These amazing super soft egg-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are the perfect sweet treat and fun dessert for packed lunches and boring office meetings!
How’s that for an “SEO” friendly title? I’ll be honest, creating titles for my recipes is always the part I loathe the most. And that stems way back to my days as a news journalist. I didn’t mind writing the articles, but writing the titles was always the hardest part. Unlike blogging, though, the titles could only be a few words and those few words had to sum up the entire story. Those few words had to be exciting, provocative and controversial enough to make the reader want to read the story you wrote. In true Claire fashion, my titles were either way too long (what can I say, I’m rather verbose), too snarky or completely inappropriate to the story at hand. In fact, towards the end of my college journalist career, I’d actually write crappy headlines just so my editor would have to change them.
Maybe it’s due to a recent “what the f*&( am I doing with my life” realization or the fact that I long for days free of bills, stresses and marriage woes, but I’ve been thinking back to my college days a lot lately, especially the nights I’d spend in the newsroom. My college career wasn’t exactly what you’d call easy. I lost myself for a while and had to move 2000 miles away from where I was in order to begin to find who I was. My first year in my new school (in Georgia) was tough. I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what I wanted to study. But I did know one thing, I wanted to write. And because the school newspapers were stacked outside of every classroom, I knew where I could (potentially) do that.
It wasn’t until my second semester in college that I joined the newspaper team. I was just hired as a lowly news assistant (by my now husband, how’s that for young love), but the moment I stepped into that newsroom things started to make sense to me. I changed my major to communications and journalism, started actually studying and writing, and within a year my GPA had improved tremendously, I was in the first real serious relationship of my life and was happy, for the first time without the need of any enhancers for years.
It makes sense that I’ve been thinking back on those days, especially because I’ve been feeling anything but happy lately. And maybe I need to spend sometime trying to find the girl I was back then, trying to reignite some of that passion, motivation, love I had before. Sometimes the answers lie in the present or the future, but in this case, I think they lie in the past, and I’m determined to figure them out. Life, after all, is way too short to be spent wishing and waiting to be happy.
Super Soft Egg-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields about 1 1/2 dozen cookies. Adapted from Jen’s Favorite Cookies.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 24 – 36 hours
Bake time: 14 – 16 minutes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 8 ounces (1 cup) pureed low-fat cottage cheese (I used Friendship Dairies)
- 3/4 cup tablespoons brown sugar
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 cups Nestle peanut butter and chocolate chip mixed morsels
- In a large bowl fitted with a mixing attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, cottage cheese, brown sugar and white sugar until creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- In another bowl, whisk the baking soda, all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix to combine.
- Remove the bowl from the mixing attachment and fold in the peanut butter and chocolate chip morsels. Cover the mixture tightly with saran wrap or foil and chill for at least 24 hours (I chilled mine for about 28 hours).
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop golf ball size spoons of dough onto the parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.
- Bake for about 13 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let chill slightly on the parchment paper and then place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Nutritional information per serving (about 1 cookie):
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 41 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 4.6 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7
This super easy crock pot peaches n’ cream oatmeal is the perfect summertime breakfast because it basically cooks itself!
I haven’t had a real vacation, one where I wasn’t working 12 hour days, in over 2 years. The last actual vacation I took was to St. Martin with my handsome husband. I love my job as a travel writer, and it’s allowed me to see places of the world I only dreamt about. But for those who have ever traveled with me on a work trip, you know it’s not a vacation. Sure I get to eat amazing foods, meet incredible people and see the most beautiful places, but I’m so exhausted by the end of the day, I often fall asleep with my clothes on. It’s a dream, but it’s exhausting.
Which is why I’m thrilled at the prospect of planning our next big vacation. Due to unforeseen budget issues (and some less than desirable turmoil in Eastern Europe), we aren’t able to take the huge trip we were planning this year (to Bulgaria, Russia and Romania). So, we’re already discussing our next big trip for 2015. There were quite a few very big contenders, but we’ve nailed down our destination.
Can you guess where we’re going?
I’ll give you a few hints. It’s the land of Pokemon, sushi, sake, Tapei and Tokyo. If you can’t guess it from there, well, you need to read a book. That’s right friends, we’re going to Japan and Taiwan! My in-laws (E’s brother and his wife) just recently moved to Japan to teach at an international school for two years. So, during their summer break, we’re going to fly over and spend two amazing weeks in Southern and Central Japan, and then hope on over to Taiwan for a few days too. We’re planning to be away for a full 14 days (about 9 in Japan and 5 in Taiwan) and I’m already thrilled at the prospect of completely disconnecting.
Granted, I can never completely disconnect since I’m addicted to instagram, but I definitely won’t be as glued to my computer and phone as I am now. We’ll have two weeks to explore and immerse ourselves without the pressures of work or trying to keep up with social media numbers. As much as I need this, E needs it even more and I know he’s absolutely thrilled at the prospect of a few weeks off the grid. Whether or not he’ll be able to put down work for that long is up for grabs, but regardless we’ll have an amazing time. I’m already counting down the minutes.
Crock Pot Peaches n’ Cream Oatmeal
Serves about 6.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: About 6 hours
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- About 2 cups sliced peaches
- 3 cups low-fat milk
- 1 cup light cream
- About 2 -4 tablespoons honey*
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*Depending on your sweetness preference
- Spray the basin of a crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the steel cut oats into the basin of the crock pot. Pour the milk, cream and honey (I used about 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons) over the oats. Mix in the honey and cinnamon.
- Stir in the sliced peaches. Cover the basin with lid and cook on low for about 3 – 4 hours, stirring every hour or so to ensure the oats don’t burn.
- Serve the oats with more peach slices and extra liquid for taste.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 39 grams
Fiber: 3.4 grams
Protein: 8.3 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7
This creamy, cheesy and absolutely delicious bacon & quinoa mac n cheese is the perfect recipe for when you’re craving pasta but don’t want all of the carbs!
I don’t think there’s enough coffee in the world to get me through my daunting to do list today. I’ve got about 20 more Kenya photos to edit, an African travel story to finish, 4 recipes to make, a workout to squeeze in, a book proposal to begin and about 10,000 dishes to do. Granted these are things I could have done all week, but I’m nothing if not the world’s best procrastinator. In my defense though, I’ve had the worst case of writer’s block. I can’t tell you how many times this week I just stared at a blank computer screen with a blinking cursor, struggling to find anything to say.
Most of my writers block has passed like a thief in the night, but it’s not all gone. In fact, I’ve had trouble finding words to say since early this year. Writing is still my passion, still what I love, but I’ve stopped writing for me. I’ve been so focused on writing for work, writing for traffic or “viral” shares, and not for me. I can’t tell you the last time I sat down just to write what was in my heart. And I miss it so incredibly much.
I miss sitting down at my computer and pouring everything I had into dark poems, short stories and meaningful sentences. I had so much passion as a writer when I was younger, and I can’t seem to find it again.
There are things that help, like traveling, quiet weekends and peaceful moments where I don’t have any noise in my head. But those are only temporary cures. In a few days I’m back to staring at a blank screen again, trying to find the words that used to come so easily to me. And that’s embarrassing to admit, a writer who can’t, well, write. But it’s a part of life, sometimes you need to ask for help or find your own inspiration. I’m hoping to do both because the words aren’t gone, they are just having trouble coming to the surface.
Bacon Quinoa “Mac” n’ Cheese
Serves about 6. Inspired by Bakeaholic Mama.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 15 – 20 minutes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup 2% milk
- 3/4 cup light cream
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 5 slices of low-sodium bacon, chopped
- 2/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a skillet over medium heat, add the butter and melt. Whisk in the flour until a paste forms, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and chili powder. Whisk in the flour and cream. Increase heat to medium high and stir until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.
- Mix in the cooked quinoa until it’s fully coated in cheese sauce. Stir in chopped bacon. Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese together. Sprinkle over the top of the quinoa. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
Nutritional information per serving:
Weight Watchers Points:
This flavor & protein packed banana smoothie (with homemade peanut butter) is a simple, easy and deliciously healthy way to start even your busiest of mornings!
I’ve never been happy with my weight, even when I was at my all-time smallest (a long 25 pounds ago). Even though I had a near perfect body with chisled abs and a very strong and sleek profile, I wished I was smaller. I had this goal weight in my head, and no matter what I looked like or what I was told by other people, I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I reached that number.
It’s almost shocking when I look back on that Claire and remember how much self-hate I had for myself. As I stare at those photos of a body I worked my ass off for, I can’t believe how little I respected it. I’d give anything now to be as “fat” as I thought I was back then.
But the grass is always greener on the other side, right? As much as I like to think I’ve changed my mindset completely, I know the moment I start to shed these pounds, that voice will come back. The one that says “5 is nothing, try for 10.” The one that even when I reach my happy weight, it’ll repeat “oh, come on! You’re just 10 more pounds away from your goal, get moving!” The one that I think will never actually be satisfied with what I look like, even when I do hit that magical number. I wouldn’t be lying if that’s one of the reasons I’m truly hesitant to lose weight.
I don’t want that voice to take over. I actually want to be happy with what I look like, even now. Sure, I’m not at a weight I’m really happy with, but this is my body for now, and I have to find a way to love it. Instead of using my appearance and the number on the scale as a driving force to better myself, I need to use health and physical stamina instead. This is so much harder to do then say, but I’m going to give it my best college try anyway.
We learn our best lessons when we try for the “impossible,” wouldn’t you say?
Banana Smoothie (with Homemade Peanut Butter)
Serves about 2. Slightly adapted from Delightfully Made.
Prep time: >5 minutes
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 1/2 cup low fat milk
- 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
- 4 tablespoons homemade peanut butter (see recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or organic honey
- Dash of cinnamon
- Place all of the ingredients (except for the cinnamon) in a blender. Blend for about 30 seconds, or until completely smooth. Pour into two glasses or jars and serve immediately. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh cinnamon.
Nutritional information per smoothie:
Fat: 17 grams
Carbohydrates: 55 grams
Fiber: 9.5 grams
Protein: 28 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 11
Homemade honey roasted peanut butter
This amazing homemade honey roasted peanut butter is a breeze to make, all you need are three ingredients and a food processor! After one bite, you’ll never buy store bought again, I promise!
Yields about 1 cup.
Prep time: >2 minutes
Blend time: 10 – 15 minutes
- 2 cups roasted, lightly salted peanuts
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 – 2 teaspoons peanut oil*
- Add the peanuts to a large food processor. Pulse for about 2 minutes or until they start to shine. Use a rubber spatula to push down the sides. Pulse another 4 minutes and then add in the honey. Pulse another 5 – 7 minutes, or until mixture is very smooth. Add in peanut oil to reach desired consistency (I used 1/2 teaspoon).
Nutritional information per serving (2 tablespoons):
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 9 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 3.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5
This spicy harissa chicken tagine is the answer to your boring “what’s for dinner!” question. Plus it spices up any ol’ Monday, don’t you think?
E and I are, officially, saving up to buy a house. This not only makes me feel very adult, but it’s also the most exciting prospect in all of the land. As much as I love the townhome to which we currently reside, we’ve already completely outgrown this two-bedroom, one-bath unit. As much as I try to hide how much stuff we have, our closets are, quite literally, busting at the seams and we have things toppling over on us constantly. That and one bathroom? No thank you. I could fill just one bathroom alone with all of the hair products I use and fancy hand towels I have.
I do like the kitchen, but it’s more than half the size of the one I used to cook in. And if you’ve ever been to my house, you know I have 15,000 different props, 4 blenders, 2 kitchen aid mixers, 3 food processors, 4 coffee makers…such things don’t fit into the confines of a 250 square foot kitchen. That and there are only wall units for AC (hello, 1939) and really old-school heaters, so the house never actually cools down or warms up, which is tricky in both August and January.
With all of the things that I don’t love about it, I’ll truly miss this little nugget we’ve started to call home. For one, it’ll always be the place that rescued us from the hellish “fire” apartment. We came here at a time in our life when we were broken, sad, scared and traumatized. This place made us feel safe and comfortable again. Places really do have the ability to help you forget what you’ve been through, and this little townhome did that and more for us. For the first time since we moved from our first little rental house, we finally felt like we had a place we could settle for a bit.
The location is also incredible. We live right across the bridge from a bustling little annex of Arlington that has rows of shops, restaurants and bars. Plus, I can walk to the grocery store, which does wonders for my waist and wallet. We also live near two of the main highways, so getting anywhere is easy. Well, as easy as it can be in Northern Virginia. That and there are tons of young couples, dogs and families near us, which make it seem like a great place for mid-late twenty somethings.
Honestly though, I’m so incredibly excited for this next big step. I’ve been on the go for the past 2 years, and it’ll be amazing to have a place that we can stay in for more than 1 year. A little piece of real estate that we can make ours completely. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the three top contenders I’ve found all have open kitchens, 3+ bedrooms and a swimming pool.
Spicy Chicken Tagine Thighs
Serves about 4. Adapted from Spiceame Cooks.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 90 minutes
- 3 pounds chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 3/4 – 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons spicy red harissa
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Morrocan seasoning
- 2/3 cup olives, pitted*
- About 2 cups cooked quinoa
- Chopped herbs for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until onions start to sweat and garlic is fragrant. Add in the chicken and mushrooms. Cook another 3 – 4 minutes, or until the skin starts to brown on each side of the chicken. Mix in the harrisa and liberally coat the vegetables with the spicy paste.
- Reduce heat to medium and add in chicken broth, water, Moroccan seasoning, salt and cracked pepper. Toss in olives and stir to coat.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is fully cooked inside (165 degrees F in the center).
- Serve over cooked quinoa with chopped herbs.
Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup quinoa + 1 chicken thigh):
Fat: 11.75 grams
Carbohydrates: 22.5 grams
Fiber: 6.8 grams
Protein: 19.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6