Monday, June 25, 2012

A Pinch of Sunshine: Banana Bites

One of the things I love most about summer is all the free time is provides. Time to write, time to run, time to bike, time to talk, time to hang out with friends and family, time to eat, and, of course, time to cook. Of course, throughout the course of the school year, I do write and run and bike and talk and hang out with my friends and eat (obviously), but the key word is time. Summer allows us to relax and enjoy life's pleasures. No more running in the parking lot under the street lights, no more math class conversations interrupted every two minutes by a new word problem, no more eating in the car on the way to the bus stop.

With the freedom of summer and time stretched out in front of me like a wide open grass field, I've taken the time to experiment in the kitchen a bit lately. By no means are my experiments daring or particularly innovative. My experiments typically tend to lean more toward styling foods, adding an extra ingredient for health, or combining my favorite recipes.

What's the fun in cooking, though, if you have no one to share it with? That's why this summer, I will be posting any fun recipes I find/create in a series called, "A Pinch of Sunshine." A pinch of sunshine will be sure to liven up any recipe, right???

Today's recipe is a spin-off of a recipe I found on the blog Chocolate-Covered Katie, which I've featured before on my blog in my post "Inspired by Oatmeal." As a recap or for newer readers, Chocolate-Covered Katie is, as blogger Katie describes it, "the healthy dessert blog," where she finds healthy ingredient substitutions to make those treats that may test our self-restraint. Her post was titled "Breakfast Banana Pops," which are essentially frozen banana popsicles. With the streak of hot weather we had these past couple of days, I was desperate for a cool and healthy treat.

In her recipe, she had the bananas cut in half and stuck on popsicle sticks. However, my family and I found that we liked them better off the stick and bite-sized. The ingredients required and how to make them are primarily the same, though. I'm calling them "Banana Bites."

Banana Bites

The primary ingredient, as you may have guessed, is bananas. To make the Banana Bites, I cut a banana into fourths. Our bananas were huge, so these were more like three-bite banana bites. Feel free to split the banana however you like, but the bites should be big enough so you can roll them in whatever toppings you decide. 

After you've cut the bananas, you need to roll them in some sort of coating so the toppings will stick. Pictured above is a banana rolled in peanut butter. I melted the peanut butter for 30 seconds in the microwave to make it soupier so it was easier to roll the banana.  Pictured below is a banana rolled in plain yogurt. I'm curious to try rolling a banana in honey, melted Nutella, or just plain chocolate. Who am I kidding? How can anything be "just plain chocolate?"

After you have your coating, here comes the fun part: toppings! The toppings can be anything from granola to Jimmies to slivered almonds. In Spanish, we say "a gusto," which means "to your liking." I would recommend just opening your cabinet and seeing what you have! Whatever toppings you choose, they should be small and flat enough that they will stick to the banana. (Chocolate-Covered Katie gave the idea of crushed chocolate chip cookies.)

This weekend, I tried:
  • Plain yogurt, slivered almonds, granola, drizzled honey
  • Plain yogurt, granola
  • Plain yogurt, granola, drizzled chocolate
  • Plain yogurt, crushed gingersnaps
  • Plain yogurt, Multi-Grain Cheerios
Then my mom thought of peanut butter, which I rolled in slivered almonds. How could I not have thought of that?! 

I wasn't a fan of the Cheerios, because they got kind of soggy in the freezer. My vote would go for the plain yogurt, slivered almonds, granola, and drizzled honey, and the peanut butter and slivered almonds. Next batch I make, I'm going to try softening strawberries or blueberries and rolling the Banana Bites in that. As soon as we get more shredded coconut, I'm going to try chocolate-coated with shredded coconut (another idea of my mom's...her sweet tooth is ingenious). You really can't go wrong with this recipe!

Pour your toppings into a shallow dish or plate, and roll the banana. Place a sheet of wax paper or tinfoil on a tray or plate, arrange your Banana Bites, and place in the freezer. The bananas take a good 3-4 hours to freeze, so I've been making them the night before and letting them freeze overnight. Because they're frozen, you don't have to worry about them going bad, but they might get a little freezer-burned if they're in there for an extended period of time. 

Enjoy with a pinch of sunshine!

I would love to hear some of your favorite spin-offs of this recipe. Experiment and go to town with different toppings and coatings, and please comment with some of your favorites. I'm always looking for new ideas to try. Happy experimenting!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Freshman Year

Freshman year...check. It's true when they say that time flies a lot faster as you get older. No longer are the times when the two days before you could go over for friend's house to bake cookies seemed like weeks; gone are the days when you made paper chains to count down until your birthday or Christmas. The Taylor Swift calendar in my bedroom still reads March, and before that it read January.

It seems like only yesterday I walked into Music class late because I misread my schedule and ended up in a class of seniors (classic first day of high school). I remember so many individual days so vividly: lunchtime conversations, late nights (many late nights) of homework, a hard track workout, a play rehearsal. The individual days seemed to move by slow, but the weeks and the months rushed by so now I sit on my couch in Cape Code, typing away with the blue sky outside and nothing to distract me from what I love to do most: write, run, swim, and be by the beach.

I started this blog freshman year as a way to make a commitment to my writing. Here I have this faint vision, this vague idea of what I want to do with my life; somewhere in the distance I can see the finish line. Ever since 3rd grade when my teacher first inspired me to write, I think it's been there. In fact, it's probably been there my entire life, it just took me a little while to find it.

We all have a destiny, and life is about getting on the path to take us there. Some of our paths may be more direct than others; some people may need to travel on some very windy roads and at one point in our lives we will all probably have to make a U-turn. Sometimes we'll take the highway, sometimes we'll take the back roads. We may have to climb some hills in our life, but just remember as you're trudging along that there's always a downhill after to cruise on. At times we may run out of gas or a tire may go flat, and at this point it is time to pull over to the breakdown lane and reevaluate the situation. Not everyone is going to be a friendly driver; not everyone is going to let you pass. We'll probably all be honked at and/or pulled over at some point in our lives, but we have to accept that we're only human, and we're going to make mistakes. A ticket is not the end of the world, it's just a reminder that helps us stay on the right path. There may be a time we take the road with the cross signs, and we may ignore the "Danger Ahead" warnings. We may think we're too cool or know better than the "Stop" signs or the traffic lights, but we'll realize there are rules for a reason.

In light of my extended and hopefully not exhausted metaphor about the path of life, I thought I'd share a poem with you by Robert Frost, where he reflects upon the path he's chosen.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Coming full-circle, I started this blog in hopes that it would help me figure out who I was. We come into high school with so much prospect, possibility, potential. We are a slab of clay, just waiting to be molded, and it is in high school we start to meet those people, come across those places, and experience those events that begin to shape us into who we are. But coming out of freshman year, I still feel like I'm so far from figuring out who I am. I know my future has something with writing in it, but writing is such a broad field that I can take anywhere. I still don't know where I belong, but I think this blog brings me one step closer.

Self-reflections are important––although sometimes I may self-reflect too much, driving myself (and my Mom) a little batty. My favorite part about a birthday, the summer, a new year, is sitting back and thinking about what I learned. Freshman year was a big adjustment year, between the increased homework load, new friends, new commitments, and new passions. I've had to do a lot of self-evaluation, as I reflected upon in my post, Redefining Me. I've realized that I love theatre, and that I might want to tip the theatre vs. sports scale a little more toward theatre, despite my reputation as a track athlete.

Sometimes I wish someone would just show me a path, hand me a map, point me in the right direction. Chances are, though, I'll probably spend my entire life trying to find the best route. At some point, I will find my center point. I've begun doing Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskaar) in the morning, and I've found it to be a relaxing way to start my day. It gives me time to reflect and think about the day to come, as I ask to find my balance, and to find joy and happiness in all that I do. I acknowledge that I will make mistakes, and I make a promise to embrace change. I vow to live in the moment, think fondly on the past, and optimistically about the future. Every day is a new opportunity to get oneself on the path they are destined to take.

Take the time to reflect today. Do you have any advice for how to find your path? Do you have any morning routines? How do you find balance?

Here's hoping you all find your path someday,

Megan xo

P.S.  It's about time "Did you notice..." was updated, don't you think?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

San Diego #1: Musings in the Airport

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start" ("Sound of Music").
The airport!


I would be a fool to not take advantage of this time to journal. The airport is probably the best place to people watch. Better than NYC even, where everyone is in such a hurry they've passed and knocked you over before you've even registered they're there. But here, everyone is waiting for their flight. Taking a business call, sipping an ice coffee, chomping down on a sandwich...

There he sits, chomping down on a sandwich, man-size bites (I wouldn't let him take a bite of my sandwich). Chewing slowly, lettuce too-long dangles in his mouth like spaghetti. He wipes his hand on his back jean pocket, take outs a napkin, and wraps the sandwich like an ice cream cone. He stares down at his sandwich, contemplates it. What is he eating? Something with turkey, maybe. Lettuce, obviously. Some sort of ciabatta bread, I think. He stares at the ground, looks around. He's traveling alone, obviously. Last bite. He gazes at it. Does he really want to finish it? One bite; it's gone. He looks at the mustard-stained napkin somewhat longingly. Remember when that sandwich was still there? He takes out his water, uncaps it. Takes a long swig to wash his mouth. Chips now. Sunchips®, garden favorite.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oatmeal at Home

Oatmeal at home tastes so much better than oatmeal in the car. I can't understand how people like fast food so much. It all seems too...rushed. I'm not saying I don't enjoy the occasional trip to KFC or a Frosty at Wendy's, but I feel so much better after a sit-down dinner at home or a hand-packed lunch. There's so much rushing in the day, eating should be the time to sit down, reflect on the day, and just relax. Some people eat fast and others eat slow, but regardless of how you eat, food is meant to be savored and enjoyed.

And just like how food is not meant to be rushed, neither is a blog, which is why I have been away from it for so long. Upon returning home from San Diego, the end-of-the-year chaos all the upperclassmen warned us freshmen about began. Projects were assigned in every class, Honors deadlines from the beginning of the semester began creeping up, and between volunteer hours, track practice, and trying not to be a complete hermit, my blog and my writing unfortunately had to take a backseat for awhile. Now, after a month of writing only for teachers and my grades, I can finally sit down and write for the audience I most enjoy: my readers. I've missed updating the blog every week, and while the end of the year is always chaotic, there's so much that goes on much to write about! I still have so many stories from San Diego to share, and other blog posts I've been gathering in my journal that are bursting with energy and excited to be shared. But I knew I wouldn't be able to give the stories justice with my limited time, and the last thing I wanted to do was write a half-hearted post. You––my readers––deserve more than that.

But now classes are done. The last week of school is always off-campus learning, so I am off to the Cape for the next week! I almost don't know what to do with myself, with all this free time I now have. A weekend without homework?! It was strange––in a wonderful way––waking up this morning with nothing I had to do. Waking up leisurely, making myself breakfast, and actually being able to enjoy it versus scarfing it down before I get to the bus stop. Now that classes are done, I am moving into a new season of writing: summer. I am fortunate to go to a high school that doesn't assign a lot of summer work, which means I can use my free time to focus on my writing. It's true that when you step away from it for awhile, it can be hard to get back into the groove, just like running (this is another journal I am hoping to post very soon). I could just compile all of my journals into one mega-post, but what's the fun in that? Instead, over the next week or so, I will be posting different stories and pictures from San Diego in hopes of finally catching up with the current day.

Wishing you all a beautiful and relaxing weekend,

Megan ;)

P.S. If you're wondering what the little spots in my oatmeal are, they're called chia seeds, a.k.a. "runner's food." My mom just introduced me to them. They don't have much flavor, but they have more omega-3 than salmon!  Click here for more chia seed benefits.