Tomato Basil Cous Cous Soup

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What is it about being sick that makes soup so appealing? When I start getting sick, I deny it for as long as possible. “It’s allergies,” I’ll say, or “My throat’s a bit scratchy; it must be dry in here,” etc. Once I come to terms with my situation, however, I have no shame. My parents taught me to totally and completely baby my sick self: sleep, TV, tea, and (this part is crucial) soup.

Last week, the Beast and I came down with matching illnesses. It was super cute (/disgusting). His sickness appeared 12 hours before mine, so I had the fortune of viewing my future ailments before they hit. Once I made the connection that my runny nose and my sore throat were directly correlated with the Beast’s symptoms, I lived in constant fear of my impending discomfort.

Cous Cous tomato soup

Over the weekend, our lackluster immune systems kept us indoors for far, FAR too long. Desperate to get out of the house, we ventured across the street for lunch on Saturday afternoon. Halfway through our jaunt, we had to huff and puff up two flights of stairs, and nearly turned around out of exhaustion. Instead, we stuffed our faces as quickly as possible, and then promptly returned home for a 3 hour nap.

I apparently didn’t learn my lesson, because on Sunday I ventured out yet again for lunch with my family. This outing made for the fourth day in a row when someone told me, in the kindest way possible and only out of concern, that I looked like hell.

Tomato Cous Cous Soup

I decided that Sunday night had to be as cozy and rejuvenating as possible. This, of course, meant that I needed to bring out the big guns and make the hearty tomato soup that my mom made me as a kid. Although most soup is comforting, it seems that childhood soups really hunker down in your soul and make you feel better, even when you feel like poo.

Tomato Cous Cous Soup

After searching through the chaotic cookbook cabinet, my mom sadly decided that she had thrown out the recipe in recent years. I ended up winging it, yet with some mom advice I created something almost identical to my childhood soup remedy, and quicker than any sick girl with an energy deficiency could hope for.
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Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Bananas always end up in my cart at the grocery store. While walking through the produce section I think, “I’ll make smoothies this week,” or “Maybe I’ll remember to bring one to work for an afternoon snack,” or “I should chop one up and put it in my yogurt…that’s a healthy idea.” Despite my best intentions, the bananas nearly always end up either thrown in the freezer right before they hit the inedible over-ripe stage, or begging to be made into some baked goodness ASAP.

banana muffins with cream cheese frosting liners

When my bananas hit that scary-brown stage, I usually try to make some variety of banana bread or banana muffins. It’s my knee-jerk reaction, because I used to help my mom turn rotten bananas into a fun breakfast treat. After college, my roommate (the same one who introduced me to carrot cake) taught me that bananas can be made into so much more than bread or muffins; they can be straight-up dessert awesomeness. When we lived together, she would often return from a visit to her parent’s house with a pan full of frosted banana bars. I’d rejoice and then faceplant into them. They’re intoxicatingly good.

banana muffins with cream cheese frosting liners

Last week, when I inevitably found myself with nearly-rotten bananas on my counter (this seems to happen every week), my roommate’s recipe catapulted to the top of my mind. I usually try to healthily my banana baked goods, but messing with these banana bars would be insulting. Also, since I wanted to share the sweets with my mom for her birthday, I had no choice but to stick to real butter, white sugar, and white flour. She never trusts me when I begin playing with whole wheat flour and applesauce in baked goods.


banana muffins with cream cheese frosting liners

This is the kind of dessert that satisfies without leaving you with the dreaded “I overdid it” feeling. The cake is light and fluffy, while the cream cheese frosting helps to balance the banana’s sweetness. It feels almost delicate…or at least as delicate as something smothered with cream cheese frosting can feel.
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Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Peanut Butter Syrup

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Peanut Butter Syrup from Veggie and the Beast

In case y’all haven’t heard, it’s COLD in Minnesota, and it’s only going to get colder. I love Minnesota, and I’ve lived here all my life, but the January cold still takes my breath away when I step out the door. The Beast, who was also born in MN, handles the weather well because he has one of those crazy bodies that retains warmth. I, on the other hand, basically turn everything I touch to ice, yet which one of us has spent the past week in Cozumel, Mexico? Not zombie hands over here, that’s for sure.

Although I would love to feel warmth on my skin again, even if only for a second, I can’t say I’m overly jealous of his vacation. Instead of laying on a beach all day (aka my idea of vacation perfection), he’s scuba diving with his dad and brother. Frolicking in shallow ocean waters gives me plenty anxiety, so I can’t even imagine what an actual under water adventure would do to me. Well I CAN imagine, but it ain’t pretty, so let’s move on.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Peanut Butter Syrup from Veggie and the Beast

In lieu of jet-setting to a tropical destination, I’ve spent my non-working time watching entirely too much trash tv, baking while belting out Taylor Swift lyrics, and eating an absurd amount of comfort food. Yes, this is my usual list of activities whenever the Beast goes away, be it winter, summer, or fall, so at least these frigid temps help me justify my hibernation.

The last time I gave you a glimpse into my Secret Single Behavior, I admitted that brussels sprouts come out to play when the Beast is away. This time we’re discussing delicious, fluffy pancakes, which are usually a neutral food, except in my house, where we’re divided once again.

Although the Beast doesn’t react to pancakes with the same “vom” reaction he has towards brussels sprouts, he feels very “meh” about the breakfast food. This means our weekend brunches are always comprised of waffles and french toast, which are both deliciously wonderful, but the pancake craving hits me at times, and must not be ignored.

Conveniently enough, the need for pancakes hit me last Sunday, which was the Beast’s third day in Mexico. I took out my new griddle, and made myself the perfect pancakes. Katiecakes, if you will: hearty whole wheat and oatmeal cakes smothered in a super easy peanut butter syrup.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Peanut Butter Syrup from Veggie and the Beast

These pancakes are nice and thick without being doughy, and I love the texture added by the oats. As you probably guessed, I ate the peanut butter sauce right out of the bowl before pouring it all over my tower of cakes. It would also be great on waffles, french toast, ice cream…really anything you put syrup or sweet sauce on.
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Greek Falafel Salad

Greek Falafel Salad by Veggie and the Beast

My inner falafel freak made an appearance last week. And by “appearance” I mean dominated my lunch pail every day. As I mentioned before, my falafel love started in college and it never subsided. I think chickpeas are the root of the problem/obsession, because I go through hummus containers like Kim Kardashian goes through men, only quicker and more ruthlessly. I smear hummus on everything: crackers, veggies, sandwiches, and in salads with balsamic instead of dressing. I’d even call it my go-to condiment, and as a condiment lover, that’s saying something.

My chickpea fixation reached its current level of obsession at the beginning of my junior year of college. This timing seemed perfect, since I set off to study abroad in Greece over January. I couldn’t wait to inhale my favorite foods during the month-long trip. Hummus and falafels had to be all over the place in Greece, right? They have them at Dino’s Gyros, which is called “The Greek Place,” so…you can follow my logic.

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Although Greece helped my love for tzatziki grow, it did nothing to nurture my hummus and falafel obsession. In fact, I did not dip a single item into hummus the entire time I was there, and the closest I came to falafel consumption was a snack bag with “Falafel Chips” written on the front. Not the same, guys. Not the same.

I’m sure falafels and hummus exist somewhere in Greece, but they definitely aren’t the menu staples I expected. Instead, I filled up on spanakopita/spinach pie (literally every day), tiropita/cheese pie, Greek salads, and, oddly enough, spaghetti (“You’re a vegetarian? So you want some spaghetti?”). This wasn’t a bad deal by any means, but still…a girl’s gotta get her falafel fill.

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To be honest, this “Greek Falafel Salad” I’m showing you here is somewhat misleading, because a “Greek Salad” needs no falafels to be legit…but it should. Especially when you can whip up the falafels in minutes and feel good about it because they’re baked, not fried. Win-win.

Greek Falafel Salad by Veggie and the Beast

The ingredient list below looks long, but you’re only three quick food processor rounds away from Greek salad deliciousness. Not to get all “When Harry Met Sally” here, but I love creating the perfect bite: spear the crisp romaine, salty kalamata olives, juicy tomatoes, and a bite of falafel with your fork, then scoop up some quinoa and drag it through the tangy tzatziki and Greek dressing. You’ll feel like you’re IN Greece. Or at least my idea of Greece.
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Brown Butter Quinoa Monster Cookies

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Today’s a big day. Today’s the day when I venture into my “late” twenties. No more of this, “I can’t believe I’m in my early twenties!” or “My mid-twenties are flying by!” It’s no longer cute or funny that my automatic, knee-jerk reaction to the question,”How old are you?” is often an immediate response of “18.” Nope, now I’m a girl who’s basically 30. Well in 3 years anyway. This is troubling. This calls for cookies.

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My family makes a big deal of birthdays. Within an hour of waking up I’ll get text messages from my family members saying, “Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and at exactly 8:31am I’ll receive a message from my mom, and/or a call from my dad, saying “You’re officially [insert age here]!!!!” Yes, we’re over the top, but I love every bit of it.

The day-long excitement culminates after dinner when we feast on dirt cake, out of the bucket, served with a shovel. Yes, it’s a dessert for kids, but this will be what I eat on my birthday until I’m elderly and diabetic.

quinoa monster cookiesquinoa monster cookiesquinoa monster cookies

Dirt cake may be the birthday dessert of choice, but birthdays don’t include just one treat throughout the day. Waiting for sweets until after-dinner is unnecessary restriction. Birthdays call for treats all. damn. day. So, to fulfill the day-long sugar craving, I played around with monster cookies to create a fun day-of-birthday treat.

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I texted my mom about these cookies and she said, “Um…but they are cookies? Crab cakes are called ‘cakes’ but we know they’re not.” This woman has no faith in my experimentations. So maybe I put quinoa in my cookies…what of it? Quinoa has a fun texture, nutty flavor, and it’s so good for you (but that’s not the point here). Normal monster cookies are made with old-fashioned oats, which my mom also would not approve of – “Why are you trying to make a cookie healthy? It’s a COOKIE.” You can’t win with this lady unless you stick to the straight and narrow, so why not make these cookies truly ridiculous in her eyes? It’s my birthday, after all (and in my family the birthday girl always gets her way).

quinoa monster cookies

What we have here is a cookie with all kinds of fun flavors and textures. Let’s start with flavors: peanut butter (swoon), dark chocolate in two forms (double swoon), nutty quinoa and whole wheat flour, honey, caramel-y brown butter, and a hit of vanilla. As far as the textures, you get a crunch of both the cashews and chunky peanut, and the hearty chew of old-fashioned oats and quinoa.

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To clarify, these are BIRTHDAY cookies, not diet/healthy cookies (I mean really, see the description above). The quinoa and whole wheat flour are there to boost the nutty flavor and complement the cashews and peanut butter. If you want to replace the quinoa with more oats and use all-purpose flour, go for it (but you’re missing the fun, fun killer).
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