Tried It: Tahini Swirl Brownies.

Tahini BrowniesWhen it comes to super strange sounding recipes, I’m like a crow with something shiny. Just. Can’t. Resist. I’ll reference my trials of chocolate mouse made with avocado and corn-based ice cream. And so, when I spotted a recipe for brownies with a tahini topping in my March copy of Cooking Light, I had to try it it.

You’ve experimented with tahini, I hope? It’s sesame seed paste; the stuff that makes hummus taste like hummus. The texture is like extra oily peanut butter, but for whatever reason it has a real dry-your-mouth-out quality, in my opinion. I usually keep tahini on hand, but have always used it for salad dressing, as a binder for veggie burgers or in hummus. I was totally intrigued by the sweet application.

You know what? It worked! I made a few tiny changes to this brownie recipe: I used a little more brown sugar in the tahini mixture, subbed coconut oil for the sesame oil and threw in a handful of chocolate chips. YUM!

What kitchen experiments have you gotten into lately? Were they delicious, or a bust?

Nesting (Should be resting.)

39 weeks

Hello, 39 weeks. I didn’t think I’d see you. Measurements have shown our little guy to be husky from the start, and for whatever reason, I thought he’d make his debut early. Not so much.

Freezer StashI’m feeling pretty large and in charge, but otherwise, I’m mostly comfortable. I’ve been working like a crazy person, trying to write 4-6 weeks ahead for my freelance clients, and I’m pleased to say that I’m there! Things are on autopilot, and I should be able to enjoy at least a few weeks of downtime with our new addition.

And now…

We wait.

In the meantime, I’m blowing off nervous energy by cooking like the apocalypse is coming, and stuffing our freezers to the gills. For those curious what a pregnant lady stashes for postpartum meals, here’s a running tally:

Breakfast:

Mains, His and Hers: 

Sides: 

Desserts: 

Furthermore, the house is clean. My work is done. Baby clothes are washed. Hair has been cut, and toes polished. Hospital bags are packed. Nursery is as done as it’s going to be. Clearly, we have food. Come on little man, we’re ready for you!

Pregnancy Nutrition: Healthy Eating for You and Your Baby

preg nutrition

I am thrilled to have a guest blogger today, the super-talented Melissa Schollaert of Real Nutritious Living. When she and I talked about doing a little blog trade, I asked her if she could fill me in on holistic nutrition for pregnancy. As soon as I got her post, I wondered why I didn’t ask earlier! Read on for Melissa’s great thoughts on keeping you and baby nourished through all three trimesters:

When you are pregnant, the food you eat matters more than ever. In each trimester your baby continually develops and it’s important to use specific and smart nutrition to ensure your healthiest possible pregnancy. Below are a few of my favorite go to tips to help you accomplish just that.

First Trimester: Your baby’s nervous system is forming in the first trimester and if you are not taking in enough calcium, your body will leach it from your bones in order to give it to your baby. It’s important to avoid that at all cost!

  • Salt – Drink mineralized water; eat sea vegetables (kelp and dulce), Himalayan and Celtic sea salt daily.
  • Calcium – Leafy greens and seeds, especially sesame seeds. It’s important to note that caution should be exercised with eating nuts. They should not be consumed daily as research shows this leads to a 50 percent increase in childhood asthma.
  • Folic acid – 800mcgs in your prenatal vitamin and in asparagus, liver, lentils, broccoli and citrus.
  • Protein – 80 grams/day.  Some research shows lower risk of pre-eclampsia and other complications with adequate protein, and some women report less morning sickness when they consume this much protein.

SECOND TRIMESTER: Your baby’s skin and bones are forming in the second trimester, and requiring much more magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and collagen than ever.

  • Magnesium – Eat foods high in magnesium like buckwheat, millet, seeds, and everyone’s favorite, raw chocolate. If you are getting muscle cramps, foot cramps, and restless legs at night or headaches, then we suggest supplementing with high quality magnesium oil. I recommend not ingesting it; but doing a 20-minute foot soak at night with 2oz magnesium oil to 64 ounces hot water.
  • Vitamin A – Shelf your current fish oil and switch to Green Pastures High Vitamin A Butter Oil.
  • Vitamin C – Add lemon to your morning water and a food based C, like Premier Research Labs and eat C rich foods like bell peppers and berries.
  • Collagen – My favorite food source of collagen is drinking 2 cups of bone broth daily. It will assist in collagen production. Here are instructions on how to make bone broth.

THIRD TRIMESTER: Baby’s brain is growing quickly in the third trimester, and taste buds are continuing to develop. This is the phase where baby will develop tastes for the foods you eat. The lungs are developing and baby is beginning to utilize their organs on their own as well as eliminate waste.

Foods that support lung function include lotus root and all antioxidants like turmeric, acai, cloves, apples and red, yellow and orange bell peppers.

The other food focus should be on pastured animal meats, high quality egg yolks, grass fed beef and wild fatty fish. This is the phase to add back high quality fish oil. We believe the best for baby and mama is fermented cod liver and butter oil (Green Pastures makes a great one.)

AVOID:

  • Trans fatty acids (e.g., hydrogenated oils)
  • Junk foods including commercial fried foods
  • Sugar and sweeteners
  • White flour
  • Caffeine – including soft drinks and coffee
  • Soy
  • Fluoridated or chlorinated water

Melissa Schollaert is a Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor and founder of Real Nutritious Living. She’s been an on-camera expert for ABC, NBC, and GoodDayLive, with her writing published on a number of healthy living and nutrition websites. Melissa also teaches cooking classes and workshops at Whole Foods and various other retail outlets. She’s an avid yogi, always improving surfer, and a firm believer in faith, love, and the healing power of green juice. She’s got a heart for helping others achieve their health goals to attain their healthiest, happiest life.

Visit her blog: www.RNLblog.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/realnutritiousliving

Twitter: @realnutritious

Sweet Potato Casserole Yogurt

Sweet Potato Yogurt 1

Congrats! You survived Christmas! I hope yours was as merry as the day we enjoyed with family. Vore and I saw my parents and his mom then relaxed at home for the evening. How’s that for a successful holiday?

If your house is anything like ours, the fridge is absolutely brimming with leftovers. Turkey, ham, dressing, and casserole–one of the sweet potato variety. We eat ours whipped with butter, then topped with a pecan brown sugar crumble. It’s good, but whoa–super sweet.

Today, I got a little creative with the leftovers and thought I would share. I stirred 3 tablespoons of the sweet potato casserole (topping and all) into 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt. I then topped with a teensy bit of the crumble, a few walnuts and a drizzle of agave. What a fun way to reinvent leftover casserole! This could become a new fave.

What are you doing with all the leftovers?

What’s Cookin’? The Christmas Edition

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, I turn into a cooking machine. I bet you do, too!

I thought I’d share a few things that have come out of my kitchen and the recipes that made them great:

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball from Cooking Light

Cheese Ball

Gingerbread Boys from Southern Living

gingerbread

Eggnog Ice Cream from Use Real Butter

Eggnog Icecream

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake from Cooking Light

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

I’ve also made Honey Yeast Rolls + Baby Blue Salad from Southern Living and Legendary Bookout Dressing + Gran’s Birthday Bread Pudding from yours truly. And that just scratches the surface! What is coming out of your kitchen?

An Open Letter to Restaurant Chefs

Starring Veggie Plate 1

Dear Restaurant Chefs,

I think you guys are amazing. Most of you labored through culinary school (jealous!) and work crazy hours, all in the name of churning out delicious food. Your creativity inspires me on a regular basis. I love seeing the menus you write and tasting your unique flavor combinations, often copying them at home and on this site.

Allow me to tell you more about myself. I’m that customer you love to hate. The squeaky wheel who inquires about ingredients, makes special orders and very occasionally sends a salad back if it comes mixed with a smattering of bacon. I did politely ask the waiter to leave it off. I’m a vegetarian.

I really do try not to be a pain. I never ask you to create a special something just for me. Sides will do! I apologize for being picky. I tip your waiters well. Heck, I even wrote a post titled “How to Order When There’s No Veggie Menu Option” in an effort to make it easier on you guys when my kind comes to visit.

For the most part, you are incredibly accommodating. I’ve found that a majority of restaurant chefs actually get jazzed at the challenge of preparing a delicious meat-free meal. Ninety percent of you will, upon request, deliver a veggie plate that knocks my socks off. But then, there’s this:

Bad Veggie Plate

That’s plain old spaghetti, tomato sauce and canned black beans, presented to me as the “vegetarian plate” at a seated dinner. This looks like something a drunk college kid would concoct. (In your defense, this was served at a university’s conference center and could very well have been imagined by a drunk college kid.)

Today, can I give you a few tips on dealing with the likes of me?

1. Put something without meat on the menu. Fish doesn’t count. I know, I know: How could someone possibly want a meal with no steak/chicken/shrimp? The fact is, lots of Americans are paying more attention to what they eat. You simply don’t need heavy protein at every meal. I’ve seen my meat-and-potatoes guy order a black bean burger over the beef version. If he’ll order it, anyone will.

2. Don’t lean on pasta. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I loathe it when the only vegetarian option is a simple pasta dish. I can make that at home! You’re charging $18 for something that costs $2 to make. Pasta primavera is a carb heavy cop out. Which brings me to my next point…

Veggie Plates

3. Avoid carb loading. My standard reply to a waiter who tells me their restaurant doesn’t have a vegetarian item is, “Can the chef use the sides to make a vegetable plate?” They are usually A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Check out all the colorful plates above. Those artful combos arrived at my table by ordering just this way. But several times, I’ve received a plate that was straight carbs. Once, I got three kinds of potatoes and a tiny portion of green beans. Potato + small salad + mixed vegetables = easy.

Now then, I’d like to close by saying thank you. If you make the teensiest effort to accommodate me, I’ll be the most grateful customer you have all week. I’ll tell my friends about you. I will come back time and time again. I will bring family and clients to eat at your establishment. Heck, I might even mention you on this little blog. (Thank you Bottega, Chez Fon Fon, Highlands, Hot + Hot and Cafe DuPont for being special order veggie plate rockstars in my hometown!)

I’l go ahead and thank you all in advance for your efforts to accommodate vegetarians, the health conscious and those who had a big fat steak with lunch and don’t want the same for dinner. Restaurant chefs, we appreciate you!

XOXO,

Britt

GIVEAWAY: Cooking Light’s Lighten Up, America! Cookbook

People, I love a cookbook. When I get my hands on a new one, I read it cover to cover like a novel. I’m thinking this is not normal? A few of my most loved/used cookbooks include:

Super Natural Every Day

Peas and Thank You

The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

The Best of Cooking Light

Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita

I might have a new favorite to add to the list. A few weeks back, Cooking Light sent me their new cookbook, Lighten Up, America! to try. The premise is super fun. Allison Fishman Task traveled the country finding regional specialties, then headed back to the kitchen to slash calories, fat and sugar.

_BBR1591 effect

Once again, I read it cover to cover like a weirdo. What an engaging book! It’s scattered with stories about delicacies from all over the United States and great pictures of the original treats in action. I had a blast seeing if I had tried or even heard of the combinations.

In an effort to give the book a fair review (beyond pretty pictures and captivating back stories) I decided to try three recipes: St. Louis Butter Cake, Broccoli-Cheddar Soup and Butternut Squash Agrodolce, subbing acorn squash. We loved all three.

The butter cake was super decadent and the squash had a unique flavor profile. Vinegar + honey? Yes, please! The soup was probably our favorite. It gets a rich, creamy texture from potatoes. In short, I found the cookbook delightful, and the recipes easy to follow. The results were fabulous!

Broccoli

To win a copy for yourself, please reply to this post by midnight CST on 11/2/13, telling me your favorite food from your region or state. I’ll use random number generator to pick a winner and notify you by Monday.

Now then, to get this party started, my favorite Southern foods all seem to involve fried cornmeal! I love fried green tomatoes and hushpuppies the most. I also adore buttermilk biscuits, potato salad, and black eyed peas + cornbread. I could keep going forever, but I’ll suffice it to say that my cooking and tastes are definitely heavily influenced by my Alabama roots. Now then, your turn! What’s your favorite food from home? 

Baby Cakes

Oh hi. I’ve been mighty quiet lately. It’s the longest I’ve gone without posting a blog since I started this site in 2011. Excuses? I’ve got some good ones!

Me and my Shadow 1

My goodness, this is me. I took this photo yesterday, thinking there wouldn’t be much to show. Apparently I look far more pregnant than I realized. The good news is that the belly isn’t from downing all the yummy fall treats that are cropping up. Vore and I are expecting our first little Sprout in March 2014!

I am 17 weeks along, and loving that I can share the news. A few questions I am sure you will ask:

Were you sick? Yep. I felt like junk all summer. I had a very hard time getting creative in the kitchen because pretty much all I wanted was bread, crackers and bubbly water. So glad that’s past me!

Since you’re pregnant, are you eating meat? No. My reason for being a veggie is taste and texture based, and I wondered if I might crave meat while pregnant. It hasn’t happened. I am being careful to eat a high protein, plant-based diet filled with a variety of whole foods.

Will Sprout be a vegetarian? I suppose that’s up to the bebe. I’m pretty sure Vore will make animal protein an option. I don’t eat tofu weenies, so the baby won’t either. But veggies will always be piled high on our plates!

Now then, onto our other news. We moved! We loved our little townhouse, but the lack of a yard wasn’t working for the puppy or our growing family. We also wanted a location closer to downtown to cut commute time. Interweb logic says you’re not suppose to picture your current home (scary stalkers and whatnot) so I’ll give you a parting shot of our old place. Goodbye, suburban townhome!

photo-3

We bought a white brick house on a quiet street in a stellar school district. Vore only has to drive 10 minutes to get home from his work in the heart of Birmingham. He can join me for lunch! While the house was in pretty good shape, it does need a little love to make it look 2013. We’ve been living with workmen for the last 3 weeks, and I’ve been camped out at my parents’ so I can get some work done during the day. Thanks Mom and Dad!

We’re slowly settling into the new place, and loving where life is taking us. [Pregnancy, a puppy and a house, all in the space of a couple of months. We don’t mess around, huh?] I’ll leave you with a gratuitous shot of snoozing Reagan. Isn’t she a love?

photo-4

Foodies Take NYC

A couple of weeks ago, Vore and I went on an adventure. His extended family was having a get together at the beach in New Jersey, so the two us us decided to head up a little early to explore an old favorite–New York City, and a new spot–Philadelphia. This post is all about our food adventures in NYC.

NYC Collage

We stayed in New York (at the W, which I adore) for three days and pretty much ate our way around the city. A good bit of the collage above showcases the food tour we took in Greenwich Village. Foods of New York Tours came highly recommended from a friend, and I in turn would highly recommend it to you. It’s such a cool way to learn about the neighborhoods.

I wasn’t the queen of taking pictures while we where there, but the collage above gives you a sampling. Here’s what’s pictured:

  1. The original Shake Shake at Madison Square Park. Mmmm. The shroom burger!
  2. Food tour: Joe’s Pizza – A classic pizzeria with a secret ingredient: NYC water.
  3. Food tour: Vore enjoying his slice at Joe’s
  4. Food tour: Eating my bites at Murray’s Cheese Shop
  5. Food tour: Milk & Cookies
  6. Food tour: Olivier & Co
  7. Central Park Boathouse
  8. Food tour: the open hearth at Rafele
  9. Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village

Now then, on the the goodies. Here were our top three NYC picks from this trip. (I’ve been to NY 8 times, and I think I would faint trying to pick a favorite restaurant!)

  1. The Stanton Social. You guys, this was one of the best meals I have had ever, in my whole life. Vore agreed. We were a little leery of the tapas style approach, but ended up being enchanted. Chris Santos nailed it with this Lower East side gem. It’s creative, but not too creative, and just flat out delicious. EAT HERE. That is all.
  2. Central Park Boathouse. Please have a weekend brunch here. The food is grand, but the view…Oh it’s just amazing! We sat on the patio, which hangs out over the paddle boat lake. Remember when Carrie Bradshaw fell in the water trying not to kiss Big? It was here! You’ll love a relaxing Saturday morning right in the middle of the park. We did, right before walking the few blocks to the Met, for an afternoon exploring art. How cultured!
  3. Butter. You just feel cool walking into Butter. This NoHo spot has sweeping ceilings, birch tree decor and a vibe that we fell in love with. We ordered from the New York Restaurant Week menu (a stellar prix fix menu for salad, dinner and dessert) and were not disappointed.

Bonus: Have room for dessert? Of course you do. You need to go to Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village. We went so far out of our way to get to this little spot and it was beyond worth it. They have a case full of creative cupcakes or you can–get this–build you own! I of course chose the latter, getting the most moist chocolate cake imaginable, buttercream frosting and brownies on top. Yes brownies AND cupcake all in one bite. So good!

What’s your favorite spot in NYC? 

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes with Herb Sauce.

We’re baaaaack! Vore and I were gone for a week, exploring the food scene and sites in New York and Philly. We ended our vacation with some family time in beautiful Beach Haven, NJ. What a week! I’ll be back with updates on our travels, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share tonight’s dinner. It is What I Ate Wednesday, after all!

photoI ran across these fabulous looking cauliflower cakes in the August issue of Cooking Light and had to give them a try. I–gasp–followed the recipe almost exactly, subbing Monterey cheese for the Fontina and basil for the parsley. (We didn’t have Fontina and I loathe parsley.)

The cakes where delicious! I ate mine as an entree, along with sweet potato fries and asparagus fresh from the company garden. Vore added a grilled chicken breast. Easy peasy!

What was on your table tonight? Have you ever thought to make patties out of cauliflower? Because you should….