Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

We recently spent two weeks in Ireland.

Ruins at InisoirrIreland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.

Ring of KerryWe loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.

The Best PhotoTraveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.

Rhubarb Vanilla JamAnother great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!

So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.

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Rainbow Cauliflower Bowl

Rainbow Cauliflower Bowl

I’ve become kind of obsessed with cauliflower.

Lately, I’ve been eating it almost every day, with beet hummus, for breakfast scrambled with eggs, instead of rice with Indian food.

And then Sarah and I decided to combine our powers for good and make a colorful, healthy lunch totally based on cauliflower.

I am NOT on the low-carb bandwagon. Wheat would have to go extinct for me to give it up for the rest of my life. Despite these truths, I really love replacing grains with cauliflower.

Here’s the thing. I am the type of person who wants to spend time eating. It’s hard for me to feel “done” eating if my plate is clean in five minutes or less, even if I’ve actually had enough calories to fill me up. This is why vegetables, and cauliflower specifically, are amazing. More volume for less calories, longer meals with less overeating just because I still have the munchies.

This rainbow bowl is delicious and surprising. There are a lot of components, but all together they make an incredibly satisfying meal!

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Beet Hummus

Beet Hummus

Last week, I made these amazing beet burgers. Beets are lovely, aren’t they? I think beets are the most beautiful color in the whole world. But…I have to admit that I really hate to eat them plain. I’ve tried them in salads with goat cheese and soaked in butter and horseradish sauce. But my favorite beets are definitely those diced small and mixed well with other flavors.

As I was contemplating what to do with the lonely, leftover beet in my crisper, I suddenly remembered a batch of beet hummus Dave’s aunt had made at Christmas, and I immediately got excited.

This hummus is a little earthy and a little tangy, and full of gorgeous pink. Eat it with a huge handful of bright, raw vegetables and you will feel like you are on cloud nine.

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Red-Handed Beet Burgers

Red-Handed Beet Burger

Admit it. You love veggie burgers. You can’t escape the truth.

Veggie burgers are one of the best things about being vegetarian, in my opinion. (Why eat something boring when you can eat something creative?) And these beet burgers with quinoa and black beans are no exception! They are delightful and hearty and a little smoky.

They are also a brilliant backdrop for all sorts of toppings, so pick your pleasure and take a big bite.

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Almond Butter Cookie Cups

Almond Butter Cookie Cups

I have a new favorite dessert.

Them be fighting words, people. Favorite is a strong statement.

It’s almond butter cups. You know, like peanut butter cups, but with almonds. And, surprise! Oats! And coconut oil! And maple syrup! Instead of a dry, crumbly nut center, these cups have an almost cookie-like base with homemade chocolate on top.

And the kicker is that they are actually good for you, as far as desserts go! You see, they are full of healthy ingredients like raw cacao powder and raw nuts and unsaturated fats.

I swear no one will never eat one of these and think, “This dessert must be healthy.” Every time I set them out for a group of friends, they disappear practically in the blink of an eye. You should make these. You should make them right away!

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Cheesy Spinach and Green Chile Enchiladas

Cheesy Spinach and Green Chile Enchiladas

Remember how I hatched a plot to eat greens at every meal?

Yeah…desserts kind of got in the way of that healthy plan. But you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I am still trying to focus on the greenery as much as possible!

So this month for the Secret Recipe Club challenge, I decided to take a recipe for green chile enchiladas—which sounded heavenly—and green them up!

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Raw Fudge Brownies

Raw Fudge Brownies

If you know me, you may know that I occasionally go on a one-woman crusade against refined sugar.

(Whaaaat!? Give up refined sugar? But…what about dessert? For heaven’s sake, your blog is named after brownies, girl! No one can live without sugar. Forget diamonds, chocolate is a girl’s best friend.)

This first started as I became aware of how much sugar is in everyday foods, such as mayonnaise and bread and salad dressing and granola. At that time I had a young baby, and I was bound and determined that he would not eat any refined sugar, ever (hah). I started researching the effects of sugar on the body, and it led to making a New Year’s resolution to avoid all refined sugar for 31 days.

I never intended to give up sugar long-term, but here are a few things that happened during that month:

  1. at first, I was reallly, reallly hungry, and quite a bit cranky, but then my hunger levels started to regulate;
  2. I became more adventurous in what I ate;
  3. I stopped binge-snacking during my kid’s nap time because I was thinking more about what would be good for me to eat, and I was avoiding most of my lazy snack foods;
  4. people started telling me how thin I looked. I didn’t really lose weight during this time, but eating no refined sugar and less highly refined carbs in general actually made my body shape change! I did not exercise one single time, so this was definitely a result of my sugar fast;
  5. I felt really proud of myself;
  6. I still totally ate dessert! Because, let’s face it, no big change in your diet will be sustainable unless you find ways to include the things you really love. For me, that is dessert!
  7. everything tasted sweet even without refined sugar. When I finally started eating sugar again, I ate much smaller amounts (initially anyway) because it was overwhelmingly sweet and honestly made me feel a little sick for a few weeks.

I write a food blog and I love to bake, so I did go back to eating sugar. But I enjoyed my sugar fast more than I expected! So much that I repeat it a few times a year, especially if I have been going overboard with sugary foods or if I am feeling out of balance or mentally/physically/emotionally unhealthy.

Since my first refined sugar fast, clean eating has become quite trendy. Basically, eating “clean” involves aiming for whole, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding highly refined foods.

These raw brownies totally fit that bill, and they are completely delicious. Not only are they sweetened entirely by the naturally occurring fruit sugars in Medjool dates, but they are full of healthy things, like raw nuts and raw cacao! They are chewy and dense and chocolatey and rich, so rich. (Plus, they are other good things, like vegan and gluten-free!)

Raw brownies will satisfy any dessert craving, and you can feel good about eating them!

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Snickerdoodle Layer Cake

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I have noticed a change in myself recently.

The longer I do this blogging thing, the more I bake and cook and try new things, the less I am daunted by recipes that have many steps or seem like they may take a while. I am no longer irritated by sifting. I expect to leave a mountain of dirty dishes in my wake…it doesn’t even seem like a deterrent anymore.

Surprisingly, recipes that I once thought of as time-consuming actually go faster! (I think I finally gained some knife skills, y’all.)

I have become more of a perfectionist, more critical of the foods I produce…because I can actually think of a dozen ways to balance the flavors or improve the texture! (Consequently, I no longer even bother to photograph every new dish I make, because I know I will want to tweak it before I share it.)

Last week, someone sent me a recipe that was literally just a list of ingredients. And I made a pretty amazing cake out of it without batting an eye or consulting any cookbooks.

I feel almost like a different person…I have started to trust myself in the kitchen. I have started to listen to my instincts more and have fewer facepalm moments.

I realized all of this due in large part to this cake. (Thank you, cake, and thank you, mom’s birthday!)

This cake is nothing short of delicious. It’s tender and airy, richly cinnamon and sweet. It tastes like a crisp snickerdoodle cookie. Oh, and it’s made entirely without wheat or dairy. Woot!

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