Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Lemon Chia Muffins_wide

These. These were special.

Lemon Chia Muffins_stacked

On Thursday morning, I was loading the recipe for these muffins into Greatist’s content system, and they sounded so good I had to stop what I was doing and make them immediately. (I guess that’s what I get for trying to work before feeding myself.)

The recipe comes from my friend Kelli at The Corner Kitchen. She uses Meyer lemon, lemon greek yogurt, chia seeds, and olive oil to make a healthier version of classic lemon poppyseed muffins.

Lemon Chia Muffin_side

I was missing a few of the ingredients Kelli used, so I improvised a bit: regular lemon instead of Meyer, and plain Greek yogurt instead of lemon-flavored. I also used gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose. And I didn’t fill the muffin cups enough. Oops! (They still taste great.)

I can see how the Meyer lemon would have enhanced the flavor quite a bit, but they were just fine with regular lemon, too. I do recommend doubling the amount of lemon zest if you skip out on the lemon-flavored Greek yogurt. The sweetness level of these was perfect for me with the plain Greek yogurt, but they could have used a bit more lemon flavor.

Head over to The Corner Kitchen for the recipe

In My Pantry: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour

Oat Flour

A few weeks ago, I was scanning the gluten-free section of my local grocery store and came across what I am convinced is the best thing since sliced (edible, gluten-free) bread: oat flour.

I picked up a bag around the holidays to make these Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Around My Family Table for a few friends and co-workers (they were a hit!). Since the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup, I was left with quite a bit of oat flour to experiment with! (And it’s ended up being the best $6.50 I’ve spent in a long time.)

I’ve used this stuff in a bunch of recipes thus far, and I can honestly say it works great in nearly everything. It didn’t do a fantastic job of thickening sauces, but it made perfect pancakes, muffins, and cookies.

My favorite recipe to make with this stuff has been Blueberry Oat Pancakes. Here’s the recipe I’ve been using:

Blueberry Oat Pancake

(Serves 1)

1 egg
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries
2 tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, egg, almond milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined (there may be a few lumps — that’s fine).

Eat a small skillet over medium high heat. This part is important: Don’t you dare throw that butter or batter into the pan before that thing is hot. Otherwise, it won’t cook evenly and you’ll end up with an ugly, kind of weird-textured pancake. And no one wants that.

To test whether or not the skillet is hot enough, run your fingers under some cold water and drip a few drops into the pan. If the droplets sizzle as soon as they hit the surface, your pan is ready.

Drop 1 tablespoon of butter into the pan and let it melt. As it’s melting, stir your blueberries into the pancake batter. As soon as the butter has melted, scrape the batter into the pan. Let the pancake cook until the edges begin to firm up and there are some bubbles coming through the top of the pancake. After 2-3 minutes, flip the pancake and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove from heat, plate, and top with the remaining tablespoon of butter and a good drizzle of maple syrup. Enjoy!

A (Few) Week(s) in Greek

On my Instagram account, I usually end up sharing the random breakfasts and lunch I throw together while simultaneously trying to do a million other things. Oftentimes it seems that yogurt — and more often than not higher-protein Greek yogurt — tends to be at the center of or at least plays some part in those meals. Here are a few of my favorites from the last few months, rounded up with (semi) recipes to help you make them yourself at home.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (for Breakfast OR Dessert)

2 parts Greek yogurt (I used 2% plain Chobani) + 1 part fresh berries + 1 proportionate drizzle of sweetener, like agave

Combine, blend (in a food processor or with a stick blender), freeze, stir every hour until mostly frozen. Scoop.

Greek Yogurt with Berries and Graham Cracker

1 serving Greek yogurt (I used 2% plain Chobani) + 1 cup berries of choice + 2 graham crackers, crumbled (I used Shar gluten-free honeygrams)

Scoop. Top. Crumble.

Coconut Greek Yogurt with Berries and Granola

1 6oz container coconut Greek yogurt (I used 2% coconut Chobani) + 1/2 cup blueberries + 1/4 cup raspberries + 1/4 cup granola (I used vanilla Udi’s granola)

Key Lime Pie for Cheaters

1/2 6oz container key lime Greek yogurt + 2 graham crackers, crumbled (I used Sharr gluten-free graham crackers)

Just crumble the crackers over the yogurt.

Creamy Pesto Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon pesto (homemade or store bought)

Mix until smooth. Dip whatever you want — I went with a veggie “quesadilla.”

Creamy Smoothie Bowl

1 thick fruit-only smoothie of your choice + 1 scoop plain Greek yogurt + chia seeds, honey/agave, cinnamon, any other toppings you want

Blend, swirl, sprinkle. Eat from a bowl.

Key Lime-Banana-Blueberry Waffle

1 frozen waffle, toasted + 1/2 cup blueberries + 1/2 banana, sliced + 1/2 6oz container key lime Greek yogurt (I used 2% Chobani)

Berry-Coconut Breakfast Waffle

1 frozen waffle, toasted + 1 scoop yogurt (Greek or regular work, any flavor or brand) + 1 cup blueberries + 1/2 banana, sliced + 2 tablespoons toasted coconut

Toast, top, sprinkle.

Oat-Yogurt Mess Bowl

1 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup raw plain quick oats + 1 banana, sliced + cinnamon + peanut butter + agave/honey (optional)

Mix it all together, or make it pretty like this! (Yogurt on the bottom, oats in the middle, banana around the sides, cinnamon and PB all over.)

Dilly Veggie Dip
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt + 1 teaspoon lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

Mix, eat with veggies.

A Random Revelation: Why I Learned to Love Cooking

I was 21, and my diet consisted mostly of mac and cheese, bagels, pasta, and sandwiches of various types. Don’t get me wrong — I packed plenty of vegetables and protein into those carb-heavy meals, and I knew the basics of throwing a meal together. But, like any other typical college student, wheat was a big part of my diet, even if I didn’t notice it. It was just there.

So when I found out I had to get rid of all that wheat from my diet — hello, Celiac — it was a little overwhelming. Whaat? I can’t go grab a turkey sandwich for lunch between classes? No bagels with cream cheese? No sausage, egg, and cheese on a croissant every Saturday morning to cure my inevitable hangover? Shit.

Instagram_inpostWhat followed  was a months long (err… years long? Ongoing?) challenge to identify every source of gluten in my diet, eliminate them all, and somehow find a way to replace them all with other wholesome, healthy-to-me foods. At first, I thought it was pretty easy. Eliminating the big sources — bread, bagels, pasta — made me feel a bunch better, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the “other” sources. Then, when I learned that I was in fact still consuming gluten — which is basically poison to my body — from unknown sources like soy sauce, dressings, Rice Krispies (what?!), and cross-contamination, I got more serious about eliminating those sources, too.

It’s been three years now.  And I think I’m finally “clean.” Except there’s one thing — for the last year or so, whenever I eat out at a restaurant or even at a friend’s home, I inevitably feel awful the next day, even if the previous day’s meal had been “gluten-free.” I’ve started to refer to this feeling as a “gluten hangover” — because that’s exactly what it feels like. A hangover. No restaurant or friend is intentionally feeding me gluten, but sometimes, it just happens. Cross contamination is a bitch, people.

So I’ve adapted. I’ve adapted without even realizing it. Give me a choice of eating out or cooking at home, and there’s a 99% chance I’ll choose cooking. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy eating out — I do, ohhhhh I do. But if the result is going to be me feeling awful the next day, 99% of the time, it’s just not worth it. I’d rather do the legwork myself — buy the groceries, do the chopping, sautéing and baking, serving, and cleaning. That way, I know that what I’m putting in my body isn’t going to end up hurting me.

While feeling stressed about eating out can sometimes be annoying, it has had some perks. For one, I’ve really learned to love cooking: Probably in no small part thanks to the fact that cooking my own food is like medicine — it makes me feel so much better than anything procured in another manner. I’ve also become a pretty good cook. And I’ve become more confident in the kitchen, too. I’m proud of what I’m able to create with just my brain and whatever ingredients I have on hand. And social media — Instragram, for example — has allowed me to share those little victories with others. Sometimes, I’ve even been able to inspire others to head to the kitchen themselves, to create their own healthy meals. These little things, I think, make the rough parts of going gluten-free worth it.

That’s what I realized last week, randomly, while prepping some meals for a long day of traveling. Subway? McDonalds? No thanks, rest stop — I brought my own.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite things to make, but one of my least favorite to eat. I’ll tell you why: No matter how you cut the peppers, or what vessel you eat them out of, they’re so impossible to eat. You can’t really cut into them with a fork without spilling the contents everywhere, so you need a knife. But, even when you have a knife, they slip-slide all over the plate. And I can never seem to get the perfect pepper-to-filling ratio for every bite.

But still, for who knows what reason, I love to make them. There’s something about stuffed items that’s just inherently comforting. And filling. And a great way to get in an extra serving of veggies.

I opted for a low-carb filling with this recipe, skipping out rice and using only protein-rich ground turkey and black beans instead. One pepper would make a great dinner for one person if served alongside a green salad.

Recipe: Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

Tex-Mex Stuffed PeppersServes 4

What You’ll Need:

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 a 15oz. can black beans
1/2 large onion
4 bell peppers (any color — I like orange and yellow)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
mexican cheese blend

What to Do: 

Prep peppers: Slice of the tops of the peppers. No need to cut too much off the top — just enough to take off the stem! Cut the good pepper part away from the seeds n’ stem stuff, chop, and set aside with the chopped onions.

Heat oil in a large, tall sided pan. Add turkey to pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until no longer pink. Add the onions and peppers, and continue cooking. Add in paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and a bit more salt and pepper.

After the onion and peppers are cooked, add the corn and black beans.Cook until heated through, and set aside to cool. (Optional: Stir in a handful of shredded cheese of your choice.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the peppers opening-up  in a square baking dish — they should be pretty snug in there, but not crowing each other. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fill the peppers with the turkey and vegetable mixture, making sure they’re packed full!

Bake until heated through and pepper is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, and return to oven until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Blueberry-Flax Greek Yogurt Pancake Muffins

I’m not a “get up and make breakfast” kind of girl. I need at least two hours after I wake up before I am a fully functioning human, and I usually need to prepare breakfast for myself before that two hours is up. So, the answer? Things that I can make ahead of time and are easy enough to throw in a bowl/microwave and start eating in less than five minutes.

Blueberry-Flax Greek Yogurt Muffins_longNow, on the weekends, I’m a huge fan of whole-grain, gluten-free pancakes for brunch. But during the week, they don’t exactly fit my “less than five minutes of prep” requirement. But sometimes, you just want to enjoy a pancake-like delight in the middle of the week. The answer? Pancake muffins! Basically, you make pancake batter and spoon it into a muffin tin instead of into a pan. Brilliant! Here’s one of my favorite combinations — oats, flaxseed, Greek yogurt, and blueberries. Top with a bit of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup for some real pancake flavor. Another favorite combination? Crumble one of these muffins over a bowl of plain yogurt with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup — perfection! (Check out THAT creation on my Instagram!)

Blueberry-Flax Greek Yogurt Pancake Muffins

 Blueberry-Flax Greek Yogurt MuffinsWhat You’ll Need:

3/4 cup  gluten-free pancake mix (or gluten-free flour mix)
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2–3/4 cup milk (any type)
1 egg
2 tablespoons honey (or agave, or maple syrup)
3/4 cup blueberries

What to Do: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin.

Combine pancake mix (or flour), oats, greek yogurt, milk, egg, oil, and honey in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until smooth and there are no lumps.

Fold in blueberries. The mixture should be moist, but not soupy and not doughy. If your mix is too doughy, add milk until it reaches the desired consistency (which should sort of resemble the consistency of frosting).

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way up, making sure the top of each is level (so that the muffin cooks evenly). Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool in the tin at least 1 hour. Then, enjoy!

Note: These muffins keep great frozen. I make a batch, remove them from a pan, place in a tupperware container and freeze for weeks! Then, just microwave for 30 seconds when you’re ready to eat, or stick them in a toaster oven for a few minutes. 

Chicken and Rice Comforting Casserole

When I was a kid, my mom could not cook. Bless her heart, she tried, but what ended up in front of my brother and me every night for dinner was usually boiled chicken, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, or frozen pizza (Elios, it was, I think). But there was one little gem she would throw together once a week or so that I still to this day consider a healthy option (which Kraft does not exactly qualify as…). I believe the story goes that right after she had my brother, a friend brought us this chicken and rice casserole for dinner, and I loved it so much, she asked for the recipe. I’m sure she was beyond relieved when the recipe seemed rather simple: rice pilaf, chopped up chicken, carrot, celery, and cream of mushroom soup. Stirred together, baked in a dutch oven… and boom. Done. That’s it

Chicken and RiceI have vivid memories of eating this casserole at our kitchen table, and specifically, the dish she used to bake it in (which, sadly, was tragically cracked in half at some point in the last 21 years). It was an old, white bowl with a matching lid, both covered with light blue, traditional designs. Not the style of anything else she ever used or liked, but it was so homey looking — I loved it, and it reminded me of this meal.

So, when the weather recently went from 80 degrees on Wednesday to 40 on Thursday, and I was chilled to the bone, I decided this comforting casserole needed to make a cameo in my new home. With some stealthy hunting down of gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, I was off. Here’s the recipe — I hope you can form some memories around it, too!

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup dry rice
2 cups water

1-2 large, or 3-4 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
3-6 carrots (3 large or 6 small), sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup*
salt and pepper
shredded cheese

*Note: you can use condensed, or regular. You can also use cream of celery. Pacific makes an organic, gluten-free condensed mushroom soup that I used this time around, and it came out great — just remember to cut it with equal parts of water (or milk)!

First, cook the rice. Follow package instructions, but generally, it’s about 1 cup dry rice to 2 cups water, cooked over low heat, covered for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice chicken into bite-sized chunks, and add to an oven-proof dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice carrots and celery, and add to the pot with the chicken.

Next, add in the cooked rice, and stir. Season with salt and pepper again.

Add soup. Stir until evenly combined.

Stir in a handful of shredded cheese.

Cover the dish, and place in oven. Let cook for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and the mixture is bubbly. Stir halfway through.

Let cool a bit (it get’s really hot!!), and serve in bowls. Top with more shredded cheese, if you like, and some freshly ground pepper.