Confession time: I had a piece of my daughter's birthday cake today. I was really looking forward to it. It looked great and smelled sinfully sweet. So after singing Happy Birthday to my sweet 9-year-old I indulged in my first piece of (store bought) birthday cake in quite some time. It was fine...maybe even good, but so sweet. Sickeningly sweet actually. So sweet that I actually have no desire to have a second piece. In no way am I complaining about the cake or feeling guilty for eating it, but rather I'm feeling victorious that I just may have (finally!!) kicked my sugar addiction! The 'old me' would have eaten at least 3 pieces of cake...per day...til it was gone. Yaaay me!
Now that I've got that off my chest and out of my system, I'm ready to start the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge tomorrow! If you have decided to join me, don't forget to sign up on Lisa Leake's website so you can earn your free prize too!
One of my go-to Real Food breakfasts is Overnight Oatmeal. I've had Overnight Oatmeal for breakfast most mornings for more than a year now. I expected myself not to want it during the long, cold (very cold in PA!) winter months but I ended up craving it just as much in February as I do in July! It's super easy to make, portable, versatile, filling, healthy....it's pretty much the perfect breakfast!
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup berries
Place all ingredients in a bowl or jar. Stir until combined.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. Eat within 2-3 days for best quality. Top with a dollop of almond butter or other nut/seed butter.
Welcome to the new and improved Butter Blog! I've taken a long absence from blogging but I've recently decided to start again! For those of you who are used to seeing cupcakes, cakes and other unhealthy recipes, you'll notice a shift in the types of food I showcase on here. I've decided to use Butter is Better as my way of sharing my new food philosophy - a focus on whole, real, unprocessed food - also known as 'Clean Eating'. I've switched over 90% of my cooking and baking to be 'clean' so I'll still have plenty of recipes to share with you! I'm also hoping to share my daily challenges and successes with you as well as share information I've learned in the past year about our food sources and Western diet.
What prompted this change?
In late 2013 I really started to take notice to the way our food is processed, where it comes from and the effects it has on our health and our bodies over the long term. In January 2014 I found the blog, 100 Days of Real Food and read Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food. Only then did I realize just how many chemicals and preservatives we were putting into our bodies every single day with every single meal. I was truly shocked! My food philosophy was forever changed. After that, my kitchen pantry received a major update! I wanted to revive this blog to reflect on my new way of eating in the hopes of sharing some information you all may find valuable.
What will you find on this blog?
My goal in reviving Butter is Better is to share with you all of the information I've learned during my real food journey. I have been reading, reading, reading and I want to share my findings with you! I also want to share with you delicious recipes, menu planning tips, budgeting ideas, school lunch inspiration and more!
Please keep in mind that I am NOT a dietitian, nutritionist or doctor. I am formally educated in business with a background in purchasing but I've always had a passion for cooking (and eating!) I'm just a girl trying to eat as healthy as I can and raise my two daughters on the highest quality food I can possibly provide. I'm not perfect and I don't eat clean 100% of the time. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry and we end up with a take-out pizza for dinner. It happens. We eat it and feel gross and vow to try harder the next day!
I have a whole slew of topics and recipes to talk about over the next few months, but to get you started I wanted to share with you a few of my old blog recipes that are already clean! These are two of my summer staples that I'm enjoying right now as I type :)
Stop Back Often!
Please stop by often! I plan on updating this blog several times a week so please stop by and let me know what you think of the new direction I've taken. Also, if you have any specific topics you are wondering about, please ask! I may have an answer for you and if I don't, I'd be happy to find one for you and learn along with you!
Enjoy the new and improved clean version of Butter is Better!
Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! If you overindulged a bit (and don't we all?) I have the perfect recipe for you! This is another recipe that features my very favorite fruit: the avocado. Over the past few years I have developed a lower and lower tolerance to milk (and sadly, milkshakes), so I've been enjoying less and less smoothies and milkshakes. I had read many times that avocados are a great addition to shakes and smoothies to get the creaminess that is missing from non-dairy versions. I had never actively searched for a recipe but once I came across this recipe on Pinterest and knew this was one to try! Lots of smoothies look healthy but are secretly filled with tons of sugar and calories. What I like about this smoothie is that it is dairy-free (yaaay!), contains 1 1/2 servings of fruit, is sweetened with honey, not sugar and has tons of protein.
This drink totally disguised itself as a chocolate milkshake to my two princesses! JP liked it and Bean loved it. My little Bean definitely acquired Mommy's avocado obsession :) It's chocolate-y and creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. The avocado is there, but I swear you can barely taste it. It's a great way to sneak a lot of healthy things into your kids!
Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon honey (you can use dates if you want to make this vegan)
1/2 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons almond butter (make your own here!)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground flax seed
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Adapted from Against All Grain
My current food focus these days is healthy, easy and tasty. Portability never hurt, either. I'm also trying to cut back on my consumption of meat, sugar and dairy. I will NEVER cut these things out of my life entirely - I simply love food too much - but I'm doing my best to pick mostly whole foods for most meals and snacks. Last summer I came across these Energy Bites on Pinterest and they were a huge hit! However, they contain chocolate chips and sweetened coconut, which are fine, but in trying to limit my sugar I decided to avoid making them for a little while. So I kept searching. Thank you to all of you bloggers out there who do "Best of" posts at the end of each year! Thanks to Anne at fannetastic food I found these tasty little morsels as well as inspiration for lots more healthy meals in the months to come!
This particular recipe is as easy as they get. You will need a food processor to get the best results. You simply combine almonds and raisins together in the food processor to form a paste, then flavor the paste and form into balls or bars. That's it! Anne's original recipe flavored the balls with ground cinnamon but I used a little imitation rum extract for the rum raisin flavor I was looking for. Anne's recipe is gluten-free and vegan. To the best of my knowledge I believe the addition of the imitation rum extract does not change this fact. If anyone out there knows otherwise, I would love some education on the matter!
As you can imagine, these are highly customizable. You could use vanilla extract in place of the rum extract or you could swap out the nut/fruit combo. I plan to try an cashew/date version soon to simulate my favorite LARABAR!
Rum Raisin Balls
Makes 12 balls or 6 bars
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Put almonds and raisins in a colander and rinse with water. Drain. Place wet almonds and raisins in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until a thick paste has formed, about 30 seconds.
Form into 12 balls or 6 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Adapted from fannetastic food
As I've said a few times before, life in my house has gotten pretty chaotic over the past month. Sometimes I have so much fun creating my little DIY projects like almond butter and blueberry jam that I run out of time and totally bonk on dinner! Not good! I know casseroles can be a great time saver but I rarely find any that I like enough to make more than once. That all changed when I came across this chicken casserole from Weight Watchers. I first made this back in January for a Monday night dinner. Monday night is the night when my 2nd grader has CCD at the exact same time that my 4-year-old has gymnastics on opposites sides of town. Fun, right? A quick, easy and healthy dinner is a must on these nights and this casserole makes everyone happy!
A few things about this casserole: the recipe calls for green beans as the veggie. I know corn might sound more logical in here (and you can certainly use it), but give the green beans a try! They are lower in calories and actually complement the dish very well. Also, you can totally use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but I prefer to bake my own ahead of time and shred it in the Kitchen-Aid. If you haven't heard about this trick - well, it's mind blowing! I normally prepare the casserole a day before eating it and store it in the refrigerator, but you can also freeze it. I found two things when I froze it and baked it straight from the freezer: First of all, the cheese topping kind of got messed up. Next time I'll freeze the casserole without the cheese and add it just before baking. Second, I don't know why, but the frozen casserole seemed much spicier than the refrigerated ones. Not so spicy that it was inedible, just spicy enough that you had to add a little extra sour cream - fine by me!
Southwestern Chicken Casserole
1 pound cooked, shredded chicken breast
35-36 ounces salsa verde
16 ounces frozen, chopped green beans
1 15.5 ounce black beans, drained and rinsed
16 6-inch corn tortillas, shredded or thinly sliced
8 ounces reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
In a large bowl mix together chicken, salsa, green beans and black beans.
Spread 1/3 of the corn tortillas on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with 1/2 of the chicken mixture. Spread another 1/3 of the tortillas on top of the chicken, then add the remaining chicken mixture. Top with the remaining tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. (Freezer for up to 4 months.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake for 20 minutes covered (30 minutes covered if baking from freezer). Remove aluminum foil and bake for another 30 minutes until bubbly and brown (45 more minutes if baking from freezer.) Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Weight Watchers
Here we are, almost halfway through the school year and I've accomplished a big feat! My 2nd grade daughter has been a fan of school lunches and, for the price, I never minded her buying them. At a little over $2 a day she can get a pretty decent, balanced, kid-friendly lunch. Well, the problem with that is, well....she doesn't! I surprised her during lunch one day last April and I caught her eating an ice cream cone while her otherwise healthy lunch items sat there on her tray untouched! When I questioned her about it she had a perfectly logical answer: "I have to eat the ice cream first Mommy. It would melt if I didn't." Doh! How many times had she done this? I couldn't be too upset, she was only 6 after all. After a doctor's visit over the summer I'd discovered the my petite little girl had gained a whopping TEN pounds in first grade! Whoa! Time to 'Mom Up' and start packing lunches for her. We have a little system in place to keep mommy and daughter happy. Some things have worked, some haven't. A few things that are a constant are 1 fruit, 1 veggie, 1 sandwich and 1 'junk' each day. Thankfully, she DOES eat those fruits and veggies so when she was asking for a jelly sandwich every single day I kind of let it slide. About a month ago I started reading labels more carefully. Yep, as suspected, high fructose corn syrup in her little jelly sandwich (cut out in the shape of a heart these days!). Time to make another change and give DIY jam-making a try. How simple! Just combine some fresh fruit, sugar and lemon juice and let it thicken up a bit and you have jam!
This is only a small batch so you don't have to worry about getting into the canning game - I'm certainly not there yet! This recipe produced a nice, thick, fresh tasting blueberry jam. It tastes like summer on a spoon! Anything that tastes like summer is much needed in Pennsylvania these days. Ugh...don't even get me started on how much I hate winter and how I feel like it's never going to stop snowing or if I'll ever see my toes again.... Anyhow, I digress! This jam takes about a half hour of your time and makes about 2 cups. The only downside to this recipe is that it only lasts in your refrigerator about 3 weeks. But that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Just pair it up with some homemade almond butter and reinvent your PB&J for a yummy throwback lunch!
DIY Blueberry Jam
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 pound blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Place a metal spoon in the freezer to chill.
Combine blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. While bringing the mixture to a boil mash the blueberries with a potato masher or a fork to release the pectin of the fruit. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to medium. Simmer vigorously until the mixture thickens and is jamlike, about 8-12 minutes.
To test for consistency, remove the spoon from the freezer and dip into the jam. Allow the jam to run off the spoon. Jam should fall off the spoon slowly, in one thick clump. If it does this, it is done. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. If the jam is too thin, continue simmering another 2-4 minutes until it reaches desired consistency.
Once jam has cooled to room temperature place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook
Have you all heard about the current almond butter craze? I've known that almond butter has existed for years and though I love it, I've always steered away from buying it simply because of the cost. With my health kick/lifestyle change over the past month I've been reading some health & fitness blogs in addition to my running magazines and can I tell you something? Almond butter is EVERYWHERE!! It's packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein and tastes great in place of peanut butter on a sandwich, celery or pretzels or even in a smoothie. I decided to just suck it up and buy a tiny, overpriced jar of this awesomeness during my next grocery run. As I stood there in the nut butter aisle I pondered my choices. I could either buy a $10 jar of almond butter, or the cheaper $8 alternative. I went with the $8 choice. I had it in my hand. I put it in my cart. Then, it hit me! I recently bought myself some new cookbooks and I had remembered seeing a super easy recipe for making almond butter at home!!! I immediately put the little jar back on the shelf and hauled butt over to the nut aisle where I found a 1 pound bag of roasted almonds for $5! Score! Let's give this a try!!!
I made a few modifications to this recipe. The most notable being using already roasted almonds instead of raw. Since the recipe stresses the importance of having warm almonds when processing to bring out the oils I decided to still throw them in the oven for a few minutes. If you use raw almonds, roast for 10-12 minutes until they are fragrant and slightly darkened.
DIY Almond Butter
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 pound whole, roasted almonds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast about 6 minutes, until fragrant. (Be very careful with this step. It only takes a few seconds for nuts to go from perfectly roasted to burnt.) Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, until they are cool enough to handle - about 15-20 minutes.
Place almonds in a food processor for about 1 minute, until they resemble coarse meal. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue processing. After another minute or two you will have a very firm mass. It will be difficult to scrape down the bowl at this point - that's perfectly ok. Continue processing for another 2-3 minutes. The oils in the nuts will begin to break down and the mixture will start to look like a paste. Stop to scrape down the bowl. It should be pretty easy to do at this point. Add the salt to the nuts and process for about another 30 seconds. This whole process should take about 5-7 minutes. What you will be left with is gorgeous, tasty, pure almond butter!!
Store in an airtight container. It can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 2 months.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook
In 1998 I spent 15 days in Rome, Italy visiting my mom's aunt and uncle - Zia and Zio. The food, or 'magic' created in Zia Lucia's kitchen inspired me in so many ways. I was fortunate enough to take my now-husband back with my family in 2001 for 10 days. Zia Lucia's cooking was still out of this world and now Mike could finally understand just what it was that we all loved about her, them, Rome...all of it! Though I didn't get to cook with her I will forever be influenced by the love she put into every single creation she brought out of that kitchen. The simple "Italian Orange" as I like to call it, is a perfect example of how she can put together a fantastic tasting dish out of things you already have just sitting around your kitchen. At first I'm sure this combination sounds a bit odd do you, but TRUST ME! It's so delicious, refreshing and healthy! You'll make it again and again. I've been enjoying it at home for so long and decided it just wasn't fair to keep this little gem to myself, so today I'm sharing it with you!
The Italian Orange
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of sea salt, I use Fleur de Sel
Place the segmented orange in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!
Zia Lucia's original
In continuing on with my healthy/citrus craving lately, today I'm sharing with you Orange Cranberry Muffins. When I was on Weight Watchers back in 2011 I had an urge to bake something (shocking, I know!) so I went searching through their website for something healthy, convenient and practical. I came across these muffins and just loved them! They are filled with dried cranberries and have a nice orange flavor. They are topped off with granulated sugar, which gives them the texture of a nice cake doughnut. The top is definitely my favorite part!
I make a full batch of these and usually enjoy one fresh from the oven and freeze the rest. Once they are frozen I'll either grab one to go (they thaw out in about a half hour or so) or throw one in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. A muffin and some hot coffee - a perfect start to my day!
Orange Cranberry Muffins
Makes approximately 15 standard-sized muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat (1%) buttermilk **
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
**If you don't have buttermilk on hand you can make a quick substitution by putting 1 tablespoon of acid (lemon juice, white vinegar, cider vinegar or white wine vinegar) in a measuring cup. Fill the rest of the cup with 1% or skim milk to make 1 full cup of liquid. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir and proceed to use in the recipe.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray 15 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, cranberries, orange zest, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl mix together buttermilk, melted butter and egg. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Spoon batter in prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops of the muffins. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
So, I've been on a major health-kick since the start of 2013. Back in January 2011 something clicked in my brain and I started Weight Watchers and stuck to it for 3 months. I lost 15 pounds and I felt amazing! I was happy with my weight so I let some of the good habits slide a bit. Then at the beginning of 2012 I was starting my blog and training for the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. I tried half-heartedly to eat the Weight-Watcher-Way but just couldn't make it happen with all the yummy things coming out of my kitchen! This wasn't a big deal because I was running more than usual so my weight pretty much stayed the same. Enter the 2nd half of 2012. All bets were off. We went on a 3-week vacation (running was minimal...eating was plentiful), moved out of our townhouse, into my parents' townhouse and FINALLY into our new home. After getting settled in the new house we were faced with Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinner (and leftovers) and lots and lots of Christmas goodies.
That brings me to January 2013. This year I am back on Weight Watchers and I'm doing a great job so far! I'm also training for 2 half-marathons (that's 13.1 miles, people!). I'm also trying very hard to incorporate fun food and baking into my daily life in a healthy way. I'm going to do my best to bring you healthy and delicious recipes as well as the occasional sinful treat! Oh, one more thing, you should be forewarned, I've been craving LOTS of citrus and oatmeal lately!
Today I bring you a Weight Watcher inspired Orange Ginger Scented Granola. Orange juice and ground ginger are both used in this granola, but I feel the flavor is delicate, not overpowering. I have been enjoying this granola served over plain, nonfat yogurt. It's great for a light breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack. You could also serve it in a bowl with some milk, or just grab a handful as a quick snack on the go.
Orange Ginger Scented Granola
2 cups quick oats
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 cups puffed rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
6 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup mixed raisins
Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix oats and puffed rice cereal together in a large bowl. Spread evenly onto a rimmed, non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly.
While the cereals are baking, combine the honey, canola oil, orange juice, cinnamon, ground ginger and vanilla extract into a 2-cup measuring cup. Mix well. Set aside.
Place slightly cooled cereal back in the large bowl. Stir in the almonds. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Spread evenly onto the rimmed baking sheet again. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cereal starts to brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the raisins and allow to cool. Once granola is cool, store in an airtight container.
Adapted from Weight Watchers
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!