Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl

You've probably already heard the news about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

I guess it's never exactly surprising when celebrity couples split, but those two lasted a while and I was really rooting for them, you know?

At first I thought, how could you walk away from a beauty like Gwyneth? How could you walk away from a man who writes dreamy songs about you like "Green Eyes" and "Till Kingdom Come?"

Then I realized that was a silly thought. Marriage is not made easier by beauty or love songs. In fact, I imagine the more beautiful/busy/talented/rich/famous/successful you are, the harder marriage is.

I'm still relatively new at this marriage thing, and I have a LOT more to learn,  but to me, marriage is about putting your partner's needs before yours, always. Even when it's really hard and you really don't want to. It's a continual process of dying to your own desires because you're committed to the idea that the two of you, as a unit, are worth it.

It's about loving that person even though he's flawed, and has insecurities and bad morning breath.  Because the really beautiful thing is---he loves you back the same way. And when you stop to think about all your flaws and insecurities and bad morning breath, that thought blows you away with gratitude.

It's a fragile thing to be known. To be known and loved is such a gift.

[All of this is to say and hope that your partner is loving/sacrificing/committed to the same level that you are. Things aren't equal all the time, but they should generally even out. If they never do, that might be a problem. Also--lawyer caveat--abusive relationships=entirely different category. Get out of those.]

I hope when I'm old,  I'll view my marriage as one of my life's greatest accomplishments.  Not because it was glowing or perfect or romantic, but because through all the struggles and kids and careers unpredictable things life threw our way, we kept choosing love, and each other, over everything else.

Speaking of love guys, these muffins --> true love.

These are by far, my favorite thing I've made in the last two months.

I've always been crazy about peanut butter & banana, but the addition of nutella takes these to a whole new level.  The chocolate and peanut butter make your taste buds go--dessert!--while the rolled oats, oat flour, Greek yogurt, and coconut oil make your brain go--healthy breakfast! It's a win win.

The oat flower gives these muffins a really satisfying chewy texture, while the nutella crisps up on the top and then melts in your mouth….Please excuse me while I have a moment with my muffin.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour (made by pulsing 3/4 cup rolled oats in the food processor until smooth)
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons Nutella

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 12-muffin pan with liners or with non-stick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oat flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and coconut oil. Add bananas, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir until combined. (Mixture may be slightly lumpy with the bananas)

Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Scoop mixture into muffin tins, filling until about 3/4 full.

Spoon Nutella into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously with your fork to soften and warm the nutella. Spoon a teaspoon or so onto the top of each muffin. Use a toothpick or butter knife to swirl the mixture around.

Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, or until edges are browned.

Muffin recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Runner 

Broccoli Pasta Salad with Almond Pesto

Have I beleaguered you with my undying love for picnics yet?

Maybe we haven't known each other long enough.

Adam, bless his heart, is extremely familiar with my love of picnicking.

The first 70 degree day in the Spring. "Can we go for a picnic?"

Driving by a park. "We should have a picnic there!"

Random weekend afternoon with no plans. "Let's have a picnic!"

I am annoyingly enthusiastic about it and will harass him until we make our picnic a reality.

I've been fortunate to have picnicked in some pretty amazing places…

In the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

On a beach on Lake Como.

In Central Park in New York and the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

To be honest though, I love normal everyday picnics just as much.

Once while on a weekend run through an old historic neighborhood in Charlotte, I saw a young family having a picnic in their front yard! Under a tree!  That's all I want in life. But until we have a yard or cute little children, I'm enjoying picnicking at parks. (See the bottom of this post for some of my favorites and to add your own!)

Picnic food should be simple. The very best picnic meals, in my opinion, consist of some good cheese and crusty bread. In fact, if you brought me some good cheese and crusty bread and told me you wanted to take me on a picnic, I might love you forever.

Salads are good too though, as are apples and strawberries, and maybe some chocolate for dessert.

I wanted some bright, fresh flavors for our first picnic this spring, so I came up with this super easy broccoli pasta salad with almond pesto.

The pesto is my favorite! It's simple a mix of almonds, lemon juice, garlic, salt, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  Simply give everything a whirl in the food processor and combine with some fresh broccoli and cooked pasta. You're ready to go!

I had a picnic with my family this weekend and it was the best. I brought this pasta salad and my mom brought a salad with green beans, red onions, pecans and feta.  My sister brought carrots and fruit and her dog Luna, who licked everyone's face like it was her job.

I kissed Adam's face like it was my job too.

He lives a hard life.

Grab your friends. Grab your dog. Grab some bread and cheese or some of this pasta salad. Bring a blanket to sit on and some napkins and silverware and something to drink. Bring a book or a frisbee or a deck of cards. Leave your phone in the car.

Then eat some food outside in the sun with some people that you really like and remember that life is good, and we are blessed.

Broccoli Pasta Salad with Almond Pesto 

1 large head broccoli, diced into bite sized pieces.
8 oz small pasta
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside to cool, rinsing with cold water if necessary.

In a food processor, combine almonds, parmesan cheese, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almonds are very finely chopped. Add lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Continue pulsing until mixture resembles a thick paste.

Combine almond pesto, broccoli florets, and cooled pasta in a large bowl. If you find the pesto to be too thick, you can add extra olive oil or lemon juice. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed.

Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Almond Pesto from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • I happen to enjoy the texture of raw broccoli, but if you don't, try blanching it. Toss the broccoli florets into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then place into a bowl of cold ice water. The broccoli should still be fresh and bright green but softer in texture.
  • I used this great quinoa pasta in this dish, so it's technically gluten free. Although sometimes quinoa pasta is really expensive, (like $5.99, yikes!) I found this brand for $2.99 at my grocery store.

Favorite Picnic Places:


Chapel Hill:



I'd love it if you'd share your favorite picnic foods and picnic places, wherever you live!

Baked Cheesy Spinach Polenta with Eggs

Let's do brunch.

Something that looks fancy but is easy to make.

Also something with eggs and cheese and spinach and bacon, because, well, it's brunch!

First we'll boil some water. While you're waiting for the water to boil you can chop up a couple handfuls of fresh spinach. Our brunch includes lots of iron.

Also while you're waiting, you can make the bacon, which is not necessary but highly recommended.  My favorite method to cook bacon is in the microwave.  No splattery mess and the bacon comes out extra crisp.

Once the water is off to a rolling boil, add the polenta. You'll want to hang out by the stove and stir it every few minutes until it's thick and creamy. (Probably about 10-15 minutes) 

Add a little butter, spinach and cheese. For some tang, add goat cheese. For a salty bite, add fresh parmesan. For old fashioned goodness, add some good sharp cheddar. No wrong choices here. 

Pour the cheesy polenta into four ramekins. Use the back of a spoon to make a small indentation in each one. Carefully crack an egg into the indentation in each ramekin. You're a pro!

Colorful Quinoa Salad with Purple Cabbage, Edamame, Avocado & Easy Pickled Radishes

"Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon. 
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier
Stirs the dumb spirit; no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom. 
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation. 
Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?" 

From "Little Gidding" by T.S. Elliot

I don't want to be that person. 

That person who complains about the weather for the upteenth time this week. 

But to be truthful, this "midwinter spring" has got me down. A day of sunny 70 degree weather followed by a week of ice, freezing rain sub-zero rain, and what feels like too many personal setbacks. (It turns out my lavender earl grey tea lattes from last week were a bit prophetic) 

I'm hungering for sunshine and freedom and change and color. 

What I'm hungering for usually ends up on my plate --> this crazy colorful salad full of ingredients I don't normally like. 

As soon as I saw the picture of this salad in Plenty I knew I had to have it--even though I've never really liked radishes and had never seen purple radish cress in a store. 

I'm not even a fan of purple cabbage usually (It's the part I used to pick out of salads at restaurants) but I had to have something purple in this salad. I just had to. 

Also, it turns out that when you pickle radishes for 30 minutes with some vinegar and sugar they turn into delectable sweet crunchy components of your salad, and purple cabbage, when combined with quinoa, avocado, and smoky lemon cumin vinaigrette, morphs into something you can't get enough of. 

Salad magic. 

It even looks sort of magical, doesn't it? 

I feel like this is when I should tell you (don't hate me!) that I am going to feel the sun on my face this week.  I'm flying to Panama tomorrow. I'll be sleeping in a bunk bed in a room with 20 other people, taking cold showers, eating rice and beans every day, and sweating my life away in the 90 degree weather with no air conditioning.
I can't wait. 

I'll also be loving on some Panamanian children, helping sweet families with their legal needs, and generally experiencing life without cracking open a text book. I'm in dire need of a change of perspective and some more lightness in my heart. If all goes well, I'll be back next week, maybe with some photos. 

Thanks for your support, friends. 

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
is that which was the beginning." 

Colorful Quinoa Salad with Purple Cabbage, Edamame, Avocado & Easy Pickled Radishes

Easy Pickled Radishes
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
10-12 radishes, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, vinegar, and salt.

Add radishes. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Colorful Quinoa Salad
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1 8oz bag frozen shelled edamame
1/2 head purple cabbage
2 ripe avocados
juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
salt and peper
easy picked radishes

Cook quinoa in vegetable broth according to package directions. Set aside to cool.  (If you're in a rush, you can stick it in the fridge.)

Cook edamame in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until just thawed.

Meanwhile, whisk together freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin. Set aside.

Chop cabbage and avocado into bite sized pieces. Add to a large bowl, along with the quinoa and edamame. Add in easy picked radishes and cumin lemon dressing and toss until evenly mixed. Serve immediately.

*A few notes

  • To make prep easier, cook quinoa and edamame a day ahead and refrigerate.
  • This salad is best eaten the day it's made. If you want it to last a few days, keep the picked radishes separate and just add to salad right before eating. 
  • The recipe makes a lot! Invite a few friends over for a midwinter spring lunch!

Easy Picked Radishes adapted from Marsha Stewart.
Salad inspired by Ottolenghi's Plenty.

Lavender Earl Grey Tea Latte

I'm worried I'm too late with this recipe. It's March now, and you've probably moved away from tea and warm beverages and onto iced coffees and fruity drinks with umbrellas because SUNSHINE.

I know, I'm ready for sunshine and spring too. But the truth is March still has some chilly weather, I woke up with a cold this morning, and this lavender earl grey tea latte is the most calming and luxurious drink I've ever had.

Milk + honey + vanilla. Things that are supposed to go together.

Hot water + earl grey tea + lavender buds. Aromatic, calming. A perfect match.

Don't believe me? Check out  Lavender Earl Grey MacaroonsLavender Earl Grey Scones or Lavender Cupcakes with Earl Grey Icing.

I've written before about my infatuation with lavender. The key here is moderation. A little lavender goes a long way to relaxing drink heaven. A lot = drinking potpourri.

Drinking this sort of British tea with milk makes me think of this article on tea people vs. coffee people.   I like to think I'm a combination between the two, but let's be honest. I'm a tea person. I'll take being curled up with this tea latte and a good book over a loud cafe with espresso any day.  As for British guys vs Italian guys??

That choice is too difficult. Maybe which ever one brings me a scone/cannoli to go with my drink...

Lavender Earl Grey Tea Latte

1 1/2 cups milk (I would use regular milk or soy milk. Almond may be too strong in flavor)
1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you like it) 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups water hot water
1/4 cup lavender buds
1 earl grey tea bag

Heat milk, honey, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. 

Add tea bag and lavender petals to hot water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes. Pour through a fine stranger and into the two mugs to remove petals. 

Pour warm sweetened milk into the mugs.  Inhale deeply into the mug. Breathe.  Find somewhere cozy to hole up and relax. 

*makes 2 large mugs of tea