MIMM: Hatchday, Pretty Light, Knees, and Insane Decisions

Hey everyone!  How’s your Monday going?

DSCN3124 DSCN3127 DSCN3137 DSCN3143 DSCN3160 DSCN3159Mine’s been pretty…pretty, to say the least.  As a Washingtonian, such flagrant displays of sunshine are something of a rarity, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve been taking full advantage of these picture-perfect summer days by frolicking about, soaking up the Vitamin D.

I’ve never really been one of those people who need an extra boost on Mondays to get through the week, even when school/activities are in session–I’ve just never hit the “Monday wall” that I guess so many people run into.  I’ve already confessed my nerdship to you guys–Monday is basically my favorite day of the week!  Not only is it usually pretty light on homework because teachers don’t like to take the time to concoct elaborate assignments over the weekends, school STARTS UP AGAIN and I know it’s going to be the beginning of a (potentially gruelingly) glorious week!

Still, it never hurts to get a little extra boost, even if your biggest worry right now is that the hammock that’s callin’ your name is gonna get lonely.

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The weekend was pretty enjoyable marvelous.  I hosted Citrus’ third hatchday party–I made sad-looking but still (IMO) cute cockatiel cookies and we bopped around outside.  There was a sleepover and we all got very slap-happy.  We were tired in the morning but there were muffins (with both lemon and seeds–perfect for a bird named Citrus!) made by me and a frittata made by Mother Dearest (with potatoes inside–tasted like hashbrowns!!).  I do so love hashbrowns.

Alas, we did not have a circular cookie cutter, so I had to shape the sugar cookie dough (nomnomnom) with a beer-can chicken prop-thing.  (My culinary vocabulary falters when it comes to meat…)

To make the cookies, I used the Savvy Vegetarian cookie dough recipe, this recipe for coconut whip as a frosting (tinted yellow with food coloring), Craisins for eyes, chopped up Watermelon Laffy Taffy for the beaks, and mangled “orange slices” candies for the orange cheek circles.DSCN3042 DSCN3052

This totally didn't happen what are you talking about.  Not straight from the beater, never.

This totally didn’t happen what are you talking about. Not straight from the beater, never.

I wouldn't recommend using A Taste of Thai coconut milk (pretty popular brand) for the whip--it has some sort of stabilizer added that prevents it from working too nicely.  I used...whatever this brand is.

I wouldn’t recommend using A Taste of Thai coconut milk (pretty popular brand) for the whip–it has some sort of stabilizer added that prevents it from working too nicely. I used…whatever this brand is.

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Beaks!  Haha

Beaks! Haha

Aaaaand the final result.  Bit homely, but that’s okay! 🙂

Citrus approves.

Citrus approves.

Other marvelous things today…

Can we talk patella bracing for a sec?  I’m in love.  I don’t think that’s hyperbole.  Anything that was enough to lift me out of the forced 8-month running break thanks to these dang knees is virtually a Messiah in my eyes.  (I think it was probably the braces in adjunct with my rest, stretching, physical therapy, orthotics, supportive shoes, and therapeutic ultrasounds, but hey, whatever works…)  To my surprise, I haven’t lost all of my (nonexistent to begin with) running prowess, and the braces allowed me to attend my first *OFFICIAL* XC practice last Friday!  I hope to attend two more this week!  We’ll see how that goes…alas, my mileage maximum right now is approximately 3.  (Maybe four on the hamster wheel?)  By the end of the summer we’re supposed to be easily running 8…

This brings me to my first INSANE DECISION OF THE DAY!  This one is way less insane than my other one, but it’s still a big thrill for me.  I signed up for another 5k!!  This one’s on August 24th, and, while running in the heat ain’t exactly my cup of tea, I’m beyond stoked!  If I can even get close to my time on my first-and-only 5k, then it will be a huge reassurance for me that, though my knees doth plague me, I can get my kickassery and (somewhat) speed back with enough motivation.  (To any “serious” runners out there reading this:  I know a 5k is not a huge distance.  It’s kind of a menial race.  But, alas, my body is NOT DESIGNED FOR RUNNING WHATSOEVER [sitting and blogging is more my speed, how ’bout you?] and a 5k is a big deal to me!)

Sweet Potato Chocolate Pancakes 009(Throwback to the morning of my first 5k, waiting in the starting line.  Pay no attention to the ominous disembodied hand on my shoulder; someone else is cropped out.  And notice the fear hiding behind the forced smile–the glazed eyes, the overall absent disposition.  I was convinced I was going to die that day.)

Incidentally, you know what’s harder than running a 5k?

………………………..Biking two hundred and two miles.

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Yeah, it’s insane.  We’ve covered this.  And it will require buying a new bike, and/or some road tires for my current trusty steed mountain bike.  But recently (yesterday-recently), la madre de una de mis amigas (I’m not sure why I phased into Spanish here, but I couldn’t think how to word it in English) participated in the Cascade Bicycle Club/Group Health Seattle-to-Portland bike ride, a one- or two-day event that spans a total of 202-point-something miles.  Which gave me a sudden and intense burst of inspiration.  It’s a recreational ride, not a race, but from my extensive Googling of the thing last night it looks. epic.  And everyone says you need to dream big and set high goals to keep your morale buoyed, right?  So.  I’ve got a year to train.  I post this to the internet so I can’t back down–next year, Daddio and I will be participating in the 2014 Seattle-to-Portland ride.  And we will rock that epic $#*@.

Much moreso than for running, my body (and quads) like biking.  While the farthest ride I’ve ever taken to date was just 40 miles with lots of hills, and I died afterwards–I’ve got a year.  Best get on this.

Ahh.  The inevitable foot selfie.  (For some reason I just tried to spell “foot” as “fut”…)  Daddio and I went on a short (10 mile?) ride today, and I plan to get some running on the hamster wheel done as well.  Fitness, here I come!

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And arrachgha, yes, I need to do a poemography post today, since I’ve skipped out on that for, what, three weeks?!  Problem is, I only have one line to work with… #poetictrialsandtribulations

“Rather than people who shine–

I like people who glow

is the line, but I’m not sure how to weave that into a poem.  Would it be all right if poemography was extended to flash fiction?  I know I made the rules, but you guys can change them.  I’ll luv ya forever 😉

Delicious Oatmeal Is Entirely Possible!–My Tips

Sometimes it baffles me that normal people don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day.  Or, ever.

You...you don't eat...whaa??

You…you don’t eat…whaa??

It almost made me cry when I realized that with my potential gluten and avenin sensitivities, my oat consumption is going to have to decrease markedly.  😦  People are always so surprised when I tell them oats are my favorite food–but it’s true!  (Along with soup, and peanut butter.  If anyone can figure out a way to combine all those, I would be eternally grateful.  [I’m thinking using steel-cut oats as a more savory, barley type thing, and going with some African spices for a peanut-sweet-potato stew type thing?  Oh, but I digress.])

Because oats are so obviously magical and delicious, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only two possible reasons why  SOME people don’t like them.

a.) They’re not preparing it right!!!  (Don’t worry; that shall be remedied within this post.)

b.) They’re used to downing gallons of carbonated high fructose corn syrup a day, they have to drench their sweet potatoes in maple syrup and brown sugar to get them sweetened to their liking, and the only type of oatmeal they’ve ever enjoyed is those powdery, sugary instant oatmeal packets flavored with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial blueberry flavor, and Blue Lake #3.  Yummm.  (I have to admit, I was one of these people too, when I was a wee young sprite.  The good news is that if you want to turn your diet around, it’s all a matter of gradual changes, and once you get on the whole-foods track, you’ll drop that insatiable sweet tooth for good.  Nowadays, I can’t even drink soda–it’s so cloyingly, sickly sweet.)

Obviously both these reasons are no excuse for not enjoying the miracle that is oatmeal; so, here are my tips, which will hopefully vanquish Oatmeal Excuse A from the lives of my readers.

To Prepare Delicious Oatmeal…

#1.  Add flax.  I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again now.  Buy yourself a bag of ground golden flaxseeds, keep it in the fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon or so on your brekkie every time you prepare oats.  If you like your oats thick and doughy like me, ground flaxseeds are a godsend because they absorb any extra water in your oats, leaving you with this chewy pudding-type porridge consistency.  As an added benefit, flaxseeds are a nutritional goldmine, especially for vegetarians, rich with lignans, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, protein, and fiber.  They have kind of a vile taste on their own, at least until you get used to them, but you can’t detect it when mixed in with hot cereal, and the insanely improved texture is worth it.

#2.  Break out of the  ‘oatmeal=maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins, butter’ mindset.  Who founded this mindset, anyway?  This flavor combination is all very well and good, but it most certainly does not represent oatmeal at its best.  I NEVER eat my oats like this!

And plain oatmeal, on its own?  Well, I LOOVE that stuff, but I’m weird!  You probably don’t!  If you’re forcing yourself to choke down unflavored oatmeal, or maple syrupy oatmeal, each day, NO WONDER YOU DON’T LIKE IT!  Add STUFF to your oatmeal, for crying out loud!

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This oatmeal included sweet potatoes and two kinds of dark chocolate. No joke.

Nut butter, flax and cinnamon are my default oatmeal toppers and stir-ins; I honestly can’t believe it never occurs to some people to stir things into their oats!  If you need flavor inspiration, there’s plenty out there in the food blog realm–check out Kath Eats Real Food’s Tribute to Oatmeal–or, as she rightfully describes it, her tribute to “the world’s greatest breakfast”.  If your brain isn’t fried by all those glorious pictures and you feel you can take on even heavier porridge plethoras, head on over to The Oatmeal Artist.  This is a food blog started by an English teacher, ENTIRELY devoted to oatmeal.  I thought I had met my future, alternate self when I discovered it.  (And why didn’t I come up with this idea?!)

#3.  Don’t cook your oats.  If you haven’t tried overnight oats yet, it’s time to crawl out from under the foodie rock you’ve been living under and whip up a batch.  In essence, they are oats, combined with either flax or chia, and soaked in your choice of milk overnight in the refrigerator.  Usually there’s some flavorings and nut butters involved as well!  Depending on your ingredients, they are a live, raw food, they CAN be made vegan, ridiculously high-protein, etc.–AND, they save you buckets of time in the morning, because all you need to do is grab them out of the fridge, top, stick in a spoon and start shoveling them into your face, cold and delicious!

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Peanut Butter Fingers has a great tutorial, if you’re new to the overnight oats scene, as does Oh She Glows.  More linkage: Eating Bird Food’s Ode to Overnight Oats, Kath Eats Real Food’s smorgasbord of Overnight Oatmeal Inspiration.

And don’t forget Fitnessista’s world-changing Overnight Breakfast Cookie!  It eliminated most of the liquid in overnight oats to form…well, a cookie.  A cookie made of oatmeal and sometimes chocolate and love and amazingness.

#4.  Bake them.  This tip is especially geared to those unfortunates suffering from Oatmeal Excuse B (see above).  The good news is that baked oatmeal usually tastes positively confectionary, because it usually has some sort of sweetener, and the texture is like a large oatmeal cookie.  That you get to eat for breakfast.  (!!)  Baked oatmeal is also really handy because you can bake up a tray on the weekends, which sets you up with breakfast for ~4 days to come.  Talk about breakfast of champions!

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Check out mah very own baked oatmeal recipes:  Apple PB Baked Oatmeal, and Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal, make them, and love them as much as I do.  I greatly appreciate any feedback on my recipes, because it helps me to grow as a budding amateur recipe developer/food blogger!  If you prefer to roll with the pros (sniffle sniffle), head on over to PBF’s Banana Pecan Coconut Baked Oatmeal, Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal, and Vanilla Pecan Baked Oatmeal.  Also look into the Baked Oatmeal section of the recipe index of The Oatmeal Artist.  Sweet tooth still not satisfied?  Break out the heavy artillery–head over to Chocolate Covered Katie’s collection of dessert-like baked oatmeals.

#5.  Blend them.  It is unfortunately a little-known fact that you can blend oats, both raw and of the overnight variety, into yumlicious smoothies and shakes.  One of my earlier recipes, Breakfast Creamsicle Smoothie, does just this.  The oats give smoothies such a lovely, doughy texture and taste!!  For further proof: Kath Eats Real Food’s Dough Boy Smoothie, and Oh She Glows’ Pumpkin Gingerbread Smoothie.

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#6.  Switch varieties.  By this, I mean to say that if you’re used to conventional rolled oats (“old-fashioned oats”), give steel-cut oats a shot.  They hold their texture and somewhat nutty taste much better, but they doo take a heckuva long time to cook.  (Unless you go the thermos route!)  Chances are, you’ll like them much better.

If, by some hiccup of the universe’s workings, you are in fact used to steel-cut oats, like I was, definitely give rolled oats a shot!  I actually prefer the rolled to steel-cut; probably because I was used to the steel-cut oats in the first place, and rolled oats are really different and cool.  Also, they cook in about three minutes in the microwave and require no forethought–perfect for busy students!  They are also much more versatile than the steel-cut–you can’t blend steel-cut into smoothies, for instance, and overnight oats work much better using rolled oats.  (Though I have heard of some people who can get it to work with steel-cut.  I have all the envies.)

So, there you have it!  Six delicious, no-fail tips for “revolutionizing your breakfast”!  Now, go on out into the world, fueled by the glory of the humble oat, and spread the gospel of this amazing grain!

Bad Apron Pictures, Fluffy Frosting, and REALLY GOOD Cup(pan)cakes

In stark contrast to the epic wasteland of negativity that was my previous post, today I’ma be talkin’ a little bit about everyone’s favorite, palm-sized sweet treat: cupcakes!  (Yes, I do still have a life, outside of my wallowing in misery over my aching joints.)  Specifically, I’ma be talkin’ ’bout how I gets up at 3:00 AM to make them, and surprise even myself by doing a decent job.

Something really awesome about attending a private school is that you get to participate in a multitude of cool extracurricular programs–my latest excursion was a school-organized foray into the world of business owning and managing (and, incidentally food.  Yay!  I like that world!).  I was required to spend six hours in a small-scale business of my (somewhat) choosing, and I was assigned the lovely Bonjour Cupcakes, all the way over in Olympia.

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I learned quite a lot.  I somehow have a sneaking suspicion that that was the point of the assignment.

For example, did you know that bakers work hours that usually start around 10:00 PM and conclude around 7:00 AM?

I didn’t.  Until now.

Thankfully, that wasn’t quite me, but I did have to rise at 3:00 AM in order to get myself lookin’ presentable and mosey down to the business, where I would be shadowing the manager and bakers there, taking in all they do and say and just feeding off their awesome cupcake-making vibe.  It was an amazing experience; no, I don’t necessarily want to become a baker when I grow up (unless all else fails…I don’t think I’m organized enough, anyway!  You have to keep track of all those trays and orders and ingredients and lists and proportions…), BUT, it was quite awesomesauce to see how things actually play out “behind the scenes” of a cupcake shop!

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Man, they have tubs of buttercream.  Tubs!!  Ecstasy.

I wore an apron and took a really bad photo of it

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and proceeded to conquer my jobs of Squirter of Magic Potion (aka caramel sauce and lemon curd) Into the Center of the Cupcakes, and Decorator of Already-Frosted Cupcakes.

Caramel!

Caramel!

MY handiwork!  MY handiwork!! (happy dances)

MY handiwork! MY handiwork!! (happy dances)

Oh, yeah, and my other job.  The most important one: Taste-Tester.

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Because of my possibly food sensitivity issues, I was confined to sampling the gluten-free flavors, and I ended up picking an unfrosted vanilla gluten-free, made with almond and coconut flour.

LOOOOOOVE.  This was quite possibly the best cupcake I’ve had in my life, gluten-free or otherwise.  I loved how the “denser” nut flours blended together to create a cupcake that was, yes, dense, but so sweet, and almost pancake-like in texture.  (Cup-pancakes?  That idea brings me tears of happiness, and also a recipe idea…)  It was the kind of cupcake that, upon finishing, you just wanted to stuff the wrapper in your mouth and chew off all the remaining bits of cake.  (Please tell me you’ve done this before!–I mean, it’s not like I ever have, or anything…)  I refrained, because I was in the company of civilized human beings, but they really are THAT good.  Stop by Bonjour Cupcakes if you ever get the chance!

DSCN0337They are worthy. 🙂

2012; hey, that was fun

Happy New Year!!!

So, did you guys stay up until midnight last night?

…I…went to bed at 8:30 didn’t.

Let’s just say I’m a striking example of what sufficient beauty sleep will do to a gal, mmkay? 😉

And now for something massive: for the first time in The Girl in the Orange history, I get to do a YEARLY recap!  (As opposed to my plethora of regular Monthly Recaps.)  Granted, I’ve only blogged for five months in 2012–but I lived through all of it, and as it is now 2013, I think it deserves a little soft reminiscing.

Here it is!:

One YEAR of The Girl in the Orange in terms of…

…food:

Um, I think I “developed” four “recipes” this year??  And they all had to do with oats…what does this say about my character? 😉 (Don’t answer that; it says nothing.  Nothing, apart form the fact that I love oats.)  I think I’m most proud of my Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal, but that may be because it’s the most recent and because I got to use my new orange camera to photograph it.  It feels strangely independent.

In other foodie realms, I had some mishaps

as well as some mind-blowing successes.

What can I say?  I’m blessed enough to eat three five square meals a day and the eatin’s good.  I’ve been cooking on my own since March 2011; but when my food became public by means of this blog, 2012 became more of a year to stretch my wings and gather skills and confidence in the kitchen.  (I even finally mastered pancakes!! 😀  Everyone else says they’re so easy…:(.  They lie!)

…photography:

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My favorite food photos of the year.  (You knew my chocolate header one would be in there, didn’t you?) ;P

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You guys didn’t see this one; but over the holiday break I was having mucho fun playing with the “selective coloring” feature of my new camera!  This is a mug of blueberry tea, slowly brewing…it’s quite dramatic, non?

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Smile, Stitch!

Smile, Stitch!

Dog photos as well.  Don’t tell me you can look at that last one without cracking a grin.

…writing and poetry:

That’s right; since this is a YEARLY recap, you get a BONUS category!

I’m in a MUCH better place emotionally this year than I was last year; consequentially, my poetry went waaay downhill this year!  You know what they say: bad times make for good writing.  I found this to be true.  Now that I’m happy I can’t write anything.

But I HAVE started making things I wrote last year more public–I started a Figment account this month (user The Girl in the Orange), for one thing.  As I near (or, just, you know, kind of generally approach) the end of my novel, I’m really focusing on making my work more public–according to literary attorney publishing saint, establishing a formidable online presence is a very good way to attract the attention of potential publishers.

(To any potential publishers reading this: Hi!  I am working on a “Novel” page for this blog with a detailed summary of my work-in-progress, so check back soon!)

AND, I wrote a grand total of over 110,000 words on my novel this year (mostly all in the course of the last five months), and of that I am proud.  It’s not STAGGERINGLY EXCESSIVE, but considering all the other things I was doing (cough cough private school homework, cough cough), I still think that’s acceptable.

…things that made me smile:

Well, I got my hair chopped off.HAIR! 004

HAIR! 007

Big leap, that I’m so glad I took.  (And don’t worry–I shaved the back of my neck after these pictures were taken!) 😉

AAND, I ran my first 5k!  While not a major distance compared to the insane lengths other people run (ultramarathoners, I’m alookin’ at you), it was a big accomplishment for me.

There was one other HUGE lovely in the past year for me, but I’m not quite emotionally ready to post about that yet. 🙂  Let me just say that 2012 was an emotional renewal, of sorts, and I am so much better off now.

And The Girl in the Orange 2012 report is here!  Click below and see all the awesomeness that was the past year (why on earth did I bother to recap it all?).  I find it funny that one of the search engine terms that led people to me most was “mickey mouse pancake mold”… 😉  Here, I’ll humor you.  One more picture.Disney 035

2012 blog report (compiled by “WordPress stats helper monkeys” ): Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Ahh, sweet 2012.  Such nice reminiscences.  I imagine I’ll do a resolution post later on the week, but for now it’s pretty nice to enjoy soft fuzzies, and eat cake for breakfast.  Scratch that, that’s always nice, right?

Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal

I feel sho shcandalous.

I was so mean to you, you guys.  So, so mean.  And you didn’t even know how mean I was being, when I dangled this picture of a certain Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal under your noses in an unassuming post about positivity.  Pssh, positivity?  What was I thinking?  There are much more important matters to discuss…

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

LIKE CAKE, OBVIOUSLY.

This recipe was born out of a yearning for a perfect, healthy, cake-like, invented-by-me birthday breakfast for my own turning-of-the-year (December 10th).  When I was concocting it, I figured it would either be a big hit or a big miss…

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IT HIT.  Hard. Yummmmm.  I made it and ate it on my birthday and DIDN’T TELL YOU GUYS HOW TO MAKE IT!! 😉  Shcandalous! 😉

But now you can know.  I’m done with being mean.  I figured, since I didn’t know anyone whose birthday is coming up soon, I could post the recipe as a New Year’s breakfast–it is the birth of 2013, peeps!  (Good thing the world didn’t explode on the 21st…no, no, I’m not going to go there.)

Happy, happy new year.

Without further ado…

Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal

This is the “classic” birthday-style cake; creamy vanilla cake, chocolate frosting optional.  I realize some of you would prefer chocolate cake, but tradition must be honored.

Inspired by this and this.

Ingredients:

3 T raw cashew butter combined w/ a splash almond extract and a splash vanilla extract, and SPRINKLES!

1/2 recipe vanilla chia amazeballs (directions in the Instructions section)

1 1/2 c rolled oats

1 c milk of choice

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

2 T flax

1/2 c vanilla honey Greek yogurt

1 more splash vanilla

Directions:

Mmkay, this is intimidating, but your final cake-for-breakfast will be worth it, so bear with me.

First, you’re going to combine your cashew butter with a splash of almond extract and a splash of vanilla extract, and some sprinkles, if you wish.

036It will probably look something like this.  Except, there’s no doubt yours will look prettier than mine.  (It’s dang tasty, though, and that’s all that matters, right?  You can’t go wrong with almond extract.)

Next, you’re going to do your second bit of prep work here: Prep your half-batch of Vanilla Chia Amazeballs.  Buzz 6 tbs oats in a food processor until they become flour (or just use oat flour, or instant oats), mix in 1 T almond butter, 1 T agave nectar, .5 t chia seeds, and (2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder and .5 teaspoons vanilla extract) OR, if you don’t have protein powder, (1 T ground flaxseed and 1 t vanilla extract) will also work.  Roll into eensy weensy little balls…

LITTLE tiny things.

LITTLE tiny things.

With my (child-size) hand, for size comparison.  Yes, it’s a laborious task, rolling all that batter into balls that are barely half a teaspoon each, but it will allow them to distribute evenly throughout the oatmeal bake and give you more amazeball per bite!

Whew.  Now you’re done with the prep work!  Breathe a sigh of relief!  Now you just have to mix stuff!

Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl (glass is best) and combine well with a spatula.  Stir the cashew butter fully into the mixture but just incorporate the amaze-balls.

Pour into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.

I chose a ROUND pan to kick off new year’s, because according to Chocolate Covered Katie, round things (especially breakfasts) 😉 bring good fortune into the new year by symbolizing coming full circle and starting a new cycle!

It is also shaped more like a cake this way.

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(And then I, erm, tried to frost it somewhat, purely for your amusement.  Clearly, I overestimate myself.)

Topping ideas?  When I actually ate this on my birthday, I used some almond butter, agave, avocado, and cocoa powder mashed together as “frosting” (no, you can’t taste the avocado), and that was great.  Plain ol’ chocolate nut butter is also great.  If your new year’s resolutions involve something along the lines of eating less chocolate, however (the horror!), it’s also “amazeballs” just smeared with some more cashew butter.  And sprinkles.  Yesh.

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How can you not start off a new year on the right foot with cake for breakfast??

Good fortune to you this coming year. 🙂

Three Thursday Things

1. I’m having waaay too much fun with da new orange camera.  Favorite present, hands down.

Breakfast this morning--banana custard oats in a peanut butter jar (the hot oats melt the nut butter into ooey gooey deliciousness!).  Also, Pluto spoon.

Breakfast this morning–banana custard oats in a peanut butter jar (the hot oats melt the nut butter into ooey gooey deliciousness!). Also, Pluto spoon.

2. By recommendation of my Language Arts teacher (surprised me too!), I am now reading the Bible book of Ecclesiastes.  It’s awesome.  It’s like a fantastical hybrid of philosophy and religion–love, love, love.  And a book that starts off with the bold proclamation ‘Nothing has any meaning!’?  I’m intrigued.

“No matter what you do, work at it with all your might.  Remember, you are going to your grave.  And there isn’t any work or planning or knowledge or wisdom there.” (NIrV)  Ecclesiastes 9:10

❤ Nice reminder.

3.Today I went to the doctor, again, to see if they had anything more to say on the matter of these dang knees.  They’re killing me.  I can’t run–I haven’t run for a month–I am SO JITTERY…

They still have no idea what’s wrong with me.  So they sucked the red liquid of life out of a hole in my arm (the phlebotomist asked me if I was 11 years old) to test it for what may or may not be juvenile arthritis (which apparently runs in the family), which may or may not mean that I can never run again, which may or may not cause an emotional breakdown and/or intensified interest in CrossFit.

I did get an orange bandage.  But still--I think I was entitled to the cookies that ensued.

I did get an orange bandage. But still–I think I was entitled to the cookies that ensued.

Sigh.

Happy Thursday.

Tales from Christmas in the house of The Girl in the Orange

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…

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…except for a blogger’s mouse.

The stockings were hung on the bookshelves with care,

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in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The blogger was propped up by pillows in bed,

while visions of French Toast danced through her head.

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And Citrus, with his new present

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and she, listening to his peeps

had just settled down for a long winter’s sleep.

Then…

out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter!

She sprang from her bed to see what was the matter!

Away to the dining hall she flew like a flash,

stood gawking at the mess and said with a gasp,

“I worked so hard to make dinner rolls, you know,

but it simply won’t do to leave the kitchen so.”

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When, what to her wondering eyes should appear,

but a miniature fairy!,

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who then said,

“Come here!

If you’ve been a good girl through all the year,

I’ll clean up this mess faster than you can say ‘Christmas Cheer’!”

(Not really.) 😦

But the mess, it got cleaned

(though not very quick);

so the house looked presentable for the arrival of St. Nick.

The blogger sighed in relief and went back whenst she came,

started writing a post which would bring her great fame.

In the morning Mother Dearest would be up, french toast a-fixin’,Christmas 2012 059

and The Girl in the Orange would eat;

but, betwixt, in

the living room they would gather around the tree so tall,

and open their presents, for it was no longer Fall,

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As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

so would the wrapping paper–up to the sky!

The floor was soon a mess of red, green, and blue,

tissue paper and ribbons and tinsel, too.

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Christmas was perfect, not one little goof

(except for perhaps the lack of snow on the roof);

much cheer and goodwill and good food to be found

in the house of The Girl in the Orange, all around.

And she didn’t do too bad either, when it came to the loot!:

the new orange Nikon camera caused quite a hoot.

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And there were lots of sweet treats, looking back;

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she downed ice cream and cookies and all sweets like crack.

After dinner, they were all so stuffed it was scary

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but they still found the energy to sit and be merry,

as they turned the TV to a holiday show;

Elf, starring Will Ferrell, you know.

Now they’re washing their faces and brushing their teeth,

(sadly, it’s now time to take down the wreaths),

but TGITO would like to say,

ere she dozes away,

“May your days be merry and bright;

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Apple PB Baked Oatmeal

Aaah.  Baked oatmeal, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

1.  You contain oatmeal, usually some eggs and milk and sometimes fruit and nuts and other good mix-ins, so you’re a pretty dang healthy breakfast.  But you still taste amazing.

2.  If I make a tray of you on the weekend I have breakfast covered for 4 days (usually…snacks happen) out of the 5-day week!

3.  YOU ARE LIKE EATING A GIANT COOKIE FOR BREAKFAST.

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Need I say more?

It is a universally accepted fact, except among the nut-allergic crowd, that one of the best snacks in the world is apple and nut butter.   (Well, besides carrots and peanut butter, nut butter straight from the jar, cheese, and sweet pickles–but I find those don’t lend themselves well to oatmeal recipe creating.)  Additionally, many people (except for those Paleo or fruitarian folks) argue that oatmeal is one of the most nutritious choices for breakfast!  Soluble fiber, protein, iron, calcium, other trace minerals…and yumminess.

(When I told a family member last week that one of my favorite foods was oatmeal, she spent five minutes trying to process this.  I guess I forget that normal people don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast every day! ;)…What do they eat?)

Winter is coming up, so now is pretty much our last chance to pay homage to our delicious Fall apples.

Baked oatmeal=homage.  Yummy, warming, comforting healthy homage.

Apple PB Baked Oatmeal

-1/3 c. applesauce mixed with 1 T chia seed overnight

-1 1/2 c. rolled oats

-1/2 c. steel-cut oats

-1 t baking soda

-1 medium egg

-2 T maple syrup

-1/2 c. milk + ~3 T

-3 T melted peanut butter (crunchy is the tastiest) (other nut butter should work as well–if you would eat it with apples, try it out!)

-3/4 c. diced apple

-Splash of vanilla extract

-Anywhere from 2t-2T ground cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon! 🙂 I definitely recommend the higher amount, though)

Directions:

This recipe takes a bit of forethought, since the first step is to combine your 1/3 cup applesauce with one tablespoon of chia seeds and let it soak in the refrigerator overnight (the chia will absorb some of the liquid in the applesauce).  But once you’ve got that done, the rest is a breeze!

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Your applesauce should look like this after the soaking.  It’s disgusting looking, I know.  You won’t be able to see it in the finished oatmeal.

And then, well…stir everything together! 😉  The peanut (or other nut) butter is really easy to melt in the microwave–just put it in a little microwave-safe bowl and nuke on high for 15-20 seconds.  (Be careful, as you can scorch it!)  It should be pretty runny and easy to mix in after that point.

During the first trials of this recipe, for some reason I fixated on one cup of milk, and it always took MUCH too long to bake and ended up MUCH too moist.  I can’t vouch for the exact amount of milk you should put in now, but I recommend starting with 1/2 c. and then adding it by the tablespoon until the batter is “stirrable” (I ended up using three extra tablespoons.)

It works best if your apple pieces are about this size.

It works best if your apple pieces are about this size.

Bake in an 8×8 pan (or a similarly proportioned pan, so long as it works out to an area of 64) at 350 degrees for 30-50 minutes, depending on humidity, juiciness of your apples, oven quality, etc.  (Our oven is poor quality and my apple wasn’t very juicy, and mine took 40 minutes before I declared it baked.)

All done!

All done!

Slice into 4 squares (see?  It IS like a GIANT cookie!), take one, and devour.  Top with more sliced apple or nut butter, maple syrup, or apple butter, if you want to be all fancy-like.

Or you could just eat it on its own.  It's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.

Or you could just eat it on its own. It’s pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.

Sick on my Birthday! (Staying positive in the face of injuries, illness, setbacks and whatever else life is throwing at you)

I’ve always been kind of sentimental about birthdays.  Maybe it’s the fact that I never really got a huge deal made out of my birthday (too close to Christmas), or maybe it’s the fact that I’m not an adult yet so I can still afford to be sentimental about some things, or maybe it’s just a combination of the two, but whatever the reason, I loooove birthdays. It’s your day; it marks the anniversary of something HISTORIC (your birth!  obviously up there with the likes of the Declaration of Independence and International Peanut Butter Lover’s Day); and, aside from your deathday, it’s the day when others feel most obligated to do whatever you want!  (When I die, I want people to mourn for me by wearing orange rather than black.  Just sayin’.)

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

I had big plans for this birthday-which-happened-yesterday.  I started making them about 364 days ago.  I was going to go out for the longest run of my life; then I would hit up a frozen yogurt joint and eat the biggest cup of my life; then the next day I would bring my laptop to a cafe and work on my novel for two hours!!  It would be epic.

And then you know what happened?

Before December even began, I injured myself running and had to take a two-weeks-and-counting break from all exercise.  Then, the day before my birthday, I came down with acute bronchitis.  Thank you, sick Father, for your wonderful germs.  Now I’m taking a day off from school and trying to ignore the awful feeling of slacker-ness that is permeating my very bones as I blog, snooze, write, and read.  December  has always been my favorite month; but this year, it’s been kind of tough so far.

I need to feel productive in order to feel happy.  (Hello, fellow Type A’s!)  Running was something that offered that feeling to me in an amazing form.  Somehow, a day couldn’t seem wasted if I had put in a good run.  Now my injury has stolen that from me.

And my sudden virus has stolen my ability to go to school and take my mind off my sudden sedentary-ness, and stripped me of my will to do homework.  I’ve been turning in papers with huge run-on sentences, an abundance of comma and semicolon and parenthetical overkill (like this post), because I’ve had a fever while I’ve written them.  It makes my stomach churn.  It’s not my best work.  My teachers will think I have Problems.  Somehow it feels like the world is going to come crashing down every time I guiltily hand over a substandard paper.  I can’t take it back, and I wish desperately that I could be back to full health.  #innerperfectionist is #screaminginagony

And yet?  The situation has its perks.  With the extra 30-60 minutes in my day that are suddenly freed up by my inability to run, I’ve been working on my novel at a NaNoWriMo level.  (For those of you not in the loop, that’s 1,667 words a day.)  I’ve worked more on developing recipes and savoring delicious food.  I’ve indulged a little too often–it’s harder for me to stick to healthy eating habits when I’m not exercising–but I’ve enjoyed all those brownies, ice cream sundaes, slices of cake, and orders of popcorn.  Blogging is a hobby that I love, and now that I’ve got six free hours of my life that would have otherwise been spent attending school, I can use it to spiff up some posts-in-draft that I’ve been wanting to publish for a while.   And I’ve had more time for philosophical and religious thought.

And, most importantly, I can write this post; taking the time to reflect on the situation as it stands, realizing that I still have a multitude of projects I can be productive towards, and just remembering that I don’t have it so bad.  My life at the moment is sheltered, cushioned, safe, amazing, bubbling over with opportunity and chances.  When one door closes (running), another door opens (working on my novel and other creative aspects of my life).

Happy birthday to me!

Monthly Recap: November 2012

I’ve noticed that all of my monthly recaps up to this point start off with something along the lines of “Aaaacch!  How is it already (insert new month here)?!”  I should think of some way to change it up, but I’m not going to.  The passing of time is utterly baffling to me this year.  I suspect it has something to do with getting older.  As a wee young sprite, I started looking forward to December before summer vacation was even over; October, with its promise of a sugar binge in its final day, absolutely drawled; November was a stupid extraneous month that lengthened the time between Halloween, my birthday, and the rest of the December holidays.  (I was never really big on Thanksgiving except for the annual marshmallow fluff and strawberry jello ‘salad’.  Until this year, when I got REALLY into the Thanksgiving spirit.)

And now…here we are.  Poof, December!  It has long been my favorite month, though I must admit it’s losing a bit of its touch when we fail to have snow on the ground when it rolls around.  (Remember the snow photos in my last post?  Those were taken in MARCH, people, MARCH!)  I’m looking forward to the season of giving, endless mugs of hot cocoa, the first snowfall of the year (please please please please PLEASE), and my birthday.  It’s on the 10th, people.  Cough, cough.

So, over the course of November, I ran my first 5k and began training for me second one, began working on my bird training project in earnest, was sooo close to completing 100k words on my novel, was given the opportunity to (kind of) meet with a literary agency, almost swore when I realized the holidays were less than a month away and my wallet cotnained exactly $40 (man, I used to plan out Christmas presents starting in September!), ate some highly delicious food and made some epiphanies in kitchen, started developing my first two “real” recipes, and sustained my first running injury.  November hit me hard.

One month of The Girl in the Orange in terms of…

…food:

The Fitnessista breakfast cookie.  Need I say more?  I’d wanted to make it for a loooong time, but didn’t have any protein powder, which I thought was imperative.  Thanks to a quick internet search that revealed Mama’s Weeds‘ tips, I’ve made it twice already.  Once for dinner.  It’s that good.  Don’t skip out on the cocoa powder, unless you’re going to try to photograph it.  It’s not pretty.

Brown food doesn't photograph well, especially when you don't want to take the time to even put it on a pretty plate or clear your placemat of crumbs.  But it's dang delicious.

But it’s dang delicious.

And lentil flatbread from The Forgotten Beast.

You can make BREAD out of lentils??  Mind=blown.  Since I’ve been running and strength training a lot more lately (well, not lately, since I’ve still got my bum knee), I’ve been consciously trying to incorporate more protein into my veg diet; it also helps stave off late-night snacking sessions that turn into second dinners.  (Let’s thaw a stack of frozen pancakes and eat it at 9 PM!  That’ll be a great idea!  No.)

Mine…doesn’t look like bread.

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Shhh…I massacre every flatbread I try to make.  It’s not flatbread, but it IS mighty yummy–I’ve been crumbling this up and tossing it in salads and sandwiches.

I think I’ll do better on the whole flatbread thing the next go-round, when I understand the concept better.  There WILL be a next go-round!

Delicious things I didn’t manage to get a picture of include a tortoise-shaped cake from a local bakery (amazing detail, and the frosting is to die for!, even though usually I’m not a frosting type of gal), and a great lunch yesterday at a local Asian vegetarian restaurant.  BEST. PEANUT SAUCE.  EVER.  I could eat it by the spoonful–I did eat it by the spoonful!  Possibly even more memorable was the fact that I actually managed to drag Daddio along to the restaurant this time.  He’s a full-blooded backwoods steak-n’-potaters dad; I love him, but he was quite apprehensive to try tofu.  In the end, he worked up the nerve to try the deep-fried tofu and pronounced it “not bad…”!!  Baby steps. 😉

Thanksgiving leftovers rocked the world, as always.  Best part of the whole holiday.  At least in compensation for your stressful laboring the day before, you have an unlimited feast waiting for you in the fridge for the rest of the week.

Leftover green salad with romaine, spinach, kale, chard, sunflower seeds, feta, green beans, balsamic vinaigrette and a homemade garlic knot!  Complicated salads make me happy!

Leftover green salad with romaine, spinach, kale, chard, sunflower seeds, feta, green beans, balsamic vinaigrette and a homemade garlic knot! Complicated salads make me happy!

Elsewhere in the food life of The Girl in the Orange…

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Apple Nut-Butter Baked Oatmeal!  (And next, Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal!)  Stay tuned! 🙂

photography:

I didn’t really do so hot on food photography this month; there was a lot of SHTUFF going on.  So, bear with me, as I share three photos, two of which you’ve already seen before.

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PBF’s Vanilla Pecan Baked Oatmeal.  This is probably about the fifth time I’ve mentioned it.  I’m sorry, it just blew my mind.  Delicious, pretty healthy, pretty
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Mah very own hummus pasta!  Noodles are endlessly forgiving subjects! 🙂

pre-5k 049And an “action shot” of peanut butter pancakes the morning of my first 5k.  I like this picture.  I don’t know why; it doesn’t follow any of the “rules of aesthetics”.  There’s too much white space and some of it is out of focus, but…I like it.  It makes me hungry.

…things that made me smile:

Oh, there’s so many.  Finding an in to a literary agency.  Finishing my 5k in my goal of under 28:00 (my next one will have a fancy-schmancy chip timer!).  Reading people’s responses to my unseemly word count predicament.  Watching my dad try to corral noodles into a takeout box with chopsticks yesterday.  🙂  Ah, sweet reminiscence.