Banana nut bread

I'm in the mood for something sweet and the cupboards are nearly bare. Looked at various recipes for banana bread and all the recipes called for things I don't have. Frustrated, I stormed off to the kitchen and started throwing stuff in a bowl. I'll be damned if I can't have banana bread! I'll just make it with what I do have.

Will admit, held my breath while it was cooking. Smelled good though. Felt like I was on a reality show as I awaited for the boys to sink their teeth into the warm dark banana bread. Eyes got wide, smile surfaced. Both expressed it was very VERY yummy...no, no...it is oh-so TERRIBLE! (wink) Finally, I took my first bite. Nice and sweet but not too sweet. Banana and walnuts offered a subtle flavor, not overpowering. Dense and dark but not doughy or hockey puck worthy.

I've been instructed by the 7 year old to put a slice in his lunch tomorrow. :o)

In other words, I lucked out! Now, let's see if I can remember the recipe. Remember, I was a bit miffed while whipping this up!

2.5 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 banana chopped fine
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2/3 stick butter slightly melted
1 cup warm water

Mix all ingredients. Consistency should be gloppy. Add tablespoon of warm water at a time as needed to create the right consistency.

Pour into greased bread pan.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 1 hour.


Spicy kale delight

Been thinking with all the consumption of kale chips through the months, I must be developing a love for anything kale. *laughs heartily* Even my boys have been commenting on (dishes that contain kale) how much they love it.

Decided on a meatless meal tonight. I try to limit meat to maximum 4 times a week. Some weeks I am able to adhere to that self-request whereas others, not so much. However, there are some weeks we consume very little meat. I think it all balances out in the end.

1 full head of garlic, sliced large
1/2 head cauliflower sliced
1 large bunch kale sliced
1 heaping tablespoon spicy herb blend*
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon water

Cook over medium high heat, garlic in a small amount of olive oil. When starting to brown, add cauliflower. Turn down heat to medium, let cook for approx. 10 mins. Add spice blend, mix well. Add kale and water, allow to cook for an additional 10 mins, stirring regularly. Add sesame seeds and walnuts. Turn down heat, let simmer for approx. 5 mins.

This dish is delicious served with some wild rice (as shown), pasta or basmati rice.


*I used Coldfoot Jalapeño blend from Summit Tea & Spice. It a beautiful spicy blend of: jalapeño, roasted garlic, white pepper, lime peel, kosher salt, coriander, chipotle & lime juice powder.


Meat, potatoes and chocolate?

I should start a new blog just on eating gourmet meals on a skinny budget! *laughs*

Doing my usual scouring of the fridge and cupboards, what could I make today? Wanting to steer away from cabbage tonight...plus I think the family is getting a little bit tired so they deserved a break.

Ever since my husband came home with a stash of herb blends from our local spice shop (see Chugach Chili thread for more information), I've been dying to try the North African blend! Started pulling ingredients out of the cupboards and fridge and went to work.

My family was very suspicious upon serving them this dish but as soon as a bite was taken, the 7 year old exclaims that it smells like hot coco! *laughs* The husband thought it tasted so terrible, he went for a second helping. It does not taste like *chocolate* but does have nice flavor of the bitter chocolate and the unique spice blend mixed well with this combination of ingredients. I dare you to try it! Add chocolate to your meat and potatoes...

1 pound ground pork
4 red potatoes cubed
2-3 cups sliced fresh broccoli
4 garlic cloves sliced
2 tablespoon North African spice blend*
3 small dark chocolate squares
1/4 cup water
salt to taste

Brown ground pork, while still slightly pink, add spices, potatoes and garlic. Cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Add broccoli, cover for additional 10 minutes. Add chocolate squares and water, cover for 5 minutes. Mix well and serve.

*Spanish paprika, sea salt, garlic, cumin, Korintje cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, Tellicherry pepper


Chugach Chili

Even though the weather didn't call for chili, the family has been craving it. My husband has been on a warpath in search for unique spice blends. It sort of started with me complaining with other people posting photos of their cupboards and many of them were jam packed full of various spices...even in the refrigerator!

We had a tough obstacle to overcome... low funds. Spices are expensive!! The husband was determined, scouted out our favorite local spice store's website (www.summitspiceandtea.com). Being the math nerd he is, figured out how much this and that would cost. Even made the 3.5 mile trek there to stock our cupboards with some spices, plus, we were out of our old chili mix. (A great excuse to try something new!) I think the 7 miles round trip was worth it, I made some kick ass chili!

First, check out the beautiful spice collection. Total came out to around 15-17 bucks. Can you spot my favorite? *laughs* Yes, that would be my 2 ounces of Garam Masala (universal)!! The Chugach Chili Blend is what was added to the chili tonight. Look at that deep mole/red color! So flavorful without too much spice. I think I will add a bit more next time now that I am aware of how hot the spice blend is.

In honor of the blend, I've decided to call this chili: Chugach Chili

1 pound ground meat (I used pork tonight)
1 onion chopped
3 Anaheim peppers chopped
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 can olives chopped
1/4 cup non-cooked wild rice 
3 cups soaked beans (used kidney and black beans) May use canned beans.
3 cups water (may need more)
3 tablespoon Chugach Chili Blend (more or less due to preference)
6 ounces beer (I prefer dark bitter beers)

Brown ground meat, when almost done add Chugach Chili Blend, mix well. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours until rice and beans are soft.

Add toppings! Cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, cilantro, avocado, the list goes on forever!

*Be sure to soak your beans either the night before or first thing in the morning. They cook better and shorter if you presoak them first.


Wild wild rice!

I have this coworker who goes on and on about how glorious Minnesota is. The Mall of America, the best corn cob, the best of . LOL I let it slide because he is a good kid and works hard.

He had the nerve to take a vacation (snort) and I covered for him while he was gone. Naturally, little speed bumps here and there but nothing my 20 years of experience couldn't handle. The whippersnapper was having a blast at, yes...you guessed it, Mall of America. I can picture him as I do my 7 year old son running around, screaming off the top of his lungs...I LOVE THIS PLACE!! Ahh, to be young again.

Bless his heart, he brought back food for me. Coworkers like to rib me for my alternative eating lifestyle and my recycling fetish. I'm thankful they put up with me. Anyways, the-mall-of-america fan said he could have brought me a mug back but figured I would appreciate this more, he was right. Minnesota grown wild rice. He swears this is the best stuff...ever! I was excited and grateful but will admit, a sceptic. 

The last time I had wild rice was ages ago. From what I remember, it tasted like dirt. *laughs hard* I kid you not! Thought I liked it growing up. Can't give up the opportunity to try something new, especially the best stuff on this planet! I bet he would go as far as the universe even!! *wink*

Well, I kid you not, he was not joking! It was unbelievably delicious. My boys (son and husband) were very disappointed I did not cook the whole bag. Talk about the sad puppy dog eyes they gave me when I said there were none leftover for seconds. (whispers) I lied, there was just enough for me to take to work for lunch the next day. Promise me you won't tell!! Pinky swear?!

2 chicken breast cubed
1 head cabbage
1/2 sliced onion
1/2 head garlic chopped large
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon tarragon
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cup water
smidge of salt
1 teaspoon butter (optional)

Wild rice takes a long time to cook. Be sure to prepare the rice before cooking the main meal. Add rice and water, bring water to boil. Cover and simmer for 55 minutes (when you have 15 minutes remaining, start on main course). Add salt and butter. Turn heat off, keep covered until rest of meal is ready to serve.

Cook chicken until pink, add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add paprika, tarragon and salt. Mix well, add cabbage. Let simmer for an additional 15 minutes.


Tough week

I was on vacation last week. It was a in-town, nothing planned vacation. While it was a bummer we didn't go anywhere special this year, I did get a lot of needed chores done in my home. Winter will be upon us before we know it and we skipped spring cleaning so pre-fall cleaning was in order.

Another bonus is I was able to finally complete my bedroom! Before I whine about my struggles with food, take a look at my bedroom! I feel like a 5 year old little girl that finally got the room she dreamed of. My dear husband indulged into my fantasy (and I think he likes it as much as I do but wouldn't admit it in a million years. Shhhh, our little secret.)

The dresser on the right will be refinished soon. Another weekend project, plan to refinish in antique black to match the side tables.


Cravings hit hard while I was on vacation. The urge to weigh also kicked into higher gear. Fret not my friends, I did not weigh. I almost used the cat as a rational/logical way to weigh. Laughing at the thought that I almost tricked myself! How much does the cat weigh? Oh I know! I can get on then pick up the cat. Ha!

We did eat out twice (still maintained healthier choices) but we also had Baskin Robbins twice. I did get one scoop of ice cream, no cone however, we did all share a banana split the second time. I was pretty satisfied. We still did walk daily (not as much as my usual week but still kept active).

Today, we held a birthday party at our home for my mother in law's birthday. Made burgers (pork/turkey  for me, beef for the rest), homemade potato salad, fresh garden salad. Ice cream cake for dessert. I did not restrained myself from enjoying the food prepared and had a nice big piece of cake. Even went for more cake later. I started to feel shitty. Wanting to lay it hard on myself for eating all that food.

Normally, my husband is just plain clueless in how to help or support me when the eating disorder in me comes out. He shocked me tonight. Listened to me start to ream myself (in other words, vent) and said he still felt I did well and will continue to do well. Maybe he is right. While I feel I still over ate, the old me definitely would have consumed much much more. In turn, eating even more out of self pity.

*deep breath*

I'm not going to say that tomorrow will be better, I will get back on track or anything of the sort. There is no getting back to, there is no better tomorrow. There is nothing to feel guilty for in the first place. Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow. Just as I can't change the past, can't change today nor demand tomorrow be any different than from what it will be. I will have to wake up and face it as I do any morning. Good, bad or indifferent.

Having a love/hate relationship with my self discovery journey. I'm learning to be more vocal of what I want without sounding like I am being selfish (I hope). While demanding more of myself, also learning when to step back and take a deep breath. Is it really worth getting flustered over? The balance is challenging as well as refreshing to learn.

What's in your cupboards?

Ever wonder what is in other people's cupboards? Especially those that proclaim to be foodies? I know I am! What is in Oprah's cupboards? How about Martha Stewart? For some reason, I envision Paula Dean's cupboards to look my grandmother's. *chuckles*

I'm even more curious what the more heavy hitters of natural/organic/raw cooks have in their cupboards.

Figured I'd take the first step...

Cupboard one (large cupboard, left side):

Cupboard one (large cupboard, right side):

Cupboard two (cereals/spices)

Fridge (main inside):

Crisper drawer (yes, I'm aware it is dirty! LOL):

Fridge door:

Freezer (main):

Freezer door:

When reviewing the photos, I did discover some old things that needed tossing as well as some areas needed some cleaning. So, go ahead, take photos, look at them. You will gain a different perspective of what is in your cupboards.


Salty and crunch snack (chickpeas)

Something I used to make years ago in my earlier attempts to find the road to healthier eating. It's been a few years and this topic was mentioned among friends. Oh yeah! I used to like those! Ha! I should make some for the boys. Turned out to be a big hit! The boy requested I put some in his lunch for when he returns to school. Hooray!

The seasoning combination is endless!

Ready for this? You will need hours and hours of prep work. Okay, I'm totally lying. Be sure to dust your forehead with some flour or something so it looks like you labored hard with this snack.

1 can garbanzo (chickpeas) beans*
olive oil
seasoning of choice (see a suggestions list below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain beans and rinse well. With paper towels, dry beans. Discard any loose skins that fall off (important for beans to be thoroughly dry). Spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil, mix to coat well. Bake for approx. 30 mins (check on them around 20 mins to ensure they are not burning). Remove and sprinkle with your choice in seasonings.

Seasoning suggestions: (again, endless possibilities!)
Cinnamon/cumin with a smidge of maple syrup
Garam masala
Chili powder

*You can be a geek like me and use dried beans, takes longer but equally as yummy. I have also had good success with other beans such as black and kidney beans. Be sure to experiment!

*the* scale revisited

Yes, we are back to this topic. I have a feeling it will be a lifelong topic but that is okay! The more we talk about this taboo topic, the better. One day, we WILL conquer this war with the evil scale.

I am still scale free since mid March. The support on the scale-free revolution has been overwhelming. Ladies, you are awesome. Keep the challenge going!!

For those not familiar with the scale challenge: Do NOT weigh yourself for 30 days. Lock that scale up in the closet, take the battery out, etc. Out of sight, out of mind. It is harder than you would think. Will you try it?)

I want to talk about a special friend of mine, B. She has no idea that she has been a huge source of inspiration the past 2 months. She has been upfront and honest about the trials of torture with *the* scale. Because she is with the National Guard, she is required a yearly physical. Yep, you know where I am going with this. She didn't even look at the scale...but the scale had it's evil ways...through the nurse. Before she knew what could happen, the nurse uttered those words. You weigh XYZ. The results don't really matter. It's knowing what the numbers are. It sent her into a spiral. I loved her candor and honesty in what happened. What she doesn't realize is her own strength. It did not send her out of control for months on end. She got right back up and marched on. She doesn't know it but I cried reading her story. I cried for her, I cried for me, I cried for all of us who struggle with *the* scale. Most of all, I'm proud of her. She recognized what it was doing and stopped herself from becoming destructive. She took it's power away.

She recently reveled the most awesome way to strip *the* evil scale of it's power in her own home, body and soul. She took a piece of tape over the number reader of her scale and scribbled the following message: This does not dictate my worth. I recreated the image to share with all of you. Don't be afraid to do the same to yours. I promise you, empowerment is guaranteed.

Felt crappy on Saturday (Aug 14)

And couldn't figure out why...it had a sense of familiarity. Then it hit me, I had a revelation.

It has been a rough week whereas food is concerned. Not for lack of control or any of the typical reasons you'd think a big chick trying to lose weight would have, it was the lack of food in my house. The husband has been out of work since last July. While unemployment did not pay a heck of a lot, it did help with the groceries. This of course before we traveled a much healthier lifestyle. Easier to get by on a lot of carb based food items (rice, bread, potatoes, cheap processed foods, etc).

Then unemployment ended...

Why we had to decided to become much more serious in our eating habits during broke times? I haven't a clue! Ha! Maybe I'm just morbid like that and challenge myself to the fullest. Yea, I'll go with that, sounds much more positive. *wink*

Fast forwarding to Saturday after a week of a bleak week of fresh food. Just getting paid the day before, we headed to Natural Pantry (healthy grocery store). We make this trip 2-3 times a week. The 3 mile stretch is nothing for us...except for Saturday. Why was Saturday so hard on me? I walk a minimum of 2 miles a day! Maybe because I didn't add additional miles? It did take a lot of effort to walk my minimal miles this week. Chalked it up to being tired and maybe burned out.

Within a mile in, the 7 year old started whining. The husband was being sluggish and quite frankly, not fun company. WAIT! They feel like crap too! Ugh. Are we finally getting sick? We've been able to avoid sickness all summer despite the horrible weather...why now?!

WAIT! (yes, I'm aware there is a pattern here...hahaha)

I remember this feeling. Started talking to Mr. Cranky. It just occurred to me we've not had much fresh food in our diet this week. Having nearly next to nothing to work with, we had to really strategize how to make that money stretch one week until payday. Naturally, fresh food (namely produce) got cut dramatically. Think it is possible the lack of proper nutrition is the culprit? We decided we would eat at Natural Pantry's deli. Looked around and decided the salad bar looked like a gold mine...even to the 7 year old! Within minutes after chowing down a plate full of yummy vegetables, we started to feel much better. Wow! I think the original assessment is correct! Before heading home, we ate some raw cashews with raw cacoa nibs. YUM!

Even though our budget continues to be tight, we were sure to buy a nice variety of fruits and vegetables. With knowing how a week of improper eating has affected us, I'm not entirely sure we would have made different decisions regarding what we purchased. But knowing what we know now, will influence our future tighter-than-normal weeks.


Walnut crusted halibut with Caribbean black beans

So, the husband takes out halibut from our fun fishing trip. Since I do not eat seafood (I try! Maybe I have an allergy? It comes back up immediately...where are my manners! I'll come back to this theory another day.)

Again, since I don't eat seafood, I left it up to my husband to prepare it. I'll make the side (main to me) dish. Sounds fair...right? Ha! He looked up recipes on the web. Easy...right? Ha! Guess he hasn't checked the cupboards lately, getting a bit bare and naturally, everything he is coming up with has a multitude of ingredients required. Ha again! We are even out of butter. Yep, a fridge with no butter. Insane, I tell you!

I have to hand it to him. He did find a half package of saltine crackers. Um, dear? I think we got those when we moved here last year. Oh shh! It's crackers, it is fine! Why don't you take a bite then. After a small bite. This man, who can just about stomach anything, started to make morphing faces. Uh huh, you sure you want to put that on your fish?

I gave up. Couldn't resist. Snuck off to the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and started crushing, stirring, pouring. Took a nibble and had to resist the urge to devour the bowl and pretend nothing ever happened in the kitchen. If it was just for the husband, I would have eaten it but since my firstborn needed to eat dinner, I couldn't deprive him of a proper meal. Gave the husband a taste. How the hell did you come up with that? *shakes head* He doesn't understand me. (nor will he EVA! *evil cackle*)

I do have to give him some due credit. He did add an extra ingredient that I think worked well. I'll disclose what that ingredient is shortly. Meanwhile, I encourage you to try this. You can even use this crust for other meats as well. I didn't have any meat out for me so I was more than happy with the vegetarian side I prepared to accompany the boys halibut (caught by me!).

1 halibut filet (rinse and pat dry)

1/4 cup walnuts crushed
1 tablespoon coconut flakes shredded (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon crushed oatmeal (not the instant kind)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon mayo (the husbands ingredient)

Mix well and coat top of halibut filet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approx 25 mins.

Caribbean black beans:
1 small head cauliflower sliced
1/2 onion sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 1/2 cup black beans (soaked and cooked, or you can cheat and use a can)
1 mango cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Cook cauliflower, onions and garlic for approx. 15 mins on medium heat. Add black beans, cook an additional 5 mins or until beans are warm. Turn off heat, add mango.



Breakfast for dinner

This is truly a childhood comfort meal for me. Fond memories of my mother making those yummy Bisquik pancakes slathered in I-can't-believe-it's-not-butter (margarine) and drenched in Ms Butterworths syrup. Served with greasy eggs, potatoes, bacon, ham and those cute little Jimmy Dean sausages. And don't forget those Pillsbury crescent rolls!

Just thinking about that meal is making me bloat! Ha!

It is a chilly evening tonight. Been in the mid 50's and rainy. This weather has me craving for breakfast for dinner. I try to make it about once a month. It is not the healthiest but I strive to make it healthier than my childhood breakfasts. I believe my son will carry on the tradition when he grows up. Not sure that is likely to happen though...the growing up part. LOL

This is what we enjoyed tonight by the warm fire (yes, we had a fire in the middle of summer!).

Scrambled eggs:
6 eggs (room temperature)
3 spoonfuls of plain yogurt
preferred spices

Mix well, cook medium high. I like to add a little ghee to the pan.

1/4 to 1/2 pound bacon
fresh ground pepper

Rather than spend extra money for peppered bacon, I have the easiest solution. Add your own pepper! LOL I add mine one time on top right after I put them in the pan to cook. My son loves this! (we buy our bacon from a local butcher, thicker than store bought but not too thick)

Sweet Potatoes:
1 large sweet potato or yam
1/2 onion sliced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon raw honey

Cook potatoes until almost tender, add onions, cook until translucent. Turn off heat, add remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Add fresh fruit of your choice. Tonight I had peaches from our CSA box. :o)

Sometimes instead of sweet potatoes, we may have oatmeal with flax, coconut and walnuts.


Greek Chicken w/honey glazed green beans

Haven't felt adventurous in the kitchen the past couple of days other than adding pumpkin seeds to my pizza dough (you should try it!). CSA box arrived yesterday and had some of the most beautiful green beans. Chicken breast thawed in the fridge, surely, I could come up with something delicious for the family. 

Next thing I know, I'm pulling spices off the shelf, food out of the fridge. And this is what was created.

Not a morsel was leftover. :o)

Here is the recipe:

2 boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons greek seasoning*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound green beans (do not cut, just trim tip off)
1/2 onion sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons raw honey

Mix greek seasoning, cinnamon and salt together. Rub mixture on chicken pieces with your hands. Don't be afraid to give those chicken boobs a good massage. (get your mind out of the gutter! lol) Set for 10 mins. Carefully add yogurt over chicken, make sure all pieces get generously coated. Allow to set on counter for 20 mins (this is a good time to start prepping those veggies).

Turn oven on broil. Make sure you use the lowest rack, I remove the 2nd rack, so I have plenty of room. I use a cookie cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet to catch drippings. Making sure the chicken is coated generously with yogurt, lay all pieces on your rack. Put under the broiler in the oven. Usually takes about 10+ mins to start browning. Keep a close eye on the chicken to prevent burning. When nice and brown, turn pieces over and cook until brown to your preference. If it is hot, which it has been for the rest of the world, you can barbeque the chicken.

Cook green beans in medium heat for 20 mins with a couple tablespoons of water. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and turn heat up to medium high. Add onions, stir for 10 mins or until onions are translucent. Turn heat off, add sesame seeds and honey. Mix well and serve.

Quinoa with pumpkin seeds would compliment this meal nicely if you need a little extra for your plate. :)

*I use The Spice Hunter's version (oregano, garlic, cinnamon, dill, nutmeg, cayenne & chives).

Paper or plastic?


It took awhile for me to get used to it but it eventually became a habit. At this day and age, it irks the hell out of me when I don't have bags on me and grumblingly have to accept plastic. Don't know about you, but I find those bags to be a pain...literally.

Even today with these bags being out in the public for awhile, you can hear the heavy sigh as the cashiers eye those bags coming down the belt. Eighty percent of the time, I end up re-bagging them. Then you hear the heavy sighs from my husband. Ha! Seriously, they bag those like they do the plastic versions, two or three items each!

What started the recycle bag bug was Fred Meyers. They had the bags at 99 cents and the extra bonuses included 5 cents off with each bag used as well as a replacement guarantee. If at any time their bags unravel, tear, fall apart, they will replace them for free. I'm a gal who loves a bargain! One bag, next trip buy another or two and before I know it, my bag collection grew to this:

I lost count at around 50. This is not including my produce and ziploc-like bags (pictured in front of basket). Those are newbies to my recycled bag collection.

Do not underestimate the power and room in those bags. My collection has all sizes imaginable. Small store-plastic size to Costco size. Each have their unique purposes. My husband and I have our favorites.

I'm always curious what recycled bags look like across the globe. Too bad I don't have the money to travel around the world for 50 cent recycled bags! Ha!

Remember, be kind and reuse.