatmeal is lacking or I’m tired of the same old, same old.

My advice to you is to start with something simple (oatmeal, pizza, peanut butter sandwich, etc.), whatever your favorite is, and go on Google and get inspired. Try something totally new. Do you like two certain things? Try them together. That’s how I got my peanut butter and horseradish mustard sandwich. Now, that combination has flown way past sandwich filling status.

Having to be so careful with what I eat, I’m suddenly aware of how much I love to cook (or experiment, as I prefer to call it). I don’t do it a lot, but finding recipes and getting my hands dirty is a joy I never knew I had.

Until the inconsistent World Wide Web flips and flops again and transforms into something new, Google will continue to be a great source of inspiration and my best recipe book.

I’ve gathered so many recipe links, that I sort of overwhelmed myself. I just kept finding more and more without ever actually making any of it.

This year I’m hoping to change that.

Tuesday, (the last day before school started) was bittersweet for me. Bitter because I knew when I woke up in the morning I’d have to prepare for school. Sweet beyond imagination because I chose to spend the day in the kitchen. I went through the list of links I have and found a couple recipes I had been dying to try.

The first was from a website, Nutty About Health. The author, Karey, posted a recipe titled “Low-carb Sweet Almond Buns.” When I read it and saw how she raved about them, I went out and bought almond flour specifically to make them. Tuesday, I finally took action.

I did make a couple changes though. I used actual brown sugar. I omitted the coconut oil and just subbed another tablespoon of margarine. I love sea salt, but I didn’t have any, so regular worked fine. Even with my alterations, I couldn’t believe how delicious these were! It was my first almond flour recipe and it was a great first impression. They even had a nice little tang to them. I love simple recipes that are quick and easy to make.

Karey, thanks for the awesome Hannah-friendly recipe, I’ll definitely be keeping this one around.

After school snack yesterday! With The Bee's Knees Peanut Butter.

The second treasure I tried was from Big Girls Small Kitchen. From here, I baked their Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookie Breakfast Bars. I am absolutely positive it did not turn out the way they intended. Due less to the fact that I had to alter it, and more to the fact I need to learn to read the direction section completely.

Either way, I can guarantee you I will be making this again.

In my version I could say I omitted the vanilla extract, but frankly I just forgot about it. Then, the whole “bar” part sort of got left in the dust when I put all the batter into ONE loaf pan instead of TWO.

(I seriously need to learn to read directions.)

I also probably didn’t let it cool as much as I should have before cutting into it.

As I said though, I’ll be making it again.

I cut the loaf into strips, and then carefully wiggled them free. Some of them were really crumbly, so parts of it were not kept. For the majority of creation, I sliced it thick then made little squares. (After splitting three into squares, I learned my lesson and stuck the rest in the fridge for a little to chill.)

Finally tasting chocolate chips (I found dairy-free) surrounded by a gooey cookie dough again was enough to sell me. Even without the vanilla, I didn’t feel like the squares were missing anything. The pecans give it crunch, the chocolate melts, and the dough of my version had a classic chewy texture necessary for any cookie bar to succeed.

A couple pieces made their way to school with me.
Lastly, I looked around at a couple different baked tortilla chip recipes and sort of made my own. They came out pretty tasty. I used whole-wheat tortillas, cut up into triangles, and added some spices and olive oil. I need to tweak the spice combo, but I thought for a first attempt it wasn’t bad.

These wonderful treats made my first week of school much less terrible.

With all my lists of recipes, I wonder, instead of passing down family heirloom scrapbooks filled with recipes; is my generation going to pass along e-mails filled with web addresses? Or a secret flash drive that only a few select people know how to access? 

Well, that's my philosophical wonderings for the day. 

For the recipes I made above, follow this links:
Low-Carb Sweet Almond Buns
Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookie Breakfast Bar

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Like to Play with My Food

“I think I’ll have my aunt try it first, see if she pukes. If she doesn’t, then MAYBE I’ll try it.”

I know kids are picky about what they eat and what they find acceptable. But most boys will eat anything. So if you’re babysitting a kid and telling him about your oatmeal with peanut butter and that’s what he says, you know it’s bad.

When you say your making dinner and before your boyfriend even knows what you’re cooking, his first text back is “Ew lol,” you know it’s bad.

No, my food isn’t bad, but if those are the reactions I’m getting, then my food and I must have reached SOME new level of oddity. (Though, since I’ve joined Tumblr, I’ve encountered many creations like my own. Especially when it comes to oatmeal.)

Since my last post, I’ve tried a few new, interesting recipes. All of them my own except for one; it was a pretty basic (yet tasty) baked oatmeal.

Sunday night I got to make a food I’d been craving. Cabbage. Why I would be craving cabbage, not so sure, but I was, so just go with it.

I thought about a stir-fry. However, I eat a lot of stir-fries, so I wanted something new to try, something fresh for my palate. I decided to try a cabbage roll. Instead of baking though, I steamed mine. 

The rolls (yes, I had two) were stuffed with brown rice and veggies (orange bell pepper, onion, and some sliced cabbage). I flavored it with crunchy peanut butter, PB2 (powdered peanut butter), curry, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper. After I “taste-tested” the filling, I wasn’t sure there’d be enough to stuff my rolls with.

Luckily, I had plenty.

I even had the leftover filling for dinner at work the following night.

The next food I tried this week isn’t really a new food, more like an old favorite remade. I had seen pictures of “peanut butter pinwheels” and “peanut butter sushi” and “peanut butter rolls” everywhere. The peanut butter lover in my stomach whispered to me on Monday to make some for lunch.

To do so, I flattened out two slices of my 100% whole wheat bread. On one, I spread Dark Chocolate Dreams from the Peanut Butter&Co. and on the other I spread my homemade peanut butter. Rolled them up and cut them up just like sushi. Tasty! Almost better than real sushi because I can actually take a bite of one of these pieces instead of having to shove the entire piece in my mouth at once.

Apparently I liked them more than I thought. Last night in my dream I was looking for something. When I checked a drawer, I found one piece of the Dark Chocolate Dreams sushi preserved in plastic wrap and I seemed to be overjoyed by finding this treasure.

On Wednesday I had oatmeal for dinner. To mix it up a bit, I made Ants On A Log Oatmeal. 

With the typical Old Fashioned Quaker Oats I threw in some chopped celery and raisins. For the peanut butter part I used Cinnamon Raisin Swirl peanut butter, also by the Peanut Butter&Co. To thicken it up I added in some PB2 as well. I must say, out of all my oatmeal dishes, this makes the top of the lists for sure!

Earlier this week I also decided to actually follow a recipe. It came from the site, TidyMom. Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal.

My first baked oatmeal. And I fell in love. I mean, come on, it actually had peanut butter in the original recipe. How could I not love it? I think it could have used another minute or so in the oven, it still seemed pretty moist in the middle. Almost gooey, not complete uncooked gooey…But somewhere in between. Anybody know if that’s how it’s supposed to be?

Despite maybe being a bit undercooked, I still ended up eating about half of it for dinner the night I made it. It cooled by the time I ate for dinner (made it in the morning). So I reheated it in a pan and spread Cinnamon Raisin Swirl on top. Absolutely delicious!

Tidy Mom, thanks for the recipe!

None of my foods got comments of note this week. Except for one on a photo of my Ants On A Log Oatmeal, “Eww, that looks delicious!” I’m still not quite sure what it means. No matter what, I was entertained. And if the friend who wrote that reads this blog by chance, thanks for the comment and the resulting laugh!

With such good food experiments it makes me think of how school is coming up soon (the 23rd). I’m praying that God will keep me calm enough to handle all I want to handle. Working out, writing, school. Especially since I may be switching to Kinesiology as a major. (I’m terrified, but it may be where my future is.)

I’ve got 6 days till my first day back at school. Till then, I plan to work out (which is steadily improving, might I add) and eat as much glorious creations as I can find.

This week I've also been enjoying many other treats:

PB and Toast. First time having crunchy peanut butter.
Don't know why I never indulged before.
An old love reunited. Honey Bunches of Oats - Honey Roasted.
Nothing too creative here, but it makes for an awesome dinner.
So Delicious Mango yogurt with PB2 and crunchy peanut butter.
Left in the fridge overnight, I swear it tastes exactly like Greek Yogurt.
100% Whole Wheat Tortilla Wrap with crunchy peanut butter.
Mmm...Peanut butter quesadilla's should be sold in restaurants. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

No Additives, It's Not Real!

A couple months ago when both The Boy and I were quite busy in our own lives, and extremely exhausted when we finally were together we had planned an entire day to spend together. My idea was to get us out and about and enjoying the outdoors…or something. However, the side affects from the 99.3 fever the night before, had other plans. My body was no longer ravishly fighting off an infection, but I sure wasn’t up to doing much.

He was sweet and decided to stay with me anyways. We chose to relax at my house and watch movies.

When lunchtime came, I wasn’t sure what to offer him (he rarely eats at my house). I chose my tasty Peanut Butter Captain Crunch and he landed on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He used a store bought container instead of my homemade (perfectly fine, all the more for me). I wasn’t offended at all; homemade peanut butter does have a different taste than most store bought brands.

Over our lunch, The Boy decided it was time to confront me about a mistake I’d been making.

“You know, the peanut butter you make isn’t real peanut butter. It’s just pureed peanuts.” He said with a confident smirk.

“Uh, you do realize that’s all that any peanut butter is?”

“There’s no butter in yours, it’s just really tiny bits of peanuts.”

Okay…I could sort of see where this was going now.

I replied, “There’s no ‘butter’ in any peanut butter. They add oils to peanut butter, but they’re only to make it smooth and easier to spread.”

“Exactly.” He smiled smugly, “Yours is just peanuts. It doesn’t count, Hannah.”

Yes, by now, he was getting on my nerves. He may have only been joking, but still. I knew I was right, so I planned to just let him argue his side till the conversation died.

“You don’t need any of that stuff,” I explained, “peanuts are all fat to begin with, you don’t have to add any more oil unless you want to. It’s healthier this way.”

He was unconvinced but finally gave up trying.

…Until about 20 minutes later at my grandma’s house. My grandma even pulled out her jar of peanut butter to see what’s in it. Peanuts, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sugar, and salt. The hydrogenated vegetables oils are described as cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed, additives simply to prevent separation.

(Separation of the peanut oil from the peanuts, in case you were wondering.)

So I went through the list. Peanuts, yes. Hydrogenated vegetable oils, mmm doesn’t that sound yummy? Thanks, but no thanks. Sugar, can’t eat it. Salt, not bad, just not a fan. Various other additives and preservatives…Umm, my rule, if you can’t pronounce it or remember it or it’s just in there to “prevent separation” of the actual product itself, you don’t need it. And honestly, if someone’s fighting so much for that extra oil in there, I think they should be able to deal with having to stir the natural stuff back in every now and again.

Just saying.

My boyfriend remained stubborn as a mule, my grandmother seemed to sort of agree with me, and I decided that I’d make enough of my point.

I’m not against brands like Jif or Skippy; I’m not doubting their deliciousness. I often use Jif to Go for ants on a log, or even a quick snack. I’m just saying, peanut butter is peanut butter. You don’t need preservatives and extra fat to make it so.

In fact, I’ll eat any of it.


Teddie (absolutely love the fact it comes unsalted!):

Jif (Jif to go is the perfect serving size to make ants on a log, I actually use 3 celery sticks cut in half):

PB2 powdered peanut butter:

Smucker's (just realized I can eat this stuff, so happy):

Peanut Butter & Co. (a personal favorite, any flavor really):

And due to the amount of peanut butter I’ve been stuffing my face with lately, I figured it’d be good to get a gym membership again. (No worries, it’s also just because I’m an adrenaline junkie and the gym is my number one fix.) So I joined up at the local YMCA. It turned out to be a full day actually. The Boy came with and so we spent the day driving around looking for adventures, and then stopped at the Y on our way home.

So far I’ve had two workouts, every minute of them was glorious. I posted a Facebook status of, “Sweat pouring, lungs burning, legs shaking…Best feeling ever. Back at the gym and feeling great!” I can’t help it; it’s my happy place.

Surprisingly, I did pretty well for not being in a gym for about a year. I set workout goals and then marked what I actually accomplished.

For my first workout they looked like this:

For my second:

I didn't make 3 miles on the bike, but I did make extra on the treadmill, plus my strength training. 

The strength training went well. (As you can tell my arms are weak. I’m working on it.) But other than that, my numbers were all pretty much what they used to be. And no matter what they are now, they’re only going to get better, right?

I’m just nervous about keeping this up during school. I’m thinking of getting an EARLY start Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s. And if I keep up my determination, I should be able to stick with it.