These banana & chocolate chip waffles are the perfect breakfast for those mornings you want something a little more indulgent than boring oatmeal.
Friends, the writing well is a little dry today, I’m sad to say. I wish I had an “after school special” worthy lesson to bestow upon you or some thrilling and exciting trip filled with life-changing details to regale. But alas, I don’t. I woke up and thought it was Friday, realized it was Thursday and then proceeded to have an adult temper tantrum.
That’s the extent of excitement in my life right now.
I don’t want to say I’m in a rut, because someone who travels as much as I do really can’t, but I’m in something very similar. Since taking the past month and a half off for mental health, marriage rebuilding and family time, I’ve found myself stuck to a rather hum-drum, boring routine. We wake up, El goes to work, I sit and write things on my computer, then cook things, then photograph said cook things, apply to jobs, take dog out and then wait for El to get home. Sometimes I throw in a workout and a trip to the store, but that’s about it. The weekends are of course exciting though, filled with winery visits, cookouts with friends, fairs, dinners and the like, but the boring weekday regime is starting to get to me.
But this is often what happens before a big trip. I get really restless and pick apart the normal day to day tasks that I miss more than you know when I’m halfway around the world. I complain to my husband that we’re boring and need excitement, only to crave those quiet moments with him on a Tuesday night when I’m alone in a hotel room. As normal as it is, I know we do need to add some spice, some flavor to our weekdays. I’m not always going to have a trip coming down the line, and I’d love if our weekday life (not including sexlife, which is currently off the charts amazing) was just as exciting as a trip somewhere.
I know that’s damn near impossible. But a girl can try, right? In the meantime I’ll just add variety my own way by making fun breakfast treats, like these banana & chocolate chip waffles, and then eating them with my eyes closed, pretending I’m in somewhere thrilling, like Paris.
Banana & Nutella Waffles
Serves about 8.
Prep time: >5 minutes
Cook time: 5 – 6 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 cup low-fat milk (I used 2%)
- 2 tablespoons light cream
- 1 medium banana, smashed
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- whipped cream for garnish
- 2 – 4 tablespoons nutella*
- Spray a waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray and preheat. (If your waffle maker has a setting, set to 3 – 4).
- Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together. Make a well in the center and mix in the honey, milk, cream, smashed banana, applesauce, oil and eggs, stir to combine.
- Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
- Pour 1/2 cup of the batter into the center of the waffle iron. Close lid and cook until green indicator lights up (or for about 3 – 4 minutes, or when waffle is golden brown). Carefully remove from waffle iron and set aside. Repeat with remaining batter until you have about 8 waffles.
- Top waffles with whipped cream and 1 tablespoon or so of nutella.
Nutritional information per serving (1 waffle):
Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 6.8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7
Looking for a refreshing and delicious summer cocktail? Try this ALO inspired muddled raspberry and orange spritzer!
Maybe it’s a recently revelation, but I’m completely obsessed with cocktails lately. I think it’s the closet hipster in me trying to break out, but I can’t stop shaking up vintage cosmos or old fashions or buying copper mugs for Moscow Mules. I am excited and in love with bitters and have more tarnished mint julep cups than I care to admit. When it comes time to arrange my concoctions, I plate them on a rustic tray or a scratched up piece of silver adorned with pieces of parsley or swirly straws.
The only thing missing from my hipster at home bar is a twirly mustache, a plaid shirt, overalls, lots of tattoos, a lumberjack looking sidekick with a long, twisty beard and a record player. I’ve even toyed with the idea of naming my cocktails something like “The Hemingway Shaker” or the “Twist and Shout.”
I know, I’ve become someone Anthony Bourdain would publicly shame on Twitter.
I can’t help it though, the act of creating the perfect libation brings out this crazily creative hipster that just can’t be hidden anymore. And as much as hipsters annoy me, with their poetry slams, crazy beards and rejection of conformity, they also do some pretty rad things for our food and cocktail culture. How many amazing restaurants and bars exist now thanks to the “local food, speakeasy” movement brought on by our anti-mainstream youth?
If I was to own a hipster bar or pub, this muddled raspberry and orange spritzer made with ALO would definitely be on the list. For those who don’t know, ALO drinks are a new product that combine real aloe vera (from 100% organic pulp) and natural fruit sweeteners. There are 14 flavors in total, from ALO original to mango and cucumber to coco exposed. Each bottle is also not only low-calorie and naturally gluten-free, it’s good for your body too! Learn more here on the ALO Website or on ALO Facebook!
A drink that gives back to your body and the environment? My inner hipster totally approves. For a chance to win your own batch of ALO to release your inner hipster, enter the giveaway prompts below!
Muddled raspberry and orange spritzer
Serves about 2.
Prep time: >10 minutes
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- 1 bottle ALO Mango & Mangosteen drink
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 ounces vodka
- 2 tablespoons fresh cava orange juice
- Fresh parsley
- Muddle the raspberries in a jar and set aside.
- Fill two glasses halfway with ice. Pour 1.5 ounces of vodka into each glass and top evenly with ALO Mango drink. Pour ½ tablespoon of honey into each glass and stir to combine. Mix in one tablespoon of cava orange juice to each glass.
- Separate the raspberries into each glass and top with orange slices and parsley.
Nutritional information per cocktail:
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 54 grams
Fiber: >1 gram
Protein: 0.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5
Sometimes nothing beats a classic, and a bowl of this classic chocolate ice cream (with peanut butter cookie sprinkles) is the perfect dessert to enjoy while you soak up the last of these summer nights!
It’s been a busy, but incredibly rewarding, exciting and life-changing summer. Although our vacation was post-poned until next year and we STILL haven’t made it to a beach yet, I have to say, it’s been a really fun few months anyway. Now, with just two weeks left, I’m trying to plan little moments that will allow us to soak up the last bits of summer before life gets a little crazy.
As you know, I’ve been interviewing for full-time jobs, so it’s only a matter of time before I have to put my big girl pants back on (in the form of tailored fit, skinny work pants), pack a lunch and schlep myself to an office. That and I have 5 more trips to round out this year, two of which are on the complete other side of the world (hello Fiji, New Zealand and Australia!) I’m thrilled to be traveling again, but it’s hard to jump back into the swing of that once you’ve taken a month and a half off.
With those long trips and a new job prospect, I’m trying my best to enjoy what we have left of this beautiful summer. That means lazy afternoons by the pool, dinners outside, day trips to the fair, wineries and beach and one last hurrah over Labor Day at my family’s lakehouse. Plus as much of this classic chocolate ice cream I can physically stomach.
Thank god for one-piece bathing suits, that’s all I’m saying.
Classic Chocolate Ice Cream
Serves about 8.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup 2% milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light cream
- 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- + Peanut butter cookies for garnish
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder, sugars, milk, heavy cream, light cream and vanilla extract together until sugar dissolves completely. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least an hour.
- Once chilled, pour into a frozen bowl (fitted for your ice-cream maker) and attach. Turn on your ice cream maker and let churn for at least 20 minutes, or until the consistency of custard. Freeze for about 10 minutes for firmer ice cream.
- Serve in waffle cones with cookie pieces or enjoy on it’s own!
Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup):
Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 18.25 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 2.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4
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