Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2523I love to bake. And my family loves when I do. Over the years I’ve tinkered with recipes and tried to make them my own. And these cookies are probably everyone’s all-time favorites. Yes, they’re a sweet treat. But when made with all-natural and/or organic ingredients, they’re a little bit of good-for-you decadence we all deserve. I’m not a professional Nutritionist, but I’ve compared my ingredients to Tate’s, which are the one store brand I’ll actually buy. My estimate is 80 calories a cookie.  Read More

DIY: Pom Poms & Pedicures

IMG_3447‘Tis the season to get your tootsies out there. But first…a confession. This isn’t a complete DIY. Yes for Pom Pom sandals, kind of for pedicures.

From fashion runways to getaway shorelines, pom poms are on the march! I LOVE them. You have got to get them in your wardrobe. Or like this post make them for your wardrobe.

IMG_3440Fashion sacrilege for some, but I was  simply not wearing these super cool nude leather Elizabeth & James sandals. Solution? Pom pom them!

IMG_3444So yes I was potentially “ruining” an expensive pair of sandals. But a bag of pom poms for $1!?! (Thank you, Target). Game on!

IMG_3445Set up your work space. Newspaper (with the perfect headline…wink, wink), shoes, pom poms, hot glue gun.

IMG_3446Map out your pattern. I tried to do mirror image on each shoe. Actually messed up but no one ever notices. All they notice are the pom poms!

IMG_0302So now that you’re going to put your feet first, you need to treat them right. I love getting pedicures…on my own terms. Plus there are some great DIY tools out there, as in this Amope Pedi Perfect Foot File, as well as this Revlon Pedi-Expert. Not to dwell on salon nightmares, but I do have a friend who was infected with a life-threatening staph infection when she had her feet “scraped” at a pedicure. Please…don’t do it. I never let them cut my cuticles. I bring my own polish, top and base coat (touch-ups made easy). I don’t care if they think I’m nuts. But I do think I should get a discount. Hasn’t happened. Keep ya posted. Last tip, at bedtime slather this Beauty Counter Baby Daily Protective Balm on your feet, then put on a lightweight pair of cotton shorty socks. When you wake up…baby soft feet. (Great for lips, cuticles, elbows too…)

All photos by MP Allegaert

Crunchy & Cheesy

IMG_2474Sometimes a spur of the moment cooking “experiment” turns into gastronomic gold. OK, slight exaggeration. But this side dish is definitely a winner on all fronts — taste, calories (approximately 235 calories per serving), nutrients.

For starters, have you discovered Cauliflower Crumbles? I just did! Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable filled with nutritional power: Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Fiber, and 20 calories per 3/4 cup, just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but washing and chopping a head of cauliflower is definitely not one of my favorite activities. It’s messy and time-consuming. These organic crumbles eliminate all that. And make making a multi-step side dish so, well not, multi. All I can say is that Chris was skeptical, and he loved it. And leftovers are even better!

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Ingredients (This was based on 4 servings as a side dish. Up the proportions as you need.)

Organic Cauliflower Crumbles, 2 Cups

Orrecietta (or other small pasta like Orzo, whole wheat preferred),  1 Cup

Mixed Organic Shredded Cheese (put @ 2 tbsp aside for topping), 2 Cups

Organic Unsalted Butter (I like Kate’s), 1 Tbsp

Salt & Pepper to taste (I used Himalayan Pink Salt and Multi Peppercorns)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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While you cook the pasta for @ 6 minutes (al dente!), microwave the cauliflower with 1/4 cup water for 3 minutes.

IMG_2446Drain cauliflower and pasta, then combine with cheese mixture, salt and pepper.

IMG_2455Pour into dish that has been basted with a bit of olive oil. I thought this fluted pie dish was perfect.

IMG_2461Pour in heavy cream.

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Sprinkle on reserved shredded cheese. And more pepper if you like. Even red pepper flakes.

IMG_2466Wrap dish in aluminum foil and bake covered for 20 minutes.

Unwrap and bake for another 15-20 minutes. (Check!)

IMG_2477IMG_2481We served with grilled marinated chicken breast and sauteed spinach. Yum.

Let me know if you try this recipe. Or any other ones you come up with for cauliflower crumbles!

All Photos by MP Allegaert

 

Five Supplements I Take Every Day

IMG_1740IMG_1744IMG_1729When it comes to my mornings, I’m happy to be a creature of habit. Sure I’ll go for eggs over easy,  crispy bacon and whole grain toast once in a while. But that’s a “brunch with friends treat” as far as I’m concerned. My typical AMs start with a cup of coffee and almond milk. I’ll have a second cup as I put together some version of a smoothie — my breakfast of choice (or champions?) for decades. No stress about what to eat and pretty much no mess. Smoothie in hand, I organize the five supplements I take every day. I truly believe they are essential components of my 50+ health and beauty regimen.

Probiotic: My favorite is Udo’s Choice Super 8 Hi-Potency Probiotic. The high level of L. acidophilus in this formula helps maintain proper yeast balance in the body — super important in those post-menopause years. This is also an ideal supplement to bring along when you travel as it helps to maintain healthy flora (regularity, folks!) while away from home. Trust me, it does. Because probiotics are living organisms, their potency slowly decreases over time (2% per month) so it’s best to keep them refrigerated. (Tip: I store all of my supplements together on a lazy susan in the fridge.)

Calcium & Vitamin D3: I’m so happy I discovered Nova Scotia Organics. They use the highest quality organic ingredients and many are water-extracted from plant sources. Their Calcium & Vitamin D 3 is free from GMOs, fillers, synthetic or irradiated ingredients. As you know, I’m recovering from a stress fracture in my left knee, and my Orthopedist was relieved to hear I am taking this supplement. Again, a big boost in combatting possible bone density loss.

Glucosamine Chondroitin: Our joints absorb a lot of stress, especially when we exercise. I spent 20+ years taking ballet and modern dance, then switched to running, then switched to the elliptical, treadmill and brisk walking. Then throw in tennis, hiking and skiing.You get the picture. Decades later, my hips and knees just aren’t as young as they used to be! Glucosamine is a compound naturally found within the cartilage of our joints. For me that makes its cartilage-building properties a no brainer. It can also help lower pain and tenderness, plus combat inflammation. Something I also know about as someone who’s had Lyme Disease. These days, I’m liking Nature’s Bounty. They have an over 40 year commitment to making products with only the purest ingredients. No GMOs, artificial color, artificial flavor, artificial sweetener, preservatives, sugar, starch, milk, lactose, soy, gluten, wheat, yeast or sodium. I’ve even got Chris taking it, and he swears his joints feel better than ever too.

Tumeric: Found in a plant in the ginger family, Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory compound and can also increase the antioxidant capacity of your body. You may know it as the source of the orange-yellow tumeric spice commonly found in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. And while I really do like cooking with it, I know it’s made its biggest difference for me as a daily supplement — especially as I battled inflammation from Lyme Disease. These days I’m trying (and liking) Nature’s Lab Tumeric Curcumin with BioPerine.

Olly Undeniable Beauty for Hair, Skin & NailsThese almost-sugar-free (just 1 gram each!) grapefruit-flavored gummies are the cute, fun way to get your daily dose of Biotin, Vitamin C  and Borage Oil. Why this trio? Biotin is a powerful nutrient that helps your body metabolize fats and proteins — essential for the growth of healthy hair, nails and skin cells. Vitamin C is a key nutrient in the production of collagen, the protein which can contribute to your skin’s strength and “youthful glow.” And Borage Oil is the highest known potency for naturally occurring GLA — an omega 6 fatty acid. I can honestly say my hair, nails and skin all look noticeably better, healthier since I started taking these.

As always, you should consult your doctor before adding supplements to your daily diet, especially if you have any serious health concerns.

If you do try any (or all) of these, let me know what you think!

All photos by MP Allegaert

 

 

Spring Smoothie

img_1678I had planned to make March my “makeover Month.” A retooled exercise regimen, healthier eating, fewer cocktails. And that’s still the plan with the “slight” hitch of a stress fracture in my left knee. All impact exercise is out, including any more than minimal walking. Swimming yes, but now I need to find a pool. I’m also going to be fitted for a biodynamic knee brace that I’ll have to wear for the next 6 weeks. (It will not be appearing in any fashion posts, even as a prop!) So…I will be retooling my exercise regimen, just not as expected. And healthier eating and fewer cocktails are going to be non-negotiable.

I’m kicking off my “new and improved” lifestyle with a Smoothie recipe that includes nonfat Greek yogurt since my Orthopedist is encouraging me to embrace (some) dairy again, along with the Calcium/Vitamin D supplements I already take.

This recipe also includes Maca Powder, a newly discovered nutritional wonder — at least for me. It’s been cultivated as a vegetable crop in the Andes for over 3000 years!  Maca Root has a higher calcium level than milk and is rich in Vitamin C and Iron. It’s also believed to balance hormones (studies link it to alleviating menopausal symptoms), improve your immune system, and increase energy, stamina, focus, and sexual energy (!). A word of caution: if you have Thyroid issues or are pregnant/breastfeeding you should consult your doctor before taking.

Hope you’ll give this recipe a try one morning soon. Let me know if you do!

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Spring Smoothie Recipe (@ 350 calories)

1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk (my favorite is So Delicious)

1/2 cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Fage is my one and only)

5 chunks frozen organic pineapple

5 chunks frozen organic mango

5 chunks frozen organic banana (I pre-slice and freeze my own every couple of days)

1-2 tbsp of Chia/Flaxseed mix

1/2 tsp Organic Maca Powder (I get mine at GNC.)

img_1707Tried recipe out at the cabin this morning but with 1/2 cup of organic strawberries and blueberries (instead of pineapple and mango). Delish! (just 10 calories more)

All photos by MP Allegaert

Da Bomb Banana Bread

img_1276I love the Blog Probably This. Its adorable food-and-wine-loving creators, Beau and Matt, have great style and great recipes. Inspired by their “Best Banana Bread” but without a key ingredient (Madeira wine??? Not something we typically stock in our bar.) and unwilling to use another (not a fan of canola oil, sorry) but rich in overripe bananas, I decided to try coming up with my own version.

Now for tasting guinea pigs…or guinea girls. My day job is Creative Director/Writer for a woman-owned ad agency in New York. I love the work and everyone I get to work with, so given the sophisticated palates in the place, this was potentially a bit risky. Why ruin a good thing? But I can honestly say it was an office full of thumbs up…diet or no diet, juice cleanse or no juice cleanse. So next time you look at a bunch of bananas that have seen better days, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

img_1160INGREDIENTS:

Organic Bananas, 3 large ripe ones, do NOT peel, plus (optional) one to slice lengthwise for garnish (I needed the rest for my morning Smoothie!)

Organic All-Purpose Flour, 1 3/4 cups (if going Gluten-Free use Coconut Flour)

Organic Sugar, 1/2 cup (next time I will try 1/3)

Organic Brown Sugar, 1/2 cup (ditto)

Full Fat Yogurt (yes! fat can be good!!), 1 cup

Large Egg (just one)

Organic Butter (Kate’s is my all-time favorite), 1/2 cup melted plus 1 tablespoon for glaze

Vanilla Extract, 1 tsp

Sea Salt, 1/2 tsp

Baking Soda, 1/2 tsp

Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp

img_1172PLUS one secret ingredient…

Chia/Flaxseed mix, 1/4 cup (I was out of bran but would have included that too)

(I could not let the opportunity to sneak in something super healthy with all this decadent deliciousness pass by…)

Ingredients for Glaze: 1 /8 cup finest quality maple syrup, 1/8 cup finest quality rum, 1 tbsp finest quality butter. Are we sensing a trend? Set aside. And don’t drink the rum! Unless you are making this after wine o’clock.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place unpeeled bananas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once oven is ready, bake them for 25-30 minutes.

While they’re cooking…

img_1178Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a mixing bowl. Whisk in chia and flaxseeds.

img_1188Prep sugars (measure and mix in small bowl), yogurt and melted butter.

img_1184Remove baked bananas from oven (they will be dark brown to black) and let cool enough to be safely handled.

img_1200Peel the bananas over another mixing bowl. There will be liquid (banana juice?) along with the fruit. Since this was my first time “pre-baking” bananas I wasn’t sure what to do with this mystery liquid, so I poured most of it off. Wasn’t missed.

Mash coarsely with whisk.img_1203Whisk in sugars, yogurt, vanilla, egg and butter.img_1207img_1208Lastly, whisk in dry ingredients — just until blended, don’t overmix. Don’t the chia seeds mimic the “seeds” inside a banana?

img_1193Peel and slice a banana lengthwise. I used a sliver but next time…an entire half.

img_1211Line your loaf pan with parchment paper, then fill with mixed ingredients and place banana slice on top. This is a little tricky/messy. I folded paper origami-like to match pan but cutting the side seams might have been easier. Will try that next time.

Into the oven for 1 hour (or longer) until a toothpick comes out of the center without any batter on it. Crumbs are a good sign it’s done!

While the bread is cooling, make the glaze.

img_1261Simply combine maple syrup, rum and butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, whisking until throughly blended. Then turn up to medium/high and let bubble up just a bit. Set aside and let this cool until warm. You may need to whisk again before glazing.

img_1269Poke holes into top of bread with a toothpick, then brush on glaze. The holes will let it seep into the bread (yum!). I kept coating until glaze was gone.

img_1281Remove from pan, place on platter and slice, then watch it disappear. Warning…do NOT do this alone.

Hope you and yours like this recipe as much as I (and mine) do. Cheers!

All photos by MP Allegaert on iPhone 6.

Snack Attack: Banana Oat Balls

img_0517One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to eat as healthy as I can — work, life, travel permitting. So for me this snack is the perfect answer to combining healthful ingredients …and getting rid of overripe bananas! My ad agency served as guinea pigs, and I can report that these bite-size balls were a huge hit. Best of all, I literally put this snack together while drinking my AM coffee. Super easy, super good.

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MP’s Banana Oat Energy Balls

Ingredients:

2 (or 3) overripe bananas (prefer organic)

2 cups oatmeal (prefer organic)

1/4 cup mix of chia and flax seeds (prefer organic)

2 tbsp agave syrup (prefer organic)

1/2 cup peanut butter (I LOVE Crunch Time Chunky PB but go with your favorite nut butter)

1/3-1/2 cup choc chips (Your choice! Here I used dark and white, but for my first batch I just went with dark. My favorites are Guittard and Ghiradelli.)

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1. Peel and smash Bananas.

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2. Mix in oats, chia & flax and agave.

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3. Add in chocolate chips.

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4. First line a plate or air-tight container with wax paper. Then start rolling your balls! The mixture is kind of sticky, so you will have to work each ball (about the size of an ice cream scoop) in your hands for a bit. Space out on wax paper, layer by layer ( probably 2). I found I had to rinse my hands in-between layers.

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5. Place plate or container in refrigerator, preferably overnight.

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6. Share…and enjoy! (These will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

All photos by MP Allegaert on iPhone 6.