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Long Distance Relationships: A How To Guide (Kind of)

Photo Credit
When I tell people that my significant other and I are doing long distance for at least 4 years while he is in dental school and I am in medical school, the typical responses are: "Oh my gosh! That sounds so hard!" or "Wow! I don't think I could do that..." or "That sounds really difficult, but if your relationship can withstand this then it can withstand anything." The truth is: It is really hard. And if you have to do it, you can, in fact, do it. And sometimes the things that would normally be no big deal for a same-city couple might very well knock down a long distance couple. So far, we've done 3.5 years of living 333 miles apart. I kept my hopes resting on the idea that May 10, 2015 (his graduation date) would be the end of this annoying distance...but alas, it seems there are no guarantees in the world of residency matching. And so the very real prospect of another 3 years of long distance looms ahead. And as tempted as I am to throw a 1-year-old-style temper tantrum and chuck the whole thing out of the window of a speeding car-- I can't. (Full disclosure: I have already thrown the aforementioned tantrum). As several dear friends put it, 'how do you give up the person you know you're supposed to be with because of complicated logistics and inconvenient geography?' And to this, I have no logical answer except that 'you don't.' Instead I have compiled a list of things that helped me survive the last 3.5 years... and possibly the next 3. If you or someone you know is faced with having to do long distance, I hope this helps!

1. FaceTime: Usually this devolves into a contest of who can make the silliest faces

2. Audio Books: These are almost necessary to make the boring trips across The Plains pass by quickly. My favorites over the years have been #1. Bossy Pants, #2. Middlesex, #3. Anything by David Sedaris, #4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me & Other Concerns, #5. The Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy, #6. The Kite Runner, #7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, #8. The Fault in Our Stars,  #9. Bringing Up Bebe, and #10. The Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale

3. This American Life podcasts & Snap Judgement podcasts: See #2. Simply stated, these are wonderful AND free!! Great for when the library is out of the audiobooks you've been wanting or you can't pay $20 to buy an audiobook.

4. Working Out "together": We loved working out together when we were a same-city couple, but it's hard to keep each other motivated to workout when we're apart. We text each other as soon as we're done with our workouts each day and encourage each other with a 'congrats!' or 'good job, babe!' Also, we have a sort of penalty system going for missing workouts: I must donate $5 to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and Ry must support fame hungry, albeit entertaining, dregs of society by buying me an episode of the Real Housewives on Amazon Prime. If you know either of us, you'll know just how punitive (and thus motivating) these conditions are.

5. Safe Cars w/ good mileage: If it's at all an option, driving a car with good fuel economy really helps! It gets you to your destination faster and cheaper than a guzzler. At the same time, driving a Smartcar at 80 miles an hour on a highway for 5 hours does not exactly reassure loved ones of your safety-- remember that safety is still the most important thing.

6. A Southwest Credit Card: We don't fly to see each other much ever since the direct route got cancelled, but this credit card is amazing! You get 2 free roundtrip tickets when you sign up and it's pretty easy to continue to rack up more free flights just by using it for daily expenses. Even if we don't use the free flights to fly to Oklahoma or Kansas City, we can use them to go somewhere different and fun together.

7. A Supportive Network of Friends and Family: This is by far the most important tool in your LDR survival kit. Being in a LDR means A LOT of time alone, which inevitably leads to feeling lonely. We've each leaned on our friends a ton to keep those feelings of loneliness at bay. Make it a point to make plans with your local friends and spend time with your family. Go out! Start a new hobby! Don't put your life on hold because you're apart. Being individually happy makes your relationship a lot stronger and healthier. When you are in the same city, hang out with each others' friends. It's great that I can call Ry's friends my own friends too and vice versa.

I'm currently visiting Ry on one of my rare breaks from school. We love to cook together when we can. With Autumn occasionally peaking through the 80 degree weather we're having in September, I decided to make something delicious with one of my favorites-- butternut squash. I'm extremely impressed with the richness of this dish considering the fact that unlike most butternut squash recipes, this one is not swimming in heavy cream or butter! It's very easy to make...and easy to make disappear as well :-) We ate this for dinner last night next to some smoked chicken Ry's parents whipped up in their Green Egg.

KiwiConfections Butternut Squash Pasta
With Crispy Sage and Bacon
Serves 5

4 Slices No or Low Nitrate Bacon, finely chopped
1 ½  Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces
2 large scallions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 oz. linguine
¼ cup grated Pecorino, plus some shaved Pecorino for serving
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, and reduce heat if necessary. Cook until crisp, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon onto a paper towel. Discard 80% of the bacon grease.
  3. Add the chopped sage to the skillet and toss to crisp it up in the remaining bacon fat. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the sage out of the pan and onto the paper towel with bacon.
  4. Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season the mixture with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7–9 minutes.
  5. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes.
  6. Turn the stove off and let cool slightly. Once slightly cooled, pour the squash (with all the liquid) into the blender. Keep the skillet—you’ll use it again soon.
  7. Purée until smooth; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  9. Combine pasta, squash purée, and ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid in the skillet and cook over low-medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  10. Mix in ¼ cup grated Pecorino, bacon, and sage.
  11. Serve pasta topped with shaved Pecorino.

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetite


Meatballs, baby!

I've never really been a baby person. I did have baby dolls growing up, but they mainly served as my patients to which I afflicted unlikely diseases-- tetanus, measles, and elephantiasis to name a few. Yes, I kept index cards AKA medical records on these dolls and marked the babies up with the appropriate symptoms. I like to think that I've come a long way since my early days as a cavalier play-pediatrician. However, babies still intimidate me. They are fascinating in their tiny-ness and indefinite curiosity, and yet their cryptic sleep schedules and inability to communicate terrifies me. As easy as it would be to swear off having my own kids and commit to the "cool aunt" role, I can't help but wonder if I may regret it down the road. Never has my internal battle been more salient as this past weekend I spent with my 1-year old niece.
After spending the work week busy in the hospital, it seems like a true herculean feet to raise a child while also being a medicine resident. I surveyed some of the residents asking: 'How in the world does someone DO IT?!' The answer seemed to be: 'you just do' and 'there's never going to be a good time.' Then of course I got to spend the last 2 days with my niece, who is all of the fascinating wonderful things that consist of being a 1-year-old and for, at least a little while, those things were able to dwarf the terrifying things. Watching her eat the meatballs I'd made also reassured me that maybe one day even I could sustain another human life and....perhaps even enjoy it...just maybe. In the mean time I will continue to be in awe of dedicated parents.

These meatballs are healthier that your average subbing bison meat for the traditional beef and veal combo. People are nuts about bison meat because it has only 2.5g of fat per serving versus over 10g in beef. It's also lower in calories (140 vs. 215) and a little higher in iron. You can find out more on bison meat here. These bison meatballs are also easy to make because of the baking method. They freeze well, so you can make extra and keep them for the next time you're wanting a kid-friendly, adult-tasting recipe! Enjoy :-)

KiwiConfections Gluten Free Bison Meatballs & Pasta Sauce
Serves 8

1 cup Schar gluten free breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 /2 pound extra lean ground beef
1 ½ pounds ground bison
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 Cup milk
  1. Place the first 9 ingredients in the bowl and mix
  2. Add the meat and combine it with all of the dry ingredients (hands are your best tool here)
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, egg, and milk. Continue mixing the mixture with your hands.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400°
  5. Form your meatballs by rolling in your hands
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the baking sheet about ½ an inch apart.
  7. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes at 400°. The baking time will depend upon the size of your meatballs. I suggest taking the tray out and cutting the thickest meatball in half to see if it is cooked all the way through (no pink should remain).
  8. Remove the tray of meatballs from the oven and allow it to cool

Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ Cup Chianti
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 ½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper

  1. Add oil to medium pot and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until onion becomes transparent. Add minced garlic and cook for another 1 minute.
  2. Add Chianti to the pot and scrape the bottom. Allow this to cook until almost all the liquid is gone
  3. Add the tomatoes and stir
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Lower the heat and continue to simmer for about 7-8 minutes.


If Cavemen Ate Pies, They'd Eat This One

I've missed this place. Since my last dreamy post consisting of chicken pot pie and cooking nights with friends, things have been a LOT less warm and fuzzy. The last several months consisted of 17 hour study days for board exams, 3:30am wakeups for clinical rotations, and the eating and exercise habits of someone who does not write a food blog. Don't get me wrong-- the first and second years of medical school were my toughest years to date, but now we're a bit more exposed to the real world. By real world, I mean waking up before the sun does and getting home without a shred of energy left in you let alone the motivation to study and cook a gourmet something-or-other (<-- And that's a good day!) But over the last few weeks, I've come to realize that, for me at least, cooking and working out every morning is part of what makes me me. Without dabbling in the kitchen every week, sharing food, and working out regularly I start to lose my sense of self and that feeling of well-being-- aka I become a bit grouchy. This process of becoming a little less human is exacerbated by wearing scrubs 2 sizes too big for you every day, attending physicians who don't know you but already don't like you, and that pesky issue of sleep  lack of sleep. On my way home one day I realized how completely enveloped we are in non-food food that also makes you feel, well, not your best (and decided to take pictures). 

Full disclosure: My bad eating consisted of cafeteria turkey burgers, cookies, dirty chai lattes, sausage biscuits, frozen meals, and occasionally popcorn or cereal for dinner. So the default for those whose health is most vulnerable and those who (in theory) should be setting an example for how to maintain one's health is...the QuesaritoTM! Okay, okay...maybe that's not fair. There is a salad bar in the cafeteria. But try giving iceberg lettuce to a patient's worried family member or a stressed out surgeon or an even more stressed out resident after an involuntary 8 hour fast-- they will throw said lettuce at you! These experiences have made me even more aware of the very real obstacles between every day people and the healthy, whole lives we want to lead. I know that my future blog posts will be heavily influenced by this because I am-- from what I eat to how I fit in some extra physical activity not just to stay healthy but to keep being me. This recipe is something I made recently to remind myself of how much I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. It is great for those of you who love banana cream pie as much as I do but can't justify the refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. This recipe is gluten free and Paleo! Maybe you can make this for that Caveman Labor Day party you have coming up...

Paleo Banana Pudding Pie
Serves 12

Almond Meal Pie Crust:
2 Cups Almond Flour
¼ Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
1 Egg
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°
  2. Place the first 2 ingredients in the food processor and pulse to combine
  3. Add the oil and egg and pulse until it forms a ball of dough
  4. Press the dough into a pie dish or tart pan
  5. Bake the crust for 10 minutes
  6. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool completely before filling

 Banana Chia Seed Pudding:
2 Cups Reduced Sugar Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Very ripe banana, chopped up
3 Tablespoons Honey*
3 Medjool Dates, pitted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
2 bananas for garnishing

  1. Put all the ingredients in the blender except for the chia seeds. Blend until smooth
  2. Add the chia seeds and pulse the mixture once or twice to just incorporate the chia seeds
  3. Pour mixture into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour
  4. Pour the thickened chia pudding into a cooled pie crust and chill the pie in the refrigerator for an additional hour
  5. Garnish with sliced bananas right before serving or cover with saran wrap immediately if you are not serving the pie right away
*You can replace the honey with pure maple syrup for increased sweetness or you can increase the amount of honey if you’d like it to be sweeter.

Crust Recipe from
Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Giving Thanks: version 1.0

Facebook, texting, Instagram, emailing, Twitter, Snapchat....this blog! Technology has done a pretty amazing job connecting people better over the last couple of decades. Or has it? The question contemporary sociologists are posing today is: Does having hundreds of followers or thousands of friends make us truly feel more connected or is it making us feel more alone? The growing research points to an actual increase in feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness among those in the facebook generation.1 Why? To put it simply: we're not actually compelled to leave our social media-machines (i.e. cell phones and computers) and go interact with people. The faster pace and increasing demands of work and school only perpetuate the compulsion to stay plugged in. Luckily, there are still wonderful facets of life that prevent us from heading straight  into a world of soma, obstacle golf, and conditioning centers. Girls night, book clubs, classroom discussions, phone calls, brunch dates, pot luck get-togethers....THANKSGIVING! These are a few of my favorite things and things that I hold sacred enough not to dilute with too much tech. Every week I look forward to getting together with some girlfriends and cooking a meal. We take turns bringing ingredients and/or hosting. We catch up, cook, eat, and enjoy. It helps me stay sane. The recipe below is for my very favorite Chicken Pot Pie-- a dish I made at one of these girls' nights. It's part of my Thanksgiving post because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays (surprise, surprise), and this is a great dish to make with turkey leftovers OR just because you're around the ones you love and want to show them how much. Although I am ever-grateful for advancing technology, next Thursday I'll be sticking with my non-updated version of Thanksgiving and expressing my gratitude for wonderful friends, family and health in person at an actual table!
p.s. If you do decide to use turkey leftovers, just use store-bought low sodium chicken broth in place of making your own as seen in the recipe below

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6-8

Chicken Broth:
2 lb raw chicken breast, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoons salt
½ Tablespoon pepper
1 sprig of Rosemary
7 Cups of water

Pot Pie Stew:
2 Cups diced yellow onion
1.5 Cups diced carrot
1.5 Cups diced celery
6 Tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons rosemary
1 bay leaf
¾ Cup corn starch + ¼ Cup cold water
1/3 Cup dry sherry wine
6 Cups chicken stock (from above)
1 Cup frozen green peas
1/2 Cup heavy cream

1 package frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon water

  1. Fill a medium pot with 7 Cups of water.
  2. Chop the garlic and add it to the pot of water. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary to the pot as well.
  3. Place the cut, raw chicken in the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and cook over low, medium heat.
  4. Reduce the heat to low once it comes to a boil. Keeping the lid on, continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat off, remove the lid, and allow the chicken and the resulting chicken stock to cool.
  6. Start the process of cooking the pot pie stew (directions below). During the step of waiting for the veggies to cook, use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the stock. Cube the cooked chicken and set aside. Save the chicken stock (throw out the solids) because it is the stock you will use for the pot pie stew. 
  1. In a large saucepan, sauté onions, carrots, and celery, in butter over low/medium heat. Once the onions start to turn transparent, add garlic and herbs in.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with ¼ Cup cold water. Stir until a smooth paste is formed. (this step helps you avoid the clumps that would form if corn starch was added directly to the hot pan).
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees
  4. Once the carrots have softened slightly, lower the heat. Add the corn starch paste to the sautéed vegetables and stir constantly to form a roux.
  5. Add chicken stock and sherry and stir to make sure clumps don’t form. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and the mixture will become thicker. Turn the heat down to low.
  6. Add chicken breast and stir to combine.
  7. Add heavy cream, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil once more. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 minutes or until thickened.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir and allow the pot pie stew mixture to cool.
  1. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl use a fork to beat the egg with the water and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle the counter lightly with flour.
  4. Roll some refrigerated puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter cut circles that are ½ wider than the rim of your individual ramekins or mini-pie dishes.
  5. Fill each ramekin or mini-pie dish 80% full with the warm pot pie mixture
  6. Brush each circle of dough with egg wash and place each circle of dough egg-washed-side down on top of each of the filled ramekins.
  7. Cut a small slit in the middle of the pastry.
  8. Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. Place each of the completed ramekins/ mini-pie dishes on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Decrease the heat to 400 degrees and bake until the crust is puffed and golden brown (another 15-20 minutes)
          Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Adapted from Beth-Ann McFarland-Lyons' recipe at her restaurant Kitchen 324
Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Getting By

"Getting by" might seem like the mantra of under-achievers everywhere, but when I use the phrase I mean doing your very best to handle/juggle everything life may hand you. For some it's raising kids while working, for me it's school and everything in between, and for others it's the daunting combination of work, school, and kids. Whatever the circumstances are, sometimes just "getting by" or surviving the day is quite a feat and, in my opinion, not possible without the support of friends and family. My parents, sister, and fiancé have all been my biggest pillars of support but my friends are the daily, even hourly providers of comradery and encouragement. Living alone underscores the importance of friends even more-- especially when it comes to the kitchen. Cooking for one is no fun (and since that rhymed, it's probably worth becoming an official "saying"). I'm ashamed to think about the once beautiful bell peppers, plump mushrooms, crisp kale, and nutrient-packed sweet potatoes I've thrown out...Not to mention the food I prepared, got sick of, and left "to mature" a few weeks in the fridge. I've had to learn the hard way that cooking and eating one's food alone is simply a recipe for disaster and waste. Once I started cooking for and with my friends and exchanging dishes, things became much more manageable. The social aspect of eating and cooking is practically imprinted in our DNA and done solo they can become yet another monotonous chore. Today, I'm sharing a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas that I make to share with friends. The flavors are best the next day, and it makes a great lunch you can heat up at work or school. Bonus points: it's great on your wallet at under $20 for the whole meal or less than $2.00 a serving. Whether it's cooking, motivating myself to get to the gym, or studying for hours on end, I get by with a little a lot of help from my friends.

p.s. Don't let the length of this recipe fool you. I made these again last night and timed myself: from start to finish, it took 30 minutes.

KiwiConfections Enchiladas
Serves 8-10

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Cups sliced white mushrooms
6 Cups raw baby spinach
½ Cup finely chopped onion

3 Tablespoons chili powder
4 Tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
3 Cups Organic, Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 (8 oz) Can Low Sodium Tomato Sauce

1 pound cooked chicken, shredded

2 Cup reduced fat “Mexican Blend” cheese

  1. Drizzle olive oil in a large saucepan or wok and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion to the pan. After allowing the onions and mushrooms to cook for about 1 minute, add the baby spinach to the saucepan. Sautee the vegetable until the spinach starts to soften. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool down.
  2. Pour the cooked vegetables into a colander and allow the excess water to drain while you make the enchilada sauce.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl
  4. Stirring constantly, add enough chicken broth to create a thin paste. Pour into saucepan and add the rest of the chicken broth.
  5. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
  6. Stir in Tomato Sauce
  7. Pour half of the enchilada sauce into a heat safe bowl
  8. Add the cooked chicken to the remaining half of the enchilada sauce and stir.
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
  10. Heat corn tortillas in a pan or heat them up in the microwave with a wet paper towel on top.
  11. Fill each warm tortilla with a mixture of chicken, mushrooms/spinach/onion, and cheese.
  12. Roll the tortilla up and place it seam down in a baking dish.
  13. Repeat this until your casserole dish is full.
  14. Spoon enchilada sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  15. Bake the enchiladas for 20 minutes.
  16. Serve and Enjoy


When Life Hands You Brown, Mushy Bananas

You always hear "When life hands you lemons..." I never really understood why lemons were considered so bad. And besides, it's pretty clear that lemonade, lemon bars, and lemon wedges in water and/or cocktails are all delicious. On the other hand, most people will simply throw their brown, mushy bananas away. And that is why I propose we change the aphorism to, "When life hands you mushy, brown bananas." Because if you actually use them to bake with, they're even better than regular, yellow-green bananas. If you haven't caught on yet, I'm about to make a metaphor between almost rotten fruit and life. Three years ago yesterday, I met an awesome guy in a brown banana situation. I had just moved back to Kansas City after graduating from U of M, I still wasn't 100% positive that I wanted to go to medical school, and my first significant relationship had ended a few months prior to that. Coming back to Kansas City wasn't easy because it meant swallowing my pride and moving back in with my parents (who I love dearly) instead of going straight to grad school or a high-paying career, and it also meant leaving my social network and having to start over. After going on a few dates with people I'd met organically through work or mutual acquaintances and realizing that it wasn't working, I did what I consider to be the most daring thing I've done to this day-- I joined an online dating service. I'm sure many of you or people you know might think, "Aww, that sort of thing is really nice and cute for other people, but I would rather die than do it for myself." (Believe it or not, people have actually said this to me after knowing how Ryan and I met). And I can't blame you for thinking that because I think I thought that too before I pulled the trigger. I went on 17 dates in the span of two weeks. I don't recommend this sort of schedule to anyone, and I probably could have started a blog on just those 17 experiences. The guys I met were hardly brown bananas, but they weren't for me. Just when I was ready to close my account, I decided to make good on a raincheck I'd given a guy who had messaged me before. I was so busy at work (and going on dates) that I had turned down a polite invitation to grab drinks from a really great-sounding guy. He had just graduated from Notre Dame (I didn't hold it against him) and was in Kansas City living with his older sister while applying to dental school. We both loved "Arrested Development" and travel-- he'd been to South Africa for study abroad and I'd traveled to Central America on health brigades for three of my four spring breaks in college. Last minute, I said that I had some free time for lunch and that we could meet then. He obliged and three years later we've traveled to 7 different countries together, he's in dental school, I'm in medical school, we're engaged, we've made wonderful new friends, and we only have 18 months left of being 350 miles apart. Whether it's online dating or having to do long-distance, don't dismiss the brown, mushy bananas and just throw them away. Sometimes, finding "the one" in an unorthodox manner or having to face the challenges of long-distance before you're even married makes your banana bread way better than the ones made of regular, yellow-green bananas. Oh, and...Happy three year anniversary, Ry!

And now for a fantastic recipe-- a guilt-free, but delicious and moist banana bread to welcome Fall.

Healthy Banana Bread
Serves 10

3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
½ Cup reduced fat Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons Canola oil
2 eggs
½ Cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour
½ Cup Ground Flaxseed
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add brown sugar and vanilla and  beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flours, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon
  4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; stir just until blended.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove bread from pan; cool completely.
  6. Slice and enjoy (or cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for later).

Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Pick Me Up

No, I don't mean pick ME up... I mean Tiramisu-- Italian for 'pick me up.' Every now and then a friend or classmate or random person will ask me about my thoughts on the latest and greatest fad diet...everything from the new millennium's Atkins diet to the hot-off-the-presses Paleo diet. As a disclaimer, I must first say that my humble opinion holds very little weight compared to the health and happiness you receive from following any of these diets. But...since this is my humble blog, I'll share my humble opinion anyway. Did you know that Italy has been ranked as one of the healthiest countries in the world countless times? In fact, last year Italy was ranked 2nd healthiest country in the world by Bloomberg. Despite this, the birthplace of the ice cream cone has stayed relatively steeped in its unapologetic love affair with delicious food. Real food, mind you. Yes, Italy is famous for its pasta, pizza and gelato...but you often walk to get to these places and since it's impractical to load up on a lot of food on a grocery trip (on account of the little streets, little cars to match, and lack of Costco's), many Italians make several trips to the grocery store in a single week and cook fresh foods for themselves. Italy does not consistently make it into the top 5 list of healthiest countries in the world because its people are at the whim of every fad diet. In fact, it's because Italians don't deprive themselves of things like tiramisu that they don't need the extra "pick me up" from a juice cleanse or a bee pollen shot. I don't think it's a coincidence that Italy is home to both Prada and the Pope because it illustrates nicely the need for some balance in life. Enjoying simple pleasures in life and making healthy choices seem to lead to a longer life..ask Greece, France, Australia, or Italy if you don't believe me.

Kiwi Confections Tiramisu
Serves 15

6 egg yolks
¾ Cup White Sugar
2/3 Cup Milk
1 ¼ Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
3 ½ Cups strong coffee (at room temperature)
1/3 Cup rum
1 ½ packages (7 ounces) Savoiardi Lady Fingers*
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  1. Brew your coffee and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  2. Add egg yolk and sugar to a medium saucepan. Whisk the two together until well blended and cook over medium heat being sure to stir constantly. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for a full minute continuing to whisk. Remove the custard from heat and allow it to cool.
  3. Transfer the custard to a heat-safe bowl and place saran wrap on the custard to prevent a film from forming. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

  4. With the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream with vanilla until soft peaks form.
  5. Whisk the mascarpone cheese into the yolk mixture.
  6. Combine the coffee and rum together. Dip each lady finger in the coffee mixture until mostly soaked through. You don’t want the lady fingers to be breaking apart.
  7. Arrange the soaked ladyfingers in the bottom of a 9x13 inch dish. Spread the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers and some of the whipped cream on top of that. Repeat these layers once more.
  8. Sift cocoa powder on top of the tiramisu. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. 

*To make this recipe gluten free, substitute regular lady fingers with two 5.3 oz. packages of Schar gluten free lady fingers. Remember that gluten free lady fingers take a bit longer to soak and also soak up more liquid.

Photo Credits: KiwiConfections