Recipe Face-Off!

Recipe Face-Off: Corn Muffins

Corn Muffin Face-Off

Even back when sugar-crusted, store-bought muffins were something I ate regularly (when I cared about neither my waistline or a balanced meal), I would never go for the corn muffin. Chocolate chip? Yes. Blueberry? Definitely. But for some irrational reason the corn muffin always looked so nasty to me, so I never tried it. It wasn’t until recently when my boyfriend said he loved corn muffins that I came around. At first I was like what, why? And then I realized if I like cornbread there’s no reason why I wouldn’t like them in muffin form. It’s so weird how we just fear things we’ve never tried before.

I still have never bought a corn muffin, but I have been making good use of my Bob’s Red Mill Organic Medium Grind Cornmeal and making them myself. I like the medium grind for the slightly crunchy texture it gives my cornbread and corn muffins. I had been using Ina Garten’s corn muffin recipe (you know how I love Ina) until recently, when I came across Running to the Kitchen’s Strawberry Corn Muffins. Gina’s muffins don’t have wheat, table sugar, or dairy. I was really curious about them, so it was face-off time. I left out the strawberries to make the two recipes comparable. (Note: I called Gina’s muffins “paleo”, but they’re technically not paleo. “Wheat/sugar/dairy-free” just didn’t sound as catchy.)

Ina Garten’s Corn Muffins

Regular Corn Muffin

I don’t know if Ina has a giant muffin tin or what, but I got way more than 12 muffins out of this recipe! Other than that, these are wonderful. Sweet, crumbly, really high in calories…basically, everything a corn muffin should be.

Running to the Kitchen’s Corn Muffins

Paleo Corn Muffin

The last time I baked something wheat, sugar, and dairy-free, the result was tasty but barely resembled the original baked good it was based on. So I was really pleasantly surprised when I pulled these out of the oven and they looked a lot like the corn muffin we know and love, with crumbs and all. I was concerned about whether or not the coconut oil and almond meal would give the muffins a weird taste but, nope. They tasted like corn muffins but earthier with just a touch of sweetness.

Final Verdict

Running to the Kitchen’s corn muffins win, I can’t believe it! This is our first Recipe Face-Off where “the real thing” didn’t win. Running to the Kitchen’s muffins are much lower in calories and way cleaner with almond meal, almond milk, honey, coconut oil instead of wheat, dairy, and table sugar. The texture wasn’t compromised by the alternative ingredients either. But most importantly, I actually preferred the taste. I loved the earthiness of it and that it was much less sweet. These are actually muffins I can eat for breakfast! Sorry, Ina. I love you but I’m switching recipes.

Lunch and Dinner

I’m Obsessed With A Sardine Salad. No, Really.

Sardine salad with feta and avocado

The word “sardine” by itself is enough to put most people off. Pair “sardine” with “salad” and I know half of you are about to X out of this post. Wait! Give me a chance to tell you why you might want to start eating this surprisingly delicious salad. Hear me out.

I love sardines but I never quite know what to prepare them with. I actually got the inspiration for this salad from a fitness book. I’m a big fan on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, and one day decided to buy his book Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body (my Amazon affiliate link). While his podcasts and blog are AMAZING and he’s just a fountain of knowledge, I didn’t get too much out of this particular book. For one thing, I could never quite decide which body type I have, which is kind of a pre-requisite to achieving your ideal body. But the bigger problem is I looked at the workout plans and decided I would completely disregard them and keep doing what I’m doing. So, yeah. I did get one important thing out of this book: my new favorite salad. He talks about making a salad with greens, veggies, sardines, avocado, and feta. And that’s what I did.

Sardines are like the win-win-win fish for me. They’re low in mercury, high in omega-3 fatty acids (as well as iron, calcium, and potassium), inexpensive, and sustainably-fished. Though fresh sardines taste better, canned sardines are good too. They’re really easy to find and not too high in sodium for a canned food. I suggest opting for sardines with bones rather than the skinless boneless type. The bones are soft enough to eat and you get more calcium that way. Aside from the sardines, this salad has so many nutrients and healthy fats, it’s almost obnoxious. But believe it or not, it tastes kinda awesome! All the ingredients come together really well creating a refreshing Mediterranean-flavored salad. OK, not sure if avocado is Mediterranean but, hey. You can never get enough avocado. The best part of this salad is that it’s stupid easy to make and takes like five minutes. It’s my new fast food.

Mediterranean sardine salad

Mediterranean Sardine Salad With Avocado
Makes 1 serving

1 can of sardines packed in olive oil (preferably including bones)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large handful spinach
1 tomato, sliced into 8 wedges
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into cubed and scooped out of its skin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Open the can of sardines and pour one tablespoon of the olive oil in the can into a bowl. Slowly add the balsamic vinegar as you whisk furiously with a fork until you have an emulsified vinaigrette. Add the spinach, tomato, and red onion to the bowl and toss until the vinaigrette is evenly distributed. Roughly cut the sardines into big chunks in the can. Top your salad with the half the sardines (or all of them if you’re hungry), feta, avocado cubes, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Prepare to feel awesome.

Sardine Salad

Health and Nutrition

Bon Appetit Magazine’s 2013 Food Lover’s Cleanse

food lovers cleanse

Have you seen Bon Appetit magazine’s Food Lover’s Cleanse? It’s a meal plan for the first two weeks of the new year, designed with a nutritionist’s help, to recalibrate your eating habits after the holiday season. This is the third year Bon Appetit has featured a new year’s cleanse, and I have been loving them! It’s such a fantastic idea because it addresses two big problems with so-called detoxifying “cleanses”: a) they’re usually a bunch of BS with no real science behind them, and b) people who actually like food can’t stand the thought of wasting a meal on something that tastes bland.

I didn’t follow the Food Lover’s Cleanse schedule. I’m cooking for one and don’t have enough space in my shared apartment to store that much food. Plus, different recipes every single day? I don’t got time for that.


I’ve just been making a few days worth of each recipe at a time, slowly making my way through. So far I’m digging it, and appreciate that the prep work is less involved compared to 2012’s cleanse (though it was equally delicious). My food totally did not come out as beautiful as the photography, but it’s cool.

One of the main reasons why I created this blog is to show people that, yes, you can eat delicious food and do not have to follow any weird depriving diets to eat healthy. I love the Food Lover’s Cleanse because the meals are tasty, seasonal, well-balanced, and nutritious. In fact, I could eat like this year-round. Minus the rules of no dessert/caffeine/bread/dairy, even if I could cut back on some of them. We should all strive to eat more whole intact grains, fish, healthy fats, and vegetables…while still enjoying the heck out of our meals.


The New Year Un-Resolution

Last year, I was hardcore with my 2012 goals. I set five big ones, and accomplished four of them. (Damn you, DMV. I’ll never get my drivers license!) But prior to 2012, I had been on a self-improvement kick for a while. If it wasn’t for resolution making and goal setting, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made the huge strides I did in just a few short years.

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I’m doing something different this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about staying in the present. Disengaging. Forgetting perfection. Minimizing self-imposed stress. As much as my determination to become a better person in all areas of life has helped me accomplish a lot, I wanted to see if I could challenge myself in a very different way this year. I foresee a lot of change, joy, and struggles in the year to come. Rather than have a list of resolutions, I have one un-resolution: to feel good about the way I am, no matter what. I want to see if I can make it through the year being happy with what I have rather than feel the need to improve myself, or fix where I’m lacking. It’s the ultimate challenge.

mince pies

So, in the spirit of my 2013 Un-Resolution, here are some less-than-perfect photos for you. I intended to make some slamming homemade mince pies, and write a cool post about how I had happy teenage memories eating mince pies with one of my BFFs, Frances. But the mince pies came out unimpressive. The pastry didn’t look pretty. And I realized just about no one likes mince pies except Frances and I. On top of that, I have a new camera and haven’t quite figured out how to take the best shots with it yet. I thought about abandoning the entire post idea. But I realized, it’s OK! I’m happy to eat food that no one likes but me. And I’m happy to share my strangely dark and moody food photos with the world. Everything is how it should be.


Looking Back at 2012

My blog hasn’t been around for an entire year, so I can skip the obligatory Best Posts of 2012 (yay). However, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my 2012 with you in photos.

Last year, one of my resolutions was to take a photo a day. I definitely didn’t manage to do it everyday, and I almost forgot about the resolution during the last few months. But in the end I still win because I finished the year with maybe 10 times the amount of photos I’d usually have. It’s been a great creative outlet and helped my photography skills. More importantly, it’s a wonderful gift to be left with so many photos of happy memories, may they be big events like weddings, or tiny details like how much I loved my first pair of fun pink earphones. Enjoy!

This was an exciting month for me! New roomie, new bedroom, new volunteer gig at the farmers market, and all kinds of awesome resolutions, like the photo project. Oh and this gross dead fish head that sat outside my building for an entire month. How did it get there?! Why didn’t anyone clean it up?

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The month of love! With both Valentines, my relationship anniversary, (and a flower delivery mishap) I got tons of flowers. And I baked tons of cookies for the people I <3.


I escaped what felt like a never-ending winter and went to Miamiiiii. When I came back I got started on my first attempt at growing food. This was the first life I created.

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This was a month of learning how to love home and transform it into a beautiful place I want to spend time at. You don’t know how helpful Pinterest was in this endeavor.

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I ate delicious food and partied at The Great Googa Mooga. I also went to LA for a few days. No biggie.

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I turned 26! In the Dominican Republic!

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I was loving summer food in July. LOVE. I grew it, cooked it, ate it.

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I got to play with a fancy camera. My food photography suddenly got a whole lot better. Oh yeah, I also got a fat lip from jumping on a pull-up bar. Sad.

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I ran my first 10K race, woohoo! And refused to let summer end. I ate ice pops and kicked pumpkins.

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I watched my childhood best friend get married in France. What a lovely, lovely couple. I also enjoyed indulging in Amsterdam. I need more speculaas in my life.

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We welcomed a lovely little lady to the fam. Say hello to my new niece :) I no longer wanted to kick pumpkins. I wanted to eat them everyday. And I wrote what was one of my post popular recipes for the blog!


Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers

I went to Vegas with my BFF bride-to-be. My little sister came to visit at the end of the month. We partied with my boyfriend at a masquerade ball on New Years Eve. Or at least I tried to force her to party. This picture is classic haha.

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What a year!!! It’s so easy to lose the present and focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have. Looking through these photos remind me to be grateful for living such a full life with such wonderful people, and having the privilege of seeing so much of the world. 2012, I might not have seen it at the time, but you were a great one. I look forward to enjoying 2013  in real time :)

Lunch and Dinner

A Kale Salad to Die For

We’re in the middle of that short period each year that I love salads. LOVE. I will probably be unable to eat this in about two months time, so I’m going to make this as many times as I can before that happens.

I found this lovely Kale Market Salad recipe on 101 Cookbooks one day. It might not have screamed out “MAKE MEEEE” like some other recipes do. But I happened to have almost all the ingredients needed at home anyway, so I picked up some almonds from the store and made it that same night. SO good. It’s just one of those super simple yet magical combination of ingredients where the sum is so much greater than its parts. I didn’t even use farro or fennel, but it was delicious all the same.

Then again, maybe using avocado is cheating. Avocado makes everything taste amazing.


Health and Nutrition

How Bad is Bacon, Really?

Bacon is so hot right now. Or did it never go out of fashion? Either way, a friend called it “the crack of food”. It’s so ridiculously delicious. From breakfast to baked goods to Bloody Marys, it pretty much makes everything taste better. But most of America still looks at bacon and thinks “heart attack”. I’ve heard things along the lines of, “every strip of bacon you eat takes a day off your life”.

On one hand, yes, there is some scary stuff when it comes to bacon. Most of bacon’s calories come from fat, almost half of which is saturated. It is popular belief that eating foods rich in saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Processed meats are also said to increase the risk of certain cancers and diseases, possibly because of nitrates and carcinogenic PAH compounds.

On the other hand, I’ve always thought that quality bacon in moderation can’t be too unhealthy. Though I know cured meat isn’t as good for you as fresh meat, real food that you cook is still better than heavily processed crap, right? It’s like red meat, cheese, and butter. These are natural foods that can be part of a healthy diet, yet “health-conscious” Americans avoid them like the plague and replace them with processed foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce.  Something is wrong with that picture. Also, I’m not 100% sure about the heart attack thing either. From Summer Tomato: “…a direct causal relationship between saturated fat and heart disease has never been established. Moreover, evidence is accumulating that cholesterol in general is not the best predictor of heart disease and that refined carbohydrates are a bigger problem.”

Bear in mind I am neither a scientist or nutritionist, so don’t bet your life on my shallow research. But in my opinion, bacon is not the worse thing for you. Like everything, moderation is key–bacon isn’t meant to be a main course. As long as most of the food you are eating is nutritious, I’d say a little bacon here and there is totally fine. I often use small amounts of it to enhance otherwise healthy dishes (examples here and here). Also, try to purchase better quality bacon, either from the farmers market or a health food store. Have your bacon and eat it too!

Note: It doesn’t matter how manly you are, this is not how you should eat bacon.


The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Milk and Cookies

This is going to sound totally crazy, but I never tried the classic milk and cookies combo until just a few weeks ago. As an overly mature kid, I dipped rich tea biscuits in my coffee. But never cookies in milk. Man, I have been missing out!

I was explaining this to the boyfriend and ex-roomie as we were eating my last batch of ice pops on the balcony one night. Then it came to me. Milk. Cookies. Ice pops. It was happening.

I’m a total psycho and baked my own batch of cookies from scratch to make these, but feel free to get store-bought chocolate chip cookies, or experiment with other cookies. (Milk and Oreo ice pops?!) But here it is. A super simple ice pop for my fellow cookie addicts.

Milk and Cookies Ice Pops
Makes 4 servings
About 200 calories

2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
4-8 chocolate chip cookies depending on size, roughly torn into large chunks

Warm the milk in a small pot over a low flame. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Drop a few pieces of cookie chunks into your ice pop molds and fill them up half way with sweetened milk. Add a few more cookie chunks into each mold and fill the molds to the top with milk.

Chill in freezer for at least 4 hours.