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Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Greek Frozen Yogurt — Take Two!

As you may recall, I have a deep love (read: obsession) for frozen yogurt.

It’s something just about anyone who knows me could tell you.  In fact, yesterday was my birthday, and numerous people wrote in cards, on my Facebook wall, and even told me in person how they hoped I would have a day filled with delicious froyo!  Obviously, they know the true key to my heart. 😉

I did plan on having some yesterday, but I filled up so much on the a-maz-ing Greek dinner my husband treated me to that there just wasn’t room.  (Gasp!  I knooooow…I never thought I’d see the day when I was simply too stuffed for froyo!)

I wasn't kidding when I said stuffed. The Coca-Cola and the salmon dish in the upper corner were my hubby's...but the rest? Alllll mine. I took half of it home and I still could barely move. Now you understand...right??

Obviously, this just meant that I had make up for it today! 🙂  So, I happily returned to a recipe I’ve been experimenting with for a few weeks now.  You may remember that mint chocolate chip is my absolute favorite ice cream/froyo flavor.  The last time I made it, it was quite good…but the peppermint extract left something to be desired.  It seemed to leave just the slightest bit of an aftertaste.

Not.  Cool.

This time I was better prepared.

I had fresh mint, baby.

The results?!

Delicious, all-natural, high-protein goodness!

As always, whether going for sweet or savory, you simply cannot beat fresh herbs and spices!  We decided to go for more of a soft serve consistency this time around…mostly because I was hungry and impatient…but you could certainly let it churn longer if you want a more frozen consistency and you have the self-discipline. 😉

Creamy, minty goodness!

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Greek Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 11 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 8 dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 4 T of fresh mint
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • handful of raw spinach (no food coloring here, baby!)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • Dark chocolate squares, if desired
Directions:

Combine all the ingredients but the dark chocolate in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste test and adjust to your liking.  Does it need more mint?  More vanilla?

Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Add the dark chocolate chunks in the last five minutes of churning.  Allow to churn until desired consistency is met.

Divide the frozen yogurt into two dishes and garnish with dark chocolate squares.

Dig in!

On a final note, many of you have asked me about my ice cream maker.  I use a simple little 12 ounce maker by Hamilton Beach.  It is absolutely adorable and just perfect for a household of two!  If you have a larger maker, you can easily double (or triple! or quadruple!) the recipe above.

Isn't it simply precious?!?

Whole Grain Rosemary and Kalamata Olive Muffins

Fresh rosemary and Kalamata olives.  Two of my all-time favorite flavors.  Each is so distinct and flavorful…they can take any ho-hum recipe to an entire new level!

As some of you know, almost all of my meals are based around the premise of Mediterranean cooking.  The ingredients are so simple, FRESH, and healthy — not to mention savory and delicious.  What’s not to love?!  At the heart of many Mediterranean recipes is fresh herbs and olives.  Which, of course bring us back to…

Fresh rosemary and Kalamata olives.  (Swoon!)

Also at the heart of a Mediterranean diet is healthy grains.  This suits me quite well…since….um….I’m pretty much a bread-a-holic.

Fast forward to last night when I stood in the kitchen wondering WHAT to make for dinner.  I was in the mood to experiment.  (I know, I know…aren’t I always when in the kitchen?)  However, even though I was itching to experiment, I was also exhausted.  It had been another long day in another long week…you know the feeling.

I needed comfort.

I needed bread.

And I needed it fast.

That’s when I knew my bread fix must come in the shape of an adorable muffin.  You gotta love muffins:  moist, delectable, and quick!

I grabbed some of my all-time favorite Mediterranean flavors and combined them into what I hoped would be one super amazing muffin!!  I waited anxiously for the kitchen timer to sound.  Oh sure, I acted nonchalant…setting the table, pouring some wine…but inside, all I could think was Oh, pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssseeeeeeeee be as wonderful as my hungry mind is imagining!!!

And, oh baby, were they ever.

Isn't the grape tomato just darling?!

Whole Grain Rosemary and Kalamata Olive Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup crumbled nonfat feta
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (or two whole eggs, if you prefer)
  • 18-20 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 12 fresh grape tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a muffin tin with paper cups, or coat the muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the  flour, baking powder, baking soda, rosemary (save a bit to sprinkle on top of the muffins just before baking), salt, and red pepper in a large bowl.  Stir to mix well.  Stir in the zucchini and feta.

In another bowl, add the yogurt, olive oil, and egg whites.  Whisk until smooth and frothy.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in the Kalamata olives.

Fill each muffin cup with the mixture.  Press a grape tomato into the center of each muffin.  Sprinkle the extra fresh rosemary on top of each muffin.  Bake 18-20 minutes until risen and slightly browned.

Prepare yourself for savory, satisfying goodness.

Breath in that fragrant aroma that can only come from fresh rosemary.

Dig in!

Brownie Pancakes with Hot Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce

**WARNING:  The following recipe is suuuuuuuper chocolately**

When I tell people I’m a health nut, I think some people assume that must mean I deprive myself of all things good and never enjoy food.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I truly believe food is meant to be enjoyed.  In fact, to channel a bit of Ron Burgundy, meal time in our house is kind of a big deal. 😉

For me, eating healthy means eating a variety of whole, REAL foods.  I stay away from the processed stuff as much as possible.  If it’s comes in a box and includes ingredients I can’t pronounce, I tend to avoid it.  I do eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, but that is because I honestly enjoy them.

However, being healthy doesn’t mean grilled chicken breast and broccoli for every meal.  Now,  don’t get me wrong, chicken and broccoli are yummy and have their place…but sometimes, a girl needs chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  I could write several blog posts on the health benefits of dark chocolate alone (hello, healthy fats and antioxidants!).

Last night, we had the pleasure of a movie night with amazing friends and delicious food.  My friend Hannah made some fantastic brownies…which inspired me and sent me into a  must-have-chocolatey-baked-goodness frenzy today.  The result?  A combination of some of my favorite foods.  Pancakes.  Chocolate.  Peanut Butter.  In the words of Joey Tribbiani: “What’s not to like?”

Melt in your mouth amazing-ness!!

Brownie Batter Pancakes

(Serves 2)

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup oat flour (You can simply place rolled oats in a food processor or blender.  Oat flour is the secret to extremely MOIST whole grain baked goods.  Try it.  Trust me.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 T unsweetened cocoa

2 T ground dates (aka date sugar)

pinch of salt

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (you could replace this with milk or regular yogurt…but the Greek yogurt packs a healthy, high protein punch)

4 85% dark chocolate squares, broken into small chunks (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until you form a batter…add a bit of water as needed to reach your desired consistency.  Fold in the dark chocolate, if desired.  (And, seriously, how could you NOT desire dark chocolate?!?  This will add fat to an otherwise fat-free batter — but, remember, healthy fats are our friends.  The healthy fats in dark chocolate actually combat belly fat and help leave you satiated as well…what’s not to love?)

Let the pancake-making begin!  (I like to use a Toastmaster pancake maker that makes adorable little, perfectly round pancakes.)  Cover in your favorite toppings, or spread each pancake with hot chocolate peanut butter sauce (recipe below).  Commence chocolate coma of goodness!

Hot Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce

4 T all natural peanut butter

1/2 cup (heaping) unsweetened cocoa

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 T raw honey

Heat the peanut butter in the microwave (or stove top, if you prefer) until it is thin and melty.  Add the cocoa, applesauce, and honey.  Stir vigorously until the sauce is thick.  If you prefer a thinner sauce, you can add a little water.  Spread on pancakes, waffles, cupcakes, bananas (which is what Nathan and I did with the bit of left over sauce we had), strawberries…you name it! 🙂

Keep in mind you can use other sweeteners or flours if you choose…mashed bananas in place of applesauce…brown sugar, maple syrup,  or sucanat as a sweetener…experiment and do your thing, darling! 😉

Any foods you love that could use a healthy makeover?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!  Happy eating!

Greek Yogurt Extravaganza!

Oh, weekends, how I love you so.  For me, weekends generally mean quality time with God, family, friends, and FOOD!  I love to cook and bake, and try to do so as often as possible during the week, but it is on the weekend that I have true time to experiment in the kitchen!

As many of you know, I am a true believer in eating whole, REAL foods.  I also harbor a true, deep addiction to frozen yogurt.  This weekend I witnessed the beauty of both worlds colliding.

And what a delicious collision it was.

I started on a quest of creating a healthy froyo version of my all-time favorite ice cream flavor combination: mint chocolate chip.  The results did not disappoint.

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Minty Goodness!

That green goodness you see isn’t from food coloring.  You should know me better than that.  Instead, that glorious green comes from a simple handful of spinach. 🙂

Of course, I couldn’t stop there.  This morning I decided I needed to explore another one of my addictions:  peanut butter.  Seriously, I think just about anything tastes better with nut butters.  So, when I woke up this morning, I put a sliced banana in the freezer and got to work on my usual Sunday to-do list.  A  few hours later…

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Chocolate Peanut Buttery Banana Froyo of Joy and Joyness!

Considering I was on a roll with Greek yogurt, I decided to take advantage of it and continue my winning streak through dinner.  I threw together one of my Mediterranean pasta inventions (i.e. whatever veggies you have on hand, sauteed with garlic, herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and then tossed with whole wheat pasta.).  Tonight’s combo consisted of broccoli, mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and capers.  I often stir in some cottage cheese and/or sprinkle feta cheese on top.  However, tonight I decided to stir in a few dollops of Greek yogurt into each dish (followed by a sprinkle of feta for good measure, of course).  The result was a yummy, creamy protein-packed pasta sauce sans the heavy, buttery heart attack waiting to happen.

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*Nom, nom, nom*

For those of your out there also addicted to froyo, don’t worry, I’m not leaving you hanging without the recipes!  Be sure to let me know if you try them.  And, perhaps more importantly, let me know if you have a favorite frozen yogurt recipe to share with me! 😉

Mint Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 11 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 8 dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp peppermint extract*
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • handful of raw spinach
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • Dark chocolate squares
Directions:

Combine all the ingredients but the dark chocolate in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Add the dark chocolate in the last five minutes of churning.  Allow to churn until desired consistency is met.  Divide the frozen yogurt into two dishes and garnish with dark chocolate squares.  Dig in!

*While this recipe was quite delicious, I would like to experiment with using fresh mint leaves in place of the peppermint extract.  I guess this just means I’ll have to make it again in the very near future. 🙂

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana, sliced
  • 1 to 2 tbsp raw cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp nut butter of your choice
  • 11 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Dark chocolate squares
  • Shredded coconut

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients, except the dark chocolate and coconut, in a food processor and process until smooth.

Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Allow to churn until desired consistency is met.  Divide the frozen yogurt into two dishes and garnish with dark chocolate squares.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut.  Dig in!

Oh Texas, why are you so flat?!?

Four years ago when I took a road trip along the California coast, I fell in love.  I hate to disappoint all you romantics out there, but this trip had nothing to do with meeting my soul mate.  (I actually ended up meeting my future husband about a month after the aforementioned journey).  No, it wasn’t a person that stole my heart; it was the quaint, picturesque village of Carmel by the Sea.  I pledged then and there that I would move to the central California coast.  Why waste anymore time NOT living in such a gorgeous place?!?

And then I met Nathan.

He lived in Texas.  I lived in Virginia.  So, the Moving-to-California plan became the Moving-to-Texas plan.  Don’t get me wrong, California is absolutely beautiful, but it doesn’t hold a candle to spending the rest of my life with my best friend.  However, that being said, don’t think that has stopped me from subjecting my wonderful husband to repeatedly listening to me talk about this storybook city and all its wonder.

Now, finally, we had the chance to go together.  And for the Feast of Tabernacles, no less!  Technically we stayed in Monterey (which is equally charming and beautiful), but it’s right next door to Carmel so we were able to explore both areas.  I thought I loved it the first time around, but sharing the experience with not only my amazing husband, but friends and brethren as well, was absolutely incredible!!  Ten glorious days in Carmel and Monterey left us so inspired and refreshed, both spiritually and physically.

And this was just on the drive from the airport!

And now, a week after our return, I am going through serious withdrawals.  I need the mountains.  I need the sea.  I constantly hear Bill Murray in my head saying, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!!!  I NEED!!!  I NEED!!!”  (What about Bob? fans, you know what I’m talking about!)  And instead of the picture-perfect mountains and rocky shores, I find the shriveled flatlands of north Texas.  Sigh.  This is no place for a native of the Shenandoah Valley.  I think I might need to bring the Moving-to-California plan back out on the table.  I’m just saying…

Are my eyes even open?

So, how do you know when a new school year has begun?

I’m not seen online for a solid three weeks, that’s how.

The school year is now in full swing, and I am completely exhausted!!  I’ve been working 12 hour days Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Sundays, too (Oh yes, I’ll be there all afternoon today).  I’m going to have to change SOMETHING, because I am already getting burnt out, and that will never do.

SO, due to the fact that I’m barely cognitive at this point, I’ll be keeping this post short.  I just wanted to let everyone know that YES, I am still keeping a blog…BUT, my posts might be fewer and far between if my work schedule stays like this all year.  I also wanted to post pictures of the new rain gutter bookshelves that my amazing husband installed for me in my classroom just before school started.

He was even kind enough to paint them for me, too.  Yep, he’s a keeper.

Here they are drying in the sweltering Texas sun. NOTE: Don't leave them to dry too long or some might get a little warped on the edges. We learned this the hard way.

Mr. Manly McManlykins

“Rain gutter bookshelves?!  Why, however did you come up with such an amazing idea??” you ask.  Well, I’m just that brilliant, folks.

Actually,  I can’t take full credit for the idea…in fact, I really can’t take any credit.  I discovered the idea through a blog written by a mom who made them for her kids’ bedrooms.  She also has several other really creative ideas for around the home, so her blog is definitely worth reading if you are into DIY projects. 🙂  For example, I am super intrigued by her idea for a magnetic wall.  How cool would THAT be in my classroom?!…I’m thinking that might be my project for next summer.

IF I’m still sane by then. 😉

On that note, I’ll leave you with a photo of the shelves in my classroom with books and all…

Ta-da!!

Something’s fishy around here…

Posted on

Okay, so, those of you who know me well know that I am a HUGE health nut.  BUT, I have a confession.  I…I…well, you see, the thing is…I don’t like fish.

Actually that’s not quite right.

I HATE fish.

All I have to do is THINK about the taste, the texture, the smell…and I immediately feel nauseous.  So, yeah, that kind of feeling isn’t exactly appetizing.  However, those of you who know me well also know that I’m pretty determined when I want to be (some call it hardheaded, but I think determined is MUCH more accurate).

This isn’t my first round with amazingly healthy food that I find amazingly…disgusting.  I had this same problem with avocados.  Yes, I know…I KNOW.  “How can you NOT like avocados?!  I loooooooooove avocados!!”  If I had a dime for every time I heard that one…

But notice that I said HAD this same problem.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve joined the “How do you NOT love avocados?!?” club that I used to detest.  It took weeks of me mixing guacamole into other things to completely cover up the mushy consistency (I never really minded the taste; I just could NOT get over the mushiness), but slowly I was able to mix it into things less and less and now I absolutely love it!!  I still don’t think I could eat one completely plain, but add it as a topping or spread and we are in business!

Anyway, I digress.  Back to the fish…naturally, I was NOT going to let the fish beat me.

I would be victorious.

I embarked on my quest to find fish recipes for people that don’t like fish (I LOVE YOU GOOGLE), and quickly found several that sounded like they might do the trick.  Then I met a woman who has become my new best friend!  Well, technically, we haven’t met.  Actually, we don’t know each other at all.  BUT, her name is Karina and her recipes are to die for!  I follow a really clean eating lifestyle, and her recipes are perfection!  I’m not vegan nor gluten-intolerant, but I eat a lot of things that follow along that path just because they are good for you and TASTY (e.g. quinoa, fresh veggies, legumes).  So, finding her site has been a welcome oasis.  She even has a section of all Mediterranean-inspired dishes…which is mainly what I eat (I looooooooove me some olive oil).  The other night I made her recipe for Quinoa Salad with Pears, Baby Spinach, and Chickpeas in a Maple Vinaigrette.  Magnificent!!!!!  I substituted the pears, maple syrup, and pecans with apples, walnuts, and honey and it was awesome!  I can’t wait to try it without the substitutions when I have those ingredients on hand, too.

Ah, I’m digressing again…back to the fish.

I settled on Mediterranean Fish in Foil Packets with Rice.  It sounded quick, easy, fresh, and delicious.

In just about 20 minutes, it was time to face the music.

Notice the VAST mountain of vegetables covering the salmon...

And the verdict??

FAN-TAST-IC!!!!

Seriously: PARTY IN MY MOUTH!  The flavors were absolutely incredible.  Nathan and I both just couldn’t get over it.  Everything was so flavorful that I didn’t have to worry about tasting the salmon at all!! 😉  There was one bite that had a hefty chunk of salmon in it, and for a moment, I was scared.  But, I just popped in an extra bit of tomato and onion and all was well.  Obviously, I’m not over my fish-phobia yet, but in the meantime I have this delectable dish to keep my mouth fooled and my heart healthy. 🙂

OH, and did you know that salmon makes you sleepy?  I KNOW (*channeling Monica Gellar and Craig Ferguson*)!! 😉  Towards the end of the meal, I started to feel super sleepy.  And I’m not just talking a little drowsy here.  Think, more along the lines of head-in-the-plate exhausted.  A few minutes later Nathan said to me, “I feel like my face is turned off.  My mind isn’t tired, but my eyes are forcing themselves closed.”  Since we were both feeling so tired, we knew something was up.  So, naturally, we googled foods that make you drowsy and sure enough: salmon.  Apparently, it raises your level of melatonin.  And we know it wasn’t just psychological for us, because we truly had no idea until after feeling the effects.  SO, all you ragged moms out there, now you know yet another reason to make salmon for supper.  You’re welcome.