Banana, peanut butter and flax waffles

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I got a much wanted waffle maker a few months ago. Honestly, I was a little intimidated about making waffles once I started researching recipes. Use yeast, don’t use yeast, fold in the whipped egg whites, it doesn’t matter. So many decisions, so many opinions.

I put off making waffles for about a month after getting the waffle maker. I couldn’t decide on a recipe. Then {never}homemaker posted a peanut butter and banana waffle recipe. It looked simple enough and if it was a flop, then my next attempts could only go better, right?

This recipe makes a healthier waffle than you would get at a restaurant. Brian and I both really liked it and made enough to have leftovers throughout the week. Brian likes his leftover waffles cold. I like to reheat mine in the toaster to give them a crispy exterior. Both of us eat the leftovers dry. I think the leftovers were even more flavorful than the fresh made.

I ran out of flour, so I substituted some oats in the mix and also threw in some cinnamon.

Dry ingredients:

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Wet ingredients:

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The wet and dry becoming friends:

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A nice thick mixture:

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Becoming a waffle:

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Extras cooling on a drying rack so they don’t become soggy and mushy and can be frozen to eat later:

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Mine with a little maple syrup and some 5-minute brownie crumbled on top. I regretted the syrup. Made it too sweet.

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Brian’s with a few chocolate chips on top:

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These are so delicious. I can’t wait to make them again.

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

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First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

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Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

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I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

Spring

This weekend’s weather made it feel as if spring has finally arrived. This made me extremely happy.

I spent as much of Saturday outside as possible. I was outside almost straight from 8-4 then 6-7. I couldn’t get enough of the weather! This led me to walking most of my errands and I walked a total of 9-10 miles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a tan.

I started out the day by heading to Cafe Tola on Southport and Addison. I had walked by a week or two ago and they had some delicious looking donuts in the front window(they also make fresh empanadas daily). Getting there before 8 gave me the pick of the batch and I got a maple bacon and a red velvet cake donut for Brian and a big cup of strong coffee for myself.  The sun was so warm that the frosting melted a little on the way home.

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I tried a bite of each, both delicious, but too sweet for my taste. I recreated my restaurant leftovers of salmon with a bacon potato hash into breakfast. How? By adding and egg, of course. Savory. My preferred breakfast.

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With a protein packed breakfast, I was fueled for my walk to Home Depot to pick out some plants for my garden plot.

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Still not having enough of the fresh air, I stopped on my walk to Lincoln Square to have some tacos at La Amistad. Sitting outside to eat them, of course.

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I went on another walk to pick up a few things at Whole Foods to make food for the week. I threw together these “bowls” of quinoa cooked in vegetable broth, black beans, roasted sweet potato, steamed sesame kale and baked tofu. That made 5 of the 10 lunches for Brian and I to eat this week. These came together in less than one hour.

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Sunday, Brian and I got up and ran the Ravenswood 5k. I really loved the route this year and was happy with my time. We had a small miscommunication about breakfast, though. When registering for the race, you could buy a ticket for a pancake breakfast to support the local food pantry. Brian bought one. I didn’t. Wah wah. Fortunately, the pancakes were prepackaged, so he could take them to go. It was probably a good thing, as I was surprisingly not hungry after the race. I had coffee and a bite of a cinnamon roll, but didn’t eat the banana or mini bagel they were handing out.

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After coming home and relaxing for a few hours, I was hungry and made myself a mega lunch. I had a broccoli potato patty, two eggs, my mini bagel(toasted with butter), blueberries and an apple with mango ginger Stilton cheese. I put a little cheese on half the bagel and then a slice of apple on top of that. Heavenly. Absolutely delightful. I rarely eat cheese anymore. Or most diary for that matter. I try to make it a rule that if I am going to eat cheese, it has to be good cheese. This was GOOD cheese.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon going for walk, checking on my garden plot and making up food for the week. I started a batch of cold brew iced coffee on Saturday and was able to drain it off and jar it yesterday. Just the refreshing beverage I need to have on hand with temps in the 80s tomorrow!

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I have been trying to move to a more natural skin care routine. One of the hardest things from me to move away from is my inexpensive but very loved drugstore body lotion. I have tried straight coconut oil before and didn’t love it. I ran across a recipe for whipped coconut oil body butter last week and decided to whip(pun intended) up a batch this weekend. It is absolutely delightful. I can’t wait to share this recipe. A little goes a long way and it really lasts all day.

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Multitasking while I was making the body butter, I cooked up some more food to round out our lunches and some dinner for the week. Look at that well stocked fridge.

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I’ve had a few people inquire lately about meal plans. Hoping to get to a post soon about how I try to do meal plans. Have a great week everyone and get out and enjoy some fresh air!

Sunday, so far

It’s not even 10am and I have been on a roll today. My two real goals of the day are to make Momofuku’s compost cookies and to grill out dinner tonight. Neither have happened.

I have been busy in the kitchen, though. I made Minimalist Baker’s 5 minute espresso brownies earlier this week for me. Brian asked to try one and didn’t like it(I love them). But he ever so casually mentioned that he likes when I make black bean brownies. Well, what did Minimalist Baker have up? A new recipe for black bean brownies. And they are good! So fudgy. Or is it fudgey?

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In yesterday’s mail my copy of More peas, please arrived. I immediately earmarked several recipes that I wanted to make. Since I still have a load if mangos to use from last weeks sale, I converted the peach cornmeal muffins to mango cornmeal donuts. They’re ok, but nothing to write home about. I feel like my cornmeal may have been too coarse of a ground. Oh well. On to the next recipe.

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I also sliced and got some veg marinating to throw on the grill tonight. A big dinner of zucchini, eggplant and portabella will be exactly what I need after some baked good sampling this morning. Along with a nice run once the weather warms up this afternoon.

Splurge Saturday

Today started off with a breakfast of banana, almond butter and flax waffles with some 5 minute espresso brownie crumbled on top. With two mugs of coffee.

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So I had a healthy lunch of yellow squash, spinach, chicken breast and marinara on low calorie yam flour noodles. It looked nice and summery with the green and yellow. See previous post about being cranky due to crappy weather and wanting sunshine.

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Then there was another afternoon splurge of Dairy Queen. The blizzard of the month is a chocolate covered pretzel with peanut butter blizzard. Could there be a better combination in the world? Especially when you have a buy one get one free coupon? So, we indulged in a blizzard in honor of Brian’s birthday this week.

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After our treat, we took a long walk to Target. There, I saw this month’s Food Network magazine where they gave cover space and two pages on 50 things to put a fried egg on top of. Brian makes fun of me all the time because he claims my motto is that any food becomes breakfast food if you just “put an egg on it.” Has the Food Network been stalking me?

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After all those rich indulgences today I had a light supper of zucchini and egg whites. But man, I’ll be dreaming about that blizzard tonight.

A case of the cranks

I’ve been cranky all week. Cranky and tired and dragging. I couldn’t figure out what was causing my unrelenting crankiness until I was sitting at the table eating breakfast this morning and noticed drizzle and flurries outside. It was the weather. Rain and gloom has blanketed the city and my mood this week. I decided at this point I needed to turn my attitude around.
After finishing my breakfast, I took a long hot shower, did a little meditation, and slathered my self with some self tanner. If my skin can’t glow from the natural sun, I might as well fake it. I returned to the living room to make my plans for the day and noticed the sun was shining bright outside. Rejoice!
I got my short grocery list ready and headed outside to be greeted by cloud cover and more flurries. The sunshine was short lived. I spent my walk to the store trying to keep a positive attitude by thinking about the things in my life that I am grateful for.
I came home in a slightly better mood. The potential for 70 degree weather tomorrow helps. I’m trying not to think of 4 straight days of rain after that.
Summer, I’m so looking forward to you.

Weekend madness-Saturday

Saturday started off great with a 3 mile walk and breakfast at Orange. I got fresh squeezed grapefruit-orange-carrot-lemon-ginger juice. Brian got watermelon-strawberry-lime juice. Both were tasty, but I liked mine best. We enjoyed an order of frushi(fruit sushi). I got the vegetarian breakfast burrito with a side of mixed greens. Brian got the honey themed pancake flight(honey banana Cheerios, honey quince, honey blueberry and honey rosemary pancakes).

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On the way home, we stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond and I got a milk frother. I had been wanting one for quite some time. We had to have lattes as soon as we got home.

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One of the most exciting things of the year happened when our new mixer(also our first wedding present) was delivered this week. I wouldn’t let myself open the box until I had cleaned out our pantry, so after a thorough cleaning, I got to play. Her name is Mo. Mo Mixer. I immediately made a batch of pizza dough and some rolls.

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I used the pizza dough to make a pesto flat bread and put the other half in the freezer.

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After moving nonstop all day, I treated myself to a little non-alcoholic cocktail that tastes almost exactly like the coconut Italian sodas I loved getting from the Java House in college. Lots of ice, 1 tablespoon coconut coffee creamer and lime La Croix.

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Shah, refreshing.

Weekend madness-Sunday

Ugh. I can only get Sunday’s pictures to transfer right now, so this weekend’s post will be split into two with Saturday coming as soon as I can get things to work!

Sunday started out with a morning walk to Target. I needed to pick up a few things, including some corn. Brian did the grocery shopping a few days ago when I had put corn on the list. He accidentally picked up cans of cream style corn, which had me gagging at the sight. On my walk to Target, I saw this car. In fact, I see it every time I walk to Target. It has a flat tire and hasn’t moved in months and totally reminds me of the car in Harry Potter than Ron and Harry flew into the Whomping Willow.

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After meeting my friend Katie at the track and going for a run(for the 3rd time this week), I was hungry! I made myself a giant lunch of a veggie patty, a broccoli potato pancake, some fruit and tortilla chips and jalapeno greek yogurt dip.

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I took advantage of the Whole Foods one day special on Friday and picked up 10 mangoes. I like mangoes so much that I don’t even mind that I’m allergic. It’s not a severe allergy, but if I’m not careful, my lips swell up.

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Knowing that they were going on sale, I started looking up recipes while I was at work last Friday. I decided on a whole wheat mango ginger scone. DE-licious!

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Later in the afternoon I began assembling a healthier version of Shepard’s pie. Since I was combining 3 separate recipes, I did not properly scale back the portions and had this before the potatoes were added to the top. Ooops. Looks like we will be having a lot of leftovers!

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I was so busy(in a good way) this weekend that the weekend seemed like it lasted for a whole week. Can’t wait to update you on Saturday and post some of these recipes!

The work breakfast

I love eggs for breakfast. They are one of the few things that keep me full. I usually try to get in at least one serving of veggies in at breakfast, too. I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work in the mornings. That usually means that I am eating breakfast 1.5 to 3.5 hours after I get up in the morning, depending if I go to the gym before work. I have never been one(for the most part) to want to eat as soon as I get up in the morning. So, this doesn’t work out too badly for me.

Here’s a look at some of my work breakfasts(FYI: I have a microwave-able vegetable steamer at work). More simple than my weekend meals, but still nutritious and filling.

Carrots and hummus, steamed broccoli, banana and hard-boiled egg:

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A big bowl of steamed broccoli with warm hard-boiled egg:

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Sprouted grain toast with guacamole and hard-boiled egg, walnuts and banana with cinnamon:

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Plain Greek yogurt with banana and walnuts and a side of detox salad:

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And this week, I have really been into sprouted grain toast with mustard and slices of hard-boiled egg. Usually with a side of sliced banana with cinnamon. Maybe a few almonds. My coworker brought in an extra dozen colored eggs that her kids made:

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What are some of your fast breakfasts that can be taken on the go?

Copycat Whole Foods date logs

I’ve mentioned before that I love Whole Food’s date logs. So much that I decided recreating them at home would be a good idea. This idea was encouraged when I saw the WF’s worker restocking the bin of them the other day and learned that they don’t make them in-house! What?!?! I had been believing that I was getting date logs fresh out of the kitchen only feet away from where they were sold. Not true. Not true at all. They come from one of their largest distributors. They come in a plastic lined box and are put into the bin by the nice WF workers.

I’m not getting my date logs minutes after they are made? But, I have to be! They are so fresh. I mean fresh tasting.

After I got over my disbelief, I picked up a 5 pound container of pitted medjool dates at Costco. Feeling like they may be a little dry, I attempted to rehydrate them a bit.

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This was probably unnecessary and wouldn’t do it again in the future. I think it made the dates too sticky. After re-hydrating and draining them, I tossed them into the food processor and began the process of pulsing and scraping the sides down. This took a bit of time. I felt like they were still too wet, so I tossed to unsweetened, shredded coconut with them to dry them up a bit. Worked like a charm. I sprinkled a line of coconut onto the wax paper then I scooped about 1/3 of the mixture onto wax paper and formed it into a log. Then I rolled that into the coconut to form a firmer log.

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I continued this method with the remainder of the date mixture. Then I placed the 3 logs into the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up. Then I took them out and cut them into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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These are almost identical to what you buy at the store. Price-wise, I am not sure how they compare, but I am sure they are at least a small savings. And more convenient to keep in my fridge than having to run to the store when I want one!