Modifying Original Recipes to Fit Your Needs!

A blog about healthy eating, healthy living and happiness. Join me and I'll show you how easy it is to substitute, modify and enhance your favorite recipes to accommodate your special diet, all without missing a thing!

July 8, 2013

New House, New Home, New Oven... Bananas!

I admit.... I've been MIA. Like totally MIA since uhmm.... February. *sigh*

So before I provide a nice and semi novel-esque reason as to why, know this -- my love for this blog, for food, cooking, baking and creating has not dissipated! It's just been hindered by a few other [quite] monumental events... read on.... ;-)

First and foremost... I am now a proudly engaged woman to the most amazing man in the world, my fiancĂ© Tony. June was our 5 year anniversary (crazy!), this handsome man did quite a bit of thinking and worked this lovely event right into our already planned vacation to Cozumel with his family. It was beautiful. There were tears. And of course, I said yes. 

Next up... we have a house! That's right, the fiancĂ© and I bought our first home and have been happy homeowners for a little over 2 months. We're absolutely loving it, veggies growing in our newly built planter boxes, sprinklers spraying water across our lawn. My kitchen -- yes...mine...and no, he won't argue that ;-) -- is just what I need to start back up on this blogging journey. 

But, with every new house comes a new, well, a different oven. And well.... it's going to take a little getting used to. It's.... bananas! 

I finally got the urge, that uncontrollable itch to bake. To gather all of my GF ingredients, a little sweetness and chocolate, and make something divine. With an overwhelming number of past-due bananas in the freezer, homemade banana bread was calling my name. I wanted to try a new recipe but wasn't  quite up for the challenge of creating my own with the possibility of a failure, so, I came across this beauty and went to work -- Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Chunk and Walnut Banana Bread. Simple, quite easy to put together, the aroma while baking was irresistible. 

And then, the fun began. I got up to check on this lovely loaf with about 5 minutes remaining on the timer. The top was puffed, getting pretty brown and firm to the touch - thank goodness I got up to check! I let it cool (as one should) for about 5 minutes before taking it out of the loaf pan and moving to my cooling rack. Waited a little longer before slicing into it to devour for my own tasting... piece #1: beautiful! Piece #2: wonderful! Piece #3: uh oh. The middle of my lovely loaf was, uncooked. Gasp! Of course, my red hair began to show, i.e. my temper. I felt defeated. Going so long without baking.... beginning again in a new oven.... I believe I actually said out loud, "Well, if ya don't use it ya lose it!" (slightly gritting my teeth). I put the broken loaf back into the hot oven for a while longer, hoping to save it. 

Second try.... a little better but still... the middle was mush. At this point, I took out one of the done slices and devoured it. I mean, I should at least get to enjoy this disaster, right? 

All in all, it was delicious. Sweet enough, full banana flavor, little bits of chocolate to satisfy that cocoa craving. It wasn't all bad! I then tried to salvage the rest. Breaking off the portions that were edible, building a pile of the goup back in the pan. Along the way... eating piece after piece in what I'm convinced was an emotional train wreck. I managed to save 4 full slices, with several other "pieces" that will be quite nice in the coming days when I wake up ravenous and am putting together my breakfast. I am sure that I ate at least 2 [large] pieces with all the nibbling here an there and let me tell you.... emotional train wreck eating.... not so pleasing to my stomach. Eh, oh well. Lesson learned. 

What this silly event did do, was spark back my inspiration. Turned back on my kitchen gears and in the end, made me laugh quite a bit at how ridiculous the whole thing turned out. 

In this life, we learn. We learn and we get inspired. We create, we fail, we create some more and then we succeed. 

So get ready for plenty of recipes, photos and off-track stories to come your way. I'm back baby. Let's get cooking. 

February 25, 2013

Mountain High Granola

Sunday. Snowing. Blizzard. Bliss.

That about sums it up.

I woke up yesterday to snow. A lot of snow. Wind blowing it all around, plows and workers continuously shoveling and moving snow to try and make somewhat of a clearing in our complex parking lots. This, was a great feeling. Stuck inside... no where to go... left only to bake.

Like I said... bliss.

Now, before I share what this beautiful day allowed me to create - you'll need a bit of a back story.

I'm sure you've noticed that I often post granola recipes. I'll admit it... I'm addicted. Yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and a cup of coffee... give me that and I'm a very happy girl. Ever since I've been able to [successfully] reintroduce dairy into my diet *hallelujah* I've eaten this "fruit & yogurt parfait" for breakfast most days of the week. It's delicious, healthy, is perfect for my pre & post workout snacks and most importantly... I feel good eating it.

The boyfriend doesn't have quite the same "routine" with breakfast as I do. Whatever sounds good that morning is what will be eaten. Great! I wish my food cravings were that simple! Anyway, the other day he made himself a nice little fruit & yogurt parfait and was surprised by how much he liked it. He said, "I'm going to start having this before work... it's actually really good!" HA, no more making fun of me for me "standard" go-to breakfast ;-)

Needless to say... the snowy day gave me time to create a new granola recipe for both myself and the *hubby*. And I must say... it's pretty darn good.

Mountain High Granola (makes 5 cups)

3 c gluten free rolled oats
1/4 c ground flaxseed
1/3 c raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c raisins

2 tbsp safflower oil
1/4 c agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine. Heat oil and agave nectar in a small pan over low heat to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until fully mixed. Smooth granola over your prepared baking sheet and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, stir granola once and place back in your oven. Turn the oven off but turn your broiler on high, continue to cook granola under broiler for 3 minutes (watch carefully so as not to burn). Remove granola and let sit on the baking sheet until cool. Store in an airtight container on the counter.

Nutrition Info (per 1/2 cup serving)
268 calories
35g carbohydrates
6.5g fiber
7.6g protein
15g sugar

February 14, 2013

The Best Granola You've Ever Had. Toasted Muesili with Millet, Coconut, Pistachios and Cranberries

Today is the day of all days... the one day a year that people pour their hearts out for the one they love. The day that Hallmark makes a killing, when little girls get all giddy when they receive that one special valentine, the day that eating a mass of chocolates is simply expected, the day when... I share with you the most amazing granola you've ever had.

While I'm not a huge fan of this day, because I feel that love should be shared all year round and that surprise flowers are even more of a surprise when received on any random Tuesday... I felt that I would share with you this granola that has truly won my heart.

What I have found in my years of cooking and creating is that it is very common that chefs, bakers, cooks and self-proclaimed foodies (*ehem*) often find that their favorite recipes are ones they themselves have not created. Perhaps it is that the work is somewhat removed, the pressure to create a masterpiece whereas the existing recipe has already been perfected.. all you simply have to do is prepare and enjoy.

Well my friends... that certainly is the case with this Toasted Muesili with Millet, Coconut, Pistachios and Cranberries - created by Cannelle et Vanille. If you have not seen, heard or viewed this beautiful blog, I highly recommend that you do. Incredible photography, commentary written like poetry, a reflection of food, life & photography that will truly take your breath away.

I first found this recipe while on a plane ride back from San Diego this past September. Since traveling can be somewhat... blah... I always buy myself a "treat" for the flight.... in this case I bought the September issue of Whole Living magazine. The cover is what really drew me in - "THE BEST BREAKFAST RECIPES EVER! (That just so happen to be gluten-free!)" You see my friends... I basically had to pick this one up ;-)

This recipe re-opened my absolute love for granola, adding a twist with the millet and a sweet, tropical tone with the coconut. My one and only modification is that I leave out the cranberries. Not because I don't like them but because I like the freedom to add whatever fruit my stomach is yearning the mornings all mornings that I crave this delicious, delightful, whole, healthy, irresistible granola.

I'm begging you, okay I'm telling you - take a gander at this recipe, you more than likely have all the ingredients on hand. Take a morning, an afternoon, an evening, take the time whenever you have it and make this recipe. It will change how you view mornings and will certainly change your view on granola.

Bon appetit!

February 9, 2013

Roasted Veggie Pasta, Red Wine & Parmesan

I love these kind of weeks. The ones where all of the sudden you realize it's Wednesday and you're halfway to a wonderful and beautiful weekend. Then all of a sudden, it's Friday night... the week has ended, you find yourself in the kitchen cooking up a delicious, fresh pasta for dinner - complete with a hefty glass of red wine and a little parmesan to top it all off.


Is this how my week went? You could say that ;-)

I had been planning this dinner all week long... not that this type of meal requires a great deal of planning. But I find that when you set yourself up with something to look forward to, the days go by smoother, you smile more, and well... you can take a little more time to breathe.

A night at home with my love, a great meal enjoyed coffee table-style in front of the TV... I couldn't imagine a more perfect way to kick off my weekend.

And because I love you so much, I'll happily share this simple and pleasure-filled recipe. But first...

Like I said... Lovely.

Roasted Veggie Pasta
Fresh broccoli
1/2 white onion
1/4 - 1/2c frozen peas
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Garlic powder
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley(roughly chopped)
2 Garlic cloves
Good quality Parmesan
GF Pasta of choice (though I strongly recommend spaghetti noodles)

Preheat oven to 425. Begin to boil water for pasta. Chop broccoli and onion into fairly large pieces, place onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Drizzle veggies with olive oil, add salt, pepper & garlic powder. Use your hands and mix it all together to ensure all veggies are coated with olive oil. Place veggies in oven and roast 20 - 30 minutes (they will be soft after 20 but if you're looking for the roasted flavor let them cook for the full 30, this allows the broccoli to get a little "char" adding wonderful flavor to the dish). Your water should now be boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Once the pasta is done, drain and rinse (leave in the colander). Finely chop the garlic cloves, add a small amount of butter (or olive oil) to your pasta pan, add garlic and saute until fragrant. Lower temp, add frozen peas and half of your fresh parsley. Once the peas have fully thawed add the pasta back to the pan. By now, the veggies should be roasted to perfection. Add these to the pasta mixture along with a touch more olive oil. Grate parmesan cheese into mixture and stir (the amount of cheese is truly up to you, and, if you cannot tolerate dairy feel free to add a meltable dairy free cheese or simply enjoy without). Add additional salt & pepper to taste. Plate the pasta, add a touch more grated parmesan and microwave for 30 seconds and top it off with the remaining fresh parsley. Lastly, pour yourself a fine glass of red wine, take a deep breath and enjoy.

January 1, 2013

Here's to 2013 - things to do, things to see, things to dream & things to love

Happy New Year!

A new year is upon us once again. A time to start fresh, try new things, continue with great habits or fix those that we don't so much favor. A time of resolutions, dreams and wishes. A time to stop and reflect on your life thus far and really ask yourself... what more can I do? What is it that I want out of life? Well friends.. this year.. let's do it!

If you haven't noticed... It Really Works! has a brand new look and layout! Stepping outside of the box with a clean new look, I decided to start this change as we, together, welcome this new year 2013. I'd love to know what you think so don't be shy and leave a comment below!

Now, back to the new year, I have a theory about resolutions... They should be things that you've always had in your mind, things that you feel strongly about and things that aren't so drastic of a change that you can't achieve them - but things that you know you can conquer if you put your mind to it. They also don't have to be "measurable" per say. If you want to work out more then so be it & hit the gym a few more days than you currently do. If you want to smile more, keep the thought in your head and it is likely to happen. Focus on things that mean something to you, things that will improve your life, your mood and your outlook and without a doubt... you'll achieve more than you ever imagined.

I decided to ring in 2013 thinking about my "to-do" list for this year... 

  1. Stay healthy, be healthy, feel healthy - always
  2. Practice patience, be kind.
  3. Start running again, conquer the half marathon I've always wanted to do. 
  4. Devote more time to this very blog, expanding recipes, increasing followers, showing my true colors & passion for food.
  5. Do more yoga & remember to breathe.
  6. Buy a house with my love :-)
  7. Get a dog!
  8. Travel anywhere & everywhere.
  9. Surprise myself.
  10. Enliven my inner photographer - take classes, capture beauty, capture moments.
  11. Get stronger, feel better. 
  12. Have no regrets.

In light of these resolutions and thoughts, I've started a new Pinterest board to remind myself of the things I'd like to achieve. Take a look for yourself!

December 16, 2012

Oat Free Quinoa Apricot Granola

I've come to a realization lately. Well, really more of a re-realization.

Granola, some sort of fruit be it fresh or dried, and yogurt, is a breakfast that I'm sort of... obsessed with. I guess it's really not that bad seeing as how granola can be made in a variety of ways, showcasing a multitude of flavors and textures all depending on the ingredients chosen. It's a healthy snack, a filling breakfast, something that may just become my everyday fall-back.

Anyway... during this re-realization I thought about the many people who are intolerant to oats... *gasp!* How sad it must be to go to your local grocer and not be able to pick up your weekly batch of granola, simply because, the sweet little oats don't act so sweet when settled in your belly. Naturally, I was just not okay with this fact. And thus... the oat free granola was born!

This recipe still follows closely to my many others, packed with nutrition and protein, a hint of sweetness and the perfect crunch to accompany your smooth and creamy yogurt of choice. The best part? It takes about 15 minutes to make, start to finish. I'm sensing you're ready for the recipe, am I right?

Oat Free Quinoa Apricot Granola
3/4 c quinoa flakes
1oz raw pumpkin seeds (just under 1/4c)
8 dried apricots (cut into small pieces)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c Perky's Crunchy Flax Cereal

2 tbsp cashew butter (I used Artisana)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Combine quinoa flakes through cinnamon in a medium bowl. Slowly heat cashew butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan until stirred to a smooth consistency. Add wet ingredients to the quinoa flake mixture, start the mixing with a spoon but you'll need to get dirty for this yummy granola, using your hands to finish off the mixing process. Place mixture in the oven for 6 minutes, remove and stir. Place back into the oven for 2-3 more minutes (at this point the granola should be golden and slightly brown at the edges). Remove from oven and add in the Crunchy Flax Cereal. Let granola cool, place into a mason jar and store on the counter.

Enjoy this oat free granola over yogurt, with a banana and almond milk for a delicious non-traditional cereal treat, or munch for a portable snack any time of day. It's delicious, it's oat free, and it's packed with good for you nutrients!

Let's take a look at the nutrition facts, shall we?

Per 1/2 cup serving
34g carbs
4g fiber
6g protein
10g sugar

Eat up and enjoy, and maybe keep a secret stash away from the public eye of your kitchen... it just may disappear faster than you'd like!

December 6, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bread, a Cutie and a Giveaway!

Quite the title, right? Let me explain...

Today, I'm going to do things a little different... less words... more pictures!

a cutie!!! 

My adorable cousin I finally got to meet! He's a ball of energy with smiles all the time... love you Tyler!

and a giveaway!

Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. wants to give one lucky winner a Holiday Notta Tin! And let me tell you... it is quite a wonderful holiday gift!

Alright... let's get back to that simply divine pumpkin bread pictured above... I had been craving something full-on-fall, melt-in-your-mouth, something with loads of pumpkin flavor. Well my friends, thanks to an incredible gluten free blogger, and really, one of my favorites - Gluten Free Goddess... mission accomplished. I followed this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bread, and made only a few minor substitutions...
  •  I used oat flour in place of the buckwheat flour
  • reduced the brown sugar to 1/2 cup
  • used only 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum
  • *I did use 2 real eggs for this one and truly, I think it makes all the difference
This bread is soft, moist, yet somewhat crumbly - just enough to have you licking the plate for every last taste [just be sure to do this with class ;-)]. The flavor is unbelievable, just sweet enough with a prominent pumpkin flavor, yet not overwhelming. Perfect with a lovely cup of coffee, or as an afternoon snack, or perhaps, heating this up with a dollop of dairy free ice cream would be a magnificent way to round out a meal. Any way you eat it, all will love it and be begging for more (I have proof!)

And now... drum roll please... the giveaway! I mentioned this in the last post but want to emphasize the great gift you will receive! I personally received my Notta Tin a few days ago and the bags well... they are starting to run a little low ;-)

It's so simple to enter, but act fast, this giveaway is almost over!

Each of the following will count as one entry (and yes, each person can do all of these, that's up to four entries!)

  1. Become a follower of It Really Works! and leave a comment below telling me what you plan on doing this holiday season to stay healthy!
  2. Follow us on on Facebook and mention the giveaway to your friends, tagging It Really Works!
  3. Follow me on Twitter @melainadaniel and tweet about this great contest! (You could say something like, "Check out this great #gf popcorn giveaway by #melainadaniel of It Really Works!" - (be sure to include the link to this post!)
  4. *Extend the joy and tell your friends! I know, I can't really count this one but in the spirit of giving, give your friends a chance at this great prize! 

November 30, 2012

A Healthy Holiday Giveaway - Rocky Mountain Popcorn!

Happy Friday foodies!

We are in the full spirit of giving here at It Really Works!, so much in fact that I'd like to give something to you!

Yes, we are still celebrating the season with Health For The Holidays, but this tasty treat is one that I would say still fits the bill.

My friends at Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. would like to give one lucky winner a free Holiday NottaTin! While some popcorn tins are filled with fake ingredients, gummy textures and loads of sugar, Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional popcorn tin. It includes White Cheddar, Jalapeno, Caramel (which recently won San Francisco Chronicle's "Top Caramel Corn",) Butter, Naked, Cinnamon Sugar, and Kettle flavors, which are not only delicious but also all natural, gluten-free, nut-free, and use non-GMO corn. The Holiday NottaTin holds 15 delicious bags of assorted popcorn flavors packaged in a festive design. What better way to share the holidays your loved ones?!

Now, who's ready to win some popcorn!?

Here is how you can enter this fabulously fun holiday giveaway...

Each of the following will count as one entry (and yes, each person can do all of these, that's up to four entries!)
  1. Become a follower of It Really Works! and leave a comment below telling me what you plan on doing this holiday season to stay healthy!
  2. Follow us on on Facebook and mention the giveaway to your friends, tagging It Really Works!
  3. Follow me on Twitter @melainadaniel and tweet about this great contest! (You could say something like, "Check out this great #gf popcorn giveaway by #melainadaniel of It Really Works!" - (be sure to include the link to this post!)
  4. *Extend the joy and tell your friends! I know, I can't really count this one but in the spirit of giving, give your friends a chance at this great prize!
Last but not least, here are the important details...

The giveaway starts today, Friday, November 30th - entries will be accepted for one week. The winner will be announced Friday, December 7th!

Happy snacking and remember, stay healthy and happy this holiday season, enjoying all the joy this season brings.