Anti-Inflammatory Latte (from Ricki Heller)

Hellooooo! Happy Hump Day! I’m doing that popular happiness-is-a-choice thing and choosing to be happy, even though yesterday I found out that I’m pretty deep into adrenal fatigue, have a suppressed thyroid, heavy metals in my system, and significant inflammation to boot. Score! But no, really, my health is not in a good place right now. I guess I’m one of those people who everyone thinks is so healthy until it turns out I’m actually not. In an effort to be completely honest on my blog, I will tell you I’ve felt unhealthy for quite some time. I follow a healthy lifestyle, which has lead people to believe that I must be healthy, but just because I eat well and exercise does not make me the epitome of health. Quite the contrary, as I just told you my adrenals and thyroid are both shot.

For a while now I’ve lived with extreme fatigue, debilitating anxiety, and numerous other physical and emotional problems. Over time, my tooth enamel has increasingly eroded, my hair has worn thinner, my digestion has not been peaceful, my energy and overall feelings of strength have dwindled, I’ve experienced lightheadedness, and my capacity for stress and work has decreased dramatically. I don’t remember when my symptoms started; all I know is that they’ve been steadily increasing, and are now at an all-time high. I also haven’t had a menstrual cycle since going off the birth control pill ten months ago.

My doctor (a specialty doctor, not my conventional GP) had me take a urine test as well as a hair mineral analysis, so that we could get an accurate idea of what is going on. That’s how we found out that I have pretty severe adrenal fatigue, an underactive thyroid, inflammation, and the presence of heavy metals.

I’m taking multiple supplements to support my body in its journey back to health, but these supplements are not going to do the job by themselves. My diet and lifestyle are going to play a huge part. As you know, I already live pretty healthily, but this is more specific than that. Some “health” foods are not healthy for everyone. There are a lot of foods I have to avoid now that people with normal adrenals and thyroids can eat just fine. It’s making me sad to see some of my favorite foods on these lists, but my health depends on my willingness to stick to my prescribed course of treatment. (If you’re curious about what I’m currently avoiding, look up which foods worsen adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism.)

After coming home from my doctor’s appointment yesterday, I wanted to make something soothing for myself. The day before, I found this recipe from Ricki Heller for an Anti-Inflammatory Latte. Since inflammation is now officially a real concern of mine, I thought it would be the perfect thing to make. You can click the link above to go to Ricki’s recipe, or follow my instructions below. I used lite coconut milk for mine, and subbed raw honey for the stevia. I prefer the taste of honey to that of stevia, and even though I should be minimizing sugar, I don’t have to cut it out entirely. Honey and coconut milk go so well together. Whether you’re looking for a caffeine-free drink to warm your insides, a remedy to fight inflammation, or even just something to tame your sweet tooth, I highly recommend this wonderful concoction Ricki has created. It’s gold. (Literally.)

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I didn’t strain mine, partly because I was too lazy and partly because I wanted to drink the ginger pulp. I didn’t mind the little bits of ginger and rosemary in my latte (I guess I’m used to weird health nerd stuff), but I poured my mom a small cup, and she said she would have rather had it strained. Haha! Next time I think I’ll strain it. I also just realized how unattractive my latte looks in the photograph below, mostly due to lack of aforementioned straining. (Sorry for not doing your awesome drink any aesthetic justice, Ricki.)

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup canned lite coconut milk

1 cup water

Heaping 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

About 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

Few pinches dried rosemary, crumbled between fingertips

Raw, organic honey to taste

PROCEDURE:

Combine all ingredients, except honey, in a small pot on the stove. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Immediately turn heat to low, and let simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in desired amount of honey. Strain (or don’t) and pour into a mug or mason jar. Enjoy!

Makes 2 small or 1 large serving.

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Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Monday! Man, am I happy to be back home. I had to go to Vegas for work over the Fourth of July, and Vegas is just not my city. I didn’t even go out and party, yet I was completely drained by the end of the weekend. My best friend Hallie came with me (I work part-time for a fitness promoter and often bring friends to lend an extra hand at his events), so even though we were in Sin City for work reasons, it was great to spend quality time with each other, and overall we had a really fun trip. Some cab selfies were taken. Duh.

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Now that I’m home, it’s time to get baking again. There is something so utterly perfect about freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of simplicity. Think vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, plain pasta with butter and parmesan, a black tank and a pair of jeans. Certain things are timeless, and chocolate chip cookies is one of them. They’re great with extras thrown in–coconut, walnuts, oats–but the classic chocolate chip cookie will never get old. It doesn’t need any pizzaz. It’s perfect as-is.

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Growing up, my mom used to use the Nestlé Tollhouse recipe. Does anyone remember that episode of Friends where Phoebe bakes a billion batches of chocolate chip cookies in an attempt to figure out her grandma’s sacred recipe, all to ultimately discover that it’s Nestle Tollhouse? Haha! I miss that show. But back to the point of this post–nothing beats a good chocolate chip cookie. Unfortunately, Nestlé’s recipe is far from health-friendly, and I prefer to feed my friends and family (and myself!) treats made with ingredients I can feel good about.

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These cookies are soft in the middle and subtly crisp on the edges, which is exactly how I like my chocolate chip cookies. The middle school I went to used to sell these ridiculously unhealthy chocolate chip cookies that were the size of my head, and so gooey in the middle that they were practically warm dough. Wow, I miss those. My taste buds have changed since then, though. Now I actually prefer healthier alternatives like these fantastic paleo chocolate chip cookies. They truly are delicious.

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INGREDIENTS:

3 cups finely ground almond meal/flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients (almond meal, baking soda, and sea salt). In a smaller bowl, combine all wet ingredients (maple syrup through vanilla extract). Add the wet to the dry, and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Fold in chocolate chips, then let the dough chill in the fridge for at least a half hour.

Place small rounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spaced a couple inches apart. I actually used my hands to scoop the dough onto the tray, because it’s quite sticky. Much stickier/gooier than dough made with all-purpose flour.

Bake for 10-12 minutes (until edges are golden), let cool for a minute or two on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the next batch(es).

Makes 24-30 delicious cookies, depending on size.

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Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips

I discovered a new blogger today and let’s just say I’m super stoked that I did. I’m always looking for new blogs to follow, especially when there’s an emphasis on allergy-friendly baking. Chelsy is an awesome blogger with tons of gluten-free, paleo, and vegan recipes! The recipe I’m sharing with you today I pretty much stole from her, which is why I’m opening this post with a dedication to her talent. I only made a few very minor tweaks to the recipe. I’m not too familiar with baking with almond flour yet, so I figured it would be safer to use someone else’s recipe today, rather than create one of my own. I didn’t want to waste my only spotty bananas on a recipe failure, simply because I had too much pride to use someone else’s tried-and-true recipe.

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As I get more experienced with allergy-friendly baking, I hope to become more intuitive with how to use almond flour in baked goods. But for now, ain’t no shame in learning from others! I’ve made a lot of failed recipes lately (which I choose not to share on the blog), and yes, it’s all part of the necessary learning process, but I just wasn’t in the mood for a culinary tragedy today.

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Gluten-free baked goods can so easily come out too dry or weirdly textured, but that’s just because the baker doesn’t know how to properly combine ingredients. Gluten-free baking can be pretty damn amazing; there’s no reason why celiacs or gluten intolerant/sensitive people should have to miss out on delicious muffins. If you’re looking for a muffin recipe that doesn’t taste at all like the stereotypical gluten-free baked good, look no further!

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I don’t know about you, but banana bread will always have a soft spot in my heart. My mom’s classic recipe for banana bread is literally orgasmic (I’m using “literally” in the literal sense here; you can’t eat her bread in public), but it’s full of butter, white flour, and refined sugar–crap I no longer eat unless I’m really throwing in the health towel for a day.

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Yes, those are caramelized bananas. They give this muffin recipe an extra little kick. I almost skipped that step out of sheer laziness, but then decided not to stray too far from Chelsy’s genius. I’m so glad I didn’t! The aroma those bananas made in my kitchen–swooooon.

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I make my baked goods primarily for my brother, because he has the biggest sweet tooth in the family. He recently told me he wishes I would bake with more chocolate, so I added mini chocolate chips to Chelsy’s recipe today. I also added a touch more honey than she does, because my family tends to think my healthy treats are under-sweetened. (Yeah, yeah, I know, that’s the point of healthy baking.) I didn’t make the glaze that Chelsy makes for her muffins because I figure the chocolate chips add enough pizazz for one recipe.

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These muffins came out wonderfully. I hope you bake them and enjoy them as thoroughly as we did. Whether you’re a gluten-free eater or not, these muffins are guilt-free and absolutely delish.

See Chelsy’s original recipe here. My adapted recipe is below.

INGREDIENTS:

For the caramelized bananas:

3 bananas, sliced into coins

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the muffins:

1 cup almond flour

1 cup gluten-free oat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand)

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Like a baking sheet with parchment paper, and fill a muffin tin with paper liners.

Toss banana coins in one tablespoon of honey and a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Distribute them evenly on the baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the tray before mashing and adding them to the rest of the recipe.

Mix together all dry ingredients (almond flour through cinnamon) in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together all wet ingredients (eggs through vanilla extract), including the mashed bananas. Add the wet to the dry, and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter among the baking cups. Bake for about 18 minutes (your oven temperature may vary), let cool…or don’t, and eat up!

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Gluten-Free Mexican Lasagna

Lasagna. If there’s anybody who doesn’t love it, I have yet to meet them. There’s something about layered food that just makes it that much better. I mean, really, no matter what dietary theory you look at, none of them are willing to give up lasagna. Vegans make it with tofu ricotta and marinara sauce. Paleo friends make it with zucchini noodles and meat sauce. Raw foodists make it with raw cashew cheese and blended tomatoes. It’s an Italian staple that nobody is willing to part with.

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And then here I am, turning it all Mexican and stuff. I’m definitely not the first to have done this, but I think the idea is totally underrated. I made Mexican lasagna for the first time a few years ago, and my family loved it. I’ve continued to make it every now and then, though obviously not during the times I was vegan. The only complaint came from my brother, whose stomach doesn’t tend to agree with heavy hands of chili powder and cumin. He told me this one night after I’d already made it several times in the past. He said it was too good not to eat, so he couldn’t help himself from devouring it every time I made it. But this time he asked if I could leave out the spices.

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I created this recipe out of consideration for him, and I think it’s better than any Mexican lasagna I’ve made in the past! Simplicity always seems to win, doesn’t it? Spices are definitely like makeup. Less is more. For reals. Oh, and did I mention that this recipe is gluten-free? Time to invite all your gluten-avoiding friends over, whether they’re legit celiacs/intolerants or just trendy pretenders (you know who you are), and throw a fiesta! May I suggest making these or these or these to go with it? (Seriously, Jessica’s drink recipes make someone who doesn’t even really like to drink–AKA me–want to get drunk.)

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds ground white meat chicken (preferably organic)

1 small to medium red onion, chopped

2 cans Amy’s Organic Refried Beans (black, pinto, or one of each!)

1 cup red enchilada sauce (homemade or a gluten-free store-bought sauce)

Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn

Packet of corn tortillas

2 cups shredded cheese (I use an organic Mexican blend)

A few scallions, finely chopped

Sea salt

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with one tablespoon of olive oil.

In a large saucepan or sauté pan, heat the other two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a little bit of sea salt, and cook until translucent.

Add the ground chicken to the onion. Break it up with a spatula as it cooks. When it’s fully cooked, add the enchilada sauce and the corn. Heat through for a few minutes, and season to your liking with sea salt.

Start layering corn tortillas in the baking dish. I break mine in half. Follow with a layer of refried beans, then cheese, then more tortillas. I prefer to alternate bean/cheese layers and meat/cheese layers in an effort to create more layers. The more layers there are, the better the lasagna holds up. But you can add the meat onto the beans in the same layer if you want to. My order goes like this: tortillas, BEANS, cheese, tortillas, MEAT, cheese, tortillas, BEANS, cheese, tortillas, MEAT, cheese, and so on and so forth, until I’ve used everything up.

You should end on a layer of tortillas, and then top it with more cheese. That way the top of the lasagna comes out nice and bubbly.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, let cool, and top with chopped scallions.

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This recipe is very adaptable. You could make it with beef instead of chicken, or make it dairy-free by using Daiya cheese. You could even make it completely vegan by using tofu or tempeh and Daiya. So easy! I served it with a huge salad tossed in my Sweet and Spicy Oregano Vinaigrette.

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Between four people, the whole lasagna lasted about two and a half days in my house. Yup. Whether for dinner, lunch, or breakfast (yeah, my brother went there), it makes fab leftovers. Enjoy!

Sunday Stuff {6/29/14}

Hello hello! It’s super warm here in LA. I feel kind of guilty being inside, but oh well. I guess that’s what happens when you live somewhere that has nice days all the time…you don’t feel the need to make the most out of them all. What’s everyone been up to this weekend? Friday night my friend came over and we made homemade pizza with burrata, prosciutto, and arugula. It was so damn good. Homemade pizza is so easy, especially when you buy pre-made dough. We used the multigrain one from Whole Foods. It came out nicely!

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Cheese makes the best food porn, doesn’t it? Droooool. And because we felt like we needed a little more veggie action than just the arugula, I roasted some zucchini to have on the side. Quick. Simple. Done.

Last night I went to a business party and ate a lot of not-so-great for me food, so I ended the night not feeling my best. But today, fortunately for my body and unfortunately for my soul, I have to eat very cleanly for the next three days. The natural doctor I’m seeing for some of my health issues (he’s an acupuncturist and a Chinese herbalist) has given me a take-home urine test to do as soon as I can (sorry if that’s TMI) and the instructions for it come with a bunch of things I can’t ingest for the next seventy-two hours. JOYS.

Salt and sugar are two of the no-nos. That might not be a problem for some people, but I love salt. Good quality salt, though. Like real sea salt and pink Himalayan salt. I like it on my eggs, I like my peanut butter lightly salted, I like it on my avocado, and I like to roast my vegetables with salt and pepper. Saying no to salt also eliminates all restaurant food, and all flavorful condiments like ketchup and mustard and other dressings. Wah. And even though I’m not a sugar fiend, it’s also–like salt–a hard thing to avoid entirely. I enjoy natural forms of sugar every day. I looove raw honey, fruit, dried fruit, naturally (and lightly) sweetened granola, etc.

But the hardest part about this three-day exclusion diet is the NO COFFEE rule. I’m battling a gnarly headache right now. Fun stuff. I would have killed for a latte after my breakfast this morning. Since I couldn’t have one of my typical sweet breakfasts (oatmeal with banana, or yogurt with berries and granola) I had boring oatmeal with nothing in it, and two fried eggs on top. Pepper, but no salt. *Tear*

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So that’s what’s going on with me right now. The very opposite of exciting. I seriously cannot wait to have an almond milk latte on Wednesday. Hope you’re all having a nice Sunday! (And a more flavorful one than I’m having.)

xx

 

Sweet and Spicy Oregano Vinaigrette

Salads. I have mixed feelings about them. Ever heard the saying “No good story ever started with someone eating a salad?” I kinda concur. Salads can be so…blah. As a health foodie, I’m all too familiar with craving vegetables (roasted zucchini cravings: they happen), but even so, it’s extremely rare that I crave a salad. I’ve never been one of those girls to go to a restaurant and order a salad without this, without that, with the dressing on the side. Um, no. First of all, could you be more cliché as a woman? Secondly, ew. I like health food, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat a plate of leaves (as my brother refers to most salads).

When it comes to salads, if I’m going to make it my entire meal, it’s gotta be loaded. But I can totally chow down on a simple side salad, too. Mixed greens and nothing else. BUT, and this is a big but, the dressing has to be awesomesauce. Like, it better be bursting with flavor. A fresh and delish dressing can turn any boring salad from a total nay to a total yay.

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Enter: Sweet and Spicy Oregano Vinaigrette. This dressing is super tangy and flavorful. It made my brother (yes, the guy who calls salads plates of leaves) ask for more. He devoured a huge bowl of mixed greens because of this stuff, which is sorta a big deal around here. If you’re not a fan of spice, you can go easy on the cayenne pepper in this recipe, or even omit it completely. This dressing is also great because it’s ridiculously simple to whip up. I’m not a fan of salad dressing recipes that require me to sautée onions or blend anything. Isn’t one of the biggest reasons for making a salad to not have to cook anything or use a bunch of appliances?

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INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar (I love Bragg’s)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons stoneground mustard

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Cayenne pepper to your liking

A few fresh cracks of black pepper

PROCEDURE:

In a medium bowl, combine all wet ingredients.

As you add the oregano, rub it between your fingertips to break it up and release the fragrant oils. Sprinkle in the cayenne pepper, and add a little bit of freshly cracked black pepper.

Whisk everything together, and let it sit for a while until you’re ready to use it. If you’re going to use the dressing with a meal, I recommend making the dressing first, and letting it sit while you make the remainder of the meal. Letting it rest will allow all the flavors to meld.

Enjoy!

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Goodies from Paso and Why I’m Exercising LESS for Summer

Hey hey! I’m back from Paso Robles, and already missing the mellow vibe. I swear, my usual feelings of anxiety seem to melt away up there. It’s just so peaceful and relaxing. I also really enjoyed the break from exercising. That’s not to say I don’t love my spin classes, but I’m definitely entering into a less strict zone when it comes to working out. I’m stepping back a bit and learning how to differentiate between workouts that I want to do, and workouts that I’m forcing myself to do. I’ve been pondering lately if my love for fitness is as real as I’ve made it out to be. There is no doubt that I love to be active, and that it helps with my anxiety, but part of me wonders if my years of feeling the need to burn calories has made my likeness for fitness more about that (burning calories) than about enjoying movement. So this summer is going to be all about honoring my body and my soul. I’m cutting back on my workouts, not my calories, and I think this will be a huge step in my journey to separate myself from disorderly behaviors.

With that out of the way, I have another Paso recap. On Wednesday my mom and I ate at the winery where my aunt is the chef. It’s called Aron Hill, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, as are most of the wineries in Paso. The menu is full of paninis and salads. It was all so delicious. And just look at this view from our lunch table. Could life be any more serene?

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Also, the weather…it was so hot! But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy a steaming latte every morning. I found this ridiculously adorable little hipster coffee shop in town that carries organic milk (win), and has a bunch of cute things to look at. I pretty much never go to Starbucks unless I’m desperate (been there in Vegas), so whenever I’m in an unfamiliar city I seek out the indie spots. This place, called Amsterdam Coffee House, is a total winner. I can’t wait to go back. Their lattes are amazing. Here are a few pictures from inside.

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Gah, I just love little places like this. Paso is full of them. Another spot I’m in love with is the General Store. Three words: SO. DAMN. CUTE. They have cookbooks, candles, lots of local culinary goodies, a wall full of artisan chocolate (total weakness), and other adorable but probably unnecessary trinkets.

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I went into a clothing store, tried on a bunch of clothes, and didn’t spend a single dime because I’m really trying to be good about frivolous spending. But then I went into this place and blew fifty bucks on a mason jar with a steel straw, a sugar scrub for my lips, a small candle, chocolate, lip balm, and other things I can’t even remember. Maybe there isn’t anything else. Surely if I spent fifty bucks I should have bought more than just that, right?! Good god, I am the definition of a frivolous spender.

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Can I just spend my life shopping at places like this for things I don’t need? That would be fabulous. Although, even though it’s fun to get away, I’ve gotta say I’m glad to be home. My aunt has re-inspired me when it comes to cooking, and I can’t wait to start getting into the culinary grind again. I’ve been out of it for a while! While I was up in Paso I made Jessica’s Summer Sangria Berry Crumble for some friends and family. Everyone loved it. But, duh. It was a no-brainer to make a dessert full of booze in a place like Paso, where everyone is a total wino.

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When I got home yesterday, I was so eager get into the kitchen that I actually made dinner…something I practically never do after coming home from a trip. Actually, cooking dinner has been a rarity altogether lately. I love to bake, but I rarely cook dinner recipes. My meals are usually simple and just kind of thrown together. But now I have two new savory recipes to share with you–one for a salad dressing and one for an entrée–so stay tuned! I kind of wish I bought that cookbook called Good to the Grain (see a few pictures up). It’s all about baking with whole grain flours. Anyone have it?!

I definitely plan to do some baking this afternoon. I have two very ripe bananas on my counter. Do you have any fun Friday night plans? I’m being mellow, as I typically prefer to be. I have a friend coming over later and we’re going to make homemade pizza and roasted vegetables for dinner. Super stoked for that!

Qs for my readers:

How do you feel about cutting back on exercise for mental reasons?

What (or who) inspires you to cook and bake?