Christmas is only 5 days away (!), and I'm guessing that most of you already have holiday gifts determined and purchased...right?!? This post is probably a bit late, but I thought it might be helpful to those of you still looking for last minute gifts for friends, family and co-workers.
Brian and I have given homemade gifts out for the last few years, and always enjoy the pleased responses we receive in return. In a time when spending significant amounts of money is difficult for most, putting personal effort into gifts rather than cash is a nice alternative. I've compiled a few ideas for you to choose from...enjoy!
Homemade jam can be made with fresh and frozen fruit. Be sure to use a proper method of preservation if you plan to give the gifts un-refrigerated. If you'd rather not tackle the canning process, tell recipients to keep their jam refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.
blackberry peach jam
A batch of granola is quick to whip up, and keeps for weeks in an airtight container in the pantry.
mixed fruit granola
Homemade Almond Butter
Nut butter made from scratch is so much better than store-bought because you can mix your own interesting combinations. It can be a bit pricey though, depending on the nuts you choose.
cinnamon vanilla almond butter
Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and Marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows are nothing like their store-bought cousins. So light and fluffy, they truly melt in your mouth (or your hot cocoa). For a little twist, add some peppermint extract in place of vanilla. If you don't have vanilla sugar for the cocoa mix (it takes about 2 weeks to make your own) just substitute regular sugar.
hot cocoa mixmarshmallows
I've had so many comments and questions about the oatmeal pictured in my last entry, that I decided to go ahead and dedicate a quick post to it. Many of you may not have been reading a few months ago when Bella Eats was more of a food diary than a space for sharing recipes. I posted so many pictures of this breakfast during those first few food diary months that I'm surprised people didn't stop reading out of sheer boredom! To those of you who have been reading for awhile, I'm sorry if this post looks familiar.This oatmeal is one of my favorite daily breakfasts, so quick to make before work and hardy enough to keep me satisfied until lunch time. I was introduced to stove-top oats through the blog world - prior to reading Kath's and Heather's sites I was a pre-packaged instant oats kind of girl. Not any more. Stove-top oats are far superior in texture and flavor, and if you get old-fashioned rolled oats they only take 10 minutes to make. They are worth the extra few minutes, I promise.Adding mashed banana to my oatmeal was something I learned from Kath, and I’ve never gone back. I love the creaminess the banana gives the oats and never skip this step even if the toppings change. Wheatberries are another Kath-inspired addition - I love their chewy texture. When I’m eating oatmeal often (nearly every day during the cold months) I’ll make a pot full of wheatberries to use all week. You buy them dried, in the bulk foods section, and boil them in water for about 20 minutes, depending on the texture you’re going for. I like mine a little chewy, so 20 minutes is all it takes. Drain them and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days. And the figs - oh the figs - they are the best part. Their tiny little seeds and sweet flavor add so much to each bite. Love.
I've tried many different variations of mix-ins, from fresh fruit to chocolate chips to canned pumpkin, but I always come back to this combo. What are your favorite oatmeal toppings?
Stovetop Oatmeal with Banana, Figs and Almond Butter
1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, pinch of salt
1/2 mashed banana
1 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp ground flax seeds
cinnamon to taste
2 dried figs, chopped
2 tbsp cooked wheatberries
1-1/2 tbsp almond butter (crunchy peanut butter is delicious too, and adds another great texture)
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of rolled oats. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally.
When the oats have absorbed most of the water, after 5-7 minutes, turn off the heat. Add the mashed banana and splash of soy milk. Stir. Add the flax seeds and cinnamon, stir.
Pour oats into bowl and top with chopped figs, wheatberries and almond butter.
Stir everything up so that the almond butter swirls through the whole mix.
Enjoy, and if you choose, comment after each bite about how delicious the texture is. I do every time.
For those of you who have stuck around since the early food diary days - Thank You! - I appreciate each and every one of you and love seeing comments pop up from familiar names as well as new readers.
My hubb and I have been fans of 1950's danish modern furniture for awhile now...it kinda comes with the architecture degree. We've been searching for a modern, round, wood, vintage dining table for quite some time and finally found one on eBay...just in time for our birthdays next month. It arrived today and we couldn't wait to put it together after work tonight. Its beautiful, exactly what we wanted, but I'm feeling a little sad right now. Our new addition means that we have dismantled our old dining table...the beloved table that has served as the backdrop for my photos since day one of this blog. I'll get over it, soon I'm sure, because our new table really does look so much better in our space. And the new backdrop is lovely - warm and rich - just different from my old table. Let me know what you think (breakfast, lunch and snack photos were taken on the old table, dinner photos on the new). I hope you like it.
Breakfast: banana, wheatberry, date + almond butter oatmeal
This yummy bowl contained:
1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, pinch of salt
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 small banana, mashed (about 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp wheatberries
1/2 medjool date, chopped
1 tsp almond butter
I tried Maranatha Almond Butter for the first time! It is SO good. But SO expensive! My hubb did the grocery shopping this week, and bought me a small jar because the big, normal sized jar was $19!!!! Holy moly. I'm actually glad that he got me the small jar though because that means I can keep trying new flavors of nut butters when I run out! There are so many great options out there that I haven't tried yet.
Speaking of, Heather and Mark over at HangryPantshave an almond butter give-away! Check out their blog for details...
Morning Snack: 3 dried apricots and 3 walnut halves (leftover from my road food snack this weekend). My breakfast only hung with me for about 3 hours, I was really glad that I had these in my bag.
Lunch: salad! Oh how I missed thee... And a pink lady apple.
2 cups spinach
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup cucumber
1/2 cup brussels sprouts
1/4 cup wheatberries
4 tbsp roasted garlic hummus
This combo was REALLY yummy. I love putting hummus on a salad in place of dressing, and the brussels sprouts were so tasty!
Afternoon Snack: 5 dried apricots and 3 walnut halves. Again, a light lunch today, so I was glad I had these.
Dinner: two tiny slivers of carmelized onion, blue cheese + bacon pizza ( I didn't eat the crust...just not a fan of the dough!), a spinach salad and a glass of cabernet. It was a salad kind of day! The cabernet isn't very good, I really doubt I'll finish it but I've counted its calories just in case. If I decide to ditch it I've already got a snackie dessert bowl forming in my head... :)
My salad consisted of:
1-1/2 cups spinach
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup cucumber
1/4 cup wheatberries
1 tbsp light ranch dressing
I'm really kicking myself for not getting out of bed this morning for a run. The weather was lovely, its getting light earlier, but I got to bed so late last night that I just couldn't get up. And now? Rain. And later tonight? Snow. I'm really starting to dislike Virginia in the winter. How we could go from a high of 62* yesterday, high of 59* today, and snow by midnight tonight is beyond me!!! Argh. Oh well, I am planning on going to yoga tomorrow night at my favorite studio with my favorite instructor...nothing beats 90 minutes of yoga. Nothing. And rain and snow can't stop me! :)
I hope you all have a great night!
Good morning bloggies!!! It is a gorgeous day outside...freezing, but beautiful! Its making me so happy right now to look out the window at the pretty blue sky. We've had a couple of gray days here this week so this is a very welcome change. I am in a fabulous mood! :)
Today is an exercise rest day for me...Yay! Not that my workouts are terribly intense during the week (at least until I increase my mileage a bit more) but I've worked out every day since last Friday and decided that after yesterday's big activity day, my body deserves a break. Plus, tomorrow is my long run with the training group, so its good to have a rest day before that.
A question for all of you spinning ladies out there...when does your bootie get used to that hard bike seat?!?!? I woke up so sore this morning, not in my legs or gluts, but as my yoga instructor says, my "sit bones"!!! Ouch. Good thing my office chair is cushy!
So, on to food. This will be a quick post because Brian and I were in a rush this morning and decided to have lunch out today instead of packing something to bring to work. I'll try and post after lunch, but if I can't then I will definitely include lunch in my dinner post tonight.
Breakfast: 1 Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin english muffin smeared with 1.5 tbsp almond butter and 1/2 an apple. The rest of the apple on the side.
This was a very tasty combination, I'm quite happy right now after finishing it. :)
I got the sweetest message yesterday from Elise at Elise's Eats! She has just started her own blog after following food blogs for some time now. It looks great so far, and I'm looking forward to watching it develop! Welcome, Elise!
I hope you all have a Fabulous Friday and that your weather is as beautiful as mine, only warmer! :)
Good morning! I'm going to try to keep this quick so I can get back to work. Deadline is tomorrow at noon so life should return to normal then...hopefully! :)
Last night Brian and I went to watch our friend defend her title at CLAW, the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers. We had just enough time after work to run home to feed the dogs, but not ourselves. So, we stopped at our favorite pizza place on the Downtown Mall, Christian's Pizza (no website, sorry!). I wanted to get one of their vegan slices so as to be a bit more healthy by eliminating cheese and adding a whole wheat crust, but they were all out of the pre-made vegan slices. So, I settled for a classic fresh tomato, mozzerella and basil...it was delicious. :) I had one slice, but these are some huge pizza slices so it was perfectly filling.
When we got home we decided to watch a movie and I was in a sweet/snackie mood. I decided to try out the Annie's Bunny Grahams and...let me tell you...I was very impressed! (sorry for the blurry...)
I love these little bunnies!!!!! First off, they are adorable. Second, they have amazing flavor and Third, they are perfectly, deliciously crunchy. I paired a serving of them with a sliced pink lady apple. A very satisfying sweet/snackie experience.
Ok, now for today. And I'm sorry again for being so quick...
Breakfast: Ezekiel cinnamon raisin muffin (1/2) with almond butter and banana slices on top, paired with a cup of plain Oikos and the rest of the banana slices.
These Ezekiel sprouted wheat muffins are great. I'm still not totally sold on the plain sprouted wheat bread, but the cinn raisin muffins and the onion sesame bagels are really tasty.
And I've been using Whole Foods brand almond butter, but I'm not totally sold on it yet. I'm really trying to love almond butter, but this brand isn't doing it for me. Do any of you have a favorite almond butter brand?
Lunch: What is becoming my "I don't know what to make for lunch" lunch...the veggie wrap. Its just so tasty and it never fails to satisfy me so its a great go-to lunch when I'm not feeling creative in the morning.
whole wheat tortilla
2 tbsp roasted garlic hummus
red bell pepper
Paired, of course, with a pink lady apple. :)
And for a snack I have yesterday's Larabar stashed in a drawer at my office. The salad filled me up so much that I ate just 2/3's for lunch, had my apple and hour or two later, and the rest of my salad a couple of hours after that.
And thats my day! Tonight Brian and I are going to a friend's house for the premier of Top Chef!!!!!!!! We have a tradition of cooking with a theme on Top Chef nights, sometimes it is a key ingredient (think BSI contest). I think I may try to come up with a recipe for the BSI contest this week using sweet potato and try it out on everybody... I'll report in later. I was so inspired by Meghann's recipe this week, if you haven't seen it yet you should check it out.
Have a fabulous Wednesday!