Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recipe Win: Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

I knew I would get it right eventually.

Now, I'm not saying these muffins are perfect, but they're pretty tasty for breakfast.  And they have WHOLE GRAINS in them, so they're guilt-free, because whole grains cancel out butter and sugar, of course.  Didn't you know that?

I adapted the recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook to make it healthier and spicier.  This is pretty much the best cookbook out there for beginners, because it gives you a basic recipe for everything you could want.   I just find myself often adding extra seasoning and spices, but that's probably just because I need everything to blow my mind.

Sooo.. here we go!  I added whole wheat flour, oats, and extra "flavors"-- enjoy.

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

1 squishy banana
1 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. oats
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. allspice (or cinnamon, or cloves... whatever you like)

Streusel Topping
1:1 flour and brown sugar mix, cinnamon, and butter

1. Grease your muffin tin and preheat oven to 400.
2. Mix flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, spice.
3. In another bowl, beat egg, mash banana, mix in milk, oil, and vanilla.
4. Mix the wet into the dry,  Then spoon it into your muffin cups.  Only fill muffin cups about half way.  Then sprinkle on your streusel topping.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.

They're a little bit on the denser side because of the whole wheat flour, but that means they're good for you, and will fill you up longer, which is important at breakfast.  And bananas have potassium to energize your day.


Important Lessons:  Whole wheat flour is like cooking with cardboard flour, so do not reduce the milk or oil, and add flavorful things like vanilla and spice.  Otherwise, you get the Banana Cardboard Muffins from the Recipe Fail.  This batch came out much better :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Got Moisture?

This wasn't meant to be a food blog.

I can't help it if food consumes my life.  It's just so awesome.

Eating is the most obvious, and possibly the first, step towards healthier living.  But there are plenty of other small things you can change in your daily routine to be healthier.  I strongly believe that  what we put ON our bodies is as important as what we put in them.

It's been a rough winter.  We're not only above-average in snowfall, but it's been cold.

Winter weather does a number on your skin.   And there are so many creams, cleansers, ointments, etc. out there to combat dryness, that it can be hard to choose. So I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite winter remedies that work for me, and are (supposedly) healthier, too.


1. Burt's Bees Lemon Poppy Seed Facial Cleanser

I'm a fan of most things Burt's Bees.  I actually use this cleanser all year long, but it's creamy texture is especially comforting for my face in the winter.

It's non-drying and also very gentle-- gentle enough to remove my eye make up, and never bothers my sensitive skin.  And according to the jar, it's  over 98% natural.


2. Korres Yogurt Mask

I have loved everything Korres I've tried.  This yogurt mask is great for those especially frigid weeks when I need an extra shot of moisture for my skin.  Just slather it on to your freshly washed face, let dry, rinse off.  It's labeled as natural and free of most of the stuff that is supposedly bad for you, like mineral oil.  But, it's all Greek to me.  (haha)


3. Korres Thyme Honey Cream

You know I love honey.  This cream is extra thick and rich.  Not for very oily skin.  In fact, I can only really use it in the winter or it will make my skin too slick.  But it's been perfect the last couple of months to make my skin feel nourished.



1. Oatmeal Soap

It's a simple thing, but sometimes that's all it takes.  Oatmeal is a traditional home remedy for itchy skin, and there are plenty of great options at the co op, farmers market, or from your favorite soap making friends. (Patty also makes really nice lotions... just putting it out there.)


 Patty's Lemon Lavender Oatmeal Bar Soap... basically the best soap ever.

2. Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Body Lotion

Here's the honey again.  This has been my go-to lotion this winter-- the only thing that has lasted with only one application.  And the honey smell is light and comforting after a hot shower.


3. Burt's Bees Lemon & Vitamin E Bath and Body Oil

Sorry about the Burt's Bees again, but like I said, it's pretty good stuff.  I've used other body oils, but this one is the richest (as well as more expensive).  Whatever one you decide to try, just put a little bit into a warm bath and be treated to amazingly soft skin when you are done.


Anyway, hope this helps.   Check out your farmers markets and co ops for other products using natural ingredients (or at least missing some of those nasty chemicals).  If you're in Central New York, the Little Falls Community Co op usually sells Burt's Bees for less than the drugstore (I stock up whenever I'm home), but I've seen plenty of fun things -- and have bought amazing soaps-- right here in Albany.  You just have to know where to look.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sometimes, I try really hard, and my food comes out terrible.

Other times, I discover something delicious completely by accident.

Like a couple of days ago.  I had spinach and goat cheese in my fridge that needed eating.  As I wilted the spinach in the pan, I pondered what to do with the goat cheese.

I wondered to myself, "What would it taste like if I put the goat cheese on top of the spinach?"

And then, I poured it on top.

And I found out it tasted like heaven.

I mean, what doesn't goat cheese taste good on?  Seriously.

Okay, there's a little much on there, but I needed to use it up!  And it got all warm and creamy on the spinach. Oh yeah.  Anyway, sit tight, because spinach season is almost here! (aka... we're almost through winter!  At least, according to the groundhog.)

Art doesn't just happen by accident. It is about pulling out new tricks and trying new things. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sweet Nothings

Happy Snow Day!  Snow day morning are the second best kind of mornings (summer mornings are the best).  Snow day mornings are the only mornings I don't rush, because for once I have no where to go.  So there's time to make and savor good coffee...

My coffee from New Orleans in a coffee press... oh yeah.

...and real breakfast.

I'm getting a hang of the steel-cut oats... and they're totally worth the cooking time.

I used two kinds of sweetener this morning.  It's all part of my Great Sweetener Experiment.

Okay, it's not really that official.  But with all the information and misinformation out there about sweeteners, it's hard to know what to choose, so I've been trying a few different kinds to figure out what I like the best and what makes me feel the best.

As you know, I like to get as close to nature as possible.

I used to be all about the Splenda.  It was close enough to sugar and was supposedly guilt-free.  However, though it's made from sugar, it's not considered natural, because it's been modified at the molecular level to be digested differently by our bodies so that we don't get the calories.  This might be fine... or it might not be.  Our body doesn't break it down... and neither does nature.  A researcher discovered that it might even be contaminating our water.

This week, my friend Andrea gave me a packet of Truvia to try, the new no-calorie on the market.  This one is derived from a plant, so it is considered natural.

White sugar is top left, Truvia in the center.  It looks like sugar, but bigger.

I like the idea that it is natural, and calorie free, but I was not impressed with the taste.  It had that slightly bitter taste that aspartame-type sweeteners have... it was strong enough to taste through my cup of tea.  Not a fan.  Maybe the actual leaves are better? (I've seen them at the Greenmarket.)

Some of my "tried and true" favorites:

1. Palm sugar.

You can get this at the co-op, and it's like a very mild brown sugar, which it tastes a little bit like, but I think it's really good in my coffee.

It's healthy because it comes from the coconut palm plant, and, according to the bag has "a lower glycemic index...than cane sugar, agave or honey."  This means it won't spike your blood sugar.  It also has potassium and B vitamins.

2. And my favorite, honey.  As far as I know, it affects your body as sugar does, but if you buy it local to your area, then supposedly it can help with your allergies (the story is, you may build up a tolerance to that pollen from which it is made).  And you know it's natural because it comes from bees.  Again, I find it cheapest at the co-op, and I use it to sweeten just about anything...

...especially my morning oatmeal.  Mouth-watering, right?

I've also tried agave, which also comes from a plant and is similar to honey, except I thought milder in flavor, and I think it's also supposed to be better for your blood sugar.  I don't like it as much as the first two, though (I found it kind of bland).

It really boils down to priorities and personal taste.  There are so many options that are healthier, you just have to find the right one for you.

And taste-testing sweets isn't so bad of an experiment... :)

"A man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar."  
English Proverb

(Okay, it doesn't really make sense, but it's funny.)