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Happy Sunday, loves! I hope this finds you enjoying a wonderful weekend. After a quiet weekend at home with my sweet husband (same as Velvet Husband . . . I assure you, there’s only one!), I’m making a comeback thanks to sleep, lots of water and hot tea, vitamins, purple monster smoothies with vega powder, requisite hubby attention, leisure reading, dark chocolate, and Get Well Soon Oats. Oh, and these babies. 

This ah-mazing recipe for quinoa stuffed bell peppers comes to us courtesy of the lovely Mama Pea. Oh. my. yum. Be sure to check out Mama’s Pea’s blog, Peas and Thank You, if you’re in the mood for incredible vegan recipes that taste decidedly un-vegan. I seriously can’t say enough great things about her blog — she’s amazing!

I was excited to see that Mama Pea recommended topping the peppers with guacamole because Velvet Husband is fan numero uno of guacamole proper. I say guacamole proper because we here at the Red Velvet Household are rather picky particular about our guacamole. I’m happy to report that this combination passes the Texan test and tastes delicious on almost anything . . . of the savory variety of course. I wouldn’t pair it with peanut butter or bananas, but that’s up to y’all. 😉

Texpat Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • 1 organic Tomato, diced
  • hot sauce (I love Grandma Tutu’s Hot Sauce, but just use your favorite!)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • Juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

In a bowl, mash ingredients together with a fork. Garnish with extra cilantro. Insert chip. Eat and repeat. This makes a nice topping for pan-seared halibut and pan-seared salmon, too. As far as I’m concerned, the sky’s the limit when it comes to guacamole. Enjoy! Makes enough for 2-3 hungry Tex-Mex foodies.

Also, I have some big news to share about where Velvet Husband and I are moving next month! Stay tuned, sweet friends! I’d say family, too, but they already know. 😉

The only good part about coming down with a sore throat is that at least you know why you’ve been wading through pools of lethargy and malaise. Ohhhhh, I’m getting sick! Seriously, it’s comforting because I was beginning to wonder if dark chocolate was giving me headaches. Or peanut butter. The horror! No, the more logical explanation would be the coughing cabbie I had the other day. Please tell me he’s the culprit and not dark chocolate. Validation welcome. 

Speaking of chocolate, I didn’t want it for breakfast yesterday — no, no — the only thing that sounded decent was a bowl of whipped banana apple cinnamon oats. I’ve made this variation many times, but I thought I’d post the recipe in case you’re feeling under the weather or are otherwise craving an apple pie. For your sake, I hope it’s the latter! I like to think of this as my all-American “Get Well Soon” breakfast, if you will. I’ve been drinking hot tea and water, so let’s hope I can fend this off before it turns into something worse. Bring on the spinach smoothies! 

Speaking of sore throats, I had a nasty cold/sore throat combo when Velvet Husband proposed back in February 2008. But you know what? I wasn’t taken up with anything but how happy we were to be engaged! In the following pictures, I have literally no voice, but I have only the BEST memories from our weekend in the snow. LOVE.

 Even so, no one likes to be sick. Let’s hope this bowl of Americana does the trick. Heal me, oats! 

Whipped Banana Apple Cinnamon Oats

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats (I prefer the texture of Gluten Free oats)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 oz pure unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 banana, sliced in chunks
  • cinnamon to taste
  • pure vanilla extract to taste

Toppings

  • Blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter or 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts

Directions

Bring water to boil in a deep saucepan. When water reaches a rolling boil, add oats and stir, gradually lowering heat while oats cook. Add banana slices and apple sauce, stirring well. Continue whipping bananas as oat mixture cooks at a low setting. Several minutes later, add chia seeds. When oats are nearly cooked, add cinnamon and vanilla, and stir until well-incorporated. Serve in bowl and add toppings of your choice. Makes 1 serving.

Dinner

After enjoying a refreshing spinach-berry-whey protein smoothie for lunch, I made baked sweet potatoes with a salad of kale, spinach, cucumber, avocado, mango, dijon, lime juice, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for a healing dinner. You know what they say — a head of kale a day keeps the doctor away! That’s how it goes, right? 😉

Even though I’m feeling better, Velvet Husband and I canceled our travel plans this weekend so that I can recuperate. I read a lovely quote yesterday: “You can only give away what you have.” This reminds me to care for myself so that I can be the best version of myself and in turn, have more to give my loved ones. I hope you all have blessed and healthy weekends!

What do you do to heal yourself when you start to get sick with a sore throat and/or cold? Any favorite recipes? I’m looking for more get well soon recipes! 

You might recall that I went through a breakfast pizza phase last week, but this week I’m back to my old favorite. Let’s talk about this hopeless devoation of ours mine. Though I would argue things look rather hopeful, don’t you think?

Sometimes when I try to explain to friends and family that peanut butter, dark chocolate, and oats create a delicious and nutritious breakfast, they look at me like I’m speaking in binary code. As if I’m having a blonde moment. Opposite ends of the spectrum, you say? I beg to differ, but that’s neither here nor there. However, if we’re subscribing to “conventional wisdom” (pah!) concerning aforementioned so-called blonde moment (again, pah!), this just goes to show how varied are the reactions I get. It’s like people think I’m eating dessert for breakfast or something.

*Cough!* Okay, so maybe I am. But you know what? I’m cool with that. Consider this my z-snap in a bowl. It’s my [chocolatey] way of getting back at fad diets and others who send the message that people — especially women — should diet, restrict, and deprive in pursuit of some elusive betterment. For those keeping score, it’s Kristen: 10 and Fad diets: -10. 😉

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

Julia Child

He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”

Michael Pollan

Whipped Banana Dark Chocolate Oats

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned Oats (I prefer Gluten Free for the consistency)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 banana, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tsp Pure Dutch Cacao Powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Dark Chocolate square (I alternate between TCHO dark chocolate squares, Ghiradelli, and Lindt 85% Cacao, but you can use anything with high cacao content.)

Toppings

  • 1 Dark Chocolate square
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter or 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp coconut flakes
  • Organic blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries (or all of the above if you prefer “Kitchen Sink” oatmeal. For the Russofiles in the house, this might remind you of the Kitchen Sink Dessert at the Starlite Diner in Moscow.)

Directions

Bring water to boil in a deep saucepan. When water reaches a rolling boil, add oats and stir, gradually lowering heat while oats cook. Add banana slices and stir in with oats. Continue whipping bananas as oats cook at a low setting. Several minutes later, add chia seeds. When oats are nearly cooked, add cacao powder and dark chocolate square; stir until well-incorporated. Serve in bowl and add toppings of your choice.

Note to milk-lovers: I prefer my oats sans milk, but feel free to add milk of your choice to your oats when they are nearly cooked, a la KERF whipped banana oats. My husband prefers his oats with milk (more like Kath’s), so I always prepare our batches in separate saucepans.

What is your favorite breakfast? Do you like to change it up, or do you eat the same breakfast everyday? 

Last night I met two girlfriends for dinner in San Francisco’s Financial District. We chose B44, a Spanish restaurant located at Belden Place, an alley lined with American, French, Italian, and Spanish restaurants. The concept of Belden is to recreate a European street atmosphere with a plethora of cuisine options. Please excuse the fuzzy phone picture — it was raining and freezing (typical San Francisco summer day!), so I snapped a quick one for you. If the bustling patios don’t give away the loveliness of summer in San Francisco, I don’t know what will. Please re-read if my sopping sarcasm du San Francisco was lost in translation.

No thanks to my cabbie whose mission it was to hydroplane our way through the hills, I arrived with time to spare. Upon early arrival, I snuggled up to the bar and ordered something special. It could be a long wait, no?

Oh, things got serious when the girls showed up. We shared tapas and laughed so much the bartender laughed at us. Oh yes. Very serious. Our tapas, however, were in fact, seriously delicious.

As cutesy as tapas are, however, I must say that they tend to leave me a wee bit unsatisfied. Perhaps this is just my repressed inner two-year old talking, but I want my own plate. Pretty please. Watch out, this sweet girl went to Columbia and Cambridge. Don’t mess. 

Once we I made peace with sharing, we were all smiles. This is my dear friend who suffered made it through the California bar exam with me, so we’ve seen each other through some not-so-fun times. Sweet girl, if you’re reading, I feel blessed to call you my friend! 

It was a fabulous dinner with the girls. Truth be told, however, I may have snacked on a few kale chips, chicken breast, and lavash upon returning home. 😉

How often do you do dinner with just the girls?

Happy Monday, sweet things! That’s what I call Velvet Husband — Sweet Thang. Makes him feel like we’re throwing back cold ones in Austin. Although, I should point out that I don’t like cold ones . . . er, beer. While we I divulge personal information, I’ll throw out a random tidbit: I have never had an entire beer. Call me crazy, but I just don’t like it. Margarita on the rocks with salt for me, por favor.

Velvet Husband, who does occasionally imbibe a cold one, returned to me on Friday — thank goodness! We enjoyed each other’s company on a lovely date night at Troya, a Turkish restaurant in the Inner Richmond. We adored our last Troya experience, but this time it didn’t live up to expectations. The warm olives and Mediterranean Haydri, Hummus, and Muhamara were delicious, but we had to return our cold pita bread for more freshly baked fare. In addition to painfully slow service and cold pita, Velvet Husband’s manti and my lamb shish kebab entrees were mediocre at best.

Ah, but there’s a silver lining. Troya inspired my 37-point use of Mezes in a heated Words With Friends matchup with Hubby. Nerd alert! Speaking of which, I have about six games on the backburner. Hence, the following message to all potential Words With Friends opponents: I WILL decline invitations without hesitation. Besos, Kristen.

Resolved to make a knock-your-socks off Sunday supper after our Turkish delight disappointment, to whom did I turn for dinnsperation? Angela from Oh She Glows, a favorite resource full of deliciously and de-healthy recipes. You’ll notice that my pasta has a more vibrant hue than Angela’s — I used two large tomatoes, six garlic cloves, and double the amount of tomato paste to create a wonderfully rich sauce. Instead of kamut, I used organic whole grain spaghetti. For our side dish, I made delicious kale chips a la KERF.

What a creamy dinner created with my dreamy co-chef! That’s right, his Royal Handsomeness helped me in the kitchen. Now, before you make any assumptions, we don’t believe in forced labor here at The Red Velvet household; forced grins notwithstanding. Check out these noodles I’m watching . . . closely. By the way, why don’t I get an apron? These fly threads deserve protection, too. 

Tomato Basil Cashew Cream Pasta 

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 2 servings uncooked spaghetti (I used organic whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp organic tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped (No such thing as too much garlic, in my opinion!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Handful of fresh Basil, chopped
Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

In a blender, add tomato, cashews, water, and tomato. Blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil on low heat. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes, careful not to burn it.

Pour sauce from the blender into the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring. Add the salt to sauce and cook for about 5 minutes, watching closely and stirring intermittently.

Remove sauce from heat and stir in basil and pepper. When the pasta is done cooking, rinse, drain, and return it to the large pot. Add sauce to pasta. Stir and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Kale Chips

from Kath Eats Real Food

Ingredients:

  • organic kale (I used lacinto or “dinosaur” kale, but apparently curly Scots kale works even better.)
  • kosher salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry kale either in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Note: Be sure kale is dry so that it doesn’t steam. De-stem and tear leaves off stem into bite-size pieces. Lay kale pieces on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle kale chips with desired amount of olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees until crisp. Click here for Kath’s kale chip tutorial.

Also, be sure to stop by Carrots ‘N’ Cake today to bid on delicious goodies for a great cause. My Russian Tea Cakes could be yours!

Do you play Words With Fiends Friends?

Winning!

Congratulations to Michelle @ A Little Bit of This & That, who will soon sport a brand new cupcake apron! Michelle, please send me your mailing address, and I’ll get your apron to you soon! Many thanks to all who participated in the first ever Red Velvet Life giveaway!

{Source}

Not winning!

Now for more sombre news. I must be having an identity crisis, y’all — I’ve lost my taste for oats. I KNOW. Let’s hope this is just a temporary impasse and not something more sinister. Come to think of it, though . . . when one’s brekkies have consisted of whipped banana chocolate peanut butter oatmeal, carrot cake oatmeal, apple cinnamon oatmeal, and strawberry shortcake oatmeal . . . one might be ready for a change. Maybe. Possibly.

Enter, flatbread. Dear La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious 100% Whole Wheat Flatbread (No really, that’s what it’s called): I love you. Dear college dorm room-era cutlery: I love you too, even though Velvet Husband wants to get rid of you. Don’t worry, I’ll be there for you! Cue Friends theme song.

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients

La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious 100% Whole Wheat Flatbread

1/2 banana, sliced

Crunchy Peanut Butter

Cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chips, or 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate (optional)

1/2 tsp Chia Seeds (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flatbread on parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Layer flatbread with peanut butter, banana slices, and chia seeds. Optional: Try adding a few pieces of 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate before baking–it’s ridiculous how delicious it tastes! Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cocoa nibs if you haven’t already doused it in chocolate before baking.

Oh, you thought I was finished. Indeed, the wonders of flatbread are not limited to breakfast pizzas and tired lunch wraps. You’d think La Tortilla Factory is paying our rent, but I assure you this is not the case. I just don’t want to make pizza dough. Methinks I will have officially reached adulthood when I’m kneading pizza dough with Phantom of the Opera music playing softly in the background. Till that day comes, let’s crank up the Ke$ha, shall we?

Easy Flatbread Veggie Pizza

Ingredients

La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious 100% Whole Wheat Flatbread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 tomato, sliced

Fresh Spinach

8 Pitted Kalmata Olives, chopped

1/3 green pepper, diced

Salt & Pepper (optional)

Fresh parmesan cheese (or Vegan Cheese of your choice)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flatbread on parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on flat bread. Layer flat bread with spinach, tomato, olives, green pepper, salt and pepper to taste, and cheese. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and enjoy the easiest pizza you never made.

These single girl recipes have come in handy while Velvet Husband has been away. Goodness, I even brought out the ol’ dorm room utensils! He better come home soon or our bedroom will be pretty ‘n’ pink. 😉

Bake Sale

Last, I’m donating a batch of Russian Tea Cakes to Tina’s charity bake sale benefiting Team for Kids on May 16. Stay tuned and get ready to bid on some delicious donated goodies for a good cause. Happy Friday to all!

What is your favorite ten minute meal? Blog links welcome, loves!

The Jakarta Post? The Moscow Times? Really? Really? My apologies for the mounds of cheese you might detect at The Red Velvet Life lately. You see, Velvet Husband has been away, so I have no one to advise against these poor judgment calls that make me–only me–giggle. Instead, I post with reckless abandon. Indeed, reckless disregard of a known risk of perceived lameness. Oh, well. My blog! My cheese!  

Moving along. Feeling hungry generous, I set out to make sweet treats for my classmates on this last Russian class of the semester last night. Hmm, what to make? Of course it had to be healthy . . .

And it had to be authentic and unique to Russia. Duh.


Okay, comrades, err . . . friends. You’re onto me. I didn’t pick a dessert uniquely endemic to the Urals. No. Even so, this Russian Tea Cake/Mexican Wedding Cake/Italian Butternut/Southern Pecan Ball/Viennese Sugar Ball/Snowball/Snowdrop was a smashingly sugary success. Something about the pressure of public speaking in class made my classmates go for the gold. And when I say gold, I mean butter, because by the end of our presentations, dialogues, and self-aggrandizing spiels, my snowballs melted into many an anxious belly. Poof! Gone. 

If you’re in the market for a crowd-pleaser, I recommend this recipe for Russian Tea Cakes/Mexican Wedding Cakes/blah blah blah cakes. The following simple recipe, certainly not my own, is slightly modified from here.

Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup soft unsalted butter (slightly softer than room temperature, but not melted)

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 Tbsp powdered confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp powdered confectioner’s sugar for decoration

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine 6 Tbsp powdered sugar, flour, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and combine well until blended. You might need to use a whisk and spoon to adequately incorporate all ingredients. Add walnuts. Form dough into one-inch balls and arrange on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Note: Dough will be flaky; do not roll into balls or you’ll end up with crumbles. Rather, think of forming/packing the dough into balls. I used an ice cream scoop to help me pack and shape. Once arranged on cookie sheet, bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Once cool, roll balls in powdered sugar to create glorious snowballs. Note: I rolled them once when warm and once when cool to achieve extra snowy effect.

Behold, the long-awaited San Francisco snowin May, no less!

Masha, my friend from class and accomplished photographer, brought these pretty пирожки (Pirozhki; pronounced Pirosh-KEE) from San Francisco’s own Moscow Bakery & Tibilisi Store. Pirozhki are petite pies that contain a variety of sweet and savory fillings all the way from apple, cherry, and lemon to meat, potato, and mushroom. I enjoyed a delicious potato-filled Pirozhok for dinner. Naturally, the lovely taste of potato pirozhok filled me with nostalgia for Москва. Fortunately for my classmates, said nostalgia was confined to mmms and yumms — in Russian, of course. Russian cuisine may not be the healthiest, but it’s arguably the heartiest.

This wasn’t supposed to be United Nations Week at The Red Velvet Life (few months early for that), but it’s been fun. If you’re wondering, I haven’t been posting my meals so as not to bore you with the smoothie/oatmeal/snack/random dinner/smoothie/oatmeal/snack/random dinner cycle. I’m just posting as I see fit, but I’d love to know what you think.

If you haven’t already, be sure to enter the cupcake apron giveaway, my inaugural giveaway that ends today at 6pm PST. Last chance to be the cutest baker on the block! As always, thank you so much for reading, beauties!

Have you ever made a variation of these snowballs before? What did you call them?

For any Russians out there, what’s your favorite Russian food?