Cousin E’s Banana Bread

This morning, despite having a case of the Mondays, I decided that tonight I would bake another banana bread and, while it was cooking, cook a piece of cod I took out to defrost the other day.  I also gave myself the goal of posting the banana bread recipe so here you go:

Cousin E’s Banana Bread (I think it is based on a recipe found Elana’s Pantry)

3 cups almond flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour as it is more like cake meal and not as coarse as some other brands)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Squirt of honey (to your heart’s content)

1/4 cup walnut oil

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 overly ripe bananas (or 2 larger jars of organic banana baby food)

Walnut and raisins (optional)

If you have a stand mixer:

Add the almond flour, salt, and baking soda to the bowl.  Mix.  Add the honey, walnut oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix again.  Add the bananas.  Mix.  Add the walnuts and raisins, if you so choose.  Mix one more time.

If you don’t have a stand mixer:

In one bowl, mix the almond flour, salt, and baking soda.  In a second bowl, mix the honey, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  When it’s fully mixed, stir in the bananas.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Add the walnuts and raisins if you choose and mix once more.

With either method:

Pour the batter into a loaf dish (greasing optional; I use olive oil spray).  Bake at 350 for approximately 40 minutes.  Do the toothpick test to check if it’s done.

Note: Baking times vary based on oven so be sure to check the middle of the loaf with a toothpick.

Full disclosure here: I use banana baby food as I tend to eat all of my bananas before they can be ripe enough.  I experimented tonight and used banana mango baby food.

Fresh out of the oven.  I can’t wait to dig in:

Motivational Monday, Please

Good morning!  I don’t know how about you but I have a case of the Mondays.  When my alarm clock went off at 6:30, it was still dark outside and I did not feel like getting out of bed.  So I hit snooze.  And again at 6:40.  And I wanted to at 6:50 but Finn got fidgety so I had to take her for her morning walk.  And it was still dark outside.  I should be making breakfast now (scrambled eggs possibly with avocado over the sweet potato/apple/turkey hash) yet I’m writing instead.  That said, let’s talk motivation.  I saw this quote twice on my Facebook timeline this morning so let’s use it here.  Have an awesome Monday, Fitters!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” -Steve Jobs

On a Mission

“I’m on a mission, I got a cause…”

Oh hello there!  I have Trick Pony’s song I’m on a Mission stuck in my head because I am on a mission.  (It’s the video in the post below.)

Think back to my first post when I said we’d be talking about random stuff like Pottery Barn desks.  Well, that is the desk I have and it’s total mess:

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Maybe it isn’t so bad because I’ve been working on it for a few days before I took this picture.  But it’s still pretty bad, at least by my standards.  You see, ever since high school (or maybe middle school), I’d get these random bouts of OCD when my desk was too much of a mess for me to get any work done.  I’d spend 1-2 hours just organizing and cleaning up before I’d be able to start my homework and studying.  This is taking a bit more time than that because there is a lot more to put away.  I was living here for over a year by the time I finally invested in a desk that stuff has just been accumulating for too long.  It’s a wonder how I managed to pay my bills on time.

Anyway, my mission is to put everything in it’s place and give myself room to work, which will also allow me room to think.  This will also clear my nightstands of their piles of papers and magazines and other junk and make my bedroom a more peaceful, stress-less place.  I figure once I get the house organized, I can get the rest of my life organized as well.

Tell me, how do you get organized?

On a side note, tomato sauce and sweet potatoes do not mix.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I figured since I have meatballs cooking on the stove, I’d give you all my spaghetti and meatballs recipe.

“Wait!” you say.  “Spaghetti?????  Spaghetti isn’t paleo.  What happened to the challenge?”

Well, dear readers, I’m talking spaghetti squash.  Spaghetti squash by itself is pretty bland; but, it pairs beautifully well with other sauces and makes a traditional pasta dish that much better for you.  The only downside to spaghetti squash that I have found is it’s bloating.  Perhaps it doesn’t bloat you?

Tonight, I’m just making the meatballs.  I have strep again (yep, again) and didn’t feel like making the squash.

To prepare the spaghetti squash, I have found the easiest thing to do is lay the squash on its side.  Take a sharp knife and cut the squash in half hot-dog-style (the long way).  Using a fork or spoon, remove the seeds and other hairs.  Lay both halves skin side up on a parchment sheet-covered baking tray.  Bake 30-40 min at 375.  When the squash is done (you might want to use oven mitts for this as the squash is very hot), hold the squash the tall way in a bowl and use a fork to spaghetti the squash.  Repeat with the other half.  (Instructions taken from here.)

On to the meatballs:

1 – In a medium-sized saucepan, empty your choice of mixings for the tomato sauce.  (I use Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Marinara Sauce.  It comes in a can with a green label.)  Turn the heat on low just to warm the sauce while you prepare the meatballs.  (Optional: fill the can halfway with water and add to the pot.)

2 – In a mixing bowl (I use the medium-sized one from my set of 3), place approximately 1 lb ground beef (I use extra lean).  Pour into the bowl almond flour (1/4 – 1/2 cup to serve as a binder in the meat), garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and thyme (the herbs and spices to your taste).  Mix.

3 – Add 1 egg and mix again.

4 – Rinse your hands in cold water.  While wet, return to the mixing bowl and form your balls.  Add each ball to the pot of tomato sauce as you make it.  If the meat sticks to your hands and you find it difficult to form a ball, rinse your hands again.

5 – When all of the meatballs are in the sauce, cover the pot and set a timer for at least 1 hour (I cook mine for anywhere between 1 hour and 90 minutes).  Bring the sauce to a light boil then reduce to a steady simmer.

6 – Serve over your “carb” of choice.  I used mashed cauliflower (pictured below) last time and liked it even better than I did with the spaghetti squash.  Tomorrow, I’ll use a baked sweet potato out of laziness.

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 For the mashed cauliflower:

1 – Bring a heavily salted pot of water to boil.

2 – While you’re waiting, remove the leaves from a head of cauliflower then slice it in half the long way.  Rinse.  Cut out the stem.  Cut the halves in half again and remove the rest of the stems.  Cut florets into desired sizes (if you leave them too big, they’ll take longer to soften and mash).

3 – Peel at least 6 cloves of garlic (more or less to your heart’s content).

4 – When the salt water is boiling, add the cauliflower and garlic to the pot.  Let boil for at least another 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.

5 – Drain the cauliflower and garlic in a strainer then pour into a blender.

6 – Add approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

7 – Puree (or food process).

8 – Taste.  Add salt as needed.  I’ve also added ground white pepper.  If you use this option, go easy.  White pepper has heat that black pepper does not.  I’ve also added nutmeg without the pepper.  I didn’t love it by itself but thought it paired very well with my meatballs.  Seasoning is your choice.

Happy eating, HonkyTonkFitters!

Tell me…how do you season your mashed cauliflower?  What do you pair with spaghetti squash?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment!

Before I say good night, I owe you an apology.  I need to get better about posting more regularly.  Here’s my problem: I have so much I want to write about that I never know which topic to choose and wind up in a form of writer’s block.  Help me.  If you run into this problem, how do you get out of it?  Give me some guidance: What do you want to see here?  This page is for YOU.

Fear Of…Public Speaking?

A few months ago, a professor from my undergraduate days reached out to me about an opportunity to be on a panel in his freshman intro to engineering class.  He explained he runs certain classes like tv shows and this would be the “Ellen Designeres Show.”  The class would have approximately 130 students, 20 of whom would be female.  As he had never had a class with such a large number of females before (engineering is predominantly men), he had never felt the need to have a panel of women.  So he invited 4 female alumni to be on this panel.  ”Don’t worry,” he assured us, “I’ll give you the questions ahead of time.”  About a week before the panel, he sent us the questions.  Being the perfectionist I am, I wrote out answers to each question on index cards.  

I was feeling a little nervous.  I would be on a stage, in a lecture hall, in front of 130 students, answering questions into a microphone.  I’ve always had issues with public speaking.  Knowing I’d have to present something in front of a class or run a meeting or lead an inventory, my heart would race, my stomach and all of its butterflies would drop, my hands would become sweaty, and I’d start to freak out.  Yet for some reason, I didn’t have any of these symptoms.  Maybe I was well-prepared and confident.  Perhaps I felt passionate about the topics or they were questions I’ve pondered over the past several years.  Whatever it was, I was calm, cool, and collected.  Without any anxiety, I was able to have fun and even tell the professor that, should he have an all-female panel again, I would love to be part of it.

The one thing I was truly unsure about was what to wear.  I knew I should look presentable and professional, but the question remained…what?  I posted the question on Facebook and most people responded “pant suit.”  If I don’t wear pant suits to work, there was no way I’d wear a pant suit to the panel.  I ended up wearing a sheath with a button down under it and pumps.  One friend replied, “Courage.”  I said to him, “Confidence.  When you’re confident, you don’t need courage.”

And I think that’s why I wasn’t nervous.

Tell me, do you have a fear of public speaking?  How do you cope with it?

Halfway

Hey everyone!  My apologies for the delay between posts.

Yesterday marked the halfway point of the Paleo Challenge and the first day of the fifth week.  The food side of the challenge gets easier as each week passes, so long as I am cooking my own food and not going out to eat.  The endurance part of the WODs is also getting easier; I am finding that I am able to push through the effort and complete the WOD before the time cap hits.  I may not be doing the most challenging level of the WODs (they are posted in 3 levels: Level 3 is the most challenging, Level 2 is less challenging, and Level 1 is the least challenging), but I am completing the WODs at L2 and finishing them.  I’m excited to see my progress when we repeat the first three WODs.

Some other observations:

  • Raisins make everything better – I started adding them to Cousin E’s Banana Bread and it makes the bread much more moist (I’ll post the recipe in the next day or two).  I’ve also started adding them to the baggies of cashews and almonds I put together (a handful of each in a Ziplok).
  • Grilled chicken is not as plain as one would expect – I was in Dallas last week for work and my co-workers wanted lunch from Chick-fil-A.  I figured the Grilled Market Salad would be a safe bet.  Boy, was I wrong.  The ingredients from their website: “seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika]” (and that’s just what’s added to the chicken).  It was a good thing I brought my own breaded chicken and fruit with me.  (Whataburger’s grilled chicken is even worse.)
  • One can spend quite a bit of money when only buying produce, fresh meat, fresh fish, and almond flour.  I dropped $200 at Fairway last week and even had a $5 off a $30+ purchase Google Offer with me.
  • It took two months to drop three pounds when before that it took a year to drop five.
  • 10 days of antibiotics couldn’t have ended quickly enough; but, they are finally over.  No more clock watching to make sure I don’t miss a dose.
  • Treats bought for oneself make good rewards.  Whenever I teach a cycling class, I always throw in a motivating or inspiring quote; a habit I borrowed from one of my favorite instructors.  Two Saturdays ago, the quote I used (which I cannot seem to find) had something to do with recognizing the steps and progress you’ve made toward reaching your goal.  So far, each week I’ve treated myself to some online shopping.  Perhaps it was a new pair of Nano’s as Finn ate my last pair or products I needed to replace from Sephora or clothes from Banana Republic (that don’t fit) or a year-long subscription to Birchbox.  Each shipment comes with a personalized note to myself congratulating myself on a job well done and for getting through another week.
  • The hash I made the other day with chicken is a lot better with ground turkey.  Change nothing except swap ground turkey for the ground chicken.  My house smelled like Thanksgiving while it cooked.

Completely off-topic: Pickup trucks have a very limited turning radius but are so much fun to drive!  This was my rental down in Dallas:

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This monster was pretty difficult to park straight.  The first time I managed to was quite the accomplishment:

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And finally, for some cuteness, Finn doesn’t like it when I have to pack.  Thankfully, going to Dallas for just one night allowed me to bring my laptop bag and a gym bag. 

yoga on the run duffel | women's bags | lululemon athletica

Oh, you wanted the picture of Finn?  Here you go…she’s sleeping on top of my gym bag.

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Tell me, what’s going on with you?  How do you celebrate achieving your goals or making strides towards full achievement?

Until next time, my HonkyTonk Fitters.

Sweet Potato Apple Hash with Chicken

By popular demand, the first recipe I’m giving you is tonight’s experiment for a sweet potato apple hash with chicken.  I modified this recipe (gotta give credit, you know), which I saw re-blogged on several different sites.

Reasons for the modifications:

  • I keep kosher.  Chicken sausage isn’t exactly my thing so I used plain ground chicken instead.
  • I don’t have spinach.
  • I didn’t feel like using 2 pots.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Scrub one large sweet potato and rinse one apple.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and the apple.
  3. Dice the sweet potato (slice the long way from pole to pole; turn the slices and cut the short way; cut into cubes).
  4. Dice the apple.
  5. Dice half an onion (I used a vidalia onion).
  6. Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over low heat.
  7. When the oil has turned into a liquid, add the sweet potato, apple, and onion.
  8. Sprinkle salt, black pepper, and cinnamon to taste (original recipes calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon).  Stir.
  9. Add 1 lb ground chicken.
  10. Stir on and off breaking up the chicken into smaller pieces.
  11. This will be finished cooking before you know it.

I ended up burning the sweet potatoes and chicken a little bit because I didn’t think the sweet potatoes were finished.  I’m used to baking them, which takes at least an hour.

The apples make the dish and cinnamon and chicken go surprisingly well together.  I’ll be having this for breakfast tomorrow with 2 scrambled eggs on top.

Please leave your thoughts/comments in the comments section.  I’d love to hear what you think of the recipe and if you tried it.

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Disclaimer – I am not a food photographer by any stretch of the imagination.  I took the picture on my Blackberry.

Frustrations

There are times when being sick isn’t so bad – as a kid you get to miss school and your parents take care of you.  There are times when being sick stinks – it’s just you and your dog who you still have to walk even though it’s raining.  The bigger frustration boils down to food.  I have not cheated on the Paleo Challenge and I will not allow strep to stop me from doing so well.

Scenario # 1: First day of being sick.  I called in an order to the local Chinese food place for chicken soup.  I asked for a large.  The woman asked if I want noodles.  I said no, of course.  No to scallions as well, but yes to chicken.  She questioned me, doubting that I truly didn’t want noodles.  That was the easy part because I really just wanted the broth with some pieces of chicken.  The really tough part was when I got home.  The bag contained 2 packages of Chinese noodles.  Those crunchy, salty, tasty pieces of fried dough.  I threw them out before I could even be tempted to eat them.  Thankfully, they looked like the ones in this picture:

The overly greasy kind that I know upset my stomach.  If they were from my favorite Chinese food place with their homemade duck sauce… Well, then we might have an issue.

Scenario # 2: Grocery shopping in the rain.  Grocery shopping itself may not have been so bad.  But the rain, which was more of a constant mist, was just a nuisance.  I hope I don’t get sicker.  Anyway, I diverge.  Grocery shopping was a frustration because it would have been so much easier to pick up something frozen or something pre-made and heat it up as opposed to having to cook from scratch.  Needless to say, I spent way too much money between Whole Foods (Larabars and pre-ripped kale), Trader Joe’s (salsa, tomato sauce), Costco (eggs, bananas), and Fairway (clementines, sweet potatoes, avocados, plums, peaches, garlic, onion, olive oil, almond flour, more Larabars, chicken, cod, etc.).  This was followed up with a stop at Sur La Table for an immersion blender (the blue one was on sale for $27.99 vs $34.95):

Side note – Fairway has Larabars on sale this week 5 for $5 (or $1 each).  They’re normal priced at Whole Foods again.

I came home from these errands, made 7 trips to unload the car, walked the dog, put everything away, and took a nap.  I didn’t realize just how draining running errands was.

Post-nap, which Finn so graciously woke me from so she could go out and have dinner, I made meatballs to pair with my leftover cauliflower/broccoli mash from Friday night and a fresh banana bread.  I will start posting recipes and pictures of the food soon (hopefully beginning tomorrow…I know I promised recipes).

Anyway, thanks for letting me vent.  I hope you have a great Sunday evening.  Here’s to next time!