Category Archives: Uncategorized

music festival winners!

Thank you all for entering to win tickets to the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival and The Festy!  I used a random number generator to pick the winners, who are listed below.

The winner of the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival tickets is…Greg!

The winner of The Festy tickets is…Jes!

Greg and Jes, please send me an email (bellaeats@gmail.com) with your full name and contact information, and I will pass it on to Stephanie who will make sure there are tickets waiting for you at Will Call! If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day Sunday August 15th, I’ll do another drawing to give the tickets to somebody else.

Thank you all for entering!

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homemade gift ideas

Christmas is only 5 days away (!), and I’m guessing that most of you already have holiday gifts determined and purchased…right?!?  This post is probably a bit late, but I thought it might be helpful to those of you still looking for last minute gifts for friends, family and co-workers.

Brian and I have given homemade gifts out for the last few years, and always enjoy the pleased responses we receive in return.  In a time when spending significant amounts of money is difficult for most, putting personal effort into gifts rather than cash is a nice alternative.  I’ve compiled a few ideas for you to choose from…enjoy!

Homemade Jam

Homemade jam can be made with fresh and frozen fruit.  Be sure to use a proper method of preservation if you plan to give the gifts un-refrigerated.  If you’d rather not tackle the canning process, tell recipients to keep their jam refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

blackberry peach jam

Homemade Granola

A batch of granola is quick to whip up, and keeps for weeks in an airtight container in the pantry.

mixed fruit granola

Homemade Almond Butter

Nut butter made from scratch is so much better than store-bought because you can mix your own interesting combinations.  It can be a bit pricey though, depending on the nuts you choose.

cinnamon vanilla almond butter

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are nothing like their store-bought cousins.  So light and fluffy, they truly melt in your mouth (or your hot cocoa).  For a little twist, add some peppermint extract in place of vanilla.  If you don’t have vanilla sugar for the cocoa mix (it takes about 2 weeks to make your own) just substitute regular sugar.

hot cocoa mix

marshmallows

Homemade Baked Goods

Always a winner, nobody frowns at a box/tin/basket/bag full of baked treats.

triple ginger cookies

dark chocolate almond bites

peppermint eggnog scones

citrus scones with cranberries and ginger

bridging the gap

We’re almost there!  The cherry and plum trees are starting to flower, the crocus and daffodils are up, gardens are being prepped for planting.  Daylight Savings Time means there is light when I leave the office, and I’ve been taking advantage of our lovely weather with evening runs both yesterday and today (I’m feeling very well-prepared for the 8K on Saturday!!!).  Spring is just around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited.   The change in seasons has me craving lighter foods but also has inspired me to clean out my pantry, to use up the winter-worthy ingredients that are dwindling in quantity and make way for those that come with spring.  

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Among the items found?  Crystalized ginger, dried cranberries, a bowl full of oranges.  Okay, so the oranges were on my table, not in the pantry, but to me they make the perfect bridge from winter to spring.  You see, I grew up in Florida, where winter citrus is abundant as are 80* December days.  I’ve never associated oranges with cold weather and probably never will.  And who doesn’t think of warm, tropical places when biting into a juicy orange?  Anybody? The power of positive thinking will get you far and I am determined that my bowlful of cheery oranges will carry Virginia straight into Spring without another winter storm.  🙂

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On Sunday morning while perusing my pantry I was dreaming of baked goods, as is often the case, and thought of one I hadn’t made in awhile.  Scones.

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For years I wasn’t a fan of scones.  Those I had tried were dry and crumbly, with nondescript flavors that left them completely unmemorable.  Until one fateful Friday morning when a friend shared her daughter’s fresh-baked scones at an office meeting, and I was hooked.  Soft and supple, moist and flakey, the mix-in possibilities were endless.  I knew I had to have the recipe, and lucky for me she shared.

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The basic recipe for these scones was given to me years ago and I’ve been trying different variations ever since.  Many different flours have made it into the experiments, all-purpose, bread, white whole wheat and whole wheat included.  The whole wheat pastry flour is my favorite.  It gives the scones the fluffier texture found when using the all-purpose, but leaves you with a happier conscience after having one for breakfast.

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Citrus Scones with Cranberries and Ginger

makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup crystalized ginger, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Spray a baking sheet with oil.
  2. Mix buttermilk with egg and extract, whisk smooth.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add orange zest.  Stir to mix well.  Add butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like course bread crumbs.  Add sugar, cranberries and ginger and toss to distribute evenly.
  4. Add egg mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.
  5. Turn out dough on a floured board and give 5-6 kneads, just until well mixed and cohesive.  Flatten dough into disk about 3/4″ thick.  Cut disk into 8 equal wedges.
  6. Bake on prepared baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until medium brown.  Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.

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For another Bella Eats scone variation, click here.

Thank you all for the great feedback regarding future bella terra posts.  I’m really excited!  🙂  I hope to answer all of your questions in posts over the next few months…you’ve given me some great ideas.

And, a thousand Thank You’s for all of your kind words and good thoughts towards Kelly and her recovery.  She is home and healing and we are all so thankful that she was wearing a helmet.  For those of you who doubt the importance of wearing one, read this post.

Be sure to check out Heather’s blog for an exciting Coconut Milk Product Giveaway!  I’ve been dying to try this stuff…

And last…my new job is awesome!!!  I’ve only been there two days but I am LOVING it so far.  Yay!  🙂

Have a great Wednesday everybody!

and the winners are…

Hi All!  I’m sorry the Country Bob’s All-Purpose Sauce Winners announcement is coming so late today.  I was really hoping to have a recipe post to share tonight but I am a t.i.r.e.d. lady.  It was a very busy Saturday, filled with a lovely run, an intense 90-minute Vinyasa Yoga class and lots of work in the garden because we had some BEAUTIFUL weather here in Virginia today!  So, I’m finally just admitting to myself that the post won’t be finished tonight, and decided to just go ahead and announce the winners. ‘Cause that’s why you all are tuning in today anyway.  🙂

And the winners are…

Comment #28, Marie with 

Glad to hear the employment situation is going well!
On a different note, I’d love to win some Country Bob’s!

Comment #65, Sara from Eat Fab in NYC with

Love the recipes! I think it’s an amazing idea! You’ve been linked  I have a couple of giveaways coming up too…stay posted!!!

Congratulations Ladies!!!  Send me an email at bellaeats@gmail.com with your full name and address, and I will forward it on to the Country Bob’s folks.  🙂

Alrighty, I’ll be back tomorrow with a [hopefuly] much more interesting post.  G’night!

a walk in the woods

I hope that each and every one of you had as lovely of a weekend as I had. Some friends were in town, which meant great company, lots of restaurant-eating and much vino. I got to catch up with two of my best girls from grad school and participated in a wedding food tasting with one of them who is getting married here in C’ville in May.  So fun!  Other highlights included a walk in the woods, an afternoon nap, a trip to the running shop and the viewing of Slumdog Millionaire with my hubb, which I highly recommend seeing if you haven’t yet.  All-in-all, a very satisfying weekend.

That being said…I was a bad healthy food blogger. Not only with my dining-out choices but also with documentation. The food I ate at home (breakfast) was unremarkable, and the remarkable food I ate out is undocumented.  I thought that I would offer you a lovely baked bread instead of a food journal recapping my weekend, but failed miserably at adapting a recipe out of Baking With Agave Nectar.  Not the book’s fault, I’m sure, I just messed with the recipe a bit too much.  I can’t help myself!  So, note to me, when trying to bake with new ingredients like silken tofu (its called for in nearly 1/2 the recipes in the book) perhaps I should follow the recipe exactly until I get the hang of it…

So instead of a lovely baked good, I give you a few pictures from our walk in the woods.  So sunny, so serene, so left me wishing for spring…

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And I’ll be back in the kitchen tomorrow…I do hope you’ll check in.  As my pantry door shows, I’ve got plans for the week!  Hopefully the rest of the menu will be a bit more successful than the first item.  🙂  G’night!

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PS:  LRM is a trip we’re taking with friends in April.  The fig blondies and marshmallows have already been requested after they saw them on the blog, so I’m keeping a running tab to make sure nothing is forgotten!  🙂

PSS:  My foot is feeling better so I’m going to try a run tomorrow evening.  I’ll give a full report, don’t worry!  Thank you all SO MUCH for your continued support and advice…you are amazing!!!

birthday blondies

Friday is my dear friend Beth’s birthday.  Beth and I met the summer before I started graduate school when she was an intern at the architecture firm I had been working for.  We became fast friends because we shared many interests:  design, food, running, yoga.  We swapped recipes and design ideas for two years before she moved to Philadelphia to take a job with a fabulous firm.  I miss her.  She was the person who first introduced me to brussels sprouts and kale, both of which I now can’t live without. She also introduced me to figs.  I owe her many thanks for bringing dried figs into my life.

These fig almond blondies are for Beth.  Happy birthday dear friend.

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This recipe comes from VeggieGirl.  I said last night that Jen @ Running With Food can cook…well, VeggieGirl can bake!!!  This is the second blondie recipe I’ve tried of hers, and it is definitely a winner in my household.  I will be holding both her Fig Almond Blondie and her Pear Pistachio Ginger Blondie recipes near and dear for a long time.

Fig Almond Blondies

adapted slightly from VeggieGirl’s Fig Almond Blondie recipe

makes 16 blondies

Ingredients:

  • 6oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (next time I will try whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 10 dried Turkish figs, chopped
  • soymilk, as needed

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350* and spray 8×8 cooking pan with oil
  2. In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, applesauce, sugar, vanilla and molasses together.
  3. In the same bowl, add the flour, baking soda, almonds and figs.  As the mixture combines it will thicken, add a splash of soymilk as needed to help mix.  Don’t add too much!!!
  4. Spread batter into greased 8×8 pan and smooth the top.
  5. Bake for 32-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

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A quick recap of today’s eats so far…

Breakfast:  Oats!  I’m so in love with my normal combo, I just can’t get enough!  This morning I stepped it up an extra notch by adding dried figs.  Yum!  The fig seeds added perfect little bits of crunch.

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Lunch:  Leftovers!  I know I promised another wrap, but when I opened the fridge this morning and saw a perfect lunch-sized portion of leftover pot pie and collard greens, I couldn’t resist.

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Snack:  1/2 cup Fage 0% and 5 lovely strawberries.  I have to say, I’m really loving the Fage.  Its making me miss my Oikos less and less each day…

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Tonight the hubb and I are going over to our friend Amy’s house for dinner, which is why I’m posting a bit early.  I’m making a quick lasagna recipe that I’m really excited to try and can’t wait to share the results with you tomorrow!

Be sure to check out Oh She Glows for a fabulous Honest Foods Giveaway!

Have a great night!  🙂

i owe you…

…a post.  But instead of telling you about my sunday eats (which were unhealthy, eaten in the car, in ikea or out of a dominoes box) I decided to break up today’s food journal posts.  Since I missed out on all of my baking plans this weekend (a trip to Ikea and the resulting piles of boxes, plastic wrap, tiny allen wrenches and discarded old furniture will do that to you…) I’m hoping to play a little catch-up tonight and tomorrow night.  Which means lots of pictures of baked goods are coming.  Yum.  

Thank you all for the sweet congratulatory comments on Saturday’s post!!!  I am so lucky to be part of such a supportive network of people, it really means a lot to me that you all are cheering me on.  🙂

Breakfast:  toasted Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Muffin with 1 tbsp almond butter, sliced apple and 1 tbsp cranberry ketchup.

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I’ll give you a preview of what I’ll be eating for lunch and my snack today.  I pack my food in the morning and take all of my photos before work, which is why I always have the same background in my shots.  I like the consistency, and it allows me to avoid awkward questions from my boss and co-worker.  They just don’t need to know about the blog.  Not yet anyway.

Lunch:  baked sweet potato with 1/2 cup of corn and 1/4 cup of edamame…and a good sprinkle of sea salt.

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Snack:  1/2 cup of Fage 0% and 4 beautiful strawberries.

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Last week I read this article by Mark Bittman of The New York Times about what common pantry items to ditch in 2009.  I found it very interesting and thought you all might as well.  He suggests replacing pre-packaged, preservative-full items with their natural counterparts…sounds right up our foodie alleys, doesn’t it?   A couple of examples:

OUT:  packaged bread crumbs or croutons

IN:  make your own by chopping up bread and placing in a low-heat oven until brown and crispy.  Mark claims they will keep for a long time!

OUT:  aerosol oil

IN:  good olive oil in a hand-pumped sprayer

OUT:  old spices – they’re only good for one year!!!  (looks like I have some cleaning-out to do…!)

IN:  fresh spices – if you take a whiff of your spice jar and get dust or a musty smell instead, toss it!

OUT:  canned beans

IN:  dried beans.  Cook up a pound over the weekend to use all week long.  They taste better, are more economical and take up less space in your pantry.

There are so many other great suggestions…check out the article!

I hope you all have a fabulous day, I’ll be back tonight.  🙂