Everyday Inspirations

Dog birthday cake
I know, I'm one of *those* dog people. But seriously, how cute is she?
My puppy turns one today. The switch to adult food makes me a little sad, but she is definitely a lot easier to handle than when she was a teeny tiny pup. She is the sweetest, smartest, most playful girl I could ask for. After a day full of cake, tutus, running, playing, treats, a photo shoot, and plenty of love, I think she had a wonderful birthday.

Since it is her first birthday, I thought she deserved a cake of her very own. So I baked up a confection (if you can call it that without sugar) made of two of her favorite human foods to beg for -- bananas and peanut butter. Using just dog-friendly ingredients means it's not very sweet (though entirely edible by humans if you wanted...) but it certainly got Daisy's seal of approval.

{Banana Peanut Butter Dog Cake}

Dog-friendly cake recipe
A partially loved cake.
For the cake:
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup oat flour (you can use whole wheat, though many dogs have wheat allergies)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, blend banana, peanut butter, eggs, water and honey until smooth. Add all dry ingredients and mix until a thick batter is made. Grease a small baking dish (I made a mini cake but you could double or triple the recipe for a full size) and bake for 30 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. Let cool.

For the frosting:
Whip cream cheese, honey and vanilla and spread on cooled cake.

Bone appetite!



Since I was already up and puttering around the house this morning, I decided to make some biscuits. I've been craving biscuits for a few days now, and this was the perfect recipe. I love it because it's made from basic ingredients you almost always have on hand: flour, sugar, butter, milk. Don't you hate it when you find a killer breakfast recipe, but then it has one random ingredient that no one has in the house?

{butter me up biscuits}
Makes about 8 large biscuits

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold cubed butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix dry ingredients together and add your cold butter to the mixture. Using a fork (or pasty masher thing, if you are fancy--which I obviously am not), mash the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is about the size of peas.
3. Mix in your milk (hands are best for this, but don't over-mix or you'll warm the butter, which does not make flaky biscuits). Start with 1/3 of a cup and add more if necessary. You want a somewhat sticky dough. (The floured surface will take away the stickiness.)
4. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times to bring everything together into a ball. Your dough shouldn't be sticky anymore. Flour a rolling pin and roll out to desired thickness (I like about 1/4").
5. Cut biscuits (I like to use the rim of a regular drinking glass). Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are slightly browned. Rub a little butter on top and add some honey or your favorite preserves.
Honey bear seal of approval.
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cherry custard
I bought this big old bag of cherries and my hubby and I simple couldn't eat them all casually eating them. So, lest they go bad, I decided I needed to make a cherry delicious dessert! I just sort of winged it with what we had in the cupboard, but it turned out incredible. Enjoy!

{Cherry Custard Pie}

They are so pretty -- couldn't let them go to waste.
For the crust:

4 graham crackers
1 1/2 tablespoons Nutella
1 teaspoon butter

For the custard:
2 eggs
2/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
a couple cherries from the cherry mixture

For the cherries:
1 cup cherries, pitted and sliced in half
1 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoon wine

Grind the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand (I used my Magic Bullet). Melt Nutella and butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs. Press into 4 small oven-safe containers (ramekins would be perfect). Reserve a few crumbs to sprinkle on top.

For the custard, beat eggs until fluffy, then mix in the yogurt, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cherries until blended. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Mix cherries with sugar and wine and saute in a pan on high until caramelized. 

Put cherries on top of crust and pour custard over the top. Sprinkle extra crumbs on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Chill and serve.

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An oatmeal fan through and through, I tried and fell in love with muesli early last summer. I thought the dish seemed difficult, but it's really quite simple: it's basically oats and granola that are soaked in water instead of cooked on the stove. With a little help from Ina Garten (AKA The Barefoot Contessa), I learned the basic rules for this dish and then went to town. I love that muesli is so good for you -- oats, organic granola, fresh fruit, nuts... who can complain?

{easy muesli}
For 2
- 2/3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
- 2/3 cup hot tap water
- 4 tablespoons good organic granola (I used cinnamon and raisin granola, which gave the dish great flavor)
- Fruit of your choice (Ina recommends fresh, but I defrosted raspberries and blueberries and they were still excellent; we also used a crisp green apple)
- Toasted nuts (I used slivered almonds -- then threw in some toasted coconut I had on hand)
- Kosher salt
- Dash of sugar
- Greek yogurt

1. Add the oats, granola, nuts, and a pinch of kosher salt to a bowl. Pour the water over the top and let the dry ingredients start soaking in the liquid (note that the oats to water ratio is 1:1; adjust as needed). Use the hottest water you can get from your tap -- nothing crazy. Let the dry ingredients soak 12-15 minutes.

2. While the dry ingredients are soaking, place the fruit in a separte bowl and add a dash of sugar, if desired. You definitely don't have to add sugar, but it will start to draw the juices out of the fruit.

3. Combine ingredients. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt on top if that's your sorta thing (it's not mine, but Dan loves it). Enjoy.
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Magic Bullet
Dear readers,
It's not often I ask you to do anything for me. Okay, it's pretty much never, but I have a bit of a favor. I entered to win the Magic Bullet Kitchen Magician video contest. Winner gets $10,000 and I would love to at least make it to the top three so I have a chance in the final round in Hollywood. I mean, has it not been my lifelong ambition to be in an infomercial? Seriously, as kids my brother would play the "product inventor" and I be the amazed by how it worked and that is was only three easy payments of $x.99. Apparently playing house or cops and robbers just wasn't enough. 

Anyway, I truly am in love with my Magic Bullet (as I have told you here and here). That being said, I totally wasn't convinced at first because I didn't see how it was different than the blender I already had other than it came with smaller cups -- until I tried my best friend's. 

When I first tried it I was impressed by the fast blending and grinding ability. It blends really smooth in a matter of seconds, I think partially because they are designed to move the liquid up to the top and back around -- something a normal blender can't do without spraying everywhere.

I also love how convenient they are because you blend in the same container you drink from. I thought it would be annoying because you can mostly just make single servings, but I feel that actually makes it more convenient 95% of the time. No taking apart the blender or hand washing it every time I use it. I now only have to rinse the blade right away, then the cup is dishwasher safe. It's really pretty easy to make multiple servings too since you just put pieces into several cups then blend one and a time or use the larger blender top. Because you're blending in the cup you drink from, it's easy to measure quantity so you don't end up with too much smoothie, soup, etc.    

There are so many uses for them, but I use them the most for smoothies (I know, cliche). I make fresh smoothies nearly everyday now as a result (usually one part frozen fruit, one part fresh fruit, protein powder, water and a big handful of spinach) and it's a great way to get in fruits, veggies and nutrients super quick. It's also small, so doesn't take a lot of space in your cupboards and comes at a pretty low price (only one easy payment of $29.99 at Costco last time I checked).  

No, I'm not their saleswoman and this doesn't count for the competition (though it should!). I just wanted to share that I truly love them. 

Anyway, without further ado, here is my recipe submission for Magic Bullet Dog Biscuits. I made peanut butter and oat flour biscuits from scratch for little miss Daisy and she love, love, loves them. I actually had to shut them away in the freezer so she'd stop whining for more. Plus, they are healthy and I control the ingredients, which also means you can sneak in vitamins and such if you want. 

{Magic Bullet Dog Biscuits}

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsalted peanuts
3-4 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons honey
dash of salt
2 eggs
baking powder
water to moisten (as needed)
Dog vitamins/supplements if desired (it's a great way to sneak in the stuff they need)

In a large container, grind oats using the flat blade. In a small container, grind peanuts until large pieces are mixed. Add 1 teaspoon oil (to start), honey and salt, switch to cross blade. Add the rest of the oil and blend until smooth. Transfer peanut butter to the container of oat flour, add eggs, baking powder and a little water as needed. Pulse and shake, then transfer in a bowl. Hand mix, adding any additional water to add moisture. Roll into balls, place on a cookie sheet, and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Your dog will love these! Great for training or to sneak in those extra nutrients.

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Last weekend Dan and I had to pick up some ingredients for a Mother's Day dessert. One of those ingredients was marischino cherries, something I haven't had in my house in... I can't even remember when. I started talking about how much I loved them in Shirley Temples as a kid. When Dan told me me he had never before had a Shirley Temple, we made a beeline for the soda aisle.

The recipe is so darn simple: pour a little bit of the cherry juice into the bottom of a glass (I find a little goes a long way--it's really sweet!). Add ice, if desired. Fill the rest of the glass with a lemon-lime beverage of your choice. Drop in a few cherries and enjoy.

Sometimes there is nothing better than revisiting a childhood favorite.
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fajita recipe
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today we celebrate...well, what is it we celebrate? Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is observed primarily in the United States and regionally in Mexico as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. For many of the Americans that "observe" it, it's another excuse to eat good food and drink. How many invites did you get for tacos and margaritas for lunch today? It's a much bigger deal here than it is in Mexico. Why do I know this? I always wanted to be Latina. The olive skin, dark eyes, beautiful language and incredible culture of family always drew me in. Plus, let's face it, when people ask your heritage and you say, "yeah you know those countries in Western Europe? My ancestors are from all of them," it's just not that exciting. 

So what's the best way to honor my wanna-be heritage? Fajitas. Now if you think fajitas are Mexican food, you're definitely a gringo. Fajitas are sort of like me, the wanna-be Mexican that is actually American dish. Alright, so after a little research they started in Texas but were made by Mexican vaqueros (cowboys), so I'll give them that. 

Either way, they are delicious and are a family tradition at my house. Since I was a kid, we regularly hosted fajitas parties, inviting plenty of friends to join in for the fun. They are fast and easy to make, a crowd-pleaser, relatively healthy, and inexpensive. Great to whip up for 1 person or 20, I cook fajitas probably nearly once a week and to me, and I never get tired of them. So let me share my ever-changing recipe (I don't really measure so it's always different) that is so ingrained in my brain I have never bothered to write it down. Because I make it so often, I have figured out every time-saving and dirty dish-saving tactic in the book. I will share.

{Homemade Fajitas}

2 medium cuts of meat (chicken, pork or steak)
2 bell peppers 
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
handful of cilantro, chopped
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
lime juice
olive oil
toppings as desired (guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, etc)
Slice bell peppers vertically, about 1/2 inch thick. Still have the produce bag? Move on top of that until cooking time. Slice onion in 1/4 inch rings, then cut in half. Put a little olive oil in a saute pan, then toss in onions (don't turn stove on yet, you're just setting them aside). Chop cilantro and set aside with peppers. Chop garlic (if you don't have a press) and set aside. Slice meat in long, thin pieces. Turn heat of stove on high and stir onions until a little juice is let out. Add in meat, salt, lime juice and 2/3 of the spices (be sure to grab the cumin and not curry powder...been there, done that) and saute until meat is cooked. 
Push meat to the sides of the pan in a circle and add the bell peppers and additional salt and spices. Mix together, stirring meat on top of the peppers.
how to cook fajitas
Turn to medium heat and cover for 2-4 minutes or until peppers begin to soften.
To steam tortillas, place on top of the fajita mixture while on low. Salud! 

*Recipe is 2-4 servings depending on size of peppers and meat. If you're cooking for a group, each person will likely eat about 3/4-1 piece of meat and 3/4-1 pepper each. 
how to steam tortillas
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pasta carbonara
Pasta carbonara is one of my favorites -- but let's face it, it's not exactly the healthiest meal. Like I always seem to do, I created my own spin to make this a much healthier dish (I even got a "wow Ang, this is really great! How did you make this?!" from my husband before he knew I made it healthy). So get in the kitchen, don't mess up your workout and don't sacrifice any bit of flavor. You could also easily make this with chicken if you prefer. 

{Healthy Steak Carbonara Pasta}

Pasta type of your choice 
8 ounces of thin steak
3-4 slices turkey bacon
1/3 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 handfuls of fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/3 white onion
1 teaspoon parsley
2 teaspoons oregano
hot red pepper to taste
olive oil
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese on top

Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare pasta. In a saute pan on high, heat up onion, garlic and bacon in a little olive oil. Add steak and spices and saute until meat is cooked. Put heat on medium low and add sour cream, milk and egg and stir until a sauce starts to form. Add spinach and cook until lightly wilted. Serve on pasta with Parmesan cheese on top. 
Makes 2-4 servings

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I have said it before and I'll say it again -- I can't help but crave dessert. Doesn't matter what I've tried, my sweettooth is ingrained in me. As it starts to get warmer, one of my weaknesses is ice cream. The creamy, coolness is pure heaven. Luckily I've discovered this great way to make some creamy goodness to fill the desire without messing with your healthy diet. It's not exactly the same, but considering it's at least 10 times healthier, makes every bite taste that much more incredible. Crumble a couple graham crackers or Nila wafers on there, and it's pure heaven.

{Sinless Banana Ice Cream}

One frozen banana (best to freeze without the peel)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of milk
Additional flavors like strawberries, coconut, chocolate etc (optional)

Put frozen banana chunks, vanilla and any additional flavors into a blender or Magic Bullet. Add milk a little at a time, blending a little at a time until creamy. Add more milk as necessary. Let it fully set up in the freezer and serve.  
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Remember last week when I didn't quite know about the little, green, squash-looking vegetable that arrived in my Bountiful Basket? Well thanks to the peeps over there, I was able to discover what it is--the chayote

Um, the what? If you haven't heard of a chayote it's basically like a pear, zucchini and cucumber mated in flavor and had a wrinkly, pear-shaped baby. It has a light, slightly sweet flavor and can be used in much the same way as cucumbers raw or summer squash cooked. The seeds, skin and fruit are all edible. It also happens to be low in calories and full of amino acids, vitamin C and fiber. Oh, and did I mention they are generally pretty cheap? 

So now on to cooking them. I took this new veggie and challenged myself to come up with three different recipes with different styles of preparation: raw, sauteed, and baked in a side dish, entree and dessert. I wanted to do this serious Iron Chef style after all (minus the time limit and the only judge would be my husband). 

This is the first installment with the salad and entree. Here are my recipes for chayote, chicken and tomatillo tacos and ensalada fresca with cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

{Chayote, Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos}

Chayote tacos
1 medium chayote
2 tomatillos, diced
1 chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeño
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon lime juice
fresh cilantro leaves
salt to taste
olive oil
toppings as desired (cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc)

To prepare the chayote, slice in quarters and remove center, similar to cutting a pear or apple. Prep all other ingredients. Saute onions and jalapeño in olive oil on medium heat until onions are clear. Add chicken and stir until fully cooked. Add chayotes, tomatillos, salt, cumin, sugar and lime juice. Cook until chayotes begin to soften. Serve on tortillas with fresh chopped cilantro on top. 

Chayote salad

{Ensalada Fresca with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette}

For the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro
juice from one lime
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon honey
1 jalapeño

For the salad:
1 chayote
1 red bell pepper
4 vine tomatoes (or 1 larger tomato)
1/3 cup pineapple
1 avocado

For the dressing: 
Add all ingredients together in a blender or food processor (my Magic Bullet worked like a charm). Blend until creamy and smoothe.

For the salad:
Dice all ingredients into similar-sized pieces and mix together in a bowl. Add dressing and let marinate for at least 20 minutes before serving. 
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