I just finished packing for a road trip to LA–the second one I will be taking in as many weeks.  I take long trips for work or pleasure pretty often and have learned to plan ahead by packing myself lots of healthy food and snacks for the trip. If possible I like to cook or bake a few things to take with me, but even if you don’t have the time, that doesn’t mean you have to rely on fast food!

Airports, truckstops, and gas stations are full of expensive food that is often ultra-processed, and full of sugar, trans fats, salt, and preservatives. Plan ahead by packing a bunch of healthy snacks that are easy to transport and eat on-the-go. This can not only save you money, but you will also arrive feeling so much better than if you either don’t eat enough or eat junk food the whole day!

When I take my next trip to NYC in the winter I will write a post about what I bring for the plane. For now, here is a list of what I will be bringing in the car with me for the trek to socal in the morning:

  • several bottles of flavored sparkling water stay hydrated by drinking something other than coffee once in a while, and avoid the temptation to drink soda by sipping a variety of flavored seltzer water
  • lots of fruit! oranges and apples travel especially well and you can keep them in the car for several days without worrying about them going bad. The fiber and high-water content of these fruits keep you full and hydrated, and they satisfy your sweet tooth, helping to avoid the candy available at every rest stop and gas station
  • homemade baked goodies for this trip I am bringing Michelle’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and mini-loafs of her apple cinnamon bread
  • a quart or large jar or bottle of organic, 1% milk in a cooler or cooler bag. I’ve learned the hard way that gas stations often only carry powdered “whitener” (whatever that is) to add to coffee, so I bring my own milk. I really don’t mind drinking crappy gas-station coffee as long as it is not full of awful chemicals
  • tea bags–assorted black, herbal, and green tea. You can get hot water almost anywhere on the road
  • crackers and cheese or hummus-my favorite are Ak Mak whole wheat crackers with pre-sliced part-skim mozzarella.

Happy Travels!

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This flatbread is really a vegan pizza. I love making homemade pizza–it is such a satisfying way to use leftover fresh or cooked vegetables I have in the fridge. Sometimes all the cheese is too heavy for me though, and I would rather pile up the crust with vegetables, herbs and sauce. (Side note: despite many tries, I really do not like vegan cheese.)

I have found that hearty, chewy vegetables such as mushrooms and eggplant are wonderful on vegan pizza or flatbreads–giving great texture and making the dish more hearty. Your favorite cheese can certainly be added on top of this flatbread, but try it without; you won’t miss it, I promise!

Kale and Eggplant Flatbread

makes one medium pizza

Ingredients:

whole wheat pizza dough (make your own favorite recipe–I bought mine from Whole Foods)

1/2 of a small eggplant, sliced very thinly on the bias

1 cup kale, washed, dried, and chopped finely

1/4 cup+ your favorite tomato or pasta sauce, or chopped seeded tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely minced ( I used rosemary here)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

red chile flakes, to taste (optional)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional-but delicious and full of B vitamins!)

Directions

~one hour before you want to eat, set out dough to rise in a warm place

preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat your stone in the oven

spread thinly sliced eggplant on a surface, and lightly salt while you prepare other ingredients

prepare other vegetables–mince herbs, chop the kale and tomatoes if using

stretch out your dough to the size of your stone

when the oven is preheated, take out the stone and immediately prepare your pizza: place dough on the hot stone, then spread out a thin layer of sauce, followed by the eggplant slices, herbs, chile flakes, chopped kale, then nutritional yeast. If desired, place a few dollops of sauce on top of the vegetables.

Cook in a hot oven in the uppermost rack for ~12 minutes, or until the edges are a deep golden brown. Drizzle with a bit of good extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Enjoy!

apple cinnamon bread, cinnamon bread, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

Late fall, I love ending up with a ton of apples in my CSA – often more than I can consume during the week with all the other awesome produce included each week.  I wanted to use some of them to make a delicious breakfast bread, with flavors reminiscent of both fall and winter.  I absolutely love the combination of apples and cinnamon, so I decided these would be the primary flavors in this baked good.  The oatmeal gave the bread a heartiness that I also associate with fall and winter.

I diced the apples and sprinkled with the teaspoon of vinegar and a tiny bit of the sugar (after it was measured into the 1/3 cup, so as not to add more sugar).  I let them sit about 5 minutes, similar to how one would prepare an apple pie.  This helps soften the apples a bit before putting them in the oven.

I made the bread with 1/3 cup white sugar + 1 Tbsp brown sugar and it turned out great, but a little on the sweet side for me (though it was perfect for the other people who tried it; so, you may want to stick with the original recipe at first).  I personally like my breakfast breads/muffins on the less sweet side so next time I’ll make with 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar, but, again, this is dependent on how sweet you like your breads.  The bread will keep ~3 days in an air-tight container, and is amazing slightly toasted in the morning!  Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Bread

2 carrots, shredded

3-4 medium or small apples, de-cored and diced (ends up to be about 2 cups when diced)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar (white vinegar will also work, but apple cider is preferable)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup oatmeal (old fashioned)

1/3 cup white sugar

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp each – ground ginger & nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup low fat milk

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a standard loaf pan (~9 x 5 x 7) with cooking spray.  Add the diced apples to a medium bowl and sprinkle with a small amount (~1 tsp) of the pre-measured sugar and add the vinegar.  Mix well and let sit 5 minutes.

Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix well.  Shred the carrots into a medium bowl and add the wet ingredients.  Mix well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently stir.  Add the apples and mix until well incorporated (but, try not to over mix! Just mix until all ingredients are incorporated).  Add the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake about 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and a knife/toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

apple cinnamon bread, cinnamon bread, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

apple cinnamon bread, cinnamon bread, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

apple cinnamon bread, cinnamon bread, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

low fat brownies, decadent brownies, light brownies, brownies cayenne, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

Brownies + wine = the perfect combination for a great night with a great friend (or friends).  For years now it has been a tradition with one of my best friends to have a girls’ night as often as possible, and it always, always includes brownies + wine.  I’ve struggled over the years to find the perfect less-guilt brownie recipe, and have thrown away many, many batches in the process.  I finally succeeded and was so pleased with the results that I had to share!  I love the combination of a little spice and chocolate, so I added the cayenne to give the brownies a little kick.  The spice was very mild, but feel free to omit or add your own flavor kick to the brownies.  (I bet Suzanne will have some good suggestions!) Enjoy!!

Decadent Less-Guilt Brownies

Adapted from Cooking Light

3/4 cup unbleached white flour

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cayenne (optional; but adds a great flavor without too much heat!)

3/4 cup chocolate chips, divided

1/4 cup brewed coffee (cold or hot)

1/3 cup non-fat milk (or almond milk)

4 Tbsp butter, melted

2 tsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cayenne) in a large bowl and  mix well. Add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, coffee, and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in melted butter, oil, and vanilla. Let cool 2 minutes, then add the eggs. Mix well until well combined.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until smooth & glossy.  Add remaining chocolate chips and stir just a few more times until combined.  Pour batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean (be sure not to overcook!). Cool in the pan on a rack and enjoy!

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low fat brownies, decadent brownies, light brownies, brownies cayenne, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

vegetarian risotto, squash risotto, squash leek risotto, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

This risotto is so simple to make, yet has so many complex flavors that it can easily be served to friends/family at a nice dinner party (they don’t have to know how easy it really is to make!).  I roasted a whole acorn squash, but only used half of it for the recipe – you can certainly add more and it would be even more delicious, or serve the remaining squash as a side for another meal.  The peppers I used were from our local farmer’s market and I didn’t quite catch the name… they were what I thought of as a delightful hybrid of a bell pepper and jalepeno – sweet with just a little heat.  The leek also came from the farmer’s market and was a perfect addition to this risotto.  Remember to wash your leeks well!

To roast the acorn squash, simply wash, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds.  Drizzle the squash with a little olive oil and salt/pepper.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

vegetarian risotto, squash risotto, squash leek risotto, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

Feel free to play around with the ingredients for this risotto… other great combinations include: asparagus, lemon zest, & mushroom, peppers, corn, & asparagus, etc.  I generally add fresh oregano to the risotto, however I didn’t in this recipe, but definitely do so if you like more complex flavors/earthiness!  I let the dried mushrooms simmer in the veggie broth for about 1/2 hour before using it in the risotto so that the flavor of the mushrooms infused into the broth.

Acorn Squash Risotto

6 cups vegetable broth

1 small package (1 oz) dried mushrooms (I love the mushroom trio from Trader Joe’s)

1/2 acorn squash, roasted (see above) and diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small leek, cleaned & cut into pieces (see above)

2 small bell peppers or sweet peppers, diced

1 1/4 cup risotto/arrabiata rice

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4-1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated

dried or fresh oregano, to taste (~2 tsp)

salt/pepper, to taste (~1/2 tsp each)

Add the package of dried mushrooms to the vegetable broth and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Heat a medium to large skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and leeks and stir frequently until the leeks are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the risotto rice and let cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and oregano (if using) and let cook 1 minute, or until fragrant.  Add 1-2 cups of the broth (enough to completely cover the rice but just barely) and stir well.  Immediately cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium-low.  Let simmer about 5-10 minutes, or until all the liquid is evaporated.

Once the liquid has evaporated, add 1 cup liquid to the rice, stir well, and cover with the lid to let simmer.  Continue until all the liquid is gone and the rice is creamy (~20-25 minutes). Add the pepper and roasted squash with the last addition of the broth and stir well.  Once the rice is cooked completely and all liquid is gone, take off the lid and turn off the heat.  Stir in the shredded cheese.  Top with minced parsley or oregano, and enjoy!

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whole wheat waffles, multigrain waffles, waffles, banana waffles, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

My first Saturday off work in well over a month deserved a celebratory breakfast!  My waffle iron has been neglected for close to 6 months, so I decided it was time to dust it off and give it a little love.  I’ve tried (and failed) at many waffle recipes over the years, and I’ve finally just about perfected it – at least to my liking.  I’ve found – again, through much trial and error – that the only way to make good waffles is to have a quality waffle iron.  My favorite so far is from Villa Ware (this isn’t my exact model b/c mine is quite old, but how cute would it be to have heart-shaped waffles!!).

I made these waffles with a 1/2 cup of oatmeal, as I like the hearty crunch the oatmeal gives the waffles.  This is definitely unusual in waffles, so, if you prefer, substitute the 1/2 cup oatmeal for your favorite type of flour – whole wheat, cornmeal, brown rice, etc.  I’ve tried making this recipe with all whole wheat flour and they turn out way too dense and dark.  This is a good compromise.

whole wheat waffles, multigrain waffles, waffles, banana waffles, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

I beat the egg white by hand to a soft foam in order to add a light and fluffy texture.  You certainly don’t need to do this, but it is quite easy and really makes a difference in the density of the waffles.

whole wheat waffles, multigrain waffles, waffles, banana waffles, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

I also used a frozen banana (I always have pounds of these in my freezer due to my banana obsession!) that I defrosted and mashed into the batter.  I then sliced a fresh banana into the batter just before I added it to the waffle iron.  You can sub the banana for any fruit you like – frozen or fresh (if using frozen, don’t defrost first). Blueberries or strawberries would be delicious! I hope you enjoy!!

whole wheat waffles, multigrain waffles, waffles, banana waffles, milk and sugar, milk and sugar sisters, michelle stroebe

Multi-grain Banana Waffles

3/4 cup unbleached white flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

2 Tbsp flax seed

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 frozen banana, defrosted & mashed

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil

1 cup LF milk (or almond milk)

1 whole banana, sliced

Add all dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix well, and set aside (flour through ginger).  Separate egg whites into a small bowl; add yolks to a medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients (through milk) to the egg yolk and stir well.  Beat the egg white by hand until a soft foam forms.  Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir well.  Add the banana slices and stir.  Gently, fold in the egg white until fully incorporated.

Add waffle batter to a preheated waffle iron and cook ~4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup or your favorite jam!

The beginning of fall weather and a trip to Half Moon Bay resulted in the idea to alter my favorite gingerbread recipe to include roasted pumpkin puree. The puree not only adds nutrients and fiber, it also creates a wonderfully moist, almost silky texture. Three kinds of ginger and a good amount of cinnamon make the bread nice and warming, perfect for dessert on a cool night with whipped cream, ice cream, or–as our Grannie always served gingerbread–with lemon curd, but also delicious lightly toasted for breakfast or afternoon tea.

Pumpkin Gingerbread

1 small pumpkin (or your favorite winter squash, except spaghetti squash) roasted until very tender-results in about 2 cups pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/4 ts. baking soda

1  tablespoon each ground ginger, and fresh grated ginger

1/4 cup candied ginger, finely diced

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated if at all possible)

1 ts. salt

1 egg or 1 tablespoon of flax meal in 1/4 cup warm water

1/2  cup brown or turbinado sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 c. olive oil

2+ tablespoons sugar for topping (optional)

2+ tablespoons rolled oats for topping (optional)

Directions

Cut your pumpkin into large chunks and roast face-down on a baking sheet or aluminum foil at 350 degrees until very tender (save the seeds and roast them too!) Allow to cool before you begin to mix your batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine roasted pumpkin flesh (omitting skin), egg, sugar, and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth

Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients. Add molasses and gingers. When all ingredients are combined, add the boiling water and stir until combined.

Pour batter into pan of your choice (I made mini-loafs and a larger loaf, but muffins or a cake pan would work well)

Sprinkle with sugar and oats before baking, to create a caramelized crust, if desired.

Bake about 30 minutes for a loaf or cake, 10 minutes for muffins. Watch for the sides to turn dark brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, and test with a toothpick–insert into the middle of the cake/muffin and wait for it to come out almost completely clean.

If using the topping, set oven to broil for 2-3 minutes at the end to caramelize sugar.

Cool on a rack.