See y’all soon.SOPHE_2014Meeting_keyartFINAL_low_700x300px


So, when I was teaching elementary school, I became “famous” (the way one does) for these caramelized brownies I often made that sometimes started from scratch and sometimes started from Pillsbury Family Style Fudge. They were adapted from a super-Southern former Food Network star but I altered the recipe so much I claimed them as my own.

They looked kind of like this:brownies 2 - all about chocolateBut this isn’t about those brownies.

This is about National Chocolate Caramel Day!

OK, I don’t know if it’s national. I don’t know if it’s real.*

*Not that I care. :) balance_gold_bar_carmel_nut3

But I DO know that in honor of the day Balance Bar has offered to give away one box of their Caramel Nut Blast bars to a reader o’ mine. 450

And you want them. As a grad student I have rediscovered the importance of having a quick snack you can feel relatively good about. Their 40-30-30 balanced ratio of carbs-protein-fat and a good source of vitamins and minerals in a pinch.

They taste like Twix. And who doesn’t love Twix?

[OK, I'm sure there are people. But we can pretend otherwise.]bar_gold_caramel_nut_blast_detail

To enter, all you’ve got to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite caramel nut

All you’ve got to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite chocolate caramel treat AND how you find balance in your life. [I need all the advice I can get some days. :) ]


Smooth(ie) Operator

by Sarah on March 17, 2014 · 6 comments

I think I have made more smoothies in the past two weeks than in the past two years combined.IMG_2822 (1024x683)

(I also think I may have used this blog post title before.)IMG_5876 (1024x683)

Perhaps it is the result of a perfect storm of purchasing a Breville hand blender, increasing my outdoor running (in increasingly warm temperatures), the desire to utilize the Cheribundi cherry puree smoothie packs in my freezer…or perhaps just the fact that I am actually remembering to make ice cubes now.IMG_9986 (1024x682)

I also have discovered that Growing Naturals is rivaling my previous passion for a different plant-based protein as the best protein powder on the market. (None of that strange, artificial tasting aftertaste like you get with some other vegan brands.)IMG_6098 (693x1024)

From a Pumpkin banana vanilla smoothies topped with Whole Foods’ peanut butter balls, crystallized ginger, and a sprinkle (or three) of Love Grown Foods granola…

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…to a chocolate cherry creation topped with pistachios, dried cherries, and even more sugared ginger.IMG_5064 (1024x683)

Sweet potato with a smidge of banana made for a delightful (granola and cereal topped) snack…IMG_6066 (1024x683)

…and cantaloupe was a crazy idea that just, well, popped!IMG_6085 (1024x683)

Banana cherry…so good, it’s…scary?IMG_20140308_163758

And how could anything with chocolate on top be bad?

IMG_20140307_134503Sure, this isn’t the level of smooth(ie) operating that some achieve. There’s still not spinach involved or anything like that. But the whole concept of a blank, cool canvas is really, well, growing (naturals?) on me.


Last-Minute Peanut Flour Brownies

by Sarah on March 14, 2014 · 9 comments

 This was a bit of a debacle.rs_560x415-140312115328-1024.-after-final-rose-juan-pablo-nikki-harrison

And the final rose themed Coconut French Yogurt Cake almost was too, when I remembered at the last minute that one of my guests–the baker in the group nonetheless–couldn’t eat oats.IMG_5956 (1024x682)

So what’s a girl to do?IMG_6005 (1024x683)

Obviously I had to figure out what the heck I had in my kitchen I could use to make brownies, whip together a half batch, and then cross my fingers and hope for a rose the best.IMG_6019 (1024x683)

Luckily, these were “light and silky” and “a texture I’ve never tasted in a brownie before.” which I’m choosing to believe is a good thing.IMG_6017 (1024x683)

So next time you find yourself in need of a last minute dessert, you too can make like Juan Pablo, shrug, and say,‘ ‘s OK!’IMG_6013 (1024x683)

Half-Batch Peanut Flour Brownies

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup peanut flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together sugar, applesauce, egg, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add cocoa powder, peanut flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring until combined.
  4. Pour batter into a greased ramekins, cupcake tins, or small baking dish.
  5. Bake 30-40 minutes (or less, depending on baking vessel).

Coconut Oat French Yogurt Cake

by Sarah on March 13, 2014 · 3 comments

I must admit, the creamy Southwestern hominy ‘grits’ I made for the California Dairy Recipe Redux Challenge wasn’t the original yogurt-inspired creation I made.IMG_5654 (1024x683)

When I realized I had been told to “go forth and use dairy yogurt” the first recipe that came to mind was a cake that had been on my mind for over a year, since I first read Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard.2012-02-29 15.41.54 (768x1024)

The gateau au yaourt had been lingering in the far recesses of the refrigerator of my mind* ever since.

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*Hey, yogurt lasts a REALLY long time. Longer than its expiration date.IMG_5519 (1024x683)

Of course, once I’d made my substitution of homemade oat flour for all-purpose, low-fat yogurt for whole milk, and melted coconut oil for vegetable oil, I realized that with a whole cup of sugar still (very happily) involved, I didn’t really ‘lighten up’ anything (as the contest required).IMG_5523 (1024x683)

But maybe what we really need is to lighten up in general when it comes to dessert?IMG_5538 (1024x683)

This cake is somehow simultaneously light and dense, moist and crumbly, with a subtle coconut essence that my friends couldn’t quite put their finger tastebuds on at first.IMG_5579 (1024x683)

And it really gets better over time.

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This is one good gateau.IMG_5953 (1024x684)

[Pardon my French. ;) ]

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Coconut Oatmeal Yogurt Cake (Gateau au Yaourt) 

  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (extra fine preferred)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 eggs

berries, jam, whipped cream, chopped nuts, or other desired toppings, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grind oats into flour using a food processor.
  3. Combine oat flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, and vanilla extract.
  5. Continue to whisk while pouring oil into yogurt mixture.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well to combine.
  7. Slowly add oat flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated.
  8. Pour batter into a greased,  round  baking pan or casserole dish (with high sides).
  9. Bake 30-40 minutes.

(Do NOT store in a close-top plastic container or in the fridge. Just loosely cover with aluminium foil and leave at room temperature.)


Y’all know that of all the Food Network princes,* Tyler Florence is the one who I’d want to wake me up from a poison-induced deep sleep in the forest, but we all have the other king of the Food Network to thank for this.

*Remember, Adam Richman is on Travel Channel.IMG_5815 (1024x683)

As is my way, I was tuning in to the new food competition show, where Bobby Flay survived the shrimp ‘n’ grits challenge with grits he made from ground up hominy.IMG_5696 (1024x683)

Now, if My Cousin Vinny taught us nothing else, he taught us to always pay for our tuna that the entire grit-eating world knows grits can’t be made in less than 20 minutes.tumblr_lxsr8jjIVt1r3lllro1_1280

Well, Vinny, these ARE magic ‘grits.’

In more ways than one.IMG_5706 (1024x683)

Because not only are they chili pepper spicy and cornbread sweet–and require nothing more than spin through a hand blender to make–

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—they are incredibly light and creamy, without a single pat of butter or grate of cheese to be found.IMG_5827 (1024x683)

The secret ingredient?

Real California Dairy yogurt.IMG_5713 (1024x683)

As part of National Nutrition Month, a month designated to focus on making healthier food choices for better overall health and wellness, the California Milk Advisory Board, which represents more than 1500 dairy families, is celebrating “dairy good” nutrition by asking Recipe ReDux members to “lighten up” some of our favorite recipes with California dairy.reciperedux_CAdairy

As the last time I made shrimp ‘n’ grits they were soaked in beer and cheese (like the great state of Wisconsin), I think this rendition, featuring the calcium boost and protein punch that low-fat (California) dairy can provide, is  a much more nutritious version of the traditional.IMG_5807 (1024x683)

And I am quite partial to this face moo-ing around my kitchen.browncow_californiadairy

The shrimp and pepper mixture also requires very little work or measurement:IMG_5772 (1024x683)

…just a speedy spin around the pan until those little crustaceans start blushing pink and chasing their (discarded) tails.IMG_5786 (1024x683)

And if for some reason you DO have leftover ‘magic’ grits in the morning.IMG_5861 (1024x683)

I have it on good authority they taste delicious with eggs (and avocado yogurt sauce).IMG_5865 (1024x682)

At that is a statement that WILL hold up in a backwoods Alabama court.IMG_5828 (1024x682)

Southwestern Shrimp ‘n’ Hominy Grits

[Serves 4]

  • 2 15-0z. cans golden hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup plain, low fat Real California Dairy yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Southwestern Chipotle seasoning (or substitute your favorite chili powder)
  • 16-oz. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 14-oz. package frozen sliced bell peppers and onions
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Use a hand blender to process hominy, water, yogurt, salt, and 1/2 tsp. Southwestern Chipotle seasoning until smooth.
  2. Heat hominy ‘grits’ in a sauce pan until warmed through.
  3. Meanwhile, saute bell peppers and onions with 1/2 tsp. Southwestern Chipotle seasoning until cooked.
  4. Sprinkle remaining seasoning on shrimp and add to the pan.
  5. Cook shrimp curled and pink.
  6. Remove from heat immediately.
  7. Serve over grits!


I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

IMG_5333 (1024x683)——————-


Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we?IMG_20140308_102854_776 (1024x576)

And by elephant in the room, I mean banana(s) on the blog.IMG_5274 (1024x683)

These bananas may not be in pajamas (marching down the stairs), but they were making a VERY public appearance all over this kitchen last week.IMG_5118 (1024x683)

All three of the recipes I posted (and many of the pictures I put on Instagram) featured pistachios bananas.IMG_5479 (1024x683)

I commend you for not pointing this out in ‘please get some new material’ fashion.IMG_5674 (1024x683)

And yes, I did just go spontaneously go to the store for coffee and more bananas because I didn’t think I could make it another 24 hours without one.


This was right after I called Sister Smart to tell her we needed to discuss Jamie Lynn “former Disney Nickelodeon some tween-friendly TV station star and teen mom [slash] sister of Brit(ney) with a capital B” Spears as a country singer?jamielynn_twitter

Sorry Lucy Hale, I think you (and the twisted confusion that is Pretty Little Liars) are pretty awesome, but in the battle of TV actresses turned twangsters, Jamie Lynn and Hayden Panettiere have got you beat.

No, Hayden, even though I still think of you as the (save the) cheerleader (save the world) and legitimately think you are Juliette Barnes, I won’t put dirt on your grave just yet.

Especially because when I listen to it running, I sometimes start literally pounding my fist in the air, likely instilling some sort of strange fear in passersby.MVL_215_NASHVILLEDONTPUTDIR_MUSICVIDEO_db2e6d75-624a-4cc3-b368-946de9f01cc6_10008613_source

 I promise I actually had not one–IMG_5632 (1024x683)

–but TWO recipes tussling for preeminent position as a Monday post on this little ol’ blog.IMG_5828 (1024x682)

And neither one involved bananas.

But my stats-addled brain just really wanted to talk about much more pressing matters.IMG_5883 (1024x683)

Like JUAN-dering what is going to happen on The Bachelor tonight?!?! MV5BNzg2Njc4MjY2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzUxOTQxMDE@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_

Or how good wine can be.IMG_20140307_193451_201

Or how Future Baby Niece Smart is going to be the most awkwardly best dressed small child ever as long as I am in charge of her style.IMG_5891 (1024x683)

That other stuff can wait.


So, apparently Tuesday was not only Mardi Gras, but also my FOURTH Blog Day!fourthblogday

Good thing I celebrated something else.IMG_5294 (1024x683)

The Professor reminded me last weekend that it was time to introduce him to the Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras tradition of a pancake supper.IMG_5290 (1024x650)

Apparently the Catholics don’t do this, but I sure as heck know that the Episcopalians do. (Markers of my churchgoing childhood include the pancake supper and subsequent potluck dinners during Lent.)IMG_5292 (1024x683)

And once I realized that pistachios are clearly the official nuts of Mardi GrasIMG_5205 (1024x683)

…I knew these were going to be no ordinary pancakes.

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Inspired by the colors of Fat Tuesday, they are green, yellow…IMG_5282 (1024x683)

…and blue purple.IMG_5310 (1024x683)

I actually requested frozen blueberries, since we KNOW how purple those are, but The Professor couldn’t find them. I like blue better than purple anyway. Just be careful that your blueberries don’t accidentally escape when you try to put them in the pancakes. But if you pick them up and eat them anyway….your secret’s safe with me.IMG_5287 (1024x683)

And although when I warned mentioned the flavor profile prior to dinner, I imagine there were raised eyebrows accompanying the “interesting…” not only were they incredible on their own…IMG_5293 (1024x683)

…you can cover anything in maple syrup and it will go down (The Big) easy.*

*See how I brought it full circle–like a string of Mardi Gras beads^–there?

^I didn’t even have to flash anyone.

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Blueberry Banana Pistachio Oat Pancakes

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 Tbsp. roasted, salted pistachios, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut flour
  • 2 tsp. turbinado sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ground ginger (optional)
  • ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or dairy milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 small banana, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  1. In a food processor, pulse oats into flour.
  2. Combine dry ingredients (oat flour through spices) in a small mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate  bowl, whisk together egg, almond milk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients to egg and milk mixture, stirring until just combined.
  5. Heat skillet or frying pan over medium heat. (Coat well with cooking spray, coconut oil, or butter.)
  6. Scoop batter into well heated pan into pancakes the size of your choosing. Once the tops start to bubble, lay banana slices and blueberries on top.
  7. Flip pancakes and cook until desired level of ‘done-ness.’ (I like mine a little undercooked!)
  8. Serve with extra bananas, berries, pistachios, and maple syrup.


Normally I ignore everything Martha Stewart tells me, but her advice about whisking the egg and milk together, and THEN adding the flour mixture (as opposed to adding the milk and whisking in the egg directly to the mix) seemed like a good plan. I’m not sure if it made a difference, but it definitely didn’t hurt!IMG_5286 (1024x683)


Banana Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

by Sarah on March 5, 2014 · 10 comments

On Monday I mentioned that the banana ‘flour’ cookie experiment was really just a chance for me to think outside of the (giant 14-lb) box of dried banana chips I happen to have overstocked from my Nutty Butter days.IMG_3105 (1024x683)

But in my nut butter loving mouth mind there’s nothing wrong with thinking out of the box…and straight into the food processor.IMG_5109 (683x1024)

I’ve tasted a bunch of banana flavored nut butters, and they all have the slight tinge of fake banana candy flavor to them.IMG_5144 (1024x684)

The solution? 

Use real (dried) bananas.IMG_5125 (1024x683)

And while you can use regular peanuts…I’m really quite partial to honey roasted.IMG_5128 (1024x683)

Put ‘em in. Turn it on.

Leave it for a minute (or five) and you’re done.IMG_5145 (1024x683)

Cinnamon is optional.IMG_5131 (1024x683)

Excessive drippy, dippy (nutty) photography is not.IMG_5157 (1024x683)

Banana Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

10-12 oz. honey roasted peanuts*
3 1/4 cups dried banana chips
pinch of salt
cinnamon (optional)

*Look for ones with only honey/sugar and oil added.

  1. Combine peanuts and banana chips in a food processor.
  2. Process until smooth, scraping the sides if necessary.
  3. Add salt and cinnamon (if desired).

When you’ve got a 14-lb. box of unsweetened banana chips taking up precious space in your (second) pantry–and don’t particularly like to eat them on their own–

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—you’ve got to get creative.IMG_3340 (1024x683)

Although continuing to make Caramelized Banana Wal-Nutty Butter or Banana Honey Roasted Peanut Butter  (will continue to be) a very obvious option–IMG_20140222_111335

—there was yet another banana-dventure on my mind.IMG_3273 (1024x681)

Lindsay told me at Blend last year about using dried bananas to make gluten-free ‘flour’ for her Healthy Bites and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.IMG_3285 (1024x681)

Inspired by Michelle, and her yes-I’m-still-thinking-about-them  Chewy Chocolate Meringue Cookies for this year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I created this recipe using a bunch of (dried) bananas  and a WHOLE lot of dark chocolate.IMG_3308 (1024x683)

It’s a bit of a misnomer to even put banana in the title, because they don’t taste at all like bananas.IMG_3317 (1024x683)

(Whether or not this is due to the large amount of melty chocolate or not is still up for debate.)IMG_3140 (1024x683)

However, the texture of the crushed bananas helps make for a super chewy (gluten free) cookie creation.IMG_3343 (1024x683)

And they have yellow freckles.

Which is fun.

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Banana ‘Flour’ Dark Chocolate Cookies

[Makes 16 cookies]

  • 2 cups unsweetened banana chips
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 Tbsp. brewed coffee or water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Process banana chips in a food processor until a coarse meal forms.
  3. Combine banana meal, dark chocolate, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg whites, vanilla, and coffee (or water).
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients; stir well.
  6. Scoop dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 10-15 minutes.