Spring Forward

I really love spring.

If you ask, I would tell you I’m more of a summer girl – but there is just something about seeing the first green buds on the trees and hearing birds chirping at ungodly hours of the morning that gets me every time.

It helps that I currently live in South Carolina, where spring means 70 degree weather with sunshine in abundance, instead of, um….

This. I’m a Mass[achusetts] girl born and raised, but I sure as hell don’t miss the never-ending winter.

I celebrate pretty much everything with food. Doesn’t everyone? An A on a paper might mean splurging for sushi, an unexpected award leads to ordering dessert.

Of all things, spring is something to be celebrated. The world is waking up, warming up, and a new energy buzzes in the air like the bees pollinating the budding flowers. Not gonna lie though – the buzzing gets a little obnoxious. Seriously, Darwin – why exactly did bugs have to evolve to buzz.

Ahem.

I highly recommend celebrating the coming of spring with these muffins. They’re super healthy – you could probably bake them into bars too if you doubled the recipe – but first and foremost, they are delicious. Between these and the sun, getting up for class in the morning gets a lot easier.

Flax & Oat Muffins (adapted from this recipe at OhSheGlows)

Makes 6 muffins

Ingredients

1/c. oats

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. flax meal

1/2 – 1 tsp. cinnamon

nutmeg, cardamom as desired

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 ripened banana

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 – 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I’ll bet almond extract would be fantastic as well)

This recipe is so simple and quick, I probably don’t even need to give you directions. But I will anyway. Because I took pictures. And who doesn’t like pictures?

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease up 6 muffin cups/tins.

Throw your dry ingredients (oats, flour, ground flax, baking soda, salt & spices) into a bowl and mix ’em around. I also like to add dried cranberries to these – only a couple of tablespoons or so. Play around with it – and of course, let me know if you discover a particularly wonderful combination. 😉 [Chocolate chips are never a bad idea.]

In a separate bowl, mash that banana – the riper, the better. Then mix in the brown sugar, egg, and extracts (if using).

You know the drill – wet –> dry.

Don’t over mix!

Divide the batter as evenly as possible into the cups. I say “as possible” because most recipes leave that out and I feel slightly inferior to these people who are able to flawlessly divide batter into perfectly even portions. If you know what I’m talking about – don’t stress.

And if you are one of those people with such a gift…don’t tell me.

Pop ’em in for about 15-20 minutes. Use the toothpick trick – mine always have to stay in a little longer. But there’s nothing wrong with a slightly gooey muffin, either.

 

 

I let them cool and then freeze them in a ziploc bag; you can throw one in the microwave for 15 seconds and it’s good to go. This is one of my favorite things about these – I can sleep an extra 15 minutes knowing that breakfast will only take a few seconds.

 

Oh yeah – they’re delicious, too.

Make these now. Thank me later. And don’t forget to lick the bowl.

Happy Spring!

 

 

Advertisements

A Few of My Favorite Things

Sometimes, the world appears to be caving in. When you feel like you are watching helplessly as lives are destroyed by natural disasters and heartless dictators, I find that it can help to turn to what you love. Because when the big things make you cry, you have to find the little things that make you smile.

Like a crusty and perfectly golden piece of baguette.

 

Juicy red plums. As tasty as they are pretty.

 

My long tea spoon that I [not-so] secretly stole from home. I use it multiple times a day. It’s perfect for eating oats, yogurt, nutella, and everything in between.

 

The vino-themed kitchen towels I found on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond. Affordable, adorable, and amazingly wine-stain-free. So far.

 

Warm spring breezes, new flowers, and extra sunlight.

 

What makes you smile?


 

Nothin But Blue Skies, Blue Skies Do I See!

Despite yesterday feeling a little blue, this morning I woke up to a very different kind of blue:
There is nothing in the world like opening the window in an apartment in Italy and letting the breeze and sunshine soak in. Definitely a cure-all for blah moods.
While walking to Italian this morning, I remembered my epiphany from earlier in the semester. Why bother mumbling and grumbling about what isn’t perfect in life (now there‘s an exhaustive list) when you can slow down, take a deep breath and just enjoy where you are in that very moment. No “I’m going to be late”, no “if I don’t get home right now I’ll starve and die”, no have-tos or should’ves. It was with that thought in mind that I went to the market right after class. Because I was up, I was out, and because there is no rush. There is something about the personableness, the conviviality of the market that just leaves me feeling more content and calm than when I entered. It should probably be studied or something.
Blue skies calls for more blue, and what better way to do it than with…
Blueberry yogoats! If these don’t chill you out, nothing will 😉
I mentioned yesterday being a bit off. I’m never quite sure how to approach “off” days on the blog. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to bring everyone down! I was just feeling very…unsatisfied, I suppose. Maybe it was just a bit of homesickness in disguise. Or maybe it was the shopping trip on Monday – there is nothing like walking around an upscale Italian department store to make me feel unstylish, unattractive, and “un” everything else that I “should” be. And that got me a little angry. Why should I let some impersonal hoity-toity store dictate my self-esteem? How stupid. I happen to like my style; it’s not hot off the runway, and doesn’t fit any stereotype. It just fits me. I don’t like jeans, never have, and I think I do a darn good job of making myself presentable. If someone can explain to me why wearing yoga pants everyday is any weirder than wearing leggings that look like they’ve been sprayed on or wearing low-rise jeans that dip so low you wonder where exactly the “rise” is, then I will happily listen. But I can’t be anyone else, and I am determined that no one or thing will tell me otherwise or give me a guilt trip about it. So there.

And yes, I realize that society still judges and there are forces out there that even the greatest self-esteem can’t conquer, but in my experience, being comfortable in your own skin gives a kind of confidence that makes other people look past, or even not see, the outside. Easier said than done, of course. But it can be!

I tried to turn my day around:

Chocolate-raspberry yogoats. Not sure they helped my mood, but my tastebuds sure were grateful 🙂

Ethnic Tuesday: Sushi, take-2
tuna roll + seaweed salad
Quite depressing sushi, actually. The tuna was unimpressive and the salad was too sweet and too spicy. And it was overpriced in general. BUT, this place delivered and the rumored “good” sushi places here are sit-down restaurants and a little pricey, so subpar sushi it was.

Ok, no more crappy Tuesday talk, let’s get back to the present!

 I’ve been meaning to check out the San’ Ambrogio market, another big food market in Florence. It is not quite as old or big as Mercato Centrale, but you know, variety is the spice of life and all. And it’s such a beauuuuutiful day!!!

Funky angles, no?

This market had all of their produce stands outside – it went on forever!

Beautiful South African pears. I had to get some. I loved it! Very nice cinnamony-sweet taste. And so perty!

This market was fun; the old man at one of the cheese stands liked me and gave us lots of samples 🙂 I also bought this monster:

This pepper was 1,50 euro. That’s like 2 dollars of BELL. PEPPER. Did NOT see that coming. Whoops.

I liked this market a lot, but Mercato Centrale remains my favorite. More to see there, I think. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with markets in Italy!

We did a bit of shopping in San Lorenzo and stopped for what remains to be the best cappuccino I’ve ever had before lunch at Sergios! My Wednesdays will be just a little empty when I can’t come here for lunch.
Although I woke up thinking about their wonderful soups, I ended going a different route once I took a look a the daily menu…

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant parm!
What I love about the eggplant parm I’ve had here is that it is nothing like the breaded, buttered, deep-fried, cheap-cheese-covered American version. The eggplant has a melt-in-your-mouth texture on the inside, but the skin gets crispy and crunchy in the oven, and paired with wonderful parmeggiano and provolone cheese and fresh tomato sauce, it tastes like nothing you’d ever expect to come from just an eggplant and some cheese. It’s really a toss-up between my first eggplant parm  at Dino and today’s…mm, yummylicious. And it was a perfect little lunch portion too. Cute food is more fun to eat 😉

Because of the gorgeous weather, the roomies and I grabbed a blanket and headed to a piazza nearby to do some much-needed sunbathing. I took my book…but ended up napping in the sun instead. I almost wish everyday were this wonderful, but then that would make it less special, and what’s the fun in that?

Taking pictures lying down is fun!

[That would be Alaina’s foot.]
Spring has sprung!

I came home on sunshine and nap high, fixed myself an enormous salad…and that’s about when my lovely day in the sun got cloudy. But this is such a happy post, I’m not bringing it down! Let’s just say – to be continued.

Wonderful food, warm spring weather, and a nap in the middle of a piazza. Life is good.

~Namaste~