All posts by Jennifer Benson

Mid-20s student with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. At the fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity, you will find me.

Weekly Eating #1: 6/19

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the first edition of the new series Weekly Eating. Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – 1 egg + egg whites omelet with the last 2 mini bell peppers, diced onion leftover from quesadillas & spinach

Lunch – leftover noodle stir fry with tofu & a soy sauce packet I found in my desk drawer

Dinner – 1-pan pork chops, broccoli & sweet potato fries (OMG delish! Recipe coming soon)

So simple, so delicious, and like 5 second clean up!

Snack: Popcorn! It’s no secret I’m a huge popcorn addict, but the homemade stove-top-popped stuff is WAY cheaper and (mostly) healthier so I don’t feel bad about eating a giant bowl full. I make a big batch, and pack it up in Zip-locks for days of happy snacking.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – drive thru breakfast wrap. Sometimes, you just cannot morning.

Snack – coconut almond Greek yogurt flip (I know, packaged brands are WAY too expensive but guys, seriously, this is SO GOOD! My mother-in-law got me hooked. I promise, I’m gonna try to find a way to make it myself cheaper, but for now, forgive me my guilty indulgence.)

Lunch – leftover slow cooker black beans & rice & salsa from a weekend party. This was basically free because it was all bits of leftovers that ended up being amazing all together

Dinner – pasta with vodka pink sauce, leftover bread sticks, salad. The sauce was a little pizza sauce leftover from Saturday’s pizza night plus a 1/3 jar of alfredo rattling around the fridge with a tbsp of pasta cooking water to thin. I love using up all the bits of things to make something new and delicious! Plus not throwing away food makes my heart sing.

(Although, my heart later broke because I threw out a 1/2 pan of homemade tiramisu :,( We just didn’t eat it fast enough, and it got stale and dried out and gross. Mreow. Also tossed 1/2 a shortcake a friend had gotten me because strawberries aren’t green. And fuzzy.)

Wednesday:

Breakfast – everything Bagel Thin with 1 tbsp cream cheese

Lunch – miso soup. Honestly, I just had a couple chunks of tofu left from last week’s stir-Friday that I didn’t want to go to waste. And I keep a tub of miso in the fridge (it lasts basically forever) so I just stirred a tbsp into some water, added the tofu and the last few sheets from a seaweed snack pack (yes I’m a weirdo but that stuff is addictive!) and called it lunch.

On a whim, I sliced a couple super thin pieces of onion to add (red, since I didn’t have green) and that was a great decision! It was warm and tasty at my desk on a rainy day.

Dinner – One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake using leftover chicken I had cooked in the crockpot on Sunday. I did half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes with a bag of frozen “California mix” veggies (cauliflower, broccoli & carrots), Ranch dressing, hot sauce, and cheddar cheese.

Guys, this stuff is so freaking good, I had to have seconds!
Sorry not sorry.

OMG. Can’t. Even.

Snacks – hummus, carrots & cucumber slices

Oh, and the hospital where I work has a Farmers Market every Wednesday! How cool is that?! I got a pint of a mixture of delicious heirloom cherry tomatoes, an itty bitty adorable cauliflower, and a big ol zucchini.

Thursday:

Brekfast – 1/2 a big homemade KIND nut bar

Lunch – leftover One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake. I can’t believe we demolished a 9×13 pan in 2 days… oh wait, yes I can. There’s a reason that’s my #1 post!

Snack – other half of the KIND bar (I brought hard boiled eggs, but turns out they were so old they became mushy by noon, and smelled awful. Whoops! It made me sad but I threw them out rather than risk food poisoning.)

Dinner – Chicken enchiladas! I had some roasted cauliflower from the market yesterday, and literally microwaved a cup of spinach to have on the side. Delicious and quite filling.

Friday:

Breakfast – cherry berry smoothie: frozen cherries + strawberries, 2 bananas (about to go bad), 1 cup orange juice, 1 scoop unflavored protein powder, 1 cup spinach. Blend for a long time until smooth.

Hubby loves waking up to a smoothie beside the bed! And I love sneaking in a serving of veggies before 9am  😉

Lunch – Panzanella with leftover homemade bread from last week, cucumber & cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market.

This is a great example of a frugal use of leftovers, because who enjoys stale bread? But this way, the juices from the tomatoes and cucumber and olive oil (or Italian dressing) soaks in and mixes together with some fresh basil and spices it becomes a whole new delicious meal. I tossed in half an avocado too, because, duh.

Dinner – Stir Friday! This week we had garlic shrimp. AND I made my own Yum Yum Sauce! Sure did. If you haven’t had it, it totally lives up to its name.

I could probably eat half my weight in stir fried rice. For reals.

Saturday:

Breakfast – microwaved some spinach & egg whites, and put it on an everything Bagel Thin for a light, healthy breakfast before I went to a really cool rooftop yoga class downtown

Brunch – after yoga I met up with some friends to wander the Durham Farmers Market, and then we got a delicious brunch at Scratch. Oh, and the bacon jam, is totally my jam!

The Duck Egg Sandwich was outta this world, and the rosemary lemonade was so tasty it inspired me to go home and create some more fruity & refreshing beverages.

Blackberry mint lemonade (with berries from the market) and rosemary lemonade (with rosemary from my front yard!)

Dinner – Tacos at a friends house! Good food, good people, wine from Unique Pairings (which, if you’re ever in Myrtle Beach, definitely stop by!), and games combine for a splendid way to spend a summer evening. And all the food was provided, I just brought 2 bottles of vino!

Sunday:

To be determined, but I definitely plan to use up some of the goodies I got at the farmer’s market. Maybe a quiche or strata.

I’m also going to spend some time today making next week’s meal plan, using all the delicious fresh produce and trying to clear some space in our freezer. I’m aiming to not buy anything else food-wise this week except maybe some bananas (for the hubby’s addiction).

ALL THE PRODUCE!!! Nomnomnom

Total: ~$98

This is a rough estimate, because at markets where I use mostly cash it gets hard to keep track. Plus I buy things on sale or clearance and freeze or otherwise store for later use, so ‘weekly’ cost averaging can be tough.

For grocery stores, I only bought yogurt and milk and bananas this week, which is great. And I’m okay with spending a little more on fresh produce to support my local farmers! <3

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

So it seems this week was great in that we used up a lot of little bits and ends of leftovers, but we were also pretty wasteful with food. There were several things left over from parties that ended up in the trash. We aren’t big on sweets anyways, so we rarely buy or make them, and this just reinforces that knowledge.

When I make a big batch of something (like hard boiled eggs) I need to make sure I actually use it all up before it goes bad. I wouldn’t throw a $5 bill in the trash, but that’s exactly what I’m doing when I toss out old food.

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week? Off to make a meal plan for next week!

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

 

We are always looking for ways to find balance. A healthy happy life should not be one of sacrifice and want. I cannot ever see myself being satisfied and happy on a diet of broiled chicken, raw vegetables, and salads alone. You need delicious things and things you love to keep life worth living.

But, you also know that if you enjoy 7-layer lasagna and gelato every day, this will lead to bad things. Sure, it’s tasty now, and totally fine once in a while. But when occasional indulgences become the everyday norm, it leads to weight gain, high cholesterol, hypertension, fatty liver disease, and diabetes.

What’s a health-conscious-delicious-food-lover to do?

Make this amazing, high protein, low fat treat to satisfy your cravings! A whole bowl has under 500 calories, yet more than 30 grams of protein. It has almost no fat, especially if you omit the walnuts (nuts are amazing protein sources, but they do pack a significant fat and caloric punch, so go easy on them). Yet it tastes just as thick and creamy as a decadent soft serve.

Whip up a double or triple batch to keep on hand for when the sugar monster hits hard!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Step 1: In a strong blender, mix the frozen banana, fresh banana, and milk. You can also use water if you’re really watching calories, and use just one banana.

Step 2: Add the protein powder and a few of the chocolate pieces, to break them up. Pulse until well blended. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate on top, and enjoy!

If it’s too watery, pop it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. If the frozen banana won’t blend, add a tbsp water or milk at a time until it does blend.

 

 

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. In a strong blender, mix the frozen banana, fresh banana, and milk. You can also use water if you're really watching calories, and use just one banana.
  2. Add the protein powder and a few of the chocolate pieces, to break them up. Pulse until well blended. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate on top, and enjoy!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/less-than-5/chunky-monkey-ice-cream/

 

Save

Super simple lemon garlic chicken

 

You know how some days you are very excited about cooking, buy two dozen different ingredients, and spend hours in the kitchen creating the perfect culinary masterpiece? This recipe is not for that day. This recipe is for a day when you have no idea what to make, no energy to make something fancy, but still want a hot, healthy, filling dinner that also tastes great.

Oh, that’s every night? Good news, this is great for every night!

This recipe can work with fresh or frozen chicken; if using frozen just microwave for 3-4 minutes before putting it in the oven, and add about 15 minutes to the cooking time. You can also use thighs, or chicken leg quarters, but again add about 10 minutes to account for the bone. Cutting the breasts thinly into cutlets as I did means the cook time is the shortest, but you can also leave the breasts whole.

This recipe is super easy, requiring really only 3 ingredients. You can add on and be creative from there, especially with the flavorings. It is also very versatile in terms of a complete meal. It would go well with pasta, potatoes, a nice salad, steamed veggies, rice, quinoa, or couscous.

Whatever you have in the fridge to go along, they will probably be friends. I also use these easy and versatile recipes to stock up on sales on the good stuff when I see it, because I know I can always pull this recipe out when needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp)
  • Optional: fresh or dried herbs, I used parsley and rosemary

Step 1: Using a sharp knife, filet the breasts into thin pieces, about 1/2 – 1 inch thick. Layer in an oven-safe pan, and sprinkle on the garlic, lemon juice, and herbs, if using. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until there is no pink inside the chicken.

I used the same pan, and baked a pound of asparagus and quartered cabbage at the same time. Couscous takes just boiled water (in the microwave) and 5 minutes, so this whole meal was done and on the table in under 30 minutes!

Save

Save

Save

Venison pot pie

 

You guys want to know a little secret about the Budget Epicurean?

I can’t believe I lived over 2 decades in Ohio, and never tried venison. It’s true.

I’ve had elk, and bison, and goat, and pheasant, and a whole bunch of other more exotic meats. But still no venison.

Until now.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who knows a guy who hunts regularly. Turns out, excess deer population is a problem shared in North Carolina too. This seems to be a problem just about everywhere, as they now have almost no native predators to worry about. Their only concern is a too-fast passing car.

why we should eat deer

Deer will eat just about anything when they are hungry, and a rough winter or over-population means more infiltration into neighborhoods. We live between two big patches of forest, and they are well known to stroll through around dusk. They have decimated my pansies more than once, and I’ve already seen evidence of browsing on my brand new ivy and hostas as well.

So really, I’m doing us all, and myself a favor by eating deer meat!

Do us all a favor too, and make this recipe soon. If you or someone in the household doesn’t think they’ll like deer because it is “gamey”, you need to find a new supplier. Deer, when ground and spiced right, is totally delicious and almost indistinguishable from ground beef. If your store doesn’t carry venison, try a specialty meat market, or ask around. You never know who you know that might know a guy…

venison pie with biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Venison pot pie

Step 1: Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.

venison pot pie with biscuits

Step 2: Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8×8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.

baked biscuit venison pot pie

Step 3: Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.

 

Venison pot pie

Venison pot pie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound venison (you could use any ground meat though)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 container biscuits (you could use mashed potatoes instead)
  • Garlic salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Microwave the milk for 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let sit. Meanwhile brown the venison in a skillet. Add the frozen vegetables and let cook until just thawed.
  2. Spray the bottom of a round pie plate or 8x8 casserole dish. Pour in the meat mixture, and cover with the milk and flour mixture. Pop open the biscuits, and line the top with the dough.
  3. Bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the biscuits are nice and browned on top. Let cool for a minute, and enjoy.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/comfort-food/venison-pot-pie/

Save

Save

Jalapeno Margaritas

 

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

A sincere thank you to all our members of the armed forces, for doing what they do in order for us to do our things too.

And Memorial Day weekend also means, it is officially summer!

School is out, and so is the sun. (Maybe…we have had some ridiculous amount of thunderstorms here in NC lately! Oh well, that’s why everything here is so green and lush.)

Time to plan vacations to the beach, to the park, to the mountains, and everywhere in between. Time for picnics and cookouts and potlucks and parties.

Time for cocktails!

We all know I love margaritas. This here recipe is taking it to the next level. It is the classic combo of tangy lime, salt, sugar, and liquor, now with the delicious slow burn of jalapeno peppers.

I was introduced to these by my sister in law (I can’t believe it’s been just barely a year, and it’s still weird to use phrases like that!) and have had sporadic cravings for them ever since. I’ll be having a garden party in a few weeks, this recipe might have to make an appearance.

jalapeno margarita ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a large pitcher, about 6 glasses. Feel free to scale up or down as needed, just keep the ratio of tequila to mixer about 1:2, and you can also experiment with more or less jalapeno, depending on how much of a bite you like!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 3 cups margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Either 4-5 fresh jalapenos sliced, or 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher full of ice and refrigerate for an hour to overnight. Dip a glass in lime juice, and then salt. Add ice, add margarita, sip… and smile. Then cough, and maybe turn red, and maybe need some ice water to wash it down. Just kidding, you will be fine! And then go back for more.

 

Save

Save

Pan fried chillaquiles

 

You know how sometimes (always) you have a party, and at the end of the night, there’s like, 10 chips left in the bag? Or you clean out the pantry and realize there’s a who-knows-how-old quarter bag of tostitos still sitting on the top shelf, using up your favorite chip-clip?

Turns out, there’s a way to use up leftover or old tortilla chips to make them into something new and delicious!

Chillaquiles (chee-la-kee-lays) is a home-style Mexican recipe, with tons of flavor and stick to your ribs goodness. It is in no way a healthy recipe, which is a slight deviation from my normal attempts to healthify everything. But we all need a little indulgent comfort food now and then, and I’m always a big fan of not wasting food. Even the 8 chips left in the bottom of the bag.

pan fried tortilla chips and salsa

Makes one enormous pan full! Serves about 8.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 5-6 eggs, scrambled
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

eggs, whisked

Step 1: In a large frying pan, pour the chips, salsa, and tomato sauce. Cook over medium low heat, until the chips have begun to soften.

pouring the egg into the chillaquiles

Step 2: Scramble the eggs in a bowl. If you want extra fluffiness, add a splash of milk. Pour into the frying pan, add the cheddar, and mix well.

Step 3: Cook over medium-high heat, mixing occasionally, until the egg is cooked through. If you like, sprinkle with a little extra cheddar.

Optional add-ins include: diced peppers and onions, sour cream, black or pinto beans, chorizo, sausage, other types of cheese like pepper jack, jalapenos…

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Cherry Berry Fizz

 

I know I’ve talked before many times about how drinking enough water is such a crucial aspect of being healthy. I’m pretty sure I’ve also talked about how much I struggle with this! For all my good habits and self-control, drinking enough water is just. so. difficult.

It’s not that I mind the taste, or dislike it. I just forget.

I’ve begun leaving water cups with straws all over the house and at work and in my car… I find that a straw really helps! For some reason, I can drink more at once and keep drinking more water when there’s a straw involved versus just a cup. It’s funny, because hubby has the exact opposite preference, he hates straws and drinks much faster in gulps.

But I digress.

The other way I’ve found to trick myself into my 8-to-10 daily glasses is fizzy water! I used to think that seltzer was so gross, and why would anyone want fizzy water when they could just have a pop? (NOT that drinking pop regularly is ever a good idea, please don’t. But still.) I just didn’t get it.

Well, fast forward to last year, a coworker of mine had cans of fizzy water regularly. There were all kinds of different flavors, setlzer and not. (I’d recommend ones without added sugars, even the fake kinds, but beggars can’t be choosers and if it gets you into the water habit to start with, do what you must). I reluctantly tried one… and liked it. And so I bought another. And then a case.

And then I had a new habit! Which is great… ish. Fizzy water is still water and is so good for me. But it is not so great for my bank account, or my planet. All those cans and bottles, just going to waste. Even if I recycled, I still felt that twinge of guilt each time I tossed a can or bottle and heard it hit the inside of the bin.

Berry cherry fizz

Since then, I’ve also gotten hubby onto the fizzy water bandwagon. It’s a perfect beverage with dinner, while watching TV, or a great alternative to alcoholic beverages for just any random weeknight when you want something fun and different. So now we were going through twice the aluminum and plastic!

After some research and discussion with many friends, we decided it might be time for a fizzy water machine. There would be a larger up-front cost, with small ongoing fees (CO2 replacements mostly) but the perks included: cheaper overall, no more bottle/can waste, we know where the water is coming from and what flavorings are added.

We crunched the numbers, and decided on a SodaStream Fountain Jet. And then my wonderful inlaws surprised us with it for Christmas! So that saved us the initial investment as well. (THANK YOU!). The 60L tank claims to make something like 50L of fizzy water, so by the time we finish our first refill (i.e. 2 tanks) even at the cheapest I’ve ever seen a liter on sale at a store we will be ahead financially. And we intend to use this bad boy for many years to come too.

You don’t have to have a SodaStream for this recipe, you can use bottled fizzy water of course. Or even regular tap water. But if you buy it bottled, try buying a 2L at a time, for less waste. This is refreshing, light and fruity, and perfect for summertime or after a hot and sweaty run. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fizzy water
  • 1/2 cup pure cherry juice
  • Handful frozen berries (I used blueberries)

Step 1: Pour the frozen berries into a cup, these will be your ice cubes. They won’t water down your drink, and you get a healthy snack at the end!

Step 2: Pour in the cherry juice (you can use any kind of juice here, try for no sugar added organic kinds if possible) and the bubble water.

Step 3: Hydrate!

This also looks very pretty, the bubbles lift the berries around the glass like a lava lamp. And with the red and blue colors, this would be an ideal beverage to serve for a Fourth of July party! You could even add a shot of a little somethin somethin, I won’t tell… 😉

Save

Save

Restaurant Review: The Cowfish, Raleigh NC

 

How often do you have the “what do you want for dinner?” conversation? Whether with friends or a significant other, it can be fraught with peril. Someone wants pizza, someone else is in the mood for burgers, I desperately want sushi, meanwhile this other guy is gluten-free and she’s vegetarian.

What to do?!

The Cowfish in Raleigh has struck a whimsical compromise: they offer not only both burgers and sushi, but also a menu full of confusing, creative fusion they call “burgooshi”. Now the fish eaters and the cow eaters can all be happy and fed together.

Obviously, as a sushi-aholic married to a die-hard beef lover, I knew as soon as I heard of this magical place that we must go there. I could literally eat sushi every other day and be happy about it, but my Mr tolerates it just often enough so that I don’t die from sushi deprivation. This seemed like a perfect compromise.

And The Cowfish did not disappoint! We went to the Raleigh location, one of four current locations (Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Orlando, FL are the other two, with plans for future expansion. If you’re lucky enough to be near one do stop by and let me know what you think!). They had a nice outdoor seating space decorated with lights that I’m sure add a nice touch at night, as well as cornhole boards to occupy yourself while waiting to be seated.

We were smart, and showed up around 4pm, missing the lunch crowd and long before the Saturday dinner rush. Though as soon as we walked in, we noticed it was still pretty full with couples and groups sitting about, enjoying the wide array of music and goofy decor.

Impossible to miss, a gigantic fish tank shaped like a cocktail glass dominates the center of the spacious open dining room. All manner of brightly colored fish swim around, oblivious to their cousins being devoured nearby. And the walls are lined with cartoony paintings that riff off of many well-known pop culture icons & symbols.

You have your choice of seating, an outdoor covered patio, inside in the open floor, at the bar, or at the sushi bar. The sushi bar comes equipped with mounted in-table touch screens, which I can only assume are for ordering another round of Cheeseburgooshi. We sat elsewhere, but maybe next time.

The menu spans a wide range of tastes. They have typical Asian appetizers like gyoza and edamame, as well as classic American options like onion rings & nachos. They also have salads and sandwiches if someone in your party is not feeling very adventurous yet. There is definitely a seafood emphasis throughout.

The burgers range from lamb and bison, to mushroom and swiss, to an Elvis inspired peanut butter/banana/bacon concoction. Sushi rolls include classics like the California and Spicy Tuna roll, as well as some specialty rolls you won’t find anywhere else. And then the crowning achievement, the “Burgushi” menu, which is a unique fusion that involves bison sushi, southern style BBQshi,  the Turfin Surfer roll, and several types of sushi sandwiches.

Possibly their most famous fusion is the “All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi”. This little gem is like a bacon double cheeseburger, but with a twist: “Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries”

But for your first culinary journey in this magical place, the staff recommends the “Fusion specialty bento box”, because it includes a little taste of it all. You get a mini slider, your choice of a 4-piece Fusion specialty roll, and sides: spicy cucumber, edamame, and the world’s most amazing sweet potato fries.

Yeah, I said it. In a place known for burgers and sushi, the sweet potato fries were the surprise sweep, both of us absolutely inhaled them. I loved the edamame, and the cucumber, though hubby pushed both my way. I wasn’t complaining one bit.

We chose the blackened tuna roll in our bento box, which was an awesome decision if I do say so myself. Crabcake and cream cheese inside, coated in tempura and topped with seared tuna, avocado salsa, and jalapeño slices, this was probably my second favorite part of the box. I could eat a dozen of these rolls!

We also got one Fusion specialty roll to split, the Doug’s Filet Roll. It boasts avocado, kani, and cream cheese filling, but the topping is what sold it. Thin slices of seared filet mignon, with spicy mayo, scallions, and masago (fish eggs).

The steak was delicious, and a very strange taste juxtaposed with the sushi to be sure. But very satisfying.

And of course, let’s not forget the restaurant’s namesake: the Cowfish. Yep, that’s an actual thing: an adorably weird fish of which each restaurant location boasts one.

Overall, I’d rate The Cowfish:

  • Taste: 10
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 9

 

Save

Save

Save

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bar Recipe

 

Sometimes, you don’t have time for breakfast or lunch and need something quick and portable. Maybe you need a before- or after-workout snack with protein. Or the kids are hungry and want a snack, but you don’t want them eating sugary fatty junk or ruining their appetite for dinner.

You’re at work, at 11am or 2pm, and hunger hits, but you can’t leave to get something and your next meal feels like hours away. Or you or your partner is hungry and staring into the refrigerator like a roast chicken may magically appear, but you can’t or don’t want to cook something right now.

This sounds like a job for the granola bar.

Granola has long been a popular breakfast food, differentiated from the similar muesli because it was sweetened and usually baked. To make granola, rolled oats, nuts, spices, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice are mixed together and baked into clusters of wholesome cereal.

The names Granula and Granola were trademarked in the 19th century in America by the Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa near Danville, and John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg). And then someone had the bright idea to take this loose granola, which is kind of messy, and press it into a bar shape. These can then be individually wrapped, and stuck in a purse, pocket, or backpack for later consumption.

Granola bar popularity took off, and continues to rise. According to theglobeandmail.com, “Granola bars, breakfast bars and cereal bars, which are referred to collectively as “snack bars,” are part of a food category that’s grown 5 per cent a year since 2005 and is worth an estimated $720-million in Canada, according to figures provided by PepsiCo Foods Canada, which owns the Quaker brand.” All across the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, Europe and China, people love the portability and growing options snack bars offer.

One of the many reasons people love snack bars so much is their perceived healthfulness. After all, they have oats in them, which are full of fiber, beneficial to heart and digestive health. Unfortunately, today’s granola bars’ nutrition facts don’t often match their health claims.

For example, Special K chocolaty crunch bars claim that each bar only contains 90 calories and that they can help reach and maintain a healthy weight. But the bars, which themselves weigh only 22 grams, contain eight grams (nearly two teaspoons) of sugar. Sugar is also listed as the first ingredient. Another popular All-Bran bar claims to be high in fiber, yet each bar contains only 4 grams of the daily recommended 25g (for women) or 38g (for men).

So what’s a health conscious adult looking for a perfect portable food to do? Make your own of course!

It is much easier than you may think. You could get very serious about it, purchase a candy thermometer, meticulously source and weigh ingredients in the pursuit of the perfect bar. But that’s not how we roll here. Soon you will see how simple making your own healthy homemade snack bars can be!

KIND bars have become a favorite of mine lately, because they have ingredients you can see and pronounce, with no preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings, and each bar is held to high standards for a low calorie count and sugar content. I had no idea there were so many options now though! There are KIND fruit & nut bars, KIND Plus, KIND nuts & spices, KIND & STRONG… you get the idea.

And the best part is, this is a WAY healthier bar than a typical granola bar. There are no oats, just puffed rice, whole raw or roasted nuts, and some sweeteners that also keep everything sticking together. These are inherently gluten free. Obviously, if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts, please don’t make these. But if not, then dive on in!

I based my recipe loosely off of Kelly’s recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. I personally most love the dark chocolate sea salt bar, so that’s what this recipe mimics. But you are free to add whatever you enjoy to create your own copycat, or a brand new kind of bar!

The general rule I follow is 1 cup nuts/dry fruit : 1 cup cereal : 1/4 cup sweetener. I would use organic plain puffed rice if I had it, but when I wanted to make these and went to the store, Kashi Go Lean puffed cereal was the closest thing I could find. It works.

I’ve tried peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews so far. I’m sure you could use just about any type of nuts in these, but I would recommend always including almonds. And I have not tried any with dried fruits yet, but that is the next experiment in line.

This recipe makes enough for a 9×13 pan, for approximately 30 of the delicious 1 inch x 3 inch bars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring

The dark chocolate drizzle is of course optional, but highly recommended. For that you will need:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea Salt

mixed nuts in a bowl

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.

Step 2: In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes. It is a balancing act, too short and you will get a syrupy bar, but the longer you boil, the more likely you will create a crunchy bark rather than pliant bars. But regardless, it will taste great in the end, I promise.

Step 3: Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.

Step 4: Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. You can use a spatula, your hand, or a cup sprayed with cooking oil if you want to make it extra flat and compact. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.

If you don’t want to add the chocolate drizzle, you can stop here and cut the bars to the desired size. I cut it into 10 strips, then cut each strip into 3 bars so they are about 1x2ish inches. I then wrapped each bar individually in wax paper.

But if you’re a chocolate lover like me, I definitely recommend continuing on to steps 5 & 6 below…

Dark chocolate drizzle for KIND bars

Step 5: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.

Step 6: Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. You could dip the bottoms in chocolate too, but I found the drizzle on top was the perfect amount. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.

These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months. I doubt they will last that long though…

According to MyFitnessPal.com, these bars only have about 100 calories each, and 8 grams of sugar*. Not too shabby!

Recipe Nutrition Calculator

: 30

Total: 3,119 334 176 107 580 227
Per Serving: 104 11 6 4 19 8

*This calculation is for the bar without adding the chocolate.

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
  2. In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
  4. Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
  5. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
  6. Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
  7. These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegetarian/nuts-and-dark-chocolate-sea-salt-kind-bar-recipe/

Save

Save

Save

Save