Cookie Dough Granola [for me... and you]

I taunted you with this.

And I’m sorry I’m not sorry, because this stuff is so good.

I’ll warn you, it’s simple, but it does use ingredients that you might not necessarily have in your house. It’s not vegan, it’s not gluten free… but it’s delicious. So if you’re ok with that… then keep reading.

It’s also pretty low calorie for granola. So at least that’s a perk. Right? I mean, that’s an excuse to put this on top of… everything.

Cookie Dough Granola

  • 1 1/2 cups whole grain oats
  • 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter*
  • 2 tbsp Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup**
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Chocolate chips (optional)
*If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, look for Biscoff spread. If you absolutely can’t find it… you can use almond butter… but it won’t taste quite like cookie dough 
**You can also use vanilla + honey, but you’ll have to play around with the proprtions a little

This granola is also super easy to make. Just stir up your ingredients (except the chocolate chips) and spread onto a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally. Once it’s slightly cool, you can add in some chocolate chips. I skipped the chocolate chips, because I was trying to keep the calories + fat down a bit. If you don’t add chocolate chips, a 1/4 cup serving of this stuff has less than 100 calories. Not bad for granola. (And this is a good thing, since I promise, the batch won’t last more than a few days…)

And now, because I love you all so much, and I truly believe that you’ll love this granola…

I’ll send one lucky person a batch of this stuff.

(*I can only ship to the US, sorry international folks!*)

All you have to do, is leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite type of granola is.

You can also tweet about it, if you want an extra entry. Just leave me a comment letting me know. (If you don’t already follow me, what are you waiting for?!)

Please keep in mind that this granola is not gluten free or vegan (but it is delicious).

Giveaway ends, Monday April 2nd at midnight!

What I [Baked/Roasted/Grilled] Wednesday

I’ve been whipping up a lot of things in the kitchen these days. A lot of easy things.

So obviously, I’m going to show you what I’ve been up to!

Breakfast: Baked

I had so much fun with the Samoa Granola, that I made a cookie dough granola recipe that turned out even better than I imagined. (It’s also low in calories, fat, and sugar… so come back Friday for the recipe!)

I had a banana smoothie (in a bowl, because it’s more fun that way) topped with freshly baked granola for breakfast.

Lunch: Roasted

Ok, the Kashi meal wasn’t roasted. Just popped in the microwave.

It was pretty good… for a microwave dinner (although Kashi meals tend to be expensive… so I feel they should be held to a higher standard…)

I hate it with a side of roasted broccoli, leftover from the night before. I literally just sprayed it with olive oil, added salt & italian seasonings, and roasted until tender. Easy? Yes.

Dinner: Grilled

I re-made a meal that Alexa and I tested out during her visit. Fancy pants grilled cheese.

Fancy Pants Grilled Cheese

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced thin
  • Ketchup + Siracha for dipping

I just grilled it on my george foreman grill, but it would work just as well in a frying pan. Served with a side of carrots and hummus!

What have you been baking, roasting, or grilling?

[Another] Mini Dessert: Because they’re just so cute

This was another pinterest inspired recipe that I made while Alexa was visiting. I saw a few versions of this, but I made mine based on what I had on hand. These were 10 times easier than the mini banana splits… but still pretty adorable.

Since the actually “cheesecake” part is a small portion of this dessert… I think this could even be considered healthy. I mean, it’s fruit… so that counts for something, right?

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

  • 10-15 large strawberries
  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a block)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs OR crumbled trefoil cookies (I used the cookies)

Wash the strawberries, and cut the tops off. You shouldn’t really have to hollow anything out, because strawberries generally have a hollow center, but if they’re small strawberries, you can use a paring knife to cut a little bit of the inside out. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar. I used a little 1/4 tsp scoop to fill the strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Then sprinkle the cookie crumbs on top. Pop them in the freezer for a bit, or keep in the freezer, if you’re not serving them for awhile.

These are an easy and healthy dessert, so it’s a win win!

What’s your favorite type of cheesecake?

RVA Restaurant Review: The Empress

It’s not every day you…

Walk into a new restaurant, where the owner says “You look familiar… are you on twitter?” (Yes. I am)

Meet an Abe Lincoln impersonator (I have his card, if you need a president at your next function)

Eat gluten-free Seitan (which, if you’re new to Seitan, is typically a wheat based meat substitute)

So Thursday night was quite a night.

Brittany and I went to a vegetarian meet up at The Empress, where we got to try some of their vegetarian menu options. It was a great way to try things out!

We started off with a Spinach & chickpea salad, with a warm mushroom ragu. I’m not a mushroom fan, but I loved the spinach and chickpeas.

We also had some rice noodles with some sort of peanut sauce. It wasn’t spicy, (like mine) but the noodles were good.

We ate those along side of some fresh grilled veggies. The apsaragus was my favorite, but the peppers + hummus were a good combo as well.

The must unique part was the gluten free seitan. The owner of the restaurant is a celiac, so The Empress has an extensive GF menu. I’m not a seitan expert, but it tasted different than expected. It was more like an oatcake, with the flavor of a black bean burger. (It had some spices to it, which I think reminded me of my beloved black bean burger.) These were served with carrots (which were good but nothing special) and greens, which I didn’t really care for.

I’m not sure that The Empress will make it into my regular rotations of restaurants, but I think it would be a great pick if you were gluten free, or looking for some new vegetarian options. I’ve also heard they have a great brunch, so I might have to stop in again for that.

For more RVA Restaurant Reviews, click here!

Have you ever had Seitan?

Blame it on the Girl Scouts…

I teased you with this on Wednesday’s post. 

Since I’ve been coaching elementary school cheerleading, I had no choice but to purchase some girl scout cookies. The problem wasn’t buying the cookies, the problem was stopping myself from eating the whole box.

Truthfully, I’d never even had a samoa before. But they’re pretty dang good. Since I won’t be getting any more girl scout cookies until next season, I figured something needed to be done.

And that’s when Samoa Granola happened.

Samoa Granola

  • 1 cup whole grain rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1/3 cup caramel sauce (I used the kind from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 tbsp honey (or more, if you like it sweet)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine the oats, coconut flakes, caramel sauce, and honey, until well mixed, and stick it in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. You’l have to stir it a few times while it bakes, to make sure it doesn’t burn. While that’s cooking, roughly chop your chocolate chips. Once the granola comes out of the oven, let it cool for about 10 minutes, and then add in the chopped chocolate while it’s still warm, but don’t stir it (otherwise the chocolate will get all gooey).

You’re welcome.

For this recipe, I used the dairy-free (and soy-free) chocolate chips, sent to me by Enjoy Life Foods. Their chocolate chips were great, and they’re perfect if you have allergies (they’re also not processed in a facility with nuts, so even if you have a nut allergy, you’re good!). Thank you, Enjoy Life! :)

What is your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?

What I Ate [With Alexa] Wednesday

This Wednesday feels like a Monday… since I took Monday and Tuesday off work, while Alexa was visiting. So this Wednesday kind of crept up on me, but don’t worry, Alexa and I did a lot of photo documentation during her trip, so we can share some of our deliciousness with you.

 

Breakfast

Our most notable breakfast was the banana soft serve, eaten with homemade Samoa Granola.

I’m going to make you wait until Friday for the recipe, but let me tell you, this is my new favorite granola. And if you’re a girl scout cookie addict… you’re going to enjoy it.

Lunch

When Alexa comes to town, it’s mandatory that we make at least one trip to Carytown Burgers and Fries. This trip was no different.

They have an amazing black bean burger, which we devoured.

Snack

We did a lot of walking and photo taking, and thus also did a lot of snacking. We enjoyed a few Guiltless Gourmet Tortilla Chips, served with some Pineapple Salsa, which I whipped up on Sunday.

Pineapple Salsa

  • 2 cups crushed pineapple or pineapple tidbits
  • 3/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup white onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup diced red, green, or orange pepper (I used orange)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of hot sauce (if you’re into that)
Throw it all in a bowl, and let it marinate for a bit. It’s definitely better the next day, but you can totally dig in right away.

Dinner

Since Alexa had never been to Stuzzi, we met up with Kate for $1 pizza night, and enjoyed some “Neapolitan style” pizza.

I’ve posted about the deliciousness of Stuzzi before, here, and it was no less delicious this time.

I’m so sad Alexa had to go back to Ohio, but we did accomplish an entire board of pinterest projects, so you’ll be seeing tons of new recipes, including cheesecake cookies, baked zucchini, and of course, the Samoa Granola.

Hope you’re all having a fabulous week!

#VAis4Bloggers- Richmond Edition

When Sarah shot me an e-mail, asking if I’d be down for lunch & Trader Joe’s this weekend, I pretty much shouted through the computer, YES. (Ok, and I also responded with an e-mail, in case she didn’t hear me) but both of us wanted to share the food-love with other VA bloggers, so we sent out a quick twitter announcement, and rounded up a few other bloggers for lunch at Selbas, a Richmond restaurant with plenty of vegan/vegetarian options. I’d never been there, so I was pretty excited.

I enjoyed brunch with these lovely ladies:

Gabby, Me, Alexa, Adrienne, Sarah, Lauren, and Brittany.

Nothing like a great group of blogger-friends to spend brunch with, chatting about grocery stores, food photos, and twitter hashtags. ;)

Alexa may not be a VA blogger, but she IS my bff from Ohio, and she’s been here, spending an extended weekend with me. We’ve been making our way through pinterest inspiration, and my list of things to post about is getting out of control.

As a testament to our college days, of surviving on vegetarian chili, Alexa whipped up a huge batch of this on Sunday.

Alexa’s [Famous] Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 4 cups chili ready diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 cups corn
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Splash of hot sauce
Saute your onion in a bit of olive oil until soft, and then add the beans, tomatoes, corn, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro and avocado (and hot sauce, if you’re into that). Serve with cornbread for a filling dinner!
It felt like college… except in college we were too poor to buy avocados. 

What was the best part of your weekend?

Because Mini Desserts = Adorable

It’s a proven fact that mini desserts are cuter. And they’re especially popular with females. But you knew this, right?

Monday night, we had a house full of ladies (which may or my not have been for the season finale of a popular show which I don’t usually watch, but I can easily be talked into watching when wine and girls are involved.) so adorable desserts were required. Obviously. I saw a bunch of similar ideas on pinterest but I made a few adjustments based on what Trader Joe’s had in stock…

Mini Banana Splits

  • 5 bananas (you don’t want them super ripe)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1 can whipped cream
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce

Ok I’m not going to lie, these are harder than I thought they’d be. But now that I’ve done it, I have lots of tips to help you along the way. First of all, DON’T use super ripe bananas. Second, peel your bananas, and pop them in the freezer for about an hour. They also need to be relatively straight, so it’s ideal to use straight bananas. That will make the whole process easier.

Slice your (slightly frozen) bananas into 1 1/2″ pieces. Melt your chocolate chips in the microwave on 50% power for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Dip the bottom of each banana slice into the chocolate, and set on wax paper. Stick them back in the freezer for a few minutes so the chocolate can harden. Now comes the tricky part. Very carefully, using a knife (or possibly a melon baller if you have one) scoop out the inside of the banana. You don’t have to get the whole center out, but at least make a little nook in there. Then using a little 1/4 tsp scooper, fill each banana with a tiny bit of vanilla ice cream. Fill each banana, and still back in the freezer until almost ready to serve. Just before serving, add a dollop of whipped cream on each banana, and drizzle with warm caramel sauce.

Seriously, how cute are these?

Totally worth the effort. And did I mention they were delicious?

Thought on mini desserts?

What I Ate [Here and There] Wednesday

This week has been fantastic so far, filled with delicious food, and most importantly, good friends!

We had a house full of females on Monday night for the Bachelor. I only watch the first and the last episode, but nothing in between. It’s all about efficiency ;) I did a better job documenting Monday’s eats, so here they are!

Breakfast

Although it looks the same,  I actually have been switching up my breakfast.

3/4 cup greek yogurt, 1/2 cup Keifr, 1/2 tbsp honey, 3/4 cup frozen berries. (And stevia, if needed.)

Lunch

Brown rice, black beans, peppers & onions, corn salsa, tomato salsa, guacamole, and lettuce. (Perfection.)

G-love and I went to Chipotle on Sunday night, so I took the leftovers to work on Monday. I think my co-workers were jealous, because everyone knows Chipotle is the best. (This is the original picture, because leftovers aren’t as pretty.) Also, did you know you can get free chips and salsa if you check in at Chipotle on Foursquare on weekends in March? It’s true.

Afternoon Snack

The lovely ladies at the Barre company sent me some sample bars to try! I’ve had both the Black Cherry and the Cinnamon Pecan flavors. The Cinnamon pecan was my favorite! If you’re looking for an all natural snack bar, these are great!

My picture was from my iphone and it was ugly. So please allow me to use that one from the Barre website.

Dinner

I finally tried kabocha squash! I sliced it open, scooped out the seeds, smeared it with a bit of Smart Balance Light and roasted it in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. Then I filled it with Trader Joe’s Organic Vegetable Lentil Soup. This was super filling and packed with protein and fiber! I wish I had discovered this before the warm weather hit! This would warm you up from the inside out!

[TMI] Evening Tea

Well, this tea speaks for itself…

But this tea really does taste great! I picked it up at the Japanese supermarket, while I was grabbing the squash. It’s really just regular tea, but I like it a lot. (*Unpictured- the wine that came before the tea.*)

Have you ever had kabocha squash?

5-ingredient Peanut Sauce

After the delicious Thai dinner that my friend Stephanie made me, I was on a bit of a Thai kick. Amy showed me a Spicy Peanut Sauce recipe that she had whipped up, and I knew I had to try making my own.

I played with the proportions a lot, because mine started out really thick. I also added chili paste, and skipped out on the cilantro. It still only ended up being 5-ingredients, so you know I love it.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Makes ~1/2 cup sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red curry chili paste
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Mix it all up, and you’re done. It really is that simple! I used mine over a bed of rice noodles and veggies, but you could pretty much use this on anything. I’m thinking it could even be used as a salad dressing, depending on what kind of salad you’re in the mood for.

I made dinner for Eric, and he’s not a big fan of peanut things, but even he enjoyed this! (I gave him the option of other sauces, and he still went with this one… so that’s good, right?) I just bought a box of rice noodles, and a bag of frozen Asian style veggies. After boiling the noodles, and stir frying the veggies in a bit of coconut oil, I just stirred it around in the frying pan.

Oh, and this whole dinner is dairy free and gluten-free, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Delicious.